The Writing Triangle

Just like many other areas in life, writing is a balancing act.  It takes a while to get your bearings when you are just starting out, but eventually you begin to see three separate types of writing sessions emerge:  writing by yourself, writing with a Paul, and writing with a Timothy.  I believe that in order to make the best use of your gift, you need to have a good balance of all three.  

Writing by yourself is such a great time to listen for the Holy Spirit.  I’ve learned more about songwriting from watching Him lead me than any other way.  Most of that learning has been by listening.  Meaning, I hear what He says to me, or I hear a melody He drops into my head, and I write it down.  Only after analyzing what I heard do I see the poetic and melodic magnitude of what just happened.  It’s clearly not just coming from me.  Also, when I’m by myself, He can break my heart to the point of tears, as I am my most vulnerable alone with Him.  That vulnerability comes out in the songs.  Many writers say that they used to write more alone, but over time they lose the drive and ability to do it after cowriting.  I suppose that cowriting helps the creative type to get a date on the calendar, which holds you more accountable.  Don’t let that happen to you.  This is where the depth comes from.

How all of us long to write with a Paul!  Of all the characters in the New Testament, he is one of the favorite mentors.  The impact of his ministry was immeasurable.  But, he didn’t keep it to himself, he helped to raise up others with his experience and wisdom.  From a writer’s perspective, a Paul is someone you would see as successful.  Someone that has a little more experience than you, a little farther down the road.  These cowrites are most of the time an easy and enjoyable experience, as they know the ropes so to speak.  You also want to find Pauls that are good teachers, as there is so much to learn from their examples.  Watch the way they work, you are sure to find what makes them successful.

Like the example we have in Paul, we should also be training a Timothy. This person needs to have a similar heart as yours, maybe you even see yourself a few years back in that person.   A Timothy is someone likeminded.  This is really important because if you write with someone that is not likeminded, it can become very challenging.   Having the heart of a teacher is essential in these situations, and be patient.  Think about the impact we could have on future generations just by passing on what we have been taught! 

Take a look at your writing dates.  How are you spending your time?  What are you missing out on?  Try to adjust your schedule to allow for all these experiences.  They will all make you a better writer!

Canyons - No Matter How Deep Our Wounds, His Love Is Deeper

It doesn’t always make sense, but it’s true.  We are quick to run to God when our hearts get bumped, bruised, scraped up a bit.  But ironically, the really deep, painful things that we experience are much harder to run to Him.  Maybe it’s because we blame Him.  Maybe we want to pretend they are not there.  Either way, those are the things we cover with our own band-aids, so no one can see how deep they are.  Not even God. 

I recently wrote a song with a good friend, Corey Voss, called “Canyons.”  The chorus goes like this: 

There is no limit to your endless love
Just when I doubt it there is so much more
A rushing waterfall that overflows
It’s filling canyons in my soul

It’s the deepest pain that gives us the biggest opportunity for Him to pour the most of Himself out in us in order to heal us.  But we have to be the ones willing to rip off the band-aids.  He is always ready to heal. 

Someone once put it to me this way---we have to learn to hug the cactus.  It’s through the pressing in, acknowledging the pain, and the exposure of the wounds that the process of healing can begin. 

There are deep things of God we can learn no other way.  There are secrets of life and freedom hidden in our wounds.  Treasures of wisdom that we only find when we dig deep into the things of God.  What’s most amazing is, no matter how deep our wounds, still His love is deeper.  He can turn our canyons into reservoirs of His love. 

Listen to this song below...

Deliver Your Gifts

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about spiritual gifts and how they relate to being a songwriter.  While I know the Bible doesn’t talk specifically about music being a spiritual gift, I believe it is definitely a form of delivering one. 

I Corinthians 12:6-10 in The Message says this, “Each person is given something to do that shows who God is:  Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits.  All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people!  The variety is wonderful:  wise counsel, clear understanding, simple trust, healing the sick, miraculous acts, proclamation, distinguishing between spirits, tongues, interpretation of tongues.”     

So many times we wish we could be more like somebody else, having the gifts or writing the songs that they do.  Sometimes there is pressure from someone else to be the Christian version of whatever the latest secular success is.  But, what is so beautiful about this passage is the reminder that everyone gets in on this!  The variety is wonderful!  Not to mention, it is a GIFT--nothing you can work to attain, and a lot of times you haven’t even asked for it.  You just simply are.      

Let’s just say that one of your gifts is wise counsel.  How amazing would it be for you to deliver the heart of that gift through song to a younger, hungry generation, for the kingdom of God?  Or, what if your gift was healing the sick, and you delivered your songs to hospitals spreading the news of hope?  Or maybe your gift is proclamation, and you deliver an amazing anthem that the church sings for the next 1,000 years!

Pastor Larry Randolph put it this way:

“We are born as individuals, yet many will die as a copy.  We are a voice, not an echo.  We must be who God created each individual to be.  We are each a piece of God’s DNA.  When Jesus gives us the new wine, it is NEW and different, so it may not always be recognizable by others.”

