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Fallbrook's Rick Founds honored at Gospel Music Awards

Paulette Britton

Special to the Village News

What if you got a call from someone whose name you kind of recognize offering an all-expense paid trip for two to Nashville and two free tickets to the Gospel Music Awards? Would you go?

Fallbrook resident and recording artist Rick Founds received such a call just before Easter from Gary Christensen, the chief intellectual property officer at Christian Copyright Licensing, Inc.

CCLI provides a service for churches to be in legal compliance in using music, video and other worship-related services. It also allows CCLI to track what music is being used most across the U.S. and the world, thus creating a weekly top 100 most used songs list.

Christensen informed Founds that he was contacting him to see what his schedule was like May 8. Christensen continued and said that CCLI would like to fly him and his wife Debbie to Nashville for a Gospel Music Association awards ceremony.

Christensen explained that the GMA contacted him several months ago to get input from CCLI as to what song should be awarded the GMA's first ever Milestone Award to a songwriter or group that has impacted the church in a significant way.

After researching the question, Christensen said, "We found something we didn't know. There is this song that's the only song ever with the unique distinction of having been in the No. 1 position seven and a half years straight, from 1995 to 2002."

CCLI was not quite sure how they missed that information.

Although Founds has been leading worship since he was 10 years old, he also has various interests, not the least of which is science. Years ago, as a worship leader in an always chilly office off the back of a small church, Founds turned on his late 80s model Apple computer with scrolling Bible software and grabbed his guitar to warm up his cold fingers while he read.

Earlier that day he had been reading the science of the water cycle – evaporation into the sky forming clouds which becomes rain and snow somewhere on the ground and then back to the sky.

"Like every other day in my office, I was playing my guitar to get warm," Founds said. "As the scripture verses scrolled on my computer screen, with the water cycle fresh on my mind, I thought – wow! Jesus came to the earth to us, to do what he did for us; to provide salvation through his death, burial and resurrection and how similar this is to the whole cycle of water. He came from heaven to earth, to do what? To show me the way. And then to the cross to pay my debt for sin and then from there, back to heaven where we are promised to be as well. And that's how the chorus to the song 'Lord I Lift Your Name on High' came to be.

"The rest of the song became my response to that – I praise you, God, I lift your name on high. That evening with my Bible study group, I tested it out, and people caught on to it immediately. Little did I know what God was going to do with that."

"Little did he know" was an understatement.

The Founds' quickly cleared their schedule for that first class trip to Nashville and the GMAs. The day of the ceremony, Rick and Debbie Founds made their way to the event at Lipscomb University to pick up their tickets. The hustle and bustle of producing a dinner and award ceremony was underway.

"Before an award for music is given, the song is performed live by a chosen recording artist. As we approached the event center during rehearsal, we heard this beautiful rendition of 'Lord I Lift Your Name On High' being played and sung by singer and songwriter Michael Farren who was on a grand piano with the accompaniment of a nearby cellist," Rick Founds said.

"I just started bawling. And on the presentation slide we saw the song's statistics," Debbie Founds said.

And little did Rick Founds know these facts about his song.

It was No. 1 on the CCLI list for seven and a half years from 1995 to 2002.

It was in the top 10 for 14 years afterward.

It has 837 known versions and has been translated into 18 different languages.

Over the years, many people have shared a rendition of "Lord I Lift Your Name on High" with Founds; a German version in three-quarter time that sounded like a polka, a full gospel choir and just simple mic versions. But the one that may be most meaningful to Founds was the video sent from a missionary friend of orphan children in a cold concrete building, singing in Russian. He could barely relay the story without tears and a lump in his throat.

"The song is the gospel in three minutes and 10 seconds. You know, the gospel is not rocket science. Jesus said 'Let the little children come to me. For such is the kingdom of heaven.' From very early on, children understand two things: whether they are loved and whether they are not. And that's what the gospel is and a child can understand that. It's God saying 'I love you, and this is how much I love you: that I allowed the cross to happen so you could live with me forever. That's how much I love you.'

"That's the gospel: God came down from heaven to earth to show the way. Then the earth to the cross to take our sins. The cross to the grave and back to the sky. And that's the gospel, the good news, and a child can understand that. And I think that's why the song resonates. It's easy to understand, it's the truth, and anyone can play it and sing it."

Regarding receiving the first ever GMA Milestone Award?

"I was surprised, shocked and know, I'm surprised at what he can do with such a simple thing. Things you never dream about," Founds said.

Rick and Debbie Founds have three daughters and several grandchildren. They live in Fallbrook surrounded by family members and their own personal zoo of one retriever, two alpacas, a mini donkey and Popeye, the Amazon green parrot. Founds recently retired from the media and technology department at Saddleback College.

He can be found from time to time playing easy listening tunes at local cafes, restaurants and wineries, and most Sunday mornings, he leads worship at the Bonsall Community Church.


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