When God creates, he does so out of nothing.
And when God comes through for you in your life, you hardly ever see it coming. God will meet your needs in the most unexpected ways.
You may be familiar with the cable TV show Trading Spaces that’s been around in one form or another since 2001. In the show, neighbors rehab one room of the other’s house in just a couple of days, on a strict budget. Though hosts and designers changed through the years, the music usually was pretty recognizable for its catchy little brass riff.
Guess what? I wrote that music.
Sure, they tinkered with my original theme music after the first couple of years when another production company bought out the show. But my distinctive brass flourish was usually incorporated somewhere in the newer incarnations. You know….
“Da da da DAAAAAAAH, dup!”
And no one ever forgets that cheesy music when they are resetting all the furniture in fast-forward. That’s part of my original theme. You can hear it all here.
So, I know you’re wondering, “How in the world did a local church pastor end up writing the music for a hit TV show?”
Good question. Almost 20 years later, I’m still trying to figure it out. I wasn’t in the TV theme music business and didn’t try to land the gig.
The opportunity came out of nowhere. Seriously.
Way back at the end of the last century, I was a worship pastor in Knoxville, TN. That area just happens to be home to the company that produced many shows on HGTV, The History Channel, and others. One of my church members, Eddie, was a producer for a local company bringing the hit British show Changing Rooms over to the US. He approached me one day, after our morning service, to ask an odd question:
“So Dave, I know you write music. Have you ever written any theme music for TV shows?”
“No, I haven’t.” I’d written some Christian worship songs and music for productions we did at church, but nothing for TV. I was a full-time pastor. That was my calling and my focus.
“Well, my go-to-guy for theme music is out of pocket for the next month. And I’ve got to get something in the can for this new show.”
He explained the show’s premise to me, and honestly, I was not particularly impressed. It sounded more like something my wife might watch on a rainy day if she was bored. I’m not really into home design, and I avoid hammers and saws with the same caution I’d approach the Ebola virus.
Eventually, I agreed to give it a try. I sat down with my trusty Kurzweil keyboard and tried a few things. After a few hours of fiddling and then sequencing the whole thing, I had a demo I could send him. After he listened to it, he called me, sounding pretty unimpressed.
“Hmmm…it’s not bad, really. But try and make it more distinctive, less generic. Also, if there’s a place you could make it get more uptempo, that would be great too. We need a section for when people are moving stuff around in fast motion”.
So…I sat down again. What style should this thing be? I thought about listening to other shows but decided I didn’t want it to muddy the water.
What I ended up with that second try was a one-minute long piece that suddenly shifts into high gear toward the end (that’s the furniture-moving music). All the “instruments” heard on the original track – the piano, the drums, the slapping bass, the horns – it’s all me playing those parts on my synthesizer.
The next day I handed off my demo to Eddie. He gave it a listen and said, “I think we can do something with that.” He said he’d send me some paperwork that would give them ownership of the music, and I’d get paid a one-time fee.
For the next year, I completely forgot about the show. Plus, I’d moved away to a new church and wasn’t really paying attention. Evidently, quite a few people began watching the show and noticed the music. Somewhere along the way, I remember overhearing someone at church talking about the show. I interjected, “Hey, I’m pretty sure I wrote the music for that.”
Mouths dropped open. People looked at me like some minor league celebrity. They asked endless questions about the show’s designers and host. When I mentioned I’d never met them, the conversations quickly died. So much for my 15 minutes of fame.
But the years at my new church were hard ones. The congregation was a powder keg of cranky, demanding people. The pastor was unsure and struggling. It did not go well at all. The pastor finally decided to leave the church, and I was in the way of a new administration coming in. After two years serving there, I was abruptly fired.
My wife and I were devastated, to put it mildly. You see, when a minister gets fired, it’s a big deal. People automatically assume you were terminated because of some sexual indiscretion. Although my termination had nothing to do with anything like that, it put a huge question mark over my head.
I now believed my calling as a pastor was over. We packed up our family and limped back to East Tennessee and into an apartment…
…above my father-in-law’s garage. Yep, good times.
Without trying to be overdramatic, this was my “dark night of the soul.” God had allowed my ministry and career to be utterly destroyed. I had no prospects. Other ministers shared the “sad news” with each other about my “fall.” I was utterly humiliated though I’d done nothing wrong.
In those immediate days following my termination, I struggled thinking God had abandoned me. My self-esteem was in tatters, and I was angry, hurt, and deeply depressed. I was in such a dark place, and I really don’t know how my wife could stand to be around me. I was daily sinking deeper and deeper into a pit of despair.
Have you ever been stuck in one of life’s cul-de-sacs, unable to see any reasonable way out? Sure, you have. I know that because this is God’s modus operandi, repeated time and again.
