Posts Tagged psalms
I just posted a bunch of my songs to ncfmusic.com. Here’s what I added today:
I wrote Your Presence is Here early in the morning on Easter Sunday in 2008. I remember that because my son was born a few days later, and I had a million contingency plans in place if my wife went into labor at any point during Passion week. The song is about the meaning of the resurrection of Jesus in our regular worship practices. He is risen, and he is present in every worship service. It was kind of a response to the gospel hit that was popular at the time, “The Presence of the Lord is Here.” The song as well as almost all the others on this list are included on my recording, “Guardian Grace”.
Restore Us was written when I was in college and listening to Coldplay’s first CD a lot. It’s based on Psalm 80. This was one of the first songs that I wrote that really seemed to click with people in worship. We’ve only sung it once at my church even though we have a ministry called “Restore St Louis.”
Rejoice In The Lord comes from my jazz performance days in college. I was interested in what it would be like to use “Rhythm Changes” to create a song for worship. The verses were inspired by the Steely Dan tune, “Peg” The text is from Philippians 4. It’s a real harmonic work out for all you music nerds out there. I had so much fun arranging the horn parts for the pros I hired on the recording.
New Creation was written after I was living in St Louis for a while. Our church had a large group of Liberian immigrants who were struggling with some pretty serious sin issues in their community that called into question their understanding of what it means to be changed by the gospel. So, I had the idea of writing a song in an African style using the text from 2 Corinthians 5:17. The bridge is composed in the typical African worship fashion where the group repeats a short idea over and over and the leader embellishes/preaches over top.
Walk the Talk was the theme of the 2002 Urban Camp at New City Fellowship in Chattanooga. It was composed for that purpose and a team of African American high schoolers (including NCF-Chatt musician Nikki Ellis) helped sell it to the kids. Among the other things that were created at that camp were the “Afro Man” videos and friendship with a certain counselor that would turn into an engagement a year later. Good times.
Greater Is He Who Is In Us was also composed as a song for kids in our ministries at New City Fellowship in Chattanooga. There was another song we were singing by the same title that I was really tired of, so I composed a new one.
To check out all the songs that I have on ncfmusic.com you can hover over the “My Songs” tab at the top of the page.
I’ve been progressively “doodling” through the psalms. That means that every Tuesday morning, I read one Psalm and then doodle it in my notebook. Here’s an example. This process has help me to tap into the right side of my brain when I read the psalm. I’m not just reading the content, but I’m observing the details, the emotions, the metaphors that are there. I think it helped me to write a proper Psalmist lament with “Hear My Cry”. The refrain is based on Psalm 116 (“I love the Lord, he heard my cry”) and the verses each convey a different “cry” that I’ve experienced. Verse one is the cry of the victim who is experiencing first hand pain, suffering and oppression. Verse two is the cry of the sinner who is sick and tired of his own brokenness. Verse three is the cry of the “prophet” who longs to see the church transformed into being the body of Christ. Verse four is the cry of a longing for reconciliation in broken relationships between ethnic groups, classes, families, and individuals.
I chose to “rip-off” the groove from Miles Davis’ tune “All Blues” because it taps into the long tradition of the blues and gospel in the US. WE can learn a lot from blues music about lament. It should convey the emotions that come with pain and longing but with the hope that comes from looking to the strong hand of the Father in the midst of trial. The psalms do this but modern expressions of sorrow usually fail to portray any hope without coming off trite.
Rob Hatch went ahead an uploaded the resources that I gave him before the conference, but I need to edit the chart to include some of the changes that I made. In particular, the verses and chorus should repeat the phrase “Hear my cry” each time in measure 13 and 23. That was a change that my team members pushed for the first time we used it at NCF. The 2nd ending bracket should also be the 3rd and 4th ending as well.
Hopefully before the end of the week, we can get “Anyataka” uploaded as well.
What the psalmist suffers:
What the psalmist demands of the LORD:
What the psalmist appeals to:
Your unfailing love
No one remembers/praises you who is dead
How the LORD responds:
Heard my weeping
Heard my cry for mercy
Accepted my prayer
Studying Psalm 4 this morning, I observed a kind of cycle of worship. The Psalmist, David, expresses a whole range of emotions and perspective that reflects the gamut of how we approach God in the face of harsh reality. As always, scripture doesn’t present a softer version of life; in fact, we’re often confronted with a more bleak perspective of life than most middle class Ameri
cans will ever experience. So, here’s the “cycle of worship as I observed it in this Psalm:
Trial & Cry
Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have given me relief when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!
O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame?
How long will you love vain words and seek after lies?
Angry, the psalmist is overwhelmed with life. He has an accusation against God and against the people around him. People are practicing evil and God seems to be absent or at least silent. The cry of anger is a cry of faith because it expects a response, and it expects that there is someone listening.
Truth & Humility
But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;
the Lord hears when I call to him.
Be angry, and do not sin;
ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.
