Saturday, February 7, 2015

Forever Grateful – Mark Altrogge

What would push a 35-year old guy living in Indiana, Pennsylvania (see location on map-picture here) to write something that became a hit? Did Mark Altrogge think he was in the midst of ‘Plan-B’ (or even later in the alphabet) in the mid-1980s when he wrote some words about how he felt “Forever Grateful”? After all, he had already pursued art and rock-n-roll music in a band while still in his 20s. But after he became a Christ-believer during that decade, he found that God’s plan would take him in different directions than where he’d been going. His life in the various facets of his mid-30s as a father and pastor in Indiana, Pennsylvania must have seemed God-ordained and pretty time-consuming, but he found his artistic-music muscle was still something his Creator wanted him to exercise. It’s a safe bet that Mark was also reading his bible’s Luke passages to hone his spirit and form the song’s key idea. Read in Mark’s own words how this fusion played out to inspire “Forever Grateful”.    

Two  things inspired it. I went to a concert when I was a brand new Christian and the duo performed a song in which they sang words they imagined Jesus said to his Father, ‘I will seek that which was lost’ - which obviously refers to Jesus' own words about himself, that he came to seek and save the lost.  The second thing that inspired it was being taught the incredible truth that we didn't seek God, but he sought us…to learn the incredible truth that all have sinned and fall short of God's glory and that there is no one who does good, not one…that there is no one who seeks God on their learn that all of the initiative was God's - that he so loved us he sent his Son that whoever believes in him would have eternal life. Contemplating these truths, my only response could be gratefulness for all eternity.  I wanted to have a strong line to begin the chorus, and as I worked on the song, I eventually wrote the phrase "I'm Forever Grateful" which became the lyrical and musical hook and encapsulated all I wanted to say.

If you’ve ever been inspired by the music at a concert, or by the punctuating truth of bible passages, then you can identify with Mark Altrogge. Imagine how it must have been for Altrogge to have both of those resources focusing his attention. We can guess he was reading what Jesus told believers in three parables about a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son in Luke 15, and then a few chapters later (Luke 19:10) how Jesus lauded, of all people a tax man, with words that this composer echoed some 20 centuries later – about seeking and saving lost people.  On its own, seeking and saving is a daunting task. But, Jesus’ ‘lost’ statements were among crowds of sneering Pharisees, aghast at His association with ‘sinners’. Who would proceed with such a mission, in the face of rabid—in fact murderous--opposition?  We, Jesus’ spiritual siblings, should be rejuvenated, considering the stunning truth of Altrogge’s first line … ‘You did not wait for me to draw near to You…’. Has someone put himself out on a limb for you lately? Someone already did, some 21 centuries ago. Try getting in touch with that one.

The song’s story was shared with this blogger in February 2015, and is the primary source for this scoop, and is used by permission of the composer.

Also see more background information on the composer in the book Celebrate Jesus: The Stories behind Your Favorite Praise and Worship Songs, by Phil Christensen and Shari MacDonald, Kregel Publications, 2003.

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