Song 4 of 9 – The More I Know

This week’s song has been one that has influenced and comforted me greatly over the last 15 years, and I hope and pray it might minister to you wherever you are this week.

Last week we had a look at the Beatitudes, and how we can unwittingly live by quite a different set of expectations and ideals that lead us away from trusting dependence on the Father. We can be driven by our need to feel in control, to appear perfect, or to “have it all together”. Over many years, God has graciously continued to allow this tendency in myself to smash up against life’s realities, trying to rescue me from that ingrained habit of self-reliance. It’s interesting that the writer Paul Young used the word ‘independence’ to describe the essence of sin, in the context of how we relate to God. That’s worth giving some thought to.

“Blessed are the poor in Spirit for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs” (Matt 5:3). Other translations explain the phrase by using words like “those who only depend on Him”, “those who are poor and know their need for Him”, “the spiritually destitute”, or those who “recognise that they are spiritually helpless”. Jesus illustrated this truth by pointing to a little child and telling us that we needed to come to the Kingdom just like a child. The psalmist also contributes some deeper imagery, in psalm 131. I memorised it a while back, in the Good News translation:

Lord, I have given up my pride
and turned away from my arrogance.
I am not concerned with great matters
or with subjects too difficult for me.
Instead, I am content and at peace.
As a child lies quietly in its mother’s arms,
so my heart is quiet within me.
Israel, trust in the Lord
now and forever!

Sometimes all we can do is rest ourselves in the grace of God – mentally, emotionally, even with a physical action (like opening our hands, or writing out our burdens as an act of hand-over). He is the only one who can carry this world’s burdens. He is the one who knows our deepest hearts, and is unfailing in His loving commitment to us. Sometimes we can’t understand Him, we can’t understand our lives, and the pain that we or our friends are carrying seems overwhelming. In that time, the choice is still ours’ – to ‘soldier on’, or to rest ourselves and our burdens in the hands of the only one who can bring light into the darkness.

May you know His grace and care for you this week, here’s the song: The More I Know

Song 3 of 9 – The Great Doorway

Sometimes songs spring out in the most surprising ways. I wrote “The Great Doorway” in a circumstance of great heartache, and it’s referring to some deep matters of theology, and yet it came out as the “hokey-est”, daggy-est protest song I could imagine! I originally wrote it on a banjo-guitar, even! You may remember the folk singer/songwriters in the 60s and 70s writing a lot of ‘protest’ songs; and as a folky songwriter I find the protest genre quite a helpful way of processing frustration and disappointment with our culture. It’s a little more unusual to write a spiritual protest song, but that’s what happened here. So please don’t get hung up on individual lines or phrases, but try and take it as a whole and see if anything catches your attention. Sometimes even something that makes you feel reactive or confused is still worth giving some thought to. Also, sometimes exaggeration is a way of trying to look at something more clearly.

That’s what I did in the song: exaggerated certain beliefs and perceptions about God, ourselves and life that have been unhelpful to me and to people I love. I’ll never forget the protest in my spirit one time in church as I heard a beautiful old man of God pray, “Lord you know I’m nothing but a worm in your sight”. It grieved my heart, especially because in my own spiritual journey, for all sorts of reasons, I had often found it so hard to really trust that God could actually love me; that His forgiveness is real, and that he really does see me as His beloved daughter. In the intro to the song, I share some of those warped beliefs that I somehow grew up with about God and what He expected of me. Again I used exaggeration to help myself see more clearly where I was thinking wrongly. I wrote up a set of false beatitudes, that contrast glaringly with the real and beautiful teaching Jesus gave about us being poor in Spirit, being able to mourn, hungering and thirsting for His goodness, etc. I’ll put a copy of both sets of beatitudes below for your reflection, but feel free to go straight to the song. And if you want to skip the spoken intro, just jump to 2:25 on the clip.

