Friday, September 25, 2009

Sweetwater Rose

This oughta be good. Music, food...and a chance to stare at four beautiful women for an hour, and know they'll not only not be offended, they'll be grateful for the attention! I just don't understand the bias against female musicians I keep hearing about in Nashville. Just don't get it.

Check out Sweetwater Rose.

P.S.: This is how they looked in action on Wednesday. And sounded just as good, as hard as that may be to believe.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Soundtrack for a love story

I got one the best e-mails EVER not long ago. The kind that reminds me why I write songs and why I should keep at it. The author gave me permission to share it, and I hope anyone reading this will apply the same "lesson" to their own passionate pursuits and labors of love. Sometimes you get a royalty check, and sometimes you get something really valuable (not that there's anything wrong with a check!).

To give some background: I was in picturesque Ashland, Oregon for two years (1990-92) as a volunteer under a missions program called US-2, loosely modeled after the Peace Corps. I was there to help local Southern Baptist churches to serve two "constituencies": the students & faculty at Southern Oregon State College (now S.O.U.), and the tourists & workers in local leisure-oriented activities such as the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and rafting on the Rogue River.

Since there was already a very active (non-Southern) Baptist student ministry on campus, I often offered my services in cooperation with them, and generally enjoyed their company. Toward the end of my time in Oregon, this group (called IMPACT) indulged me by allowing me to do a mini-concert at one of their meetings.

I had been doing what I could to get my songs on tape (cassettes...remember them?) and get them out to what I hoped was a clamoring public (or would be eventually). I had cobbled together some recordings into a custom cassette called "Songs About Us" (also creating the artwork, done in black & white for that abstract look...and to make it cheap to reproduce), made about 100 copies and offered them for sale.

Fast-forward to the present (whoo...dizzy...OK...). I got an e-mail asking if I was the Mark Hall who had put out the above-mentioned cassette. I had to admit to it, and made clear it was too late for a refund. Then the woman proceeded to bless me with this:

Well this story will involve us traveling back in our time machines… to a time of mullet hair cuts and poufy spiral perms…

I had been attending SOSC and had a roommate that was a Christian. During that time I was really searching to know the truth about God and to find out what it meant to have a personal relationship with Him. My friend, Cathy, invited me to a worship night there at the college. I remember learning to get to know God in a new way while attending there. I remember listening to some Rich Mullins songs for the first time, “Awesome God” and “Mighty Warrior” – really worshiping through song - was all new and exciting to me.

During this time frame, I had also attended an Athletes in Action basketball game, with my boyfriend, that our SOSC basketball players were playing against…During half time (while the SOSC players were trying to come up with a strategy that might work) the Athletes in Action took turns sharing their testimonies with the crowd. That was the day that I had answered the aching call that He had put on my heart and had been cultivating at those worship times at the college… that was the moment I made a commitment to follow Jesus as my Lord and Savior.

Some time passed and my boyfriend, who was already a Christian, had proposed to me and we had decided to put Christ first in our marriage …and we were both navigating in uncharted waters on how to do that… we had started attending a local church together… Sunday school classes… etc.. (First Baptist Church in Ashland).

… At one of those worship nights at the college you were there, probably at more than a few (my memory is a bit swiss cheesy at this point)… I remember hearing you play some of your songs from your cassette. I remember being especially moved by “In His Love” that you played. I remember longing to follow the Lord in our marriage the way the song described. I remember using what money I had to purchase your cassette, with great joy in my heart.

We wanted to have you sing it at our wedding but we couldn’t work it out (I think you had left at that point… Sept’92)… so we did the next best thing and we had played your tape at our wedding as we gazed into each other’s eyes. That song was somewhat part of the vows that we shared with each other in our hearts that day. Over the years, as we have listened to that song (I made a copy onto another cassette so we didn’t wear out the original)… it has brought us to that moment at our wedding when our hearts were fresh and newly focused on Jesus… God has used it as an encouragement, strengthener and guide. We have definitely had hard times (Chris is in the Army and has been deployed three times, I have had some close calls with my health.. to include cancer/chemo etc…) through out it all we have held on to the One who is faithful to us all and we have grown in His love.

As I look back and remember that our parents gave us the best of what they knew, they really couldn’t tell us the advice that we needed to hear as we started out on our journey of our lives together. I can see now, as I look back, that the Lord used you, and that song, to minister to us, it was our loving Father giving us all the advice we would need on our wedding day. That was the first time I ever heard, really heard, about how He really will grow Chris and my love into a love like no other, how He will provide us the dreams and their fulfillment, how we can face whatever trials lie ahead while clinging to Him, how I could know the blessings of His presence through the power of His Word, about His forever Love that can be forever trusted.

I have looked a number of times for you over the internet, always longing to tell you these words…

Thank you Mark for being such a faithful servant to our Lord. God truly used you in a mighty way in our lives. Thank you for putting to music the song of our hearts.

Chris and I are celebrating 17 years of marriage this September. We are still joy-filled newlyweds because we have His love.

Thank you.
In Jesus love,


To conclude this Casey Kasem-meets-Delilah moment...the name of the song is "In His Love." It was originally inspired by the then-impending nuptials of my college friends, Jeff & Alice (also still together). You can read the lyrics and listen to the song by clicking the links below...but please forgive the less-than-stellar recording and engineering skills involved in the recording. Apparently it was good enough for Chris & Donna to provide the soundtrack for what must have been a very romantic staring contest at their wedding, so that's something!

The funny part of this (to me) is that I've never been married, and yet these two learned about marriage from my song. Just goes to show how God can do astonishing things with our "loaves and fishes" (in my case, some keen observations and sappy idealism combined with solid scriptural principles and maybe a bit of James Dobson) on those rare occasions when we allow Him permission (and sometimes even when we don't).

By the way, I fully realize the very likely possibility that my motives for sharing this are completely self-serving. But I figure it's worth the risk; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 says it better than I could (for reasons I hope I don't have to explain, though I'll be glad to if necessary!).

Happy anniversary, y'all!

In His Love lyrics

In His Love mp3

(Right-click each link and "Save target as..." to download each file directly)