Updated: Feb 10
This album was the result of a story in and of itself. It is a testimony of what the Lord has done in my life over the last three years, all created in three months. It was my exodus from Egypt, the land of hypocrisy I had been trapped in before. It is the story of a foreigner made a son, a sojourner finding a home, and it is my hope and prayer that this project points you to the freedom that lies at the feet of Jesus like it did for me.
My testimony & some of the story behind the songs.
The story of making the album.
Specific Song Breakdowns! (A cliff-notes style breakdown on each song)
The Journey Before The Journey
Hi! I'm Corbin. I was born in 2005 to two parents who are madly in love with the Lord. I have been given a precious gift in my family, lifelong examples of spirit-filled believers authentically sold out for Jesus. It wasn't until I started to write this that I began to realize how faithfully the Lord used my earliest years to equip me for what was in store. I want to share some of those key turning points in my life with you, that this testimony would spur you onward and encourage you--bringing you closer to Him for the journeys ahead.
At 7, I began to choose the Lord for myself.
My dad started leading me and my siblings through simple studies of scripture, reading a Proverb and a Psalm a day -- finding a verse or an idea that stood out. He taught us faithfully about Matthew 6:33:
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
We started being trained in doing "first things first," which quickly began to cultivate a personal relationship with the Lord in my life. It was a subtle shifting, one where the Lord worked in my heart in the midst of my immaturity.
We began to learn how to take insights into scripture and practically apply them. My dad encouraged us to write down in our journals what we heard the Lord telling us and how we were going to change from that point onward. It didn't take me long to notice, even at such a young age, how my days were just "better" when I had spent time with the Lord in the mornings. This is when I remember starting to see the first fruits of a choice to be in personal relationship with God.
At 8, I found the drums.
Some of my earliest interests were banging on buckets and tupperware with drum sticks, or strumming the strings of my Dad's guitar. Eventually, I seriously wanted to learn how to play the drums. On my 8th birthday, my parents gave me an electronic drum set. I played with little skill but lots of passion, me and my cousins forming many bands along the way. Later that year, I found myself playing the drums less as I became an avid "hobbyist" pursuing many other interests.
At 9, I found the guitar.
After a lot of exploration into different skills or interests I came back to music, deciding I wanted to learn how to play the guitar like my Dad. This time though, it would be the beginning of something bigger than just another hobby. With the help of a chord book--and my dad's patient answers to my many questions--I began to learn. I practiced with most of my free time for the rest of that year, wearing the battle wounds of bruised fingertips with pride. I traded in my electric drum kit for my first acoustic guitar later that year. This passion that was developing for music was coupled with a developing passion for the Lord, one that was being cultivated and stretched through studying God's word and spending time in His presence. I started to worship with the guitar, singing songs to the Lord.
Unlike my interests in many other things, this passion for worship did not have an end or a point of completion. I didn't burn out after a year like I had with most other things I put my hands to. I could invest every waking moment and yet still want more. I started to study this concept of being both completely satisfied yet ravenously hungry in scripture, pressing into this thing that so deeply satisfied the seemingly ambiguous thirst of my soul. My family started hosting weekly worship gatherings at our house on Friday nights, gatherings where we could sit around a fire and worship the Lord into the wee hours of the morning. Spending time pursuing the Lord in music spontaneously with other sensitive believers was a key moment in how the Father was equipping me. I continued to grow.
Worship night around the fire -- from left to right: Derek Fiedler-Riddle, Myself, Aaron York
At 12, I broke my foot.
A timely jump down a flight of stairs provided me with a large chunk of time to invest in something new.
