Thanks to everyone who responded with questions to blog about. I’ve had a number of people comment on this one song, so I thought it might be time to share the story behind Martyr’s Song.
I have a friend who is a great writer, but he writes books and I write songs. His name is Ted Dekker. You can find more about him at any bookstore or at www.teddekker.com. Anyway, I first found Blink and read it in about 24 hours and went back and bought all the rest. He is probably best known for his Circle Trilogy: Black, Red, and White. Of course, the new book is Green, which makes it not a trilogy, but that’s a discussion for another time. Anyway, I was a big fan, and apparently he had heard my music as well. I was asked if I would be interested in writing a song to go along with a new project of his. So of course, I said yes, and he sent me the manuscript.
As I read, I realized something. My favorite book of his to that point had been one called, When Heaven Weeps. In this book, there is a story within the story, a backstory of one of the characters, which is a book inside the book. Anyway, I read the new manuscript and find that story within a story inside this story as well. Obviously, I was very excited. But as I read through the story, I became discouraged. I realized I could not be the one to write this song. The story is about a priest who is killed and the song is the song of Christ welcoming him home. I did not have the knowledge or the holiness to make a decent attempt. So I told Ted that I loved the story but I would not be able to write the song. He however was quite sure that I was supposed to. I told him I would try but I was pretty sure he would have to get someone else.
I knew that if these words were supposed to be coming from Jesus to one of His beloved children then I would have to start in the Bible. I needed God’s real words. I was looking through Zephaniah and found this in the 14th verse of the third chapter, “Sing aloud, O Daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem.” An encouragement from Christ to rejoice, after life is over, after all the work has been done. It seemed perfect.
I was working on some verses and had written a chorus. I wanted the Zephaniah part to be the bridge. Then I sat down with Ted. We talked about a few things, well, a lot of things. But we talked a lot about heaven. I will never forget him talking about life being like a marathon. That each good thing, each time of worship, each move of God, is like a little Gatorade cooler on the side of the road. And many of us get stuck circling the cooler, loving what we’ve been given, when it was never intended to be more than a refresher while we did what God had called us to, which was to run the race. And I remember talking about how every single good thing we have here is just a taste of what is to come. A foretaste, if you will, of glory divine. That heaven has banquets full of the goodness that we have barely tasted here. But as I started playing Ted the pieces of the song I had come up with, he stopped me and said, “Sing O Son of Zion, that’s the chorus. That’s the pinnacle.” So my chorus turned into the 1st verse. There is a picture of heaven being full of colors we’ve never imagined, which I pulled from Ted’s book, Heaven’s Wager. And there’s a line about the beauty God sees in us, which would be from the book Martyr’s Song. Then I started working on a second verse from what we had talked about that day.
The song came together. We recorded it and it was on a CD that came inside the book Martyr’s Song. But by then everyone was talking about the Dekker/Frank Peretti collaboration, House. So most people missed our little project.
The funny thing is, well, there’s two funny things. One is that it may be one of the best songs I’ve ever written, and it’s escaped most people. The second thing is that the book came out in September, and then my grandmother passed away in October. I found myself wondering about the very things we had just written about. It was the first time someone close to me had died. Where was she now? What was she doing? Who cares if her streets are made of gold, I wanted to know who was taking care of her? I had always thought of heaven as a huge worship service. On stage would be David, and Isaiah, and Chris Tomlin, and Darlene Zschech. There would be video screens with the words to each song in every language ever spoken. But when my grandmother died, I didn’t like the picture of her being a blot in a faceless crowd of billions.
A few verses after the verse I used in Zephaniah, it says that God sings over us. I had this picture of God bringing my grandmother to heaven Himself, laying her down on a grassy hill, by a slow river, underneath the same tree I used to swing on in her back yard, in a field full of her favorite flowers. And He said to her, “It’s time to rest now.” And heaven wasn’t her singing worship songs to Him, but her finally understanding how much she is loved, as He sang over her.
Now I’m not saying that’s what heaven will be like. I have no idea. And by the time I do understand, I won’t care. But God showed me a beautiful picture of what it will be like when we finally reside in the fullness of His love and His glory. And He showed me some of it in my own song.
You can find my version of Martyr’s Song on the Better Questions CD. If I were you, I’d read When Heaven Weeps by Ted Dekker, and then maybe insert the song wherever. Thanks.
21 thoughts on “Story Behind Martyr’s Song”
I have to agree with Ted. You are the perfect one to write that song. It is one of my favorites. I especially like the version on the CD that comes with the book. I have never thought of heaven that way. The idea that God waits anxiously to show us all of the great things that we can’t even imagine and to welcome us home. How awesome is our God!
