Click above to listen to Grace and Truth, from my first album Walk in the Light. You can listen to and play the CD or MP3 Album or Sheet Music or hear this song on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and more. What do the words “grace and truth” bring to mind? Fifteen years ago this month (in May 2000), I composed my first ever Scripture inspired piano melody. I had been meditating on John 1:14 which reads, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (NIV). Musically, this piano composition features a higher, simple section symbolizing the gentleness and patience of God’s grace, and a lower, big chord section representing the strength and power of God’s truth. I have thought a lot about this song and verse. The following ten ideas to live out grace and truth are from my journey since writing the music fifteen years ago. In the midst of corresponding lures of the world, perfection is unattainable, but little by little, progress is possible. I hope these inspire the story you are living out… Jesus’s Grace and Truth / Lures of the World 1. Love and listen to people first / Judge people without knowing their story 2. Offer grace and forgiveness / Seek to always be right 3. Create more to serve others / Consume more for me 4. Give generously / Store up selfishly 5. Spend strategically (family vacation) / Bank on the future (secure retirement) 6. Pursue childlike wonder and awe / Settle for more seriousness and less joy 7. Practice simplicity and silence / Overdose on busyness and noise 8. Work at solitude and surrender / Join the crowd and be self-reliant 9. Take one step toward God’s big dream / Predetermine big dreams will never work 10. Abide in God’s purpose to receive / Strive for success to achieve Which of these inspires you the most?
What is something new you are working on?
I have been developing Creative Composing: A Master Class with Stanton Lanier. This new online video course is designed to help pianists (and other musicians) grow in their playing, and learn composing techniques. The first class will launch May 1st. Registration closes April 30th, and there is special discounted pricing I am extending through tomorrow, April 1st.
Why I am I launching a new piano master class? Most pianists are like me. They did not major in piano in college, they don’t have a PhD in piano, and piano is not their career (I majored in chemistry, have a master’s degree in business, and spent fifteen years working mostly as a financial advisor). I learned to read music growing up, but I have always composed by ear. Growing in music performance and composing is not as hard as most people think. Below is one of three free videos with some composing tips. But there is more the story…
This dream has evolved from 3,000 pianists in 40 countries purchasing 1,600 piano books and 1,400 individual sheet music songs. When I started piano lessons at age six, and composed my first song by ear at fourteen, I never imagined I would one day be a pianist and composer. Fifteen years ago I first had the idea to create Scripture inspired piano to refresh your spirit™. Music to Light the World was founded in 2004 to offer God’s peace and rest in a hurried world. Today there are ninety compositions, ninety-nine recordings, nine albums, eight piano books, ninety-four sheet music PDFs, and five million people have heard my music in 130 countries. This journey has been humbling, amazing, scary, mysterious and marvelous all mixed together.
My desire through composing, recording, and now teaching, has always been to make a positive difference in people’s lives — to inspire their faith, creativity and calling in their life journey. If you are pianist, please check out the Master Class and all the free bonuses by clicking here. If you know a pianist, please forward this to them to consider. Piano teachers can receive a student group discount.
If you are working on something new that is challenging you to be brave, and to stretch your creativity, I would love to hear about it. Just contact me and I will respond personally to encourage your dream.
In closing, here are two verses that help me keep dreaming and creating…
Isaiah 41:10 (MSG) — Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.
Psalm 37:4 (ESV) — Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Click above to listen to Always in Blossom from the album A Thousand Years as you read. If you enjoy, consider ordering the CD or MP3 Album, or Sheet Music (the song is also on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Pandora, and more).
How do you plan to blossom this spring?
With trees, shrubs, and flowers budding, the wondrous colors of spring will be revealed soon. This is my second favorite season after autumn. You will see this in my April and May posts.
Always in Blossom was inspired by Psalm 1, which contains a few ways our lives can “blossom” more fully — making a positive difference in the world and the lives of others. I added a few inspiring thoughts of my own which align with this theme to come up with what I am calling 5 Ways to Blossom this Spring…
1. Eyes up, knees down, hands open. Gaze upward to heaven, kneel in prayer asking God to bear fruit through your life, have a posture of “open hands” to receive His guidance and blessings.
2. Experiment with random acts of kindness toward family, friends, those you serve, those who serve you, and even strangers. See what happens when you love others with grace.
3. Take good things into your heart, because out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). Speak encouraging, life-giving words to others.
4. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4). If this is hard, ask God to help you delight in Him and His Word. Meditate on Scripture. Use biblegateway.com to search verses, words and topics of interest.
5. Allow the beauty of creation to set your thoughts and praise on our Creator. This is what Saint Francis of Assisi did in 1225 A.D. when he penned words inspired by Psalm 148. These became the great hymn All Creatures of Our God and King (which inspired my song — and blog post about — Alleluias Dancing).
Which one is your favorite to live a more radiant life this spring?
