Tag Archives: Chris Tomlin

Building a playlist: “My Chains Are Gone” and “I Will Rise”

Days 7 and 8 – “Shackles: The Playlist”

On account of real life getting in the way, I managed to fall a few days behind in my compilation of a playlist for “Shackles,” my historical fiction novel that tells the story of Paul the apostle’s earth-shaking encounter with a jailer in the Roman colony of Philippi, circa 50 A.D. The story is two-fold and simultaneously follows separate paths: Paul’s story when he was Saul the great persecutor of Christians and later then converted evangelist, and the story of the jailer, a man I named Faustus (he’s unnamed in Acts 16). I’ll admit that Faustus became my friend as “Shackles” unfolded and is one of my favorite fictional creations. I suppose it’s not too late to have imaginary friends, right?

The separate paths of Paul and Faustus eventually collide – literally – and then the story follows the outline already detailed in Acts 16. A few of my 18 beta readers have finished the story and their comments and feedback are trickling in.

For the next two entries to “Shackles: The Playlist,” I’m offering a double dose of Chris Tomlin. “I Will Rise” and “My Chains Are Gone.”

One of my all-time favorite sacred hymns is “It Is Well With My Soul,” and there a line in the last verse that yearns: “And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight.” That the answer for that yearning is foretold in Tomlin’s “I Will Rise” with the phrase, “And my faith shall be my eyes …”

Whew. Goose-bumpy stuff.

And “My Chains Are Gone” incorporates the timeless standard “Amazing Grace.” The concepts of chains breaking, shackles falling off, and liberation from the oppression of sin and spiritual darkness are absolutely fitting for “Shackles.” Allow yourself to also consider other ways that we become shackled. Our religious institutions often put us in chains with lists and expectations, which is the very thing that Paul fought until his death. We do a pretty good job of shackling others, too, with our finger-wagging and self-righteousness.

Enjoy.

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Filed under Amazing Grace, Book of Acts, Christianity, Inspiration, National Novel Writing Month, Shackles, The Bible

Mountain-top moments

Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting is the mid-week topic for Jackson’s Journal, a memoir-in-progress of my life’s spiritual journey.

Are you sitting down? You might want to.

I’ll wait.

I’m actually an ordained Southern Baptist minister.

I’ll wait for you to pick yourself up off the floor. I told you it might be best to sit for that news.

Although I haven’t “practiced” my pulpit skills for more than 10 years now, I do try to practice my faith in home, work and play, because that’s who I am even though I no longer tread the pastoral waters.

I’ve been wondering what the 2012 Jodie would say to the 2001 fire-and-brimstone Jodie. Probably something like, “Wow, you talked a lot about grace. Ever try showing any?”

My sister, Kathy, and I “played house” when we were little tykes, and I’ve used that experience as an analogy when I’ve seen city councils, school boards and other official entities just kind of go through the motions when it’s painfully obvious they’re clueless. I’ve seen numerous public bodies “play” board of aldermen or board of education or even State Senate and House of Representatives.

And not only have I witnessed people “play church,” I’ve perfected that charade myself. I know what it is to go through the motions, to sing the hymns, to say the prayers, to give the right answers to Bible study questions and to give the appearance of a fine little Christian Baptist. I learned by example. My first pastor — my father — taught me the importance of image.

On the other hand, I’ve been to the mountain top, spiritually speaking. I’ve personally learned and experienced the reality — not just the doctrine — of grace, and I think I know when my beliefs and faith are real and when they are just empty motions and emotions.

I’ve had some Hank Busche moments. Hank is the fictional pastor of the Ashton Community Church, a seemingly insignificant and divided group of believers at the epicenter of Frank Peretti’s 1986  novel, “This Present Darkness.” The book begins with two very tall visitors — both seven feet tall — entering the town of Ashton. Eventually they come to the church where Pastor Busche is kneeling in prayer. Alone.

It’s quickly evident that the visitors are angels and the description of sulfur-breathing, demonic beasts unsuccessfully trying to enter the church is vivid and inspiring. The two visitors enter, locate Hank Busche and watch and listen to his heart-rending prayer. As they stand over the kneeling prayer warrior, the room fills with white light that reveals floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall angels, while sentries with flaming swords stood outside.

From “This Present Darkness”

“And now the two men were brilliantly white, their former clothing transfigured by garments that seemed to burn with intensity. Their faces were bronzed and glowing, their eyes shone like fire, and each man wore a glistening golden belt from which hung a flashing sword. They placed their hands upon the shoulders of the young man and then, like a gracefully spreading canopy, silken, shimmering, nearly transparent membranes began to unfurl from their backs and shoulders and rise to meet and overlap above their heads, gently undulating in a spiritual wind.

Together they ministered peace to their young charge, and his many tears began to subside.”

I love the picture those words paint. The story is fiction, but the description of angels comforting and protecting a prayer warrior is one I’m sure I would have witnessed many times throughout my life had my eyes been able to see the spiritual, angelic realm. Over time I’ll tell you about some of the prayer warriors I’ve known and some that I’ve created, including Edna Mae Ferguson, the spiritual matriarch of Faithful Servants Assembly. It’s the little church in my fictional town of Silverdale, Kentucky, the setting for Chasing The Devil. With apologies to Peretti, Devil shares a few similarities with This Present Darkness, although the angels are unseen.

Now, let’s do this right, and end with a couple of songs.

Victory In Jesus  a la Gaither Homecoming crowd. I gotta tell you, I love classic rock, I love anything a cappella, and I love 70s and 80s pop (apparently I stopped listening to “modern” music around 1988). But THIS is my kind of music. Try not to be put off by the sheer “whiteness” of the Gaither crowd and if watching Bill Gaither sing makes you chuckle (although I don’t think he’s in this video), keep this in mind: if you’ve ever been part of a group (writers, singers, cupcake-bakers, whatever) and knew everyone else was far more talented, but you loved it anyway, well … that’s sort of Bill Gaither. It’s kind of like being on the B team and suddenly the A team asks you to suit up.

