Preorders begin today for Beatitudes, a full-length album featuring top recording artists, leaders in their respective genres of Christian/Worship music and releasing from Stugiology Music April 21 with management, marketing and distribution through The Fuel Music. Available now for immediate download with each preorder of the album from iTunes® are "Morning Light" by award winning guitarist, songwriter and author Stu Garrard (Stu G) and six-time Grammy Award winning and Platinum-selling recording artist Amy Grant and "Heaven Is Around Us" by Garrard and acclaimed singer-songwriter John Mark McMillan.
These songs and the Beatitudes album is part of The Beatitudes Project (#TheBeatitudesProject), which is also a book, Words From The Hill (An Invitation to the Unexpected) from NavPress releasing in April, and a documentary film, View From the Hill, currently in production. The project is meant to be a reset button in a world plagued with violence and division.
Garrard and McMillan's "Heaven Is Around Us" was inspired by today's meek - the marginalized, the displaced and people Garrard describes as "those we see as the other." A lyric video of the song can be seen/heard now on YouTube.
"When Stu approached me about The Beatitudes Project I was stoked," remembers McMillan, who later connected with Stu to write "Heaven Is Around Us" together in his hometown of Charlotte, NC. "The song started to form about the meek and this idea that the things that are blessed are not always what we think are blessed.... I think Jesus is speaking to the idea that what we consider successful and what He considers successful are not the same thing."
"These upside-down Jesus announcements on a hillside by the Sea of Galilee in Matthew 5 where Jews, Greeks, Romans and people of all ethnicities were gathered are a reminder that there is another way," says Garrard, who has spent 15-years excavating these "blessings at the bottom of life" and authoring the upcoming book, Words From the Hill.
Stories of the meek are featured in chapter three of the book, "Meek: When Presence Is Ignored," and includes those of Tangie Lane, a young, African American, married mother of two daughters working for racial equality and Charles Robinson, a member of the Choctaw tribe of Oklahoma who started The Red Road, a nonprofit that helps other organizations connect to Native Americans and educates people on the lives of Native Americans.
"Hundreds of years of oppression, marginalization, being used, being ignored, and not having a voice is what being meek looks like for many Native Americans and African Americans," writes Garrard in his book. "The Beatitudes announce that these people matter-their culture, their history, their centuries of pain matter."
The "meek" chapter also shares the story of Riyad Al-Kasem, a member of the Islamic Center of Nashville who became "the other" post 911, and Fady Al-Hagal, an immigrant from Syria and World Relief employee who is working to help settle refugees in Nashville.
"In Syria alone, 22 million people have been uprooted and displaced by the war. Over 300,000 have been killed," writes Garrard as these numbers continue to climb. The UNHCR's latest figures reveals the crisis as families are escaping across borders, fleeing the bombs and bullets that have devastated their homes.
Two additional songs on the Beatitudes album inspired by these stories of meekness are "I Will Be Your Home" by Garrard and singer, songwriter and daughter of a Syrian refugee Audrey Assad and "Let My Dreams Fly" by Garrard and former America Idol contestant Terrian Bass.
Along with Grant, Garrard, McMillan, Assad and Bass, featured on the Beatitudes album are Michael W. Smith, Hillsong UNITED, Martin Smith, Matt Maher, All Sons & Daughters, Amanda Cook, Propaganda, The Brilliance, Anthony Skinner and Becky Harding. Collectively, these artists have sold more than 62 million records, won 11 Grammy, 90 Dove Awards and amassed dozens of hit songs and millions of followers on social media.
The Beatitudes Project is meant to reveal a wide world of connected stories: real people from all faiths and walks of life who embody mercy, poverty, meekness, the hungry and thirsty, the peacemakers, the mourners, and the pure in heart-as seen, heard and experienced through a 21st century lens.
Watch for more information on The Beatitudes Project soon, including how Garrard/Grant's "Morning Light" was inspired by remarkable true stories of mercy, news of a launch event next month, and more.