Tag Archives: free song

Sermon: Cultivate an attitude of hope

I led worship at St Luke’s Methodist Church, Pukerua Bay today – 19 June 2016.

Here is the text of my sermon. I have added links to online resources.

* * * * *

Reflection

Let’s pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you, O God. Amen

On the internet I follow an American Presbyterian minister John Schuck who does half hour interviews with authors about their recent books. His website is called Progressive Spirit and I download and listen to the interviews on my phone. These are free. He has just talked with Patricia Tull, who  is another ordained Presbyterian minister and a professor of the Hebrew Bible. Her book is called Inhabiting Eden: Christians, the Bible, and the Ecological Crisis. A couple of points she made struck a chord with me.

First she talked about the Exodus and the lessons that God wanted the Israelites to learn during their years of wandering in the desert. Manna was provided from heaven each morning. There was enough food for each day, but it did not keep for long. This meant that the greedy or entrepreneurial couldn’t hoard the manna and try to sell it later at a profit. And the considerate people who held back politely, waiting for others, could also gather enough.   As it says in Exodus Chapter 16: “…those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage; they gathered as much as each of them needed.”

On the sixth morning of the week a double helping of manna was provided, so the people could gather enough for that day and the Sabbath, the following day, when they could rest from the work of gathering and preparing food.

God wanted the people to see food as nourishment rather than a commodity to be hoarded and commercialised. And the people needed to learn to be grateful to God who could be relied on to provide for them. These principles were important training for the time when the people came to the promised land, the land of milk and honey, where food was plentiful. Then in the time of plenty the people would respect the land and treat each other fairly.

Another point that Patricia Tull made was about the verses in Genesis Chapter 1 that talk about God giving people dominion over the land, the animals, the fish of the sea and all creation. We people have been all too ready to translate that word as giving permission to dominate and exploit the land and the world’s natural resources. For instance, in America there are many Christians, who take a conservative, literal view of the Bible, as giving them permission to exploit coal reserves by ploughing the tops off mountains to get at the coal. They also deny or ignore the effects of human caused climate change, when the coal is burned for electricity generation, on the basis that they will be saved by the rapture if the end of the world comes in their lifetimes. Yes, that really is a commonly held attitude.

Food production methods in America are a cause for concern today. A hundred years ago farms were small and held by families. They had a few cows, pigs and chickens. They planted a variety of crops, rotated where the crops were planted from year-to-year and enriched the soil by ploughing back in the animal manure. Topsoil was retained. The farms supplied local communities. The food was healthy and varied.

Today most crops are grown on huge farms owned by corporations. They plant vast expanses of a single crop. The topsoil is lost through wind erosion, so the fields have to be fertilised with artificial fertiliser, which runs off into streams and aquifers. Beef cattle, pigs and poultry are raised in feed lots – huge sheds and barns – where they are given corn to eat, rather than grazing in fields of grass. They produce so much manure that the farms cant handle it and it runs off into streams and aquifers. The food they produce is lower quality and less healthy, with a lot of corn starch getting into people’s diets through processed foods. These farming methods are bad for the land, the animals and for people.

New Zealand is little better. Early European settlers clear-felled the native trees for timber and to make way for pasture for sheep and cattle to graze on. As a result in the hilly country we have slips and soil erosion, and need to top-dress artificial fertilisers to keep up the grass growth. On the flatter land big dairy farms create problems with needing to irrigate their pastures, so putting pressure on scarce local water resources. Run off of fertiliser and effluent from the stock pollutes streams and rivers. The government therefore lowers the standards of water quality in our rivers so that being able to wade in them is good enough – forget about swimming in them.

I am very concerned about the current and future impacts of climate change. The sea levels are rising now and will rise a lot more in the rest of my life-time. Storms are becoming more intense and extremes of rain or the lack of it will cause bigger floods and longer, harder droughts. Continuing dumb farming practices will put food security at risk, even in countries like ours.

