Homeless man’s surprise role in Carlos Whittaker’s music video

The recording of this music video took a turn for the amazing when a homeless man (Danny) kneels in worship and adds his powerful impromptu vocals to those of Carlos Whittaker. This is the power of music and the love of Christ is rolled into one! The praise of our great God is unstoppable!

Read the full story behind the event here: http://ragamuffinsoul.com/2013/11/dannygod/
If you would like to hear more from this singer, find his album here.

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Creation calls – are you listening?                               Praising God makes our Joy complete!
Image created by Sarah Danaher with a Canon EOS 5D MkIImade-to-praise_t

Joy Radiators for Christmas – and all year long!

Sharing a post today on the challenge of cheerfulness, from The Blazing Center. We are to do everything without grumbling or complaining or arguing, says Paul in his letter to the Philippians (2:14). But sometimes the pressures of the Christmas season, which we are soon to embrace, make being cheerful all the more challenging. Can we be ‘joy radiators’ at Christmas – and all year round?

“Christmas is the season of joy.  Yeah right.

As Paul McCartney sings, “Simply having a wonderful Christmas time,” I see haggard looking parents pushing their gift-laden baskets through the aisles of stores yelling at their kids, “If you ask one more time we’re going home and never coming back ever again.  And you will eat oatmeal from now on.  Without sugar.  And we’re never going to McDonald’s again either!”  (I once threatened to never take my kids to McDonald’s again.  Empty threat #302).

Would people describe you as joyful?

Would your co-workers and neighbors?  Would your classmates and roommates say you’re cheerful?  If your friends knew no other Christians but you what would their impression of Christianity be?  Would little kids describe you as happy or fun?  This quote by D Martin Lloyd Jones challenges me:

“Nothing is more important, therefore, than that we should be delivered from the condition which gives other people, looking at us, the impression that to be a Christian means to be unhappy, to be sad, to be morbid, and that the Christian is one who ‘scorns delights and lives laborious days’…..It behooves us, therefore, not only for our own sakes, but also for the sake of the Kingdom of God and the glory of the Christ in whom we believe, to represent Him and His cause, His message and His power in such a way that men and women, far from being antagonized, will be drawn and attracted as they observe us, whatever our circumstances or condition.  We must so live that they will be compelled to say: would to God I could be like that, would to God I could live in this world and go through this world as that person does.”

Christians should be joy radiators. And not just at Christmas.  This doesn’t mean we’re rosy-eyed Pollyannas who wear pasted on fake smiles all the time. This doesn’t even necessarily mean we feel happy. But there’s a joy in Christ that’s deep and lasting and real.  And others should see something of it in us.

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. (Luke 2:10)

Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11)

Think about it.  God has freely forgiven our multitudes of sins, counted us righteous in Christ, adopted as his own children, and given us the hope of eternally gazing on Christ’s beauty.  His mercies are new every morning and he has promised to never cease doing good to us.  Are you feeling joyful yet?  No?  Ok, he redeems your life from the pit, crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s (Psalm 103:4-5).  I hope you are at least smiling a little.

The somber, depressed looking Jesus portrayed in movies wouldn’t attract anyone, much less children, as he mutters in a flat Shakesperian accent, “Suffuh the little children to come unto to me,” with about as much delight as an annoyed junior high school principal talking to a troublemaker for the hundredth time.

Let’s ask Jesus to fill us with so much of his joy that people say, “Would to God I could be like that, would to God I could live in this world and go through this world as that person does.”

– See more at: http://www.theblazingcenter.com/2011/12/are-you-a-joy-radiator.html#sthash.lURUxDS3.dpuf

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Looking for good Christmas songs?

Heaven Everywhere

Another great lyric video for your Christmas services! This one was made to order by my daughter. Thanks Megan!!
You can visit her new photo blog here: http://wonderintheordinary.wordpress.com/
or her book blog Just a Story.

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Why wouldn’t we remember Christmas?                                                December 25 in Song!
dec 25francescachristmasalbum

Free Indeed!

After posting the clip about the prison ministry of Timothy’s Gift my mind turned to this song from Steven Curtis Chapman, “Free”. Listen below or check out the lyrics. I think the most beautiful lyric comes in the last chorus: “God’s grace has broken every chain and given us these wings.” If the Son has set you free you will be free indeed!

“Free” by Steven Curtis Chapman

The sun was beating down inside the walls of stone and razor wire
As we made our way across the prison yard
I felt my heart begin to race as we drew nearer to the place
Where they say that death is waiting in the dark
The slamming doors of iron echoed through the halls
Where despair holds life within its cruel claws
But then I met a man whose face seemed so strangely out of place
A blinding light of hope was shining in his eyes
And with repentance in his voice he told me of his tragic choice
That led him to this place where he must pay the price
But then his voice grew strong as he began to tell
About the One he said had rescued him from hell, he said . . .