In a moment of clarity, the psalmist meditates on God’s promise. The tone of accusation seems to change direction from being directed at God to begin directed toward someone else. Is he speaking to himself? Is this the voice of something like a Greek chorus speaking to the complaint? He seems to be sermonizing, but it comes in humility. He has seen the content of his own heart and it makes him afraid. The truth exposes him and he is humbled.
Trust & Worship
Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the Lord.
There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?
Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!”
In the light of the truth, by the humiliation of pride, the psalmist melts into trust and worship. “What was I thinking?” he seems to say. Confronted with his own frailty, he can only look to his Father’s care. Confronted by his own bitter anger, he repents and offers worship in the form of the sacrifices of the righteous. The lies and the rage are washed away in the light of God’s glorious gaze.
Restored: Joy & Peace
You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and wine abound.
In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
The cycle becomes complete as the psalmist is restored to a place of joy and peace. Trust and worship have produced a renewed and transformed mind which rests in humility and truth. Nothing in his circumstance has changed! The enemies were not routed; they still get fat on grain and drunk on wine. But the psalmist, at the place of worship, is filled to overflowing with joy in his heart. No longer will he grind his teeth in anger as he’s trying to sleep, mentally recounting all the ways that God has sold him short and the wicked have made him suffer.
In peace, he sleeps in safety…until the next morning when the cycle starts over. The cycle of worship is a daily (sometimes hourly) experience of being transformed again and again.
This is a new song we are singing this Sunday that was composed by Joe Pace:
Hallelujah, You are worthy
Hallelujah, You get the highest praise
Hallelujah, You are holy
Lord we exalt your name
For you have done great things
Done great things
For you have done great things
Done great things
and we are glad, yes, we are glad
and we are glad, yes, we are glad.
I believe that he was probably reading Psalm 126 when he came up with the line “For You have done great things, and we are glad”. Psalm 126 is one of my favorites. It’s a Psalm of Ascents which means it was written in the context of returning to the temple to present sacrifices and to worship. It was written during the Ezra context when the remnant of the people of God who had been held captive where allowed to return to Jerusalem by the Persian emperor Cyrus. It begins with celebration for what God has done, but it moves into intercession for the captives who still remain in a far away land.
Psalm 126 (NKJV)
A Song of Ascents.
When the LORD brought back the captivity of Zion,
We were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
And our tongue with singing.
Then they said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us,
And we are glad.
Bring back our captivity, O LORD,
As the streams in the South.
Those who sow in tears
Shall reap in joy.
He who continually goes forth weeping,
Bearing seed for sowing,
Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing,
Bringing his sheaves with him.
“Glad” is a word that feels strange in our world. We might say, “I’m glad to be here”. It has a feeling of mild pleasure. We might use more powerful words today to express the same meaning. It feels good to sing it in worship songs because it has a King James sound to it. I noticed that in the NIV “glad” was changed to “filled with joy” which has the intended meaning.
I like Pace’s song for what it is – a good gathering song to start a service with. I wonder if one could write another verse that would use the form of Psalm 126 to broaden the message of the song to include the lament for what is yet to be restored, maybe change the chords and the feel up to be a little more melancholic. Here’s a quick draft that I came up with:
Holy Father, We are hungry
Holy Father, You can restore our land
Holy Father, We are longing
Lord, let your kingdom come
For you can do great things
Do great things
For you can do great things
Do great things
and we are glad, yes, we are glad
and we are glad, yes, we are glad.
Imagine sitting in a court room. You are the defendant. You are guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt of the crime for which you are accused and for which you will be receiving the death penalty. The representative of the jury stands while the whole courtroom waits in silent anticipation until the verdict is read: “We find the defendant ‘Not guilty'”. Instantly the courtroom, filled with your friends and family bursts into an uproar of shouts, applause and cries of celebration. The accuser, his argument rejected, is struck dumb.
Now imagine a wedding. Two people being joined together forever. The fervent prayers of the parents are being fulfilled as they see their children joined with a lover who will serve and protect them faithfully. All the fears of the past are wiped away as the pastor declares before the whole community that these separate people are now one flesh, forever united in a bond of love. The whole community of witnesses bursts into applause as the bride and groom exit, beaming with joy for how they have been loved beyond words. The whole community begins to party with music and a feast!
Imagine serving for years as a slave under and oppressive master. Your body shows the scars of beatings and your heart weighs heavy with the total lack of any hope of deliverance. Suddenly, a sound resonates clear and high through the whole countryside. It’s the blast of a trumpet declaring the that Year of Jubilee has come. No longer will you serve the wicked and oppressive master. You are free. The chains that bind your hands and feet fall off and immediately you begin to shout, dance and sing.
Imagine that you are slowly dying of a mysterious disease. Every day your body becomes more and more weak. Every moment, you feel life slipping from you and darkness overtaking you. All the time you feel choked, unable to breathe, and limp with no strength to even lift your head from the pillow. Then at the moment when all hope is lost, the healer comes into your hospital room. He takes a mysterious elixir from his bag and gives you a drink. Immediately, you feel your strength returning. Immediately your lungs fill with air. Immediately, you leap from the bed and begin to shout. You embrace the healer and shower him with kisses.
