Tuesday, September 30, 2014


Michael Card was born on April 11, 1957 in Madison, Tennessee.  His first album was 1981’s FIRST LIGHT.  He co-wrote ‘El Shaddai’ with John Thompson.  It won Song of the Year at the 1983 GMA Dove Awards and he won Songwriter of the Year.  Other songs he is known for include: ‘Scandalon’, ‘Known by the Scars’, ‘So Many Books’, ‘Jubilee’, and ‘Love Crucified Arose’.  You may know him as a Bible teacher on Day of Discovery.  He has also authored over 25 books!  In 2002 he released the album A FRAGILE STONE (Covenant Artists).  He wrote the majority of the songs on it alone.

The title track ‘A Fragile Stone’ is a beautiful song co-written with Scott Roley who also provides additional vocals.  Pat Coil plays the B3.  The song reflects on how Jesus viewed Peter: “He called you the rock, the foundation/Of a temple formed from God’s love/His robe of forgiveness wrapping you up/Meant trusting in Him was enough/His love called you out on the water/And held you when you were alone/For you were the rock that was/Broken by love, forever the fragile stone”.  ‘Sea of Souls’ is a musically eclectic track that runs close to eight minutes long.  On it you will hear the banjo, hurdy-gurdy, fiddle, cittern, pennywhistle, and hammer dulcimer.  The lyrics find Peter reminiscing: “All through the night of toil and sweat/With empty souls and empty nets/So hopeless I will not forget/That night so dark and cold/Then with the dawn He rose in view/And filled our nets and my soul too/With the fisher king my rendezvous/Upon the sea of souls (2X)”.

‘Living Stones’ is a pretty ballad that reflects on who Christ is and the effects He has on folks: “See, in Zion He is known/A chosen, precious cornerstone/And the ones who come to trust in Him/Will never know the shame/That He bore on that Cross when it seemed that all was lost/He is the Stone that makes men stumble/The Rock that makes them fall”.  ‘I Left Everything to Follow You’ finds Kirk Whalum on saxophone and uses a choir.  Michael Card writes: “This song is dedicated to countless missionaries who’ve left everything to follow Jesus, who labor in dangerous and lonely places far from the spotlight and the sound of applause.  I hope this helps in some small way”.  Here are some of the words of the song: “But what is my petty offering/To Your sacrifice?/I gave up my home/But You left paradise/And what You called me to offer/Has really set me free/Cause You left everything to be with me”.

Michael plays the harp on ‘I am not supposed to be Here’.  It recounts Peter’s dealings with Cornelius: “My stumbling faith responded to what my mind said wasn’t right/So I left that place and followed in a dream/To find unfamiliar strangers who were hungry for the Light/Then I realized that no one is unclean”.  Michael is joined on vocals by Darwin Hobbs on ‘Not That Kind of King’.  Musically, the song incorporates elements of blues, jazz, and black Gospel music.  These lyrics focus on Jesus’ earthly mission: “He has come to suffer and He has come to die/Crucified in weakness and you may wonder why/Though He could call the angels/He will not say a thing/Because, you see, He’s not that kind of king”.

‘Stranger on the Shore’ is a quiet song with John Catchings playing cello.  It is based on John 21 and a sermon by Dr. William Lane.  The song contains these words of admonition: “You need to be confronted by the stranger on the shore/You need to have Him search your soul, you need to hear the call/You need to learn exactly what it means for you to follow/You need to realize that He’s asking for it all”.  Craig Duncan plays the hammer dulcimer and Pat Coil plays the B3 on ‘His Gaze’.  It is a compelling song that includes these powerful words: “Our eyes met once across a barren place/Where I denied I even knew His name/What broke my heart was not the look upon His face/But knowing that He loved me still the same/It is the very way He looks upon us all/This moment seeing all that we might be/No hint of condemnation can be seen within His eyes/For He has been condemned for you and me”.

