Legacy – The Story Behind the Song

Shared this a while ago – thought it worth sharing again!

The year was 1996.  My husband, Jim, was serving as the youth pastor at First Evangelical Free Church, a small congregation in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  The job was mostly volunteer with just a small stipend attached.  He was also working at UPS in management.  I was pregnant with our fourth child and an ultrasound had revealed that we were having a son.

In late March, Warren, one of the founding members of the church passed away rather unexpectedly.  He was the grandfather of one of the youth group members and had really been the significant “father figure” in that young man’s life.  In early May, the Pastor of the church, Dr. Frederick Moore, went to the National Institutes of Health for the continued treatment of a rare genetic condition he suffered from. I will never forget the morning that phone call came in.

A pastor of a sister church north of the city called and wanted to know how my husband was doing.  Needless to say, we were a bit confused since there was no reason for him to be anything but fine. Or so we thought. That’s when we got word that Pastor Fred had died early that morning.  Complications following surgery.  This man was more than “just” the pastor of our church.  He was my husband’s mentor in ministry.  His impact on my husband’s life was so powerful that my son bears the middle name “Frederick” in his honor.  Pastor Fred had two boys still in the youth group and his oldest was in college.  “Our kids” lost two very significant individuals in just a few weeks.  They were reeling.

Fast forward five years – I was helping to “run” the music ministry of the church and Warren’s widow approached me with a touching request.  She didn’t want a big fuss made but she wondered if it might be possible to have a song done as special music on some random Sunday.  While the grief of losing a spouse never really goes away, she had been having an especially difficult time of late and it would be a comfort to her to have just a little memorial in the form of a song.

I started looking but nothing stood out.  I just couldn’t find the right song.  I wasn’t even too concerned with finding a song specifically for me to sing.  That church was rich with vocal talent and there were any number of vocalists – of all voice parts – that could have done a beautiful job sharing this gift.  I vented my frustration to my husband, who knew about the request I was trying to honor.

“I can’t find a song that will work to honor the memory of Warren and Pastor Fred.  But I promised we’d do something.  What am I going to do?”

“Maybe,” he replied with a smile, “You haven’t found the right song because it hasn’t been written yet.”

Now I do not consider myself a songwriter.  By that I mean I don’t wake up in the morning and think “today is a good day to write a new song.”  Usually an experience triggers a lyric or melodic line and I just kind of work from there.  When my husband and I had the conversation mentioned above, I had only written a few songs. I never would have come up with the idea on my own. But my husband had said it so there it was.  Was I really supposed to create something completely original to honor these two much-loved individuals?  Was I even capable of living up to the task?!

Then one morning, while standing in the shower, of all places, a lyrical phrase ran through my mind – “They left a legacy, built on the solid rock.”  As quickly as was reasonably possible, I finished the shower and got dressed, then grabbed a note pad to jot down that phrase.  I knew at that moment that the song would be about ordinary individuals with no earthly fame who left behind a legacy of faith.  When it was finally written and shared as special music in a Sunday morning service, the sound man made sure to record it.  We passed CD’s on to the family members that those two faithful servants had left behind.  Since that time, that recording has been played at my grandfather’s funeral and my grandmother made me promise I would sing it live at hers which, by some miracle, I was able to do.

I continue to be humbled by the impact this song has on those that have heard it.  It seems that those of us who claim the name of Christ often have those individuals in our lives, past or present, who have left an imprint on us because they embody the truth of the lyrics –

“They left a legacy built on the solid rock;
Their footsteps led the way to the firm foundation.
Their faith in Jesus you could see in the way they lived.
They knew the greatest gift that they could give
Was the legacy of Heaven.”

Hebrews 12:1 (NASB)

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.


Lyrical Inspiration

Come meet this motley crew of misfits
These liars and these thieves
There’s no one unwelcome here, no
So that sin and shame that you brought with you
You can leave it at the door
And let mercy draw you near

I absolutely love the song “Come to The Table” by Sidewalk Prophets.  Especially the lyrics above.  There is absolute unqualified love and mercy for those who would follow Christ.  Enjoy


Where it All Began

born with music inside meApril 25, 1973, was a Wednesday.  On that day a very eager 4 1/2 year old sat down on a piano bench for her very first lesson.  Her mother had worked to find a teacher who would take a student younger than 5.  The little girl could barely sit still, she was so excited.

There was only one time that she ever asked her parents to let her quit and that was about a year after she started.  After all, trying to put both hands together was hard!  But thanks to a patient father who sat by his tearful daughter’s side while she worked her way slowly through the piece, she overcame that challenge.  And there was never a time from that point on that she ever considered giving up on the instrument.

