Midweek Music 12.09.15

“A Light” & “May You Find A Light” | The Brilliance

Lost and weary traveler
Searching for the way to go
Stranger, heavy-hearted
Longing for someone you know

A light shone down on us
A star of hope shines bright

May you find a light
To guide you home

Working in ministry, I typically begin to think about Advent and Christmas in August. It helps that this is my favorite time of year. I enjoy the decorations, the parades, the parties, the time with family and friends, and man do I love the music. It’s all wonderful but there is one thing that makes the season stand out to me, one thing that makes it something more than an enjoyable time of festivities. Hope. Advent is a time of expectation, it is a time of preparation, it is a time of celebration; Christmas is a time that our hopes are fulfilled in the form of a child, the picture of innocence, sent to save us from ourselves.

As I began to prepare the Advent music service for this Sunday, I found myself dwelling on the theme of light throughout scripture. I began to connect the beginning of light as God separated it from the darkness, the prophecies of a “new light” from Isaiah, Christ being personified as light in the Gospels, and finally the expectation that we should be reflections of that light into this world. John Arndt and David Gungor of The Brilliance wrote these two beautiful songs that perfectly captured my thoughts.

We are, all of us, searching for answers and we’re all on this journey together. We can rejoice that a star, a light, shone over Bethlehem signifying the birth of our God in the flesh, our Savior. This Sunday, December 13, we are having a special service of music in the morning services at University UMC. I hope you will join us during the 11:15am service where we will celebrate Advent, Christmas, and this light that is guiding each of us weary travelers home.


 

I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Midweek Music, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

 

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Midweek Music 10.07.15

“Ave Maria” | Franz Biebl (performed by Chanticleer)

 

Exceptionally beautiful text honoring the mother of Christ set to exceptionally beautiful music. When I heard Chanticleer perform this for the first time, I wanted to cry, and I’m not a crier. I had the privilege of being a part of a small ensemble of University of Montevallo alumni who sang this at the the wedding of two of my best friends. I want to cry then too and I still wasn’t a crier. This week, a group of which I am a part will sing this in concert. I’m sure I’ll want to cry then too and I still won’t be a crier.

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God. That we might be made worthy of the promises of Christ.


 

I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Midweek Music, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

Midweek Music 09.30.15

“Take Heart” | Hillsong United

The end of September means one thing to me: it’s almost time for Christmas. I know some of you are “purists” who want each of your holidays in order with no intersection whatsoever. But consider that I’m a planner and I work in ministry. I started preparing for Christmas and Advent in late August, it’s the busiest season of the liturgical year, not to mention my favorite!

In my preparation for this season, I’ve spent a good time dwelling on light. I like the idea of Christ personified as light. I take overwhelming comfort in the fact that in this dark world, there is a light of hope to follow. This isn’t a Christmas song per se, but there is definitely an inadvertent Christmas message behind it. With the birth of Christ, we were given a light…a light of hope…a light of hope that we know will never fail.

Take heart, the wait has just begun but our light of hope is on the horizon.


I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Midweek Music, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

Containing Worship

I’m not going to lie to you. Sometimes, it’s really frustrating being a worship leader. I love worshiping God, I love seeing others worship God, and I love music. When all three of those come together in a single moment, it’s absolutely glorious. It gives me goosebumps to feel God’s presence and worship alongside other people. Then there are those moments when the goosebumps fade and I get frustrated. You know the moments I’m talking about. Fast vs. Slow. Soft vs. Loud. Older Hymns vs. Newer Songs. Band vs. Choir. Lighting. Audio. Visual. Effects. Atmosphere. Quality. Acoustic. Electric. Presentation. “Traditional is more reverent.” “Contemporary is more relevant.”

I’ve been around ministry and music long enough that I’ve been involved in more discussions, read more articles, and heard more debates than I can hardly stand anymore. I have the background and have had unique opportunities to be heavily involved in both traditional settings and contemporary settings. Through my experiences, I’ve met a slew of people with a variety of opinions on the subject. The vast majority of them have the best of intentions in their heart. They don’t necessarily believe that one is wrong per se, they just truly believe that one or the other is on a greater spiritual level. They engage in passionate conversations about the depth of which their preferred style reaches beyond the other.

When did worship stop becoming about worshiping? What moment in time did people start having the mindset that “worship” could even be stylized? I think it was around the same time we started treating “worship” as only a noun instead of both a noun and a verb. Worship is supposed to be an expression. It is supposed to be a deep and emotional expression of reverence for something of which the worshiper has great adoration. If we are to believe that is the case (and I very much do believe it), how can we define what style is appropriate for worship? Why would we limit our own ability to worship by placing unnecessary parameters around something that is supposed to be beautiful and intimate?

Now beyond that, and far more importantly, at what moment did we decide worship had anything to do with us in the first place? “The worship just didn’t speak to me.” “The songs just didn’t move me.” “I couldn’t get into the music.” “I didn’t really like the worship leader’s voice.” I’ve heard all of these and have been guilty of saying a few of them. What do they all have in common? The focus is always the worshiper. But the problem is that worship isn’t supposed to be about the worshiper, it’s supposed to be about whatever is being worshiped. When we come together for our church services and the music starts, our thought process shouldn’t be “OMG IT’S THE NEW ONE FROM HILLSONG”. Our thought process should be focused on the one who gives us a reason to worship.