I’m a Bill Gaither fan, what can I say? Besides, he’s written some of the all-time classics.

And now a sacred rendition of the sacred classic, Amazing Grace.

Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone),  live performance by Chris Tomlin. (Make sure your volume is turned up).

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Filed under Inspiration, MIP: Memoir-in-progress, Old Time Religion

“And bless this service we’re about to endure”

Countdown to Kianna

Darnell and Kishia (Jackson) Brown’s tiny little human girl is due to arrive in 15, 14, 13, 12 … 11 days.

New mom Kishia reported yesterday that Kianna Allene Brown has run out of room to stretch. But, my daughter told me, “It’s not happening today. I just don’t ‘feel it.’ ”

So the countdown continues …

Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting

Have you ever known a prayer warrior? You know, the kind of spiritual giant who seemed to have a gift of prayer? My lifetime list of prayer warriors is headed by spiritual giants who were women, usually older and sometimes frail. I’m thinking of Faith Baptist Church prayer warriors Mary Peters, Viola Terwilliger and Jewel Smith. I’m not sure it’s right to think this way, but when they prayed, God shushed the heavenly host, leaned with his ear toward the prayer warrior, and listened a little more closely.

My mom has described her mother that way, and I count my mom, my wife and my daughters as prayer warriors. They have unleashed Light during the times when my life was most dark.

I’m thinking of Jewel Smith, wife of Virgil, both of them long since entered into Gloryland. One of the tasks of a preacher was to call on someone to pray to open the service, to bless the offering, to end the service. (The Manual of Proper Baptist Etiquette called for a minimum of three prayers). Sometimes the Sunday morning bulletin had those prayer duties already assigned, which inevitably led to awkward silence when the designated pray-er played hooky from church.

Hold on … sorry. We’ve gone too far in without a song. What was I thinking?

First up is a contemporary worship song, Chris Tomlin’s “I Will Rise.” (For reasons I can’t explain, I sing “I Will Rise” to Bella, our Brussels griffon, when I give her a bath. The song lasts just long enough for a little dog’s bath).

Now for an oldie, an incredible arrangement of “At the Cross,” performed by the Gaither Vocal Band.

Amen.

Wednesday night prayer meeting was different. There was no quota of prayers, but instead a “season of prayer,” where anyone who wanted to pray would simply take one person’s “Amen” as a cue to begin the next prayer. (Everybody knows I’m kidding about the Manual that I mentioned, right?) And there was no set lineup, as it were, for the many prayers that would be said, some with Shakespeare-esque quality and a liberal application of thees, thines and thous, and Brother Rufus Keathley’s legendary prayer starter, “Our Heavenly Father,” drawn out in a way that said, “There’s about to be some serious prayin’ so stop what you’re doing and pay attention.”

As I remember, you had to pay attention longer than at any other time when Bro. Keathley prayed. (What I would give to hear one of those prayers now.)

Sometimes the pastor got the round of prayers going; at other times he’d call on someone. If you were keeping track — and I always was, apparently, because I remember this stuff 40 years later — everyone knew that Virgil Smith didn’t pray out loud very often. If he was called on to pray, with something like, “Brother Virgil, would you please open us in prayer?,” he’d quietly clear his throat and say, “Jewel.”

And Jewel Smith didn’t pray gentle, little old lady prayers. Her prayers often had a storm-the-gates-of-hell edge to them, as if demons and angels were sparring at that very moment.

You never knew how someone would react when they were called on to pray. After all, you might catch them off guard, as if they’re expecting to bat clean-up or hit ninth, but suddenly they’re told, “You’re leading off.”

From 1987 to 1991 I was pastor of New Salem Baptist Church in Gasconade County. Ours was a small congregation – 25 was a crowd — and it’s the church where everyone except my bride Kelly brought beanie-weanies for a carry-in dinner one Sunday.

Some things you never forget.

Rosemary Howard was one of those people you never forget. Quiet, unassuming, dutifully doting on her husband, Daniel, and son, Dale. She didn’t look like a prayer warrior and had an otherwise passive demeanor. But, man, could she pray!

But she rarely led off. One Sunday morning as we prepared to begin worship, I requested that Sister Rosemary open in prayer. The look on her face, though, relayed complete bewilderment. I’d caught her off-guard. She took a breath and quickly uttered: “Lord, please bless this service we’re about to endure. Amen.”

Endure?

After the service I kidded her about her choice of words, and she didn’t realize what she’d said. It was a sweet moment … One of those moments you never forget.

Grandpa’s message to Kianna #26

The time is getting so close, Little Princess. I should probably be using this time to tell you a little bit about the people you’re going to meet. What? You want to know a little about Grandpa? Well …

I’m sort of weird. Sometimes. For instance, I’m a really picky eater, and I often smell my food before eating it. I mean up-close smell. Grab a cupcake from co-worker Catherine Martin. Smell it. Pour a bowl of cereal. Smell it. Mmmm! French fries! Smell ’em.

Yeah, weird.

I am also known to laugh out loud at the most random moments, sometimes in non-laughing circumstances. Maybe I’ll remember a “Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy” as I’m going through the check-out at the grocery store, and I’ll laugh. And not just a little bit or a little chuckle. I might lose it.

What do you know? I’m laughing now. I’m just so excited, so happy. So anxious to see you.

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Filed under Family, Inspiration, Kianna Allene Brown, MIP: Memoir-in-progress, Old Time Religion