Guest Worship Artist Matthew Smith and Indelible Grace

On September 13 and 14 Matthew Smith and Indelible Grace will be at Covenant Life Church leading us in worship.

Matthew Smith

Matthew Smith

Here is his bio from his website:

Matthew Smith is a Nashville-based singer-songwriter who writes brand new music to centuries-old hymn texts.  He is a founding member of the Indelible Grace community, whose work has drawn acclaim across denominational lines and is used in churches around the world.  Born out of a college ministry, the reimagined hymns have found wide acceptance both among college students and the church at large, joining people who desire to honor tradition with those who want a modern musical approach.  His latest album is Hiding Place.

On Saturday, September 13 Matthew will lead a free, one-hour worship seminar from 5-6 pm, and then Indelible Grace will join Matthew for a Night of Reimagined hymns from 7-8:30 pm.  A love offering will be taken during the concert, but admission is free.  Sunday, September 14, Matthew Smith and Indelible Grace will participate in the Worship services at 9 and 11:15.

His music has a bluesy, earthy feel, matching his rich baritone voice well.  I particularly enjoy the Hammond B-3 strains and tube-y hollow-body guitar on his Communion Hymn: Lord Jesus, Comfort Me.

At the seminar Matthew will share his vision for re-imagining old hymn texts.  Worship leaders, songwriters, and musicians are welcome to attend, as well as any who want to learn more about what Matthew is doing.

For more information, go to the event Facebook page.  For more information on Indelible Grace, visit their website igracemusic.com.  I hope to see you there!

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How God Partners with the Composer and Songwriter

A year and a half ago a friend of mine asked me this question and I have been thinking about it ever since.  How does God partner with the composer and songwriter?

Electric Guitar Bridge

I’ve been writing music since I was a kid.  In high school I had lots of black and white composition books chock full of lyrics.  I was into heavy metal and I had rock-n-roll lyrics for everything.  My writing had all the fine literary style of a high school student high on emotion and experiencing the world for the first time.

I don’t know what happened to those books.  I think I may have thrown them away.

When I got to college I studied music composition as well as poetry composition, and in the 12 plus years I have worked in churches I have done quite a bit of arranging for everything from choir to rock band to orchestra.  In the past five years I have once again started writing pop and rock worship songs in addition to writing classical music and poetry.

I have a real passion for setting the written word to music.

So how does God enter into the songwriting and composition process?

Idea 1: God enters into the songwriting process through his creative image in you and me.

God is creative; he created everything.  He is the ultimate creative power.  Part of the evidence that we are created in the likeness of God is the fact that we can create new things.

For the longest time I thought as Solomon did, that “there is nothing new under the sun.”  This idea led me to a very defeatist line of thinking:  “What’s the point?  I’m replicating things that have already been.”

Solomon was wrong.  He was depressed.  If I met someone in that state of mind I would send him to a psychiatrist.

There are new things under the sun every day.

Not long ago I heard Erwin McManus of Mosaic say in relation to this passage of Scripture, “I am quite certain that the wheel was brand new at some point in time.  In fact, I think Jesus walking on water and rising from the dead were pretty new.”

When we create something new we are demonstrating the image of our Creator God.  Even someone who does not know Christ can be extremely creative and, without knowing it, express the image of God through what he or she creates.

God enters into the songwriting process by the fact that we are made like him: to create.

Idea 2: God enters the songwriting process through our minds and preferences.

When we begin to create something new there is always a nucleus of a thought, an idea that takes hold in your mind.  When that idea takes hold in your mind and catches your attention like never before, you have just experienced a taste of God working through you.

God makes new things out of nothing.  He spoke the world into existence out of a void.  He spoke the sun, moon, stars, and all things into existence out of nothing.  God breathed life into man; without God we could not draw a breath.

In the same way I believe that without God we could not think a single original thought.  When we express a new idea or thought God is revealing himself through us as Creator God.  He is using our preferences and abilities to give fresh expression to himself.

Partnering with God

We have been talking specifically about composing and songwriting, but, in reality, God partners with human beings in every single creative activity in exactly the same way.  Sometimes we twist the pure ideas he places in our hearts, and other times we hear clearly and express his ideas well.