From left to right: Myself, Ty (my cousin), Eden (my sister), and Landon (my brother), a few weeks after the accident
My grandparents had brought a keyboard and amp to our house. After being laid up for a day or two, I took interest--messing around on it frequently. I realized sitting at the piano was the perfect activity while I wasn't able to walk. My other grandma brought me a book course on playing the piano by ear after hearing I was watching YouTube videos to learn the melodies to songs I liked. This book filled with scrawled notes and dog-eared pages alongside the keyboard would represent how I spent the majority of my time for the next six weeks. I would practice in our living room with headphones on, playing as soon as I woke up and as much as I could throughout the day. Learning proper music theory through the course reinvigorated my interest and honestly helped me actually understand the guitar. It became a catalyst for a deeper dive into music. Once my foot had healed, I played both instruments all the time, exploring finger-style guitar for fun and learning how to lead worship from the piano. I began to write songs, songs that came from scriptures I read or times in worship. I'll be the first to tell you that they were not technically well written or arranged--but that wasn't important. They were a place I practiced ministering to the Lord, learning to hear Him speak and sing His words back to Him.
Seasons shifted as my parents began to pastor at Jesus Christ Fellowship. For the first year and a half (as associate pastors) we commuted to the church most days of the week, beginning to be grafted into a new extension of family. The church needed help with music, and my Dad filled in. I began to learn how to support, playing piano behind him. This outlet for practice--both technically and spiritually--was invaluable. Over the year that we served there before taking over, I had learned many valuable things about how to follow. I would lead a song or two on some Sundays, but what realized really impacted me was how I got to spend time learning how to follow. This marked another season that the Lord faithfully equipped me through my circumstances.
playing during early morning prayer at Jesus Christ Fellowship in 2017.
At 13, I was addicted to pornography.
I was exposed to pornography at 11 through a redirect advertisement in my email, later reinforced by a conversation in my baseball dugout. I was stunned upon seeing the graphic images and I walked away from my computer feeling like they were burned into my brain. I see now how this became a foothold for a battleground, one where many battles for purity were waged.
Over the first year, I remember feeling so small in comparison to this giant of lust. I could feel how opposite it was to the heart of God and began to clearly see how it so integrally perverted what the Lord had put inside me. In my immaturity and shame, I chose to keep my battle with lust in the dark, unknowingly choosing to be in bondage by hiding it. I remember the sheer weight of my now addiction at 13, feeling disgusted with myself for my hypocrisy--that both bitter and sweet water were flowing from the same spring. I saw the callous on my heart, I felt the jealous longing of the Lord for my affections, and I had reached the end of myself and my ability.
But the Lord did not leave me there.
Unsatisfied with the broken condition of my soul and my appetites, the Lord responded as I began to call on His name. One morning, I was doing a bible study in Proverbs 27. Specifically on verse 7:
One who is full loathes honey from the comb, but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet.
I felt so worn out trying to fight my own desires and the lies I had believed, but I heard the Lord speak. He said, "Son, I have called you to be a mouthpiece but I won't put my lips to something unclean." I could physically feel weight begin to fall off of my heart--I remember just melting before Him. I made a decision to keep pressing onward into His presence; this started a fiery process of repentance and submission over the next year.
Through worship, time spent near God usually in our family gatherings in the morning--I spent time yielding to His hand over and over and over again--He changed me. Spending time in His word and His presence started bringing light to the dark places of my heart, giving me new ways to surrender and submit, allowing the diligent hand of the Lord to work within me. I want to emphasize that in spite of my sin the Lord met me in worship, the Lord encountered me in my weakness. He faithfully cast my sin as far as the east is from the west every time I fell before Him and asked for a fresh encounter with that blessed forgiveness that He already extended. It was lifting my eyes to Him that kept me above the waters of guilt and shame, the depths of hopelessness in my own strength, and the wicked desires of my flesh. It was by His strength that I was saved.
Even though this is really just the birds eye view of the way the Lord moved in my heart over these years, I want to share this with you that you might understand the love of God in a greater way. It's these steps in my life that underline the sentences in these songs, it's the tears of joy and remorse shed in those seasons that punctuate their phrases, and this album is an expression of the anthems I sang along the way.
I was broken, dirty, and a slave to myself, but then I met Jesus and now I am made pure and acceptable to Him by His grace.
