God did not design us for suffocating spaces but for running in the fields.

Perry LaHaie
Label: Independent release
Length: 9 songs/39 minutes

If the follower of Christ is not careful, the hardships in life can lead us to turn inward. Our perspective shrinks. Instead of glorious liberty, there is confinement. In place of broad ground, we may feel precarious on a narrow patch. As Sandra McCracken writes in a recent CT column, “God did not design us for suffocating spaces.… We are made to run in the fields …”

It’s this expansive vision that animates the classic hymns in Him by Perry LaHaie. It does so by judiciously adding words and music that broadens their meaning. They don't become so different that they are unrecognizable. They retain their essential elements but become grander in scope.

The electric instrumentation is pivotal. Some of the guitar chords are stretched out creating an expansive sound. It's not heavy but this will be a stretch for those who favor traditional interpretations.

LaHaie succeeds admirably in updating these hymns in a way that makes them more like songs. It’s not unlike what others have done recently. If you’re not a purist and can handle light rock, this is worth exploring. I’m grateful that artists like LaHaie are willing to creatively engage with ancient texts, adding to them or even creating new compositions that carry on this tradition.

The opening “Cast Yourself In” is an original written by LaHaie. This majestic anthem sets the stage, calling listeners to cast themselves into the river of God “that flows to the nations.” The nations! This is a key theme. These songs go beyond personal piety. The world is in view.

Even the following classic, retitled “Amazing Grace (Send Me)” has outreach in mind:

Amazing grace, compels me now, to share this love so free
So those not told will finally hear, so that the blind will see
The pris’ner be set free

The foundation is the traditional arrangement finger-picked on electric guitar.

“O Mystery of Mysteries,” another written by LaHaie and family members, could pass for an obscure hymn. It has that kind of structure and tells the “story of God” from the incarnation to Christ’s return to establish his kingdom.

“The Solid Rock” has never sounded so powerful. The added chorus soars on the back of modern rock. I am an advocate for purchasing albums rather than individual songs, but if I could only have one from this release, this is it.

“There is a Fountain” has a driving rhythm, “like a steam locomotive, rollin’ down the track.” Once again the evangelistic element is introduced, “This river will rush on till every nation sings the song.” The river! The nations! This life encompasses the world.

The guitar on the closing “O Come O Come Emmanuel” creates a soundscape of lament. But this adaptation becomes more than pining for Christ’s advent.

But how long until you come again, bring evil’s final end, and justice finally wins?
How long till heaven comes to stay, and all nations shout your praise, when not yet will be no more?

The subdued tone on the keyboard driven “God is Working His Purpose Out” is mesmerizing. Towards the end the message is striking:

So, spend your life to work His work, to speed the king’s decree
To usher in the nations praise, the reign of the prince of peace
Pour out your life to hasten the time, the time that will surely be
When the earth will be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea

This is the thrust of the release. It counters all that drives us inward. It beckons toward that broad place where we run in the fields.

Michael Dalton