Release Date: October 23rd 2020
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Becoming [from Order EP]
- Maker Of Mornings (I Am Loved) [from Order EP]
- The Wonder [from Order EP]
- I’m Gonna Let It Go [from Order EP]
- Order Disorder Reorder [from Order EP]
- Through [from Disorder EP]
- Remind Me You’re Here [from Disorder EP]
- Honesty [from Disorder EP]
- Fight For You [from Disorder EP]
- New Song (feat. Blanca) [from Disorder EP]
- Hard Times Prelude [from Disorder EP]
- What The Hard Times Taught Me [from Reorder EP]
- Glory Days [from Reorder EP]
- Bring It All [from Reorder EP]
- Tethered [from Reorder EP]
- Again And Again [from Reorder EP]
- Right On Time [from Reorder EP]
- Every Moment Belongs [from Reorder EP]
Jason Gray, quite possibly one of Christian music’s most honest and heartfelt singer/songwriters, has had quite a journey, personal and musical, to get to the point he is in today. From being a stutterer (and still currently) to changing his last name from ‘Gay’ to ‘Gray’ in order to kick-start his music career; it has been his lyrical poignancy in quite possibly all of his songs to date that makes Jason possess an ability like no other, to write songs that are able to unveil his own vulnerabilities without any attack or stigma, while all the while weaving into the songs a grace that reminds us all that amidst the guilt, shame, pain and hurt, God is still there. Songs like ‘Nothing Is Wasted’, ‘More Like Falling in Love’, ‘I Am New’ and ‘Remind Me Who I Am’ show us the comfort we need, that God redeems us continuously each day from the circumstances and events we are in. His 2018 EP, The Kipper Gray Sessions, was a collaboration between Jason and his son Kipper, and was unveiled to be one of 2018’s most lyrically rich and musically enveloping (encapsulating a myriad of musical styles within the confines of the 5 tracks) EPs. The Kipper Gray Sessions, in all its heartfelt moments of clarity, direction, emotion and comfort, became an EP of 5 tracks, two of which are seemingly fit and primed for radio (‘Mountain’, ‘Becoming’), all of which embody themes of community, individuality, alongside embracing the journey instead of longing for the end point at a quicker time frame, to name a few. Jason himself brought to us through that EP, musical arrangements that further asserts his presence as an underrated artist in today’s Christian music society. Jason is perhaps one of the greatest lyricists in modern CCM, and much of his 2018 EP supports this claim…which brings me to the years of 2019 and 2020. Jason unveiled to us all a unique set of musical offerings- three EPs at various points throughout the year, and now all culminating to this very moment- the unveiling of Order Disorder Reorder– with Order being revealed in 2019, and both Disorder and Reorder being unveiled at various points this year too. With the whole entire project being released on October 23rd (and the third part of the album, Reorder EP being released in early October- October 2nd); this unique way of conveying to us all, an album, is what continues to make Jason and his music interesting, and his new album (which is essentially a marrying of the three EPs) is a must if you enjoy and love similar-styled artists like Bebo Norman, Steven Curtis Chapman and Andrew Peterson, to name a few.
