Stories Behind Songs
Linnea is frequently asked where her songs came from - what the inspiration was. Here are some stories. Write to Linnea to request more.
Living in the Light
In 1992, the Whole People of God curriculum, based in Wood Lake Publishing, asked me to create their singalong cassette (again). I suggested to them that I might write a theme song for each of the season's units as I did so. In that year, I wrote "Living in the Light", "Together Through the Valley" and "Everyday Loving".
I had just come back from 3 years away at school, and had found my eyes opened in more ways than I had expected in that time. School is a time when you choose to allow your eyes to be opened - or you don't. If you say yes to allowing new ideas into your life, you are taking a risk of greater openness to the world. In a way, you don't get to choose which insights come to you, which truths confront you, when you do this. You have said "Yes" to Spirit, and life begins to open up around you.
Some of my friends began to remember hard and forgotten events of their own past as they studied scripture. It was like the stories that we had known so well became mirrors for them. I remember one such class in which we took apart parables, acting them out, re-telling them. One of us retold the biblical story of a man in authority whom we all would have described as unjust and cruel. She told us he was kind. She began to describe how he was fair. As she spoke, we began to see the lights go out in her eyes; she was realizing she had told herself her whole life that unfair was fair, that cruel was kind, that one who had betrayed her trust was somehow trustworthy...
It was a tumultuous year for my friend. It was quite a year for me, learning how to support and understand. What seemed really true to me then, as now, is:
"When light comes pouring into the darkest place,
it hurts our eyes to see the glow.
Sometimes a word of hope reminds us of our fears,
our memories and tears."
I believe that Jesus is a way in to the healing energy of God. I can see now that I described him in verse 3 as one who "showed us a brighter path to walk" - a guide and mentor or role model. Now I would describe him as a pathway through which God is drawing me toward God's Self. That Jesus creates an illumination of the Holy.
Opening our eyes to that illumination is a brave act, but I believe that when we are invited by Spirit to see more of the truth, we will be given the support we need to deal with it.
How Then Shall I Live
Many years ago, I was invited by the World Council of Churches Youth Sub-Committee to attend an event in Cyprus and Egypt. The event was designed to bring together young adults from all over the world to talk about what was going on in their regions. We sat in the board room on the upper floor of a hotel for days of committee meetings in heat that was in the thirties - talking, praying, analysing. We sipped water non-stop.
Whenever there was a moment for a break, I would go to the window and stare out across the tops of the buildings of Cairo. In Egypt, the housing regulations are based on family members' building a home together as they grow. A young couple will move into the upper floor of the parents' building, taking over and building walls upward where once chickens sketched about on open concrete. No-one pays taxes on their building until the rebar is cut off at the top, indicating that the building is finished. Thus, the tops of all the houses along the horizon of Cairo seem to be endless lines of metal bars stretching to the sky.
Immediately across from our board room was a building under construction. Concrete flooring had begun, and a long 2x8 board had been leaned like a ramp against it to permit construction workers to walk up it, each with a stack of 4 bricks on his head. Walls were being built at a painstaking speed. A family was sleeping under the lowest overhang; they cleaned up their bedding and breakfast in the early morning as the workers arrived. What would have taken one afternoon with cranes and concrete mixers would take months.
Who are the super-heroes in this world, I wondered?
Took a step outside of my walking
Found within a beat that we share
Walked with you the length of a lifetime
And made of life a living prayer.
Like a Rock
A number of years ago, I began to work with Keri Wehlander at Ryerson United Church, in Vancouver. It was there that, one day in a small informal worship, she prayed this prayer. Or rather that she danced these words. It was as prayer with flowing movements that elegantly spoke of God in All Things.
Like a rock, like a rock, God is under our feet
Like the starry night sky, God is over our head
Like the sun on the horizon, God is ever before
Like the river runs to ocean, our home is in God evermore.
I thought to myself: That is a song. So, I took it home and chipped away at the words- like Michelangelo said he did with rock until the Art emerged whole. Later, when Keri and I had sung it together, we agreed that this was not just a song; it was an ancient Celtic Blessing that we had just written together - a short little while ago.
I asked the children of Ryerson United to remember stories of Jesus that they especially appreciated, and we put them to a rhythm:
Jesus loved people and he made them friends.
He called to the children and the women and men.
I had already had a feeling for a chorus that would be super fun to sing:
Hey now, Singing Hallelujah! Hey now, the morning has come!
Hey now, Singing Hallelujah! The tomb was empty at the rising sun.
It's the kind of song that you could do, too. Invite people of all ages to get together for a workshop and potluck. In small multi-age groups, ask people to share their favourite Jesus story or memories. Choose one to make into a verse; it doesn't have to rhyme, but see if you can make it scan (fit the beat) pretty closely. That will make it easier to sing when you collect all the verses to sing together.