Look back over the past few years of your life or maybe just the past few days. What was the most precious, most unforgettable moment or event during that time?
For worship leader Lincoln Brewster, the past few years have been quite a whirlwind. With two growing boys, he and wife Laura are constantly running. Add a full schedule at Bayside Church near Sacramento, California, seminary classes, songwriting and touring and you realize the brevity and preciousness of life is most often a blur.
But sometimes everything comes to a grinding stop, sometimes your life takes on a surreal feeling and you wonder if your world is falling apart.
Lincoln was four days into recording a new album, when life as he knew it stopped on a dime. Laura, his wife of 20 years, was rushed to the ER. On the surface it seemed as though she only needed a routine gall bladder surgery. But when a radiologist viewed Laura’s scans, he noticed that her appendix looked odd and recommended that the surgeon also remove it. Afterwards, the Brewsters learned that Laura had a rare form of appendiceal cancer.
“That news hit us like a wrecking ball,” says Lincoln. “Suddenly we found ourselves in oncologists’ offices, facing ‘the big C’ while praying for a miracle.”
As the Brewsters struggled to catch their breath, Lincoln worked to craft a new album titled Oxygen, ironic since they felt as though the wind had been knocked out of them. “My first reaction was that 100 percent of my attention needed to be on Laura,” Lincoln says looking back, “but God said, ‘just put one foot in front of the other and keep going.’”
During this same season, the couple learned that good friends had lost their 21-year-old son in a car accident. More questions, more sadness and more fear.
Struggling to push ahead, the Brewsters went back to the hospital for a follow-up surgery to remove part of Laura’s intestine. Eventually, they learned that she was cancer free and Lincoln found himself back in the studio working on the record. Only, nothing was the same. Everything was slightly off axis.
“Throughout the process, I felt like I held it together—working on the album, school work with kids, weekends at the church,” Lincoln says. “But there was a different kind of focus, a tangible sense that I had to get it right.”
Not surprisingly, Oxygen captures the tension and release of grief and uncertainty as it gives way to the certainty and truth of God’s faithfulness.
Bursting with big anthems like “Live to Praise,” “There Is Power,” and “You Never Stop,” Oxygen declares worship that meets us in our brokenness and brings us back to life, continuing Lincoln’s devoted congregational approach.
The title track, a driving modern-pop melody sure to be a favorite, became the linchpin for the whole project, especially after Lincoln’s 9-year-old son Liam claimed it as his favorite.
“That just nailed it for me,” says Lincoln, who recently re-signed with his longtime label Integrity Music, a division of the global ministry, David C Cook. “It’s a salvation idea, really, the truth that we need God even more than we need to breathe. There’s something even more important than life itself.”
“You hold my head up / You remind me of who I am… I’m alive in you again…”
Known for crafting songs that serve both the Church and Christian radio, Lincoln delivers another radio favorite with the album’s first single, “Made New,” which sets the progressive, organic tone of the album without sacrificing its congregational appeal. “When I first heard the song, which was written by Josiah James, I almost fell out of my chair,” Lincoln says of the single. “The lyric was brilliant, but I wasn’t sure that it could work in church until I heard the punchy chorus that my co-producer Colby Wedgeworth framed for it. When you find or write a song that works both on radio and in church, you know it was meant to be.”
“On Our Side,” a song written on his laptop while sitting next to Laura’s hospital bed, is as transparent as songs get. Lincoln struggled to write words that she could say to God. “We believe God is on our side/ now and forever…” Words of hope sprang up through the fear.
“Trust means something more to me now,” he says. “I mean you know things and then you know them again at a deeper level.”
“We mix up facts and truth all the time, but truth doesn’t change because of facts,” Lincoln says of the hard realities out of which Oxygen was born. “My job as a worship leader is to sing and speak truth whether I feel it or not. Whether the facts of our lives seem to match up or not, the truth is we exist to praise God.”