My passions have been captivated for Him, and He fully satisfies me. My pursuit of His heart breaths life into dead places. He's made me a trophy of His mercy, and I now have no greater desire than to seek His face.
It is these experiences that I wrote from in June of 2021, and Sojourner is this testimony put to song.
In September of 2020, I started learning how to record with a laptop and an interface in our garage. I spent every waking moment recording, learning, and practicing, taking advantage of the lockdown from COVID-19. I gave myself to recording, feeling the Lord's hand in the midst of the pursuit. In February of 2021 I began to record semi-professionally, engineering for artists in the area. In April, I released my first ever single, "Burn It Away". I was starting to catch a vision for the future. In May, my mom showed me the promotion of a writing course that was happening on Facebook by some artists I was following. After almost skipping out on it because of the price tag, I decided to join the six week program, looking to grow in my own ability to write music. Little did I know that the Lord would use this course to put me in touch with the people who co-authored the moments on Sojourner.
After my third week in the course, I wrote a song with my good friend Mercedes Zepeda called "Find Me In Your Presence." During our live stream lesson that week, Rick Pino told us to go live and share the songs that had been written in the course so far. I felt the Lord prompt me to share and felt suddenly terrified. Luckily, the best things often wait on the other side of fear. I went ahead anyway and played it following the class -- my nervousness was evident, but it melted away as I obeyed.
May 24th, 2021 in the songwriting group
The Lord took my small act of obedience and laid the foundation for the whole project.
Responses to the video started to flood in and through the comments and I met my two main collaborators for the album, Grace Chontos and Hannah Amelang. I reached out to them and they were willing to write! I started to write non-stop with basically anyone that was willing, filling every spare moment in my schedule with a zoom call, and the Lord fell on these sessions and wrote songs through us.
I wrote and wrote, realizing quickly how much "writing worship music" is not about writing at all. It really comes down to listening to the Holy Spirit and recording what you hear. Other than "Burn It Away" and "Precious To You", every song on the album was written in this period of time. I didn't have an album project in mind at this point, I was just writing because I felt the wind of His Spirit on it!
We wrote on whatever topic the Holy Spirit highlighted in that session, no agenda or plan or pre-set story outline. No Sojourner project in mind, just worship.
A lot of what I found myself writing out of were moments in our family gatherings in the mornings. When we began meeting in the mornings for a few hours it supercharged my sensitivity to the Lord's voice. I began to keep track of most of the spontaneous chorus' I sang or heard over these months, and the Lord would often bring them to mind when writing. They provided key ideas for a lot of the songs. In our zoom writing sessions we would begin to talk about the scripture and what the Lord had been showing us, spring-boarding off of our spontaneous worship moments to write songs. I learned so much through the writing process about what "writing" worship songs really isn't. Too much to be shared in this segment, but I'll look to write a post expanding on some of those things in the future.
In July, I still had no name for the project, though I was actively asking the Lord what to name it. One afternoon I was showing my uncle John Mix the early drafts of the song "Find Me In Your Presence." Huddled around the Bluetooth speaker in his bedroom, he paused the song two thirds of the way through. "I keep hearing this word 'Sojourner,' Corbin. I hear that you will go the distance to be with God. You used to walk behind like a servant trailing their Master, but now the Master is calling you forward to walk with Him as a son." I could feel the tangible presence of God confirming every word as he said it. I walked away from that encounter rolling over that word in my soul, sojourner, sojourner, sojourner. I found myself in Psalm 119, where I had been studying earlier in July, and verse 19-20 stood off the page:
"I am a sojourner on the earth; hide not your commandments from me! My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times."
When I got back to California later that summer I was burning to pursue this "Sojourner" thing. The Lord had given me a name and revealed the theme--a theme that would become increasingly clear as I took one step of faith after another--but I still had no idea how all these seemingly disjointed songs were going to tell this story; that was until I put all the song titles side by side and stared at the list.
