Hymns, Generation to Generation – 90 Days of Service, Day 14

Indelible Grace VI Progress

After returning to Nashville from home in Scranton, I had the great privilege of being able to sit through some of the recording sessions for the Indelible Grace VI album.  One of the moments with a Belmont Alum, Katy Bowser, and her daughter, Story, kind of gave me chills down my spine to see the work of the Lord between the generations of Belmont RUF students.   Katy recorded a few passes with her daughter story in her arms of the third verse of “I am Jesus Little Lamb”.  It was a sacred pastoral moment where the Grace of God was palpably present – given from one sister in Christ to others.

Psalm 79:19 (ESV)

But we your people, the sheep of your pasture,
will give thanks to you forever,
from generation to generation,
we will recount your praise.

You see, right after getting saved, my friend Joel from Del Rio, TX handed me a copy of Indelible Grace’s first album.  Katy, through her singing of “O’ the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus” in her stylistically Celtic sounding voice, was able to minister the Love of Christ to me in the midst of some very deep brokenness.    It was a sacred pastoral moment where the Grace of God was palpably present – given from one brother in Christ to another.

O’ the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus – Listen on Youtube
by Samuel Trevor Francis, Featuring Katy Bowser

1. O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean
In its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me,
Is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward
To Thy glorious rest above!

2. O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth,
Changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o’er His loved ones,
Died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth,
Watcheth o’er them from the throne!

3. O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Love of every love the best!
’Tis an ocean vast of blessing,
’Tis a haven sweet of rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
’Tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory,
For it lifts me up to Thee!

Into that context, I was recalling all of the Grace of God that allowed me to start putting together the concept of Biblical Counseling Through Song.  In no small measure, the work of Katy, and the rest of the Belmont RUF family through the Indelible Grace projects, was some of the driving motivation for seeking to counsel the Word of God into broken men and women using the medium of music.

Now, I was present as she was able to reach back and pour into the next generation of Belmont students and into her own daughter.   It was during the recording of the third verse of “I Am Jesus Little Lamb” on the upcoming Indelible Grace VI album that kind of took my breath away.

"I Am Jesus Little Lamb" Lyric Sheet

I Am Jesus Little Lamb
by Christopher Miner

I am Jesus little lamb,
Ever glad at heart I am;
For my Shepherd gently guides me,
Knows my need,
And well provides me,
Loves me every day the same,
Even calls me by my name.

Day by day, at home, away,
Jesus is my staff and stay.
When I hunger,
Jesus feeds me,
Into pleasant pastures leads me;
When I thirst, He bids me go
Where the quiet waters flow.

Who so happy as I am,
Even now the Shepherd’s lamb?
And when my short life is ended,
By His angel host attended,
He shall fold me to His breast,
There within his arms to rest.

In recent months, Katy, Sandra McCracken, Ellie Holcomb, and Flo Paris have started a project called, “Rain for Roots: Big Stories for Little Ones” – hymns for children and families.  Being a “studio Mom”, Katy brought her daughter, Story, along, who was playing in the studio.  Story accompanied Katy into the isolation booth to record some of her passes.  Katy recorded the third verse with Story in her arms.  After her session, I shot a few pictures from her perspective.

"I Am Jesus Little Lamb" Lyrics - From Story's Perspective in Katy's Arms

"I Am Jesus Little Lamb" Lyrics - From Katy's Perspective with Story in Her Arms

The recording process is quite tedious.  Sometimes the same part of a verse is labored over for hours upon hours in order to get the right affectionate context for the song.  As Cason Cooley and Kevin Twit, IG VI’s producer, was editing, the last four lines hung in the air as Story and one of Kevin Twit’s RUF students, Jordan, were playing on the chalk board wall.  Katy recorded the below with Story in her arms.

One Belmont Generation Ministering to Another - Jordan and Story

And when my short life is ended,
By His angel host attended,
He shall fold me to His breast,
There within his arms to rest.

As Cason and Kevin edited, I caught a slight lyric change on one of the passes.  A slight lyric change, but a God given moment of Grace.  I’m not sure if even Katy knew she changed the lyric.

And when my short life is ended,
By His angel host attended,
He shall fold you to His breast,
There within his arms to rest.

And, I thought, my God, here is the recorded presence of a Mom singing over her young daughter for her salvation, all the while knowing while she rests in her mother’s arms, that this time is fleeting – her life will soon come to an end – that to rest in the arms of the Savior is a much safer place to rest.  A sacred moment between Mother and Daughter, while the angels and a few brothers in Christ listened in.  Katy’s name means pure and, well, Story means story.  So, we had the Gospel being poured from Mother “Pure” to her Daughter “Story”.  Grace poured out from our Savior through a Mother to her Daughter – a sacred moment indeed.  The Gospel is just that – “Pure Story”.  A Story so Pure and majestic that it is shockingly Beautiful.

(In fact, all of our moments are sacred, but God lifts the veil to give an Eternal perspective sometimes…).

After Story started to snag the pop filter (the fuzzy disk in front of recording microphones), she came outside to play with Jordan, handing him a piece of chalk, while her Mother sang over us all – one Belmont RUF generation pouring into another (and I’m not sure who was ministering to who in this moment).  I was just a bit overwhelmed at the depth of the Love of Jesus at that moment – O’ the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus!

Story and Jordan - Sharing Chalk and the Gospel

Borrowing some words from the saints, specifically, Samuel and Katy:

“O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
’Tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory,
For it lifts me up to Thee!”

So, I humbly ask your support of two projects:

1) Indelible Grace VI Album, Kickstarter ends in 48 hours (Wednesday, 20 June 2012 @ 6pm)

2) Rain for Roots Album, praying that the Lord grows the work of these women!

After seeing the love of Katy for her daughter Story this past week, I’m still confident that Mothers do make the best hymn authors (and singers).

This summer I’m pouring out my life in service and prayer for Nashville, Dallas, and Scranton, PA.  Praying that the Lord helps to bring many Gospel driven artists to the Biblical Counseling Through Song concept.  This was such a sweet example of the riches that Christ has given to His Church by His Grace.  Thanks for allowing me to share His works through His people with you.

May His continued Grace and Peace fall upon us!

Posted in Biblical Counseling Philosophy | Leave a comment

Eulogizing a Father, Sheath\Unsheathing Swords in the Valley – 90 Days of Service, Day 8

Christians suffer with hope (Romans 5:3-5).

Our suffering allows us to share in the sufferings of Christ and make the Word of God fully known (Colossians 1:24-26).

Resurrection of a suffering servant, and eventually all of the LORD’s suffering servants, is the distinctive reality that sets us, the Redeemed, apart from every other faith.  The Resurrection is our hope.

However, Resurrection, like the Word of God itself, is one of those double edges swords.  The Promise of the Scriptures is that all will be raised from the grave and brought to a day of Judgement (1 Corinthians 15).  At the time of death, this can either be a very comforting, or a very terrifying, thing.  Homilies and Eulogies are the battlegrounds where the tension of that objective reality must be dealt with in God exalting ways.  That time is not for the dead, but for the living. Let me explain…

I grew up in a very broken home growing up.  Dad used alcohol to escape deep suffering and Mom suffered with deep depression as a result of trying to “keep it all together”.  We are family well equipped in the suffering of this world.  As soon as I could leave home, I did.  Failure was the driving fear and success was the idol of choice.  What appeared to be greener pastures, ultimately led to a graphic suicide attempt when the idol of a shiny pair of pilot wings lost their luster in the wake of deep exisential suffering.

