Writing a Song – Caleb Miller

I’ve gotten a new guitar, and it has been restrung. It is now time to write the song. When I sit to write a song, I don’t usually have any agenda on writing, it’s more of a private (meaning, just me) session of playing and working through melodic lines in my head. Usually, I’ll try to do this when everyone is gone from the house for a couple reasons. First, I get a little nervous singing something I haven’t written yet with an audience. Second, I get distracted easily by my kids, and wind up playing with them instead!  Once I have the house to myself though, I sit to play. Some people like to craft their lyrics first, and then put music to them, but I like to hear my guitar sing. Often, I will hear a word or phrase come out of the guitar, and that becomes my starting point. Sometimes, I’ll just sing that single line over and over, until it becomes locked in my head.  Then, I’ll put the guitar away. Why? I don’t want to force it. I want the guitar to have the time to teach me the song, and all too often, I try to simply create a lyric that matches. I’ll usually go grab some coffee and keep humming that line over and over in my head.

When I return to my guitar, I’ll change the key or even the tuning of the guitar, but keep playing that phrase. It is now that the song usually begins to pour out – both from my guitar and my soul, singing in unison.  Often I won’t write the song down until this point, and I usually don’t write the chords over the words yet even when I have written the words down.  I still want the guitar to be able to sing its song too.  As a songwriter, I look at lyrics as a product of the soul, and the music as a product of the instrument’s resonance. Once I have what I consider to be the basic song, I’ll put everything away and give it a few days of rest.  I will keep meditating on the lyrics and melody, but I don’t want to get the melody so locked that it can’t grow and change.  When I revisit the song, it gets rewritten and grows into the finished product over the course of many days and often weeks. I even have a couple songs that took more than a year to get the finished version ready.
All of this might seem tedious, but it’s not. It allows the guitar to teach me, the song to form itself, and me to add my heart to it. When a song is all a product of the songwriter on their own, it’s often thin and doesn’t grab the heart of the hearer. When its all a product of the instrument, it might sound pretty, but it doesn’t reach into the soul.

So it is with our gospel. Often, we want to grab a verse or two and begin to just proclaim them on the street corner, usually never having given them time to sing to us in the deep places of our souls.  We spend so much time distracted that we haven’t focused on what they mean, both in their context, and within our hearts. The message hasn’t sung to us yet, and even though our intentions are good, we’ve imposed our opinions over the sound of heaven spoken through the message. We haven’t meditated on the message long enough to let it grow and move and work around in our spirits, and we often force a lyric in the form of “witnessing” or “preaching”.

If we’ll take a break though, let the message of His grace and love for His children penetrate our hearts, souls, spirits and minds, we’ll find something happens.  The song will pour out from our inner most being. It will come in a wave of love and what we will have will be a product of our own spirit and the gospel’s resonance singing in unison. It is at this point that we must (rather than “starting a ministry”) learn to put everything away for a time. The message needs to feed us, to allow us to grow and learn it from its own mouth. In the book of Leviticus, there’s this little obscure law about not taking fruit from a tree for a period of years, allowing the tree to grow and drop its fruit to the ground.  This might seem odd, but when a fruit tree produces fruit, it uses minerals and vitamins, and that fruit falling to the ground and composting will deposit those minerals back into the soil, feeding the tree. All of this causes the tree to grow larger, stronger, and produce even more fruit.  We often want to chase after the fruit, as though it can bear away from the branches!  When a tree is full grown, it not only provides fruit for the hungry, but shade for the scorched, and rest for the weary.  The message needs time to grow within us before we force feed it to the world around us.  It needs time feed us, to mature us, to grow us, before we can ever begin singing its song.  When it does though, the song will come. It will pour out as a product of healing and grace from the heart of one fed by its branches.

The message can be a product of our souls alone, and it might have good information, but falls flat to the hearer. Or we might speak eloquently, and it may sound pretty, but carries no passion – the kind only found from someone healed by the very message.  But when the two are combined, and a heart that has been healed touches a message that has caused one to grow, the song will come, and it will draw people into itself, singing to them and soothing the scorching of life, giving them rest, peace, and food.

The real gospel will sing.
It will heal the broken.
It will give rest to the weary.

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