This is the first fruit of songwriter EverFree, dedicated gratefully to the One who makes all good things possible. Profits from sales of this album will be funneled into children's charities, Christian rescue and outreach missions, as well as community services like food banks. About the Songs: Why 'EverFree?' We are all products of our experiences. I believe life is a classroom. Our teacher structures lessons that uniquely challenge each of us without overwhelming our capacity to learn. As with any student of faith, I have read the teachings of my own faith, the Christian Bible, many times; however, at each reading, I discover a new nugget of truth that I did not grasp before. This is why we come into the classroom -not to study faith, but to experience it. Some of our classmates are truly exceptional. They are capable of wrestling with greater concepts and then restating the lessons to help the less gifted of us understand them better. We instinctively seek out such exceptional students, valuing their leadership, their tutelage. The more time I have spent reading the four gospels of the Christian faith, the greater my appreciation for the classmate and tutor that we call Christ. I came into a classroom in a democratic country where social and religious tolerances enable relatively peaceful coexistence of many cultures and belief systems. Through out my life, I have observed good laws executed badly, good people falter, good intentions forgotten. When completely free to choose our actions, it takes both great strength and great wisdom to choose well. Free choice does not always mean freedom from fear or pain or persecution. Free choice does not always result in a clear conscience. Freedom is as freedom does. So much the more is my respect of Christ. While free to choose many things, He chose obedience to the laws of His beliefs. He chose to speak truth despite persecution. He chose compassion even when that required great sacrifice from Himself. He demonstrated the most exceptional form of quiet courage and perseverance. I think of Him as one who is both eternal and one who freely chose His path. He is the inspiration for the title "EverFree." "Lullabye / O My Son" Originally two different songs, each a single parent's prayer for a son, they combined wonderfully into a single story. While the mother sings soothingly of faith, a father utters his dearest wishes for his son's life even as he nears the end of his own. As the father departs, the son carries on. Three voices, three prayers, one truth: Gentle Jesu loves you evermore." "Love and Obey" Dawn is the perfect time to ponder not only the new day but the inevitable new age. This song explores the obedience of creation, the turmoil of the last days, the promise of resurrection, and the approach of a new era of love and obedience. "Reach Out Your Hand" While the song conveys the story of those seeking physical healing, it also shows how in reaching out to help one another, we discover a more profound healing. It is while in helping one another seek Christ that we truly find Him, and through Him we also find eternal Love. "There Is No Shade" My grandmother was a special friend. As vividly as I recall our nights playing Canasta or the forays into the flower garden, as fondly as I appreciate her teaching me to make dumplings and crochet, I remember our last moments together. One weekend, I felt the need to leave college and go home to visit her; I felt that she was waiting on me. Her decline to cancer had left her unable to even speak. I felt helpless and awkward trying to "converse" with her, but then I remembered how she used to play a karaoke recording of mine over and over again. I asked her if she'd like me to sing & she squeezed my hand so strongly that I could scarcely believe it. My grandmother had always feared death, so I sang her this song and "Amazing Grace." It was my hope to reassure her, because she surely was facing her final moments. When I left her side, I kissed her and told her that I loved her. Within a few hours, we received the call that she'd passed. Oddly, perhaps two years later, I dreamed of her standing beside me on campus. I rarely worshipped during my college years, but I had recently lost many friends in a plane crash; that had renewed my need for the reassurance of the Christian faith. In the dream, Granny and I stood watching a plane descend. At first, it seemed to plummet straight toward us and I knew that we'd not outrun the crashing vehicle. Then the plane altered course toward another crash site away from the crowds on campus. I swallowed a lump in my throat. The pilot might have been able to set the plane down and survive if he'd maintained his course, but having turned on his harrowing descent required him to sacrifice his life in a less controlled crash. It amazed me how many people had never even seen the plane crashing toward them and would never know the doom they'd been spared. I didn't understand the dream at first, nor