Sometimes in life we can stop, look around, and ask ourselves, "How did I get here?" This series of posts is a recap of what led me to record an album called Songs from the Mount and is a tale about how divine inspiration always and in all ways happens surprisingly.
In early Spring of 2014, as I was in my last semester at Duke Divinity school, I read a statement in something I was reading that struck a chord in me and sent me down a new path in my life calling and work. I can no longer remember exactly what I was reading or what it said, but the basic gist was that,
the world would be a better place if more people took Jesus' Sermon on the Mount seriously.
That thought made me stop and try to remember that famous sermon that Jesus spoke on a mountain a couple thousand years ago, but I realized I didn't know it as well as I should. At that point, I felt that I should make it a priority to spend some time with the words recorded in chapters 5, 6, and 7 of Matthew's gospel account.
This was around the beginning of the season of Lent, which is traditionally a time to take on a spiritual discipline or practice and/or give up something in order to draw closer to the heart of God. So I decided I would focus on these 3 chapters of scripture during Lent 2014 to give it the time it deserved to work in my heart, mind, and soul.
That first day, I began by reading the first 12 verses of Matthew 5, the beatitudes, where Jesus addresses those who are poor in spirit, who are mourning, who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, and so on, and he calls them blessed. As I continued reflecting on this image of Jesus standing on a mountain speaking to the crowd, I envisioned those who heard this, especially those who fit these descriptions, perking up as they received this unexpected blessing. They are not the ones our world calls blessed. They are the ones the world pities. And yet Jesus says, "You are blessed!" Remarkable.
After this morning reading, I hopped in the shower, which is the place where divine inspiration tends to happen for whatever odd reason. That was where I began singing the chorus of the first song on the album:
You are blessed and highly favored by the God of all creation...
I quickly got dressed and began writing the rest of the first version of the song "Blessed." It was only after that song was written in a spurt of creativity that I set my next goal: to keep writing songs with these words as I read them. This would continue my goal of spending quality time reflecting on these words. By putting them into songs not only would it help me connect with and memorize the words, but also allow me to express the emotion evoked from meditating on the importance of these words. I gave myself the season of Lent as a goal of completion.
The next surprise was that it only took me about 2 weeks to take these 3 chapters of scripture and to turn it into 16 songs.
That never happens. Maybe for others who are far more gifted at songwriting than I am have done this, but for me, that amount of creativity and songwriting to completion absolutely just does not happen. It had to be that I had tapped into something greater than me. I had discovered something and connected with something that moved me and moved in me to create.
These songs were a product of my own desire to connect with these words, to internalize them so that they would materialize in my own life. This was me working out my own salvation and connecting with the source of all creativity. Nothing helps me connect with the Creator more than using my own creativity in songwriting. It was wonderful and beautiful and the experience itself was worth the time and effort to make songs out of these powerful words.
But this was just the beginning... Read part 2.