Silent Night has long been my favorite Christmas carol. This is the first piece I’ve done strictly a cappella, and I’d have to say, it was a lot of fun. Even though the audio here only has one verse, the sheet music has three verses, so you can do as many as you want when you sing it.
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.”
A week ago, Jenni and I learned that our baby, due March 2014, had miscarried. I can’t express in words the kinds of emotions I’ve been experiencing for this last week. The closest thing I can think to say is that our hearts are broken, but our faith is strong.
I’ve been trying to come up with the appropriate arrangement of Count Your Blessings for several weeks, and before last week, nothing I tried felt right. I attempted numerous times to come up with something that worked for me, but it just wouldn’t click. If I can’t get a spark in a piece, I can’t publish it. I just can’t bring myself to do it. If there’s no spark, the arrangement doesn’t leave my computer. That’s what was happening with this one.
Then we got the news.
The first day, I took the day off to be with my family. When things like this happen, the most precious things in life suddenly become even more dear to me. The next day wasn’t easy, but I knew I had to keep going. When I sat down to make another attempt at “Count Your Blessings,” it came so fast and effortlessly that I’m confident I had help. It was so different than all my previous attempts, but this time, it sparked immediately.
As I’m sure you can imagine, I’ve never struggled to record my voice as much I did with this piece. In order to even get through it, I had to force myself to not think about what I’d just been through. Have you ever tried to force yourself not to think about something? Let alone something this big?
Anyway, it got me thinking about the words a bit. How exactly does a cheerful, optimistic person (like I’m always striving to become) deal with tragedy? How do I see the upside, or silver lining, in the loss of a loved one? How do I find happiness in that?
Well, one way, at least, is simply this: to count my blessings. I have the most loving, beautiful wife in the world, and the sweetest, funnest kids in the world. I’ve been blessed with an absolute certainty of the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the eternal nature of the family and life itself. I’m so blessed.
While I’ve been writing music for over 17 years, this week marks four years from the time I put out my first piece of sheet music. If I had known the incredible response the sheet music would have, I would have started putting it out much sooner!
I just wanted to offer my deepest thanks for all you have done to help bring about my dream to become a full-time musician. It’s your purchasing the sheet music that’s done it. I’m not exaggerating when I say that every time you download another piece, it keeps food on my family’s table, and keeps me writing more music.
We’re still working to get above the poverty line (the cliche of the starving artist has become the story of my life), and the road isn’t easy, but your support is a much bigger encouragement than you can imagine. I love being able to bless the world with the gifts God has so generously given. It’s a calling that can be challenging, overwhelming, and so incredibly rewarding. I don’t perform in public very often. You’re the ones carrying the music out to the world. You’re the ones making a difference in the lives of those who hear you play. You’re touching hearts and blessing souls. What a beautiful thing!
Today also marks my 50th piece put to sheet music. If you haven’t been to my homepage lately, take scroll down and look and the fun mix of sheet music listed. I used to get teased at the MTC because I loved the hymns of zion so much. That was almost 15 years ago. I think the Lord was shaping my musical heart even back then.
So again, I just wanted to say thanks. Let’s keep making the world a better, more beautiful place.
Download “Jesus the Very Thought of Thee,” Sheet Music or Free MP3
Thoughts have power. They shape our character. They shape our existence. They shape the nature of our being. No wonder we’re encouraged to watch our thoughts, guard them, and direct them for good.
We sometimes picture our minds as being storage spaces, and that we’re constantly sifting through files, gathering, grouping, and organizing information into something that will benefit us in a practical way.
I don’t see thoughts that way at all. Thoughts have no boundaries. They’re not limited by space, time, or possibility. They are like an energy cloud of infinite space and potential. They can create, reform, and change the course of universes. They influence everything, because everything we see is from the paradigm of our thoughts. And we, in physical form, effect the things we see.
But, some may argue, you can’t effect someone on the other side of the world just by thinking about them.
I disagree. You most certainly can. Think about that person enough, with real depth, and you’ll reach a point where you can’t not act out physically on your thoughts. Those thoughts leak out in your actions, words, and eyes, and in your interactions with other people. You are the embodiment of your thoughts. You can change yourself by your thoughts. You can change the world with your thoughts. The more you think on a thing, the more that thing comes into being. Eventually, things happen to effect that one person on the other side of the world. That’s the power of thought. Thoughts determine choices, and choices change the world.
Given enough time and attention, a single thought can alter the course of the world.
How much more effective then, is your thought of the creator of everything you’ve ever seen.
Jesus Christ is a man—a perfect, resurrected, omnipotent, and powerful man, but He is a man. He has thoughts, and His thoughts govern the universe.