In the midst of deep, deep, deep suffering, the LORD pulled me away from myself while in hospital recovery, gave me a new heart through circumsion by the Holy Spirit, and set my feet upon the Rock of Jesus Christ.  God saved me in the midst of suffering so that I could be an instrument of His Grace in the midst of deep suffering, serving Him in the guise of a Biblical Counselor.  He has fashioned me for that purpose.  It is clear.

What wasn’t clear was how I was going to eulogize my Dad on Friday, 08 June 2012, within the assemblied congregation of a Mother, Brother, Sister, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Neighbors, Co-Workers, Drinking Buddies, and supervising Clergy within the Roman Catholic Church of my biological birth.  Fear of failure and the pride associated with ministry of the Word were gripping at my heart to find a tie off.

To be honest, until the preceding Tuesday, I was really terrified of how to proceed.  You see, on the one hand, I am planning on returning home to Scranton/Dunmore, PA to church plant in a few years.  Brutal facts and insensitive honesty would shipwreck my future ministry.  On the other hand, I will one day be raised before a Sovereign Judge of the Universe to give an account of why I choose the words I used.  In that day, Christ’s atoning sacrifice will be my only plea, however I wanted God to get Glory from the death of my Father.  I wanted to see Redemption of the unsaved unfold beneath my gaze over the assembled congregation of the saints.

When fear strikes the human heart, our response should be prayer.  I can’t always say that has been the case, but the Lord was good to prepare me with previous suffering in order to see my need to rely on Him in this circumstance and not myself.  It really is true that the Lord pours forth Hope and Grace in our suffering (Romans 5:3-5).

So, on Tuesday night, I headed to the Capouse House for prayer at 6:00pm.  Capouse House is a recent prayer ministry started by Aaron McNany back home in Scranton, PA.  Aaron was also the man of God that I met over Christmas 2011 that the Lord brought into my path to help disciple my sister, April, and her recently converted boyfriend, Andy.  I was desperate for direction from the Lord in how to proceed and I needed to be surrounded by the prayers of the saints.

The community that I found at Capouse House overwhelmed me.  You see, this evening, unbeknowst to me prior to arriving, the Lord had brought together prayer ministry leaders from the surrounding area to pray over the direction of prayer for Northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA).  Literally, the Lord provided me with some of the most dedicated prayer warriors in NEPA.  Prayer answered.

It was a sweet time of prayer.  When I say sweet, picture honey on the lips or the most succulent strawberry that you have tasted.  It was prayer dominated by the Word.  We were praying, singing, and meditating upon His Word in ways that I have little often found in Dallas.  In fact, the leader of the prayer driven worship during our time was Joshua Manarchuck, a Messianic Jewish prayer leader from a nearby town, that turns out is world reknowned.  We made our requests.  We asked the Spirit for Scranton and Dunmore.  We are waiting expectantly.

Meanwhile, I had to write a Eulogy.  I started to pack my bag and, lo and behold, my phone rang from one of my best friends in Fort Worth, TX.  I answered.  Quote, “Tom, I am driving through a town called…hmm, let me see here…Dunmore and just passed a tank…”

I nearly jumped through the roof of the Capouse House.  My best friend James Anderson had flown into Scranton, rented a car, and was headed my way to support me during this trying week.  Oh, the Grace that the Lord gave me this week.  Thank you Jesus!

James came over to Capouse House, which is literally two blocks away from a possible future church plant, and he met the other prayer team members.  We went out to one of our favorite pizza places in “The Pizza Capital of the World” in Old Forge, PA.  We talked, we prayed, and I rejoiced.  God was sweet to overwhelm me.  When I say overwhelm, I mean think of Jonah sinking to the depths tangled up in the forest of seaweed below, but in a good way.  We headed home, I got the soundest sleep I had in a while.  I woke at 3:30 to head back to the Capouse House and the Eulogy was written in literally an hour and a half.  The Spirit provided the text and my fingers couldn’t type fast enough.

The next morning, I made an appointment to run it by the supervising priest, Father Doris, to make sure it was both honoring to my Father and not damaging to the Catholic Church.  I won’t go into the details here, but the Lord was sweet during this time.  This is a story worth a blog post of its own.  Father Doris offered his direct feedback and helped me to tighten the narrative.  Like my Father who I was eulogizing, Father Doris has a poetic heart and skilled in his craft.  It’s the Irish coursing through our veins.

Some of the cuts were deep, but the Lord proved Sovereign and in control of all things.  The following day, the day of my Father’s wake on Thursday, my mother called at 7:30 with trembling in her voice.  She was scared and I offered prayer and meditation over Psalm 91 using the Biblical Counseling Through Song technique that I am developing.  Of deeply spiritual significance, the last time I spoke with my Dad in person was our praying of Psalm 91 during a very terrifying spiritual attack.  It was the last time that I spoken face to face with my Dad.  The Lord was proving that He was with me.  Prayer answered.

I made the corrections and sent the draft off for publishing – we made some handouts so that those in attendance could follow along.

The morning of the funeral had come.  James and I headed off into the woods near my Grandmother’s (Nana’s) house by a local reservoir in Dunmore for a prayer walk.  This particular walk has much significance, but again, this is a post for another time and day.  James and I asked the Father, through Jesus, by the power of the Spirit for the hearts of my family and those in attendance.  We waited expectantly for His fruit.

James – Early Morning Bridge Prayer in the Woods

Life Long Friends – Praying On a Bridge

It was time to head to the funeral home for the start of my long Last Goodbye.  Our family came once again into the presence of the opened coffin.  We paid our last respects in person.  Mom kissed Dad’s lips and sweeped her hand through his hair for the last time.    Most cried.  His best friend from high school, who also is a former Funeral Director and father of Dad’s current Funeral Director, that recently was stricken with a stroke impairing his vocal communication kissed and caressed my Dad in his last, long goodbye.  Although he could not speak his final words to my Dad, the loving embrace was a tribute to a fallen friend.  I was overwhelmed.

It was time for my last, long goodbye.  I had two gifts to leave in my Dad’s coffin – my Academy Basic Cadet Training Bible that I had received in Jack’s Valley and a graduation saber that I gifted him at Graduation.  The Bible laid under the crucifix attached in his coffin.  In my final salute, the saber sat sheathed at my side.

Academy Bible – Psalm 28.7

Academy Saber

Academy Saber Dedication Plaque

I asked the Funeral Director, Katie, to clear the coffin.  I took five steps back.  It was time for a Psalm 23 unsheathing of the sword to walk through the valley of the shadow of death.  The unspoken verbal command, “Present, Arms”.  I lifted the blade out of the scabbard, arm 90 degrees parallel to the floor.  Sword raised to the sky at a perfect 45 degrees.  Base of the sword placed at the base up the chin.  I prayed over Dad’s body for a quickened coming for the Resurrection as the sword pointed upward towards Heaven.  “In Jesus Name” groaned through tears which only the Spirit understood.  The unspoken verbal command, “Order, Arms”.  Sword quick and neatly, in reverse fashion, returned to its resting place.  The sword laid at the side of my Dad in the coffin.

