The Gospel’s Effect on Life and Songs – An Interview with Caroline Cobb [Part 3]

In part 3 of an interview with singer/songwriter Caroline Cobb, Bob & David talk with her about the effect the gospel has had in her parenting as well as the story she seeks to tell through her songs.

Psalms: The Poetry of Prayer:

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CC: The throne room of God is overwhelming, we would be consumed if it weren’t for Christ, but yet he’s inviting us to walk in boldly because we have Christ.

BK: Yes.

CC: And so as we were walking that, I think there’s this line that we get to walk as Christians where, His holiness makes us wanna hide in fear, but His gentleness… This is another song I wrote a long time ago, says, “You can hide right here in the rock.”

David Zimmer: Welcome to Sound Plus Doctrine, the podcast of Sovereign Grace Music where we explore what the Bible has to say about music and worship in the church and encourage those who plan, lead, and participate in their Sunday gatherings each week.

DZ: Hello and welcome to the Sound Plus Doctrine Podcast. My name is David Zimmer.

Bob Kauflin: My name is Bob Kauflin.

DZ: And again, on the Sound Plus Doctrine Podcast, our very special guest, Caroline Cobb.

BK: Welcome back.

DZ: Welcome back.

Caroline Cobb: Thank you.


BK: It’s great to have you. We’ve had…

CC: Thanks, guys.

BK: Great times with Caroline. And if you haven’t heard the previous two episodes, you should listen to those, ’cause both of them were fantastic. And that was not because of what you and I contributed, David.

DZ: Sure.


BK: Because of what Caroline contributed.


DZ: If you didn’t listen to those podcasts, who is Caroline Cobb?

BK: Caroline Cobb… Well, I should probably let Caroline tell who she is, but…

DZ: Yeah, go ahead. Caroline, who are you?

BK: Let me just say a little bit… Wait a minute, wait a minute.


BK: Let me just say a little bit. I first heard of Caroline from her album The Blood and the Breath 2013. And it was this collection of songs written… Well, she had attempted this project to write a song from every book of the Bible, in a year. Which I thought, “Who would do that?”


BK: And rather than… Crazy person.

CC: Crazy people.


BK: Rather than producing an album of 66 songs, she selected the ones that were the best. And it was just a beautiful album. That’s when we heard about her. And then, we’ve had her at a couple of WorshipGod Conferences.

DZ: Yes.

BK: And it’s been just a joy to get to know Nick a little bit. I think I’ve met your kids once, maybe. But just to see the way God has worked in your life, through your life, not only as an artist, but we’ve mentioned this on the other podcast, just as a wife, a mom, faithful member of a church, you are seeking to model the good news that you’re getting out in song. And it’s just such an example because the message we communicate dictates the way we live. We can’t separate those. And in this artist-driven culture, we can tend to do that.

DZ: Yes. Right. Well-said.

BK: And you’re an example of someone who doesn’t do that. We’re grateful for that and that’s why we wanted to have you on the podcast.

CC: Thanks for saying that.

BK: So, absolutely. And you have an album that may be out now, I don’t know, Psalms: The Poetry of Prayer. ‘Cause you have the alliteration in every album title. And…

CC: Yes.


BK: Which is great. We’ve talked a lot about your creative process, we’ve talked a lot about the creative calling in motherhood, and we just wanted to take one episode and talk to you, ’cause this is something that you mentioned, talk to you about how a deeper understanding of the Gospel has affected your role as a mom, your role as an artist, it sounds like your songwriting. We would just love to hear you talk about that. I think it’s helpful for moms, for sure, dads probably as well.

DZ: Yes.

BK: And anybody, really, listening to understand better, “Okay. The Gospel, Jesus died in my place… ”


BK: And all that that entails, all that that surrounds that, how does that become more real in your life? And maybe, I wouldn’t think we’ve done this, just talk a little bit about how you grew up. Did you grow up in a church home? How did you become a Christian? Those kinds of things.

CC: Yeah. I can talk about the good news of the Gospel for a long time just because…

BK: Yes.

CC: I feel like I’ve… Yeah. Well, starting from the beginning, I grew up in a home that we did go to church. We didn’t talk a lot about God at home. And the church that I grew up to was a little bit more… The preaching wasn’t super rich per se, it was a little bit more of a church that people went to socially, that kind of thing. But also, I had a veil over my heart. So they could have been…

BK: Yes.


