I just walked back from the Chapel Preaching Team meeting that happens at the beginning of each semester. On any given Tuesday during chapel, you will find a faculty or staff member preaching, lecturing or sharing a testimony focused on a certain book of the Bible or theological topic. We do this in an effort to “introduce” a variety of faculty and staff members to the larger JBU student body and to demonstrate an integration of faith and learning, encouraging the faculty and staff to teach and share through the lens of his or her specific discipline or job. Every semester, I make it clear to these speakers that a student worship leader will be contacting them to hear more about the scriptural themes in the specific service and to discuss how music can be a part of presenting the Word of God that day. These points of contact are generally brief, with a few emails exchanged and perhaps a couple of songs suggested. While this process works quite well and closely mirrors the conversations commonly found in a local church context, it’s always exciting as an educator, pastor and artist when students decided, on their own accord, to dig in a little deeper.
In the Fall of 2013, Clint O’Kelley and Seth Kaye were scheduled to lead worship for Dr. Ted Junseok Song, a member of the Engineering faculty at JBU. They sent the initial email to ask about themes and song suggestions, and Dr. Seong asked to meet with them in person.
“He shared with us his heart for JBU to remember that, yes we are saved by grace, but we cannot forget that the Lord is holy and just and our sin is not something to be treated flippantly. Seth and I left that meeting being blessed by the Spirit’s presence in a meeting with a professor that neither of us had met before.”
And so they started the process of planning…
“We went round in circles trying to find a song that would make people slow down and realize that while we do have grace and restoration in Jesus Christ, our sin is something that can’t be overlooked or brushed aside.”
And when they came up empty, instead of landing on a generic song that “would work,” they decided to take a risk. They decided to write.
“The next week, we spent almost every night locked in the same practice room. These nights usually looked like the two of us trading off at the piano playing over chord progressions while the other was singing out melody lines or lyrics. We would make a big chunk of progress and then hit a wall in our writing.”
And they didn’t give up…
“Some nights, we would leave the practice room frustrated because we just knew we were on the brink of creating the next portion of the song, but our minds wouldn’t let us go any further. I recall many times throughout that week lying in bed and texting lyrics to Seth to pray over and think about, and he would do the same with me. One of my favorite parts of this whole process was how collaborative it was. Seth and I both had such a genuine desire to create something that was not only of good quality musically, but that also had a greater purpose than just being a good song.”
And, so, “Blind to Darkness” was born. Dr. Song’s chapel was one of the most memorable chapels of that semester, and the song continues to be sung and led at various chapels, churches, and retreats all over Northwest Arkansas.
“It has been almost a year since then, and we are still completely humbled and blown away by the response to this song. It never fails that tears roll down my cheek when I am in chapel and I hear the voices inside the Cathedral singing out those lyrics that were crafted in that small practice room.”
Many students and community members have asked where they can buy this song. It is my privilege to announce the official release of “Blind to Darkness,” written by Seth Kaye and Clint O’Kelley, performed by The Red Steps. You can find it on iTunes here.
It’s a song written by the Church, for the Church. May Glory be to God the Father, to His Son, Jesus Christ, and to the Holy Ghost. Now, and forevermore. Amen.
“Worthy is the Lord our God. He is pure and holy.
Sinners come before the throne to be reconciled.
Demanding that blood be shed, Death would take you only.
Redeeming your righteous Bride that you made out of wretched sinners,
blind to darkness, sanctified by Jesus’ blood.”
~Seth Kaye & Clint O’Kelley