The old hymn that my family loves to sing acapella was written with deeply moving lyrics and melodies.
When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well
With my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well, it is well
With my soul
(c)1873 Horatio Spafford
This past Saturday, we enjoyed celebrating 75 years with Mom. She’s a firecracker! Still flits around like she’s in her twenties, loves to sing and play music, always busy about her cooking or housekeeping, and ever concerned with the well-being of others. She is one of the brightest souls I’ve ever known. She loves well, and is so loved by many.
When we get together, there is always a sing-along moment involved. So, as usual, we enjoyed greetings, mixing-and-mingling, southern fried cuisine (( yum!! )) … and, of course, good old Gospel singing.
One of the kids captured our impromptu vocal rendition of the hymn on Facebook live, posted it, and within hours we were getting ‘Likes’ from dear friends and family from all over the nation who love and encourage our musical heritage.
One family friend notified of us the sobering reality that their newborn baby boy is suffering a seizure-related condition and asked for prayer. We immediately called upon the Father on their behalf and ‘shared’ their request with our connected Friends.
Others noted how this song and our family harmonies are inspiring and uplifting, which brings us great joy.
This morning, our church staff begins a #21DaysOfPrayer campaign for the kick-off of Back-To-School season in our hometowns, and as a reminder that we are embarking upon the final ‘season’ of this calendar year. The intent is to refocus, lift up prayers to the Father for this season, and ask His will be done in our lives, our families, our church, our nation, our world.
At our home church, that format includes a congregational worship song, a scripture reading from our pastor, an extended time of personal and corporate prayers and songs, with a closing prayer from our pastor.
During my quiet time, several scriptures from Chronicles and Psalms were brought to my attention describing King David’s instruction for ‘divisions’ or ‘sections’ as skilled musicians and worshipers were trained and contracted for worship at the Temple.
As I pondered my life as a musician and worshiper of God, the Holy Spirit seemed to nudge me to remember that God has called me from my Mother’s womb to be His child — a worshiper. A musician. A singer of songs. A producer of things that are musical and artistic in form.
Mom has reminded her boys all our lives, that she “gave us back to God” when we were born. One of the very first Gospel songs I recall Mom singing and teaching us was titled Born To Serve The Lord, a Southern Gospel favorite in the 1970s and 80s.
Wow. Born … to serve the LORD. The One. The God of the universe. The Holy Father. The Foundation upon whom all creation rests. That’s a heavy thought for a Monday morning. The weight of the responsibility of serving a LORD that great and expansive was nearly overwhelming in my spirit as I quietly sang and prayed.
My soul was stirred and the tears flowed as I considered the thousands and thousands of miles that I’ve traveled during my brief 54 years here. Nearly all of those journeys have included Song.
God knew that I would be a musician and singer. He knew that my soul would need the healing touch of songs, of poetry, of lyrics, of art. He created me just as I am of course, and I am so grateful that He inspires me through music.
So, as I meditate on the songs that have touched my life, this beloved hymn — It Is Well — seems to come forward most often.
– it’s the heartwarming memories of singing with Mom and my brothers
– it’s the soul-soothing lyric and melody
– it’s the beauty of the harmonies we arranged and performed
– it’s the spirit of the lyric that heals the wounded and jaded spots in my heart
– it’s the reassurance that death’s sting does not win
– it’s the promise of a better tomorrow
– it’s the hope that good will overcome evil
– it’s the redemptive story behind the song
The maybe list is endless.
Maybe … it’s the gentle voice of the Father. Reminding me once again … it is well.
Thank you Father. All is well.
“Serve one another … ” – St. Paul’s Letter to The Church at Galatia, Chapter 5
How archaic is that?! Life is all about ME, after all. I gotta get Mine … take care of Self … chase My dreams … cover My behind … win at all costs. Right?!
In America, the statistics are mind-numbing. We have become one of the most narcissistic self-centered self-serving societies in civilized history. The more we get — the more we want. The more we want — the more we waste. The more we waste — the more depressed we feel. The more we medicate our depression — the more empty we feel. What a sad and sick emotional roller coaster.
