WRITING SONGS AND CHRISTIAN MINISTRY
One of my hobbies has been playing guitar and writing songs. My parents gave me my first guitar when I was quite young. I remember playing in early elementary grades. I remember (I hope correctly) that my Mom had written a song that was recorded on an old 45 rpm record. One of the first songs I remember playing and singing was “Bye Bye, Love” by the Everly Brothers although I was too young to understand the meaning of the song.
I remember my first guitar lessons (my twin brother Jimmy learned with me) given to me by my barber. He could show me guitar chords but at that time I did not learn to read music or pick notes from a song sheet. I think I was in the third grade. It was about the time that Bobby Vinton’s song “Roses are Red” came out — 1962. I remember because one time my barber called the radio station to play that song for us on the radio. I lived in Eufaula, Alabama at the time.
My family moved to Port Austin, Michigan in the summer of 1962 where we lived for a few months while my Dad, who worked for General Electric, worked on a military radar site nearby. We lived in a house right across the street from Lake Huron where my brother and I played a lot of ball in the yard. It is during this time that I had a guitar teacher who taught me how to play single notes by reading the notes on a musical score. I do not know when I wrote my first song but it was during my elementary school days. All of my songs were love songs. I do not know how many I wrote but I would hazard a wild guess that from elementary school through college I wrote 20 to 25 love songs. I have kept a few of them. I wrote lead sheets. I only scored one of my songs among all of those. The tunes were in my head but the lyrics and chords were put down on paper. After that time I never had any formal guitar lessons. I did participate in choral music in 7th and 8th grade and learned more about music that way. What I picked up though came from jamming with friends and just learning on my own. One of the best gifts my parents ever gave me was a 12-string Yamaha guitar which I use to this day even though it is 40 years old. It was my high school graduation present.
One strange thing is that I wrote one “Christian” song before I became a believer. I became a Christian in 1974 but a short while before that I wrote a song about Jesus which I still have. I think I was seriously searching at the time and wrote what was in my heart. After I became a follower of Jesus, the music I have written has been Christian music. However, I did not write much for a long time. When considering going to seminary, I also considered going into music ministry of some kind. However, I went the pastoral route which I don’t regret but I have always enjoyed my music hobby. But the focus on biblical studies put music way in the background.
Music emerged in a major way two times in my ministry later. First, I became the volunteer music minister at my local church when I was at Dallas Seminary (Texas) as a student. I served in that capacity for over three years. It was a traditional setting: piano, organ, choir, and hymns. I actually was the pastor of the church for most of that time as well. Second, in the church I started in Scranton, Pennsylvania in 1998 (New Life Baptist), I became the praise team leader. This was more contemporary although not wildly so. We had guitars and sometimes piano or keyboard and sometimes other instruments. I did this for several years. This is the time when I wrote most of my Christian songs. Most of them were written for congregational singing. Our church was started among the poor and we had some people, especially in the early days, who could not read very well. So we tried to get some theology into their hearts and minds through music when they had trouble with reading.
From this experience, I took our Praise Team, which we named the New Life Singers, to a studio in Scranton to record some of my songs. We had three or four guitars, a flute, and a piano. We had five singers. Although none of us were professional, a few of those with me were quite talented, far beyond my ability. But we had fun and I can say that my songs are from the heart. We put the songs on a music CD entitled “No More Tears.” My Dad makes copies for me to sell at conferences and churches where I sometimes have the opportunity to teach my songs to those present. I have presented the list of the songs below with a description of each of them and a link to the lead sheets and commentaries on the songs which will be forthcoming. For a couple of the songs, I have provided the actual recording from the CD.
01 – The Warrior Lamb — Lyrics & Lead Sheet — Commentary
This is a song that may be my best one musically. It is a reflection on the Second Coming passage in Revelation 19. I was motivated to write the song by a cultish group that was trying to get people to take the book of Revelation out of the Bible because of its harshness.
02 – A Little Child Will Lead — Lyrics & Lead Sheet — Commentary
This is a song that is a reflection on Isaiah 11. A couple of the phrases in the song come from Isaiah 9 & 12 but most of it comes from the teaching of Isaiah 11 understood from a literal, dispensational point of view.
03 – My Jesus, You Are the Son of God — Lyrics & Lead Sheet — Commentary
This song may be the most theological of all of my songs. I have taught that the term Son of God for Jesus is used in more than one way in the Bible–I list four. This song has four verses, one verse for each use of the term “Son of God” and in the chorus all four are brought together. It was meant to teach some Christology.
04 – The Greatest Promise — Lyrics & Lead Sheet — Commentary
This is my favorite of all my songs and among many others who have heard my music. It is a reflection on Revelation 21:1-7 and opens with thoughts on my favorite verse in the Bible — Rev. 21:4.
05 – Till I Come — Lyrics & Lead Sheet — Commentary
This song is a reflection on the Lord’s Supper. It focuses on many aspects of it but highlights the fact that it is to be done until the Second Coming.
06 – Tomorrow is My Home — Lyrics & Lead Sheet — Commentary
07 – Spirit of God Who Dwells in Me — Lyrics & Lead Sheet — Commentary
On the CD, this song is sung by four young women on our praise team. The song is an attempt to summarize some basic biblical teaching about the Holy Spirit’s ministry.
08 – Forever Life — Lyrics & Lead Sheet — Commentary
This song teaches and celebrates the doctrine of eternal security. When someone gets saved, they have eternal “forever” life.
09 – Better Than the Best — Lyrics & Lead Sheet — Commentary
This song is a reflection on the book of Hebrews and its basic theme. This song is more like the mountain music that my parents grew up on and passed on to me to some extent. Some say that all of my music has an Appalachian flavor. I don’t know about such things, but I thought about Mom and Dad and their heritage when I wrote this song. They are originally from the Appalachian mountains in southwestern Virginia.
10 – The Warrior Lamb (Revisited) — Lyrics & Lead Sheet — Commentary
This is the same song as the first one although the mixing of it in the studio is different emphasing more the back up singers.
11 – The Greatest Promise (Revisited) — Lyrics & Lead Sheet — Commentary
This is the same song as the first one of this title although the mixing of it in the studio is different emphasizing more the back up singers.