Song Stories

"All is Vanity" Song Story

"All is Vanity" Song Story

I started "All is Vanity" way back in 2011, the first year I began intentionally writing songs from scripture. But, when I went into the studio to record the Blood + the Breath, the song didn’t exactly fit thematically. Years later, I began to see that the new album - what would eventually become a Home & a Hunger - would center on themes of ache and homesickness. So, I circled back to this song and added two things: a last line to the chorus that says “you feel eternity, and it’s beating in your chest. So you know in your soul it’s not all meaningless.” I also added the bridge speaking of restlessness and rest, hunger and fullness....

"Eve's Lament" | The Story Behind the Song

"Eve's Lament" | The Story Behind the Song

One thing I love to do when I write a song from scripture is to take an old, familiar story and try to see and feel it from a specific character’s perspective. "Eve's Lament" is the story of the fall in Genesis 3, written from Eve’s point of view. 

Eve and Adam were surrounded by the beauty of God's creation, untainted by death and decay. Their relationship with God and with each other was perfect, unaffected by the poison of sin. And then a snake slithers into the picture, twisting the truth and playing on their pride.

I'm not sure about you, but whenever I see a snake on TV, I physically feel a creeping, eery sense of danger. So, as I wrote, I tried to include as much "serpentine" language as possible in the lyrics. The melody and instrumentation is also purposefully "creepy" and aching. My hope in this song is that the listener would not only intellectually understand the storyline of the fall, but would feel that prowling menace and the consequent ache.

"Wake Up" Devotional

As I prepare to record a new album, I am planning to publish devotionals and song stories for each of the songs from my last album, the Blood + the Breath. This post is the fifth in that series.

"Out" by  Mandy Thompson  Used with permission.

"Out" by Mandy Thompson Used with permission.

DEVOTIONAL

SCRIPTURE READING: 1 Corinthians 15
Devotional by Nick Smith, Family Pastor at White Rock Fellowship in Dallas, Texas

Few Christians today, if any, would deny the resurrection of Christ like some were doing in Paul’s day – Paul pretty well put that debate to rest with this passage. Our lives, though, oftentimes tell a different story. Even though we give mental and verbal assent to the resurrection of Christ as a propositional truth, we often live more like Epicureans focused on present pleasure than like Christians focused on eternal rewards secured by the resurrection of Christ. We are distracted by the pursuit of comfort and material blessing in this life instead of fixing our gaze upon the eternal glory that awaits us and far outweighs anything this life can offer.

But let’s back up for a second. As Paul says, if this life is the end of the story, then pursuing happiness in this life is exactly what we should do. Instead of following Christ, we should “eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.” In fact, Christians should be pitied. Why? Because following Christ is a call to death that makes no sense without the promise of a greater reward in eternity. And, as Paul’s logic lays out for us, if there is no resurrection, then there is no eternal life and no reason to live for anything beyond the present. Our faith is worthless. There is no Gospel. So, we may as well, like the Epicureans, live it up now, seeking as much pleasure and comfort as we can get. (See vv. 12-19, 32). 

But, if Christ was resurrected, then everything changes. Our faith is not futile. Sin is abolished. The curse is removed. Life eternal is procured. And, living for Christ makes all the sense in the world! As a result, no longer do we need to seek ultimate comfort in this life. Instead, we are empowered to seek first the kingdom of God (Mt. 6:33). Our gaze can shift towards that day when Christ will return and the kingdom of God will be consummated. We do not have to waver in our work for the Lord because we know it is not in vain. No matter what discomfort or suffering or tribulation comes our way as we “work” for the Lord, we know a far better day awaits us than this temporary prelude. We deny ourselves comfort in the present because - in the twinkling of an eye - the trumpet will sound and all things will be made new! (See vv. 20-26, 51-58).

