Friday, July 30, 2010

Awesome Power -- John G. Elliott

John G. Elliott shared some thoughts below on how he came to write the song “Awesome Power”. I thought his words sparked some ideas for me…how about you? See what you, my fellow music lovers and worshippers, think:
That song has a most unique history. I had been working as a songwriter in Nashville beginning in 1983. By the time 1989 rolled around I had had 45 songs recorded or printed by other artists. GMA and ASCAP had me giving talks and seminars on songwriting and I always emphasized the importance of re-writing, re-writing and re-writing until a song came into its final form. I generally opposed the idea, held by many, that songs always come by "inspiration"----that it was more like a craft that requires time and investment and refinement. However, one morning in April of 1989 I woke up "hearing" a melody----I was coming, as it were, out of a dream. I cannot now remember if I heard the words "awesome power" at that moment or if they came to me almost immediately---but it would be an experience that I would honestly have to label supernatural. It is my opinion that I was hearing something that was happening in heaven itself---I guess you would have to "be there" to know by the nature of the experience. It has not happened to me in that profound kind of way since then.
Does Elliott’s experience resonate with you? I asked him afterward if he had ever wondered what it’s gonna be like to actually be in the Holy One’s presence someday, and to hear His voice. Is God a tenor or a bass, or can we expect Him to sing the lead?! John says: His voice will probably encompass ultra bass, bass, tenor, alto, soprano and ultra soprano all at the same time! John then suggests reading Revelation 14, as a way of trying to imagine what God’s voice will be like. This whole discussion has another question running through my head: If God is a musical being (as Zephaniah 3:17, among other biblical passages, suggests), do I engage in something supernatural when I sing or otherwise let music get inside of me and motivate me? Is that part of its power, and why God instructs us to sing to Him? Is His awesome power, as when he parted the Red Sea (see picture above), on us when we worship with music?
If John Elliott is right, and he was hearing something going on in heaven that April morning in 1989, I wish I had the ability to more clearly capture what goes on in my dreams, don’t you? (Check my November 15, 2008 songscoops blog entry , in which dreaming is explored a little.) Maybe He’s just waiting for a time when I get more curious about heaven, a time when He can respond with a glimpse through images and sounds planted in my mind. Give it a try – maybe a song’s waiting to be born. The song scoop story is the result of e:mail contact with John G. Elliott on 7/27/2010.
The below site is the link to a site that gives some history of Elliott’s life:

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Lord Reign In Me - Brenton Brown

Brenton Brown wrote “Lord Reign In Me” in 1998 while he was part of the Vineyard church movement in Oxford, England. He’d already seen in the years before then what probably gave him inspiration initially for the song’s words – from Apartheid in his native South Africa to his thought-provoking studies in law and politics at the university in Cape Town, where he says God first grabbed his attention. By the time he arrived in England as a Rhodes scholar and recorded songs while at the church in England, maybe he figured “Lord Reign in Me” was really a testimony about what God had already been telling him. The song’s words asking God to ‘reign …again’ suggest Brown was yearning for God’s renewed presence. One wonders if the words might have expressed Brown’s future, too – maybe a musical hint to Brown that God was trying to communicate to him?
Many songs have a single point of inspiration, one moment in which the Spirit draws the words of a tune out of the inner being. Perhaps that was what Brown was feeling when he wrote the song, although it’s not known really. Asking Him to reign ‘again’ might tell us that Brown was feeling that he wanted God to do something spectacular -‘…in your power', the song says – that he had felt before in his life, a notion that wouldn’t be foreign to followers of the Lord in the charismatic Vineyard movement. God can work in awesome and various ways, over and over again. As Brown’s life progressed, he contracted Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), forcing him to end his work in England and return to South Africa. There he married his wife Jude, a fellow sufferer of CFS. Later, he and Jude moved to Malibu, California, leaving their home church in England. ‘Reign again’ ?...could Brown have been thinking of the song’s reprise at these points, as life took some drastic turns ?
Brenton Brown’s words ask God, as the Almighty Creator, to be personal. It kinda seems like asking a king to come escort me around. Why would a king really want to bother with me? Giving control to anyone but myself is pretty daunting, even if He is the All-Powerful. In fact, the prospect of giving control of my life to an unbounded being makes it even scarier, because He might coax me to do something that challenges me. So, I can try to avoid Him…maybe he’ll overlook me. Maybe what Brown figured out was that the alternative to God is more frightening – even horrifying. The Lord’s reign is worth the risk when I consider the other choices.
The below links are to sites that gives some history of Brenton Brown’s life, including when he was at Vineyard UK church at the time that the song “Lord Reign In Me” was written in 1998.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Glory Be to God the Father – Horatius Bonar

