Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Purpose of Songs in the Church

I attended my very first songwriter's conference in 2008, the Write About Jesus, Nashville Edition.  They advise all newcomers to take a certain series of courses, so I dutifully, with a fluttering heart, took their advice.

Every. Single. Class that they suggested was for uber-beginnners to the songwriting craft. "This is a rhyming scheme.  This is how verse structure works.  This is how a chorus should sound." zzzzzzz......I could have *taught* most of those courses.  By the end of the day, I was so frustrated that I'd even bothered to make the trip, and wondered if the whole thing was a waste of my money.

(Plus, I was incredibly pregnant with my second daughter, and not a bit emotional.  Oh no, not me.) 

Then, in my last class, a white-haired gentleman walked in who looked a bit red-eyed, like he had either spent some time crying, or spent some good time worshiping.  He smiled, looked at all of us eager beavers in the desks in front of him, and said, "Are you all good songwriters? Really good?"


(I got a little nervous, wondering if we were about to be pop-quizzed with flying rhyme schemes and music theory.  Plus, like all pregnant women, I really had to pee.)

"Cause if you're not good," he said, "I can think of a lot of better ways you can build up the Kingdom." 

He went on to describe dozens and dozens of ways that songs he'd written had genuinely touched people's lives, both to deliver the gospel and deliver healing to a person's soul.

 What he didn't know was that just the concept of songs being of service to Christ was illuminating *my* soul, like a bolt of lightening.

I was constantly (shamed? attacked? lied to?) accused of being self-absorbed when I was singing, or writing songs.  I did so many things to try and *keep* from being self- absorbed. ("Don't move around.  Don't make a lot of facial expressions.  Those distract from the message of the song.  Don't use words that would distract from God's glory.  Yes, that word you just thought of is distracting...")  Now, here's Some Guy (who's name I never got) saying that if we have the gift of writing a song, we have an obligation to use it for the Kingdom of God.  That singing and writing songs is Service.  It's Kingdom Building.  

I still had a lot of hurdles to overcome to my own songwriting, but now, four years (and more kids) later, I'm coming back to the beauty of this truth: Songs are service. 

As I was trying to get back into the rhythm of regular songwriting, I was praying and asking God, "How do songs serve Your people, and what guidelines can I keep in mind as I write?"  Here are four concepts that came to mind, and they fit nicely into "Four M's:

  1. Memory.
    1. According to “Music for the Soul,” a we remember
      1. 10% of what we hear spoken
      2. 40% of what we read
      3. 90% of what we hear set to music

        NINETY PERCENT!  There's a reason why it's hard to memorize the first chapter of Second Timothy, but we remember every line to the entire play of Les Miserables.
    2. This means that songs can be a mechanism for remembering God's word, God's Truth, God's Direction, and God's Calling.
  2. eMotion: 
    (Yes, I know it's not technically a "M", but I can claim artistic license here.)
    1. Songs give us a structured, logical way to express intense, and often illogical emotions.
      1. Worship, praise, adoration, exhultation
      2. Repentance, sorrow, grief, pain
  3. Motivation:
    1. There's a REASON why we work out with an iPod, why music is played in every retail store, and why it's in the background of every commercial: Music touches our memories and our emotions at the same time, which our minds can chanel into action.
    2. Do you want to call a congregation, or a generation to repentance? To missions? To worship? To giving? Let a song imprint God's word in their memory, connect with their emotions, and stay ringing in their ears throughout the week—it will have an impact on their physical behavior!
  4. Ministry:
    1. Once memory, emotion, and motivation are activated in a person's mind, songs can minister (aka, “serve”) people in a huge variety of ways:
      1. Comfort. Songs can remind a congregation of God's healing power, forgiveness, friendship, Fatherhood, etc.
      2. Accountability. An earworm that rings in someone's mind throughout the week can remind someone to refrain from sinning, one day at a time.

         What other ways can music serve people? 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Time to Start "The Artist's Way" Again...

