Sunday, November 6, 2011

Lessons of faith from the ukulele

Learning to play the ukulele gave me new insights about prayer and our life with God. The ukulele is a very simple and portable instrument which helped me "to make a joyful noise and sing for joy to the Lord" in my time of personal meditation.

There are three simple practices one needs to learn in order to play the ukulele. Firstly, it is necessary to tune the ukulele especially when we are playing with others. Secondly, we need to master changing the chords. Thirdly, we need to learn to strum according to the rhythm of the song. Playing the ukulele is simple but not easy. It requires discipline, patience and perseverance. It is easy to learn the first few chords on the ukulele but regular and daily practice is needed if we want to develop these basic chords in order to expand one's repertoire of songs.

As I learnt to play the ukulele, it occurred to me that the six petitions in the Lord's Prayer give us six chords for God's song of grace in our lives. Prayer is more than just singing songs of praise TO God - it is singing WITH God the song of our lives which He has composed. The first three petitions of the Lord’s prayer are the three major “chords” which focuses our attention, firstly, on our identity as the children of God and to honour Him as our Heavenly Father. Secondly, it gives us a vision of God's Kingdom and to enthrone Him as our King. Thirdly, it spells out our mission to be His humble servants to do His divine will and to make Christ the Master of our lives.

The last three petitions are the minor chords which draws our attention to our dependence on God’s providence and to live a life of thanksgiving; our gratitude for God's pardon by living as a forgiven people with a forgiving spirit; and the reality of spiritual warfare and to live under God's protection. The Lord’s Prayer is a simple prayer to help us make a joyful noise to the Lord with our lives.

When we fail to master these six "chords" of God's music for our lives, we end up striving joylessly to work FOR God like the elder brother in the parable of the prodigal son. We swing between the guilt of not doing enough to earn our salvation and the pride of self righteousness of being "saved" for heaven.

As I learn to play the ukulele, I needed to cultivate the discipline of changing the chords with the right rhythm. In a similiar way, I am learning to "play" the "chords" of the Lord's Prayer so that the joy of our salvation may be seen in me. The Christian life is making a joyful noise in this unhappy and noisy world. We can learn to live according to the strum beat of God's heart rather than the drum beat of our materialistic world.

Richard Foster makes the important distinction between trying hard with the grace of God to practice the discipline of being present to Jesus and trying hard to bear fruit in our own strength. It is only by abiding in Christ that we are set free to bear the fruit of the Spirit.

With Christ we have a symphony of God's Love to be sung to the nations. It is the song that will conquer evil and shatter the spear and sword. It is in the song of praise in our lives that others will see Christ in us and be drawn to Him:

"Praise God with shouts of joy all people! Sing to the glory of his name; offer him glorious praise! Say to God, "How wonderful are the things you do!" (Psalm 66:1-3)

Praising God is something which we all can do even in the autumn or winter of our lives when we have Christ rooted in our hearts. We will not grow old if we "give up singing old dirges and risk living in a new key." So let us come before him with thanksgiving and sing joyful songs of praise with our ordinary and mundane lives!

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