Hey guys happy Monday! Hope you had a great Thanksgiving! Wrote a new song over the weekend, thought I’d share with you. Some of you are songwriters, and others are interested in the process of songwriting so I thought I’d share how this one came about since it just happened. This was one where the whole song just kinda pops out in like 1/2 and hour of working on it and I love those ones! (Other times its week or months of working on something and I still don’t like what I’ve got!). This is not a great recording of the song, I made it right after I wrote it, and my living room guitar happened to be in DADGAD tuning, kinda low key for me, but whatever – I’m trying to be less filtering of just sharing creative stuff out there. So, here’s how the song came about.
Sat morning I was listening to Taylor Swift’s album Folklore in the background while I was reading (I’m a big fan of that genre, love Bon Iver who helped out). The song “August” has these chord changes on the chorus that shortly after were rolling around in my head. The sentiment of the song (and a lot of Taylor’s music) is sad to me: the instability of dating relationships in the world, the pain of breakups (not meaning to be judge-y or anything but just listen to her songs). I was contemplating what an amazing thing it is to have a relationship with the Creator – he never lets me down. He’ll never ever break up with me. He deserves all of my heart. And the chorus melody and lyric just came to me (both together), “all of my heart belongs to you” –really catchy, kind of similar vibe and sentiment to the song “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever.” Then the melody for the verses (which you could hear is pretty influenced by the Taylor Swift song) and lyrics for the verses I just took down right as the melody was coming. Then for the bridge I wanted something kind of climbing, something kind of similar to like the bridge in “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever,” since the song was already sounding a bit like that one, and I really like how the bridge turned out and sets up the final choruses.
Anyway, I share these influences and song similarities because long ago I was a composition major in college for a time and had this view about music (and art school in general can have this idea) like I had to come up with something totally original, totally new, never been done before. So that caused me to be tentative, self-censoring, afraid to just make art. Thing is, does anything truly original even exist? Everything is a re-mix (see this Ted talk with that name)! Don’t be afraid to have songs you hear inspire new songs (or things you read art you see, etc)–don’t plagiarize, but allow your influences to be contributors to new art. That is godly gardening—as I have spoken about elsewhere—using already existing materials and weaving/shaping/molding them into something new and beautiful that glorifies our Maker. Anyway, if you have a thought about music or art or the creative process feel free to drop a comment below!
A world divided
Storms and violence
Fools deny the truth
Meet me in silence
Still my soul
Make me whole in you
**All of my heart belongs to you**
In your story
For your glory
Ever more we
See you shining through
Hope and freedom
Life and kingdom
Love and meaning
All is found in you
**All of my heart belongs to you**
All these other things
Asking for my love
Not where I belong
Will never be enough
But loving you is like clean water
Take me down into your river
Where you are I wanna be there
On into forever
**All of my heart belongs to you**
We recently had a marriage retreat with quite a few couples in attendance from various congregations of the LA Church of Christ (a network of a bunch of ICOC churches in the LA area). We had close to 500 people there and it was so fun and amazing to hear that many people sing (especially after so much social isolation)!
This opening medley of three songs was focused on our security in God – “a mountain, firm beneath my feet,” “forever God is faithful,” an “anchor for the soul.” The first two songs are written by a couple of my church songwriting “mentors,” Brenton Brown and Chris Tomlin. (Both write songs that are simple, easy to sing for congregational participation — something I most often aim for with my worship songs.) I hope this song medley in the key of G reminds you of God’s ever-present faithfulness and fills you with Gratitude on this Thanksgiving week!
I love chatting with and learning from worship leaders who are younger than me. Joshua Taliaferro and I have had a few great conversations through the years (hear an earlier one here) about worship ministry. He contacted me recently asking for my thoughts on some of the challenges of building an eclectic worship set, having disparate styles of music that reach multiple generations of Christians and still have it flow well. We decided to record the conversation so that others might listen and join in with their thoughts or input. Please feel free to comment, share, let us know what you think.
We ended up also talking about Joshua’s personal story, and how for each of us, our spiritual journey has so much impact on how we view worship. We spoke about generational challenges in worship ministry, Joshua’s perspective on ICOC past, present, and future, a bit of what he is doing to build worship teams in his congregation in San Antonio. We end with the perspective of learning to enjoy operating in an eclectic and diverse worship space, enjoying the process of serving those in our congregations, like giving a gift to someone that we know they will enjoy (even if it’s not our own personal taste). Good gift givers have the recipient in mind and enjoy watching them unwrap it. Hopefully we can have a similar experience on Sundays as we roll out the worship service we have worked to prepare.
Hey everybody, happy Monday! I use this space more for sharing worship-ministry-related content than my teaching/preaching work. But yesterday there was a bit of a crossover as I share a story about a disaster on stage for a church event and dig into some pretty deep concepts as to how to relate to using our talents for God —something critically important for anyone involved in worship ministry. So I hope you’ll take the time to watch the sermon and share any comments, or your own thoughts about my interpretation of this story Jesus told. This shift in perspective towards God and my own identity is really meaning so much for me personally, and something I believe can be very transformative in how we interact with risk, uncertainty, anxiety, and fear, especially as it relates to using our gifts for spiritual purposes. I’m sharing it with the hope that it might help make what you’re doing a purposeful joy rather than a cynical grind.
We had a memorial service yesterday afternoon for Mia Steburg, a dear sister in our fellowship who passed away from leukemia a short time ago. Her husband requested we sing this song, which was one of her favorites. It had been a long time sing I sang this song, and I was struck anew by its powerful words, especially during times of grief, hardship, and struggle. The way I play it I attribute to Kevin Darby, who a recorded a version similar to this years ago with his team on an album of the same name (I’m playing it in E but I think he did it in G… I notice my keys are dropping as I get older). I hope in any struggle you may be going through, the words and melody of this classic hymn may minister to you. Chord charts and lyrics are below.
