Story Behind the Song (Christmas Version) – I Heard the Bells

I still can’t believe it’s December! Do you feel like this semester has just flown by?

Resound is playing Christmas music now. 🙂 So in honor of the season, today’s “Story Behind the Music” is focusing on a Christmas song.

“I Heard the Bells” was written in 1863 as a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Here’s an amazing, live rendition by Casting Crowns…

Song Credits: “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day – LIVE” by Casting Crowns

To find out more about this song, I went to the ever-trustworthy Wikipedia:

Longfellow lost his second wife two years before writing this song. In 1863, his oldest son Charles joined the Union troops during the Civil War, leaving home without his father’s blessing. By November, Charles was wounded and no longer able to fight. So there’s no doubt that Longfellow was burdened with grief while writing these lyrics.

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play;
In music sweet the tones repeat,
“There’s peace on earth, good will to men.”

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along th’ unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor does He sleep,
For Christ is here; His Spirit near
Brings peace on earth, good will to men.”

When men repent and turn from sin
The Prince of Peace then enters in,
And grace imparts within their hearts
His peace on earth, good will to men.

O souls amid earth’s busy strife,
The Word of God is light and life;
Oh, hear His voice, make Him your choice,
Hail peace on earth, good will to men.

Then happy, singing on your way,
Your world will change from night to day;
Your heart will feel the message real,
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

The imagery of peace in this song is so beautiful.

Sometimes it’s easy to get caught in the craziness of the holiday season. Trying to find the perfect gifts. Attending Christmas parties. Finishing the semester well. Traveling.

My favorite words of this song are

O souls amid earth’s busy strife,
The Word of God is light and life;
Oh, hear His voice, make Him your choice

So that’s the focus of today’s devotional. The key to finding peace in this busy time of year is taking the time to listen to God’s voice.

Sometimes, peace seems impossible. As we enter into finals week, you may be feeling overwhelmed with everything. Trust me, I get that feeling.

But even among the craziness of life, we can have peace. We can also share that peace with others by taking time to hear God’s still, small voice.

Thanks so much for reading and I hope the rest of your semester goes well.

What are your favorite lyrics from “I Heard the Bells”? Feel free to comment below.

-RaeAnn

 

Story Behind the Music: Scars by TobyMac

Video Credits: “Scars” by TobyMac

TobyMac just released his album The Elements last month. I highly recommend checking it out – every song is unique stylistically, but the album has an EDM feel of sorts.

Maybe you’ve heard “Scars” on Resound Radio and wondered what it’s about?

In a YouTube video, TobyMac says,

“The people I love the most are going out facing the pain, the struggle, and the temptation of this crazy world. I’m very aware of the scars that come with life’s journey. But sometimes we insulate those things from the ones we love.”

He goes on to say, “I wrote this one for my boy. I wanted to let him know that I’m here for him and that and that God is there for him. So lift your head up, my son, to where your help comes from.”

I’ll admit it. I’m a huge TobyMac fan and I probably have Internet-stalked him way too much. His oldest son is twenty and in college. It’s so easy to relate to the message of this song as a fellow college student.

Transitioning from being a “kid” to an “adult” is definitely a journey. College comes with more independence and life becomes so much different than what you’ve previously known.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed about change. Am I really following God’s path? Is this the right major/career to pursue? What if God calls me completely away from the place I’ve known for years?

And along the way, mistakes are going to happen. I showed up to a professor’s house for a party a week early! I completely misread the date. While it was super embarrassing at the time, I learned an important lesson from it.

Now I triple-check dates to make sure I’m at the right place at the right time.

Maybe you’ve made some mistakes along the way too.  Maybe some have left scars. But you don’t have to dwell in guilt or shame.

I absolutely love the chorus of this song:

You are not alone
We’ve all been there
Scars come with livin’
You are not alone
We’ve all been there (been there, been there, oh), oh
So lift your head, lift your head
Lift your head to where your help comes from
Yeah, you, you’re not alone
We’ve all been there
Scars come with livin’

Psalm 121:1-2 (ESV) says,

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lordwho made heaven and earth.”

Even though change in life can be intimidating, it’s so comforting to know that we don’t have to go through anything alone.

This world may leave scars. But God promises to never leave or forsake us. No matter where we go or how badly we mess up, He’s there.

What’s your favorite line from Scars? What verse helps you the most when you’re feeling overwhelmed or lonely?

Fear, You Don’t Own Me! – Thoughts on “The Breakup Song” by Francesca Battistelli

Song Credits: “The Breakup Song” by Francesca Battistelli

As a child, what were your biggest fears?

Maybe you were afraid of the dark or monsters. Maybe you were afraid of thunder. Or like me, maybe you were afraid of everything.

As we get older, most of the irrational fears fall by the wayside. At least, they probably should. But I’m honestly still afraid of Narnia and riding a bike.

Unfortunately, these childish fears are often replaced with other fears.

Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Fear of losing people we love. Fear of the future. Fear of what people think.

Sometimes, fear keeps us from moving forward. Sometimes, fear keeps us from doing what God is calling us to do. Fear calls us to the comfortable; the familiar. Fear causes us to waste valuable time worrying over what we can’t control. Fear will get us nowhere in life.

As someone who greatly struggles with fear, I really appreciate Francesca Battistelli’s “The Breakup Song”.  You can hear this incredible song on Resound Radio, and feel free to check out the video above.

I love the idea of “breaking up” with fear.

