Hymns at Home
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Keith and Kristyn GettyKeith and Kristyn Getty have been writing hymns for more than a decade, bridging the gap between traditional and contemporary, and creating what is described as singable theology. Their songs, many co-written with Stuart Townend, have pioneered a new generation of modern hymns.
Keith and Kristyn Getty talk about writing hymns and how they’ve incorporated hymns into their home with their children.
Hymns at Home
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, December 24th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I’m Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. What can we do, as parents, to raise biblically-anchored, creatively-engaged young men and women, who advance the mission of the church in the next generation? We’ll talk today with Keith and Kristyn Getty about that. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on one of the busiest days of the year for pastors—for you [Dave], at least, you’ve got—
Ann: Hey; hey; hey.
Bob: Oh, excuse me. [Laughter]
Ann: —for mothers—[Laughter]
Dave: I knew this was coming; I knew she was going—
Ann: —and women taking care of everything.
Bob: I was going to ask you about that, because he’s focused on the Christmas Eve services.
Bob: You’ve got to take care of all of the family traditions.
Dave: Do you know how many times I’ve heard this, Bob? [Laughter] Forty years, I’ve heard: “Men do nothing at Christmas; women/moms do everything.”
Ann: Haven’t I gotten better? Do I still say it?
Dave: She doesn’t say it as much, because we’re empty-nesters now; but it really is true; I mean, watching her, really—and I’m sure a lot of husbands feel this way, but I’m amazed at all that you do.
Ann: Yes; women and wives—you are amazing. Way to go at this time of year. Men, you too!—pastors; yes.
Dave: She’s throwing the man-thing in, but she doesn’t mean it. [Laughter]
Bob: Well, we’re going to listen today to a husband and wife/a man and a woman, who I had an opportunity to sit down with recently and talk about their lives and about their careers—Keith and Kristyn Getty, who are modern hymn writers. They have written the hymn, In Christ Alone.
Dave: Do you want me to sing it, Bob?
Dave: [Singing] “In Christ alone”—
Ann: That’s pretty good.
Bob: Lovely; yes.
Dave: Yes; it’s a great song—love it.
Bob: It is a wonderful hymn. At Christmastime, we sing their hymn, Joy Has Dawned. If you haven’t heard that one yet, that’s a good one to add into your Christmas mix.
Keith and Kristyn live in Nashville. They host an event every year called Sing! I had the opportunity to be at the event, and be part of it, this past year. We had a conversation about how they met, about their song-writing collaboration, and about what it’s like to raise kids and have a family when your job is writing hymns, and doing music, and touring, and all that they do. That’s where we pick up with Part Two of the interview today.
Bob: The rhythm of your life—well, first of all, your life does not have the kinds of rhythms that most of our lives have. Your weeks are very different, one month to the next. Is it hard for you to try to develop, kind of, a family consistency when life just goes crazy?
Kristyn: Yes; in having more structure, day to day, is obviously much more helpful when you have little children; so we do try to create normal things with them in the business of life. They, obviously—over these last eight years of having them, they’ve travelled everywhere with us. Their constant has been that we’ve maintained that family unit on the road, as well, as being at home.
Keith: There is a time in Ireland, which is very much with the kids, where work is minimal. There’s the time on the road, which is ten weeks; and by the end of next year, will be almost non-existent. It will just be six weekends a year; but the majority of the year—30 to 35 weeks—is just normal life in Nashville. We live right beside our offices and our church. We’re a mile from our office and our church, so a lot of it is actually just normal stuff.
Kristyn: It’s a bit more tricky, just as the mum, I think, just always working at how much I need to be at home and how much away. Obviously, Daddy is around; but it’s a different sort of thing for him.
Kristyn: So, that’s why, every year, it requires tweaking—every month requires tweaking.
Bob: When we first met, this was before you had kids; and you’d already recorded a children’s CD. You—this has been something that was on your heart, from long before you were a mom, to see kids—
Kristyn: —kids singing. That’s what I did with my mum when it came to church ministry, and my dad is a pastor. Mom was a kindergarten teacher for 30 years. She was involved in children’s ministry; so my first, sort of, singing was with her, leading songs with kids.
Then, when I met Keith, the project he happened to be working on at that time was with the African Children’s Choir. They were building a new world tour show, and they had half a dozen new songs. He suggested to me, “Kristyn, would you like to write songs?” “Well, I have never written any songs.” He said: “Well, you could write lyrics. You’re about to do a literature degree; maybe, that’s something you could try.” I thought, “Okay.” So, writing for kids was right at the beginning for us too.