I remember suddenly feeling the Holy Spirit's presence, and like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle being re-arranged, I suddenly saw how the many vulnerable moments that occurred during our writing sessions had yielded songs written from the journey the Lord had taken me on, one I had largely failed to identify, review, or even ponder up to this point. This is the distinct moment in my mind that Sojourner became a tangible thing. The Lord had shown me the project was supposed to be "songs for the journey," songs that reproduce what God did through part of my journey in others; I couldn't wait to get started. There are many more stories -- but this is the core of Sojourner's genesis, so I'll save the other stories for another post.
So after a lengthy introduction, let's get started with the cliff notes!
My purpose in making these breakdowns is that you might be able to see--amidst the context of this album's crazy origin--how intentional and how focused the Father was. This is a testament to the Lord's ability to use a yes to accomplish His purposes, ways and thoughts much higher than ours, much higher than mine.
Proverbs 25:4 ESV: Take away the dross from the silver and the smith has material for a vessel;
1 Cor. 3:12 ESV: "Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—13 each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done."
Hebrews 12:29 ESV: "Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire."
Burn It Away is an anthem prayer from a season of repentance. I was written from my response to what God told me about being a mouthpiece. It was my desperate cry to the father to come cleanse me with fire, to try my heart so that the temporary things would be consumed. It's a pleading with the Lord for the heart of stone within me to be beautifully broken before Him, that I might be pliable in His hands, able to be reformed and reshaped.
"I'm after Your heart and Your image, I want to get lost in Your gaze."
I sang this song over my soul and it was the turning point for me, looking away from sin and back into the face of the Father. It's the petition I raised in the secret place before the Lord, to be a purified vessel that could be used by God.
This song is the first part of the journey in Sojourner, and it is the repentance from self and self-will. It's the moment where the sin distancing you from God is acknowledged in the face of your own inability, asking the Lord to do what only He can do with your willing heart. It's the surrender of one's appetites and the cry for new desires, the desires of God's heart.
Psalm 56:12 ESV: I must perform my vows to you, O God; I will render thank offerings to you.
Luke 15:22 ESV: But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.
Fresh "I Do" is a call from the Father to the prodigal, the groom to the unfaithful bride; it's His response to the bride's cry for encounter. This song is written entirely from God's perspective, speaking truth that gently undoes the lies keeping you frozen in shame and guilt. This song reflects the heart of our beloved, merciful and forgiving, running to his bride with open arms. He beckons for her to renew her vows, despite her prostitution with the world, He redeems her with a touch. He knows we're unworthy apart from himself, but He's purchased us with His life and is eager to draw us in.
"Bring it to me, there's no fear in love. Bring it to me, simply trust that I'm more than enough."
Upon approaching the light (entering God's presence) I used to be paralyzed by the exposure of my filth. It would be so polarizing to me, drawing near to such a holy God--I would feel like Isaiah when he said, "I am a man of unclean lips." I've come to realize God's holiness has an exposing affect, but shame and guilt want to keep you from the next portion--which is where God took the coal and cleansed Isaiah's lips. I would be trapped in self-hatred and condemnation and never make it to the "take the coal cleanse my lips" part, until the Lord showed me that He doesn't always give second chances. He gives first chances over again--and He's a master of restorative work. The Lord gave me this practice and it has changed my life. Since co-writing this song with Grace, I've been renewing my vows with the Lord daily, giving Him a fresh "I do" each morning--in each moment of failure. It's kept me from letting my eyes stick to my own inability and unworthiness and instead lifted my gaze to God's ability and willingness to forgive me; this renewing of vows has freed me to truly repent and change.
This song represents the second part of the journey in Sojourner, where the Lord didn't leave me in the ashes of my repentance, but responded with life and hope. I began to learn the Lord's character personally through His voice and word, and it propelled me forward into change.
Matthew 10:39 ESV: "Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it."
Psalm 4:5 ESV: "Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord."
Psalm 51:10 ESV: "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me."
Luke 6:38 ESV: "Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
Romans 12:1-2 ESV: "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."
