Songs That Take You High and Low

Album cover for Ties to the Light - Songs That Take You High and Low.

Hey everybody! This little space on the Internet I’ve had going for over a decade now has really been about sharing resources, ideas, thoughts, and experiences as they relate to worship ministry. And I think most of you who read this blog serve in that arena in one way or another. Crossing into this space occasionally are also thoughts about creativity, and the arts in general, and today’s post is along those lines. If you read on, please indulge me in hearing a bit of my artistic and creative journey the last few years.

I appeared on a friends podcast recently and spoke quite a bit about the connections between how I view myself as a creative person, an image-bearer, and how my relationship with God connects to all that. Whereas before becoming a disciple of Jesus creativity was much about self-expression, when I submitted to the Lordship of Christ my art became more about worship, and offering the best of myself to his purposes and for his kingdom. This even caused me to shift majors in college. I had started out as a fine arts major (I make paintings and illustrations), but my visual art at the time was so inward-focused I chose to move to music (eventually getting a music degree with an emphasis in audio engineering) which for me was more outward in expression. I made music in those days that was alternative rock, played some shows around town and on college campuses (we even one the “battle of the bands” back at CU Boulder, due not in small part to the frenzied CU campus ministry in the audience). And my friends and I would regularly play rock sets of popular tunes and my own songs for campus retreats.

Later I started writing some songs for the church to sing (mostly because I was tired of some of the songs we were repeating so frequently) and made it my goal to write simple, catchy, easy to sing songs that could be sung at a campus gathering or baptism, or also could be scaled up and done at a conference or big worship service. By God’s grace he gave me some great songs, some of which caught on and spread around our fellowship of churches.

I still always had my alternative rock musical foundations though, and a while back I started writing songs again in that vein, partially with hopes of playing out around town in non-church environments, just to meet wholly different categories of members of my community, to reach out and meet new people. Artistically, it was also fun to branch away from worship music, even as the message of many of the songs came from a worshipful perspective or a place of commentary on the spiritual journey. They were songs about people falling away, getting spiritually numb, finding God in campus ministry, needing community, striving towards Christ, feeling distant in secular culture. But the lyrics are all couched in metaphorical terms with universal themes that hopefully everyone can relate to. In order to distinguish the material from the worship music most people knew me from, I released the songs under the band name “Ties to the Light.” (Here’s the new Facebook page for that music.)

Worship music has to be simple, easy to sing, musically uncomplicated, not dependent on a certain groove or instrumentation (at least if it’s going to be easily sung by average church members and shared amongst diverse congregations). In particular my goal has been to share really easy songs, as much of modern worship music feel radio/performance driven, in my opinion, more than being about congregational engagement (of course there are some great exceptions of easy-to-sing songs). Conversely, my Ties to the Light songs could be more about artistic expression and my own musical and production technique exploration, even whilst still being vehicles of spiritual messaging. My recordings of worship songs were made primarily for the purposes of sharing the songs themselves, so I used whatever audio technology I had available at the time, without getting overly concerned with production value. So while I still love the songs, some of the recordings are not so great. With my Ties to the Light stuff though, in order for it to stand beside commercial releases it had to be higher production quality, so I invested in paying to have some of the songs mixed and trying to learn newer recording techniques and equipment.

Just this past week I am now releasing the second album of Ties to the Light music (three of the songs on this new release are cowritten with Geoff Fawcett, which is cool). Because it’s under a new artist name and not my own name, almost no one knows about it. So for example while I have a decent number of listeners who listen to “J. Brian Craig” on Spotify, for Ties to the Light there are 9. Actually now it’s up to 11. So if you’ve read this far, you probably are a supporter of my music and ministry so I’d like to ask you–can you help me get the word out about Ties to the Light? Listen on streaming devices. Download and/or rate and review on iTunes. Like and follow the Facebook page I just set up (and share the videos that are on there). And, if you like the music, tell your friends about it! Because I get feedback that some of these songs would be great for sync purposes (like behind a commercial or TV show or some other media vehicle) I’ve included acoustic and instrumental versions of the songs on this one.

