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Lament-based Praise & Worship


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#1 Nick Alexander

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 08:03 AM

Hi all...

There was a locked thread from a few years back, which I shared that while there wasn't a whole lot of lament-oriented praise and worship songs, it does exist, most notably the most popular being "My Eyes Are Dry" by the late Keith Green.

The last few days I had a chance to rediscover Keith Green's music, finding that that particular song was the tip of the proverbial iceberg. It seems like he was perhaps the most prominent CCM/P&W musician to integrate raw, struggling feelings in his worship.

"With each day passing by, I feel my well run dry" -- I Want To Be Like Jesus
"My flesh is tired of seeking God, but on my knees I'll stay" -- Until That Final Day
"Lord, the feelings are not the same. I guess I'm older, I guess I've changed" -- Grace By Which I Stand

Even a song as didactic as "Asleep In the Light", with subtle changes (moving it from a high A to a low B-flat, changing every instance of "you" to "we or us"), it changes from a song of condemnation towards establishment-church-apathy to a song of repentance.

The challenge of integrating Keith Green's repertoire into a modern church service is that his vocal range is really high, and that the professional recordings are dated; the newly discovered/remastered live recordings (which arrived on iTunes back in 2008/9) help some, because it is a solo piano performance. But I am convinced that, with some tweeking, the songs can attain some timelessness. "Until That Final Day" has a great congregational hymn-like quality, that I'm surprised I haven't noticed.

#2 Andy Whitman

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 10:46 AM

A little over a year ago my church lost a friend to cancer. Joe was young, bright, godly, a good dad, a good husband. You get the picture. And he declined and died before our eyes. During those months our worship pastor wrote a batch of worship songs that were steeped in lamentation. We learned them and sang them week after week. As is typical with any music that hasn't stood the test of time, some of those songs were better than others. I don't know if any of them will ever be heard much beyond the walls of my local church. But they were refreshing and welcome because they were raw, honest, and worshipful, all at the same time, much like some of the psalms that nobody ever seems to get around to actually setting to music.

My sister, who has been dying for a long time, will probably be dead within the next couple weeks, and I find myself listening to those songs of worship and lamentation again and again. There is certainly a place for lamentation in worship. At least for me, now seems as good a time as any, and I am thankful for the songs my pastor wrote.

#3 Greg P

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 03:51 PM

Nick, the problem I have with almost all of Keith's "Lamentation" songs is that he knew the answers before he asked the questions and when he cried about not being a better guy it's sorta irritating because everyone knew he was a wonderfully good-hearted dude already. He also cried a LOT and yet somehow felt he should've cried more, etc. I don't know. For me these lamentations just sorta don't work so much anymore.

I would love to hear some lamentations about the silence of God, how He seems to almost never answer anyone's prayers, why little children and good people have to suffer, why the hope of the righteous seems so unreal sometimes, etc...

#4 Nick Alexander

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 04:11 PM

Nick, the problem I have with almost all of Keith's "Lamentation" songs is that he knew the answers before he asked the questions and when he cried about not being a better guy it's sorta irritating because everyone knew he was a wonderfully good-hearted dude already. He also cried a LOT and yet somehow felt he should've cried more, etc. I don't know. For me these lamentations just sorta don't work so much anymore.

I would love to hear some lamentations about the silence of God, how He seems to almost never answer anyone's prayers, why little children and good people have to suffer, why the hope of the righteous seems so unreal sometimes, etc...

For the record, I don't consider "Don't You Wish You Had the Answers" to be one of his better songs.
Also, his performances are hit & miss: but when a church service uses his songs, I don't expect the congregants to mimic his vocal inflections nor intensity. Part of it is the high keys his songs were written in; lower the key and the tone is quite tempered.

When KG sings of spiritual dryness, that is quite real and there's not much there that is unrelatable by nearly all Christians. And I am not sure songs that you propose would work for a mixed congregation (Andy's close-knit tragedy-bearing church, OTOH, would probably appreciate such).

#5 Greg P

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 06:13 PM

And I am not sure songs that you propose would work for a mixed congregation (Andy's close-knit tragedy-bearing church, OTOH, would probably appreciate such).

The lamentation Psalms as well as Jeremiah's book of Lamentations are pretty dire at times (particularly the latter) I would propose these tunes wouldn't "work" for a lot of churches because their theology doesn't allow for them to even express those emotions privately, let alone in a congregational reading or song.

