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Lavish

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I hope that “Lavish” has inspired you towards thinking further about these biggest themes – most of all about the significance of Jesus Christ and the enormity of His claims.

A spiritual revolution began for me when I recognised the lavish love that drove Jesus to die on a cross in my place, said “sorry” for my rejection of Him until that point and asked Him to forgive, fill and empower me to live for His glory and kingship…

My prayer is that you, too, would come to this place of trusting Jesus – experiencing forgiveness, liberation, life in all its fullness. Like the prisoner set free in “His Name”, you can speak to the God who is there and has revealed Himself in Jesus.

To keep mulling over these things, read the eye-witness accounts of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection recorded in the Bible (Luke or Mark are great places to start). If you’d like to be in touch, drop me a line using this form below. If you send your postal address, I’d love to send you the gift of a book that will help you to continue your spiritual journey.

‘How great is the love
lavished on us…’

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Listen to “Show me”

 


…on Apple Music

…on Spotify

I wrote this early one New Year’s morning filling it with the words of Psalm 143. Composed in the the simple, open – even naïve – key of C, this is a song of weakness seeking strength and direction against a backdrop of a broken world.
An appropriate response to the revelation of a God who is there, I sometimes close concerts with this song – my quiet prayer that others would take the words of this Psalm as their own. That you, too, would surrender your life to the glorious Jesus who died for you, rose from the dead and who one day will return to judge the earth.

“Show me your face O Lord – reach out and rescue me. Out of your unfailing love, come to my relief…”

Perhaps you want to echo this response? I am convinced that He calls to you… A relationship with the King of Heaven awaits the one who would turn to Him.

 

Show me

Show me the way I should go,
for to You I lift up my soul.
Teach me to do Your will –
won’t You lead me on level ground.
I’m pursued, I’m crushed,
my spirit grows faint.
I’m pursued, I’m crushed,
my heart’s dismayed.

Show me the way I should go,
for to You I lift my soul.

I spread my hands out to You –
O my soul thirsts for You.
In Your faithfulness come to me
– hear my cry for mercy.
let the dawn bring word
of Your unfailing love;
let the dawn bring word
of You.

I spread my hands out to You –
O my soul thirsts for You.

Show me Your face, O Lord –
reach out and rescue me.
Out of Your unfailing love,
come to my relief.
I hide myself
in You, O Lord.
I hide myself
in You.

Show me Your face, O Lord –
won’t You reach out and rescue me.

Listen to “Wedding Song”

 


…on Apple Music

…on Spotify

I wrote “Wedding Song” on the eve of my brother’s marriage to his New Zealand bride and sang it first the next morning as his “bride in white” finally stood with her groom.

Infused with promise, delight, intended permanence – a relationship of sacrifice and commitment as two become one – what if all weddings were in fact a faint, blurred reflection of something even greater?

Weddings resonate through the Bible. Jesus even supplied the wine for one of them! The final scene of history is described as a wedding feast – Jesus in perfect relationship and celebration with all of humanity who have accepted His approach to us.

Could it be that all love takes its definition – its shape – from this One who comes to us?

“Love divine, love defined: love come down.”

Jesus is utterly committed to us, has died to release us to be able to enter into relationship with Him. He has given all. We are like the other party in the relationship – will we accept the love lavished on us or will we walk away?

 

Wedding Song

Here she comes! Here she comes –
bride in white!
Here she comes! Here she comes –
his delight!

What God has joined together,
let man not separate.
What God has joined together,
may we celebrate!

See them now, see them now,
stand together.
Hear them now, hear them now,
say, “forever”.

What God has joined together…

Love defined,
love divine,
love come down.
Sacrifice,
Jesus Christ,
love come down.
Love revealed,
love that heals
love come down.
love defined,
love divine,
love come down.

What God has joined together…

The Lord is good
and His Love forever endures.
The Lord is good and He is
reaching for us.

What God has joined together…

Listen to “You’re that one”

 


…on Apple Music

…on Spotify

Lullaby-like and with another of Lester’s sublime arrangements enveloping a picked guitar, this song is about the touch on a person’s life of the love of the King of Heaven.

