Wednesday, December 21, 2011


     SONGS FOR ISRAEL (2010, Candlelight Concerts and Records) features the talents of four singer-songwriters: Phil Keaggy, Randy Stonehill, Bob Bennett, and Buck Storm.  The following words from artist Ray Ware who painted the front cover 'With His Disciples in Galilee', shed light on the background for this project: "In November 2008, Candlelight Christian Fellowship and Compass International of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho embarked on an experiment-of-sorts by inviting four songwriters to visit Israel and other Biblical locales with the purpose of writing and recording a new body of music inspired by what they experienced together...Note that these artists were not in a cocoon of their own but lived and traveled with a diverse group of one hundred and fifty Christian pilgrims from across the USA."  Pastor Paul Van Noy sheds further light on this endeavour: "We chose to make this record because we believe it is God's will that we support and pray for Israel.  The Lord has and will use her to make Himself known to the rest of the world.  Today in the Church Age, He uses believers in Jesus as His ambassadors to the 'Jew first and also to the Gentile.'"
     The album begins with a deeply emotional song, 'Jerusalem', written and sung by Buck Storm who has a gravelly voice: "Jerusalem, Jerusalem you who stoned the prophets/How I have longed to gather you into My arms/Jerusalem, Jerusalem you who stoned the prophets/Precious in weakness and loved by the God who made you/Darkness comes to the City of David/Bone and skin lie bare to the wind/Blood and bent fingers/A Son crying out to His Father/Precious in weakness, perfect in love."  'House of the Lord' is a mellow song written and performed by Phil Keaggy.  It has God making promises to Israel: "And I will pour on the House of David/And those who dwell in Jerusalem/The spirit of grace and supplication/And they will see Him who was pierced/Who was pierced for all their sins/If My people who are called by My Name/Will humble themselves/And pray and seek My face/If My people turn from their wicked ways/Then I will hear from Heaven/Forgive their sin, and heal their land."  'Eyes Upon the Land' is an easy listening song delivered by Bob Bennett.  It speaks of God's goodness amidst heartache: "So much trouble, so much pain/An endless supply of well-worn hate/Sorrows that no man can ever number/Sown into this tiny piece of real estate/But God keeps the faithful preceding me/To tend this garden in the sand/Who keep the Torah and tell of Him/Who always keeps His eyes upon the land."
     'The Secret Name of God' is a wonderful Randy Stonehill ballad that runs over six minutes in length.  The lyrics look forward with hopefulness to the afterlife: "Mighty is His mystery, glorious in power/In ecstasy the heavenly hosts applaud/And when we are transformed, when spirits don their wings/It's then we'll know the secret name of God/The secret name of God."  'John the Revelator' is a song that will be familiar to Phil Keaggy fans from years past.  This song really brings the funk and is about an amazing experience John had while on the Isle of Patmos: "Well he wrote to the Seven Churches/And he wrote to those scattered abroad/He said 'Hold fast, return to your first love/And keep your faith in God'/Now tell me who's that writing?/John, John/Well, tell me who's that writing?/John, John'/Well, tell me who's that writing?/John the Revelator/He wrote the Book of the Seven Seals."  'God of All Creation (from Psalm 8)' is a song of praise that finds Buck Storm rejoicing: "Hallelujah, God of all creation/How exalted is Your name in all the earth/You've set Your glory high above the heavens/And You think of me/Beneath Your watchful gaze a flower grows/The seasons give their song, the oceans heave/The pain of childbirth fades/A baby breathes/The sparrow's flight does not escape Your eye." 
     'Deliver Us, Deliver Me' is a rock number written and sung by Bob Bennett and Phil Keaggy.  It points to the proper attitude we should have towards sinners: "The words of the Savior, 'Go and sin no more'/He would not throw a stone at the sinner/A welcome for the stranger, a cup of cool water/Forgiveness that melts away the winter/Why then do we judge and condemn?/When it's never meant to be a matter of us versus them/If the way of the cross leads us to peace/How can we not help but heal them?"  'Exiled' is a nice, thought provoking instrumental written by Phil Keaggy and Kyle Jones.  It affords the listener the opportunity to reflect on what has been sung so far.  On 'The Garden' Buck Storm shares of his personal experiences on the trip to the Holy Land: "I have tarried in the garden/I have rested in the sound of Spanish hymns/Filled with the mystery of pardon/And the wondering of grace bestowed to men/In the garden/I stand in the half-light with the dust of ruins on these travelling clothes/Caught somewhere between the angels and the ghosts."
     'Psalm 121' is a light pop song performed by Phil Keaggy.  It puts total confidence and trust in God: "Behold, He who keeps Israel/Shall neither slumber nor sleep/The Lord is your keeper/The Lord is your shade/On your right hand/The sun will not smite you by day/Nor the moon by night/The Lord will protect you from all evil/He will keep your soul/The Lord will guard your going out/And your coming in/From this time forth and forever."  'Broken Places' is pretty and has Randy Stonehill delivering a great vocal performance.  This song which would later appear on his SPIRIT WALK cd, speaks of God's promises to us: When the world has gone insane/When you're ragged from the strain/Call My name/You call My name/I'll meet you in the broken places/In the shadows of your pain/In a sea of strangers faces/I will find you, stand beside you (2X)/Anytime you call My name/Anytime you call/Just call My name."  The album ends with 'The Lord Bless Thee' featuring all four artists.  It contains these familiar words from a benediction uttered in many a church: "The Lord bless thee and keep thee/The Lord make His face to shine upon thee (3X)/And be gracious unto thee/Be gracious unto thee/The Lord lift up His countenance/Upon thee and give thee peace (2X)."
     SONGS FOR ISRAEL is, for the most part, a gentle contemplative project that will draw you closer to the person of Jesus and to the Holy Land.  The musical talents of the legendary Phil Keaggy are all over this album which is produced by Buck Storm.  The photographs of the artists in various geographic locations are a nice touch.  I'm rating SONGS FOR ISRAEL 85% and recommending it to those who wish to deepen their Christian walk.  To purchase this project go to and click on 'Ministry Products/Store.'  For more info on artist Ray Ware visit