Musical Memories

Today’s post won’t be terribly long.  But since these Monday posts are supposed to be about my personal musical history I thought I’d share this quick memory.

I was 12 years old and we were getting ready to visit my grandparents for the weekend.  I’m not even sure how it exactly came about, but I was asked to sing special music for the Sunday morning service while I was there.  I was more than a little nervous. I had played for the occasional Sunday service but this was different.  It wasn’t going to be happening while others were singing.  It would be just me.

I sang a song called “My Father’s Eyes” originally recorded by Amy Grant.  I had loved the song for a while and jumped at the chance to perform it.  But, yeah, I was nervous!  I hadn’t had a single private voice lesson at that point so I was simply going with what came naturally.  I can’t remember much of what anyone said to me after.  It didn’t really matter.  There was something about that moment that felt so very “right”.  Music and faith have always been so intrinsically linked and that experience simply helped build on that.

I’ve sung in many venues and in front of crowds of various sizes. I’ve sung in churches, at conferences, at camps, in theatrical productions . . . but there’s something about that first one that will always be special.

Words and Music – Hello, My Name Is

I love words.  Books, poems, short stories, song lyrics . . . I love them all.  I’ve been a voracious reader for the vast majority of my life and have even dabbled in a bit of poetry and fiction writing.  No big career aspirations, just a creative outlet.  And, as the occasional songwriter, I’ve crafted a few lyrics in my adult years.

When you take my love of music and combine with my love of a well-crafted turn of phrase, something magical happens.  Song lyrics can leave me breathless, remind that I’m not alone in this weird journey we call life, or serve as a gentle nudge of conviction.

In my own songwriting, the lyrics are always a reflection of a moment.  Maybe I was learning a lesson or struggling through a challenge.  On occasion, a specific scripture passage as spun around in my brain to the point that I was inspired to write.  Whatever the motivation, each and every song reflects a piece of my own personal faith journey.

I’m hoping to make this “words and music” feature a regular feature on this website.  The focus will be on the lyrics of others that I have been inspired by.  It’s been my experience that the creative expression of truth sometimes has a longer-lasting impact than any lecture or sermon ever could.

In his song titled “Hello, My Name Is”, Matthew West gives us this powerful reminder of our identity in the song’s chorus –

These are the voices,
these are the lies
And I have believed them,
for the very last time.

Hello, my name is child of the one true king
I’ve been saved, I’ve been changed, and I have been set free
Amazing grace is the song I sing
Hello, my name is child of the one true king.

It’s one of those songs I cannot help but turn up and sing along at the top of my lungs!

Music and Memories

I was standing at the counter
I was waiting for the change
When I heard that old familiar music start
It was like a lighted match
Had been tossed into my soul
It was like a dam had broken in my heart

After taking every detour
Getting lost and losing track
So that even if I wanted
I could not find my way back
After driving out the memory
Of the way things might have been
After I’d forgotten all about us
The song remembers when.

Those lyrics are from a Trisha Yearwood song entitled, not surprisingly, “The Song Remembers When”.  And it has everything to do with why music is such a personal, powerful experience for me.

From the time I was young, I remember watching the adults in my life have visceral reactions to songs.  I remember seeing tears in my mother’s eyes when the song “Because He Lives” was playing on the record spinning at the time.  (At the time, I didn’t understand.  Now that song evokes the same response in me.)  I sat in the sanctuary of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Farmington, New Mexico, on Easter morning and watched as tears started falling down the faces of nearly every member of the choir.  I was probably 6 years old or so at the time.  Years later, my parents would explain that it had been a rough path getting to the performance and it seemed like everything that could go wrong, was going wrong.  All the frustration led to shortened tempers and some tense conversations.  At the perfect moment in the cantata they were performing, the sun hit the rose window in the balcony and bathed the choir in colored light.  The purpose of the day, the reason we were celebrating became the only thing that mattered and the responses of the choir members could be seen on their wet cheeks.

In my own life, there have been songs that have caused my eyes to fill with tears almost from the first note.  There are songs that leave me invigorated and feeling like I could conquer the world.  There are songs that hit me between the eyes with a truth I hadn’t considered before.  And more times than I can count, I’ve heard lyrics that made me think, “Yes!  That’s it!  I haven’t known how to say it but those are exactly the words I’ve been looking for!”

Sometimes the songs I’m talking about are connected to matters of faith.  Sometimes they are not.  But one thing holds true – songs stick in my brain because I have an emotional connection to them.  Or maybe I have a connection to the first time I really heard the song.  Whatever the original circumstance, those songs are always there.  I can go without hearing a certain meaningful song for years and when I hear it again, I’ll be able to sing every word without a mistake.  More importantly, I’m instantly transported back to that moment in time when the song first imprinted itself on my heart.

Trisha was right.  The song DOES remember when.

I’m Stuck!!

True confessions time – I’m stuck.  Yes, “writer’s block” apparently happens to songwriters.  I’ve got two or three “works in progress” but cannot seem to make any forward progress.

What’s worse is the fact that I have a very vague idea where at least one of them needs to go.  There’s the rough idea wandering around the edge of my thoughts but nothing concrete.

And I’ve discovered by experience that trying to force something is useless.  I just get more stuck.  Kind of like when you get your car stuck and you hit the gas harder and only succeeding in digging the tires in deeper.

So here I sit.  Trying to create some creative “forward momentum” and I’m just spinning my metaphorical tires.