Behind the Songs of “Butterfly”

Silent Before You
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True story. I try to be good when people are praying – close my eyes and fold my hands like I learned in Sunday School, but sometimes I really wonder what God is thinking when we give him these multiple choice requests (Lord, you could do this, this or that); or when we let him know up front what his limits are (Lord, if you would just do that…); or my personal favorite – when we take on an advisory role with the omniscient God of the universe. In my mind I have this picture of him stroking his beard thoughtfully and saying, “Hmmm – I did not know that” at someone’s stroke of genius … Or “thanks for telling me that – I had no idea,” when another well-meaning petitioner has pointed out the best approach to remedy a sticky situation, or the inner workings of someone else’s motives. When do we ever stop and listen to what He has to say? Do we really enjoy the sound of our own voices that much or are we just afraid of what He might be trying to tell us?  Some of my most earnest – and effective – times of prayer have been those times when I was broken, at a complete loss for words and desperate. Desperate to hear his voice.

All Said and Done
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This song was born out of deep feelings of inferiority: some of them self-induced but others in response to the kind of people I have since come to realize are dealing with their own inadequacies.  I found myself in an environment where degrees, status and power were everything. Thing is, I was the only person in the place who had none none of the above. I remember sitting in a meeting one day after being overlooked, ignored, insulted and dismissed thinking, “Wow! I am in a room full of people who know EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING (pardon my sarcasm) – even the areas I thought were my specialties! Clearly I must have been hired to be the village idiot!” I struggled daily with assaults on my intelligence and self-respect until one day I sat at my desk and cried out to God. That’s when he gently reminded me that I had followed him to that very place, just as I had to every other work place and vocation before – and nothing had escaped his notice. Later on, after he dismantled my pride and set it discreetly out of the way, he brought me to the realization that I was only there for a time and a purpose for as long as he desired and all I really needed to concern myself with was to follow him.  I do. I will. Instant peace – all is well.

Be That One
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I usually try to catch some news while I’m preparing dinner and realized after some time that I was saying the same thing every night: “WHAT is goin’ on?” At first I thought it was funny until it occurred to me that we spend much of our time questioning and  complaining about what is wrong in our lives and in this world … and we fail to get up and actually do something about it.  Whether it’s a lack of conviction, feelings of inadequacy or fear of failure … we are also aware that doing the right thing won’t necessarily make you “Christian or Citizen of the Year” – and definitely don’t win you any popularity contests.  So, am I – are you – willing to be that one (even if the only one) to stand for what is right in the face of fierce opposition and sometimes, pure evil (if there is such a thing)?  Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

Butterfly
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A true story inspired by a little girl’s treasure hidden away in a crayon box, and the lesson I learned about how God works in us; a song for my dear friend and all the beautiful little ‘butterflies’ in our lives.  Interestingly, the song developed in much the same way as the message it conveys when I found an old journal entry 25 years after it was written.  Much like the caterpillar my daughter had tucked away in an obscure place, the journal had been sitting unnoticed in a box of personal effects that had endured several moves. When I found it I wept as I realized how true it was – the message was for me! I am reminded of the story of Joseph and how God kept him in obscurity, bondage and hardship – testing his character until it was time for the dreams to be fulfilled (Psalm 105:18-19).  And the best part is knowing that none of this just ‘happened’ to him but rather, God sent him to that place of isolation ahead of time in order to preserve the lives of others.

If I Don’t Have Love
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This song developed out of a personal Bible study on genuine love as described in 1 Corinthians 13.  As I read the chapter through several times the melody began singing to me. There’s an interesting story about the song’s debut in church – a stark contrast, presented just moments before I was to get up and sing – the contrast between love and hatred; a story of how God gave me the strength and composure to get up and present a message of love in the face of utter contempt and humiliation. I’d like to say there was a happy ending but all I can truthfully tell you is that God brought me through it with His grace and dignity and for whatever reason, decided to use me in a living demonstration of how love responds when hatred rages.  The good news is, I didn’t die (as appealing as that might have seemed at the moment) – but I can never sing the song without feeling that pit in my stomach as all of my being remembers an extremely uncomfortable moment.

Just As Long As I Have You
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This was written for our friend, Nikki, who valiantly and joyfully lived every moment of her life until she was ushered into the presence of Jesus. I can still see her sitting in the balcony at church wearing a brightly colored scarf, face beaming with sheer joy as she watched her children participate in the annual Christmas pageant.  And maybe there was a little coaching going on up there when the three ‘wise guys’ sang! My daughter had recently given me a quote: “Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow is the future, today is a gift; that’s why we call it the present!” I was pondering that as I went to see Nikki in the hospital early one morning. She was in and out of consciousness but smiled and held me close as I thanked her for all she had taught our church family about loving and caring for people. I wrote this song, fully intending to sing it for her when she came home, but the Lord had other plans. So I can remember Nikki and share her story, but Nikki’s singing with the angels, waiting for the rest of us to come home.

