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Video Killed the Worship Star

I’ve been writing music since I was in elementary school, and singing since I was a baby.  Literally.  I can blame it all on my parents who not only have mad music skills, but also have made their living in the visual arts for 40 years.  Check them out here!  www.treeoflifeartworks.com

So, creating is part of life for me.  Not that is always easy or consistent, but it has always been there.   I’ve been leading worship since I was a teenager and writing music and releasing albums since I was 20.  So that’s that.

Original Poster Art by Cody Miller

Original Poster Art by Cody Miller

But the music I write is meant to be shared, and for me, that’s the sticky part. The uncomfortable, awkward, inconsistent part of my creative life is how to make my music available. I write songs that are meant to reveal our own hearts and the heart of God- bringing them closer together.  How do you promote that?  In Western church-life we make all promotion really bizarre….either the extremes of tele-evangelists begging for money to support their “ministry” (a.k.a. “lavish lifestyle”) or the other end of vows of silence in some monk traditions.  We’re weird that way.

So, mostly out of being afraid that people will think I’m promoting myself, I have never done much of anything with the music I make.  I work really hard on writing, arranging and producing.  And then I just *hope* it gets to the people it was meant for.  Which could be 2 people.  Or 2 million.

 

I believe God is the perfect parent.  So, this past year I’ve been feeling that persistent, gentle prompting from my Father to get over myself.  That if I believe enough in the songs and creativity and contributions of so many gifted artists to make the album, then why would I be embarrassed about sharing it?  As an imperfect Mom, I have this situation with my kids sometimes.  They just need a voice in their ears telling them lovingly, firmly, affectionately, stubbornly that they can and should do something that may be uncomfortable.  Because it’s worth it in the end.  And it’s not always about them.

So, that’s my really, really long explanation of why I am making videos to go along with the songs from Speak to Me.  As a musician, youtube is my go-to for learning songs.  Now, I do actually buy songs I like!  But, many times I need to learn something and a video is the easiest and most effective way to learn something new.  And, let’s face it, it’s free.

Speak to Me is a collection of songs that are meant for the Church.  I don’t know whether they will be effective for a few gatherings, or many, but I do know that they won’t be effective at all if no one knows about them!  So, I’m (slowly) getting over my own insecurities and putting this music out there in a format that is most accessible to how we musicians live.

And, did I mention that it’s free?  Video gives the power to the listener, more so than the artist.  You can share these videos.  You can learn these songs.  The charts will be available through this blog for free. You can sing and play them where you lead.  And, if you do, I’d love to hear about it!

Here’s our first video for the song “Take Me Under”.  Josh Fronduti and Mike Edwards of the 5 Stones Group made it.  Check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GGS3mJIk1so

Look for more soon!  And please check out Speak to Me on itunes https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/speak-to-me/id688035338

 

Introducing “Speak to Me”: New Worship

I am really thrilled to announce that a full-length worship cd (a whopping 60 minutes) entitled “Speak to Me” is now finished, and ready to share with you!  Making this project has been a journey of several years of writing songs (more on that later) and now a solid year of taking those songs from ideas to creative stories.  I’ve had some amazing help along the way.

My hope is that the 14 tracks on “Speak to Me” will take you somewhere.  It’s a common phrase in Vineyard churches that songs are “places we go”. The way I understand that is that when we choose to communicate with God about His worth (worship= worth-ship), we are entering into a conversation with the Creator.  Each song is a different conversation, and hopefully, they will help us explore different places within the Presence of God.  Mysterious stuff.

For myself, I recognize that in my limited attention and comprehension, it helps me to focus in my heart lens on a particular aspect of God’s character.  So, a song about faithfulness necessarily points me to a “place” where I can be reminded of God’s past faithfulness, be aware of His present faithfulness, and have hope that His faithfulness will remain.  Visually, I remember situations in life where God came through in ways I couldn’t have manufactured.  Emotionally I remember how life has felt in those times.  A song that really takes me into that focus will, by the Spirit’s prompting, also make me aware of my own need for transformation to become more faithful.

The songs on “Speak to Me” are meant to take the participant-listener through a continuum focused on the Spirit.   We start by recognizing need for the Spirit, then move to an invitation for more Presence in our daily reality.  Finally we can embrace the full life that comes when we start to learn to live fully alive (an overflow of justice, freedom, holy discontentment and all sorts of other good stuff).  I would LOVE it if you could take one hour and listen to the project from beginning to end.  There are Selah moments built in (moments of musical rest) to give the participant-listener a chance to have your own personal response to God.  Of course, I don’t expect that every song will be equally meaningful to you, so it’s okay to have favorites!!  But, pretend this cd is a movie ticket, and “watch it” from start to finish at least once before you go to your favorite scenes!

