Reason to Sing – All Sons & Daughters (2013, Live)

click on image to listen to song for free.

Sometimes worship songs sound incredibly fake and unrealistic.  This reality presents a true dilemma for the Christian.  The Bible calls us to worship our God in spirit and truth, but sometimes we simply don’t feel like a praise song.  Maintaining some level of purity and authenticity in our singing to God is not easy.  In many ways, the real value of worship is blocked off from our hearts because of this tension between holy expectations and the everyday reality of our humanity.

Enter All Sons & Daughters, once again, to build us a bridge between what sometimes might feel impossibly too far away for us to reach.  This is my second time writing about their music and I’m excited to come back to them, especially concerning this issue of transparent worship.

The element that keeps our hearts glued to our God amidst our worship is the element of art.  Of course, theologically speaking, the Holy Spirit is the One who actually accomplishes worthy worship giving within us, even when we ourselves are incapable of offering it.  But on a more tangible level, it is the art of song and prose that deliver a variety of vehicles for us to enter the presence of God, no matter how we feel or what we think.

Please don’t misunderstand.  A song is not a license to just sing whatever you want and call it worship.  It has to be real and it has be right.  But here, we also recognize that different tunes offer different moods and styles so that we can find the one that matches the place where our worship is coming from today.  The Psalms is the bedrock example of this principle.  Their are several kinds of prayers (or songs/poems/etc.) in the Bible, such as songs of praise, lament, royal psalms, imprecation and reflection.  Each style of song, or art, comes out of different seasons of life – and not all good ones!  You can successfully pray and worship when you are sad, mad and bitter.

Sometimes, worship in the lower moments of life is exactly what God uses to help bring us out of the depths of the valley and into His marvelous light.  Listen to All Sons & Daughters in their new, live version of “Reason to Sing”:

When the pieces seem too shattered
To gather off the floor
And all that seems to matter
Is that I don’t feel You anymore
No I don’t feel You anymore

I need a reason to sing
I need to know that You’re still holding
The whole world in Your hands
I need a reason to sing

When I’m overcome by fear
And I hate ev’rything I know
If this waiting lasts forever
I’m afraid I might let go
I’m afraid I might let go oh

Will there be a victory?
Will You sing it over me now?
Your peace is the melody
With You sing it over me now?

I need a reason to sing
I need to know that You’re still holding
The whole world in Your hands
That is a reason to sing

I will sing, sing, sing to my God my King, ‘fore all else fades away;                                        I will love, love, love with this heart in me, for You’ve been good always.

The beauty of this song for me is that it couples together (like many psalms also do) words for the wind with words of timeless truth.  Words for the wind are those thoughts and phrases that don’t necessarily reflect absolute truth, but they capture how I might feel today.  “I need a reason to sing” almost sounds like flat-out disobedience to the Scriptural command to praise God at all times in all circumstances.

Why would we sing to God about needing a reason to sing to God?  It is not because we are trying to defy Him or belittle Him, instead we are expressing our feelings to Him, “God, I don’t feel like I have a reason to sing praises to You today.”

This is perfectly OK to do and God wants to hear your heart, no matter how it sounds.  David says in the Psalms, “God, why have You abandoned me?!” or “God, why are all my enemies improving and I am left to suffer?”  David doesn’t mean these questions literally.  He knows that God never leaves Him and his enemies will not have victory in the end; but he chooses to say to God how he is feeling at the moment and then he lets those words fly away with the wind.

Then our song, just like David, comes back around to the words of timeless truth: God does have the whole world in His hands, including me.  Even in the midst of feeling alone, abandoned, hurt and confused – we can claim God’s infinite truth over our lives.  We can ask God to lay His sovereignty and grace over our broken hearts and lives like a galactic-sized security blanket.

God is both intimately concerned about our true thoughts and feelings as He is about our trust in His character.  We have an endless number of reasons to sing to Him – and some of them include our self expression of both the good and the bad within our true self, the worthy and the pathetic of all that makes us who we really are.  The idea of worship is that you stay connected to Him: head to Head, heart to Heart.

Let music be your tool to keeping communion with Abba, Father and always keep the true you in your tunes for Him!