Then we did the Songs that Jesus Said project whenever we lived in Switzerland. We were just trying to figure out, having written some of the more cradle hymns—kids’ In Christ Alone and The Power of the Cross: “Might there be some little songs we could write for kids?”
Then, increasingly, in these last years, how we actually teach some of these hymns to children, while we teach our kids all sorts of little songs/fun songs from across different genres. We love that; that’s important—those kid-specific songs—but to make room to be teaching the next generation the hymns of the church that they might grow up knowing them, and they might be being taught things that they can hold onto for their life, and might be encouraged to join the voice of the church so they are not just arriving into church and “I don’t know what anybody’s singing”; but to connect the dots, through every decade of life, I think, is important.
Even when a kid—we’ve seen this with our kids—is they don’t have to understand everything; but we want them to understand something, and it’s wonderful when it’s a part of something that’s worth holding onto. We felt that urgency, just as parents.
Bob: So, Eliza is eight years old?
Kristyn: She’s eight.
Bob: What are two or three non-Getty hymns she could sing for us?
Kristyn: Oh my goodness; what is the one they sing about the disciples?
Keith: That’s not one of the hymns. Are you talking about the hymns you teach them or just songs?
Kristyn: Well, not Getty hymns—one of the ones we’ve done is—[singing] “Hallelujah! Thine the glory. Hallelujah” That was the hymn—
Keith: You taught me that once, years ago.
Bob: You didn’t know?
Keith: It’s not sung in Ireland.
Kristyn: I didn’t grow up singing that one; we heard it in church.
Keith: You taught me that when we were with Nancy.
Kristyn: That was our hymn of the month with the girls in May; they loved it.
Bob: So, you’re introducing a new hymn each month to your girls?
Kristyn: Yes; this month is How Deep the Father’s Love; yes. Gracie’s got the first verse; she’s four; so she’s got most of the lyrics, now, for verse one.
We did—because they are still quite little—Eliza can reach for much more—but we’re just happy for them to get the melody, even just the first few lines; because eventually, they’ll be able to read it for themselves.
Keith: We do like fun Scriptures songs and that kind of stuff in the morning. They love the VeggieTales Sunday school album because they love Veggie Tales. They’re actually pretty good songs, too.
We do one song in the evenings. Some evenings, we sit down; and we get to explain the gospel or explain some truth about the Lord there. Other evenings, we’re so tired—we just throw them upstairs, sing one verse, fall asleep; you know? [Laughter] But we—so it’s almost a rhythm if you do the one song every day for a month. Actually, now, our girls know, probably, 30 hymns that we hope will stick with them for life.
Kristyn: We’ll have to come back around and reteach them; you know?
Keith: You know, so it’s been a good exercise.
Bob: I think the intentionality of that—I think so many parents are not thinking intentionally and thinking, “How do I build…”
It’s what I heard you talk about this morning—of having those hymns that will be sung at your funeral because they’ve been a part of your life the whole of your life. To know that you are building in a solid hymnody in the lives of your kids—there is no way to underestimate how significant that is, when they are in their 20s and 30s, and being challenged in their faith. They are still hearing, “My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee. Amazing love, how can it be…?” echoing in their head.
Kristyn: We have, in our travels, met so many people—who’ve come to us who are, maybe, preachers or pastors—who talk about the songs that particularly their mothers sang to them whenever they were younger and how absolutely critical they were to their understanding of the faith; and they are sustaining, within it, throughout the rest of their life.
Kim Thomas always talks about this low-hanging fruit and, especially, in the vulnerable years of little children. I think it is a slightly easier thing to reach for. I think I come to the end of the day and I think: “What have I talked to my kids about? Have I gone through all the million things, or have we just talked about brushing their teeth or not hitting their sister?”
Kristyn: I think songs become a way that we have found to sort of gather our children in. If I can’t do anything else, “Well, I’m going to sing a song with them tonight.”
Bob: You catechize them.
Kristyn: That’s how they will learn these things. Although, I was explaining to Charlotte the other day—
Bob: How old is Charlotte?
Kristyn: She is five. We were talking about what it meant to be a wretch and what it meant to be a treasure because of How Deep the Father’s Love. I was so excited because, sometimes, it’s been hard to fold her in. She was just staring at my face the whole time. I felt: “She is really getting this. I can’t wait to tell Keith; this is amazing!”