My Salute For Dad Looked Something Like This – But Much Sharper
Hopefully, My Next Saber Salute – For My Wedding 

You see, the Lord gave me that Cadet Bible in Jack’s Valley in Colorado Springs, CO, but I never unsheathed it from its scabbard until the Lord broke me in Pilot Training in Texas.  He broke my heart following a suicide attempt and drew me into the Family of God, to rest with Him in His Kingdom.  The sword was given at graduation, unsheathed, and presented to my Dad as a token graduation gift.

A sheathing and unsheathing was occurring in my final salute now.  The sword of violence, given as a token, was laid to rest at my Father’s side.  His suffering in this world over.  The Sword of the Spirit was unsheathed and breathed to Our Father in the heat of a raging spiritual war in the heart of my Father’s son.  My prayers uttered.  I set my eyes towards the Eulogy.

I was also a pall bearer, which gave me time to think about the weight of Glory awaiting us in Heaven as we bore the weight of the earthly remains of my Father.  It was a burden good to share with six other men in our family.  We brought my Father to the altar.  I sat next to Mom and followed the order of service.  A reading from the Old Testament, “Shepherd Me Oh God” sung, a reading from the New Testament, a homily by Father Doris, and then communion.  The procession of the saints strewn towards the altar to receive the Body of Christ.  The final wafer given to the last straggling saint, “Body of Christ, broken for you and for all”, response “Amen”.  Father Doris sits and calls me to the podium for the Eulogy.

To be honest, I knew I was speaking the Eulogy, but it was that weird sensation that the Lord was speaking through me.  Those that preach the Word know what I mean.  The words spoken:

How do you know my Father?  Do you know him as Tom?  Or Tommy?  Maybe, Murph?,  As a Husband? As Dad? As a Brother?, As a Friend?  As an Uncle?  As a Neighbor?  Or his Co-Worker.  How do you know our Father?

When I think of my Dad.  My best thoughts remember Him as a poet.  A man who best expressed his love for us in words of poetry and song.  Reflecting on my birth, He penned,

I kiss your head as you lay sleeping,
and softly smile as I watch you creeping.
These baby years are fleeing by,
and as they leave they’ll see me cry.

As a tiny baby you were all mine.
with your satin skin and eyes sublime –
Funny faces, little coos,
crying anytime you choose.

Gone too quickly are the nights,
when Mama rocks you,
holds you tight;
Chases big bad wolfs away,
pats your tiny hands in play.

Birthday Number One is here!

It chased away Tommy’s first year.
I watched you step and guided your hands.
As we wave bye-bye to Babyland.

Happy Birthday!
Love, Mom and Dad…

At Chris’s first birthday, he wrote,

So, today is your birthday,
You made it to One.
You came into this world,
My number Two Son.

Your pride for your father,
a joy for your Mom.
But most of all,
you’re a companion to Tom!

Friends you will be for all time,
to care, to share for each other in times,
of gladness and sadness of your lives.
Bonded by blood, but more importantly,
by Love.

But today is your birthday,
and let me explain.
It was truly a very special day.

It was August 13th,
a bright sunny day.
Just five short days,
before my birthday.

It was late at night,
Calm, and still,
until I heard you,
Screaming loud and at will.

The waiting is over,
you finally arrived.
7 ½ pounds, 20 inches,
in size.

And as I looked down,
I could clearly see.
We have another boy,
in the family.

As I looked in the mirror,
I realized:
“I am Father of Two”
what a pleasant surprise.

And as your first year,
comes to a close.
There is only one wish,
we like to impose.

Happy Birthday Chris,
Old Boy!
And hope the years that follow,
Brings you much Joy!

And for April, he poemed,

October 20th was never a big deal.
That was before our precious April appeared.
She fills our lives with such laughter and joy,
And feelings of love, only a family could enjoy.

Let me tell you what’s it like today,
For the Murphy family on this special day.

There’s Tommy and Chris,
always on guard.
There to help her and keep her,
from life’s little harms.

They’re always there to play,
and to teach her new things.
A special love,
only big brothers can bring.

Then there’s mother,
what can I say.
She’s so happy and proud,
to have her little girl today.
She just loves to care,
for her little queen for a day.

Dad is next,
that’s me of course.
Give me a moment to gather my thoughts.
Having two sons is wonderful enough,
a daughter is God smiling upon us.

She has eyes of an angel,
and lashes to match.
When she smiles and looks at you,
You can’t help but laugh.

With her perky smile and gestures so dear,
they make you realize,
life is a precious thing to bear.

So, today is your first birthday,
a very special one indeed,
And I thank God every night,
that you are here.

So from all the people that love you,
we all want to say,
Happy Birthday April!
For you are one Today!

As you can see, my Dad expressed the depth of his love for us in his poetry.  Perhaps you know Him as Dad, or Husband, or Brother.  Perhaps you knew Him in brokenness and suffering, but the words of his poetry give us insight into his love for us which He struggled in expressing in other ways.  You see, at death, our ideas of who a man was is not a matter of concern.  What matters is God’s understanding of Dad.  We look at appearances, but He knows the heart.  For our own comfort, we must cling to His Grace, His nature, and the power of His Resurrection.  We must take our eyes from a father to Our Father.

Now to conclude the Eulogy, or Good Word, I have prepared.  We look to God, Our Father, and the poetry of His Son, the Word of God who became one of us, as revealed in the Scriptures.  Did you hear the words that Bella just sang in Shepherd Me O’ God?

“Gently you raise me and heal my weary soul,
You lead me by pathways of righteousness and truth,
my spirit shall sing the music of your Name.”

The Poetry the Father gives us in His Son is that God so loves the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish, but live with Him forever.  God wants to meet us in our brokenness and give us His Life.   The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken spirit and contrite heart He will not despise.  He sings words of Poetry and Song over us in His Scriptures, calling us to enter into His Love, for all time.  Let the miracle of God’s Beauty and Love overwhelm and remain with you.  May He be our true Eulogy.

The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine upon you,
and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.

I continue to wait for the Lord to sweep through Scranton and Dunmore.  He confirmed time and time again this week that He is with us, is going before us, and loves the people of Scranton and Dunmore.  I was encouraged and overwhelmed by the response of those back home in Dunmore.  My Dad was deeply loved by many people.  I was humbled.  In a town of 16,000 people, I had never met most of them.  The Lord used my Dad to love them well – those that I had never come into contact with.  My Dad was a pretty complicated man, but that is another post for another time.

For now, I wait for Redemption to pour down from Heaven.  Spirit, circumcise the hearts of your people and let the Beauty of Christ be made known…Jesus, Hallelujah (“Save us ‘now’ “)!  Please come quickly!

Father God, turn your Face towards us and give us peace…

Standing on the Shore – Praying…

Posted in Biblical Counseling Philosophy | Leave a comment

Nashville Prayer, Death of a Father – 90 Days of Service, Day 2

As many of you are aware (or may not be aware), the Lord directed my steps to Nashville this summer for a three month summer internship at Belmont University Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) with Kevin Twit, while working at the Music City Hostel. Kevin is the RUF College Pastor whose brainchild is Indelible Grace.  The recording of Indelible Grace VI is slated to begin on Monday, June 4th.

An additional goal of the internship is to serve Nashville-based Christian artists that are putting the Scriptures to song and/or writing theologically solid material.  I am essentially treating this internship as a missions trip to Nashville in order to serve, in any way possible, the spiritual mentors and artists that have poured deeply into my soul through their content.  I view artists as “cultural missionaries” and am coming to support the missionaries that are driving the Gospel into our hearts.  The art of Indelible Grace lead me to the riches of Reformed Theology that unpacks the depth of the Bible’s covenental revelation of the One, True God in the person and finished work of Jesus.

