Posts filed under Thoughts On Worship

Worship conditioning...

I know that I talk a lot about running but i can't help it...there is so much in the physical aspects of running that correlate with the spiritual life. So. Let's talk about conditioning. I'll admit, I have a body that was made for long distance running. I have legs that go along with my 5' 10" height comprised of long lean muscles. I think that if I took 6 months off of running I could still head out my door and run 4 or 5 miles without having any training. Now I'm not saying it wouldn't be hard to do but I think I would be able to do it because I have conditioned my body to this type of physical activity. My husband who was an avid surfer from the time he was very young till he moved to Nashville in his early 20's has also conditioned his body to the rigorous task that surfing is. Give me a street and some tennis shoes any day but please don't ask me to do any surfing. The paddling out is enough to make me want to hyperventilate, but, for my husband it is easy. I know there was a time he went years without surfing and then I watched him grab his board and head out and smoothly catch wave after wave. After hours and hours spent in the water over the course of his life he has conditioned himself to do something without even having to think very hard about it. So, where am I going with this? What is the church conditioning people to believe that worship is? How is it helping/hurting them in making worship a real part of their lives?

For 1. I think that many people think of worship music as something that is sung at church on Sundays only. Come Monday morning they are back to the "real" music. You know, a little Beyonce, One Republic, Taylor Swift, Black Eyed Peas, etc. Unfortunately, most of that music does have better beats, recording, production, etc. to hook a listener than most Christian music period. Because of this the worship team should strive for excellence. Musicians, be great at your instrument. Singers, develop the best voice you can. Songwriters, craft your songs without praise phrase and trite-ness. A. W. Tozer says,"We can only worship that which fascinates us." The worship team should lead with hearts that are fascinated by the Father.

2. Churches need to be careful where they place the worship music portion of the service. If the worship music portion of the service starts before the service and when people are walking in the entire time or at the end of the service after the congregation has been dismissed then the people are being conditioned to think of worship music as walk in and walk out music. Obviously walk in and walk out music is not going to be the music that changes peoples lives.

3. I am an avid believer that the church should remove as many distractions as possible during the church service. For instance, dimming the lights during the music portion of the service, is like turning down the radio when you are driving somewhere following directions. Without the distraction of watching people walk in late to the service, women rummaging through their purses, people deciding to stand or sit, or wondering if you are being watched, the main congregation would be able to worship focused and uninhibited.

With a church service that puts a strong emphasis on the importance of worship (in all the forms, music, offering, studying) the people will inevitably begin to be conditioned in a worshipping lifestyle. Perhaps even when the storms blow and bend the congregation they will be able to continue in their worship without having to think about it because they have conditioned their lives to be lives of worship.

Posted on March 30, 2010 and filed under Anything and Everything, Thoughts On Worship.

Modern Worship vs. Classical Music...

Are there any classical music lovers out there? I have loved classical music for a very long time and I have been reflecting on it a lot as of late in comparison with worship music. I recently read in Worship Leader Magazine that Johann Sebastian Bach wrote 7 new worship songs each week for his church's services. He also used biblical study and a passion for theological grounding for the foundation of these songs. Now although Bach wrote many choral pieces some of his most popular pieces were written for instruments only and no vocals. This obviously means no lyrics. Just a little listen to his "Partita for Solo Violin No. 3 in E Major" is enough to make me giddy. It moves me to worship. Apparently famous composer Charles Gounod (well known for his operas "Faust" and "Romeo et Juliette") was led to worship as well by Bach's music. Gounod listened to Bach's "Prelude 1 from The Well-Tempered Clavier Book 1" and ended up writing the melody and lyrics to what would become Ave Maria. The lyrics at one of the biggest moments of the song are: "Maria mother of Jesus, Infant Redeemer Born to save us from our sins and all our heavy woes Amen!"

Gounod felt the very same sense of awe and worship from just Bach's piano piece.

So how does this connect with today? How should christian songwriters incorporate this into their songwriting today? Don't stop at just the lyrics. Make the music worshipful. Could I take the lyrics out of some of todays biggest worship songs and still have the same response from just the band playing the music on stage? If Hillsong United showed up at church on sunday morning and played "Tear Down the Walls" from their "Across the Earth" cd without singing a single lyric, I believe that the church would worship. The music is shouting along with the lyrics. The drummer, guitarist, bassist are all worshipping with their instruments and playing the parts that are saying

"Your name is Glorious! Glorious! Your love is changing us, calling us To worship in spirit and in truth, As all creation returns to You!"