We do not know exactly what the resurrection will be like, but Paul tells us that what is currently perishing will be raised imperishable; what is currently sown in dishonor will be raised in glory; what is currently sown in weakness will be raised in power. Paul is not implying that our spiritual souls will fly away to some ethereal heaven as a non-physical, Platonic sort of being. Rather, our physical bodies will be perfected, raised in glory and power. (See vv. 35-49). Until that day comes, we will undoubtedly struggle in our flesh and be tempted to get distracted by the concerns of this world. We must wage war against these desires, but we need not despair when we stumble. We can rest in the grace of God and pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to sanctify us, waking us up more and more to the glorious truth we find in 1 Corinthians 15. 

So, as we wait for that glorious day, to my slumbering soul that is so quick to wander, I say...Wake up, wake up, listen for the trumpet sound! Live right now in light of the resurrection! For, as Jim Elliot said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

FOR REFLECTION:

  1. What concerns or fears in the present hold you back from living with reckless abandon for God?

  2. Meditate on the truth that one day we will be raised immortal with Christ to live eternally. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. How does that change the way you look at your current life? 

LYRICS

Through one man death it came
Running like a virus through our veins
Sin it comes and takes the reigns
Builds its kingdom on the backs of slaves

Through a second man Adam’s better son
Death it dies, and life it comes
Every power under his feet
Death is dyin’ in defeat

Wake up, wake up
And listen for the trumpet sound
For a dead man rose up from the ground!
Rise up, rise up you dry bones in the dirt
For the Son of God has risen up first!

I tell you this mystery
Death itself will lose its sting
When the dying dress in the deathless life
And we are changed in the twinkle of an eye

Sown in weakness, raised in power
Sown in dust, death and dishonor
Raised immortal, never again to die
Death is swallowed by life 

"Garden": Devotional + Song Story

As I prepare to begin recording a new album, I am planning to publish devotionals and song stories for each of the songs from my last album, the Blood + the Breath. This post is the first in a series of hopefully many over the next few months.

SONG STORY:
written by Caroline

"Garden" contrasts the beauty of creation - the colors, the food, the perfect relationship God and men, between Adam and Eve - with the warped ugliness of the Fall. And, the last chorus begins with the all-important word“but”. Man has sinned, but God promises to breathe life again through Eve's offspring, the One who would crush the serpent's head (Gen. 3:15). So begins the story of redemption.

When I was doing vocals for this song in the studio, I kept singing the bridge (describing man’s fall into sin) with a little too much “attitude”. Josh the producer stopped me and said that my tone shouldn’t be one of anger, but of sadness. After all, I was singing from the perspective of a loving God. The tender way I had been singing the verses (describing creation), should translate to the bridge as well. God wasn’t helpless, but He must have been sad as He watched His creation choose sin and death.The next few vocal takes were so different, even more tender - I was in a totally different headspace.
 

This God - with His tender love for Adam and Eve in their sin (and for us!), with His promise to redeem us through His own Son - this is a God worthy of our worship.


DEVOTIONAL
written by Cheryl Fletcher

Scripture Reading: Genesis 1-3

It begins in a garden. A garden created by God, filled with streams and barrel cactus and Joshua trees and reptiles and cats of all sizes and shapes. An exquisite garden for his image-bearers to enjoy and tend and fertilize. Everything is theirs. But the Creator gives a warning. “You can eat from the 492,000 trees in this place but don’t eat from that one. Avoid it and you will show that you trust me. Eat from it and you will die.” 

But, they had to have what they could not have. And this radiant garden becomes a garden of rebellion. 

But even in this giant failure there is grace and hope. The penalty is covered. There is a promise: One will come who will die in their place. His name is Jesus. Satan might bruise his heel but he will crush Satan’s head (Gen. 3:15; Romans 16:20). 

Jesus will enter a new Garden and rather than rebel, he will submit. 

In the Garden of Gethsemane, the Garden of Submission, Jesus says, “Your will, Father, not mine.” And that act leads to the Garden of Redemption: Calvary. 

“At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid.” John 19:41 

In the Garden of Redemption death is conquered! New life is offered. Resurrection is accomplished. And nothing is ever the same. 


