Ask Him How to Celebrate Memorial Day! Frightened and Alone?

Even in a time of multiple conflicts and wars, it is amazing how easily many Americans forget the authentic faces of Memorial Day.

Recently I attended a program that was being filmed for a Christian TV special. The military honor guard entered the room while the Charlotte Symphony played ballroom waltz song! Everyone remained seated, many even continued talking, even though our great banner of freedom was being displayed before us with all the ritual, formality, and respect that the members of the military troop could project.

I sprang to my feet when “Ole Glory” was escorted in the room regardless of the mistaken choices of the majority of the congregation (perhaps provoked by the mistaken “cue” of music). I stood in respect for the many brave men and women who sacrificed their Memorial Day BBQs, their families, and all too often their lives so that “Ole Glory” could continue to be a “Grand Ole Flag.” I also stood in honor of my husband’s military career that has spanned over four decades. There were those times, while working at National Headquarters in the D.C. Area, he would be called to go into an unknown location for undisclosed periods of time. On several of these occasions, I was hospitalized in the ICU facing an aggressively, progressive form of Multiple Sclerosis without my best friend and support at my bedside - frightened and alone!

Yes, just like this little fellow at his daddy’s graveside, I was often left frightened and alone so my loved one could bravely defend our great banner of freedom, Ole Glory.

Frightened and alone, much like this little fellow sits gazing at his father’s grave. For him there will be no little league baseball games and fishing trips with his daddy. Instead he must continue in life, frightened and alone, so adults can ignore the flag his father just died to protect.

He sits frightened and alone, so their egocentric video filming will not be interrupted for a program correction to respect our greatest symbol of freedom?

He cries, frightened and alone, so that Christian leadership can ignore Ole Glory while filming in a building named “American Heritage.”  But without the sacrifice of this little boy’s father, there would be no American Heritage!

In this time of so much political discord and lethargy, let us not forget the foundation on which this great country was built.


Reprinted by request from editorial section by Dr. Carolana Callaway.

Editing Lyrics: A Morning Glory Lesson

I am the queen of brown thumb gardeners.

Spring sunshine has arrived! My heart jumps with joy to hear the bird’s song and smell the fresh morning air. This spring I declared to be the year that I would raise Morning Glory flowers from a seed packet! Since my brown thumb has been known to kill silk flowers, I doubted my seeds would ever become flowers.

So, I planted my seeds in a fancy crystal vase with beautiful tumble-glass in the bottom. At least if the flowers didn’t make it I would have a vase filled with glass-decorated dirt that would look great.

As days passed, I was shocked to see the whole package of Morning Glories had sprouted and were quickly overgrowing the vase! WOW, I had a flower garden sprouting out of a crystal vase. Time to transplant them. Before I could transplant them, I had to untangle their roots from all the decorative glass pieces in the vase. I also had to remove the fancy, tumble glass shards to uncover the core roots of each flower growth.

Tumbled ocean glass from my international travels.

Tumbled ocean glass from my international travels.

After all the clutter and glamour was removed from their roots, each tiny flower could finally do what it was designed to do, bloom in the morning. The very next day the tiny Morning Glories not only bloomed, but they bloomed all day long!

My songwriting often parallels my crowed, decorative vase. I often get too caught up in finding decorative words and phrases. Much like each Morning Glory seed, my song lyrics cannot bloom with all the extra attempts to decorate the words. However, when I remove the impressive, decorative stuff from my lyrics, a stronger lyric reveals itself. Then the song lyric blooms with a more authentic meaning.  I can no longer hide under layers of extra, decorative words. I must strip down my lyrics to the words that are REAL! And to write real, I must become real with myself! Then my lyrics will have more meaning to the listener.

One of my Morning Glories.

One of my Morning Glories.

Now I know that the impressive word for this is “editing” song lyrics. But I call it writing what is real!

How do you know when you are being real in your writing? Do you have any favorite “impressive” words you find yourself having to edit out of your lyrics?

Confession of a Songwriting, Empty Nester!

Now that my girls are young women, I have become a songwriting, empty nester. All my girls live in other states, and I am the only one here in Nashville. Geography makes teachable moments very rare. But they can still come when you least expect them.