How should we respond the these issues? Despair and anger are two entirely reasonable options. But I suggest instead that we increase our knowledge and understanding of what is happening, and cultivate an attitude of hope.

There are many good books, documentaries, news articles and internet resources that describe what is going on and the imaginative options for changing our approach. I like watching YouTube videos by climate scientists which give me the latest facts and findings.

There are also lots of inspiring local initiatives around the world to discover. Local farmer’s markets are a great way to buy fresh food direct from the growers. Many smart dairy farmers in New Zealand are planting trees alongside streams and fencing them off, and the quality of the water in their streams is slowing being restored. Some are milking only once a day and finding that the improvements in the health of the animals, their land and the quality of the milk, make up for the lost income caused by producing less.

As people of faith we have the stories and lessons of the Bible to sustain and encourage us. We need to interpret them with good hearts and intellectual honesty. Instead of treating Genesis chapter one as permission to dominate the earth, we should read it as a reminder to be grateful for all that God has given us, and to take seriously our role as servants and guardians of the land. We hold the world in trust for future generations – our children and their children and so on. And as the Israelites in the desert learned, we too can learn to be satisfied with having enough, and put aside the greed that causes us to always want more.

In the letter to the Galatian church (Gal 3: 23-29), Paul tells us that he turned around his thinking. He admits to previously having a legalistic, literal interpretation of the Law that kept him prisoner and led him to persecute those with a different approach to faith and to life. Paul interpreted the Law – that is, the first 5 books of the Old Testament – especially Leviticus and Deuteronomy – in a pedantic way. He forgot that the original intent of the laws was to help people live well together in community. His spirit-filled experience on the road to Damascus changed him.

Listen again to this beautiful new vision: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”

Warm hearts, open minds and wise actions are necessary to safeguard the earth. We all need to work together.

May the winds of the spirit blow freely among us, and fill and inspire us with life-giving joy. Amen.

* * * * *

I then led the congregation singing my recent song Breath of the Spirit. The sheet music is below. Click this link to download a free PDF of the sheet music: Breath_of_the_Spirit – Melody Click here for a video of me performing the song in a lunchtime concert as part of our Winter @ Wesley programme.

Breath_of_the_Spirit - Melody_square

 

 

Your comments are welcome. Email me at books@pgpl.co.nz

Philip Garside, 19 June 2016

Breath of the Spirit – a poem, litany and song

Breath of the Spirit — a creative process

I’ve just written a poem, that became a catch phrase for a concert series, then a litany and then a song. Here’s a description of the creative process.

Some background

For the past 7 years Wellington Methodist Parish have offered a series of free lunchtime concerts and weekend film showings as part of our Winter@ Wesley festival. Graeme Millar sowed the seeds for W@W when he was our minister for a year. His vision was that we should spread some light and warmth in the gloom and misery of winter darkness. We offer free soup and bread after the lunchtime concerts and have found this to be an effective, gentle way of reaching out to our central city neighbours. The performers also bring their friends along. My wife Heather has managed the concerts from the start and does a fine job of contacting and hosting local musicians and singers at our church.

Each year I have designed a poster for Winter @ Wesley. Last year Rev Motekiai Falkatou suggested that we make wind the theme for the festival. With that in mind I created the spiral logo you see in last year’s poster. 10 days ago I was talking with Motekiai again and he said that this year we could focus on breath and wind. That immediately made me think of the Holy Spirit.

Winter_at_Wesley_2015_A4_22_May_15

The writing process

A couple of days later the phrase “Breath of the Spirit, blowing among us” popped into mind and I grabbed a pen and scrap paper and started to write the poem. Take a look at the three photos of my scrawled notes which show how the words developed.  This took less than half an hour.

breath_of_the_spirit_draft_1A breath_of_the_spirit_draft_1B breath_of_the_spirit_draft_1G

I started with passive phrases “blowing among us” and “reforming and reshaping us.” When I realised this, I changed them to active voice phrases “come blow among us” and “reshape and reform us.” This gives the words more urgency and implies movement.

