WHERE THE ROAD DIVIDES
Greetings, Fellow Sojourner of Life,
When words escape you, sometimes music is all you have.
At the crossroads of depression and faith, this album WHERE THE ROAD DIVIDES captures a moment in time along the journey of life, a snapshot of when I had to muster whatever TRUST, HOPE, STRENGTH, and COURAGE to push ahead—one day at a time.
When I had no words to pray, these songs filled the silence.
The desperation of trying to reconcile being gay and being a Christian came to a head during my college years at UC Riverside. I wanted to honor God, but felt I had to somehow suppress my natural desires to love and be loved.
This album came as a testament of that time when God's "promises of healing and wholeness were in the process of becoming"—that is, yet to be fulfilled. A reminder to never give up hope.
I had so much cognitive dissonance about being gay and Christian that I was plagued with weekly migraines. I couldn't concentrate. I couldn't study. I didn't want to wake up. And yet I put on a smile and went to work my two jobs and go to school.
Depression is real, but it can be conquered. I stand as proof.
Thirty decades later, I'm alive!
I thank you for allowing me to share this part of my soul with you. I poured everything I had into the music, the design of the CD, the booklet, the photos, etc.
These songs are incredibly personal for me. I didn't write them for commercial release. I didn't set out to write great music. I just set out to offer my simple, humble prayers when I had no words. The project served the purpose of keeping me alive until the next day.
It seems my music was only for a time, as I've written nothing since.
In that sense, these songs are considered timely divine gifts when I was at my lowest, my weakest.
I'm very grateful. I don't mean to make this sound so dreary, as I pray you can resonate with and can hear my hopeful spirit in the songs.
My one message to you is that depression need not be a life sentence.
There is hope. There is freedom. You're not broken.
With abundant love, joy and grace,
To All The World
One evening during Easter week of my senior year in college, I walked out of my weekly Christian group meeting on campus. I was incredibly down and depressed. I needed some fresh air. I was suffocating.
Lonely, looking for a place to hide, I wandered into a classroom in the humanities building having emptied after evening classes. There, I spent some time praying. I tried to make sense of why I was still hurting so much even though I pray and pray.
Nothing ever seems to change. God seems absent.
I sat and read through Paul's letters in the New Testament. I was reminded of Jesus and how there must be suffering before new birth. In suffering, you will find hope.
It just so happened that a piano was in the room.
So I sat down, whipped out my little blue pocket Bible that I kept with me at all times, and turned to a few verses in Psalm 19 which captured what I wanted. Out came this cry of a song.
When I was in high school, I dreamed of writing my own pop-rock single, full-ensemble, vocals, special effects—the works. At that time in my life, I longed to be a recording artist inspired by the artists of the late 80s.
However, I discovered composing up-beat numbers to be very much of a challenge. But one day, as I was sitting in my apartment in the summer 1991, a moment of inspiration struck. “A biblical theme,” I thought. So I paged through the Holy Scriptures and chose Ephesians 6—the armor of God—as a foundation.
At the time, one of my hopes for I'm Ready was that it would be played by a full-scale combo/ensemble, complete with brass, percussion, synthesizers, etc. I had envisioned the percussion and the brass sections in full proclamation of the glorious message of our Lord and Savior and His call to us for battle.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” —Ephesians 6:12-13
You might notice that this song is spirited in such a way that it reflects the influence Show Choir had on me in high school. If there is anything I would love to do again, it is to perform—singing and dancing on stage.
Spark of the Spirit
Spark of the Spirit is a favorite among many fellow members of the Christian group to which I belonged in college. I wrote the first verse in January 1991, but I didn't complete the rest of the song until much later as I flew home for summer vacation one summer. I wrote the lyrics on one of those vomit-disposal bags in the airline seat pocket.
At this time in my life, I had realized that I was always so caught up in worrying about what other people think about me, and about pleasing them instead of pleasing God. Paul puts it very well—“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” —Galatians 1:10
The song is an affirmation of giving God my all… including having these gay feelings, which the Church was telling me was "an abomination" and was "evil".
Was I evil to feel this way? It's no surprise why so many youth commit suicide. You're bombarded with such intolerant messaging. It leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy. My own attempt would come later…
But in the meantime, this song kept me focused on living and maintain a spark of life within me.
I especially value the truth in the second verse, / He doesn't ask for a part of you / He asks for oh, everything /. It was in January 1991 that God clearly asked for my life, my hopes & dreams, my sexuality, my passions, and my heart—ALL of me. After all, we are called to live as “Radicals with a Mission”—and indeed, it is radical to give everything to God. But no one ever regrets living fully for God. Never a regret .
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” —Jim Elliot
Cross the River
Creatively, I wanted to convey the sense of a man struggling to move ahead in life, questioning his faith, juxtaposed with God in the background calling him to move ahead. While the title song Where the Road Divides is about decision, Cross the River song is about being in so much pain, that one doesn't even notice God calling him forward toward the future.
