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What’s in a Song?

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On September 13 God and King, my first solo CD, hit the shelves and (I pray) began ministering to the heart of the Church.   The project is powerful and unique, mostly because of the God it is serenading, partly because of the eclectic worshippoprockbluegrassfolkpunk style, and partly because the songs all have lives and histories of their own.   I thought I’d share of few to offer a taste from the cornucopia.

“If There Had Been No Cross” – There’s noting that inspires me like the cross and resurrection of Jesus, so every Easter I write a song.   This song was written over the course of two Easters.  I wrote the verses one year and the Chorus the next.  My problem was that my heart contained too much gratitude for my words to express, so I just kept sitting down with my guitar and weeping all over it.  “If There Had Been No Cross” is what happened when I was finally able to verbalize what my some tears had been expressing all along.

“Cover Me” – This song was originally called “Barabbas’ Song.  I began to wonder what Barabbas was feeling as he watched an innocent man willingly serve his death sentence for him.  As I put myself in his shoes, I realized that I am Barabbas.  I identify with him because I have been pardoned and Jesus has been punished in my stead.   That’s my story.  I am the criminal that Jesus covered.  Why did we use a country/folk styling?  Because the song is about all of us.  Everyone who knows the grace of God can relate to Barabbas, and this felt like the way an “everyman” would sing it.

“Is Anybody Listening” –  This song boiled out of me.  It is as close to a prophetic song as anything I’ve ever written and it is a wake up call to the Church.  We, Christians, have not done our jobs.  We have helped to create a fallen culture by neglecting to guard our children’s hearts and minds.  We have allowed them to be nurtured on the world’s values and trained by the world’s tastes.  Then, when our children grow into young people who struggle with sin and doubt, we judge them and marginalize them.  But the world that twists young hearts is the world of our making.  “Is Anybody Listening” is a call to turn the tide – to fight for innocence and guard our families – to convert our culture by preserving what is most precious about humanity: child-like faith, wide-eyed wonder, and purity.

“Hang On” – I had been praying for my little brother.  His situation was dire, he was hopeless, hurting, and his face was buried in the dust of his circumstances.  As I prayed I got a mental image of my brother hanging over the side of a cliff, clinging desperately to a rope – and a big hand held the other end.  Then I saw a line of battle, and waves of enemies coming against him, but in front of him stood a huge figure, holding the line as the attacks broke against his shield.   I began to sing to my brother.  I sang what I thought Jesus might say to him.   “Don’t give up!  Now’s not the time to lay down and accept defeat!  If you could only see who holds the other end of the line!  I will never let go; I will never give up; and I cannot lose.  So stand with me!  You are not alone!  I’ve got you.”  To me, this song is a floodlight of hope illuminating the lies that prey on us in our dark moments.

“That’s My God” – If we’re not careful we can over-feminize worship.  We can make it all sweetness and lambs and romance.  Those things are great, and they should be part of our worship, but what about the God who stepped on the devil’s head?  What about the Jesus who is the Lion of the Tribe of Israel, a sword in His mouth, fire in His eyes, and a voice like rushing waters?  My God is tough, and I wanted to write a song that celebrated his fearsome strength and unconquerable majesty.  This song makes me want to growl.  And it feels proper.

“Love Won’t Fail” – Why record a punk song?  Well, I like a little punk now and then.  And sometimes I feel like a punk.  I tried the world on for size before I turned to Jesus.  What a punk!  And even after coming to him, I find myself doing things or saying things that contradict my faith.  What a punk!  It’s a good thing that God is faithful and that His love for me was never based on my performance.  Because it was that unconditional, never-ending, never-leaving, never-giving-up love that won this little punk’s heart to Jesus.  And it is that same love that keeps me following Him.  This song is faith and fun rolled into one.

“Love Has Done It” – Here’s another Easter song.  I had just watched “The Passion” and was sitting in wonder and gratitude at God’s love for me.  When I picked up the guitar I began singing questions that broke my heart.  “Who could crucify a King?  Who could hurt the hands that heal?  What could motivate such things?”  Was it the ferocity and bitterness of the crowd?  Was it the jealousy and wickedness of the devil?  Or was it the love of God worked out in a plan of His own fashioning.  If the cross was a demonstration of the love and power of God, then I want to stay in awe of His compassion, courage, and mercy.  That kind of God is worth exalting!  And wherever He is exalted He is enthroned.

“God and King” – This song really didn’t feel right for a while.  I love the rewrite on Francis of Assisi’s old hymn, but we couldn’t get a grasp on how we were supposed to record it for this project.  Then it just occurred to me, “You know what this song needs?  A banjo.”  Before long we were pulling out mandolins and juice harps and dobros and having a blast doing it.  This isn’t the ONLY way this song should be done, but it was the way we were supposed to do it this time.  I’m so glad we did.

The project has four other songs.  I love them all, because they are the sound track to my walk with Jesus (They’re also dern good songs).  The iTunes release has a bonus  track on it, the original recording of “The More I Seek You.”  If you are like me, you love to hear first versions of my favorite songs.  This one’s for you.  Kirsten Takape and I recorded the original version on a laptop with iTunes.  I intended to do an acoustic version of the song, but when I heard her playing it on the piano I thought, “we have to record it that way.”  This is still my favorite version of the song.  It’s the least professional recording of “The More I Seek You”, but it has the biggest heart.

Check it out for yourself.  I’m not praying that this CD gets on people’s shelves: I’m praying that it get’s into people’s hearts.  So happy listening and happy worshipping.