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Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire, United Kingdom
Broadcaster, musician, song writer, tea drinker and curry lover.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

CompassionArt - the cd

I'm sure many people will know that this album has arisen out of a vision Delirious? frontman Martin Smith had along with his wife Anna to see some of the world's top worship songwriters come together and create music they could give away to help the poorest of the poor.

The songs were written during a week in Scotland in January 2008, while the bulk of the record was put together at Abbey Road studios in London little more than a month later.

The project is by definition unique. 14 songs with no real writing credits and all publishing and royalties going to CompassionArt nominated charities.

One thing that many of the participants noticed during the writing process was that, perhaps due to the nature of the venture, what they were creating seemed to be among the most anointed work they had ever been involved with and virtually all are quoted as saying that this was a lifetime highlight.

To summarize, the songs were written between Smith, his Delirious? cohort Stu Garrard, Steven Curtis Chapman, Andy Park, Chris Tomlin, Paul Baloche, Matt Redman, Darlene Zschech, Tim Hughes, Graham Kendrick, Israel Houghton and Michael W Smith.

Guest vocalists include Cece Winans, Joel Houston, tobymac, Leeland Mooring and Kirk Franklin.

The extent to which the anointing of God is evident in the songs is extremely clear, since this is one of the strongest collections of songs ever assembled on one cd.

For the above reason it would be hard to single out one song, but I am going to talk about just a few that are particularly magnificent.

Church worship leaders will want to investigate opener "Come To The Water", which features Chris Tomlin and Martin Smith over a rollicking backing track.

"Shout Praise" with an inimitable Israel Houghton vocal over a funky groove is followed by the Brit attack of Matt Redman and Tim Hughes joined by Joel Houston on "King Of Wonders", another song that churches will love.

Special mention should be made of "Highly Favored" with a Michael W. Smith/Amy Grant duet, "Fill My Cup" with the amazing combination of Martin Smith, Cece Winans and the Lakewood Choir, and album closer "There Is Always A Song".

However, the total highpoint for me is "Lead Me To The Rock" with a Paul Baloche vocal over a track that wouldn't sound out of place on a Delirious? record. The song is quite simply one of the best I have ever heard in my life. A thunderous chorus and a song which builds to a floor shaking climax.

In truth every song on here is a winner, and even if not entirely to your taste, still worth buying as the cause is so good. While you're at it, buy the book "The Art Of Compassion" as well. That features all 12 main songwriters contributing a chapter of their own perspective on the project.

In short, buy the cd and the book and visit www.compassionart.tv to find about one of the most important projects Christian Music has ever seen.

Just what is poverty?

After experiencing the CompassionArt cd and book I've had to do some readjusting in my thinking.

Recently I've concentrated a lot of energy into opposing those in my (adopted) country who have now come to power with an agenda that promises the most godless period in our history, despite outward appearances.

Let me make it clear that this re adjustment does not mean that I have changed my opinions about the new administration. I still disagree fundamentally with them on issues such as the sanctity of life, gay marriage, ethics in government (as the new administration promises new transparency and accountability with one hand, and then employs - or tries to employ - a series of people who, to put it kindly have had "tax issues") and even the standing in the world of the USA, apologizing limply to all and sundry.

These feelings remain.

But there are more important things to worry about. Things that require a considerable shift in the way I view even those I oppose.

The CompassionArt project has thrown up a number of good points, particularly in Craig Borlase's excellent book "The Art Of Compassion".

The point is made, most notably by Israel Houghton, that the poor around us are not just the visibly and physically poor. He elaborates: "...they're completely bankrupt. In spirit. So cocooned in their own world that they don't see what else is happening around them: all that matters is what's going on in their own headspace; all that counts is them. So there's a lot of poverty going down on Wall Street."

Truth is that those we oppose politically are often spiritually bankrupt too. Josh McDowell in his book "The New Tolerance" talks about the best approach to those that oppose us being to model true Christian love, which of course requires us to go back and discover what that really is, since we are not modeling it in a truly biblical fashion now.

And here's where it gets interesting.

Our own government - our own President even, needs that Christian love modeled to them, and, as has been said a lot over the last month or so, they need our prayers.

Some may say: "But the President is a born again Christian. What's the problem?"
Well when your President, who claims to be a Christian says this, you have to ask questions:

"I’m rooted in the Christian tradition. I believe that there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people."
(quote directly from transcript of interview with Kathleen Falsani: Chicago Sun-Times. 2004)

So what's my point?

I believe that not only are there poverty-stricken people all the world who still need our support for food and medical care, but even our government are poverty-stricken and people like the President, Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the new administration need our prayers and even more so they need a powerful revelation of who God is and how much He cares for them.

Although I agree with the sentiment behind Rush Limbaugh's (horribly misquoted) statement about his hopes for the new administration, I think we should be praying for all in it to receive just that dramatic, life-course-changing encounter with the real living God who died for them and has not given up on them, even if we have. Rather than Obama's Presidency failing, wouldn't it be even better if his whole life approach was transformed by an encounter with the one true God who gives him the courage to make a 180 about-turn on those policies most abhorrent to God himself. Wouldn't that be something?

I think that's something worth praying for, and a much more constructive use of my energy and time than just looking to run the new administration down.

There will be those who oppose me on both sides. Those who believe that the "enemy" must be opposed at all costs. To them I say that I will continue to oppose those policies that are against the will and purposes of God, but I will do it with the prayer that God will speak deeply into the hearts of those with influence.

To those who don't see what all the fuss is about anyway, and don't understand why I'm opposing the new administration anyway. I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree.

This for me has to be a personal approach, so I'm not going to expect to be taking everyone with me.

I will not make any apologies either though.