my grandmother's presence in it. Now I do. It was her trying to reassure me. The pilot was our Savior. He chose his doom to save both of us, my Granny and me. Still the number of people who never looked up troubles me. I want to cry out to them all. So now I sing this song for any who need assurance and also for any who need to be reminded to look up. "Get Out Of The Middle" This song was written with a very special man in mind. Before I retired as a reserve officer, I deployed a few times in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. On one of my deployments to northern Afghanistan, I came to know and deeply respect a group of young men serving with special operations there. There were several of us that would come to their training facility and enjoy the benefit of learning martial arts with them. One of my fellow students was a chaplain. At some point, I overheard one of the green berets admit to the chaplain that he believed in God, but hadn't made his way to Christianity yet. I have since prayed for that good man, for God to help on his journey and with him, his entire family. This song was written for him and others like him, the good-hearted and courageous among us. In this life, we look for heroes, frequently on a battlefield. I found a lot to respect among the handful of green berets that I had the privilege to meet, a lot more character and discipline than media portrays. Still, even the best men need a hero to worship. It occurred to me that there is none braver than our Savior, nor more worthy of respect. This song was written to try to retell the story of Christ's mission in the context of a "hearts and mind" campaign that would make sense to those who fight oppression. All people should be free to choose, but sometimes someone special has to help them choose wisely. "Return To Paradise" This is one instance of a song that just insisted on being written. The melody and title lines haunted me for months & finally I set myself to figuring out what the rest of the lyrics needed to be. I can't take much credit for this one. It was pure inspiration. I didn't even like it very much until after Leon Olguin created the final arrangement. Sometimes a work of art, literature, or music takes a life of it's own. This song is a fun reminder of that. I have enjoyed the discovery. "This Day I Walk Upon The Earth" From middle school until college, I enjoyed writing novels. I never published any of them, but one genre that brought me a lot of happy moments was fantasy. In a trilogy that I toyed with for years, one young woman had no memory of any time prior to a night that she woke into a violent struggle for survival. Throughout her adventures, she's seeking herself, seeking her place in a marvelous and violent world, and seeking the meaning of "brotherhood" to solve a mystery into which she has been thrust. Along the way, she meets a nomadic family of believers in the God of creation and tentatively accepts that belief as truth. This song, one of many that she sings on her adventures, is abbreviated from the original song. As she travels seemingly alone, she reaches out at dawn and dusk to her creator for reassurance. "Don't Let Us Stray" In our Lord's Prayer, we ask for our heavenly Father to keep us from temptation and evil. In this song, I ask the same, for myself and others. I joked with a Dominican sister that had I been as biddable as Jonah, my life would have been much easier. How true! I think of God as the most diligent of teachers, the most effective of drill sergeants. We come here like kindergarten or perhaps "boot camp" and shouldn't leave unprepared for the next place. If we learn quickly and well, we graduate quickly. If we are hard-headed, He does what is required to get our attention, keep us focused, and keep us out of trouble until we understand "the basics." I've witnessed first-hand how vigilant He can be, and how effectively He meters out the lessons for which we're ready while both protecting us and equipping us to succeed. Each of us has embarked upon a unique journey, an adventure no other can fulfill. Fair weather or foul, we need to stay the course. One of my favorite Wikipedia articles is about the life of John Newton, writer of "Amazing Grace." Just as the Bible shows snapshots of many lives, many mistakes, many second chances, many miracles...the story of John's life is full of lessons. As faithful to you & me as to John Newton or Abraham, God continues to intercede when we stray too far; on top of that, when we humble ourselves and seek His guidance and help, God prospers our work. John Newton was a naval deserter and later a slave trader, a wretch by his own confession, yet in the course of his years he converted and even ordained as a Christian minister. This wretch has brought many of us comfort through the years, even my Grandmother as she lay dying, with his song "Amazing Grace." I'm grateful that John Newton stayed the course, weathered the storm, and eventually