"You think that you're hitting a brick wall, then you look at each other and realize, 'You know what? Neither of us has spent time in the Word or in prayer.' The more intimate you'll be with God, the more intimate you'll be with each other."
--Watermark's Christy Nockels

by Brenda Williams for the Music Channel at crosswalk.com


For three years running, Nathan and Christy Nockels of {{Watermark}} have been musical guests at Passion, an explosive New Year's weekend gathering for college-age Christians held in Fort Worth, Texas. The Nockels say Passion is more than an event -- it's a feeling that defines their lives.

So what does a twenty-something couple, celebrating four years together in June, know about passion? They know it's important to their marriage.

"We've always kept a book in the house, on the coffee table. It's a velvety, journal-kind of book, a 'love note' book to write in," says Christy, 24. "Here or there we'll write a letter to each other. If there's an argument, you can use it to write your feelings down, write your apology, or express your love."

The idea dates back to the romantic 1800s when love letters were a treasured token in relationships. Christy, who's an avid reader, says Victorian couples often had a writing desk with a box just for love letters. "Words are expensive, they're wonderful!" she exclaims. "When Nathan writes me something, I know he's had to take time out of his busy day to put his thoughts down on paper and it means so much."

The Nockels are passionate about each other. Both were students and casual acquaintances at Oklahoma Baptist University before they met and fell in love during a Christian songwriters' conference at Estes Park, Colorado in 1993. They married in 1995 and four years later, both say they have a deeper love and appreciation for each other.

Nathan, who's 25, says the best thing about his wife is that on stage or off stage, in front of people or alone, she's the same person. "With Christy, she is so for real... if we have an argument before we go on stage, we have to talk about it and pray about it right then, because she is so transparent, it would affect her in front of an audience."

Christy says it was Nathan's tenderness that attracted her. "He's still the same; he's calm, tender by nature, his heart is very sensitive. He's pretty shy, but gives people the benefit of a doubt, you know?" She adds jokingly, "He never talks badly about anybody and he stops me from doing it."

This couple also shares a passion for music. Performing together in churches, they began writing songs and eventually became the musical mainstay of Metro Bible Study, a weekly singles ministry at First Baptist Church in Houston, Texas. From there, the Nockels began performing as {{Watermark}} and attracted the attention of Rocketown Records. Last year they released a self-titled debut project on the label which was carefully crafted by one of their Christian music heroes, {{Michael W. Smith}}.

==Watermark== showcases the husband-and-wife team's creative abilities. Nathan says he provides the musical direction, coming up with chord progressions or tune ideas; Christy writes the lyrics. Both say their sound and style reflect earlier passions and influences. For Nathan, it's singer-songwriters like James Taylor, Shawn Colvin, {{Chris Rice}}, {{Wes King}}, and of course, label-owner and musical benefactor Smith. Christy remembers listening to a "weird" mix of music-Southern Gospel, Honeytree, Evie and the Cruse Family. {{Amy Grant}} and {{Susan Ashton}} are big influences, she adds, as well as the pop stylings of Sarah McLachlan and Shawn Colvin.

Every song on the ==Watermark== CD was crafted by this talented team, some written during their days as praise-and-worship leaders, some written just for this project. They focus on presenting a simple message: "Take Me There" was written as a theme song for youth camp, encouraging kids to ask God to "take me there to the place where You are"; "Everything," penned by the Nockels' while awaiting the rinse cycle at the laundromat, repeatedly reminds us to give everything to the Lord; "Gloria" offers a simple, heartfelt message of praise.

Along with that simplicity, Watermark's debut album displays the duo's strong passion for worship, born in the early days of their marriage. "For the first time, we were together experiencing God, not just relying on what our parents had talked to us about," Christy explains. "Through joining a church together and ministering together, we've learned that it's a lifestyle, a position of our heart, it's a daily thing."

For Nathan, who was always more involved in the music than in the singing, it's more than just leading an audience in praise songs. "I'm really into the idea of worshipping the Lord with your instrument-drums, guitars, piano, whatever, kind of like David," he says. "I long to see [instrumental] music used in worship just as much as words -- I think it can be just as powerful."

Crowds attending the {{Point Of Grace}} "Steady On" tour are treated to a powerful worship experience. When Watermark hits the stage, concert-goers are encouraged to focus on the Lord. Afterwards, Nathan and Christy say they are pleased to hear from fans who say they "forgot" they were at a concert. "That's what we like to hear, because the last thing people need is just another artist or another group to entertain them."

Nathan and Christy Nockels already seem to know that beyond music, and even beyond each other, their most important passion must be towards God. That was vividly illustrated to them this past Christmas, when Nathan and Christy found out they were expecting a baby; and then seven weeks later, Christy suffered a miscarriage. It's an experience they share with audiences every night, leading into a song called "Peace."

"I've read somewhere-I can't remember where-that God uses these trials as a platform to reveal himself," Christy muses. "We've had to take on that whole perspective. It's the hardest thing we've ever been through. We grieved together ... it's a very grown-up feeling and something only Nathan and I could feel together." She adds, "It's one thing in our marriage where it comes out that we're married emotionally, not just physically. We learned so much about God and His peace."

Nathan shares that the miscarriage taught him some new responsibilities as a husband. "Before it happened, I had to think about becoming a father; it was neat but it was scary. Then afterward, giving support to Christy, talking through all of this stuff, I realized there are a lot of things to pray for before we have our first baby-about becoming a man of God." He adds hopefully, "People say having a baby sheds a whole new light on the love of Christ."

The Nockels say the experience has made them more passionate than ever about their faith. "Your personal relationship with the Lord is important, making sure we have time with Him and each other, it's something we strive for," Nathan continues. "I think that's the life or death of a marriage."

Christy agrees. "You think that you're hitting a brick wall, then you look at each other and realize, 'You know what? Neither of us has spent time in the Word or in prayer.' The more intimate you'll be with God, the more intimate you'll be with each other."

The couple recently moved to Nashville to start a new phase in their marriage and ministry, and they continue traveling with {{Point Of Grace}}. They also plan to stay involved with the "Passion" conference, led by Evangelist Louie Giglio. The event drew a first-time crowd of 4,800 college students in 1997 -- this year, attendance hit 11,000. "It was the closest thing to being in heaven that I've ever seen in my whole life," Christy offers.

The Passion theme is taken from Isaiah 2:68, she explains, encouraging this generation to have a passion for God and to help the one behind it to make His name known. The scripture inspired Christy to write "His Renown," one of the songs on the ==Watermark== CD:

So let the hands go up around the world in surrender
And let the voices echo out a new sound
So the ones who come behind us will follow in His name
And see the greatness of His renown.

Nathan and Christy, as {{Watermark}}, say they want to share this passion with the world.