Category Archives: Music

El-Shaddai

This entry is part 15 of 15 in the series Fiona

Fiona and I always shared an irreverent sense of humour. And, despite having lost her, my sense of humour is still just as wacky 🙂 Our outlook on life has always been free and flippant! Because we were (and are) both completely secure in our relationship with Father, we felt free to make jokes about our faith, sometimes to the consternation of other churchy types who were nearby – although to be fair, we didn’t usually use that type of humour in the presence of those who would not understand, because it would have made them uncomfortable. I sometimes think that people are afraid of God, despite 1 John 4:8, which speaks about perfect love driving out fear… sadly, then, there are many Christians – and people from other faiths too – who declare that ‘God has a sense of humour’, but whose ensuing fake laughter usually belies that belief. Lolz.

But not Fiona and I. We were wacky all the way, in ways I won’t share here because, well, I suppose you had to be there…

Now, here’s another worship song from our youth – El Shaddai, sung by the legendary Christian artist Amy Grant. And, for us, this song has a wacky story behind it. We first saw this song in the Dales Bible Week songbook for the 1985 Dales Week, entitled ‘Enthroned on High‘. But we didn’t actually hear the song at that time.

The ‘foreign’ words in the song are just some of the Hebrew names for God, and because of the sense of humour Fiona and I shared, and in the way that we always made irreverent jokes about absolutely everything, we decided for definite that the song was put in that Dales songbook in order to enable people who didn’t ‘speak in tongues’ to sing something that sounded foreign enough to pass as ‘tongues’. Some won’t find that funny. We thought it was bloody hilarious. And this is the first time I have made that public knowledge 😉

And then we heard the song a couple of years later on a worship tape, if I recall correctly, and we loved it immediately.

I’ve put it in Fiona’s series on my blog, because it reminds me so much of the time we had together, the worship we shared, Fiona’s wacky sense of humour that complemented mine so well, and the great times we had singing it together, with me on piano and Fiona’s tremendous vocals. She was a lady of great talent and, over the months, I have sorely missed her pure, wonderful singing voice, and her gentle spirit coming through in her music.

And the song is indeed beautiful, and is well worth hearing. Released in 1982 on Amy Grant’s breakthrough album ‘Age to Age‘, this song was one of the numbers that made her famous. Here it is, with its lovely arrangement, great dynamics and excellent chord emphases along with Amy’s brilliant talent.

Enjoy!

El Shaddai, El Shaddai,
El-Elyon na Adonia,
Age to age You’re still the same,
By the power of the Name.
El Shaddai, El Shaddai,
Erkhamkha na Adonai,
We will praise and lift You high,
El Shaddai.
 
Through Your love and through the ram,
You saved the son of Abraham;
Through the power of your hand,
Turned the sea into dry land
To the outcast on her knees,
You were the God Who really sees,
And by Your might,
You set Your children free
 
El Shaddai, El Shaddai,
El-Elyon na Adonia,
Age to age You’re still the same,
By the power of the Name
El Shaddai, El Shaddai,
Erkhamkha na Adonai,
We will praise and lift You high,
El Shaddai.
 
Through the years You made it clear,
That the time of Christ was near,
Though the people couldn’t see
What Messiah ought to be
Though Your word contained the plan,
They just could not understand
Your most awesome work was done
Through the frailty of Your Son
 
El Shaddai, El Shaddai,
El-Elyon na Adonai,
Age to age You’re still the same,
By the power of the Name
El Shaddai, El Shaddai,
Erkhamkha na Adonai,
I will praise You ’til I die,
El Shaddai
 
El Shaddai, El Shaddai,
El-Elyon na Adonai,
Age to age You’re still the same,
By the power of the Name
El Shaddai, El Shaddai,
Erkhamkha na Adonai,
I will praise You ’til I die
El Shaddai.

– Michael Card/John W. Thompson

I’ll also relate another humorous story about this song. Fiona and I were once in our Church in Leeds when there was a guest lady who’d come in to perform an expressive dance, and she did it to El Shaddai. And she did it really well; it was very moving and expressive and spiritual and all that. Right up to the point where she slipped and did a spectacular comedy-accident fall, through the drum kit if I remember correctly, to the accompaniment of crashing cymbals et al. She was ok, but boy was it funny, and Fiona’s irreverent sense of humour came to the fore and I’m convinced she only narrowly avoided serious internal injury due to her attempts to suppress her laughter. I know it sounds bad to laugh at that sort of thing, but the young dancer was fine, as was the drum kit, and it was even funnier because of all the knights in shining armour who gallantly leapt to the young lady’s rescue, almost causing a further accident in their haste to render assistance.

And to the lady’s complete credit, she got straight back up again and carried on with the dance, bless her 🙂

Anyway, there we go. A lovely song with lots of happy and funny memories for me. Fiona loved it 🙂

1
0

With Eyes For Only You

This entry is part 14 of 15 in the series Fiona

The other day I heard, for the first time, a song that has utterly blown me away: My God and King written by Shauna Chanda and sung beautifully by her on Terry MacAlmon’s worship album, The Sound of Heaven.

