February 6, 2015

Christ in Our Darkness

Good worship leaders are hard to find. Can I get an amen? When you find one, you grab on tightly and don't let go. At least that's what I'm doing with our church's worship leader, Joseph Holm.

Joseph is gifted at leading others to worship. He says things in a way that resonates with people, myself included. But in my opinion his greatest gift is song-writing. Joseph writes music for our church, and his songs have truly become the heartbeat and the soundtrack of our community together.

A few years ago, I remember tagging him in my Facebook status: "Where is the 'Joseph Holm' Pandora station?" I wanted to listen to his songs anytime I wanted. I begged and cajoled him to record. Fortunately for me (and for you), he has recently released his first album. Pandora, Schmandora. I listen to the cd from start to finish multiple times a day. My kids beg to listen to it. My husband is humming the songs around the house. Simply put, I can't recommend it enough.

I asked Joseph to sit down for an interview about his writing process and about the themes behind his music. He's also made a whole song available to sample the album, which follows the interview. 

Q: Congratulations on releasing your first album! That's quite an endeavor and quite an accomplishment. As a writer, people often tell me that they would like to pursue making art (writing, dancing, making music) but they feel foolish, insecure, or like it's frivolous to follow those desires. Assuming you've worked through those feelings yourself, what have you learned about pursuing passions as a Christian?

JH: Thank you! I feel like sometimes you hear the arts and faith addressed in a way that makes it sound like it’s more complicated to pursue the arts as a Christian. You know, the whole “it’s not about me, but yet this is kind of about me” conundrum. For me, though, I think faith simplifies the pursuit. First, my faith has placed me in relationship with people that have helped make it even possible to make a record. And secondly, my faith gives me a context in which I can make a “Joseph Holm record” but do it for other people, not just to make myself seem cool or something.

 Q: Your album is entitled "God of the Sea and the Sea Monster". What is the significance behind that title?

JH: The title comes from an essay written by Jonathan Martin of the same name. When I look at the album, I hope it can be a lens through which people can see this world for what it is: a place of pain and a place of joy. I think life will teach us we have to hold these two very different truths, and it takes a little bit of help I think to not lose our minds in the process. Anyway, Martin’s essay has helped me, and I wanted to pay tribute to its influence on the Spirit’s movement in my life.

Q. Your songs are often about the tension of suffering while also having faith in Jesus. I personally love how you give words to the pain and difficulty that we all face but you draw attention to hope. What have you learned about God as you've put these songs together?

JH: I’d certainly say what I’m learning is an ongoing process, but I’ll say this: God isn’t afraid of darkness. And no matter your theological leanings, Christians seem to agree that Christ, the hero of the human story, can be found there in the Scriptures, in the teeth of darkness, fighting for us. Whatever your thoughts on sin, God had a plan to destroy it.  I seem to think that goes for other kinds of darkness, too. So there, in the darkness, in the worst of it, we look to the brave Christ.

Q. My favorite songs on the album are the ones we sing at church (Father of the Forest, Beat, Voices, Yes). What is your favorite song off the album and why? What does that song represent for you?

JH: In the context of our people, I’d have to say “Voices”. And that’s because in the loudest parts of the song we basically yell out loud that we have a sin problem and that we have spiritual schizophrenia, but yet Christ is greater than what is broken in us. I love that we will shout in song what we won’t even admit otherwise, and I hope it can teach us to humble ourselves so that the good news can lift us up.

Q. What do you hope people who listen to your music remember, think about, or learn?

JH: I think, because of our baggage, and our poor way of handling it sometimes, we become introspective. We look inward, we lock the outside out, we cut our losses. My hope was to write some songs that originate from those locked up places where we keep the hurts, the secrets, and then set them free. And freedom is looking at Christ, talking to Christ, giving the hurt to Christ. So I think what I’d want to remind people is: don’t fall into the trap of thinking that because you have pain and sin you need to focus on it. Look to Christ, open up to him, let him interact with the darkness. 

Sample Joseph's album below and then (because you're going to want to) purchase it on Amazon or iTunes. You can find Joseph online at www.josephholm.com.