‘Walking on the Water’ is a mighty fine, upbeat bluegrass track that uses dobro, banjo¸fiddle, and mandolin.  Buddy Greene and Christine Dente are on backing vocals.  Michael wrote the song with his friend Chuck Beckman in the late 70’s at Western Kentucky University.  Matthew 14:22-33 is the inspiration: “Stepped out on the raging sea and kept my eyes on Him/But every time I looked away I started sinking in, I started sinking in/Just as I was losing hope/Jesus took my hand/Tell me, Peter, where’s your faith?/You know I’ll help you stand/Only I can help you stand”.  ‘Mourning the Death of a Dream’ speaks of the downside of being a traveling musician and a traveling musician’s wife: “Cool morning shadows sadly shift across the floor/Each time we say goodbye it’s harder than before/Even after all the pain of parting still we find/That we must mourn the death of the dreams we leave behind.../The sacrifice that we both lay before His feet/A thousand moments that belonged to us/That now will never be”.  The album ends with an instrumental entitled ‘Sea of Solos (Reprise)’.

A FRAGILE STONE is an excellent album of mostly mellow, easy listening music that adults will appreciate much more than youth will.  The musicianship is highly skilled and Michael’s vocals are smooth, warm, and well-suited to telling Biblical stories.  One could use this project for personal devotions and reflection.  Fans of Tim Daniels, Scott Wesley Brown, and John Michael Talbot should acquire this album which I’m rating 93%.  For more info visit: www.michaelcard.com.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Brooke Barrettsmith was a contestant on American Idol in 2006 who reached the top 40.  She went on to tour with the likes of Pillar, Wavorly, and Building 429.  On her self-titled debut album (2008, Essential Records) she co-writes all ten songs.  Her co-writers are: Aaron Sprinkle, Jason Ingram, Doug McKelvey, Matt Bronleewe, Adam Smith, Rob Hawkins, and Justin York.  In the album’s credits she thanks “Jesus Christ-my Savior, my life.  May I always serve You with passion and devotion, on and off the stage.  I dedicate this album to you.  I love You, Father.

First up is ‘Right Now’, an all out rock song about being given a clean slate in life: “New day/Moving beyond what broke me down/Letting go/I’m giving it all up to be found/I never thought a second chance would ever let this day begin/I never thought I’d be the one to show the world You’ve overcome/I can start again.../I wanna stand my ground in every circumstance/I won’t let ‘em keep me down/You’ve given me a second chance/Given me a second chance”.  ‘More Real’ speaks of the Lord’s goodness to us: “I’m about to break/In this lonely place/I cry Your name/You are more real/Than the tears that are filling my eyes/Than the heartache I’m holding inside/You’re my hope in the darkest of times/Like the moon that illuminates the night/In light of all I feel/Jesus, You’re more real”.

‘Farewell’ urges us not to be caught up in our regrets: “Say farewell to all, all of your mistakes/Forgive yourself/It’s a brand new day.../The future is redemption/Your story of escape.../Salvation is waiting for you/Your heavy heart can be carried for you”.  ‘Quiet my Heart’ is appropriately a piano-based ballad.  It reminds us that we ought to spend quality time with the Lord on a regular basis: “I get stuck in between/Yesterday and all that tomorrow brings/When all that You want from me/Is that I come and sit at Your feet/And know that You are God.../Open my eyes to take in Your beauty/Keep me here in this place/Take me in Your embrace/There’s no place I’d rather be than right now”.

The next song is called ‘Breakthrough’.  Anyone who has ever experienced a spiritual valley will be able to relate to these pleading words: “Breaks the heart inside of me/Stuck in the dark and I can’t see Your light/Like it used to shine on me/Miss the way it used to be/Running free and feeling so alive/Take me there again/I know You hear me/I know You’ll help me”.  ‘Father’ is a mid-tempo, worshipful song of gratitude and commitment: “Thank You for saving my soul/Oh Father/I thank You for giving me hope/Oh Father/I promise my love to you/And I will follow You always/My Father”.

‘Anymore’ is a heavy rocker that includes these emotionally charged lyrics: “Your words can cut so deep/I can’t stop the bleeding/Do you find pleasure in/In watching me scream?/I feel the sting/(Are you happy now?)/Nothing is sacred/You’re not yourself.../Look at me when I am talking to you/You never listen, never follow through/Look at me, I’m talking to you/You never listen”.  ‘OK’ is a catchy electric guitar and drum driven song of encouragement: “It’s ok to be afraid/Just fix your eyes above/And it will be O, be O, be OK/It’s OK, cuz you are safe/Don’t lose your faith/And it will be O, be O, be OK.../You’ve got to trust, God hears your cries/Don’t, don’t, don’t you worry”.

