British-American sister duo Elissa Tipps and Becca Nicholson, formed The Sonflowerzin 1999. Then-14-year-old Elissa Leander started writing original worship songs. And, encouraged by her youth pastor, formed a band with her sister, Becca, They began performing at various venues across Colorado. In 2007, The Sonflowerz garnered praise for its “GMA Vocal Duo of the Year” award at the GMA in the Rockies Competition.
With the release of their album, All Over The World in 2008, the duo received an outstanding response for their singles "My Adoration," “Legacy,” “Edge of My Seat,” and “More Than I Think I Am.” That was followed up by their full-length album By Faith and their EP, Love Walked In.
Elissa and Becca both got married in a double wedding ceremony on the same day in 2010. Since then, the sisters have returned with their newest single, "Surrounding Me." I had the great opportunity to interview Elissa about the song.
Please tell me the personal story behind this song.
"Surrounding Me" is the first song I’ve been able to record and release in seven years. Since Becca and I published our devotional book Made to Shine, we’ve stayed home: I have two children and Becca has one child. She's pregnant with her second baby.
Being a mom and having a family has focused me on seeing God’s hand in my life. I have people in my care. So, praying for God’s protection is something that’s been on my heart for many years. We’ve had to pray over sickness and protection for our children. And, in this time, so many people are saying those same prayers of protection from sickness. I really resonate with that.
So, since being at home, I’ve kept writing. I started writing this song about a year ago. It started with a chorus, which I just started singing spontaneously. When I sang this chorus for my family, the Lord was gracious in helping my sister and me finish the song. As a family, we’ve been so blessed by the presence of God when we sing it together.
At that point, I realized this song needed to be recorded. It’s so funny about the timing. We started recording the song in December, knowing it was something special. I had surgery and couldn’t play guitar for three months. I felt the Lord was telling me I needed to finish the song by the end of February, so I could share it at a women’s conference.
We finished it. And, in March, we entered this crisis, and just a few days into seeing the reaction to the coronavirus coming to the United States, I knew this was the time to release this song.
We took it one step at a time, following the Lord’s timing and purpose. It was so incredible. "Surrounding Me" is meant to encourage people during this storm. When Jesus slept in the boat, while the disciples were afraid in the storm, Jesus had authority over it and rested, knowing that God was in control. I’ve been challenged to be more like Jesus during this storm. That’s what this song is about.
Which Bible verses connect to the message of the song?
Psalm 91:1-2(NKJV): "He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust."
Psalm 139:5(VOICE): "You have surrounded me on every side, behind me and before me, and You have placed Your hand gently on my shoulder."
Proverbs 18:10(NKJV): "The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe."
Psalm 34:19 (NKJV): “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all.”
Psalm 46:1(NIV): "The Lord is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble."
Psalm 121:7-8(NKJV): “The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in, from this time forth, and even forevermore.”
Galatians 2:20(NKJV): "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."
Romans 8:38-39(NKJV): "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
What is the takeaway message?
We're with Jesus and we don’t need to panic. "Surrounding Me" is based on Psalm 91. It's a song about deliverance. A song about God surrounding us. A song about us resting in the shadow of God. The entire world is dealing with the need to find the peace and rest that the Lord promises us. We're all battling loneliness, missing loved ones, health, and financial issues. We need to find peace.
When I had my second child, I rocked him to sleep. And, my oldest child would pull out the pots and pans and bang them and make noise. I wasn't able to sleep. But, the baby slept soundly through all that noise. This fascinated me. It’s like Jesus sleeping through a storm. I held that with me.
When we dwell in the shelter of the Most High, there is so much rest in His presence. Maybe we need to turn off the news and come to the Lord. Align our hearts with Him.
His character doesn’t change. And we can know that He is with us. Abide in that place. It takes being in the word of God and worshiping Him. That’s where we find ourselves resting. The Bible has all these examples of God’s protection. Be refreshed in those promises. Revival is stirring. God is doing a mighty work in this time. We are pressed to live what we believe now.
I will hide in the shelter of the Most High I will rest in the shadow of Almighty God
He will deliver me from every enemy Angels advance before my path All He has promised me is written down Every word will come to pass.
The name of Jesus is a Mighty Fortress
I run to Him and find my strength I will not fear because His perfect love is surrounding me always.
Your love surrounding me Surrounding me Surrounding me Always
I personally take a lot of solace in knowing the Truth of Proverbs 18:10 (NKJV): "The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe." I love that every translation of those words of wisdom from Proverbs tells believers to "run" to the name of the Lord.
During this coronavirus pandemic, as we deal with anxiety about our health and finances, you can run to Jesus and know that His love is surrounding us. Like David's prayers and songs captured in the Psalms, when you allow those words to sink in, they change how you think.
Step out in faith and trust in God, even when you want to give up or can't see where you're going. We aren't the source of the power to overcome our challenges. God is our greater source that brings the true power. In our weakness, God's strength is perfect. Remember, that if God is for us, who can be against us?
“Surrounding Me” articulates what it means to live a God-centered life in a turbulent world. This song is a faith statement. Righteousness was accredited to Abraham for his faith. We need to have the faith that the Bible describes in Hebrews 11:1 (NIV): "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." When you sing along with this great song, think of Jesus saying, "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?"
Have faith, don't be afraid and know that with Jesus, you will never be alone. All we need is faith and God will show us what He has planned for us. He's the author of our lives and knows what's best for us, much better than we do. I can't get enough of Elissa’s sincere vocals and this catchy, worshipful song.
Followers of Jesus can sing every word and agree with the beautiful sentiments of this great song. His love is neverending, and He is our refuge and our strength. As believers, heaven is calling our name. He is real. He is near. He is just a breath away. He is the author of our lives and knows what's best for us--much better than we do. That's reason to sing this empowering anthem at the top of our lungs in gratefulness to Him.
No matter what you are going through, if you're looking for the words to pray to God, join Elissa in singing, “The name of Jesus is a Mighty Fortress/I run to Him and find my strength/I will not fear because His perfect love is surrounding me always.” Amen to that.
NRT Lead Contributor Kevin Davis is a longtime fan of Christian music, an avid music collector and credits the message of Christian music for leading him to Christ. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and three daughters.
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