She paused, after I finished talking for about five minutes; and she looked at me and said, “Mum, is it okay for you to eat homemade playdough?” [Laughter] I said to Keith, “I don’t know what we’re going to do there”; but Paul Tripp always says, “Yes, you’re going to have the same conversations, a thousand different ways; and we pray a few of them stick.”
Bob: Every parent has had that experience of going, “This is not doing any good at all”; but I remember hearing Don Whitney talk about his rhythm with family devotions and feeling the same way. Here, he has written books on the spiritual disciplines; he’s thinking, “My kids aren’t paying any attention to this.” Then his daughter gets up at graduation and is giving a speech. She starts to weep about family devotions and how meaningful they were. He is sitting there, going, “You never acted like they were meaningful when we were doing it.” [Laughter]
But here, it’s what she’s treasuring. I think the rhythm of that, and parents just being consistent—there are dividends that are going to get paid off.
Kristyn: There is a fine line between exasperating them and encouraging them.
Kristyn: We do try. You know one—because we are both firstborn and very eager about everything—we’re always just very mindful of saying it, involving them; throwing them in the way of other people, who can say it; but leaving them, as well, because we don’t want to overwhelm them with our enthusiasm too. [Laughter]
Bob: So, when Eliza is 15 and Charlotte is 12, are you going to all pack up in the tour bus and go out on a family tour?
Kristyn: That’s her plan—Eliza’s plan. [Laughter] She was in the back of the car, just a few months ago; and she said, “Mum, you know, when I grow up, I’m going to sing; and I’m going to sing with you.”
I thought, “Oh, that’s lovely. I’m so—Eliza, that’s just fantastic. There may be other things that you would”—I don’t know; her voice is lovely. I just have no idea what her life will bring—“Maybe, they’ll be other things you will do.” She started to tears: “No; that’s what I’m doing. I am singing with you!” [Laughter] I thought, “Okay; that’s fine.” We’ll see, at 15, what she is interested in then.
Bob: I’m just thinking about the rhythm of teenage girls on the road and the complications that come with that. Have you—you’re looking kind of catatonic?
Kristyn: He can’t admit that they are going to grow up. [Laughter]
Keith: I’m enjoying it right now; thanks. [Laughter]
Bob: As you think about where Getty Music will be ten years from today, or where your family will be—I mean, you’re starting to plan ahead for where you think the Lord might have you; right?
Keith: Yes; I mean, I think the Get—just to define: you said, “the Getty Music” Company—the plan is ambitious; I guess, at one level, it’s ambitious. We, as an organization—we do a retreat in January. We think—I spend the first two or three hours talking about the year 2050. The reason for that is because, you know, God-willing, I will have grandchildren. I will be reaching the end of my life, but it could all change tomorrow; but we start there, because we take a long view in what we’re trying to do.
We’re trying to—we want to see a generation, who are deeper in the Scriptures. We want to see a generation, who are more creative, and imaginative, and joyful, and magnetic, and just have a tremendous brightness about them and curiosity. We also want to see a generation of families in churches that sing well, because we think all three of them are interlinked.
You know, our organization—we already have a plan. You know, if the car taking me to the Bridgestone tonight comes off the road, there is a succession plan to Getty Music. We don’t think it’s necessarily the best succession plan, but we have a plan. The company—I got into this as a writer—but the organization that we have now is—there are 30/40 people working for it. It’s—I consider myself the founding CEO, I guess for want of a better phrase; but I don’t think of myself as more than that. Do you know what I mean? If the next generation decides to change the name of it, I don’t care. Do you know what I mean?
We see ourselves, really, as finding something that we’re getting ready to pass on rather than a—even the joy of watching these writers, who are ten years younger than me—but these writers, coming through, and doing their stuff, and flourishing—I get as much pleasure out of that as writing a song.
We believe it’s the most exciting generation to be a Christian. Tomorrow morning, as part of the Great Commission, we get to launch Getty Music Plus—which I think will have a hundred times the influence the Sing! conference ever had—bringing an online hymnbook, bringing thousands of videos around the world, and online conversation. Again, similar principle to this conference—you know, it’s—by everybody subscribing to it, we’re actually being able to bring/enable people, from over a hundred countries, to get it for free as well. It is truly a global vision.