The hope is to continue to develop the Biblical Counseling Through Song concept by completing my manuscript for publication in 2013 and gain permission from the contributing artists to use their content, free of charge.  According to Moses in Deutoronomy (Deu 15:10) and the Apostle Matthew (Mat 10:8), freely we have received and freely we are to give, with God’s grace and Holy Spirit as our empowerment.

This summer is 90 days of service to the artists I love, without charge nor with strings attached.  Today was day 2, the first day following my first sleep in Nashville.  It is a day that is seared into my consciousness.  Let me explain…

This morning, Saturday, June 2nd, was my second day of my internship.  I woke early in the new downtown location of the Music City Hostel to take a prayer walk on the Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge at sunrise over the Cumberland River.  The below picture sets the tone for the Glory of God unveiled by the rising of His Sun.


Shelby Sunrise

Reflections over the Cumberland

During this prayer walk, the Lord confirmed that I am supposed to pray for Nashville this summer – to pray in a manner that draws the community of the saints together for His Glory and our Joy.  My mind turned over the possibilities, but the surrounding cityscape made it plain.  Whispers from a Far off Country beckoned to pray in the morning and to invite others.  The prayer – that the Glory of God would be revealed in His Saints by their meditation on His character, nature, and attributes – for the Bride to be captivated with her returning Groom (John 3:29) and Kinsman Redeemer (Ruth 4:14).  So, I asked the Lord if He would draw His Saints together in order to Prayer Walk in the mornings using the playlists that I have put together.  The plan was to start with “On Fear of the Lord”.

Andrew Peterson recently wrote a blog post on the Rabbit Room where He experienced the “ugly cry” during a recent morning run.  The “ugly cry” was in full effect this morning on the bridge spanning between downtown Nashville and her stadium across the Cumberland.  The Lord overwhelmed me!

Downtown Nashville (Over the Shoulder)


Fast forward through a swim at the Nashville Downtown YMCA and six hours of cleaning bathtubs, toilets, and sinks at the Music City Hostel.  Phone rang twice from Mom.  The long awaited day of reckoning had come.  The day of my Dad’s passing over the river beyond was upon us.  I was shocked, but not surprised.  My dad has had a life full of suffering and suffering that led him to a death that could have been prevented.  The Lord overwhelmed me.

So, how am I to make sense of today?  At the closing of the day, I’m still not really sure. However, it seems as if today is a sign of a finished war that is still raging in the heavenly places that we sense, but can not see.  God has been good to grant me Grace in the midst of this confusion and suffering in the midst of the battlefield.  Psalm 91 is the prayer tonight.  But my mind wonders if the Angels are singing this evening over my Dad…

A morning prayer on a bridge over the Cumberland became a source of comfort to ponder whether my Dad had taken the bridge of Jesus from the “Land of the Dead” to the “Land of the Living”.

I didn’t want to be alone tonight and Kevin was good to invite me out to a Matthew Perryman Jones album release concert for his new album, “The Land of the Living”.  A few Nashville friends were in attendance and the Lord provided comfort with the last two songs – “The Angels are Singing” and “The Land of the Living”.  I would recommend the album.  As I head home to give a eulogy, the two songs spoke deeply to me tonight.  Matthew’s lyrics are below:

The Angels Were Singing
– Matthew Perryman Jones and Sandra McCracken (background vocals)

I am talking to Stone,
And listening to birds.
With no more to say,
I kiss my fingers,
And touch the red dirt.

I am wandering away,
through moon colored field,
My heart was a weight of rage and sorrow,
That longed to be healed,
So I started running to feel more alive,
To wake up my senses,
that slowly had died.
And I wondered if Angels were singing that night.

Nothing’s the same,
Colors aren’t bright.
Since I’ve kissed your face,
and slowly whispered,
My last Goodbye.
And thinking of Jesus,
at Lazarus’s side,
A heavenly sadness,
and shadows of light.
His eyes saw the city,
where all is made Right.
And I heard that angels were singing that night.

The angels were singing
while we sat and cried,
Each tear was a chorus,
a sacred reprise,
And I finally was grieving that Long Goodbye.

And I heard the Angels singing that night.

The Land of the Living
– Matthew Perryman Jones

Into the Land of the Living,
Black bleeds orange into blue.
I am coming to life,
Light is breaking through!

I can hear the bells in the city,
Across the ancient shore.
I am ready to fight,
Let down the scarlet cord!

It’s time to share this masquerade,
Oh, you can not love in moderation.
You’re dancing with a dead man’s bones.
Lay your soul on the threshing floor.

Between the walls and the river,
Shoulders bear the sacred stones.
We’ve made it alive,
We are not alone!

You kissed the ground,
and changed your name.

No, you can not love in moderation.
You’re dancing with a dead man’s bones.
Lay your soul on the threshing floor.

I heard the distant battle drum.
Mockingbirds spoke in tongues.
Longing for the day to come,
I set my face,
forshook my fears,
I saw the city through my tears,
The darkness will soon disappear,
This world and the Sun (Son)…

I am coming home.
I am coming home.
I am coming home.
I am coming home.

There is mourning tonight in the heart of this former rich, young, ruler and the cry from a Far Country is clear.  Although there may be weeping tonight, joy will come in the morning (in the mourning).  Ecclesiastes says that there is a time for everything.  Now is a time for grief.  Thanking God that the Sun of righteousness from Malachi 4 in the Old Testament found it’s fulfillment in the Son of Righteousness of 2 Peter 1:19.  Clinging to Him and looking to my Heavenly Father for comfort.  He has hid me in the cleft of the Rock and placed His hand over me (Exodus 34).

Please pray that the Spirit would pour the Grace of God upon Nashville, Scranton, and my family.  May God get the Glory.  Father, redeem the brokeness that tears at our hearts.

The Lord has brought me home.  This world is not it.  I am caught in a sojourn that is powered by His scandalous Grace.

And, I am coming home…

Posted in Biblical Counseling Philosophy | Leave a comment

Mother a Cold, Mother a Hymn

Mother’s Day is this Sunday, May 13th.  May I request your support of a Mother by this Friday, May 11th?

Meet Caroline Cobb Smith: a Christian, a wife, a stay-at-home mom, a songwriter, and the founder of The Scripture to Music Collective.  Caroline would probably describe herself in this order as well.  Maybe it’s the minivan in her near future, or the constant diaper changes, but she has no “rock star” illusions.  Even still, she and The Scripture to Music Collective just might be changing the way the Church interacts with the text of Scripture.

Last year, to kick off the Collective, she challenged herself  to write a song for every book of the Bible for her 30th birthday.  By 11/11/11 last year, she completed the project and performed an early 2012 Texas Tour, all while being pregnant with their second child, their first son. This tour was met with such a positive response that she decided to use Kickstarter to make an album that “tells the Story”.  Amazingly, she met her initial goal of half the cost of recording in just 5 days and now there are just a few hours left to be a part of this project.  Here’s a glimpse of her Christocentric, metanarratival ponderings on the Scriptures…

(1) Genesis – Garden (Genesis 1, 2, 3, 11)
(2) Deuteronomy – Hear, O Israel
(3) Isaiah 53 – Your Wounds
(4) Ezekiel – Dry Bones
(5) Zephaniah – The Place To Hide
(6) Mark – Gethsemane (Mark)
(7) Romans – From Him, To Him 
(8) 2 Peter – That Day
(9) Revelation – Heaven

But this post is not about Caroline, per-se, it’s about Christian Moms.  Caroline is merely an example of what the Lord can do with those that submit their lives to His will.

