Last week, I and a bunch of friends and a bunch of mutual friends participated in a songwriting challenge hosted by our friend, Daniel John, called 5in5. We, like beasts, committed to each other to write 5 songs in the span of 5 days, to record them, and to share them with each other. And. We did it.
Because we, like beasts, did it, we and all of our friends and all our mutual friends are still working on getting around a hundred songs listened to. It’s not cool, in that context, to clog up your SoundCloud comments or somebody else’s blog’s comments with all your “stories behind the songs.” This is my blog, though. So, in case anyone is interested, and because I don’t want to forget, here are my 5, and their stories. (Days 4 and 5 coming shortly, since this post got long.)
Day 1: Twinkle (How I Wonder)
“Twinkle” is a song for my future children. I think frequently about them… probably almost every day. It’s not because I feel discontent with where I am now, by any means. I just know that one of the main things I was made for was to be a mother. The fact that there are these people in the mind of God, whom I don’t know yet, whom I was designed to love and pour into, is like anticipating Christmas morning 12,000 times over (times x number of children)!
I usually don’t put a special amount of effort into keeping my songs simple, but because this had to be finished in a day, and because I wanted to go to bed at reasonable time, I really did try this time. I want to adopt, so obviously, that sent my mind in all kinds of awesome directions, complicating my quest for simplicity. Finally, I decided that the best gift I can give any of my future kiddos now is the assurance that however many years before they came to me, I wanted them, and God knew them. My desire to give my kids that gift was the final push that gave me the motivation to write this, on top of the fact that it was the first day of 5in5, and the day after Mother’s Day. (Yeah, it can take a lot to get me moving on something.)
The “Twinkle, Little Star” theme actually didn’t occur to me until a ways into it, and even then I had to Google “twinkle in my eye” to make sure the idiom referred to what I thought it did. Ha ha.
Day 2: I Belong
The first line of the chorus came to me while I was in the middle of writing “Twinkle,” and I jotted it down, thinking, “Hey, that’s a song I could finish.” I don’t know if I’ve written a song before that more clearly shows the essence of my place with the Lord–what He has in me, what I have in Him, how I feel about Him–than this one. I’m very thankful for the grace to receive this song. Pretty much every line is a prayer that I have prayed multiple times to the Lord, with tears of brokenness and affection.
One of my big goals for this summer is to break into the realm of songwriting for congregational use. Since after six years of songwriting, it has become apparent that this isn’t going to just come spontaneously, and since I’ve become more comfortable with the idea and practice of editing what I receive, I’ve been analyzing what makes good congregational songs good congregational songs. Maybe I’ll go more into those thoughts some other time, but I did try to put those observations into practice in writing “I Belong.” I wrote this song under a beautiful, blue sky, on a towel in the middle of what my family calls our “orchard.” (It’s not fruit-yielding yet. It may not ever be.) I made a point of staying away from my keyboard so that I could focus on crafting simple, quality lyrics that fit well into simple, quality melodies. It worked pretty well for me this time.
Day 3: God of Jacob
By the time I got to this one, I had reconciled myself to the fact–actually, got pretty psyched about the fact–that my love for the psalms is going to seep through into virtually all of my songs. You soak in something long enough, and you don’t even have to strategize about communicating it anymore. “Twinkle” was influenced heavily by Psalm 139, “I Belong” by Psalm 84, and this one, Psalm 24.
Oh, yeah, have I ever mentioned how I LOVE the Psalms? I love that the longest book in the whole Holy Bible is a record of the pouring out of human hearts and souls before a high and lofty, yet unfailingly loving and humble God. In the midst of these transactions, we encounter, in truly epic proportions, anger, wisdom, solace, majesty, adoration, anguish, and jubilation, all in historical, immediate, and prophetic contexts. It’s awesome. It’s relevant. Trust me, it is so worth the soak.
So, anyway, on Wednesday, I was going to give myself an easy assignment, because besides working all day (like every other day of the week), we also had a prayer meeting at church, and my throat was getting sore (Aw, poor baby). However, I’m crazy about Psalm 84 and about the life of Jacob, and why God loved him so much. I wanted to explore how these two ideas tie together, why David specifically made a point of calling Him the God of Jacob in that particular psalm. I still didn’t want to do it that day, though, because I didn’t think I could do it well with so little time (I know, I’m such a wimp). Against my will, however, all these phrases started flooding into my head. Then I realized it had the potential to be a fast song. Hold up, now. A good, substantial, fast song?
I have a thing about fast songs. I love them. I love them so much that it bothers me when fastness is used as an excuse for shallowness. (I could also say the same of kids’ songs. Make them simple, people, not stupid. But I’ll leave that soapbox out for somebody else.)
Anyway, again! My church is currently preparing to host a youth conference that’s next month. When I say preparing, that covers about every aspect you can think of. Lots of practical stuff, yes, but we’re also preparing an atmosphere for the Lord to move as deeply as He desires. You should seriously see my teenage friends go at it when we start interceding for this. It will do something to you. Now, I don’t know if we’ll sing “God of Jacob” at this conference, I really don’t mind one way or the other, but I did write it with the Young Church in mind.
We need anthems that not only help us to go somewhere in a meeting, but that also sow something lasting in our hearts, that teach us something about who God is and who we are in His sight. I don’t know that “God of Jacob” does all of that masterfully, but the passion to see those kinds of anthems birthed in the church was what fueled my valiant travail, despite all the daunting setbacks. (Did I mention that I only play piano? Does everyone appreciate how much harder it is to be cool when you don’t play the guitar? How much harder it is to write a fast song?)
I am not a little excited that I’ve now received a fast song. I even hope, one day, to be cool.
…And there was evening, and there was morning, the third day…
(To be continued)