From Grace To Glory: The Story

Here on release day for the new record, I thought it was time to share the story of this record. It’s a compilation record but not exactly a greatest hits. More like some hits and some other songs we wish you knew about. And a couple of new songs. It came out today (Friday May 26), so you should be able to find it where you buy music (iTunes, Amazon, wherever). So here’s the story…

I assumed the story of From Grace to Glory would be a story of songs. But it turns out it is really a story of people. It’s the story of one man and one God who goes to extreme lengths in loving that man. It’s a story of families: first, the Agnews adopting a baby, giving him parents and then a sister, then the McKinneys and the Carrolls opening their homes and families in new towns, and now a new generation of Agnews, learning to love and be loved by a wife and two awesome kids. It’s a story of friends willing to love and support the life and ministry of someone who is not a very good friend in return. It’s a story of people across cities, states, countries and continents—all a part of the story God is telling through my life and ministry.
The story of the creation of the record Grace Like Rain is really the story of a church in the Woodlands providing a time of healing and a church in Memphis partnering with me as we all learned ministry. The song Grace is the story of a dear friendship with Chris Collins as we learned what it meant to lead God’s people in worship. The Thunder Song (as most people called it) was my story of an encounter with God (specifically Psalm 29), but ended up as the story of a group of young adults learning to worship in Memphis. But the story of how Grace Like Rain got out into the world included a whole other cast of characters: Dana and Ardent, Vince and VLW, Greg and GOA, Eddie and Newsong. And God’s grace poured out from each of their lives into mine.
Reflection was the story of a past and a present. An adoption story reflected my own parents and sister. Worship stories came from years with Highpoint. Music came from all over, but especially from Memphis. Those musicians shaped me. And Hampton shaped the record. Then the Nashville team, Josh Peterson and everyone at INO, believed not only in the record but in My Jesus specifically. Those years and those songs would have never happened without my new family on the road: Wilson, Chu, Cody, Rob, and Farns. New friends joined us on tours and old friends loved us at home.
Do You See What I See was itself a story, a story of the first Christmas. I still remember starting to tell the story to the Rivers that first year. Then going home to Memphis and sharing the story with John Fry. How crazy to have a label that said, “We may not make any money, but this is what God is doing right now.” DYSWIS was the story of friends who joined with me to tell a story.
Better Questions allowed me to explore a lot of tough topics. They were the songs I never thought I’d share with anyone. They are the stories we don’t like to tell. Once again, Ardent made the record possible, but a lot of hurting believers across the world brought the ministry to life.
Need is the story of making a record when you don’t feel confident enough about your life to write about it. I was newly married and I loved my wife, but I didn’t feel I had anything worthwhile to say about marriage. Or about being a dad. The only thing I knew was I desperately needed God to do these things. So I turned back to old trusted friends; some of them were people, some were hymns. And my wife pointed out how powerful songs could be when they said the name of Jesus.
And How To Be Loved was the story of being married and being a dad. Because that story was the same as the first story. It was still the story of God loving me, of God showing his grace to me. He had redeemed my soul and he was recreating my life. He loved me through them. And new friends helped me tell the story.
And now, the story continues. DTS is a big part of it. Visible is a part of it. Not the institutions but the people, the professors, the students. Drs. Glahn and Jones and Horrell and Kreider. Small group: Kent, Joshua, Stephen, Bryan, and Shane. The new songs owe a lot to Quimby and the Jeremys in addition to old partners Dave and Kim. I co-wrote one of the new songs with Chris Collins; so, that circle is continuing. And now Ardent is moving forward with Pat, Ryan, and others. These people shape me, my wife and my kids most of all. They are God’s grace to me. And I continue to try to write and live for his glory.