Instead you thrill to God’s Word, you chew on Scripture day and night. You’re a tree replanted in Eden, bearing fresh fruit every month, Never dropping a leaf, always in blossom. — Psalm 1:2-3 (MSG)
Whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither — whatever they do prospers. — Psalm 1:2-3 (NIV)
A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. — Luke 6:45 (NIV)
Today’s post is a short visual and reflective exercise. Watch this video and see if you can find these nine symbols of a fruitful life…
These nine attributes inspire me to live well and make a positive difference in the lives of others. However, I am broken, sinful, imperfect, and in need of grace and forgiveness each day. This newest music video was created to express the wonder of child-like faith, and God’s word to “fear not” and “there is no need to fear” (Isaiah 41:10). However, it also features all nine symbols a fruitful life. Can you find them? These are listed as “fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:22:23…
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
Which one stirs your heart today, to bless someone with?
P.S. Here is one idea: Think of someone who needs some hope, some encouragement, and share this with them…
Click above to listen to the title track A Thousand Years from my 7th album as you read (featuring original, Mozart’s Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, and It Is Well with My Soul melodies). If you enjoy, consider ordering the CD or MP3 Album, or Sheet Music (the song is also on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Pandora, and more).
What is one of your favorite childhood memories that filled you with wonder and awe?
As you listen to the music stream and read this post, I want you to think of a favorite childhood memory filled with beauty, then recall something recently that stirred this same child-like faith, wonder and awe. I can remember climbing to the top of a 100-foot tall sweet gum tree in North Carolina at age nine, the first time I saw the Rocky Mountains when I was ten, or trying to outrun the ocean waves washing up on the beach at age eleven. Just a few years ago I got to visit northern Minnesota for a week of canoeing and camping. I awoke at 3 a.m. several mornings to gaze at night skies filled with more stars than I had ever seen.
For me, these kinds of moments are breathtaking. They remind me that creation has a Creator, and the story I am living has a Storyteller. They point me toward God’s beauty, adventure, and intimacy he reveals to me, and his incredible gift of grace and forgiveness. Connecting physical and spiritual wonder and awe is so powerful and reviving.
This was all contained in my heart as I created the song A Thousand Years, combining original composing from Psalm 90:4 with Mozart’s famous melody best known as Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, and the famous 1871 hymn It Is Well with My Soul. Musically I wanted to interweave the wonder and awe of child-like faith with the peace and hope of spiritual peace with God through Jesus in my soul.
If this music and topic inspires you, please take time to watch or bookmark the newest music video Far Away from Home, from my 9th album Treasures of Peace. The music and story are a visual illustration of Isaiah 41:10 child-like faith and living life without fear.
Where is a place you could go to nurture your child-like wonder and awe?
Psalm 90:4 (NIV) “A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.”
Isaiah 41:10 (MSG) “Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.”
Click above to listen to Across the Skies (featuring Canon in D) from the album A Thousand Years as you read. If you enjoy, consider ordering the CD or MP3 Album, or Sheet Music (the song is also on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Pandora, and more).
What is your favorite classical or hymn melody?
This question was my challenge in creating my 7th album A Thousand Years, which features original composing interwoven with six world renown classical melodies and seven great hymn melodies. One of these is Johann Pachelbel’s famous Canon in D. Since this is so often included in wedding ceremonies, it an interesting that when Pachelbel wrote this in 1694 it may have been for Johann Christoph Bach’s wedding, who was Johann Sebastian Bach’s oldest brother.
Since I was a little boy I have marveled at the skies. Maybe this is why I loved climbing trees so much in my childhood. Maybe this is why Psalm 19 is one of my favorites. Across the Skies opens with two phrases of my simple arrangement of Canon in D, then here is what happens…
An original melody appears for a new variation. The piano is “singing” word for word, “In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun” (verse 4). Then the Pachelbel arrangement expands with new variations, answered by some new variations on the original melody. This “meeting” of classical and original continues to build, then concludes with the simplest Pachelbel to take us off into the sunset after these moments of musical “sky gazing.”
What is your favorite memory of a beautiful sky?
Psalm 19 (NIV) for Meditation while Listening…
2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.
3 They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.
4 Yet their voice[b] goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
5 It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
6 It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth.
7 The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous.
10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb.
11 By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
12 But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults.
13 Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression.
14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
This post was designed for taking a few minutes to pause, watch, and listen…to count life’s blessings. Take a deep breath and soak in the Rivers of Light music video filmed in the north Georgia mountains. You can reflect on the verses underneath if you like.
The first verse, which is lyrical, meaning the piano is actually singing these words, is from Isaiah 65:24: “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.” When a friend introduced this verse to me, I was blown away. God knows the prayers in my heart before I even call to Him. And He hears my prayers before I am finished speaking to Him. Wow. Take a moment to pause and open your heart to Him, to speak with Him, to listen for His answer.
The second verse is the overall theme for this song, and encourages me to count life’s blessings. “Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.” (James 1:17) This was captured in the Unveiled CD liner notes: “Desirable and beneficial gifts from heaven are painted in this song as rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.” Take a moment to pause and give thanks to God.
What life blessing does this post help you recall?
