Thinking Out Loud

September 11, 2014

Veteran Christian Artists Offer Scripture Music Collections

“Wait a minute;” I can hear someone saying, “Isn’t all Christian music supposed to be based on scripture?”

Well, as true as that should be, even today’s vertical worship music is rather subjective in its composition and most CCM simply offers a Christian perspective on life, love and living and even that is often veiled. The two projects we look at today are remarkably different.

Michael Card - CD series based on the Gospels

Michael Card‘s collection of four CDs based on the gospels reflects an entirely different genre lyrically. Released between February, 2011 and July, 2014, the four albums aren’t exactly the old “Scripture in Song” material, either; but rather offer something refreshingly unique. The series is called Biblical Imagination and each has a book which corresponds to it, suggesting that the songs come out of the depth of study necessary to complete the books. Both books and music are distributed by InterVarsity Press (IVP), so if your local Christian music outlet only deals with Provident, or Capitol, or EMI, they might not have access.

For those old enough to remember Michael’s song Known by the Scars, the style is really unchanged. (Card is also the author of Amy Grant’s El Shaddai.)

The album I was given as a sample, Mark: The Beginning of the Gospel includes a very classical performance by Fisk University Jubilee Singers before settling down into more familiar Michael Card territory. Scripture references are provided, though here the texts are used more as springboards for more poetic considerations and impressions from the life and teachings of Christ.

I’ll be reviewing the accompanying book here at a later date, but honestly speaking, owning one of the CDs only makes me want to own the entire set.  If my remarks here don’t accurately convey the nature of this recording, it’s only because the beauty and depth is rather hard to describe.


Brian Doerksen and The Shiyr PoetsThe Shiyr Poets (pronounced ‘sheer’) on the other hand takes a more word-for-word approach, but with a conversion to modern English from the Hebrew and with the addition of recurring choruses as keeping with the structure of modern music. In many ways, bringing these texts into our century captures the heart and anguish of the Psalmist in ways we might miss with a cursory reading of the text.

The band is the latest project from worship leader Brian Doerksen composer of Refiner’s Fire, Come Now Is The Time to Worship, You Shine, and Faithful One. The sound is consistent with past Doerksen albums, a gentle, more intimate sound. (Foreshadowing this project was the song Fortress 144 from a few years back; a song Brian said was written especially to be a song that men could embrace in a corporate worship setting.)

On Songs for the Journey, Volume One the goal is to begin working sequentially through the book of Psalms, hence this album covers the first ten, with two bonus tracks. Yes, this is an ambitious project! The group used crowd-funding to partially underwrite the launch of the first project and probably would need to do that again to create successive volumes, as this has not been produced for a major label.

You can listen to an audio sample from Psalm 3, at the band’s website by clicking here, or watch a video from a Christian television program here and here. The physical album is only available in Canada, but you can download it digitally anywhere from iTunes

Again, there’s a lot going on in the Psalms that we miss, and this project accurately captures both the tension and the wonder.

 

 

Advertisements

June 9, 2014

Creation Calls: How Can I Say There is No God?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:20 am

Psalm 19:1 Heaven is declaring God’s glory;
    the sky is proclaiming his handiwork.
One day gushes the news to the next,
    and one night informs another what needs to be known.
Of course, there’s no speech, no words—
        their voices can’t be heard—
    but their sound extends throughout the world;
        their words reach the ends of the earth.

Common English Bible (CEB)

Last month my wife was leading worship at a local church and after the service, we had three requests for a copy of the lyrics for the song Creation Calls by Brian Doerksen. She has done this song at least six times there, but something about it this particular time struck a variety of people in that congregation.

So I thought I’d share it here.

I have felt the wind blow,
Whispering Your name
I have seen Your tears fall
When I watch the rain

How could I say there is no God
When all around creation calls
A singing bird, a mighty tree
The vast expanse of open sea

Gazing at a bird in flight,
Soaring through the air
Lying down beneath the stars,
I feel Your presence there

I love to stand at ocean’s shore
And feel the thundering breakers roar
To walk through golden fields of grain
‘Neath endless blue horizon’s frame

Listening to a river run, watering the earth
Fragrance of a rose in bloom, a newborn’s cry at birth

I believe, I believe, I believe


Learn more about Brian in this 2009 review of his book.

