Great use for an old piano

piano desk bigHow could you but be inspired sitting inside the beautiful timber frame of this old piano? What a great place to blog, to compose, to contemplate the music of our world. If anyone would like to make me one, I would happily accept.

When our ‘good taste’ overrides our grace towards others

coffee heartThe other day I turned my nose up at an instant coffee made for me from a jar of Nescafe 43. I thought I could justify this ungracious response by defending my ‘good taste’ in coffee, but apparently not, according to C.S. Lewis.

“(Humans) . . .  are best turned into gluttons with the help of their vanity. They ought to be made to think themselves very knowing about food, to pique themselves on having found the only restaurant in town whether the steaks are really “properly” cooked. What begins as vanity can then be gradually turned into habit. But however you approach it, the great thing is to bring him into the state in which the denial of any one indulgence “puts him out”, for then his charity, justice and obedience are all at your mercy.  Mere excess in food is much less valuable than delicacy.”  (Letter 16: Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis, 1942).

Ouch!  If you have never read the Screwtape Letters I would encourage you to rush out and get a copy (or download). The Letters record fictional (but strangely believable) correspondence between a Senior and Junior devil. The uncle instructs his nephew on how to keep his ‘patient’ (a new convert to Christianity) from getting too close to the Enemyscrewtape (for them the Enemy is, of course, God).  In the section above Uncle Screwtape explains how to get at his patient, to annoy him, by encouraging the unbearably fussy eating of his mother and her delicate tastes.  If he can make her insist on having her food served in a particular, apparently simple way he will have some delightful amusements. It is also designed to keep her deluded in selfishness and pride.

Here Lewis makes an insightful connection between the “god of the stomach” and pride in our own good taste. This is a much more dangerous distraction from godliness than simply overeating. What I find most interesting here is that he wrote on such matters long before our addiction to both reality TV cooking shows and the great variety of good foods we enjoy in the West (thanks to globalisation). Lewis’ words also come before ‘coffee culture’ swept our world and people became ‘coffee snobs’ – who insist on having their particular bean roasted a particular way on a particular machine in a particular shop, or their own kitchen. I have met people who will rave for hours about having the best taste in coffee and the most knowledge of how to make it – properly! How gracious are they when offered inferior coffee? (How gracious was I?) And it’s not just coffee. Our egos can be fed and mislead by thinking we have the best taste in food and the best skills in how cook it, to create amazing dishes and impress others.

I suppose I am not that far behind the people that I call coffee snobs! I do prefer real coffee from a coffee shop (though not A particular shop) and I do think I have better taste than others in many ways (doesn’t that just sound awful in print)!  The more I think such proud thoughts, the more I train myself to respond to others with less grace, less charity, less justice and kindness. Let’s measure our “own good taste” against God’s measure, of perfect grace, humility, charity and kindness to others. We are more likely to display the fruits of the spirit to others when our hearts are not bent on satisfying our own ‘good tastes’, and proving our superiority in such matters. I’ll keep working on this!

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What happens when we sing?

WORDS OF WONDER: What happens when we sing?

I just stumbled across this great conference talk from pastor and songwriter Bob Kauflin at Sovereign Grace ministries. If you have ever wondered what the big deal is about the body of Christ singing together (or if you’ve tried to explain that to someone) then this talk has the answers! God doesn’t just want us to praise Him with words, but with SINGING!! If you have a spare hour (or a walk to go on with your ipod or some ironing to do) then have a listen. You will certainly find it encouraging! It might also be a great boost for any music team you lead, to listen and discuss together. Blessings

Our glorious capital ‘C’ Church

Today I have the pleasure of talking about two of my favourite things: author C.S. Lewis and the band Casting Crowns. Both of them have much to say about the church, not just the local church, but the capital C “Church”. By this I mean the fellowship of believers that is spread around the globe, through all time and space. The Church is the Bride of Christ. We are all part of this if we are in Christ. The “crowd of witnesses” in Hebrews 12 help make up this great gathering of God’s people. They can already see the reality of the things we hope for in Him. And they cheer us on to persevere with the small ‘c’ church, no matter how frustrating it can be at times. God’s Church marches on as he unfolds his plans. What a great grace and privilege that God draws us into something (Someone!) much greater than ourselves, much greater than the here and now.

But when it comes to Church we often can’t see the wood for the trees. And Satan would happily keep us distracted in this way!screwtape  In The Screwtape Letters, Lewis describes the strength of the Church. These are fictional letters between a senior and junior devil. (For those not familiar with this classic book the main topics of their correspondance is how to discourage Christians, distract them and weaken their faith. Totally worth a read if you haven’t!)

