Recently, I recorded a collection of cover songs written by legendary songwriters who have influenced me. I love writing songs for the encouragement of the church, but my aim with this project was to hold up a wider view of God’s hope for the world through other people’s stories: songs of love and disappointment, uncertainty and indecision.
We gathered in a dimly lit studio near El Paso filled with vintage Gibson guitars, guitars with no names, amplifiers, tape machines, and worn leather couches. We leaned over scribbled chords and borrowed lyrics on scraps of paper to see what we could make for a new moment.
It wasn’t a collection of worship songs or hymns, but we lifted up our hearts to God just the same. Songs by seekers and doubters can sometimes tell the straight truth. They can offer us a lens to look through our experiences to see and long for God’s presence in the broken places. “There is a crack in everything,” as Leonard Cohen wrote. “That’s how the light gets in.”
Since recording this project, the band and I have been out playing these songs alongside my own songs and Psalm tunes. While shaping the set list for the tour, I was admittedly a little tentative. Would the Cranberries’ “Dreams” resonate alongside “Flourishing”—written from the words of Psalm 119—in a church and a neighborhood theater?
But it turns out that there’s a blend and blur between the Psalms and Bob Dylan, between Isaiah and U2. I’ve been convicted and comforted in unexpected ways while singing these songs together and hearing God speak through both sacred texts and secular poetry.
These juxtapositions have brought about quiet surprises. Singing ...1
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