“How great is the love lavished on us…”

Lullaby-like and with another of Lester’s sublime arrangements enveloping a picked guitar, this song is about the touch on a person’s life of the love of the King of Heaven.

“How great is the love lavished on us…”

Have you experienced this?

I could never deserve to hear the King of Heaven address me in such tones: look at my life, stained and tainted as it is by my own selfish rejection of Him.

And yet, Jesus came: the greatest expression of love. God becoming human – the creator taking on the nature of the created – with the purpose to die in my place. With the purpose to die in your place.

“…God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”*

Sometimes a friend listens to my songs and says, “I wish I had your faith”. They mean that it would make them feel so much better to embrace these ideas despite their delusional nature!

The Message of Jesus Christ is rooted in historical evidence that can be examined and considered rationally. This evidence has driven me to the place of being convinced that this is as true as it is enthralling.

My prayer is that you, too, would examine the evidence and trust in the One who

“…stoops to take your hand, to lead you to an open land…”

* Rom 5:8

You’re that one

You – the joy before Him
as He faced a cross.
You – the one he came for:
to seek-save the lost.
You – the bride in white
prize from the fight,
the Father’s delight.
You’re that one.

How great the love
lavished on us.

You – love-quietened,
It’s for you He sings.
You – tasting kindness –
drawn with grace strings.
He stoops to take your hand,
to lead you to an open land,
– to fulfil His perfect plan.
You’re that one.

How great the love…

Love of the King of Heaven,
poured out on you.
Love of the King of Heaven,
makes all things new.

You – adopted for His own –
In His embrace.
You for whom He stooped down from
Heaven’s highest place.
You: truth believed
hope and life received
burdens, fears relieved…
You’re that one.

How great the love…

Listen to “His Name”

 


…on Apple Music

…on Spotify

I am playing in a prison. I look into the crowd that crams the room. One man has a particular stare. The music ends. He rushes at me. “I know what you’re talking about! These last mornings, I’ve been reading about Jesus while we’ve been locked in. As I read, I realised that Jesus died for me: to bring me forgiveness! The other day, I knelt in my cell and I asked Him to forgive me, to cleanse me, to give me relationship with God through Him.”
The guards give instructions for prisoners to return to the wings. He starts away. Now he turns back and smiles,

“I’ve never been so free…”

A few millennia ago, there was a forwards-projecting myth – a “prophecy” – that spoke of One who would come to make the broken unbroken, to mend, heal, restore, renew. Jesus, in one of His early speeches, stood in a crowded religious meeting place on the northern shores of Lake Galilee, read that aged prophecy and then sat down, announcing,

“Today, this is fulfilled!”*

Rather than embracing Him, the religious authorities were outraged at His claim and tried to kill Him. The claims of Jesus continue to divide opinion – the “undeserving” often receiving Him with unspeakable joy and affirming that He does bring liberation, while the religious and “entitled” often reject Him for His inconvenient and disturbing over-arching claims of Lordship.

Gospel and blues influenced with Rita’s sparkling backing vocals, the song ends on that unexpected harmonic of a ninth chord, “His Name is… Jesus.”

* Luke 4:21

His Name

He sets the prisoner free.
He makes the blind see.
He makes the dumb talk,
lets the lame walk.

His Name is…
His Name is…

In a world filled with shame,
in a world marked with pain,
in a world where we just fall down again:

He sets the prisoner free…

We long for justice
but fear its coming.
We long for peace
then go out to war.
We long for a Saviour –
we cry in the darkness –
but we turn away
from His nail-pierced hands.

There’ll be a day of glory.
There’ll be a day of majesty.
There’ll be a day when every eye will see:

He sets the prisoner free…

His Name is Jesus,
His Name is Jesus.

Listen to “Hide”

 


…on Apple Music

…on Spotify

We spend our lives alternately concealing secrets and presenting the face we think others will find acceptable – from selective social media posts to our self-centred revelations in conversation.

In a world of spin, we’re spinning too and it is exhausting.

If only there would be One who would speak true revelation, life, liberation and peace.

There’s an ancient story about a prophet who, exhausted, shelters in a cave. Earth-shaking phenomena ensue and seem to turn the world upside down but he realises, it is all emptiness if God is not there…

“And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.”*

Even God’s whispered voice has devastating power, authenticity and unrelenting purity and causes this man to step towards the source of everything – the One who is utterly fulfilling, liberating and inspiring.