‘Quiet Streets’ is all about sharing the good news of the Gospel with others: “When did we dress up in secrets?/Why are we ashamed to shout His name?/If you’re waiting for the perfect moment/If there ever was a time, it’s now/Go on now, take it to the quiet streets/The truth is screaming to be free/Go on now, take it to the quiet streets/The truth is screaming”.  ‘Paper Tigers’ finds Frederick Williams on piano and Chris Carmichael responsible for strings.  This closing song assures us all is not lost when we are afraid: “Oh, surrounding you a storm is raging/So look around, don’t you fear/Paper tigers are your enemy/I know they seem real/Stretch out your hands and feel/The wind against your fingertips/And know that help is here/Right here”.

It is pleasant to be reminded that there are female Christian artists who enjoy playing rock music.  The Christian market is flooded with female pop and adult contemporary artists.  Brooke’s voice is well suited to her chosen genre of rock on this album.  Her vocals are not drowned out by the instruments.  The photos of Brooke included with this project are stunning.  I’m recommending this self-titled debut to fans of Krystal Meyers, Kutless, and Flyleaf, and rating it 85%.  For more info look up Brooke Barrettsmith on Facebook.erHerH

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


MORE TO THIS LIFE (1989, Sparrow Records) is Steven Curtis Chapman’s third album.  It was produced by Phil Naish, and Steven, Mark Heimermann, Chris Rodriguez, Herb Chapman, and Chris Harris provide background vocals.

Up first is the title track ‘More to this Life’.  It is a mellow song that offers great hope for the entire human race: “If we turn our eyes to Jesus we’ll find/Life’s true beginning is there at the cross where He died/He died to bring us/More to this life than living and dying/More than just trying to make it through the day/More to this life/More than these eyes alone can see/And there’s more than this life alone can be”.  ‘Love You With My Life’ is one of six songs on this album solely written by Steven.  On this bouncy pop tune Steven makes a pledge to the Lord: “I’m gonna love You with my life/I wanna love You with my life/And as I listen and obey/I’m gonna live these words I say/I’m gonna love You with my life”.

‘Waiting For Lightning’ paints a powerful picture: “Standing on the edge of the truth/Looking out at the view/Of all you used to believe/From where you are you can see you’re far away from home/Echoes of the life you once knew/Call out to you from across the divide/And you know it’s time to step back over the line/But you’re waiting for lightning/A sign that it’s time for a change/And you’re listening for thunder/While He quietly whispers your name”.  Carl Gorodetzsky and The Nashville String Machine play on the track.  ‘Living for the Moment’ is a light 80’s pop song that reminds us that salvation is only a starting point: “He prayed the prayer one Sunday morning/He really meant the words he said/She prayed and gave her heart to Jesus/One night while kneeling by her bed/So many start on this journey/But they never make it out of the door/Their lives are caught in a moment in time/But there’s so much more/Than living for the moment when He’s given us a lifetime/Living for the moment letting hours pass right by/It’s gonna take forever to discover all that Jesus has in store/So live for every moment/And live every moment for the Lord”.

My Uncle Allan sang ‘I Will Be Here’ at our wedding reception.  It is a wonderful ballad concerning romantic love and commitment: “I will be here when you feel like being quiet/When you need to speak your mind/I will listen/And I will be here when the laughter turns to crying/Through the winning, losing, and trying, we’ll be together/Cause I will be here”.  ‘Who Makes The Rules’ was written by Steven, his father Herb, Phil Naish, and James Isaac Elliot.  It has a country twang to it and urges us to truly follow Christ and not the ways of the world: “When I see people just like you and me/Trying to live out the pictures they see on TV/Gotta have a new car, new clothes, new love when they get tired of trying/Well, I’ve been reading ‘bout a different way/Talking ‘bout dying to live and losing to gain/Seems like somebody’s telling us the truth and somebody’s lying/I wanna know who”.

