Stay Right Here was born out of an unforgettable moment in God’s presence. I was standing on the plains of Colorado staring up at Pikes Peak in the middle of a hot summer afternoon. The view was overwhelming, God’s presence even more so. I was completely lost in the moment. Suddenly it occurred to me that I’d lost track of time. Had minutes passed? Hours? I really had no idea. It was the closest thing to timelessness I’ve ever experienced. It felt as though time stood still. Somewhere during that time I started singing a few phrases, a simple description of what was happening at that moment… intimate songs… sweet tender words… flowing between heaven and earth. I had only completed a few lines when I decided it was time to head back to the ‘real’ world. Ironically, I was actually leaving the real world to return to the unreal world but we don’t usually think in those terms. I got in my car and began driving along the highway, still overwhelmed by God’s presence. Another lyric came to me. I pulled over to jot it down. I didn’t want to lose anything from this moment. I wanted to savor ever second. A mile further down the highway another phrase came to me. I pulled over again. It felt like taking dictation. I know that opens a theological can of worms for some but it’s just the best way to describe how it felt. It’s also not a commentary on the quality of the song. It’s just what it felt like to write it. I arrived home with a few more lyrics and still feeling completely enveloped in God’s presence. It was like coming up out of water completely clothed. I was drenched and felt like I was dripping everywhere. The feeling lasted about three days and I kept writing lyrics and melody as they came, intermittently yet effortlessly. Then it wore off and the song was done. I often write songs during prayer and quiet times but this was unlike anything else. It’s never happened to me since.
From the very beginning I always envisioned Stay Right Here with just piano and cello. I felt like the two instruments would captured the intimate flavor of the song and represent the simplicity of interaction between God and man that day. I was blessed to have the gifted John Catchings play cello for the track. My talented producer, Jason Garner, worked up some additional string parts to enhance the dynamics. I love it all.
I once had a successful country songwriter listen to a rough demo of Stay Right Here. He really liked it and wanted to change some lyrics to make it a country love song. He thought it had potential to get recorded by a major artist. But I couldn’t change it. The song meant too much to me. I kind of thought of Stay Right Here as “our song” (between God and me) in the way that lovers use the phrase for a special song that captures their relationship. So I broke one of the unwritten rules of Nashville and told a successful songwriter ‘no’. I made it clear that I wanted to write with him but that I just didn’t want to rewrite Stay Right Here as a love song. Truth be told it was always a love song… but not an earthly one. Although I tried to carefully explain my reasons, he was offended and made it clear that he no longer had an interest in writing with me at all.
Worship songs like Stay Right Here have recently come under criticism in certain circles. For some folks the imagery in worship songs like this is too much like that of ‘earthly’ love songs. Several times in scripture we see bride & groom imagery used to describe the relationship between Christ and the church but that’s not how I would explain my choice of lyrics for Stay Right Here. I simply chose the words that best described an amazing moment in God’s presence. If I could come up with a better, more accurate way to describe it I would.
If you’ve never experienced a moment like the song describes I hope you will someday. You’ll be blown away by His glory and beauty. You’ll probably lose track of time and you’ll probably want to stay right there in the moment. Maybe you’ll write a song about it, too.
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