“. . . the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, (is) terrible as an army with banners. . . that, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans”. (Letter 2)

“We want the Church to be small not only that fewer men may know the Enemy but also that those who do may acquire the uneasy intensity and the defensive self-righteousness of a secret society or clique. The Church Herself is, of course, heavily defended and we have never quite succeeded in giving her all the characteristics of a faction . . .” (Letter 7. By the way, by ‘Enemy’ these devils mean God)

Oh, that we could see the glory of Christ’s Bride! (That’s us!) Casting Crowns’ songwriter Mark Hall takes up this topic, looking forward to the final union of the Church, the Bride of Christ, with the Bridegroom, Jesus. Listen and read the lyrics below. I particularly like the description (verse 2) of the highs and lows of the Church through history. Despite these we were made to wear Christ’s robes of righteousness, on that wedding day! The love of Christ has come and set us free, indeed!

Wedding Day – Casting Crowns

There’s a stirring in the throne room
And all creation holds it’s breath
Waiting now to see the bride groom
Wondering how the bride will dress
And she wears white

And she knows that she’s undeserving
She bears the shame of history
But this worn and weary maiden
Is not the bride that he sees
And she wears white, head to toe
But only he could make it so

[Chorus:]
When someone dries your tears
When someone wins your heart
And says your beautiful
When you don’t know you are
And all you’ve longed to see
Is written on his face
When love has come and finally set you free
On that wedding day, On that wedding day

[Verse 2:]
She has danced in golden castles
And she has crawled through beggar’s dust
But today she stands before him
And she wears his righteousness
And she will be who he adores
This is what he made her for

[Bridge:]
When the hand that bears the only scars
And heaven touch her face
And the last tears she’ll ever cry
Are finally wiped away
And the clouds roll back as he takes her hand
And walks her through the gates
Forever we will reign

An unwasted life makes much of Jesus

In 2004 I read John Piper’s Don’t Waste your Life. In the book he calls us not to get caught up in living for things that count for nothing! Piper says you can ensure you don’t waste your life by seeking to live and die boasting in the cross of Christ – by making the glory of God your singular passion. Instantly this became a book that I recommended to everyone, since it takes ‘faith in Christ’ straight from your head to your heart and hands. The section I found most beautiful to read (and most re-orienting) was towards the end in chapter 10:
“How could I, Lord, have ever been so blind to think that being loved by you means making much of me and not yourself? How could I put my eye to some great telescope, designed to make me glad with visions of the galaxies, and notice in the glass a dim reflection of my face and say:”Now I am happy, I am loved?” How could I stand before the setting sun, between the mountain range and the vastness of the sea, and think that everlasting joy should come from making much of me? . . . “
(Don’t Waste your Life, John Piper, 2003, p.186.)

I then recalled that these very words had challenged me before. In Steven Curtis Chapman’s song “Much of You” he cleverly crafts Piper’s lyrical prose into a song that really could change your life – and ensure you don’t waste it! Have a listen above/read below and be encouraged!
Even if you can only “make much of Jesus” in what you think are small ways your life is not wasted. And what a privilege if your words (spoken, written, blogged or sung) help even one person to see Jesus for who He is. I love being part of a community of bloggers who do their best to make much of Jesus! Blessings.

MUCH OF YOU (Steven Curtis Chapman)all things new

How could I stand here and watch the sun rise
Follow the mountains where they touch the sky
Ponder the vastness and the depths of the sea
And think for a moment the point of it all was to make much of me
‘Cause I’m just a whisper and you are the thunder and

I want to make much of you Jesus
I want to make much of your love
I want to live today to give you the praise
That You alone are so worthy of
I want to make much of your mercy
I want to make much of your cross
I give you my life, Take it and let it be used
To make much of you

And how can I kneel here and think of the cross
The thorns and the whip and the nails and the spear
The infinite cost
To purchase my pardon and bear all my shame
To think I have anything worth boasting in except for your name
‘Cause I am a sinner and you are the Savior

Bridge:
This is your love, oh God
Not to make much of me
But to send your own son
So that we could make much of you
For all eternity

Written by Steven Curtis Chapman ©2004 Sparrow Song – CD: All things new

Behind the Song:
‘A lot of times as I’m writing an album I’ll read books, and certain books will come along and at the right time, will impress, affect and inspire me. One book I read was by John Piper called Don’t Waste Your Life, and by the time I finished reading it, I think I had eight or nine songs started and several that ended up on this album. I felt as I finished this book my understanding of just who God is and why I’m here, what the whole point and purpose of my life is, is ultimately to glorify God and to really make much of Him. I feel like He created us for this purpose. He’s the point, not me. This book helped put that in such great perspective for me – to get a new deeper understanding of that.’Steven Curtis Chapman

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