"I think it all started for me that year I couldn’t sleep and almost lost my mind."

In the Fall of 2001 I must have sat out on the porch for hours a night, sometimes with a buddy, sometimes with a few, but mostly with God, and the precarious rhythms of late night traffic.

I had nowhere to go. I’d weathered a break up that left me questioning my sanity and I’d quit my job at the Olive Garden after a woman cussed me out over the price of cranberry juice. With no work, no relationship, and my ‘89 Ford Tempo on its last legs, I found myself emotionally and, otherwise, shipwrecked. My whole world was a guitar and everything I wished I’d said.

I think it was during those months that I learned how to write a song, because that was the year I learned to be honest with God.

As a teenager, I played my first guitar chords on the loading docks behind my father’s storefront church in Pineville, NC. I guess I began playing for the same reason everyone does, to impress girls at school. Unfortunately, it was a little late in the game for an instrument to become much of a savior, but it became a friend, an outlet, a way of sorting things out.

Looking back, it made sense that I would go back to that place when I was against the ropes, and why I would end up out on that same porch almost a year later, with another set of issues and another batch of songs.

In November of 2002, I’d flown down to Jacksonville, to do some recording. While in the studio, we received a call about some friends who’d been in a car accident that left 2 of them in critical condition. Late that evening I got another call from my dad. One of my closest childhood friends was gone.

I had pages of dialog with God in the days that followed, some angry, mostly confused, but also I wrote a lot of songs. It was this time period that shaped verses like “Kiss Your Feet”, a modern vision of Mary Magdalene, and an emotional climactic folk tune called “Ashes and Flames”. The first song of that generation, much of it written the day after the accident, was the song “How He Loves”. “How He Loves” was every bit of a tribute to a friend, a cry for understanding, and the worship that resulted from it all.

The following years were characterized by an almost confusing contrast. While I lived with an ever-present stinging sensation from the loss, I was enamored with the immense joy of my engagement to a brilliant, angelic girl named Sarah Williams. We we’re married in 2004 and have been confidants, band mates, and business partners for over 6 years. In 2008 our son Jude was born to the growling vocals of Kevin Prosch singing, “Praise the Lord, Oh my soul” over a hospital radio. More than anything, it was this contrast that shaped the ideas that would eventually become “The Medicine”.

Up to that point, much of my music, though rarely void of hope, was still born out of loss. However, “The Medicine”, presents portraits of resurrection. From “Death In His Grave”, a southern, hymn-like narrative depicting the classic resurrection of Jesus, to “Skeleton Bones,” a worship song celebrating the power of resurrection life, a story of resurrection is present throughout the whole record. Songs like “Ten Thousand” illustrate the ultimate victory of life over the grave as do “Out of the Ground” and “Carbon Ribs” in more abstract ways.

More than anything, I think “The Medicine” explores the implications of resurrection in our every day lives even the dead places of our lives that need resurrecting. To his own hurt, Jesus, chose to be a part of our world. Why would we pretend that we don’t bring all our love, loss, and insecurity with us into the conversations we call “worship”? After all, we don’t serve a God who is unacquainted with grief. He is not surprised by or even unfamiliar with the darkness that can plague a human heart. In fact, he specializes at dealing with that sort of thing. That is what “The Medicine” is about and those are some of the conversations I want to help people have in worship. I want to write songs that give your heart language in the porch lights of your own reckoning; dangerous songs that give you permission to wear your heart on your sleeve before Jesus, unencumbered by the grave cloths of mindless tradition.

  1. Curtis said:

    John. I totally hear you man. I am trying to write my heart out to Him as well. I am soo looking forward to your album…. the links on youtube are bring me hope and new life now… Thank you so much for putting it all out there.from a canadian following you on twitter… curtkent

  2. When "the medicine" was released the first time, I stood on a beach in jax fl and listened to it. There is something unique about the way you are communicating the heart of Christ, and something profound about the worship that comes out of it. Well done!

  3. Emery said:

    I hope the lady that cussed you out is a fan now.

  4. oddly enough…I married a Sarah Williams too.

  5. John, I love what you wrote here; I am a worship leader and my wife and I saw/met you and Sarah when you were touring churches in the mid-west. I love your heart and your style, and the honesty in your lyrics.Just wanted to say keep on keepin'on. You are an encouragement to a lot of folks.Gabe

  6. Jules said:

    Your words are so encouraging… I find I can relate with your music lyrically and musically in ways I never have with an artist who's music is "christian." Thank you for being genuine and real and thank you most of all for your love for Him that is so inspiring. God has made you a breath of fresh air.Now, that you've inspired me, I think its time to pick up the guitar. 😉

  7. Thank you, John Mark, for that history and illumination into your soul and the pretext to that great album. Worship out of these contexts rings so true for me in my current season of life. Thanks again for blessing us, leading us in worship through song.From a part of the Cary NC contingent who worship using your writings, bless you and your family,Mitchell

  8. So true. Thanks for sharing this. We try to be open and honest in our writing as well. People want transparency in us. None of us are better than the other. Thanks much.Eric Paul

  9. yeah. your lyrics, music feel like they could be so personal. at bethel school of worship, we were talking about not writing silly lyrics when someone asked, "what about the sloppy wet kiss song?" (how he loves), and chris quilala just said, "well, it's john mark mcmillan. if he writes it, it's ok."yes. we respect you for your honesty and way of putting yourself. thank you.

  10. It's nice to be reminded that not seeming to have much in life to offer does not disqualify one's value. Thanks for the post.

  11. Kayleigh said:

    wow….. you are sooooo in love with God and have an annointing on your life… your music is unique… but it is inspired by God and i think if people would have a moment with Jesus listening to your music.. their life would never be the same… keep it humble 🙂 LOVE IT… oh yeah and i was gunna say even just reading this little blog thing… i got chill bumps… GOD IS SOOOO GOOD! and you are an awesome witness….. ok… im done.. but im praying for you to continue to be inspired!

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