I once had the most incredible privilege of taking a church youth choir I directed into an inner-city church in Chicago. The overwhelming majority of the choir was made up of white, middle to upper-class, suburban high school kids from a United Methodist church in Texas. The independent gospel church we were visiting was in the center of a predominantly black and economically downtrodden neighborhood on the western side of Chicago. From the demographic and regional differences alone, you know that the stereotypical worship styles of the two groups are on vast opposite ends of the spectrum. That night we worshiped together and it was electric. We sang hymns, we sang contemporary songs, we sang gospel songs, there was spoken word, there were scriptures, and there was dancing. There was a cultural and spiritual exchange between these two groups and it transcended stylized worship. Our worship transcended our preferences and became what it should always be, a deep and emotional expression of reverence for God.

On that evening in Chicago, worship was a verb. What might it look like if worship became a verb in our every week worship? What might we be able to accomplish if we get over our preferences and allow worship to take over our hearts. We must stop containing worship as a simple noun, inserting our preferential adjectives and limiting it’s true purpose. Go and express emotional reverence for God. Go and worship.

Music Monday 01.26.15

“Sinking Deep” Hillsong Young and Free

Over MLK Day weekend, I took my middle school youth on a ski retreat up to Lake Junaluska in North Carolina. It’s hosted by the UMC camp and conference center up there with a guest speaker, a worship band, games, and, of course, skiing. We closed each day with a corporate worship service for the entire group. The guest band leading worship for the weekend ended the service every night with this song.

When I heard it the first night, I thought it might an original song of theirs as I had never heard it before and I consider myself reasonably knowledgable about worship music. I did a little research care of Google and Spotify and found out that it was actually written and recorded by Hillsong Young and Free a little over a year ago.

I was enamored with the song. I couldn’t stop playing it. I looped it over and over taking in every word and every note. I dwelled on the lyrics.

“Sinking deep in mercy’s seas”

“Your love so deep is washing over me”

I like the allusion that God’s grace/mercy/love is so vast, so overwhelming, that we can’t possibly contain it. It’s such a force that we can do nothing but sink deeply into it, be completely overtaken by it. It’s immovable, it’s immeasurable, it’s incredible, and it’s yours for the taking.

 

I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Music Monday, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

Music Monday 12.21.14

“O Holy Night” Adolphe Adam

I’m a little obsessed with this song and I think it speaks for itself as to why it is and always will be my favorite Christmas song. Here are a few of my favorite arrangements.

 

I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Music Monday, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

Music Monday 12.08.14

“White Winter Hymnal” by Pentatonix

I’ve been obsessed with this song since it was introduced to me a couple weeks ago. It’s originally written and performed by Fleet Foxes which is a great song in it’s own right but I can’t get over Pentatonix’s arrangement. Not much to say about it, it’s just fun. Enjoy!

 

I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Music Monday, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

Music Monday 11.24.14

“Thankful” by Josh Groban

I had been having a pretty rough day last week when I heard this song for the first time. It has actually been on a playlist that I listen to often and I had either not noticed it before or it simply hadn’t played before that time. I was stressed, I was upset, and I was complaining to myself about a person that had really aggravated me earlier in the day. I was going through my day in a less-than-great mood blinded to everything around me. As I stewed, this song came on Spotify. I didn’t immediately notice it really, I was too concerned with myself (the irony found in the first three lines of the song). I was dwelling on how that person had upset me when the song finally grabbed my attention with “Each of us can find each other’s light”. I started the song over and listened to it a couple times. I googled the lyrics and listened again.

Even as we approach Thanksgiving this Thursday, it’s easy for each of us to get caught up in day-to-day stress and forget all the things for which we should be thankful. I know because I’m guilty of it and I see others do the same. This song was a refreshing reminder of how important it is for us to focus on the positive of what we have been given…even those people who may aggravate us at times. Every person brings something to the table and enhances this thing we call life, and it’s up to us to “find each other’s light” as we all “find our truth”.

 

I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Music Monday, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

Music Monday 11.17.14

“Lux Aurumque” by Eric Whitacre (performed by the Westminster Cathedral Choir)

I loved being a member of the University of Montevallo Concert Choir. I have many fond memories singing with this ensemble and built many friendships through my participation in this group. During my first semester, we sang what has become one of my favorite choral Christmas pieces, Lux Aurumque. It was the third time I’d ever sung an Eric Whitacre piece and he’d already been a favorite composer of mine before then. The text, the music, the phrasing…combine it with some signature Eric Whitacre cluster chords and it’s a hauntingly beautiful way to capture the spirit of Christmas. I know that not everyone is a fan of “classical” or choral music, but I don’t know how someone can not be mesmerized when listening to this piece.

Lux,
Calida gravisque pura velut aurum
Et canunt angeli molliter
modo natum.

Light,
warm and heavy as pure gold
and angels sing softly
to the new-born babe.

 

I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Music Monday, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

Music Monday 11.10.14

“Let There Be Peace on Earth”

Because of our mutual affinity for all things Christmas, Becca created a Spotify playlist of Christmas music back in September. When I opened the playlist a couple weeks ago to begin listening to Christmas music for the year, Harry Connick Jr. singing “Let There Be Peace on Earth” was the first song that came on.

I’ve always loved this song. It takes me back to my high school choir days when we closed our Christmas concert every year by singing it as a blessing of sorts for the audience. I thought it was a very appropriate “first song” for my Christmas music listening season, although, I don’t really think it should be a Christmas song. I understand the connotation of connecting peace with Christmas and it’s a great association, but “peace on Earth” is something we should strive for all year long.

Mahatma Gandhi said “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” As we approach Advent and Christmas, take some time to dwell on peace, hope, and love and how it is connected to this season…but also take some time to think about how it should not be contained or limited to this time of year. Take some time to think about how peace can find a place on Earth if everyone would find a way to “let it begin with me.”

 

I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Music Monday, feel free to follow it along with the posts.