Behind the Hymn

Behind The Hymn: "Whatever Befalls" featuring Eric Bowman and Brea Hughes

[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/119894661" params="color=ff6600&auto_play=false&show_artwork=true" width="100%" height="166" iframe="true" /] The hymns that we choose for this album have all had a profound impact on me. None more so than BE THOU MY VISION. The original version of this hymn is still in my ‘top five’ hymns of all time. The lyrics of this hymn are worth the time to memorize. It really is a prayer that is worth talking to the Lord about.

There are many very good versions of this hymn already (our favorite being our old church, The Village Church in Texas), so I wanted to venture out of the box a little. We arranged the song so the bridge is the culmination to really emphasis these lyrics,

“Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise, Thou my inheritance, now and always. Thou and thou only, first in my heart, High King of heaven my treasure thou art.”

Every time I get to that part of this hymn I feel like I’m praying that out loud to the Lord,

“Lord, don’t let me love money and possessions and chase after those things. And don’t let me be so consumed with other people’s opinions of me. Please don’t let me desire man’s praise above yours. You are my treasure. I will sell everything to buy the field.”

Those kinds of thoughts explode from my heart and mind as I proclaim this part of the hymn.

This adoption process, for us as a family, has been a journey. We met Selena, and followed God’s call to pursue her, and here we are five years later, still waiting and praying. We’ve experienced a lot over these five years. We’ve laughed incredibly hard. We’ve sat outside and cried our eyes out with friends. We’ve been so anxious at times over Selena’s health. We’ve rented a Kia Picanto (that’s a car) and traveled by ourselves through the mountains of Guatemala to spend just a weekend with Selena. The list could go on and on, but the main idea of it all is,

“Heart of my own heart, whatever befall, Still be my vision o’ ruler of all.”

The truth is that we really do not know how our story ends. Will Guatemala open up and will families from America be able to adopt Guatemalan children? Will we ever experience the joy of taking Selena into our own home? We don’t know. The truth is that we were not promised that. We can’t read in the Scriptures and conclude that we will one day be able to bring Selena home. That’s God’s secret will, not his revealed will. So there has to be more to stand on in our obedience to the Lord. That’s what this hymn is communicating when it says, “whatever befall.” That means whatever happens. However God decides to direct my life, I must see things how he sees them. I must submit myself to the truth of the gospel, in the scriptures, and believe what he has told me. Those promises, like Romans 8 or Psalm 84:11 are foundational to our obedience. So every day I want to wake up and say,

“God, I don’t presume upon what will happen today, but you are with me and you guide me and you have proved your love for me, Jesus, on the cross. I don’t need anything else. That is sufficient to trust you for today’s circumstances. You can be trusted.”

EricBowmanPicEric Bowman and Brea Hughes are the featured artist on this hymn. They are both incredible singers and really made the truth of this hymn come to life. Eric has this very unique color and characteristic to his voice and Brea did an incredible job backing Eric up and I love the dynamic between the two. We love it, and I think it’s the perfect way to end the album. (Eric is a very talented graphic designer, at VelcroKid.com and he designed the artwork for Hymns For Selena too!)

As we rap up this Behind the Hymn Blog Series I will end with this short story.

Early on, after we were back in the states (after meeting Selena) we were at dinner with our best friends (Eric and his wife Andrea being 2 of them). We received a phone call from Kailah (our missionary friend who had watched Selena and taken care of her) saying that Selena was in the ICU at a local Huehue hospital. She was very sick and the doctors told Kailah that she probably would not make it through the night. It’s moments like these that really press your soul. I remember sitting outside the restaurant with my wife, sitting on the concrete floor crying. Our friends were just praying for us and trying their best to comfort us. We were so far away and felt so powerless to help. But we decided we could do something. We called and emailed everyone we knew and asked them to pray and fast. We waited for news and over the next week Selena slowly started to get better. We were so thankful to the Lord that he had protected and sustained her. Situations like this cause Hymns like Be Thou My Vision to resonate with my soul.

