Song Snapshots #10: Settled at the Cross (Nelons)

Song Snapshots is a column featuring the stories behind new and classic Southern Gospel songs.

Songwriter Lee Black got his start in the mid-1990s with a Brian Free & Assurance cut, “Flood the Altar.” He signed with Daywind Music Publishing for several years, and got a number of cuts with artists like Ivan Parker, the Ruppes, Misty Freeman, and the Nelons.

A few years later, he accepted a job working in publishing for a praise and worship label. He recalls that he put his own writing on the back burner for several years, explaining that it’s an honor system: “It’s an unspoken rule that if you’re working on that side of the publishing desk, you probably won’t concentrate on your own writing that much. You’re responsible for getting songs cut for eight to ten staff writers.”

He did get some praise and worship cuts, “when we had an 11th-hour deadline, and our writers weren’t turning in songs for it.”

One day about five or six years ago, Joel Lindsey called Lee up and invited him to a songwriters’ retreat. “We had written together years before,” he says, “and had just known each other for a long time. So I did.”

Shortly before the retreat, his pastor preached a sermon challenging our temptation to question God’s goodness. The pastor said that even if God never does another good thing for you, you can’t question His goodness; that was settled forever at the cross. “Those weren’t his exact words,” Black recalls, ”but that was the message I took home. I thought, ‘Man, I want to write that song!’”

He took that idea with him to the songwriting conference and mentioned it in a writing session with Lyn Rowell and Phil Mehrens. They wrote it together.

“I walked away from that weekend with three or four finished songs,” Black recalls, “and that was one that I felt really strongly about.”

“I just walked away from that retreat feeling like I wanted to write more than work in publishing,” he continues. “So I told my wife that, even if we had to eat beans, I’d rather be a writer than a publisher. She has been amazing; I could not have done this without her full support and belief in what I’m doing.”

Shortly afterwards, he heard that Word was resurrecting Canaan Records, under the leadership of Dave Clark. Clark had been his first publisher, so he sent him an email congratulating him on the position: “Hey, congratulations! I think it’s really smart when a label will put a song guy at the helm. Those guys know what works.”

“And just honestly, with my right hand up,” Black continues, “I said, ‘Hey, why don’t you sign me as your first writer, ha ha ha?”

Clark emailed back his thanks, adding, “What are you doing with your publishing these days?”

Black replied, “Nothing.”

So they started to talk, and Clark ended up signing Black. “Settled at the Cross” was one of the songs he brought into the contract. It was cut in choral music prior to making its way into Southern Gospel; both Lillenas and Brentwood-Benson issued anthems with it. The Nelons brought it into Southern Gospel on their 2010 Beside Still Waters album.