Twelve years ago, this book changed my life.  I go through it, usually have a flurry of creative activity, and then I believe a very convincing lie: "I should be able to create now without this thing."

I honestly think that at some point in my adulthood, I should be strong enough to able to do anything I want without any kind of validation or support.  As if inspiration, motivation, and honest compassion were trinkets I could keep or discard at a whim. 

The pattern has been, I work and try and work and try, then reach out for that support again when I feel totally drained and used up.  

I'm the child of alcoholics.  Explosive, disruptive, and unstable people shaped my thinking from infancy.  I will probably need a spiritual and mental chiropractic adjustment at regular intervals for the rest of my life.  And that's okay. 

So, it's time, among other things, to go through "The Artist's Way" again.  I'm looking forward to the beauty it brings into my soul. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Justin's Brilliant Baby-Sleep Idea:

Annabelle had fallen asleep on my chest, happy & content, when Justin said, "I know how to make sure she'll sleep through the night!  Go pump about a half an ounce of milk, and we'll dip the corner of her bunny blankie in it.  That way, when she wakes up, she can just suck on it and fall right back asleep!" 

I rolled my eyes and said, "Sure, and we'll name the bunny Douglas Adams just for kicks..." 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

"Inspiration doesn't last..."

"...[and] neither does bathing. Which is why we recommend it daily."

That quote is attributed to Zig Ziglar, but I don't remember where I heard it. I do know that it's true.

Here's the inspiration I needed for today: Make Good Art.

Monday, August 6, 2012

James Continues to Kick My Butt...

19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

I was trying to think of where verse 20 was in the Bible yesterday, and couldn't do it.  I've struggled more with anger in the past six months than I can ever remember doing in my life, so I wanted to find this verse as a touchstone to remind myself that anger alone does not resolve anything. 

Then, as I was cleaning out my bookshelf, I found a book called "Gap Creek" by Robert Morgan.  I'd heard him speak at Cornerstone over ten years ago, eagerly bought the book, then hated every page of it when I read it.  Disaster after disaster, people suffering so horribly (and then repeating the same mistakes that caused them to suffer in the first place) and intolerable supporting characters made me almost throw the book away at first.  I have no idea why I kept it.

 As I was considering whether to keep it or put it in the yard sale pile, I flipped through it, and landed on a chapter where the couple, Hank and Julie,  were struggling through a period of unemployment.  They had arguments, mis communications, times of pointing fingers and blaming, times of fiery intimacy.  Every line was injected with new meaning in my heart--we'd been there.  

Then, the couple has a baby, and it dies.  

My middle daughter hit me with a piece of paper, "Mommy, can I PLEASE have a drink of water???" and I woke up from my reverie.  I have no idea how long I was sitting there reading.  Justin looked at me, and told my little girl to come back in five minutes.  I broke down in tears, sobbing, hardly able to control my heart's outpouring.  The pain of losing four babies to miscarriage, and a ton of security to unemployment, had been dislodged from my heart by a story.  I'd covered it up with so much anger.  

That's when I learned the true meaning of verse 20: anger does not produce the righteous life God desires, because so often it's covering up something else.  Disappointment.  Hurt.  Shattered dreams.  Loss of control.  Mountains and oceans of grief.  Now, when anger rises up in my soul, I'm trying to be aware of what I'm really feeling, and not simply snarl at the first person who happens to wake it up.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Book of James is Kicking My Butt

Yeah, James does that sometimes.

I'm copying and pasting directly from, from the newest edition of the NIV.

James 1

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:

Trials and Temptations

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 

 I'd say that describing the last six months of our lives as "trials" would be accurate. We've fought more than we have in our entire marriage.  We're exhausted from the (completely normal) 24-hour-a-day responsibility that comes from a new baby.  Lots of hidden thoughts have come out into the light.  Worst of all, we've both seen how startlingly immature we can be in certain areas. 