‘…I’m excited to announce my new project, “Order Disorder Reorder!” I’m releasing it in a way that I’m very excited about, telling the story of transformation in three 5-song volumes—“Order,” “Disorder,” and finally “Reorder”—over the course of the next 12 months, giving time for reflecting on each part of the journey before digging into the next… What is order, disorder, reorder? When Jesus said, “…I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a seed; but if it dies, it bears much fruit…” I believe he was talking about transformation. The human spirit is something like a muscle in that it must be pushed to its limits and torn down in order to grow. 3 words to describe this process are order, disorder, and reorder (thank you Richard Rohr). Order is when everything is going according to plan. We’re using all that we’ve learned so far to put our lives together with stability and security. Disorder is when our plan falls apart. We find we weren’t as in control as we thought we were and there is more we need to learn. Reminded of our vulnerability, we are broken down and opened up enough to meet with God in a profound way. Reorder is when we emerge from disorder transformed by what we learned and by having met with God in a way that changed us. We are wiser, more humble; and stronger than before. Today’s reorder becomes tomorrow’s order, and the cycle begins again. Recognizing this helps me panic less and trust more…’
It is in this quote above that I can see this smart process of releasing the songs. The journey of being in the cycle of order, disorder and reorder is often a process that can take years for us, and thus, having the 15 track album split into three and each ‘volume’ focusing on one theme and letting that sink in, in a reflective way, for us, is the most logical. Jason himself is a powerful and fantastic lyricist, and thus, having time between volumes of his project I reckon will be a good thing, as we tap into his lyrics and reflect upon the themes presented in each of the 5 songs, understanding that the Christian is often full of twists and turns, and that in the end, we’ll look back and see the purpose of the windiness. Until then, Jason has given us these songs to hopefully sing in our own stories of order-disorder-reorder. Order EP dropped August 2019, while Disorder EP released March 2020 (and Reorder out October 2nd). And as we see these songs presented in the way it was released, we see a natural progression in the themes of the songs, a flow of sorts that allow us into the thought process of Jason as we have a glimpse into his own order-disorder-reorder process.
‘I’m Gonna Let It Go’ starts off this 18 track Order Disorder Reorder album (yes, 18 tracks, not 15 as originally planned…maybe a few extra songs unveiled to us at last minute), and while the song itself, reviewed by my brother Josh here, was given a bad rapt way back in the day when the song was originally released (May 2019); I see the song months and even a year or so later with new a fresh eyes, now stating that this track, albeit a short one, is one of Jason’s most standout songs on Order EP and a standout here on Order Disorder Reorder as well. Yet it may not seem that way at first when we hear the song for the first time- full of bells, whistles, claps and cliched lyrics- ‘boom boom boom’ as official lyrics- what’s the world coming to? Yet, with a year’s space between the official release of this song, and me writing this review, I can safely say that this song, underneath all the clichés and tropes, underneath all the radio-friendly shine, is a song that needs to be heard again and again, because there’s so much Biblical truth that one listen may not be enough.
As Jason himself has said, ‘…I think God is a gentleman, and He’ll never force Himself on us. And the first time I began to recognize that dynamic in my own life was– it says He’ll be my provider, but if I insist on providing for myself, He won’t stop me. He’ll say ‘All right, if that’s how you wanna do it, you go head and knock yourself out.’ And then I’ll get down that road, and I’m stressed and I’m aware of my bank statement every minute of every day, until I recognize that I’m doing it and this is not the way I wanna live, and I’m like ‘Okay I’m sorry, I’ve done it again, I want to trust you.’ If I insist on being in control and managing my life, the Lord will allow me to do that. But the moment when I let go, He steps in and then I’m on a different plan…’ God never forces Himself on us, and at times, if we tell Him we believe and think better than He does about a circumstance, He probably won’t correct us. I mean He will, sending us people in our path and guiding us to choose one that we should know is honouring to Him, but ultimately, where and how we travel is still up to us. Like the prodigal son scenario- the father never stopped him from leaving to explore the world, and neither is the Lord, given what we may know in a certain circumstance. Freedom is found when letting go of what we may think God wants for our lives, and actually pursuing what He really wants. And often that comes at a cost to us, hence, the cycle of ‘order-disorder-reorder’. Musically, the song is catchy, lyrically, there are a few repetitious lines that can cause hiccups, but all in all, the song is thought-provoking and a reminder that how we move through life isn’t necessarily all ‘God’s fault’. He’ll still be there when we’re off-track. ‘I’m Gonna Let It Go’ is hopefully a song that we can all understand, that is is sooner, rather than later, that we all need to figure that God’s ways should be and are higher than ours!
