Fallin’ is the first track of my latest album, “Potter & Clay”. This is appropriate, I think, because it seems to me that confession - honest admission of where we’ve been, where we’re at and where we hope to go - is a necessary starting place for healing in our lives, and the record definitely reflects a healing journey, moving through the rest of the songs. It was written at a cabin on Lake Winnipeg, summer of 2015, inspired by life events and a phrase I was familiar with...
Words of confession come up in liturgy every Sunday at my church, as we make our way toward the communion Table - “for things done, better left undone”…the phrase has always struck me. My life is not without plenty of regrets - things I’ve said I shouldn’t have, and things I’ve done that I wish I hadn’t. There are things I’ve outright failed to do. Things I find impossible to do. I believe what “unlocked” so much of “Potter & Clay”, was being able to admit that. It became a starting place, not a conclusion, though, and this is really important.
Too often, religion makes confession feel more like an “end”. It comes, perhaps, after a long period of avoidance or outright denial, perhaps even because of some outside influence, chastisement or conviction. FINALLY, we confess. We end the struggle and surrender. We admit our wrong-doing. For God, though, it marks a beautiful beginning. When we come to the end of ourselves, it can feel as though we are falling, but we are falling into what the song describes as “arms of mercy”. These are arms that carry us beyond the point of confession, into the way of grace - grace that covers ALL regret, that absolves, and that illuminates a new path to walk in. Confession is also not “the end”, because, undoubtedly, we will fall again. And again, again, again. And, again, arms of mercy stretch out to catch us.
God fully knows we fall, yet invites to come close. Still, I have spent so much of my faith-walk avoiding closeness with God, because of my regrets, and, ultimately, my shame. When I felt that I had fallen apart in way more than a couple of areas of my life, I don’t even know that I had much strength or will to reach out to God, but, rather, I was met, exactly where I was; I was mercifully caught up, broken pieces gathered, and cared for. I can’t even explain HOW that all happened, but I can say, that being a middle-aged divorcee with a music career overshadowed by life circumstances that took me under and nearly took me out completely; heart-broken, depressed, hopeless, childless…Well, that was a starting place. Now, to have a this record, let alone a baby? I could not have imagined it, even just a couple of years ago. This is surely a work of mercy and grace in my life, all glory to God.
To view and listen to the lyric video for "Fallin'", click HERE.
Song Story - HOW LONG
In Psalm 13, the question arises: "How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?" We all hit those seasons of life that we think may not end. They can be riddled with self-doubt, and even doubt in God's love and care for us. In Christian circles, we often refer to this as "desert time".
I never doubted God's existence, but I did come to wonder if I had any right to ask anything of God anymore. It felt futile; I felt bombarded with news about women going missing in my city, the refugee crisis, economic downturns, weather-related catastrophes...Even with a vocal injury and not being sure I'd ever sing again, even without a family (and specialists running the tests that would confirm the "impossibility" of that), even with dreams seemingly dashed (no career and no family at middle age, and having made more than a few missteps), my problems seemed so very small, and God seemed to have a rather full plate.
Above all, it was a distance that I felt from God that was most disturbing. I had belief in my head, but my heart was wounded and felt like a lifeless place. I believed God was (and is) God, and I believed God was good, but was God still good to me?
I would ask this question, and realize that I was asking it with a roof over my head and food in my fridge...But what I think the question was really asking was if God still saw me individually, with the secrets of my heart, the dreams, and the disappointments, and would God ever bring me the desires of my heart.
So, when read these words in Psalm 13, they resonated.
I wanted to write a song about this questioning and longing that would be free from an obligation to wrap up the story in a neat little bow, with desert time over, lessons learned, and a nice Christian catch-phrase, because, in the thick of it, those songs, at least for me, don't always help. I wanted a song that would fully embrace the experience - all of it, and use the question as an almost chant-like prayer, to emphasize the sense of endlessness: How long, how long, how long, how long?
