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CD Review - Valley of Vision
August 22, 2006
Contemporary praise and worship music has achieved a poor reputation. It is often regarded as being of poor quality both musically and lyrically. Sadly, this critique is often accurate. Yet there are some who swim against this current. It is only in the last year or so that I have been introduced to an organization that produces music to which these critiques cannot apply. Sovereign Grace Music has released a wide variety of albums which provide not only top-quality music, but excellent, God-glorifying song-writing. The latest project, released only a couple of weeks ago, Valley of Vision, is based on the classic book of Puritan prayers of the same name.
Why would Sovereign Grace create a project based on the prayers of a bunch of dead guys? “That’s an easy one. Puritans like John Bunyan, Thomas Watson, Richard Baxter, and Isaac Watts knew their hearts, their Bibles, and their God much better than we do. Many of them wrote down their prayers not to be published, but to assess their own spiritual growth and to encourage themselves in times of spiritual dryness. These prayers reveal a personal, humble, passionate relationship with an awesome God, a living Savior, and an active Spirit. Reading their meditations inspires us to pursue the same level of reality as we worship God.” The two-fold purpose of this CD is to encourage the listener deepen his relationship with God as he becomes more aware of his own sin and God’s holiness and that the listener will be inspired to read the book of prayers that inspired the album. “We pray that you won’t simply read them, but that they will become a springboard for your own prayers and meditation in your relationship with our great, merciful, and changeless God who is, ever and always, there to meet us in the Valley of Vision.”
The CD begins with “In the Valley,” sung by Shannon Harris. Shannon has a stunningly beautiful voice, though having heard it live at the WorshipGod06 conference, I have to admit that I love the purity of her voice in a live performance just a little bit better than the slightly more engineered sound on the CD. She sings a powerful song based on the prayer “The Valley of Vision” and asks God to let her find His grace, life and joy. For sake of comparison, here is the original prayer and the song based on it:
Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly, Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision, where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights; hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory. Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up, that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart, that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, that the repenting soul is the victorious soul, that to have nothing is to possess all, that to bear the cross is to wear the crown, that to give is to receive, that the valley is the place of vision. Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells, and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine; let me find Thy light in my darkness, Thy life in my death, Thy joy in my sorrow, Thy grace in my sin, Thy riches in my poverty, Thy glory in my valley.
And here is the song:
When You lead me to the valley of vision I can see You in the heights And though my humbling wouldn’t be my decision It’s here Your glory shines so bright So let me learn that the cross precedes the crown To be low is to be high That the valley’s where You make me more like Christ
Let me find Your grace in the valley
Let me find Your life in my death
Let me find Your joy in my sorrow
Your wealth in my need
That You’re near with every breath
In the valley
In the daytime there are stars in the heavens
But they only shine at night
And the deeper that I go into darkness
The more I see their radiant light
So let me learn that my losses are my gain
To be broken is to heal
That the valley’s where Your power is revealed
A couple of up-tempo songs follow. “All That I Need,” sung by Stephen Altrogge, declares that Jesus Christ is the believer’s only hope and the only one who can satisfy the heart’s deepest longings. “Heavenly Father, Beautiful Son” is a song of thanks to God for His work of election and for providing His Son as Savior. “How Deep” explores the love of Christ and the mid-tempo “I Come Running” is a song of praise to Jesus, written and performed by Mark Altrogge, acknowledging our need of the Savior. My favorite track on this album, and one we sang near the close of the WorshipGod Conference, is “Let Your Kingdom Come,” written by Bob Kauflin and based on the prayer “God’s Cause.” It is a perfect choice to end a service or conference and calls upon God to let His kingdom come. “Let Your Kingdom Come / Let Your will be done / So that everyone might know Your Name / Let Your song be heard everywhere on earth / Till Your sovereign work on earth is done / Let Your kingdom come.” Perhaps it could have been the final track on the album!
This is followed by “O Great God,” a hymn eminently suitable to corporate worship that celebrates the sovereignty of God and His work of redemption. “Help me now to live a life / That’s dependent on Your grace / Keep my heart and guard my soul / From the evils that I face / You are worthy to be praised / With my every thought and deed / O great God of highest heaven / Glorify Your name through me.”
The CD continues with “It Was Your Grace,” “Only Jesus,” “The Precious Blood,” “It Was Love,” and “Who Made Me To Know You.” Each song explores a different theme and each centers upon the gospel of Jesus Christ. These songs feature vocals by Kyle Davis, Shannon Harris and Megan Russell. Standout tracks, and ones that are most suitable to corporate worship, include “Only Jesus” and “The Precious Blood.”
Valley of Vision is a unique concept and one that could easily have fallen flat. Thankfully, Sovereign Grace did the project justice and have created an album that is beautiful, inspiring and full of the gospel. With many tracks suitable to corporate worship and all suitable for private worship (or for just singing with the car windows wide open), Valley of Vision is a worthy addition to any CD collection. Like previous Sovereign Grace music projects, it is well-written, well-produced and of the utmost quality. I heartily recommend it.
Valley of Vision is available for purchase from the Sovereign Grace Store. Be sure to take a look at the other CD projects available such as Songs For The Cross Centered Life and Awesome God. Sample audio clips, lead sheets and chord charts for this album are available for no cost from the Sovereign Grace Ministries.