 “Heart of my own heart, whatever befall, still be my vision O ruler of all.”

Whatever happens, our lives are God’s. We continue to pray for adoption, and ask that you would also, but whatever befalls us we trust God’s sovereign will and good nature.

So our journey continues on. Thank you for joining us and we pray you stick with us. Please pray for us in our waiting. Please pray for Selena and the Echeverria family.

Thank you. Grace and Peace.

Behind The Hymn: In The Garden feat. Michelle Garner

[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/119894588" params="color=ff6600&auto_play=false&show_artwork=true" width="100%" height="166" iframe="true" /] Imagery in music is a beautiful thing. It’s one of the reasons IN THE GARDEN stood out to me during the writing process of this album. I love the imagery of getting alone with the Lord ‘in the garden’ and spending time with him in the mornings, ‘while the dew is still on the roses.’ I also am very familiar with this hymn because it was my wife’s grandmother’s favorite hymn, and she tells me stories of the two of them singing it together when she was a child. She was an amazing woman of God who understood and daily experienced the message of this song (we even named our daughter after her!).

I started working through this hymn and felt like I wanted to add an additional chorus. The verse that came immediately to mind was Psalm 16:11,

“In your presences there is fullness of joy. And at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

What a perfect way to sum up the message of this hymn. So I added that to the chorus and it really felt like a good fit.

I grew up in a Christian home and we went to church a ton. Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday night, and really, any other night could’ve been a possibility too! I don’t mention this as a bad thing, I think it shaped a lot of who I am, but only probably within the last several years have I really begun to understand what it means to enjoy God’s presence. I guess that’s with any relationship, but it really has changed the dynamic of my Christian life. A lot of this shift for me happened reading through John Piper’s book, Desiring God: A guide to Christian Hedonism. Usually Hedonism is not used in this Christian context (and Piper doesn’t care about the label as much as the principle), but it fits because our ultimate joy is joy in God. And when we are enjoying God, and are satisfied in Christ, then we glorify God in its highest form. This doesn’t mean that every day we are skipping around, with plastic smiles on our faces, holding Jesus’ hand. But at the root, or core of our being, we are satisfied in who God is for us in Jesus. This kind of joy and satisfaction will supersede the circumstances. That means that even in difficulty and pain, our joy is rock solid. That’s different than happiness for sure! I want to continue to grow more in this area. And I believe that one day we will experience the fullness of what Psalm 16:11. When we are literally in heaven, by God’s side, there will be fullness of joy, never decreasing, never anything else more satisfying…that is amazing.

MIchelleMichelle Garner is featured on this hymn. She is a dear friend of ours and has a beautiful voice. Her and her husband Jeff, live near San Antonio and Michelle helps lead worship at her church Nineteen:Ten Church. I met Michelle a long time ago when I played bass for a band called ENVOY. It was a good time and I really enjoyed the relationships that were developed. I remember this because it was when I was still in college. I would travel with the band during the summers and play bass and I remember particularly coming to Michelle, even then, and asking her if she wanted to ever work on writing songs together. I love music but God didn’t given me a beautiful voice, so my M.O. is to ask other talented people to do that, and I’ll stick to the writing. So we did that and had some great tunes, well probably not great now thinking about it, but it was fun. Michelle and Jeff have always welcomed Angela and me into their lives, and I loved reconnecting with Michelle for this record. She even flew to Dallas, on her own tab, to make the recording date. The hymn turned out amazing and I love the Ukulele vibe with her voice (Thank you, to my cousin Lindsey for letting Aaron and me borrow your Ukulele). So here’s to spending time with God and enjoying his presence. Let’s be the most satisfied people in all of life. The best kind of hedonist.

If you have not downloaded the HYMNS FOR SELENA record for free on NOISETRADE, do that here. 100% of the proceeds go straight to supporting Selena’s needs. Thank you.

