Rick’s Book: Out of the Depths

Visit the Out of the Depths Online Bookshop for multiple purchase options.

Visit the Out of the Depths Online Bookshop for multiple purchase options.

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What Others Are Saying About Our of the Depths:

mike-card-200

“Rick Lee James has accomplished what I have been trying to do for decades; bring together the thoughtful reader with the discerning listener. He has written an important introduction to the Psalter which opens the door to his own musical interpretations.”

–MICHAEL CARD

Award Winning Singer, Songwriter, & Author

Brian Zahnd Smile-200

“The Psalms take up more real estate in the Bible than any other book. This ancient Jewish hymnal is an anthology of lyrics for one hundred and fifty songs. These God-obsessed poems are not to be blithely read, but prayed, or better yet chanted and sung. To properly approach the Psalms we need to abandon the didactic and embrace the poetic, but this does not come naturally for everyone. What we need is the artistic sensibilities of a songwriter to guide us. This is precisely what Rick Lee James brings to the Psalms in his wonderful book Out Of The Depths. As a pastor/songwriter/musician Rick Lee James is uniquely suited to introduce us to the Psalms and help us see how these three thousand year old songs speak to the whole range of human experience in the light of brutal honesty and radical trust in God. I highly recommend Out Of The Depths!”

–BRIAN ZAHND

Pastor of Word of Life Church, St. Joseph, Missouri & Author of A Farewell To Mars (2014)

Matt Litton-200

“My friend, Rick Lee James, reminded me that Christian art can still be thoughtful and profound in his beautiful record “Basement Psalms Live.”  In this companion book, Rick brings the depth of his attentive songwriting to life by highlighting the intention, the community, and the reverence that the Biblical Psalms have demanded from people of faith since their inception. Most important, Rick’s writing expounds on the deep sense of hope and joy that is the palatable foundation of his music. I highly recommend this book.”

–MATT LITTON

Author of Holy Nomad: The Rugged Road To Joy, Educator, & Speaker

brett mccracken-200

“Part memoir, part biblical commentary, part album liner notes, Out of the Depths is a unique and refreshing exploration of the Psalms. Rick Lee James offers a compelling, insightful overview both of the theological contributions of the Psalms but also their inspiration for his own musical pursuits. The result is a soul-enriching journey through the highs, lows, joys and laments of the Christian life.”

–BRETT MCCRACKEN

Author of Gray Matters: Navigating the Space Between Legalism and Liberty

craig adams

Rick Lee James’ insight into the Psalms is refreshing! His love of songs and worship find thought-provoking expression in this truly inspirational book! –CRAIG ADAMS

Creative/Publishing Director for LifeWay Worship

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Foreword to Rick Lee James’ book