Ahhhhh. Thank you musicians. Thank you songwriters and producers who see the whole package. Thank you for acknowledging Psalm 150:

Psalm 150

1 Praise the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.

2 Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.

3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre,

4 praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute,

5 praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.

6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.


Deliverer...

This week I had the opportunity to co-host 2 worship nights at Saddleback Church. Both nights were attended by people who came ready to worship and sing out. It is always a huge blessing to lead a night of worship where all that is needed is to start a song and the people sing it out on their own. They didn't need to be coaxed or cajoled into worshipping, they came ready. It was with this in mind that I had a chance to teach them a new song called Deliverer. Vicky Beeching and I sat in my living room and wrote this song for her new cd that will be coming out on April 6th. Even as I listened to Vicky record a video of herself singing the song to send to her record label, Integrity, I knew that this song had something special. This song had what I needed to say as a worshipper and what I think the church as a whole needs to sing out and say to the Lord. My husband, Jonny MacIntosh, produced Vicky's cd and gathered a group of people together to sing the "gang" vocals on the bridge of this song. A few of the members in the gang were the lovely guys from the band Leeland. It was fantastic when it got to the bridge of this song to sing out and worship with these guys knowing that each person there was worshipping as we recorded. We were crying out "Your blood is enough to break every chain! Your blood is enough to break every chain! Your blood is enough to break every chain!" We believed it then as we sang it and now that I am able to lead it during a worship set I sing it with that same belief. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is healing. Here is a video of me leading Deliverer at Saddleback: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mrYz9i3FywE


Olympians and Musicians

Worship: to ascribe worth to something. As a Christian, worship means ascribing worship to our God, a lot of the times through music and singing but most of the time with our daily living. To a non-Christian it means ascribing worship to many different things and in many different ways. Oftentimes when I am trying to find freshness and newness in my worship of my Creator I look to the ways that I celebrate other aspects and people in life. One of the things I am most excited about right now is the Olympics being held in Vancouver, Canada. As an avid runner and tomboy I have been in sports/athletic activity from a very young age and the Olympics are like a gift of pure pleasure for me to watch. I find myself Tivo-ing every sport, learning about every athlete and holding my breath as my favorites compete.

Since running is one of my favorite pastimes, it is the endurance sports of the Olympics that I look forward to the most. Already I've watched the women's nordic skiing and seen a woman from another country fall into a hole at the side of the trail while warming up for her event. She fell, hitting a tree and rock and broke 4 ribs. But, before getting sent to a hospital and treated, she competed in her long distance nordic event and barely made it through the semifinals and then into the final.

I watched with eager anticipation as she stayed near the front throughout the entire race and then at the end pushed and pushed until she crossed the finish line and won the bronze medal. She got 3rd! Four broken ribs and who knows how many bruises and other hurting spots yet she did it! As I watched her struggle and success, I was the person alone in my house watching, jumping up and down and cheering for her! I had tears in my eyes from the pure joy and excitement of her accomplishment. I have told others about what she did and the obstacles she overcame in order to do it. I also made myself go further and run faster than normal, during my run later that day, because I was so inspired by her.

Do I ever do this with God? Do I ever wait on the edge of my seat for the moment that is coming where I get to see Him and respond with jumping up and down, cheering, tear-filled, joyful adoration? Do I ever run out immediately and tell anyone and everyone about what He has done? Do I ever spend time imitating Him because of the way He has inspired my life?

If I find myself doing this then I find myself worshipping Him and believe me, He is much more accomplished and worthy of my worship than any medal winning, world record breaking, odds defying athlete. He is God!

Posted on February 20, 2010 and filed under Anything and Everything, Thoughts On Worship.