‘Order, Disorder Reorder’, the title track on the album, is perhaps one of the album’s most emotive and poignant, the song inviting us all into the general overall arching theme of transformation, that transformation is rather a process than a destination. It can take as long or as short as God wants, and that is ok. Sometimes, pain and the unmaking of us as we reconstruct what we believe and don’t believe, is often necessary on our journey in rediscovering the unconditional love Christ has for us, and His own steadfast love regardless of what we do or say (or don’t do or say!). ‘Becoming’, reworked slightly from The Kipper Gray Sessions EP, is a song that is quite possibly the vaguest on the whole 18 track album, and that is in no way a bad thing. The vague nature of the chorus, and how Jason relays to listeners that he is becoming…well, something, makes me silently pleased. So often we are so focused on wanting to know what we are becoming when the Lord breaks down our defences and orchestrates the rearranging, that we can miss sight of the journey between the breaking and the becoming. It is the middle that God shapes and moulds the most, and ‘Becoming’ allows us to contemplate on such a theme. ‘Maker of Mornings (I Am Loved)’ and ‘Wonder’ both rounded out Order EP, and are both here on this full length album too- ‘Maker of Mornings’ explores the theme of gratitude, as we acknowledge the gifts given freely by the good giver, while ‘Wonder’, complete with an eclectic joyous atmosphere, reminds us all to always go back to a childlike wonder as we understand that before all the cynicism and the grown-up stuff, we were kids that used to be excited and be in wonder of new things. We as adults have seemingly lost the wonder for the new and the exciting, for the daunting and the scary, and such a song reminds us all that we should go back to that feeling.
‘Remind Me You’re Here’ is the first radio single unveiled from Disorder EP– a group of 6 songs unveiled in March 2020, and has been the body of work by Jason that has resonated with me the most out of Order EP, Disorder EP and Reorder EP. The song itself solidifies the theme of Reorder EP, that sometimes in our lives, hopes are dashed, and things don’t always come to fruition as they should. As Jason himself relays about what he believes is the essence of the Reorder section of the album in general, ‘…disorder is when our plan falls apart; when we find we weren’t as in control as we thought we were. Reminded of our vulnerability, we are broken down and opened up enough to meet with God in a profound way. We think we want answers when the catastrophes of life hit, but the story of Job reminds us that an answer isn’t always what we need or even desire the most. Answers rarely—if ever—bring healing. Rather, to experience the presence of God in the midst of our suffering is very healing. Our questions burn away like fog at sunrise and in their place comes the deep sense that we are held…’ It is in this quote that I can appreciate Jason’s writing style and understand that such a song as ‘Remind Me You’re Here’ is as poignant as it is necessary for people to hear. The song itself? It is indeed a reminder, that often the reasons and answers as to why certain things happen in our lives won’t ever give us the full healing we desire- the reason doesn’t wipe away the pain, the hurt, the tears, whether we know fully what the Lord is doing behind the scenes or not, is beside the point. We still hurt, regardless. What we will need is the Lord’s presence near, and the comfort and the help of our family and friends in this time in need. It is in hindsight that we can see and understand what has been happening in our lives up until this point, but when we’re in the thick of it, we don’t need any rational way of justifying why God let a certain thing happen or didn’t. We don’t need justification. But we do need to be held, by our Father, to know that everything will work out in the end, even if we can’t see it now. ‘Remind Me You’re Here’ is a reminder of this, that ‘…I won’t ask You for reasons cause a reason can’t wipe away tears, no, I don’t need all the answers, just be here beside me, Father, remind me You’re here…’
Jason continues to impart to us themes of hope and encouragement throughout this 18 track musical journey, as this collection of songs becomes much more relevant and relatable given the current situation we all are facing at the moment around the world with the rapid spread of COVID-19. ‘Through’ takes a sobering look at mountains (metaphorical) in our own lives, and remind us all that often, the only way out of a situation or circumstance, or whatever mountain we’re facing; is through it. No going around it, no turning around and never facing it in the first place; often the learning and the building-up-of-character happens when we face the difficulty head-on, and toiling through the darkness, knowing that it is the Lord right beside us that will help us through, and it is that fact, and that fact alone that ought to give us all the comfort we need, especially now in this current crisis. ‘Through’ states the fact that situations and circumstances don’t seem like as much of a disaster as we think; when Christ goes before us and leads the way.