So, I wrote "How Long" in this way, giving myself permission to let it be what it became. Ironically, it was written when I was coming out of this particular season, and beginning to hope again. The studio recording was very gratifying, as Murray helped create the perfect arrangement.
Finally, I have learned that God's intention is not to leave us in the desert, but to lead us through. It can just take more time than we want it to, perhaps. I've also learned that yes, God is still good to me, and to all of us as individuals. My work is to do a better job of holding that as true the next time I find myself in desert time. I hope this encourages you, especially if you find yourself in that dry and doubting place.
To listen to "How Long", along with lyrics, click HERE.
Song Story - ONE TINY PRAYER
I had long felt that I needed time “set apart”; that I was being asked to spend time songwriting on my own…I needed to get into a space where I could hear, and not be distracted. Usually, my summers found me in Nashville, songwriting and visiting dear friends, but during the Spring of 2015, the sense of “calling” to something different was getting louder and louder. A catalyst conversation with Steve Bell was very timely. Shortly thereafter, I was at his studio, singing back-ups for Alana Levandoski’s wonderful project: Behold, I Make All things New, and I asked the question:
“So, what would you guys think if, instead of heading to Nashville, I rented a cabin somewhere here in Manitoba, and wrote some songs on my own?”
The resounding cry was: “We want cabin songs!” (Well, it wasn’t that dramatic, but it was clear that there was ample encouragement for the idea)
I cancelled Nashville plans, and rented a remote cabin. I chose a place with no wifi, spotty cell service (and, it turned out, spotty phone service period) – a cool looking cabin on Lake Winnipeg, far enough away that I couldn’t be tempted to “pop into a store” in Winnipeg, or head home if I was bored or uncomfortable.
I arrived the last week of July, at dusk. The brush path heading to the structure was somewhat overrun, and the ground very moist from rain. There were mosquitos everywhere. The cabin design was amazing, but it was too far from the lake to see it, and set amidst tall, overbearing trees. The key wasn’t working with the lock on the door…and, worst of all, the cabin was covered in moth cocoons.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a “city girl”, and that I am terrified of moths. I have that irrational fear, complete with the flailing arms, ridiculous reaction if a moth is fluttering nearby. I loathe insects in general, but moths? Ugh.
“What. Have. I. Done?”
I wanted to cry. All of the doubts that had been my constant companions for what seemed like ages closed in like a thick fog: Who do you think you are? You can’t do this? What a waste of time and money. You’re all alone. Nothing good will come of this. You should have gone to Nashville, and at least had some fun.
I had to make some decisions then and there. I had to dig deep, pull some mind-over-matter with the moth-thing, think on my feet, and get to a mosquito-free zone fast. The owner owned the cabin next door, and had offered that I could go in if there was anything I needed, so I went in and found some WD-40. It worked for the lock problem…I hauled all of my gear (keyboard, amp, guitar, luggage, groceries) down the muddy path. I quickly opened and closed the screen door and managed to keep the mosquitos out (mostly)…
And I decided that, whatever the outcome, I would honour the time. If “Holiness” means to be “set apart”, then I suppose I dedicated the time as “Holy”. I also decided that I would write two songs every day, and that I would not edit them…I would allow whatever needed to come, to come.
“One Tiny Prayer” is the first song I wrote that night. It was pitch black outside, and I sat looking out into the darkness, and went right to the centre of my fear. It went beyond a fear of bugs or of failure; I acknowledged my doubts that God still heard my prayers, and that I could even be significant enough to be heard. I acknowledged how very fragile I felt, but that I was waiting for God: “This fragile heart, waits in the dark, for You”. I had to strip my heart right down. I think now that the duress of that cabin actually took me to a new level of vulnerability – that the exposure I felt viscerally exposed the vulnerability of my heart as well. In the end, this was very good for me, as I wrote the bulk of “Potter & Clay” over that week…
Even those of us who have been walking with God for years can reach points where we wonder if we’re heard; where we feel like the answers just haven’t come. Or, perhaps we feel overwhelmed by the needs in the world, and that our own needs may not be worthy of prayer. But God, who calls us into relationship, does hear, and will answer. We may not understand it, but it’s true. Keep waiting. Keep praying.
