Category Archives: Music

Tommy Walker: Pursuing the Way of Peace

When you’re in L.A., there are many outstanding churches you might want to visit on a Sunday morning, but when we were there last week with our oldest son’s family, Alan’s first choice was to visit Christian Assembly, where Tommy Walker is the worship leader. Over the course of his career, Tommy has composed 85+ songs, recorded 25 albums, and has 247 recordings listed on Song Select. His works include many songs that our family band played over the years, such as He Knows My Name, That’s Why We Praise Him, Joy, Joy, Joy, and Sweet, Sweet Presence of Jesus.
Tommy is an outstanding musician and has worked with national leaders like Franklin Graham, Rick Warren, and Promise Keepers, but what Alan loves best is not Tommy’s great giftedness, but his amazing humility. Although he’s been offered deals by recording companies and publishers, he has intentionally pursued a more quiet path with his wife Robin, continuing his ministry as the worship leader at the same church for twenty-eight years, where his four children have grown up. His ambition is to glorify God, not himself, and that won’t catapult you into Hollywood fame and fortune. However, I believe Tommy Walker is spiritually rich, and he’s definitely famous in the eyes of those of us who’ve been blessed by his ministry!
       By the way, the message (by Pastor Tom Hughs) was also excellent. He’s working through a series called Anxious for Nothing http://cachurch.com/sermons/october-20-21-weekend-services/ and last week offered this advice for keeping CALM in the midst of crisis:
C: Celebrate God’s goodness and blessings
A: Ask God for help
L: Leave your concerns with God
M: Meditate on God and his Word
      Are you anxious today? If you’ve got a few minutes, please allow yourself to be calmed by Tommy Walker singing “When I Don’t Know What to Do.”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMXEwwhF6pg

“Lord I surrender all
To Your strong and faithful hand
In everything I will give thanks to You
I’ll just trust Your perfect plan

When I don’t know what to do
I’ll lift my hands
When I don’t know what to say
I’ll speak Your praise
When I don’t know where to go
I’ll run to Your throne
When I don’t know what to think
I’ll stand on Your truth
When I don’t know what to do

Lord I surrender all
Though I’ll never understand
All the mysteries around me
I’ll just trust Your perfect plan

Bridge

As I bow my knee
Send Your perfect peace
Send Your perfect peace Lord
As I lift my hands
Let Your healing come
Let Your healing come to me”

“Strong Christians are not strong people, they just know where to run.” —Tommy Walker

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

P.S.—I didn’t think of this when I first wrote the article, but studying Tommy Walker’s life makes me believe he has had to resist Satan’s temptations to “bow down and worship” him. (See Meditating on the Commands of Christ 2). I’ve never had to give up fame or fortune (because I’ve never had either), but Tommy seems to have avoided a lot of the common traps that ruin the lives of many gifted people!

Have You Heard The Music of Silence?

“In my opinion, the only way forward in this world is with faith, which not only explains the reason for life but also fills it with joy and hope. Faith transforms what would be a tragedy into a marvelous story with a happy ending. If all of this is reflected in my singing, how happy that would make me.” —Andrea Bocelli Do you have a favorite singer? My mother requested that Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman’s rendition of “Time to Say Goodbye” would be played at her funeral, and ever since I’ve thought they have the most hauntingly beautiful voices in the world. So, I was delighted to discover that a movie has been made about this amazing Italian singer’s life. It’s an extremely emotional but inspirational story.  I always wondered how Andrea Bocelli happened to have a voice so full of passion and warmth but for some reason had never realized that he was blind…or that his faith in God had helped him overcome his blindness. His parents were advised to abort Bocelli before he was even born, warning that he was likely to have multiple birth defects. However, his parents disregarded the surgeon’s advice. He was born with congenital glaucoma and became blind at twelve, yet today he’s one of the world’s greatest opera singers and has sold over 80 million records!  The Music of Silence tells the story of his birth to his incredible rise to fame by 2000 (although he’s still actively singing in the present). It’s a beautiful story of faith and love. I was a little sorry I did research, because his life from 2000 to the present is not as lovely, but I suspect he feels the same way, because the movie ends very happily around the turn of the century.  As the mother of a musician, I was especially intrigued by the title, The Music of Silence, and what that meant. Bocelli’s maestro explained how music can be found in silence this way:  “You [speaking to his blind protégé, Bocelli] have a great advantage, you’re already familiar with sounds. They guide your steps through life. But the music of silence will be your guide through the interior of yourself. And that, which you discover, you will express through the beautiful perfection of song.”  And that he does! I smiled when Celine Dion was quoted as saying, “If God would have a singing voice, he must sound a lot like Andrea Bocelli.” I have definitely thought that if the Lord would give me any voice when I get to heaven, I would like to sound like Andrea Bocelli! (Or, maybe Sarah Brightman if I’m supposed to sound like a woman. 🙂  ) Even if you’re not a big fan of opera, I’ll bet you find yourself inspired and encouraged by watching The Music of Silence, the story of how one young man overcame one of the world’s most difficult challenges and became one of the world’s greatest singers!  These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5). If you want to hear Andrea Bocelli singing “Time to Say Goodbye with Sarah Brightman,” it can be found here:  https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-pty-pty_maps&hsimp=yhs-pty_maps&hspart=pty&p=sarah+brightman+singing#id=1&vid=68f961961443db9fb4c62c25d24f8778&action=click