Click above to listen to the love song Tears of Lament from the album The Voice. If you enjoy, consider ordering the CD or MP3 Album, or Sheet Music (the song is also on iTunes, Amazon , Spotify, Pandora, and more).
How do you deal with tears of grief or sorrow?
I looked up lament in the dictionary and found three primary definitions:
- a passionate expression of grief or sorrow
- a song, piece of music, or poem expressing sorrow
- an expression of regret or disappointment; a complaint
Tears of Lament is a piece of music using a piano-cello duet to express sorrow, with glimpses of hope. After listening while reading the words below, take time to close your eyes and just listen to the music…
It seems like I have had more tears of joy, as well as more tears of sorrow, the more I seek to draw near to God and live by faith. The emotions expressed in the Psalms are pure and real. My tears of joy flow from a deepening sense of gratitude for God’s grace, forgiveness, and blessings. These are awesome. My tears of grief or sorrow — tears of lament — have extended beyond my personal circumstances to stream when I learn of the suffering of others where there is no justice or explanation for their pain.
Here are the liner notes for Tears of Lament from the album The Voice in 2005:
For some time I have anticipated musically exploring the times of sadness and mourning that life brings . . . these moments are often hard to understand. I always think about how much greater the suffering and pain is for so many people in the world versus my own. As I looked back on these experiences in my life this music met me in those places, and played a small part in the healing process of finding hope for the future. “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy . . . my eyes overflow with tears. Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. For you, O Lord, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.” (Psalm 126:5; Lamentations 1:16, 3:22-23; Psalm 116:8)
Now, as you listen, close your eyes. If tears of joy or sorrow flow, let them be cleansing, hoping in the Lord’s great love and compassion. If you don’t have tears right now…
Who can you pray for who does have tears? How can you love them toward hope?
Are you feeling near to God or distant from God right now?
As I wrote this question I was reminded that in my faith journey, one or the other is true. For me, answering “somewhere in between” is not an honest answer. In reality, I either lean toward feeling near or distant. Some spiritual word pictures for “Near” could be Sanctuary, Mountain Top, or Still Waters. Some for “Distant” could be Desert, Valley, or Stormy Seas.
In this post I am challenging myself to name ten ideas which help with drawing near to God. I hope some of these will help you in this quest, or at least trigger your own idea to apply. These are in no particular order, and are worded as personal affirmations…
1) I will meditate on James 4:8 “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”
2) I will practice child-like faith, giving a random act of kindness or a hug to someone.
3) I will ask God to show me how much He loves me, and watch to see what happens.
4) I will unplug from technology for five minutes to pray for two and listen for three.
5) I will surrender a desire or issue to God, and ask for His wisdom and direction.
6) I will share extravagant love with someone, by asking for or giving forgiveness.
7) I will speak words of life and encouragement to someone who could use a lift.
8) I will pause to count my blessings, instead of focusing on my frustrations.
9) I will serve someone through a hospital visit, a warm meal, or other special need.
10) I will listen to Scripture inspired piano to experience God’s presence.
Sometimes I need to focus more on Being (pursuing God to know Him better and listening for instruction), and sometimes I need to focus more on Doing (giving God’s love, grace and forgiveness to others). Practicing being and doing draws me nearer to God, and then He fulfills His wonderful promise to draw near to me.
How is God inviting you to draw near to Him?
Instead of the typical free music stream, for this post I am providing you with the Pure Fountain love song music video down below. If you enjoy, check out the CD or MP3 Album, or Sheet Music (or visit iTunes, Amazon , Spotify, Pandora, etc.).
Have you ever had a love song written just for you?
With one week until February 14th, this question came to mind: Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all had a love song written just for us? I’ve got some good news — I think we do.
My worst Valentine memory was the year I forgot my wife was preparing a candle lit dinner for two. Ouch. That one really hurt. Sometimes I can still feel like I am making up for this mistake that happened twenty years ago (my wife has forgiven me, and yes, she still loves me!). One of our family’s best in recent years was cooking a gourmet dinner to enjoy together. There are many sweet Valentine memories filled with love and smiles.
In my brokenness, I frequently feel like I need to “earn” my wife’s love. It becomes conditional. If I “do this” or “don’t do that” then she will love me more. If I am not careful, I can also begin thinking incorrectly that God will love me more based on what I do or don’t do.
Pure Fountain is probably my favorite of three instrumental love songs I have composed (Captivating and More Precious are the other two). When these Scripture inspired piano melodies were born, I was writing them for my wife, but I was inspired by God’s unconditional love for me. His forgiveness, love and acceptance are not based on my performance, but on His grace.
So, read the few phrases below from Song of Solomon Chapter 4 (taken from The Message). Then, watch for them in the Pure Fountain love song video. Receive this as your love song — God’s love song, music, and words written just for you.
Dear lover and friend,
you’re a secret garden,
a private and PURE FOUNTAIN.
A garden fountain,
sparkling and splashing…
You’ve captured my heart.
I stay until dawn breathes its light
and night slips away.
Body and soul you are PARADISE.
One look my way and…
I was hopelessly in love!
How did this speak to your heart?