I’m Stuck!!

True confessions time – I’m stuck.  Yes, “writer’s block” apparently happens to songwriters.  I’ve got two or three “works in progress” but cannot seem to make any forward progress.

What’s worse is the fact that I have a very vague idea where at least one of them needs to go.  There’s the rough idea wandering around the edge of my thoughts but nothing concrete.

And I’ve discovered by experience that trying to force something is useless.  I just get more stuck.  Kind of like when you get your car stuck and you hit the gas harder and only succeeding in digging the tires in deeper.

So here I sit.  Trying to create some creative “forward momentum” and I’m just spinning my metaphorical tires.

*sigh*

 

Remember – Editing is Allowed!

This won’t be terribly long or profound.

Something creative keeps wiggling around in my head trying to get itself out.  I’m certain that this “something” is musical in nature.  Been toying with some lyric phrases/lines that seem like they might be able to go somewhere.  But the going is slow. . . really slow. . . like, I’ve seen sloths move faster than my creative process is moving right now.

So I keep toying with/crafting/testing lyrical possibilities . . . no clue what’s gonna happen in the end but sometimes I learn more from the process than the actual product!

Stay tuned . . . something new may be in the works!

Unbreakable Connection

My earliest memories of church revolve around music.

– My mother’s alto voice on one side of me while dad sang bass in the other ear.

– My mom’s finger tracking the verses of hymns she knew by heart just so my eyes could follow along and learn how to read a hymnal by myself.  Once I got the lyrics figured out, her finger would track her voice part until I understood how the notation worked.

– Watching adult choir practices as a child (and I wasn’t even in school yet).

– The high school – or maybe they were in college? – kids at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Farmington, New Mexico, performing “He Lived the Good Life” in the “old” sanctuary.

– The powerful stories in cantatas like “The Apostle” or “Fabric of Freedom”.  My parents were not only a part of these performances at church; they also bought the albums so we could listen at home.  As a child, I didn’t fully understand the finer details involved in the stories but their impact and power were easily felt!

On the flip side, my earliest memories of music involved expressions of faith, both from the singer and the listener.

– “Because He Lives” always made my mother tear up.  It still does.

– Our record player got plenty of use and our home was frequently filled with faith-based music – Andrea Crouch and the Disciples, The Gaither Trio, The Goodman Family, the Imperials, the Peterson Sisters and more.

– I remember one Sunday, when I was in elementary school, my grandmother closed her eyes during the “special music” portion of the service.  She had the most contented smile on her face and I asked her later why she had closed her eyes while someone was singing.  I’ll never forget her answer – “I was just enjoying the way that the lyrics touched my heart.”

One of my favorite memories of being in a church is sitting in the sanctuary of Emmanuel Baptist Church (the new sanctuary this time, with the beautiful rose window in the balcony that made the platform look so colorful when the sun hit it just right!) and watching the adult choir rehearse.  There was child care provided for those in the choir who needed it.  But I begged my mom to let me sit in and listen.  I’m ever so grateful that she did.

What struck me the most was that they didn’t just sing through each song once and call it good.  They went back and corrected mistakes.  Choir members asked questions or wanted to review certain challenging sections.  As a child – who had started piano lessons at the age of 4 1/2 – I knew even then, when I was too young to articulate it, that they were striving to be well-prepared.  It was important to them that they give the very best performance they were capable of.  Their performance was an expression of their relationship with their Savior.  Nothing but their personal best would do.

This heritage combined with my own experiences playing piano, playing in the band, and singing in various choirs has led to one simple reality – the most authentic expression of my faith is found in music that is done to the very best of my ability.  With a legacy like mine, would you expect anything else?

For This Child – The Story Behind the Song

Over the last several years (since 1991 to be exact!) my sisters and I have given our parents nine grandchildren.  Between three of the households (including my parents) we have hosted about the same number of exchange students with two more joining the family for the 2016/2017 school year.  In my own experience, my work as a choral director, band staff member, and theatrical director has provided me with several honorary kids who call me mom.  And there is one lesson that has become crystal clear to me over the years – every child/teen needs to know that there is someone in this world who is absolutely crazy about them.  Preferably more than one someone.

My sisters and I have discussed – and even occasionally explored – the idea of foster parenting or adopting.  I’ve met a number of students over the years who came from homes where mom and dad were too bogged down in their own “stuff” to be there for their kids so these young men and women were starving for someone to notice them, challenge them, push them to be better.  I’ve discovered this world is full of kids who just need an adult to care enough to call them up to be the best possible version of themselves!

Right about the time my sister, Becki, found out she was pregnant with her first, I wrote this song.  Yes, it was mostly for my biological children.  But it was also for all of those I’ve sort of “adopted” over the years who needed to know that someone cared and was taking them before the throne on a regular basis.  It means that the prayer list for “my kids” is getting pretty long but I’m okay with that!

