Song Story: God of Wonders
- 2003 20 Aug
"This song needs to be big."
The first time that songwriter Steve Hindalong heard the chord progression brought to him by friend and co-writer Marc Byrd, he felt where "God of Wonders" was leading. Hindalong had been assigned to produce a project that was to express the feeling of community in the church, but at this point it was still untitled, and the notes of the first song weren't yet recorded.
The project became Essential Records' City On A Hill. Those few guitar chords became not only the first single from that project and a number-one, Dove Award-nominated Song of the Year, but a song that would become a church standard for worship.
"God Of Wonders" has since been recorded nearly 100 times according to Hindalong's estimate. Artists as renown as Rebecca St. James and Steve Green have lent their voices to the song. Both Caedmon's Call and Third Day, whose group members are featured on the original City On A Hill track, have also recorded their own versions.
The song was simultaneously number one on three of Christian radio's charts-adult contemporary (AC), inspirational, and Christian hit radio (CHR)-ordinarily three vastly different musical formats. When Steve Hindalong originally imagined how big this song needed to be, he had no idea what was in store, and just how expansive the moving music and powerful lyrics could be.
A founding member of popular '80s Christian alternative/modern rock band The Choir, Hindalong knew he was taking a different turn with "God of Wonders," although he notes that fans of the band wouldn't be that surprised at it's content.
"People that followed The Choir know that we had some pretty intensely spiritual themes. Typically the type of music that I come from is more alternative and tends to be aimed at more of the young adult audience. It's very introspective, whereas worship music tends to be really broad and focused more on God and who He is," says Hindalong.
"When Marc played the chord progression and melody, it felt really big. I kind of got a chill-I got goose bumps on my arms. I just thought, 'This song needs to be big, with really vast language.' So 'God of wonders beyond our galaxy' was as big as I could think."
Having attended an Episcopal church for the last few years, Hindalong has been introduced to a new inspiration for his songwriting. "The liturgy, the old words, is kind of new to me. I flipped through The Book of Common Prayer, and I remember 'Lord of all creation, water, earth and sky.' That became the first line of the song."
Lord of all creation
Of water, earth and sky
The heavens are your tabernacle
Glory to the Lord on high
God of wonders beyond our galaxy
You are holy, holy
The universe declares Your majesty
You are holy, holy
Lord of heaven and earth
Lord of heaven and earth
But it isn't the vastness of the song that seems to really impact people, relates Hindalong. "People have sent me emails about the song and referred to the second verse. I think the real power of the song is there, when all of the sudden it gets intimate. It says 'When I stumble in the darkness, I will call Your name by night.' This God that is the God of not only our earth, but of all the worlds, that is so big-but when I'm afraid, when I'm alone, when I sin, when I'm in trouble, He comes close enough that I can call His name. It's the truth that's powerful, not the song. It is that particular truth that is so moving."
The mixture of voices on the original recording is another aspect that Hindalong sees as powerful. "When people sing a song and interpret it a certain way, a song comes alive. The contrast of Mac Powell and Cliff Young trading off, and with Danielle [Young], really communicated that corporate community thing that was really the goal of City On A Hill. They were the perfect blend of voices."
The groundwork for "God of Wonders" was laid nearly 10 years ago, when Steve Hindalong produced the first two albums for Common Children, Marc Byrd's band. Ten years his senior, Steve became a mentor to Marc, and is amazed by how far the two have come.
"Marc is a real screamer and comes from an intense rock background, and I come from this whole folk thing, although I've had lots of variety," he describes. "So for Marc to get into worship music is really a change, and I think he's found a lot of joy and peace in it. He's very natural at it. Writing a song like 'God of Wonders' was new ground and opened a whole floodgate of creativity for him."
Byrd has written a number of well-known songs, including Third Day's "Show Me Your Glory," co-written with Mark Lee. Steve and Marc teamed again for "Holy Is Your Name," performed on by Bebo Norman and Caedmon's Call, as well "Sing Alleluia," both from the third City On A Hill project, as well as the number one Rebecca St. James cut "I Thank You."
"I think of 'God of Wonders' as an offering," says Hindalong. "It's an offering to people. The words are to God, the prayer is to God, but as far as the song, that's for people, to the body of believers. It's an offering-a humble offering."