I’m free, yeah, oh, I have been forgiven
God’s love has taken off my chains and given me these wings
And I’m free, yeah, yeah, and the freedom I’ve been given
Is something that not even death can take away from me
Because I’m free, Jesus set me free

We said a prayer and said goodbye and tears began to fill my eyes
As I stepped back out into the blinding sun
And even as I drove away I found that I could not escape
The way he spoke of what the grace of God had done
I thought about how sin had sentenced us to die
And how God gave His only Son so you and I could say . . .

And if the Son has set you free,
Oh, if the Son has set you free
Then you are free indeed,
Oh, you are really free
If the Son has set you free,
Oh, if the Son has set you free
Then you are free, really, really, free

Oh, we’re free, yeah, oh, we have been forgiven
God’s grace has broken every chain and given us these wings
And we’re free, yeah, yeah, and the freedom we’ve been given
Is something that not even death can take from you and me
Because we’re free, yeah, the freedom we’ve been given
Is something that not even death can take from you and me
Because we’re free, oh, we’re free
We are free, we are free
The Son has set us free

If the Son has set you free
You are free indeed

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The hope of redemption behind prison bars

This is a great clip – it is a remarkable story of redemption: “Timothy made a horrible choice when he was just a kid, but God is using him for some serious kingdom good.” It is also a testimony to the power of music to impact the hardest of hearts. You can read more about Timothy’s gift here: http://timothysgift.com/

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All you ever wanted to know about modern hymns – even writing them!

This post is from a site called MY SONG IN THE NIGHT. which exists to help you express words of worship & testimony through songs & stories. “But each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing his songs, praying to God who gives me life.”
Psalm 42:8 (New Living Translation) (Looking for info, chord chart and instructional videos for the hymn “My Song In The Night” by Kristen Gilles? Click Here.)

This post has a wealth of information for those keen to understand what it is about hymns that makes them work, makes them singable for a group, and places the word emphasis in the right place. Some great insights. I feel inspired once again to get writing!

Modern Hymnslearn to write, appreciate modern hymns with hymnists Bobby & Kristen Gilles


When people speak of “modern hymns” they usually mean one of two things:

  • Old hymn texts, written by masters like Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley, Anne Steele, John Newton, William Cowper and others, then set to contemporary melodies by the likes of Sandra McCracken and those in worship communities like Indelible Grace, Bifrost Arts, Page CXVI, Cardiphonia or Red Mountain Music. Some of these artists also revise and arrange the original texts, and may add choruses as well.
  • Completely new hymns, written in hymn meter by contemporary hymnodists like Stuart Townend and Keith and Kristyn Getty.

Kristen primarily composes hymn tunes. Bobby primarily writes & arranges texts

Our church Sojourn has recorded albums with songs in the former category (The Water And The Blood, Over The Grave) and the latter (Before The Throne). Some of my songs from these projects in the former category include “Let Your Blood Plead For Me,” “Warrior” and “We Are Changed.” In the latter, “Lead Us Back” and “All I Have Is Yours.” Other songwriting communities who do some of each include Sovereign Grace and Mars Hill (Seattle).

Kristen and I wrote “My Song In The Night,” the theme song of this website, after being inspired by an anonymous American folk hymn text of the same title. We only included two lines from the original, though.


You will benefit from understanding the mechanics of hymn text-writing, including form and meter, if:

  1. You are a writer/musician/tunesmith who arranges old hymn texts, adds choruses to hymn texts, or composes new music for old hymn texts – even if you aren’t altering lyrics (for more on composing new music for hymn texts and other pre-existing lyrics, click here).
  2. You write songs of any kind, style or genre, and want to expand your range and repertoire of songwriting techniques.
  3. You want to write modern hymns – lyric and melody.


A hymn is a poem, set to music at the time of its composing or later (sometimes the music for our most well-known hymns came decades after the lyrics).  In contrast to many modern songs and praise & worship chorus lyrics, hymn text writers typically write their lyrics in fixed “metrical patterns” (syllables and accents per line). The three most common are:

  • Common Meter (alternating lines of eight and six syllables per line (86.86).
  • Long Meter (all lines are eight syllables) (88.88)
  • Short Meter (first, second and fourth lines are six syllables, while the third is eight syllables – 66.86)

This style of writing isn’t exclusive to hymnodists. Some of the best songwriters of modern times utilize hymn meter on occasion:

Bob Dylan uses Common Meter in Lay Down Your Weary Tune:

I gazed down in the river’s mirror
And watched its winding strum
The water smooth ran like a hymn
And like a harp did hum.

* You’ll notice Dylan’s first line contains nine syllables. Dylan is using accentual meter (what Robert Frost called “loose iambic”), which is outside the depth of discussion in this introductory page, but which we’ll discuss in our Songwriting/Hymns Workshop posts.

Leonard Cohen uses Common Meter in A Thousand Kisses Deep:Sir Isaac Watts, poet, Father of English Hymnody

And quiet is the thought of you
The file on you complete
Except what we forgot to do
A thousand kisses deep.

And when Coca Cola’s advertising agency McCann-Erickson created a jingle that would become one of the most memorable ads of all time, their songwriters (Bill Backer, Billy Davis, Roger Cook) of course used Common Meter:

I’d like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony
I’d like to buy the world a Coke
And keep it company.

Sing the lyrics to either of these songs, using the tune from “Amazing Grace” or “House Of The Rising Sun.” Or “Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed.” Or the theme song from Gilligan’s Island.

Works, huh? That’s one of the benefits of writing in hymn meter, and is the reason great hymns stand up to modern interpretation by artists like Indelible Grace and Sojourn.  Because of their mathematically precise patterns, composers from nearly any musical background can write new music for these texts, no matter how old.

Aside: Lindsey Blair and I wrote the entire text of our children’s book Our Home Is Like A Little Church in this same meter. I have a blast singing it, Gilligan’s Island style.

No matter the meter, within each line you’ll hear a simple pattern of accented and unaccented syllables.

  • Even-numbered syllables are often accented while the odd are unaccented. We call each of these two-syllable units an iambic foot. (Ex. “Alone”)
  • If the odd syllables are accented while the even are unaccented, we call it trochaic.  (Ex. “Glory”)

A trochaic line:

Lucy in the sky with diamonds (John Lennon/Paul McCartney)

An iambic line:

How sweet the name of Jesus sounds (John Newton)

You can see that although each line is eight syllables (the technical name for that is “tetrameter”) they have a different feel. The trochaic line is forceful and excitable. Iambic lines are stately and loping, reaching their climax at the end.


One lesser-known reason “In Christ Alone” evokes strong feelings is because Townend and Getty begin each even-numbered line with a strong trochee before sliding back into the stately, prevailing iambic pattern. So the congregation sings a biblical truth on the odd-numbered line, and then begins the next line with a punchy declaration or exclamation:

FULness of GOD in HELPless BABE!
This GIFT of LOVE and RIGHteousNESS

Poets write trochaic substitutions in iambic lines to produce the effect of sudden movement or emphasis. This is the most common metrical variation in all of English poetry, used by Milton, Pope, Yeats, Auden, Wordsworth, Keats, Frost and many others.  More on metrical variation in our article “Writers: Why Singers Put The Wrong emPHAsis On The Wrong sylLAble.”

So Songwriters Have To Be Aware Of All These Metrical Terms And Possible Variants?

As Paul Fussell, Jr. wrote in Poetic Meter And Poetic Form (p. 42-43):

… although metrical variations can be displayed by scansion and analyzed dispassionately, when the poet performs them they are largely instinctual, a technique of his art so unconsciously mastered that he seldom pauses formally to debate a metrical alternative. Indeed, many poets whose work can be analyzed metrically according to the traditional foot system would undoubtedly be astonished to hear that they have indulged in anything like “substitution.” The poet composes according to the rhythms which his utterance supplies, and although these rhythms frequently turn out to consist of “base” and “substitute” feet, they do not necessarily begin that way.”

Get our free glossary of hymn meter & form terms here.


As Keith Getty has said, “The hymn format means you can write songs that average 200 words. The average worship song only has about 40 words, so obviously can’t be as deep in proclamation of biblical truth.”

Maybe only folk ballads and hip hop can approach or exceed hymns in their ability to “go deep” into subject matter (you should check out Shai Linne and Lecrae – believers in Christ who write stunning music for the Church through the medium of hip hop).

Shai Linne at Sojourn

Shai Linne with our pastor Mike Cosper at Sojourn

Some of this may seem confusing, but don’t worry! We’ll go through it all, step-by-step, within the pages of mysonginthenight.com. In no time flat, trochees and iambs will be as familiar to you as water and sky. You’ll be swimming in the deep end of meter with nary a life jacket in sight.

Not only that, we’ll talk metaphor and simile. We’ll speak of dactyls and anapests, alliteration and rhyme. We’ll talk about “the songwriting rules,” including how to know when to break them.  We’ll discuss how to bring strong theology to your writing without making it dull, and how to tell your personal story through song without becoming unmoored from biblical teaching.

