Category Archives: Music
Last week was a phenomenal week. I had the privilege to take 50 or so volunteers into an elementary school and lead an arts camp. Now, there are lots of summer camps that happen around the city all summer long—but DreamBuilders Rhythm and Art Camp was a little unique because we were told these kids had never had a summer camp opportunity before. These were beautiful, hopeful faces who did not always have the luxury of counting on things like breakfast, clean clothes, or safety.
Our theme was Dream Big, Dream Now and the song that anchored us was “What Faith Can Do” by Kutless. The goal was to help these kids put a firm hope in God’s purpose for their lives, and encourage them to look beyond immediate circumstances that might weaken their dreams. We did that by giving them a highly relational week with about 1 leader to every 4 campers (sometimes we had so much help, it was 1 on 1!) We also tried to leave them with tangible experiences in ArKIDtecture, Creative Writing, Glee Choir and Drumming that planted seeds for developing their gifts.
I’m still processing all of it, but here are a few take aways I keep celebrating:
- It was an amazing collaboration between two ministries and a school. We truly relied on each other and focused on what we had in common. Lasting friendships and more dreams of making a difference were forged.
- It was a powerful reminder that miracles do “just happen” and God will surprise us if we give him room to work. While at a bookstore looking for Bibles to put in the camper gift bags for the end of the week, I was startled by an abrupt, but generous woman who reported that God told her to give me her $43 to help pay for the Bibles. I tried to protest, but she would not allow me to. Then, 5 minutes later, she startled me again by ripping the $43 from my hand and slapping a $100 bill on my shoulder and saying, “I want you to have this instead!” I attempted to say thank you and find out more about her, but in so many words, she told me to leave her alone! I’m guessing that she did not give from her abundance, but she gave anyway. I keep praying for beautiful blessings for her.
- It was a beginning to keep building on. Both churches have been helping this school all year, but this camp introduced dozens of people to the possibilities of how they can play a vital role in these kids’ lives. (I promised lunch and a back to school phone call to a little girl that spent time with me!) We discovered the kind of songs that kids will sing with all their might. We realized if we could help them build and design their own picnic tables for the playground—there must be other things we could help them build and improve for their school and lives. We read poetry that revealed emotions that need to be expressed and realities that need to be faced. We heard 30 hands pounding on djembes with exhuberance and joy that we want to help them harness.
I’m so thankful for all the volunteer leaders that gave up their time and served. They were middle school, high school, college and adult leaders who were the light from the city on the hill over and over again all week.
As a person who every once in a while gets to ponder and plan the music for a worship gathering, and as a musician with a broad appreciation for differing music genres, I’ve started a running list of the attributes I try to include in the songs of any worship set. It is by no means hard and fast, and it certainly is not exhaustive. But, I feel with the addition of each of these kinds of songs to a worship gathering, the spiritual richness goes deeper.
STORY – These are the songs that set the stage for the story of God in scripture and in our lives. They are the hymns that teach us about who God is and what he has done. They are the modern recollections of what we have experienced and how God showed up for us. These story songs are those that remind us of who we are and whose we are.
REPETITION – If the story song unfolds God’s cosmic drama, the repetition song helps us reflect on that drama in our own lives. I did not always appreciate singing a short, simple song over and over again…until I realized that much like an ancient chant, a song of repetition can become a musical meditation. Not having to worry about the words or notes in the next line of a new verse, allows me to stay in the place of one truth long enough for it to penetrate my soul.
POETRY – A song that paints a word picture of God’s goodness, or offers a metaphor of Christ’s power over sin, or that flows with a beautiful rhythm and rhyme is the song that adds insight to our spiritual understanding. It’s that song that helps us recognize a truth that has always been there; just undiscovered. A poetry song is the one I want to stop and read aloud without the music, just so everyone in the room can be nourished by the words.
PRAYER – Sometimes the words from our heart to God’s just flow better when we sing them. A prayer song can help us confess a struggle, lead us to commitment, give us the words of gratitude that we can’t find or encourage us to ask God for his help. In the lyrics of a prayer song, we just might find that the songwriter was expressing exactly what we feel and need to say at just that moment.
FUSION – Since I have roots in both classical and modern music genres, I love to see the old fused with the new. We can take an old hymn like How Great Thou Art and weave a few of it’s verses into Chris Tomlin’s How Great is Our God, or, use a Gregorian Chant during communion and then cut loose with an electric guitar for the celebration song after communion. My favorite worship song practice these days is when a powerful hymn gets a fresh arrangement with a band and then a simple, modern chorus is added to the old, strong words. Such a simple idea, but it connects the lives of people following Christ across many centuries.