There’s a similar theme in a classic song from an earlier generation, One More Reason by Tom Howard.  

Keep up with Brian’s new band, The Shiyr Poets.

We used Brian’s song Today in a devotional post at C201, but you might know him better for Refiner’s Fire

April 2, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Irresistible Grace

After falling for an April Fool’s Day prank yesterday — hope you enjoyed yesterday’s here — you may be overly cautious today, but as far as we know, everything below is legit.

Despite a submission guide at PARSE that allows writers to post additionally at their own sites, our Leadership Today overlords want you clicking from their site, thereby depriving me of stats. So if you see something you liked, leave a comment here or there; it’s the only way I know. Clicking anything below will take you first to PARSE.

While leaving no Christian internet news stone unturned, Paul Wilkinson also writes at Thinking Out Loud, Christianity 201, and Twitter.

Devouring God's Word

October 1, 2010

Brian Doerksen’s Live Worship Experience

So here I am in the most unusual position of reviewing an Integrity Music worship DVD which is not available in the United States.   Not so far.  Truly, that doesn’t happen very often.

I’m talking about Level Ground a new two-hour worship video event from Brian Doerksen, the Canadian worship leader and songwriter best known for songs such as, Refiner’s Fire, Come Now is the Time to Worship, You Shine, Today (As For Me and My House), Light the Fire Again; and many, many more. I’m a huge fan of his Today DVD — imagine watching a series of songs while actors re-enact Nehemiah’s rebuilding of the Jerusalem wall — and was not disappointed by his newest take on producing a worship video.

You know the criteria for good worship DVDs right? Great worship songs. A tight band. Memorable song introductions. Good camera shots of the audience and worship team.   Lots of cheering at the end of each song.

Forget all that. On Level Ground – The Live Experience, Brian focused on the idea of intimacy in worship. Recorded over two evenings, Brian brought together a much smaller group of people to a barn located on a B.C. nut farm.   These are people he knows; people that he and the worship band are doing life with, and throughout the video, he introduces about a dozen of them and allows them to tell their salvation story, or as he puts it, their “grace stories.”

With all this background, Brian’s friends become your friends. You worship along with people you know, as the smaller crowd means recurrent crowd shots of the same individuals.*

Wait! Let me qualify what I mean by “crowd shots.” There is no crowd. No audience. The band is placed around the floor of the barn interspersed among the worshipers. No musicians are on a stage or platform. The title song reminds us of the saying that “the ground is level at the foot of the cross;” and the arrangement of the musicians on all fourteen songs stands as a reminder, a reinforcement of this principle.

Welcome to the place of level ground
Welcome to the place where grace abounds
We all need mercy
We all need mercy
Welcome to the place where none can boast
Welcome to the place compassion flows
We all need mercy
We all need mercy

By its own admission, Level Ground is a hybrid; part concert, part worship experience, part talk show; with the visual additions of fine art and dance.   Of the 14 songs, almost all new, my favorite was “Whatever Comes,” a reminder that no matter what the evening news has to say about the world, God is with us.

Whatever comes
Cultures will rise as nations fall
Troubles will challenge and assault
Your Word will stand above them all
Whatever comes
All we cannot comprehend
Disasters will break the pride of men
And you will be faithful to the end

Almighty, immortal,
Love is on your throne
Sovereign, in control
Unchanging, prevailing
Though the nations rage
You’re still the God who reigns

Here’s a six-minute preview of the video on Vimeo.

For readers outside Canada, if all of this has piqued your curiosity, until this one is released, I can’t recommend the Today video strongly enough.

Read a review of Brian’s book on the subject of worship, Make Love, Make War (David C. Cook)  here.

*Knowing the stories of the people you’re worshiping with — Is there a theme here?  Check out yesterday’s review of The Strategically Smaller Church.

Level Ground is also available (and will presumably be also released in the U.S. later) as an audio CD.

No “nut farm” jokes were used in the preparation of this review.

August 6, 2010

Let’s Look at the Amish

Somewhere near the end of our vacation, we were in a town where suddenly a horse and buggy appeared in the opposite traffic lane. Not knowing if my wife had noticed, I simply said; “Amish;” to which she replied; “Oooh! Let’s look at them.”