But I don’t hold very tight to what I’m doing. It’s—I’m kind of aware I’m at this for another day; I’m at this for another year. We’ll try to keep doing it, hopefully; we’re loving it. I never dreamed I’d get to do these things, but I don’t think of it as any more important than that. Does that make sense?
Keith: I think, for all of us, the more important things are our prayer life. I mean, I’m going to finish this year—I don’t know—so far, it’s been my worst song-writing year in a long time; but I will look at how I can do better. I’ll look at how the organization is doing and what’s happening there. We’ll look at the events, like Sing!, and say: “Did this year improve it? Is it affecting change in churches?”
But actually, the bigger issue, is: “Actually, did it become more prayerful? Is my own prayer life getting better? Is my prayer life with my wife, each day, better? Is the prayer time with our girls being meaningful and effective? Is the prayer time with our staff more effective? Is the prayer time, linking to our local church, more effective?” Those are the things that matter—I think trying to get into those.
It’s hard; I’m an extrovert. I am about 5 percent of creatives that’s an extrovert; so you know, I find prayer even more difficult than everybody else. I’m an unholy extrovert; you know? But I think these things are being—I mean, one of the things Kristyn and I have learned—we struggled with it for years, and we started to do better at praying together. Then, when Kristyn got pregnant with Tahlia, I would come in, just as she was feeling sick and nauseous. I would go, “Okay; Sweetie, it’s time to go to the thrown of grace”; and she would look at me and go, “Get out!” [Laughter]
Kristyn: You didn’t have to say that. [Laughter]
Keith: No; but it’s a good story, because what we did was—I would write out my prayers; I journal my prayers. Because I have this concentration problem, so I journal the prayers.
Kristyn: I got a prayer and verses from my husband, every morning, on my phone.
Keith: I send her a cover letter each morning and the prayer. It’s actually been a brilliant thing for us. I recommend it to anybody in marriage. It’s been a great thing in terms of us being able to—
Kristyn: Particularly the season we’re at, where it is so hard to find those quiet spaces.
Keith: Yes; she can see: “Here’s what he’s praying about today.”
Bob: Would you find some way to tweet that or post that so that we could see what one of your email prayers looks like? I think that—
Keith: Ninety percent of it; yes. [Laughter]
Kristyn: He always has a little lovely message of encouragement—I mean, he really is a fantastic husband.
Bob: Like, did he do one today?
Keith: You’re not going to read one; you’re not reading one.
Kristyn: We’ll see one that he’s sent, and you can keep it.
Keith: I think those things, you know, are more important; but if you have one goal for the year—I think that’s been really helpful, because that redirects everything.
I think also, for us, we’ve always had to create—we’re the kind of couple/we’re so emotional and passionate—that we have to create road blocks all the time. We’ve—one of the things we did, pretty early on was—in fact, at the very start of our marriage—was we decided to be in the same bed every night. We’ve/we can do it with our job, of course. We’ve never had a night apart in 15 years. We’ve passed a thousand flights, now, between us;—
Keith: —and we’ve landed in the same city every night to be there.
Bob: Wow! [Applause]
Keith: I have friends who think I am mad. I have friends of hers, who feel deeply sorry for her. [Laughter] I’ve also had Christian leaders tell me that I’m letting down God’s kingdom by missing ministry opportunities, but I respectfully disagree in that one. We feel, for us, it’s a net positive. Do you know what I mean?
I think 90 percent of the fault is on my part. In that, there are always the obvious things, like temptations and reputations; and those things are obvious. Even beyond that, I think, for me, it’s a posture. I don’t get too long inside my own head to come off with a new idea before I have to tell my wife about it. Then she can kind of, you know, fix it slightly; so I don’t go too far off the radar. I think that’s been immensely helpful.
I think for us—and there are lots of other examples/personal examples I could give you—
Kristyn: You wouldn’t know what to wear every day if I wasn’t there to show you. [Laughter]
Keith: That’s true; that’s true. I’d forget to put clothes on. [Laughter] It’d be very bad for the ministry; but yes, I think actually putting road blocks is so important.
This seminar program is an extension of sort of the ideas we wanted to bring. The team—Elizabeth, and Josh—all the guys—sat down and said, “What seminars do you want to do?” We went, “None; we’ve got a Bridgestone concert that night.” They said, “Do you want to do any?” I said, “Well, I’ll do one.” They said: “Well, if you could do one, what would it be? Do you want new hymns, or do you want to do something on the Getty Music Plus thing? What do you want to do?”
