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Anyone out there ever made a mistake? If you admit to being a member of the human race, it is likely that you have made some error during the course of your life. Mistakes come in various forms: sometimes I forget my wallet at home, or spray bathroom cleaner on the mirror because it looks like the glass cleaner, or burn the burgers because I lose track of time. These are relatively harmless mishaps and easily remedied and forgotten.

But there are those mistakes that affect others in a detrimental way, and those are not as easy to forget, forgive, or rectify. This week I did something thoughtless than put people in jeapordy. What do you do when that happens? First of all, you thank God that no one is hurt. Then you repent. Then you vow never to do anything that stupid again. Then you try to figure out what snapped in your brain to cause this lapse in judgment. Then you watch as people take a step back from trusting you. Then you re-evaluate your worth as a human being and question whether you are capable of ever bringing anything of value to someone's life again. Then you ask for wisdom. And you repeat the request again, and again, and it becomes a sort of mantra, a plea to save yourself and those you love from the deceptive twists of a soul that still carries the marks of unrighteousness. And then you wait.

Some redemption is instantaneous. But most of the time, healing is a process. The wound must be cleansed, stitched up and bandaged. The affected area must be guarded for a period of time to ensure it is not reinjured. Strength and mobility return slowly. The rest of the body suffers and compensates and protects. The blood nurtures and restores and rebuilds.

And that is my only hope. I cannot count on the forgiveness and grace of people - they have the freedom to choose. Some are brave enough to trust again, others just walk away. I cannot count on myself not to fail again - there are too many lessons I have still to learn. I cannot count on circumstances to shine favourably on me every time - even immovable faith does not guarantee positive results. But I have the blood. It is the one thing I can stand under, the one thing that gives me a second chance, the one things that wipes away the guilt, the one thing that keeps hope alive, the only thing that saves me.

Sing your songs of freedom
Praise the God of heaven
Love that never fails me
Jesus' blood, Jesus' blood
- Martin Smith


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When I am in a church meeting during the singing time, I sometimes find myself silent, unable to get the words past my lips. At times I just need a moment of stillness, time to listen, but other times, the words make me pause because I don't know that I can sing them honestly or with integrity. This is a good thing. We should never mindlessly or heartlessly sing songs just because everyone else is. We should care deeply about what we say in our sung, communal worship.

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One of my favourite jokes goes like this:
Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Interrupting cow
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singing lessons

When I was a young child, a visiting preacher came to our country church. He brought his two daughters with him, and before he gave his sermon, they sang beautiful duets about Jesus. They had lovely voices which blended well. The preacher, meaning to impress on us their God-given musical talent, mentioned that the girls had never had any singing lessons. The congregation nodded and ooohhed in appreciation. I was puzzled. I didn't understand how not learning was a point of grace or even pride. After all, people who have natural abilities in sports, math, writing, art, or science find it extremely helpful to study under teachers who can aid them in their development and introduce them to things outside their own experience. Being self-taught (though sometimes the only option available to those with limited resources) is not a cause for pride or celebration. Why? Because that's just not how the communal, relational Creator set things up.

I have been singing since I was a child. …