Our New Scripture Memory album is here!

April 8th, 2015
The cover for the new album!

The cover for the new album!

I am so excited to announce that my new CD “Scripture Memory Songs For Kids and Families” is almost here!

We have just opened the pre-orders on my site. You can hear clips and see lyrics there as well. The official release for the project is May 19th, but we will be shipping all pre-orders as early as next week, more than a month before you will be able to get them anywhere else! Also, I will be signing any pre-orders from my site (unless you get a digital download – I’m not that good!!). Please note, I do have to unwrap and open the CDs to sign them, so if you don’t want that, just let us know when you order. :)

I’m so excited to see how God will use this new project. It’s very different from my mainstream albums, but I’ve just loved working on it, and it’s huge! It has 30 word-for-word Scripture memory songs from the NIV on it that even include the references; we sing them right in. It also has 9 other bonus Christian kid’s songs on it for 39 songs total. Even though it’s so many songs and twice the length of a regular album, we wanted to keep it affordable, so they are only $20 each.

These were designed for use with a VBS curriculum, but over the years, we’ve gotten emails from people who have used our Scripture songs in all kinds of ways – homeschooling, Sunday school, Christian school classes, and just popping it into the car stereo and learning Scripture together. I’ve even had adults tell me they use it all the time. It’s aimed at grade-school aged kids and has fun songs, and silly songs, and cool songs, and pretty songs. We really hope that it is a blessing to you and your family and the kids in your life!

Is the Bible valuable?

April 8th, 2015

Is the Bible valuable?

Most people would say, “Of course.” Even if they don’t believe it or agree with it, they might value it for historical purposes or it’s cultural weight. But is the Bible valuable to you? Christians are supposed to value the Bible as the Word of God Himself.

And yet, a study by LifeWay Research states that only 45 percent of those who regularly attend church read the Bible more than once a week. Over a third only read it once or twice a month. Eighteen percent of church attenders say they never read the Bible at all.

That makes me so sad. I wonder if they know what they are missing.

Have you ever thought about what an amazing thing it is that we have access to the very Word of God? That He has told us all about Himself and all about us and human nature? That He has given us instructions to have “life and life to the full” (John 10:10)? It’s sitting there waiting, but sometimes I think the very fact that it is so accessible makes us treat it very casually.

So, practically, how do we start reading and learning from the Bible if we haven’t been doing that before? I will tell you, I have struggled in this area for a long time. I am not a morning person, and I’m not super organized, so trying to follow the standard of getting up before dawn and spending hours in a quiet time before my family was awake was never going to work for me – in fact, thinking that people were doing that was discouraging to me. How could I measure up?

Eugene Peterson says that we need “a long obedience in the same direction.” My undergraduate degree is in piano performance. When my kids started piano lessons, their first teacher was excited that I would surely be super intense about it and told them they needed to practice for an hour a day. I told her I was going to require 15 minutes from them, and she was not very happy with me. But I required 15 focused minutes. No messing around, it had to be 15 concentrated minutes and it had to be every single day. After that they could play around, play whatever they wanted or not play at all. I didn’t care. You see, I’d already taught piano for years. Most kids their age couldn’t concentrate for much longer than that anyway, and they might play an hour, but they weren’t really working on anything. When it was that long, they were discouraged and got bored and it took the fun out of it. What we found was that my kids learned fast. And they played a lot more than that 15 minutes because they were getting it and playing for the enjoyment of it. It’s amazing what 15 focused minutes can do. (Disclaimer – my kids were little and their practice time increased as they got older. Please do not hit your piano teacher over the head with this article when he or she tells you your child needs to do more!)

This principle can be applied to so many things. Five minutes at something every day of your life can change your life. Small things add up. It’s so easy to say, “Well, what’s five minutes?” but five minutes times 365 days can turn into quite a skill or knowledge set.

So with the Bible, I tried to get my kids in a daily habit, and they tied it to something to help them remember. Rinnah reads right when she wakes up. Rachel reads while she’s doing her hair (she has a lot of hair, and has this magical ability to do it without looking while sitting cross-legged in the middle of her floor with a Bible in her lap). Toby reads his while eating his breakfast every day. You are going to wake up every day. You will eat food at some point in every day. If you have hair like Rachel’s you will need to spend time doing it every day. Pick something as your mnemonic, and use that. My kids probably read the Bible for 5-10 minutes every day. That’s it. We talk about what they are reading at dinner and it’s casual. They might ask me a question about it while we’re putting shoes on for school or when we’re in the car. But they have read a tremendous amount over time because they do it every day, and I hope they are setting habits that will last their entire lives.

It is still a struggle for me personally. I love the Bible, but I know my tendency to be lazy about it. So for me, I make sure I’m always in an organized Bible study. That way I have built in accountability – someone is going to know (other than me and God!) whether I did my study at the end of the week, and that really helps me be motivated. Some people do not need that outside help, but I know I do, so I sign up and I ask God to help me be faithful, and He does!

