Christian symbols have always been important to me. I’m sure that growing up in the First United Methodist Church had a lot to do with that. Somehow, for me as a child, those symbols seemed to carry an ancient inheritance with them. They stood for long-held traditions, remembrances, and powerful covenants with God. They spoke without words, the mystery of relationship with the Lord; the ability to communicate that relationship on a grand scale. They meant that others knew and were now sharing with me. They were like the hymns in pictures.
Symbols have been used by the Christian church since the earliest ages for many reasons:
- As a secret sign among the faithful during times of persecution.
- As a means of teaching biblical truths to those unable to read.
- As a way of reminding believers of God’s sovereignty over all creation.
- As a means of memorializing God’s divine activity in human history.
Just as observing the seasons of the church year is a way of acknowledging that Jesus is the Lord of Time, using symbols in the church and teaching about their meaning is a way of proclaiming that the earth is the Lord’s and that He is sovereign over human history. Symbols enable us to carry our spiritual awareness out of the sanctuary and into the created world, into our own human experience.
On the Dreams and Visions artwork, I chose to use Christian symbols that had been stylized into a contemporary form. They still hold the same meanings as the ancient symbols they represent: such as unity, eternity, Christ as King, the cross, the Trinity, etc.
With One Spirit I chose the simplicity of the descending dove representing the Holy Spirit, the Star of David, the crown of our King and others. It was in the writing of the songs on this album that I was hearing a strong Middle Eastern influence for the first time. It’s interesting that the album was released at the beginning of 2001 – before 9/11 occurred. I feel as though it was part of God’s plan for my music to play a role in the healing.
On Stream in the Desert, I chose to incorporate symbols that were derived from the photoshoot. We used a massive wrought iron gate on the grounds of an art institute where we were shooting. It had roses and crowns on it. The art institute was set in a beautiful, Mediterranean mansion that had so much detail in its architecture. Very inspiring. We also used actual grapevines and stones which are symbolic of Christ being the vine and the stones of remembrance.
Even from the beginning of my ministry with the Perfect Gift album, I used symbols. In fact, we created a symbol for each song at that time. For instance, “Every Good & Perfect Gift” was a symbol of a baby being held in its mother’s arms; “You Are the Christ” was the symbol of a crown, etc.