It seems that January is the month of diets. People all over the world are grabbing onto the spark of life and hope that comes with the new year and deciding to take better care of ourselves. Whether we are trying to lose weight, lower cholesterol or just be healthier, we pay very close attention to what we put into our bodies. Is our food good for us? Is it full of preservatives? Is it organic?
Food is not all we put into our bodies, however, and maybe in this new year, we should also focus on what sounds we are putting into our bodies. We hear so much noise every day, so much talk and so much music. How attentive are you to what you listen to? Do you notice when your music influences your mood?
As a youth minister, I hear all kinds of Christian music. No matter what your musical tastes are, some Christian artist
somewhere has tried to appeal to them. Ancient Latin chant, 70s folk, early American hymnody, pop, opera, Celtic, rap, metal… whether it’s meant for liturgy or not, there is Christian music out there for you.
The bulk of Christian music associated with “young people”, however, seems to fall within the category of praise and worship music. If you have seen pictures of massive crowds of teenagers rocking out at a concert, jumping up and down and praising Jesus, you have a concept of praise and worship music. Many people will refer to any Christian music with guitars as praise and worship, but that is not completely accurate. The Notre Dame Folk Choir uses guitar in much of their music, but they do not have the pop music sound that is characteristic of praise and worship.
As a genre, praise & worship is very emotion-driven, designed to bring its audience to the height of joy and the depths of despair. There are a good number of artists who do a fantastic job of this. However, in my opinion, a lot of praise and worship music is bland. Many individual songs do stand out in any way from any other praise and worship song that could be played. This is another thing it shares with pop.
Most of these contemporary worship songs fall into those two main categories. There are the high-energy praise songs, designed to pump up the crowd and express joy and honor to God. These are the songs that go with the rocking crowd of teenagers in our previous description. I love to listen to some of them when I’m having a joy-filled day, or I need a little pick-me-up. Some of my favorites are “Alive Again” by Matt Maher, “The King, He Comes” by Ike Ndolo and the classic “Jesus Freak” by DC Talk.
There are also angst-driven songs, focused our feelings of confusion, inadequacy and guilt and how Christ’s love is there for us, and how His sacrifice enables us to still be with Him. If you’ve seen pictures of crowds of teenagers swaying with their eyes closed and their hands lifted about their heads, this is probably the type of song they are listening to. I like these songs when I have had a bad day and need a good cry or when I want a particularly reflective mood for prayer. Some of my favorites are “Restless” by Audrey Assad, “Sweetly Broken” by Jeremy Riddle and “Praise You in This Storm” by Casting Crowns.
But what about that middle ground? Obviously, in this post, I am encouraging you to include more Christian music in your life. As I noted, however, this genre (and a significant portion of Christian music in general) is specifically designed to evoke an emotional response. While this has a time and place, it can really wear a person out! You might not be looking to work yourself up to an emotional peak on your drive into the office. So where are the songs that are mellow? Where are the songs that are peaceful and hopeful and calm?
To be honest, I haven’t found that many (If you know of some good ones, let us all know in the comments below!). There is one song, though, that is my favorite in oh so many ways. It is called “Garden” and it is by Matt Maher and Audrey Assad.
Every time I listen to this song, I calm down. I am filled with peace and hope. If I am happy, “Garden” helps me give that joy to God. If I am stressed or sad, “Garden” reassures me. It inspires me when I’m feeling empty.
I challenge you to listen to this song every morning for a week. Don’t just put it on in the background while you run to and fro (though, if that’s all you have time for, it’s better than nothing). Try to find a few minutes where you can just focus on listening and breathing. This is great to do when you are in the car by yourself, or you are doing dishes alone in the kitchen. See what kind of difference it makes in your day, and tell us all about it.
Do you have favorite Christian music to listen to? Share your suggestions below, and have a musically blessed day.