Finally, these songs are meant to be shared.  I’m not trying to “go” anywhere, or “make it” in any sense of the way that is usually meant in our entertainment culture.  It’s a challenging thing to be an artist/songwriter in our culture, where the only measure of success is fame.  It’s a constant choice of the heart to be content where God has me, and to trust, as I felt I heard God say to me years ago, that we determine our obedience, and He determines our influence.  Making this project has been an act of obedience from me, and from the many other people who joined in.  I think of the text I got from someone who (not knowing the name of the project), said they thought God was speaking to them to give their engineering talents and time for free.  Huge.  Or the musicians who played and refined and played again because they believed the songs had a particular story that their instrument could tell.  Our hope is that these songs will find their places of influence wherever God wants.

If you feel like any of these songs could have influence in your own life, or the faith community you are part of please contact me for any resources I could give you.  If you are a musician and would like the music to any of these songs, I would love to send you lyrics and chord charts.  Sheet music is available for the songs Shawn Wallace arranged (full arrangements for “Glory to the King” by Chris Lizotte, “Jesus Alive”, a partial chart for “Home” and an arrangement which we did not use for “Rush to the Hush”).

Again, thank you.  There is a ton of extraordinary music out there, and I’m grateful that you chose to make “Speak to Me” part of your life.

Winter Beauty

2011!
We are on what seems like the 100th straight day of snow mixed with grey clouds….but, the sun is now peeking through. Just enough light to get us through the chill.

I’ve been busy writing songs in my head this winter. Sarah Higgins and I are still trying to find a regular time to get those songs out of heads and into some actual soul-folk arrangements. Life and ice-storms and sinus infections make regular songwriting a bit of a challenge for the both of us.

We are excited to share that we were selected to perform at the Upper Arlington Music in the Parks summer series. We will be playing June 9th, 2011. More details to come. We will have a reunion of our live recording of “Alright”!

I’ve also become a bit of a crafter over the last six months. I don’t claim any special talent, but it has been a sweet pastime to sit down and make “pretties” to share with friends and family, and occasionally sell. Vintage buttons and lovely fabrics combine to make unique flowers for hair and sweaters and what-nots…nothing that the world “needs” in comparison to clean water and food and justice, but just a bit of beauty to add.

More than ever I feel the need to create beauty. When a week gets totally lost to the list of necessary but mundane errands and the juggling of five different schedules I know that a bit of who I am gets lost too. A bit dramatic, I suppose, but I do believe in a God that creates everything (everything!) with beauty. Some of that inclination is in us, and I believe we each have our own unique ways of letting it out. We need to let it out.

Maybe it ends up being a bit of a “use it or lose it” prospect…I know many people who would not ever consider themselves creative or as beauty-makers. But, I disagree. More likely is that they haven’t used what is in them for so long that it will have to be re-discovered and nursed back to life. But totally worth the rediscovering.

So, find your beauty. As my website gets retooled I’m amazed at people like Gary Jorgenson…who can read and write all this code that is absolutely baffling to me. He creates beauty by reading and writing this technological language. Hurrah for him (and me, since he creates things for tech-illiterates like me). My husband creates with his running plans- calculating and planning on the sun’s cycle of rising and falling coupled with his desire to be outside, running and thinking and praying. My kids create beauty with their elaborate stories. I’m always finding out what character I’m “playing” today…

Find your beauty. Spread it around. I guarantee you’ll have more joy than without it.

