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Mark Schultz: God's Instrument

By Sandy Engel and Lisa Ryan
The 700 Club

CBN.comMark Schultz grew up in a small town where he was an all-around jock. He was so popular that he got away with playing football and singing in the chorus. Yet when Mark moved to Nashville to make it as a songwriter, he was pretty much told to pack his bags and go back home. But now Mark is having the last laugh.

MARK SCHULTZ: I have been there. I know what fear is all about," he says. "The fact that I would be on the ballot for 'Male Vocalist of the Year'— I just laugh so hard because, you know, I sing LOUD.

LISA RYAN (reporting): But no one else is laughing. In addition to being nominated for a Dove Award, singer- songwriter Mark Schultz has had four No.1 hits.

MARK SCHULTZ: You’ve got to understand where this comes from…I don’t know how to play the piano, but I play the piano. I picked it up by ear. And I play on the black notes, the little black keys. I say this in concerts, too: I do that because there’s not as many of them as white keys, but you have to be able to sing in a certain register. On the white keys, you got lots of options; on the black keys, you’re pretty much singing in one place, and that’s where I taught myself to sing because the black keys are a little more raised up and they’re easier to hit with your fingers.

LISA RYAN (reporting): Strange but true as I found out first hand when I met Mark in the chapel of First Presbyterian Church in Nashville.

First Presbyterian Church in NashvilleMARK SCHULTZ: Every song that I’ve written has come out of this chapel.

LISA RYAN: Really?

MARK SCHULTZ: I came here nine years ago to be a songwriter, and I ended up being a youth director of this church out of nowhere. The youth minister said, 'There are six grand pianos around this place, so why don’t you find one and write songs and in your free time just hang out with the kids?' I think he knew I was going to fall in love with the kids, and so it was just his way of making me stay. I fell in love with it, and I’ve been here ever since.

LISA RYAN: What did your time working with kids and the youth of this church do for you?

MARK SCHULTZ: I learned more from the kids then they could possibly learn from me. Every one of the songs I’ve written is about them or about their parents.

LISA RYAN: What inspired the song 'He’s My Son'?

MARK SCHULTZ: That was a song that was actually written for Martin Baird. He’s 14 years old, and he’s a member of my church. Martin had been diagnosed with leukemia, so the next year and a half I walked through life with a family who was possibly going to lose their son. I was in this chapel, and I said I want to write a song that kind of expresses what they’re going through so they don’t feel like they’re alone, by themselves. Martin’s fine now. He’s in college and he’s in remission, but I’m amazed to go into concerts around the concert and people come after the concerts just in tears and say, 'You may think you’ve written that song for the Bairds or thought you did, but you wrote the song for our son or our daughter or for my husband.' So, I’m amazed.

LISA RYAN: How does God use you in that way?

Mark Schultz with his familyMARK SCHULTZ: You know what? If I knew, I would almost be disappointed because I would try to manipulate that. I think that the greatest thing for me is that I wrote the song 'He Is My Son.' I say I wrote the song because on the CD it says 'He is My Son' by Mark Schultz, but the fact of the matter is I had nothing to do with it. .God’s using a stupid guy because I have no idea. I just go and I play a song, and it’s amazing to me and I’m grateful for that. I don’t understand it, but I’m grateful for it. I mean, I can’t think of that stuff on my own. I think it’s just in those moments when I’m here at one o’clock and I say, 'OK, God, everything that I’ve thrown up, I just hate it.' Then all of a sudden something like that comes out, and then I go, you know, what if I’m 80 and all I’ve done is come up with a song like that because You gave it to me? I’m really OK with that. That’s a life well lived for me.

LISA RYAN: Tell me a little about your childhood. You were adopted, weren’t you?

MARK SCHULTZ: Yeah, when I was two weeks old. I got the best parents in the world. If you listen to my songs, you hear my mom in there, you hear my dad in there, you hear me honoring them. I was even thinking about writing a song about that, too, to say it must have been so hard to give birth to a baby and say with tears in your eyes, 'There’s so much I want to give you that I can’t give you, but I’m going to love you.' The chorus of the song is 'You gave me the opportunity to fall in love. You gave me the opportunity to see the sunset. You gave me the opportunity to know God. You gave me the opportunity to breathe, to have life. That’s amazing to me, so every day I’m grateful for that and grateful that I’ve got the parents I’ve got because it’s a gift all the way around.'

LISA RYAN: You’re going to write that song, right?

MARK SCHULTZ: Yeah. The more I think about this interview, the more I’m realizing from being adopted to writing these songs, man, it wasn’t my life to begin with being here. These songs, I can’t claim any of them and say they’re mine. I can’t. It’s a gift from being born to getting the parents that I got to the songs that God gives me. I just feel like they’re borrowed. And I’m grateful for them.

LISA RYAN: How did you become a Christian?

MARK SCHULTZ: Being a youth director at this church, I mean, I grew up in a Christian home and it was great, but it wasn’t until I got here. I remember sitting on my bed when I first moved to Nashville…

LISA RYAN: Wait a minute. You said you grew up in the church, became a youth director in a church, and you didn’t really come to the Lord until you were youth director?

MARK SCHULTZ: Right. I remember coming to Nashville, and I was in a horrible hotel when I first moved to town. I was sitting on the edge of the bed, and I had no money. I had just graduated from college, and I told my parents, 'I’m going to go to Nashville and try it for a year.' All of a sudden it just hit me what a mess I was in. I just had tears running down my eyes, and I said, 'God, I have messed up big time. I’m way over my head. If You’ll get me out of this pickle, I will write songs for You. I will be Your guy. This is Yours, not mine.'

LISA RYAN: So it wasn’t until you got really desperate for God…

MARK SCHULTZ: Yeah. I got to tell you. The difference is I think you can know something and then you can rely on something. God said, 'Here’s the thing: Don’t get your identity from a song, don’t get your identity from where you live, and don’t ask people to come into that hole you got inside you and try to fill that up and say this is who I am.' He said, 'Clear all that out and let me come inside you and fulfill you and be who you are. Hold onto Me because that doesn’t change.' I was meant to have this place right here filled by God, the One the doesn’t change, the One that gives me life, and the One that gives me my personality and everything that I hold onto during the roughest time. Maybe that’s all He wants me to know through my whole life, through writing songs -- it ain’t about me. Fill that with Him and the thing that doesn’t change.

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