This song is more than 10 years old. But as I get ready to post this, the world is in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lyrics seem to be timely. Enjoy!
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.
This won’t be terribly long or profound.
Something creative keeps wiggling around in my head trying to get itself out. I’m certain that this “something” is musical in nature. Been toying with some lyric phrases/lines that seem like they might be able to go somewhere. But the going is slow. . . really slow. . . like, I’ve seen sloths move faster than my creative process is moving right now.
So I keep toying with/crafting/testing lyrical possibilities . . . no clue what’s gonna happen in the end but sometimes I learn more from the process than the actual product!
Stay tuned . . . something new may be in the works!
Over the last several years (since 1991 to be exact!) my sisters and I have given our parents nine grandchildren. Between three of the households (including my parents) we have hosted about the same number of exchange students with two more joining the family for the 2016/2017 school year. In my own experience, my work as a choral director, band staff member, and theatrical director has provided me with several honorary kids who call me mom. And there is one lesson that has become crystal clear to me over the years – every child/teen needs to know that there is someone in this world who is absolutely crazy about them. Preferably more than one someone.
My sisters and I have discussed – and even occasionally explored – the idea of foster parenting or adopting. I’ve met a number of students over the years who came from homes where mom and dad were too bogged down in their own “stuff” to be there for their kids so these young men and women were starving for someone to notice them, challenge them, push them to be better. I’ve discovered this world is full of kids who just need an adult to care enough to call them up to be the best possible version of themselves!
Right about the time my sister, Becki, found out she was pregnant with her first, I wrote this song. Yes, it was mostly for my biological children. But it was also for all of those I’ve sort of “adopted” over the years who needed to know that someone cared and was taking them before the throne on a regular basis. It means that the prayer list for “my kids” is getting pretty long but I’m okay with that!
The inspiration for the chorus of the song came from the Old Testament story of Hannah. She wanted to have a son but had remained barren for years. During a trip to the temple with her husband, she begged God for a son and promised to give the boy back to God. God heard her prayer and answered it with a resounding yes. After she had weaned the boy – most scholars figure he was about 3 or 4 – Hannah took him back to the temple and left him there in the care of the high priest.
“For this child I have prayed,
I have knelt before the Father,
Placing all my hope and trust in him
I set my heart on things above.
And now I know he heard my cry
For I have seen his answer
In this precious life before me
A priceless gift of love.”
I Samuel 1:27-28
“For this boy I prayed, and the Lord has given me my petition which I asked of Him. So I have also dedicated him to the Lord; as long as he lives he is dedicated to the Lord.” And he worshiped the Lord there.
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.”
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.”
I would like to tell you that recurring themes show up in my songs because I’m really good at focusing on concepts until I perfect them. I would LIKE to tell you that but I’d rather be honest. The existence of recurring themes in my songs is due to the simple fact that I can be a little hard-headed when it comes to learning lessons.
“Only in You” is a reminder that joy comes from exactly one source – my relationship with my Heavenly Father. Period. When that relationship is being nurtured, inner joy is palpable. When I am setting aside time to be with my Abba my sense of purpose is well-defined and the next step is crystal clear. It’s when I start worrying about what others think, when I allow my focus to be misdirected, that I find myself struggling. I start to doubt my calling and purpose. I start to second guess what I’m supposed to do next.
So this song draws my focus back to the ONLY source of joy and the only being able to confirm my sense of purpose. It’s that simple and that difficult.
I find my greatest sense of worth
In the presence of my King on bended knee.
You will make known to me the path of life; In your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. ~Psalm 16:11
My sisters and I are all Michigan “born and raised” but we have all ventured to live in other states at various points in our adult lives. Currently, hubby and I are in North Central Iowa while the middle sister, Becki, and her two boys are in Richmond,VA (my parents live with her as well) and the baby sister, Andrea, lives in San Antonio, TX with her hubby and their three kids. Becki also lived in the Dallas, TX area for a while and it was during that time that God used her to inspire a song.
This was in the days before Skype or FaceTime or social networking of any kind. We relied on emails, “snail mail”, and phone calls. During one of our weekly (most of the time) phone calls, we discovered that, in a spiritual sense, we were walking down similar paths. Both of us were learning about our true identity as children of God. There were a number of times when one of us would talk about a realization or a new understanding and the other person would respond with “Oh my gosh, me too!”
At the end of one such conversation, Becki told me she was going to email me a poem she had recently written, sort of a way for her to capture the lesson in a concrete way for when she needed reminding down the road. I opened the email and read the poem. Before I was done, there was a melody line running repeatedly through my head connected to a specific line she had written. So I emailed her back and begged her to let me turn the lyrics into a song. With a couple of small tweaks – mostly for rhyme and rhythm – “Welcome Home” was born. For reasons I won’t go into here, the parable of the Prodigal Son is a family favorite and this song captures that story from the father’s perspective – the idea of a loving father waiting and watching for his child to return home. No judgment, no conditions; just unbridled love, restoration and healing.
The concept of being God’s cherished daughter has been a powerful one in my life. So much so that I bear a tattoo that says “Daughter of God” in Hebrew. The chorus of this song has been a balm in the rough spots of life and the fact that my sister and I had both had a hand in “birthing” this one is special to me.
“Welcome home, my child, I’ve been waiting
I’ve been watching and I love you
Let me fix your broken pieces.
Won’t you let me carry you?
My child, you’ve been gone away so long.
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet: and bring the fattened calf kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.” And they began to celebrate.
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.
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!