Last week, I got to hang with missionaries. I traveled overseas to lead a retreat for missionaries living in hard places. Some of them are seeing people turn to Jesus and churches begin. Others are working tirelessly to build relationships and make connections to the gospel, but they haven’t seen anyone decide to follow Jesus. Discouragement comes easy – and even when there isn’t discouragement, there is a raw determination that drives them to continue to work toward God’s glory, and they’re tired without even knowing they’re tired.
We came together for four times of corporate worship over the course of the week. Many tears were shed. I specifically remember singing the song “Lay Down Your Sorrows,” getting to the line “There is no battle scar He cannot mend” and watching a woman burst into tears on the back row.
On the last day, the leadership determined that they had not scheduled enough corporate worship time into the retreat. Ben (my guitar amigo) and I decided to stay a little longer and lead them in a another session of singing for an hour straight that afternoon. For that hour, I had the intense awareness that I was doing what I was made to do on this earth (and I’m getting misty writing about it now).
Don’t take the gift of singing together for granted! These friends of mine overseas drank up the privilege of singing together in their heart language like it was the last draught they would enjoy for a good long while. And for most, it was. I know you cannot put yourself in their shoes. But this Sunday, look around you, open your heart and your mouth, and sing – receiving God’s gift to nourish your soul.
Cardiphonia, a site for everyday worship leaders by everyday worship leaders, has put out several compilation albums with specific themes that are helpful to those of us who are always on the lookout for good song resources for our churches. Bruce Benedict is the visionary behind these albums and allowed me to submit a song for the most recent album: Canticles.
I have to admit, I didn’t know what a canticle was until I read about this project. A canticle is a song in scripture that is not in Psalms. Moses, Isaiah, Jonah, Habbakuk, Mary & Simeon all contribute their songs to the song of salvation heard throughout the whole of Scripture. I chose to craft a song around Jonah’s song in Jonah 2:2-9 (Listen to “Jonah’s Song”).
I can’t tell you how privileged I feel to have contributed to this album – each writer put their heart and souls into these songs, and the album, though recorded and mixed all over the nation, is remarkably cohesive.
I discovered Ryan O’Neal driving (“Sleeping at Last”) in the middle of the night over Monteagle on our way home from Christmas vacation last December. He is the best Christian-worldview lyricist I’ve ever heard. This song “Bad Blood” is an incredible word-picture of redemption off of his newest EP “Atlas: Darkness.” I get chills when I hear the first three notes of the song now that I know where it’s going.
I’m very excited to finally be able to tell you that the Gospel Coalition is releasing the album “Songs for the Book of Luke” and that they included a song I submitted for the project called “Authority of Christ.” The album is a compilation of songs submitted by worship leaders and pastors around the nation that are all inspired by the Gospel of Luke. My friends David Ward and Eric Schumacher of reformedpraise.org (soon to be thousandtongues.org) also have a song on the album called “Not in Me.”
You can hear a sample of the recording, see a couple of different ways to play the song, and download the chord chart there. I’ll write more about the song and the writing process when it’s not the busiest week of the year!
Did you know that there are thousands and thousands of churches around the world whose weekly services include the exact same four scripture passages? Lectionary-based worship services rotate through large portions of the Old and New Testament in four years’ time. It’s a practice that I admire purely from the standpoint that the congregation is getting a comprehensive diet of the Word of God over the long haul.
Dennis Allen, a long-time song and musical writer here in Nashville, had a great idea: why not resource these churches with songs that are tightly based on each week’s four scripture passages? He and his wife Nan are beginning to do just that at songsforthechurchyear.com. And, beginning this Easter season, Dennis has asked me to join them!
Here are the songs for the Easter season (which, until I began working on this project, I did not know lasted until May 19!). I wrote the music for the following:
“Peace Be With You”
“The Lord Is My Shepherd”
“You Will Receive Power”
“Children of God”
You can listen to each of these here along with the rest of the songs for the Easter season. You can also order the demo, a track, the sheet music with copying permission and the Powerpoint file all in one package for any or all of the songs.
I think Dennis is on to something here – resourcing churches with a practical and worshipful way to help their people engage with scripture and commit it to memory as they study it each week together. And these songs are not just for lectionary-based services…each one can have its own life in the corporate worship of any church looking for scripture songs that are congregationally-friendly.
I am very excited to announce the release of “Songs of the Redeemed.” Recorded live at Grace Community Church over two days in October of 2012, we released it Sunday during our 20-Year Anniversary Celebration. I’m extremely pleased with how it turned out – it truly captures the feel, energy and warmth of our congregational worship. It includes some familiar songs, some originals, and some hymns with fresh arrangements. All of the songs are meaningful to my home church and our corporate life.
Click here to read more, listen & download.