Saturday, December 20, 2008

Shout Hallelujah - Randy Gill

"I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." (Luke 19:40) David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets. (2 Samuel 6:14-15) When’s the last time you shouted? No, not in disgust at the other driver on the freeway, but a gleeful expression. It’s the unashamed, utterly unreserved celebration that I’m pondering. A sports fan might declare it was when the team executed the clinching play, sealing the championship. It’s the kind of moment you could live a lifetime to experience. It’s not something I express every day, or even weekly, if I’m pacing myself, maintaining that emotional balance. After all, no one wants to burn himself out, right? It’d be a pity if I never jumped in excitement, though. And so, although it’s a risk, I engage in life, attaching my emotions to things bigger than myself that offer the chance for that climactic ‘yahoo!’ If you seek the experience, admit it -- you do the same. Randy Gill’s song “Shout Hallelujah” is that championship-caliber moment, when I’m exhorted to let loose in celebration.


 Randy Gill has a wealth of educational and professional background as a musician. He has degrees from four institutions, including a doctorate in choral and church music from the University of Southern California. He’s been a professor for most of his professional life, and now is a worship leader in Nashville, Tennessee. Perhaps it’s the interaction with young students that helped him create “Shout Hallelujah”, a celebration not unlike the youthful exuberance that college kids can radiate. Gill has creativity not limited to this one song. He’s collaborated on several musicals, and has several arrangements to his credit on Word albums. So, he has the wherewithal to be complex, erudite with his craft. Yet, his song carries an uncomplicated message. Rejoice! …that’s it. I don’t need to learn anything new…just access what’s deep inside, and engage my vocal cords. Appreciate God. Revel in the moment. It’s the same type of moment when Jesus told worshippers not to hold back. Indeed, Randy echoes Jesus when he says, “’Shout Hallelujah’ was an attempt to help us worship more freely and with joyful abandon.” True, some observers will no doubt scoff or be alarmed. The unrestrained, unashamed spectacle you create might disquiet someone close, like Michal when David and his army returned with the Ark. But, as someone else has written, don’t let those stones worship for you!


What’s your most memorable “Shout Hallelujah” moment this side of heaven? I can remember mine. I’ve had the privilege of sharing it with others, even many others through a theatrical production. Twenty-one years ago, I felt desperate for a job and a life that I had dreamed was only remotely possible. I prayed for months, sometimes in anguish. ‘Help me, God’! I still remember the moment I discovered He heard me, and that He was saying ‘yes’. My mom shook she was so overjoyed. I floated on a cloud, as I went about the farm’s evening chores that day in November 1987. And, sometimes when I have felt frustrated about life, and even the job to which God led me, I have accessed that November 1987 moment. I don’t rely on my memory…I have some of the moments, on paper, stuffed in a briefcase! The official letter of the job offer is there, locked inside the dusty burgundy leather attaché. But, the most important part is deep within me. I hope I never forget how much God meant to me that day. I bet Randy Gill’s had moments like that too. A Christian should, and I’m glad he’s recorded words and music that let me show God my feelings, in a simple but potent way. If you can drop your reserve for a few moments, think about how the Holy One has rallied around you, lifted and strengthened you. Share that with others, and celebrate it anew, with a shout! Yahoo (this 21st Century Christian’s Hallelujah)!


 Information on Randy Gill in the story was gathered from the following sites, and from an e:mail he sent the author on 30 December 2008: http://www.sbmp.com/WebPagesTwo/RandallGillBio.html http://woodmont.alsw.com/page.asp?SID=1&Page=172

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Thou Art Worthy, Great Jehovah - Karen Chandler Eagan Tynan


