From a Text to a New Setlist

It all started with a text message from my brother James Paek . . .

“We should write a song for each week.”

On Wednesday, May 2, Steve Carter, our Lead Teaching Pastor, made the announcement that we would be starting a new series on the Minor Prophets. Having already known it was coming, I thought nothing of the announcement other than I would get an opportunity to read the Book of Obadiah for maybe the first time in my life. Then, James put this crazy idea into my head: write a brand new song for twelve straight weeks based on the content of the book we’re studying that week.

Game on.

Truth be told, I had been in a season for a few years where I’d lost part of my voice as a songwriter. I had become unsure of myself and substituted out my own view of good songwriting for what other people thought was good. It’s easy to forget your own voice when you pay so much attention to someone else’s. Around the time of receiving this challenge, I felt God reminding me of a simple truth that I had forgotten:

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights . . .” —James 1:17 (NIV)

God had given me something good with which I could serve my church. That meant that every musical influence I’ve built my diet on, every lyric or melody line I recorded but was too afraid to share, and every instinct I have as a musician has a good, God-given foundation that I can build upon.

I went to work.


The Process

Every Thursday since early May, I take my laptop and Bible into the Willow Creek Chapel and sit down at the piano. I read through the current book we’re studying, searching to find a singable line or concept that I would want to hear a song about. Invariably, a line or phrase stands out, and it’s time to go to work.

What’s been surprising is that all of the Minor Prophets have evoked certain emotions in me that translate well into music. Working on the song for Micah, I read this line:

“But me, I’m not giving up. I’m sticking around to see what God will do. I’m waiting for God to make things right.” —Micah 7:7 (MSG)


Something about the line, “waiting for God to make things right,” stirred up a memory of the Gospel music I grew up listening to. I started singing, “He’ll make things right,” and I couldn’t stop. I knew that the faith of every Christ follower rests on this simple, timeless assertion and that this statement of faith was infinitely singable.

As I wrote the song for Joel, I was intrigued by God’s relentlessness in pursuing His people. He allowed difficult things to happen to them just so He could turn the situation around and fight for them. It reminded me of something I heard once in an old folk song. From that viewpoint, I wrote some lines that have, in some ways, been the story of my life in certain seasons:

Change your heart
And not your clothes
Change your mind
Not just your pose
Come back to me
For Heaven knows
I’m ready to refresh your soul

The Blessing

Getting to write songs for our church over the past several weeks has been one of the sweetest blessings I’ve experienced in my tenure at Willow. The gift of writing songs for the church is one challenge that I will, with the Lord’s help, always accept.

Thanks, James—for the text and the challenge.

Much love,


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