5 ways non-songwriters can be part of the songwriting process

So last post we tried to determine if there was a chance that you could be a songwriter. Whether you are a writer or not, there are ways that you help songwriters in their endeavours.

1. Encouragement. There is a lot of music out there, and some really good sounding music. It’s easy for songwriters to say, “what’s the point? There is already so many good songs out there better than mine.” The fact is, that each movement and church are in different places in their journey. We need to sing the songs that our communities of worship can connect with that the Lord has been stirring. Only those in the community can communicate that. Encourage your worship leaders to keep writing, tell them that you want to hear the songs the Lord is speaking over your community.

2. Feedback. This is a tough one. Sharing a song in a community is a very vulnerable thing for a songwriter. Often they won’t even ask for feedback because they are just trying a song out and will adjust afterwards. So don’t give unwanted critical feedback. If the writer needs feedback, chances are they have some “go to” people that they have built a history with in getting feedback. However, If you hear something you really liked, say positive things to encourage them and tell them they need to do it again! You can also offer to give more feedback if they want that (because sometimes they don’t have “go to” people or haven’t thought about getting any). I will share some parameters to giving feedback in another post.

3. Space and Time. Like any creative process, songwriters need inspiration. Maybe you have the ability or resources to send them somewhere to get inspiration. Maybe you own a cabin or have access to a facility that would get them in a creative environment or at least a different environment to get inspired and get away from the usual distractions.

4. Connecting/Community. Ask them about how things are going. Go for coffee. You will never know how you can support them unless you ask them about it. Also, how will they get to know the heartbeat of the community and those around them if they don’t get to talk to people. If they are suppose to write the songs that the community needs to sing, they probably need to be in community. It’s also a good way just to encourage them and let them know that you value what they do. You can also offer to keep them accountable if they are having trouble reaching their songwriting goals.

5. Lyric or Melody-Co-writing. These are the two components to a song, but sometimes songwriters get stuck in a rut in either one of these. Perhaps you are a gifted poet or maybe you have melodies running through your head all the time and you do not necessarily have both to be able to put a song together. Maybe you should see if one of your fellow songwriters wants to try co-writing with you. It doesn’t hurt to ask and you might be able to bring a lot more to the process than you think.

These are five of my ideas. Can you get creative and think of any other ways you can join in the process of songwriting? I would LOVE to hear them!

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How non-songwriters can be part of the songwriting process P1

So you have come to terms that you are not a songwriter, but you value songwriting for the church and believe that the Lord wants to use it to impact His kingdom?

Well, first off let me ask the question, “Are you sure you are not a songwriter?”. Maybe you just need a little bit of direction or help along the way. Have you tried writing with another person?

Perhaps you’ve written a dozen songs and all of them haven’t gone well and you end up discouraged. If this is your experience, then you have already experienced what would be considered normal for those that would define themselves as songwriters.

The fact is that when you are first starting out in songwriting the quantity matters more than the quality. I’ve heard it said by a prominent worship leader/songwriter once that if you want to write a good worship song, you have to write 50 bad ones first. It’s difficult, often discouraging and hard to stay motivated, but if you want to be a writer you just have to get the first 50 behind you.

I could see how this would be discouraging for someone just starting out, 50 sounds like a big number. Fortunately, when I first heard it, I had written well over my 50, and it resounded with me because, from experience, I agreed with his statement. Of course, there will be some usable material in the midst of it and you may even get a few good ones in the 50, but at least you have a standard you know you could use to help you determine if songwriting is for you. Of course, that is an arbitrary number, there are other things to take into consideration like getting help, defining what a good song is, musical ability, natural talent ect…)

Think of it as an artist painting, how many pictures does an artist have to create before it resembles something even close to a nice painting that you would want to put up on your wall (mom and dad’s fridge doesn’t count). It is no different with songwriting, you just got to start writing and writing often. There are tools along the way that will help, and I will be happy to share them with you, I’m hoping to start something that can build a community of worship songwriters that will help and encourage one another. Stay tuned for that.

The fact is, everyone has a story to tell. Songs are a great medium to do that. Seeing things from different perspectives helps us all to grow. So what’s your perspective? How do you view things when you look at the many aspects of life? What melody can capture these emotions and moments surrounding your perspective?

Ok, for those that have read through all that and you are still convinced that you are not a songwriter, as songwriters especially in the Prayer movement there are a few ways that you can support us…and I will give you my list of them next blog post.  In the meantime, if you are still unsure about your call as a songwriter…be sure to read this previous blog post of someone that did not consider themselves a songwriter but ended up impacting history. Read it here….

What has your experience been in writing songs? Have you had to do the 50? Does that seem overwhelming? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Caedmon’s Hymn

I did a lengthy 6 month study on songs in the night. If you want to hear more about it, be sure you are on my email list. Here is one of the stories that I cam across during my study:

There is a fascinating story about one of the most famous songs in the night that came out of the mid-seventh century. Saint Bede, a monk and the one known as, “The Father of English History,” tells us about a man named Caedmon at a later date known as Saint Caedmon. Caedmon was a shepherd or herdsman on a piece of land that sat between and belonged to two monasteries (one for men and one for women) known as Whitby Abby along the hills and carved out cliffs of England’s Northern Sea. The abbey was built by Saint Hilda whom Bede describes as a skilled teacher and administrator, full of life and zeal.