Imagine the whole nation suffering under a severe dictatorship. For years the government has been an instrument of corruption and oppression. Food is scarce. The police, a tool of the oppressor, randomly arrest people who simply disappear. The nation stands in a constant state of war with every able body forced to fight and die in service of the unjust ruler. One day, there’s a mighty battle. The just and rightful king has returned. He throws down the old government and sets up a new government that will last for all ages which brings peace and prosperity to not only the whole nation, but the entire earth. As the king takes his throne, and the crown is laid upon his head, the whole earth begins to shout and rejoice that the old era is gone and new era is dawning.
We applaud in our worship services because we have been declared innocent. We have been betrothed. We have been set free. We have been healed. The King has returned.
1 Praise the LORD, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits-
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
6 The LORD works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.
7 He made known his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel:
8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
15 As for man, his days are like grass,
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlasting
the LORD’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children-
18 with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.
19 The LORD has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.
20 Praise the LORD, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
who obey his word.
21 Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts,
you his servants who do his will.
22 Praise the LORD, all his works
everywhere in his dominion.
Praise the LORD, O my soul.
Who is like the LORD our God,
the One who sits enthroned on high,
who stoops down to look
on the heavens and the earth?
He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes,
with the princes of their people.
He settles the barren woman in her home
as a happy mother of children.
Praise the LORD.
I’m praising the Lord today for his character. He is not like anyone or any ‘god’ ever conceived. He is not absent and impotent like so many deadbeat dads. He’s not deaf to the cries of the poor or the barren. He is a Father who is ever-present and who works to maintain justice. I’m thankful for how He has chosen and blessed me to be a servant in His kingdom. He has saved me from my idolatry in order to do good works by faith in Christ, works that have been prepared for me to accomplish in advance. I’m thankful for how He’s given children to my friends who were barren. I am thankful for how He’s rescuing the needy from the ash heap to set them up with princes.
Praise the LORD.
Praise, O servants of the LORD,
praise the name of the LORD.
Let the name of the LORD be praised,
both now and forevermore.
From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
the name of the LORD is to be praised.
The LORD is exalted over all the nations,
his glory above the heavens.
These are my notes for my talk at the Freedom School this morning.
I want to share a few bible verses from the book called Psalms which tell a story about what it means to worship God. This is a story was written by King David, (like David and Goliath) who was a strong warrior and also a harp player (which is kind-of like a guitar) who wrote hundreds of worship songs. David loved God so much, but he also made a lot of big mistakes in his life and did a lot of sins that would make you really ashamed. But even though David was a sinner, he knew that God was going to forgive his sin. That’s why David wrote this story in a song that we have here in the bible. Let’s read it one phrase at a time.
For the director of music. Of David. A psalm. I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.
The first thing that David did was cry out to God for help. He knew that he was in big trouble. He was so scared but he waited for God to rescue him. What kind of waiting is this?
Is it like waiting to see the doctor?
Is like waiting for school to end?
Is it like waiting for Halloween or Christmas? Read the rest of this entry »
The Freedom School is a pre-K through 6th grade school that my church has created. Their principle, Timothy Baker, asked me to come in today and do a chapel with the kids about worship. There is also a small worship team made up of 6th graders that I met with to teach them a few of the songs I’ll be doing this morning. The worship team meets at 7:45, and the first chapel is at 10:30, so I now have hijacked the receptionist’s computer to write a blog post to kills some time.
Here’s a quote lifted from their website of what the school is all about:
The Freedom School is a Christian elementary school with grades Pre-K through fifth grade, committed to a racially and culturally diverse educational environment where both Christian and non-Christian young people from a diversity of backgrounds can obtain a quality education together under the grace of Jesus Christ and the authority of the Scriptures.
We do this through a challenging, Christ-centered, elementary education. We welcome all, as we intentionally partner with the urban poor, immigrant, and refugee.
I was just wondering what I would do if a child actually came into the office needing something, and lo and behold, in walks a kid with a stomach ache. I went to get Mr. Baker who asked him, “Have you had any breakfast today?” The child said, “No, but I had some chocolate yesterday.” These are the things you learn in elementary ed; I would have given him some Pepto and sent him home. It’s a good thing that I don’t work here.
I am here to do my job: lead some worship. I will be also sharing a little bit from Psalm 40 about what worshiping God is all about. It’s cool to try to take a subject as massive and complex as the worship of the one true God and boil it down into something that a child can understand. It’s a good thing that Jesus reminded us over and over of the importance of children and child-like faith otherwise big people might exclude kids from the process. (Unfortunately, a lot of churches do exclude kids from worship. Bummer.)
When I get back to my office, I will post the notes from my talk on worship.