From the Pen of Composer Denice Rippentrop
It was in the late 1970s that I first trusted in God’s divine Son, Jesus the Christ, as my Lord and Savior for the forgiveness of my sins. I believed in the death of Christ on the cross to pay for my sins, the resurrection of Christ to provide life everlasting, and Christ’s gift of salvation, which can only be received by faith, apart from works or merit on my part. My life changed miraculously!
A few years later I heard a poem by Amy Carmichael for the first time. It was called “No Scar?” and I heard it on a radio program. Amy’s words moved deep into my soul as a picture came to my mind. I saw the scars on my Savior’s hands, feet, and side—and it tore into me. To think that He has these scars and I have none. I was so taken by this scene in my mind I could hardly breathe.
At that point, I searched endlessly for every poem and book by Amy Carmichael. I was so moved by the deep meaning of her words—written in a style unique only to her—as well as her display of vocabulary and the images portrayed in her words. Her utter devotion to Jesus Christ came through in her every word. She loved beyond herself. She never took her eyes off the cross of Jesus Christ and His eternal, unending love.
In 1987 I was at Hamline University in Saint Paul, Minnesota working on my master’s degree. My synthesis was composing music to eleven Amy Carmichael poems, ending in a concert of these works. The concert was given at Incarnation Lutheran Church in Shoreview, Minnesota under the direction of Bonnie Doole. My daughter Tammy gave a reading on the life of Amy Carmichael. I still can hear her presenting this reading. She gave an outstanding presentation.
After that concert I continued to write sacred and secular choral works. Much of my writing has been impacted by one of my composition professors, Dr. Jody Rockmaker. Throughout the years I have received many honors and commissions and have given numerous performances of my music.
Then, nineteen years after the concert in 1987, music appeared on my bedroom wall as I was lying in my bed before dawn. At first, I thought I was dreaming. There were several pages, and the first three pages had three music staves showing a solo voice and piano. The music appeared two more mornings; but this time, Amy Carmichael’s name was written in the top left-hand corner and my name was written in the top right-hand corner. I asked God to show the music again if this was from Him. And, my Holy Father did. I knew I had to write it down.
The Holy Spirit led me to Amy Carmichael’s book If. One by one, the fifteen Amy Carmichael statements that I was to write music to were shown to me.
“If at the Moment,” the first song on my CD If (What Do I Know of Calvary’s Love?), is the music I saw on the wall the first morning. The text says:
“If the moment I am conscious of the shadow of self crossing my threshold, I do not shut the door, and in the power of Him who works in us to will and to do, keep that door shut, then I know nothing of Calvary Love.”
As Amy Carmichael said of her book If, “[These statements] are not meant to be read one after the other. Perhaps only one “If” here and there may have the needed word.” As you listen to the CD, I ask that you give each song the time it needs to reach the depths of your soul, as Amy so desired.
Vanessa Libbey, the vocalist on the CD, is a classically trained soprano. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Luther College and resides in New York City.
Alison Beck, the pianist on the CD, earned her master of music degree in piano performance from the University of North Texas. She resides in New York City.
The recording took place at Avatar Recording Studio in New York City from April 18–20, 2017.
All lyrics in If (What Do I Know of Calvary’s Love?) are from If by Amy Carmichael, ©1938 The Dohnavur Fellowship. Used by Permission of CLC Publications. May not be further reproduced. All Rights Reserved.
About If by Amy Carmichael: Amy Carmichael questions whether we allow our doubts and disappointments to hinder our faith, or do we really know Calvary’s love? In a series of statements and common situations, a Christ-love of forgiveness and strength is meant to mend our hearts and encourage others, because of what He has already done. Purchase the book with a CD featuring words from If performed by Vanessa Libby, soprano soloist, and Alison Beck, pianist. https://www.clcpublications.com/shop/if-by-amy-carmichael-cd-bundle/
About Amy Carmichael: Amy Carmichael was the eldest daughter of a large Christ-centered family in Millisle, Ireland. She was impressed at an early age that “nothing is important but that which is eternal.” This understanding proved to be the foundation for her service to the Lord among the mill workers of Ireland, the Japanese briefly, and then in India where she began her ministry to children in 1895 and where she remained until her death in 1951.