In the chorus, she sings:
Fear, you don’t own me
There ain’t no room in this story
And I ain’t got time for you telling me what I’m not
Like you know me, well guess what
I know who I am
I know I’m strong and I am free
Got my own identity
So fear, you will never be welcome here

Breaking up is definitely an emotional process. If you’ve ever been in a relationship that didn’t work out, you know the feelings involved.

Spring 2017, I thought for sure I was going to marry a coworker. He loved the 50s like I did. He was interested in radio. He was old-fashioned and respectful. He was great with customers. But he wasn’t a Christian. As it turns out, he only cared about himself and what he wanted.

We never moved past the “friends” stage, but I spent way too much time thinking about him, texting him, and inviting him to church or family dinners.  By last July, he stopped texting me and it became apparent he had moved on. While it hurt at the time, I’m so glad that this relationship didn’t work out. I was in the wrong frame of mind. I had become so absorbed in him and his hobbies that I forgot who I was. 

And you know what? Fear does the same thing. It seems comforting and welcoming at first, but ultimately traps us into forgetting who we are. 

Breaking up is hard to do. Some fears have had such a strong hold on us that it’s difficult to let them go. But with God’s help, it’s possible to be free from fear.

Our identity is not found in fear. It’s found in Christ. Under fear, we’re slaves. Under God, we’re free.

If you’re someone who struggles with fear like me, here are some amazing verses that can help us learn to trust God and not live under fear’s control.

  • For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” ~ Romans 8:15 (ESV)
  • For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. ~ 2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV)
  • Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. ~ John 14:27 (ESV)

What are some ways that you deal with fair? Do you think the “breakup” analogy works well in this case? I’d love to hear your thoughts and thanks so much for reading!

 

God Hears Our Broken Prayers

Video Credits: “Broken Prayers” by Riley Clemmons

Riley Clemmons is new to the Christian music scene. You can hear her debut single “Broken Prayers” on Resound Radio.

In a YouTube video, Clemmons says she felt “especially broken and imperfect” the day she wrote this song. She had scheduled time to write in the studio and thought about canceling her session. But after talking with her co-writers, she realized the brokenness she felt was okay to bring to God.

Clemmons says, “This song came from a place of truly finding peace in the fact that God takes you at your most broken, at your lowest place. Not only does he take you there, but He delights in it and genuinely loves you in that place.”

 

I love Riley Clemmons’s honesty in the first verse.

I’ve been taught how to talk to You
Hold it together
Make the bad look better
Say all the words that I’m supposed to
Bow my head, say, “Amen”
Yeah, that’ll do
Making every dead-end look like heaven
Like being okay is the way to reach You

In our culture, people ask “How are you?” flippantly. Most people respond with “fine”, even if they’re not. Whether or not our friends or co-workers really care or not, it’s easier to hide our true feelings. It’s hard to admit we’re struggling. We may feel like we’re disappointing God or we’re not a strong enough Christian if our life is imperfect.

The past few weeks have been extremely stressful in my own life. I have three major assignments due next week, family health concerns, and a funeral with non-believing family coming up this weekend. I feel worn out and overwhelmed, yet I almost subconsciously put on a front like everything’s okay.

Maybe you’ve been having one of those days or weeks too.

That’s why this song is so comforting. It’s okay to not be perfect. It’s all right to bring our brokenness to God.

1 Peter 5:7 (NLT) says, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”

The chorus of broken tears expresses this point beautifully…

You want my tears, every messy word
Every scar and every fear
You want all I have
With no holding back
When I’m hurt, at my worst
You meet me there
‘Cause You see the beauty
In my broken prayers!

Easter Break is almost here. This is a stressful time of the semester, but how comforting is it to know that we can come to God broken and he genuinely cares about everything we’re going through?!

You are God’s Masterpiece

Song Credits: “Masterpiece” by Danny Gokey

Danny Gokey’s latest single is a vulnerable and honest look at our understanding of God’s plan.

You can hear “Masterpiece” on Resound Radio.

I’ll be honest, the artistic process confuses me at times. It seems like the painter is just throwing blobs or smudges of paint on a canvas. But then, they somehow transform all of those smudges into a beautiful picture.

Although I don’t fully understand the art or science behind how these blurry lines lead to beautiful scenes, I’m nevertheless impressed.

 

God is the author of creativity and His process in our lives works a lot like painting.

We see the blurry lines, the scattered smudges of paint; and wonder how anything beautiful can come from that.

We see sickness, loss, and suffering and wonder how this can be good.

As Danny Gokey says in the first verse of Masterpiece…
And I can’t understand
Why I’m not fixed by now
Begged and I pleaded
Take this pain but I’m still bleeding

He goes on to say…
Heart trusts you for certain
Head says it’s not working
I’m stuck here still hurting

How many times do we have that struggle between our heart and our head!

We desperately want to believe that things will get better, but logically, our situation seems impossible.

Yet, that is all part of God making us His masterpiece.

As the chorus says…
You’re making a masterpiece
You shaping the soul in me
You’re moving where I can’t see
And all I am is in your hands
You’re taking me all apart
Like it was your plan from the start
To finish your work of art for all to see
You’re making a masterpiece

It’s so comforting to know that God already has the end results in mind.

He knows the messy smudges will lead to a beautiful, redemptive story.

He knows the outcome, while we’re stuck in the moment.

Solomon notes this in Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT):
“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”

God is our Creator.

He has beautiful plans for our lives, even if we only see the messiness.

You are treasured and loved by God. You are His masterpiece!