One of the more paradoxical aspects of faith is that God seems to be distant and silent when you need him most. When a person is suffering and in pain, where is God? Where is He? Does He care?? How does one make sense of that?
I hoped to capture this angst by compositing two melody lines on top of each other—disparate throughout until the end, holding to a future hope when it will make sense one day.
Just as the Hebrews eventually crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land, the journey with God requires trust and faith.
All I Hear
“The he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it." —Mark 8:34-35
I wanted to write a song that reflected the idea of following Jesus. “Not for me, but for Jesus”—a Christian’s life motto.
All I Hear was born in September 1991, right before my sophomore year in college. I thought I'd try something different. This is one of my favorites as it's fun and outside the style of my other songs.
This song was actually inspired by Keith Green, a contemporary Christian artist who tragically died in an airplane accident. Keith was very much into evangelism and using his music to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. I thought I'd take a stab at it. He was a musical genius and his life story as told by his widow Melody Green in the book No Compromise changed my life.
Rise and Win
This was the first song I have ever written.
I began Rise and Win during the summer of 1990 and finished it in December. During Christmas vacation, I had borrowed a friend's Ensoniq synthesizer/sequencer and composed the background music for it. Awesome fun! It took me a whole month, sitting there 'til the wee-hours of the morning in a freezing Illinois basement! I remember being so excited about this one because it was my first completed song with both music and lyrics.
Eventually, the “world premiere” of this piece was performed for the talent portion of the “1991 Mr. Lothian Contest” at Lothian Residence Hall in February. I entered the contest specifically to be able to share the message of love through music. The song was actually written with this in mind.
The year before in the same contest, I had sung “We Are the Reason” by David Meece. (Trivia: I won second place in 1991, and third in 1990.)
Also, this song is significant in that I wrote it not really understanding what it meant to have passion for God, for it was written before my "encounter" with Jesus at my college Christian group's Winter Retreat in January 1991. Nevertheless, it's still one of my favorites in the lot.
My God and Lord
One lonely summer evening at home (August 1992), I was growing rather depressed and self-pitying. I wanted to engage in some lustful activities such as watching sex-laddened movies on cable TV and wallowing in lewd mental fantasies. Instead of sulking and feeling sorry for my twisted feelings, I turned off the TV, and sat myself down in front of the piano and prayed. In the stillness of the cool basement, quietly whispered, “God, this one’s for You.”
Viola! To my surprise, My God and My Lord was the result of my decision to “Set my mind on things above and not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:2). There are a few verses that God brings to mind often, and this was one of them.
This song is probably my favorite. It really comes from my heart.
It’s my soul’s declaration of my love for God, a God-given passion that will never be taken away from me without a fight. I try to choose to guard jealously my relationship with Jesus. I try to keep the fire of the Spirit burning, hoping never to quench Him. I fail at times. But, often, this song is a reminder to me, for I am so, so forgetful.
“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” —Romans 12:11
Maranatha! Come, hurry, Jesus, come! Oh, how wonderful the day would be when we are with Him in Glory!
“Yes, I am coming soon.” —Lord Jesus Christ (Revelations 22:20)
Marriage is a funny thing. Two people join to become one flesh. Spiritually, it's kinda like two water droplets joining to become one big drop. Or is it more like two different colored balls of playdoh mixing together to a point where the original colors are indistinguishable?
Whatever it is, it’s one of the most significant events in a person’s life.
I began this song in the summer of 1991 and was completed by and performed in August 1993, for its premiere at the ceremony of holy matrimony of two friends, John and Heather Wingo.
I think for myself, I longed to get married but couldn't envision it to be a possibility with the one I loved, the man I loved. The thought, at the time, was depressing. However, I'm pleased to say, I'm happily married to an incredible man.
God Already There
There are many who have non-Christian parents, in whose homes religion tends to be a very touchy subject, and at times, an area of conflict and division. This can be emotionally difficult for those facing seemingly divided loyalties.
God Already There is a song that I wrote for my good friend Barbara after listening to her fears about the conflict between her parents and her faith in Jesus. It was a song written in hopes that she might be encouraged.
It wasn't anything fancy, something whipped out within fifteen minutes. I wrote this song my sophomore year (January 1991) before HCF's Winter Retreat 1991.
“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes...” —Romans 1:16
Where the Road Divdies
The title song of the album about The Decision.
It took me four years to write this song. I just couldn't finish it for a long time.
The song is about coming to a crossroads of deciding between being gay and being Christian. At the time, I thought this was a real choice—one between eternal life and death.
And the choice pained me to no end.
No one should ever have to make such a choice.
I just wanted to love and beloved. That's all. How could that be wrong?
This song resonates with the cognitive dissonance I faced. Being the faithful person that I was, my decision at the time was to commit to the path less traveled, the seemingly harder path—to deny myself, to follow Jesus.
After all, Jesus died for me so that I could have life. Who am I that I would think I knew better.
In the years since, I would learn — this decision was and is a false dichotomy.
One can, indeed, celebrate being a follower of Jesus and still accept one's sexual orientation.