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
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,
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.
I finished a new song. That always feels big to me. I rarely ever – almost never – sit down and say “Today, I will write a song.” Usually, I experience something or come across a thought-provoking piece of scripture or devotional writing. This causes me to mentally devote a stretch of time to a thought, a concept, an idea, a phrase . . . you get the idea. When I have a line or two of lyric stuck in my head, I jot them down in a notebook specifically designated to hold all my “songs in progress.”
Then the actual writing process begins. I revisit the lyric snippet, seek out relevant Scripture to ponder, start crafting possible melodies, play around with chords and their progressions . . . you get the idea. Eventually, a song comes together.
Sometimes, I get all the lyrics in one breathtaking creative burst. I’m almost grateful that doesn’t happen often because it’s emotionally draining! There was even one time (ONLY one time, thank heavens!) when I got the whole song – lyrics, melody, and accompaniment – in less than 30 minutes. Talk about an overwhelming experience! Intense and exhausting.
I tell you all of this in the hope that you’ll understand something. I have a personal connection to each of them. Each one reminds of specific moments or lessons learned. Each song is a reflection of some part of my personal journey. When they are finally complete, there is usually a huge piece of head space that gets cleared out and the next moment of inspiration can move in and take up residence for awhile.
So when I tell you that this new song I just finished won’t move out . . . this is new. Different. Uncharted territory. It wants more time; it wants to occupy my thoughts a bit longer and I have no clue why. I’ve gone back to see if, subconsciously, I wasn’t completely satisfied with the song. Was I maybe, subtly, telling myself it needed to be re-worked? Were there lyrics I wasn’t happy with? Maybe a piece of the melody I think could be better?
Every time I sit down and play/sing through it, I’m impacted even more.
Based on past experiences, I should be freed up to move on to another one of the “songs in progress” waiting in my notebook. But I keep dwelling on the concept that first inspired the song. It just keeps spinning through my head, refusing to be ignored or pushed aside. So I thought I’d share it here and see if maybe that helps me to move on to another creative project!
What is this thought-dominating concept you ask? That’s what Part 2 is for. But I’ll leave you with this hint (pay special attention to the bold-faced type!) –
Every good thing is given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. ~James 1:17
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.