At the moment, I can’t listen to this song without my heart bursting with worship, and often even weeping with the sheer weight of glory that falls upon me. Only three or four times in my life so far has a song had this effect on me, (the main one I can remember being When I Look into Your Holiness in 1983) and this song, My God and King, is one of those songs. It’s been a long time since a song has had such a profound impact in me; I can feel the Spirit reaching in to the deep places of my heart as I sing or listen to it, and I feel Him minister His deep healing of the wounds I have received over the last three and a half years of Fiona’s illness and her passing. This song stirs up the deep spirit of worship within me like no other I have ever heard, and in that worship is my healing in God’s Presence.

Fiona at our son’s wedding, September 2009

I love how the song describes that, for the worshipper, to see God face to face and to be with Him would be their dream come true. And this is partly why I have included this in Fiona’s series – because indeed her dream has come true and she now sees God face to face, and worships Him there. Her heart longed to be with Him. She never heard this song on this earth, but I bet she’s singing it right now! I can imagine her lovely soprano voice singing it; she would have loved this song, it’s exactly the kind of song she loved best. A beautiful love song of worship where I declare, and live out, that I have eyes for only my Jesus, my God and King – even, and especially, through the storms of life.

So, with this in mind, here’s the brilliant Shauna Chanda singing her song, with the inimitable Terry MacAlmon on piano. It is my prayer as I write this that this song will bring healing to you too, in whatever area you need it:

 

My God and King
To You alone I sing
You’re the face I seek
For all eternity

My God and King
To You alone I sing
You’re the face I seek
For all eternity

You’d be my dream come true
Just to be with You
How I’d see brand new
With eyes for only You

My God and King
Through the storm I sing
Covered by Your wing
This song of love I bring

You’d be my dream come true
Just to be with You
How I’d see brand new
With eyes for only You

You’d be my dream come true
Just to be with You
How I’d see brand new
With eyes for only You

You are my dream come true
Just to be with You
Now I see brand new
With eyes for only You

With eyes for only You

With eyes for only You

I have eyes for only You

– Shauna Chanda

1
0

Lucy’s Song

This entry is part 13 of 15 in the series Fiona

Here’s another spontaneous post about Fiona, my lovely wife who tragically passed away from cancer last October.

What makes this post really special is that I am featuring a song in which Fiona is actually singing. Fiona recorded very few songs, I don’t really know why we didn’t really record much music together; I guess we were both always completely spontaneous 🙂

So, this is a lovely little number called ‘Lucy’s Song‘, by Heather Pope, and we discovered the song on an obscure little tape called ‘Celebration – Things of Beauty’, (recorded in the 70’s) while Fiona was at University in 1982. The track I am presenting here is Fiona’s cover of that song recorded in July 1985. What’s especially wonderfully prophetic with this cover of Lucy’s Song is that it’s as if Fiona recorded it, half a lifetime ago, for our grand-daughter Lucy, who’s now 7. Lucy loved her Nanny Fe and was heartbroken when she died. This song is Fiona’s legacy to Lucy, telling her that despite life’s storms, and despite her Nanny Fe not being there for her, still her loving Heavenly Father holds her closely in His hands.

I think this is a song that Lucy will treasure.

I apologise that the backing track is a little out of tune; this is because this was one of my dad’s early forays into four-track portable studio recordings, as I said, in 1985, which back then was all done by adjusting the tape speed to retune the tracks, and it appears he got it a little wrong. But the vocals are the focal point here; Fiona’s voice is the higher, purer soprano while the lower, more smoky and husky voice is her best friend, Cath. Their voices always went so well together and it always amazed me that I should be so privileged to be able to make music with these two superb vocalists. Here we go then: Lucy’s Song, vocals by Fiona and Cath, backing instrumentals by Johnny Douglas (my dad’s stage name):

Lucy, when the sky is cloudy, smile
Lucy, when your mind is racing, rest awhile
For there is time for all you long for, time for so much more
And every day’s a new beginning for you

As the springtime turns to summer, so you’re changing day by day
And the rain has come to water all the land
And the drops of life fall heavy, sometimes they’re hard to understand
But your Loving Heavenly Father holds you closely in His Hand

Lucy, when you don’t know what you’re thinking
Lucy, when you feel that life’s too hard
Remember to give your cares and worries to the One Who loves you so
For every day He’s walking close to you

As the springtime turns to summer, so you’re changing day by day
And the rain has come to water all the land
And the drops of life fall heavy, sometimes they’re hard to understand
But your Loving Heavenly Father holds you closely in His Hand

Yes, your Loving Heavenly Father loves you and understands!

Lovely!

2
0

The Heavenly Perspective

This entry is part 12 of 15 in the series Fiona

To be honest, I was at a loss for what to write for my regular 25th-of-the-month article about Fiona. Over the three weeks or so before writing this piece, (which was actually written about ten days before it was published), I have been quite fed up; I’ve certainly not been my usual buoyant, optimistic self! It’s mainly because a number of occurrences and circumstances have together reminded me especially of the permanence – at least for this life – of my loss of that amazing lady. We were very close and we shared everything. And so, I am missing her so much, and there is this huge gap that she left in every area of my life. And of course there are the huge gaps in the lives of all the people who loved her. We lost a real treasure on that day, seven months ago today.