(Thankfully, the incubation period of moths is much longer than the time I was at the cabin!)
To listen to "One Tiny Prayer" and view the lyrics, click HERE.
Song Story - LET THE SILENCE SPEAK
I used to do it too…fill the awkward, silent space of someone’s grief. Dig for appropriate words, when no words are appropriate, really. Never having experienced a miscarriage, or even a desperate longing for children, I fumbled when faced with other peoples’ pain in this area of life.
Then, it became my pain – mine and Scott’s; loss, heartbreak, longing, feelings of inadequacy, hopelessness, anger – deep grief. Suddenly all of those things that I had said to others rang so very shallow, and I understood something: sometimes it’s best to say nothing at all. Not, “How far along were you?”, or “Have you considered adoption?”, or “It just wasn’t meant to be”, or – worst of all, as I fundamentally DO NOT believe this - “Everything happens for a reason.” (As much as I know people mean well – heck, I did – this one incites violent thoughts from my otherwise non-violent self).
I had reached what we refer to as “middle-age”, work in the music industry had all but dried up completely, and we were told our chances of successfully conceiving and carrying a baby to term were next to zero. I have endometriosis, my eggs are considered “old”, my hormone-levels not conception friendly, had losses, and then there are the stats – oh, the stats. So, there I was staring down the rest of my life, childless, with a fruitless career (I felt), little prospects for making money (make money in music? Ha!) and having not built anything significant for a resume – I felt cornered into nothingness, meaninglessness, insignificance.
Add to that the growing realization that nearly everything in our society is built around kids and family. I’d even had a woman nearly spitting in my face telling me how selfish women are who don’t have kids, or who choose their career as their focus. (Funnily enough, people who constantly ask the childless couple about kids don’t seem to consider whether or not they are able to have them.) At every family gathering, we were the ones left out of most of the conversations – our siblings are in the throws of childrearing, after-all, and grandparents (understandably) mainly want to spend family time ooh-ing and aah-ing over their grandkids. It was painfully isolating.
What to do with that pain? Cry out? Did that. Beg God? Did that too. And, eventually, after another loss (ironically, on a writing trip in Nashville), I just went numb. I wasn’t prepared to talk about it with people. The loss of my voice had already been my main narrative, and I just didn’t want to add to the “Jaylene as victim” story. Nor did I want to deal with the anger I might feel, hearing all of the thoughtless-though-well-intentioned comments from people close to me or otherwise. Graciousness can be particularly hard when we are hurting, and I didn't want to hurt anyone else with a curt response. So, I held it close.
So close, in fact, that I didn’t even know what to pray anymore. Just grief, questions, anger, hurt…
The night before I left for the cabin to write what would become “Potter & Clay”, I discovered I was pregnant. It must have been a supernatural strength that allowed me to feel hopeful that it just might work out. I didn’t tell Scott, but carried it with me – a secret – into my creative space. I held my breath, and then a smile would sneak in and catch me by surprise. I mean, “next to zero percent chance” is what we had been told by a second specialist just weeks before. I felt the weight of the grief I had been carrying as palpably as I felt my “maybe, just maybe…”, and I knew that if I was really coming to the cabin to face myself, my pain, my life, and my God, I was going to have to try to address this experience. I felt so cautious about it, not wanting to write a song that would, in anyway, minimize someone else’s painful experience. But I also felt somehow, that through everything, God was carrying me, and, in fact, will carry all of us. I felt that my silence had actually been precious to God, and profoundly understood. I felt compelled to say: let the silence speak. More than anything, I wanted to write a song that would be sensitive to the subject, and bring comfort – comfort in knowing that even when there are no words, God hears us, sees us, holds us as we grieve.