Behind the Hymn: God Moves In A Mysterious Way feat. Micah Blalock

[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/119894512" params="color=ff6600&auto_play=false&show_artwork=true" width="100%" height="166" iframe="true" /] God Moves in a Mysterious Way was written by William Cowper in 1774. The story behind the song is that William was struggling with depression and one night had decided to go out to the river to kill himself. He called a cab, but on the way to the river there was a crazy amount of fog. So the cab driver couldn't find his way to the river. Frustrated, William told the man to pull over, and when he got out he was surprisingly at the front of his own house. He later pinned these words talking about God's sovereignty,

 "His purposes will ripen fast, unfolding every hour, The bud may have a bitter taste but sweet will be the flower,"

I was introduced to this hymn when John Piper referenced it in a sermon I was listening to. It intrigued me so I searched it out. Writing this arrangement was very smooth and came together quite nicely. I love songs like that, but it felt like it was missing something. So I thought for a long time about what the true message of the hymn was. If I could boil it down into one idea, what would that be? That's when Romans eight started to turn in my mind and heart. In my opinion, I thought this hymn was teaching us that God's ways are not ours. And he does things that we don't understand, and we don't have the ability to comprehend. Sometimes we don't even get the blessing of looking back and realizing why he did what he did. But we know that, despite that, God is always for us and never against us. Going through difficult seasons of life can make it feel like God is against you. It's really tough when it feels like your prayers don't go past the ceiling. So how do we know that God is for us? We know that because of the cross. We can forever look to God, in child-like trust and faith, because we know that if he sent his son, Jesus, to die on the cross in our place, he is always and forever for us. If he has accomplished the more difficult thing (dying on the cross) then he will most assuredly be able to all other things. As Roman's eight would say, "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." This doesn't mean that bad things, sometimes really bad things, do not happen to us. Just keep reading in Romans eight. Believers are getting killed by the sword! But we know

"..if God is for us (which is proven for us on the cross) who can be against us?"

MicahMicah Blaylock is the contemporary worship pastor at White's Chapel Methodist Church in Southlake, Texas. Our friendship goes all the way back to our days at Dallas Baptist University. I've played bass with him for years and he even helped me out last year with a music project I created for my school district. He has, maybe only second to David and Jillian, asked more about and prayed for Selena, than anyone I know. He just cares. It has meant so much to me over these years, to tell him stories of our Guatemala adventures and our struggles too. He has always been quick to listen and pray for me and Selena. When I called him about this project he said I didn't even need to explain; he was in.

I hope this song encourages us. The first time I heard a solid mix of the ending I was on my daily bus commute back to Spring from Houston, and I wanted to stand up on the bus and yell, "YES!" That would have been super awkward but that's what was rising up in me. I hope that anyone who has lived life a little, and knows that it's not easy, and we go through very difficult things, feels that same thing rising up in them on the outtro of this song. To that end, God Moves in a Mysterious Way.

Behind The Hymn: Stricken, Smitten and Afflicted feat. Holly McWilliams

[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/119894455" width="100%" height="166" iframe="true" /] My family and I have been following, for a few years now, pastor and theologian Voddie Baucham. His teachings on family and marriage have really shaped much of my thinking on those two areas particularly. It was very interesting that when we moved from Dallas we landed in Spring, because that is where Voddie's church is, Grace Family Baptist. We decided to visit a few times while looking for a solid church. His teaching was great and we loved the emphasis on the family but in the end it was a little drive, even being in Spring, and we felt like Woodlands Point was a better fit for our family. If you have visited Grace Family you know that they love them some hymns. And not as in let’s sing three stanzas, but as in let’s sing all six stanzas of every hymn. To be honest the very first time I experienced these hymns at their church I was frustrated, because I did not know 85% of what I was singing. Hymns are so poetic and the language can be older so it takes a while to get used to it. What it does though, is force you to think hard about what you are singing and to actually know the songs. But my initial reaction was 'this is frustrating.' Wouldn't it be easier to play four chords and repeat a catchy melody eighteen times?

