A Hymn

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder

Consider all the ways I screw it up and let you down

All the times I kill my joy and rob your storehouse

All the days I lag behind and come home empty

Then sings my soul, how great you are.

O Lord my God, when I in painful moments

Take time to think back on the things I could have done

The thousand days of giving up your graces

The lazy nights of overfeeding all my faces

Then sings my soul, how good you are.

O good God, though my strings are un-tuned,

And my rhymes can feel a bit forced,

And my meter is stubbornly off,

I’m a hymn you’re composing:

Derived from theology

Mixed with my psychology,

Writ in profound honesty,

Leading to doxology.

A Moment Of Freedom

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For Kelvin

He comes in late. He comes in hungry.

The words on the screen flash by too fast, usually.

Fourteen years old. Learning to read.

He’s not one for raising his voice–not musically.

 

They say “stand up.” He gets up slowly.

Finally a song where he knows the words, mostly.

Comes here a lot. Feels pretty safe.

Some people who love him are praising God, vocally.

 

They say “mercy.” They say “forgiveness.”

Jesus does seem to be sane, in this craziness.

What of his sisters? What of his hunger?

This might be his first time believing in innocence.

 

He hums the tune. He looks to the sides.

Others are singing with raised hands and closed eyes.

Is Jesus here? Is Jesus hearing?

A lyric escapes him, he lets it, his voice climbs.

 

He is a boy. He lives like a man.

More years will pass before there’s no fist in his hand.

But here and now? A moment of freedom.

Thinking of Jesus, he sings out, loud as he can.

album review: “The Water and the Blood” by Sojourn

This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 1 John 5:6

I, and many I know, have an ambivalent relationship with contemporary Christian music. As a musician, I often feel frustrated with the boring music and thoughtless lyrics of “Christian pop/rock.” Amateur musicianship, coupled with the undefinable quest to be relevant, leaves much of it unattractive and unmoving for me. I do, however, occasionally find reason to get excited about Christian music: most often it’s because of the growing movement of musicians who combine centuries-old hymn lyrics with accessible modern music. And it usually comes with some soul.

This week I found such a reason to get excited. “The Water and the Blood,” produced by Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky, is the second of two albums based on the hymns of prolific English hymn writer Isaac Watts (e.g. “Joy to the World,” “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” “Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed”).

The musicians of Sojourn took the lyrics of Watts’ hymns (with some liberties) and put them to the music of twelve original songs. The music is indie folk-rock with a big dose of soul, sung by male and female vocalists with voices reminiscent of singers such as Amos Lee and Adele. It is full of terrific harmonies and is instrumentally balanced; I especially appreciated the tasteful guitar licks which occasionally rise to the surface. Overall, it feels like live music. The artists of Sojourn thankfully avoided slick overproduction, and its authentic sound makes the album.

The album is worshipful, personal, and theological. Much of its lyrics come right out of scripture, especially the psalms. They express childlike wonder at the atonement of Jesus’ blood for sin and at God’s faithful nearness. Sometimes they touch on topics not usually heard in popular Christian music: track 11, for example, is almost certainly the only song I’ve heard based on Romans 7:9, and it’s one of my favorites on the album.

You can buy the album here . I downloaded the entire thing for only $6.

The track listing is:

1. Absent From Flesh
2. The Water and the Blood
3. From Deep Distress
4. Compel My Heart To Sing
5. Let the Seventh Angel Sounds
6. Oh God, Our Help In Ages Past
7. Deep In Our Hearts
8. Blest Be The Lamb
9. Death Has Lost Its Sting
10. Early, My God
11. Let Your Blood Plead For Me
12. The World Will Know

Worshiping God with songs of good music and thoughtful poetry is a beautiful and appropriate element of the Christian life, made even sweeter when we join our voices with the generations of saints who have come before us.

I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. Psalm 146:2