There’s an old hymn that has a line that reads, “There’s a famine for the Word.” It’s true. How are we to represent God in this world if we don’t know what He’s telling us to do or who He is? The more I read and study my Bible, the more excited I get, the more connections I make, the more the Holy Spirit reveals Himself through the pages. It’s changed my life and my entire world view. Just like my kids playing for fun after their practice time, that long obedience has gotten me excited to dig into the Bible at all times, not just when I “have to.”

Don’t miss that blessing! Don’t miss out on one of the greatest gifts God has ever given us; the ability to know Him through His Word!

One of the Scripture songs on the new album is a great ending and reminder:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteous so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Tim 3:16-17

Let’s dig in to the Word so we can give out to our world!

Teaching at the Music Tech Conference

March 30th, 2015
Setting up for one of the sessions on Evolution of a Song

Setting up for one of the sessions on Evolution of a Song

This past weekend I got to go back to Capital University as part of their Music Tech Conference. I was teaching a session called “Evolution of a Song: From Writing, Through Recording, to Billboard.” The blurb was “Follow the life of a song from concept and writing through production to radio. We will look at aspects of songwriting, co-writing, radio writing, various methods of production used in Nashville, budgeting, radio promotion, marketing, and the charting process through real song examples from the presenter’s catalog.”

Again, I love teaching, and these students had the greatest questions! It was fun to be with them, and looking forward to being back again sometime.

Weekend on Science Hill

March 23rd, 2015
At Science Hill Community Church

At Science Hill Community Church

I just got back from a packed weekend in Northeast Ohio. I did a concert on Friday night, and women’s retreat on Saturday, and then worship service on Sunday for a church called Science Hill Community Church. I asked the pastor about the name because I’d heard the church was located “on Science Hill”, and I wondered if there used to be a lab or a university or something – I was curious about the name. Well, it turns out that when the Mennonites came a long time ago, they called it “Zion’s Hill” but their accent was so thick people thought they were calling it “Science Hill” and the name just stuck. Hilarious! Apparently there’s never been anything remotely science related there.

I had a great time with them. It was such a warm congregation, and I especially loved getting to know the pastor and his wife and our host, Marilyn. Just lovely people. The coordinator, Lori, worked so hard to make everything beautiful, and it was fun to see her plan come together.

Thanks for having me!

Church of the Open Door Rocks!!

March 16th, 2015
We are in Amish country here - the amazing view from the camp, even if it was raining

We are in Amish country here – the amazing view from the camp, even if it was raining

Teaching the retreat at Church of the Open Door

Teaching the retreat for Church of the Open Door

I just got back from such an amazing weekend. There are times that I’m with people, and I think “won’t it be fun when we have all the time there is in eternity to get to know all these wonderful people of God?” I was doing a women’s retreat in Carlisle, PA, for The Church of the Open Door in York, PA, and I knew it would be fun because they were so great on the phone while we were planning, but it was so good to get to know them in person. They are a special group! We talked about being transformed to be usable by God and how He wants to use us to change the world around us.

The other reason I know they are special is because of their amazing response to the Compassion kids we brought for sponsoring. They were not a large group – probably 90-100 women – but they sponsored 18 kids! That is pretty much unheard of, because sponsorship is a big deal. I was so touched by their hearts for the kids! It really is one of my favorite parts of what I do that I get to help kids around the world, and I think it says so much for their church that they stepped out like that.

Hoping to get to do something with their church again! They were precious, and it was a great weekend with them.

We’re wrapped!

February 22nd, 2015
The kids singing backing vocals

The kids singing backing vocals

The show choir kids after recording - we paid them in pizza!

The show choir kids after recording – we paid them in pizza!

The engineer, Keith, looking super intense after the 17 millionth kids vocal take.  :)

The engineer, Keith, looking super intense after the 17 millionth kids vocal take. :)

It’s official – we’ve finished all the recording for the Scripture memory project. We are calling it, very originally, “Scripture Memory Songs: For Kids and Families.” I had so much fun putting this project together, especially on the day the kids came in to do all the backing vocals. Since Toby is the perfect age for this (in fourth grade you still sound like a kid, but you can sing on pitch most of the time) we brought in most of his bestest buds, and had them sing backup. I also put my daughters on it, but kept them back farther. They are older, so I didn’t want their voices too present, but their pitch is awesome, and they kept the younger kids on pitch (tricks of the trade, my friends!). My oldest, Rinnah, also enlisted a number of kids from her show choir to come in and do backing vocals on one of the songs that I needed to sound like a Broadway chorus, and they did such a good job. It took all day, and I bought the biggest pizzas you’ve ever seen, but we got it done.

And now, we’re onto all the other stuff! Edit, mix, master, photo shoot, packaging, and manufacturing, but I can see the end, and I’m so excited to share the new music with you all!

Bittersweet time in Florida

February 19th, 2015
Setting up at Pillar Community Church before service

Setting up at Pillar Community Church before service

130 of Ralph and Nancy's closest friends

130 of Ralph and Nancy’s closest friends

I just got back from Florida in February, and that is always a good thing, but this trip, while great, was bittersweet for me. I wasn’t planning to go down there now, but we have family friends, Ralph and Nancy who have basically known me since I was born, they are family to me, who are also struggling with cancer now. Ralph’s cancer is incurable, and he is getting to the end of his life. My mom and I decided to fly down to see them, and while we were there to see other dear friends, the Kusmers and the DeMarcos, and also my grandma and my uncle.