CC: The pastors could have been preaching amazing sermons, and I didn’t know. But that’s my… That was my perception, I guess, when I look back. And then, through some providential things, I ended up at a Christian school in Houston, and it was through that school that I met all these leaders of the youth group…

BK: Wow.

CC: As I was growing and I would get involved in that church and in that youth group. And so it was, in high school… I’m probably one of those people that prayed the prayer like 20 times, but when I…

BK: One of them worked.

CC: In high school.


CC: I don’t know. I’m hoping they stuck, but one of them worked. But, in high school, I started spending time with the Lord and I saw Him begin to change me. And there was more of a… Not an insurance policy happening in place, view of the Gospel. It was more of, “I want to follow Jesus and He’s gotten ahold of me and I wanna do this.” And so when I was a junior in high school, which is, as I mentioned in the other podcast, that’s right around when I started writing songs as well.

BK: Yes.

CC: So it’s interesting to me and cool to me how the two things have gone together. I began really a relationship with Him in high school. And then, throughout college I learned to love God’s Word. And I also learned to not just be a consumer of it. I was at a huge public school in Texas, the University of Texas at Austin. And that’s a school where culturally, not really cool, expected to be a Christian to go to church. There’s other schools where it’s more a part of the culture, even public schools.

BK: Yeah.

CC: But not Texas. It’s a pretty intense place. And so, I really had to decide, like, “No, I do wanna follow the Lord.” And all along, I’m writing songs.

BK: Wow.

CC: In terms of the Gospel though, becoming really, really real for me, I think, what really affected me most was when I had young kids, when I started to have kids. And I think God can do it in so many different ways for so many different types of people, so I always wanna be careful not to say the secret sauce to really loving the Gospel is having kids, ’cause that is not true. There’s no secret sauce, but God really used that specific…

BK: Because you could be unmarried…

CC: Pressure cooker. Right.

BK: You could be unmarried and still love the Gospel.


CC: Yes. Definitely. And for me, it was that pressure cooker of young motherhood, coupled with a lot of moving that really brought it out in me. And so part of my story is that, in that pressure cooker, I saw sin patterns that had been there the whole time kind of surfacing, bubbling up to the surface, specifically in motherhood, just anger and a temper, and that really shocked me and I hated it because I had in my head the standard of a Christian mom, and that standard would never do that, that ideal would never do that. And so I was very disoriented by that. And in that time, I felt like God really kindly took my face in His hands almost and said, “Caroline, this is why I came. You didn’t decide something, and now you need to go and be my work horse or be my servant and live perfectly and make sure you never tarnish your witness and your… I came for this. This is why I came, I came to your sin, not in part, but the whole, which is past, present ,and future. Was nailed to the tree and you bear it no more. And so you need to trust me with this indwelling sin that keeps coming up.” — patient in that time.

CC: And I love to talk about this is that, I think sometimes when we see our sin coming out, we can react in different ways that are not in line with the Gospel, and one of those ways is to be like, “How do I life-hack my way out of this? What book can I read? I just need to pray more. I need to figure this out and white-knuckle my way through.” And in doing so, you’re staring at your sin so hard and tinkering with your soul and trying to figure it out. And it doesn’t work. It’s exhausting because maybe I would figure something out or try to get something perfectly in place, and then the next day I would fail and then I would feel so frustrated. And then the other thing we do, I think sometimes is just wallow in our sin, just beat ourselves up. And so I found myself apologizing to my kid, not once, not twice, but five times, 10 times, just not really believing that God could forgive me, and not really trusting in the Gospel, that we can run to the cross. And so in those moments of our sin, I think we can do those two things. And then sometimes when we get really unhealthy, we can say, “Oh, that’s just how God made me. I took a personality test and this is just the way I am. And I’m not… God can’t change me.”

BK: “I’m a number seven.”


