Friday, February 25, 2011

The Bread Has Been Broken – Joe Beck and Wendy Willis

Its theme is about communion. And, it was created in communion, or with what we would more commonly say was collaboration. The song “The Bread Has Been Broken” that Joe Beck and Wendy Willis co-wrote in 2005 is the subject. That Beck and Willis wrote this song is no secret, and its message and its melody are equally as open and engaging for the Christian worshipper. Do you feel like celebrating your adoption into His family? That’s what this Beck-Willis tune makes one sense – a festive dance (see the picture) like that at a wedding between a groom and his bride. Come, join in. Rejoice!
Though Beck and Willis must be well-known in the Nashville, Tennessee area (Beck and his wife and family live in the suburb of Brentwood, while Willis is in Nashville), their precise circumstances when they wrote “The Bread Has Been Broken” are not known. They are accomplished professionals in the Christian music industry there (see the websites below), and perhaps that says enough. Their lives have been turned toward God for some time, and they are endowed with musical gifts that position them to bless others with this song, one that perhaps had been in gestating for some time by 2005. Beck grew up in a missionary family, and has over 2,000 songs to his credit. Willis, beginning in Wisconsin, has likewise written for several years to produce songs, including the well-known “Glorious Impossible” that is sung from the Arctic Circle to South Africa. Knowing these details allows one to feel confident that God indeed has put in place those He can touch with His gift – He is the giver of all things, including great music.
Listen to “The Bread Has Been Broken” for just a few measures, and you might feel like swaying in time with the music. ‘It’s a waltz’, I remember saying to myself the first time I heard it. It’s reminiscent of a familiar tune, written over a century earlier (Fanny Crosby’s and William Doane's “Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross”) that also seems celebratory, but in an unusual setting. My visceral reaction to Jesus’ last meal (communion) and his approaching death (crucifixion) is somber, usually. But, if I believe the Spirit moved Crosby and Doane, and Beck and Willis too, then there’s a part of God who wants me to experience delight, even as I ponder these forbidding episodes in Jesus’ life. He doesn’t want me grim all the time. Jesus endured, because He knew what was ahead, ultimately. And, He forgave even His executioners, so one might imagine He was already seeing the crack of light – even while in death’s grip. If He did that, maybe a little dance is OK, hmmm? Get out there and dance for a change! See the following sites for some biographic information on the composers:

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Love of God – Laurene Highfield

Though her name is known, Laurene Highfield is next to anonymous, at least terrestrially as a songwriter. She must have been among the countless who tried to describe “The Love of God” in song. And, if she was a ‘one-hit wonder’ (she wasn’t), who quit after this one effort, she would not be labeled a failure. To musically communicate such a fundamental part of God - God is LOVE, we’re told – could be a lifelong endeavor. It’s so vast.

Here’s what we know of her: She was a play­wright, who liv­ed in Ada­ms Coun­ty, Il­li­nois, in 1900 and 1910, though we know that she also wrote the lyrics to hymns (at least 15, including “The Love of God”). Some of the scripts attributed to her in­clude The Usurp­er Over­thrown; Im­man­u­el; Hope for the Ag­es; Hail to the Vic­tor; and The Jol­ly Tars. Though even her date of death is not well-known (1927, by at least one source), we know “The Love of God” was a 1916 composition, written when she was 46 years old. We can surmise something of her from these titles and the words in the song, something not hidden. Love from God, though impossible to encapsulate except in Jesus, was enough for us to say Laurene Highfield was deeply affected by it. It was ‘in (her) heart’, a ‘glow(ing) flame’ that she had made ‘(her) own’, her words say. What's more, one song might be said to have been a small effort, but not 15 songs. And her other works, written over a period of several years, indicate her faith was not incidental, but enduring. Perhaps Highfield’s only disadvantage was that she wasn’t as prolific as some of her peers, like her well-known contemporary, Fanny Crosby.

We know not why more titles are not associated with Laurene Highfield, but it matters little. Maybe her life was too complicated, diverting her attention from songwriting compared to others. She used the ‘talent’ she was given to increase His holdings (Matthew 25). She loved Him back, with words I can use to do the same. Are there 15 talents (like Highfield’s songs) that I have to give back to Him? How about even just one? If I understand what Matthew and the others say, even just one is fine with Him. If it’s buried, maybe it’s not too late to unearth it, whaddya think? The servant was condemned because he kept it buried until the master returned, giving it no chance to increase. Go get that shovel !