Then James kicks my butt some more:

  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  

I almost feel like he's saying, "Don't worry, I have more bad news for you, but it will give you all the maturity you need for the next phase in your life."  It's like a doctor with a 5-foot-long needle saying, "This won't hurt a bit." :)

Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.

I've struggled so much in my life with wanting wealth, and this passage was a much-needed dose of reality.  Chasing money is like chasing tomorrow--as soon as you get to it, it moves further away.  

I've also carried a lot of faulty beliefs about money: "I can't really focus on a creative enterprise until my family is wealthy enough to justify my not working another job."  That's just dumb; the other day, my kids watched Fat Albert make band instruments out of  trash.  The Stomp phenomenon was born out of a bunch of people making music from .  Heck, I used trash to make my first mixed-media journal, and it got published!  It was my first published piece in an art magazine!  

So why do I carry around the belief that I have to be debt-free before I can make music?  

I have three new songs to learn for worship band this weekend, and I need to get on it. :) 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Photography Samples 1.0

  Last weekend, I did some photography for the Itsy Bitsy Cupcake Shoppe in Lexington, OH.  They can be reached at (419) 775-6932, if you'd like cupcakes for weddings, birthdays, graduations, other special events, and even if you need special gluten-free, dairy-free, or vegan selections. 

  Oh my goodness, it was hard not to eat the subjects.....

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Tumbling ENTJ

Yesterday, I got a CALL FROM THE SCHOOL! I thought, "Oh no! Either the Firecracker has broken her arm, or there was some sort of early dismissal that I forgot about (again), and she's been waiting for me for two hours!" 

Oh no.  It was even better. 

My daughter, my precious one, my Firecracker,  my little ENTJ, had gone to the office to request that SOMEONE CALL HER MOTHER because there was a Tumbling class after school, and she was supposed to be in it. I needed to be there in five minutes with twenty-five dollars, a signed permission slip, and some gym clothes. 

She's six.

I was driving on the highway beside The Firecracker's school as her secretary is telling me this.  I might have had a little trouble understanding...after all, I had just taken Baby Chaos Theory to the doctor because she'd kept me up most of the previous night, screaming her tiny little lungs out.  (The doctor's prognosis? "Your guess is as good as mine.")  I wracked my sleepy ADD-brain trying to think of WHEN the Firecracker had told me about Tumbling Class....

(Cue the Dream Music...)

"Hey Mom! Mrs. Liebhardt is teaching a Tumbling Class again this year!"
(Baby Chaos theory blows out her diaper)
"Oh, that's great honey!"

Now, at the time, I was actually thinking, "Oh great, I hope she can do that class, I think she'll enjoy it, now where's the Desitin?  Are we out of diapers again?  Ooooh....time to change the baby's clothes...ewww!"
In her mind, I said yes!

On the one hand, I'm thrilled that she took the initiative.  I gave her $25 from my little Dave Ramsey cash envelope system, signed a permission slip, and told her teacher she'd have to "tumble" in regular clothes today, because class would be over by the time I got back with the gym outfit. 

On the other hand, we're going to have a talk about what "Yes," actually sounds like....

Friday, March 16, 2012

Changing Our Family Tree

The other day, the Mathman and I were trying to wrangle some medicine into our new baby.  After about 10 minutes, we were covered in baby spit, baby Prevacid, and baby cries, but the meds were in her tummy.  We laughed out loud and said, "We did it!"

Then The Firecracker, our incredibly articulate 6-year-old, ran into the room and said, "Are we debt free?"

It won't be long, baby!

Then today, The Shy Violet, our incredibly tender 3-year-old, was watching a movie.  When she was done, I said, "I'm going to turn on Dave Ramsey now."  Before I could, she started humming the theme music. 

I'm 100% certain that none of our kids will get student loans.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I freaking hate Jillian Michaels

But I'm absolutely certain that's the point.  I did this video today, and Shy Violet, my 3-year-old, pulled her little rocking chair up to the computer to watch me.  Between Jillian shouting, "You don't get these abs for free!" and knowing Shy Violet would remember if I quit, I finished the whole video.  I now hate Jillian Michaels. 