I hope some of that was accomplished.
To listen to the song and view the lyrics, click HERE.
For a studio performance of the song, with Jaylene accompanied by Murray Pulver, click HERE.
To purchase a download of the song, click HERE.
Song Story – FIND US
“Find Us” is a song that almost didn’t make the album, but I’m so glad it did. Murray convinced me that it’s musical oddities were actually cool, so I ran with that (because he’s pretty cool!). It’s based on Romans 8:35, 38-39. The verses declare, essentially, that nothing can separate us from the love of God. This truth is also reflected in Psalm 139 verses 7-12:
“Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night’,
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.”
The lyrics, however, speak to these verses in a round-about way, from the perspective of those of us who feel the weight of our sin, sorrows, struggles…Who arrive at a place where we feel we can’t approach God, or be in God’s presence. We hide away, as if we could hide from the Creator.
“We are lost” is a line that I struggled with, but ultimately decided to include. See, I believe that the Christian has been “found” ultimately…This is the essence of the Gospel message. We were “found” at the Cross of Christ, with the saving sacrifice made there. But when I examined my thinking around being “lost”, it came to mean more to me than what the revival tent preacher might refer to as “lost for eternity”.
We are lost when we aren’t able to dwell in the grace and mercy afforded us. We are lost when our thinking leads to bitterness. We are lost when our spirits aren’t at peace. We are lost when our grief becomes more than we can bear on our own. We are lost when the weight of failure overrides our hope for the future. We are lost when we can’t seem to shake a destructive behavior. It is my belief that even though we are “found” in the spiritual sense, we all experience “lostness” as part of the human condition, at various times in our lives. God’s heart, though, is not for us to cover up, or hide away until we get, or FEEL, "unlost" enough to be loved. Rather, our sense of loss or being lost should be the very thing that drives us to that Great love.
We long to be found. We long to be seen. We long to be acknowledged. We long for absolution, for healing, for peace. We long to be valued. We long to be loved. We long for God. The song, ultimately, is an earnest cry for the verses mentioned to prove true. In my experience, they do, time and again.
“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8: 35, 38-39)
To hear the song and view lyrics, click HERE.
To hear/view an acoustic live studio performance of the song, click HERE.
To purchase a download of the song, click HERE.
Song Story - POTTER & CLAY
I’ve written and talked about this song quite a bit. What’s been interesting is that I keep discovering new thoughts about this metaphor – things I hadn’t known or considered when I wrote it a few years ago at a church retreat. It continues to surprise me, as I uncover layers of meaning.
I love the idea that God is an artist. I wrote about it in a song called “Wonder”, released in 2004, and revisiting it felt good. God seems close to me somehow, as I relate to the delight there is in creating something. With “Potter & Clay”, there is a dual perspective, with God as Potter (artist), and me as clay (the artistic work). There is also a very deliberate acknowledgment of human vulnerability:
“I am flesh and I am bone
From the earth and to the earth I go…”
The chorus is one of surrender to the goodness of God, who holds our souls safe. This is what made it a perfect song to place halfway through the album. I had come through so much pain, my vulnerabilities and incapacities, my failings all exposed. I didn’t even have words to pray anymore. So, my prayers became this: “God, I don’t know what to pray anymore. I’m angry, hurt, disappointed, and You feel very far away.” By God’s mercy, I slowly started to emerge from that space, and the lyrical declaration of safety in God’s hands, and that God finishes and completes a work in us, in me, began to feel more and more real again.
I also chose the song as the title track, because, for me, the entire body of songs on the album represents a spiritual and artistic reformation – one that happened as a result of surrender – being molded, like clay. As I said, I hit such a low, and it went on for quite some time. Career-wise, I felt stagnant and stalled…I felt I had nothing of value to offer. This turned out to be the starting place. What I might have thrown away, God, the Artist, saw, and said: “Wait, I can do something with that!”. Again, mercy and grace were extended to me such that I began to feel hopeful again, and feel a strong sense of calling to write songs, on my own, about my struggles and my faith. It began to feel so urgent that I felt I would be disobedient to not heed it. Ultimately, the songs I wrote returned me, decidedly, to the world of “Christian music”, and to sharing in an authentic, transparent way that coincides with my faith story. I love writing all kinds of songs, and I hope to do so as long as I live…But, as an artist, I feel compelled to mainly write and sing about what God has done and has brought to my life. So, titling the album by this song seemed very fitting, as I returned to my roots.
