How Sandra McCracken is Shaping My Family’s Heart for Worship

Thanks to my wife, Rachel Johnson (who develops curriculum and teaching for Crossing Kids), for writing this guest post.

The Evening Prayer and Hymn Sing with Sandra McCracken is less than two weeks away and I am eagerly anticipating this worship night. Not only will it be a night of great music for the Lord and His church, but the music we will be singing holds a significant place in my heart.

Last December was a dark month for me. Nothing major was going on in my life, but it just didn’t feel like “the most wonderful time of the year.” I was struggling because I felt I wasn’t a good enough mom or wife, the refugee crisis was overwhelming, and my pregnant friend learned her baby would likely not survive until term. The weeks leading up to Christmas were filled with a sadness that made me long for Jesus to come. One afternoon, my husband sent me a song to listen to that seemed handpicked for me: McCracken’s “Song for Rachel.”

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We leave behind
All the pain of alienation,
We bring the lies we believed
Out into the light,
The love we were made to feel,
Oh Rachel dry your tears,
Your hope it will rise.

Until the trumpet sounds,
Until our home comes down,
Children of Zion raise up the sound,
Until our home comes down.

These lyrics hit me – bam – right in my soul. McCracken wrote,

     “This song was inspired by Jeremiah 31 and a sermon by Timothy Keller. In the scripture passage,
     Rachel is broken-hearted and lamenting over the places of loss that were not yet brought to      restoration. Like her, we wait in eager expectation, and sing ourselves forward into the day when
     the trumpet sounds and earth and heaven will be made into one.”

That’s what McCracken’s music is about – pointing a hurting people to the hope of everlasting joy and peace and restoration in Christ. And though the lyrics are powerful and the music swells with beauty, her songs are singable in a way that allows them move through my mind and across my lips throughout day-to-day life. There is a litany to her songs that draws my kids and I to sing them when we’re driving in the car or tucking into bed. In fact, one of her songs for the Rains for Roots project, “The Lord’s Prayer,” is our family meal prayer we sing each night before dinner.

[bandcamp width=100% height=42 album=3213214933 size=small bgcol=ffffff linkcol=0687f5 track=2370184778]
Our Father in heaven, 
Reveal who you are. 
Set the world right; 
Do what is best— 
as above, so below. 
Keep us alive with three square meals. 
Keep us safe from the Devil and ourselves. 
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. 
You are in charge! 
You can do anything! 
You are beautiful!  

We love this song because it helps our children understand The Lord’s Prayer and we sing it over and over each night as a way of sinking these truths into their hearts. McCracken adapted the prayer from The Message because, “I love the straightforward language. It feels earthy and light. Familiar and transcendent at the same time. It runs through my head throughout the afternoons or on my way to drop the kids at school. I guess that is a good sign, since that is what we are most hoping for with these songs.”

Our family’s favorite song from McCracken’s new album, God’s Highway is “Trinity Song.” As we were driving last week singing along to it, my five-year-old said to her brothers, “This is a song that teaches us about how God is three people, even though there is only one God. It’s like I learned about at church in the Apostles’ Creed.” I love how accepting kids can be about the mysteries of the Christian faith! This song has helped both my children and I to worship and meditate on the beauty of our Triune God.

Holy Father, Son, and Spirit
Holy Communion, Three-in-One.
Come with your peace,
With your invitation
Bind us together in Holy love.

McCracken uses a “less is more” approach to lyrics in many of her songs. She writes,

     “In using fewer words in proportion to the music, I hope to help us to grasp a more substantial      experience of worship. Not to increase cerebral knowledge, necessarily—though it may also do      that—but to gain more understanding in terms of absorption. I want to help us absorb and receive
     the love of God into our hearts and minds and wills. With the pace and saturation level of our
     daily lives, it takes repetition to reach in and re-align our affections.”

This formative approach to music has helped my family and I absorb truth in our daily lives in a lasting and meaningful way.

And while McCracken’s songs work their way into the backseat of my minivan and around our dinner table and into the quiet darkness of our December nights, her music is for the church – the people – to sing vibrantly together. When we come together to sing as the church, we lift one another up, pull each other along, and raise up a corporate offering to the God we give our lives to. When our church raises our voices to sing songs like McCracken’s “We Will Feast in the House Zion”, “This is the Christ,” and “Almighty God,” my faith is fortified in my Savior.

This is why I am counting the days until the Evening of Prayer and Hymn Sing. I’ll be there with my daughter, my husband, and my small group to join with hundreds of other voices in praise of our good and faithful God. It’s going to be awesome.

The Evening of Prayer and Hymn Sing with Sandra McCracken is Thursday, February 23 at 7 PM. Tickets are still available and can be purchased online here. We hope you and your family can join us for this special night.

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