Caedmon was already well into his later years. The story goes that the monkswould often have party or feasts in the evening to have fellowship and a celebrate various occasions It was common for there to be a lot of singing at these feasts. Even though Caedmon was simply a stable hand and not a monk, he was often invited and present. The monks would take turns singing songs as the harp was passed around, each monk taking his turn to sing a song.

Caedmon would watch as the harp was passed along and the monks would sing the songs effortlessly with zeal and joy. Caedmon

however, would not be so joyful. He was an illiterate stablehand that did not know how to sing. It’s not that he could not carry a tune, but he knew no verses, he knew no songs, he did not know the proper prose in which to recite the songs and he felt inadequate in the midst of the other skilled monks. When Caedmon saw the harp being passed around, this was his cue to leave the party, he was embarrassed and ashamed that he could not participate in something that seemingly brought so much joy to everyone else. Surely it was very disheartening to leave during such a joyous celebration because of lack of ability.

However, there was one evening that ended a little differently. Of course, it started all the same; the monks were all having a good time fellowshipping with each other, enjoying the meal, and then it came time to start the songs. Caedmon’s his heart sank. Someone picked up that harp and started singing, then proceeded to pass it around. Caedmon then slipped out quietly, avoiding embarrassment as he usually would. He made his way to the barn to check on the animals (which was in his mind was a good excuse for leaving the feast), he managed to get a little too comfortable and drifted off asleep in the stables.

While sleeping, a man appeared to him in a dream. While history does not tell us who this man was, I would venture to say that it was Jesus. The man calls him by name and says, ‘Caedmon, sing me a song.’ Caedmon then replies, ‘I do not know how to sing. That is why I am here and left the feast because I do not know how to sing.’ The man says it a bit stronger now, ‘Nevertheless, sing me a song!’ Caedmon now a little fearful realizes that he’s not going to win this argument then concedes, ‘what should I sing?’ The man commands, ‘Sing to me about the creation of all things.’ Then in Caedmon’s dream, he begins to sing a song that he has never heard before, and in fact, no one has ever heard it before. It came out of nowhere as he opened his mouth to give utterance to the man’s command to sing!Caedmon then awakens from his dream sprawled out in the smelly barn surrounded by animals, but something is different. This was no ordinary dream, Caedmon remembers everything! He is able to sing the song perfectly from the dream, the words and melodies have not left him. He then finds that he has the ability to add more to the song, so he begins to sing more words and remembers those as well. Not only is he now singing and composing songs, he seems to have the incredible ability to not forget them as he sings them. Caedmon is overwhelmed by this gift he receives in the night and he goes to the alderman (his boss) and tells him about what happened to him. The alderman was astounded and immediately sends Caedmon to the abbey to recite the songs and tell his story to Hilda (the bosses boss). Hilda was also astounded of what was given by God to this lowly shepherd. Hilda calls in a bunch of elders, scholars, and teachers then asked Caedmon to sing the song again and to tell them what happened in that night. The anointing that poured forth from the songs of Caedmon has them all completely convinced that it was given a gift from God in the night.

Now they need to make a decision on what to do with the gift. How are they to move forward with a stablehand who was already well into his years? Can he write more of these songs? Is there more to this gift than one song in the night? Perhaps a test is in order. They tell Caedmon, “go write more songs and then come back”. Caedmon goes to his home and with little effort continues right where he left off, he starts creating more verses to the songs.

Caedmon returns to the abbey to recite his new songs. Again astounded, those that heard his songs reiterated that he was given a gift from God. Caedmon keeps writing new songs and sharing them with those in the Abby. Hilda became a big fan of Caedmon’s songs, it was not only a gift given to Caedmon but to the whole abbey and Hilda wanted to see Caedmon flourish in what God has given him. Hilda exhorts Caedmon to leave behind his life as a stablehand, living and working for himself, and step into the service of God by joining the order of monks.

Caedmon humbly accepts the assignment and Hilda directs Caedmon into the hands of the monks. The monks were given orders that he be taught the scriptures and the things of God. Caedmon had a profound ability to retain all this information and write it on the tablet of his heart by turning scripture into song. His songs became profoundly important, so much so that Caedmon’s songs ended up becoming some of the regular hymns sung by all the monks of the abbey. Many learned the scriptures, stories, and theology through the songs of Caedmon.

When Caedmon had received his dream, he was instructed to sing about the creation of all things, the beginning. This was where God wanted him to start, the songs that came after covered scripture from front to back. He sang about Moses, the mercy of Christ and His suffering on the cross, the defending of the Holy Spirit, God’s return and judgment of the earth found in Revelation and about the eternal glory of the heavenly city.

