Thoughts on Songwriting

Today I ponder the life, the heart, and the calling of a songwriter.

We are many. We are similar and we are different. We write from life about the things of life. We speak into lives. We craft through a medium of melodies, sounds, rhythms and rhymes.

I cannot speak about the inspiration of all my fellow song creators but I can speak for me. I have been changed forever in the meeting of Almighty God. My songs are fueled by the love and freedom I have in knowing the Lord.

I am starting to see that a song is made with wings and the Lord will give the breath and the wind to carry that work and its words to every heart that needs to hear it.

Rich Mullins is a man I look up to. There is so much I don't know about him but I do know from his story that he was a songwriter with a powerful anointing and a vulnerability that touched so much in and out of the Church. He was not afraid to write about the realities of faith and life as a follower of Jesus. His songs are powerful and they are genuine. They are true songs of worship. His life was cut short and no-one knows the cause of the car accident that took his life. A friend of his shared right after his death that right before he died, he was working on what he said was to be his most important work- an album about the Life of Jesus. He did however record a scratch recording on a tape in a Church a week before his death. I am amazed that even death did not keep these songs from going forth! His songs became and still are anthems in Christian music across the world. That is amazing to me. This is a reminder that nothing can stop the move of God. Nothing can silence words that God desires to go forth.

I have feared my words will not go forth. I have feared they will stay hidden in my notebook- or that the recordings I have poured so much time and care into will not be heard or appreciated. I sometimes write for the secret times and watch a melody serve its purpose in that moment and float away forever but some songs I want to reach the nations- I long for them to reach the nations. I want to hear them in languages I do not speak. I want hurting hearts to experience God in them as I did when I wrote them. I want these melodies to be a gentle hand that lifts heavy heads to see God. I want the happy tunes to make people smile and dance in their car.

I am learning to trust God with my songs and my words. I am learning to treasure the fruit I see no matter how small it may seem. I am learning to be excited about the unseen things ahead.

I have also been reading a lot about the hymn writers from years past. I am learning a few wonderful things.

Joseph Mohn penned the words to Silent Night” in 1818. They were words he prayed for as he longed for the perfect Christmas carol to share with his village. As he sat on Christmas Eve trying to write the song, he was called to bless a newborn babe which required a long walk out of the way of the Christmas party he had planned to attend further delaying his efforts to write this new carol. It felt like a day of interruptions. He found himself on the way home after his long evening alone in the night overlooking his village in the Austrian Alps. He then became inspired to write from this moment only he knew. He sang of stars in that night and thought of the little babe with an unknown name he blessed that Christmas Eve and it pointed him to the savior. He wrote the song and shared it in his town. It took 36 years from that time for the song to reach the leaders of Germany and then go on to be a world renowned Christmas carol that is precious to the heart of millions.

Another story about the orgin of another beloved song:

In 1905, Mrs. Civilla D. Martin took a 50 mile journey to visit a sick woman following the leading of the lord to encourage her. She penned the words to “His Eye is On the Sparrow” by her bedside as the woman shared in her weak state, “Why should I be discouraged when when my Heavenly Father watches over each little sparrow and I know He loves and cares for me?” In the intimacy of that room a song was penned by a women who was not even known to be a songwriter. She simply saw and wrote down a glimpse of real faith in suffering and a picture of the Father's love.

These songs were not written with the motivation of being world renown. They were written in true, and intimate moments of life. God knew the rest of us would need to hear them.

I can also see that suffering is a huge part of the journey to the song. Some words would not have been found or given if suffering had not been a companion to get there.

A man named Joseph Scriven wrote some words in a poem to his mother, sent them to Ireland and they became the hymn “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” This man was not a songwriter. He was a man who had planned to settle in Ireland with his young love when tragically she was drowned the day before their wedding. Devastated, Joseph moved to Canada and served the Lord all his days in ministry there. These words came from the loosing, the grieving, and living life knowing that the Lord was greatest strength and companion in this life. What a powerful song.

So then there is me.

I have written songs in the intimate moments only I know. On a hill by the lake at sunset, the melody came into my heart with the wind. I wrote a prayer for the youth of our nation in a backstage stairwell during a play. I wrote a song driving in the rain, quickly jotting down the words at stoplights. I have written songs in heartbroken moments of pain where I could hardly see the page through the tears. I have sung anthems that became songs of cooperate worship. I have written by candlelight, moonlight, and sunlight on the beach by the sea. I treasure the songs I write and when I hold them, I long to share them.

I will do my best to not fear my words will not go forth.

I will trust that my songs, like the songs of these other men and women, will go forth and that nothing will stop them from reaching the places they were created to go.

I will enjoy the writing, the singing, the sharing and the living.

I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.”

-Psalm 89:1