What was I thinking!
When I sat down with my Martin D-28 guitar and scraps of ideas to write “Hope On My Horizon” from my Auckland based studio I didn’t think about how a song can help predict the future. I honestly never really thought about the journey this song might possibly take – a journey from my paradise at the bottom of the world here in New Zealand, over the uncertain and unsure Tasman Sea to Australia, and then, braving the foaming cauldron and colliding Antartic cold of the Indian Ocean to sail to the Ship of Hope in Africa.
Sure, I was wanting big things to happen when I sat down and started strumming some chords … but my ‘big’ was simply wanting Graeme and Sharon from Mercy Ships NZ to like the song once it was written! Who says musicians aren’t insecure :p They had asked me to write a song but I’d neglected to tell them that this was in fact the first time I was writing by request. I had never done this before and cautiously fretted over whether they would even like the song.
The situations I have gotten my self into in life have sometimes been of my own making. Some of those times I’ve tried to blame God – He is big enough and tough enough to be used as a scapegoat and there seems to be plenty of people in the world, just like me, who are happy to fling blame at His feet without hesitation. Except this wasn’t one of ‘those situations’ – I was under pressure with my confidence and music on the line because I was responding to God telling me to take this opportunity to help Mercy Ships NZ – He’d simply said “go … write a song”.
The Bible is riddled with encounters between God and ordinary folk where He asks them to take a step and the outcome of risking that God knows what He is doing results in something incredible. But sometimes when I take steps to follow God’s leading nothing “life-changing” or “world-shaking” seems to happen. A lot of the time it frankly appears to be quite insignificant while life seems to be mostly mundane. When I take a read through the Bible, except for the few amazing instances, people’s days on earth seem to be like mine – ordinary and uneventful.
It’s only every now and then that a prayer I’ve prayed that seemed lost in my disappointed memories suddenly comes alive or that a small obedient step I take turns into a huge adventure that I would have never imagined … but only sometimes. Frankly, I never saw this one small step to “go … write a song” in my little studio at the bottom of the world, would grow into a global voyage of discovery.
Frankly my immediate problem was writing a song that would help raise money for Mercy Ships NZ. That’s enough pressure to deal with when you sit down to create a tune from scratch. So with the title they’d given me, “Hope On My Horizon”, a few scraps of lyrics and some snatches of guitar chords I started weaving the song together … with nervous mistakes as I went.
When I first played Graeme and Sharon the first cut of the song … they loved it! Whew! At least I think they liked it … it made Sharon cry :p
Soon after I heard God whispering to me to take other songs and bundle them together with “Hope On My Horizon” to make a CD that told more of the story. So I knuckled down and finished writing “Dead Man Walking”, “Better Man Someday”, “Obsession” and “I Believe In You”.
But finding a Producer in New Zealand to record the project with me was a frustrating year of yearning which kept resulting in dead ends. After I’d had another “going-nowhere cold-shoulder NZ Producer meeting” my wife suggested “How about recording in Australia?”. I was feeling discouraged and not even slightly optimistic so the last thing I wanted to do was to pluck up my confidence and take on the larger Australian marketplace in the search for a Producer.
But one thing I know is Miriam has a God-given knack to catch a glimpse of things that are possible that I have no inkling of, so I’ve learned to lean in when it makes sense to Miriam … but no sense to me. Needless to say within weeks I was booked with Andy Mak from Australia’s The Grove Studios in Sydney to make a record! This little song, penned in my little studio, now had an international team onboard and was embarking on a voyage across the Tasman Sea. We recorded the CD in Sydney, and then went on to master it in Melbourne, manufacture the CD’s in the USA, to ship it all the way back to New Zealand!
I was asked a rather odd question by Sharon from Mercy Ships NZ during the project – she asked why I decided to write the second verse lyric “Scratched out a half-baked plan on a wrinkled serviette cos I won’t waste my life away”. I told her that I had loads of lyrical ideas describing how it would feel to face the journey to a hospital ship, but that I had cast all those ideas aside for these lyrics as they just felt “right” when there were so many others I could have used … she was shocked. She questioned me in an almost disbelieving tone “… you knew right, you knew about Don Stephens the Mercy Ships founder … right?” I stumbled a confused “…. no … what do you mean?!?!?!” Sharon then told me how Don had originally drawn out his idea for Mercy Ships on a serviette … just like the lyrics I had penned in my studio a world away. I was even more surprised and shocked than Sharon – I had no idea this had happened!
Just like the CD, the music video for the song “Hope On My Horizon” also packed it’s bags and took flight after Australian video producer Madeleine Hetherton partnered with SBS Australia to shoot a documentary aboard Africa Mercy in Guinea and kindly offered this raw real-life footage to be combined with my studio recording footage … so the Hope On My Horizon music video was born. God only knows where things will lead when you simply say “Yes” to His whispers ….
If this wasn’t unexpected enough I recently received an email from Africa Mercy telling me they were going to play the ‘Hope On My Horizon’ music video to the entire crew onboard – this little tune had travelled all the way to sing for the real heroes of hope right there on the Surgery Ship .
Frankly, while I write this I am still dumbfounded as to how this has all happened – how responding to God’s invitation to sit down with my guitar and notepad, turned into a song powering a ship in the poorest parts of our planet. I am amazed at how my simple “Yes” was used by God to do good and give hope. Never underestimate where simply saying “Yes …” to His stall small voice will lead you!
Leave a comment below about what’s happened to you when you’ve stepped out to do what God was saying to you and how your small “Yes…” turned into something you never expected.
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