Thursday, May 21, 2015

Bird Song.

My father loved birds.  

I have grown to love them too. 

They make me feel at peace. 

I awaken early in the morning to their songs.

I listen to them sing when I go for walks.

I talk to them.

They chatter.

They are a lesson in how much God cares for me.

"There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, 
more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. 

Look at the birds
free and unfettered
not tied down to a job description 
careless in the care of God
and you count far more to him than birds."  

Matthew 6:26 The Message.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

"Seedy" Generosity

When I plant seeds, this is how I tend to sow:
Sparingly enough to get one flower.

But this is how I want to sow:
Generously enough to have plenty to give away.

I confess.

I'm greedy.

I hoard.

I'm afraid I won't have enough.

I don't know why.

I used to buy a pack of zinnia seeds and plant each little seed with care, trying not to drop any. None to spare. It's tedious!

Last year I saved the dead flowers because they contain seeds.  I ended up with so many seeds that this year I could have planted a field. Because I had so many to spare, I recklessly threw them across the ground knowing that even if only 1/4 of them come up, I'll have more than I need.

THAT was fun!

I was generous this year because I knew I had plenty to spare.

I was hoarding before because I was afraid I wouldn't have enough.

Therein lies the difference. How I view the source from which I give.

If I believe there is enough to go around, I give generously.

If I fear losing the little I have, I will never share.

There's a saying that always makes me stop and think. 

"I could give all that I have to feed the poor, I could surrender my body to be burned as a martyr, but if I do not live in love, I gain nothing by my selfless acts."  I Cor. 13:3 (The Voice)

That explains "seedy" generosity.  It looks great to others. is tainted by fear, lack and obligation. Sharing it will only reap more fear, lack and obligation. It doesn't sprout from deep love. 

Father God, please change my heart. Let me see how much I have to share and give it away generously. Help me to stop being clouded by fear of the future. When I do give, please let it be from a deep reservoir of grace, mercy and abundance, not out of fear, lack and obligation.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Do you like yourself?

I awoke too early.  It's always extra early when I'm in Nashville, TN.   Because of the one hour difference in time zones, an already-early-riser is destined to be awake at very uncomfortable hours.

It was my first day to record vocals on my "Inside Things" project and that only added to my sleeplessness. I call it the "Nashville Adrenaline".  For some reason, I have boundless energy when I'm there.  I love being there, recording, writing and just spending time developing relationships in the music industry.  I don't do 'tourist' kinds of things.

If people ask me what to do when they visit Nashville, I recommend the Bluebird Cafe, The Pancake Pantry, and down-town Franklin, but other than that, most people will never see where I spend my time in town.  Studios, homes of friends, homes with studios and anywhere else my music takes me.  It's all about relationships and that's what I love most about Franklin and Nashville.

The first song we would be recording was "Wonderfully Created".  I had been inspired with the song idea just as I was leaving to spend the weekend at a slumber party for girls and their theme was Fearfully and Wonderfully Created.  It was a very unusual 'gig' and I was nervous about doing it. It had been a long time since I stayed up really, really late with a bunch of girls.

Just as I was packing up stuff in my studio, a little melody and phrase came to me and I've learned when that happens that the best thing I can do is sit down and let it flow.  The re-write will come later.  For now, just write what comes under inspiration.  You can sweat about it later.

Now, back in Nashville, I decided to read Psalm 139 again, hoping to refresh my soul with what my vocal cords would soon have to express. It would be just me and Mr. mic in the vocal booth for the day. The producer and engineer are in another room. I like it that way.

As I read through the familiar passage, as I had so many times before, something new caught my eye. Psalm 139:14 says "I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well." (ESV).  I smiled and thought to myself; how nice that David can say that.  Suddenly, within my spirit, I sensed the voice of God's Spirit.  "I'd like you to thank me for making you".


I sat there, stunned. It was sweet to read of someone else having those sentiments.  But now I felt like God was asking me to acknowledge (out loud with my mouth) that I too was wonderfully created. "Such a beautiful song to sing - now I'd like you to believe it", He seemed to whisper.

It evoked such emotion in me that I was speechless.  Well...sort of.

"I don't have time for a therapy session right now, Lord, I said in my speechless state. I have to go record a song to share with people so they know how wonderful they are. And please don't make me thank you for making me complex TOO! David did.  I hate my introspective, complex self. I'm weary of it.  Why can't I be care-free and simple?".