I mentioned “layers of meaning”…one such layer came from a book that was loaned to me by the fabulous Faye Hall, as artist herself who works at Signpost Music. The book is a devotional of sorts, written by a potter. In the opening pages, she writes about something that is amazing to think about: A potter gets very dirty with the clay. In fact, it’s difficult, even impossible, to get all of the clay out of the pores at the end of a day in the studio. There is clay in her hair, even…it’s everywhere. What an amazing thought! God, who holds our souls safe, who sees a finished work to be completed in us, who relishes in the joy of creating, gets right into the muck of us, clay deep in the pores…What an intimate thing. It’s hard to see God as distant or sterile when thought of this way.
To hear “Potter & Clay” and view the lyrics, click HERE.
To purchase a download of this song, click HERE.
Song Story – PRAY, PRAY AGAIN
"13 Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. 14 Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. 17 Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest.” (James 5: 13-18 NRSV)
The song “Pray, Pray Again” was inspired by this passage in James 5. I wrote it for liturgy at saint benedict’s table, though it was also a “cabin song”. Clearly, James had strong convictions about prayer, and strong faith that God hears us, and answers us. Whatever the circumstances, he wrote, pray.
I can tell you that I have never prayed more than since I’ve become a parent. I am often plagued with anxieties – rolling around in my brain are all of the various things that could happen to my kids. The only way I find to battle these thoughts is to turn them over to God, night after night. The thing is, we are prompted to pray when we are hit hard by life. Even people who don’t profess faith find themselves praying when times get hard or desperate.
But I remember, at a very low point, wondering what right I had to pray about anything. My life was relatively good by comparison to people all over the world. Even though my heart ached, my motivation died, and my will waned, I was ever aware that there are people who suffer in ways I doubt I’ll ever know. In this, I forgot that prayer is as much, maybe more, about relationship than it is about getting answers. With encouragement from some spiritual elders, I began to start the dialogue from exactly where I was – emotionally, spiritually…Confession: God, I wonder if You even hear me anymore. God also, mercifully, heard cries in my heart that I was unable to utter.
Perhaps more challenging to those of us who walk with God is to offer prayer as a “sacrifice of praise”…the sacrifice of a pause in hectic lives to thank God, to acknowledge God’s attributes, to express words of confidence in who God is and the many ways Divine faithfulness has been shown in our lives. To thank God for answers that have come, and for answers still to come. This kind of praying may not actually be as instinctual to us as prayers of desperation, but I wonder if it is actually more powerful. Expressing gratitude and praise to God builds our faith and confidence; it changes our outlook, and it seems even science supports this. (see link: http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/in-praise-of-gratitude)
As far as songwriting and process go, this song came very quickly. I wanted it to have, at least, a very sing-able chorus for my congregation and for future audiences. The chorus also gets stuck in the head – a good reminder to pray, pray again, wherever we’re at – God will answer us, even if the answer is not what we expect, or takes longer than we’d like. It was a treat to get to record it for “Potter & Clay”, and to have Joey Landreth feature on it with vocals and dobro. There is also a neat little surprise for those who buy the album, with a short recording of the audience at my album fundraiser concert singing along.
Whatever the circumstances – pray. Pray, pray again. And let’s remember to thank God for hearing and answering us, for we are heard, and we will be answered.
To view a live acoustic performance of this song, click HERE.
To purchase a download of this song, click HERE.
To download a FREE copy of the chart for this song, click HERE.