Jesus modeled the Better Way. We’ve tried to get it right for two thousand years now. Still, we fall short. Scripture said we would. Yet, the Father provides us the Grace to persist and seek the Better Way.
“No one has ever become poor by giving” – Anne Frank
“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another” – Charles Dickens
“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed” – Maya Angelou
“He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help” – Abraham Lincoln
“Love is not patronizing and charity isn’t about pity, it is about love. Charity and love are the same — with charity you give love, so don’t just give money but reach out your hand instead” – Mother Teresa
So then, why is it sometimes so difficult to serve one another?
Bottom line: pride. We simply aren’t wired to give or serve.
Simple psychology teaches that we all need to receive and to give love in order to survive. And that makes good biblical or spiritual sense. But, that’s not our human nature. We are, by nature, sinners. We are imperfect. We are prone to wander. We are takers by nature. Yet, our very survival depends on our willingness to love and give. Oh the paradox.
St. John’s Gospel reminds us, “For God so loved the world that He gave …”.
According to Jesus, we too can give. If we are made in His image, we are empowered with the capacity to love and give. But it’s a choice. We must choose to love, and to give, and to serve one another. It’s the Better Way.
So, choose. Go … and SERVE. Try it. You will feel better. Not only about yourself, but about this crazy mixed up world. You might even discover that the Father is loving you towards Himself. He designed you for better. You can be better. We can be better.
His Way … is, after all … the Better Way.
Vacation. Everybody needs one! We all need to getaway on a regular basis. We all need chill time, family time, solitude, and of course … FUN!
My beautiful wife is the Queen of Fun in our house. Sheryl is a kid-at-heart anyway, so she brings out the “happy” when it’s time to have fun. Plus, we live near the most beautiful beaches in America ~~ The Emerald Coast!
We are not “swim-in-the-gulf” vacationers. We love to dip our feet in the shallows, pitch a nerf football or frisbee, and sun-bathe in the warm breeze as the tides roll in. Half the fun for us is people-watching. The sights .. the sounds .. the shapes! (( ha ))
So, this year’s beach vacation fell on the weekend of Fathers Day. How awesome for Dad, huh?! And it was.
But, despite the chill time for me personally, we have worked through a sea of emotions this year as a family.
It was our first Fathers Day without Sheryl’s dad. Papa Gene has been the patriarch of our family. He and Jo birthed three beautiful daughters who produced nine amazing grandchildren … and now two great-grandchildren, with little Russell due anyday now!
Gene made it to Heaven last June. The past year has been once again filled with firsts. Those nagging family tradition moments, holidays, and seasons when we remember, and realize, that our loved ones will not be with us.
The Hebrews Chapter 11 passage describing the Hall Of Faith resounds in my mind at those precious moments.
So, we worked through our emotions this weekend, enjoyed the beaches, the fresh gulf seafood, the adventure golf, favorite funny TV shows, the new summer movie releases … all of it that we could possibly pack into four quick vacation days.
And we read books. Sheryl and I both love to read. Our children have inherited our love for reading, which makes us both very proud parents. Reading is the key to formal education, deeper understanding, and — in our opinions as educators and ministers — a successful life on this side of Heaven. We believe reading is one of life’s most precious gifts. So, we read as often as we can.
I am reading Choose Joy by Kay Warren. I love Kay’s raw and honest impressions of God, of holy scripture, and of the stuff of life.
Sheryl is reading Crash The Chatterbox by Steven Furtick. The personal testimonies and insights from Steven are life-changing and God-breathed.
Vacation also helps us to re-calculate. Reboot. Refresh. Re-think.
We both realize that the next chapter of our lives together will require a new level of spiritual maturity, personal disciplines, and emotional endurance.
Our children have entered adulthood. Empty nest is on the horizon. Yet, FAMILY is all we’ve ever lived for — second only to Jesus. Papa Gene always said, “at the end of the day, all you really have is the LORD and FAMILY”. He was right. He was always right, it seemed.
As we enter this next season, we are determined to make better choices. Non-negotiable hardline choices.
