So the World Will Know
My daughter, Kristen, decided to get baptized after going through a traumatic event, and then being healed at a prophetic worship service with a good friend, worship artist Troy Bourne and Pastor Brian Weeks. Although she had been a believer for many years, she never felt moved to get involved in the church, or to get baptized. After this event, she was convicted that she needed to witness her love and thanks to God for what He had done for her. I had written a song for my son, Cory, many years ago, when he had been baptized: “Wash Me Clean,” so Kristen, not too subtly reminded me of the fact. Being the Music Director/Worship Leader at our church, it was up to me to select a song for the occasion. When I asked her what song she might like for the service, she said, “You know, Dad, you did write one for Cory….” Gotcha.
It just so happened that I was working on a song at the time. I had most of the melody, but was struggling with the lyrics, until then. Focusing on the rite of baptism and what it means to give your life to Christ was all the direction I needed, and the lyrics came easily after that, especially with the joyful occasion of my daughter’s baptism and inspiration from the Holy Spirit.
When Troy and I began talking about working together on this recording project, this was my most recently written song, and close to my heart, so we decided to start the project with this one.
It took over a year to complete, getting together at his studio once a week, with breaks for his ministry trips – and his wedding to his wonderful wife –whom he met at one of his worship events. I was blessed to be one of the first people he shared his joy with, and honored to be invited to their wedding. God has truly blessed me in all of it.
It Wasn't Nails
Many years ago, in a church far, far away, a long-time friend, Dave Trima, approached me with a poem he had written, “It Wasn’t Nails.” It wasn’t really structured for music, but the sentiment spoke to me. The image of Jesus, who is the living God, voluntarily enduring the agony of the cross out of His love for me! I somehow knew that this would be a good song, but when? I didn’t get any immediate inspiration for a song, but I held onto the poem, sure that someday I would get back to it and write the song Dave had started, when God decided the time was right..
Fast forward at least 10 years. I pulled the faded, wrinkled sheet of paper out of my piano bench where it had been laying and sat down at the piano. Suddenly ideas flooded my mind; lyrics that seemed to be waiting for me to find them. In a couple of days, the rough draft was done. I brought it to the Praise Team, and we arranged it for the following service.
Another friend, Skip Faulkner, who is deeply involved with the Children’s Ministry, said he liked the song from the first time he heard us rehearsing it. He wanted to know if I would mind if he used it for the summer Bible Camp that the church sponsors every year. Since we record every service (at that time, on cassette and CD), it was easy to have a duplicate ready to take to camp. He wanted to sit the kids down and listen to it. Skip came back from camp, excited that several kids had accepted Jesus during camp, and that “It Wasn’t Nails” was a contributing factor.
Magnify The Lord
I live a block away from my church, so when the weather’s nice, I love to walk over before a service, soaking in the sunshine, the singing birds, and all of God’s creation, praying in preparation for worship.
On this particular day, what was going through my mind was that the enthusiasm for worship in the church had been sorely lacking. I felt I had been failing as a worship leader, failing to inspire my church family with the joy of worship, and the reasons for it. A passage from Revelation haunted me: “I know of your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. How I wish you were one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:15-16
The thought terrified me and convicted me. How could I get my church family to understand what we were doing? Who we were worshiping? Why we were worshiping? Suddenly, a bit of the chorus came to me, “Magnify the Lord in all the earth! Magnify His name with all you’re worth! Just lift your voices higher with souls that are on fire and magnify, magnify the Lord!”
This seems to have become my theme song, and led to me writing and giving a music-laden sermon on worship.
Take Me Back
You never know when inspiration is going to hit. Sometimes, you wait forever for an idea to come to you or try to force it. This is almost always a recipe for disaster, at least for me. One day, as I was mowing the lawn, I was reflecting on the different reasons people feel unworthy of approaching Jesus, and thus, put off going to church, or making the decision to accept Jesus. It’s all the enemy’s lies, of course, but we can be a fragile and insecure folk, in the face of the Holy Almighty. So, I started listing excuses and things that I struggle with, knowing that I will never be worthy on my own, and that I still have trouble living up to God’s ideal (I like to say that I’m a work in process). The last verse of the song ends up in supplication, “I’m not worthy, God save me!”
And then God replies, “No, you’re not good enough. All sinners, sure enough, but if you call upon my Name, I’ll forgive your sin, my arms will take you in. Still, child, I love you just the same.”
And that’s it in a nutshell. God’s grace is greater than our sin. No matter what.
Give Him Praise
Another extension of Magnify the Lord, acoustic guitar driven with an upbeat tempo, and complex clapping pattern, which emphasizes, “This is no time for being lukewarm,” Kind of fond of this one.
If Thats Not Love
Many times, I will start on a song with a melody and some lyrics. For this one, the music came first, and I had no idea what the lyrics would be. It seemed to be a soothing, reassuring tone, but I was at a loss for a while. I brought the music to the team and asked what came to mind when they listened to the piano part. The replies were various and not what I was looking for. I wanted it to be a song of hope and reassurance, so I looked to God’s promises. I asked myself, how can I be sure of God’s love? What evidence is there in the bible? Well, clearly, there’s Jesus’ life, ministry and crucifixion. There’s also His promise to “wipe every tear from every eye,” on His return. What else could prompt an all-powerful God to make Himself as vulnerable as a little child, and teach and serve people, obviously far below Him? To be obedient to death, even death on a cross? To rise again, proving once and for all the power and love of God, to convict and encourage us into a loving relationship with Him? If it’s not love, what could it be?
Reign In Mercy
Another collaboration, this time with my dad. He had written down some lyrics, and gave them to me, to see if I could make anything out of them. It started with the simple tenet: “I love the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; they are One.”
I took some time to let that simmer on the back burner, so to speak. I remember working around the house, maybe hanging some new shades in the bedroom, when the melody to that lyric came to me. As usually happens when I’m working on a song, it ran through my head in a continuous loop, adding some here, changing something I wasn’t satisfied with. This one fell together fairly quickly. It’s just a simple chorus that changes slightly from verse to verse, ending with the supplication to let God ‘reign in mercy’ in my life, building with each verse. I feel like Elvis could have really brought this one to life. Sorry, you’re stuck with me.
Tenderness and Love
I had a friend’s upcoming baptism in mind while I was writing “Tenderness and Love.” It celebrates God’s love and grace, and I couldn’t shake the image of God holding me tenderly in His loving arms, as I bemoaned my failures and weaknesses. I felt He was telling me I’m forgiven by the Father, ransomed by the Son and guided by the Spirit. I imagined the smile on His face as my friend took that step of faith, as he was lowered into the water, to emerge a new creation in Christ. As the parable of the Prodigal Son demonstrates, no matter our sins and failures, God is waiting with open arms to welcome us home.
Wonder of Your Love
This was written as a call to worship, to prepare hearts to enter into God’s presence at the beginning of a service. I remember this one running the continual loop, mostly at work, taking a few minutes here and there to scribble down lyrics as they came to me.
When it came time to introduce it to the team, it fell together, almost organically, each of us intuitively adding to the whole. Call and response lyrics, tight harmonies. Putting this together was an exercise in worship, asking the Lord to fill our hearts, and lift us up in His presence. I still get excited, thinking about how God can put His hand onto something in powerful and unexpected ways.
An instrumental I wrote at about age 19, alone in my parents’ house on a sunny afternoon, letting my fingers find their way along the keyboard without much thought. This one has somewhat of a classical feel to it, with diminished chords that I had no idea I was using, just going by feel and intuition. I’ve used this in several scenarios, from communion to weddings. It has a moody emotion that strikes a chord deep inside me. Several people have complimented me on it. Some ask where the song came from (assuming someone else wrote it), and some have commented on how worshipful it made them feel. That’s what I’m always hoping for!
Song for Love
I wrote this song in 1983 for my wife’s and my wedding. It was becoming clearer to me that being in a rock band wasn’t the kind of life God had in mind for me. This song should have given the boys some clue as to where I was headed.
My wife, Cindy & I have always felt that God led us together, right from the first weekend we started the relationship at my parents’ campground in New Hampshire. We were sitting around a bonfire out in the safari field with a bunch of friends one night, and we were all amazed to see the Northern Lights shimmering above us. It was nowhere near as bright as you might expect up north, say, in the arctic circle, but they were there, and discernible. It set a magical tone for the night, the weekend, and our budding relationship. I’m not going to claim that God put the Northern Lights there on that night just for us, but it was the only time we ever saw them there, before or since.
The original last verse referred to it:
“Ever since that night when the Northern Lights sparked a magical air,
I still remember the firelight, how it played on your hair.
A feeling such as we’d never had has always been there.”
I’ve been honored to play this song for many other weddings, the first being my aunt’s. I was surprised to be asked, but then I realized I’d have to change the last verse, unless, that is, they had also gotten together by a campfire, under the Northern Lights!
Still, I’ve sat with quite a few couples, planning out their wedding music, and when they can’t think of anything that suits them, I’ll say, “What about this one?” I’ll play it, without telling them it’s mine. It’s very rewarding when they’ve said, Yes! I love that one! It says just what I wanted to say.” It occurred to me that there’s a lack of Christian wedding songs to choose from, Stephen Curtis Chapman’s “I Will Be Here,” and Matthew West’s “When I Say I Do” notwithstanding.
This song came to me one nights I was walking home from church, admiring the Christmas lights strung around the houses on the way. There weren’t any bells ringing that I recall, but the idea just popped into my head, that when the bells are ringing, they’re proclaiming the amazing gift of love that God gave us in His Son to reconcile us to Him. I imagined the pealing of bells filling the air in a glorious symphony of joy, declaring the wondrous love of God. A chorus started in my head, “Bells! Bells! Christmas bells! Ringing with joyful news to tell! The Son of God, Emmanuel, descended to earth with us to dwell!” I thought it might have a Dickensian feel to it, with a touch of Trans-Siberian Orchestra. We put it together with a bell choir, and rocked it out. It’s a joyful declaration of the wonderful meaning of Christmas.