The Dancing Puritan

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Amy Grant: How Mercy Looks From Here


Amy Grant was born on November 25th, 1960 in Augusta, GA. I was first introduced to her music in 1980. Though she had released five albums prior, the release of Age to Age (1982) expanded her audience and she became increasingly successful as a writer, singer, and musician. 

In late May of 2013, Grant released her first studio album in 10 years. That album is titled How Mercy Looks From Here. Though I have enjoyed most of her music since my 1980 introduction, the new release has become my favorite non-Christmas album. How Mercy Looks From Here brings us a seasoned Grant. Throughout her life she has enjoyed the mountaintop and she has also walked through dark valleys. In reading the literature available she acknowledges failures and various challenges. She has enjoyed the embrace of Christians and felt sharp displeasure from the same. She has known the pinnacle of success; the heartbreak of divorce, and the death of loved ones. 

How Mercy Looks From Here is her most substantive album to date. Though she does not mention the book of Ecclesiastes as an influence on this project, I can hear the message of Solomon in almost every song. She writes about death specifically in If I Could See, Better Not to Know, Deep As It is Wide, Shovel in Hand, Our Time is Now, How Mercy Looks From Here, and Threaten Me With Heaven. That is seven out of fourteen songs on the expanded version of the CD 

Every breath taking me closer
Every step leading to paradise
They say the faithful get to go there
I believe there's a love
Deep as it is wide.

I hear when you get to the river
You look back for the very last time
And when you cross, you get washed off forever
Hurry up boy, eternity's on the other side
Deep as it is wide.
(From the song Deep as it is Wide).

In her song Better Not to Know she writes:

Oh, It's Better Not to Know
The Way It's Gonna Go
What will die and what will grow
Oh, Nothing stays the same
Life Flickers Like a Flame
As the seasons come and go
Goodbye more than hello
It's better not to know.

It is not hard to hear Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 in those words and also in her song Our Time is Now.

Time is illusion
Time is a curse
Time is all these things and worse
But our time is now,
Yes, our time is now,
Let us sing before our time runs out.

Solomon reminds us in Ecclesiastes that there is a frustration about life under the sun. One generation comes, another departs, and the sun keeps coming up. The meaning of life can't be found in pleasure, money, houses, wine, or relationships. However, when a person is connected to God by faith then even the vain things of this vain life can and should be enjoyed to the glory of God. So, let us sing before our time runs out.

Amy Grant's Christian faith is the undercurrent of every song. She reminds her listeners of the presence of God in the song Here. She writes about the devastating Nashville flood of May 2010 in the title song How Mercy Looks From Here.

When you face your greatest fear
Losing all that you hold near
Open up your eyes my dear, my dear
That's when boundless grace appears
Unseen angels hover near
Saints are singing loud and clear
Oh, how mercy looks from here
Oh, how mercy looks from here.

She sings a prayer that God will lead her to the ones I need and to the one who's needing me in her song Greet the Day. And in Faith based on John six and Hebrews eleven she sings a call for people to believe in Christ:

Jesus said: 'I'm gonna tell you the truth . . ."
It was not Moses who has given you
bread from Heaven
It was my Father who has given you
true bread from Heaven
The bread of God is He who gives life
to the world
Believe, believe in Me
Believe, believe.

There is no shortage of opinions and perspectives about Amy Grant. There are many strong disagreements with her music and some of her life choices. You will likely find what you are looking for. Though I only met Amy Grant only one time, she has been a constant friend of mine for 24 years through her music. Perhaps one reason that I relate to her music is that we are in the same season of life. Her music often reflects the way that I am feeling as I grow older.

Happy Birthday (11/25) Amy Grant and I am thankful to our Lord for your album How Mercy Looks From Here.

I can see the tears upon your face
There's no hiding place
You're afraid that soon I will be gone
Time will still move on
You're searching for the answers you can't find
They will come in time.

What's the worst thing that could happen
If they say my time is through
Would it take away the love
Or the years I've shared with you
What's the worst thing that could happen
What's the worst thing they could do
Threaten me with heaven
If they want to. . .
That's all they can do.

I hear the angels through a window pain
Calling out my name
And someday when they carve that name in stone
I won't be alone
But if by chance a miracle appears
 I will dry your tears.

Amy Grant, Dillion O'Brian, Will Owsley, and Vince Gill