The conversation between He and I continued.

"I don't feel like I'm wonderful", I said. "In fact, most of the time I don't like myself at all. I never weigh the right amount, my teeth don't have that nice clean bite that most people have."  (I should have taken my mother up on the offer to get braces as a teenager, but I felt like she was insinuating that I wasn't pretty because of my teeth, so I resented her offering that.)  I was too young to process my thoughts at that age.  I'm sure she was only trying to help. I couldn't hear her well because my ears were plugged up with my own insecurity.

I wish I could re-do some things. How about you?

In response to my outburst with the Lord, I could hear His gentle whisper now.  "Just start.  Ok, so you can't be thankful that you are complex, can you start by thanking me for making you?"

I sat for a while.  I couldn't answer this right now.  But I did bow my head and ask Him to help me. "Thank you for making me", I said.  Half out loud and half not.

That was over 8 years ago.  Do I still have days when I don't like myself?  Absolutely!
Most recent photo shoot.
Showing my teeth.

I used to avoid smiling and showing my teeth at photo shoots because I don't like my teeth.  The photographer has to practically 'pull my teeth' to get me to show them.

But over time, I have been more intentional about thanking God out loud for making me when that dark cloud of self-hatred starts coming my way. As I learn to accept the complexity with which I operate from, He's also helping me to be more care-free and not take things so seriously.

As I cooperate with Him, He helps me to see myself in a much more positive light.

As I arrived at the studio that morning to start the project of "Inside Things", believe me, I had already had quite a work out on the inside things.  It started with Psalm 139.

So I ask you again.  Do you like yourself?

If this song can help you appreciate the beauty of how intricately you were made, then perhaps my little therapy session that morning was worth it.

View video/song here.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Signed. Sealed. Delivered?

I signed the contract with a new venue to do another Christmas concert:
* sealed the envelope.
* mailed it....(the old fashioned way.)
* it's been delivered.

That first, big step is done - I have made my choice after months of deliberating and calculating.
I feel like I want to celebrate.
(The official announcement for the Christmas concert is coming soon, so stay tuned.)

It feels done.
But it is not - I have merely been relieved from indecision.
I have not been relieved from the fear and doubt I will face EVERY step of the way.
Every time I take the next step, I will be relieved from THAT decision and on to the next one.

So many large and small decisions/steps we make all the time.
Then there is the follow-through.

You want a life-companion.
So you decide together to spend the rest of your lives as one.
You sign the contract.
You say "I Do".
Then what?

Tomorrow you will wake up to the start of a brand new life.
You will learn which of you is a morning person - for real!
Do you like it quiet in the morning or do you like
Processing differences.

You want to lose weight.
You sign up for weight watchers.
You show up and weigh in.
Then what?

Tomorrow you must decide what to eat.
And the next day.
And the next.
Next week you will have to go back.
You could NOT go back.

Signing the contract is a big step.
Sealing the envelope feels final.
Mailing it - feels like the end, done, the final step.
But it's not.

There will be many more decisions ahead.
Frustration, joy, doubt, courage, fear and perseverance.

You decide.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

What's your greatest battle? Inside or outside stuff?

Sometimes I think
if I could hide myself away
from the world and all I see
I'd be a better person
if I could live somewhere
far away from here
ignore the things I hear
I could live this life perfectly

But it's not the outside things
 that keep me from you
it's my heart 
all the inside things
it's not the outside things
 that keep me from your love
it's my doubt
 all the inside things

I know a place
I could lay the blame 
for the pain I feel inside
though I know I shouldn't do it
and I'd like to say
 it's all another's fault
that I'm not living free
but it's not them 
it's all in me

It's not the outside things 
that keep me from you
it's my heart
all the inside things
it's not the outside things 
that keep me from your love
it's my doubt
all the inside things

The outside only mirrors what's inside of me
a true reflection of the grace I truly need

Words & Music by Frances Drost

"I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us." Romans 8:39 The Message

Friday, April 10, 2015

Never By Accident

I watched her fingers tremble as she pressed the strings against the wood, but they weren't trembling from nerves.  They were adding the rich vibrato that makes the cello sing.  Combined with her bow techniques, her poise and confidence, the little black notes on the page jumped off and brought my weary soul back to life.  Even the 'rests' were part of the moments.