‘Honesty’ is perhaps one of the most honest songs Jason has ever written and recorded to date, as in the midst of such a song as this, Jason imparts a theme that we as humans often brush under the rug- being honest with God, about everything, even our hurts, unmet expectations, our doubt, anger and bitterness. God can handle it, and our honesty when we share our feelings to Him about things or even feelings towards Him, will bring to us freedom as we understand that it is in the way of being truly honest, to God and with ourselves, that the weight of shame and the burden of perfection can be truly lifted from our lives. ‘Fight For You’ implores the fact that God will fight for us, that we don’t need to do anything in our strength, to get Him to fight for us, or we don’t have to do anything in our strength, believing that He may not fight for us and we have to do it all alone. God will fight on our behalf when we can’t, and He fights for us anyway- Jason’s track is just a reminder of this very truth that often is overlooked in the sea of overwhelming panic and uncertainty. ‘New Song (feat. Blanca)’ and ‘Hard Times Prelude’ conclude the Disorder portion of the album, the former being a duet between Jason and Blanca, and about how we are longing for ‘new’ songs to sing in different circumstances in our lives, and the latter a 1 minute track that is a prelude to the song ‘What the Hard Time Taught Me’ (present on Reorder EP). The prelude itself is a reminder that it is indeed the hard times that teaches the person the most, and that ‘…I believe that I’m where You want me, I can see from the place You brought me, there’s life in the light of what the hard times taught me…’
‘…I’ve believed the themes of “Order Disorder Reorder” were relevant and hoped that releasing the record in three parts over the course of a year would be meaningful, but who could’ve predicted the release date for “Disorder” that we decided 6 months ago would end up being SO relevant—the very week our whole world is upended by a microscopic virus that is casting a tall shadow over all that we care about? The first track, “Through,” opens with: “I see the trouble standing before me like a mountain, it’s like a mountain, my spirit trembles under its shadow, I can’t escape it, Lord help me face it. I need You to lead me through, walking before me, behind and beside me, I’m following You, the only way out is if You lead me through…” If there’s anything we’ve learned over the last week, it’s that life will bring some storms that we just can’t hide from. Sometimes the only way out is through. But as a person of faith, I believe that we don’t face it alone. I wrote the songs of “Disorder” hoping they could serve as handrails for people to hold on to in the storms of life, to help steady them as they walk through their difficulty on their way to renewal and “reorder” on the other side. I hope you find these songs a meaningful, hopeful, and steady companion on your own journey of transformation through order, disorder, and reorder—maybe now more than ever…’
Reorder EP, the last part in this Order Disorder Reorder process is gifted to us October 2nd, and until then, we’re given the songs ‘Glory Days’ and ‘Right On Time’, as we wait in anticipation to what is given to us come October. ‘Glory Days’ the song is a great reminder for us all, not to dwell in the days of the past in the hopes that it can be relived over and over again, but rather, to present in where we are now, reminded that God is doing a thing in our lives now, that what we’re experiencing will always have a grander purpose we can’t necessarily see right now because of our own preconceived ideas of how ‘glory days’ in our lives should look. One of my own favourite songs of 2020 thus far, this is a powerful song about reliving glory days, and pondering that maybe, maybe, the days in which we believe to be our disappointment, are in fact glory days because we focus more on God and His divine character and nature. ‘Right On Time’ is the other pre-release track from Jason pertaining to Reorder EP– and is a song for me, that is reminding of how God always comes on time, even if we think that He doesn’t. A keyboard-prominent track full of eclectic uses of echoing and reverb to create and eerily sense of poignancy, Jason uses the ability of hindsight, looking back at His own life and looking at moments where He thought that God was too late in showing up, and realising that in fact, the opposite was true, that God knew what He was doing, and that it was us, in our clouded judgements, who didn’t understand that God sets things in motion for a reason far beyond what our minds can comprehend and fathom. For it is in these two songs that I’ve come to appreciate that the reordering process of this whole ‘deconstruction’ can be as refreshing to someone as it is worrisome. What if my faith looks different from before? What if what I believe now doesn’t line up with what I initially thought was true? Will God still love me regardless? These are questions swirling through a mind of someone who could be undergoing the process of this order-disorder-reorder, and it is in these two tracks where we see God’s sovereignty, through all of it. ‘Glory Days’ indicates that God is doing a new thing, now today; while ‘Right On Time’ gives us hope and comfort, that ‘…when you’re falling apart, and it’s breaking your heart, you can’t see any reason, or find any meaning, there’s a valley you have to get through, you can’t hurry ’cause it won’t let you but it’s leading us somewhere and when we finally get there, we’re right on time…’
ABOUT ‘GLORY DAYS’: ‘…Glory Days celebrates those times in our lives when God gets his best work done in us. I wish it wasn’t so, but it’s clear the surest path to becoming who I most want to be will take me through fire and darkness. How do I become courageous unless I face terrifying things that call courage out of me? How do I become a person of grace without failing enough to know how much I need it? How do I learn how to forgive unless someone hurts me first? They say if you pray for patience, God might send you to the DMV. I’ve always wanted to be a person of grace and forgiveness, but there were people who wounded me so deeply that—even though I wanted to—I didn’t have the capacity to forgive them. Some of that was the fear of getting hurt again, but a lot of it was self-righteousness (it’s more fun to judge and feel above my enemy than to surrender my hurt and anger on the level playing field of our shared humanity). It took going through a season of fire and darkness, suffering and failure, for space to be carved out in my heart where I could finally receive the grace of forgiving. I was moved from self-righteous self-preservation to compassionate love for my enemies who, in the end, looked more like me than I wanted to admit.
There, but for the grace of God, go I. Or as pastor Andy Stanley says… “I know a mess when I see one because I am one.” The fire and darkness of the cross reveals God to be a reckless forgiver whose glory is his mercy. It can do the same for us. I like this from author David Crosby: “You do not get to choose the events that come your way nor the sorrows that interrupt your life. They will likely be a surprise to you, catching you off guard and unprepared. You may hold your head in your hands and lament your weak condition and wonder what you ought to do. To suffer, that is common to all. To suffer and still keep your composure, your faith and your smile, that is remarkable. Pain will change you more profoundly than success or good fortune. Suffering shapes your perception of life, your values and priorities, and your goals and dreams. Your pain is changing you.” That sounds like a heavy statement… But honestly, once you start experiencing the kind of change that only your pain can get at, you find a kind of joy in it. If you like exercising, you know exactly what this is like! It’s the intense workouts that make you the most excited (usually after they’re finished, but still…’
ABOUT ‘RIGHT ON TIME’: I’d been combing through my story for pivotal moments when hearing a few words at the right time changed everything—Have you ever had that? Where you’re struggling with a problem and then someone says something that brings clarity? That’s what happened for me one night in 2013. I was in a fetal position on my bathroom floor at 3 AM, crying out to God, afraid that my life was slipping through his hands. He’d always saved the day (often in the 11th hour), but it didn’t look like he was going to this time. I felt lost, helpless, and alone in the dark as my marriage was falling apart. And so there I was: curled up on the floor in a pool of my tears when I heard these words in my spirit: “what if all of this is right on time?“
It spoke with authority and love, and when I heard it, I felt held. Whatever you believe about how or if God speaks to us, I can only tell you what my experience was in that moment. “Maybe all that’s happening is right on time to make available to you the kind of transformation you’ve been saying you want.” It reverberated in my heart and I knew the truth of it: that sometimes things have to fall apart in order to be put back together in a new way. I felt hope that this pain could bring the kind of transformation that could help us find a new path forward in our marriage. Though that season did change me, though I can see things now that I was blind to before, and though I believe our marriage could’ve been saved, it sadly didn’t work out that way. But… nothing is wasted. And regardless of specific outcomes, those words are still true. Trouble in our lives is often the friend who arrives right on time to teach us what we need to learn next. Or as Rumi would say, “Welcome… the crowd of sorrows… who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture… he may be clearing you out for some new delight.”
