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Yesterday I had the pleasure of spending the day with my friends Jonathan, Evelina, and Josh It was a great encouragement, in the midst of many struggles with work and chronic pain, to have time with friends here in Launceston. In the afternoon we gathered around the piano and enjoyed singing many hymns. I love hymns, because they generally focus on who God is or what he has done for us. In contrast, many other songs focus on our actions and character. Songs that repeat "I love you, I love you, I love you" spring to mind! I tend to feel uncomfortable singing these kind of songs. Knowing the wickedness of my own heart, I question whether what I am singing is the truth. Can I really say with confidence that God is always my first consuming passion, or that I love him with every part of myself? No.

I even have a question in my heart when I sing some hymns. One of my favourites, Be Thou My Vision, is an example. I can sing with confidence the prayer "Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart; Naught be all else to me Save that Thou art." Yet when I come to the third verse, the questioning in my heart surfaces. As I sing "Riches I heed not, Nor man's empty praise" it too becomes a prayer, not the declaration it seems to be written as. I consider how much I feel grumpy or concenred about money, even though I am so blessed, and pray I will no longer heed riches. I think of how praise from others sometimes thrills me, and pray I will not heed it when it is empty.

I prefer to sing about God's character and actions than about my own. I would rather sing about the one who is able to keep me from falling, than about how I will always love God. Like Augustine, the church father, I am deeply aware that I need God's help to do what he commands. There is nothing in me, aside from the Holy Spirit, that has the power to do right. Songs about God's character and works turn my thoughts outwards to His power. They impart joy and hope and repentance to my heart. I realise anew that He is able to accomplish more than I could ever ask or imagine. They cause me to pray that as I see his beauty, my life will reflect it.

Praising God for his great character and works also causes my own problems and shortcomings to fade in my mind. For much of my Christian life, the song Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus has reminded me of this. Last week at school, it was special to teach the little children to sing it. Perhaps it will remind them, too, of where our focus should be. Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in his wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of his glory and grace.

I would love to hear from any readers who would like to share their experiences with singing, or what type of songs they enjoy.

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