By the way, with the time I spent the last few years finally getting that Ties to the Light music up and running and out into the world, I’ve been building up a backlog of new worship songs that God has been giving me. So I have at least two albums worth of newer worship songs I need to get decent recordings of and release. Some of these I have posted in this space or shared in one way or another — more introspective songs like Let Me Rest, I Belong, Only In the Cross and more upbeat songs like Heavens Declare, Emptied All, and Worship You My King. There’s even a worship song that acknowledges climate change called Every Rock and Tree. Please pray for me that I can make time to get all these songs recorded and share them; there are some songs my local church really loves singing or the kids at camp totally love belting out, and I feel a calling to share them with a wider audience. One cool thing is I’ve been getting faster and better with mixing and production, learning Logic along the way doing Ties to the Light stuff, and especially all the virtual choir worship videos I made during the lock down. So hopefully I’ll be able to work a little faster getting the material released.

Thank you so much for cheering me along on this musical journey, and thank you for all the support that so many of you have given me through the years!


My Hope is Built

Good morning everyone! We’ve just had our third in-person worship service in a row, which has been great, and I got to attend an outdoor dinner party with no masks (everyone was vaccinated) last week. But we are still a looooong way off from being back to normal (and who knows what “normal” will even look like going forward). Even as we get back a few of the things we lost I know a lot of us are still pretty shell-shocked from the last year, maybe grieving, maybe our world has been pretty rocked in one way or another. I am so very thankful for my grounding faith, my hope in the enduring word of God and the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Here’s a great old hymn with this sentiment, and a recording I made with my version of it back in 2012.

By the way I love new takes on old hymns, and I have about an album’s worth of them I plan to release this year. If you have a favorite new version of an old hymn, or even just a hymn you’d like to plug in general, please add a comment below.

MY HOPE IS BUILT

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name

On Christ the solid rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand

When darkness veils his lovely face,
I rest on his unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil

His oath, his covenant, his blood,
Support me in the ‘whelming flood
When all around my soul gives way
He then is all my hope and stay

When he shall come with trumpet sound
O may I then in him be found
Dressed in his righteousness alone
Faultless to stand before the throne

E   /   Bsus   /   A(add2)   /  A   E

E   /   Bsus   /   A(add2)   /  A   E

E   /   A(add9)   /  c#min   /  Bsus

A(add2)    (break)


How Spiritual Identity Fuels Creativity: Podcast with Michael P. Lovett

Michael P. Lovett invites me onto his podcast to interview me about creativity and my walk with God. Our conversation includes:

  • Being an mage-bearer, identity 
  • What makes you feel like “I was born to do this?”
  • Leaning in to your strengths rather than always focusing on your weaknesses
  • What way are you uniquely gifted?
  • What way are you a “gardener”?
  • Everyone has a unique way they have been designed to build the kingdom

What does the idea of being “image bearers” have to do with creativity? What parallels are there between “gardening” in Eden and being artists in our time? In this podcast interview with Michael P. Lovett, we discuss such questions and how they relate to our spiritual self (particularly as men, but I’d expect women will enjoy our conversation as well). When leaning to use our gifts is part of active worship (Rom 12:1-2), such creativity becomes part of the rule and reign of the ever-expanding Kingdom of God. It’s about Him, it’s for Him.

This allows us to be vulnerable. This allows us to fail. Because it’s not about us, it’s for God’s glory. We can let go. Create, express, build, invent, design, dream. As men in particular, we don’t have to be afraid.

I share in the podcast how this ties in to my walk with God. I briefly pass along a few of the things I gleaned from the book With by Skye Jethani. Unfortunately, we often accept these lesser postures (which the book describes) in our relationship with God because we’re afraid of the world and we want control. (I speak much more about these concepts in these Sunday lessons: “With,” Part 1; “With,” Part 2.) On the podcast, Michael and I end up talking further about suffering: God’s presence within suffering, and dealing with the unanswered questions that happen in hard times.

Bottom line: the more you know God, the more you understand your proper identity. The closer you are to Him, the more this guides and directs your life, and the many roles present in your life (including being a creative person).