Are we thirsting for this out-of-this-world voice? The voice that resonates with hearts that were created to relate with Him?

Instrumentally, this is a stripped back, acoustic guitar-shaped track. With an alternative tuning that leaves resonant, droning notes – perhaps it hints of a still, peace-bringing voice that cuts through personal propaganda to speak to our souls…

* 1 Kings 19:11-13

Hide

Hide the secrets of your heart.
Hide the longings.
Hide the fears.
Hide the broken dreams.
Hide joys – long past:
hide the secrets of your heart.

Show the smile that melts their soul.
Show ambition:
show them strength.
Show envisioned face.
Show self-belief:
show the smile that melts their soul.

Stifle thirsts for int’macy.
Stifle cravings.
Stifle sighs.
Stifle loneliness.
Stifle sharp tears:
stifle thirsts for int’macy,

Hear the still, soft voice of calm.
Hear the power.
Hear the peace.
Hear authority,
hear hope, hear life:
hear the still, soft voice of calm.

Listen to “Lavish”

 


…on Apple Music

…on Spotify

I structured this album in the shape of a piece of chiastic poetry, placing this song in the middle as the focus: the centre of the concentric circles of songs that surround it. “Lavish.”

I penned this song in Belgrade, on the corner of a desk while studying with a group of students through a letter written by the Apostle John that is recorded in the New Testament.

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are!”*

Each verse recounts how John speaks of this eternal love expressed to us: a love that calls you child, that is untamed by years and that reaches into history to achieve the most audacious victory…

“Forgiving love dies on a cross, forgiving love: my gain, His loss.”

Lyrically dense and with an eastern-leaning melody, the chorus cites an ancient piece of poetry that speaks of God’s character,

“His love endures forever, His faithfulness stands for all time…”

Nick Beston plays another of his melodic solos that haunt long after the track ends…

* 1 John 3:1

Lavish

Lavish love
that drives out fear.
Lavish love,
embracing, near.

Lavish, lavish love

Adopting love
that calls you child
Adopting love,
pure, undefiled.

Lavish, lavish love

His love endures forever,
His faithfulness stands for all time.

Forever love
untamed by years.
From out of this world love,
the life appears.

Lavish, lavish Love

Forgiving love
dies on a cross.
Sacrificing love:
my gain, His loss.

His love endures forever,
His faithfulness stands for all time.

Life-birthing love
to last breath:
God-revealing love
conquers death.

Lavish, lavish Love

Listen to “Broken Man”

 


…on Apple Music

…on Spotify

Back to the style that caused me to pick up a guitar in the first place: blues. A style known for its frank story-telling and raw, recognisable, even clichéd structure. Cultivated among the oppressed of North America, the oldest songs were captured onto primitive wax discs – sometimes by travelling “music collectors” who realised the value of the culture that they represented.

In our affluent and distant situation, we still hear echoes of their heart-cries and even here they resonate. These blues songs are marked by a clarity and immediacy emanating from lives that were cruel and yet were somehow often filled with a sense of transcendent hope. A hope perhaps due to their echoes of “Gospel” (in all senses of that word).

“Broken Man” speaks of someone oppressed. He walks through a city, stares at a TV, views himself in the mirror and all that he sees drives him to his knees in disappointment, disillusionment and despair…

Our culture, despite all of its promise, can seem so empty. For so many, it doesn’t follow through on the glittering and extravagant dreams dangled just out of reach… What if we’re looking the wrong way?

In the last verse, our broken man stands before an object he has seen countless times – and yet something that had become invisible to him – obscured as it was by the razzmatazz and desperate surging force of culture in a different direction. Now, as he stares – as though for the first time – this is no longer some observed icon. Instead, he experiences an overwhelming sense that this is the place of love-come-down and haunting grace.

Broken Man

This broken man stands before a billboard.
He stares at plastic perfection and “beauty”:
life out of reach, life never known.
There’s a pang of loss as he averts his aching eyes.

This broken man stands before a TV
and witnesses premeditated violence and war:
life snatched by death, life stained by fear.
He stifles unexplained guilt as he reaches for the remote.