Joy to the World…or is that even Possible?

poinsettias-and-orchids-at-meijer-garden-12-16Yesterday I shared about how I’m feeling this Christmas, but how are you feeling this Christmas? Are you happy and full of good cheer, or are you finding it hard to sing “Joy to the World”? I thought you might be encouraged to know that even the author of “Joy to the World,” Isaac Watts, had a very difficult life! He grew up England during the 1600’s, and his father was twice incarcerated for holding non-conformist (Huguenot) religious views. As a small child Watts had to be lifted up outside the prison by his mother so his father could see him through the barred windows. As a young man, Watts was denied entry to Oxford or Cambridge because he was not Anglican. isaac_watts_from_npg-london-public-domainThroughout life, Isaac Watts was small and weakly. Although he was a great preacher and considered the Father of Hymnody (composing some 750 hymns), the only woman he ever wanted to marry declined his proposal with the cutting remark that while she loved the “jewel” of his mind, she couldn’t admire “the casket that contained it.” Talk about pain and sorrow. Still, Watts discovered inner joy despite the rejections and difficulties in his life.  He learned that true joy doesn’t come from an easy life or pleasant surroundings but rather from embracing the wonder of our Lord coming to earth to save us! When we allow Christ to reign in our hearts, He overcomes the sin and sorrow that would otherwise consume us, filling our hearts instead with joy and hope!poinsettias-and-orchids-at-meijer-garden-mi

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

“Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

“No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

“He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.”
(—Lyrics by Isaac Watts, 1719; Music by George Frideric Handel)

But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee” (Psalm 5:11).

Are You Backlit?

shineshine-and-autumn-leavesDo you ever have revelations during the night? Since ArtPrize started, I’ve been sleeping so hard I don’t even wake once up during the night, but I still have semi-conscious moments of thought. I woke up this morning thinking, “I know what’s going on!” Okay, so maybe I don’t really, but no fewer than twenty people, while viewing my mural, have asked me, “Are you using back lighting on your photos?”

“No,” I respond a bit sheepishly, “but I wish I could figure out how to do that!”

“Well, they look like they’re backlit!”

I’ve puzzled over that response, because one of my frustrations has been lighting. I installed LED bulbs with more lumens in the Holiday Inn’s ceiling fixtures above the mural, and the curator graciously allowed me to put footlights on the first half, “January to June,” which is in the alcove of the front lobby. However, fire codes and respect for traffic flow made it impossible to install footlights for the “June through December of Life” half of the mural, which is in the only softly lighted south entrance hallway. I’ve been worried that the colors don’t pop the way they need to, so it’s always a surprise when people ask if the mural is somehow backlit.

Here’s my thought: Maybe they’re seeing the radiance of God emanating from the photos. Could that even be possible? Are they picking up on something spiritual? Now I wish I could go back and ask each of them where they’re at on their spiritual journey. Because, in fact, the mural is named “From the Rising of the Sun” and is all about the beauty of God’s creation and his love for us, as demonstrated by this glorious planet that He’s given us. Backlit? No. Radiant? Well…maybe! Wouldn’t that be wonderful?!

