For those of you who do not know my background, for the last forty years or so, prior to writing the book, “Unlocking Creation” and starting this blog…I dabbled as a songwriter, singer and musician. I have written and recorded (mostly demos) well over 200 songs and had a couple of records out, back in the day. But unless you live in Tiffin, Ohio (it’s a long story), you probably never heard of any of them. I guess the Lord had other plans, which is all fine and good. With the 20-20 vision that hindsight affords us, I wouldn’t change a thing, even if I could.
In 1966, about two years after the Beatles took the world by storm, I was twelve years old and had been taking lessons on the accordion for five years (I grew up in an Italian family, what else was a I going to play? LOL) and I had just recently switched to the compact organ (like Mike Smith of the Dave Clark Five played…much cooler than accordion). And I also dreamt of playing in a band someday. It was then that I heard this incredible record called, “I Who Have Nothing” by a group called Terry Knight and the Pack. It was probably the first true “power ballad” of the rock era to catch my ear and I really loved the song. It conveyed so much emotion and Mr. Knight gave us a very memorable vocal performance. But not long after that, the group broke up and a couple of the members of the Pack, Don Brewer and Mark Farner, started their own group which had a little bit of success, too. You might have heard of them…Grand Funk Railroad.
But as I look back on this “blast from the past”, I am now also seeing the beautiful and seemingly selfless sentiments of the words to this song with a different set of eyes.
Here are the words from the first verse:
I, I who have nothing
I, I who have no one
Adore you and want you so
I’m just a no one with nothing to give you but….oh
I love you
While it is pretty obvious that this is a “love song”, most certainly written and sung to express a deep, hungering type of love from a man to a woman, I can’t help but think these same words (at least that first verse) could be sung as a song of worship…to a loving and gracious God who has blessed us in ways we may not even realize.
If I am honest, drawing from the “creation story” that I dug into rather deeply in the book, “Unlocking Creation”, we all have come into this world with nothing but the flesh, blood and bones that God graced us with during our time in our mother’s womb. Then when we were born, God filled our lungs with breath just as He did when he formed Adam and Eve from the dust of the earth. Any earthly blessings that I received after that, either from the hands of my two amazing parents, the natural process of growing and maturing or through other means of providence or protection from any number of possible sources, I count them all as originating from the throne and loving heart of God. I don’t believe in the concept of a self-made man. There really is no such thing, never was.
Over the last sixty two years of my life, I have realized and received many gifts, blessings and callings that just seemed to appear out of nowhere at the appropriate time and place, again, without any help or pre-planning by yours truly. The gift of music showed up on our doorstep, one day when I was seven, through a man selling music lessons to kids in the area. That gift of music led to playing in numerous bands, starting not long after “I Who Have Nothing” hit the Billboard charts. And that has continued in one form or another right up to today, as I now play on the worship team at out local church and still play a handful of gigs with my friend’s British Invasion tribute band (Old dogs may not learn new tricks, but this old dog has the old ones down pat. Hey, it’s still fun, so why not?)
That same of gift music led me to meeting my lovely wife of almost thirty nine years, Lauri Lee, at one of our gigs at a local restaurant and bar called The Brown Derby “Luv Pub” (you cannot make this stuff up…lol) in January of 1978. Trust me, at that point in my life, that was not on my “To Do List”. My plans were very different, back then. But God had a different path in mind for me. And of course, that different path led to four amazing children and seven (so far) grandchildren. And again, I cannot take credit for any of it, because none of it originated with me alone. I had neither the power nor the wisdom to create the “sacred sequence of events” that resulted in what I now humbly refer to as MY LIFE. To say, “I had a little help along the way,”…well, now that would be like saying, “Tom Brady is a pretty good quarterback.” A huge understatement.
As a matter of fact, that same gift of music showed up again, and played a significant part in the story of how I came to Christ in November of 1979, thanks to my dear old friend and the former drummer in our high school rock band, George Loper. And this was all just seventeen months after Lauri Lee and I were married and just five months after baby Jessica arrived on the scene. I think it is fair to say that my life went through some pretty big changes in 1978 and 1979. And if you had talked to me in 1977, none of these major lifestyle changes were even a minor blip on my radar screen. I was totally oblivious to what life had in store, but now it seems more than obvious that someone else was not.
I was just telling our Men’s Group at church a few weeks ago, we try so hard to figure it all out. You know the drill. “What’s God’s will for my life?” “Does He want me to take the promotion I was just offered or should I look for a different job altogether?” “Who am I going to marry and when?” “Should we try for that boy, for our third child, or just be happy with our two beautiful daughters?” But when I look back at my life, regarding all those pivotal moments that we sometimes stress over, something far beyond my control was at work.
God’s will for my life found me, usually when I least expected it, and brought me just what I needed, just when I needed it with little or no help from me. All my wishing and hoping, planning and strategizing, dreaming and scheming…it was all just as Solomon wrote “vanity and chasing after the wind.” More often than not, God’s will finds you. Not the other way around.
Our part in all of this, is to simply buy into “The Gospel According To Terry Knight”, which suggests that we should be willing to admit to God (and ourself) that we are nothing (in and of ourselves) and that we have absolutely nothing to offer Him…but our love and devotion. Once we have done that, it’s a lot easier to lift our hands and say, “Not my will, Lord, but Thy will be done”, knowing that He knows what’s best and has it all figured out in advance, anyway. It’s sort of like with Dorothy. Our “yellow brick road” has long been paved and all we have to do is “follow, follow, follow, follow, follow” it. But for human beings….that is “Easier Said Than Done” (hey, another classic tune).
It is called “faith”. It’s what the writer of Hebrews wrote about in the 11th Chapter:
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” [Hebrews 11:1,6 ESV]