#SundaySong 1/25/2015

Whoopsies–I’m a day late with the #SundaySong!  We will kick off our trek through the track listing of Centered, Doxa‘s debut album (available for preorder on iTunes and Amazon) with a look at the intro & “You Alone Are God.”

Lyrics
There are 5 verses of the song–it’s bit long, but the concepts in each stanza are helpful for memorizing them.  The first verse describes the eternality, immutability, and Triune nature of the Godhead.  Verse two hints at the creation and fall of man.  In verse three, we sing about the incarnation of Jesus.  Verse four celebrates the personal conversion of believers.  And the fifth verse explodes in worshipful commitment to walk with Jesus in obedience and faith from now through eternity.   Each verse ends with a statement affirming God’s character:  unique, all-powerful, holy, and faithful.

Music
“You Alone Are God” uses a call-and-response format, a method of singing common to the African-American slave tradition. The melody is simple and hymnic.  The background music incorporates elements of gospel (the organ!), big band (the horns!), and rock (the guitar!).  It’s mid-tempo, but the head-nodding pulse of it lends a great energy.

In our gatherings
Because of the hymnic melody and call-and-response format, this is a great song for people who are “musically challenged”–i.e., for whom picking up melodies and/or rhythms doesn’t come as naturally as it does for some others.  When I lead, I’m conscious (especially in the first 1-2 verses) of teaching the melody and rhythm to people who aren’t familiar with it (e.g., visitors & occasional attenders).  We typically use this at the start of our corporate gatherings (a call to worship) or before the sermon.  Both placements help direct our minds and affections to the Lord in preparation for later elements in the liturgy (including and especially our discipleship in the Word).

How it speaks to me
My favorite verses of “You Alone Are God” are the last two, because they call me to remember the regenerating work of Christ in my life and to renew my commitment to walking in submission to His Word and His will.

How it can speak to you
I love the idea that music can be used didactically.  I hope that individuals and families will play this song and discuss the rich theological ideas in the lyrics.  Most of all, I hope those ideas move us from head knowledge to heart application!

  1. What does it mean for you to know that God is eternal?  Does that change your focus on the time-bound challenges you encounter?
  2. How does the incarnate ministry of Jesus Christ impact your life today?  How is God compelling you to love and model a particular aspect of Jesus’ character in obedience to the Father?
  3. What aspect of God’s character can you celebrate right now?  His faithfulness?  Holiness?  Might?  Uniqueness?  Transcendence?  Immanence?
  4. In what way can you joyfully and volitionally submit to God’s Word and will?
  5. Are you living each day with a living hope (1 Peter 1:3) for Jesus’ return?

By God’s grace, Centered will be released on Friday 1/30/2015. We can’t wait for you to hear it!  Leave a comment below and let me know what you think about the song, how God is using it in your life, etc.

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Centered – The Songs

In my last post, I mentioned that Doxa, the worship team from my church, Epiphany Fellowship, is releasing our debut album, Centered, on 1/30/2015. It’s available for digital pre-order on iTunes and Amazon, along with our single, “Hosanna.”

I thought it would be helpful to go through the album’s track listing and talk about the lyrical and musical content of each song. So for my next several blog entries, we will do just that!

Here’s the Centered track listing so you know what’s ahead:

1. Intro
2. You Alone Are God
3. Our Treasure Is Christ
4. Our Dwelling Place: Psalm 84
5. Jesus Is
6. Jesus Is (Reprise) [feat. Dr. Eric Mason]
7. Trinity (Spoken Word)
8. Hosanna
9. Oh the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus
10. The Power of the Cross (Oh to See the Dawn)
11. Nail My Glory
12. Nail My Glory (Reprise) [feat. Dr. Eric Mason]
13. To Him Who Sits on the Throne (Intro) [feat. Dr. Eric Mason]
14. To Him Who Sits on the Throne

The album itself is a blend of a variety of musical styles, but the unifying element is the Christ-centered content of the lyrics–whether it’s a reimagined hymn like “Oh the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus,” a revamped version of CCM songs like The Gettys’ “The Power of the Cross (Oh to See the Dawn)” or Sovereign Grace Music’s “Nail My Glory,” or an original like “Our Dwelling Place: Psalm 84.”

We sing all of these songs in our gatherings. As we journey through the track list, I’ll try to give examples of song placement in our liturgy, how I might use it to lead our congregation in worship through song, etc (worship leader geek stuff).  I’ll also speak to how the concepts are forming me as I grow in walking with Jesus (discipleship geek stuff). And I’ll probably ask you a few questions to help stir your thinking about how God might use them to shape you (I’d like some company in the Refiner’s fire).

Please like, comment, and share. I would love to hear from you!

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Centered – The Album

I lead worship through song with Doxa, the band and vocal team at my church, Epiphany Fellowship.

On Tuesday 1/13/2015, we released “Hosanna,” the single from our debut album, Centered. It’s available on iTunes and Amazon.

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Working on this project has been like raising a baby–really, two babies, since it has grown right alongside our own precious daughter!

Let’s see…

The earliest budget draft was done before she was even conceived. We couldn’t move forward because we didn’t have adequate funding.

During a conversation with a group of worship pastors in January 2013, my husband and I shared our heart and vision for resourcing urban churches with more contextualized music. These generous men offered to pursue funding for the album. I was 6 months pregnant.

My husband & I were literally at the keyboard at home recording vocal parts for rehearsals (including songs from the album) when my water broke–the day before Mother’s Day!

Everything after that is a blur. 😄

Our baby girl turned 11 months old the day after the live recording in April 2014…and she turned 20 months the day the single was released.

Wow. Only. God.