As you may have guessed, that 4 1/2 year old was me.  I’m staring my 50th birthday in the face in a few days which means it’s been more than 45 years since that first lesson.  Since that time I learned to play the flute, took several years of private voice lessons, fell madly in love with the world of the theater, and even majored in vocal music education.  Today, I am a paid accompanist and direct the annual spring musical both at the local high school.  I am in my first as the color guard coach at the same school and work with local community theater groups as a performer, director, pit musician . . . whatever!  But my first love is, and always will be, the piano.

It’s so much more than just a musical instrument to me.  It’s a way to vent frustration.  A solace when life gets hard.  The means for expressing an emotion that might be difficult to put into words.  My most constant companion.  In a way, it has always been a form of self-care.  I could not possibly list the various piano works that have perfectly touched my heart or ministered to my soul.  After more than four decades, there is still a thrill when I conquer a difficult piece.

What I marvel at most is that, even now, after all these years, I am still drawn to it. I still seek time at the keyboard when I’m worn down, tired, frustrated, exhilarated, or feeling a little silly.  No matter how much life may change, the music is always there.  And I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Unchanging – Part II

I promised you some song details so here they are!

It all started during a conversation with a friend.  We were discussing the wide variety of names and descriptors applied to the Trinity in Scripture.  The more we talked, the more we focused on the meanings of those names and what they revealed about God’s character.

The conversation with my friend ended, but the topic continued to occupy my thoughts for the next few days.  Somewhere, somehow, my thoughts shifted from simply thinking about the names or titles and their meanings to dwelling on one simple yet startling realization – all of those names?  All of the roles they describe?

God is ALL of those things simultaneously.  He FUNCTIONS in all those roles simultaneously.  Effortlessly, perfectly, eternally.

Let me explain this another way – I am a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, and a grandmother (just four weeks ago!).  While I’m always each of those things, I cannot simultaneously function in those roles.  I may be able to shift quickly from texting with my daughter to chatting with my husband and back again.  But I cannot successfully do both at the exact same time.  I miss pieces of conversation or lose my train of thought.

But with God, nothing ever gets missed or lost.  No one is ever neglected.  He can be everything He is to everyone all the time.  Redeemer, Healer, Comforter, Lion of Judah, Lamb of God . . . every facet of his character functioning perfectly at the exact same time.  Whichever part of his character you need to be touched by, he is that for you while being whatever every other believer needs at the exact same time.

But my thought process did not stop there.  As I began writing the lyrics for “Unchanging”, my focus shifted from this “simultaneous functioning” concept to the most overwhelming thought yet – this God, who is everything that anyone could need all the time, this Creator, Redeemer, and Savior . . . loves me.  Lyrically, I expressed it this way –

Beyond the names and titles

One truth rings out so clear

I was always known,

Always loved

You are always standing near.

As He is wrapping me in the peace I need, He is providing comfort for another, healing someone else, and gently correcting one more.  And it doesn’t stop there.  It doesn’t stop ever.  He’s always touching, reaching, enveloping, and redeeming.  Because of love.  We do nothing to earn it and will never be able to repay any of it.  It’s all because He CHOOSES to love.

It’s that simple and the profoundly beautiful.

New Skill

Had some fun playing around with some new (to me) software.  I’ve learned how to create lyric videos for my songs.  Look out, YouTube!  I’ve only done a couple and I keep getting better with each trick I learn.  But this song is one of my personal favorites so . . . here it is!


A New Thing

Finished a new song today.  That’s not only exciting, it’s a huge relief!  I’ve got another 5 or 6 in the works that need some attention so completing this one – titled “Unchanged” – moves it from “To Do” to “Done”.

Hubby’s last day in the pulpit at First Baptist Church of Fort Dodge was Easter Sunday.  (I promise this seemingly random statement holds relevance!)  There were a variety of reasons behind the move.  But the one that matters for this story is the fact that he and I were feeling called – pulled?  maybe pushed a little?! – into a new ministry venture that combined his preaching and my music.  Sort of a “traveling package deal” if you will.

So we’ve started working through the organizational details and “Legacy Ministries” is slowly coming to life.  There is still some paperwork to do – seems like there is ALWAYS paperwork to do! – but we have a website, a Facebook page, etc. so we’re on our way!  (You can check out the website HERE and the Facebook page HERE.) It’s exciting and scary all at the exact same time.

It seems fitting that I finished a new song on the day that we started creating the web presence for the ministry.  Especially this particular song.

It’s all about God’s unchanging nature.  It focuses on the names, titles, or descriptions for God.  Sounds simple.  But it’s a recent focus for me – exactly what do the names and descriptions of God mean?  What impact should they have on my life?

It all boiled down to one thing.  He doesn’t change.  He never has.  His methods might change.  Scripture itself says so –

Isa. 43:19 – “Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert.

But even when he is doing something new, his inherent character never alters.  Not even a little.  So while hubby and I are being called into a “new thing”, the message is unchanged.  So, while the path we’re on has taken a major turn, the one guiding our steps is the same.

