(Originally posted 3-25-20)
If you’ve followed a little of my story and kept up with these blogs, you know I love music. I love being on the listener side: being able to consume music, blog and post about music, and do life in general with a soundtrack that accompanies much of my day. On the flip side, I love creating music. It’s really a huge part of who I am and a constant outlet I feel I must incorporate as I do ministry. Yes I love music for its own sake. But I also believe it needs to have a higher purpose, that of pointing us upward in awe and worship of a loving God. Music is a powerful tool when we use it for that end.
I’ve done several blogs on other people’s albums and songs, either through the “More Than A Song” series or the #musicmonday posts (which sadly came to an end a couple years ago….just too busy!). I’ve covered a few of my own songs as well and in that, I hope the offering has not appeared self-seeking or to puff up. On the contrary, sharing music and then talking about it is something I hope to do in a broader sense. What does this song, album or project mean and why is it relevant now? That’s what I hope to do today in talking about “Seeing for the First Time,” (abbreviating as SFTFT): a Derek Charles Johnson-project that just released yesterday.
It’s interesting to see an album come together and experience first-hand the process as songs get chosen and even the track order gets finalized. In 2018, I was still new to the Nashville area and had recently stepped down from a worship pastor position I had held for 7 years. Early that year, I met producer Jay Speight (Bottle Rockit Productions) over coffee and immediately felt like there was a good rapport between us. Out of that, a friendship soon developed. I appreciate Jay for not only his work ethic and eye to detail, but for so much more. His heart for songs that impact the Kingdom is strong. These songs would not be what they are without him.
Over months talking about vision and album direction, the project went from being focused on mainly singles and one-offs, to being more of a holistic idea with various representative thoughts. SFTFT grew out of several songwriting collaborations, some of which were ideas I brought to the table and others completely organic and developed in the room. It’s been a joy to see God in each of the moments, crafting and lining up divine appointments throughout this whole season.
SFTFT is really a collection of songs that speak to various people. I believe these songs are for everybody, but some will resonate with certain songs more deeply than others based upon the individual. A track like Pray is for the Christian believer, knowing that we pray in faith but we leave the results up to God. Even in prayer, we sometimes come to the Lord empty-handed and unsure of how to ask or what to ask for, but He knows (In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. Romans 8:26,27)
Tracks like Seeing For The First Time and The Jesus Dare are meant to compel the unbeliever or a person new to the faith/teetering on the line of faith. “Would you dare to believe?” is the heart cry of The Jesus Dare and the book of the same name by Jay Payleitner poses this question squarely in our face. SFTFT as the title track realizes that it is not until we accept Christ that our eyes are truly opened and we become “aware” of Who God really is. Akin to Amazing Grace, “I once was blind, but now I see” SFTFT is a testimony I must share: Your grace is blowing my mind, like a billion colors of light. I can’t explain this feeling. It’s like I’m seeing for the first time.
Watch Over Me is a minor-key declaration which begins When I go up to the mountain, when I sink into the depths, I know You are always with me, You watch over every step. The song takes inspirations from the Psalms (If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. Psalm 139:8), knowing we have nothing to fear if Christ is with us.
My Hope is in the Cross rounds out the album and is really a nod to a more congregational, cross-focused type of hymn. It’s a fitting place to end as it really ties up the entire point of what I am about: Jesus and His sacrifice is what brings hope; a hope that nothing else in this world can offer. This world and everything in it will pass away but Jesus remains. My hope is in the cross of Christ, where mercy reigns and death has died. My soul is free, my heart’s alive. My hope is in the cross.
Throughout this album, I want the listener to be able to hear these tracks and dig into the lyrics themselves. These songs are not as ambiguous as some art is these days and I hope that doesn’t offend true music/art fans. There’s a place for those songs, but I believe when we are presenting the Gospel, we must have clarity in our message. That’s where I hope listeners can put on pair of headphones or get into their car and just be encouraged. Because these songs have been prayed over and brought forth out of a time of my life when I needed to reaffirm all that I believe and stand for.
Guys, whether you’ve been with me on this journey for awhile or if you just stumbled upon this article, my hope for you is the same: that you would consider is Jesus really real, can I trust Him, and if so, what does He ask of me? Those are big questions; bigger than a few-thousand-word blog can answer. But they are questions we all must answer at some point. My prayer is that this album helps you in that wrestling process and gives you something to grab onto in the moments when faith is hard or life causes you to doubt.
Thanks so much for allowing me to share a little about this album as a weekly blog post. I wanted to hit “pause” for this week and just bring some awareness that outside of writing/blogging, this is a big part of what I am doing and whether you are a “fan” or “follower” (not my favorite terms BTW), I appreciate you checking this out and sharing with your circle of influence. If you’ve listened to the album, I would love to hear from you!
Guys I love you and I love walking this journey with you. Leaving you with several links and videos to check out below for Seeing For The First Time.
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Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Ephesians 5:15-17
SEEING FOR THE FIRST TIME lyric video:
PRAY lyric video:
THE JESUS DARE lyric video:
Want to stream or download SEEING FOR THE FIRST TIME?
Apple Music: https://apple.co/33MhJSe
Physical CDs - available at my artist website: SEEING FOR THE FIRST TIME CD