Thinking ahead (and behind) to Christmas…

Last year I was sharing a Christmas song at a concert with a slew of other musicians.  It was a lively night with jazz, folk, southern gospel, show-tunish carols and then, me & the piano with my rendition of “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”.  My little offering was quite simple and quiet compared to the rest of the show.  I felt a bit less-than.                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Afterwards, my friend David Tolley took me aside and encouraged me to think about doing a Christmas project- a cd of exactly what I had done that night.  Simple, quiet, hopeful and beautiful music telling the story of God breaking into His creation in the most radical way never imagined.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               The beginning of 2010 brought a live recording with my best friend, Sarah Higgins.  We were joined by some of our musically gifted friends (Jim Zartman, Chris Westra, Gary Jorgenson, Don Smith) for a night of lovely, haunting soul-folk.  Sarah and I have talked about doing “our” music together forever.  We’ve always had the context of leading worship together, but finding the time and energy to do our own project had always escaped us.  So, we finally got our act together, scheduled a date and got inspired by an actual deadline.  We recorded 7 original songs (which can be downloaded on www.itunes.com or www.cdbaby.com) and released our first ep in August.  It is titled “Alright”.  So, most of my extra time during the spring was taken with finishing off that project and getting it to the printers.                                                                                                                   Late in the spring I started seriously considering David’s encouragement to do a Christmas cd.  I’ve always loved Christmas- the mystery and humility and promise.   The last few years of the season have felt like more of a battle against the push of our culture.  Noise and greed and stress.  Very anti-good news.                                                                                                                                                                                               So, I started reading the gospels again.  The voices of Anna and Simeon were loud and clear.  Mary and Elizabeth.  Angels and shepherds.  I started writing songs and digging out old ones I hadn’t sung in a decade.                                                                                                                                                                                                    The end result is that I spent the summer recording 12 songs for the advent season.  I tuned up my old upright and sang my heart out.  1/2 dozen are traditional favorites with my own arrangements.  1/2 dozen are originals or re-imagining of ancient carols that I wrote my own music for.  My dad contributed a song (yeah!) which was really special.  My kids sang on the finale.   It’s been a joy to create.                                                                                                                                                                                                                              In the coming weeks I plan to write the stories behind my original songs and post the lyrics/chords for those who might like to play them on their own.  As Sara Groves says… “My off-line life is full, but my online life is anemic”.  I’m paddling that boat too, so forgive me if my posts are not as timely as hoped for.

Summer Events

Hope to see you at one or all!

Friday, June 26th

Outdoor House Concert

featuring the music of Michael Hansen, Chris Hartman and Noelle Shearer

6256 Westwick Place/Lewis Center, OH/ 43085

Free!  Bring lawn chairs and snacks if you’d like! 7-10

Friday, July 17

Breathe Festival Venue Stage

www.breathefestival.org for cost, directions and time

Come for great worship with Sheri Carr, teaching with Jay Pathak… and stay for music with me and others!

Friday, August 21

“Night of Eternity”- multi-church event/night of worship

@ International Christian Center www.intl-cc.org

990 Kingsmill Pkway/Columbus, OH/43229   7-11

Random thoughts for worshippers…and carpenters.

You know that time of morning, when you really need the mirror to get un-fogged so you can finish your hair or put eyeliner on the right part of the eye and it seems like it takes forever?  And then, it seems like the mirror goes from cloudy to clear in a second?  I had one of those moments for my brain about a month ago.  I guess it is my version of “through a glass darkly”… because for a time the fog has lifted.   So I’ve been part of worship and music pointed toward God consistently for half my life- which sounds really dramatic, but really, 15 years means something to a 31 year old.  I’ve been in a lot of different situations- “congregations” big and small, churched and unchurched, american and rest-of-the-world-ian.  I’ve learned under leaders good and not-so-good, I’ve followed terrible advice and ignored wise and sometimes, thankfully, done the opposite.  But, I’ve found lately that I’m hungry…waiting for something else.   And then I got this question in my head about a month ago.   How do you know someone is a carpenter?     Is someone a carpenter because they have tools?  A. No, my 3 year old has tools.  Definitely not building anything at this point. Is someone a carpenter because they know how to use tools?  A.  No.  The gal who wrote the manual might never have actually used the tool.   It’s not really a trick question.  You know someone is a carpenter because they build things! And I had this little picture in my head of us worship leaders as little wanna-be carpenters.   With really blinged out tool belts and nothing built.  My little carpenter/lead worshipper analogy is opening up a load of questions in my heart. Hopefully the right ones.  Have I been so focused on the tools of worship and ministry and arts that I’ve never really built much of anything?  Does it please God that we can figure out exactly how to reach each demographic by style and volume and aesthetics and number of songs and racial diversity and coffee brands…but we might not ever actually know any of the people our tools are intended to build up?  Is God maybe a bit tired of our talk about how to use worship and change worship and be cutting-edge and excellent and relevant and everything to everyone, because maybe He sees that our worship is usually not married to a life of justice? What would it look like if we stopped looking at our tools and started looking at what we are building?  Are we building anything?  Do our beautiful songs have the impact they could have if they were coming out of a life building into people- which we’re taught is the real church anyway? Amos 5 (Message version) I can’t stand your religious meetings.  I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions.  I want nothing to do with your religion projects, your pretentious slogans and goals.  I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes, your public relations and image making.I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.  When was the last time you sang to me? Do you know what I want? I want justice- oceans of it.   I want fairness-rivers of it.   That’s what I want.  That’s all I want.  Crap.  That is just a terrifying scripture…and I want to live a life where that reprimand is not aimed at me.  So for me part of living out justice in the world was adopting a child orphaned by the AIDS pandemic.  The decision and the adoption were the easiest steps in comparison to the daily living out- parenting our child in a way that takes a totally different approach than my other 2 kids need- an approach and response and humility that takes everything I have and more (which is where that amazing grace stuff comes in).  So, my true worship is only true when it is married to the real life of living out justice in the life of my child.   Loving my son changes me, and humbles me, and burns out a lot of the ego that comes in too much time playing with shiny tools.  When I fail I feel the falseness of worship offered from a heart that can’t even love my own family unconditionally- let alone God.   Bummer, eh.  Well, the good news is that what God wants is pretty simple!  Not easy, but simple.  So, I’m asking the questions of myself, and anyone else out there that wants to be asked. What are you building?  Are your tools being used to build up people…spreading out justice and dishing out fairness?  Does our life (all the hours outside the actual “ministry times”) match our musical worship?  Do the situations and people that break the heart of Jesus break ours too?  Do our songs come out of that?  If not, how can we move that way?  Is it good enough to just require musical ability and church membership from our lead  worshippers… or do we need to literally marry justice and worship.  Play in the worship band, serve soup in the soup kitchen.  Sing in the choir, raise money to combat human trafficking.  Be a christian rock star, use your platform for poverty initiatives.I’ve got a long way to go…but I feel like the fog has lifted for now and I’m ready to build something.  I know there is a generation already working on the foundation…?

