I am so excited to begin The Organist’s Blog. It has been an absolute delight to be the organist at First Baptist Greenville for the last four months. Not only is our organ (the biggest in the state, in case you didn’t know) amazing beyond words, but also our church family is indescribable. I have felt at home with First from the very beginning!

One of my favorite things about being an organist is playing for church services. I love worshiping God with music, and I try to be very intentional about the music that I choose, the style that I play it, and the mood that the music sets during worship. With this blog, I plan to let you in on my part of the worship planning process. I want you to understand why I choose the music I play and the stories behind the pieces that I arrange and compose.

Through it all, I want to give all of the honor to God. I am so thankful for the talents that I have been given and for the place to which I have been led. To God be the glory!

This first blog entry is about the piece I am playing as the offertory on Sunday, January 21.

Grace stands out to me as one of God’s most awesome attributes, but I find myself so often taking that grace for granted. I forget that God doesn’t owe me love, protection, encouragement, salvation or so many of the gifts I am given each day; I have all of those things because of grace.

Psalm 91 tells us, “You who sit down in the High God’s presence, spend the night in Shaddai’s shadow, say this: ‘God, you’re my refuge. I trust in you and I’m safe!’” (The Message). Other translations refer to God’s presence in this passage as the secret place. God through grace provides that secret place—a place where we find comfort, hope, rest, whatever we need

Several years ago, I was working for a music publisher in Greenville and collaborating with my friend Jonathan on a song that he had composed. I was going to be arranging the song for choir and orchestra, and we sat in my office brainstorming, planning and genuinely enjoying the creative process. For most of his life, Jonathan suffered from severe depression, but I can clearly remember in that moment – he was laughing and joking and just truly happy.

A few days after that meeting, I received a phone call that shook my world. Jonathan had taken his life the day before. I immediately remembered a song that Jonathan had composed a couple of years earlier called “The Secret Place.” As I let the song play in my mind, I thought about how poignant the song must have been to Jonathan throughout a lifetime of suffering. How often he must have retreated to that secret place for comfort and peace.

After receiving the news of Jonathan’s passing, I sat at the piano and through tears of sadness, while seeking the solace of God’s presence, began playing “The Secret Place.” Eventually, the lyrics of the song began to resonate as a new arrangement of the piece came to life. Yes, the grief was real, but now more than ever before, for Jonathan the presence of God is real. He is resting forever in Shaddai’s shadow.

As we study the book of Ruth in worship, we see God’s grace on display constantly. Ruth found God’s grace and learned what it meant to dwell in the shadow of the Most High God. Thank God that we can find hope, rest, and grace in that secret place.

The Secret Place
Music by Jonathan Hamilton
Lyrics by Cheryl Reid & Ron Hamilton
Arranged by Shelton Ridge Love

I’ve found a secret place
Of comfort and release,
A special place of healing,
A quiet place of peace;
And everyone who dwells there
Finds rest beneath God’s wings.
In the shade of his pavilion,
New strength he always brings.

I find hope, I find grace
Far away from the world’s embrace.
He give me rest; he keeps me safe;
I find his strength; I seek his face
In the secret place.

With every trial he brings,
My Lord will make a way
To strengthen and protect me,
To help me face each day.
He leads me through the valley
To draw me closer still,
Knowing even in the shadows
I find his perfect will.

I find hope, I find grace
Far away from the world’s embrace.
He give me rest; he keeps me safe;
I find his strength; I seek his face
In the secret place.

  • Shelton