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John Waller: While I'm Waiting

By Chris Carpenter Program Director NASHVILLE -- As the number one independent movie of 2008, Fireproof ministered to audiences far and wide with a message of hope, reconciliation, and trusting God even when life seems to be careening out of control.

John Waller knows a thing or two about what it means to wait on the Lord even when life is screaming ‘give up’.  Seventeen years of chasing after a successful music career that never came to pass, Waller walked away to become a worship pastor.  Eventually the Georgia native began to write again but only for his church.  One of those compositions was “While I’m Waiting”, a song that became a focal point of Fireproof, an anthem for those actively waiting on the Lord. Program Director Chris Carpenter recently sat down with Waller to discuss the unexpected phenomenon of "While I'm Waiting", the significance of waiting on God, and what it means to make your life a declaration.

Your new album is called “While I’m Waiting”.  Obviously, I want to talk about the song of the same name that appears on this record.  It has just become a phenomenon – it was the featured track in the movie “Fireproof” and has become an anthem of sorts for those who find themselves in a wilderness situation.  Did you expect that song to have the impact that it has had?

No, not at all.  It is one of those songs that when you hear it – it was on my first album, “The Blessing”.  It was at the end but it was always one of my favorites.  I thought that if people just bought the album they would be impacted by it.  But it was never considered as a radio single.  So, if people didn’t buy the album they weren’t going to hear it.  When I found out Alex Kendrick had selected it to be in the movie and they were going to use it I was blown away.  No one had any idea how big that movie was going to be. 

I was with a friend of mine when he first heard “While I’m Waiting”.  He had just gone through a difficult divorce and when he heard this song it had an incredibly profound effect on him.  He said it really struck a nerve in relation to him waiting on the Lord for answers and knowing that God was right there at his side.  What was the inspiration for writing this song in the first place?

Well, I had a dream to sing Christian music back when I was 19 years old.  I was a big Steven Curtis Chapman fan and I just thought it wouldn’t take nearly as long to see that dream come true as it did.  It took about 17 years.  After 15 years of doing this I left it all behind and moved to Colorado and planted a church.  I had been pursuing it for so many years and I finally just gave it up.  So, I am out in Colorado and I began to write songs for that church.  But I thought if I am going to do this, these songs need to go way outside the walls of this church because they could really impact a lot of people.  I believe that is what the Lord wanted to do with them.  And so we had done the album.  We had finished it.  Everyone in the church loved it.  We sent it out to a bunch of people including Mark Hall (Casting Crowns).  Then, nothing happened for six months.  So, I was getting to the place where I was discouraged and I began asking myself had I done this for nothing.  A friend of mine called me and I was struggling.  I had literally been in tears, waiting and trusting.  He said, “You need to write about that.  People are waiting on God all the time.  People can really relate to that.”  And I wrote “While I am Waiting” in about ten minutes. It took ten minutes to write and 17 years to live though. 

As far as the new album is concerned, is there a general theme or concept that you are writing about?  Or is it a whole collection of different ideas?

One of the dominant themes of this record is living by faith and trusting God one day at a time.  There is a song on it called “Faith is Living”.  It is the second tune on the album.  The opening line of the song is, ‘I wish I could see just three steps in front of me.  But the lamp unto my feet, it only moves when I take a step.’  You know, the Word of God is a lamp unto our feet, a light unto our path.  It’s like if you are walking down a dark path and you don’t take your flashlight and shine it up ahead and walk or you will trip and fall.  You just shine it on the next step and take the next step in faith.  That is way I have learned to live, especially in the last two years.  I don’t have a full time salary that comes in every two weeks like I used to.  It is all trusting the Lord.  But once you begin to really start trusting the Lord and let go and say, ‘Alright, this is a life of faith.  This is a life where I have to trust God.  And He is trustworthy.’  It is an exciting thing.  So, that is kind of the theme of the record.  That is living by faith.

In doing some reading and background on you I found that you have been known to call much of your music “declaration songs”.  Why do you say that?

Well, because a lot of songs in Christian music are worship songs.  When people ask me if I am a worship artist I say that I am a worship leader.  I lead worship in my church.  But I classify myself as a declaration artist because the difference between vertical worship and declaration is that declaration is just taking a truth from the Word of God, putting it in a nutshell.  If they are singing that chorus and they are declaring the Word of God in their life and it is empowering to them – like “While I’m Waiting” is very much a declaration song.  It’s not like, ‘Hey, that’s a John Waller song.’  Instead, people say, ‘Hey, that’s my song.’  You know what I mean?  That’s the song I am declaring over my life.  Yes, I’m waiting on you Lord, but I am going to serve you while I am waiting.  I am going to worship while I am waiting.  That is empowering.

If you had to pick one song on the album that sort of defines it what would it be and why?

I would have to say that probably “Cling to the Call” defines the album because it parallels my life with Peter’s life.  It says, ‘I was walking on water just a week ago.”  Everything was great.  I didn’t have a care in the world and then all of a sudden I saw crashing waves all round me.  I could see the things that were distracting me, the things could clobber me.  And I took my eyes off Jesus, I sank, and I had to put my eyes back on Him.  But “Cling to the Call” is not about clinging to what you do but clinging to who you are.  Our call is not to do, our call is to be.  So, I think that song sort of sums up the entire album.

What has God been teaching you lately?  What has He been showing you?

He is teaching me to let go and that I can’t control what happens with me.  In what I do it so completely depends on God and my reliance on Him.  He can do the impossible.  The movie Fireproof and my song “While I’m Waiting” is a perfect example.  I didn’t even ask Him for that.  I didn’t look for it, didn’t try to finagle it.  That is what we try to do.  We try to manipulate things in our favor to try to control our situation because as men we don’t like to feel like we are not in control – especially as a provider for our family.  I have four kids and have been married 14 years and I still struggle.  I often say, “Lord, am I going to make it?  Am I going to survive?  Am I going to be able to pay my bills?  Am I going to be able to provide for my kids?”  So, doing what I do requires complete trust.  So, He is continuing to teach me to just let my career go, let the album go, and just trust Him with it.  He is the one who birthed it.  He is the one who will mature it.

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John Waller was named by Billboard Magazine as one of the top ten new faces to watch in 2007.

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