Anonymous, unknown, secret, mysterious, unidentified, Jane/John Doe. Thankfully we are not called these things when we call out to God, for He knows even the number of hairs on our heads (Matthew 10:30). Yet, sometimes we might think that even well known people can become hidden, if by accident or perhaps even by design. It’s said that Mozart’s grave was unknown, perhaps a commoner’s, in keeping with burial practices in 18th Century Vienna. Today, some composers may still be virtually unknown, including the creator of “Thou Art Worthy, Great Jehovah”, Karen Eagan. She wrote the words and the music in 1980, but we know almost nothing about her. Did she compose other songs? Where does she live, and what in her life channeled her thoughts toward creating this simple, yet powerful, tune? Perhaps it’s intended that she be but a shadow, in comparison to the One she writes about in the song. Karen Eagan is probably the same person as Karen Chandler-Eagan, the one piece of information we can surmise from public records (at least via the internet) and her name’s association with this song. So we can assume she married someone named Eagan, but that’s it. Compared to God, she has but a few names that we can use to identify her. God has many, so that I can relate to Him in various ways, and Karen Eagan chose four potent names for this composition, her ode to the Lord. ‘Great Jehovah’, the covenant-maker, the faithful God that Abraham knew as the original Promise Keeper. ‘Mighty God’, the Deliverer, whose power can overwhelm anyone or anything. I have a friend who always ends his public prayers by extolling God’s ‘Mighty Name’, so you might presume he has been strengthened by God in some meaningful way. And yet God is capable also of being my ‘Abba Father’, a tender, gentle being who intimately caresses my head. Finally, ‘Lamb of God’, a unique term only Jesus can wear, one filled with import for me, as a believer who cannot approach the throne without His sacrifice. Are there names of God that speak to you? When in your life has the Holy One been available for you? God’s presence may resonate at various times, and we can imagine that for Karen Eagan -- and indeed for all of us who sing her song --perhaps God kept a promise, extended his mighty hand, or held us close in his embrace. Certainly, His surrender on the cross is huge, incalculable. How many lambs, or other animals, did the Jewish nation offer to God before Jesus became ‘the Lamb’ – millions, right? So God is special, in fact essential for me, especially when I change. If you sense these times, as I have, try adding to Karen Eagan’s song with some names of God that draw you toward Him, that remind you how He’s been present lately. Here’s a verse I wrote: “Thou art worthy, Blessed Redeemer. And I love you, Comforter, Friend. You are Wisdom to your children. Come and feed us, Bread of Life.” Share yourself with the rest of us…what names say something to you? You may be a question mark, like Karen Eagan, before lots of people. Yet, God knows you…get in touch with that, and let others know how God is shaping you.
Scant information on Karen Chandler-Eagan is at:

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Hallelujah, We Shall Rise - John Edmond Thomas

What’s your favorite Christmas memory? Lots of people might be prompted to think about this, as the Yuletide season is upon us, decorations are lifted in place, and parties descend upon office workers. If asked, most people might think of a childhood episode, perhaps from the morning when presents were exchanged, and when wishes came true for the tricycle or some other toy that fascinated a youngster. You know, the kind of gift that would make an 8-year old behave if he thought Santa Claus might come through in the clutch. I think the Christmas mornings I anticipated most were ones that involved Hot Wheels cars or Hardy Boys books. Yep, those gettin’ up mornings were pretty special! I think my Christmas morning memories help me get in touch with another morning I anticipate, one that a composer wrote about over a century ago. John Edmond Thomas was born in 1860 in Arkansas, though he spent most of his life in neighboring Texas. His father died in 1874, and J.E. Thomas, as the oldest son, had a heavy load as he worked to support the family his father left behind. Even so, he pursued music study from the age of 17, and finally launched his career as a teacher, composer, music collector, and publisher in 1890. With the help of others, he founded two music companies (Trio Music and The Quartet Music Companies) in Texas. Then, on the 30th anniversary of his father’s death in 1904, John Thomas penned “Hallelujah, We Shall Rise”. Was Thomas thinking about seeing his earthly father again when he recorded the words in verse two of the song “…What a meeting…fathers and mothers, and our loved ones we shall see”? Indeed, what a morning, a resurrection morning! If you can think of how you awaited Christmas as a child, with anxious breathless expectation, a child jumping with excitement, your imagination can see what John Thomas was expressing with his music. He returns repeatedly to the image of a morning, one on which all of God’s elect will rise. It’s not an exaggeration to say ‘hallelujah!’, as we think of that time, one which will defy death.
If you’re a believer, you may know that hallelujah means ‘Praise ye Jehovah’, a refrain from several Psalms (106, 111-113, 117, 135). ‘Hallelujah’ in Revelation 19 is part of the apostle John’s vision of heaven, a word that we will shout there. The words in John Thomas’ song, and not just the words, but the melody, the counter-melody, and the harmonies, make the spirit soar as I listen to them. This song really shows me why God created music, I think. It would be impossible to capture the visceral, deep sense of what God has prepared for me with just mere words. God worked through John Thomas to give me more, to give me a beautiful echo of heaven’s hallelujahs that I read about in Revelation. With music, I come closer as an earthling to approaching the cosmic, mind-boggling scenery that was in the apostle’s eye. I encourage you to listen to a recording of this song, particularly Tom Fettke’s Masters Chorale production (“The Lord Is My Song” album), a recording with lots of angelic voices (like what we’ll hear at the throne)…and do yourself a favor – close your eyes, turn up the volume, and warm up your voice with a ‘hallelujah’, the word you’ll become familiar with in eternity!
Information about John Edmond Thomas’ life was gathered from The Cyber Hymnal at the following website: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/bio/t/h/thomas_je.htm