I am determined to choose Joy. As I read Kay’s book, I shudder to imagine what the cost of Joy could be for my little family. Yet, I will choose … Joy.
Sheryl and I are going to crash chatterboxes. Those pesky, haunting, demonic voices in our heads that lie to us as we press towards the call that God has placed on us. We are His. He covers us. That is all that matters.
We choose to believe for better days. We choose to overcome. We choose to succeed. We hope you will too.
Thank you God for our heritage, for the fathers in our lives, for our precious family, and for the Call. Thank You for choosing us. Thank you for making a Way. Thank you for sunshine. Thank you for rain. Thank you for beaches. Thank you for seasons. Thank you for friends. Thank you for your Word. Thank you for Heaven. Thank you for Life. Thank you for LOVE. That is all. For now. 🙂
I returned to Bus Driver world for the past year in our local public school district. It has been an adventure for sure! And … truly an eye opener.
Sheryl and I have lived and worked in Pascagoula, Mississippi for a cumulative 40-plus years. We married here, left our sleepy-little-town-of-Pascagoula in the early 90s for ministry vocation and business pursuits, and returned in 2004 … just in time for the nightmare that was #Katrina.
So here we are 12 years into Recovery, Rebuild, and Restart. Sheryl has taught in the PGSD since we returned to Pascagoula and I have served several local churches as Worship Pastor or Worship Leader. I currently serve as a ‘Creative Arts Pastor’ — which is code for ‘multi-tasking guy’ or ‘utility guy’. Just put him where he best fits, which is … Lord knows where! For an adult ADHD creative artistic guy who’s brain never stops running … well, you can imagine what my pastor deals with. Oh what crowns HE will receive in heaven! LOL!!
Bus Driving has been a natural skill for me since I was 14-years of age. My little Gospel-singing family band traveled thousands of miles per year in the 70s, up and down the highways and country roads of the Southeastern and Midwestern states. I drove my first church bus when I was 15-yrs old right here in Pascagoula. I drove professionally for the Pascagoula School District when I turned 18-yrs of age. I have driven private coaches and commercial equipment hauling trucks all my adult life.
Much has changed in 40-plus years of bus driving. Mostly for good. Modernized school buses with AC, for one! (( thank ya LAWD )) Million-dollar houses-on-wheels that we call ‘motorhomes’. (( posh, I’m tellin ya! )) It’s a whole new world for bus drivers.
But, it’s a crazy mixed up world for children. And, we the adults in their little worlds have created most of the crazy that their little minds have to deal with and process. God help us.
This year of bus driving has revealed what I have always sensed in my heart was the constant gut-wrenching truth about our hometown(s), and ultimately our nation and our world. Not all children are wanted. Not all are loved. Not all are truly cared for. And, it’s on me. And, it’s on you. It’s on US … to want them, to love them, and to care for them.
No, [we] can’t fix all their family problems. No, [we] can’t rescue them all. No, [we] can’t change the emotional DNA that they might face daily. But, WE CAN … make a difference.
I CAN … smile and say “good morning …”.
I CAN … pray a quick prayer as a drive them to school and home again.
I CAN … wave a friendly wave at mama, daddy, or grandparents, or guardians as I proceed.
I CAN … interact respectfully with their teachers and principals.
I CAN … treat all children with respect and dignity.
I CAN … be firm with gentle but corrective discipline when necessary.
I CAN … calmly explain ‘why’ the child is suspended from bus riding privileges due to misconduct.
I CAN … reinforce ‘best’ behavior with a gentle spirit … the ‘daily grind’ and constant challenge for EVERY school bus driver.
In whatever capacity you find yourself with children in your life.
WE CAN … want them, love them, care for them.
That’s what Jesus did. That’s what I will do.
” … but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven’ … “. – Matthew 19:14 ESV
“I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in Heaven will do it for you.” – Matthew 18:19 NLT
Amen. I agree. That’s right. Go ahead. I’m IN. Let’s do this.