There were too many instances of the word “us” at the start, so I took some of them out, e.g. “fill us, inspire us with…” became “fill and inspire us…”  Some phrases didn’t work at all, e.g. “connecting to each other” became “link us together to form a new whole.” And the odd word got changed, e.g. “dark corners” became “dark places.”

So this short poem emerged:

Breath of the Spirit, come blow among us
fill and inspire us, with life-giving joy.

Weave your deft patterns, reform and reshape us
link us together to form a new whole.

Roar down our streets – winter gale blowing
sweep clean our dark places – hearts bare and renewed

Uplift and free us, help us to soar
May your energy power us, turn all hearts to you.

Breath of the Spirit, come blow among us
fill and inspire us, with life-giving joy.

You can see a video of me performing the poem on YouTube here:

 

2016 poster takes shape

The next step was to include the words “Breath of the Spirit, come blow among us…” in this year’s poster. You will see that I have fitted the words on a curve below the spiral logo.

A design tip…The best way to create a poster like this is to use multiple layers in Adobe Photoshop. This enables me to size and position each element separately, until a nice visual balance is achieved. You will also see that I have re-used most of the 2015 poster design, with the biggest change being the background colour, which was blue and is now purple.

Winter_at_Wesley_2016_A4_23_May_16

When the design is finished and approved we will print an A1 poster for the front notice board, A4 and A5 posters and maybe A6 leaflets, all from the same A4 PDF file.

Then a litany

Being a worship leader, it soon occurred to me that the poem could be adapted as a responsive litany. It would work as a call to worship or a prayer of approach a bit later in the service. The congregation repeats the refrain and the leader speaks the verses.

Breath of the Spirit, come blow among us
fill and inspire us, with life-giving joy.

Weave your deft patterns, reform and reshape us
link us together to form a new whole.

Breath of the Spirit, come blow among us
fill and inspire us, with life-giving joy.

Roar down our streets – winter gale blowing
sweep clean our dark places – hearts bare and renewed

Breath of the Spirit, come blow among us
fill and inspire us, with life-giving joy

Uplift and free us, help us to soar
May your energy power us, turn all hearts to you.

Breath of the Spirit, come blow among us
fill and inspire us, with life-giving joy. Amen

You can see a video of me performing the litany on YouTube here:

 

 

 Then a song…

 I showed the litany to a poet friend. The next day she sent me a Facebook message saying, “The liturgy you wrote yesterday could also be turned into a hymn with a repeating refrain.”

To which I shrugged my shoulders. Mmm, maybe?

But the next day, when walking home from the bus stop after church, a bit of tune came into my head from the Finale of Jonathan Berkahn’s The Third Day, Easter cantata, which I have sung many times with Festival Singers. It fitted the first few words of the refrain. When I got home I got out the litany and started to sing melodies to the words – the first step in composing.

Having convinced myself that I had some good melody ideas, the next urgent step was to write out the musical notation. Urgent, because if I don’t capture the musical ideas quickly I will forget them. I don’t write the notes by hand onto lined manuscript paper. Instead I use music notation software – Noteworthy Composer (US$49). This lets me enter a few notes and I can then get the software to play them back. Often I enter the wrong pitch or length of a note, so hearing the melody played back lets me check what’s written down against what’s in my head.

The other tool I use at this first draft stage is an electronic keyboard. I have an old Yamaha keyboard which can sit next to my screen and computer keyboard. I use the keyboard to try different patterns of notes for the phrases of the song, and keep fiddling until I’m happy. After I have entered all the melody line into Noteworthy I print out a first draft of the sheet music.