And yet, as I have shared previously, I know she is in the presence of her Lord Jesus. She is in an amazing place where she has her animals, she can worship the Lord face to face – and she is most likely part of that great crowd of people in Heaven that I mentioned in my previous post*.

Let’s look at them again:

“And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,
“Great and amazing are your deeds,
O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations!
Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come and worship you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.” (Rev 15:3-4)

Those are people who can see that God’s purposes in History were all part of His Great Plan, on a level and of a complexity that we cannot even begin to fathom. As I’ve said before, we can only gain an inkling in this life of how that all works, what the answers are to Life’s Big Questions. But these guys have what you might call the Heavenly Perspective – they can see what’s really been going on all this time, and, like I said before, they worship God in response to what they have seen!

Now, think of it like this: I too – and you – are also in that great multitude. And so,  you see, it means that we too can live today from within that Heavenly Perspective that our ‘future selves’ will know. Part of bringing the Kingdom into today, part of our eternal life in the here-and-now, is surely to bring that Heavenly Perspective into our lives, and the lives of others we meet, today. Jesus said that “the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Mt 3:2). This meant that wherever Jesus was, so there the Kingdom was. He was bringing forward, into the lives of the people around Him, the glories and benefits of the Kingdom of Heaven. And because Jesus lives in us by His Spirit, that same Kingdom is here with us right now, in our everyday lives. All we really need to do is to realise this!

Now, we know that one day we will be singing with that great crowd, in the full knowledge of God’s huge creative and redemptive genius throughout history, where we will see that even those things that bother us now were but a part of that huge tapestry of interconnected events that all worked out in the end. We will in fact have that Heavenly Perspective. We too will see how it all worked; how that great Plan happened and how it all came together.

And so, because we will see that perspective then, why not pre-empt that and live in that knowledge now? We know even now that, one day, we will know in completeness what everything was all about (1Cor 13:12) like those in that great crowd, why not today join with our ‘future selves’ in their knowledge that it’s all great, and actually just fine and dandy. You can imagine our ‘future selves’ thinking wryly (because there will be no regret in Heaven!) “Oh if only I’d had that perspective back then!” But we can indeed have that perspective right now!

I hope this makes sense; it is a bit metaphysical, and I know as well as the next guy that it’s hard to maintain a ‘Heavenly Perspective’ when life is burning us and we are still in the flames of whatever troubles we are going through. Believe me, I have been through the fire these past three years; I have walked the walk, and the talk I am talking is based on what I have learned over that time.

But, you know, the Scripture speaks of ‘Treasure in jars of clay’ (2 Cor 4:7) – something immeasurably valuable in ordinary human bodies. It speaks of us having the Holy Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, a downpayment if you like, to guarantee the things that are to come (2Cor 1:22, Eph 1:14). This is what powers the Life in the Spirit.

What does this life look like? Well, I have written a piece on this here, but I will summarise by saying that there is joy, there is healing, there is power, there is love, there is freedom from bondage, freedom from religious Rules, freedom from the power of sin, freedom from addiciton, freedom from the fear of death; there is the overriding sense of God’s Presence that gives this immense ‘peace that passes understanding’ (Phil 4:7) – a peace that is beyond understanding because it cannot be explained in terms of worldly circumstances. And beyond all that, there is this:

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though they die. Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” ” (John 11:25-26)

Sounds as if Jesus is contradicting Himself, doesn’t it? But He’s not. He’s using the old Hebrew poetry device where two concepts are matched together to reveal a deeper truth. What He meant was that when we die, we will still live. He’s talking about the ‘afterlife’, if you like. And He reinforces this by saying that when a living person like you or I believes in Him, we will not die, since He has already explained that we will still live even after death. So, in a totally real way (not just ‘in a sense’, as I was going to write), this means that once you believe in Him, your life will be one amazing, long walk with Him through this life and, without pause, into the next. Jesus says it quite plainly, in fact, in John 5:24, where He says, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life”. Did you see that? A believer has already crossed over from death to Life! It happens now. This is the assurance that Christians have. This is the assurance that Fiona had, and now knows in full measure. This is the Gospel, or at least a huge part of it. Passing through the veil of death at the end of a believer’s life here on earth is merely the moving on into the fuller, complete life we have been just starting to get used to, during our lives here. This is simply amazing stuff; it’s the sort of thing you can build your entire life on (Matthew 7:24).

This is the inheritance of the Saints (that’s you and me and Fiona) – eternal life beginning now, and continuing for ever. How’s that for Good News! Of course, the thing with an inheritance, remember, is that it’s something you get in this life because of Someone who has died. Go figure!

So, as the old hymn goes:

“Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine and ten thousand besides!”

Wow!

And so, in the light of my opening lines here about being fed up, even just writing this piece has buoyed my spirit again. It has reminded me once again of all the mighty promises in God that are mine – and yours – to hold and to use. I needed to regain that perspective. And I have.

