Sunday, October 25, 2009

Music Set | October 24/25

Here's the music set from October 24/25 at Constance Free Church:

All Because Of Jesus  |  Fee  |  We Shine album
- - - - -
Let The Praises Ring  |  Lincoln Brewster  |  Let The Praises Ring album
Everlasting God  |  Lincoln Brewster  |  Let The Praises Ring album
Holy Is The Lord  |  Chris Tomlin  |  Arriving album
None But Jesus  |  Hillsong  |  Mighty To Save album
It Is Will With My Soul  |  Traditional Hymn
- - - - -
Hiding Place  |  New Life Worship  |  My Savior Lives album

Scott Campbell led worship this weekend as we concluded our series "Unconventional" and Pastor Randy focused our attention on what it means to be "Peacemakers."  There aren't a whole lot of worship songs that stand as commitments to pursue peace with one another, but there are a LOT of songs that speak of the peace that God offers, so we chose a couple of those (Let The Praises Ring, It Is Well With My Soul) this weekend.  

It was great to hear the voices of our church united together to sing one of the timeless songs of our faith.  As I mentioned this weekend, there are very few songs that still have the same impact on my life today as they did the first time I ever heard it.  It Is Well is one of those songs that challenges me to say "it is well" no matter what life throws at me and I was moved to hear our church singing it today!

Song Story: It Is Well

After singing this song this weekend for our worship experiences, I promised that I'd post the story behind the song ...

Horatio G. Spafford and his wife, Anna, were pretty well-known in 1860’s Chicago. And this was not just because of Horatio's legal career and business endeavors. The Spaffords were also prominent supporters and close friends of D.L. Moody, the famous preacher. In 1870, however, things started to go wrong. The Spaffords' only son was killed by scarlet fever at the age of four. A year later, it was fire rather than fever that struck. Horatio had invested heavily in real estate on the shores of Lake Michigan. In 1871, every one of these holdings was wiped out by the great Chicago Fire.

Aware of the toll that these disasters had taken on the family, Horatio decided to take his wife and four daughters on a holiday to England. And, not only did they need the rest -- DL Moody needed the help. He was traveling around Britain on one of his great evangelistic campaigns. Horatio and Anna planned to join Moody in late 1873. So the Spaffords traveled to New York in November, from where they were to catch the French steamer Ville de Havre across the Atlantic. Just before they set sail, a last-minute business development forced Horatio to delay. Not wanting to ruin the family holiday, Spafford persuaded his family to go as planned.  He would follow on later. With this decided, Anna and her four daughters sailed East to Europe while Spafford returned West to Chicago. Just nine days later, Spafford received a telegram from his wife in Wales. It read: "Saved alone."

On November 2nd 1873, the Ville de Havre collided with The Lochearn, an English vessel. It sank in only 12 minutes, claiming the lives of 226 people. Anna Spafford had stood bravely on the deck with her daughters Annie, Maggie, Bessie and Tanetta clinging desperately to her. Her last memory had been of her baby being torn violently from her arms by the force of the waters. Anna was only saved from the fate of her daughters by a plank which floated beneath her unconscious body and propped her up. When the survivors of the wreck had been rescued, Mrs. Spafford's first reaction was one of complete despair. Then she heard a voice speak to her, "You were spared for a purpose." And she immediately recalled the words of a friend, "It's easy to be grateful and good when you have so much, but take care that you are not a fair-weather friend to God."

Upon hearing the terrible news, Horatio Spafford boarded the next ship out of New York to join his bereaved wife. Bertha Spafford (the fifth daughter of Horatio and Anna born later) explained that during her father's voyage, the captain of the ship had called him to the bridge. "A careful reckoning has been made", he said, "and I believe we are now passing the place where the Ville de Havre was wrecked. The water is three miles deep." Horatio then returned to his cabin and penned the lyrics of his great hymn.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Music Review: Life Is Not A Snapshot | Josh Wilson

Life Is Not A Snapshot
Josh Wilson
Released:  September 8, 2009

middle:brained review grade:  A

If you liked Josh Wilson's first project (Trying To Fit The Ocean In A Cup - released April 29, 2008), then you won't be disappointed by his sophomore release.  Personally, I think that's a huge accomplishment in and of itself.  So many artists tend to "reinvent" themselves after a popular debut album but Josh seems to remain true to the style he invented for himself and created seven new tracks that I LOVE.

