I keep track of song ideas, jotting down thoughts or titles or a line that catches my ear. Sometime in 2006 I noticed that the phrase ‘twenty-four seven’ was used almost everywhere. Stores are open… you can call us… or reach us online… ‘twenty-four seven.’
It occurred to me that, as accessible as all those things are, they pale in comparison to the attention God gives us. Anytime, anywhere, we can speak directly to our Creator, with no concern about being placed on hold, interface compatibility, or how many anytime minutes we have left. He’s there. Always. Whether we’re praying or not, doing an anonymous good deed or shoplifting, speaking well of someone or spreading gossip, our Lord is listening, watching, loving us no matter what, all the time.
Almost instantly I had the first two lines of the chorus:
“My God is twenty-four seven. You know He’s always watching over me.”
But that was it. But I wrote it down and, over the next months, came back to it several times to see if anything new would come to mind. Nope.
I’d been interested in getting a praise band started at TUMC, not so much because I wanted to be in a band, but I wanted to write for one. I’ve written music since I was 13. I can’t help it. I had trouble finding the right people because I was too new and didn’t know everyone. But in the fall of 2007 Dennis and I talked and realized we had very similar ideas about what a band could do for the congregation and for all the ‘friends we had not yet met.’ This could work.
Dennis knew some musicians who were willing to help, and we put out a call to the church. A few of the younger members of our congregation were interested, and we got together to work through some songs and get to know each other. It was rough but showed potential.
We talked about a name for the band. One was Rescue, and another was 9-1-1, the idea being that Jesus has saved us and is there for us to cry out to. Of course, the two lines I’d scribbled down over a year earlier came to mind. I mentioned it to Dennis one Sunday morning and he said, ‘Great. Write that and we’ll play it. Hey, that’d be a good name for a band.’ The next Sunday pastor Chet announced that the praise band was to be called 24/7. So now I had some pressure to finish the song.
I struggled for weeks trying to find a more concrete idea to wrap the song around, something to hold it together. I waited too long, of course, but finally, in frustration, I asked God to give me some idea to work with. A day or two later I was in a conversation and recalled a moment at our confirmation retreat at East Bay in February and March of 2007.
The leader asked the kids to come up to some paper hanging on a wall and write down when they pray. After a few minutes he started reading the responses: before meals, before bed, during tests at school. Then he turned to the kids with a puzzled look. “Only at church. Why ‘only at church’?” One of the kids sitting on the floor answered, “That’s the only place God can hear me, isn’t it?”
That idea became the first verse: “I’ve heard people say that they hardly ever pray ’cause God can’t hear ’em unless they’re here in the pews.” But the rest of the song stalled again. I just couldn’t find a good musical hook, something that would catch the listener’s ear and hang on to them. Every Sunday well intentioned friends would ask how the song was coming along, and I’d smile and say “It’s getting close.”
In late April, probably Saturday the 26th, I was sitting on the edge of the bed, the warm sun and a light breeze coming through the window, playing through what I had of the song. I tried different things and nothing worked, nothing felt right. I felt defeated. Four months and I couldn’t find the heart of the song.
Crushed, I leaned forward and wrapped my arms around my guitar. “Lord, I need some help. I only want to write a song that tells people how much you love them, that you’re always there with them. Well, I need you to be with me now, to help me write this. I give up.” For several minutes I didn’t play, but just thought about what I needed to say. But nothing new came to me.
I got up and took my time getting another cup of coffee. Soon I came back and tried substituting different chords in the progression I had. Different, but not great. Then, after trying several changes I heard something unique. I played it again. It was nice, but something else… Speed it up. Pick up the tempo. I played faster. Wow! I tried singing the lyrics with it and it worked really well. That felt great! Jesus is a terrific songwriter!
I had the intro and the first half of the chorus, a chiming, joyful, runaway sound. In a few minutes there came a low counterpoint, four measures long, pushing the guitar part even more. Within a week I had the second verse and the bridge (“Think of Jesus as your closest friend who’s always right there by your side.”)
I started recording the parts on the computer. Drums first, then the bass and acoustic guitar. I tried to keep them simple since, at that point we didn’t have a steady drummer and I didn’t know who would be playing the part. The piano part is sharp, stabbing chords, and a pipe organ sound that smoothes out the chorus. The lead guitar took that low counterpoint line, and then Jesus showed me something that still amazes me when I hear it.
I made two mistakes in recording the lead guitar. First, I wrote a four note arch that sounded good. I copied it and set it out of the way. When I played the verse again, that ‘out of the way’ line was timed just right and fell in above and just after the first arch. I fixed one note to keep it in the key and added a third arch, lower this time. Those three arches split four measures into three parts, which is interesting enough. But I copied those three arches and slid them toward the end of the song. Again, as I listened through the song and reached the chorus those three arches came up… and they matched the chords, AND they matched the lead guitar line. I nudged the arches half a beat to line them up and couldn’t believe what I heard. That driving chord progression on the acoustic guitar, the low lead guitar, and the three arches.
I sent the lyrics and the recording to Bo, a good friend, co-writer,and my trusted song critic and he made a few suggestions on the music. I finally showed the band “24-7 (My God)”, the song they were named after, and they took to it immediately. Hailey couldn’t get it out of her head. She still can’t.
The congregation seems to love it just as much. We’re Methodists so standing up, clapping… not normal. What a personal thrill, to see a song I wrote move people so well, but but what a testimony, to lift people up while glorifying God!
It just occurred to me that the song is much like Jesus. It stays with you, always there in your head, your heart.