My Offering is a song that responds to the grace of the Father. It's a 'moving past' our own weakness, after acknowledging it, and a run into the arms of the Father. It's about being surrendered and submitted to the hand of the Lord, choosing to let Him be the king and ruler of your life. It's a song about the victory over the lie that "you're not good enough", we can't give God what He deserves, we can't give Him what He's worthy of, but we can give Him what He asks for, which is our best, our whole life.
"There's so much more, I want to give, but I'll start with all I am. There's so much more, You're worthy of, but I'll start with what You've asked"
This theme is recurring in the first part of this album and the first part of this journey. I found myself constantly coming back to different ways to submit to the Lord, to give Him something I was trying to control, to humble myself anywhere I had thought too much of myself or too little of God.
This track is the response to the Lord's invitation, one of imperfect obedience. It's the part of the journey where I heard the Lord asking simply for all of me, and did my best to respond in each moment. The Lord honored this posture and started to restore to me that which I had surrendered to the enemy. It was life changing. It's the sojourner being welcomed into the kingdom, a destitute foreigner sitting to feast with the King of Kings.
Revelation 3:19 ESV: "Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent."
Proverbs 3:12 ESV: "For the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights." Psalm 26:2 ESV: "Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind."
Precious To You was written out of the same leg of the journey as Burn It Away--in the middle of a race towards repentance. I call it a race because It felt like running, not because the process was particularly quick. When I asked the Lord to burn away the impurities of sin and breath upon my heart He was faithful. The light of Truth began to come into areas of my heart I'd previously tried desperately to hide. At first I was discouraged and disgusted by what it exposed--the festering wounds of sin definitely had a stench. But the Lord wasn't intimidated by my mess. He began to show me the root system of these weeds, how I had fostered pride that made me think too little of God's ability to save me. How those lies became excuses in my fight for control. As a result, my heart was callused to His voice and conviction, which created lengths of fallowed ground that were practiced in rejecting the word of the Lord until this point. I had developed a broken relationship with the authority of God in my life.
"Take this heart of stone, break it and mold me"
That is the unsung prelude, though. This song is about what happened after that discovery. After the light of Truth exposed my heart. Once those things were exposed, I started to feel the heart of the Father. After studying the book Proverbs for years, I finally understood that God's correction was evidence of His love for me. I could feel the love of God in every word He spoke, the gentle reproof penetrated my hard heart, it broke it in the best way. I could hear how the Father wept for me in my brokenness, how His thoughts towards me were abundant and good, and my entire mindset changed. I began to praise the Lord for conviction, for His righteous correction and it changed my life. I realized that to be tried by God was to be loved by God; that precious things were tested--like gold and silver. I was convinced that apart from God there was nothing for me, that all I was, was His.
This track is a part of the journey where I learned to joyfully submit to God's guidance and correction. It was when the bitterness of rebellion was overcome by the love of a Father. It's the moment in my journey where I began to recognize the voice of my Shepard--where His voice pulled me from the thickets of my wandering--and I learned to respond quicker and quicker to the sound of His voice. I stopped drifting at every bend and I learned to trust God's heart and hand, and it brought life, protection, and freedom.
Psalm 27:4 ESV: "One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple."
Psalm 97:5 ESV: "The mountains melted like wax at the presence of the Lord, At the presence of the Lord of the whole earth."
Find Me In Your Presence is a song that resulted from the Lord's transformative work in my appetites. I had grown to look at spending time with God as a chore. That was because up until I turned 13, my time with Him often felt familiar and boring; my personal relationship with Him was driven mainly by the fact that I had to do my bible study before I could play video games. Praise God, though, because that's not where this story ends. Once I realized that it was me--the sin I chose to keep in my life--separating me from a loving God, I accepted His invitation into His presence. I was confronted with His goodness, and it violently assaulted the idols in my soul. I realized that the things outside of God weren't worth spending time on, but I had fostered such an appetite for them. In response to this tension I plead with God to give me new appetites, to give me new desires--and He did! Not all at once, but as I asked and pursued Him I experienced real love. And one taste at a time, in His presence, I found true intimacy, pleasure, purpose, and immeasurable satisfaction. I found everything I ever needed, I had discovered life's greatest joy--and it had been right under my nose this whole time.