Jesus Loves Me
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The story of a little girl’s journey to faith, and the Daddy who led her there.  But the story began long before that:

Once there was a group of gospel singers who devoted their lives to ministry. They came to sing for a youth rally in a small town in upstate NY in the mid 1930’s and one of the church teens invited a friend to attend. Young Leo came to the concert that night and accepted the Lord as his personal Savior. His life was radically changed and he became passionate about reaching other young people for the Lord. So, every Saturday he would drive the country roads and invite young people to Sunday School – even offering a ride if they had no transportation.

One week, he happened to stop at the Whitman farm on Ridge Road. There were several children in the home but at first, only young George accepted the invitation. He was eager to learn about the Bible and before long, he too, accepted the Lord, and his sisters soon after that.  George began studying the Bible in earnest, even doing some preaching as a teenager, and soon answered the call of God on his life. He went on to Bible college, met his bride (who has another wonderful story of God’s grace to a family extending over centuries and across continents), and they served the Lord together for 64 years until God called him home. God blessed their marriage with seven children and this is the story of just one of their little girls.

But the story doesn’t end there in that little country church in Pigeon Roost, Kentucky, for that little girl was me and now my story is part of yours.

Keep Me Tender
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Every time my Dad got up to preach he would pray, “…and Lord, please give me a clear mind and a warm heart with which to teach your Word. But if I ever had to choose between the two, Lord, I’d rather have a warm heart…”  I was always touched by that but as I got older I used to be a little afraid that God might take him up on that proposition and although he did repeat himself a lot in later years (jokes, that is – which we appropriately teased him about), and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when he was well into his 80’s, he never got confused about God’s Word and he always presented it with clarity and a warm, tender heart – 53 years in full time ministry, and many more after that, mentoring pastors and churches wherever God placed him.

Listening to Elvis on the radio one day (you’ll never guess which song), I began thinking about how much his music has influenced our society and our ideas about love. Judging by Hollywood’s perception of love, it really is “all about me” – love me tender, love me true – That philosophy has crept into our churches, too.  Love me, please me, help me – let’s just  be all about me and we’ll all get along! We have no understanding of, and no tolerance for, the depth and sacrifice of genuine love.  But it is the only way we can ever touch the lives of others – by extending to them the selfless, unconditional love that only he can give.

Sometimes In The Dark
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One morning I was reading from a favorite devotional book (Springs in The Valley by Mrs. Charles Cowman), which led me to Exodus 14 – and the account of the Red Sea crossing. What fascinated me was the panic that ensued even after the Israelites had seen God’s power demonstrated time and time again. He had led them with a cloud by day and a fire by night. They complained to Moses and he complained to God, who pretty much told him, “why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get up and get going!”  Mrs. Cowman included this little gem from Matthew Henry:  “The God of Israel, the Savior, is sometimes a God that hides Himself, but never a God that absents Himself; sometimes in the dark, but never at a distance.”

I love that for I’ve had moments in my life when I felt completely alone – despairing of my circumstances and even of the belief that God loved me.  But in my darkest hour, whenever I cried out to him, he always found a way to reach out and comfort me, whisper my name, reassure me of his faithful presence … pick me up, dust me off, and send me on my way again!

End of the Road
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A feeling of panic swept over me as I prepared for my first trip to Nashville to meet with Creative Soul. What was I thinking – saying I’d go down there? I started assembling all of the lyrics I could find – some scribbled, some typed, and others written neatly on legal pads. After I had exhausted all possible options of where they might be hiding, I stared at the dining room table covered with songs spanning several decades. With a lump in my throat I began to talk to myself – half complaining, half praying – “this cannot be for nothing – this cannot be all there is … there must be a purpose. Whatever possessed me to sit down and write all these songs? Why would anyone one do that, Lord?”  I stood there, tears streaming down my face for several minutes as I reflected on all he had brought me through. I sat down at the piano and started singing the chorus … “This can’t be the end of the road …” The first verse came quickly and by the time I got to the end I realized that my musical journey was remarkably similar to the story of the prodigal. Broken once again, I wept as I realized how tired I was of trying to figure things out on my own and that my Heavenly Father was indeed waiting; but not only that, he had been with me all along and was even now preparing the way before me.

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