These songs fill me with hope, gratitude and awe. My wish is that it’s contagious.
I work, I have a family; I’m busy. The practice of writing, how I write, can be summed up by saying that “inspiration” should be made space for; appreciated and honored with the hard work and time it takes to dredge up what’s deep in your heart and on your mind. When you feel something percolating or nagging to come out- you pay it some mind and give it some time! I always worry that if I ignore the inspiration, it’ll just move on to the next guy and maybe not come back. I’ve had to work too hard for everything to pass up any opportunity for anything, let alone great song. So you go to your desk, close the door and get to work. You may forge something that you’ll have forever. Part gift and part craft.
When I write these days, no matter what about, it can’t help but pass through the filter of faith. It is not by design or intention. It’s never forced. It’s just the way it is. Faith is at the heart of everything. These days my songs are less overtly religious, some even secular but my relationship (troubled or exalted) with the Almighty is foundational: that’s a bell that can’t be un-rung.
At about 30 I found my way to my current church home, Westminster Presbyterian in San Diego, where I’ve worshiped ever since. It’s an open-minded and inclusive place with Jesus’ message of love at the center. My faith has grown gradually, a little at a time over all the years- no thunderbolts or lightning claps.
For the first couple of decades at Westminster no one knew I wrote songs, played guitar or sang because I didn’t. Clark Lampard, a talented musician and songwriter, joined the church and formed our praise band Awakening to bring contemporary music to our service. He invited me to join and I haven’t missed many Sundays since. Playing live every week inspired more songs that, good or not so good, were always graciously welcomed. I joined the choir too which is a good discipline and mind expander.
I can’t tell you where the faith songs come from but I spent many “fallow” years filling up in worship and study before anything ever tried to force its way out into a song. And I’m well aware of the pitfalls of writing songs that tackle issues of faith (and religion) and how much of an automatic turn off that is for so many listeners. But if the gift of a song and something to say comes along, I say it. I don’t give that gift back. And that is the beauty of having a day job- you don’t have to write to sell anything. I’m a Christian but I hope the music transcends that divide to be enjoyed by people of all faiths or no traditional faith at all. Everyone’s welcome in the boat.
After college I was in a roots-rock band living the dream: writing songs, playing guitar (way poor) and gigging locally, and yes driving a motorcycle, black leather jacket and all. In fact, it is a fellow musician from those days who expertly produces my music today and makes me very happy doing so- Sven-Erik Seaholm. So what have I learned from then ‘till now? Turns out I’m not much of a wandering minstrel after all. I like going to work every day, sitting at the same desk in the same office and coming home every night to my family; sleeping in my own bed. I never would have imagined back then but who doesn’t want to be a rock star at 20?
Sometime after my twenties I stopped writing music and put the guitar down completely for over 20 years. It wasn’t a conscious decision. Reflecting back I think it was time to make a career and a life. That was heavy on my mind and I was restless. Everyone needs to find their place in the world, I guess, and the truth is I lost interest for a good long while in writing and playing music. I figured it was gone for good, never giving it a second thought. But after my daughter came along my songwriting sprung back. The first song written with uncooperative fingers, two chords and cracking vocals was about my daughter, aptly named “Super Girl.” One of these days I’ll record it. The floodgates opened and the second wave of songwriting poured forth and is still coming.
So here I am. The rock and roll guy as a happy working stiff; a church Elder, a singer in the Sunday choir (white robe on Easter) and leading the praise band. If you find yourself in San Diego some Sunday morning come join us. Everyone is welcome.
In closing, I’d like to recognize my church family for their encouragement. Their support never waivers, which allows me to take chances in bringing these songs into worship. As you can hear, they are NOT your father’s traditional Presbyterian hymns nor are very similar to contemporary Christian radio (darn it!). But they are what they are and from my heart- always. Enjoy them. And remember, through God all things.