Josh is an acoustic guitar player and you can definitely feel the acoustic guitar driving the project.  He's crafted some great melodies and the way he crafts lyrics has always impressed me.  His songs have beautiful maturity and "Do You Want To Know" is a challenging song that churches need to hear.  I also really enjoy the song "Sing," which I can't be convinced WASN'T written as a Christmas song.  We're planning to use it here at Constance during the Christmas season ... listen to it and you'll hear why!

I had the opportunity to see Josh at The Leadership Summit this year when he played a really cool, live-layering, acoustic guitar version of "Amazing Grace" which he includes on this project.  Overall, the entire project is well done and I would highly recommend it for your iTunes library!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Music Set | October 17/18

Here's the music set from October 17/18 at Constance Free Church:

Freedom Is Here | Hillsong United | A_CROSS // The_Earth cd
- - - - -
Let God Arise | Chris Tomlin | See The Morning cd
Counting On God | New Life Worship | Counting On God cd
Glory To God Forever | Fee | Hope Rising cd
I Will Lift My Eyes | Bebo Norman | Between The Dreaming And The Coming True cd
- - - - -
You Never Let Go | Matt Redman | Passion: Everything Glorious cd
- - - - -
Everything Falls | Fee | Hope Rising cd

Our worship experiences this weekend focused on Jesus' words, "blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."  We learned about why persecution comes and even beyond that, we acknowledged the fact that we all experience suffering in our lives.  God never promised us that this life would be easy.  What He DID promise us is that he'd never leave us or forsake us.

I chose songs this week that focused on the encouraging truths that God is with us and will never let us go.  I think it's important (particularly given the realities of the world in which we're living) that we continually remind ourselves that God is walking alongside us, upholding us with His strong and mighty arm.  Even when everything around us seems to be falling apart and we enter into seasons of suffering, we can be encouraged in the knowledge that sorrow may last for a night but hope is rising and Jesus has overcome every storm we'll face in this life.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Music Review: Hope Rising | Fee

Hope Rising
Released:  October 2, 2009

middle:brained review grade:  A-

It's not surprising that I love music.  But as a church musician, I tend to be pretty picky about my "church music."  Anything that makes its way into our worship services needs to pass a couple of tests.  The first thing I pay attention to is lyric.  If the lyrics hold up, then I pay attention to melodies.  If it's catchy, easy to sing, and I think our church may end up humming the tune on their way out, chances are I'm going to like it.

It's not very often that I find a cd that I like as much as Fee's newest release, Hope Rising.  The project is full of high energy songs with great melodies - many of which are bound to make their way into our worship experiences (actually, Glory To God Forever and Everything Falls already have).  

Part of the reason I like this project so much is because it achieves a near perfect balance of high energy, up-tempo tunes and powerful ballads.  So often, worship cds are full of slow paced (yet beautiful) songs that cause the energy of the project to suffer, but Fee has delivered a great mix!

Of particular note:  Glory To God Forever (the pre-released single) is great for congregational singing and has a lot of energy for a mid-tempo song.  Promised Land (though not a song we would use for a weekend worship service) has some pretty cool programming and vocal effects.  Arms That Hold The Universe is a beautiful song that I can't wait to introduce!

So why did I give it an A minus?  Two reasons really.  1.  I'm not a huge fan of "whoa-ohs" (which seem to be taking a prominent place in Christian music)  Even though I enjoyed the energy, melody, and message of the song, Rise and Sing is one of those "whoa-oh" songs.  2.  Hands of the Healer fades out at the end which is one of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to recorded music.  Steve Fee is a worship leader himself, so I was a little disappointed that he didn't give us a "real" ending.  Both criticisms are incredibly minor though ...

Overall, this record is EXCEPTIONAL and it's well worth the $9.99 download from iTunes.  Get it today!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Music Set | October 10/11

Here's the music set from October 10/11 at Constance Free Church:

Freedom Is Here | Hillsong United | A_Cross // The Earth cd
Happy Day | Tim Hughes | Holding Nothing Back cd
All Because Of Jesus | Fee | We Shine cd
All I See | Dan Leverence & Joel Bowers | n/a
Adoration | Brenton Brown | n/a
- - - - -
From The Inside Out | Hillsong United | United We Stand cd

Even though we got our first/earliest measurable snow in 24 years and it felt more like we should be singing Christmas carols, we had a great time celebrating life change through baptism this week.  Over the last six months, we've baptized nearly 50 people who wanted to make a public declaration that their life was different because of Jesus Christ!  We specifically chose this weekend to celebrate baptism because our teaching theme focused on the purity of our hearts.  Pastor Randy challenged us by asking who we are when no one else is looking and called us to live lives of holiness that are pleasing to God.