‘Treasure Island’ is a song a sea captain would appreciate: “I raise the sail as I kneel to pray/Check my course all along the way/A million thoughts like the rushing wind/Are blowing this ship so I’ll pray again/Soon I have landed on the solid ground/I take my life’s concerns and lay them all down/When I go sailing out to Treasure Island/The Treasure Island that God’s Word can be/I’ll pray and make my way to Treasure Island/And in those quiet times I know that I will find/All the treasure I will ever need”.  ‘Way beyond the Blue´ is a song of great encouragement: “Look above and beyond what you see/To find a view of all that this life can be/Way beyond the blue where the Father is calling/Let Him take you to a life beyond compare/His love is wider than the sky above you/And He has plans for you that go way beyond the blue”.

‘In This Little Room’ is a co-write with Geoff Moore.  This sentimental song begins with these words: “In this little room I put my pen to the paper/To write what’s in my heart down on a page/ And with every line a silent prayer is being lifted/That the song will somehow find its way/From this little room to your heart”.  Mark O’Connor plays mandolin on ‘More than Words’ a song that reflects on the Bible: “As I open up this Book/And read of all the love it took/For a holy God to care for man/O Spirit, help me understand/It’s not that it’s unclear/It’s a letter to children/But Lord I know/It’s meant to be much more/More than words, not just letters on a page/More than words, for every line and every phrase/Was a breath of inspiration from a caring Father/Who gave the gift of His Son to prove He loved us more than words”.  The album ends with another Chapman and Moore co-write.  ‘Out in the Highways’ is highly evangelistic in nature: “There’s a banner on the church wall/They put up many years ago/Reminding them that Jesus said ‘Go into all the world’/They need the Spirit wind to blow again/And fan the flame of concern/Take the truth that they’ve learned and go/Out in the highways, out in the highways/Open windows, doors, and hearts, take the light into the dark/Out in the highways”.

MORE TO THIS LIFE is an album comprised of mainly soft inspirational and adult contemporary songs of faith.  Unfortunately there are so many slow songs the album becomes boring to listen to at times, even though the songs are well-crafted.  I’m recommending this one to fans of Steve Green and Scott Wesley Brown and rating it 83%.  For more info visit: www.stevencurtischapman.com.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014


Steven Curtis Chapman was born on November 21, 1962 in Paducah, Kentucky.  His songs have been recorded by the likes of Glen Campbell, Sandi Patty, and Roger Whittaker.  REAL LIFE CONVERSATIONS (1988, Sparrow Records) was Steven’s second album and was produced by Phil Naish.

The album opens with ‘Faithful Too’, a country rock song co-written with Geoff Moore, who also provides guest vocals.  It is a spiritual check-up of sorts: “The true test of my love will be/Did I follow You consistently?/Through the good and bad/I want to be faithful too.../So if tragedy calls/Or if everything goes my way/I want to be found/Faithful to You everyday”.  On the country pop song ‘Tuesday’s Child’ Steven expresses his heart: “When Jesus gave His life away/It was once and for all/So with more of His grace filling me/I more than ever want to be/Growing up in purity/With the faith of a child”.

These words from ‘For Who He Really Is’ tell a vivid story: “He slips into church and he puts up his guard/They look so happy, but his life’s been so hard/He keeps his distance so they won’t see the scars/It’s just religion that’s all dressed up in white/And God is love as long as you’re living right/But does he know that Jesus also has scars/And His love can reach him no matter how far?”  ‘Consider it Done’ is a bouncy pop song that includes these lyrics that have the feel of a loving Father offering his son advice: “It’s by His grace we’re saved/Not by the things we do/So we’ve got to serve Him with a thankful attitude/And let Him know where He leads we’ll go/From this day on our hope’s in Jesus and His work’s complete/From this day on/He makes His experience our history”.

‘His Eyes’ is a co-write with James Isaac Elliot.  It was a No 1 hit for Steven and won him a Dove for Contemporary Recorded Song of the Year.  The song reflects on God’s nature: “Sometimes His voice comes calling like rolling thunder or like driving rain/And sometimes His voice is quiet/And we start to wonder if He knows our pain/But He who spoke peace to the water/Cares more for our hearts than the waves/And the voice that once said ‘You’re forgiven’/Still says ‘You’re forgiven’ today”.  ‘The Human Race’ draws on a biblical principle for its chorus: “We are running in a human race/Where nobody wants to settle for second place/But we’ve got to run it at a different pace/Cause the first will be last and the last will be first/At the end of the human race”.