Even now, for the things I have already seen in my life and in the lives of others, I can still worship God for what He’s done already, very much like those people in Heaven.(Psalm 145:4).

So, I am asking God to increase my awareness of the Heavenly Perspective, like the one that Fiona and our ‘future selves’ have. It’s very much a foretaste of what is to come!

And for such great things as these, what better response than worship? Let me leave you, then,  with a great song based on the words those saints are singing – The Song of Moses:

And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb
Saying Great, great and marvellous are Your works, Lord God Almighty
Just and true are Your ways Lord, O King of the Saints
Who shall not fear You O Lord

And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb
Saying Great, great and marvellous are Your works, Lord God Almighty
Just and true are Your ways Lord, O King of the Saints
Who shall not fear You O Lord

Hallelujah, O Hallelujah!

Be blessed!


Header picture shows Fiona on the South-West Coast Path overlooking St. Mary’s Bay, Brixham, on a glorious Devon spring day. We are so blessed to live in such a beautiful part of the country, and Fiona always loved this walk. If Heaven is anything like Devon – and I believe that everything beautiful on this earth is a pale reflection of the glory and reality of Heaven – then it will be glorious indeed.


*I know that the Book of Revelation is not intended to be taken entirely literally. But there are still passages in that book that nevertheless show a glimpse of things indescribable to the human mind, through the use of metaphysical imagery. Basically it’s the best that John (the writer of Revelation) could do given the limited descriptive powers at his disposal – the same limits that you or I would come up against even today, were we to try to describe the inexpressible things he saw in his vision. And so, I have no problem in setting aside some of the more weird imagery in that book until such a time as Holy Spirit makes its meaning clear to me, while at the same time getting to grips with those parts – like the passages in this piece – for which I feel I have sufficient revelation (no pun intended; I hate puns!) to make a decent case for my insight in this piece.


[Edit: Not long after I wrote this post, there was a terrible terrorist suicide bomb attack on a crowded arena in Manchester. It was at an Ariane Grande concert; 22 people at least lost their lives and many more were injured, many of them young people and children. I don’t know why these things happen. But it is my sincere wish that people from such bereaved families find this post and take comfort from it. It’s easy to say this now, but, believe me, one day it will all make sense. I say that not from a callous heart but from one that has been through the same kind of fire. Jesus loves you. God loves you. Rest in the knowledge that your loved one(s) are being held gently in God’s arms. If you want to contact me about this, please do so and you’ll find the contact link in the menus at the top of the page. Or post a reply below.]

0
0

All The World He Made Is Good

Here’s a lovely song by my favourite Gospel singer, the brilliant Don Francisco. No prizes for guessing what it’s about 😉

In beginning was the Word
And He spoke and made the world
Then He filled the sky with light
And He saw that it was good

Land and sea then living things
Teemed and swarmed and multiplied
And all of life lived as it should
And God said that it was good

Yes He said that it was good
Bird and beast and rock and wood
Let this truth be understood
All the world He made is good

Man and woman stood serene
Walked with God in gardens green
God blessed all His hands had made
And called it beautiful and good

Yes He said that it was good
Bird and beast and rock and wood
Let this truth be understood
All the world He made is good

(Instrumental)

Sit very still and look around
See the colors, hear the sounds
Let all His love come shining through
‘Cause your Father made it all for you

And He said that it was good
Bird and beast and rock and wood
Let this truth be understood
All the world He made is good

And He said that it was good
Bird and beast and rock and wood
Let this truth be understood
All the world He made is good

(Extended instrumental outro)


So much of Christian theology explains the state of the world – the disasters, the poverty, the cruelty of man and nature – as being because the world is somehow ‘bad’. And that the ‘badness’ is explained because of humanity’s ‘Fall’ in the Garden of Eden. The thing is, for me, the Eden story is part of the Jewish creation myth that was never intended to be read as actual history – and I don’t believe that the world is bad like that theology asserts. Yes, that’s going to annoy the Biblical literalists, but that’s not my problem. The part I do believe is that, because God is good (and in Him there is no darkness [evil]) (1Jn1:5), then I believe He created the world as good as well – in Genesis 1:31 it says that ‘God saw all that He had made, and it was very good’. And I believe it is still very good.

Without going into detail about why bad things happen (I do examine these ideas a little in this article about ‘Life’s Big Questions’), I also think that the first and the last books of the Bible contain two symmetrical ideas.

Let me explain. In Genesis 1:31,  we saw that ‘God saw…that…it was very good’. In Revelation 15, there is a great crowd in Heaven who can all see the great things God has done, and how He has worked things out according to His purposes. All things have come to their conclusion, and the huge and mighty wisdom of God, through the ages of history, has been revealed. Here’s what they sing:

“And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,

“Great and amazing are your deeds,
O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations!
Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come and worship you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.” (Rev 15:3-4)

As I have previously written in this article, they can see all of History in its vast sweep and scale, with all its hatred and horror, with all its triumph and joy, and still they sing that song. They see how everything has worked out for good for those who love God and have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28) – and that His righteous acts have been revealed.