Out of the Depths: A Songwriter’s Journey Through The Psalms

Rediscovering the Psalms

by Ben De Bono It was early 2013, shortly after Rick released Basement Psalms Live, that I decided to give the album a shot. I’ll be honest and admit the embarrassing fact that I wasn’t expecting much. This wasn’t Rick’s fault. During the year or so where I’d known him, I’d come to value and respect him as a thinker and a friend. Yet, for better or worse, by the time I found myself sitting at my computer downloading the MP3 version of the album, I’d long since reached a point where I felt pretty jaded by contemporary worship. Years of listening to worship songs and choruses sung both in and out of church left me convinced that much of what was happening in worship was more about emotional experiences on the part of those of us in the pews and less about truly encountering God. Honestly, if it wasn’t for our friendship, I wouldn’t have given Basement Psalms Live a second look. As it was, I only found myself hitting play on the freshly downloaded tracks as a courtesy to Rick. I won’t discuss here the pros and cons of my opinion on contemporary worship styles, but I will say that in this case they were misplaced. Badly. What I found as I listened was far from the vapid experiences that so often left me cold. Track after track on the album was powerful and profound. Those of you who’ve spent some time listening to Rick’s music won’t be surprised by this. You know, and I’ve discovered, that he’s a man who truly understands what it means to draw people past a mere emotional experience and into a true encounter with God. But while that’s par for the course for Rick, what I experienced while listening to Basement Psalms Live went even deeper than that. It didn’t take me long to realize what was going on. Once again, this time through the words and music of my friend, God was leading me to rediscover the Psalms. I say rediscovered instead of simply discovered because there was never a time in my life where I can remember the Psalms being unfamiliar to me, at least at a high level. I grew up in a Christian home that was part of a tradition which stressed biblical literacy. I knew the basic arrangement and facts of the Scriptures, I could have told you from a young age how many Psalms there were, and was even familiar, more or less, with the content of a few of the major ones. In the Christian school I attended during my elementary years I recall memorizing Psalm 23, 139 and perhaps one or two others. Yet despite this plethora of basic, albeit important, knowledge, a deeper understanding of the Psalms alluded me until while into adulthood. It was in the middle of my work on my first master’s degree that God first led me into a rediscovery of the Psalms. In one of my classes we read Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Ethics. It took no more than a few chapters for me to fall in love with the great German theologian’s writing. During the next couple months I read through most of his majorworks, including his short masterpiece Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible. The title alone suggested a need for a deeper understanding of the Psalms than what I possessed. Although the tradition I was raised in made little use of prayer books, at least in formal worship, I’d come to develop an appreciation for them throughout my theological training. The concept of the Psalms as a prayer book instantly intrigued me. If Bonhoeffer was right – and if you’ve read him you know that that’s a pretty safe bet – then the Psalms needed to be more than just another collection of passages akin to the Bible’s genealogies or the long list of laws in Leviticus. They needed to be given a prominent place in worship and the life of the Christian. They needed to be the church’s lifeblood – something which the people of God lived and breathed. At the time I was working as an associate pastor at a church plant in the Twin Cities. After reading, and being convicted by, Bonhoeffer’s words I began to take every opportunity I could find to incorporate the Psalms into both my personal devotional life and our corporate worship services. To their credit, the leadership at my church responded with enthusiasm, and a reading from the Psalms soon became a regular part of our Sunday morning service. Despite the power of this new understanding of the Psalms, God wasn’t done with me yet – not by a long shot. My second rediscovery of the Psalms came in late 2012. After months of prayer, reading and discussion my wife and I made the difficult choice to leave behind my position as a pastor and our current church home to convert to Catholicism. Obviously, this isn’t the place to discuss the details of why we made that choice, but suffice to say God used it to once again broaden my understanding of the Psalms. If you’ve ever been to a Catholic Mass, you know that the liturgy typically contains four readings. The reading from the Gospels is most prominent, yet there is also a pair of readings from the Old and New Testaments. Sandwiched between these two is a responsorial Psalm. In most parishes the Psalm is typically sung and our church is no exception. Hearing the Psalms sung in a congregational setting both recalled to mind what I had learned from Bonhoeffer and helped me experience the Psalms in a new way. Now, I had heard a handful of Psalms set to music in the past. Typically what I’d heard previously was either one of the more famous songs or one adapted into the context of a worship song, often with the biblical source unacknowledged. What I experienced in Mass was different. Week in week out as the Psalms flowed out of the lectionary, both the more famous and less well known were brought before the congregation. Just as he had through my reading Bonhoeffer, God was causing me to rediscover the Psalms. What I experienced when I listened to Basement Psalms Live was akin to what I’d found at Mass. Through his music, Rick simultaneously breathed new life into familiar passages and let the ancient words of the Psalms speak for themselves. The album is immensely respectful of the Scriptures, while relentlessly challenging its audience to hear familiar words in a new way. The story of my rediscovering the Psalms has culminated – at least for now, who knows what God has in store in the future – in the book you have in front of you. Rick initially sent me his drafts of the book for feedback on content and for assistance in editing. While I hope my efforts were helpful to him, whatever contributions I made to the final text pale in comparison to what I got out of it. Just like Bonhoeffer before him, Rick has written a book that challenges the church to look at the Bible’s prayer book in a new light, to not let the words of the Psalmists be forgotten and to seek to hear the Gospel through every word of the Scriptures. One of the best parts of what you’ll encounter in the coming pages is the combination of prayerful reflection andrigorous study Rick has put into the Psalms. While this book is certainly a spiritual experience, it will challenge your mind as well. The scholarship that has been put into the book shines through on every page without ever taking on a dry, academic character. Rick has pulled off a rare feat in Christian literature – writing a book that is imminently accessible, intellectually stimulating, and devotionally rich. While the chapters in this volume parallel the tracks onBasement Psalms Live, Rick’s intention was to let the two be independent projects. You can read this book even if you haven’t heard the album and vice versa. While such accessibility is generous on Rick’s part, I’d encourage you to absorb the two together. Each chapter opens with the text of the Psalm it discusses, but instead of reading it, I hope you grab a copy ofBasement Psalms Live and listen to the words of Scripture set to music. Let Rick’s singing prepare you for what he’s written, and then, in turn, let his writing prepare you to better enter the Psalms. One word of warning is in order before you begin your read. There are plenty of Christian books on the market today that will leave you unchanged. This is not one of them. When you turn the page to begin the first chapter, prepare to be challenged. Rick doesn’t pull any punches in what he says, and, believe me, that’s a good thing. Too often we try and keep ourfaith safe and comfortable. Yet this is a mistake for – to paraphrase C.S. Lewis’ famous quote – our God is not a tame lion. As you read the words ahead allow God to challenge you. Even if you come away from a point or two with a different opinion than Rick, don’t use that as an excuse to merely brushing his words aside. Let them in, wrestle with them and invite God to speak to you through them. I’ve come to accept, and rejoice in the fact, that the Psalms have become a major part of my spiritual walk, something I’m thankful that Rick’s work has been able to contribute to.Whether you’ve studied the Psalms deeply in the past or this is your first encounter with them, my prayer for you as you read this book is that my story will become yours. May God use Rick’s words to help you rediscover the Bible’s great prayer book – the Psalms – in an entirely new way. You can help fund the Kicktarter Campaign for Rick’s book at this link: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/rickjamesmusic/out-of-the-depths-a-book-by-rick-lee-james

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