Horatius Bonar was a Scot and man of God’s word in the mid-19th Century, whom some labeled a prince. He was “the prince” of his country’s hymnists, and is credited with writing over 600 church songs in his lifetime, including “Glory Be to God the Father” that he wrote in 1866. There’s plenty that could be said about Bonar’s life, lots that could be attributed to this ‘prince’. But, the words of the song he composed indicate he would have wanted the spotlight to shine elsewhere. Nevertheless, a peek inside a life so well lived is helpful. What circumstances might have compelled Horatius Bonar to pour forth his praise to God in this hymn?

It was 1866, and Bonar was 58 years old. He had already experienced much that was challenging, mingled with contentment and happiness too. He had been part of the “Disruption” of 1843, when part of Scotland’s faithful broke with the Church of Scotland and formed the Free Church of Scotland because they felt their spiritual liberties were being violated. Bonar was part of a long line of Bonars who were ministers, and one can imagine the 1843 split was heart-rending. He married the same year, a joyous event, but over the following years he and his wife Jane endured the death of five of their children. He earned a doctorate in divinity in 1853, a mark of success and undoubtedly one of the blessings in his life from God. By 1866, he had written many hymns, including several like “Glory Be to God the Father” that became part of his third series known as Hymns of Faith and Hope. His time in ministry, since his ordination in 1838, was approaching the 30-year mark by 1866, all of it spent in Kelso in far southeastern Scotland. The next year, he and his family left Kelso, moving to Edinburgh where he spent the remaining 23 years of his life. So, looking back, 1866 might seem like a hinge-point. By the mid-1860’s what did he think about the great stresses, juxtaposed with the blessings he’d seen in life?

Life after the move to Edinburgh showed that Bonar was not one to rest on his accomplishments or wallow in struggles. He continued to write, including at least two biographies in 1869 and 1884 about ministers he had known, while also serving as an editor of two Christian publications. In 1883, he was elected as Moderator of the church; the following year, 1884, his wife Jane died. Through it all, it’s said that Bonar maintained a humble position, asking that no biography be written of him. The ‘Scottish prince’ was a learned scholar, poet-hymnist, preacher, and activist. Yet, if one tried reading Bonar’s doctoral dissertation or paging through his diary to know this man, you might find his heart by merely reading what he wrote in “Glory Be to God the Father”. ‘Don’t look at me’, he says. ‘Give glory to Him, and just stand in that reflection’. That’s good advice from a prince.

 The following sites provide biographies of Horatius Bonar:

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Lord I Lift Your Name on High – Rick Founds