I actually said: “Honestly, I think the pian [Irish word for pain] of the last two years—of watching marriages collapse; and watching the knock-on effect of that; and also just seeing friends, who are, obviously, much more enamored about the other things in life than their own marriage and devotional life within that—I just thought, you know, “Ours, in many ways, isn’t an example to anybody; but we can, at least, share of what we are learning and, at least, keep the conversation at the front of people’s minds.”
Bob: You found one; right?—you can read to us.
Keith: You’re not going to read this; you can’t read it.
Bob: Oh, let her read it; we all want to hear it.
Keith: It’s personal prayer!
Bob: I know; that one is okay.
Kristyn: Just going to read that one.
Bob: That one’s okay; she’ll skip that one paragraph. [Laughter]
Keith: No; because—
Bob: Here’s what you’re doing—you’re modeling for the rest of us, husbands, what this can look like; okay? [Laughter]
Keith: But when I pray to the Lord, I’m politer and humbler; it’s a false dichotomy of how spiritual I actually am. [Laughter]
Kristyn: I’ll just pick this one because it’s just very small. I won’t read all of it, but it says: “Kristyn, you are my wife and my love. Can’t wait for the next four days”—this was Sunday—“and see my prayers below.”
Keith: That’s enough.
Kristyn: I was just going to read the first line: “Lord, may we become more prayerful every day. Lord, may You open our eyes more every day to the beauty of spiritual things.” That was just the first little bit.
Bob: That’s beautiful. [Applause]
Bob: Well, we’ve been listening to Part Two of a conversation with Keith and Kristyn Getty. I think there are a lot of wives, who are going—
Ann: Oh, we’re all thinking: “This is amazing. I want my husband to do—
Bob: “How do I get my—
Ann: “Dave, please, do this!”
Bob: Here is what I think we should do. I think we should start a service, where we write out prayers that we send to husbands that they can then to send onto their wives.
Bob: Don’t you think?
Dave: Bob, that is a great idea. Now, I’m excited about it. [Laughter] I was like under the pile; but I mean, actually, what a beautiful, beautiful thing.
Ann: Well, it’s so beautiful. It’s attractive, because he’s—
Dave: How about I do that once a week?
Dave: He does that every day; I’ll try once a week.
Ann: Once every three months would be awesome.
Dave: Oh, boy! [Laughter]
Ann: I don’t think that’s something—I mean, that you write out a prayer and send it—that’s not typical; right?
Bob: No; that’s not typical.
Bob: But I think, again, what they are modeling is making your relationship with Jesus a priority in the midst of your oneness in marriage. This is what you guys talk about in your book, Vertical Marriage. If we don’t have our relationship with Jesus at the center of our relationship with one another, then our relationship with one another is not going to function the way it’s supposed to.
Ann: Exactly. I would say this: “Wouldn’t this be a great Christmas gift?—that you could write out a prayer to your spouse—not just the husbands to their wives, but wives to their husbands—of a prayer for them even for the year?” Not that you don’t get your wife a gift as well—[Laughter]
Dave: That doesn’t count as the gift.
Bob: Put this in the stocking tonight; right?
Ann: Oh, yes!
Bob: Wouldn’t that be sweet? Yes; that’s a great idea.
Wouldn’t it be great if, as moms and dads, we were intentional about helping our kids grow up to be worshippers? Keith and Kristyn have written a book called Sing! that is all about how worship and music will transform your life, your family, and your church. We’ve got copies of their book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com to get a copy; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, our website: FamilyLifeToday.com, or call 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Now, we hope you have a great Christmas Eve. If your church has a Christmas Eve service, hope you enjoy that and your celebration of Christmas is filled with joy tomorrow as you gather.
Would you keep in mind and pray for our yearend challenge, here at FamilyLife? We’re hoping to raise enough money to take full advantage of a $3 million matching-gift opportunity. We’re not there yet. We’re asking listeners: “If you can, make a yearend contribution; do it, here, on Christmas Eve.” That would be great. You can easily donate by going online to FamilyLifeToday.com. When you make a donation, it’s going to be matched, dollar for dollar, until we take full advantage of this $3 million matching gift. Pray that we do that. And if you can help with a gift today, we would very much appreciate hearing from you.
Tomorrow, we’re going to hear from Dave Wilson with some thoughts about what Christmas says to our world: “What is the message of Christmas for the whole world?” We’ll hear Dave’s thoughts on that tomorrow. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, with some help today from Mark Ramey. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back on Christmas Day for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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