You see, the Scripture to Music Collective was started by Caroline a little over a year and a half ago and the community fostered since then has been growing in pockets throughout the country.  As the list grows of artists  in their support of the Collective, I noticed two unique trends.

The first – there were a whole host of couples making music together that seemed to be spurring one another on in creating song from the Scriptures.  Shane Barnard and Bethany Dillon, Drew and Ellie Holcomb, Jill Phillips and Andy Gullahorn, Jenny and Tyler, Bobby and Kristen Gilles, The Welcome Wagon, Watermark, and Shane and Shane, etc…

Hmm, wondering if you caught that last one (kidding!)…Much love boys!

The second – most of the material that was rending my heart was written by Mothers.  In fact, the majority of these women are “stay-at-home” Moms who take care of children most of their waking hours and then record/travel when able.  And they were writing the most Biblically honest, affectionate, Scriptural songs.  Some of the long line of amazing Mother Musicians on my regular playlist are Jill Phillips, Sandra McCracken, Bethany Dillon, Kristen Gilles, and Caroline.

Interesting, I thought to myself.  And then I saw this in downtown Dallas…

Now, most Moms that I know, initially reacted with scorn.  I get that.  The initial intention of the company was just to get people to go to the Doctor’s office.  Guessing that they caught much hell for this.  Oh well…

However, to flip the advert on it’s head.  Although the most seasoned medical professionals are medicinal acrobatic ninjas of diagnosis, determination of cure, and delivery of services, they still have not figured out the common cold.  Mothers are still the only solution and frontline to the most common of illnesses – the common cold.  In fact, the tender embrace, loving care, and kindness of a Mother is the only treatment that actually provides any soothing effect for little ones.  Moreover, even in the flu, mothers are still the only ones that have the love to hold a bucket for their children.  A medical professional never held a bucket for me.  And, have you ever tasted cold medicine?  Good night…

Snapshot.  Light Bulb.  Lens comes into focus.  Now, I understood…

You see, ladies and gentlemen, Mothers are  never off the clock.  They are there for us in the times and situations when all others depart.  They are the ones changing endless amounts of diapers, wiping runny noses, healing boo-booed knees and elbows with kisses, and planting the seeds of faith into their children second-by-second, minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, day-by-day, month-by-month, year-by-year, decade upon decade, and for the rest of their lives.  Eyes glow when grandchildren are on the way and gentle reminders of its time to grow a family are often heard in their golden years.  As this Mother’s Day approaches, the weariness of motherhood gives way to the expansion of their hearts over the years.  We all know this love and we are all actively pursuing finding this love once again in our lives.

Out of the entirety of the population, stay-at-home Moms never cease to love, or grapple with loving the most unlovable of creatures that came from their own selves.  They see us at our best and they see us at our absolute worst.  In short, no one has a more robust understanding of the depravity of the human soul as Mothers grappling to love fallen bundles of joy.

They see it all.  In society, they are the most adept at diagnosing Truth, giving grace, pouring love, and calling us to account.  They are the frontline of what makes society coalesce.  And, they are currently, to the detriment of our nation, under attack.  May the below be a loving salvo to our Mothers!

Allow me to lay a Biblical foundation for how God may have created Mothers in order that His love for His Bride might be fully known and understood.  Let’s start in the Fall, but not stay there.

Genesis 3:16, ESV

“To the woman (Eve), ‘I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.'”

Yet, the apostle John captured how Jesus seized upon the consequences of the Fall in order to give comfort to His children in their hour of distress in the revelation of His impending departure at the Cross.

John 16:19-22, ESV

“So they were saying, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”

Jesus continues to give solace by praying for Jerusalem, desiring to embrace her like a mother hen.

Matthew 23:37, ESV

“O Jerusalem,Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”

Women and stay-at-home Mothers were even critical to the national defense of Israel in Psalm 68.

Psalm 68:11-14, ESV

“The Lord gives the Word;
the women who announce the news are a great host:
“The kings of the armies – they flee, they flee!”
The women at home divide the spoil,
though the men lie among the sheepfolds,
the wings of a dove covered with silver,
its pinions with shimmering gold,
When the Almighty scatters kings there,
let snow fall on Zalmon.”

So, who best to song write?  Who best ‘to announce the news’?  Who best to produce?  Who best to record? I submit Moms make the best musicians.  Yes, Andy Gullahorn, your thesis is correct.  Moms make the best records!

May we mine the hearts of our mothers well.  Encourage a Mom to write and sing this Mother’s Day.  The Church and our nation will be better for it.  Consider it your sole act of national defense on Sunday.  May they not just Mother our Colds, but they Mother our Hymns and Spiritual Songs (Col 3:16) as well.  May they provide the affectionate, Scriptural balm to cover our hearts in song…

Just in time for Mother’s Day, there are exactly 36 hours remaining for you to partner withCaroline Cobb Smith in the Scripture to Music Collective: Volume 1 Kickstarter.  As founder of the Scripture to Music Collective, her writing is some of the most thoughtful, heart rending, and Biblically honest material that I have heard in recent years.  Her metanarratival Scripture to Music Collective: Vol 1 album deserves your support.  I pray that your patronage of Caroline’s first Collective album would start a life long patronage of the Scripture to Music Collective.

Although the goal of Caroline’s initial Kickstarter has already been met (in a week, mind you), may I implore you to still join in the community to watch what the Lord can do.  At this point, Caroline is trying to cover the entire expense of the album ($17,500), but more importantly inviting others into the community of putting the Scriptures to song.

As you can imagine at this point, I’m all in.  The Collective is the community of artists that I regularly pull from in order to put together Biblical Counseling Through Song resources.

Caroline, sing on, may an overwhelming chorus of Mothers, Fathers, and Children join in tune.

Only a Mother could write the below:

“Children” – by Jill Phillips, The Good Things (2008) 

I know you better than anyone
I know that look in your eyes
The one where they say you are just like me
And that comes as little surprise
Cause you’re taking in everything I do
While I second-guess all I thought I knew

Oh, I love you so much
So how great is His love
That we should be called
We should be called
We should be called His children

I want to keep you from crying
I want to save you from pain
I’d lay down my life for your life to go on
But couldn’t let you do the same
So what kind of love would give selflessly
And take such joy in giving you to me

Oh, I love you so much
So how great is His love
That we should be called
We should be called
We should be called His children

I know I’m not enough for you
And you know this at your young age
Even though my love will fail you
The love that He has will not change

Oh, I love you so much
So how great is His love
That we should be called
We should be called
We should be called His children


Posted in Biblical Counseling Philosophy | Leave a comment

On Prayer: Exodus 33:7-34:10, Matthew 6:5-13

Moses, in a Tent and on a Mountain.  Jesus said, “And when you pray…”

The idea that prayer is anything other than a running conversation with the Divine is an over complication of the dialogue between God and man in our Sanctification.  May we be quick to hear and slow to speak (James 1:19).

