Store Up and Serve Up God’s Bounty

Photo of scripture verses stored in a canning jar

A special greeting to The Upper Room readers who are visiting Faith Songs for the first time. Welcome!

They read the Book of God’s Teachings clearly and explained the meaning so that the people could understand what was read.
—Nehemiah 8:8, GW

I’m delighted to have a meditation, “Store Up God’s Word,” published today (May 21, 2016) in The Upper Room, which is my church’s daily devotional guide. It has numerous editions translated for a worldwide audience. It’s also the resource I favor for my personal devotion time.

Don’t subscribe to The Upper Room? No problem. They post the daily devos online. Check out the related pictures on Link2Life and my guest post on the blog, too. Please leave a comment, if you’re so inclined. I’d love to know what your favorite scripture verses and hymns are. If you look closely at the photo above, you might spot a few of my favorites peeking out of the canning jar.

(After May 21, my devo will be archived on the Upper Room website. You can still find it, by entering my name in the Search box. You’ll need to sign in before you can post a comment or read the whole of an archived devo, but signing up is a free formality.)

Off the shelf and onto my plate

“No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl; instead it is put on the lampstand, where it gives light for everyone in the house.”
—Matthew 5:15, GNT

In my guest blog post, I mentioned that the Lord has assigned me to serve up the encouragement, guidance, and challenge I’ve stored up from his Word. Lots of people are hungry for it, that’s for sure. So, my Holy GhostWriter has kept me busy, cooking up Bible studies, Bible-based dramas, and new hymns.

Right now, I’m working on two book projects:

  • Were You There When They Crucified My Lord will be an informal Bible study inspired by the traditional spiritual of that name. Each session will focus on different individuals or groups who were present at the events surrounding Jesus Christ’s crucifixion—or conspicuous by their absence. New songs (a mix of group, solo, and duet) will help explore the spotlight characters’ experiences.
  • My second book of hymns and faith songs will offer sheet music and a scripture index for 60-80 of the new texts (AKA lyrics) I’ve written in the past several years. Most will be congregational hymns, all set to existing tunes. I’m also considering adding a section of “specials”: pieces that are better suited to a soloist or an SATB ensemble.

As you can imagine, formatting that many scores, laying out pages, and creating scripture indexes for a hymn book is a massive undertaking. I couldn’t persevere through these tedious and hair-tearing tasks without my posse of prayer warriors. ♥ Please join them, holding me and my work in your prayers.

And if you’d like to be notified by email when my upcoming books are released or one of my hymns is published in another hymnal (I’m thinking positive here!) or other news happens, please use my contact form to request that.

Six years to simmer

Woe  to those who say, “Let him make haste,
    let him speed his work that we may see it;
let the plan of the Holy One of Israel hasten to fulfillment,
    that we may know it!”
—Isaiah 5:19–21, NRSV

Short meditations are a wonderful way to share the riches of God’s Word, but writing them requires plenty of perseverance, too. Getting my first piece onto a page in The Upper Room has been a long-term effort—six years, to be exact!

The Upper Room magazine pageMy first submissions were handed back to me faster than an order of soda and fries. Then a few survived a little longer in the evaluation process. Then one made it all the way to the final round (yay!) before being axed (boo!).

I reworked the rejects and sent the new and improved versions to other devotional publications. Most of them found a home at Judson Press’s daily devo magazine The Secret Place (“Never Out of Sight” is coming up on June 17 in the Summer 2016 issue) and Penned from the Heart. Meanwhile, I kept honing my writing skills and submitting new work to The Upper Room.

Finally, good news arrived: “Store Up God’s Word” was accepted for publication.

 

Grab your spatula—er, pen

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
—Isaiah 52:7, NIV

Want to try your hand at serving up devotions to the world? Scope out the writers guidelines at The Upper Room and other devotional magazines that appeal to you. You often can find them by Googling the magazine title or its publisher’s name plus “writers guidelines” or “submission guidelines” in quotes. If you can attend a writers conference where a devotions editor is holding a workshop, jump at the chance. A representative of The Upper Room I met at Montrose Christian Writers Conference offered extremely helpful presentations and individual critiques.

The beauty of serving up our stored-up scriptures, in whatever form the Lord assigns you, is that the supply remaining in storage never diminishes! All the verses we open and share are still ready to use when our own need arises, perfectly preserved and just as fresh as the day God inspired them. Thank you, Lord!