The strange remark — which I got right away, but you may not have — is a dry reference to people we know who say they are going to go to Pennsylvania to “look at the Amish.” Not shop in their stores and buy jams, jellies or crafts from them. Not spend a week helping out on one of their farms — the way one might volunteer on an Israeli kibbutz — as much of an adventure as that would be. Not attending one of their worship services.

No… just “looking at the Amish;” the way we might visit a town if everybody there had two heads.

But maybe, just maybe, we should take a minute to ‘look at’ (in the sense of ‘consider’) the Amish.

While everybody else in Christendom has suffered the fate of slowly being dominated and shaped by the spirit and culture of the world, these people have managed to truly understand what it means to be “set apart;” what it means to not ‘give in’ to the dominant culture and its ways of seeing the world.

And isn’t that

…continue reading here…

Photo is from Daily Encouragement by Stephen & Brooksyne Weber.

June 24, 2010

Worship in the United States vs. Worship in the United Kingdom

Two countries.   Much shared history.   A common language.   Similar politics.

But when it comes to church or when it comes to our expression of Christianity, are we in North America more alike our British cousins or are we more unalike?

Living in Canada gives a few of us a unique window on both our neighbours to the south and our friends several thousand miles to the east.   To many of us here, Adrian Plass, Selwyn Hughes, Graham Kendrick, Stuart Townend, etc. are names we have at least heard, if we haven’t also read their books or sung their songs.

What amazes me though is how little my contacts in the U.S. know of Christianity in England.    Where this turns up most is in a cursory examination of worship music in both countries.

Because we’re still a few weeks away from getting the biannual numbers from CCLI — the next six month report comes out in August — we’ll have to settle for a look at the February 2010 stats.

Here’s a look at the Top 25 worship songs in use in the U.K.

Without getting too deep into statistics — we’ll leave that to the sportscasters — you see on this list a couple of Graham Kendrick classics along with the beautiful “I Will Offer Up My Life” by Matt Redman and a number of pieces that follow the ‘hymn style’ of verse/chorus, such as “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us,” “Be the Centre,” and the classic “All Heaven Declares.”   The American #1 most-used chorus, “Mighty to Save” by Hillsong doesn’t even appear on the list.

Here’s the U.S.A. list for the same period:

For some of my American readers, this list seems rather dated, or perhaps even rather tame.  Your church has already moved on to newer songs.   I personally think that the U.S. church has adopted a rather “disposable” attitude toward its worship music in the last five years or so.   Anything before 2006 is considered a “golden oldie.”

That’s rather sad in a way.    The British churches contributing to their list seem to hang on to a good song a little longer.

I also feel bad for American churches who aren’t using “Once Again” by Matt Redman, but also wish that the British list contained at least one song by Paul Baloche.

I think every church service should contain at least a couple of songs from these lists.   This is the worship music that connects us; these songs are being sung across denominational lines.   Too much new and unfamiliar music weakens the worship time.   I also hope your church does at least five or six different worship songs each week.   There’s a trend right now to only doing a couple, but I think it leaves both seasoned worshipers and seekers a little shortchanged.

If you missed it, last week I had another couple of posts on worship music in light of a recent book, and you can read those here (June 11th) and here (June 17th).  (If you think I’ve gone conservative, rest assured that the author of that book wouldn’t have even posted these lists!)

I think it is incumbent on worship leaders to stay aware of what’s happening in worship on a worldwide scale, and know about other material that is available to them.   If you click on the links, you’ll end up at the site which also allows you too look at lists in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Africa.

Brooke Fraser has a total of four songs on the N.Z. list, including #2 and #3, but the Africa list has more familiar songs that you might expect.

If I could only sing 25 songs in the next year, I’d be content to make the Africa list my songbook.

Today’s forum:  What do you think of the song selection at your place of worship?

August 18, 2009

Brian Doerksen: Make Love, Make War

I lied yesterday.   I said you could expect this book review later this week, when in fact, I couldn’t stop reading.  I never finish a book in a single day.  If anything, the book ended suddenly; I kept looking for a postscript or afterword or epilogue.

