I love snow. Don’t you? Well, I guess how you fell about it that might actually depend on whether or not you’re seeing this post in August or January. I mean, everybody loves snow in the summer, right? But when there’s a couple feet of it in your driveway, you might feel a little less thrilled about it…
But seriously, there really is something beautiful – in fact almost magical – about those tiny, perfectly-formed, crystalline works of art, falling from the sky. And snow does make everything beautiful, right? From the flocked trees and rime-covered branches, to that smooth, cloudlike blanket snuggling the ground.
An outdoor writer named Gene Hill once wrote, “Snow is nature’s makeup.” And if you think about it, it really is. Snow makes this scarred, littered Earth look as fresh and beautiful as the day it was first created.
Years ago I was flying from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Virginia Beach to meet with a record company about my songwriting. But the destination really didn’t change my life as much as the airline connection did. My airline connection city, to be exact. Our layover was in Pittsburgh, PA, where a series of lake-effect snowstorms had had a profound effect upon the landscape. As we touched down, I noticed that the snow on the ground beside the runway was almost three feet deep.
Having grown up in the South, I’d never seen anything like this. I remember thinking, “Holy Cannoli, there could be a garbage dump under there, and nobody would know it.”
Then it hit me: Isaiah 1:18 says, “…though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
And that’s what Jesus did for all of us who are born again.
Now when I was a baby Christian – I got saved when I was 17 – I didn’t really understand all this. I knew my whole world had changed, and that I loved Jesus, so in an honest attempt to please God and live a pure life, I went around trying to be perfect, never sinning, ever. As if that was ever gonna happen.
So I felt guilty all it all time. What did I expect? I couldn’t do it. None of us can do it. It’s impossible. We’re humans – messed up – “fallen”, as the Bible puts it. And because of that, we’re essentially incapable of doing enough good works to make ourselves truly holy.
Now there is a way we can get holy enough to stand before God, but it’s not through our own human efforts.
Anyway, at that time I attended a weekly youth meeting called “YAC” (Youth in Action for Christ), and there I met a “grownup” couple, group sponsors, who somehow discerned my problem. Basically they could see the torment I was in and asked if I could come over to their house after the meeting, to listen to a tape that might help me.
Well I was always down for more of Jesus, so I went. And the old, reel-to reel tape they played me, (remember reel-to-reel?), contained a teaching from the Book of Galatians explaining how we were no longer under the Law of Moses, where you earned your salvation through the good deeds you performed, but instead received it by God’s generosity, or grace. In fact, they said, you were made perfectly righteous in God’s sight by this grace, the moment you gave your heart to Jesus.
By the way, I’m talking about perfectly righteous, as if you’d never sinned. By God’s grace you were made as pure as the driven snow, because that’s what Jesus’ death on the Cross bought for us. You see, God knew we could never be perfect, so He provided another way. A better way: right standing with Him through the crimson blood of Christ.
1st Corinthians 5:21 puts it this way: “God made Him, who knew no sin to be sin, for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”
Now think about that: the righteousness of God. Wow, now that’s pretty big stuff. But the fact is, In God’s eyes, you really are perfectly righteous. As righteous as Jesus Himself is, in fact, and that’s not blasphemy, that’s just Bible truth. Colossians 1:21 even says, “You who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and irreproachable in His sight.”Irreproachable. I mean, just, wow!
We Christians really do want to do right. We want to live holy lives, because doing what God says is wisdom, and we were created for that. But living by the Law is not the way we can accomplish that, or get to Heaven, or receive prosperity or healing, or any other blessings from God. Galatians tells us that we didn’t receive the Holy Spirit, or flow in Gifts of the Spirit, or even miracles in our lives because of good works. All that stuff is ours because we’re joint-heirs with Christ. Period.
Now this is actually basic stuff, but as I said, I didn’t know it back then, and learning it changed my life. Galatians 1:6 says we’re accepted in the Beloved, who is Jesus Christ. We’re already accepted, so we don’t have to work to earn God’s favor, or blessings; He already considers us worthy to receive them.
Anyway, back to Pittsburgh and the three-foot snow: I wound up spending the remaining segment of that flight scratching out lyrics for a new song that I’d call “Somewhere It’s Snowing”. But I didn’t have any music for that song, since I was on a plane and far from my guitar, so I used the melody to “On Top of Old Smoky” as kind of a crutch-tune to provide rhythm and meter for the words.
Back then I was just beginning to write songs with my now co-writing partner Stephanie Boosahda. But that was a new thing for us back then. At that point in time, her recording career was on the rise and she needed a lot of material. And being friends, we soon discovered that since she was good with melodies and I was good with lyrics, we could work together and wind up with some pretty good stuff.
So when I got back from my trip, I called Steff and read her my “Somewhere it’s Snowing” lyrics, and she said, “Oh wow, I can’t wait for us to write this together.”
Well, I also wrote songs on my own, and I especially liked this one, so I said, “No, this one’s different. Personal. I think I want to write this one by myself.”
Over the next few days I worked and worked on composing a tune for those lyrics, but I couldn’t come up a thing. Well, I did come up with a few things, but most of sounded like On Top of Old Smoky. Plus, during that time, Steff kept asking if she could help finish the song, which made it difficult, because I had to keep saying “no’ to her.
Well, the day finally came when I realized I was in over my head and just gave up. That day happened to be Steff’s birthday, and if I remember right, at around 10 a.m. it started to snow.
So I gave in, picked up my handwritten lyric sheet, and trudged over to her place, (she and her husband Wayne lived close by), and knocked on her door. When she opened, I held the sheet out to her and said, “Happy Birthday Steff. Here are the lyrics. Please write this tune.”
She smiled and said “Well come on in, then; I’m not gonna do this alone.”
So we sat on the piano bench in front of her old Estey baby-grand piano, which stood in front of their big, sliding-glass door, and began discussing what these lyrics needed in the way of music.
Meanwhile, the snow stepped up outside, and by this time it was coming down big-time, in huge, quarter-sized flakes. Have you ever seen snow like that? Beautiful is too weak a word…And beautiful is too weak a word to describe the melody she wrote that day.
You may know the song, or you may not. It’s been recorded by a lot of folks and has gotten pretty good airtime. But at any rate, that’s how “Somewhere It’s Snowing” was born. Not just from what is now a lifelong friendship, or from a blizzard season up in Pittsburgh, or a beautiful snowy day in Tulsa Oklahoma, but most importantly, from the grace of a kindhearted and merciful God who washes our scarlet sins as white as snow and makes us the righteousness of God in Christ.