This means that if we aren’t completely who God created us to be, with our specific gifts and with our unique delivery, we are depriving the world of learning something about the character of God!  Like it says in Corinthians, each person is given something to do that shows who God is. 

So, as you write, do the world a favor.  Give us a chance to learn more about the character of God----deliver YOUR gifts!

Bears, Lions and Giants

Recently, my pastor, Charlie Weir, shared something about David that I’ve never heard before.  He was talking about David and Goliath, and how the encounter with Goliath was not the first time David had to fight.  Being a valiant shepherd boy, he had killed lions and bears with his bare hands.  It took killing lions and bears to prepare him for killing a giant.  But by the time he faced the giant, he was so confident because of his experience with God’s faithfulness before.  Looking at some of his writing, you can see how this comes to life:

Psalm 91:13-14 "You will tread upon the lion and cobra, The young lion and the serpent you will trample down. 'Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.'"
 
Such grit, such confidence.

Sometimes we shy away from the bears and lions.  We want to immediately tackle the giant.  But what this story shows us is that every step of the journey is important.  Every step instructs, arms, and steers our hearts with what they need in order for us to reach the next thing we will face. 
As you are learning to write songs, it will be a step by step process.  Soak in what you can from each step.  You will need everything God teaches you along the way.  Sometimes you may not understand it till later.  Enjoy the journey.  One day you will reach the giant!

A Great Work

The more days I live on this planet, the more I realize how difficult it can be to complete anything with determination, and see it all the way through.  It almost feels like there are so many excuses not to finish things well, many of which I have heard coming out of my own mouth.  There are many more people called by God than actually complete the mission. 

I know that God placed a call on my life from an early age.  Sometimes when I’m not sure which direction He is leading me, I get weary or distracted instead of leaning in.  I remember during my first few months of having 2 children feeling like I didn’t know if I could complete the music mission God placed on my life in light of the mom mission. I could not see how those two things could coexist.  God used someone to speak into my life at that point.  I don’t remember the exact words, but it was something like this:  If you follow your dreams, you will teach your children to follow theirs.   We made the choice soon after to become more scheduled with our time and also to finish an album and continue ministering in small churches.   I have learned that God gives grace for whatever He calls us to.

One story that is really impacting me lately is found in Nehemiah.  Nehemiah left his position as King Artaxerxes’ cupbearer to go home to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls.  He says that God put it in His heart to do it (Nehemiah 2:12).  He was opposed by so many, even despised!  He was continuously distracted---sound familiar?   His reply to those he knew were scheming against him was this,  “I’m doing a great work.  I can’t come down” (chapter 6:2The Message.)  Later in the same chapter, He prayed, “Give me strength.” 

All of us carry a call or a dream that God Himself placed in our hearts.  All of us face distractions, opposition, and sometimes we are even despised.   Let us never, never forget that the work God has called us to is a GREAT work for His kingdom.  And just like Nehemiah, it might be a brick at a time, but don’t let anything stop you from building your wall.   He who started the work will be faithful to complete it, and give you the strength to do it.

Deeper Wells

Recently, my husband Eric and I have started a new work out program.  One of the requirements of this program is to drink half your body weight in water - which I have heard time and time again.  When I actually started measuring how much water I was truly drinking, though, I realized I was dehydrated.  In fact, I realized that what I was taught by this new program was true for me.  Many times I believed I was hungry, and I was actually thirsty.  Once I started drinking enough water, it was almost as if I got more thirsty!   

Isn’t it that way with us?  So many times we think we are hungry.  We are hungry for lots of things this world can offer us---success, money, influence, material things.  What we don’t see, however, is that we are actually thirsty.  Thirsty for the living water.  It’s the only thing that satisfies, and once we remember that, it only makes us more thirsty. 

If we can keep drinking from the living water, our wells will be full.  That means we always have something to draw from.  How can we give out of an empty well? 

There are many ways to fill our wells.  Reading books, listening to music, the words of a wise friend, church services.  These are all raindrops into our well.

The greatest way, though, is spending time with the Lord.  Reading his word, worshipping, prayer.  This is like pouring waterfalls into us.  Every time I make space for that I get filled.  Especially on days when I really sacrifice other things to make that happen. 

Revelation 22:17 (The Message) says, “Is anyone thirsty?  Come!  ALL WHO WILL, come and drink, drink freely of the Water of Life (emphasis added.)" 

This verse shows us that the water is always there, it is up to us whether we choose to be filled.  If we will get into the practice of filling our well tho, we are always full and always have more to share.  This greatly impacts the kind of songs we can write, and how we lead. 

If we are at home worshipping on a regular basis, wearing that path out everyday, worshipping in a writer’s room or leading worship at church will be dripping with living water.

May worship be more than music, more than time, more than a gathering.  May it be a reflex.   

Stay thirsty!

A Well-Worn Path

We worship constantly. We worship when we don’t realize it. When we don’t feel like it. When it’s not intentional. It can really be quite subconscious...coming from a habit or even addiction. We give things value. We make them a ritual. Like coffee (guilty). Maybe it could be...shoes (guilty). Or our set list, our children, our gear, our appearance, our instrument, our title, our role, our romantic relationship (or lack there of). Maybe it’s food, the gym, the latest Netflix binge. Whatever it is for you, we are giving it a high value in our lives. We’re giving those things preference. Attaching significance by the sheer amount of time we devote to them and by the headspace they take up.