Make Love, Make War: Now is the Time to Worship (David C. Cook, 2009)  is a wonderfully crafted outpouring from the heart of Canadian singer-songwriter Brian Doerksen, who has authored or co-authored — he seems to do much of his writing in tandem with others — some of our best known worship songs such as:

  • Doerksen - Make Love Make War (2)Refiner’s Fire
  • Your Love is Amazing
  • Today (As for Me and My House)
  • It’s Time for the Reign of God
  • Faithful One
  • Everlasting
  • Creation Calls
  • Light The Fire Again
  • You Shine
  • and 84 other CCLI-listed songs

Some of these songs, and some I didn’t know, become the chapter titles for this book and are used as a springboard for discussion about what it means to live a life of worship to God, and also the worship songwriting process itself.   On many chapters, I found the songs playing as on a loop in my head, providing a background soundtrack to reading the book.   (Maybe someday that technology will exist as you begin a new chapter, the appropriate song will play…)

Doerksen - Today DVDFurthermore, although I’ve missed hearing Brian live, getting to know his voice and spoken mannerisms from the Today live worship DVD resulted in almost hearing him speak the words right off the page.    I questioned getting the DVD, since I already had the CD, but it has proved to be one of my all time favorite visual worship experiences.   The book Make Love, Make War is the next natural progression, deeper into the heart of Brian’s love for his heavenly father, though if you currently own neither, don’t let that dissuade you from the book..

The book is part worship textbook, part autobiographical.   It is in places humorous and at other places deeply serious.    It is partly intended for worship music personnel at local churches — especially with its technical and practical tips for musicians at the end of each chapter — and also intended for the average person who seeks after God.

In many of our churches, the worship component involves half or more of the total time spent “at church.”   Towards the end, Doerksen suggests:

“…we send people away to Bible school and seminary for years to learn the Scriptures and how to preach.  And upon their return they preach sermons, which people often promptly forget.   But there are very few theological schools designed to help modern artists and worship songwriters learn the Scriptures and biblical theology; we just tell them to write a song we can sing in church.  Maybe it’s the songwriters who should study the most — because the lyrics of the songs are what really stick with us.”

In an excellent analogy — again towards the end of the book — he compares worship leaders to the Best Man at a wedding, leading the introduction of Bride (the church) and Groom (the Father), and then quickly getting out of the way.

DoerksenElsewhere he despairs over pastors who encourage worship leaders to include something “lively” or “up tempo,” when the heart of the Psalms is often woeful lament.   His admiration for principal Psalmist King David — he just calls him Dave — is repeated throughout the book.   He admits that sometimes, following after his role model, his song themes and lyrical choices have been met with criticism.    This does not deter him; he feels he is living out the particular worship role for which God has chosen him.

Lord willing, Brian Doerksen will keep giving the church new musical worship material; but I also hope this isn’t the last time we see his name on a book.   He has much to teach us about our relationship with the Father.

August 17, 2009

Currently Reading: Worship Tips and Lutheran Humor

Garrison Keillor - LutheransLife Among The Lutherans
A collection of stories from Garrison Keillor, host of NPR’s Prairie Home Companion, heard Saturday nights from 6-8 PM EST; highlighting the stories which contain references to faith, church and religion, which, in my opinion, includes every Lake Wobegon story he ever tells.  In a transparent preface to the stories, Keillor admits his original take on Lutherans was somewhat condescending, coming from an elitist sect known as the Sanctified Brethren.  Just five chapters (out of 28) in, I think he holds Lutherans in greater respect today.  (Hardcover, Augsburg Books, 2009)

Doerksen - Make Love Make WarMake Love, Make War
No,the title is correct.  Worship music singer and composer Brian Doerksen uses the stories behind many of his popular worship compositions to talk about worship in general.   Just a few chapters in, I see this book as a “must read” for anyone involved in leading worship in their local congregation, as well as anyone whose life has been touched by songs such as “Everlasting,” “Refiner’s Fire,” “Today (As For Me and My House,” “Come, Now is the Time to Worship,” and others.  (Paperback, David C. Cook, 2009)

Watch for full reviews on these books over the next week.

Thinking Out Loud – Matters of Faith, Because Faith Matters

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.