BE STILL MY SOUL
Be still, my soul, the Lord is on thy side
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide.
In every change he faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul, thy best, thy heav’nly friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still, my soul, thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as he has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul, the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while he dwelt below
Be still, my soul, the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul, when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall be at last.
E / A / A / E
E / A / A / E
E / C#m / C#m / F#m / A
E / F#m / G# / C#m / C#m
C#m / F#m / A / E / B
E / A / E / A
I posted this song around a decade ago (and I’m not sure how much older that video was) but I thought I would share it again today with a new video recording. It’s going to fit the theme of our worship service this Sunday so we plan to sing it this week. It was originally written for a campus ministry conference many years ago with the theme “The Whole World Will Know.” I had two musical ideas and this was one of them (the other was from the David/Goliath story, which is where that phrase originates–see a music video I made of that song here).
I like the some of the theology of this song and singing it today was a reminder of God’s patience, “not wanting anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). I want to continue to join him in his mission, in whatever way I can.
EVERY KNEE WILL BOW
The whole world will know
We’ll sing it loud
We give all to crown you now
The whole world will see
As we see you now
One day every knee will bow
O God you make us sing
You’ve giv’n us everything
To you our all we bring in royal praise
In this dark world we’ll shine
Until the end of time
We’ll tell the world to find your saving grace
To seek your face
Since Adam’s ground was cursed
Children of Eve been birthed
The dragon to the earth in fury hurled
But still you had a way
Your only son you gave
Your kingdom here to save, so loved the world
The whole world
Now give us strength to tell
Push back the gates of Hell
By your love we are compelled the gospel preach
Now make us brave and bold
Help us achieve the goal
That one day every soul your grace will reach
Your word we speak…
Hey everyone, happy Monday! I met someone this morning who is a rapper; we were talking about music and positive rap, and our conversation reminded me of some work by an awesome rapper from our sister congregation in San Diego, Rayshon Roberts (see rayshonmusic.com –please follow his music he has some great stuff). He contributed to a song of mine I’ll share today, called “Don’t Travel Alone.” I wrote this song back in 2013, around an infectious synth riff and some thoughts about friendship in the church, and some who had decided to leave our circle of fellowship, cutting off some of those that loved them the most (or at least it felt that way to me). Sin can separate us. So can tribalism and ideology, loyalty to movements of men rather than the kingdom of God. It’s frustrating to me that lately some have allowed their party politics or social ideas to come between them and their brothers and sisters in Christ. We need each other. We need community. We need spiritual friendships. No other way to make it on the journey. Here is the somewhat cheesy rap that I wrote for this song (no longer on the recording, it was replaced by Rayshon’s lyrics):
The best of us is a mess, but trust
that on the road long
You need someone to hold on for the journey
I think its tragic
when losing friends is symptomatic
Recovering addicts need a sponsor
–think its time you had it
Life instead, marrow deep and red
Gotta re-tread, and be led
back to where your warm and well-fed
Travel back to our time
Draw a clean line and you’ll find
We’ll be waiting
This is outside the norm for this space where I mostly share congregational worship songs. But this song is fun and I especially love how the music video turned out — The amazing Joshua Strauther let me use his fun skating videos to make this. (Joshua is himself an amazing musician and worship leader for the Westside Church congregation here in LA and we used to do music for conferences and camps together years ago.) “Wherever you’re going… don’t travel, don’t travel alone!”
We lost a couple dear members from our local congregation this past month. Strong disciples of Jesus, they have crossed over to “the other side” to be with him in Paradise, but we sure miss them! Singing this song as a congregation was therapeutic for us as we reflect on our own journeys and what really matters. (See here for an earlier posting of an album recording of this song.)
Hello and happy Monday everybody! I have spent my whole life in a family of churches known as the International Churches of Christ (ICOC). There are some young people from a few of our congregations who have recently made a podcast called Spake Makers with a stated goal to “make space for intergenerational and hard conversations about controversial topics.” They invited me on the podcast to share about my experience growing up in our church, and we ended up talking about quite a few different topics along the way, such as
- Generational challenges in our church
- Reactionary dynamics in church structure and history
- Bad scriptural interpretation in our past
- Engaging culture appropriately (as Paul does in Acts 17)
- What I appreciate about young people
- Challenges of Covid and isolation
- Faith vs. fear in building the church
- Social media, new platforms of communication
- Worship ministry and music
I went on quite a few ramblings and I might have said a thing or two that is controversial—I’d love to hear from you if you agree or disagree with anything I had to say; feel free to leave a comment or reach out. I really love our church and feel like in many ways it a better church than its ever been as the Spirit continues to work on us. When I talk to young people about the future it really gives me hope for the days ahead. A wise poet once said “I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way…”
Space Makers on iTunes
Space Makers on Spotify
I wrote this song almost exactly 10 years ago for a conference that was to take place the following summer. As we have gone through difficulties as followers of Christ in various nations around the world, it’s good to be reminded that God has provided for us and will continue to provide for us. See Genesis 22 for context of the song, what the rabbis call the “Binding of Isaac.” The test of Abraham’s faith became a lesson about the provision of God. That is so true for my life, anytime I have been tested, God always comes through – he walks with me through hard times, he gives me just what I need at just the right moment. “On the mountain of the Lord it WILL be provided.”
This video is part of a “Regional” worship service, my congregation South Bay Church joining several of the other congregations of the LA Church of Christ. The young woman singing the song (Jayde Matthew) is a part of a great family, and her dad was appointed an elder for our church at the end of the service. Here’s the whole worship service. Here’s a video of the song when it was introduced at the conference back in 2012.