But, answers are not always what they seem, nor what we actually ask.  Men, please think with me.  In the words of Paul the Apostle, let’s “reason” together…

We have been Created and redeemed for the Eternal presence and communication with the Godhead (Gen 1-2, Rev 19).  Adam walked in the cool of the night (Gen 3:8).  Moses dwelt in the tent with a pillar of cloud and on a mountain with a face shielding, cleft covering God (Ex 33:7-34:10).  David wept in the wilderness chased by men (Psalm 7) and in his bed chambers chased by his own guilt and shame (Psalm 51:1-12).  Jesus stole away to the mountain at night (Luke 6:12) and taught his disciples to pray by day (Mat 6:5-13, Luke).

In the temptation of the wilderness, Jesus fasted and prayed (Luke 4:1-2).  In the deepest anguish of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, “…not as I will, but as you will” (Mat 26:39).  In crucifiction at Calvary, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive…” and “My God, My God, why…” (Luke 23:34, Mark 15:34).

The historical need for humanity to be in a constant state of communication with its Creator is woven into the fabric of our souls.  Nations rise and fall at the sound of His name.  Broken rich men pray for God to hear, as they listen and repent (Job 31:35-37, Job 42).  Broken kings in palaces pray for the restoration of the Joy of salvation (David, Psalm 51:12).  Broken kings are driven to insanity for lack of prayer (Neb, Dan 4:30-31), and receive healing as they beckon to Him (Neb, Dan 4:34-37).  The Broken Divine-Man King prayed as His Spirit left at the cross (Luke 23:46), only to be sown once again in the hearts of men as they prayed at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4).

Godly men pray.  Mature godly men pray for brokenness (Psalm 51:16-17).

This week, the focus of this Biblical Counseling Through Song playlist is quite simple.  Prayer in the Old Testament, Prayer in the New Testament, and Practicing the Presence of Perpetual Prayer.  A Spirit driven, running conversation with the Father, through the Son, if you will…

Prayer is a Trinitarian experience with you caught in the middle.  In fact, if Christ be your confession, you are in Christ (Col 3:3), as He is in you (Col 1:27).  The Spirit resides in the temple of the hearts of men (1 Cor 3:16-17), taking habitation in us until we dwell in the Lord God the Almighty forever (Rev 21:22).  Men, so, set your minds on Him, and pray. We were created for no One other!

Paul’s (and my) Plead for you to Pray and Meditate (Colossians 3:1-4, 16-17):

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is your life appears, then you will appear with him in Glory…

…Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him”

Most times, answers to prayer are not the response we desire, but the loving provision of a doting Father that can give nothing better than Himself to His children.

I leave you with the insightful words of the John Newton hymn, “I Asked the Lord”.  It, and the associated commentary by Kevin Twit of the “crossing of fair designs” by God, is the most helpful pastoral comments on prayer that I have heard.

I Asked the Lord – Indelible Grace (feat. Emily DeLoach, Kevin Twit)

1. I asked the Lord that I might grow

In faith and love and every grace
Might more of His salvation know
And seek more earnestly His face

2. Twas He who taught me thus to pray
And He I trust has answered prayer
But it has been in such a way
As almost drove me to despair

3. I hoped that in some favored hour
At once He’d answer my request
And by His love’s constraining power
Subdue my sins and give me rest

4. Instead of this He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart
And let the angry powers of Hell
Assault my soul in every part

5. Yea more with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Cast out my feelings, laid me low

6. Lord why is this, I trembling cried
Wilt Thou pursue thy worm to death?
“Tis in this way” The Lord replied
“I answer prayer for grace and faith”

7. “These inward trials I employ
From self and pride to set thee free
And break thy schemes of earthly joy
That thou mayest seek thy all in me,
That thou mayest seek thy all in me.”

May the commenting begin and, please, be honest and take the gloves off.  If we are dry, we can ask for the pouring of God’s Spirit within our hearts to water deserts into spiritual wetlands.

Is the Lord revealing anything from His Word to you?  Any words of loving rebuke to this broken author?

Posted in BCTS Sessions, The "On Series" | 2 Comments

Where the Eternal and Temporal Kiss – Aim of Artists

All great art has a way of breaking through the temporal to give an eternal perspective.

Amazing how David Crowder and the boys used the medium of the Lite Brite (r) with “Shine” to communicate Christ’s finished work and the hope of resurrection through the use of Lite Brite, oragami, and still shot photography.  Check out the video.  Lyrics and Crowder comments are below…

Notice that the creation was started from without and ended by overtaking the frame (like a mustard seed I suppose 🙂 )…

Lite Brite = this world and the here and now
Outside the Lite Brite = Eternity

The Lite Brite is both a part of eternity and a mere shadow of it, conveying the glints of light that break through the pegs, hinting at Him who is reigning behind it all. The pegs, those objects of His creation that he allows the light to shine forth through but not from, are the Artist’s chosen way of communicating His presence. Suffering, pain, and death have been defanged, but have been left for us so that eyes would gaze through and past the flashy lights of this temporary reality. Think of all the love and pegging that went into this communication of the Eternal…

One of the commentees on the video, JE Hurley, says:

“I buried a great friend last night. I didn’t know my eyes held so many tears. Had I tried I might have been able to count each distinct time my heart tore. I came home and found this, or this found me. For me this video reminded me of the separation of this “fake” life from the real life that continues on. That bright life that awaits is separate from this lite bright, yet we interact. That life and kingdom where all the love we walked around with in this world is finally allowed to grow unencumbered, unfettered, and unrestrained by the sin and sorrow of this age. In the end it will be as in this video, one small life will be overcome by the light that pulled us up and holds us, that we feel loved. The perpetual wonder of the greatest love that has come. Thank you for letting Jesus flow through you. I will tell you the rest when we are hanging out with our Jesus.”

Would love to hear what you think…


SMS (Shine) – David Crowder Band

Send me a sign
A hint, O whisper
Fill me with life
‘Cause I am listening

Come break the quiet
Breathe your awakening
Bring me the light
‘Cause I am fading

Surround me with the rush of angels’ wings

Shine Your light so I can see You
Pull me up, I need to be near You
Hold me, I need to feel loved
Can You overcome this heart that’s overcome?

You sent a sign
The hint, O whisper
Human, divine
Everyone is listening

Death laid low
Quiet in the night is stirring

All around the rush of angels

O the wonder of the greatest love has come

Shine Your light so all can see it
Lifted up, ’cause the whole world needs it
Love has come, what joy to hear it
He has overcome, He has overcome

Posted in Musical Philosophy | Leave a comment

Does Free Content Hinder or Promote Artistic Prosperity?

Brothers and Sisters,

I have had reservations regarding taking the “Biblical Counseling Through Song” concept online due to legal considerations.  I still have those reservations, but we need to begin the following conversation.  It is a conversation which is long overdue in the music community (noticed I didn’t use the term “music industry”).

It is a conversation that needs to start in the Church, where its moral implications may be pondered, evaluated, and debated.  This is a call for the Christian artist community to either reject or, whole heartedly, embrace this argument.  Eternal life for the unbelieving and depth of the Body of Christ hang in the balance.  Will we follow Christ or not?

Primary Question: Does offering audiences free musical content hinder artist growth/prosperity or promote artist growth/prosperity?

Another question, posited in the documentary “Before the Music Dies”, is:

Secondary Question: Has the music industry abandoned artists and fans?

