Thursday, 9 December 2010

Behind The Song: You Spoke The Stars

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Not another pagan hymn?

The song started life from a single word in Randy Alcorn’s book Heaven. In a quote from Calvin Miller’s The Divine Symphony, God is called ‘Earthmaker’.

Earthmaker, Holy, let me now depart
For living’s such a temporary art

I thought that would make a good title and digging around in my files found the phrase "You spoke the stars" which I thought would be a good opening. Together they suggested a Psalm 8 deal - ‘if the universe is so amazing what do you see in me?’

That said I didn’t want to write another ‘pagan hymn’ as I’ve come to call them. You know, the kind of song that goes

God you made the stars,
Stars are so cool,
You are cool too

and that’s as theological as it ever gets. Not that I have a problem with such songs, per se, but I think we need more in the way of gospel content. One solution is to add a second verse that at least name-checks the cross. We have a million of these suckers, including awesome songs like Amazing God by Phatfish, What Can I Do? by Paul Baloche & Graham Kendrick even How Great Thou Art, so the church doesn't really need any more. Sovereign Grace have a great song based on Ps 8 by Mark Altrogge called How Majestic which became my benchmark. I had to come up with something fresh or I might as well just sing Mark's song.

Love the book Mr Tolkien. Could we just cut the ring stuff?

The initial ‘angle’ was that though God spoke creation he made us with his hands but there are several verses (including Psalm 8!) that speak of him forming the heavens with his hands and as the whole thing had a certain degree of metaphoricalness anyway (God not having literal hands) I gave up on that nuance. Next was the thought that though the stars displayed God’s power more clearly only formerly fallen human beings can proclaim his grace.

The first draft came along fairly quickly despite my usual lyrical overcomplicatedness expressed via big words and run on sentences.

Earthmaker, Earthmaker
Who are we that we should be the objects of your love?
Earthmaker, Earthmaker
All we bring is the sin that crucified your Son
Though a billion stars and galaxies
Proclaim your power more eloquently
Recieve our worship, Maker of the Earth

Everyone I played it to liked it, but no one liked the title ‘Earthmaker’ though no one could explain exactly why! That threw me for a loop. I’ve had problem lines before but never the line that the whole song is built on. It’s like trying to remake Lord of the Rings without a ring. But I tried and the rewritten chorus ‘Pure Grace’ wasn’t bad.

When you made us, it was pure grace.
Who are we that we should be the objects of your love?
When you saved us, it was pure grace -
Endless praise, cannot repay the debt we owe your Son.
Let a billion stars and galaxies
Proclaim your power more eloquently
We rejoice that we have known your grace.

But everyone liked the old chorus better. I admitted defeat for about a year.

Let it marinate

As I let the song soak for a year the desire grew to make the chorus more personal. Yes, we have fallen far short of the glory we were supposed to display but God is still ready to embrace us with his mercy just as close as he was when he took Eden’s dust in his hands.

But your mercy has found me.
In your grace, you embrace
The child that once was lost.
Let mercy surround me.
Help me see, I'll always be
Encircled by your love.
As a billion stars and galaxies
Proclaim your power so eloquently
I will praise the mercy of my God.

I was much happier with chorus take three 'Mercy' and after I tightened up a few other lines we were done.

Musically it’s kind of straight forward, though one writer I sought feedback from detected my ‘Broadway influences’ showing through (I do love Gershwin, Porter & Kern)!

Download this song for free!  
mp3      Chord Sheet       Lyrics   

Related Posts: The story behind 'The Morning After The Day You Saved The World'
 The story behind The Healing Song

Other free songs by Matt Blick

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