So, bringing these two symmetrical threads together – Yes, the World is Good, and Yes, somehow God works His purposes out despite – and through – all the bad things that happen. The world was good in the beginning, and somehow, because God is working His purposes out, the world is good now as well.

Ok, this might all seem a bit nebulous in the light of international bad things that happen like tsunamis, famines, ISIS and Donald Trump’s presidency. And it is indeed a kind of Rabbinic teaching concept, where opposite views are held in tension in order to find the truth somewhere in between. But taking the two arguments from Genesis and Revelation together, we can see that actually things are good, God is (somehow) working His purposes out, and it will all fall into place – and make sense – in the end. What a day that will be!

Right, I have thrown a pile of ideas at you, none of which probably makes any coherent sense – but that means it’s now time to go and meditate on it. Think about it, let the Spirit guide you into all truth (Jn 16:13). If what I’ve written helps, great; if not, just discard it and enjoy the music 🙂


I chose the header image because it is a combination of a cloud-covered Earth, an eclipsed Sun with the ‘diamond ring’ phenomenon and with the Moon’s shadow projected onto the cloudscape, and the backdrop of our own Milky Way galaxy behind. Even the huge scale of the objects represented here is miniscule compared with the beyond-incomprehensible size of the Cosmos. All the world indeed is good. And God is bigger than all that and yet He – the Creator of the Universe – chooses to live in us. How awesome is that?!

0
0

My Glory and the Lifter of My Head

This entry is part 11 of 15 in the series Fiona
“But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.” – Psalm 3:3 (KJV)

I have had a new breakthrough in the area of worship.

Since losing my lovely wife Fiona to cancer last October, my soul should have been downcast (Ps 42:5). But, as I have said in a previous post, yes I have been grieving, and yes there have been heartbreak and tears, but my soul is not downcast within me. That which is ‘me’, my personality, my ‘self’, has not been destroyed. It is well with my soul! My worship life; my closeness to the God of all Comfort, has kept me afloat, kept me sane, kept me in joy. Not that I can claim credit for that; I have to say that the worship is my natural response to His closeness; the initiative, as it were, lies entirely with Him. It’s my choice to worship in response to that love, of course, but how can I not? Being surrounded and, yes, almost ‘padded’ by that Love, what other response can I possibly make?

As a worship leader from the Charismatic renewal era, I have led/sung (and still do!) certain types of song hundreds of times: those that express a longing, a hunger for God, for His presence. I suppose they are, for me, an expression of the longing in my heart for more of Him. Because, for me, He is the Centre of everything, I just want more and more. And yet He’s always right there, all the time. I suppose I just mean with those songs that I never want that Presence to leave me. It’s quite interesting in that God is so ‘present’ (although I know He’s ‘everywhere’) in the places where it appears that there is no God. So, in tragedy, suffering and heartache of all kinds, He’s right there. What we need to do is to develop a consciousness, an awareness, of that Presence.

A couple of months ago, someone at our Lifegroup (housegroup) said, “How can you lead worship like that after all you’ve been through?” And the answer is, really, “how can I not?” Worshipping Jesus has kept my focus on Him and that’s been my lifesaver. And so, like in the story I linked to above (here it is again), I have had those heavenly worship times where everything just fades into the background in the Light of His Presence. The troubles and grief are still there, but they are put into the correct perspective by the worship; I am reminded again of the primacy of Jesus and the sovereignty of God; I know He is in charge and this is just so profound.

But now, the worship seems to be taking a new course. Rather than simply affirming the worship of Heaven in my life, and showing me in some small way what Fiona is experiencing in the Presence of God, He’s now letting me see more and more of who I am in Him, Who He is to me, what He’s done for me and what I have in Him. 2Pet1:3 says, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness”. And He has. He gives power for life, He gives freedom from sin, He gives the peace that passes all understanding. He’s lifted my head, and He continues to do so. All the things that happen in my life now, I face from a place of complete rest and confidence in Him. This is the state of Grace; where God’s undeserved favour (in that I have had to do nothing in order to ‘gain’ or ‘earn’ it) is present in blessing and Divine Presence.

And He is the one Who is indeed the Lifter of my head. When the grief and the sadness make me want to drop my head, chin to my chest, He’s the One Who lifts it back up again, to let me gaze on His Face. He’s the One Who lifts my aching heart and fills it with such indescribable joy, bubbling over; the reassurance of His Presence. And this is all so real to me; it hardly seems fair that one man should be given such blessing. As a friend of mine said a few years ago, we had such a life-changing experience of God in our early Christian lives that for Fiona and I, this was the norm. When worship was happening, we were in the thick of it. The Presence of God is so real, so tangible, it’s simply amazing.

And so I want to share this brilliant Terry MacAlmon song, My Glory and the Lifter of My Head. Especially magnificent in this song is the spine-tingling solo by Liz Gustafson, “When the terror of the enemy | Seems to rise all around me | Still I, I will not be afraid | Oh, For there is One greater | He’s my shield and my defender | And He will stand beside me till that day!”