When this song jumped out of my mouth & banjitar, I laughed and said, “God what the heck do you want me to do with this song?!!”. I still feel the same about it, so I’m just trusting Him in putting it out there to you guys and others. Maybe you can just laugh and leave it, or maybe it might get you thinking, or maybe you might even want to write back and let it be a discussion starter… Anyway, for what it’s worth, here’s The Great Doorway

PS: Here are the beatitudes:

Blessed are those who ‘have it all together’, for they have ‘arrived’, spiritually…
Blessed are the emotionally invulnerable, for they will never need comforting…
Blessed are those who control people and circumstances, for life will work out for them…
Blessed are those who know they are righteous, for they will never taste failure…
Blessed are the nice, for they will be liked…
Blessed are those who never do anything wrong, for they can feel sure of God’s acceptance…
Blessed are those who avoid conflict, for they will never offend.
Blessed are those who persecute anyone with a slightly different theology, for all Christendom is theirs…

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven…
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven….

Song 2 of 9 – MUTAWINJI

Last century (I just had to write that!) my close friend Sonja & I went camping in the Mutawinji National Park near Broken Hill. We would eat brekky then go our separate way for the day – she to do art, me to write. It was a very special few days – as you can see in the photo above, it is a spectacularly beautiful spot. I’m sitting up on the edge of a gorge, writing a song about a tiny tree nearby that was growing out of an enormous chunk of rock. Little did I know that Sonja took an amazing photo of that tree and rock from below, while walking through the gorge… Anyway, here’s that picture and the lyrics for this week’s song. I’ll write a few more thoughts, and give you the link, beneath it…

MUTAWINJI (c. Nerida Cuddy, Mutawinji National Park, 1998)

May my life be blown upon by your relentless Spirit,
laying bare the surface of my soul,
tearing out the trivial, exposing petty thrones
that blind me to all the truth I’ve known.

Like a windblown tree anchored in rock,
standing against a barren sky,
Let it be made clear that my life is in you,
that your massive strength is all that is holding me.

In the days of suffering the hope is growing clearer
that your love will decimate my pride,
in the pain of struggling against my rebel spirit
I will rest with nothing more to hide.

Beauty from ashes is your delight,
mending broken pieces,
bringing life back from the dead,
this is the wonder of your creating hand.

This is such a relevant prayer for me at this time. Today our house is a pretty good reflection of my state of mind – after several busy weeks it is full of random clutter and needs a lot of help! My mind and heart are also quite cluttered, distracted, a bit numb. I’d like to specially remind myself and all of us of how the screens/phones can be a ‘petty throne’ that can quite powerfully blind/deafen us – or just use up the time/focus we might need for prayer.

Usually I would start to feel panicked, stressing about what I should do to ‘fix’ my state of mind. But the past few days I’ve just been turning back over and again to the one who can actually bring the clarity. I’ve tried to thank Him that He is at work in me, and that He is able to speak to me regardless of how well I might feel I can listen. I’ve asked Him to continue to do what is needed to help me through this place I’m in, to ‘tear out the trivial’ and reveal the things that are blinding me. I’ve been thanking Him that He is doing the long slow work in me, and choosing to trust Him to continue it.

The fact is, our lives are in Christ – He is the one who is holding us, whether we feel aware of it, whether we are in a strong or weak place, whatever the circumstance. That photo is so powerful isn’t it, and I’m so grateful that my friend was prompted 20 years ago to take that picture, so that you can see what an incredible image it is of our life in Christ. He is strong, beautiful, and able to be depended on. Even though that tiny tree looks so weak, and like there is no nourishment there for it – it is alive and well, rooted in rock.

Much love to you all,
and enjoy the song – MUTAWINJI
in His unfailing love,
… I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Eph 3:16-19

A live concert

Last month, I released the first in a set of 9 songs which were filmed 4 or 5 yrs ago in a live concert at the Surrender conference in Victoria. My brother Warwick filmed and edited the songs, and my brother Andy did the sound. Some of the other songs feature a few backing musos and are particularly lovely.

I thought it would be a good thing to release all the songs one by one, a week at a time. Most of the songs have a one minute or so intro – the concert was aimed at a Christian audience, and the aim of it was an encouragement for people to encounter God more deeply, even though there are hard things in life and even hard things in faith, that we need to encounter. I’m going to post each song here at my blog, together with the reflective thoughts that go with that song.

It was a very special concert of some of the spiritual songs that are closest to my heart – the forerunner of my Prayers album, and I’m so pleased to finally be able to share it with you. The filming has turned out really beautifully, thanks to Warwick putting a whole lot of time into it recently!

Anyway, hope you enjoy this first song, PEACE and thanks for your prayers and support in general. Love to you and yours,
xo Nerida