It's funny to me, because now I see how a year ago, I was so prideful and arrogant, in this area of my life. God tends to move me through seasons like this. So when I started to make the turn into really loving hymns, I went to Grace Family Baptist website, and they have a whole section devoted to the songs they sing at their church. Voddie wrote a paragraph there, where he talks about the rich history of hymns, and he mentioned that one of the hymns he loved the most was Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted. Smitten? What does that even mean, right? I was interested. So I looked it up and the words were so rich. It was written in 1804 by Thomas Kelly and it’s was all about Jesus and his death on the cross. I was floored. I sat down and started working through making those stanzas into verses. As I was thinking through the flow of what I was arranging it seemed clear there was no climax. My arrangement needed a place for my heart to explode in praise. The language of the title of this hymn comes from Isaiah 53 and its prophesies about Jesus on the cross. So I wanted to pull other language from that chapter into a new chorus. That's how the chorus developed.

"Hallelujah, by his stripes we are healed, Hallelujah, God's righteousness revealed, Hallelujah, He was crushed to bring us peace, Hallelujah, sin's final offering,"

Holly McWilliamsI decided to ask our friend from the Village Church, Holly McWilliams, to be featured on this hymn and I think she has done a great job! She even collaborated on the melody of the chorus and we love it. Holly has been a faithful member of the Village Church and sang on their most recent live album, Look and See, as well as just releasing her first single, Joy Will Come, on iTunes. Go and check it out. She is very talented.

Our hope is that this hymn brings the meaning of the cross to light, and when I get sorrowful about waiting on Guatemala to change its adoption laws, it is encouraging for me to go back to the cross. Because of the cross we know that God is for us. We know that if he did that, then…

'how will he not graciously give us all things?'

like Romans 8 says. Let us savor and soak up the message of this hymn. It is the heart of the gospel itself.

Behind The Hymn: There Is A Fountain feat. David Gentiles

[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/119894368" width="100%" height="166" iframe="true" /] There Is A Fountain Filled With Blood is a hymn that I first encountered when my family and I moved from the Village church in Flower Mound, Texas to Woodlands Point Community Church in The Woodlands, Texas. We were making the move to be closer to family, and finding a new church can be tough. But, we found Woodlands Point Community Church because its pastor, Jason Johnson, was an ACTS29 pastor. So we knew that we would align theologically in a lot of ways, and it really was a good fit for our family. It turns out, as it were, that the worship leader at Woodlands Point was David Gentiles.

david-gentilesI'm convinced that everyone knows who David Gentiles is. At least it seems that way. He is a very talented and gifted worship leader, and he loves the Lord and loves leading God's people in worship through song each week. David and I spent some time at DBU together but we only knew each other from a far then. So David's presence at that church made us feel even more comfortable with the transition.

This hymn, There Is A Fountain Filled With Blood, is the only hymn on the record that was donated to the project. All the other hymns we crafted ourselves, but this one was donated by David G. I started playing bass with David periodically at the church, and when I told him about this idea of creating a free project that would connect people to Selena's story, he loved it. He said he'd love to be a part. We started talking songs and I told him I really loved his version of THERE IS A FOUNTAIN FILLED WITH BLOOD with the new chorus that he added. He agreed, and it seemed like it was good fit for the record. So we put on the schedule.

William Cowper, a very gifted hymn writer, wrote this hymn in 1772. Many of us know that Cowper struggled deeply with sin, contemplating and attempting suicide multiple times. But his life makes the message of this hymn clear,

"There is a fountain filled with blood, flowing from Emmanuel's veins, And sinners plunged beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stains."