I asked her if I could sit beside her and watch her play.  Her music has always touched me deep down in my soul and often makes me emotional.  When we play together, it becomes even more powerful.

How can inanimate objects like wood strung with catgut melt a person's heart? Like water that changes the shape of a hard rock over years of time.  Only my heart melts within just a few measures. A few seconds.

As I sat and beheld this amazing player on her well-worn instrument, I got new inspiration. The page she was playing from was written with piano and choir in mind.  It wasn't just for cello. Without the other members of the music performance, it would have sounded incomplete, albeit beautiful.  But it was written to go with other parts.

One page. That's all she had.  She couldn't see anything else. No choir music, no piano accompaniment.  Just her part. She had to trust that what she had would fit into the whole.

You might feel as if you are a tuba in a spa, but believe me, there is a spot for the tuba.  It adds incredible rich bass tones in the context of the whole. The gifts you have, the special wiring you came with, have a purpose and a place.

If everyone plays their individual part to the best of their ability, when it all comes together it will sound amazing, but you have to trust the person who wrote the arrangement.  You have to trust that he knew what all the other players would be doing and how your part fits in context.

Focus. Trust.  Faith.

I first wrote the piano piece called "Never By Accident" from a few simple notes. It happened by accident. But my producer wanted to add other players to what I originally thought would be a solo piano piece.  I couldn't quite catch his vision until the piece was completed.

I changed the original title from "By Accident" to the new name: "Never By Accident".  It was too beautiful to be an accident and it was now going on my CD.

You were not an accident.  You, like the piano in this song, are meant to be part of a bigger piece.

You are beautiful.  Don't shy away from letting yourself become part of something larger than you.

You weren't meant to play alone.

You were never an accident.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Settled or Unsettled?

It's the week of Easter and I've been asked to sing a solo with the choir. 

Musically, it's very simple.  But the words are very, very difficult for me.

Here's the first verse:
How I love to read
the book you wrote for me
you loved the world so much
you gave your son
written there in crimson
you told me I'm forgiven
it is done
it is done

I relate to those words.  

It's the lyrics of the chorus that I find a little 'unsettling':

So if you never speak another word of blessing

and the silence leaves me with a sense of loss
I'll remember when my heart begins to question
any doubt that you love me was settled at the cross

By Phil Mehrens & Lyn Rowell Lee Black

When I sing a song I take the delivery of the lyrics just as seriously as the delivery of the musical notes.

When I can't reach some of the notes, I work at it.  I practice it over and over.  I approach it from various angles and techniques until I find something that works.  I use the tools from my toolbox that I've accumulated over the years from various vocal coaches.  

But when the lyrics are hard to live, that's another story. A different set of tools  are required.

I think these songwriters must have a much stronger faith than I.  To promise that "I'll remember God's love for me if he NEVER speaks another word of blessing and when that kind of silence leaves me with a sense of loss," is quite a commitment.  I don't know about you, but there are so many times when I still doubt God's love for me.  

As I've been rehearsing this song, I've been letting the challenge of it sink deep into my soul.  Like Paul said in Philippians 3:13-14; "Brothers and sisters, as I said, I know I have not arrived; but there’s one thing I am doing: I’m leaving my old life behind, putting everything on the line for this mission. I am sprinting toward the only goal that counts: to cross the line, to win the prize, and to hear God’s call to resurrection life found exclusively in Jesus the Anointed." The Voice.

I relate.  I haven't yet arrived at the point where I can say ....if you NEVER speak another word of blessing..I'll be ok.  But I'm aiming for that.  I want to have such strong faith that I never doubt the power of the cross in my life. This is a walk of faith.  

When my husband gives me his word about something - I never have to question him on it.  There are times I need reassurance, but I've learned over time that I can count on his word to me.  Any doubt is usually because of my own insecurities - not his lapse in commitment to follow through.

I need to be that way with God.  I thrive on hearing from God.  His voice is my life-source.  If I think he's not speaking to me, I stop and ask him why, just to make sure I haven't closed my ears in some way, because I believe he delights in talking to us.

This song takes everything to another level.  It's Easter.  I want to have the kind of faith that really believes it was all settled at the cross, even when I am unsettled.