Find me in Your presence, find me here where I belong.
I had found the place I belonged. He had led me to the one thing I could direct my passion towards and never find the end of; never get enough of. I had been led to a purpose greater than myself. Another theme in this song is the challenge that came after this discovery. I realized that God was worthy of so much more than I could ever give Him. He deserved so much more than what I could bring Him. But He was satisfied with my best -- even though He was worth more, He found the weak love I could offer pleasing. He inhaled the incense of my heart as it burned within me and it brought Him delight! What a privilege it is to love the Lord. What an honor it is to be with Him.
I can't give you what you deserve, I can't give you what you're worthy of. Yet you find it pleasing, my weak love.
This is almost the halfway point in the journey, and it was this point where the sojourner began to mature. I began to forsake the passions of my former ignorance and bear the fruit of repentance! In the place of the temporary things I had so embraced the Lord brought the eternal weight of glory. I asked the Lord to direct my thirst towards righteousness, and He did. I had found an oasis --it was His presence! It was the place I belonged, and it was where I wanted to be found. It propelled me forward, I became eager to spend myself on my first love; longing for Him more than other things that led me away.
Mark 14:32-36 ESV: "And they went to a place called Gethsemane [which means "oil press"]. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. 34 And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” 35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Talking about Prayer Of The Oil Press in the number six spot feels weird, mainly because it was actually written ninth--after all the other songs--two weeks before the album was released. This song was both conceived and birthed in spontaneous encounter. Start to finish, this song has one of the coolest stories on the project. This wasn't written (like the others) from a specific experience or moment of the journey that occurred years prior, this was a part of the journey I lived through while creating the album. It was words put to a question and an invitation Jesus has always extended. It's the sovereign example of Jesus' cry is gethsemane, submitting His will to the Father's, trusting that it will be worth it. That His sacrifice would be like the wheat He spoke about, falling to the ground and bearing much fruit.
Father if this is my portion, the joy set before me, then sow my life as seed, and break me.
Jesus wasn't just redeeming us through His suffering on the cross, He was giving us an example to follow the entire way through--He was showing us how to die. I wrote this song as I found myself in the throng of the album release. I was overworking; long days turned into long nights trying to tie up loose ends, constantly praying for peace and grace, feeling stressed and overwhelmed, realizing I needed to submit my will to the Fathers. As I tried to dodge the pride that laces most of modern artistry and keep my eyes on the Lord, I was stunned by this example. The Lord asked me a simple question, and I felt like I was in the garden. This yes to the Father and prayer of submission became an anthem as I finished obeying what the Lord told me to do.
Will you live for Me like I died for you? Pouring out your life as a sweet perfume?
The song came to exist out of a moment of worship, where in that place of prayer I met the Lord and was overcome. I remember just weeping uncontrollably on my face as I felt Him there. Somewhere along the way I felt the Lord prompt me to start playing the piano, just following the flow of the Holy Spirit. At this point I'd learned to record everything that happened with the Lord, especially when the Spirit was moving, so I pressed record and just began to play. No metronome, no plan, not even a predetermined melody or idea. It all just flowed out of this intimate moment with the Father. When I finished, I realized this was a part of the journey, and therefore part of the project -- but I had no words. I thought it would just be an instrumental track as an interlude, but then I was reminded of this chorus the Lord had given me during a prayer meeting earlier that week: "Will you live for me like I died for you? Pouring out your life as a sweet perfume? Are the scars I bear enough to earn the hearts of them that I've bled for?" I came back the next day to record that single chorus and the Lord spontaneously gave me the rest of the song. "I thought you put the songs in the order that they happened? Why is this sixth?" Well, two weeks before the release I had finished a surprise ninth song, and I asked the Lord where it fit into (what I thought was) a finished track list. Then I heard Him say to put it in between Find Me In Your Presence and Just Abide, because that's where I was when I wrote it. The thick of His presence, and that's the place He wanted to invite listeners in to. I remember Him directing me also to keep the song raw, minimizing the post production and all the things that I usually do to dress up vocals and make it sound more pleasant and perfect -- He told me to keep it authentic to the moment it was birthed in, and I did my best to do that. It's a very vulnerable song, and sometimes I have a hard time listening to it because of the very intimate nature of it -- but it's also one of my favorites, because it is a constant reminder of God's constant faithfulness.
