Your old men shall dream dreams...

Most of you know that I don't really like "praise" or "CCM" tunes:  they are mostly too "precious" in the worst sense of the word. I remember seeing the Precious Moments Chapel advertised along the roadside in Missouri on our sojourn from Cleveland to Tucson and was stunned and horrified by the very concept. (And I am totally serious: it is in Carthage, MO and you can check it out @

Let's just say I'm not a big fan of kitsch and sentimentality when it comes to the life, death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord.  (Now, ironic religious kitsch - like the prayer cards that have both the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Jesus Ascending into Heaven - that is a whole other kettle of fish. One of the finest interprets of all that is schlocky and often wrong in Christianity used to be found @

But there are SOME old praise tunes that still speak to me at a deep level.  They can't be done with saccharine synthesizers and 101 strings and voices that drip with artificial piety or I'll have to hurl.  I still remember the first time I heard "Father I Adore You."  An ecumenical group of about 35 clergy closed a prayer breakfast with that song - it was lead by a Roman Catholic priest who eventually became my landlord - and when we got to the final "alleluias" - and kept singing it as a round - I was knocked out.  Something deep inside was unlocked by that song and I still love it.  (In fact, we're singing it this Sunday as part of Trinity Sunday worship.)

Same goes with an equally dated but sweet song, "Seek Ye First" - add the descant on verse two - and I'm a goner again.  It is simple, lovely and beautiful and evokes a sense of prayer and awe that nourishes humility.  It has the same sensibility as "Day by Day" and "Won't You Let Me Be Your Servant" - a folk groove - that really works with group singing and harmonies. (Too bad all the choral YouTube versions are so schmaltzy; still this guy plays it with grace and heart and deserves to be heard.)

Seek ye first the kingdom of God and its righteousness
And all these things shall be added unto you
Allelu, Alleluia

Ask and it shall be given unto you, seek and ye shall find
Knock and the door will be opened unto you
Allelu, Alleluia

Truth be told, I was very moved by the charismaniacs of the 80s - and the Jesus People of the 70s, too - and don't regret for one moment their encouragement in leaving the ways of the frozen chosen.  Our theology was never quite the same - and we have a very different understandings of how the church should work - but those cats loved to sing from the heart. 

And I learned to love the Lord in a whole new way with their music. Think Amy Grant and Michel W. Smith. Think the REZ Band and Petra and Phil Keaggy. Think the King of the genre:  Larry Norman and let's not forget Norman Greenbaum. (This song from Any Grant's "Lead Me On" still works for me - it speaks of Pentecost on many levels - with a solid beat and musicality that stands the test of time.)

So from time to time, in addition ripping on U2 and Pearl Jam, the Beatles, Sarah McLachlan, Springsteen to say nothing of the jazz and gospel and all the rest... I need to sing songs of pure adoration and praise.  I don't go down this road very often, but every now and again it does my heart good.

We used to use this song, "Sanctuary," to close worship in Tucson.  Gathering in a circle and holding hands, we'd sing and sing and sing - modulating up as the band felt inspired - until like the Lord said through the prophet Joel: I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.  



Black Pete said…
All God's critters got a place in the choir, and all kinds of songs may be sung, brayed, howled or roared in the process. I, too, cringe at kitsch, but I am aware that the line between kitsch and pure rich emotion is a micron thin--I still wince a little at How Great Thou Art, but joyfully bellow sacred harp stuff that is way over the sentimentality line.
RJ said…
Isn't that funny how that works in each and all of us, Peter? So glad you shared this note... it resonates with me.
Shepard said…
Thinking of your sermon last Sunday about fretting and trusting God and the song "Sanctuary" has hit me as a beautiful prayer to help one to slow down and think. Hope our community can sing it some Sunday with the emotion we have within us.
BanksyBoy said…
Oh boy, this is a massive subject which triggers all sorts of reactions... However, whilst I used to think that there were absolutes about the worship repertoire (for me, nearly all bad!) I am now inclined to think more in terms of boundaries instead. Therefore, sometimes, songs that we would once consider BAD, in some one-off circumstances, simply work.

Equally I think there are still absolutes surrounding those boundaries in that some 'music' is so inappropriate on so many levels that it should be excluded ;-) There are so many parameters and one important one is not marketing stuff for gain, it should be of the moment...

Await your wisdom!

Best, PB
RJ said…
I agree it is all about context and sometimes even BAD works, ya? I would love to hear more of your insights and reactions when you get the chance.
RJ said…
And we'll do Sanctuary soon shephard - but I must confess that after someone told me they couldn't help but hear bonnie tyler's "its a heartache" under the melody line... well, let's just say I smile a lot more!
Kim said…
Thanks for taking me back with Sanctuary. I love that song and that time. --Kim
RJ said…
Me too my dear friend...
BanksyBoy said…
Thanks for response! Dunno whether you spied this post about what I think about this subject at the time?

Await more ;-)

RJ said…
I am with you, BanksyBoy all in the right context, ya? I would be eager to know more of your thoughts on this one, too.

And I think we'll do "Sanctuary" soon - I have to confess, however, that after someone told me that whenever we sing it they hear
BanksyBoy said…
Oh yes, context is crucial! The trouble is when something 'of a moment' that was special is subsequently marketed it instantly moves from 'sacred' (being part of salvation) to 'selling an indulgence' (buying salvation), very much back to temple trading.

In that case I do not think there is a fine line between the two, whereas when something creative moves from art to entertainment both can still be valid as long as no pretensions are erected to validate the latter!

Thanks for your kind comment on my blog, btw.

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