Some biographic information on the composer is at:

Laurene Highfield died in 1927, according to the following blog:

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Blog Background

Never been to this blog before? Well here’s how to use it. In a word, here’s what will serve you best: LABELS. Just click on any one of them, and you’ll go directly to stories with those attached labels. You can find them on the bottom right side of the blog page, and they are of six different types.
1. The composers’ last names, A-Z (generally those who wrote the words of the songs) 2. Topics – what was it that influenced the composer (from ‘anoint’ to‘worship-praise’), or was a significant issue on which he/she was focused? 3. Bible books-characters-places (pretty self-explanatory) 4. Audience – to whom is the song directed? There’s three different ones, generally – God; us (as a group of believers); and myself (as an individual worshipper). There’s also a small but unique group of songs that are ‘from God’, who uses my voice to say His words. Fascinating, huh? 5. Miscellaneous labels – just two, including one called ‘fresh scoop’. This is a category of song stories that are derived via direct communication with the composer, or which contain discovered facts not really published elsewhere. The other miscellaneous label is 'blog background', which you can use to find your way back to this document, as well as to another with my thoughts on why I started this blog. 6. Era (the century in which the composer wrote...from the Biblical age to the 2000s).

You may also use the search window at the top left of the page to hunt for any stories with whatever keywords you choose.
Research Citations: The original source information for each story is at the end of each story, or is occasionally in the story text.
Comments on stories: Just click on the ‘comments’ area below any song, and leave a comment (please make it a kind one, and remember, I can control which ones are published! :)
Who am I ?: My profile is at the top of the page, if you want to know more about me, the author and blog administrator.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Surround Us, O Lord -- Bobby Price

‘Is the Bible relevant today?’ someone inquires. It’s probably not a casual question, and might really sound like an accusation coming from someone engaged in a struggle. ‘Listen to this’, you could respond, if you had the recording of “Surround Us, O Lord” on hand. It’s a reprise of a psalm (Psalm 125:2), recalled for us today through the effort of Bobby Price, who wrote the contemporary version of this appeal to God in 1990. If you feel in danger, or sense that your existence is missing something, tune in to this music’s message.

Price must have thought the Psalmist’s words were germane in 1990, although we know not what the specific circumstances were that caused him to compose. The ancient songwriter’s motivation was to inspire worship as the people ‘ascended’, as they made their way to Jerusalem for a festival. The ‘mountains surround(ing) Jerusalem’ in the song evidently remind the writer of God’s protective nature, a bulwark against the evil enemy. God’s chosen people well-knew the peril of their time, and what it was like when God’s shield was missing. The song’s words may have been composed after the nation’s exile ended (according to Bible scholars), and therefore embody a national plea for God’s renewed presence. Were Bobby Price and the people around him having these thoughts in 1990? Had they been far-removed from Him, but were once again looking for covenant renewal? That’s the context that this song’s history lends us today. What would I say if I’m feeling a combination of looking back with shame, but looking forward with submission and petition? That’s what “Surround Us, O Lord” is like.

If I’ve been in a bad place, I shouldn’t want to go back, though there are times when even the evil has its attraction. And so, my Godly mountains (see the picture above, leading to Mount Zion) serve a dual purpose. They protect me and make it difficult for the enemy to creep in, as long as I cooperate with the Protector. And, they also protect me from myself and my evil inclination, preventing me from easily escaping His territory and His notice. Which way are you headed, right now? Are you using the mountains for protection? Or, are they in your way as you try to flee to the outside? His mountains can hurt me as I scuff my knees and elbows in an attempt to climb over them. They’re also magnificent to observe and appreciate at sunset. Mountains are a matter of perspective. And, so is God.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Come Let Us All Unite to Sing – Anonymous

Some songs’ meanings don’t need to be belabored, agreed? They’re too easily understood, and don’t need a windy (or wordy, in a writer’s case) explanation. Knowing what motivated the composer seems evident, so knowing that person’s story isn’t really crucial. This song, “Come Let Us All Unite to Sing”, is one of those. It appeared in a hymnal called Millennial Praises in 1812, which was edited by Seth Wells. Yet, its author remains a mystery. It was also published in other hymnals in the 19th Century – Millard’s and Badger’s Hymns in 1849; and in Happy Voices in 1865. Evidently, it was a popular hymn, so could that be a clue that its composer was well-known at the time, allowing its ready acceptance and inclusion in several hymnals? Some have speculated that Howard Kingsbury, a 19th Century hymnist, might have composed the words, since he wrote music for the words to the hymn in Happy Voices. The prolific Fanny Crosby also lived in the same century as Kingsbury, so how about her? The 1812 hymnal predates Kingsbury and Crosby, however, so neither of them could have composed the words. Could it have been Charles Wesley, a prolific songwriter of the late 18th Century? There are of course other hymnists of the late 18th\early 19th Century, and so various possibilities.
The song’s lyrical composer remains unknown, and perhaps that’s a good thing, in that the worshipper’s attention need not be distracted from the song’s fundamental message - God is Love. The composer, though unidentified, felt that acutely when he or she wrote this. Moreover, God’s nature unites people, and He wants it to be contagious – not much more basic than that. The hymn’s message verse-by-verse is progressive: Begin by leaving sin behind, then tell others about it, and rejoice in a new life. The song has a fourth verse that may not be well-known, but which appropriately tops off the other three verses with the ultimate aim of every believer:
In Canaan we will sing again: God is love! And this shall be our loudest strain: God is love! Whilst endless ages roll along, we’ll triumph with the heavenly throng. And this shall be our sweetest song: God is love! The following sites are the source of information discovered for this hymn: