Ever wondered where a songwriter’s ‘head was at’ when they wrote a song?
I hope you’ll enjoy reading some of what I was thinking and what God was stirring in me when these songs were born!
FROM YOU FOR YOU
“From You For You,” to me, is a summation of what worship is all about in four little words. The phrase came to me a few years ago and I immediately knew what the song should be about and that it should be the title track of this album. The idea is that everything we have is handed to us by God (Jas 1:17), and what we do with it in response is our worship to Him. We thank Him, and we take whatever He’s given and use it for His glory, returning to Him what He’s given, with interest; using our lives to build His Kingdom on earth (1 Cor 10:31) (Matt 25:14-30) (Rom 12:1). That’s what worship is. We only even love Him because He loved us first (1 Jn 4:19). It all begins and ends with Him.
As we sow into His kingdom, He gives us even more to work with. It’s the principle of sowing and reaping (Gal 6:7). So I see it all as a big circle—thus the album cover symbolism. To me, that’s a big part of how the Kingdom of God works, and we have the opportunity to experience more as we obey and engage. “For from Him and through Him and To Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen” (Rom 11:36).
BE OUR LOVE
This song came out of the idea that we are human BE-ings and not human DO-ings. Our response of love to our God needs to be observed in who we ARE from day to day, as opposed to the religious actions we undertake to “prove it” to ourselves, others or Him. When we remember all we’ve been forgiven of, we have big reasons to love Him (Lk 7:47). So the song asks God to help us and teach us how to embody that love at our core, rather than go through outward motions alone, which is the opposite of what God wants (Is 29:13).
Romans 2:4 is the basis for this song: God’s kindness leads us to repentance. It’s only by God’s grace that He would have anything to do with us. What are we that He is even mindful of us (Ps 8:4)? He is bigger and more Holy than we can fathom, and yet He does not oppress us (Job 37:23); He is slow to anger and quick to forgive (Ps 103:8). It is not meant to be judgment or guilt that drives us to Him in fear, but rather the riches of His love that can be found nowhere else that motivates us to draw close to Him, bring our lives into submission to Him, and serve Him gladly. There, there is joy (Ps 32)! We come to Him as we are: dirty, guilty, messed up and needy, and then He cleans us up. What a good God!
With “In Awe” I set out to write a song that was purely vertical in direction and focus. God is so big and so awesome there’s obviously lots to write about, and I wanted to focus on some aspects of Him that inspire. He spoke the first words and will have the last. He was there all along, faithful. He is great, gracious, perfect, patient; He is love. He is peace. He walks ahead of us, and the words He speaks to us light the way for us to walk. He is too big to sum up, but the more we see of Him each day on our journey, the more we want to see, and the more we’re enthralled and drawn in. He is thrilling; like a trailer of a movie that makes us want more. He is so vast that He never changes and yet we continually see new aspects of Him every day that somehow we never saw before. He is awesome.
The phrase “His love endures forever” occurs over 40 times in the Bible. Add to that more than 100 references to God as our “rock” or “fortress,” “eternal” or “unchanging,” among others, and you have a very big theme in the Bible of God as the one steady, safe, secure, eternal place we can put our hope and our trust. I wanted to find a fresh way to say that and came up with “permanent” for that purpose. When it feels like the world and the economy and everything around us is very shaky, people need to be reminded that there is still one thing that remains and does not change. The name of the Lord is a strong tower and we can RUN to Him and we’ll be safe. We needed a fresh way to remember our unchanging foundation so we could grab onto Him and hold on for dear life when things around us are shaken up. All other ground is sinking sand! I hope this song encourages people to hang on to our One Sure Thing.
It has been said that the best worship songs come out of just worshipping, and that’s exactly how “Listening” was born. I was leading worship at a young adult service in Calgary, Alberta, and as I was at the piano during an altar response time, the core of this song came to be. I had begun improvising and just singing out what I felt was appropriate to what God was doing in hearts around the altar, and out it came: “Light of the world/Shine on me/Won’t You light my pathway/Truth and the Way/Speak to me/I’m listening.” It was just one of those things where I knew right away there was something to it and I just kept singing it over and over.
From there I built into the song a bit of theology of how we hear from God; maybe that’s the pastoral side of me. Each of the two verses represents one of the main ways I believe we hear from Him. First, we learn to recognize His still small voice. He speaks in a whisper (1 Kings 19) and He wants to speak to us (Gen 18:17) (Jer 33:3), even though He is the One who spoke the world into existence! We just need to take the time and effort to seek Him and listen, learning to know Him like we know our good friends (Jer 23:18) (Mat 13:12).
The second way in communicating how we hear from God was very important to me. I wanted to emphasize that what He has already spoken though His living Word does not change and always accomplishes its purpose (Heb 4:12) (Is 55:11). Anything we think God is saying, we need to filter through what He has already said because He will not contradict Himself.
Finally, the bridge came later out of an actual personal cry to God during a time of fasting and prayer. It soon became clear to me that this was supposed to be part of “Listening” too. My hope for this song is that it can be a backdrop and encouragement for someone else to “Seek the Lord while He may be found…” (Is 55:6)
BREATHE IN ME
This is the one song on the album I did not write, but I love it. There have been many, many times I’ve sung this as a prayer to God since Michael W. Smith released it in the mid-‘90s. How many times have I felt the words, “So breathe in me/I need You now/I’ve never felt/So dead within” or “I used to be/So sensitive/To the light that leads/To where You are/Now I’ve acquired/These calluses/With the darkness of/A cold and jaded heart.” Such gut-wrenchingly honest lyrics; I identify. This song has ministered to me over the years and I hope it will continue to speak to more people.
WIN WITH LOVE
When I started writing “Win With Love” my goal was to explore the Kingdom of God: what it is and means and how it should be expressed in His people. God’s ways are higher, and most of the time completely opposite of ours! So many wars have been fought over religion, and a lot of people in Jesus’ day thought He was talking about a Kingdom that would come through force. He had something else in mind, the opposite in fact. He let them kill Him out of jealousy and basically said, “Father, forgive them because they just don’t know what they’re doing right now.” He loved, and He loved, and He loved.
In Philippians 2 we are told that our attitudes should be the same as Jesus’, who although He was God, didn’t cling to His rights as Lord. Instead He humbled himself to die a criminal’s death on the cross. In doing so He won the greatest victory in the history of the world and freed all of mankind from the death penalty. Jesus was our model, and according to Jesus, the greatest thing we can do is love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and love our neighbors as ourselves. If we do this we are keeping all the commandments. His Kingdom comes down to love, therefore so should our lives and our worship.
I wrote this song as a freshman in Bible College in Peterborough, Ontario. I remember the piano in Classroom E where I was sitting when it came to me. I was playing and worshipping God—or at least trying to, but I was feeling very unworthy of even approaching Him at all. I had been a Christian of sorts since I was 7, but not a very good one, I didn’t think. It seemed like I fell more than I stood. Maybe not everyone knew that all the time, but I knew. How could God still be patient with me after I struggled with the same things over and over for years? He must be sick of my garbage by now. I wanted to approach God again, but felt condemned.
I’ve had people tell me they think this song is missing an element of repentance in the lyrics. I guess I never thought to write them in, because from where I was in that moment, it was ALL about repentance. God came and encouraged me back with these lyrics about Him: “You know everything/And You still love me.”
After more than 15 years of singing this song, that’s the line that people mention the most. I guess it isn’t just me that has felt unlovable. We’ve all fallen short more times than we’d care to admit. Some days a thought will cross my mind and surprise me and I’ll just say to God: “Lord help me! My heart, at its core, is so wicked!” None of us have arrived. But it’s His KINDNESS that leads us to repentance; He loved us FIRST. It’s His constant, unfailing, patient love that is so amazing it makes us cling to Him. God is faithful and worthy of praise, for now and forevermore!
SAVING GRACE (COME THOU FOUNT)
People need encouragement. There are so many people walking through hard things, feeling alone, and it seems God is nowhere to be found in the midst of their day-to-day. For me the thrust of this song comes from Philippians 1:6, “…He who began a good work in You will be faithful to complete it…” Even though it can feel like it, God doesn’t abandon us. He never leaves us or forsakes us (Heb 13:5). He sticks closer than a brother (Pr 18:24) and brings us all the way through to the end. He can be trusted. His very name is faithful and true (Rev 19:11)!
I wrote this song to convey those things and encourage people in the midst of trouble that God would not lead them there for dead. They are not somehow disqualified; but God is going to lead them THROUGH the valley of the shadow of death to the other side and the good plans He has for them (Jer 29:11).
LIVE LIKE YOU’RE FREE
This is an anthem for the Church to rise up, claim, and live out the freedom that has already been purchased for us by Jesus. As Christians I believe we most often live beneath our means and certainly our calling. Because of Jesus there is freedom to stand against sin and rise up in power as the adopted children of the Most High God (Rom 8:1-17). If we’ll live that out, the gates of hell will not be able to stand against us! The goal of the song is to remind us of all that’s available and encourage us to reach out and take it; to rise up and live up to our destiny, because greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world (1 Jn 4:4)! I purposely made this the last song on the CD so it’s the last thing you hear echoing at the end. “Calling on all God’s children, live like you’re free!” I hope that call echoes in people’s hearts long after the last song ends!
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