John McLellan: Recording and Songwriting in Lockdown

My friends and fellow musicians John McLellan and Pete Wade are making music under the name “Soulfish” and they put a great album together during lockdown. In this video interview, John and I talk about the album as well as the songwriting process, what he’s been learning about recording, and leading worship during the time of Covid. We talk about :

  • How we’ve been doing our Sunday worship services
  • How we’ve been building worship videos with virtual performances
  • What we’ve been learning about song writing, arranging, and recording
  • And more details about what into the making of the record

Please buy or stream the album “Dust” by Soulfish now available on all streaming or download platforms. John’s expertise as a guitarist and Pete’s amazing vocals feature so prominently on the record. It has elements of blues, rock, soul, gospel, all with deep spirituality woven throughout.

Visit: https://www.soulfishmusic.com/
Like/follow: https://www.facebook.com/mysoulfishmusic


Only in the Cross – Resources

It’s been a strange, unique, unprecedented time for the body of Christ weekly gathering around the Table in fellowship and Communion in a “virtual way.” Some have been using Zoom, others using live stream or simply premiering a video. Thank God for these tool

s, but for those who are still not able to meet in person I know it is really getting old and we so miss being together. Personally it has been a blessing to be able to produce and stream a worship service weekly from out of our garage “studio” many months now, with a small team of about 10 or so, and join in Communion together. We just upgraded to adding one small group at a time in our alley behind the garage, so that was great yesterday to have a few more people join us. I have heard this streaming worship service has been a lifeline and weekly highlight for disciples quarantining in their homes. Through whatever medium we are using, what must remain central is why we gather on the Lord’s Day: to remember Jesus.

A year or two ago I begin thinking that we needed more Communion songs that directly reflect on the body and blood of Christ. There some great old hymns that do this, but not as many new songs (Jesus Messiah is a good example of a newer one). As I had been ruminating on this, one morning this song just popped into my head –fully formed! All at once! I seriously wrote it in about 10 min. Those usually turn out to be the best congregational songs, because I feel like they are gifts from the Holy Spirit. We have enjoyed singing this song in my congregation (here’s a video of introducing it), and I plan to release a finalized version of this song for an upcoming worship album, but for now, here are resources if you’d like to use this song with your team. (I’ve been having trouble making time to finish the new album with all of the extra editing and media work making videos and prepping media for our weekly services!)

I hope this song blesses your Communion Fellowship!


Demo
https://jbriancraig.wordpress.com/sunday-service-resources/only-in-the-cross-demo/

Chord chart
https://jbriancraig.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/only-in-the-cross.pdf

Sheet music
https://jbriancraig.files.wordpress.com/2019/02/only-in-the-cross-sheet-music.pdf

Teaching recording
https://jbriancraig.wordpress.com/sunday-service-resources/only-in-the-cross-teaching-recording/

ONLY IN THE CROSS

Only in the cross
Can I be set free
Only by your body
Given up for me
Only in the blood
Falling from your hands
Only in the cross
We begin again

We take this bread
As we gather here
We remember you
We take this cup
And commit our souls
The covenant made new

We the church
Worship you alone
You our God and King
We serve and witness
All you’ve done
Praises we will sing

“It is finished!”
Was your cry
You’re coming back
Some day
Now in heaven
Exalted high
Forever you will reign

Glory – Glory!


Home with You

home-001Hello and happy Monday!

Wanted to share an upbeat song from my new album we have been singing at our men’s midweeks lately and having a fun time with.  It’s a song I wrote quite a few years ago as an a capella hymn (and it works well with SATB voicing only–see sheet music below).  Last spring when I was putting things together for the album I thought it would be fun to do a band version.  My friend Peter Wade played drums and I did all the other parts.  When I was tracking instruments I took a bit of inspiration for the groove from another song.  Can anybody guess what it is?  Add a comment if so!

Home with You – sheet music with chord charts

Home With You audio file

HOME WITH YOU

Life’s evening sun
Is sinking lower and lower
We’re gunna cross over
Take us home with you
Tomorrow comes
We’ll be caught up in the air
We’ll be with our savior
Take us home with you

This world’s not our home
We’re just passing through
Tomorrow you’ll carry us
Home with you, and
We’ll never give up
Till we’ve reached the end
And you will welcome us in…

This world will have trouble
And fears and sighs
But home up in heaven
We’ll never cry, and
Each day we can grow
Through what you allow
To strengthen us in our faith…

This world has a curse
And it’s dying slow
In every direction
The demons go, but
We all have a mission
To spread the Truth
That those who seek you will find…

This world says to follow
The easy way
But we choose to live by
The things you say, and
Your Spirit will give us
The strength we need
To never give up the fight…


REACH Conference Worship Sets

Hello everyone!