I know that none of us are perfect and we'll always be tainted by the stain of our sin, but with God's help, we can be changed from the inside out and pursue lives that honor God.  My deepest desire is that God would have complete control over my life and continue to mold me into the man He wants me to be.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Book Review: Leading From The Second Chair

Leading From The Second Chair
by Mike Bonem and Roger Patterson

middle:brained review grade:  A

Whether you're a worship leader, a senior pastor, a lay leader in the church, or a corporate executive, I think this book is a must-read.  Over the last couple of years, I've read it several times in various capacities and each time I've read it, I've gleaned new insight about leadership.

I consider myself a second chair leader in my relationship with my Senior Pastor and Senior Staff.  But in the leadership of the Creative Arts Ministry here at Constance Free Church, I'm the first chair leader and have been empowered by my overseers to lead the team of artists that make up my department.  For both roles, this book identifies three paradoxes which offer insights about the unique and inherent challenges that we face in leadership.

The first paradox subordinate/leader paradox and addresses the fact that we all live with unique leadership realities.  Very few people find themselves at the very top of their organization with no accountability - so in many ways, we're all subordinate to someone.  Particularly in the church, we understand that no matter what our role, we submit to the ultimate authority of God, our first chair leader.  This paradox helps us understand the importance of trust in leadership relationships and identifies underlying (and often unspoken) consequences of getting the relationship wrong or crossing the line.

The second paradox is the deep/wide paradox.  "Deep" refers to the understanding that every second chair leader must have of the nitty gritty, day-to-day details or an organization/ministry.   This, however, must be balanced with an understanding of the overall vision of the organization - the "wide" view.  These broader brush strokes help second chairs understand the big-picture and help maintain perspective.  This section has some incredibly important and practical ways that we can put this understanding into practice by being pulse takers, vision amplifiers, leader multipliers, and gap fillers.

The final paradox is that of contentment/dreaming and reaches deep down inside each of us as leaders.  It admonishes first chair leaders to paint clear pictures of our dreams and vision while challenging second chair leaders to consider aligning their dreams with those of their first chair.  It speaks of contentment (not complacency) and offers excellent advice on how to leave the second chair when God calls you out of it.

All in all, this book should be on the shelf of anyone (and everyone) who considers him/herself a leader.  I've found the principles to be enlightening and challenging.  After having studied the book multiple times, I feel as though I've gained valuable understanding of myself as both a first AND second chair leader.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Music Set | October 3/4

This was definitely an unusual weekend at Constance.  Because most of our Arts Ministry participants were involved in or attending the Michael W Smith concert at the Xcel Energy Center, we had a guest worship leader (Craig Kubiszewski) who led worship on Saturday night at Amped.  He led Love The Lord, Glory To God Forever, and Jesus Messiah for the worship set and sang Washed By The Water as a Featured Song during the offertory.

Here's the music set from The Current on October 4 at Constance Free Church:

Glory To God Forever | Fee | Hope Rising cd
You Are Good | Lincoln Brewster | Let The Praises Ring: The Best of Lincoln Brewster cd
Sing A Song | Third Day | Offerings II cd
Mighty To Save | Hillsong | Mighty To Save ep
- - - - -
Not Guilty | Mandisa | Freedom cd

Because our teaching theme centered around the theme of mercy (developing a true understanding of the mercy we've been given and therefore extending it to others), I chose songs that all spoke of God's mercy toward us.

During our weekly teaching team meeting, we also discovered that Pastor Randy would be using an illustration of a courtroom to help us understand the concept of mercy.  He wanted us to understand that mercy from God is like a judge pronouncing us "not guilty," so Angie Leverence sang the Mandisa song as a Featured Song that set up the message perfectly!

I'm thankful for God's mercy and am reminded every day that there are people all around me who need to experience mercy ... from God and from me.