Before you begin the day, thank God for what he has done and ask him to guide your thoughts and ideas, actions and motives.  During the day, when you begin a new project or a meeting, ask God to partner with you.  Ask him to create something out of nothing through you.

How have you seen God partner with you creatively?

How to Make Your Quiet Time Creative

I love quiet time with God, but often I find it helpful to do something creative with my time.  I am a creative person, after all, so why shouldn’t I?

Innovation

The basics of time with God:

  1. Scheduled – If it’s not on the calendar it won’t happen.
  2. Time – It has to be more than a passing prayer or thought.
  3. Alone – Remove distractions.
  4. Bible – God speaks most often through his Word.
  5. Prayer – Speaking with and listening for God.
  6. Journal – Often it helps to write down your thoughts.

In reality I could simply read the Bible, speak to and listen for God, and journal every day and probably have a good relationship with God.  Ultimately exclusive time with him and a heart inclined to him are all that are needed.

But if I am honest I sometimes can slip into routine and take God for granted.

Here is where creativity comes in.

Creativity can:

  1. Refresh your interest by breaking routine.
  2. Reframe old truths in new light.
  3. Reveal new truths because your mind is working differently.

Recently I decided I wanted to do something different, something creative.  The verse of the day on my YouVersion app was 1 John 4:18-19 (CEV):

A real love for others will chase those worries away.  The thought of being punished is what makes us afraid.  It shows that we have not really learned to love.  We love because God loved us first.

This verse really struck a chord with me, so I decided to dive into it a bit more.  Here is what I did:

  1. I read the verses in several translations to get a full picture of the verse’s meaning.  I usually read the Amplified Version (AMP), the New International Version (NIV), the Contemporary English Version (CEV, and the English Standard Version (ESV).  Sometimes I also read The Message (MSG) translation.
  2. I wrote out how the verses impacted me in light of what I was experiencing in my life.
  3. I wrote out my conversation, or prayer, with God.  I have found that writing out my prayers can be very illuminating.
  4. I wrote a song based on those verses.  So far I have only two verses and a chorus (it needs a Bridge), but I felt like I was able to put into song form the encouragement I needed that day.

Here are the lyrics:

When I am afraid
I will trust in You
When life is hard
I will trust in You
When feelings fade
I will trust in You
When friends betray
I will trust in You

Your love is deeper
Your love is fuller
Your love has overcome my every fear
All of my worries
All of my trouble
Your love has overcome my every fear

When I am alone
I will trust in You
When I am wrong
I will trust in You
When my words fail
I will trust in You
When hope is gone
I will trust in You 

Your love is deeper
Your love is fuller
Your love has overcome my every fear
All of my worries
All of my trouble
Your love has overcome my every fear

What creative things have you done during your quiet time?

The Best Way to Kill a Creative Genius

Tell him there is “nothing new under the sun,” as Solomon says.

If you grew up in church you may have heard this phrase quoted many times like it is the words of Christ. It’s not.

In fact, Solomon was quite possibly depressed when he wrote it. When was the last time you allowed a depressed person guide your life?

This quote got to me throughout my life until recently. I grew up in church and I believe the Bible to be God’s Word, so everything in it must be something to live by, right?

Wrong. Some things are simply true accounts of what happened for us to learn from. This quote from Solomon is a case in point.

The quote comes from Ecclesiastes, where Solomon struggles to find the meaning of life. He finds it 12 chapters after this quote.

Last fall, at Willow Creek’s Global Leadership Summit, one of the speakers spoke at length about all of the things since Solomon that HAVE been new.

Like the resurrection.
Like Jesus walking on water.
Like computers.
Like the fact that I am writing this post on an iPhone.

After a bit it begins to sound ridiculous that I ever took this quote to heart as anything more than a true description of a soul struggling through dark days.

I’ve been there, and it sure feels like nothing special is going on when I’m there.

But there are special things going on.

Like the book you are writing.
Like the new song you are writing for your church.
Like the new backgrounds you are creating for the new series at your church.

Like your life. It’s never been lived before, and you get to bring it to life.

There is something new under the sun, so don’t let the depressed and negative people in your life distract you. In fact, don’t let them in your life at all. They’re not worth it.

Go do something new just to spite them.

Stuff that in your pipe and smoke it, Solomon.

What new thing are you going to do today?