Agreement: a) harmony of opinion, action, or character; b) the act or fact of agreeing (ref. Merriam-Webster)
Disclaimer: I am writing this particular blog with the prerequisite understanding that most people in my immediate circle of friends, family, neighbors, and community function at a base level of human dignity, honor, and respect for one another. Just for context.
I am a highly opinionated person. I display strong emotions about certain topics, beliefs, and personal convictions. You probably do too. My DISC Personality Profile typically computes me as an “I/D” – Influencer/Dominance – type of person. I highly recommend the DISC Assessment. You will learn much about yourself and others, and your communication skills will increase dramatically as you choose to ‘deal with’ the weaknesses in your own personality. You will also learn to embrace differences in others. If you choose.
You’ve probably heard the smirkish comment, “Opinions are like bellybuttons, everybody’s got one”. And, it’s true. I often feel strongly about certain things in my life, just as you do. So, how do we find a way to agree, and therefore, hopefully get along as we go along?
Based on my DISC Profile, I am discovering about myself that the more I choose to LISTEN, the better my chances of getting along with people. Listening more, enhances my marriage, affects my parenting, deepens my personal faith, and typically increases my influence with people. The choice to listen more than speak seems to always make the conversation more pleasant, more significant, and more memorable.
As you might imagine, with my HIGH I/D personality, this requires of me an incredibly intense daily self-discipline. It is very difficult for me to simply … listen. I have words! My wife pokes fun at me when she quotes the pop-pychology motto that suggests, ” … if women have 40-50,000 words a day, and men have 10-15,000 words a day … Robby usually takes all my words!” Guilty as charged. LOL!
So, how about you? How does your personality cause you to generally get along with people? Or, not? Do most people consider you an easy-going person? Are you fairly easy to get along with? Or are you ‘that guy’ or ‘that girl’ that no one wants to chat with? In fact, you notice that people quickly smile and detour when they see you coming? They might even ‘Un-Friend’ you on social media! GOD forbid!! (( HA ))
Here’s a tip: I am doing my level best to simply listen … more. It’s tough! But with much grace and self-discipline (and, good therapy … and, meds!! HA) … I think I can … I think I can … I think I can.
In my church ministry we call it doing life together. This doesn’t mean we will universally agree on every single topic, idea, and/or methodology. Our hopes and dreams might even look very different! But we find a common ground with Biblical spiritual foundational faith concepts, beliefs, morals, and life-giving communication. We find a way to get along as we go along.
In our careers and jobs, agreement is necessary for productivity. We can disagree from time to time. But eventually, the organization must have unifying leaders who can rally the producers, the creatives, the taskers, and the consumers.
God loves agreement, according to Jesus’ words in Matthew 18. God created each one of us. He knows our differences. He uniquely designed each of us for individual God-sized purposes. I believe that the tapestry of our differences, woven together with agreement, becomes a powerful force for Good in the earth. This power of agreement can change lives. Even, save lives!
One of my favorite Amy Grant songs from the 1980s says, ” … Love will find a way …”. I agree. Let’s agree … and disagree … and find a way.
Let’s Love … and let Love help us … find a way.
#agree #cometogether #community
So … I’m a musician. More specifically, I’m a Southern-bred musician from Small Town USA in South Mississippi. Country. Bluegrass. Gospel. Blues. That’s all my jam.
I just discovered Zach Williams and The Reformation, a Memphis area band who make some really sweet rock-and-soul music. His 2016 hit Chain Breaker is topping the Christian music charts and I recently performed the song with the Homes of Grace at their annual Homecoming celebration service.
The song is a simple catchy tune hooked to a very singable lyric. I’ve been singing the tune in my daily routines ALL week. I love it! However, I am more intrigued by the story behind the song and the singer. I’ve not yet met Zach Williams, but I have a gut feeling I very well may cross his path sometime soon.
Zach is a gifted musician who is overcoming the ugly sin of addiction. Those of us who have admitted to our hangups, hurts, and bad habits will relate. Addictions of every type have become epidemic in our world. But, there IS hope. And, of course, there is Healing.
