I woke up to sunlight streaming in on buttery walls. It was a winter morning in January, which in Redlands, California, translates into crisp, clean air with a tinge of frost on roofs where the sun hasn’t crept and cold, ripe fruit on the orange trees just outside the second-story guest room window. I was in my early twenties, staying with friends while recording some of my first songs.
This particular day might have been the only day in my life that I could wake up and write this song. Earlier, I might not have had the confidence to try. Later days would be laden with the responsibilities and worries of adulthood—days when I would need to be comforted by the simple truth of my own lyrics. Like the ripe fruit outside, the song was ready, and I picked it. And even then I did not know what I had. The words and the music both came so fast.
I wrote it all down before going downstairs for coffee. I had been working on a Moody Blues guitar riff, which I happened to forget that morning. But whatever I tried to remember turned into something else—they call this accidental creativity—and soon I was singing:
Love Him in the morning
when you see the sun arising;
Love Him in the evening
’cause He took you through the day.
And in the in-between time
when you feel the pressure coming,
Remember that He loves you
and He promises to stay.
I am, as they say, a morning person. On most days now I beat the sun up. Somehow I feel ahead of the game that way, as if I got a jump on everyone else. I used to carry around a poem that depicted all of creation in the predawn hours on pins and needles, waiting to see if, in fact, the sun would rise again. The world was in its infancy, with everything untested, even the idea of a new day. The poem captured that moment right before dawn when the world holds its breath and then bursts into thunderous applause as the first rays of light crest the horizon. “By Jove, he’s done it again!” the creatures and all nature cry.
This is the feeling I had that morning with the sun brightening up an already yellow room. He’s done it again! He’s made a new day and put me in it! What a moment! What an opportunity! Bless the day! Bless the season of my life that has afforded me this luxury! And bless the couple who provided me this luxurious yellow room in which to wake up warm and enjoy all these blessings!
Indeed, the season was a luxury. I had the luxury of time. I was in my young single adulthood, following the good urges of my soul, like the urge to learn—to study the Bible and find out all I could about a faith I grew up with but was just coming to own—and the urge to create—to let my soul express itself in love of God and truth. The urge to free the song that had been buried so long in traditionalism and archaic religiosity. The urge to be in the middle of a movement that was bringing a fresh understanding of Jesus to my generation and to me. The urge to take advantage of a spiritual revolution that felt, to many, like the last gasp of a weary world for God.
My hosts, Horton and Edna Voss, lived with a wealth, a flair, and a generosity that are rare even among those with greater means. “There’s more where that came from,” Horton often said with a twinkle in his eye, and he meant it about everything in life and faith. I was the auspicious recipient of their unorthodox freedom and generosity—too young and too arrogant to notice how rare it was, but I have noticed it many times over in hindsight.
I grew up with what was more the norm of the day in evangelical Christian circles—a guilt-ridden, tight-lipped Christianity that had to apologize for the enjoyment of anything but a good sermon. Horton and Edna lived well without apology, right down to the two Jaguar XKE’s in the garage, matching in everything but color. It wasn’t right that only he had his silver dream car, so he got Edna a green one. Of course that left the white ’57 Thunderbird for me to drive around town whenever I visited. These people had a love of life and a love for God that were not a contradiction.
At this time in my life, I was young, eager, free to explore the creative gifts I had received from God, and doubly grateful to have an immediate outlet for them. With a Jesus movement dawning and only a handful of people expressing it musically, what I was creating was in big demand. I was on the cusp of a wave that would soon turn into a tsunami.
Oddly, in this song I spoke of worry at the most worry-free time of my life. That proves something about intuition, for it came from a part of me that knew what I would need down the road a bit. As it turned out, a lot of other people needed it too.
The greatest insights always
seem to come from the simplest of things. Here those things are the parts of a
day: the morning, the evening, and everything in-
between, which, if you haven’t noticed yet, leaves nothing out.
This is precisely why I decided to call it the “All Day Song.” It was simple, it was catchy, and the song was just the kind of thing that might stick in someone’s mind for some time. We all carry around useless trivia from popular culture like annoying parasites anyway. Sometimes these things come as slogans or jingles designed to keep us unconsciously aware of some brand of product. And then there are pop songs that lodge in the brain and play nonstop. (I remember once running a whole day on “You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon. Undoubtedly true, but did I need to be reminded of it all day?) Or maybe it’s some visual connection. Almost every time I shave, I am reminded of a scene from one of Mel Gibson’s Lethal Weapon movies in which Danny Glover is teaching his son how to shave. “Go with the grain,” he says as he pulls the razor down over his face and neck. “Always go with the grain.” No wonder I had razor burn for so long. I hadn’t had a course on shaving from Danny Glover.