And hopefully I'll hate her tomorrow too.

Monday, March 12, 2012

One more dig--working out.

I learned a new word: fitspo.  (Yes, it's an actual word.  It's kind've related to doubleplusgood.)  A fitspo is a fitness inspirational photo, and during my 40-day Facebook fast, I started collecting fitspos on Pinterest.  <--This whole sentence is kind've wacky, since both the words and the activities didn't actually exist ten years ago.  Strange. 

Anyway, I'll write about the 40 day Facebook fast soon. This particular fitspo challenged me to think outside the box a bit:
That baby will learn to count to ten quicker than mine, I guarantee it!
The constant excuse for being overweight in our culture is, "Well, I had kids!"  I've used that excuse myself, and hated it. 

Even worse is the dynamic excuse duo: money and weather. "Well, I can't afford a gym membership, and it's ten degrees below zero outside!"  If nothing else, this fitspo challenged me to think around my excuses, and find a way to make exercise a part of my life. 

This morning, I took a baby step towards actually getting in shape:

And now the baby's awake and screaming her little head off, so I'm glad I got it in! :)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Syrup---at home!

I live my monetary life by a simple motto: if I need to buy it, there has to be a way to buy it CHEAPER!

Starbucks is one of those things that I'm trying (unsuccessfully) to learn to live without as we get our debt snowball rolling.  Well, they're getting rid of they're Pumpkin Spice syrup, so  now they've justified my abstinence a little more.  (wink)

Angela Hayman has one of the best frugal blogs in the universe, and she posted this find on her facebook page. The Copycat Recipe Guide has an easy way to make the syrup yourself, and save the 4.68 cents that you would have spent getting the tall soy latte Starbucks version.   Not that I know anything about that...

Photo courtesy of  Nice!

When we don't feel like being lovey dovey.

"I love you." "Oh, I love you too." <smooch> "Yeah, we're disgusting." 

 (A hat-tip to for the photo!)

There's no way around it, most of the time, my husband and I are totally disgusting. Maybe I'm exaggerating, maybe I'm over-stating, or maybe I've created a relationship-monster, but 8 years after the wedding, we're still madly in love.

Then baby makes three.  And four.   

With lightsabers, of course.  Cause what's childhood without magical toys that can cut you in half?
 And five!

Milk-drunk baby. ;) 
 All of them have been sick over and over again in the past month.  And we're tired.  We're tired and we're drained.  We don't freaking feel like being lovey-dovey.  It doesn't help that he's an INTJ, and his emotional expression looks like this:

...while I'm an ENFP, and mine looks like this:

This is a recipe for miscommunication. 

The net effect of exhaustion plus sick kids equaled this:

However, today he came over and sat on the couch with me, and said, "I just want you to know that I love you, and I'm so thankful to be with you.  Do you want to go have some coffee today?" 

Yeah, I love him.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Video Class

I took a video production class with my church yesterday.  Now the aliens can land...

The Mathman brought the baby to me during lunch, so I could nurse her--he gets Man of the Year for that.  And for wrangling all three girls so i could go to a seven-hour class. 

In other news, my husband also dreamed that he was teaching his class how to disarm a Terminator last night. 

"Ok, first you shoot them until they're disabled, or crush them under a large object. Then you unscrew the port in their head, remove the memory chip, and you're done."

Friday, March 2, 2012

Digging with a spoon?

Abbe Faria: With two of us digging, we can cover twice the ground. It'll only take us, oh... 8 years to reach the outer wall.
[Edmond laughs]
Abbe Faria: Ohh... and does something else demand your time? Some pressing appointment, perhaps?
Nothing I want in life comes overnight.  I want  to be a good wife, a good mother, a good cook, a good writer/musician/artist, and I want to be debt free.  None of that comes instantly.  I am building skills slowly, over time.  I will be all of those things, if I'm willing to measure my life in years--years built of smaller moments.