We also worship weekly. Maybe bi-weekly. Maybe more. It’s a different kind of worship. It’s corporate. It’s what we truly think of when someone says worship. It’s what many of us are hired for, volunteer for, or pour the majority of our working lives into. It typically involves our art form.  We plan it. We prepare for it. We practice it. We communicate about it (or at least we should be!) We rest up for it. We put on our Sunday best. And we get to be a part of leading the body in corporate worship. 

So when the weekend arrives, we will find that we are prepared in some ways. But how about spiritually? Are we setting aside time to worship in private? For finding out who God is through his word? Listening to him in silence? Our goal, in the words of Darlene Zschech, should be that “our worship is a well-worn path.” So that when we take on corporate times, we’re just leading people to a place we’ve been to many, many times before. We should have already worshipped our way through our set list for the weekend. Both individually and with our teams. 

So this is a reminder, a wake-up-call. You’re not just worshipping when you’re on stage. Likewise you’re not just leading when you’re on stage. Your charge is to worship well. In all things. Lead your team, your family and your congregation in wearing that path to the throne of God. Be found diving into a bible study. Encourage those around you with scripture. Get on your face before God. Assign God the value he deserves. And ask him to fill you to overflowing. Then let the overflow spill out onto your team, your congregation and your family.

Let it be said of you that you worship on and off your stage. And know that regardless of the position you hold, now or in the future...no matter what your title is, how difficult your team is being, what’s going on in your personal life or your church culture...YOU ARE A WORSHIPPER. You’re a worshipper before you’re a worship leader. Or any other role you hold. And don’t you forget it.

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday ordinary life-your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life-and place it before God as an offering.” Romans 12:1-2 MSG

Co-Writes With The Spirit of God

I stumbled across a verse this week that really caught my attention. The subject of the verse was David, the writer of most songs in the Bible.

“Samuel took his flask of oil and anointed him, with his brothers standing around watching. The Spirit of God entered David like a rush of wind, God vitally empowering him for the rest of his life.” – 1 Samuel 16:13 (The Message)

WOW! This is amazing to me. No wonder he wrote such amazing songs! He was anointed, and the Spirit of God was alive in him. So much so, that it was enough power to get him through a lifetime. Enough power to fill many, many songs with the Spirit of God.

“To Anoint” means to “smear or rub with oil,” and it also implies for religious service. There were many anointed in the Bible for a special calling—to be a priest, prophet, king, etc.

But there is even better news for us living in this day.

2 Corinthians 1:21-22 says “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” (The Message)

That means when we are in Christ, ALL carry the anointing!

It may not always feel that way, but it’s the truth. I was talking to a friend today, and I’m sure it was not by coincidence that he mentioned anointing. He gave the example of the process that olives go through in order to become oil. They are pressed, and it has to be a very slow process in order for it to produce oil. The same is true with us. So many times we have to walk through a process in which we are pressed on every side. When we get through the process, there is oil! So many times the Lord uses what we learn during these times to minister to others. Are you feeling crushed? It’s a good sign, my friend. You are being prepared for more.

So while it is the truth that we are all anointed, I believe we can also get a fresh anointing, or a deeper anointing. What if we asked for Him to come and do it? What if we gathered around with our brothers and sisters as witnesses, like David did? And what if, like with David, the Spirit of God entered like a mighty gust of wind? And because of that step of faith, the songs that we wrote were forever a co-write with the Spirit of God. I wonder how different this world would be.

Art Inspires Art

“All your salvation wonders
are on display in your trophy room.
Earth-Tamer, Ocean-Pourer,
Mountain-Maker, Hill-Dresser,
Muzzler of sea storm and wave crash,
of mobs in noisy riot—
Far and wide they’ll come to a stop,
they’ll stare in awe, in wonder.
Dawn and dusk take turns
calling, ‘Come and worship.’ “

Psalm 65: 6-8 (The Message)

It’s the nature of being created. God moves, and it beckons us to respond.

Sometimes it’s a first hand inspiration, the very creation itself: a purple sky, a swaying tree, the smell of wildflowers, a whispering of the Holy Spirit saying, “Come and worship.”

Other times it’s second hand inspiration: a song written by someone else that God moved through, a painting guided by the hand of God, or a breathtaking dance erupting from a thankful heart.

I remember writing a song inspired by the beautiful path, dotted with butterflies and edged with gardens on either side that led me to my grandmother’s house. Even today that picture evokes worship to me. I also remember listening over and over again to Cindy Morgan’s “How Could I Ask For More,” and eventually writing a song as a natural response of worship.

Some writers look for inspiration, while others let it find them. How beautiful the life that lives in pure response to Jesus. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks! The more you let His creation and the inspired work of His creation take hold of your heart, the more you will have to worship! No more striving, no more thinking, just an innocent amen. It’s less about the song, and more about the king. Search for Him, and you will never run out of inspiration.