FOR REFLECTION: 


1. In what ways are you most tempted to rebel against God today? Remember, sin is not just actions but also attitudes. 

2. Take a minute and write down a list of the beautiful things God has created, and all that He has provided for us. As you reflect on this list, how does this make you feel about these ways you are tempted to rebel? What do you need to say to God? 

3. Read Romans 8:1-4. What does it reveal about what Jesus accomplished for you in his death? 
 
Devotional by Cheryl Fletcher
Pastor to Women at Christian Assembly Church - Los Angeles, CA


“GARDEN” LYRICS
WORDS AND MUSIC BY CAROLINE COBB (ASCAP)
COPYRIGHT 2013 CAROLINE COBB SMITH. CCLI # 7000071
GENESIS 1 AND 2 (SEE ALSO GEN 3 + 11, EX 32 + ROM 1)

Beauty from void, dark to light
Sun for the day, stars for the night
For you I’ll plant a garden, fill it with light
Food for your mouth and color for eyes, and…

I will breathe into the dust
The breath of life and all my love
And when you open your eyes
You will see and be satisfied
Because I will be with you
I will be with you, I

Fall asleep; I’ll make for you a love
Love like a shield, like a home, like a dove
You are free, but ever enthralled
And I, I will be your all, and…

I will breathe into the dust
The breath of life and all my love
And when you open your eyes
You will see and be satisfied
Because I will be with you
I will be with you, I

Pick the lies right off the tree
Your eyes are opened but not to see
Build a tower to the sky
You think you know, you think you’re wise
Melt your gold down to a god
Sell your soul to pay for your facade
Trade your truth for silence
I’ll let you loose if you want it

But...

I will breathe into the dust
The breath of life and all my love
And when you open your eyes
You will see and be satisfied
Because I will be with you
I will be with you, I

A Song for the Suffering: Do Not Lose Heart

The Story Behind "Do Not Lose Heart"... 
Just a little over two years ago, my husband received a crushing phone call. His dad, Joe, had been diagnosed with the more aggressive onset of ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), and would only have 12-18 months to live. This disease, made famous by the "Ice Bucket Challenge," has no cure and there is no real way to fight it. Your brain stops sending signals to your muscles - even to the involuntary muscles that you use to swallow and breathe. Slowly, your body deteriorates, and you lose the ability to walk, talk, stand, and eat. We were devastated.

On the surface, there is no real hope here: no hope of "overcoming the odds" or getting treatment or fighting the disease. And yet, the Bible says there is a hope. As we looked ahead to the suffering we knew his dad would face, and as I searched scripture for what comfort Joe might have in this hopeless situation, this song began to form. 

Based on Romans 8 and 2 Corinthians 4, "Do Not Lose Heart" speaks about the eternal, unwavering hope we have, even in the most difficult of trials. It is a hope achieved for us by Jesus's death on the cross and victorious resurrection. We do not lose heart, even when our flesh fails and we grow weary with suffering, because we know Jesus - who also suffered - has conquered death and is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all compare. As believers, we have a living, eternal hope that does not change when our circumstances change. 

This was a truth that sustained Joe until his last day. We lost him just this past April, and we grieve his absence. But because Jesus is risen and alive, we do not grieve as those who have no hope. One day, He will return and even death, that last enemy, will be soundly defeated.  

Life has been heavy and hard lately for a lot of people I know, and the world around us often feels chaotic and dark. I pray that this song will remind you of our great hope in Jesus, even in the midst of trial.


"Do Not Lose Heart" was featured on The Gospel Coalition's compilation album When Trials Come: Resurrection Songs for a World of Suffering. I had the privilege of curating the songs for this album, specifically with the theme of hope in suffering and the book of 1 Peter in mind. The album features Jenny & Tyler, Shane & Shane, Sandra McCracken, Jackie Hill Perry, Blair Linne, The Gray Havens, Page CXVI and many others.


This song was made possible by my very generous friend Kevin Cathey, who produced, engineered and played keys on the track. Also generously contributing their talents and time were Rob Antle on drums, Marshall Hampson on bass, Ronnie Jenkins on electric guitar, and Linzy Westman with BGV's.