And in his heart he kneels: overwhelmed.
Yes, in his heart he kneels: who can rescue us now?
This broken man?

This broken man stands before a mirror
and he stares at who he really is.
Life that slides by. Life left behind.
He searches for a glory that perhaps was never there.

And in his heart he kneels: overwhelmed.
Yes, in his heart he kneels: he’s just another,
broken man.

This broken man stands before a wood cross
and he stares at love come down and haunting grace.
Life poured out. Life exchanged.
The pierced hands of a God who reaches out.

Something resonates deep in his soul…

and in his heart he kneels – with nothing to bring.
He kneels – before this crucified King…
He kneels – and does he hear heaven sing?
-for this broken man.

Listen to “A Place?”

 


…on Apple Music

…on Spotify

“Another Earth” is a science fiction film directed by Mike Cahill that premiered at the 27th Sundance Film Festival. As the film begins, 17 year old Rhoda crashes into a family: apparently killing them all. She is sent to prison, serves her time and yet, on her return to society, she still carries a deep sense of her own guilt. Through the film she meets others wrestling with their own demons and then realises a spectacular way that she may be able to find,

“another ‘her’ who had not made the same mistakes that she had made…”

The film echoes with a longing that fills so many of our own souls: for guilt to be taken away – a yearning for forgiveness.

It was after watching “Another Earth” that I wrote, “A Place”.

The refrain is filled with the claim of Jesus Christ that He comes with the power to bring liberation and forgiveness. To lives restrained from experiencing fullness, He is the “I am” – for whom we long.

The song opens with dawn chorus birdsong – captured by Lester while the rest of us were sleeping – light piano over double bass all stepping to jazz waltz timing… “Is there a Place?”

 

A Place?

Is there a place
where I could be forgiven?
Is there a place
where I could be free?
Is there a place
of no condemnation?
Is there a place
for someone like me?

Is there a way
my wrong could be passed over?
Is there a way
to lose it in the deepest sea?
Is there a way
that I could touch heaven?
Is there a way
that heaven could come to me?

I am the way
I am the truth
I am the life
I am

I hear Your voice
and it whispers, whispers to me.
I hear Your voice
and it echoes in my soul.
I hear the voice
of loving liberation –
I hear the voice
of the One who
waits to make me whole,

I am the way…

Listen to “A Hill”

 


…on Apple Music

…on Spotify

With Lester’s creatively painted soundscape, I see the bleak, lonely hill before the words begin.

Played in Eb minor, with the guitar tuned down a semitone, this is the key used to accompany the monolithic brutalist art of authoritarian regimes of the twentieth century.

The focus of the song reels to the hill where state-sponsored executions take place: Skull Hill – Golgotha. But today the dying One is innocent, bringing about what some would say is the most significant revolution ever to sweep human – even cosmic – history.

From discordant harmonics played on the guitar to a backing choir singing in Latin, we wanted this song to resonate with something horrific and that yet births hope.

The last verse of this song is taken from an ancient poet – Isaiah – who spoke of a hill where the most evil curse of all would be conquered. So many of the best stories seem to echo with this theme of curse resolving to unexpected liberation and celebration through an intervention “from outside”.

As the great story writer, Tolkein, described,

“…a sudden glimpse of Truth, your whole nature chained in material cause and effect, the chain of death, feels a sudden relief as if a major limb out of joint had suddenly snapped back. It perceives… that this is indeed how things really do work in the Great World for which our nature is made.”

 

A Hill

There’s a hill outside a city
– a place for losers, waste and dirt.
It’s a place of execution,
of misery, pain and retribution,
where vengeance is meted out.

There’s a hill now with a cross raised.
A hill where men cry out.
Hear shouts of condemnation,
of agitated satisfaction,
as an anguished figure gasps.

And it’s a hill of bones
and skulls
and death
and blood.

Now from the hill, piercing last words.
They ring like, “Father, forgive.”
“It is finished”
cuts gathering darkness
and rocks and tombs begin to shake.

And it’s a hill of bones…

But it’s a hill of broken curses,
it’s a hill of bittersweet.
A hill of liberation –
a hill where grace takes her seat.