Sorry I have been so silent on the blog postings for a while.  We had a crazy summer with conferences, camps and retreats for us and our teenage kids.  We are getting back into a normal routine, and I hope to get into a rhythm this fall of sharing songs on Mondays!

In July we had a large gathering for our North American churches, the REACH Summit.  I was a part of the team that planned all of the worship and led the “house band” for our times of singing together in the dome.  I’ve had several ask for the set lists of the songs we did for the summit, so I thought I would share them today as well as some of the resources we used to prepare for the summit worship.  First I thought it might be helpful to share some of the thoughts that went into planning for the singing at the summit.  Click here to listen to a podcast in where Tim Schmidt and I share about this, and I’ll elaborate a bit further below.

reach-crowdWe were praying so much for our times of worship together to be filled with “reverence and awe” (Heb 12:28).  With many thousands of us gathered together we also wanted a real “family reunion feel,” so we tried to have a good chunk of songs that we have historically enjoyed singing together, songs that reflect our unique history.  We wanted to have hymns, popular contemporary Christian songs, gospel songs, and songs written by members of our churches through the years.  We wanted to represent as many different styles of North American worship music as we could reasonably pull off and yet still have everything flow smoothly together.  In addition to a good mix, we also wanted to add a few new songs that were written by several in our fellowship of churches, songs that were already tried and tested in several of our churches and had many of us singing these already: “You Are My Everything” by Betty Collins, “Holy, Perfect, Always, Forever” by Ross Lippencott, and “Deeper” by Chase Mackintosh.  The new theme song was a collaboration as well (with Jeff Mannel’s daughter McCall and the St. Louis team), and I’ll do a future blog post about the formation of that song. 

With so much tension in our country we prayed that God would make our time as the body of Christ be such a celebration of unity and diversity.  And I believe God answered our prayers!  Here is what I typed in my prayer journal a day after the conference ended:

God, thank you for answering the many prayers for a successful conference.  Thank you for how your word was preached and your church was ministered to.  Thank you that both classes [the ones I taught] seemed to go well.  Thank you for the diversity of singers and song leaders, and for the choir doing so well.  Thank you that there was a real spirit of unity even in the midst of such racial tension in our country right now.  On a personal level, thank you for the many many moments of worship and connection with you when tears filled my eyes and chocked my throat and I couldn’t even sing.  There were so many moments that were so moving.  On Zion’s Glorious Summit.  Deeper.  The theme song.  Rick’s song with the hall filled of waving cell phone lights!  Here Am I Send Me.  Can’t remember them all but there were so many great moments.  Thank you for how, as Tina [Crawley] mentioned it, everybody “had their love language spoken to” musically. 

The only negative thing about the set lists I’ve heard more than once is that we didn’t sing the song “Rejoice (I will lift my voice).”  When I’m planning for an event like this my primary concern is what is going to  be the best fit for the moment, but I can struggle with being self-conscious about doing too many of my own songs and I really try to limit how many of them we do.  I’m grateful to work on a team with an evangelist in charge of the event (Jeff Mannel in this case), fellow worship leaders which helps with objectivity and making sure I’m not ruling out songs I shouldn’t.  (Tim Schmidt in this case helped choose all the songs and selected the song leaders and part singers)  However, in the case of Rejoice, that is what happened.  I was thinking that I wasn’t sure how many of our churches sing it, and I didn’t want to do another of my own songs.  That was the only complaint.  (Except for the lyrics problems, lots of complaints about that — I’ll have to write a separate post about that –what a source of frustration and a learning experience that was!)

Anyway, here are the resources and the set lists and I hope they help you in your efforts to lead the congregation in joyful song!…

Here is a link to a resource page that has teaching recordings and videos of the way we planned to blend songs together (we tried some of these things in our local congregation prior to the conference). 

Here are the chord charts for all the songs we did in the sets.

