Casting Crowns lead singer Mark Hall is delivering up plenty for your mind to reflect on over the next few weeks. On Tuesday, the latest CC album, Thrive, hit music stores everywhere; on February 11, you can snatch up a copy of his book (with Tim Luke), Thrive: Digging Deep, Reaching Out. In both, you’ll hear words of wisdom from Hall’s experience and a depth of theological encouragement for your soul.
It’s rare in a CD that I find the second half stronger than the first, but that’s true here. It’s not that the self-titled first track or that the others included in the first few songs aren’t good, but from the fifth track on… wow. “Broken Together” nearly reduced me to tears: the recounting of the ways that marriage hasn’t been ‘dreamy’ segue into the realization that maybe instead of ‘completeness,’ that a couple should work throw their brokenness, with God, together. Powerful stuff.
The sixth studio album of the group, Thrive also covers the way that our dreams are often less powerful (and potential) than what God has in mind for us in “Dream For You,” matching up against the ‘stealer of dreams’ in “Waiting For The Night To Fall.” “Love You With The Truth” fights against a person of faith’s inadequacy in sharing their faith, while “Follow Me” tracks Jesus’ first disciple, Peter, in his post-walking on water/post-pre-Crucifixion failure to see Jesus’ work through his inadequacies. And there’s the standard CC “Livin’ On A Prayer Song” (you know, the one that tells people’s stories??!), “Heroes,” that recounts the different people who are heroic in their own lives and calling but are often overlooked.
It may be my favorite Casting Crowns CD since… their self-titled debut in 2003.
Meanwhile, the book gives insights into Hall’s life and experience that I hadn’t heard before, but which broaden my appreciation for his music. There are stories about his dyslexia, his time as a youth minister, Teen Challenge, and Iggy the Eagle/Yardbird. There are chapters with pastoral ‘unpacking’ of Scripture, like Ephesians 2, and even a closing proposal, The Thrive Challenge, for readers to implement some of the life lessons every day. (My favorite anecdote is about how Steven Curtis Chapman helped complete one of my favorite Casting Crowns’ songs.)
Both the book and the CD frame the cover art of the tree, which Hall talks about being like “The Tree” at the Junction in South Alabama. The tree itself survives the test of time because of its roots; it would not survive as a tree without its roots. Roots both dig deep (gaining foundation, and traction) and reach out, giving the book its purpose. Hall wants us to make sure we’re behaving correctly, thinking correctly, and moving into community that will encourage us to do all of that together.