For the reader who does not yet know what it feels like to be in God’s Presence, may I encourage you to ask Him to make Himself real to you today. Be a part of this. Enter into this joy that is just so available to you. Let this song minister the truth of the reality of God into your spirit; let Him breathe his new life into you.

Here we go, then. This is a really great song. Be blessed as you listen!

You’re my glory
And the lifter of my head
You’re my glory
And the lifter of my head
For Thou, O Lord, are a shield for me
My glory and the lifter of my head

When the terror of the enemy
Seems to rise all around me
Still I, I will not be afraid
Oh, For there is One greater
He’s my shield and my defender
And He will stand beside me till that day

3
1

Here We Are/Have Your Way

Three years ago, I came back into worship leading, as my ‘Dark Night of the Soul‘ ended. At that time, we led worship at a local Christian conference/retreat centre, Brunel Manor, and we sang the song ‘Have Your Way’. A song that declares complete trust in God to have His way in our lives, to let Him in and let Him have control. This is the life of the Spirit; a life walking in the Spirit.

When I wrote the piece linked to above (here is it again), I declared complete trust and faith in God to handle the healing of my gorgeous wife Fiona, who at the time was fighting inoperable pancreatic cancer. And yet Fiona died of that illness, but even then I believe that this was her healing. I won’t go into detail on this here, but have written at length on my thoughts on that matter in my series ‘Fiona‘ on this blog. Take a look.

In this post, I am showcasing two of Don Moen’s* lovely songs: ‘Here We Are‘, leading into ‘Have Your Way‘. The idea is to demonstrate that worshipping God, drawing near to Him and entering into His presence, and being conscious of His nearness, naturally leads into an expression of trust. So, in ‘Here We Are‘, we worship God and tell Him how much we trust Him. In ‘Have Your Way‘, we put that trust into practical expression by inviting Him into our lives and our situations, however bad those situations may be. Sometimes things work out as we’d hoped (healing, whatever), and sometimes not – as in our case. But still, God is good, and God is worth trusting. It would be great if you can enter in to these songs and let God in, to do the things He’s longing to do with you. Because it will be good!

Here we are, lifting our hands to You
Here we are, giving You thanks for all You do
And as we praise, and worship Your holy Name
You are here, dwelling within our praise

For every answered prayer
For always being there
For love that hears us when we call
For arms that lift us when we call
Oh you have always been right beside us
Leading us all along the way
We’ve made it through because of You

For days we cannot see
For all that’s yet to be
For trials we may have to face
When we’ll be leaning on Your grace
It will be Your strength that saves us
Your love that makes us strong
And through it all, we’ll sing this song

Have Your way, have Your way
Holy Spirit, fill our hearts and have Your way
As we wait, as we pray
Speak Your Word into our hearts, and have Your way.


One of the really clever things you can do, when embedding a video from YouTube in a blog page like this, is to highlight a portion of the video for people to watch. This is what I have done here, in that you will see that these two songs are simply a small section of the whole video which is actually nearly an hour and a quarter in length. This means that if you would like to view the entire video, you can do that simply by clicking the beginning of the red track indicator at the bottom of the video. Or you can skip to any part of the video by clicking somewhere on the red track indicator.


*Don Moen is the chap in the header picture

0
0

Praise the Lord!

Now this really is a song from my youth. Ok, I was 20, but still…

In the early 80’s, there was a Christian singer called Dave Pope, who did a cover of a song, in 1981, called ‘Praise the Lord’, by Michael Hudson and Brown Bannister. We loved it (although I never could work out the chords so that we could perform it ourselves! Worked them out last week, though, now being a much more experienced musician). Then we heard the song again at Festival 84 (a bit like the Dales Bible Week) at Staffordshire County Showground, this time performed by the Mohabir Sisters.

For years, I have tried to find a recording of that song. Have you ever tried to find a song called ‘Praise the Lord’? Can you imagine how many hits you get for that phrase on Google?

And then, only this week, one of my friends shared a YouTube link on Facebook, of a Christian artist (bearing the unlikely and possibly made-up name of ‘Chris Christian’*), singing the very song I have been looking for all these years. Somehow I had never thought to look on YouTube… and I found several renditions of it, two of which I have included below, including the Chris Christian version.

But I also went and looked for the Dave Pope version too, and, like I did for ‘Emmanuel‘, I found a vinyl record of Dave’s album from right back there in 1981, and I have made an mp3 copy of the song.

And here it is:


When you’re up against a struggle, that shatters all your dreams

When your hopes have been cruelly crushed by Satan’s manifested schemes
When you feel the urge within you to submit to earthly fear
Don’t let the faith you’re standing on seem to disappear.

Praise the Lord, He can work through those who praise Him
Praise the Lord, for our God inhabits praise
Praise the Lord, for the chains that seek to bind you
Serve only to remind you, that they fall powerless behind you
When you praise Him.

Now Satan is a liar, and he wants to make us think
That we are paupers when he knows himself we are children of the King
So lift that mighty shield of faith for the battle must be won
We know that Jesus Christ is risen so the work’s already done.