Caedmon was known to continue in the service of God. The lifestyle he chose: serving God, learning the Word and writing songs, gave him a burning desire to see the laymen turn from their sin and come into the knowledge of God. God used a lowly herdsman, gave him a song in the night, which is now known as the oldest surviving piece of English literature.

Have you had or heard of any similar experiences to Caedmon?

Adapted from Bede’s translated Account of Caedmon’s Hymn

Songs of Heaven

When you enter the heavenly scene, like when John entered the door that was standing open you will hear songs. You will hear thousands of saints and angels singing heavenly choruses before the throne. This is the response for those that are in the presence of the living God. Psalm 100 says, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise”. The prophet Isaiah said, “the redeemed of the Lord will enter Zion with singing”. Entering heaven is synonymous with singing.
When I meditate on heavenly things I always come back to the Lord’s prayer, “Let your kingdom come, and let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. If what is done in heaven is God’s will that He wants to bestow to us on earth, does that not mean the songs being sung there right now are available to us now?
We don’t usually struggle with spoken prophetic words right from scripture, but would we ever dare say that a song we sing was a song from the throne room in heaven? I find it interesting that there are countless songs declaring the Revelation choruses sang in heaven, “Holy, Holy, Holy”, “Worthy is the Lamb”, “All blessing, honour, glory and power” (to name a few). Yet, I don’t think we actually believe that we are joining the multitudes in heaven when we sing these choruses. In reality, when we write a song from these choruses found in Revelation we have actually accessed what is being sung in heaven!
In Revelation 5:9-10 we are given a glimpse into what I understand is one of the biggest co-songwriting sessions ever. The 24 elders who are before the throne in heaven begin singing a new song. The most powerful worship songs are birthed in a place before the throne gazing upon him.
David accessed songs from heaven
Psalm 40:3 “He has put a new song in my mouth…”, Psalm 33:7 “…You shall surround me with songs of deliverance”.
David recognized that God was giving him new songs to sing. It is fascinating that even to this day we are using the words from David’s songs to create new songs. The best songs we can write are the ones that come from what’s given to us in scripture.
The angels came down to earth with their heavenly song upon the birth of Christ singing, “Glory to God in the highest…” The fact that the angels went to the shepherds in the field feels significant to me. The most prominent songwriter in scripture spent many years in the shepherd fields, songs that were inspired and became the very Word of God that thousands upon thousands of songs have been written from. Even the non-Davidic Psalms were either inspired or delegated by the Davidic order of worship.
Jesus validates the Psalm book by not only quoting it, Jesus was singing them -(see Matt 26:30. Scholars suggest, Psalm 113 and 114 would have been the songs they sang).
God is still looking for shepherds after His heart that will sing the songs of heaven.
We need to have a higher vision for the songs we write from scripture. I believe there is an invitation to access the sounds and the songs that are being sung in heaven. A good way to start would be to simply start singing the Psalms when you read them (you can do this whether you are a songwriter or not). Let me know how it goes.
What song has been consistently impacting you lately?

The Bestest Dad Ever

The Bestest Dad Ever

When my children discover a new talent or master something that they haven’t been able to do previously, they will come to me excitedly and ask me to watch what they are doing. It’s been a few years since my seven year old discovered it, but it still makes me laugh and smile when he spins his arm super fast like a windmill. I remember when he first started doing this, he thought it was one of the most difficult tasks for the average person to perform. When he was in first grade, my wife and I had to lovingly convince him that it might not be the best idea to do this at the school talent show.

My kids don’t come to me and expect me to criticize their new discoveries. They don’t expect to be punished when they try something new and mess up. They don’t expect me to chastise them for bothering me. They expect me to give them my full attention. Sometimes when they know I’m distracted, they place their little hands on both my cheeks and turn my face in the direction they want me to look. Since this actually works, why wouldn’t they do it? When they have my attention, they seek my praise for their accomplishment no matter how small the accomplishment may be. They expect to hear words of affirmation, to see astonishment in my facial expression, and to know that I am proud of them.

If an imperfect, loving father like me can respond to his children this way, how much more can the perfect, loving Father God show interest and delight in His children? He is not removed from the heart of a father; He defines the heart of a father. He sets the bar.

We can find great joy in understanding that our Audience of One is also our Father. He longs for us to approach Him as children, and He longs to relate to us as a father. The same way the Father loves Jesus is the same way Jesus loves us.

No matter what age we are, if we had a father in our life, many of us can recall times when he either attended or missed an event we were involved in. Why is this so ingrained in our memories? What is it about the father’s presence and approval that affects us so much? Even if there were hundreds of people at the event who enjoyed our performance, if our dad didn’t show up, it didn’t matter who else was there.

The absence of a father has a deep and lasting impact on a child, but our Father God has our constant attention and attendance. He never misses anything. Our Audience of One is always present and is waiting for us to delight Him.

Excerpt From: Johan Heinrichs. “Audience of One: Discovering Ministry to God.”