Prayer Of The Oil Press is my interpretation of what Jesus prayed in the garden, it's what I experienced trying to "pick up my cross" and follow Him. It was the part of the journey where the road forked -- my will separated from God's, and I had to choose death over comfort. It was an intimate moment where the Lord asked me if He was still worthy of my yes--even unto death--and as I looked into the splendor of His face and the totality of His sacrifice--I found myself unable to say no.
John 15:4-11 ESV: "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full."
Hebrews 4:11a ESV: "Let us therefore strive to enter that rest"
Just abide. Just Abide is a song the that beautifully captures a word the Lord has been speaking to me for most of my life. It's a song about forsaking the temporary-the distractions and the familiar chaos of being "busy." It was a song I worshipped to throughout the album creation process, it was a song the Lord reminded me of often.
Hannah Amelang chose to share her idea for this song with me in a writing session on June 1st, 2021, and I'm so grateful she did. At the end of one of our writing sessions as we were bouncing ideas back and forth, she put forward (what was at the time just a chorus) the chorus of Just Abide. Basically in its final form. I was IN LOVE with the song from the moment she played it. After we charted it out, we had to end the call. A day later, she sent me a voice memo of her singing, to quote her, "something to add onto that chorus I showed you yesterday". She sang a verse that would become the first verse of the song, along with the melody that ended up being used for the pre-chorus. We met a few days later to continue writing for the song and came up with the pre-chorus' and bridge. In a matter of a week, we'd seen this song come full circle--but (despite what Hannah may tell you) to say we "co-wrote" it would be a bit of a generous statement. The Lord had really given her a song that she chose to complete with me, and the Lord used this song to remind and bless me thoroughly over the next series of months.
Where are all your idols now? Come and eat straight from the vine.
Though I contributed less than half of the song's written material, Hannah let me take the bones of this song and dream through the instrumental structure, the production, and the arrangement of it all. I had so much fun with the song, and throughout the recording process the Lord repeatedly emphasized the simplicity of being with Him. I began to relate to these lyrics, even though the majority weren't my own, as if they were. I could see times I'd given myself to things besides God, the times I'd strived to receive God's favor or approval, or at least congratulations -- all in spite of the gentle whispers of His heart, the ones beckoning me to stop moving and simply be with Him. To recognize Him as the reward, Him as the prize, Him as the supply. To slow down and know Him as "I Am". As my source. Luckily, when I found the end of myself and my ability, He was there waiting for me. This song led me back to that place over and over again, and was an integral part of the repentance I underwent throughout the album process.
I desire your love, I want you to know me.
This song carries a message that was present at every part of the journey. It was a call that felt familiar despite its unfamiliarity, a call the Lord had been singing over me from some of the earliest moments I can remember. It was an invitation to live from the place He led me to in Find Me In Your Presence, a reminder I never had to leave His arms, His supply. It circumcised the parts of my heart that believed I could earn God's affection. It's instrument was the truth, the fact that I already had His affection. It removed "my ability" from the equation and urged me to labor into His rest. It kept me from the weariness of the travel, It led me to water that lasted through the desert. This command--this promise, they held me like His rod and staff when I ran through the valleys and ascended the mountains, it was a constant reminder of the reason I ran at all. Just to go the distance to be with Him.
Ephesians 2:1-3a ESV: "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind..."