Why are there no congregational songs about the Somali famine? If God hears our prayers and the beseeching of our hymns, would this not be the ideal time? Where are you God? (and don't be so quick to say "in the still small voice" or some such thing) Millions are in jeopardy this very moment. This is disaster on a scale that should stagger anyone who believes in a God of Love. I'd like to know how he looks at that and remains largely silent. The Psalmist did too. If ever there was a time for a fresh lamentation to be lifted heavenward in perplexity, anger and sorrow, this would be it.

On a side note, at least a few celebs and politicians (including some notable christians) have lifted their voice to raise awareness...

Edited by Greg P, 04 October 2011 - 06:32 PM.


#6 Nick Alexander

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 07:24 PM

And I am not sure songs that you propose would work for a mixed congregation (Andy's close-knit tragedy-bearing church, OTOH, would probably appreciate such).

The lamentation Psalms as well as Jeremiah's book of Lamentations are pretty dire at times (particularly the latter) I would propose these tunes wouldn't "work" for a lot of churches because their theology doesn't allow for them to even express those emotions privately, let alone in a congregational reading or song.

Why are there no congregational songs about the Somali famine? If God hears our prayers and the beseeching of our hymns, would this not be the ideal time? Where are you God? (and don't be so quick to say "in the still small voice" or some such thing) Millions are in jeopardy this very moment. This is disaster on a scale that should stagger anyone who believes in a God of Love. I'd like to know how he looks at that and remains largely silent. The Psalmist did too. If ever there was a time for a fresh lamentation to be lifted heavenward in perplexity, anger and sorrow, this would be it.

On a side note, at least a few celebs and politicians (including some notable christians) have lifted their voice to raise awareness...

It's not about individual church's theology. We're talking about songs suitable for congregational singing. We're talking about songs that would be introduced, then a few weeks later introduced again, then again, then it becomes a standard, then it circulates, then it starts losing interest, and then the song is reintroduced, and this cycle takes place over a period of years. A congregational song specifically about Katrina, Haiti, or Japan, much less about Somalia, would not have staying power, even if the horrors hit home.

Do you want Christian songs about famine and Africa? Did you ever purchase Delirious' last album? Or Caedman Call's "Share The Well"? Steve Camp did a "Justice" album in the late 80s. Not a whole lot of congregational-friendly songs, but they're good songs. I'm sure there's even more out there that I didn't mention. (Of course, Keith Green was a staunch advocate for missions--not just donating money, but actually going).

BTW, I found a song that you may want to look up. Not a Keith Green, but a Michael Card: "Could It Be".

Could it be You make Your Presence known so often by Your absence?
Could it be that questions tell us more than answers ever do?
...

The tone is not very minor-key-ish, and the song doesn't work as a hymn. But if this floats your boat for your congregation, run with it.

ETA: You may want to consider "A Billion Starving People" by Keith Green. I think it speaks to the need of mission most clearly, and it can definitely resonate with any number of worldwide crisis on hand. I would, however, lower the key to a much more palatable Bb or C, from the nearly-octave-higher A.

Nick

Edited by Nick Alexander, 04 October 2011 - 08:47 PM.


#7 mrmando

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 10:39 AM

BTW, I found a song that you may want to look up. Not a Keith Green, but a Michael Card: "Could It Be".

Could it be You make Your Presence known so often by Your absence?
Could it be that questions tell us more than answers ever do?
...

It is not the fashion on A&F to praise Michael Card overmuch ... but here's another, even better example of a lamentational worship song.

#8 Joel C

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Posted 10 October 2011 - 04:22 AM

It is not the fashion on A&F to praise Michael Card overmuch ... but here's another, even better example of a lamentational worship song.

I haven't seen much of Michael Card mentioned at all here, but it'd seem a shame to me to see him not be appreciated for his gathering of a vast collection of biblical musical expressions (and his excellent musicianship). He actually did an album a couple years ago, entitled "The Hidden Face of God", written around his experience with the silence of God in a particularly difficult point in life. Haven't heard it, but it sounds like a meaningful and personal concept to him as a songwriter.

#9 Tyler

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Posted 10 October 2011 - 07:12 AM

Card did a series of meditations on lament for The Kindlings Muse recently.