God likes creating things “out of nothing.” When theologians describe the Genesis creation story, the old Latin phrase they use is ex nihilo, “out of nothing.” He didn’t use anyone else’s raw materials. He didn’t build upon someone else’s foundation. He was the initiator, the Prime Mover. One day there was nothing. The next day, there was a universe. Boom.
God loves it when he leaves our mouths hanging wide open. He delights in taking our breath away.
He doesn’t like to “telegraph his punches” like a bad boxer. He won’t show his hand like a foolish poker player. He keeps his plans and his ways close to the vest. His rescue missions come quite literally “out of nowhere,” with no ramp up, no indications the dawn is about to break.
“Joy comes in the morning.” So King David said in Psalm 30, verse 5. But that morning comes quite suddenly without warning. One minute, it’s pitch black. The next minute, there’s blazing light. Absolutely nothing in between. There’s nothing subtle or gradual about it.
It’s this part that’s maddening to me.
When I ask God to step in and help me, I constantly look for signs that he’s at work. After sending out a dozen resumes, I’d sit waiting for the phone to ring or an email to be returned. But usually, the dawn’s breakthrough comes from some completely different source. His provision comes completely out of left field, from a source I could have never anticipated.
So I sat above my in-law’s garage and waited. My severance would be gone soon, and I’d need to start paying bills. My family needed a home, and I needed my calling back. However, day after day, the phone didn’t ring, and few emails were returned.
But then, one day, a check came in the mail.
It was from BMI, one of the unions representing recording artists. With mild curiosity, I opened it up. It was a royalty check for my work on Trading Spaces.
“That’s weird,” I thought. It was supposed to be a one-time gig. You don’t get royalties when the company owns the song.
When I looked at the amount on the royalty check, I could feel all the blood drain out of my face. It was a check covering the past three months the show played on TV. The amount on the check was about one-third of my total income from the previous year.
I got on the phone quickly with my old friend Eddie who’d produced the show. He confirmed the show was a huge hit and said the check was probably real. But even after talking to him, I was afraid to put it in the bank for several days.
Well, the checks were real, and every three months, they kept showing up. In my unemployment, I was now making even more than I’d made from my previous employer. About a month later, I found a local church that wanted me to lead their worship. So within the next 12 months, between the BMI checks and the new church, I ended up making twice the income I’d made the year before.
Yes, you read that right. Twice the income. As the old preacher said, “One day, God is gonna give you double for your trouble!” I guess God took that preacher literally where I was concerned.
So fast forward with me to a couple of years later. I’m sitting at a table at the Beverly-Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hill, CA. Around me are musicians from TV, film, every major recording medium. They were getting awards for the most successful compositions that year. And I was one of the award recipients.
The other recipients at our table started asking what shows everyone worked on. One guy had made the music for “The Sweet Life of Zack and Cody” on the Disney Channel, and another was with WWE, the Wrestling company. The conversation kept moving around the table toward us.
When they finally came around to me, I felt awkward trying to explain how we got there…
“Guys, I just want you to know I have absolutely no right to be here. I’m not a professional musician. I’m just a pastor who stumbled into writing the theme music for a hit show as a fluke. You are all way out of my league. But I want you to know I’m so honored to be here just sitting at the same table with you!”
My wife beamed later on as she watched me get my award on that stage. A few minutes later, I got to shake the hand of Paul Anka as he mounted the stage for his lifetime achievement award. After the show was over, I spoke in the lobby with one of my heroes, Richard M. Sherman. He had composed the music to Mary Poppins and so many other Disney films from my childhood. The whole evening was nothing short of magical.
Absolutely nothing that happened that night made any sense at all. No one would have ever predicted I’d wind up in such auspicious company. I certainly wouldn’t have. There were no “stepping stones” in my career that led to that logical conclusion. No, God had skipped me past all those stepping stones and plopped me down right in a place of undeserved blessing.
He brought me to that place “out of nowhere,” just as he’d brought the financial support my family needed after I’d been fired. But he made sure it wouldn’t make any sense how it all came about. There was no logical progression, just extravagant blessings that could have come from nowhere else but his hand!
That’s what he wants you to learn when he finally does give you your answer. He wants you to know you didn’t bring it about on your own, and he wants you to avoid putting that weight on your own shoulders. You weren’t build to sustain that burden.
No, God will handle all the heavy lifting. So cast your cares on him. He doesn’t need any help, only the opportunity to solve your problems in his own amazing, miraculous way. So if you’re sitting in the dark in a dead-end street, relax. You’re probably right where he wants you.
Stop worrying, stop calculating, and strategizing. Pray and wait. The answer’s coming in the morning. And the dawn will break through your darkness, right out of nowhere.