Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A New School Year, A New Theme Song

"Be still and know that I am God" (Ps. 46:10a)

What's the first thought that comes to mind when you read this passage?  For me it's a dual thought: the hymn "Be Still My Soul", sung slowly to the tune FINLANDIA, played at a Christian funeral.  I can't shake that thought.  I've played that hymn many a Christian funeral.  I've even arranged that hymn for the WLA graduating class of 2000.  So I have a picture, a feeling, a mood of somberness, tinged with sadness, struggling to be joyful.

That's not the mood I want to feel all year long when this passage is read at WLA. I want the theme passage of the WLA Association to be uplifting, encouraging, and comforting.  I don't want to be reminded of funerals I have gone to or feelings of sadness that I have struggled through.  I want to leave chapel each day happy, bolstered up by the good news of the Gospel.

That's the unique challenge I gave myself when writing this year's theme song.  How do you take a Bible passage that most people associate with sadness or troubling times in their lives and see in it God's encouragement?  At first my wanted to expound on the second half of the passage: "know that I am God" and recall all the great and marvelous works of our God through the ages, from Creation to Eternity, but that list would be too long.  Where would you stop recounting all the ways in which God has shown himself and worked in the lives of his children?

The verses are written from the point of view of God talking to us.  "Stop your fighting" came from the Holmen Christian Standard Bible translation of Ps. 46:10.  As soon as I read that translation, I thought of high school kids, and the rest of the verse started to spill out of my pencil onto paper.  Sometimes it's tough to understand how to "be still" (the NIV translation).  The first half of the verse is God talking to us, telling us what not to do.  The second half is God explaining who he is and why we can let him fight for us.

I wanted to add a bridge to this song for two reasons: I get bored with just verse and refrain style when there isn't bridge, and I wanted to emulate the style of modern Christian hymn writers Keith and Kristen Getty's By Faith.  The lyrics for the bridge come from Psalm 46:2-3, 7. The steep angle of the melody of the bridge makes me think of the steep slopes of a mountain as it crashes down into the waters below (like the Mt. St. Helens eruption!).

All the sheet music, bulletin inserts, and MIDI files are in my DropBox.  Feel free to use them.  Just let me know if your church or school sang it and how it went!