Vicky Beeching & worship for the ladies

Without a doubt I had no problem quickly singing along the first time I heard "Here I Am To Worship." I was about to head out on tour with Michael W. Smith (I was his background singer as well as his acoustic guitarist) and was learning the songs we would be singing on that tour. Michael introduced this song to us during rehearsals and even though we were in a rehearsal space and not a church service I closed my eyes and sang it out with a worshippers heart. There have been many songs throughout my life that have been written, usually by guys, that have had an impact on me like this one but I can't help but notice that very few of them are written by females. My husband one time looked at me while I was singing along to the radio and said "Why do you always sing along to songs in harmony." I'm not sure what I answered at that time but I think my answer should've been "because this song is not written in a woman's key." Usually when a guy is leading worship at church the songs are either too high or too low for girls to sing along in the melody so we either sing a harmony (mine usually alto) or we sing in a crazy high falsetto that just sounds weird. It's because of this that I am so excited about Vicky Beeching's new cd. I have been hearing her songs being recorded by my husband for the past few months and have been eagerly awaiting the moment when everyone else gets to hear them as well. She is one of the few female worship leaders out there who is writing great congregational worship songs that I think will connect quickly with the church due to a freshness lyrically, creativity musically, and just the flat out fact that she is giving us the words that we need to say to our Father in worship of Him. Now adding to that, she is singing on the record in keys that I can worship right along with in melody. I don't have to jump around looking for a harmony because the song is too high or low like a Chris Tomlin song would be. I can't imagine how quickly my windows would shatter if I tried to sing along with him on his recording of "How Great Is Our God." It is so unbelievably high (or low) for a woman because it is in a man's key. Vicky's new full length record is set to be released April 6th which I would strongly advise anyone to go out straight away and buy but before you can do that you can get her 3 song EP tomorrow. Wake up, grab your coffee, walk to your computer with your blurry-I-just-woke-up-eyes and download her EP on ITunes. Then let those 3 worship songs set the tone for your day. Enjoy!

Posted on February 15, 2010 and filed under Anything and Everything, Thoughts On Worship.

Songwriting

Writing Christian music is hard. Writing congregational worship songs is harder. At least to me it is. There is pressure in writing congregational worship. #1. People need to be able to follow along and be able to sing it easily. #2 people need to want to sing it. Those two things are what trip me up. How do I simplify and write something that is fresh and relevant? I’ll go to the Psalms. How did David do it? David’s visually imagery in his Psalms is simple yet thought provoking. How did he do this? If I look at Psalm 23 I can see a stunning metaphor of my God as my shepherd. Although I haven’t done a lot of shepherding in my life I can get the idea of what he is trying to get across. Now imagine if I had lived during David’s time when shepherding was among the major occupations. I would know that during that time “shepherds walked in front of their flock. A flock new its shepherd’s voice and would follow only him. Often for protection, flocks were lodged together at night and separated in the morning when the shepherds called their sheep by name. They provided their flocks with water and food. They knew each sheep and lamb. When one was lost, they went out to find it. Small lambs, unable to keep up with the flock, were often carried next to a shepherd’s breast inside the fold of his outer garment. The shepherd also protected his flock, risking his life if necessary.”(New King James Study Bible) So now knowing this I can imagine that when David presented this Psalm the people might have turned to each other and said “ohhhh! God is like my shepherd! I get it. I know what that means,” and then would’ve been able to tuck that revelation of the Lord right into their memory banks to call upon when needing reminding. People are not going to remember “Praise Phrase.” That is my term for the Christian-ese phrases that songwriters plop into their songs when they are out of fresh insight. They think, “I know I’ll just add a little praise phrase and maybe no one will notice I was being a lazy songwriter or that I am having writers block.” The problem if we let ourselves be lazy then we are stoking a huge fire. The vast majority of people from the ages of 16-41 attended a Christian church during their high school years. But now days this group is less likely to return to church later. Why is this? I think that if I am writing music that has no depth or real-ness to it then I am portraying a God that has no depth or real-ness to Him. If I write songs that show a real God working in real ways in my life then the congregation will see there is a real God who can also work in real ways in their lives. These are the songs they want to respond to. These are the songs that will resonate with the church. One last example. My friend Brenton Brown is a songwriter for the church. His songs have been sung all over the world and many of his songs are on the charts as the most popular worship songs in the world. Looking at his song “Everlasting God” I know where his inspiration came from. After being on the road with him I heard him tell the church many times about his life and where he was when this song was birthed. Brenton had been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrom. This is a syndrome of prolonged and severe tiredness or weariness (fatigue) that is not relieved by rest. It was in this moment of weariness that Brenton read Isaiah 40:28-31. It says: 28 Have you never heard or understood? Don't you know that the LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth? He never grows faint or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. 29 He gives power to those who are tired and worn out; he offers strength to the weak. 30 Even youths will become exhausted, and young men will give up. 31 But those who wait on the LORD will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

Brenton’s real life application of these passages into song has now ministered to people worldwide. It has connected. He said exactly what we need to say and now we have the song to sing out loudly as a proclamation to Lord as if it is our own words. I am thankful for the worship songwriters out there who humble themselves and write so that we can have the right words to sing. I’m thankful that they don’t allow themselves to be lazy and let their notoriety or nice voices carry their songs. I’m encouraged by them and hope that I will be constantly reminded to do the same each time I put pen to paper.