Similarly, we’re just “jars of clay,” and I find myself frustrated that I’m not more luminescent. Perhaps, despite our own frustrations, others can see the radiance of God shining out through us, even in the shadowy hallways where we live. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?!

“Shine on Us” (—Phillips, Craig, and Dean)

“Lord, let Your light
Light of Your face
Shine on us

“That we may be saved
That we may have life
To find our way
In the darkest night
Let your light shine on us.

The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).

Outcry: Unusual Places and Unusual People

Hillsong Outcry Praising God!Hillsong’s “Outcry” woke up Grand Rapids last night!
Hillsong Outcry Taya SmithHockey games are fun, but nothing to compare to the energy
glowing through the veins Capacity Crowd at Van Andel for Hillsong Outcryof   the 12,000 of us who flooded the Van Andel Arena and pretty much stood on our feet for five hours singing, lifting up the name of Jesus, and celebrating the love of God through Christ.Hillsong Outcry. Van Andel ArenaDo you know Hillsong?Brian Houston preaching at Outcry in GRThirty-two years ago it was a little church planted by a couple, Brian and Bobbie (who’s a lady) Houston, way down under in Sydney, Australia. Hillsong Outcry God's Perfect LoveAfter a month, their congregation had dwindled from about 75 to 45, and Brian figured at that rate, the church would have disintegrated in another month. Hillsong Outcry We lift you higherHowever, the Lord had other plans, and now this church produces music
that is loved and sung around the world.Hillsong Outcry at Van Andel ArenaAlan and I visited Hillsong in Australia 12 years ago,
but it wasn’t until last night that we actually got to hear Brian Houston preach.Hillsong Outcry God never fails It reminded me just a little bit (minus the glitz) of thirty years ago when Alan and I sat transfixed at Pontiac’s Silverdome, listening to a simple gospel message by Billy Graham that resulted in hundreds of people coming to faith in Christ. Hillsong Outcry SingingLast night, Brian Houston used the example of Hillsong to encourage us to let the Lord make something unusual out of us. As Dwight Moody used to preach: “The world has yet to see what God will do with a man fully consecrated to him.”  Are you ready? I am!!  Hillsong Outcry Lifting Hands to God“Consecrate yourselves today to the Lord, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother; that he [God] may bestow upon you a blessing this day” (Exodus 32:29).  Hillsong Outcry Shining Lights“Then Hezekiah answered and said, Now ye have consecrated yourselves unto the Lord, come near and bring sacrifices and thank offerings into the house of the Lord (2 Chronicles 29:31).

Experiencing the Spirit of Christmas with Michael W. Smith and the GR Symphony

Michael W. Smith The Spirit of Christmas 6                                      Have you heard of Michael W. Smith? Michael_W._Smith_in_June_2014 To me, he is to contemporary Christian music what Louis Armstrong was to jazz or DJ Kool Herc is to rap. In 2014, the ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) honored Michael W. Smith as “the cornerstone of Christian music.” His accomplishments are legion: 3 Grammy Awards, 45 Dove Awards, 31 #1 hits, 13 books, 3 movies, and on and on! Michael_W._Smith Although his music is distinctly Christian, he’s also been recognized by American culture at large, including being named as one of People magazine’s “Most Beautiful People” in 1992. His worship songs have been sung in churches everywhere for the past 25+ years, and I love both the lyrics and ethereal orchestrations he composes.debbiemichael One of the things I most admire about Michael W. Smith is that he’s remained married to his one and only wife, Debbie, and he lets everybody know that being with his wife and kids is what makes for his happiest Christmas memories. He’ll be home for Christmas. Michael W. Smith The Spirit of Christmas 4However, last night Alan and I had the opportunity to see him in person…a first for us! In concert with our own beloved Grand Rapids Symphony and Resurrection Life’s glorious choir, Michael W. Smith led a congregation of some 4,000 worshipers in experiencing The Spirit of Christmas.Michael W. Smith The Spirit of Christmas 1 As we were leaving, Alan said he couldn’t remember ever being more moved by musical program…and that’s saying a lot, considering we’ve enjoyed venues like the Sydney Opera House, London, Boston, Hillsong in both the U.S. and Australia, etc. Michael W. Smith The Spirit of Christmas 2I was bubbling over about our experience while talking with my “Little Sister” Lizzie this morning, and she said she and her husband have tickets to see Michael W. Smith with Amy Grant on December 20 in Washington D.C. I see he’s got about 9 more stops on his tour scheduled between now and then, and I have no clue if you live anywhere near one of the cities, or if the tickets are already sold out, but if you’re looking for a memorable Christmas program, The Spirit of Christmas definitely warmed the cockles of our hearts.Michael W. Smith The Spirit of Christmas 3 On the other hand, my son Joel and a bunch of his friends went to hear the Boston Symphony’s “Holiday Pops” last night, and they had a great time together too. Michael W. Smith The Spirit of Christmas 5Maybe what I’m really trying to say is this: I hope you get out and have a magical, musical experience sometime this Christmas…whether it’s hearing someone famous in person for the first time or gathering with a group of friends to go caroling door to door. The spirit of Christmas is really the Spirit of Christ, who is Love, Light, and Life, so you know it will be awesome no matter how you celebrate! Joy to the world, the Lord has come!Michael W. Smith The Spirit of Christmas 7