Todd

Glory To Our Great Redeemer: The Lyrics

Glory to our great redeemer
Spotless Lamb for sinners slain
My pardon purchased, my ransom paid
Glory glory to His name

Glory to our great redeemer
Died my death that I might live
Such costly grace He so freely gives
Glory glory to His name

Glory to our perfect sacrifice
A Lamb whose blood covered my shame
The wrath of God poured out and satisfied
Glory glory to His name

Glory to our great redeemer
Once an enemy, now reconciled
This stranger loved as an adopted child
Glory glory to His name

Glory to our perfect sacrifice
A Lamb whose blood covered my shame
The wrath of God poured out and satisfied
Glory glory to His name

Glory to our great redeemer
Conqueror of death and hell
He was resurrected, raising me as well
Glory glory to His name

Glory to our perfect sacrifice
A Lamb whose blood covered my shame
The wrath of God poured out and satisfied
Glory glory to His name
Glory glory to His name

Glory To Our Great Redeemer: The Story

Years ago, I read a book that asked why we use so many metaphors for what happened at the cross. We say that sins were forgiven, covered, pardoned, that Christ was a lamb, a sacrifice, a substitution, that we were redeemed, rescued, ransomed. The author asked which one of these was actually correct and why do we continue to use the rest of them. It has bothered me ever since.

I started writing a song a couple of years ago, and the first four lines went:

Glory to our great redeemer
Spotless Lamb for sinners slain
My pardon purchased, my ransom paid
Glory, glory to His name

Oh no! I used four different metaphors just in the beginning of this song! And it paralyzed me. I have put so much emphasis on correct theology that I didn’t want to write something that was wrong. So I put the song on the backburner and left it there.

To catch you up on my life a bit, I have been pursuing a Master’s at Dallas Theological Seminary. In my time there, I took a class on soteriology with Dr. Scott Horrell. In an assignment, Dr. Horrell led us through many different biblical passages explaining what happened at the cross. It turns out we use all those metaphors because they’re all in the Bible!

The more I thought about it, the more sense it made. One simple human metaphor would not be able to describe God’s plan to redeem all of mankind. So instead God painted a beautiful picture, each metaphor another brushstroke helping understand what He has done for us. He is all of these things to us, doing all these things for us, remaking us in all of these ways.

The song was pretty easy to complete after that. And I’m glad I finally get to share it with you. It’s out on iTunes today (Friday, April 7) along with a chance to pre-order the new compilation record. More on that later. Here’s where you can find the song: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/from-grace-to-glory-the-music-of-todd-agnew/id1220606838.

Come back and let me know what you think. I hope it enables your worship and your gratitude for all Christ did on the cross.

Todd

P.S. Apparently, this link will take you to a page that tells you about the record. From there, you have to click the “View in iTunes” button to purchase. If you get the “not available in U.S.” message, it means that it is not yet available to stream through Apple Music. We will also be posting a lyric video on YouTube soon. Thank you.

The Persistent Shelf

I have always had books on my desk and nightstand. Okay, I don’t have a nightstand. You caught me. I just pile books on my headboard. But now that I am in seminary, these books seem to just stack up, waiting to be read. So I thought every once in a while, I would share some of my stack with you. Maybe you can read them and let me know what order I should read them in. So as of today, here’s the stack:

1. Lincoln in the Bardo – George Saunders
I really loved Saunders’ Tenth of December book of short stories. And I enjoyed him immensely at the writers conference at Calvin College last spring. So I pre-ordered his first novel and was thrilled for it to arrive last week. So I read the first few pages, was amazed at his brilliance, and put it on top of the stack.

2. Eternal City – Kathleen Graber
I have really enjoyed this book of poetry. And by “really enjoyed,” I mean I liked three of the four poems I’ve read and I loved the other one. The loved one is called Magic Kingdom and you can read it here from the New Yorker: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2008/02/11/the-magic-kingdom.

3. Preaching and Teaching the Last Things: Old Testament Eschatology for the Life of the Church – Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.
Okay, I did get this for school, but I wanted to read it. I didn’t love chapter one (which is as far as I’ve gotten so far), but I’m looking forward to the rest. I especially want to see how eschatology fits into the psalms. We often talk about remembrance as an act of worship, so I’m curious how looking forward in faith instead of backwards adds a new dimension.

4. The Trespasser – Tana French
Okay, I love all of Tana French’s novels. They are mystery thrillers with a slant of weird in them. And the Irishness of them adds depth, especially to Faithful Place. I like them for many reasons, but I love starting each new book because the main character will be some side character from the previous book. But I just can’t find time to get to the newest one.

5. For The Glory of God: Recovering a Biblical Theology of Worship – Daniel Block
Okay, I read this one already. But I had to read it really fast. So it’s still on the stack because I really need to go back and read it seriously. It’s one of two wonderful serious academic texts on worship from our generation. Well, two that I’ve read. The other is Recalling the Hope of Glory by Allen Ross, of course.