CC: Yes. So, I think that I was going round and round in those wrong realities that are not in line with the Gospel. And I said I believe the Gospel, — be grace over other people all day, but I was not believing it for myself or functioning that way. And again, I feel like it was in that moment that I saw the beauty in that moment, meaning years, the beauty of the Gospel that it’s upside down. It’s not… The formula is not the same as the rest of the world that, we are supposed to perform and be perfect, and then we’re valued and accepted. The formula is flipped on its head where God has performed perfectly on our behalf through Christ, and then we get to live alone on worship and obedience in response to that, not to perform or to earn. And so I think motherhood really brought out that sin and made me see, “Wow, this is really, really good news. It’s not just good news for other people that I get to tell them, it’s not just a concept, but this is something that I get to run to again and again and again.”

DZ: Amen.

BK: Yes.

CC: And lifting my eyes up for my sin and myself, I am able to… I have changed, God has changed me and sanctified me in so many ways. So, I think that that has been a huge change in how I… To parent, because I’m not a parent perfectly into this perfect — this Gospel that’s awesome. Actually, I did write a song about this, it’s called “The Wonder,” and it’s about motherhood.

BK: Yes.

CC: And then I also… That, the song, “There Is a Mountain,” and that song is really coming out of that experience.

DZ: What was that second song? You broke up.

CC: It’s called “There Is a Mountain.”

DZ: “There Is a Mountain.” Okay.

BK: I remember “Wonder,” that’s beautiful.

DZ: Yes. That’s excellent, Caroline.

CC: Yes. Thanks.

BK: When you… Oh, there are so many things I wanna say as you’re talking.


BK: I think that you capture that so well in so many of your songs, the brokenness. Without excusing it… That’s a fine line. It can be a fine line. Without making it sound like, “Yeah, we’re just a bunch of losers here and we’ll just always be losers, and let’s just grovel in our losingness and… ” And Christ gets nary a mention…


BK: Only that, “Well, He invited us here just to be losers.”

DZ: Yeah, yeah.

BK: But that’s not the Gospel. The Gospel is, “No, you can come this way. But He changes you. And you’ll never be here because of what you’re doing.” I think of… Well, it made me think of Titus in Chapter 3, when Paul says, “You were foolish, disobedient, led astray, slave to various passions and pleasures. This is who you are. Passing your days in envy, malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ, our Savior.” It’s just not having anything to do with us.

CC: Mm-hmm.

BK: But then he talks before that at the end of Chapter 2, and it says, “The grace of God has appeared bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness… ” Here’s, “Well, wait, wait, wait, wait a minute. There is a standard.” “And worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness.” So it’s not just the, you come broken and weary and just… Yeah, not in a good place. But Jesus saves us to make us like Himself. But it’s never because of us. When you talked about… I felt like I needed to say, “I’m sorry to my kids like 10 times… ” We can feel this sense that if I just say “I’m sorry” often enough, if I get to a certain one, I’m gonna feel like… Was that what you were feeling…

DZ: “Then I’ll earn it” or something. Yeah.

CC: Yeah, it’s almost like a penance kind of attitude…

DZ: Yes.

BK: Yes.

CC: Which is not the Gospel.

BK: Is not the Gospel.

CC: And it’s still selfish because you’re just… Instead of staring at yourself in a prideful way, you’re staring at your sin and making your sin so big that you make the cross small.

BK: Yes.

CC: And I think you make Jesus small. And so, I think that when we just wallow, we’re missing it, we need to run to the cross.

DZ: Yeah.

CC: And when we look at ourselves so much, we won’t change because we’re trying to fix ourselves in our own strength. But it’s funny, when you stop looking at yourself and just start beholding Christ, He transforms you into more of His image. And what we do, there’s effort involved…

BK: Yes.

CC: But there’s… It’s one of those things, it’s like He’s working in us to will and work for His good pleasure.

BK: Yes.

CC: Even as we approach Him with fear and trembling. But why do we have fear and why do we tremble, is because we’re beholding Christ and God…

BK: Yes.

CC: In all His glory. I think there’s effort involved, but we get in trouble, I get in trouble when I’m staring at my own sin and trying to… AW Tozer has this passage that I just read, it’s about the gaze of the soul, and we tinker so much with our soul that we forget to look at God, and I was like, “Oh, I do that.”

DZ: That’s good.

CC: I think a lot of the times the solution to some of the angst or the worry or the sin pattern is, there is some effort, but the main thing is to not, to stop staring at our sin, to just behold God, and let Him transform us.