Heb. 13:8 – Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

In Your Eyes

If you’ve read some of my other stories, you know that I rarely (almost never) sit down and say, “Today, I will write a song.”  The song “In Your Eyes” is an exception.  My sister commented that she thought it would be great if I wrote an original song for the wedding she hoped she would soon be planning.  I was still struggling with the idea that I was writing faith-based songs.  A love song?!  That was a whole new territory I wasn’t sure I wanted to delve into.

Then I got the “brilliant” idea to write a song for my husband.  The year was 2001.  We were living in Grand Rapids, Michigan and he was working for UPS at the time.  A promotion took him to Columbus, Ohio, for a couple weeks of training.  He got to come home the weekend between but he was in Columbus Monday through Friday for two consecutive weeks.  This trip just happened to occur right around Valentine’s Day so I decided the song would be his gift.

Once it was written, I realized I had inadvertently fulfilled my sister’s request with one condition – it was really “Jim’s song” so he had to say yes.  I knew he would – he and I met when said sister was only 8 years old so he really thinks of her more as a sister than a sister-in-law –  but I wanted him to know that the song was intended originally for him and I wouldn’t be tossing it out to brides on a whim.

It’s first audience was just him, in the front room of our home.  That might have been one of the most nerve-wracking performances of my life!  But thankfully he loved the song and two years later, when my baby sister got married, I shared that song as a part of their wedding.   It’s been performed a couple of other times since then for special couples.  But it will always be “his song”.

“In your eyes there is joy and there is laughter
A hope for happily ever after
And love’s unending song.”

Song of Solomon 8:6

Place me like a seal over your heart,
    like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
    its jealousy[a] unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
    like a mighty flame.[b]
Many waters cannot quench love;
    rivers cannot sweep it away.
If one were to give
    all the wealth of one’s house for love,
    it[c] would be utterly scorned.

Sing Over Me

I took my first piano lesson one week after I turned 4 ½ and I’ve been playing ever since.  I was classically trained but my mother made sure that I learned some of the basic improv skills used by church pianists and I’ve played in services off and on since I was about 12.  I began accompanying soloists and ensembles in 7th grade (right about 1980) and have been doing it ever since.  I sang my first solo in church at the age of 12 and have sung in choirs at all levels of age and experience since then.

To say that music is a central piece of my life and my worship experience would be an understatement.  It’s one of the ways that I cope with stress, express joy, work through sadness . . . it’s the cheapest therapy I know!

You can imagine my delight when my sister introduced me to a verse that talked about God singing over his children!  The idea that my obedience and walking in faith delights God to the point that he sings over me?!  This musician was delighted at the concept!  Then there came a time where I had to seriously evaluate a ministry involvement that came close to tapping into my passion without going quite all the way.  I was being asked to give preference to opinions of others over the leading of the Holy Spirit and it was beating me up spiritually.  I was unsettled and lacking in peace.  I realized, after some serious soul-searching and the gift of the lyrics that would become this song, that I needed to back away from that ministry.  It was harder than you might think because it wasn’t a perfect fit with my passion, but it got close.  Stepping away meant there would be nothing.

So I stepped away and the personal healing began almost immediately.  When I start to struggle with choosing to follow man’s preferences or the Spirit’s leading, I go back to this song.  There is only one audience who truly matters when all is said and done.

“Ev’ry melody I sing, ev’ry note of praise I bring
I lay humbly at the feet of my Savior and my king.
With ev’ry single rhyme, from now until the end of time
I seek nothing more than just to hear him sing
Sing over me.”

Zephaniah 3:17

The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.

Fear Not

Christmas is, without a doubt, my favorite holiday.  I think I’ve even started to like it more than my own birthday!  I love the decorations, the music, the gift-buying, the television specials . . . I love the whole crazy, busy, chaotic experience!

But I do have one small frustration – Christmas Eve Services.  I didn’t grow up going to them even though I was a Pastor’s kid.  Dad felt that Christmas Eve was for family so he never held one and if we were ever members of a church that held them, we never went.  For much of my married life, we’ve been in churches that did, indeed, ask members to come out on Christmas Eve for a service.  I’m still not a big fan of such things but I think a large part of it is due to the fact that every Christmas Eve service I’ve ever been in feels like a funeral.  But we’re celebrating a birth, right?!

I guess you could say that “Fear Not” is the type of music I’d program into a Christmas Eve service if I was ever given free reign!  A birth – especially the birth of the Messiah! – is a happy occasion, a reason to celebrate.  No long faces or somber expressions at a baby shower!  The story of the cross started in that little stable in Bethlehem, true.  But I believe that all of heaven was excited that the process had begun and that God’s relationship with man was about to radically change forever.

”Fear not, I bring to you great
A message of hope to every
Man and woman girl and boy.
For unto you this day,
Over in King David’s town,
A Savior, Christ the Lord, is born
Heaven’s gift of love come down.”

Luke 2:10-11

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good new of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you:  you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”  And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”