Friday, August 14, 2015

A song with a story

18th Century. 

Off the coast of Ireland.

A stormy night at sea.

Waves chopping, rising several feet high.

And an ancient sailboat being tossed around in what is a devastating storm.

As the storm rages on with no hope of abating, one sailor gets down on his knees and prays.

Prays with all his heart and begs forgiveness for his sins. 

Prays fervently and promises to mend his ways. Prays for redemption.

The seas calm down and over days the ship sails back safely into the harbor and a repentant sailor comes home - a changed man.

That man was John Newton, a slave trader, a man of many misdeeds and (while not immediately) he slowly turned from an atheist to a believer (I once  was lost, but now I am found) and in his most pious moments he composed a hymn – one that has over centuries been a hymn sung in troubled moments – a requiem that graces churches during some of the most poignant funeral masses.

Here are the words of the autobiographical hymn. Most people know the song but not the story.

Amazing grace, How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found, 
Was blind, but now I see.

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, 
And grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come, 
'Tis grace has brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures; 
He will my shield and portion be, 
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail, 
And mortal life shall cease
I shall possess within the veil, 
A life of joy and peace.

When we've been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun, 
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we've first begun

There have been so many versions that it’s difficult to choose one so here are three of the ones I’ve heard and liked. I am sure you have your own favourite.

Accompanied by bagpipers, this group of Irish singers called Celtic Woman brings an ethereal charm to the hymn.

And here’s an a capella version by Hayley Westerna.  Appreciate the  simplicity of the melody and the depth of the words coming right through.

And set against the backdrop of the ruins in Rome, Il Divo give their version of the hymn. The interlude with the bagpipes and the variations in their voice add a unique quality to this rendition. Have a listen.

And if the words keep ringing in your head… well… it’s amazing grace, grace that will lead us home. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

A circle of friends

Have you ever wondered why it's called a circle of friends or a Friend Circle? It's no coincidence. It IS a circle. A circle that envelopes you as tightly or as loosely as you want it. A circle that protects you from all those 'slings and arrows of outrageous fortune' (Thanks Shakespeare - you couldn't have expressed it better!). A circle that allows you to touch each and everyone at one time or all times, a circle you can widen and narrow through life as life demands. And a circle that responds. The way you want it. Growing looser and tighter around you.

And there's more to the circle. It means things go round. What goes round comes round. And you pass on that wonderful feeling of friendship that one friend gave you to another friend. You pass it on. You pass it forward. And you get it back from someone else. One good turn after another.

And since it's a circle it can turn and it can spin. So you have those heady spinning moments with friends that you can never forget, pretty much all your life. And you have those turning points where friends meet and part - and then meet again. And because it can turn, it can go clockwise .Or counter clockwise. 

Today is Friendship Day...once again. Not that any other day is not for friends. Most of us, at some time or the other, are thanking a friend for being there in our times of need. But today of all days maybe it's time to turn around and see what you can do for your friends. Turn around, spin the circle counter-clockwise, pull it close, and thank all those who have ever been your friends. 

(From me, a big Thank you to my friends -today and every day!)