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.”
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.
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.
If you are a fan of phone apps, you may have heard of one called “YouVersion”. It’s a popular Bible app that allows you to carry multiple translations of the Bible on your phone, create bookmarks for passages you want to revisit, and even provides devotional reading material with the ability to have your phone remind you each day!
I’ve recently been going through a devotional entitled “All In Devotional” based on Matthew West’s “All In” album. This quote from one of the daily readings hit me right between the eyes and I just had to share it here –
Hope is not something that just shows up. It’s not something we can take a dose of when needed. In Christ, suffering produces the character we need to have real hope. Hope that rises above our circumstances and relies solely on the love God has given us.
We don’t hope because our circumstances change or because we’re able to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and fake a smile. We hope because God loves us. And nothing, no amount of despair or tragedy will ever change that.
Hope is not dependent on my circumstances and I’m so very grateful for that!
Just realized I’ve never really explained this weekly feature! It’s sort of a sneak peek into those songs that really hit me in the heart – most of these have found their way on playlists I’ve created with titles like “Church”, “Worship”, or “When Things Get Dark”. Enjoy!