Soul Songs.

My theory is this: every person has something that makes their soul sing; they need to know what it is and they need to do that thing as often as possible.

A bit of a preface to the creation of this piece of writing: first, the setting. At ten o’clock that morning, I had been suited with a surgery gown, wheeled into an operating room, and was put under for surgery. I woke up about two hours later with four new scars on my left knee.

Bedridden, there were two options of how to spend my time: reading or watching TV. My first night, I did both.

The film of choice was The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, book of choice was Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist.

To simply put it, she made me want to write – we create because we were made in the image of God, whose first role was Creator. “We [create art] because it makes us feel aware and alive and created for a purpose more than almost anything else in our lives.”  She describes it as a hard work, but “writing wakes me up, lights me on fire… Do the work, learn the skills, and make art, because of what the act of creation will create in you.”

Second piece of background: three years ago, I learned how to play “How He Loves” by John Mark McMillan on the piano. It became my song, one that I would spend hours and hours playing, bring such joy to my life. 

One of the reasons I love the song so much is the story behind it: McMillan wrote it hours after his best friend Stephen died in a car accident. Stephen was on his way home from a church meeting, where he had just prayed, “I’d give my life today if it would shake the youth of the nation.”

“How He loves” was birthed out of a need to have a conversation with God. The love McMillan sings of is not a pretty, “Hollywood, hot-pink love,” but a love that is willing to love when things are hard and messy. “It's a celebration of a God who would want to hang with us through those things, who would want to be a part of our lives through those things, and, despite who we are, He would want to be a part of us, our community, and our family.”

Long, long intro, but those two things - my passion for writing, my passion for God, and his passion for me - cumulated into the creation of a soul song:


 Photo credit: Carter Cunningham

Photo credit: Carter Cunningham

Soul Songs 

Sometimes my soul feels a bit dry, in deep need of a sun-shower of beauty and goodness and … in need of simply feeling something.

My soul cries to be moved in the midst of errands, assignments, and growing to-do lists. To be cracked open and feel something that holds meaning.

I’ll hear those soul cries, and sometimes I’ll answer them.

I slip away, leaving the day’s worries behind, and wander through an empty hallway in the house.

Door pressed shut, bench slid in, volume turned up.

            In the silence, my soul finds its voice.

            Fingers gloss the keys, sticking over the occasional C#.

            As my lids flicker shut, melodies come alive.

Loud and beautiful, they voice the desire of my soul – to sing, to create beauty, to be heard, to praise.

            I play, fingers stumbling over notes.

I play a song of praise in that big, empty room, marveling over the love of a Savior, the love that speaks to my soul.

I play to feel, to hear myself over the noise of life. Weights are shrugged off as I play, boldly and carelessly.

After my song is over, I may play the chorus again, or I may shut the music box down, turn the lights off, and tiptoe out of my secret – yet public – place.

I leave heart lighter.

By no means are my skills in the piano, but over the years, it’s become a voice.

A wondrous voice that somehow allows time to breathe deeply and purposefully.

I search for that feeling in life, and sometimes, I stumble across it.

It’s in the midnight moments of writing, carefree car-songs, coasting down hills, eye-opening praises – simple, beauty, awe-filled moments.

            My soul is lightened and feels purpose-filled.

            This. This is life. 


I thought about You the day Stephen died,

And you met me between my breaking.

I know that I still love you, God, despite the agony.

See people, they want to tell me you’re cruel,

But if Stephen could sing, He’d say it’s not true,

‘Cause you’re good.

How He loves us,

Oh, how He loves us,

Oh, how He loves,

Oh, how he loves us so.

 (If you have never heard to the original version of “How He Loves,” give it a listen by clicking here – and listen to the whole song to hear McMillan’s honest cries to God)