Ephesians 2:4-11 ESV: "4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Romans 9:23 ESV: "in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—”
Trophy Of Mercy is a song that was written out of Paul's picture of boasting in weakness. The phrase "I am a trophy of mercy" was actually my Dad's phrase, something the Lord had him pray as he walked through salvation, redemption, and combatted the accusations of the enemy. I heard him share this phrase in a Sunday sermon, and the Lord stuck it to the wall of my heart--later I would be led right into the idea and be totally captivated by its application in my own walk. This song is a declaration of God's goodness through a recognition of His redeeming power, that He would be so merciful as to choose individual weakness as the canvas for His infinite strength. It is about the joy we have in letting Him be strong in our weakness. This song was an anthemic prayer I adopted to decapitate the enemy's lie that I was weak, unworthy, and unredeemable. Apart from Christ I am all those things, but I am no longer apart from Christ!
"I am, a trophy of mercy...product of grace...prize of your passion..."
Declaration of who God was in me was what saved me from the clutches of shame, it delivered me from many forms of bondage and anguish.
This song is like the hike back down from the mountain, a part of the journey where the sojourner is just jubilant because somewhere along the way he found the things he didn't know he was looking for. It's the downhill after the climb, it's the song that keeps you going in the third leg of the marathon. This song was one of the first expressions of genuine praise from within me, and it is because as soon as I recognized the worth and value Christ gave me through His death, I was able to authentically praise Him for His worth and character and sacrifice! It was a gift from the Lord, and it brought strength to my weak hands and stability to my feeble knees. It closed the gap and helped me finish the race.
Psalm 23:4 TPT: "Even when your path takes me through the valley of deepest darkness, fear will never conquer me, for you already have! Your authority is my strength and my peace. The comfort of your love takes away my fear. I’ll never be lonely, for you are near."
Won Me was written in the revelation as God as the rod, God as the staff, and God as the rock. This song is a continuation of the themes of Trophy Of Mercy but also incorporates the resolute-declaration that "I reserve my fear for the Lord!" Inspired by the language used in The Passion Translation, the message of this song can be simply summarized: Nothing else can conquer me because Christ already has.
Whom shall I fear when your love has already won me? I stand assured your promises will hold beneath me.
This song invites the listener--the sojourner--to not just lean on God's ability, but to stand & rest confidently in the trust of His character. Living out of your own weakness is not a timid and shameful existence--boasting in our weakness is not magnifying sin or our own shortcomings, it is the opposite. It is letting God's strength be magnified in you, because despite your inability, He gives you strength. It's living with a sure hope, the utmost confidence. We get to boldly approach the throne of grace and trust God gives generously to all who ask--without reproach--because He loves us! This is the conclusion to this chapter of the journey, the ecstasy of the last three bounds to the finish line, and the beginning of the next starting line the same. The finish line is simply the starting point of the next journey, and that's worth celebrating because the sojourner meeting this line is one who has learned to love journeying with Jesus.
This song challenges the subtle unbelief that makes us think less of who God is and His ability. I have declared these verses over my own soul more times than I can count, commanding my emotions to come into alignment with the truth. It is a song that dispels the worry of tomorrow, the discomforts of today, and the pangs of the past. It is a challenge to things that lie ahead, and a psalm of remembrance for the sojourner's soul.
Thank you for sharing in this journey with me. To all the unnamed people who aided me in this trek, thank you sincerely. This project was the result of the shepherding of a few, the wisdom of many, and prayers of even more. It is just the first journey I've documented, and since creating it, and even writing this post, there have been many more. I started this post in November of 2021, and it is just now being released at the end of 2022. Nevertheless, this journey left significant impressions on my heart. I am blessed beyond measure to be able to pursue the face of the Lord through these means, the Lord has brought so much joy into serving Him. Thank you for sowing into what the Lord has started with our interest and attention, I appreciate the encouragement and support of all those running alongside me after the glory of God. Grace and peace friends :)