Below are the Reach 2016 Set Lists (the key we did the song in is also listed)

**********THURSDAY**********

O Lord Our Lord  Eb   

You Are Good  

On The Mountain of the Lord    D     

Opening Production, “Reach” (10min)

Reach (Theme Song)  – introduced, with track and Video  G

Flag Ceremony closes production

Welcome (5 min)

Prayer (30 sec each – Eng / Spanish / French)

On Zion’s Glorious Summit   (a capella)    Ab

10,0000 Reasons (Bless the Lord O My Soul)    F

Scripture reading, Isaiah 12 –

My God is Awesome    E

Our God Em / G  (Eng and Spanish)

He Reigns (All God’s Children Singing) E   

Stand In Awe E   

Short prayer –

Mighty to Save 

Lesson, “Reach Up” – Shawn Wooten (45 min)

Closing Announcements (10 min)

Memorial moment – AT Arneson (2 min)

Special Song, The Witness

Anchor for the Soul G (featuring Speech)

**********FRIDAY**********

Reach (Theme Song) G   

Home in Heaven (both Eng and Spanish) Am

La Montaña (Spanish song)   Bm

Friend of God (gospel)   C

Welcome (5 min)

Stage time for misc. (10 min)

Deeper D 

What A Fellowship (Leaning on Jesus)  G

You Are My Everything D   

Come Thou Fount   D

Scripture reading – Psalm 103

Praise the Lord O My Soul / How Great Thou Art   G

Let It Rise   G   (a cappella)   

Lesson, “Reach In” Chip Mitchell – (45 min)

Closing Announcements (10 min)

Production: “Beyond Reach” Pt.1 (15 min)

I Hear God Singing to Me  D-E

**********SATURDAY**********

Feeling Alright / I Feel Good C

His Love Endures Forever E 

Forever A 

Welcome (5 min)

Disciples Today Presentation (15 min)

Reach (Theme Song) G 

Scripture reading, Revelation 7:9-17

Great Among the Nations D

Praises Heard Around the World B

Here Am I Send Me (with rap by Big City) E

Men Who Dream E   

Lesson, “Reach Out” – Douglas Arthur (45 min)

Closing Announcements (10 min)

Special Song, Reach Upside Down – Rick Biordi

Production: “Beyond Reach” Pt.1 (15 min)

**********SUNDAY***********

Songs with REACH Choir

Power  Dm   

Prayer (30 sec each – Eng / Spanish / French) –

Holy, Holy, Holy D

Jesus Messiah G      

Every Praise  G – A 

Holy, Perfect, Always and Forever  Cm    

Welcome (5 min)

HOPEworldwide Presentation – Robert Carillo (15 min)

It is Well With My Soul D  (a cappella)

When I Survey E – G

Communion Lesson – Jeff Mannel (10 min)

Revelation Song D (after 3 min of meditation)

This Is Amazing Grace G 

I’ll Fly Away / Victory in Jesus 

Lesson, “Within Reach” – Frank Kim (45 min)

Closing Remarks (20 min)

Reach (Theme Song) G   


Lots of New Chord Chart Postings

Chord Charts Sunday

sample of a Sunday chord chart for our worship team

Hey everyone, thanks for the encouragement you all give to our worship ministry work here. I was looking over things on this Monday morning and realized it had been a while since I updated the chord charts page so I added a bunch more songs from the last couple years.  Below is a list of the songs I just added this morning.  I thought I would also share a little about these types of charts and how I use them.  At one time I did go to music school and learned music theory, ear training, melodic dictation and all that (some of you might know what I’m talking about) so I realize these kind of charts are definitely not the most accurate way to capture music.  I have seen much more “musical” charts that teams use, produced on musical score and such.  But I discovered long ago that for me, when playing simple pop music, making quick charts like these in Word or another text program was a quick way for me to remember and reproduce a song.  Each slash represents a bar line.  The chords are simply represented (in actuality there might be some suspensions or other extra notes).   I just try to make it as simple as possible while still capturing the song and we typically use recordings of the songs as reference, either from rehearsal or from the original artists.  Every Sunday I pull together multiple charts like these onto one page (sometimes two pages) for all the songs we’re doing that day (like the image above, which is from our outdoor Easter service on the beach yesterday).  Usually I’ll format all the songs to about 15 font size so they’re easy to read.  For most worship songs that is usually all that’s needed.  Occasionally we’ll do a gospel or classical song or something a little more complex that might require a bit more notation-wise.  Hope that’s helpful.  Let me know if you have any questions on that game plan, and love to hear if you’ve found a better way.  (I know a lot of people use lyric sheets with chords above the lyrics.  Those are great too and we use those sometimes, it just means you need a stack of papers instead of just one.)  Here are more recent charts I just added in to the chord charts page…