Bon appétit!
Linda

 

New Year, New Ideas

Start hatching a new project

A reminder for my fine-feathered friends who need a little motivation to turn their writing-for-publication dreams into reality:

  • If you never start writing the first draft, you’ll never finish the manuscript.
  • If you never finish it, you’ll never submit it.
  • If you never submit it, you’ll never publish it.
  • If you never publish it, no one will ever read it.
  • If no one ever reads it … you, and your could-have-been readers, and the Lord who gave you the dream, will all miss out.

Same goes for all the other kinds of projects you’re still sitting on, writing-related and otherwise.

So don’t just sit there. Start hatching!

What are my new ideas?

  • Compile and publish a book of my hymn lyrics set to existing hymn tunes. I’ve got about 75 new ones, ready to get kicked out of the nest.
  • Develop a book and video tutorial to help other poets try their hands at writing hymn texts and setting their verse to music.
  • Finish my Christmas Eve cantata. That project’s been incubating for over ten years!
  • Last, but not least, do whatever my Holy GhostWriter scribbles on my to-do list.

What new projects are you hatching for the new year? Please share in a comment!

Blessings,
Linda

 

Greet Your Savior~A New Faith Song for an Old Tune

Greet Your Savior by Linda Bonney OlinThe Christmas song titled “Greet Your Savior” celebrates Jesus’ arrival with gusto! My words are set to the tune of “The Old Rugged Cross,” a popular old-time hymn.

“Greet Your Savior” shows how new words can give a surprisingly different sound to a familiar tune. Part of the difference, of course, comes from singing it at a perkier tempo than you’d sing the contemplative lyrics of “The Old Rugged Cross.”

But a clever lyricist has other, less obvious, ways to influence the feel of a tune, without modifying the music one bit. I’ll let you in on a few of them, using OLD RUGGED CROSS as an example. Continue reading

My Father and Your Father

Come Dance with Me, verse 3 by Linda Bonney Olin“I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” John 20:17

Father. Abba.

Jesus addressed God this way in his prayers. His father, his daddy, who loved him dearly. Who told people that he was “well pleased” with his son. Who gave him instructions, and was there to support him as he carried them out. Then stepped back, leaving him to accomplish his greatest task on his own, trusting in his obedience.

Isn’t that the essence of any father-child relationship?

Godly fathers love, protect, guide, and empower their sons and daughters to become the fullest and best men and women they can be. But even if our human fathers fail, Jesus says very clearly that his Father God is our Father God too.

Yes, we too can run to God, crying, “Abba, Father!” God the Father has taught us how to live, and he stands ready to support us. And he steps back, giving us freedom of choice when it’s time to obey. I cherish that notion of my relationship with him.

Sadly, God the Father is being evicted from hymn lyrics these days

(along with “oppressive” references to his sovereignty, like Lord, throne, reign, and kingdom). “Inclusive language” that excludes masculine images and favors genderless or feminine terms for the deity is the order of the day. Masculine pronouns for God must be replaced with its or her, or else be eliminated altogether by repeating the noun, even if the resulting lyrics sound bloated and unnatural. The use of traditional collective words like man (which is tough to replace with a unisex lyrical equivalent, by the way) has been known to provoke accusations of indifference to—even participation in—the denigration and abuse of women.

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Split-ting Words Without Getting a Split-ting Headache

Sheet musicEver notice all the hyphens in your hymnal? I pity the guy who had the job of putting them there!

When song lyrics contain words of more than one syllable, the divisions between syllables are marked with hyphens in the score. This allows each syllable to be individually aligned with its musical note.

Some syllables are sung across a series of notes. The score will generally use a curved line called a slur to mark the range of notes assigned to a particular syllable. It may display multiple hyphens for an extended syllable.

The clip of sheet music pictured above shows the hyphenated syllables Glo-ri-a, ex-cel-sis, and De-o in the classic Christmas carol “Angels We Have Heard on High.” Look at all the hyphens following Glo! That single three-letter syllable is spread over sixteen separate notes. Keep an oxygen tank handy when the congregation belts that one out!

Where Do the Hyphens Go?

But Gloria-induced hyperventilation is not the source of the headache I mentioned in my post title. My split-ting headache comes from trying to figure out exactly where to divide words when I type lyrics into a music notation program.

I vaguely remember a few of Sister Mary Adele’s rules from fifth grade grammar:

  • End a long-vowel syllable with the vowel.
  • End a short-vowel syllable with a consonant.
  • Split words between two consecutive consonants, unless they form a diphthong. (Wait a minute, diphthongs combine vowels. What do you call a consonant combination? A gerund? No … I’m getting too old to keep that stuff straight.)

But Sister Mary Adele’s rules don’t always give the right answer. Even words I thought were obvious turned out to be split differently in my hymnal. Where would you place the hyphens in the common word everyone, for example? I didn’t even guess the number of syllables correctly.

What’s a lyricist to do? Use only words of one syllable? Not likely. Insert hyphens wherever they look right to me, and hope no one else knows better? Tempting, but not the most quality-conscious approach.

How to Divide and Conquer Multi-Syllable Words

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary is my hard-copy reference for word spelling, definition, and syllabication. A quicker solution: I keep a browser window open to Dictionary.com while I work on lyrics. When I need to check a word, I type or copy/paste it into the search box and hit Enter. Voila! Dictionary.com displays the word and its derivative forms in hyphenated syllables.

Even if you don’t write music, knowing where to find a word’s correct syllabication might come in handy someday. If you lay out the interior pages of a print-on-demand book in Microsoft Word, for example, you might want to override Word’s hyphenation to tweak a line here or there. Splitting a long word differently (Con-gregation instead of Congre-gation, for example) can improve the appearance of a printed page or break a line of dialogue at a more reader-friendly place in a script.

By the way, give yourself a pat on the back if you split everyone into three syllables like this: eve-ry-one. Sorry, Sister Mary Adele!  🙂

Edit January 10, 2016:
Entering hymn lyrics into a digital score by copying and pasting from Microsoft Word is a lot quicker than typing the words directly into the score. To do that, I first have to separate the syllables with a space or a hyphen (depending on the music notation program). Inserting all those spaces/hyphens individually gets pretty time-consuming.

But I recently was tipped off to Lyric Hyphenator, a free online utility from Juicio Brennan. Just paste your text into the on-screen box and click a button to have it hyphenated automatically. If your notation program uses spaces instead of hyphens to separate syllables, you can then use Word’s Find/Replace All function to replace all the hyphens with spaces.

Caveats: Lyric Hyphenator works with standard English words only. You should eyeball the results for accuracy; as always, use a dictionary to check the syllabication of any questionable words or proper names.

 

Want to Put Poems to Music? See Guest Blog on Random Writing Rants

Random Writing Rants banner

Ever had the desire to write hymn texts or put your poems to music? Think it’s impossible because you have little or no music training?

Check out my 10 tips for putting poetry to existing music, on my guest blog at Random Writing Rants, which is a terrific source of information, advice, and encouragement for adult and teen writers.

If you haven’t already read my posts here on Faith Songs about my adventures in writing original music, take a look at them, too:
Writing Songs for the Lord
To the Ends of the Earth

By way of an update, I’m happy to say that, thanks to my musically inclined collaborator, Phyllis Neff Lake, the project of adding piano accompaniments to the hymns and faith songs in Songs for the Lord is well underway. Yay, Phyllis! Yay, God!

Meanwhile, I’m adding material slowly but surely to a second songbook. This one will feature original hymn texts set to some of my favorite classic hymn tunes. Just this morning, the Holy Spirit showed up with a new hymn idea in the wee hours. I grabbed a newspaper lying next to my bed and scribbled a draft of the verses before they floated out of my memory. Next step will be to—well, you can read all about the process on my guest blog at RWR. 🙂

Let me know if you’re inspired to give it a try!

Blessings,
Linda

P.S. 9/28/2013

I just added new links to my Resources page that will interest poets who want to write new words to set to old hymns.  Hymnary.org offers XML and midi files of public domain hymns. MuseScore, a free music notation program, opens those files and lets you edit them. Replacing the old lyrics with your own words is easy! You can modify the notes, too. Then you can save and print professional-looking sheet music. Have fun!

 

The Sacrifice Support Group Goes Paperback

Photo of paperback book cover of The Sacrifice Support Group:Lenten Drama and Discussion by Linda Bonney Olin

12/2/2013: Please note that some publication information in this article is obsolete. See the post dated December 1, 2013, for current titles, contents, and links. – Linda

Home at last! After a six-week sojourn in a house without high-speed Internet service, I finally can post the latest news.

Today The Sacrifice Support Group: Lenten Drama and Discussion made its début in an 8”x10” paperback edition. This large format makes reproducing pages easy and economical. A church or small group can buy a single book and give photocopies of the dramatic comedy script to the cast and photocopies of the handouts to the discussion participants. A bargain, right?