Praise the Lord, He can work through those who praise Him
Praise the Lord, for our God inhabits praise
Praise the Lord, for the chains that seek to bind you
Serve only to remind you, that they fall powerless behind you
When you praise Him.

Praise the Lord, God can work through those who praise Him
Praise the Lord, for our God inhabits praise
Praise the Lord, for the chains that seek to bind you
Serve only to remind you, they fall powerless behind you
When you praise Him, praise Him, praise Him, praise Him….

When you praise Him.
When you praise…….. the Lord.

Wonderful! As I have said in other posts, worship and praise really put a believer’s life and circumstances into their proper perspective. Praising God in the midst of any circumstances, good or bad, brings His power and presence into the situation in a way that nothing else does. Yes, I know it sounds like some sort of talisman or magic spell. But its not; what is happening is that you are bringing a consciousness, or awareness, of God’s Presence into your circumstances. You remind yourself (not God; He already knows!) that He is with you and He will never leave or forsake you (Dt 31:6; Heb 13:5). And that puts an entirely different slant on things – entirely different.

Praise the Lord!


Here are two of the YouTube videos of this song that I found. Nice arrangements with sight changes to the lyrics.

First up, the Chris Christian version, posted by someone who can’t spell ‘Christian’:

And finally, a version by the ‘Imperials’. Possibly pre-Star Wars; not certain 😉


*Chris, If by some chance you come to read this, I’m only joking 😉

But you’ve got to admit…..

0
0

Song of Incense

This entry is part 7 of 15 in the series Fiona

It’s four months today since my precious wife Fiona died, and I wanted to share another post about her and the grieving process, again from a different slant.

While looking for a picture of our first home, I came across the picture above. It shows Fiona with our dogs, Jasper and Katie, and our son David, in July 1987. David was about seven weeks old in this picture – he’d been born six weeks prematurely – and he’s now a big strapping lad who will be 30 in June. How time flies…and so does David; he’s a Pilot too 🙂

This is a picture of a beautiful 21-year old Fiona in our first house in July 1985, giving the scrounging dogs a treat…

But the reason I was wanting pictures of our first home is because I remember God’s provision for us – in those days, and ever after – and I wanted to testify to that provision. He set up everything for us in order for us to get married, He set up everything for our house, my job, everything. Soon after David was born, as I said, six weeks prematurely, he caught a deadly illness from another child in the Baby Unit. This illness had a 50% fatality rate, and for the majority of survivors, they would have to have a colostomy. But David made a full recovery. Our next house purchase was also a series of one Divine Intervention after another. And that has been our testimony for our whole married lives together.

So how can I doubt that, even with losing Fiona, God will continue to provide for my family and I? All along, He’s been right there, provided what we needed, healed us and lifted us up.

Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,

  and forget not all his benefits—
 who forgives all your sins
 and heals all your diseases,
 who redeems your life from the pit
 and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
 so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s”. ( – Psalm 103:1-5)

And this has been true for us for our entire married lives together. The healing? Fiona died of cancer; how can that be a healing? Well, as I said in another post, I have never known an illness so resistant to healing prayer. And I have seen people healed by prayer; I have been healed myself – actually without prayer; God intervened sovereignly and decisively – so what happened? What went wrong? Well, I can only conclude that it was simply Fiona’s time. She always believed that each person has a time to ‘go’; her favourite Psalm was the 139th, and in Ps 139:16 it says that, “All the days ordained for me were written in your book, before one of them came to be”. Fiona believed that. And a couple of years before she died, I had a definite vision of her healed – but on the other side of the ‘veil’, although I only realised the significance of that after she died. (Sometimes the abstract nature of visions makes them unclear as to their full meaning). So in a very real sense, although she died, I believe that she is indeed healed, and whole, and walking with Jesus in paradise (Lk 23:43). And remembering these times, looking at these photos, are a lovely reminder of the amazing times and adventures we had together: the places we went; the things we did; the dangers we shared; the joys and the horrors. This is a healthy thing to do, to remember the life we had together, and it helps the grieving process. It helps here to remember the Dr. Seuss quote: “Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened”. Although of course it’s a bit of both, to be sure!

Most of you will know that Fiona and I had a strong ministry in leading worship. And it is no coincidence that we considered our entire lives to be built on the foundation of worship. What’s that got to do with our first home? Well, as we were preparing our house to move into it, in late 1983 and just before we were married, we did the whole thing to the backdrop of worship. We had my ghetto-blaster playing worship tapes all the time, and we worshipped along with the music. One of the primary worship tapes we had at that time was one called ‘Call to War’ by David and Dale Garratt of ‘Scripture in Song’, and the songs on that tape always reminded us, and still remind me, of those days when we were getting our house ready. Like, for example, our first meal in the house together, when we ate Pot Noodles sitting on a pile of ripped-up carpet in the bathroom of our new house. So, here’s the song that gives this blog post its title: Song of Incense. This is a lovely worship song that epitomised that tape and those days. Here it is:

Let our praise to You be as incense
Let our praise to You be as pillars of Your throne
Let our praise to You be as incense
As we come before You and worship You alone

As we see You in Your splendour
As we gaze upon Your Majesty
As we join the hosts of angels
And proclaim together Your holiness

Holy, Holy Holy,
Holy is the Lord*

What I’m saying is that you can’t do better than to build your life on an appreciation of God – which is what worship is – and to involve Him in everything. Even though Fiona died, still I know that a) she’s healed and whole, and b) I’ll see her again. God has revealed this to me personally and there is no way I can lose that vision. Doctrines and theologies will come and go, but once Father God has revealed something to a believer, they don’t forget His words. And all this is because we lived together a life of worship: closeness to God and declaring His merits. I can recommend no better way of living.