My husband (commenter above) was so wonderful to point me to this blog. We met you after the concert in Brandon and both told you this was our favorite song! So this blog is SO very special to us :o) When Heaven Weeps has been my all time favorite of Ted’s books and since I’ve heard The Martyr’s Song ~ it has been my all time favorite song. My screen name for both of your websites was “Dance in Fields of Colors”. Thank you for not giving up ~ and thanks for writing and singing such a wonderful song. I’ve listened to it a hundred times and every time I get teary eyed or tears running down my cheeks. My heart and soul long for heaven and I can’t wait for all of us to be running around in fields of colors and singing worship songs together!
Todd, I’m so glad Ted and God entrusted you with this song. When I first heart the lyrics, it literally took my breath away. I collapsed backward into a chair and listened to words that completely melted my heart. It was if God was singing to me the words of love and affirmation that I’ve always needed to hear. And it makes me so homesick for Home. I’ve told all my friends and family to play this song at my home going.
I also think it is one of your best songs because God has revealed himself in such a powerful, intimate way through the lyrics, and has given us a taste of the most indescribable atmosphere of His glorious love that is beyond our comprehension. Keep telling us the story of His love . . . more and more and more and more. If God is the Master Story Teller, then surely you are His apprentice!
So neat to hear the story behind the song. I just bought Better Questions from a little shop in Thailand. It has only been a few days now, but I don’t think I’ve managed to listen to Martyr’s song without crying yet. Thank you for bringing such beautiful words from our Father.
From the first moment I heart Martyr’s Song, it has been one of my favorites. I play it when I’m happy. I play it when I’m sad. I play it when I need to be reminded that God has caught each tear I have cried – yesterday, last week and even during those days I wasn’t following him so closely. And how comforting it is to know that He will continue to catch them the rest of my days.
Will it bother you if I say I love you, Todd. Your music and lyrics are so clearly inspired by the Word of Our Father. I am grateful to Him for those words and to you for your obedience.
Not to be morbid – but when I die, Martyr’s Song is going to be played. I give a copy of it and the lyrics to those close to me that have lost loved ones. Thank you for this beautiful picture. May God richly bless you, your family and your ministry.
Already a fan of your music, I was thrilled when I heard “The Martyr’s Song” after reading Ted Dekker’s books. You did an amazing job! What a blessing your music is!
My closest and dearest friend went to be with Jesus just two weeks ago. In May we thought she had beat the cancer; the end of June the MRI confirmed it was back, and the past three months were spent doing some “business” to settle her affairs and plan her memorial. She asked me to sing, which put me in charge of the memorial details. As we talked about all these earthly things for those of us left behind, we also spoke much of Heaven. As I shaved her head in July (because the previous radiation made her hair fall out) she wondered about her new body. The tumors returned in her brain, and she lost most of her vision in less than six weeks. She wondered what colors are in Heaven. The chemo had made her taste buds blah, and she wondered what will be at our Father’s table. Certainly it will taste better than anything we can imagine.
The doctor said she probably had about 5 or six months, but with her quality of life so diminished by the tumors in her brain, and the increasing pain, she asked for prayer that God would have mercy and come get her soon. Three days later, she had a stroke. Her mom, a retired nurse, saw the end, and whispered in her ear “I love you and I’ll see you in Heaven.” Mary smiled at her mom, closed her eyes, slipped into a comma for about 15 minutes, then ran into the arms of Jesus.
Thank you for this post on this day. As broken as my heart is for the great loss of having my very best friend, I imagine her dancing in the arms of Jesus, and resting while He sings over her. I needed to be reminded of this today.
The version you did with the book is my favorite. It’s such a special song. I can’t even put words together to express how much it means to me. Maybe you didn’t think yourself adequate to write the song, but you serve a God who is so much more than anything you lack. And that partnership is what created such a beautiful picture of Heaven.
This is probably the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard, and I still don’t listen to it much. It’s one that I treasure up in my heart. I know it’s there. The one in the book is my favorite also, but the one on BQ is good too. You may not have thought you were up to the job on this one, but the Bible does say that in our weakness, He is strong. It may have been important that you didn’t think you could do it. That may have made it more likely that God would do it for you. Thank you for this one.
Y’all should seek out the podcast Todd did on this topic. He talks about his Grandmother’s passing and does an acoustic version of Martyr’s Song. I wept. I’ve lost way too many people close to me – the most significant being my Mum and my eldest brother. This particular podcast was a beacon of hope for me.
I’ll see if I can hunt down a link or something and come back if I find it.
Todd – Just saw you this evening, together with Building 429 and Kimber Rising, here in Wilmington. I have to tell you that I thank you for your time (and your family for sharing you) to perform at a “free” concert. I’m grateful you made the trip. I needed to hear God’s words through you this evening. You do a fantastic job making it be about our Lord & Savior, Jesus Christ. Your ministry and your music is outstanding – and greatly needed. I’m sure God is whispering to you, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” I bought and am truly enjoying your new Need CD, and also Reflection of Something. Thank you for serving Him, and sharing the talent He’s given you with the rest of the world. God bless you.