Song Story - THIS LITTLE LIGHT
As a child, I used to sing a lot of the time. I drove my sister crazy with songs from the musical “Annie” (EVERY Saturday morning), and sang most anything else too. Music came out subconsciously, randomly, naturally. It wasn’t even that I needed people to listen to me. Oddly enough, whenever I had an audience, I could get rather shy.
One day, in middle school, a girl who had a penchant for nastiness, mocked me in front of a large group - for singing. She declared I must think I was pretty special, or better than other people, or…Well, who knows what she said exactly. What was implied was that I was singing because of pride; to show off.
I was humiliated and mortified. Her words were far from true, but based on my own insecurities (how do bullies know?) and my fear of what others were perceiving (however false), I stopped randomly singing. If I caught a melody escaping my throat, I stuffed it down. Self-consciousness reached a whole new level, and in stopping the singing, my very nature - at least how I expressed it publicly - was dulled also. It wouldn’t be long afterward that the bully and a gaggle of girls I’d called friends decided to shun me for an entire school year. They cited some other offences that I don’t really remember anymore. Sigh.
In looking back, I wish that I had laughed her off, that I had sung more loudly, that I had stood up for myself in some way. If there is a spiritual Enemy, whose primary weapons are deception and fear, I was dealt some heavy blows, as are many kids…as are all of us at some point, perhaps.
And so, those of us who don’t take a rebellious tack, carry on trying to be appropriate, to be “cool”, to be liked. There is such self-focus in this, and much is lost when it happens. Beauty fades into carefulness and caution. We risk the wonder and potential that is uncovered by unabashedly being who we are; in the subconscious, innocent and childlike expression of our true selves. I’m not referring to being obnoxious and unaware of others entirely, but, rather, about an innate confidence that focuses outward, rather than a crippling self-analysis that keeps the world from our God-given gifts.
Fast-forward to an adult life riddled with wrong turns and embarrassing choices. Oh, there have been some mountaintops, to be sure, but some dark valleys, too, that swallowed me up. When middle-age hit, and I had no family, no voice, no money-making career…when my motivation to do much of anything was lacking and I daily sought the numbing ease of my couch and the TV remote (reading other peoples’ social media posts and feeling like such a failure!) Well, deception and fear were hard at work. The idea that just a few years later there would be two babies and a Juno-nominated record? Impossible.
I’ve written before about how God’s grace has carried me through. I also believe fervently in being honest about where we’re at. “This Little Light” tells a story, and offers a confession. I confess: I hid away - afraid of failing, of looking ridiculous, of feeling small, of being accused of things that were not true. I confess that I hid my “light” under a heavy blanket. As steps were made toward releasing a new project, that blanket was lifted. It was a remarkable thing to experience. Thanks be to God.
Now, I refer to “light” as “gifts”…in the book of Matthew, it refers to “good works”. So often people tell me they have no gifts, no talents. I don’t believe that! Regardless, we are all called to good works, whether by using some talent that society elevates (like a musical gift), or by doing the less popular thing - perhaps it’s a good work of compassion, that sits with a grieving friend; perhaps it’s a monetary gift that will help to lift someone out of a bad place. Whatever good work is set before you, I hope this song encourages you to let your light shine, and to not allow self-consciousness to hold you back.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before others in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
To hear this song and read the lyrics, click HERE.
To purchase/download this song, click HERE.
For a FREE DOWNLOAD of the chart for this song, go to PraiseCharts.com.
Song Story – LET MY HEART BREAK
It was at a GMA Canada conference workshop called “Worship and Justice” that it really hit home – JUSTICE is the heart of God. It is one of the most mentioned things in the Bible, actually. It’s clear that God would have justice for the poor among us, the orphaned, the widowed, the abandoned, the marginalized, the rejected, the hurt, the abused…How can we know, love and worship God, but have no eye toward, or effort behind the cause of justice around us? I don’t think we can.
