If you break down the word “collaborate” into its three sections, co-labor-ate, it seems to have something to do with working together after eating. If you’ll hang with me for a few paragraphs, I’ll tell you the story of the song “Abide in Me”.
I spent more than a decade working the morning shift at a grocery store. The morning shift is a bit of a misnomer, because it starts somewhere between 2 and 4 in the morning. On Sunday mornings, I’d go in early so I could have everything wrapped up in time to have sound check for our Sunday worship celebration at 9. I was pretty exhausted all of the time, and a few years ago we decided it was time for me to leave the store and get a normal amount of sleep.
For the first few months, I spent a great deal of time in chapter 15 of John, and knew I needed to take a while to abide. I realized I’d not put myself in a position to hear anything from God for a long time. Every time i tried to read or pray, I’d fall asleep. So I learned to abide.
For several months, I set aside a couple of hours every day to read scripture, reflect, pray and listen for God’s voice. I would sit and be quiet, listening. I realized I needed to rebuild my daily rhythm with God. This went on for about four months, and I became increasingly frustrated because I just wasn’t hearing anything. I remember saying out loud, “God, I just don’t hear You!”
As soon as I said it, i noticed a bird singing off in the distance. I remember thinking, “I wish that bird would be quiet!” Just then, I heard something, not audibly, but I heard it. God was saying, “Listen to that bird, I’m singing over you.” That changed my entire perspective! I immediately felt the anger and frustration begin to wash away. Scripture started giving me a-ha moments again, and I could see my prayers being answered. Through spending time abiding, I was again ready to bear good fruit.
A few days later, my friend Sean was speaking at our church. He’d just returned from a spiritual golf retreat in South Carolina. I was leading worship at another church that day, but my wife, Linda, wrote down a quote from Sean that hit a strong chord in her heart, echoing something she’d always felt, “It changes everything when you hear His voice.”
So I sat down with my guitar and iPhone to write the song. After I wrote a version, I shared it with Linda to get her input on the lyrics. She is really good at clearing things up that I can be nebulous about and getting to the heart of a lyric. After she edited and re-formed some lyrics, I showed it to my friend Mike, who os the lead pastor of our church. Since the song is written for groups to sing, I wanted to make sure the lyrics expressed truth and strong theology. Once I had run it by Mike, I took it to my friend Jason. He’s a fellow worship leader in our valley with a very strong music theory background. He suggested some chord changes that made the sound of the song more interesting.
There were five people involved in the writing of Abide in Me before I ever played it for a small or large worship celebration. By collaborating with friends whose opinions and skills I trust, the finished song was made much clearer and stronger . Don’t be afraid to share your songwriting work with others. Having a strong supportive creative community will make songwriting much more fun and fruitful.