Inspiration Vs Perspiration

Penny Ferguson Picture

   I have been asked if I believe gospel songs are inspired of God or crafted by man, or in my case, woman. My answer to this question is, “both,” but let me clarify that response.
   “Inspiration” is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “something that makes someone want to do something or that gives someone an idea about what to do or create: a force or influence that inspires someone.” In II Timothy 3:16 we are told “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God....” (NKJV) “Inspiration” here is translated from the Greek word “theopneustos” or “God-breathed.” The Scriptures are unique in this. They are authoritative, inerrant and infallible. Whatever gift or talent I have for gospel song writing comes from God. God inspires me by giving me ideas, in various ways, with which to write songs. This is not the same as “theopneustos” inspiration. For me to claim so would be to declare my songs authoritative, inerrant

and infallible—and on par with Scripture.

   God forbid I should ever be that arrogant or presumptuous!
   When I introduce songs I have written to congregations/audiences to which my husband and I are about to sing, the introductions often being with something like, “One morning when I was reading my Bible and praying, God made this verse really stand out for me.” This is the primary way God inspires me to write songs—through His inspired (theopneustos) Word and during my prayer time. He does this in many other different ways as well—as I participate in mid-week Bible study at church, listening to sermons, discussions in the Adult Sunday School class I attend, listening to other people’s gospel songs and so on. I don’t mean copying someone’s idea in that last example, but rather one idea sparking another idea or response.
   God gives me ideas beyond my Christian experiences as well—listening to conversations in coffee shops or in line at the grocery store, looking at the wonders of His creation, when I hear a familiar phrase and think of how I can flip it for an interesting hook, etc. He seems to be always making me aware of His inspiration for gospel songs.
   I have learned I must tune my ear for this inspiration. I must be open to it and not miss it or turn it away. I was given a valuable lesson about this when I first started writing gospel songs. At that particular time, I was being inspired to write Christmas gospel songs. I woke up one morning early in week with the line “Joy! Joy! Joy! It’s a baby boy!” (complete with the melody) going through my head. I immediately dismissed it, thinking, I’m not writing a song with that in it!
   As the week progressed, I found I couldn’t come up with a new idea for a song, no matter how much Scripture I read, how long I prayed or how much I thought about it...and that line just wouldn’t leave me alone. Finally, I gave in and wrote the song. I looked it over and thought eeech. I showed it to my husband and he got that very subtle grimace on his face he gets when I’m urging him to try a food he is already convinced he won’t like. Later, we sat down with his guitar and composed the rest of the music to it. We both agreed it was “OK” but “probably not one of our favorites.” The first time we sang it, the audience loved it. It has become a real favorite with those who hear it and I even included it in a Christmas cantata I have just written. I’m glad I listened to that persistent little line God put in my head!

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