And if you, also a human being, think on that eternal being, and connect with Him, your influence over the universe expands beyond anything you might think on your own. The very thought of the Savior, who both created and bought the universe, empowers you to do so much more than you could otherwise do.
You may long for his presence. You may picture His face, the very embodiment of eternity. You may think of His life, His choices, His sacrifice. You may think of His perfection, atonement, and His eternal glory. You may think of your own experiences with Him. You may think of Him daily. But whatever you do, think of Him. The very thought of the Savior has power to shape the universe, for you, for your loved ones, and for the whole human race, now and forever.
You can get the sheet music or free MP3 of this music on my website.
From Joseph’s 1832 account of the first vision:
“At about the age of twelve years my mind became seriously impressed with regard to the all-important concerns for the welfare of my immortal soul, which led me to searching the scriptures, believing, as I was taught, that they contained the word of God. Thus, applying myself to them and my intimate acquaintance with those of different denominations led me to marvel exceedingly, for I discovered that they did not adorn their profession by a holy walk and godly conversation agreeable to what I found contained in that sacred depository.
“This was a grief to my soul. Thus from the age of twelve years to fifteen I pondered many things in my heart concerning the situation of the world of mankind, the contentions and divisions, the wickedness and abominations, and the darkness which pervaded the minds of mankind. My mind became exceedingly distressed, for I became convinced of my sins, and by searching the scriptures I found that mankind did not come unto the Lord but that they had apostatized from the true and living faith. And there was no society or denomination that built upon the gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in the New Testament. And I felt to mourn for my own sins and for the sins of the world, for I learned in the scriptures that God was the same yesterday, today, and forever, that he was no respecter of persons, for he was God.
“For I looked upon the sun—the glorious luminary of the earth—and also the moon, rolling in their majesty through the heavens, and also the stars shining in their courses, and the earth also upon which I stood, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of heaven and the fish of the waters, and also man walking forth upon the face of the earth in majesty and in the strength of beauty. . . . And when I considered upon these things, my heart exclaimed, ‘Well hath the wise man said it is a fool that saith in his heart there is no God.’
“My heart exclaimed, ‘All these bear testimony and bespeak an omnipotent and omnipresent power, a being who maketh laws and decreeth and bindeth all things in their bounds, who filleth eternity, who was and is and will be from all eternity to eternity.’ And when I considered all these things and that that being seeketh such to worship him as worship him in spirit and in truth, therefore I cried unto the Lord for mercy, for there was none else to whom I could go and obtain mercy.
And the Lord heard my cry in the wilderness and while in the attitude of calling upon the Lord, in the [15th] year of my age, a pillar of firelight above the brightness of the sun at noon day came down from above and rested upon me, and I was filled with the spirit of God. And the Lord opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lord.
And he spake unto me saying, ‘Joseph, my son, thy sins are forgiven thee. Go thy way, walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments. Behold, I am the Lord of glory. I was crucified for the world that all those who believe on my name may have eternal life. Behold, the world lieth in sin at this time, and none doeth good, no not one. They have turned aside from the gospel and keep not my commandments. They draw near to me with their lips while their hearts are far from me. And mine anger is kindling against the inhabitants of the earth to visit them according to this ungodliness and to bring to pass that which hath been spoken by the mouth of the prophets and apostles. Behold and lo, I come quickly, as is written of me, in the cloud, clothed in the glory of my Father.’
And my soul was filled with love, and for many days I could rejoice with great joy, and the Lord was with me, but could find none that would believe the heavenly vision.”
(Joseph Smith, “Kirtland Letter Book” [MS, LDS Historian’s Library], 1829–1835, 1–6; the original spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and grammar have been altered to conform to contemporary usage). Also cited in the Presidents of the Church Institute Student Manual, pages 5-6.
Fly is based on the ideas shared in two of my favorite poems on faith. The first is by Patrick Overton, and reads,
When you walk to the edge of all the light you have and take that first step into the darkness of the unknown, you must believe that one of two things will happen: There will be something solid for you to stand upon, or, you will be taught how to fly
The second is by Minnie Louise Haskins, and reads,
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.” And he replied: “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.” So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.
I believe that. And according to the scriptures, “faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.” -Ether 12:6
If you’re responding to an urge that seems to come from a higher source, don’t be afraid to act in faith. What good is success if it doesn’t stretch and empower you? What good is a choice if it doesn’t lift you toward something higher?
When it comes to faith, you don’t need to already know how to fly. You’ll learn that after you take the step into the darkness.Patrick Overton said:
“When you walk to the edge of all the light you have
and take that first step into the darkness of the unknown,
you must believe that one of two things will happen:
There will be something solid for you to stand upon,
or, you will be taught how to fly