The remaining 5 tracks on Reorder EP haven’t been unveiled to us all yet, but what I will say is this, about what I’ve heard of these unreleased songs- that there’s a sense of joy within these musical moments, and the realisation that it is ok for the order that comes after reorder, to look different from the order that came before disorder. Too often in our lives we want things to look the part, when God is much more concerned with our heart transformation, than a false impression of what life should look like. ‘What the Hard Times Taught Me’ carries on from ‘Hard Times Prelude’, and with a unique melody (I think the song’s in a minor key) as we see Jason pour out what he has learnt from the whole reconfiguration and restructuring process, that ‘…I found the light in darker days, I believe in the way You want me, I can see from the place You brought me, there’s so much life in what the hard times taught me, though it didn’t go the way I planned it, I learned how to live open handed, I came alive in what the hard times taught me…’; while ‘Bring it All’ is a perfect way for us to understand that God uses every part of our stories, yes, even the broken and messed up bits, to our good and His glory- that we can bring everything that we have to the Lord, knowing full well that sometimes the things we can often deem as ‘worthless’ or even ‘unworthy’, is used by the Lord to show people that it is the broken, honest and real people that change the world- to become less of a pretender and more of a real and honest people that values authenticity and a space of being ok with not being ok. ‘Tethered’ is Jason’s own personal journey from faith to unbelief and then back to faith again, all the while presenting the melody in such a way that can be relatable to people from all walks of life, reminding us all about a time in his life where ‘…I tried building a wall, every failure was a stone that I stacked them up tall, till I was so alone and all hope was gone, it was gone like it was never there, I didn’t cry for help because I didn’t like myself, enough to open the door to my own prison cell, but You were breaking through, even when I doubted You or even cared…’ We see vulnerability in Jason’s public confession of his own belief-unbelief-back again journey in light of another public figure’s doubting of it (Jon Steingard of Hawk Nelson), and it is in these vulnerable conversations that we realise that doubt is much more common than we think, and our own faith needs not be placed upon the idealised faith of others, but firm in what we believe ourselves. ‘Again and Again’ is a great reminder of the continual process of the Lord in our lives, as we allow Him to renew, refine and realign our hearts, minds and spirits, as we prayfully declare the words ‘…let me hope be born again, let my dreams be born again, there’s resurrection in Your hands, so let my whole life be born again, and again and again…’; while the Reorder EP (and the whole album) ends on the celebratory note ‘Every Moment Belongs’, a realisation through all experiences, that everything that we experience, belongs to the bigger story of God, that everything can be (and does) used by God to bring about transformation in our own lives, and in the lives of others. This life is messy and broken, and such a song that ends an album full of introspection and compelling moments of epiphany and poignancy, is something that has come full circle. ‘Every Moment Belongs’ challenges the notion that it is only acceptable to bring to the Lord, our good bits in our lives. But in a rather life-alterating way of looking at things, the song states that every moment belongs- to the greater story that is unfolding before us, to God who is not afraid of our messy bits. That is such a relief and a freeing concept. It is ok if our chapters in our lives are the way they are- nothing is wasted by the Lord, and this song celebrates this fact!
Even though Jason is still not necessarily the most recognised or even the most popular artist within the ranks of CCM currently (artists like Chris Tomlin, Natalie Grant, Francesca Battistelli and Matthew West receive much more radio airplay than Jason), Jason nevertheless forges on, as a songwriter whose songs have become the cornerstone of change in many people’s lives around the world, inclusive of mine. On the same roster as artists like Andrew Peterson, Jordan Feliz, Lauren Daigle, Unspoken, Jonny Diaz and PEABOD, to name a few; Jason continues to anchor the roster, in both a songwriting and lyrical perspective, and his first two EP’s (Order and Disorder), his forthcoming EP Reorder and his complete album Order Disorder Reorder are all testaments of this. This is a perfect album to listen to from start to finish, with no filler tracks, and an album as a whole to gift someone who may be struggling with their faith, especially during a time such as COVID-19 and all the unrest in the world right now. The most impactful and my favourite album of 2020 thus far, this is a must if you love deep-thinking music a la Andrew Peterson. Well done Jason for these songs, here’s hoping and praying that people can be impacted and influenced in a positive way by the music, during such a time which is 2020!
5 songs to listen to: Order Disorder Reorder, Through, Remind Me You’re Here, Glory Days, New Song
RIYL: Andrew Peterson, Bebo Norman, Nichole Nordeman, Steven Curtis Chapman