Rick Founds found something. His name lends itself to this kind of declaration, and since he’s a songwriter, he may have even used this way to introduce one of his creations, this song “Lord I Lift Your Name on High”. He’s written many songs, and strummed on his guitar numerous times, but the day he wrote the words of this song, he says he was struck by God’s plan for us. It was a new thought, even though it was a day like many others, and he was doing what he did lots of other times in his own personal time with Him. What new thought? A. God has had a plan, since the beginning; and B. He, the Creator, subjected Himself to creation, kinda behaving like a part of His Creation, to implement this plan. The words of Founds’ song tell us that God put Himself into a four-step cycle: Heaven-Earth-Death-Resurrection. He’s the only one who’s ever gonna do all four of these – think about it, Founds says in this song. It’s probably something I’ll never completely fathom, but something Founds says about God’s behavior helps us understand. God is like rain, Founds has said. It falls to earth, nourishes what’s there, evaporates into the air, and then returns again – as when brought by thunderstorms (see the picture above). It’s not a perfect analogy, but rain is perhaps the most basic ingredient to life on this planet. Most of the human body is water, and most of what we see growing here does so because it receives moisture. Have you noticed that scientists get really excited when they think they’ve discovered water on Mars, or on one of the other planets? Thinking of His creation, it really makes sense that God would behave like rain in order to replenish us. I drink water after I run, and I need God like that too. Rick Founds was studying from His electronic Bible, and playing with his guitar, and he’d done this many times, undoubtedly because this combination fed him emotionally, spiritually, and creatively. He grew, just like plants do when they get water, and the song God gave him to share with the world is just like that rain. I wonder how Rick Founds feels knowing that he has helped carry God’s water to believers like me? What a sensation! Even more, how must Jesus feel, having been the Godly rain for us? Maybe He’ll tell us one day. For now, this song keeps coming back to remind me that God is intimately familiar with what sustains my spirit. And, He knows the physical fuel is necessary too. I’m headed to a church Potluck in a few minutes – fellowship, and food and drink. He has sent me all that I need. The source for Rick Founds’ Lord I Lift Your Name on High” song story is the book “Our God Reigns: The Stories behind Your Favorite Praise and Worship Songs”, by Phil Christensen and Shari MacDonald, Kregel Publications, 2000. Also see “The Complete Book of Hymns-Inspiring Stories About 600 Hymns and Praise Songs”, by William J. and Ardythe Petersen, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. ,2006.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Holy Holy -- Jimmy Owens

KISS - Keep it simple stupid. It’s not too much of a stretch to say that this was the method that Jimmy Owens used when he composed the song “Holy Holy” in 1972. He’d had lots of experience already with music by that time, as a minister and a collaborator on many productions, so he’s capable of being intricate. Yet, with all that experience, it’s revealing that he says that simplicity says it best when it comes to worship. When I talk to God, ‘don’t flower it up, don’t try to impress Him’, Owens says in this song.

The song “Holy Holy” was written as part of the Owens’ (Jimmy’s and his wife Carol’s) hit musical “Come Together: A Musical Experience in Love”, which in 1972 was the first musical they composed for a large arena. It’s said that the musical’s influence helped transform contemporary worship, and indeed the song “Holy Holy” from that musical is still in many hymnals today. Owens says the idea with the tune was mainly to create something that could be easily learned and sung by a church immediately. It’s so simple, a child could sing it. So, if you think the song’s childish, you’ve just complimented Owens, really. That’s the idea, and it’s something I too often forget when I think of relating to God. The song’s verses tell me with a plain, childlike approach what exactly I’m supposed to be doing when I open my mouth and make music. The song’s so simple, that in fact, that’s part of its message to me. I’m a fallible being, and in order to relate to a perfect God, I need something that I can’t mess up to give back to Him.

So, sing to your God with Owens’ verses, and let them remind you of the Trinity’s role in your life as a believer. Father: grace-giver. Jesus: savior-sacrifice. Spirit: indwelling helper. What – you already know all this? Owens doesn’t complicate the basics of my faith in the song, but instead tells me to put all those beliefs into a jingle that I can hum easily, daily. Owens’ song, from the heart of a musical God, communicates something elemental. God makes my bond with Him simple, intentionally. He’s already done the complex, impossible stuff for me. I’m not God, but in Holy Holy, I can mimic His musical nature. Still think this is just a kid’s song?

See the following website on Jimmy and Carol Owens:

Information on the song’s background is found in the book “God Songs-How to Write and Select Songs for Worship”, by Paul Baloche and Jimmy and Carol Owens, copyright 2004,

Also see: