I Breathe You In

The presence of the living God,
Satisfies the depths of my heart
All of me changed when you came,
Iʼm made free by Your glory and grace

I breathe You in God, cause You are thick all around me 
I breathe You in God, cause You are thick all around me

The brightness of Your loves pure light,
Pierces through the darkest of nights
Everything is possible now,
For God is here and God is good

You are good God, 
For You are good to me You are Good God, 
For You are good to me

When I donʼt understand Iʼll choose You
When I donʼt understand I will choose You God
When I donʼt understand I will choose to Love You God


Worship and Hymns: Worship of Hymns?

Some of the oldest hymns we sing today are maybe 200 years old.  It has been nearly 2,000 years since Christ walked this earth.  The rich “heritage” and “tradition” many hold near and dear to their hearts when it comes to music, probably isn’t really “traditional” at all…

I feel like I could blast out a blog going so many different directions right now…

[HYMNS] an introduction.

Music has always been a staple in the Christian faith, over both the Old and New Testament, we see many examples of songs that were written; songs written in battle, defeat, victory, quiet moments, joyous events, and spontaneous songs of praise as well.  I’d like to speak about the text of hymns first, and then talk about musicianship, and writing hymns secondly.  I will try my best to refrain from making personal comments and observations until the conclusion. 

Generally, in the function of music in the church, the text is perceived as the most important piece of worship, and rightfully so.  But, let us not forget the importance of musicianship, and playing skillfully, as the Psalmist speaks about.  And as recorded in 1 Chronicles 15:22, “Chenaniah, leader of the Levites in music, was to direct the music, for he understood it” (emphasis mine).  The importance of knowing music is vital, because music is a powerful emotional tool to bring humanity to Christ.  There is also another topic I would like to touch on, and that is the tension between the old and the new.  Christianity has always held tightly (sometimes too tightly) to the traditions passed down by our forefathers, however, the Psalmist speaks about singing a “new song” to the Lord (Psalm 96:1, Psalm 33:3…), and the prophet Isaiah also speaks about God doing a new thing, and to forget the former ways (Isaiah 42-43).  Living in the tension of tradition, and the new and what is to come is part of the dichotomy of knowing Christ, and walking with him, and if you will (musical pun intended), the dissonance of harmonies being played all at once, making it into something beautiful.

Forgive my scattered thoughts, but this is turning into bit more of an academic research paper, than just a blog post.

Over countless years, the Christian Church has seen many, many beautiful hymns [songs] written, speaking of the character and life of Christ, articulating theology in a very real and artistic way, and speaking about the life of the Christian.  There are many wonderful hymns/songs out there, but there are also many terrible hymns as well.  Don’t get me started on this…. We digress.  Anyway, the purpose of music in worship is an agent for connecting the human, to the divine.  This spans across religions.  There is something absolutely beyond this world that is the very essence of what music is.  The human and Divine meeting together as one and creating something beautiful, but also more mysterious than we could ever understand with our minds as humans. 

[HYMNS] text.

First, the text of a hymn can be approached in many different ways, but one common “formula”, if you will, that many hymn writers use is a progression of earth to heaven, in various different ways.  Just a few examples of this are: Amazing Grace, Abide with Me, It is Well With My Soul, How Great Thou Art (this is in fact actually a modern day hymn), among many, many others. 

For this particular examination of music, there will not be as much focus on how hymn text was written, but I do want to highlight that when the Liturgy was established and standardized by Charlemagne (more on him in the coming section), it also set a standardized text for Mass sung in churches.  In these days, circa 500 AD, the text remained the same each Sunday, and as time progressed, different composers would simply set this same text to different music and arrangement. 

This was the structure of the Mass, the liturgy sung and spoken by the people:

The same overtones of the Mass are still a large part of what happens from week to week (in some form or fashion) in our Evangelical churches even today.  Kyrie was the only Greek element to the Roman mass, and the words “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy“, was the translations of what was sung.  Gloria, the story of Christ’s birth, and the songs the angels sang to announce Christ’s birth.  Sanctus, meaning Holy, resonating in parallel with Isaiah 6, Agnus Dei, worthy is the Lamb who was slain, and so forth.  (Some of this I’m spouting from memory, other pieces from this book.  Read more on good old wikipedia).  As you can see, many of the songs we sing in our churches today are singing these exact same words, in different and new ways.  Not much has changed over time, and our traditions are still traditions, but in a new way.

[HYMNS] early church history. music.

Next, I will attempt to highlight in broad terms about the musical side of how hymns were written, and are written.  In the early days of the church, the church was the only source for well written and well performed music.  The church set the tempo for what expectations were when it came to music, and all this music, was worship.  In the Medieval Era, circa 400 AD, there was a significant draw away from secular music all together.  Monasticism communities were a way people could withdraw from the societal pressures of living in the world, and Christians could live distinct lives devoted completely to serving God, which also had a huge impact on music in the church.  This music was “Gregorian chant”, or also called “plainchant”, and vocal music was generally all monophonic (sung in the same tone and one melody), and slightly polyphonic also (different melodies sung together at the same time). 

Other historic events also lead to more development in music within the church, including the rule Charlemagne, where Christianity was made the official religion in the Roman Empire, and he also standardized many forms of worship, and lead to great musical development.  From his rule, he standardized a unified liturgy, along with music, as discussed earlier.

Another vital piece of the history of church music is to also understand that in these days, within the first 800-1,300 years of Church History, music was performance based, there was no participation required of the listener, only to simply listen and be moved by the music.  Music was left up to the professional, trained musician (this was not the case in the Old and New Testament, only what we see in this particular era).

As musical styles unfolded in the 1,000-1,700 AD range, so did the development of more secular music, and a departure from music only being performed within the church; but several factors influenced what emerged out of church music from this time frame.  First being the birth and events of Martin Luther’s life, the father of the Reformation.  Luther, as many may not realize, was a theologian, but also a hymn writer as well.  Part of his view on the separation from the Catholic Church was that worship should be something that was participatory, as he composed many congregational hymns.  His “preposterous” view that the mass be changed from Latin, to German was an outrageous suggestion, but at the time most people would attend church and not hear a word of the actual language they spoke.  Congregational songs, where the attender in church could engage in, was a huge breakthrough, and even now, as this is the basis for what church music and worship is today. 

Luther said, quoting Augustine, “For music is a gift…of God, not a gift of men [sic]… Therefore accustom yourself to see in music your Creator and to praise him through it”.  Luther also was a proponent for secular music being an avenue for worshipping God, and his famous hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”, used the same tune as a secular song, and was used as a congregational hymn. 

Much more could be said of the road Martin Luther paved, but that is an entirely different blog/book. 

I’d like to also mention and briefly highlight Johann Sebastian Bach, as most everyone, secular or Christian, would agree made huge strides in both the vocal and classical music genres, and was a composer, choirmaster, and Church musician his entire life.  Almost all the songs he ever composed were songs of worship, for the glory of God.  It is quite interesting to consider, since his legacy is regarded as one of the most influential musicians and composers who ever lived.

[HYMNS] then and now.
(this is the part all of you who skipped the long history might want to read)

Tradition is what makes humans, human.  We cannot deny this fact.  Tradition makes our churches what they are today, however, if we as Christians now, in the twenty-first century are simply relying on our own “evangelical” or “gospel” traditions, we are missing the boat.  It’s already sailed, long ago.  Let’s admit it: music is something that touches our hearts, so if we are truly honest, we want to hear sometimes the music and songs that were meaningful to us as we went through a difficult time, or songs that were significant to bringing us to Christ, but let us not confuse this with being “better” or more spiritual.  This is called personal preference.

Let us educate ourselves.  If people at Church ABC are continually requesting “hymns”, but what they really want are the Gospel songs written in the 50’s by the Gather’s, then let us just say it like we mean it: we want what makes us feel good.  We cannot be Christians that continually live in the past and the “good old days”, because, as mentioned in the introduction, God is continually working , and he is doing new things even today (Isaiah 42-43).  The church is called to engage in a conversation with the culture we live in, but the purpose of the church is not to be “hip” and “cool”.  The church is called to acknowledge tradition (and by “tradition” I mean TRUE tradition– such as the early church as seen in Acts), not just the “tradition” that we were raised on, whenever we happened to be born.  God has put us on this earth, now, “for such a time as this”, and we can choose to acknowledge this, or simply live on our own planet, and not engage with what is going on.

My main point is this: our expression of our faith can never be divorced from our culture.  Don’t believe me?  Research the New Testament, in particular, and you will see that the language used, phrasing and wording, things Paul addresses in his letters, etc., were all things that had to do with the culture of THAT day.  So we, as students of the scriptures, can do our very best to examine this, and prayerfully seek the Spirit to know how those truths translate to us today. 

Don’t read me wrong, we are not going to be singing Justin Bieber in church, or sacrifice the truths that are TRUTHS, but we cannot continue to live in the dark.  We cannot simply request all our favorite songs from the 50’s because that’s the ONLY way we can connect with God, God is beyond time.  God is beyond musical style.  Wrap your brain around that!

As I mentioned in the introduction, we are called to simply connect the human with the Divine, through music and worship.  This can be done by singing scripture, theological truths, telling the story of Christ, and speaking to our own humanity.  We can communicate this through painting a musical picture, simply through an instrumental piece.  But let us not miss the simple fact of this: it is all for the glory of God.  It is not for us. 

Do you hear what I’m saying?  It is not about US.  It is not about the songs WE want.  It is not about how the songs make US feel. 

It is all about HIM. 

God’s majesty.  His beauty.  His reign in our hearts and lives. 

May we never miss this, because if we do, then we are simply attending church to worship ourselves.


Sources cited:
“A History of Music in Western Culture”
“Jubilate 2: Church Music in Worship and Renewal”

Sing to Jesus

Come and see
look on this mystery
the Lord of the universe
nailed to a tree

Christ our God
Spilling his holy blood
Bowing in anguish
His sacred head

Sing to Jesus, Lord of our shame
Lord of our sinful hearts
He is our great Redeemer
Sing to Jesus, honor his name
Sing of his faithfulness
Pouring his life out unto death

Come you weary
and he will give you rest
Come you who mourn
lay on his breast

Christ who died
risen in paradise
Giver of mercy
Giver of life

We will sing to Jesus
His is the throne now and forever
He is the King of heaven
Sing to Jesus
We are his own now and forever
Sing for the love our God has shown

-Robbie Seay Band

Forgiven Much

There’s a lot more I could have said, and I wanted to say.   Worship flows out of understanding ourselves in relation to who God is, and realizing how he sees us: as forgiven.  And by the way, completely unrelated, Robbie Seay Band released a new CD, you should support them and buy it here, it’s amazing!

Here you go, if you haven’t read the eConnect already, or if you care to read:

Staff Corner
Meridith Johnson
, Worship Director

Forgiven Much

       As we have journeyed through Galatians, it seems the word “legalism” and “legalistic” has been used quite a number of times, but part of understanding our legalistic ways, also comes from understanding the depth of our sin and our depravity.  Part of this process involves naming sin for exactly what it is: brokenness and separation from the heart of God.
       In Luke 7, there is a familiar story of Jesus eating with the Pharisees, and during the meal, a “certain immoral woman” came with an expensive jar of perfume, and began to anoint and wash his feet.  Listen to this account of Luke, verse 38 says, “Then she knelt behind him at his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair.  Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.”  The natural response of the Pharisees was something like this, “If he knew who this woman was, and the kinds of sin she has committed, how could he let this woman touch him!?”
      There are many lessons in this particular account of Christ, but what Jesus says at the end of this section is something to be taken to heart, “I tell you, her sins- and they are many- have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love.  But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”  One commentary states, “The woman was not forgiven because of her love; rather, she loved because she was forgiven.  Her faith brought her salvation…” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary, 224).
      When it comes to legalism in our hearts, how often do we sit back with arms folded and disapproving looks on our faces when someone begins to admit their sin?  This week, Greg will share with us about good behavior, our motives behind our good behavior and what it really reveals about our hearts.  We have been forgiven of much, so therefore, we should love much.  Our love comes from gratitude in our hearts from the simple act of forgiveness.
       I love this story, from Luke 7, because each of us can find ourselves in one or both of the parties spoken about, the sinful woman, and the arrogant Pharisee.   How can we seek to identify ourselves as sinners, who have been forgiven, and to love much?  What are our motives behind our actions?  Is it true “love” for Christ?  Or simply out of legalistic expectations?

Take a few moments to read through this poetic song, of the story from Luke 7, when our response toward Christ and others is motivated by gratitude and love, our worship becomes authentic, and our love for others is even more genuine.

From glass alabaster she poured out the depths of her soul ,
O foot of Christ would you wait if her harlotries known?
Falls a tear to darken the dirt of humblest offerings to forgive the hurt.
She is strong enough to stand in your love I can hear her say:
I am weak, I am poor, I am broken Lord, but I’m yours […]
Looking forward to worshiping with you all on Sunday,

peering into the past, from the future.

I chuckle, but also I was stunned as I ran across this tonight.  This was a blog I had written in an old notebook, to be posted I guess later that day.  It was written in fall 2005, my Junior year of college, 20 years old, and actually reminds me more of what my realities were then, helps me understand where I used to stand on some things.

When you read, you’ll see why, it’s funny, but totally crazy too.  Comments to come later.


November 13, 2005 11:22 a.m.

Currently, as I’m composing this blog, I’m sitting at Lisa Popeill’s “Workshop for Singing Non-Classical Styles” or something like that).  Al I can say is I’M BORED!  If I could, I would start walking back to Redding right now.

It’s all interesting, I completely agree.  BUT I just don’t want to be here.

So, my mind is wandering, we’ll see what I feel like writing about.  I wish I had a computer in front of me, instead of all these notes.

Anyway, I have been thinking quite a bit about many subjects.  I’m thankful that God reveals things to us in his time.  For quite a while, I always felt that I wouldn’t get married until I was much older, like 25 or 26 (even though it’s not THAT old).  Anyway, but as of late, over this past summer, and this semester, I’ve begun to really pray for the Lord’s will on this subject.

(fast forward some boring things)

One of the reasons I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit has to do with what’s going to happen in my life after I graduate.  For a while, I thought about graduate school, and it’s still in the back of my mind.  but I really believe God is calling me to be a full-time Worship Pastor.

As a woman, I would be very fearful to enter into the ministry and be single.  I mean, yes, I know I COULD do it, but without that support?  I know if I had great friends around me, living with me, that would be AMAZING, but the truth is I don’t know where I’ll be going.

I know I could follow someone whether it’s a significant other or closer friend.  Churches are everywhere, and always could have needs for Worship Pastors.

All I know is what God is calling me to… and I don’t really know what that’s going to look like.  I’m just walking down a road, a path.  I don’t know where I’m heading, but I know I’m following CHRIST with all that’s in me.

His goodness. HOPE.

Came upon this song just today.  It came at a timely moment for myself, listen to the words.  From Psalm 27.

The Lord is my light and salvation whom shall I fear
whom shall I be afraid
The Lord is my light and salvation whom shall I fear
whom shall I be afraid
I will wait for you
I will wait for you

I will remain confident in this
I will see the goodness of the Lord
I will remain confident in this
I will see the goodness of the Lord …

We set our hope on you
We set our hope on your love
We set our hope on the one
Who is the everlasting G o d ….


There are all sorts of seasons we encounter in our lives.  The good, the bad, and the ugly; sometimes we never know what is coming until it hits us in the face, but fortunately, the definition of a season is that it only lasts for a period of time.  This is part of life.  The ebb and flow of how life is lived.

Though we never walk alone, I’ve been in a season of solitude for some time now.  I don’t ever really feel lonely during these times, it is just as if God draws me into his presence, and I simply don’t desire to spend a lot of time with other people (no offense my friends, but seriously, I love these times of solitude).  I enjoy just taking off for a few hours on a run or walk, or coming home from work to cook dinner and just be alone.. well, you know what I mean, spend time just listening to God and thinking.

As I’ve been reading recently, we cannot fully experience an emotion, feeling or season without also experiencing the opposite of that, whatever it is.  When we walk through seasons of brokenness, solitude, and sadness, only then can we fully embrace and experience those seasons of wholeness, community and JOY that come out of the opposite season.  Sometimes the brokenness seems like too much, yet the psalmist says that the Lord is near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18) and later he also says that our tears are counted and kept in a bottle, and that he sees “tossings” (Psalm 56:8).  I don’t know about you, but even if I am experiencing a difficult season, I’d rather have the Lord close and with me than have times be good and not feel his presence.  The KJV reads like this:

“Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: [are they] not in thy book”

It’s interesting, the Hebrew word “tellest”also means: to number, to take account of, rehearse, recon…

And the Hebrew word “cepher” for “book” also is translated as an official record book, not just any random book, but a book for God to hold records in.

If you don’t believe me, check this out : http://www.blueletterbible.org/Bible.cfm?b=Psa&c=56&v=8&t=KJV#conc/8

Psalm 126:5 says (KJV) “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy”.

The same word for tears is used in this verse, but what I found interesting was the verb “reap” in Hebrew “qatsar” which actually also means “to shorten”, not just “to reap, or harvest”.  And the word joy, I just love this:
ringing cry
of entreaty, supplication
in proclamation, joy, praise

A RINGING CRY.  Not just feeling joy, but an actually expression of joy!!  WHOA!

These are just a few verses out of many that tell us how much God cares about our feelings and emotions.  I’ve talked about this a lot it seems lately with friends, because I know I tend to rely on my emotions for so much, but seriously, God is near to us no matter what we go through, but he wants us to experience the joy that can be found in him.  Not only that, but the word “reap” also meaning “to shorten” tells me that though we will experience times of sadness and tears, he wants to SHORTEN those times, so that we will reap a time of joy.  So, we sow in tears and sadness only to reap those times of joy.  Two separate experiences, but one cannot be fully experienced without the other.

I say all this because though I still feel I am in a season on solitude, I have been coming out of a season of grieving.  Grieving for a relationship, and I had to give that time.  I had to invest in the healing process, and the grieving and sadness so that now, on the other side, I can truly say, “God you are good”.  And I can taste, see, and experience that goodness, not just read about it.

I feel it all around me.  I also feel is joy.  It’s never left, but I feel it more deeply now that before.

Taste and See

(Adapted from Psalm 34, Isaiah 55, and Bebo Norman’s “The Only Hope”)

taste and see!
come close and see!
that the Lord is GOOD

he is richer than the richest food
more beautiful than the finest silk
sweeter than the sweetest honey
more radiant than the golden sun

experience his goodness
drink in his grace
swim in his ocean of mercy
and inhale his awesome majesty

who can know the heart of God?
who could possibly understand?
his thoughts are much higher
and his ways are unfathomable

we reach for crumbs
but he gives a feast
we long for a note of beauty
while he writes a symphony

so let us tell of his goodness to all
let us worship his name together
until my last breath, let me continue to praise
i will never stop singing of his kindness

for i have tasted and seen
i have experienced his goodness
his goodness in the suffering and pain
his beauty in the ugly and dark

he shines.
he radiates.
he is beauty.
he is love.

and he longs to give these things to us

May my prayer

      “May my prayer like incense rise before You
The lifting of my hands a sacrifice
Oh Lord Jesus turn Your eyes upon me
For I know there is mercy in Your sight
Your statutes are my heritage forever
My heart is set on keeping Your decrees
Please still my anxious urge toward rebellion
Let love keep my will upon its knees

To all creation I can see a limit
But Your commands are boundless and have none
So Your word is my joy and meditation
From the rising to the setting of the sun
All Your ways are loving and are faithful
Your road is narrow but Your burden light
Because You gladly lean to lead the humble
I shall gladly kneel to leave my pride”

Worship and running. It’s all training.

This was an article I wrote for our church email newsletter last fall, but I was reading over it as I’ve begun training now for the Bangkok Marathon, and reminded of the discipline in our lives it takes not only for physical things, but also in our expression of worship… (October 15, 2010)

FBC weekly

Staff Corner
Meridith Johnson, Director of
Worship Ministry
One step at a time.
     Many of you may have heard or knew that I ran the Portland Marathon this past Sunday, and the only way that I was able to accomplish this life-goal of mine, was to run one step at a time.  The last few miles of the 26.2 mile race I verbally repeated to myself over and over, “it’s almost over, I’m almost done”.  And then, before long, I did finish.  I ran the race.  I accomplished a goal.
     Now you may ask, “I thought this report was about worship?”, and yes, it is, let me get to that.  You see, I’ve never been an athletic person, I was a cheerleader in High School, and could hardly run a mile until I was probably 21.  But with perseverance, practice, and discipline, I trained for shorter races, and soon the distances I once thought were hard and unbelievably long, became easy and didn’t seem as long as they seemed to be.
     Worship is something we will never really understand, or comprehend, but through Scripture, we see that as God’s people, it is an act we are commanded to do.  Something happens when as a church, we gather and corporately praise God and verbally sing, say, and pray what we know to be true of our God.  Just like the marathon I ran, I had no idea what the experience would be like until I began training, and working at doing something I wasn’t comfortable with.  Worship I would say is the same in many respects.  When we ascribe that our God is worthy (where we get the word “worship”), sometimes it is uncomfortable and sometimes we don’t feel like worshipping, but the end result and goal is always accomplished when we are willing.  God is always lifted high, and his name is glorified.
     During my months of training, some mornings I would wake up only to see it was way too early for anyone to do anything on a Saturday, then eventually I would stumble out of bed to run.  Sunday mornings, or all mornings our worship may feel the same way to us, like a chore.  But when we worship, Psalm 22:3 says that God inhabits the praises of his people.  Other translations for this Hebrew word yashab are “to dwell”, “to remain”, “to sit” or “to abide”.  This verb implies God’s action on his part to dwell and be among us when we worship him.  There is something uncomfortable about the idea that God dwells with us when we worship, the living God, among us, his people.  The experience is indescribable, but worth the effort of our time and attention.
     Now, many of you have never run a marathon, and maybe never will, but you can choose to work at your personal worship and as a body our expression of praise corporately as a church.  This weekend, may you worship God in every word, activity, and breath, and on Sunday, every Sunday, may our sacrifice of praise be authentic, and change our hearts and lives.