10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord O My Soul)

ALAS AND DID MY SAVIOR BLEED

At the Cross

Awesome – my god is awesome

BEAUTIFUL THINGS

BENT ON CONQUEST (COME LAMB OF GOD)

Breakthrough

Christmas Baby, please come home

CHRISTMAS THIS YEAR

Cornerstone

DANCE WITH MY FATHER

Deck the Halls (Shedaisy version)

Elevate – Rachael Lampa

Emmanuel (Hallowed Manger Ground)

Encourage My Soul

ERES TODOPODEROSO

EVERLASTING YOU ARE

HAPPY

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

HE KNOWS MY NAME

Healing Is Your Hands

Heaven Everywhere

HIS LOVE ENDURES FOREVER

HOLD TO GOD’s unchanging hand

HOW FIRM A FOUNDATION

HOW GREAT THOU ART

HOW HE LOVES

I Can Do

I KNOW I’VE BEEN CHANGED

IF NOT FOR YOUR GRACE

In Christ Alone

Just Little Talk with Jesus

KIND AND GENEROUS

LA MONTANA

LET THE LIGHT SHINE DOWN

Mi Señor Pronto Va a Volver

More Love More Power

O Rock of Ages lyric+chords

Oceans

ONE THING REMAINS

ONE THING REMAINS w lyrics

ONE THING REMAINS w lyrics in F#m

Our God – lyrics + chords

PARADISE w lyrics

Shadow of Your Wings

SHINE YOUR LIGHT

STAND ON THE WORD FIRST

SURELY GOODNESS

THANK YOU LORD for loving

THE EARTH IS YOURS

THE LIVING PROOF

THE WORLD NEEDS LOVE

WAITING HERE FOR YOU

YOUR NAME

 

 

 


New Chord Charts

I went through and uploaded a bunch of chord charts from the past year or so that I hadn’t added to the chord chart page yet.  Here are the ones I added (you can get all of the ones I’ve posted at jbriancraig.com/chord-charts).

By the way there are lots of new teaching recordings also at jbriancraig.com/teaching-recordings

Look Unto the Hills – chord chart

HIGHER GROUND (only you can take me) – chords

AMAZING GRACE | MY CHAINS ARE GONE – chords

Lord of Lords – chords

I Give Myself Away – chords

Trading My Sorrows – chords

rise and sing – chords

The whole world will know – chords

Wade in the Water – chords

My God Alone – Betty’s song – chords

Power of One – Israel – chords

I Am a Friend of God – chords

I WANT JESUS TO WALK WITH ME – chords

Moving Forward – chords

clocks – chords

All Star – chords

HERE COMES THE RAIN AGAIN – chords

 When I Survey (alternate melody) – chords
He Reigns (all Gods children singing…) – chords
Just a Closer Walk with Thee – chords
JOY TO THE WORLD (Chris Tomlin Version) – chord
Joy to the World (chant) – chords
Emmanuel (Hallowed Manger Ground) – chords
ROCKIN AROUND THE CHRISTMAS TREE – chords
I KNOW THAT MY REDEEMER LIVES (Messiah) – chords
Jesus Messiah – chords
WE FALL DOWN – chords
Jesus Jesus I Love Thee – chords
holy holy holy – chords
Lord I Lift Your Name on High – chords
Amen – chords
ANCHOR FOR THE SOUL – chords
Have You Seen Jesus My Lord – chord
Hallelujah, What a Savior  – chords
My Heart Rejoices – chords
Our God – chords
On the Mountain of the Lord – chords
Brighter than the Sun – chords
I Just Wanna Say – chords
How Great Thou Art – Carrie Underwood version – chords
Times – Tenth Avenue North – chords