Todd – Thank you so much for sharing the inspirations and story of Martyr’s Song. My grandmother died last year at age 98. She lived a life of faith, discipleship and love. Grandma always took care of us and others. You never left her house hungry – both physically and spiritually!
We were blessed with the opportunity to care for her while she received hospice care at home. We sat with her for hours, talking, sharing stories, scripture and prayer. Many times during those wonderful hours, she told us she knew that she would soon wake up to find Jesus there with his arms open to welcome her into heaven.
Grandma chose the scripture she wanted read at her memorial service, including 2 Timothy 4:7-8. After 98 years, this scripture surely illustrated her life and the race she was finishing.
In planning her memorial service, we prepared a pictorial tribute for her using the Martyr’s Song as the music. Thank you so much for this song. Your words and music were a perfect accompaniment and illustration of one of God’s children finishing the race and coming home and said everything we could not put into words in tribute to her life. We know she is with Jesus and we wanted everyone at the service to share in our joy in that knowledge.
Blessings and thanks to you for sharing your gifts.
P.S. By the way, I saw you in Mechanicsburg on Friday, October 16. You made my heart sing with joy in Christ’s love for us.
Todd – I have to agree with my sister (Jen – above me there). The Martyr’s Song was the PERFECT song to put with the pictorial tribute we had at Grandma’s funeral. The pictures made us laugh and made us cry but imagining Grandma being in the presence of Jesus was just indescribable. Todd, for once I’d have to say that you were wrong. You were absolutely the right one to have written that song with Ted. God told him and we’re all so glad you both listened. That song has SO many times made me cry – and smile all at the same time because I just can’t wait to be there and to bow at His feet. What an AWESOME day that will be.
So I know I’ve said it many times before but I must say it again. Thank you so much for being the vessel for Christ that you are. And yeah, Todd, He does mean you. Bless you my friend! And it was great to see you Friday night in Mechanicsburg. Thanks for the millionth signature on another awesome CD!!!
Where is your violinist?
The first time my daughter and I heard this song we were in the car….we weren’t quite sure what we were hearing until, we realized it was not you singing this song but GOD! We cried the whole way home! A few years later my father passed away and when the preacher and I were discussing the songs to be sung at his memorial service…..my first song I chose was “The Martyr’s Song”! Thank you and God Bless.
PS I was so blessed to hear you sing again at Concord Baptist in Anderson SC, my first time was at a Student Life Retreat six years ago, when at 47 years old I rededicated my life to Christ!
I first heard the song when I got the book. I have to say that practically every time I listen to it, I cry tears of gladness, love, longing, hope. It ministers to me in ways few songs do. I agree with another poster–I want this played at my funeral. I thought that the first time or two I heard it. I thank God for giving you and T3d the vision to relay the message that God delights in His children!
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Todd, I found this blog when searching for the lyrics for this song because I wanted to sing it over my daughters before they went to sleep tonight. It’s an old favorite of mine…I’ve read all of Ted’s older books, and I stumbled across your song after reading The Martyr’s Song. I just wanted to let you know how much I agree…as much as I love your other stuff, this is one of the best things you’ve ever written. I can be no more excited for Heaven than I am when I have the thought that Jesus is more excited than I am to welcome me home.
Thanks for the song. It got passed to the next generation at bedtime tonight. They loved it too.
I don’t know if you read the comments on here. I just wanted to let you know that I found the CD behind the book when I was a little girl. I listened to it, fell in love with the song and had it on repeat in my mum’s car every day as she took me to school and brought me back home.
A lot has changed in my life since I found that CD. Today, for the first time in many years, I am listening to the song again and I am still in love with it. It also puts a smile on my face. I have lost a few loved ones and just two days ago, my aunt’s husband died. He loved God and he raised my cousins to love the Lord too. He had been ill and in a coma before he passed, but now, he’s up There perfectly healthy and being welcomed Home. I am so happy that my grandfather developed a relationship with Jesus before he passed (cancer) and I am happy that my best friend also knew the Lord (she died in a plane crash). The pain and suffering they experienced here on earth is gone and now, they are in fields full of colour and spending time with our Father, they are happy. They, the sons and daughter of Zion are singing and dancing with all their heart and soul and might for they are finally Home.
I was in my early teens/late preteens the last time I read Ted’s book. Now, I am in the last few months of my life as a teenager. Once more, I am going to read this book that has made me cry each time I have read it, this book that has touched my heart, has put a smile on my face and has made me see myself differently.
God bless you, Ted and everyone that you encounter.