And on this hill the Lord Almighty
prepares a banquet feast
– aged wine, rich food of celebration –
‘cause on this hill He destroyed the
shroud that covers every nation.

Yes, on this hill He swallowed up death forever,
And on this hill he’ll wipe each tear stained eye,
‘cause on this hill he removed the disgrace of His people:
He removed the disgrace that’s yours and that’s mine.

Listen to “Saviour?”

 


…on Apple Music

…on Spotify

I climbed a tower in the centre of town with a friend to “show” him London. Rooftops and clamour stretched into the apparent infinite distance – yet it seemed devoid of life that grey afternoon…

It is this urban scene that is framed by the couple’s window at the beginning of “Saviour”. Gazing in different directions, they subtly clash. She has some defiant hope in the transcendent – a connection possible beyond the passing moment – but he claims no time for such fantasies.

Down at street level wandering under an overpass – perhaps pushing a trolley or wearing a sandwich board – there’s the obscure, eccentric old man. Prophet-like, he speaks of “One”.

As I ride away on a double-decker in the mess and chaos of a night bus in the rain, I reflect back on these characters and the question that echoes…

In this song the exuberant and extravagant genre of funk with horns and driving bass, meets the story-telling blues. It is written in the guitar’s favourite key of E, where all of the wood and string harmonics resonate. When we play it live as a band, the song just seems to drive itself.

 

Calling

This part of the city seems so empty,
this part of the city seems to have no soul.
She stares out over distant rooftops,
she stares out: tries to see where she’s from.

And he – he sips at his super-fruit fruit shake.
He says there’s no way – he says there’s no hope.
And she, I don’t know why, she stares at the ceiling
I don’t know why she looks back when he’s gone.

And it seems to me that
we’re all looking for something.
And it seems to me that
we’re all longing for something.

I heard you say we all need some saviour.
I heard you say we can’t wait too long.
Old man on the corner: says he’s met some “Jesus”
the old man on the corner says that this is the One.

And it seems to me that
we’re all looking for someone.
And it seems to me that
we’re all looking for someone.

There’s One who says,
“Come – if your burden’s heavy.”
And there’s One who says,
“Come, come to me.”

Riding on the top deck, rain-lashed windows,
riding on the top deck and cans roll at my feet.
There’s something you said that sticks in my head:
something you said keeps coming back to me:

“There’s One who says,
“Come, come.”

Listen to Calling…

 


…on Apple Music

…on Spotify

Sitting on a beach in North Cornwall, dramatic clouds wrestle with a determined late-August sun. The kaleidoscope sky swims with colour as dusk approaches.

Ancient stories and songs, a mysterious lightness of spirit – even a joy – over beauty, and that sense of hope and purpose. It sometimes seems that we are surrounded by – crowded by – hints of the transcendent.

Comprised of wistful major-seventh chords with their unexpected harmony, “Is there One who is beyond, outside and who calls?”

Nick Beston is playing the saxophone throughout this album. We first became friends after creating a pop-up jazz café in a bus in New Cross, South London. He has an incredible sense of melody and harmony: the centre of our five-piece band when playing these songs live. It is Nick’s notes that open this album…

Lester Barnes – known for brilliant film scores – creates the arrangement including the nostalgic music box riff that invokes memories of fairy-tales, kings and hints of a purpose.

I wrote this song after all of the others to deliberately sit at the front of the album – to set the scene for the “story” of the rest of “Lavish”. My hope is to defiantly point us towards the questions that I think our culture is wired to induce us to suppress – and yet those that perhaps are the most important ones of all to be asking.

 

Calling

There’s a whisper of love

that starts a story;

a wind-borne rumour

that’s reaching to me.

There’s an echo of a song,

a sweet melody

  and it hangs on the breeze.

 

“I’m calling for you, my love. 

“I’m calling for you, my love.”

 

There’s a reflection of light

that pierces the grey,

dappled refractions

hint dawning of day.

There’s a spectrum of colour,

an escaping ray,

and it warms to crimson.

 

“I’m calling for you…” 

There’s a vague sense of hope

that pervades your heart,

it keeps you breathing

in the dark.

There’s a tale of a purpose

in which you might play a part:

your soul is dreaming.

 

“I’m calling for you…”