When we were setting up the trip, the Kusmers’ church, Pillar Community in Vero Beach, asked me if I would be willing to do their church services since I was in town over a Sunday. I was more than happy to, especially since this was a church plant only a couple of years ago, and we’ve been praying for them ever since – it was so fun to see how God has blessed them! The people there were absolutely wonderful, and we had such a great morning. The Holy Spirit was in that place! I was also so touched that our friends, the DeMarcos, drove all the way up from Delray Beach to see us! We were able to stop and spend some time with them too on our way to see Ralph and Nancy.

Ralph and Nancy had asked me if I’d be willing to do a “house concert” for them while I was there. I did that once for them several years ago, so I said sure – I was picturing 15-20 people in their living room. Well, they rented a space and had about 130 of their closest friends there! They’ve always been such an encouragement to me and in my ministry, and they are so proud – I feel like one of their kids. It touched my heart to see how much Ralph was enjoying it, and we felt so blessed that he still felt relatively well that week. Even today, just a few days later, Nancy tells me it would be too much for him now, but God was sweet to us all that week. It was so hard to say goodbye to them. But we know we will see each other again – it’s never really goodbye when we love the Lord. But it hurts – I will miss him so much until then.

We went and had some sweet time with my 96 year old grandma (for those who have been to a show, yes, she still rides her bike to the grocery store) and my uncle. Then home to the snow. I’m so glad I went, but it was a hard trip. Would love you to keep Ralph and Nancy in your prayers!

Guest Lecturing at Capital University

February 7th, 2015
The Music Technology majors at Capital University filing in for my lecture on music business.

The Music Technology majors at Capital University filing in for my lecture on music business.

Yesterday I got to go and guest lecture for the Music Technology majors at Capital University here in Columbus. It’s a pretty amazing program that they’ve built – my friend Neal is a professor there and he asked me to come in and share some of my story and talk about songwriting and niche marketing and such.

Most schools have traditional music programs, and it’s pretty hard to find one with a major in music production which is basically what this is. They have about 200 majors in Music Technology, and if you’re in the field, you know it’s mostly male. So it was pretty funny to get up in front of the 175 or so who had come and see about 6 girls, and all the rest guys, most of whom were tatooed and pierced and dread-locked, etc. Basically, they were so much cooler than me!

While Capital has roots in a church denomination, the school is not considered a Christian school anymore, so it’s always a little tricky to know how to share. Several times someone asked a question about how I made a business decision or decided on the next project or whatever, and I had to stop and think, “Do I tell them it was really just because I prayed about it and felt that was how God was leading me?” And so, I did. :) If God’s going to give you open doors, you ought to walk through them!

I miss teaching – I loved my years teaching at a University level – and it was fun to get back in there. Hopefully I’ll get to do it again soon!

New Song Update, Donna Update, and Hair

February 2nd, 2015
Donna rocking her new wig after the going-away party for her hair

Donna rocking her new wig after the going-away party for her hair

My Rachel before

My Rachel before

And after

And after

It’s been a really busy month. I’ve finished writing all the new Scripture Memory Songs, and we’re already about halfway through all the tracking for the project. Tracking is basically recording all the instruments and voices – you put each one on it’s own “track” so you can edit them later, making different things louder or softer or whatever. I’m really enjoying working on this project! I’ve been doing this one here in Columbus, so we’re working with different musicians and a new engineer and studio. It’s been challenging and also really fun to produce the whole thing myself as well. After this we go to editing, mixing, mastering, package design, and finally manufacturing and we’re looking at a May release. In total we’ll have 39 songs on this project! We’ll keep you posted!

I know many of you have been praying for my assistant, Donna, as she’s back fighting cancer. She’s had her first two sessions of chemo, and they had told her that given the kind she had and the fact that it’s stage 4, chemo was going to be “pretty brutal.” We’ve been praying so much that God would sustain her and let her do what she needed to do. Praise God, while she’s been really tired afterward for several days, she didn’t have nearly the nausea or side effects she was fearing! I am so grateful, and so grateful for your prayers for her – she’s so loved. She just had a “going away party” for her hair – she’s hilarious, and meets the challenge with such an amazing spirit. I’m thankful she’s my friend.

And in honor of Donna, my younger daughter, Rachel, decided to donate 12″ of her hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths which makes wigs for women with cancer. After we cleaned it up, she lost about 14″ and clearly, she still has a lot of hair, but I was so proud of her.

New Book Review for “Life Not Typical”

January 8th, 2015

Just had another review posted about my book “Life Not Typical: How Special Needs Parenting Changed My Faith and My Song.” I especially loved reading this review because it’s by another special needs mom, and it’s always so encouraging to hear that our book was encouraging to her! God has been so good to us, and to our family, and it’s fun to watch Him use the book now too. You can see that here.