A few weeks ago my daughter, Bethany, drove me to a very extended appointment with my neurologists. We had just gotten settled when a beautiful young woman walked over to me and said, “I know you probably do not remember me, but I will never forget you!” 

“Sharika,” I cried, “of course I remembered you!”  

My co-writer and I sat hovered over our lyrics with all the chatting and giggles of an ASCAP writing session.

My co-writer and I sat hovered over our lyrics with all the chatting and giggles of an ASCAP writing session.

Just a few months ago, Sharika and I had shared this same waiting room. It was a Botox Friday when all we migraine sufferers crowd in for a very long wait. One of my co-writers and I often use these long Friday waits as a writing session time. She and I sat hovered over our lyrics with all the chatting and giggles of an ASCAP writing session. We worked as though we were the only ones in the waiting room.

Suddenly I notice a young woman, Sharika, wrapped tightly in hoodie, seated in front of a blaring TV. I asked the receptionist to please lower the TV volume because Sharika appeared to be in terrible pain. As Sharika looked at me, she tried to smile. Then suddenly she went into a full migraine-related seizure!  I yelled, “Help! STAT!” and in a few minutes the young lady was whirled into the treatment room! It turned out that she had a rare form of migraines that was provoked by a vascular malformation in her brain. Her only cure was a very dangerous operation to correct the problem inside her brain. My co-writer and I both promised to pray for her, and we had lost touch with her over the months.

My beautiful daughter, Bethany, who is also an artist.

My beautiful daughter, Bethany, who is also an artist.

Now Sharika bounced over to me and she was glowing! She said to me, “I don’t know what that song you were writing was about, but I am sure it was about healing—cause now I am healed!” I had looked up from my songwriting long enough to share a moment of kindness with Sharika. In other words, I had stopped writing just long enough to be kind.

As Sharika talked with me, I realized my daughter was also glowing too. What a teachable moment for all three of us! Even though my daughter, Bethany, is now an adult, we still could share in a teachable moment!

What about you?  What teachable moments have you had when you looked up from your songwriting?

Living the Songs I Write

The tranquil view outside my office window.

The tranquil view outside my office window.

God often sends me the heart message: “If you write it: you have to live it.” That is what makes writing Christian songs unique to all other genres of songwriting—we are called to live it. Just as I completed my last song, “Pain Beyond Your Prayers”, I found myself living out a situation that left me with pain way beyond my personal prayer power.

Several weeks ago, I was preparing for a fiddle session with my dear friend Susan Brown. The practice piece had been exhausting and very high-pitched—a certain way to aggravate my Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Suddenly, I awoke on the floor in acute pain. I had no memory of what had happened! After a number of tests, my neurologist suspected that my MS had developed into a seizure disorder. If this were true, I would have to surrender my driver’s license! She also told me to consider moving into the center of Nashville, where public transportation would be more accessible.   

My first reaction was: “Lord, I already have to fight MS!  Wasn’t that enough? Now you are sending me seizures too!” My heart was too full of fear, to know how to pray. All I could do was just sit there and beg for God to understand my silent fears. The only words I could speak were tears.  

My dear friends Joe and Alice Beam.

My dear friends Joe and Alice Beam.

Not only was I facing a loss of independence, but I was also facing the possible loss of the beautiful place I call home? Moving away, from the tranquility of the mountain views and the garden pond outside my office window? Moving away from my dear friends, Joe and Alice Beam, who had cared for me like their own family? Moving away, from my cul-de-sac where my next-door neighbors include: a psychologist, a medical doctor, and my pastor? Every time I thought of moving, my heart was broken to tears.

The weeks I awaited the tests results were weeks spent in spells of prayers filled with silent tears. Each time I cried, God comforted me with my own song:

These same hands that made you,        
Will get you through this too.
I’m holding a bottle, to catch your every tear. 
Cause that’s how much I care.
When you got pain, 
Pain beyond your prayers.

After two long weeks of waiting, I was declared seizure free. I had suffered a mild concussion that had caused the memory loss. And the fall was due to MS fatigue. 

We songwriters want to reach the world with our song lyrics. But right then, I was the world my song lyrics needed to reach! Once again God was teaching me: “If you write it; you have to live it!”

What about you?  Tell me about a time when you had to live your own song lyrics.  As always, I enjoy hearing your comments and stories.