How God Partners with the Composer and Songwriter

A year and a half ago a friend of mine asked me this question and I have been thinking about it ever since.  How does God partner with the composer and songwriter?

Electric Guitar Bridge

I’ve been writing music since I was a kid.  In high school I had lots of black and white composition books chock full of lyrics.  I was into heavy metal and I had rock-n-roll lyrics for everything.  My writing had all the fine literary style of a high school student high on emotion and experiencing the world for the first time.

I don’t know what happened to those books.  I think I may have thrown them away.

When I got to college I studied music composition as well as poetry composition, and in the 12 plus years I have worked in churches I have done quite a bit of arranging for everything from choir to rock band to orchestra.  In the past five years I have once again started writing pop and rock worship songs in addition to writing classical music and poetry.

I have a real passion for setting the written word to music.

So how does God enter into the songwriting and composition process?

Idea 1: God enters into the songwriting process through his creative image in you and me.

God is creative; he created everything.  He is the ultimate creative power.  Part of the evidence that we are created in the likeness of God is the fact that we can create new things.

For the longest time I thought as Solomon did, that “there is nothing new under the sun.”  This idea led me to a very defeatist line of thinking:  “What’s the point?  I’m replicating things that have already been.”

Solomon was wrong.  He was depressed.  If I met someone in that state of mind I would send him to a psychiatrist.

There are new things under the sun every day.

Not long ago I heard Erwin McManus of Mosaic say in relation to this passage of Scripture, “I am quite certain that the wheel was brand new at some point in time.  In fact, I think Jesus walking on water and rising from the dead were pretty new.”

When we create something new we are demonstrating the image of our Creator God.  Even someone who does not know Christ can be extremely creative and, without knowing it, express the image of God through what he or she creates.

God enters into the songwriting process by the fact that we are made like him: to create.

Idea 2: God enters the songwriting process through our minds and preferences.

When we begin to create something new there is always a nucleus of a thought, an idea that takes hold in your mind.  When that idea takes hold in your mind and catches your attention like never before, you have just experienced a taste of God working through you.

God makes new things out of nothing.  He spoke the world into existence out of a void.  He spoke the sun, moon, stars, and all things into existence out of nothing.  God breathed life into man; without God we could not draw a breath.

In the same way I believe that without God we could not think a single original thought.  When we express a new idea or thought God is revealing himself through us as Creator God.  He is using our preferences and abilities to give fresh expression to himself.

Partnering with God

We have been talking specifically about composing and songwriting, but, in reality, God partners with human beings in every single creative activity in exactly the same way.  Sometimes we twist the pure ideas he places in our hearts, and other times we hear clearly and express his ideas well.

Before you begin the day, thank God for what he has done and ask him to guide your thoughts and ideas, actions and motives.  During the day, when you begin a new project or a meeting, ask God to partner with you.  Ask him to create something out of nothing through you.

How have you seen God partner with you creatively?

The Best Way to Kill a Creative Genius

Tell him there is “nothing new under the sun,” as Solomon says.

If you grew up in church you may have heard this phrase quoted many times like it is the words of Christ. It’s not.

In fact, Solomon was quite possibly depressed when he wrote it. When was the last time you allowed a depressed person guide your life?

This quote got to me throughout my life until recently. I grew up in church and I believe the Bible to be God’s Word, so everything in it must be something to live by, right?

Wrong. Some things are simply true accounts of what happened for us to learn from. This quote from Solomon is a case in point.

The quote comes from Ecclesiastes, where Solomon struggles to find the meaning of life. He finds it 12 chapters after this quote.

Last fall, at Willow Creek’s Global Leadership Summit, one of the speakers spoke at length about all of the things since Solomon that HAVE been new.

Like the resurrection.
Like Jesus walking on water.
Like computers.
Like the fact that I am writing this post on an iPhone.

After a bit it begins to sound ridiculous that I ever took this quote to heart as anything more than a true description of a soul struggling through dark days.

I’ve been there, and it sure feels like nothing special is going on when I’m there.

But there are special things going on.

Like the book you are writing.
Like the new song you are writing for your church.
Like the new backgrounds you are creating for the new series at your church.

Like your life. It’s never been lived before, and you get to bring it to life.

There is something new under the sun, so don’t let the depressed and negative people in your life distract you. In fact, don’t let them in your life at all. They’re not worth it.

Go do something new just to spite them.

Stuff that in your pipe and smoke it, Solomon.

What new thing are you going to do today?

Embracing Change

Several days a week I work in masonry with my father’s company, Fran Overholt, Inc.  This week as I was laying block, another mason on the job commented that he preferred to do things the way he was taught rather than to change.  Evidently at one point another mason had tried to show him a faster way to do something, but he refused to do it; the way he knew was preferable to change, even if the change would have made him more productive.

Several years ago I was the worship leader at a church that had two styles of worship – traditional and contemporary – and it had been that way for about 15 years.  The leadership decided we should do an experiment and lead one style of worship during our five week purpose series.  Needless to say, many people from both styles struggled with the decision.  Leading worship during those five weeks, and particularly during the first three, was more difficult than any other I had ever experienced in worship leadership up to that time.  Knowing that people in the congregation were angry and possibly even resentful towards me and the leadership over the song I was leading at that moment was brutal.

Prior to that experiment I had always said I liked change.  I liked to do new things and experiment.  I still do.  But I have made one small change to my statement.  No longer do I simply say I like change; I now realize that I like change only when I initiate the change.  Ever think about that?  Some people do like change regardless of it’s source, but I would wager that the majority of people only like the change they initiate.

When I made that realization, suddenly I had a lot more compassion and understanding for the older members of our congregation who were struggling with all of the changes.  Suddenly I found that I was often just like them, struggling with the change that someone else initiated without my consent.

I like to think that I interact with the older generations in a completely different way than I had before that change, and I like to think that I am much more honest with myself.  Yesterday I talked about learning to know yourself; well, this was a big step on that path for me, and it keeps me thoughtful when I am proposing changes.

Proverbs 3:13 (ESV) states, “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, .  .”  Wisdom and understanding do not come to us naturally or by some bestowment from God.  We have to seek wisdom and understanding.  “Blessed is the one who finds . . ., and the one who gets . . .”  We must choose to accept and learn from change, to remain teachable.  God made Solomon the wisest man who ever lived, but only after he requested wisdom and understanding to lead Israel (2 Chronicles 1:7-12).

To dig deeper, read this post by Michael Hyatt: The Primary Difference Between The Wise And The Foolish.

How about you?  How do you respond to change?  How do you remain teachable?