These 12 hymns were written for the 12 scriptures included in A Sanctified Art’s “Unraveled” Worship Series.
Click on each hymn for more information.
“Give Us Laughter Unexpected” (Genesis 18:1-15; 21:1-7) - When I was tasked with writing a hymn about laughter, I knew it had to be sung to HYMN TO JOY. It was, in fact, a joy to write a hymn about “mirth that mothers us to health” when God just does God’s own amazing thing because, well, God just can!
“Unraveled By Uncertainty” (Matthew 14:22-33) - The title of this hymn came directly from A Sanctified Art’s theme for this scripture. “unRAVeled BY unCERTainTY” has a natural rhythm with 8 syllables that fits perfectly in any number of tunes. The last verse was particularly cathartic to write.
“Rizpah Was a Loving Mother” (2 Samuel 21:1-14) - I’m not going to lie; this one was tough. Since I’m neither a parent or a woman, I tried to give my authentic voice to this heartbreaking story while not pretending to know what it’s like to be a “Rizpah.” The final verse, “Hear the parents all around us, those whose children live in fear / see their anguish at the violence, let’s make justice persevere” was written with the parents of children killed in school shootings in mind.
“We Make Such Careful Plans, O Lord” (Luke 19:1-10) - For this hymn, I imagined Zacchaeus to be a man who thought he had it all figured out. Go to work. Rip people off. Go home. Sleep. Repeat. But sometimes Jesus invites himself over to our house and stirs things up. From a metrical standpoint, this was the hardest hymn to write as it’s the first one I’ve written in 220.127.116.11.6.6 and with an ABAABB rhyme scheme.
“Pharaoh Was a Brutal Tyrant” (Exodus 7:8-23) - This is one of two hymns written in this series with Pharaoh as the ultimate villain. I used the last verse as a call to action and to bring this timeless story into our own context: “We have pharaohs all around us; maybe we are like him, too. / May we heed God’s call to kindness, may we see God’s grace ensue. / God will turn God’s sure attention to the place where there’s despair. / Let us join in God’s salvation for all people everywhere.”
“Saul Left For Damascus” (Acts 9:1-20) - Although my first instinct was to write a hymn from Ananias’ perspective called “Are You $%#@ing Kidding Me!?”, I eventually decided for a somewhat gentler approach. This hymn is a more basic paraphrase of the theophany described in Acts 9. There’s so much vivid imagery and drama in this passage that it’s really fun to write a hymn about it!
“Jeremiah Sent a Letter” (Jeremiah 29:1-7) - Ever since I had Kathleen O’Connor as my Old Testament professor, I’ve always had a deep love for the Book of Jeremiah. This text reminds me that we’re all in some kind of exile, some kinds that are imposed on us and others that we impose on ourselves. No matter our exile, we’re called to “seek the welfare of the city” and allow God’s truth and mercy to infuse the messiness of our lives. Pastoral note: this should not be used as an excuse to keep people in exile. EVER!
“Our Shame Feels Like a Spiral” (John 4:1-29) - OK, I’m not going to lie. I channelled my inner Brené Brown on this one! Instead of doing a paraphrase of John 4:1-29, I opted to simply write a hymn that explores shame. Now that I’ve written a hymn on shame, my next one is going to be on vulnerability (thanks, Brené!).
“Why Must Doubt Be Such a Bad Thing?” (John 20:19-29) - Oh, Thomas. He gets such a bad reputation. This hymn seeks to redeem Thomas from the baggage that we’ve put on him throughout the centuries. What if doubt is how we build and explore the gift of faith? Why is that such a bad thing?!
“A Fearful, Desperate Mother” (Exodus 2:1-10) - Of these 12 hymns, this one, by far, has the most characters. A child. A mother. A sister. A daughter. And a cruel tyrant who ironically begins paying for the mother of a child (whom he has ordered to be murdered!) to nurse that very same child!
“There Are No Easy Answers” (Job 28:12-28) - This was also a tough one. Like so many of us that have journeyed with Job, I wanted to tie this hymn up with a neat bow. But the Book of Job doesn’t allow us to do that. Sometimes, we just have to trust in God’s love even, perhaps especially, in the moments when “Lord, each of us knows heartbreak, a pain so unexplained. / Sometimes us humans ask if it’s random or ordained.”
“A Man in Wretched Agony” (Mark 5:1-20) - Ever since my preaching professor, Anna Carter Florence, made my class read this story aloud at the busiest intersection in downtown Atlanta while traffic thundered by, I’ve always been infatuated by this story of a man with an incessant cacophony going on inside his head. An option when singing this hymn is to end the hymn, at the end of the last verse, on a “Picardy Third” (meaning to end with a major triad instead of a minor one) to symbolize the peace at the end of a harrowing journey.