BK: Yes. Yes. Someone said, I think in a sermon years ago, grace is not against effort, it’s against earning. Which, I’ve just found so helpful.

DZ: Yep.

CC: It is helpful.

BK: You’re gonna work hard. It’s just not earning you a position in the kingdom, Jesus did that. And it’s secured. And you can’t do something that’s gonna disqualify you, not if He came for you and redeemed you, and you’re gonna want that to be in that place of pleasing Him, you’re gonna want… The people who struggle with, “I’m not doing enough and… ” Well, the fact that you’re aware of that is a good sign, that you want to please Him, just, you can’t do it in your own strength. And something else that someone said to be so helpful is, you never get rid of self-sins by looking more at yourself.


BK: Which is what you’re saying, self-exaltation, self-pity, self-groveling, self-promotion. You’re not gonna get rid of any self-effort, none of those are gonna leave because you’re just looking more, more and more at yourself. So, how do you think about… This is so encouraging just to hear your testimony of how God’s worked in your life, as an artist, we’ll swing back around, how do you think about this when you’re writing? ‘Cause it does come through in your writing.

DZ: Oh, absolutely.

BK: You have some very graphic, open, transparent descriptions in your songs that you don’t find in a lot of songs. And it is that… Yeah, let’s be real here. This is who we are, and this is who Jesus is. What goes through your mind when you’re… Are you aware of that as you’re writing? And how do you process those things? And how do you make sure that the Gospel comes out on top, that Jesus comes out on top? Because you do. It’s not just about, “Oh, we’re just so terrible, terrible. But we can be here.” No, something’s really happened.

CC: Yeah. I think… That’s a good question. I think it’s hard to pin down, “I’m gonna bring this in now,” it’s like, “Oh, this is just how God has most woven into me, His good news.” And so I hope when I read scripture and write a song that that comes out because I think at concert, it’s like that’s song is playing at a church, so that there’s no… I can talk about God as much as I want, but it’s a church event where they’re encouraged to bring non-believers. I love doing that because I get to tell God’s story in scripture, but there’s a lot of good news there for people, and I think that that is so fun to share. But as I think about it, I think there’s just this line that we need to walk where God is so glorious, but we get to be in Christ. And so I was thinking about this… I’ve been thinking about this song from Hebrews, ’cause I sent it to my Bible study women, because we’re doing Exodus and we’re talking about the Tabernacle and so I remembered the song that I wrote called “We Draw Near”. And it says “We draw near, we boldly come, Jesus, our righteousness.” Or maybe it says, “Jesus, our confidence. Bought with His blood. We draw near to His throne of grace. Jesus, our righteousness, we are seeking His face.” And so…

BK: Wow.

CC: There’s a paradox happening here is that, the throne room of God is overwhelming, we would be consumed if it weren’t for Christ, but yet he’s inviting us to walk in boldly because we have Christ.

BK: Yes.

CC: And so as we’re walking that, I think there’s this line that we get to walk as Christians where, His holiness makes us wanna hide in fear, but His gentleness… This is another song I wrote a long time ago, says, “You can hide right here in the rock of Christ.” And so, I want to have those tensions because I think sometimes songwriting or in ministry, you can swing to one or the other, and forget the goodness of Christ. And so we wanna say, our sin is really bad, and He is so holy. And we also wanna say, He is so loving and if you are in Him, you’re safe. And you’re not only safe, you’re loved and you’re secure. And so we can say both. And because of Christ, like you’ve said before, Bob, He is the one that brings all those tensions together. That’s what I hope the songs have both, and the albums have both, because if we just focus on one, we lose the beauty of the Gospel that He holds it together.

BK: Yes. Oh, they do. No. And that’s one of the things that’s consistent in your writing, is that you manage to say things about our existence, our lives, that just seem very… That are very real. What was the song? I’m not gonna remember it. Oh. Where you just talk about, who Jesus hung out with, the losers, the…

CC: “Only the Sick”

BK: “Only the Sick Need a Physician.” Yes.

DZ: Yes.

CC: Yes.

BK: Yes. Oh, I remember I first heard that I thought…

DZ: At WorshipGod, yeah.

BK: “This is great.” What are some of the lines from that? It’s…

CC: You know when you try to tell someone the lines of your song, I usually sing…

[overlapping conversation]

DZ: Could you quote us your own lyrics?

BK: I do it all the time.

CC: I usually sing this, so I never say this. You’ve heard it [0:21:21.2] ____ different…

BK: Only the sick need a physician…

CC: “Who is this man… ”

BK: Yes.

CC: Yeah. “Who is this man who sits with the sinners, who dines with the drunkards and loves the unclean? Who is this man who calls God a father, was blue-collar carpenter… ” I don’t remember, I can’t… I have to sing it, that would be awkward.

BK: Okay. Well, it would be, but…

DZ: We’re Googling it, Caroline, so you’re good.

CC: Okay, okay.

BK: Do you have the words here on Bandcamp? I think you were…

CC: “Who honors the harlots… ” I use the word “harlot”, “who washes his feet.”

BK: You did. You did.

CC: Yeah. “Who is this man who won’t cast a stone, but honors the harlot who washes his feet?”

BK: Yes.

DZ: Wow.

BK: Oh, this, I love the, of course “Come, scarlet letters.” That’s just a brilliant line, “Come, scarlet letters. Scarlet letters, you outcasts and debtors, I will call you my friends, I’ll sit at your table, you broken and fatal. ‘Cause only the sick need a physician.” Oh, man. “We keep our religion, but whitewash our sin, saying, ‘Be born again’.” Yeah. This was one of the just… You just hit it right on the head. “We don’t need you, Jesus, we’re well and we’re good, and you’re nailed to the wood, we never understood, there is none who is good. So come, scarlet letters.” Thank you for writing that song. Thank you for writing all your songs.

DZ: Yeah.

BK: Really, you’re faithful, you’re being faithful, and you’re doing it for the glory of Christ, and we’re the beneficiaries. And just so grateful for your willingness to be with us on this podcast, three times now, and…

DZ: Yes.

CC: I know. Love it.

BK: Share your thoughts about how the gospel has transformed your life and is motivating all that you do, you just have a hunger to get that story out in a fresh way, and you are, you’re doing just that.

DZ: Yeah. Thank you so much.

BK: If there are any other thoughts you wanna share that we’ve run out of questions, but something you said, “Oh, I wish I had said this”?

CC: No. I think it’s… Yeah, we keep growing in the Gospel, we don’t get to graduate, we get to keep going further up and further in. And so, I think that’s one of the beautiful things about being a Christian in this Christian life. And one day we’ll get to really fully understand it for all its beauty, and when we see Him face-to-face, and that’ll be a good day.

BK: Yes, it will be. And until then, we talked about this when we weren’t recording, but you said, yeah, life, it’s always a struggle, life’s a struggle. And it is. It’s a battle. It will be a battle till we die or when we see Jesus. That’s the whole point. We live by faith, not by sight. One day the struggle will be over, no more sin, no more pain, no more sorrow.

CC: Oh yeah.

DZ: Amen.

CC: Well, I still struggle with the same sort of root sense sometimes of trying to be enough for everybody and everything, trying to meet all the standards that I have in my head, and we have to keep coming back to the Gospel again and again, ’cause we can really off-track and…

BK: Yes. Yes. Yes, we can.

CC: We have to let God in to those thoughts that are not in line with the good news of Christ and let Him change us from the inside out. But I think as long as we’re continuing to behold Him and get in that path of where we can speak to Him, then we’re gonna be okay. He’s holding on to us, even as we’re holding feebly on to Him.

BK: Yes.


BK: Psalm 63 where, “I hold on to you, but you cling to me… I cling to you, you’re holding onto me.” It’s like, no, we’re…

CC: Yes.

DZ: Yes.

CC: Exactly.

BK: We think we’re… I have grandkids now, they’ll hold me and I’ll think, “Oh, I’m holding on for dear life.” And, yeah, they don’t know if they let go, they’re fine.


BK: I got them.

CC: Yes. Isn’t that good? Yeah.

BK: It is a good thing. Well, thank you, Caroline. And it’s been pure joy.

DZ: What a joy. Yeah.

BK: Look forward to whenever next time we can see you is.

CC: Okay. Thank you, guys. Thanks for having me.

BK: And thanks, everybody else for listening, for watching, look forward to seeing you again soon.