The diversity these kinds of worship songs sustains and invigorates our connection to believers past and present, near and far. It seems to me that the deeper we go to connect with God and those who are sharing the faith journey with us, that the more beautiful is the sound of this music to our Father’s ears.
Students are discovering how they can make a global impact on the world every day. Here’s an event happening in Tulsa on Cinco de Mayo that shows the creativity and cooperative spirit of students and churches that can leave a beautiful imprint on the world. If you are around Tulsa that night, make sure you stop by the Octagon Stage at 81st & Harvard between 5-9p. If you can’t make it, make sure you check out the great work of Blood, Water, Mission.
song is Rutter’s arrangement (lyrics are from the breastplate of St. Patrick in the 5th century)
Christ be with me, Christ within me
Christ behind me, Christ before me
Christ beside me, Christ to win me
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ above me, Christ beneath me
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger
Christ in hearts of all that love me
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger
I meet lots of people who used to believe.
They used to put their hope in something bigger than themselves. They once followed a path that gave them answers, made sense of life’s nonsense and gave them a deep well of joy and purpose. These friends once believed in Jesus.
But something changed. Somewhere along the way, the wear and tear of growing up and facing more complicated issues, wrestling with deeper struggles, and enduring more profound loss caused the fire of that faith to be smothered. And even if they desperately want to believe, they have forgotten how to live in that belief.
Just a few days ago, I heard “Where are You Christmas?” from the movie, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I’m a lyrics girl, so I’m always listening to what the song is trying to communicate through the music and the words. As I listened to the child’s voice ask the searching questions, it dawned on me that in most places of this song, you can replace the word “Christmas” with “Jesus.” Take a second to listen to the song as Faith Hill sings it and insert “Jesus” wherever you hear “Christmas”:
That might be the faith heartache of your life. Where are you Jesus? Where are you when I have so much to face. Why did you go away? My life looks very different from the days when it seemed easy to believe and follow you. Things have been turned upside-down in my life. I’ve got a lot more questions than answers, now. Does that mean all that I had hoped in gets turn upside down, too?
For some of us, maybe the questions of the next verse sum it up. Where are you Jesus? Do you even remember me? I’m not the same as I was – I’ve made a lot of mistakes. Is that why it feels like you’ve let me go?
It’s almost as if we are supposed to outgrow believing in Jesus, just like we eventually stop believing in Santa Claus. Many give up on the childlike notion that God could love us no matter what, meet us wherever we are, accept us regardless of what we’ve done, heal the wounds that have been inflicted upon us and be big enough to answer our toughest questions.
It is an absurdity, I’ll admit. It doesn’t make much sense to the logical mind to believe in Jesus. Just like the story of Santa is rooted in the real life events of the amazing St Nicholas, Bishop of Myra who lived around the 3rd century, it would make more sense to acknowledge that yes, Jesus was real person, and a great one at that, but that his redemptive story of saving us with a not-of-this-world kind of strength that actually brought him back to life, really just became a part of the sweet children’s tale that evolved about him through history.
Here’s the catch though. All those fun details of Santa’s sleigh and reindeer and red suits and of course, the supernatural ability to get around the entire world in one night, well that’s all folklore that’s been added by us, the people who love the story. And, many of those details have been added as recently as the last few centuries.
But, the miracle of Jesus being “God with us”, healing people from miserable diseases, feeding crowds of thousands with a few fish and loaves of bread, dying on the cross for us and then kicking death in the pants so he could come back for us, and offering to be our way, our truth and our life – all those were real-life God-powered events that people really saw over and over again. The details of his life were written by those who actually knew him or lived as a contemporary of him. And even more amazingly, things like where he would be born, how he would die and the kind of power he would have were all foretold and written about long before he even lived. His life story needed no magical embellishments. This real life story has been retold not because of how much people loved the story of this man, but because of the outrageous way that this man loved us.
The truth is that Jesus is here. He hasn’t gone away. He hasn’t let go…and he won’t. He knows your life is different – and by the way, he does recognize you. He misses you and would love nothing better than for you to embrace your belief again, realizing that a whimsical story cannot outlast childhood, but the extraordinary, living, breathing hero of the story can withstand whatever doubt or circumstance you face.
We may outgrow a limited understanding of who Jesus was and still is, but he will never grow out of his persistent desire for us to know him in deeper ways, and still see him with the strong, believing eyes of a child.
The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name. John 20:30-31