A month after Easter may seem like an odd time to launch a Lent-themed book, but I wanted to experience print-on-demand (POD) publishing firsthand before teaching a couple of related workshops at Montrose Christian Writers Conference in July. I had published the Kindle edition of The Sacrifice Support Group in February, so that material was a handy choice for my first POD venture.

I’m a do-it-yourself kind of gal, so I designed the book cover and interior pages myself and uploaded the files to CreateSpace, Amazon’s POD division. The only up-front expenses were ten dollars for an ISBN (a book’s unique identifying number) registered in my own name as publisher and about seven dollars to have a proof copy of the finished book mailed to me.

Of course, the do-it-yourself method costs time, if not money. I had to adapt the ebook cover to the print edition’s dimensions and add a back cover displaying the requisite back cover stuff. CreateSpace furnished a Microsoft Word template for the interior layout, which needed a lot of customization for this project. Luckily, I found online resources that explained display and text fonts, page numbers, running heads, and other print book elements that I hadn’t had to contend with when formatting ebooks. The most helpful site was Joel Friedlander’s www.TheBookDesigner.com, a mother lode of book design instruction and all sorts of advice for indie authors.

This afternoon I clicked the final button. Voilà! The Sacrifice Support Group instantly went on sale in the CreateSpace online store. Individual books will be printed when they are purchased—in other words, printed on demand. Within a few days Amazon.com and other online book retailers should list it, too.

In spite of the time spent and the steep learning curve, I had fun building a POD paperback. I hope that the finished product reflects my desire to place helpful content into a polished, functional, affordable book.

 

Love, Truth, Purpose, Freedom: Pat Bertram

Photo of Pat Bertram, photo supplied by Pat Bertram

Author and blogger Pat Bertram

I first encountered Pat Bertram in her role as administrator of the popular Suspense/Thriller Writers group on Facebook. Pat is, not surprisingly, an author herself, but her work ranges far beyond the suspense/thriller realm.

Detecting in Pat a kindred spirit I would like to know better, I asked her a few nosey questions …

Pat, why do you write what you write? For example, why did you choose to write A Spark of Heavenly Fire?

A Spark of Heavenly Fire came about because of a Washington Irving quote: “There is in every true woman’s heart a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity; but which kindles up, and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity.” When I read those words, I could see her, a drab woman, defeated by life, dragging herself through her days in the normal world, but in an abnormal world of strife and danger, she would come alive and inspire others. And so Kate Cummings, the hero of my novel A Spark of Heavenly Fire was born. But born into what world?

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Pick Up a Pen and Celebrate “I Love to Write Day”

Poster announcing  November 15, I Love to Write Day

Ten years ago, Delaware author John Riddle had the bright idea to hold the world’s largest party for writers. That idea quickly evolved into an annual day dedicated to encouraging everyone to write. Thousands of schools and libraries—even the governors of nine states—have joined the celebration.

John says: “My goal for I Love To Write Day is simple: people of all ages are encouraged to write something. A poem, a letter, an essay, start a novel, finish a novel…the possibilities are endless!”

Edward Bulwer-Lytton famously said, “The pen is mightier than the sword.”

I would add my own soon-to-be famous saying: “The sword has no power at all unless you pull it out and use it. Same goes for your pen!”

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Eddie Jones ~ Author & Publisher

 

Photo of Eddie Jones
Author/Publisher Eddie Jones

Today’s Faith Song is a duet with guest Eddie Jones. Eddie claims he can’t carry a tune, so we’ll settle for hand-clapping and foot-stomping in the “joyful noise” pew. 🙂

I met Eddie at the 2011 Montrose Christian Writers Conference. Couldn’t help but love the humor-filled, down-to-earth way he lives out his passion for the Lord and for the written word.

Eddie is the author of eleven books and over 100 articles. He also serves as Acquisition Editor for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. He is a three-time winner of the Delaware Christian Writers’ Conference, and his YA novel, The Curse of Captain LaFoote, won the 2012 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award and 2011 Selah Award in Young Adult Fiction. He is also a writing instructor and cofounder of Christian Devotions Ministries. His “He Said, She Said” devotional column appears on ChristianDevotions.US (not “dot com”). His humorous romantic suspense, Bahama Breeze, remains a “blessed seller.” When he’s not writing or teaching at writers’ conferences, Eddie can be found surfing in Costa Rica or some other tropical locale.

Now, try to imagine Eddie answering the following questions with a grin and a charming slightly-southern accent:

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