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16).

(Pictures of Michael W. Smith from Wikipedia
Picture of Michael with his wife from Christianity Malaysia, http://christianitymalaysia.com/wp/michael-w-smith-songwriter-singer-times/
I took the pictures of Michael W. Smith at The Spirit of Christmas, Resurrection Life Church, 12.08.15)

The Piano Tuner

Playing MusicWhen my mother was a little girl (nearly 100 years ago now), she was so moved by her father playing his violin after dinner that sometimes she’d run outside lest anyone notice her crying. I believe music speaks the language of the soul: It can muster men to war or persuade them to peace. It can arouse love or lust, inspire courage or fear, and splash long shadows of light or dark across the canvas of our hearts. Like my mother, I find music’s energy and passion so evocative that I have  to be disciplined about what kind of music I hear, knowing its powerful influence can be used in both positive and negative ways. For instance, soothing music can lull me even when I’m wakeful, but epic themes arouse me even when I’m sleepy. Do you love music? How do you respond to it? Baby at Piano The musical centerpiece in our home is a piano that Alan bought me when he started his residency. It has weathered 35+ years of use and abuse as all 7 of our children learned to love, read, sing, and play music. During our “Second Sunday” years of having the youth group over, we had to move it to the basement, where there was more room for a band and 25 singing kids. 354 A Stephen Playing Piano (1) Our sixth-born, Stephen, fell in love with piano and practiced by the hour and year until he left this fall to work on his PhD at Eastman School of Music. Playing and Singing And so, 20 years later, we’ve moved our beloved piano back upstairs, where it can again be a part of our sunlit living room. Steve Jewell. Piano tuner However, after the piano tuner finished tuning it a few weeks ago, he mentioned that the action wasn’t right and the keys weren’t perfectly level. So, he came back again to repair that problem. However, just before he left, we noticed that the right pedal squeaks. Piano tuner tools He took some time trying to fix it by improvising with a piece of leather but was candid enough to explain that the piano might not be worth what it would cost to have it repaired properly, since part of it is broken and would require factory parts…which probably aren’t made anymore. Sigh. Piano keyboardWell, we still love our piano, but it is getting old. In our youth, we couldn’t afford the type of instrument that would have lasted for generations. Now Alan and I are trying to decide if it would make sense to try to have it replaced. Meanwhile, the thought came to me that even though our piano is getting old, when Stephen plays it, it sounds awesome! I feel like I’m living in a music hall when he’s home!Piano lessons? There will come a day when my aging body will no longer be worth repairing (not meaning to be macabre, and I hope not for another 25 years or so), but in the meantime, I’m thankful that under “the touch of the Master’s hand,” my life still has the potential to produce sweet music. Piano. Action repair“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)

(P.S.—If you’re looking for a good piano tuner in the GR area, let me know. I can definitely recommend this man, who learned the business from his grandfather and has been tuning pianos for 50 years now!)