brought such comfort to others. We all need to follow that example, trusting God and not giving up on ourselves so long as we can lean on Him. "What Is This Flower" As I mentioned before, some songs insist on being written. On a long flight to Afghanistan, visual imagery and part of the melody popped into my head. Over the course of the next few months, a song was born. One morning before dawn, I opened up our operations tent early and used the only privacy I could find to record the a cappella draft to send in for arrangement. I had forgotten, of course, that our Chief had abandoned his cold and leaky tent and was sleeping in the back of the ops tent. The poor man joked that he woke up to angelic singing (--he was being quite charitable) and his first thought was that he'd died in his sleep. He thought "Hey, I made it!" (meaning to heaven). When the old "Devil Dog" told the story, it sounded like he was genuinely surprised. We served for several months together, the Chief helping a lot of us cope with stressors ranging from winter blahs to lack of inspiration from our commissioned leadership, taking care of enlisted and officers alike with unparalleled charisma. Then early one morning, he expressed his own frustration with our leadership, with such intensity that I began to wonder how he was doing. I was genuinely concerned for him and for others around him. I could have spoken more with the chief or with a chaplain, but for some reason I felt the need to speak with another officer there whom I thought could offer some wisdom. It turned out to be a mistake. The ultimate outcome was that our chief was sent home and forced to retire, leaving the rest of us dispirited. I spoke with the chief as we were waiting to board planes to go home. Typical of the man, rather than treating me like the traitor I felt, he simply said that this could have been "Someone's" way of forcing him to get out of harm's way, a choice he wouldn't have made himself. I remembered his words when I also retired less than a year later. After a long series of small and unusual events that seemed divine hints, I showed up at drill one weekend to find that I was retired already. Our commander offered to help reverse the paperwork, but I remembered the chief's words. It seemed that "Someone" was trying to help me make an atypical decision, so I chose to end my military career. In my mind, it was an act of faith. I hope to run into that Devil Dog again someday --when we both finally do make it to heaven, if not before. Maybe time will make clear from what we've been sheltered or for what other work we've been reserved. "An Angel Prayed" "An Angel Prays" was inspired by several stories. First, in 1983, I found myself in a violent car accident. As I realized that I might not survive, I wanted to cry out "God save us!" at the top of my lungs, but would not. In that instant, I realized that I only called upon God when I wanted something. Ashamed, I judged that I had no right to call on Him at that terrifying time; as I'd lived without Him, I should die without Him. There came a moment that I knew the next impact would take my life. I knew it without thinking, like knowing how to breathe. I never felt that impact. Instead, I felt the fear and pain and pressure melt away and I found myself at such profound peace.... After a near-death experience that taught me a great many things, I found myself alive and unharmed just outside of the burning wreckage of a car that could scarcely be egressed. A woman from across the street claimed that what woke her was my crying "God save us!" The driver and I know that the only sound within that car had been the screaming of metal coming apart around us; apparently my very soul cried out. In northern Afghanistan in early 2008, a green beret confided that his friend had just died. Part of a 15-man patrol, he was the only soldier killed in an incredible barrage of automatic rifle fire. My friend struggled to find the words to explain the loss, helplessly repeating "he was a good guy." Some souls are with us only a short time, but in that time, they shape our hearts and shake our world. So profoundly they touch us that we have no words to describe what makes them so special, no way to convey to others who will never know them exactly what was lost. I don't really know what thoughts passed through this good man's mind on the night that he died, but I am convinced that the survival of his fourteen comrades was neither accident nor luck. These good men were not alone. The third and final story is an all-to-common snapshot of many people who find themselves homeless and struggling to survive. It is also a story of hope, for the love of people who seek out these folks, show them Christian kindness, and try to help them build a better life. This song is dedicated to those Christians and their mission of hope. Special thanks to the families from St Mary's School and church who prayed together in support of the final arrangement.