January 25, 2011

we all have stories - concert details

On Feb. 11, Grace Pres is sponsoring a concert at The King's Academy Theater in Sunnyvale.  Songwriters Sandra McCracken and Matthew Smith are part of the hymn renewal movement, and will be sharing their songs and the stories behind them.  Purchase tickets and get more info here.

If you aren't familiar with Sandra and Matthew, you can stream and download their music in the players below.

For the last decade, Sandra and Matthew have been part of the hymn renewal movement that started on college campuses through ministries like RUF and has passed along to the greater church.  Musicians take long-lost texts—from familiar writers (Watts, Newton, Wesley) and less-familiar writers (Steele, Medley)—and refresh the music, both through brand new melodies and keeping classic melodies, making them accessible to congregations where hymns have fallen out of practice (or have never been in practice!).

Matthew's version of "Come Ye Sinners" opens the first volume from Indelible Grace, the seminal album in the hymn movement, effectively taking what was going on in 90's RUF campus ministries and bringing it to the ears of congregations nationwide (and subsequently worldwide).  Since then, he has played an integral part in developing the reach of IG's music, not only writing and singing on each of the group's albums, but also taking care of a lot of the day-to-day business of keeping the ministry alive.  Matthew is also the "touring face" of Indelible Grace, regularly taking a band on the road to share the music and vision of IG.  On his own, Matthew has also released many hymn records of his material, most recently "Watch The Rising Day" (streaming below).  At Grace Pres, we have recently been singing his great version of "All Must Be Well" from the fifth Indelible Grace album.

Sandra has also been a part of Indelible Grace music since the start, singing on each album and contributing new material.  Along the way, her version of "Thy Mercy My God" was recorded by Caedmon's Call, introducing retuned hymns to a wider audience.  As a touring singer-songwriter, she has released many critically-acclaimed recordings, working with many of the great names in Americana and Folk music.  She has also released two albums of her hymns.  Her most recent album, "In Feast Or Fallow," is largely composed of fully-original material, filled not just with new music but with new lyrics as well.

The music Sandra and Matthew will be sharing on February 11 is also a large part of my story as a musician for the past decade.  Not long after transferring to a college in Tennessee, I started attending a Sunday school class led by Kevin Twit, RUF pastor at Belmont.  Just as I was being exposed to this new experience of singing hymns with a guitar, Kevin released the first Indelible Grace album.  At the time I couldn't really explain what it was about those songs that moved me so deeply in worship, but it kept me going through those three years of school and played a large role in my development spiritually and as a worship leader.

Toward the end of my time in TN, the second IG album was being recorded, and I got to squeeze my accordion onto a few tracks.  Later that year, IG received a grant to produce the RUF Hymnbook, and I was on the team of music transcriptionists who turned out sheet music for 143 hymns from the RUF movement.  In addition to the printed edition, the grant provided for a website to be produced, giving all of that content away for free.  One of the main hurdles for worship songwriters to gain a hearing in the church is providing printed music, as this is the necessary medium that many church musicians work with on a regular basis.  RUF music was perceived as "college music" to the church at large, and thought impossible to translate to congregations, and the Hymnbook was one step along the way for this music to gain acceptance with music ministries nationwide.  Almost 10 years later, Indelible Grace and other groups (notably Red Mountain Music, Bifrost Arts, and The Welcome Wagon) have made it possible for the profound expressions of worship and praise found in hymns to transcend generational, cultural, and musical barriers.

I hope that you are able to take part in this special evening, to be encouraged in your own story as you see the shared path of all our stories in worshipping Christ, our maker, defender, redeemer, and friend.

January 11, 2011

The Daily Practice of Reading

During community group last night, we all shared the struggle to read the Bible with any amount of regularity. Different reasons cause this lack of consistency, and I was encouraged to know that I'm not alone in this problem. So what can we do to get back on track?

One system that I have been using recently is the daily readings from the Book Of Common Prayer (BCP).  Developed in the sixteenth century, the BCP is still used today as the prayer book for Anglicans and Episcopalians worldwide.  Among other things, BCP includes a set of daily readings that follow a two-year cycle through the entire Bible.

What's great is that you don't have to run out and buy a BCP study plan, or even print off a page of readings to follow! The online ESV offers the BCP as one of its devotionals. Each day, the BCP readings are posted in one long set. Even better, you can listen to the reading!

Where I struggle with many of the Bible reading programs available is that they ask you to read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. This means you'll spend at least a week reading only the Book of Numbers, and even longer in Chronicles! Getting bogged down in the data and style of ancient literature can be taxing and discouraging.

Where a program like the BCP suceeds is that each day offers a variety of readings: Psalms, Old Testament, New Testament epistle, and Gospel. So you'll still get into Numbers and Chronicles, but it'll be given in manageable chunks along with other more familiar texts.

For me, the main difficulty in being consistent is getting Bible reading into my daily habit. With a child, I've learned that no two days–or nights–are ever the same. Even when I get to work, I rarely have the same flow to my day as the day before.

But there has to be something with which we're always consistent!  For me, that moment happens when I open my web browser for the first time each morning. The first thing I do is open a folder of daily bookmarks that contain important things I want to check, including my to do list and what the latest deal is on Woot. Since this is my habit, I added the BCP link to this folder. Now, whenever I open up these pages, my readings for the day are waiting for me.

In the end, we each have to find what works best for our daily habits. Some days are going to be harder than others to find time to read, but the daily practice of reading the Bible is one that will encourage you to continue practicing your faith and grow deeper in your knowledge of the truth.

  • What ways have you found that help you read the Bible daily?