So sign up to our posts through email, subscribe through RSS or just visit mysonginthenight.com regularly.  Click on the Songwritng/Hymns category to see everything we post on the subject, and grow as a writer through the many songwriting assignments we’ll give you.

If you feel this page is helpful, we’d be thankful if you would link to it so that others who want to learn how to write modern hymns can find it on your site and in search engine results. For instance, copy-and-paste the URL of this web page into a hyperlink that says something like “To begin learning how to write modern hymns, visit mysonginthenight.com.

Interested in checking out worship communities who are considered part of the modern hymns movement? Our friend Zac Hicks has compiled the most comprehensive list we’re aware of, at his website.

Want to learn more about writing music for old hymn texts or other pre-existing poems and song lyrics? Visit our “How To Compose Tunes For Hymn Texts & Write Music For Other Song Lyrics” page.

And get our free Songwriter’s Glossary Of Poetic And Rhetorical Devices here


The Music Theory Song | The Journal of Music


Music-Theory-SongThis is lots of fun and will get you in a festive mood (just a few weeks early), while helping you brush up on your music theory.
This song, titled ‘Intervals Roasting’, with lyrics by David Rakowski, attempts to encapsulate the fundamentals of music theory in just over two minutes. You can download the sheet music here.

Watch “COME ONE AND ALL” Christmas Clip

This is a lovely song with an interesting clip, recorded by Garage Hymnal.
It would make a lovely addition to any upcoming Christmas service.


Come, oh come one and all
To Bethlehem’s stable, to Bethlehem’s stall
The star, it beams on this sight
The father in heaven sent us this glorious light.

More lovely than the angels
Than the stars, this holy child!
Lying here before us, sent here for us Jesus Christ!

Come, oh come one and all
The shepherds are kneeling, bowing before him in awe
Angels sing from above
Mary and Joseph smile at their baby with love

More lovely than the angels
Than the stars, this holy child!
Lying here before us, sent here for us Jesus Christ!

Music by Garage Hymnal, words by Alanna Rodgers with adaptations from Christoph Von Schmid’s German Folk Song, “Oh Come Little Children”
Animation by Taste Media http://www.tastemedia.com.au

The glorious gospel song

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How effective is your music ministry?

Sometimes we musicians get so caught up with organising and making music happen for our church gatherings that we forget to take stock of how things are cats recordergoing. Are we really achieving any of the goals of our ministry? Or is it just a lot of hard work?
For me, music ministry goals are:
* to engage people in enthusiastic praise of our great God who alone is worthy of our praise,
* to provide encouragement for the gathered Body of believers, and
* to declare/teach the great truths that God has revealed of himself and the gospel in His Word.

So how do you measure whether or not we are achieving that, at all?
Like many areas of ministry such results cannot be quantified. God doesn’t keep a score card and send us a report!
However by talking to people and allowing them the freedom to give encouragement and criticism, they can help you know how you are going with your goals. (It is, afterall, God’s people we are serving.) Thick skin is always required in the music department, so give grace to those who are willing to share their views. You need to hear them, whether they be “right” or “wrong” or somewhere inbetween. Godly insights, shared in a loving manner, can lead to greater effectiveness.

One way to measure the engagement of your congregation is simply by joining with them in the praise times during your service. This Sunday, for the first time in a long time, I was able to simply be a member of the congregation, with the opportunity to listen carefully to the most important voices – the voices of the gathered body of Christ. I could easily hear which songs were being sung with enthusiasm, and which were still probably too difficult for the non-musical person to catch on to. It helped me realise which songs needed to be retired, better than if I was actually leading or playing on team.

Speaking of singability I find it really helpful (in the planning stage) to play potential new songs to people who aren’t on the music team. If you find they can sing along by the second hearing (and they think the song is truthful and encouraging) then you probably have something most people in your church can sing, and sing well together (which is, afterall, the whole point).

In King David’s time, the musicians were clothed in white and stood apart from the assembled worshipers:  “All the Levites who were musicians—Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun and their sons and relatives—stood on the east side of the altar, dressed in fine linen and playing cymbals, harps and lyres. They were accompanied by 120 priests sounding trumpets.” (2 Chronicles 5:12)
Unlike these musicians we need to see ourselves as part of the gathered body, not removed from, more important or better than them. Often we are the last to know when something isn’t working to encourage people in corporate praise. We must be willing to listen, review and change and adapt to meet our goals – and not be too proud or stubborn to change.

For more help thinking through congregational singing, check out these posts:

10 Principles for Church Singinggrow music

Working for those moments of Joy

Sharing the Rich Indwelling Word (Colossians 3:16)

The Synchonicity of Singers

Worship through Congregational singing (a post from Christ Our Hope Church)