20160527_223542

Then I get out my guitar and experiment fitting different chords to the melody, and write them by hand onto the music. Then I sing through the whole song, ironing out the rough edges until I’m happy. While I have Grade 7 Royal Schools music theory and have sung in good choirs for many years, I can’t “hear” the underlying harmonies and chords when I’m writing a song. Heather and my son Christopher do have that ability, which I greatly admire. I just have to bash my way through.

Now the acid test. “Heather, I’ve got this new song. Would you like to hear it?” To which the response, after listening to it, is, “It’s good, but…” An exercise in humility then follows in which I am given several suggestions for better chords, tweaking the verses so the melody ends on a rising note, allowing ease in the timing so that people singing can catch the breath we are singing about and so on…

I accept some suggestions and tactfully decline others. Another couple of rounds of editing the sheet music follow. And, we are done. The whole creative process took 3 days.

Click this link to download a free PDF of the sheet music: Breath_of_the_Spirit – Melody

Note: The song is set fairly low which will suit basses like me and altos. If you prefer a higher setting, transpose it up a tone or two by using a capo on your guitar.

You can see a video of me performing the song in our Winter@Wesley concert series on YouTube here:

 

Then publish abroad God’s glorious name!

Now I get to share the poem, litany and song with the rest of the world.

I’ll make them and this story available as a blog post on my website. (This is it!) I’ll share that post on Facebook and Twitter to help build my brand.

I’m going to sing the song when I perform the first concert of the Winter@Wesley series on 9 June. I’m going to introduce it to Festival Singers when I lead the closing devotions on Monday night, and to our 10am Singing Group at Wesley.

I’ll also do a post on kiwiconnexion.nz and record videos to post on You Tube performing the poem, litany and song.

I might base my next service at Pukerua Bay on the litany…

People, choirs and churches are free to use these in worship or anywhere else. Please just credit me as the composer/writer.

If you want to record or publish any of them commercially please email me at books@pgpl.co.nz

Brief reflections on the creative process

Interactions with other people were important. Motekiai sparked, “Spirit.” My poet friend liked the words and said, “Song?” Heather helped to polish a rough diamond into something shinier.

It’s good to recycle and re-purpose an idea. A simple devotional poem, can be extended for use in worship. I have also in this case borrowed the first two bars of the tune from Jonathan. I don’t think he will mind.

I wrote the words and the song because I felt inspired to do so. I like making things and the process somehow comes naturally to me.

I’m not the best poet, liturgist, composer, singer or musician in the world. But I have enough skills, and the confidence to use them, to produce worthwhile creative work. It would be silly for me to be held back by waiting until I achieved perfection, good enough will do.

Make it, share it, see what happens.

Philip Garside
28 May 2016

p.s. There is an excellent podcast interview about the creative process here: http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2016/05/16/creativity-art-business/

Dance With Us – A response to hatred

Click to download a PDF of the melody line and guitar chords

Click to download a midi file of the melody

Dance With Us

  1. When you are troubled,
    have no fear, have no fear.
    Christ has a message
    we want to share:

Refrain:
Come and dance with us,
sing with us,
walk along our way.
Help us bring alive God’s kingdom
on earth today.

  1. Leave behind hatred,
    turn away, seek the light.
    Love one another
    no need to fight:
  1. Hear one another,
    loving care, kindness shared.
    Hearts and hands open,
    world in our care:

Words and music:
Philip Garside
10 January 2015

(You may copy and sing this song freely, with acknowledgment.)

Sing a New Round: Christmas Halleluia

Here’s the melody line and words for a simple round to enjoy this Advent/Christmas – PDF Christmas_Halleluia_Melody_2013  Works well in 2 or 4 parts.

So you can hear how it sounds, here are midi files two parts Christmas_Halleluia_two_parts_2013 and four parts Christmas_Halleluia_four_parts_2013

I suggest that each part sings the 8 bars 4 times through. The tune does not resolve in the last bar.  For me this symbolises that the work of Christmas message never ends.

Use this music freely, with acknowledgement.

Cheers and Happy Christmas
Philip