Jesus – Rich Mullins (1997, the Jesus record)

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We’ve come to Holy Week and the time to reflect upon the cross.  In this series of posts throughout the week, we will major on two things: the resurrection and our response to Jesus.  I may go back and forth, but be sure to come back frequently, for I hope to blog several times this week.

Let’s open with a rough diamond that I have treasured for many years.  This would fall mostly in the category of response and reflection and I offer it first for one simple reason: our personal heart response to the cross is what matters most during this week.  God’s Son did not die for any other reason than to glorify His Father through bringing people close to Him again.

But we have a tendency during the Easter season to zero in on things like cross, resurrection, salvation, etc.  These are central and colossal matters in scope and depth and its so easy to get lost in doctrine and rhetoric.  One thing that might get lost in the shuffle is the pure, stripped down truth that a man named Jesus loved us so much that He died and rose again on our behalf.

Rich Mullins is exactly what we need to capture the angle of Easter that reminds of a love from a man that is so intoxicating, we simply cannot resist.  This song is actually just a poor recording that was released posthumously.  Mullins died in a car accident, but shortly before his death, he went alone to a small chapel and recorded a demo of songs for his next project.  The plain, scratchy sound seems to perfectly reflect a lonely, human heart aching to be attached to the sparkling, yet approachable heart of the Son of God.

Listen to the magic of a song without fanfare and frills:

Jesus
They say You walked upon the water once
When you lived as all men do
Please teach me how to walk the way You did
Because I want to walk with You

Jesus
They say you taught a lame man how to dance
When he had never stood without a crutch
Well, here am I Lord, holding out my withered hands
And I’m just waiting to be touched

Jesus
Write me into Your story
Whisper it to me
And let me know I’m Yours

Jesus
They say You spoke and calmed an angry wave
That was tossed across a stormy sea
Please teach me how to listen, how to obey
‘Cause there’s a storm inside of me

Jesus
Write me into Your story
Whisper it to me
And let me know I’m Yours

Jesus
They drove the cold nails through Your tired hands
And rolled a stone to seal Your grave
Feels like the devil’s rolled a stone onto my heart
Can You roll that stone away?

The hint of the resurrection at the end of the song connected to our personal struggle to be revived is truly palpable.  Sometimes, our Easter meditations become too disconnected from our every day lives.  Yet, no one could ever accuse Rich Mullins of promoting such a disconnect.  He reaches across the gap and pulls us into the realm of the authentic and the honest.

I wanted to include another song from this “album” because it takes this issue even further.  Listen to an excerpt from the lyrics of “Hard To Get” by Rich Mullins:

Did You ever know loneliness
Did You ever know need
Do You remember just how long a night can get?
When You were barely holding on
And Your friends fall asleep
And don’t see the blood that’s running in Your sweat

Will those who mourn be left uncomforted
While You’re up there just playing hard to get?

And I know you bore our sorrows
And I know you feel our pain
And I know it would not hurt any less
Even if it could be explained

And I know that I am only lashing out
At the One who loves me most
And after I figured this, somehow
All I really need to know

Is if You who live in eternity
Hear the prayers of those of us who live in time
We can’t see what’s ahead
And we can not get free of what we’ve left behind
I’m reeling from these voices that keep screaming in my ears
All the words of shame and doubt, blame and regret

I can’t see how You’re leading me unless You’ve led me here
Where I’m lost enough to let myself be led
And so You’ve been here all along I guess
It’s just Your ways and You are just plain hard to get

How often we sit in church or alone, trying to connect with God, but these kind of thoughts and emotions serve as the chasm standing between us and Him.  Mullins faithfully writes like the psalmists of old – who left no doubt or fear tucked away in their hearts – but instead, laid it all out at God’s feet.  And yet he includes references to the everlasting truth that God loves us best!  The cross proves this over and over again!

Deep within our hearts we must always keep telling ourselves that the cross trumps all doubts, fears and shortcomings.  Let Easter be a time to feel the freedom that was earned for you by His blood.  Let the Passion of Christ wash away all your reservations about God’s love for you.  Let His resurrection release your heart the from cage of fear and death.

But most of all, let Jesus be Jesus.  In one very important sense, Jesus was just a man.  A man who loves you best and died to prove it.  You are deeply known and deeply loved by the Son of God…and He has written you into His story, if you have given your heart to Him.