One of King David’s musicians stated this, “He led them from the darkness and deepest gloom; he snapped their chains” – Psalm 107:16 NLT
If you’ve never felt chained to a hopeless situation which produced darkness and deepest gloom, you may not be able to relate to that scripture. However, many of us can. The darkness and gloom of addiction and depression can cause the best of us to believe that all Hope is gone. But … GOD!
I hope for you today that you will discover Hope and Peace which only comes from a love relationship with God. Jesus, our prison-shaking Savior, has provided the ultimate Healing through salvation. And, he promises an abundant life for those who will walk in His Way, lean on His Word, and be filled with His Spirit.
I pray for you today … meet The Chain Breaker.
Pascagoula is that “sleepy little town” located on the Mississippi Coast at the mouth of the Pascagoula River.
Home to Ingalls Shipbuiding and her massive riverfront facilities; Signal International operations; one of the largest Chevron refineries; and of course other spin-off industry contractors, large regional and medium-market banks, and thousands of small businesses operating from homes as well as brick-and-mortar commercial properties.
The town was originally an Indian village of ‘bread eaters’ who peacefully inhabited the river camps and murky water beachfronts. Over time, industry boomed, city development expanded, and today — here we are, one of the most beloved small town bedroom communities along the Mississippi Coast, rich with cultural, political, and athletic legacies.
The post-Katrina era has caused every beachfront community to re-evaluate everything from zoning, to insurance regulations, to redevelopment, to grant funding. The redevelopment questions for citizens and City leaders are many. The solutions, thus far, have been complex.
One common theme recurs in nearly every conversation I have engaged in: we must CHANGE. Again. And, no one likes change.
So — what will CHANGE look like in Pascagoula? Again?
DREAMERS and CREATIVES …
For much too long, we have stifled the folks in our town who love to Dream Big.
The Creative minds who think outside the box with limitless ideas and vision. The Walt Disney’s. The Mark Zuckerberg’s. The Kevin Costner’s. Like their critics, we simply don’t believe ‘in’ them. They’re just too goofy for our logical and reasonable systems of thought.
We brush them off as “pipe dreamers”, flighty, unrealistic thinkers. And, maybe so. But, at least they’re thinking with Hope and positive aspirations rather than pessimism and negativity. We must give Dreamers a voice in Pascagoula.
INVESTORS and CAPITALISTS …
Shark Tank ™ is one of the coolest popular new TV shows.
It is ‘staged’ — for the ratings, obviously. But, the concept is simple. Basically, a panel of multi-millionaire investors review business ideas and aggressively [or not] stew over who will buy into the business opportunity and make millions from those small time dreamers and developers who simply need raw Cash and Capital, and good guidance, to get their ideas off the ground.
If you have raw Cash and Capital — and Integrity driven guidance — we need YOU in Pascagoula!
A very simple observation of small towns across Mississippi and beyond reveals a new generation of Investors — even, ‘Sharks’ — who saw opportunities to ‘flip’ those small towns into destination towns and cities.
As ugly as that might get for the sweet little ole #Goula citizens we believe we represent, it might mean that we inevitably must ‘make deals’ with a few ‘Sharks’. Hopefully, the ‘good guys’ with the goods.
THE MILLENNIALS …
If you are paying any attention to society and culture at all, you realize that Millennials, as a generation, are now empowered to lead our communities and ultimately — our nation.
They are the ‘next’ generation that we have decried for decades now as those who don’t know Who they are, don’t know What they want, don’t care about real work, etc. Now, They are proving most of those opinions and perspectives completely absurd and false.
Simply put — They are smarter, They are more passionate, and They are more cause-driven than we imagined. And — we need Them!
THE FUTURE …
So … #Goula … can [we] change? Again?!
I believe we can. I pray that we do! We had better decide. And, if we will … the future has never looked brighter, in my opinion. If we will not … LORD help us.
#MakeGoulaGreatAgain #VOTE #Change
It’s here! 2017 … and not a moment too soon!
For my little family, the 2016 calendar year was one of our more difficult.
We entered into the year, knowing that Sheryl’s daddy would not be with us another year. There were no hopeful New Year resolutions. Everyday was filled with the grief, pain, and inevitability of yet another goodbye.
Dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and the debilitating effects of Hydrocephelus and Neuropathy took their toll. Gene went Home on June 30, 2016. Our family would miss him for the remainder of the year. We still do … miss him. And, her sweet mom and sister … Jo and Lynne. What a beautiful Hope we have … in Heaven!
As I type this blog, my dad is now admitted as a long term care patient in a nearby nursing care facility. Dad has lived a full life here for nearly 80 years, most of them filled with beautiful family memories, but a few filled with the agony of failures, disappointments, and outright near-death experiences. Still … Dad perseveres, until the LORD says to him, “come on Home”.
But, it’s a New Year! A new season … a new day.
Today, we begin again. So do you! What will 2017 hold for you? For all of us?
In America, we are preparing for the traditional transition of Presidential power. Only the LORD Himself can know what that transition will bring to the United States of America. As we prepare … we pray. And, PRAY more!!
In our small town of Pascagoula, Mississippi … we prepare for the remainder of this school year and all it brings. Our Cameron is an 11th grader — a Junior classman. He loves the PHS Band and has excelled on the PHS Drum Line as a multi-talented percussionist. Sheryl continues to teach 3rd graders, and I continue to grow into my new ministry position with Center Pointe Church in Ocean Springs MS.
Our pastor, Ted Pagel, begins teaching a new series this month … The #NEXTLEVEL. We have chosen — as a church, as individuals, as families — to GO to the #NEXTLEVEL … in our Worship, in our Spiritual Formation (Discipleship), in expansion as a Church … in every area that the LORD says to GO!
Jaron Tipton, multi-talented Worship Pastor at CPC, preached yesterday about Commitment. God has wonderful promises to fulfill on our behalf, but He is awaiting OUR commitment. He is a good Father and He cares for us, but He will not carelessly throw around His blessing to those who are not committed to follow Him.
And .. it’s Football BOWL GAME time! The boys and I enjoyed the New Orleans Bowl and Southern Miss Football’s very special victory celebration. The days ahead are filled with even more of the best football of the season. We love it! Sheryl is very gracious to allow us our “man-cave” time … if we simply clean up after ourselves. (( HA ))
So … let’s dive in! 2017 is here. And, hopefully for you as well … not a moment too soon!
What fills your heart and soul [your thoughts] at Christmas? Joy .. Peace .. Cheer .. Parties .. Shopping .. Loneliness .. Fear .. Depression?
For some, Christmas is the ultimate year-end high. The most wonderful time of the year.
For some, Christmas is yet another dark day on the calendar. An insidious lurking reminder that what was .. is no more.
The Christmas carols that we all enjoy evoke a range of emotions from Joy .. to Reverent Worship .. to human awe and amazement … to deep contemplation.
Hark, The Herald Angels Sing … Joy To The World (The Lord Is Come) … How Great Our Joy … Angels, We Have Heard On High … Good Christian Men Rejoice … What Child Is This? … Silent Night, Holy Night … Away In A Manger … O Holy Night …
Even the modern pop Holiday songs are filled with a range of emotions from goofy cheer, to despondent sadness.
So, what fills your heart and soul [thoughts] at Christmas?
A recent statistic from 2015 suggests that 1 out of 4 people in the world struggle with mental illness. Studies show that suicide is the third leading cause of deaths in youth up to age 24, and 90% of those who commit suicide suffer from some type of mental illness. Depression is the leading cause of suicide among youth up to age 24. Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is increasing among those in their mid-life and senior years.
I want to urge you to fill you heart and soul with JOY this Christmas. The Bible says, “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy” – Psalm 94:19
David, or one of his songwriters, wrote this Sabbath song as a reminder that God had filled their hearts and souls with JOY, despite the anxieties and worries of their day.
Chris Tomlin penned a wonderful praise song that we sing at my local church …
Joy, unspeakable joy
An overflowing well
No tongue can tell
Joy, unspeakable joy
Rises in my soul, never lets me go
My hope for us, for you, this Christmas season, is that the LORD of Hosts fills our hearts and souls with an overflowing well of JOY.