Away in a Manger Piano Solo

Away in a MangerGet the Sheet Music

It’s remarkable to me that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Great I Am, who appeared to Moses in the burning bush, and saved the Hebrew slaves from Pharaoh, sending plagues and seas on the pursuing armies, was born in the humblest circumstance—like the poorest of the poor, with straw laid out in a troff for His cradle. This little child, born anonymously in the most obscure circumstances during the busiest holiday celebrated by the children of Israel, was, in fact, the very God and Redeemer of Israel.

I wanted to catch that in the music, just a little. In what might be considered the chorus version of this piece, where primary children would normally sing, “Asleep, asleep, the Savior in a stall,” I changed things up a bit to match an original melody I used in my arrangement of the hymn, Redeemer of Israel, as if to say, “This tiny child, asleep in the stall, is the very Redeemer of Israel.”

Gethsemane: Original Choir Piece

GethsemaneIn my Gethsemane my poor voice I gently raised,
For the burden placed on me, I have also been amazed
Oh Jesus, my Jesus

That reach was infinite, every soul in space and time,
It was also intimate, filling me with grace sublime
Oh Jesus, my Jesus

The garden where the Savior paid the price for me.
When His soul was made an offering for sin,
He saw His seed,
Who would that be?
Did He see me?

I’ve tried to change my heart, time and time and time again,
But when I found his love, I found strength that would sustain.
Oh Jesus, my Jesus

He sets my spirit free to become one of His own.
He is making me to be more than I could do alone.
Oh Jesus, my Jesus

The garden where the Savior paid the price for me.
When His soul was made an offering for sin,
He saw His seed,
Who would that be?
Did He see me?

The sheet music and piano solo of this piece are available on my website.

Abide with Me

Abide with MeWhen discouragement, fear, and frustration overtake us; when we turn our hearts away from the truth; when we cover our ears to silence the heavenly whisper; when we pollute our lives with one bad choice after another; at some point we come to realize the hopelessness of our circumstance. At that moment of crisis, when it seems no light can be seen from any horizon, if we call upon God in the desperate hope He’s listening, we discover that the Lord is always, always, closer than we think.

Sheet music for this piece is available at my website.

For the Beauty of the Earth, with a little help from Bach’s 1st prelude…

For the Beauty of the Earth
Cover photo by Ria Spencer

If you’re ever struggling spiritually, take a walk. Look around at the beauty of the world. Notice the grass, flowers, trees, and mountains. Notice the people, birds, and wildlife. Notice the ground and sky. Notice the colors, and the finer, quieter details.

Then say a prayer, as you walk. Thank your Heavenly Father for the beauty surrounding you. Get specific. Thank him for the fragrance of damp flowers, for gentle breezes, and the ever changing canvas that is the painting in the sky.

Then thank Him for your family, home, job, car, talents, gifts, and opportunities. Again, be specific. Walk as long as you can, and spend the entire time thanking Him for things, large and small.

I can promise you that not only will you find more beauty in the world around you, but you’ll find your heart longing to be closer to God. You’ll find your motivation to do what’s right strengthening and expanding.

Then thank the Lord for that.

In doing so, not only will your life get better, but you’ll find others thanking you for the beauty you provide in their lives. In short, you will become more. You will make the world more beautiful.

The sheet music for this piece is available at my website

Does that Star-Spangled Banner Yet Wave?

The Star Spangled Banner

I used to get annoyed by our national anthem. Seriously? The United States’ #1 chief patriotic theme is about bombs going off, and ends (after all, we only ever sing the first verse, right?) with the question of whether our flag even survived the chaos of battle fire. Just by hearing the song, one wouldn’t know. The question isn’t answered. In essence, the song says, “Last night, at twilight, I could see by the explosions that the flag still stood, but now it’s almost morning.” The end of the final cadence sings, “Does that star-spangled banner yet wave over land of the free and the home of the brave?” Basically, “Did we win? Are we still a free country?”

Done. End of song. Play ball.

Maybe that’s why I had such a hard time coming up with an appropriate arrangement of the piece.

I toyed with the idea of staying true to the bold, triumphant style that is traditional for this song, and which fits the second and third verses well. But I couldn’t do it.

I decided to be fair to the lyrics of the first verse, the one portion of the text that we all know and sing, to that question of, “When the morning comes, will we still be a free country?” So I tried something a little different.

Picture a soldier on assignment, watching the fight from his station, and seeing during the evening battle the periodic flashes of bombs illuminating the flag, but when the lights and explosions stop, the night darkens, leaving the question of victory or loss in the air. Then imagine the insufferable night of worry, of questioning, of insecurity, of fear. What about my land? What about my family? What will happen if we lose? The hours passing in darkness, the fear of even lighting a candle lest it spark more chaos. Did we win? Are we safe now? Does the flag still stand?

That’s what this arrangement is about.

Oh, and just for the record, I really like our national anthem now.

My African Dream

My African Dream CoverOn my mission to South Africa, I had many dreams about home. I mentioned this to a companion once, and he said since the beginning of his mission, he hadn’t once dreamed about home. This surprised me, because I hadn’t once dreamed about my mission or Africa – my dreams were always about home.

Later in my mission I dreamed a few dreams about my mission, but the vast majority took place at home.

There was one dream that recurred many times in my mission in different forms. I was home for a short time from my mission. I had little time, because for some reason I was about to go back. Knowing this, I told my family all the incredible things about Africa—about the culture, the people, the traditions, the art, the music—everything that fascinated me about this incredible land. In the dream, I’d be telling them as much as I could in the short time I had. Then I would wake from the dream and realize that I had indeed returned to Africa.

About halfway through my mission, I had a dream that I’d returned home. It was the end of my mission, and I was home for good. In my dream I came to a striking realization that my mission was over. No more teaching, no more tracting, no more missionary work. I also had another shock when I realized that Africa was gone forever. No more teaching the word of God by candlelight in a broken shanty. No more beautiful African people, with their easy laughs and contagious faith. No more rusty golden sunsets or palm-cactus forests. No more walks down dusty, poor, villages with distant voices singing in perfect harmony from some unknown house, with pulsing drums carried in the wind. No more African stars glowing like nebulae in the night sky. No more red sand. No more Africa.

In the dream, the realization of this loss hit me dramatically. I thought about the fact that there were no people in the world like Africans. No culture that was more unique and beautiful. I adored this people. Oh, how I loved them.

In the dream I told everyone at home about all the African ways and the incredible African people. I told them about the amazing children of God who had learned and accepted the gospel, about their commitment and love for the truth. In my dream, I suddenly felt terribly sad to have left Africa. I wanted to keep teaching these people. I wanted to go back. I wanted to be a missionary in Africa for as long as I could.

Because of these powerful feelings, waking up was a joyous relief. My mission wasn’t over. There wasn’t anything I wanted more at that time than to be a missionary in the Johannesburg South Africa Mission.

Of course I missed my family, but for now, that was all I wanted, and I decided I would make my remaining year the best possible mission I could.

And I did.

After writing the memoir of my mission, I wrote a piano piece called, My African Dream, to remind me of everything I loved about Africa, and the mixed emotions from the powerful dream of coming home and leaving it all behind.

Chord-Player Piano

Click this video to start, and then click on a note to play the chord. If you hit the top of the note, it will do the major chord, and the bottom will do the minor. I’ve always wanted to make something like this, and I finally got around to it!