Finding Solace in Psalms – Mike Janzen’s Journey and Planning Center’s Serendipitous Genesis
In the latest episode of The Walk, hosted by Joshua Swanson, two captivating stories unfurl—a testament to the transformative power of faith and music. Mike Janzen, a multifaceted Canadian musician, recounts a profound devotional journey rooted in the Psalms, while Aaron Stewart, co-founder of Planning Center, reveals the serendipitous origin of the premier church service software. Their narratives intertwine tales of resilience, inspiration, and unwavering faith.
A Head Injury and The Psalms
Mike Janzen’s odyssey toward his Psalms-based album was marked by adversity, beginning with a severe head injury. His candid narrative reveals a period of isolation and physical struggle, during which the Psalms became his lifeline. Psalms, notably 42, guided him through the darkest days, reminding him of God’s abiding love and presence, even in the depths of despair.
His words echo a resounding truth—that God draws near to the brokenhearted, a sentiment profoundly felt during Janzen’s darkest hours. As he wove through lament and trust, the Psalms became a sanctuary, offering solace and reminding him of God’s unwavering affection.
Janzen’s story serves as a poignant reminder to cherish moments of hardship while acknowledging the significance of supporting others in times of struggle. Mike’ mention of the role of music in healing evokes a call for worship leaders and songwriters to craft music resonating with those navigating adversity. Write songs focused on healing prayers!
The Genesis of Planning Center with Aaron Stewart
Transitioning to Aaron Stewart’s narrative, the genesis of Planning Center emerged from a need for organization and accessibility in church services. Stewart and his collaborator, Jeff Berg, combined their tech prowess and worship leadership, inadvertently birthing a game-changing software suite.
Their story is one of accidental innovation, transitioning from handmade solutions to a digital platform that revolutionized church service management. Stewart’s journey is a testament to embracing challenges and leveraging technology to serve a larger purpose, culminating in the birth of Planning Center—a vital tool for numerous congregations worldwide.
Faith and Community Support
In essence, both narratives underscore the importance of resilience, faith, and community support in navigating life’s tribulations. Janzen’s reliance on the Psalms and Stewart’s tech-savvy ingenuity serve as beacons of hope and inspiration for worshipers and church leaders alike.
As the episode draws to a close, listeners are left with a powerful reminder—God’s unwavering presence in adversity and the transformative potential of faith, music, and innovation. It’s a narrative of finding solace in the Psalms and embracing unforeseen opportunities in the most unexpected of places.
The Walk continues to weave compelling tales of faith, resilience, and creativity, leaving its audience enriched and inspired by the profound journeys of its guests.
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Read the transcript here
Who is Mike Janzen?
Melding jazz, pop and classical styles, Mike Janzen brings an imaginative and fresh voice to the current music scene. From soul-stirring songwriting to mesmerizing piano solos, Mike’s music is approachable and hits the deep places of the heart. The JUNO- and GMA-nominated musician has performed in concert halls, churches and festivals across North America, combining undeniable talent with a desire to create music that draws attention to the Maker.
Music has informed and shaped Mike’s entire life. A gifted jazz pianist, composer, and arranger, his diverse career took a unique direction with the double-album release The Psalms Project (2021/Independent), a collection of Psalms-inspired sacred songs that emerged during his long period of recovery from a serious concussion injury. Described by GRAMMY-winning mixer John Bailey as “salve for the soul”, the music ebbs and flows with nuanced artistry, reverence and authenticity. Guest performances by some of this continent’s finest musicians (Steve Bell, Laila Biali, Erin Propp, Joey Landreth and Abbie Parker) lend enchanting musicality to the 19 thoughtfully crafted songs. Live audiences were enthralled by recent performances of The Psalms Project in both Toronto (Koerner Hall, 2022) and Winnipeg (Burton Cummings Theatre, 2023).
In Songs from the Canyon, Mike traverses new ground with his third album of Psalm interpretations (Nov. 2023/Independent). Vivid, powerful textures emerge as he explores creation’s awe-inspiring landscapes as well as the deep, plunging canyons of life’s suffering. Produced by the award-winning Timothy Abraham, the album has a profound sonic diversity, resonating from soaring strings to a belting gospel choir. Rich cinematic textures grace these 11 innovative compositions that feature guest performances by Chicago-based Dee Wilson and Indigenous artists Coco Stevenson and Jonathan Maracle.
Mike’s diverse portfolio includes a variety of original and commissioned compositions: music for television (GLOBAL News 2021), choir (True Christian Faith 2023), and film (Jason Hildebrand’s Microfilms 2022; CBC’s documentary Pure Intentions). His orchestral arranging skills are showcased in numerous collaborations: with Steve Bell (Winnipeg Symphony, Toronto Symphony and the Nashville String Machine); the CBC-commissioned piece Bending Hendrix; and an entire orchestral show, Reimagining Broadway, with singer Sarah Slean. First debuting in Winnipeg in 2014, Reimagining Broadway has been performed across the country and is now slated for April 2024 performances with the Orchestre Symphonique in Quebec City.
Mike has recently released neoclassical solo piano compositions (under Michael Janzen) as well as a few singles Breaking Through (2021) and The Great Congregation (2022; feat. Nashville-based Abbie Parker). Since 2006, he has headlined a jazz trio that features bassist George Koller and drummers Davide Direnzo or Larnell Lewis. The Mike Janzen Trio’s 2010 album Try to Remember was hailed as “distinctive and sublime” by the Jazz Times. Mike’s talents earned him a 2017 JUNO Jazz Album of the Year nomination for his album Nudging Forever (2015)—original compositions blending lush orchestral sounds with the spontaneity of jazz.
Mike currently lives in Toronto with his family where he dabbles in gardening, paddle boarding, and tiny rink building.
What Is Planning Center?
Planning Center is a set of software tools to help you organize information, coordinate events, communicate with your team, and connect with your congregation.