‘Wait’ is a co-write with Margaret Becker.  This tender song features Carl Gorodetzsky and the Nashville String Machine.  It encourages us to be a patient folk: “Answers come slowly to your cries of desperation/But time is His tool, teaching the greatest lessons learned/So let Him do His work in you/And watch the miracles come true as you/Wait, oh wait, wait on the Lord/You will understand in time/Why you must wait/Wait, wait, wait on the Lord/Yes He hears you”.  ‘Truth or Consequences’ is a melodic song that reminds us of the importance of our actions and choices in life: “As sure as God made the sun to shine/He made the rules we must all live by/He loved us too much to leave us alone to our own devices/It’s either truth or consequences/There’s no other way/Push truth aside, the other takes its place”.

‘My Turn Now’ is quite a catchy tune and is one of my favorite Steven Curtis Chapman songs.  These lyrics make it clear that the Christian walk is one of sacrifice: “I close the book and I shake my head/Sometimes I can’t believe the things I’ve read/I don’t deserve what He did for me/He gave His love and His life away/And now He’s asking me to do the same/So I’m gonna give Him all I am/And all I ever hope to be/Cause it’s my turn now/Well, it’s my turn now/My turn to give my life away”.  A volunteer choir is featured on the lovely ballad ‘His Strength is Perfect’.  The chorus offers us these wonderful words of encouragement: “His strength is perfect when our strength is gone/He’ll carry us when we can’t carry on/Raised in His power, the weak become strong/His strength is perfect (2X)”. 

REAL LIFE CONVERSATIONS is an album that will leave you not only believing that God is indeed alive, but will confirm to you emotionally that He indeed wants to be an active, living, driving force in your life if you will let Him.  Steven’s vocals are terrific on this album.  Fans of the earlier works of the adult contemporary and pop sounds of Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith should buy this album.  I’m rating it 95%.  For more info visit: www.stevencurtischapman.com.


Tuesday, September 09, 2014


Jessa Anderson lives in Nashville, TN with her husband Jordan and their two kids Lorelei and Jagger.  Jessa loves coffee and watching Gilmore Girls and hates olives.  Her website says: “As for music, and why it matters, I view it as a thread that runs far and wide, bringing people to God and to one another.  I have a hard time labeling music in and of itself as ‘Christian’, but I am proud to be a Christ-follower making music encompassing both the human and the holy”.  WHOLE (2014, Crash Records) is her third full length album.

A pleasant pop/dance number called ‘Idols’ opens the album.  It finds Jessa conversing openly with her Creator: “And as it turns out, this fickle heart in my chest/Sometimes it beats for everything but what is best/And when I turn down the voice I hear in my head/I give You room to speak and offer life instead/So take all of these idols, all of these idols and lay them to rest/So take all of these idols, all of my idols”.  ‘Stay’ opens with lyrics that many a married couple will be able to relate to: “Another yelling match here in the living room/A personal attack is thrown from me to you/And then you give it back/And slam the door and drive away/And all you’re thinking is ‘Don’t know how much more I can take’/Cause when we started out, wide-eyed and unafraid/Thought we would never doubt the promises we made/But disillusioned now ‘cause nothing seems to be the same/And we are wondering just how much more that we can take”.

‘Giving Your Heart Away’ is a pretty ballad that again deals with male-female relationship issues: “Her hands would shake when she said goodbye/She never meant to hurt a heart that was so kind/Searching for words to apologize/With her mistakes burning bright in his eyes/Unwelcome tears that he’d try to fight spilling out/Slowly running him dry.../Said it was love, but I didn’t believe him/Feel like I’m locked inside without a key, and/If I could only collect all the pieces/That I have given up/Maybe it’d be enough”.  ‘Everything’ is an Adult Contemporary song that features beautiful, poetic words: “This is love, not that I could love but that I’m loved by One/Who loves at any cost, even to death/You’ve gone and stand victorious/And when I think about all You’ve done/Jesus I am overcome/You know it hits me like a tidal wave/And I buckle down beneath the weight of/All You are, no less than Everything/I am helpless but to speak Your name/The sweetest sound I’ll ever make/With all my heart/I’m giving everything”.

