A Letter to God

Dear God, the life I want most for myself is…

Hang on, doesn’t that seem a little selfish
I thought this faith was about earning credit being selfless
Not a wish-list to the Lord like he’s Santa sitting at Selfridges
I thought you want everything to be meek and mild
the wisdom of the sages with the innocence of a child
So I don’t quite get what this exercise is
A description of my dream life and its accompanying Prime list?

I want peace and goodwill for all mankind
That’s the kind of thing that I’m supposed to say right
To act all pious, turning darkness into daylight
Shiny happy Jimmy in my soul’s darkest night
Cos actually there are people I don’t want to have a nice ride
I want your frightening lightning bolts and to be there when you smite right!
But I get it, that’s not very Christ-like
Let’s start again; what is my vision for the ‘Good Life’

Here’s an honest take on a life that would be cool
I want a world where a kid can go to school
and not worry about someone busting in the room
with an automatic weapon and indiscriminately start shooting
But wait, that’s politics; it’s not religion
So it’s an area just outside your jurisdiction.
Separation of Church and State; we just send our thoughts and prayers
and leave the lawmakers to legislate
…or not
In case they offend the fat cats whose power plumps the money pots
turning loopholes into nooses for those kids they deem the ‘have-nots’
Surely a Shalom life shuts down this kind of sh… Stop!
There’s got to be a better way for us to get along
More than whose rights are right and whose voices don’t belong
Maybe that’s a part of this thing we call Shalom
Where everyone is valued…
yeah that’s what I want

Men alongside women; equally respected
Genuine equality not politically corrected
Shouting from the glass rooftops irreversibly shattered
“We’re made in God’s image, that’s the only thing that matters!”
Working together for better or for worse
And you can bet your bottom dollar that our blessing far outweighs their curse
That’s the kind of life I want
And that’s not just for me
That’s good news for everyone
That’s the way it should be!

Everything I’ve written so far is feeling pretty abstract
Yeah gun laws and equality are good and for sure they’d make an impact
but there’s a safety in the distance between me and these issues
A comfortable resistance “these are good things someone ought to do”
And the results would be great for our sons and daughters too
Who when they grow up won’t even have a clue
That I just sat back and watched the revolution happen on the news
Tweeting some insightful armchair point of view
There’s an unhealthy disconnect
We gotta get involved
An incarnation activation of mind, body and soul
This Shalom cannot only be a theory
It’s a mission with a message to be mediated clearly
And it’s not like we can forget it, we’re reminded of it yearly
The incarnation of Christ, with songs we sing sincerely
Then as he grows he calls “hey if you can hear me grab your cross and follow me
I’ll show you how to love more dearly”

Dearly loving I like, but can’t I leave the cross?
Is there a way to have the ‘good life’ and eliminate the loss?
I guess we’ve all seen greed and profits driving down the costs
And exploitation leads to sweatshops building the bank balance of the boss
All I really want is for my family to be ok
To have their needs met and the opportunity to play
Keep them safe and well and Lord that’s quite enough
Surround them with your grace and protect them with your love

Love; it’s the essence at the heart of it
the lifeblood of a story transplant infusing every part of it
Life in all its fullness has Jesus at the start of it,
and at the end, and through every step imparting it
And everything I want is simply rooted in his word
The world can flog me all it wants, his is the best offer I’ve heard
Acceptance just the way I am? who doesn’t want to hear that!
You can ask around the town, but seriously, I don’t need a meerkat
to tell me Jesus calling is unique and let me tell you
it’s more than just a choice between a heaven and hell (yeah?)
It’s security and safety, overflowing joy for real
A wholeness and completeness, and all-inclusive healing
That deals with corruption; “O death where is thy sting?”
The curse of sin can’t hold us when we serve a different King
And that’s the ‘good life’ there! Before a good, good God, I bow
And the most amazing part of grace is we can live Shalom right now… Wow.

Lyrics ©2018 Jimmy Orr

Inspired by the ‘soul training’ exercise in The Good and Beautiful Life by James Bryan Smith.

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Leading worship with no musicians?

One question a lot of people ask me, or comment on, is how to lead worship when there are no musicians around. Is there an app for that? Here are some ideas.

First and foremost is this. If you are in the mindset that by worship you mean singing, it becomes very difficult. You basically have two options available…

a) a backing track of some description (perhaps a CD or Mp3 sing-along, or maybe some thing like this new little gadget: www.isingworship.com/), or
b) sing a Capella, totally unaccompanied.

I have done more of the latter than the former. I was once put in a position of leading songs in the middle of a field with no amplification other than a sole megaphone. Hymns and megaphones are an interesting combination but it seemed to work.

Alternatively you can take the opportunity to use other forms of expressing worship together. There are plenty of groups and denominations that use non music-based forms of worship. There is a rich archive of liturgy and ancient creeds to use and adapt and provide inspiration to create ways to express shared faith together. You can use communal reading of scripture whereby the leader reads a verse and the congregation either repeats or read the next line. There are plenty of scriptures that lend themselves to this kind of reading. Genesis 1 for example is thought to be a poem with repeating lines of ‘there was evening and there was morning, the Nth day’ (There is a PowerPoint for this reading in the resource section of this blog.) Psalm 136 has the repeat refrain ‘His love endures forever’ which can be really simple for congregations to engage with but also really powerful to speak over and over again about God’s enduring love throughout the Israelite story.

Then there are all the different ways we can pray together, different ways of reflecting (lectio divina’s and putting yourself into the story are great ways of reflecting together on Bible passages in worship.) how can we find ways of sharing our own stories and praying through our own personal experiences. Of course one major element of unsung worship is to share communion – breaking bread, either in a formal rich ritual way or in an informal lounge-like style can be a powerful worship expression and doesn’t need a musical accompaniment.

Recently I led a worship session which used many of these techniques. Those who took part were surprised at just how much they were able to engage in music-less worship expressions, and ever more so, how much they enjoyed it! There were times of silence, times of guided reflection, times of each person sharing and reading verses aloud together.

In that particular setting we did use a song or two at the end to close, but it was the unsung elements that had the biggest impact on these worshippers lives.

It may take a bit more preparation. It may require a bit more imagination and thinking outside of the box (and once outside the box you may want to use the box for something else!) but unsung worship need not be a terrifying or excruciating experience. When led well, unsung worship can easily be rich and meaningful and exhilarating as the latest anthem or album.