How to do this? Well, you might have heard people in churches speaking of a ‘lifestyle of worship’. In other words, it’s not just something you ‘do’ on a Sunday; it’s something that pervades your entire life every day of the week. As St. Paul says in Romans 12:1: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship”. It’s easy to start this. Just begin to praise and thank God for everything, in every situation, no matter what happens, and before you know it, it will become a habit that will sustain you for your whole life. Worship can be singing, just chatting with God, whispering to Him, dance, even basket-making or whatever your hobby is. And in this way you build up a consciousness of the presence of God in your life that you simply can’t get rid of; not that you’d try of course. This is why so many Christians appear to go around bubbling with an inexpressible, and inexplicable, joy and radiance. These are the worshippers; these are those close to God, hearing His heart, and you will find them in all denominations and also in places of no denomination. And aside from the habit-forming worship lifestyle, worship is also tremendous fun.

So, this day, determine to offer up your own personal ‘Song of Incense’ to God. Start with this song if you like, then look in my ‘Worship’ category here in my blog for more songs to get you started.

This is my secret for how I have kept so upbeat during this time of terrible tragedy. It’s all based on a closeness to God through the habit of worship. In some ways, ‘The thing I feared the most has happened to me’ (Job 3:25); the very worst thing that could happen has happened – I have lost my lovely, irreplaceable, precious wife. But still you see me ‘filled with an inexpressible joy’ (1Pet1:8), and let me tell you it’s not a ‘front’ as someone once suggested it might be! I am a Yorkshireman and, with me, what you see is what you get! Worship forms the centre of my life; I would not be ‘me’ without it. I know it might sound all airy-fairy and up in the air, but worship brings the reality of God into everyday life like nothing else. I heartily recommend it.


*For musical nerds, this song requires some explanation. Its exotic-sounding ‘unorthodox’ chord structure sounds the way it does because it is played mainly on the dominant chord instead of the tonic, that is, the song is written in the key of A♭, but it begins with, and is generally played, using the chord E♭. It’s a similar principle to the chord structure used in Kari Jobe’s ‘Revelation Song‘. This is all fine except when some dork who doesn’t understand how that works comes along and transposes it into ‘D’ for guitars, then they have to put in lots of ‘accidentals’ like C major and whatever. I once saw that in a Christian songbook, much to my chagrin. For starters, you should leave a song in the key in which it is written, unless there’s a potential problem with the congregation’s vocal range, which there isn’t in this case. Most instances of changing the original key are done because it makes it easier for lazy musicians to play in a key they can manage, rather than learning how to play in any key (some keys are more difficult than others). A song is written in the key it’s in because it sounds right in that key, and that shouldn’t be changed without a really good reason! A simple capo-1 ‘G’ notation would have worked…

0
0

Jesus, Name Above All Names

This is one of my favourite songs from my early years as a Christian – Jesus, Name Above All Names.

I sometimes think that many people, even in the Church, underestimate the importance of Jesus. He’s not only the ‘Author and Finisher of our faith’ (Heb 12:2 (KJV)), but also that ‘From Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things’ (Rom 11:36); “For by him all things were created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible…” (Col 1:16) and “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” (Jn 1:3). Jesus is the Name before which every knee shall bow (Phil 2:10). His Name is the Name to which all authority has been given, in heaven and Earth (Mat 28:12) Jesus is absolutely central, in all of history, in the Church, in absloutely everything. “He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy”. (Col 1:18).

I could go on. I could go on declaring the majesty, the holiness, the power and the glory of Jesus…but I will instead pass you over to Terry MacAlmon, worship leader extraordinaire, to lead this lovely song declaring Jesus – Name Above All Names. Sing it in the light of what I have written here today about Jesus, the One Whose Name is indeed above every other name, and in the light of what you know in your heart to be true.

Let your praise be to Him as incense today. Lift up your hands and worship Him!

Jesus, Name above all names
Beautiful Saviour, glorious Lord
Emmanuel, God is with us
Blessed Redeemer, Living Word


If you’re wondering why Terry refers to God’s power moving all over the Netherlands, it’s because this video was taken at a worship conference in the Netherlands in 2010.


A version of this song which would be much more conteporary to my ‘early Christian years’ era can be found on the tape ‘Songs of Celebration‘ on my website ‘VintageWorshipTapes.com

0
0