The song asks that my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God, inspired by something former President of World Vision, David Toycen, similarly said. What is my heart broken for? Is it broken enough to actually DO something? Would I eschew my own sense of personal and spiritual safety, and forget that without God’s gracious intervention, I too am an orphan and a wasteland in need of rescue? To look away from injustice – to not challenge my privileged posturing or allow it to be challenged – is to forget the grace and love that has been poured into my own life.
It seems to me that the work of the Gospel is not actually about having the right point of view, or being in the “right” political camp. In fact, I don’t even think it is about moralizing. True religion, according to Christ whose name the Christian bears, is caring for widows and orphans, not beating anyone over the head with our own take on scripture. It’s about humbly, daily, walking with God, and serving where we are called. It’s about doing whatever is within our power to “do justly” and “love mercy”, and with that – to hear what God would say to us in quite specific ways.
What does God want me to see? What is breaking God’s heart today? Who am I called to speak for, who does not have a voice? Who am I called to stand with? Who am I called to embrace with the welcome of Jesus?
This song story has been the hardest for me to write because I am so far from where I need to be in this area. I get weary and I don’t want to hear about any more hard things. But I read recently that a sign of “privilege” is to be able to step back from the ugliness of the world…Some people have to live in that ugliness every minute of every day. They don’t have the luxury of a “pause”.
“Let my heart break with the things that break Your heart
Let my mouth speak for the needs of all the poor
If I forget Your love for me
Or turn away from what You’re wanting me to see
Let my heart break
Let my heart break
Oh let my heart break”
To listen to "Let My Heart Break" and view lyrics, click HERE.
To purchase a download of "Let My Heart Break", click HERE.
To download a free chart for this song, visit PraiseCharts.com
Song Story – LORD OF ALL
This is one of the more “hymn-like” songs I’ve ever written, and one that came in pieces. It was finished at the cabin, where most of the songs for “Potter & Clay” were written. I’ve said that it took a long time to write because I was on a journey of surrender for a good, long, while. In truth, I still am.
For me (like most people, I think) it was easy to praise God when things were going well – when there were victories, big and small. I’ve learned, though, that I tend to hide away when “storms” hit me, rather than draw close to God. I mean, I’ll shoot up prayers of desperation…but draw close, as to a friend? Take shelter? Comfort? I’m still learning how to do that, and it might take significant time on a counsellor’s couch to figure out why. Maybe a still-not-completely-shaken image of a judging, withholding God from my childhood associates the pain of my life with some sort of deserved punishment. I marvel at people who can consistently, with utter confidence, feel lavished by God’s love and grace, and who don’t share the burden of my old paradigms.
God is God, and God is good. I’ve never doubted that. But was God, IS God, still good to me, personally, when I’m in the mess of life? I believe that too! But our emotions, MY emotions, get the better of me sometimes.
It can be tempting to ask: Is God still good to me personally if I experience tragedy? If I’m in physical pain? If I lose everything to theft, to the economy, to natural disasters? Is God still good to me if I’m grieving? It certainly doesn’t FEEL that way sometimes.
This is where falling back on memories of what God has brought me through in the past, and relying on what has been revealed about God through Christ is good practice. The writing of this song was, in a way, a form of this practice.
A friend once said to me, “God is outside of time. We see things in finite, linear ways – it’s all we can do. But God sees the beginning, the middle, the end.” Being that God has our good in mind (a biblical promise) I can lean into this – God sees my good end, and is bringing me there, whatever the current circumstances. Remembering the ways God is, and has been good, helps to shift perspective. Might I even praise God in the midst of the storm?
“Lord of All” is a declaration perhaps more than anything else. God is God – sovereign Lord of All. God is good, the maker of all, eternal wisdom, “clother of the lily fields”, sustainer of all life. And God is good to me – “Love that never let’s me go”. Whatever the circumstances, I can lean on the Lord of all, who loves me, and who is the “author of the endless story”, bringing me, ultimately, to a good end. My prayer is that you can take this truth as your own as well.
