Be Still My Soul

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


One Day Every Knee…

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…


Don’t Travel Alone

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
Rewind
Travel back to our time
Draw a clean line and you’ll find
We’ll be waiting

VIDEO: DON’T TRAVEL ALONE (by Ties to the Light)

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!”


Generational Opportunities and Challenges: Interview with Space Makers

SPACEMAKERS ON INSTAGRAM

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


New Songs and Worship Styles: Interview with Broward Church Worship

Hello and happy Monday!  Today I would like to share a great interview I was able to record recently with my friend Tony Fernandez and his team at Broward Church (browardchurch.org).  Broward Church Worship has been releasing some awesome new worship songs, and they share a few of those and the stories behind them. We  also had a great conversation about navigating different church worship styles and some of the congregational dynamics that go along with potential changes in forms of worship expression.  Additionally, we spoke about online promotion, and the whole space of social media and how to think about that from a kingdom perspective. (I have been on a two month break from social media, just now getting back to it, and so that part of the conversation was helpful for me to think about at this very moment.)  Take the time to listen to the interview and please comment or add your $.02, either here on the blog or on the youtube posting.

Thank you for loving God, loving his church, and loving the music of the church!

website:  browardchurch.org

facebook:  facebook.com/browardchurch

Click here for lots of Broward Church covers of popular worship songs

Click here for new songs by Broward Worship


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!