Ever since I first heard "Blessed Be" by Jason Gray from his album All the Lovely Losers
, I was hooked by the emotional and biblical messages of his songs. In fact, that song was the 8th song I featured for my "behind the song" devotional article series which started back in March 2008. I've since featured ten more of Jason's songs and now this is our 12th devotional together, making Jason the most featured artist over the past seven years and 588 song devos.
I'm always excited to hear new music from Jason. One of my Top 10 Albums of 2014
, Love will Have the Final Word
, opens with the radio-friendly and fun song "Laugh out Loud," showcasing Jason's gifts as a songwriter. The album has once again captivated me as it features Jason's unique brand of gourmet lyrical phrasing embedded with the truth of the Gospel for those "with ears to hear."
"Laugh Out Loud" features an upbeat musical bed, opening with the lyrical word pictures "I shake my head at my good fortune as I shake the dust off my boots. Yesterday I was an orphan, somehow today I belong to You. Don't it make you want to laugh out loud and shout hallelujah!
" The album is loaded with that type of worshipful truth as Jason praises God for His goodness in every song. I had the privilege to speak with Jason in-person about the song.
Please tell me the personal story behind writing this song.
I wondered if the album leaned a little bit too much on the melancholy side. I was very intentional about the song order. I remember my friend Cason Cooley, who produced half the album, told me that the first track that he hears on an album colors his whole experience. I thought I should start the album with something joyful, hoping that people wouldn't perceive the album as too melancholy overall.
I was very intentional about "Laugh Out Loud" and "With Every Act of Love" as statements or claims before going into songs of grief. There are a lot of songs about grief on the album, and there is grieving happening in the subtext of a number of the songs. That makes a song like "Laugh Out Loud" even more important.
I love a lot of melancholy artists, but sometimes you get the feeling they are in love with their depression. I think that pain is holy ground in a person's life, and giving permission for someone to be in pain and to grieve helps them along in the healing process. I think that giving them space to grieve helps people feel joy as well. If they refuse to grieve, they won't feel joy. If you don't feel the depths of your grief, you won't feel the heights of your joy.
I wanted to have songs that helped people in grieving and in joy. This song was me challenging myself to write a joyful song without any blue notes in it. I brought the idea to a writing session with Jason Ingram. I wanted a back porch, jangly kind of song with laughter in it built around sounds and phrases of joy, like "ha ha," "oh yeah" and "hallelujah!"
Which Bible verses connect to the message of the song?
Zephaniah 3:17 (The Voice)
: "The Eternal your God is standing right here among you, and He is the champion who will rescue you. He will joyfully celebrate over you; He will rest in His love for you; He will joyfully sing because of you like a new husband."
Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NIV)
: "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart."
Romans 8:28 (NIV)
: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."
What is the takeaway message?
The lyrics "I shake my head at my good fortune as I shake the dust off of my boots
" is meant to be a reference to Paul the Apostle shaking the dust off his shoes as he's leaving a place and going to the next place. Then, another colloquialism is "whistling in the dark," which is an old way of saying and disciplining your mind to think of joyful and hopeful things rather than morbid things: "whistling past the grave yard
" and "do not be afraid
." And what is more joyful than whistling in a song? I love songs with whistling in them. I've tried to whistle on almost all of my albums. I think there is something playful and musical about that. Lyrically "whistling in the dark" is a leap of faith.
I tried to walk the line of being playful and lighthearted and still poignant at the same time. There was a book that was on my mind while I wrote this song, Steve Martin's autobiography, "Born Standing Up." In the book, the idea is that for comedy to work, it relies on the element of surprise. If you can predict a punchline it's not very funny. When a punchline surprises you, you respond with laughter. There's something really beautiful to me about that.
The idea I wanted to build the song on is what is more surprising and unpredictable than the grace of God? While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. He makes us ministers of His reconciliation. When we recognize the outlandishness and surprise of all that, and when we recognize that we are caught up in the divine comedy of the love of God, laughter isn't only an appropriate response, it is worship.
I shake my head at my good fortune
As I shake the dust off of my boots
Yesterday I was an orphan
Somehow today I belong to You
Somehow today I belong to You
Don't it make you wanna laugh out loud?
Ooh Ooh, and Shout Hallelujah!
Oh Yeah, If you got joy go and let it on out
Ha Ha Ha Ha, Laugh out loud
I was alive but I wasn't living
A prisoner of my fear and shame
But when you find you've been forgiven
Laughter will rise like a holy kind of praise
So I throw my head back and offer up my thanks
He said, "Bring to me your heavy heart"
Take my hand and we'll go whistling in the dark
Here we go now
For Jason's newer listeners, this album is loaded with the type of musical hooks that have made him a radio fixture from his string of hit songs including "More like Falling in Love," "I Am New," "Remind Me Who I Am," "Good to Be Alive" and "Nothing is Wasted." For longtime fans of his entire body of singer-songwriter work, you'll be thrilled to add this album to your collection.
From All the Lovely Losers
to Love Will Have the Final Word
, I hear maturation in the subject matter with lyrical depth and musical layers that have made Jason among my favorite male artists, along with Bebo Norman, Shaun Groves and Josh Wilson. In fact, if you like singer-songwriters who lay their hearts on their sleeves and sing about the truth of what it means to walk with God and work out their salvation with fear and trembling, then don't miss out on one of Christian music's most treasured artists, Jason Gray.
As Jason shared, this song is a song of joy before his songs of grieving on this stellar album. I am consistently moved by Jason wearing all of his emotions on his sleeve both in his songs and in the times I've been privileged to share with him in person. The bridge of this song is the response of God singing back to us, as expressed in Zephaniah 3:17. We can all know that when we bring our heavy hearts to God in sincere prayer, He hears us and sings back to us. He wants a relationship with us, and He is rejoicing over us with singing, which blows me away every time I think about that concept.
In his devotional book Glory Revealed, David Nasser says: "Every song we sing to the Lord is a duet and not a solo. The most marvelous thing about a relationship with God is that it is truly a dialogue. We aren't just sitting here on Earth worshipping a Creator who simply soaks in our love, rather He's so involved in our affection, He's in the midst of it."
I love that God sings back to us. The thought that God rejoices over us with singing is incredible, and He is worthy of all of our praise and devotion. We were dead in our sins and by grace we were saved and made alive in Christ! This song celebrates that relationship we have with Jesus and we can sing back to Him, "Ooh, Ooh, and Shout, Hallelujah!
" Amen to that!
(Watch the lyric video here.)