I highly recommend that you check out “Before the Music Dies”on Hulu.  It chronicles the rise of the independent recording labels, the demise of the majors, and the future of the profitable music industry, however be aware that several artists use some foul language.

If you were unaware, we are in the middle of a musical distributive revolution.  In the early days of the recording industry, it used to be that artists did not make much from their recording contracts, but would gain the majority of their income from hitting the road – connecting with their audiences and reaping the harvest from their labor in the recording studio with sold concert seating.

At an attempt of total transparency, I am completely convinced that serving limited free content to loyal audiences of devoted fans is the primary way for artists to serve those they wish to influence.  In no small measure, this same approach is an indirect means of engendering free advertising and promotion by unleashing the hidden power of social networks to exploit their powerful market forces.  Let me start with a brief account of recent recording history and then progress into strategy.  Free content is the primer which begins the pump of a musician’s influence and success.

Brief History of the Recording Industry

As the power of the recording industry rose in the late 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, the record companies and artists became accustomed to making studio recordings without the necessity of connecting in the flesh and blood with their audience.  The sharp degradation of musical quality in the late 70’s and 80’s was a clear embrace of the “studio artist”.  I am a child of the 80’s myself and consider the 80’s as a musically lost decade.  You may disagree and that is fine by me.  I won’t hold it against you 🙂

Beginning in the early 90’s, the emerging generation in the music community began a rebellion in the form of the “Alternative” genre.  At the same time, a growing group of artists returned to the “jam band” culture of the 60’s – Birkenstocks and all.

The most famous of these bands are Phish and The Dave Matthews Band.  If you are one of the unfortunate souls unfamiliar with their work, you are sure to recognize the images of The Dave Matthews Band Studio Dancer and Phish’s “The Fish with the Bubbles out of its Mouth” Logos.  If you have any idea what I’m referring to, those images were placed on bumpers by devoted fans.  When was the last time you saw a picture of Brittany, Madonna, or any other primary “studio” artist on the highways and byways.

Music as a Community Cultivator

Music is at its best as a live corporate experience, communicating truth from one person to another by its life changing power.  In Colossians 3:16, we read, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”  Pandora [1, 2], iTunes, and iPhone are returning us to the music industry climate that favored a talented, hard working, traveling artist community.  The days of easy cash from inferior music is over.  The rise of social media and personal file sharing will continue to put to shame all those resting in their studio laurels.

The future of a musician’s prosperity will not be from their recorded material, but from their live content as they take to the highways and byways to connect with the communities of music lovers that have embraced them.  This can be a boon for the artists in the Church, if we are obedient.  I call it the “Grateful Dead Effect”.  Phish, The Dave Matthews Band, and a handful of others learned the lessons of the Dead and applied them in the 90’s and to this day.  I will quote David Meerman Scott extensively (link to full blog entry) to explain.  He goes on to say:

“The Dead are a big case study in contrarian marketing. Each of the band’s many marketing innovations seems to be based on doing the opposite of what other bands (and record labels) are doing at the time. I really like how the band has cultivated their fan base and I think all organizations can learn from what they do.

Starting in the 1960s, the Grateful Dead encouraged concertgoers to record their live shows, establishing “taper sections” where fans’ equipment could be set up for the best sound quality. When nearly every other band said “no” the Grateful Dead created a huge network of people who traded tapes in pre-Internet days. More than 4,000 shows from the band’s 44-year history have been taped.

The band was happy to have Deadheads trade tapes and make copies for friends. The cult of the Grateful Dead concert became a pre-Internet World Wide Rave, driving millions of fans to the band’s live shows for over thirty years and generating hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.

In late March, I was in New York City when I got an email from the Dead ticketing office asking if I wanted to go to a free Dead show at the Roseland Ballroom in New York that night. Yes, please! The band handed out free tickets to the club gig (and two others the same day) for fans as a way to build buzz for the tour. And of course, I tweeted it. Free stuff sells product…

What I learned from the Grateful Dead

1. I learned that even though most of the content in my last several books is available for free on this blog or as one of my free ebooks, people will still pay for premium packaging in the form of my print books.

2. I learned that the more people who know about me, the more live gigs I am asked to do.

3. I learned that it is critical to rehearse for live performances.

4. I learned that an audience wants to feel special and customization of each live performance is essential.

5. And I learned that your most passionate fans are also the best people to tell your stories and spread your ideas. Treat them with care and respect.

What can you learn from the Dead? ” [4]

The old marketing adage, “Word of mouth is the most effective form of advertising” holds true.  We are living in the age of Facebook, Linked In, and Twitter.  There is no turning back, nor dare we.

As we can see from the now 50 year long run of the Grateful Dead that has now crossed three generations of concert goers, giving free content allows artists to flourish.  Although it takes more cultivation of an artist’s or group’s fan base, the personal connection is not only beneficial for the fans, but is emotionally fulfilling for the artists as well.

Anyone that has been on the road with the Dead, Phish, or Dave Matthews, all know that they cultivate the sense that you are traveling the country with a second family, sometimes one that is closer than one’s biological families.  Music has the power to build community from shared experiences.

Two questions that Christian artists must grapple with, “Will our music, and the resulting community, honor Christ in mutual affection for each other, or will we fall into the consumerism trap of a recording label driven profit margin?”  Every Christian artist will need to answer, “Why do I make art?”  Clearly, art for personal profit alone falls short of our commission to make disciples of all nations (Mat 28:16-20).

Has the music industry abandoned artists and fans?

I think this above question is fairly easy to answer.  Is anyone really satisfied today with conventional radio?  The market share of print media and conventional radio are declining rapidly.  Their days are numbered due to market monopolization and not allowing niche markets to form.  The long tail of niche groups is currently underdeveloped by today’s conventional music industry major labels.  Where the majors have failed, the social networking media have taken control and are dominating the market.  How much more influential would today’s major recording artists be if they opened up the market to the Grateful Dead Effect?  The Church can lead the way in this aspect.  Will we be bold and courageous pouring out our lives for those we serve (Isa 57:10-14) or will we be self consumed?

In Summary

As a Church, we have two options:

1)      We can retain our artist rights and plush recording contracts with a smaller impact with only those that can afford to purchase recorded material.

2)      We can freely give as we have freely received from Christ, hit the road, and make disciples.

The choice is ours to make.

In the final analysis, we must consider that all of our abilities are given by a Sovereign, Holy, and Loving God.  He gives us all that we need for faith and holiness.  He simply asks us to give those same gifts back into His hands so that He may increase the crop, 30, 60, or even 100 times what was sown (Mark 4:20).

Two Saints Leading the Charge:

1)      Christ Our Life – Free worship for download online
2)      Curt Vernon – His motto, “Freely I have received, freely I will give.”

Music has the distinct power to break us from our addiction to the temporal, transforming our desire for fleeting pleasure into an eternal mindset set on Christ alone.  Will we be so daring to place our provision into the hands of a mighty God?

The consequences of our servitude, or our selfishness, will be immense, lasting, and eternal.  I will end with a plea.

I need help to figure out how to post the playlists that I’ve created legally.  My initial thought was to stream for free as a means of advertising and promotion for the recording artists used, with the option to purchase and download, from either iTunes or directly from the musician’s site.  Too many people that I’ve counseled directly through this material have had life changing encounters with the Word of God.  I feel as if I am hiding the lamp beneath the bowl.  I feel compelled to share with the rest of the Church and the world.  Will you stand with me?

