The last song I wrote before the season of darkness closed in and I lost my words was appropriately titled 'Will You Love Me In The Winter?' It was my finishing flash of inspiration for the Level Ground project in 2010 and then the songs stopped. Disorientation set in. Listening to that song later I realized that I knew what was coming, yet even so, I wasn't ready. (Who signs up and is ready for a season of suffering?) Even though I didn't feel like I was ready, God, like a good shepherd was preparing the way ahead of me.
I have often said in my songwriting workshops that we need to write the songs before we need them, so that when we need them, they’re in our repertoire giving us the words that help us through. If you are a writer or a creative of any type perhaps this is a good question to ask yourself; what do you need to create now before you need it so that when you need it, it’s there waiting for you?
Looking back on 2010, I believe that God was preparing me, but that doesn’t mean I felt His presence in the ensuing years because for the most part I didn’t, yet somehow, I made it. Much of the credit and one of the main reasons I have a new collection of songs is the steadfast support of my wife Joyce. She started believing in me when I was 15, which culminated standing face to face exchanging our wedding vows at 19, and she believed in me still when I approached my 50th birthday in 2015 having almost lost my faith in God, the church and my belief in my own creative calling. Side by side we went through this winter together, giving each other support and space to process, change and adapt. Now that spring has arrived again, we are still together side by side. We have new hope. And we have some new songs, songs that we believe will serve and encourage you. Even though these songs sound like me (I guess they should; I wrote them!) they are not primarily about me. They are about Jesus, the One who has ‘Scars On His Hands.’ You are not alone. You are loved. God believes in you and wants you to know that your life is a blessing to the world. These songs are also about our shared humanity, the joys and sorrows of walking by faith and living a life of love.
On the other side of this long hard winter I don't have answers. I don't know why this season happened, nor do I have any clarity why the winter had to be so long. But I do have one thing.
I remember the day when I told Joyce that I was even able to thank God for someone at the centre of the conflict that triggered this relational winter - because it was this pain that drove me to the lament Psalms. Lament is one of the biblical doorways to joy and emotionally healthy spirituality. In the end, everything belongs - even the hard circumstances and the winters in our lives. This is how we become fruitful and how we grow in our ability to relate to others in their suffering.
Today I'm thankful for so many things. The wonder-filled world where we live and the millions of miracles that sustain us every minute. The people that love us and stick with us. The people that hurt us and help us grow in character. The gift of music and all the arts that help us see and feel. The ancient words that help us pray when we lose our words.
I’m also deeply thankful for the artists and producers who helped me shape and fashion my expression of gratitude into melodies, words, sounds and rhythms. I couldn’t have done it without you. Special thanks to Mark Troyer & Stephen J Rendall for being amazing producers, and to all the guest singers and musicians including The SHIYR Poets, Teresa Trask, Brian Thiessen, Loralee Thiessen, Jaylene Johnson, Ryan McAllister, Carly Reirson, & Nestor Rivera & the whole session band at OCL. Thank you for serving these songs.
Here’s my invitation to you: take an hour and listen to ‘Grateful’ from start to finish in sequence. I’m confident that doing so will encourage you on your journey through the seasons of life.
P.S. I’d love to hear from you. What are you grateful for?