Even as I write I see Gilead by Marilynne Robinson and The Collected Poems of Czeslaw Milosz staring me in the face. But I can’t even get to them in this blog. Hopefully, someone will enjoy one of these books. Or even better, maybe you’ll hate one and I can take it out of my stack.

Keep reading.

Todd

Challenged by The Music of Strangers

I went to see The Music of Strangers yesterday, a beautiful new documentary about Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble. Yo-Yo Ma has long been one of the greatest cellists on the planet, but the Silk Road Ensemble has been a new adventure for him, beginning in 2000. The ensemble unites members of different cultures, different musical and ethnic backgrounds, different nations, different styles. They work together, finding not merely ways they can play each other’s styles, but how they might meet in the middle making new kinds of music. I highly recommend the movie. It will not wrap up an easy conversation but instead starts the journey and sparks thoughts that stir long after the projector turns off.

The movie weaves the stories of individual members with the musical experiments of the group as a whole. The story of Kinan Azmeh (clarinet, composer) from Damascus, Syria, was so powerful. His music is amazing, but the story of leaving Syria, continuing to watch the damage in his homeland, and ending with the opportunity to work with children at a Syrian refugee camp was so powerful. Also, the story of Kayhan Kalhor (kamancheh) from Iran was incredibly moving. I realize that most of you quickly recognized ‘clarinet’ and ‘composer’ in the first set of parenthesis, but might have been confused by ‘kamancheh’ in the second. This is a native instrument that most of us are unfamiliar with. But Kayhan is a master. Seeing this instrument blend with Ma’s cello was an incredible moment for this musician. But his story is even more powerful. His parents sent him from Iran at 17. He grew into an incredible musician, eventually returning to his homeland. However, eventually he had leave again, refusing to be silent about this violence in his country. His wife remains there, and experiencing their loss and grief and finally the joy of reunion is a special moment in the film. Watching the impact of Cristina Pato from Galicia, Spain, who plays the bagpipes and then Wu Tong and Wu Man from China, the first a vocalist from a hard rock band and instrumentalist on the sheng, and the second a master of the Pipa, a classic Chinese instrument, was so powerful as these diverse pieces came together to make music that even as a musician myself, I could hardly comprehend. To be honest, I cannot wait for the movie to come out on DVD, because I need to see it again. I need to just listen and be amazed. And I need to sit and attentively take notes so that I can continue to wrestle with what was said.

I went to see the movie with Dr. Grant and his wife from my school. We walked over to Jason’s Deli afterwards to continue the conversation. I quickly found that each of us had experienced the movie in our own way and were challenged differently. We began to share these thoughts which of course spurred more thoughts for each of the others. I could write a huge blog just on our conversation, in addition to multiple blogs on the movie itself. We could explore what this beautiful picture of collaboration reveals about the church. But mainly I hope you will go see the movie. Then you can have all of those conversations with your own community. I hope you enjoy it.

You can find out more about the Silk Road Ensemble here.

Todd

 

The Tale of a Tail

I know I haven’t written a real blog in a while. I promise it’s coming. Right after the blogs I agreed to write for someone else, and after homework. And maybe after church this Sunday. But until then, I thought I would share this poem that I wrote about my dog. Really. That’s what it is. No hidden meaning. Just a poem. About my dog.

The Tale of a Tail

I write this poem to my hound Henry
Whose steadfast love endures forever
Whose tail swings like a silent metronome
Welcoming me home, as if my wanderings
Covered years instead of minutes
The tempo of his tail
Communicates emotion more clearly than all my vocabulary
A swift steady wag celebrates the joy
Of simply hearing me speak his name
Who could restrain the bliss of dinner served?
A repeating yet reticent wag expresses grief and shame
Whether I have wronged him
With anger improperly aimed
Or he has wronged me
With the aromatic gift he left on the carpet
Yet even then he cannot keep from declaring love
For his passion does not stop or slow,
Merely repressed in fear of my response
But quickly accelerating at a smile or step,
at the slightest hope
for a brighter future
His steadfast love endures forever
So I write this for love, uninhibited and unconditional
May I love anyone the way you love me
For you, Henry, my basset hound

 

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