In the famous ending words of Martin Luther before the Diet of Worms, “I stand here and can say no more. God help me. Amen.”

Please leave your comments and your thoughts…I appreciate the feedback, admonishment, and encouragement!

May Grace and Peace Rest Upon You,

Additional Resources and References:
1) Tim Westergren, Pandora Radio and Music Genome Founder, InterviewTeaser

2) Tim Westergren InterviewFull Interview (Fast forward to 16:00)

3) Cross, Robert L., “The Hidden Power of Social Networks”, Harvard Business School Press, 2004. ISBN – 1-59139-270-5

4) Scott, David M., “Marketing Lessons From the Grateful Dead”, http://www.webinknow.com/2009/04/marketing-lessons-from-the-grateful-dead-.html, 04-2009.

WARNING! – Before the Music Dies – WARNING! – Vulgar language alert…
5) Shapter, Andrew and Rasmussen, Joel.Before the Music Dies”, http://www.hulu.com/watch/62945/before-the-music-dies, 2006.

Posted in Musical Philosophy | 2 Comments

Next Gen Inklings – Local Rabbit Rooms

Brothers and Sisters,

As I put together playlists of highly biblical songs to meditate upon the Word of God, I have come to the understanding that the Church is, once again, in the middle of a conversation with itself with regard to the redemption of the arts.  I am fully convinced that a major movement is taking place within the Church that, Lord willing, might turn into an artistic revival.

As we look at the near history of Christians’ impact on the arts, community has played an immense role in how the Church sharpens herself for entering into the realm of artisic ideas.  I am pleading with God for the Body to hear the call to return to the footsteps of a little known group called the Inklings in Oxford, England, whose two most famous members were C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.  This small group of illustrious authors, artists, and academics met in the backroom of the Eagle and Child Pub in Oxford called “The Rabbit Room” to sharpen each other over fish, chips and a pint or two.

This is a clarion call for the Church to redeem the arts in community.  We must not go this alone!

As I’ve been dwelling deep in Scripture (Col 3:16-17, Phil 4:8) and doing research into the Inklings, I thought it would be a shame if the Body’s authors, artists, and academics that have a passion for meditating on God’s Word did not meet in community on a regular basis. Much of the work of Christians in the mission field of the arts is to cultivate artistic gardens for the culture to grasp the Gospel in its original context through artistic bridges.

So here goes…

The Proposal: Starting localized groups of Christian artists, of all persuasions, into community for the Glory of God and our joy.

Scriptural Basis:

Col 3:16-17 – 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Phil 4:8 – Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

What: Next Gen Inklings – Local Rabbit Rooms
Who: Christian Artists with a passion for bringing God’s Word into the Arts
When: Waiting on the Holy Spirit to move…Praying that it will be soon
Where: Locally (I’m volunteering to lead in Dallas-Ft.Worth and Denton, TX)
Why: Redeem the Arts for Christ and His Church
How: Prayer, Fasting, and the Holy Spirit connecting like minded believers

Essentially, the role for any Bible teacher is to explain biblical concepts at the Scriptural/philosophical level, demonstrate with the arts via an artistic bridge, and then help their listeners apply at the dinner table.

I’ll be attending the Hutchmoot 2010 Conference in Nashville hosted by Andrew Peterson’s blog, “The Rabbit Room“.  I would highly encourage you to check out what he is doing there and the growing community of Christian artists that will be attending.

Below are some resources on redeeming the arts from an apologetic standpoint:

Redeeming the Arts (RZIM – Just Thinking) – Part 1
Redeeming the Arts (RZIM – Just Thinking) – Part 2
Redeeming the Arts (RZIM – Just Thinking) – Part 3
Redeeming the Arts (RZIM – Just Thinking) – Part 4

Kevin Twit – Calvin and the Arts (#7) Lecture
Kevin Twit (Belmont RUF Leader) – On Worship and College Students

Great example of recent Christian art…
Doug Burr “O Ye Devastator” Promo – Directed by Jon Todd Collins

Please leave your comments and your thoughts…I appreciate the feedback, admonishment, and encouragement!

Grace and Peace,

Posted in Building Community | Leave a comment

David Powlison and Bob Kauflin – On Counseling and Song

Grace and Peace Brothers and Sisters,

A bit of a near history lesson of where this idea came from and maybe some indication as to where the Lord is leading.

The Lord led me to start working on the Biblical Counseling Through Song concept as I was walking through a program at our church called a Step Study as part of our church’s Recovery program in September 2009.

I was really struggling with Repentance and sought the Scriptures to give me some solace.  I knew I needed to meditate on God and His Word, but had always struggled to do so.  As I was driving to and from the program, a version of Psalm 51 by the Sons of Korah gripped me and led me to delve into the depths of Psalm 51.

God’s waters are deep without sign of bottom.

I can’t begin to explain how much mediating on Psalm 51 has changed my walk with the Lord.  I suggest it for all and will be the first playlist that I post entitled “On Repentance: Jeremiah 17:5-10, Psalm 51”.

As I was doing this in my personal life, I also attended the annual Christian Counseling Educational Foundation (CCEF) National Conference in Valley Forge, PA.  I talked to a few folks about the concept, but was unsure of how to move forward.  As I was flying back, I was reading over Colossians 3:16-17 and I started to see how the Lord intended for music and song to communicate His Word deeply into our souls to alter our minds, affections, and, ultimately, our actions.

A few weeks later, the below was posted of a conversation between David Powlison and Bob Kauflin.

David Powlison and Bob Kauflin Conversation – Part 1
David Powlison and Bob Kauflin Conversation – Part 2

Needless to say, I think that the Spirit is leading many to develop this concept and am looking forward to partnering with folks that have a passion for the same.

I’m in the stage of getting legal feedback, seeking partnerships with musicians to write extensively, and getting critical feedback from Biblical Counselors and Worship Leaders/Highly Biblical Song Writers alike.

Please leave your comments and your thoughts.  I appreciate the feedback, admonishment, and encouragement!

Grace and Peace,

Posted in Biblical Counseling Philosophy, Musical Philosophy, Others on BCTS | 2 Comments

Biblical Counseling Through Song – In the Beginning…

Hellow Fellow Christians!

Based upon Paul’s call in 1 Thessalonians 5:14 and Colossians 3:16-17, this ministry’s sole purpose is to glorify God and give you an overwhelming desire to passionately meditate on Him, His character, and His Word.

1 Thes 5:14
“14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, [3] encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”

Col 3:16-17
“16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Because we have been raised with Christ and are, in a sense with Him there, we have the ability by the power of the Spirit to turn to the Father at every hour and at every turn. Make your paths straight in obedience and mortify sin by abiding in Him as He guides you into lush, green pastures through unexpected means. Vivify your affections for things above (Colossians 3).

This is merely one man’s travels down the path of santification.  It is my passion to share the path the Lord leads me down through song.  His ways are not our ways and He will take us through deserts, seas, and mountains, yet He will remain abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

We are to glorify Him in all that we do. Song is merely an avenue through which the human mind, will, and emotions (our heart) may convene in one accord.

Looking forward to what He will do in and through us as we press into Him in praise and worship through song.

May His Grace and Peace Rest Upon You,
Tom Murphy

Posted in Biblical Counseling Philosophy, Musical Philosophy | Tagged | Leave a comment