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Thursday, May 03, 2012

The Great American Musical
That Is Life

In high school, I was involved with every musical the drama department produced: My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, Carousel. Each of them, including The Music Man, Oklahoma!, and Hello, Dolly! at community theatre, cemented into my brain the belief that life has a soundtrack—and that soundtrack fits with and enhances the actions on stage.

So strong is the connection in my mind between music and story that I cannot think of one without the other. I purposefully leave my iPod on shuffle to test my hypothesis that the right song will play in your life for each dramatic moment—just as it does on stage. And frequently I’m right.

So, you’d think I’d be used to the intersections, but it is still a magical moment when God—because that’s Who I know writes the score of my life—inserts the right song into my libretto.

Enter conflict

I’ve just entered a phase of life that is, while not exactly the Dark Moment, certainly dim.  For the first time in my life, I am unemployed—and it was unexpected. On a recent Sunday, I needed reassurance that God was faithful and would not leave me—that He had the strength even though I did not.

Worship that day began with:
Give thanks to the Lord, Our God and King
His love endures forever
For He is good, He is above all things
His love endures forever

Forever God is faithful. Forever God is strong.
Forever God is with us. Forever. (Chris Tomlin)

From there:
You are the everlasting God, the everlasting God
You do not faint. You won't grow weary

You're the defender of the weak. You comfort those in need.
You lift us up on wings like eagles.
(Chris Tomlin)

And the service ended with Great Is Thy Faithfulness and it’s fantastic line, “There is no shadow of turning with Thee.”

God was pulling a Bill Engvall, “Here’s your sign!”

God speaking

The next Sunday, I am having a hard time seeing the way forward and am worrying about the future. So what does worship start with?
Today is the day You have made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.
Today is the day You have made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.
And I won't worry about tomorrow; I'm trusting in what You say.
Today is the day.
(Lincoln Brewster, bold added)

In my last week at work, I had to go in to do some work in the office rather than work from home. I didn’t think I could do it. As I’m approaching work, this song plays on my iPod:
When you're alone, your heart is torn, He is all you need.
When you're confused, your soul is bruised, He is all you need.
He's the rock of your soul. He's the anchor that holds
Through your desperate time.
When your way is unsure His love will endure, and peace you will find
Through all your years, the joy, the tears, He is all you need.
(Steve Camp)

When my last day on the job came and I’m driving home, afraid (yet again) for the future:
My life is up and it is down. I try to keep both feet on the ground.
Your love is all that gets me through. All I need on this earth is You.

And I can hear Your voice inviting:
"I'm here. I'll never leave your side.
My stubborn weary child, I am still here.
Please let me lead you on. Your race is already won.
I am your God."
(Leigh Nash)

If you don’t know God, you may be tempted to think I went and found the songs I needed to salve my soul. But the worship service songs are documented and the other two are noted on my Facebook page at the time they happened.

But what does this have to do with writing? Why did I write about this on Novel Rocket, a site devoted to providing you with the propulsion you need to launch your novel dream?

God whispers and roars

If I had read this account in a novel, I would have been tempted to give a little sanctimonious sneer, “Too much, too much. The author overplayed the ‘God’ card.”

Are we willing, in our novels, to let God be God? He is, as C.S. Lewis wrote, an untamed lion. God should always provide, in your novel, whatever your character needs to believe or to take the next step—regardless of whether that seems over the top. This is what He does.

It’s a cliché that “truth is stranger than fiction.” Don’t use that in your book. But don’t be afraid to have your fiction be true—even if it seems strange.

Michael Ehret loves to play with words and as editor of the ACFW Journal, he is enjoying a new playground. He also plays with words as a freelance editor/writer and as a contributor here on Novel Rocket. He has edited several nonfiction books, played with words as a corporate communicator, and reported for The Indianapolis Star.


  1. I'm fine with music if it's truly in the background. Like at Starbucks. The voices too. They all become white noise. But if I'm in the quiet of my own office and turn on music, it distracts me. Strange, I know, but consider the source.

    1. I'm with you on background music, Ane. Too distracting while I'm writing. Don't like it at Starbucks, either. The ones I've visited (at the insistence of a friend) have played it too loud. Can't have a decent conversation without shouting. And they can keep their coffee. It tastes like mud. But, of course, it was fresh ground just before it went into the cup.

  2. What a fantastic article, Michael! Nothing like a good "storm" to clear the air. Our life smells better, sweet like the air after a few bolts of lighting. Our vision is sharp and focused again. And we can hear the music.

  3. Well said! Loved the songs you picked. Music gets me through :)

  4. Thanks to you all! And Lori Ann, God picked them. I am just the compiler and praiser. :)

  5. Some 20 years ago, I lost a job unexpectedly. No music but a strange calmness I still remember, "strange" since that same day my husband turned in his notice at work to return to school. In hindsight, I love dramatic messages ... they' re easier for me to recognize. : ) Hope your life brightens soon!

  6. Mike, this exact thing happened to us when my husband was laid off 3 years ago. It was almost eerie! And yet SO comforting. What was interesting was that, since our daughter was in a high school musical group at the time, we were attending various churches where the group would sing each week, and invariably, not only did the songs at each church seem chosen just for us, but the sermons were, too.

    Keeping you in our prayers, but isn't it great to know that God doesn't just allow us to go through these times, He walks right beside us every step of the way.

  7. Deb, you hit the nail on the head. It's not that I'm enjoying the process, but just knowing that none of it caught God by surprise and I am not alone is so comforting.

  8. Well, Michael, you did it. “You make me feel like dancing” as the Bee Gees sang a long time ago. Okay, maybe I better stick to listening; I don't want to hurt myself. Seriously, you’ve given me a lot to think about as far as music and writing. It’s a source of inspiration I’ve neglected in my search for peace and quiet. Thanks.

  9. Oh don't start me on the Bee Gees! Love them... "Nobody gets too much Heaven no more, it's much harder to come by. I'm waiting in line."

  10. Love this, Michael! I have a soundtrack story of my own, so I know what you say is true. Blessings on you, friend.


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