‘Can’t Be Saved’ sounds a pessimistic note: “It’s lonely on the sea but every once in a while comes someone/Who tries and tries to put the anchor down/But soon they will find that every time there’s a reason I’m still drifting/And I’ll be right here until I drown.../They say if you look close enough at the bottom/You might see just a little piece of what you thought was love”.  ‘Caught me by Surprise’ is a gentle, happy song: “Well I don’t know how we got together but I’m glad we did/You said hello and before I could stop it I was falling in/One look in your eyes, I was mesmerized right there and then/And suddenly realized just how much I’d been missing/Little did I know that I was only seeing black and white/Living shades of gray/Still I thought that I was doing fine/But now the colors seem so bright/You caught me by surprise”.

‘Never the Same’ would fit nicely on daytime Christian radio.  This song makes it clear that Jessa wants to share her faith and the hope she’s found with others: “I want to make You known with every breath in my lungs/Until there’s nothing more, until the work is done.../Now all I want to do is tell everybody how/Your love has overcome the deepest of my needs and I/Could never quite express the way that You’ve changed me now/But I will do my best/Yes, I will do my best”.  ‘Breakdown’ warns us that fighting in relationships can be like being on a battlefield: “When every line is crossed and every word is spoken/When every drop of blood has been spilled out and every hope is gone/With every weapon drawn and every wound inflicted/When you are the only one left standing/Can you really say you’ve won?.../So every bullet fired and every forced explosion, yeah, yeah/Is taking from everyone in it’s path not just the target chosen”.

‘Story of Grace’ is a well-crafted song that places total confidence in God: “Yet I know You hear even what I can’t say/Though my mouth is silent my heart cries for strength/So let the words come one by one/Goodness and healing from my tongue/That I’d find Your glory even in my pain/Let my life tell the story of grace”.  The title track, ‘Whole’, is up last.  It reflects on what Christ accomplished at Calvary: “If He really did come to right the fall, pay once for all of us, take all the burden and the sin/If the curtain was rent, the sky was black, and the spear went in to pour down the last of a covenant/If death was beginning instead of end, then who I am now was determined then.../And when He said ‘It is finished’/It was finished then/He gave us what we don’t deserve and paved the way to righteousness”.

On the whole, pun intended, WHOLE has two strengths that stand out to me.  First off, the album successfully deals both with horizontal relationships (human to human), and vertical relationship (between us and God).  Secondly, Jessa has a voice that is very smooth, warm, and inviting to listen to.  The main downfall of the album, in my opinion, is that there are so many slow, quiet songs that they almost begin to sound alike.  I hope on her next album Jessa includes several peppier, upbeat songs musically.  I’m rating WHOLE 83% and recommending it to fans of Faith Grace, Taylor Swift, and Sarah McLachlan.  For more info visit: www.jessaanderson.com.

Friday, September 05, 2014


It is very, very rare for me to read a work of fiction.  I generally prefer Christian living type books, biographies, and autobiographies.  A short while ago however, my Mom gave me a copy of Wm. Paul Young’s 2007 novel THE SHACK. It was a #1 New York Times Bestseller. I knew it was hugely popular several years back and had generated some controversy in Christian circles.  It comes recommended by the likes of Kathie Lee Gifford, Michael W. Smith, Eugene Peterson, and Drew Marshall.

After having read it I have to say “Wow! What a book!”  I highly recommend it and give it five out of five stars.  The whole plot revolves around a child going missing. What would you do if one of your children disappeared?

This book will totally revolutionize how you perceive God and who you think He is.  It gives great insight into not only who God is, but what His main characteristics are.  It will also provoke thought about what God intended for humans when He created us, what He requires and doesn’t require of us, and how He views time.

A huge theme in the book is suffering and pain. Why does God allow them when He could eradicate them in a flash right now?  The book also gives us a glimpse into what the afterlife could look like and it is truly fascinating.

Forgiveness is also explored towards the end of the novel. What is the true definition of it and who and what is it for?

There are a lot of religious types and churches that won’t like this book because it doesn’t just give the status quo answers to many of life’s big questions. This book will stretch your imagination and cause you to grow if you let it.  The cast of characters is quite intriguing. 

Be sure to read THE SHACK if you haven’t already! Your mind and beliefs will be stretched.