Wednesday, April 4, 2012

“El Shaddai” by Amy Grant

I’m kinda old.  At some point, I officially crossed the threshold into middle age.  Oh, well.  That is not particularly bothersome to me.  In many ways I really embrace this fact because I have experienced and learned a lot.  There is still a lot to learn, but I cherish the experiences I have had to-date  because they have taught me much.

In my time on this planet, I’ve witnessed (among many other things) the career of Amy Grant.  I have been able to see how revolutionary her career has been.  Though I have never met her, I’m very proud of her.  Younger folks may barely know who she is.  They probably also take for granted (no pun intended) the popularity of the genre of music called “Contemporary Christian.”  It was actually quite controversial when Amy Grant spearheaded it several decades ago. 

In the early 1980s, I was not even a Christian, but I remember the tremendous excitement my Christian friends had for Amy Grant.  She was a young artist who expressed her deep love for Jesus with a modern style of music.  She wore purple sweatshirts and jumped around the stage when she performed.  She was often compared to Madonna who was very popular at the time.  But Madonna had a very different style from Ms. Grant, e.g., wearing rosaries and little else as she simulated sexual acts on the stage.  Though repeatedly encouraged by the media to speak out against artists like Madonna, Ms. Grant refrained from doing so and insisted it was not her place to judge.   

Yet despite the fact that Ms. Grant was pretty tame and was very devout in her religious beliefs, many were threatened by her new approach to Christian music.  She received ugly, threatening letters that accused her of blasphemy and sacrilege.  Some of the letters expressed the writers’ view that Ms. Grant was going to burn in hell for her diabolical music. 

Even though I was not a Christian at the time, I was deeply impressed by Ms. Grant’s refusal to judge other artists and her steadfastness despite the ugliness that some fellow Christians cast at her.

Later, when I did become a Christian, I took a closer listen to her music.  By then, some of it had made it into the worship music that churches used in their services, and she had even had a few secular hits.  Amy Grant wrote and recorded a lot of really beautiful Christian music over the course of her career.  I’m grateful for the gifts she was given, and I’m grateful for her courage to share her gifts with others.

One of my all-time favorite songs that Ms. Grant recorded was “El Shaddai.”   The title is from the Hebrew language and is often translated into English as “God almighty.”   The song is a real classic.  Others have sung it as well, but I’ll always be partial to Ms. Grant’s version.  It is simple and yet very powerful.  I listened to it recently on Palm Sunday; the lyrics brought tears to my eyes though I have heard the song countless times.  It is very moving.

The link below takes you to a performance of “El Shaddai” by Amy Grant just a few years ago.  She too has crossed over into middle age at this point.  The lyrics of the song are written out underneath the video inset.  I encourage you, particularly during this Holy Week, to take a listen to “El Shaddai” and to reflect on the beautiful lyrics.  They are truly a gift.


Galatians 6:8

Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.

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