What Cowper is teaching us is that in Christ the sin that we were born in and lived in, the sin that stains so deep you can't clean it off, that sin...is removed. There are no stains that remain that can condemn us as guilty. Romans 8 teaches us that it is Christ who died for us and that there is no one else left to condemn us. That is amazing!

I love hymns that use words that we do not use regularly in our modern language. In the second verse Cowper writes,

"The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day, and there may I, though vile as he, wash all my sins away."

I can't remember the last time I used the word 'vile,' but that is a great word. It reminds me that I'm not just a 'bad' guy or 'not as good as I could be,' but I am VILE! In my sin, I am VILE! But look at the next line, 'wash all my sins away.' In the book of Jeremiah, the prophet is speaking for the Lord towards Israel when he says, "though you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me." Because we are vile, we are stained with a stain that cannot be washed away by our own efforts. And it gets worse. The apostle Paul calls himself the chief of all sinners, or the foremost. The good news that Jesus can take away our stains is only good news because the bad news is really bad. So what Cowper and Paul are both teaching us is that in Christ we are made new. Our sin wrought stains have been cleansed by the blood of the new covenant.

This is a great song to get excited about. That's why the chorus that David Gentiles added fits so well. We all explode in praise with

"Hallelujah, Hallelujah, I am washed in the blood of Christ..."

I hope you all really enjoy this hymn. David Gentiles and his wife have been solid friends to me and my family since we made our move. Please check out his other music on Noisetrade and his website at http://www.davidgentiles.net/

Also, I want to plug Tim Strandquist who I met also at Woodlands Point. He is a very talented violinist and he recorded on this hymn as well. Listen to how he brings in the verse melody back in to the last chorus. Genius! It sounds so good.

David also performed a live version of this hymn that you can listen to here. It was recorded by Spotlight Music with Aaron Walker.

If you have not downloaded the free album, go to www.noisetrade.com/hymnsforselena and consider giving to bless Selena. Any little bit helps with her needs. Also, consider sharing our story and passing the link on. Thank you.

Behind the Hymn: Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus feat. Lauren Chandler and Brandon Williams

[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/119894316" width="100%" height="166" iframe="true" /] Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus is such a beautiful hymn in its original form. The truths of these lyrics are so good! So many times I get focused on my circumstances, i.e. adoption, and my eyes start shifting away from Jesus. It seems like in my life when I focus on Jesus, things start to take their proper perspective. The more focused my screen shot of Jesus is, the more everything else starts to fade and blur out in the periphery. And what I love about this truth is that as I focus on Jesus, he actually gives me the power to, for example, love Selena better or trust him with this whole adoption process or import your own struggle.

This is mine and my wife's favorite hymn on the record. It's probably the oldest for us too. I started reworking this hymn literally over two years ago. What's really interesting is that Lauren Chandler and I worked on this hymn, two years ago, thinking it would be on another project I was working on. But life happened, and it got pushed aside. I never really knew what the purpose of this hymn would be, but now it's good to see why God stirred that up in me. Lauren is a wonderful friend, and very talented singer, song-writer. She released her debut EP last year, called "In The Narrow Place." (It's very good. You should go check it out). When I told Lauren about the vision of this project, she said she didn't even need to pray about it, that she was in. I love that. We brought in Brandon Williams, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite friends and musicians, and had him put some bgv's on the track. It really adds another dynamic or layer to the track that I really like.

The song's message is pretty clear, but I wanted to make explicit, with the new bridge, what happens in conversion for every single believer. If we believe in Jesus, then 2 Corinthians 4:4 has happened. It reads,

"For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."

We were once blind to this glory. I know I was. I once thought Jesus was boring, and he was unrelated to my life. Then over time, God started to pull back the veil that I had, and I began to see this light. And that light was very attractive to me. I saw it in Jesus. I couldn't get over him. I pray I never do.

"Once I was blind, now your glories they shine, Once I was blind, now I see, The glory of God, In the face of Christ, The light of the Gospel is he."

Lauren also performed a live version of this hymn that you can check out here. 

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