Archive for November, 2013

New guest piece for Christian Blog

Monday, November 25th, 2013

I was asked to write a guest blog this week, and thought I’d share it here:

Question: I know Christmas songs are plentiful, but what three or four songs do you recommend to help us welcome Christmas?

Christmas is my favorite holiday, and the songs have so much to do with that. It’s really hard to pick just a few! But I would say that I always come back to the classics. I just made a new version of “What Child is This?” that I truly love to sing because the words are so profound and the melody is simply gorgeous. I also love “Joy to the World,” “Angels We Have Heard on High,” and “Silent Night.” Recently, I wrote a new song about the true meaning of God’s gift to the world called “Christmas is Forever” and of course, I think that would be a great one to help welcome Christmas!

Questions: I often have a hard time describing the sacred power of music, so maybe you can try? What is it about music that reaches into our hearts and moves us? How can music help us push aside our busyness and prepare to celebrate Christ?

You know, in our culture, music is so often background sound. They pipe it into shopping malls and play it on elevators. You really can’t go many places at Christmas without hearing music. And so many of the songs are just part of our cultural DNA. We’ve heard these songs since we were little, and we associate them with Christmas which also usually means we associate them with strong emotions and memories. But if you really stop and listen to the words of the classic Christian Christmas songs, so many of them are absolutely amazing. They really help to keep me focused on the meaning of the season.

I’m not sure why music moves people the way it does, but the truth is that we were wired by God to respond. No one is unaffected by music. Even people who don’t think they care are influenced with different emotions by the score in a movie, or by hearing the song that was playing when their heart got broken in high school. The reason Christmas music is so profound is that it couples that basic human capacity to be moved by music with cultural and family traditions and experiences. Add to that lyrics that proclaim to the world that God has sent His Son to us as the greatest gift ever given, and you have something with the power to move people deeply.

With all that said, how would I tell people to let music help them slow down and prepare for the coming of Christ? I would tell them to stop and actually listen to the words. Think about them. Don’t let it be background noise – let it be the prayer of your heart. Make it a time of worship. You’ll be surprised how quickly it brings you out of the busyness and into the profound.

World Vision features my work with Congo Kids

Friday, November 8th, 2013

Apparently this was posted a while ago, but I just found it and wanted to put it up here. The Evangelical Covenant Church has a long history of helping with poverty and Christian growth in Congo, the poorest nation in the world. About a year ago, they partnered with World Vision to start Covenant Kids Congo. As most of you know, I am seriously passionate about the work of World Vision, and have been so honored to support Covenant Kids Congo in many churches now. They featured my work with them on their blog last month. I hope anyone reading this will consider sponsoring a child, either in the Congo, or in one of the many, many areas of the world where World Vision serves kids who are in desperate need. We are the ones who make a difference!

New Christmas project almost here!

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

The packaging for the new Christmas Card CD, Christmas is Forever

I can’t believe how smoothly this project has gone, but because it has (thank you, Lord!) I’m happy to say that the new Christmas project is almost here. It’s a Christmas card with a CD tucked inside that has three songs – “Angels We Have Heard on High,” “What Child is This?” and “Christmas is Forever.” It’s in manufacturing as we speak, and I should be able to ship copies sometime between Nov. 15-20. We’ve added the pro-order to our store, and you can also hear clips there now, so check it out and we hope we put you in the Christmas mood here in November. 🙂

Here’s a piece I wrote about the songwriting process for our new song “Christmas is Forever:”

People ask me often what the songwriting process is like. It’s different every time. But I wanted to share how we came up with “Christmas is Forever” because it represents what happens to me so often – I try to do my own thing, I end up coming to the place of asking God what He would like me to say, and He takes it in a completely different direction to become something I never would have thought of on my own.

I wrote my first two albums all by myself. After that, though, I started working with a new producer, Paul Marino, and we started co-writing. We’ve done most of the songwriting on my last two albums together, and now this new Christmas project as well. Working with someone else really has that iron-sharpens-iron effect, and it doesn’t hurt that Paul’s an award winning songwriting and producer. We have a similar esthetic and the same heart for ministry, so it’s been a great partnership.

We decided to do this kind of last minute, so I went down to Nashville to write an original song and do arrangements of two other traditional songs with Paul in early September. I had brought a couple of ideas with me, but I wasn’t necessarily sold on either of them – the most difficult thing about writing a new song for a 2000 year old tradition is finding an idea that hasn’t been done yet. And the concept is absolutely the hardest and most important part of songwriting in my opinion.

We tried my ideas first, but they weren’t clicking. Then we started throwing out ideas, phrases, things that might spark a visual, just brainstorming. I take notes the entire time on my laptop, and it’s always amazing at the end of the session to see how pages of chaotic notes become one clean and small set of lyrics. I think lyrics should always give you a mental picture, and should say as much as they can in the fewest words possible.

I had started by saying that it always made me sad at Christmas to see how many people missed the point entirely. Christmas isn’t about Santa, it isn’t about stuff. It’s about the greatest gift even given to the world, Christ Jesus, and what He offers us. People are so busy and so unwilling sometimes to hear that that they rush through the season and miss the whole thing.

We were liking some of our melodic ideas, but the lyrics were coming out very cynical, almost preachy. They were poignant, but I was starting to feel like we were trying to hit people over the head with the frying pan of Christianity.

Finally, Paul said, “We’ve got a point, but what are we really trying to say to people? If there was one thing we’d want them to hear or know at Christmas, what is it?” We’d already written some lyrics about the seasonal display of a stable, and how it would be gone again in just a few weeks. I said, “I’d want them to know this isn’t just a seasonal thing we do out of tradition. It’s something that changed the world, that changed history. It’s for everyone all the time.”

Paul said, “We need to make it a prayer.”

It totally changed the direction of the session, and within about an hour we had the majority of it laid out. We still hammered away on minor details of word choice and little changes in the melody over the next two days, but it was amazing to see it come together. I’ve never written anything quite like it, but it says exactly what I’d want to say to people at Christmas: Jesus’ coming has changed everything for all time. Here’s one of the verses:

I pray you know what wise men knew:
That Jesus is the Savior.
God’s eternal love is true
And Christmas is Forever.

I pray you know it too! Christmas will be here before we know it, but when we know Christ, it’s been here all along.