To listen to “Lord of All" and view lyrics, click HERE.
To download “Lord of All”, click HERE.
To download the chart “Lord of All”, visit PraiseCharts.com
Song Story - REST IN ME
Ironically, I am writing this song story at a time when it is especially fitting to say to me, "Rest in God". It's a phrase that always bothered me, growing up in the church. How did a person DO this? I mean, anxiety, troubles, anger, grief - these are all real things, and can feel overwhelming. So, when someone would say to me, "Rest in God!", I found it very frustrating. What did that LOOK like, really?
When I was at the cabin, I spent some time in the Psalms every day. I came across this expression of resting in God yet again, and took it to prayer. I asked for some insight. Then, I took my guitar down to the lake, and the song poured out. It doesn't offer concrete answers, per se, but definitely offers a direction for my thinking - things to "chew on"...
"There is nothing to be done." How often do I busy myself to the point of numbness to avoid things I'm worried about, even further compounding my problems? Can I learn to be still enough, to stop "doing" so much, that God can actually move me through my fears, my pain, my grief?
"Open up your heart, and let your dreams run wild." What a concept! I actually smiled when this line came...What if I could trust SO MUCH in the faithfulness and goodness of God, that I could actually dream DURING the stressful times? What if I could allow my mind to wander into good places, and to let visions of what "could be" take precedence in my mind? What impossible things could I set myself free to imagine, when I feel tightly bound by my fears? For, with God, all things are possible...
"Let this comfort be enough...I am with you when it's hard, I could never give you up." God is God, and God is good. God is with us. God will not let us go, but pursues us with perfect love. Can I allow that love to be enough for me? Usually, when I am in a tailspin, I seek every earthly comfort I can (morally) allow myself...Could I trust, rather, that if I reach out, God will comfort me in ways beyond my understanding, and ways far more profound than a TV show marathon and several bags of potato chips? (*TV show marathons are no longer possible with wee ones, but potato chips? Well...)
Anyway, the song poured out, but another verse was needed, which I wrote on the spot in the studio...the last verse. There's a tenderness to that verse (Little dove) that is deliberate. How can we rest in God unless we believe the Hands that hold us are gentle with us. The lilting "ooos" of the song are also meant to highlight a lightheartedness and innocent trust - an easing of burdens, believing in God's great affection and care. May we all be and feel so free and safe, held by such Great Love.
To listen to "Rest in Me" and view lyrics, click HERE.
To download "Rest in Me", click HERE.
To download a chart for "Rest in Me", visit PraiseCharts.com.
SONG STORY – I Won’t Be Frightened Anymore
This is a song I wrote for a concert – I wanted something everyone could sing, and sing easily. It ended up being one that I sang with my congregation as well, at saint benedict’s table.
There’s something pure about a cappella music. Voices have nowhere to hide. So it’s fitting, for me, that the message of this song is sung unadorned. It’s a declaration, but one that is meant to build confidence as much as express it.
The truth is, I DO still feel frightened. Anxiety and stress get the better of me sometimes. My “what if” questions tend too often toward the negative. But scripture tells us that “perfect love casts out all fear” (1 John 4:18). If only we could grasp how deeply and perfectly we are loved by our Creator God.
So, this song is meant as a declaration of determination to not be frightened; to hold on to the promise that we are loved, and that we have no need to fear. And if God loves us perfectly, it follows that peace and mercy are ours as well.
I have to admit that I was chuffed to include it on my album. I sang a lot of a cappella music in high school, and had some of the best times of my life. “Potter & Clay” is a journey of songs, through desert and doubt and pain, to faith and a renewed trust in God’s sovereignty and love, no matter what the circumstances. It seemed fitting to end that journey with this song.
To listen to "I Won't Be Frightened Anymore" and view lyrics, click HERE.
To download "I Won't Be Frightened Anymore", click HERE.
To access a vocal chart for "I Won't Be Frightened Anymore" visit PraiseCharts.com.