I wonder if you are like me? I can’t really believe that anyone is quite as stupid and undisciplined as I find myself to be – repeating the same mistakes over and over again, making the wrong choices and reaping the emptiness that always follows… Choose life, eejit!
I am one of those blessed and fortunate people who doesn’t have to go out to work in the mornings: I can get up when I like and make my own routine. You would think by now I would know how to do that well – what works and doesn’t work – all these years of what I call ‘self-employment’ – being guided by the endless list of things to do but with lots of aspects to my multi-coloured life to keep it interesting… Life has been tough for the past few years of course, like living on an emotional knife edge – and sometimes not enough sleep in the bank to make good decisions in the morning – but surely I know by now that firing my computer up first thing is not the best start to the day, not living from the inside, not hitting the spot. I wrote about it 6 months ago in F is for face(book) down! Yet I still do it, still get drawn into the outside world before I get my inside world sorted out. Just like Paul in Romans 7, ‘I find myself not doing the things I would do and doing the things I wouldn’t do’.
The blog confessional again: and the blog can sometimes be the problem! Words, words, words – you must get as bamboozled by them as I do! I have all these words in my head and I must get them out! But although it is therapeutic to ‘get it out’ it sometimes leaves me more empty than when I started… like yesterday, all that talk about death, all that serious stuff that really no-one wants to talk about. Why do I insist on analysing it all, confronting the shadows, ripping off the veil? There is a lot of anger compelling me, I guess… In contrast the day I wrote ‘So beautiful’, I felt so happy and fulfilled – so maybe it is the subject matter of the day that has an effect on my spirits – perhaps even on yours? That doesn’t mean the harder subjects shouldn’t be broached, does it?
What I need is input – food for my spirit and soul. I would also help myself if I had a healthy breakfast and got dressed, sat quietly with the Lord and prayed about the day – all that stuff that sets one up properly for what God has already planned for us to walk in… But sometimes in my dozy morning state all I feel like doing is cuddling up on the sofa in my warm dressing gown, drinking too much coffee and checking out what is happening on facebook! So that’s what I end up doing… oh dear, I definitely have a self-indulgent streak. It doesn’t always produce life – especially when it becomes a bad habit and a trap.
Anyway, there I was yesterday afternoon, walking into town, feeling a bit rubbish after a morning tapping the keys and looking at the screen, wondering how to get back on track… and I remembered my i-Pod, that source of musical entertainment which I so often deny myself as I try to keep the stimuli to a minimum: I usually prefer to listen to the silence of the house as it breathes around me. So… earphones in to drown out the traffic and press shuffle songs: what Martin calls the god of the iPod immediately leaps into play. I suddenly remember that music is good, that it lifts my heart – that God can speak through it and it can make me feel better! ‘In Your Name there is mercy for sin, there is safety within, in Your Holy Name; in Your Name there is strength to remain, to stand in spite of pain, in Your Holy Name…’
I have known for some time that singing has taken a back seat in my life. I am first and foremost a singer – it was my primary gifting! But with the pain and weary slog of recent times I have pushed it away and now pretty much refuse to pick up my guitar… I wrote about almost a whole year ago in Joy is peace dancing. Sadly – and it does make me sad because if I did it I think I would have more joy! – I haven’t made much progress since then with finding my song or making my way back into that particular worship discipline… 😦
BUT this is not about beating myself up! OK – I recognise there often isn’t enough of a rise in my spirit to overcome the bad habits and do the more productive thing that requires choice and effort (what IS that thing that holds us back from things that are good for us? Oh yes – ‘the law of sin at work in my members’, thanks Paul – because you then go on to say ‘There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’ Romans 8v1!) No this is about recognition of those bad habits and a sincere prayer for help to change: I really need help to make good choices and live by the Spirit! But I am still loved, ‘whether I sing or don’t sing’ – and for now it is easier to let someone else do the singing for me… So yes – back to the iPod…
That’s when Don Henley came on. The ex-Eagle is one of our favourite songwriters – we always say he should have been made poet laureate of the US. We chose this song, My Thanksgiving, to play at our 20 year celebration of marriage/renewal of vows in September 2002 – yep, it’ll be 29 this year! As his dulcet tones rang in my ears and recognition sparked I was taken somewhere else – music can do that, especially when it fills your head to the exclusion of the world around. So many memories were awoken, joy was awoken and I became one of those crazy people walking down the street singing aloud to an unheard tune!
It was my wake up call. Of course the secret to the summer blues on a grey day is thanksgiving – and in fact any kind of one’s favourite music helps! As does going outside and breathing fresh air, exercise – at the gym, cycling, walking – or just being in town, in the park, in Costa… watching the world and his wife getting on with their lives. It is not so hard to choose these things, to know how to do myself good, to connect with life and heaven and be filled up again. Lord, help me remember the things I love and ‘eat’ them – whether the word, good granola or sunshine on my face! Help me find You in the morning so I can offer My Thanksgiving all day long – as Godfrey’s modern psalm, which is still top of the favourites list, declares.
So here are some of the words to that great song My Thanksgiving by Mr Henley – the bit that reminds me I can even be grateful for days like yesterday, when things aren’t so good, when I miss the mark, when I fail or suffer pain or fear – because even out of these negative things – perhaps more especially because of them – redemption comes: the winding road that leads to Your door, the labour that produces a child, the fire that refines the gold, the way heaven turns our weaknesses into opportunities…
Now the trouble with you and me, my friend
Is the trouble with this nation
Too many blessings, too little appreciation
And I know that kind of notion—well, it just ain’t cool
So send me back to Sunday school
Because I’m tired of waiting for reasons to arrive
It’s too long we’ve been living
These unexamined lives
Have you noticed that an angry man
Can only get so far
Until he reconciles the way he thinks things ought to be
With the way things are…
Here in this fragmented world, I still believe
In learning how to give love, and how to receive it
And I would not be among those who abuse this privilege
Sometimes you get the best light from a burning bridge
And I don’t mind saying that I still love it all
I wallowed in the springtime
Now I’m welcoming the fall
For every moment of joy
Every hour of fear
For every winding road that brought me here
For every breath, for every day of living
This is my Thanksgiving
For everyone who helped me start
And for everything that broke my heart
For every breath, for every day of living
This is my Thanksgiving