The inspiration for the chorus of the song came from the Old Testament story of Hannah.  She wanted to have a son but had remained barren for years.  During a trip to the temple with her husband, she begged God for a son and promised to give the boy back to God.  God heard her prayer and answered it with a resounding yes.  After she had weaned the boy – most scholars figure he was about 3 or 4 – Hannah took him back to the temple and left him there in the care of the high priest.

“For this child I have prayed,
I have knelt before the Father,
Placing all my hope and trust in him
I set my heart on things above.
And now I know he heard my cry
For I have seen his answer
In this precious life before me
A priceless gift of love.”

I Samuel 1:27-28

“For this boy I prayed, and the Lord has given me my petition which I asked of Him.  So I have also dedicated him to the Lord; as long as he lives he is dedicated to the Lord.”  And he worshiped the Lord there.

Lyrically Inspired – Little Drummer Boy

December is one of my two favorite months of the year.  The other is October. . . but I digress.

I love Christmas music.  I mean I would listen to it all year if people weren’t so prone to being cranky about it.  But December means all restrictions are off and I can blast Christmas music to my heart’s content!

So I thought I’d take a few minutes to share with you some of my most favorite songs as well as the reasons why.  Lyrics can be every bit as thought-provoking as a good book, a powerful sermon, or a deep philosophical discussion.

This first song wasn’t a favorite when I was younger.  Frankly, I found it annoying for a time.  Somewhere during middle school I was able to get past the “nonsense lyrics” and really hear what was being said and my opinion was radically changed.  Let me show you what I mean –

I have no gift to bring
That’s fit to give our king
Shall I play for you
On my drum
Mary nodded
The ox and lamb kept time
I played my drum for him
I played my best for him
Then he smiled at me
Me and my drum
I took out the “pa rum pum pum pum” lyrics because this is the phrase that first captured my attention and I wanted you to see the words clearly.
All the drummer boy had to offer was his ability to play.  When he did so, the infant smiled at him.  As simple as that – the drummer gave the very best that he had and it pleased the Messiah.
There is a sad tendency in some churches to allow for shoddy musicianship in services because the thinking is “We’re doing it for Jesus so it’s the thought that counts.”  I doubt most churches would feel that way about the sermon.  We expect the Pastor to put in time preparing the sermon.  Reading scripture, praying, consulting the original language when needed . . . none of us would be happy with a pastor who got into the pulpit on Sunday morning and said, “I haven’t really prepared anything.  I’m just gonna kinda wing it today.”
But church musicians?  People have actually been known to get angry that they rehearse; that they come to the Sunday morning service well-prepared.  But this song gets it – “I played my best for him”.
Wouldn’t be a bad epitaph, now that I think about it – She played her best for him.

Welcome Home – The Story Behind the Song

My sisters and I are all Michigan “born and raised” but we have all ventured to live in other states at various points in our adult lives.  Currently, hubby and I are in North Central Iowa while the middle sister, Becki, and her two boys are in Richmond,VA (my parents live with her as well) and the baby sister, Andrea, lives in San Antonio, TX with her hubby and their three kids.  Becki also lived in the Dallas, TX area for a while and it was during that time that God used her to inspire a song.

This was in the days before Skype or FaceTime or social networking of any kind.  We relied on emails, “snail mail”, and phone calls.  During one of our weekly (most of the time) phone calls, we discovered that, in a spiritual sense, we were walking down similar paths.  Both of us were learning about our true identity as children of God.  There were a number of times when one of us would talk about a realization or a new understanding and the other person would respond with “Oh my gosh, me too!”

At the end of one such conversation, Becki told me she was going to email me a poem she had recently written, sort of a way for her to capture the lesson in a concrete way for when she needed reminding down the road.  I opened the email and read the poem.  Before I was done, there was a melody line running repeatedly through my head connected to a specific line she had written.  So I emailed her back and begged her to let me turn the lyrics into a song.  With a couple of small tweaks – mostly for rhyme and rhythm – “Welcome Home” was born.  For reasons I won’t go into here, the parable of the Prodigal Son is a family favorite and this song captures that story from the father’s perspective – the idea of a loving father waiting and watching for his child to return home.  No judgment, no conditions; just unbridled love, restoration and healing.

The concept of being God’s cherished daughter has been a powerful one in my life.  So much so that I bear a tattoo that says “Daughter of God” in Hebrew.  The chorus of this song has been a balm in the rough spots of life and the fact that my sister and I had both had a hand in “birthing” this one is special to me.

“Welcome home, my child, I’ve been waiting
I’ve been watching and I love you
Let me fix your broken pieces.
Won’t you let me carry you?
My child, you’ve been gone away so long.
Welcome home.”

John 1:12-13

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Luke 15:22-24

But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet: and bring the fattened calf kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.”  And they began to celebrate.