New Cd, Some Concerts & A Party!

“The Arc of Grace” is now available…here, of course, and also at the Vineyard Bookstore, cdbaby. com, and soon, itunes.  Very exciting stuff.
Sometimes we get a sense of what a year is going to be… what is going to be asked of us.  This is a year where I feel I am going to asked to be brave.  In that spirit, I am going to be playing my songs in front of other people!!  That may seem ridiculous, since I am singing and playing in front of thousands every month at church, but playing my own songs- that are directed to Jesus but different than everybody-sing-along-worship songs- is much more vulnerable and slightly terrifying.  But, I am going to be brave.  And, I think there is going to be joy in that too.

So, in the next month you could potentially overdose on me! 

On Sunday, March 15th I will be playing at Wild Goose Creative (2491 Summit St.) from 7-9.  There is a suggested $5 admission.

On Friday, March 20th from 7-9 I will be playing at CrimsonCup Coffee House (4541 N. High St).  Free.

On Friday, March 27th we will be hosting a cd release at Vineyard Chapel (6000 Cooper Rd.)  Free admission.  I’ll be sharing songs from the project with some of my amazing musician friends, and we’ll also get to enjoy poetry, dramatic monologue and live painting from other wonderful artists, including my parents!

I would be so honored if you were able to come to one of these nights…I hope to see you soon!

New Music is on the way!

I am actually going to start writing a blog.  Really, I truly am.  Maybe even once a week.  And, I’m going to have amazingly important things to say and exciting news to report and deep thoughts to share.  Well, that might be a bit ambitious.  Let’s just start with some news. 

 I have recorded my first full studio project in a decade.  (That makes me sound really old.  I’m not. I just started when I was really young.)  It is called “The Arc of Grace”, and if you live in Columbus it will soon be available to you.  I’ll be writing more about the process of making the record in future posts, but for now I just want to tell you that it is coming.  11 songs, 10 of which I wrote, and all in some way exploring grace…

I’m an optimistic pessimist, and I usually both see how things are broken and how to fix them.  That is a simplistic definition of grace for me.  We’re broken, our world is broken, and our fix is grace.  Big, crazy love demonstrated with a cross and an empty grave.  Pardons…over and over and over again for the same crimes.  Enough strength and joy to not just muddle through life, but to have life to the fullest.  Grace.   It’s our story because it is His story.

It seems terribly presumptuous that people would actually want to read my thoughts, but if that is ever appealing to you please check back as I do promise to write more frequently.  Since my last post was a year ago I almost can’t fail to improve!  And, I will let you know where and when you can hear and buy “The Arc of Grace” if you are interested.

I hope your February is beautiful.

Hello everyone!

Hello!  Welcome to my blog.