Stories found in The Beatitudes Project resonate with the most overwhelming of human emotions. While all humanity has dealt with, or will deal with death, loss, this project reveals the upside-down message of the Beatitudes that God is found in the midst of mourning, and promises to bring comfort.
That message of hope is especially found in the song "Carry On" written by Stu Garrard, Ian Cron and multiple GRAMMY Award-winning, Platinum-selling recording artist Michael W. Smith in the wake of Smith's father's death. The song fleshes out Matthew 5:4's "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."
"I love the chorus of the song: Rolling waves of sorrow, rivers of grief. In the valley of the shadow, I feel you walking with me," shares Smith who calls his dad one of the greatest men he's ever known. "When I think about 'blessed are those who mourn,' I think about presence. I think about Emanuel, God with us... anybody who's a God follower, if they were extremely honest with themselves, they probably feel the presence of God in the deepest valley of their lives."
"There will always be this ache and lack and longing," adds Garrard of the grand irony of humanness, our need for certainty in a world where it doesn't really exist. "These are not conditions to be fixed. It's not about finding a ladder to climb up, but about understanding that God is with us... I hope that this project can lift up some heads and encourage people in all kinds of tough situations to keep going with the realization that God is on their side."
The project is also a book, Words From The Hill (An Invitation to the Unexpected) available now from NavPress, and a documentary film, View From the Hill, currently in production. It is the culmination of GRAMMY-nominated, Dove Award-winning musician, producer and author Stu Garrard's (Stu G) 15-year excavation of these "blessings at the bottom of life."
In addition to those that mourn, The Beatitudes Project reveals a wide world of connected stories: real people from all faiths and walks of life who embody mercy, poverty, meekness, the hungry and thirsty, the mourners, the peacemakers and the pure in heart--as seen, heard and experienced through a 21st century lens.
Garrard's own seasons of mourning are chronicled in chapter 2 of the book, "Mourn--The Grief of Change," where he writes about the untimely death of his friend Joe Cox, his family dog Buddy, and his next-door neighbor. He also writes about a lesson in God's presence from actor, activist and Catholic Martin Sheen, and about the loss he felt following the end of his band Delirious? in 2009.
"I missed the raw passion, the vision, the sense that we were going somewhere and saying something," writes Garrard in Words From the Hill. "I missed playing the music we'd written together, and I missed standing alongside Martin [Smith] at the front of the stage, helping to steer a movement with prophetic vision."
Remarkably, Delirious? lead vocalist Martin Smith joins Garrard to write and record "Holy Troublemakers" for Beatitudes, marking the first time these two have recorded together since their band disbanded.