For my husband and I, each of these moments is a “stone of remembrance,” reminding us of the faithfulness of God through the whole process. When we couldn’t see the end with our physical eyes, God gave us eyes of faith to trust Him to bring the project to completion. And those same eyes of faith are still fixing themselves on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of faith, and asking Him to use this album to bear fruit whose impact lingers into eternity.

Centered is available for digital pre-orders on iTunes and Amazon. The album will be released on Friday, 1/30/2015.

#SundaySong 1/18/2015

For me, the best thing about winter is not the cold. It’s the comfort of warmth in the midst of the chill.

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Familiar songs, hymns, and spiritual songs are electric blankets, cups of hot tea with honey, bowls of piping hot soup–comforting our souls with the truth that the cold will not envelop us forever.

I was reminded of a song like this during a prayer and Bible study conference call this morning. The teachers began their discussion of Philippians 1:21 with a reading of the hymn, “Jesus Is All the World to Me.”

If we are honest–even those of us who have walked with the Lord for years–we know there are areas of our lives where Jesus is not all the world to us. For us, “To live is ______, and to die is ______.” We can fill in the blanks with our greatest loves and fears.

But singing this lifts my heart and reminds me of real life. Knowing Jesus. Experiencing the depths and heights of friendship with Him. Both now, and eternally.

I hope you will sing to the Lord this morning! May the Lord fill your heart so richly that when you gather with other Christians, the overflow of your personal worship through song spills over into the gathering!

Lyrics:

Jesus is all the world to me,
My life, my joy, my all;
He is my strength from day to day,
Without Him I would fall.
When I am sad, to Him I go,
No other one can cheer me so;
When I am sad, He makes me glad,
He’s my Friend.

Jesus is all the world to me,
My Friend in trials sore;
I go to Him for blessings, and
He gives them o’er and o’er.
He sends the sunshine and the rain,
He sends the harvest’s golden grain;
Sunshine and rain, harvest of grain,
He’s my Friend.

Jesus is all the world to me,
And true to Him I’ll be;
Oh, how could I this Friend deny,
When He’s so true to me?
Following Him I know I’m right,
He watches o’er me day and night;
Following Him by day and night,
He’s my Friend.

Jesus is all the world to me,
I want no better Friend;
I trust Him now, I’ll trust Him when
Life’s fleeting days shall end.
Beautiful life with such a Friend,
Beautiful life that has no end;
Eternal life, eternal joy,
He’s my Friend.

What song is warming your heart today? Please comment below…I want to sing with you!

Running well

I ran one track race my freshman year of high school. The 800m run. Two laps around the track.

My first and last race. One and done.

I always wanted to run the 100m dash. Those ladies were *real* athletes. They could run faster than anybody else. Whether they were long and lean, or short and powerful, they got the job done.

I wanted to be like that. So I figured what worked for them would work for me.

Just run, right? If I run faster than anybody else, I’ll win right?

>>Athletes, insert hearty, knowing chuckle here<<

I had no strategic advice for how to run the 800. I just trained with the team and thought I’d figured it out well enough.

At the start of the race, I set my feet in place. Every muscle was engaged. I put my game face on. My heart nearly jumped out of my chest with the anticipation & hope of a win. I wasn't going to be Flo-Jo. I was Flo-Jo.

The starting gun went off. I sprung into action.

At the end of the first lap, I was in the lead. “Flo-Jo” saw visions of Olympic glory dancing in her head.

And then…

The spirit of tiredness was upon me. All my energy was zapped.

And I still had another lap to run.

Suddenly, all the people who were behind me started to overtake me. One by one, I was getting sucked up by everybody I’d thought I’d passed for good. My best friend was the last one to zoom by, encouraging me to finish. (Let’s not even talk about how she had enough energy to both run AND talk while my lungs were burning and imploding inside my chest. All I could hear was Charlie Brown’s teacher as she spoke: “Wanh wanhhhh, wanh wanh wanh wanhhhh.”)

I came in dead last.

Suffice it to say that what I didn’t know, hurt me.

But that story has carried some helpful “life nuggets” for me along the way:

1. Life is a marathon–not a sprint.

2. Plan. Strategize. Then execute.

3. A good coach can make all the difference. (Another post on that is forthcoming.)

4. Encouragement is helpful, even needed, but at the end of the day, you still have to do the running. The beauty of this is that Jesus Christ has done the heaviest of the heavy lifting for us. So we are finishing in His unlimited strength, not our own finite ability.

5. Finishing the race set before me was better than quitting altogether.

So…what about you? What “life nuggets” have you picked up along the way? Please comment below and share them!

Measuring growth

My first (and last!) post was in the early stages of my journey into motherhood. I chuckle. So much time has passed since my little one was an infant. Now a full-blown toddler, she is growing (and walking) faster than I ever imagined.

I’m always reminded to look at the spiritual realities unveiled by things in the physical realm. When I see children (including my own) grow by leaps and bounds, I’m challenged to ask myself, “Have I grown as much as they have?”

But how do I know if I am growing? And if I don’t have the right standard for measuring growth, how will I know if I have progressed?

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift…And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

Food for thought:
– Are you using the gift(s) God gave you to build up your local church? If not, what’s hindering you? What can you do to remove the impediment?

– Is your use of your gift(s) furthering or hampering the unity of the body of Christ? How? If you are operating in disunity, how can you change directions?

– Are people growing in their knowledge of Jesus as a result of your presence in the body? If not, what steps can you take to be a growth agent in the lives of others?

– Are people encouraged to become more Christlike as a result of their interaction with you? Why or why not? What can you do to encourage Christlikeness in yourself so that someone else can encounter it in you?

Please comment and share. I would love to hear from you!

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