So I thought, if all these stupid things can manage to stay stuck in my mind, why not write something I wouldn’t mind having there—something that would help me focus on the right things all day long? Couldn’t that work with a song? Well, apparently it has, as the “All Day Song” has become, over the years, my best-known song. Just last weekend a woman walked out of the room when I started singing it in church. She told me later she was so overcome with emotion that she had to leave for a moment. She had not heard the song since the seventies, and so many memories of her early days of faith came rushing back all at once that she could not control herself.
And then there’s the balding Chicago businessman—a brand strategy coach for CEOs—who told me recently that he suddenly found himself singing this song as he walked down Michigan Avenue. He hadn’t heard it in years, and suddenly it was on his mind. In fact, when I met this man, he treated me as a luminary, and regardless of what I did or told him about myself, I could not shake my celebrity status. While we were having dinner, he even got out his cell phone, called his wife, and broke the news to her about who was sitting next to him. She said, “Tom Petty? James Taylor? Who? No. Not the John Fischer! Oh my goodness, get his autograph!”
I looked for signs that this was just a big tease from him—a little charade for my benefit—but it was not. This simple little song has this kind of effect on people.
It’s beyond me.
The stripped-down version of this song’s chorus could be stated simply as “Love him . . . and remember that he loves you.” That’s the crux of it. This is all about a relationship. True spirituality boils down to a relationship with God. It’s not about going to church, or studying the Bible, or praying the prayer, or chanting the words, or singing the worship songs. It’s about knowing God—about loving and being loved. Religion is the furthest thing from it.
When it comes to religion, we have a tendency to make things much too complicated. And I think I finally understand why: We complicate faith because we want to be in control. Keep it just complicated enough so that I feel like I’m accomplishing something with all my religiosity. Keep it complicated so that I think I can do something to earn God’s approval. That’s religion.
Faith—just believing God for who he is and what he says—seems too easy sometimes. But that’s his call.
Religion is complicated. Faith is simple. Jesus said the faith of a child would get you into heaven, and the faith of a mustard seed could move a mountain. Maybe that’s why for some people this song has become a lullaby—something associated with a childlike faith. I like that sentiment—the child, the mother’s arms, the song, the comfort, the intimacy . . . the relationship. It’s all about the relationship.
What are we here for? What is the purpose of our existence if it isn’t to love God and enjoy him forever? Every other pursuit wears off in time—not that we don’t have other pursuits that are important, but this one outlasts all the others and puts them all in their place. That’s why we love him in the morning. When we love him first, we get ourselves in order. This is such a simple thing, and that is probably why it is so easy to overlook. But when we forget to love him first, we lose our center, and all kinds of things that were never meant to hold us break apart in our grasp.
The morning always holds a promise. No matter how bad it’s been, it can get better. It’s like opening day at the ball field with every team tied for first. As the day moves on, our options narrow until time runs out on every single one of them and we close the book on our hopes and dreams at least for that day. But in the morning it starts over. We don’t wake up where we ended; we wake up in a new place. The sun is on the other side of the sky. It hits things from another angle. Everything looks different in the morning’s light. We have renewed energy to attack the things that almost crushed us just hours earlier.
“And in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord” (Exod. 16:7). The sunrise is like the glory of the Lord. It reminds us of God’s faithfulness. It renews our strength. It gives us a fresh start and a new light on things.
I live in a beach community in Southern California where hills slope down to the sea. Since the sun has to come up over those hills, the day is quite light before I ever actually see the sun. It hits the tops of the clouds hugging the shoreline first. Then it strikes my neighbor’s roofline and works its way down, adding deeper tones to the gray shingled siding. The sun brings dramatic color to whatever it touches—color you don’t notice as much further into the day because everything is bathed in direct sunlight. You notice more when you can see the contrast with what is still steeped in shadow. One reason the morning is a good time to remember about God: Perhaps we can see the truth more clearly then.
It is good to love him at the beginning of the day, because our love is not predicated on anything happening that day. We are not waiting to see how the day turns out to decide whether we will award God with love and worship. He has already done everything necessary to earn our love and gratitude. And had he done nothing, he would still deserve our praise, even if only for the self-evident fact of who he is as Creator and who we are as part of his creation.
God spoke his pleasure in his Son, Jesus, at his baptism, before his Son ever did anything. It was the sign of a relationship that existed before the world began. Connecting with God at the start of a day is a little like this. It reminds us that we bring pleasure to God even before we do anything.
When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
We too have a relationship with God that doesn’t depend on what we do or don’t do but simply on who we are as his children. We have nothing to earn and nothing to prove. We can’t do anything to gain his approval, and we can’t do anything to send it away. Not only are we loved, but God is pleased with us like he is pleased with his Son.
This is why we can love him in the morning. It all begins here. It will end here too at the end of the day, but for now I am thinking about the beginning, and a yellow room, and a song that assures us of his presence and his attentiveness to us the rest of the day and night. And though the room I wake up in now is off-white, it can, like your room—like any room for that matter—contain the presence of God. In the morning, it is good to love God. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22–23).