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About Optimism

Posted on by Ken Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

Had a good conversation with a friend the other day. It was supposed to be a conversation that was good for her, but after it was all over I felt like I had benefited more than maybe she had. Some of it was about vision. So much of the time, that’s an overused word by our types. I mean it can be applied to anything that comes into our minds. It reminded me that our vision for God is so powerful in how we interpret what we hear, see and read. I’ve been reading a lot lately- you know with a banged up ankle, snow and ice and cold weather, man, you’ll do anything to entertain yourself. We all get excited about the books we read. You just can’t wait to share them with family and friends. Then you discover they thought those books were just OK, or maybe even a little boring. That’s vision. I find what I’m looking for in those books because I come with a bias. I get excited because the story is filling in the spots in my own story about God. Books match our dreams we have had since we were children. Those dreams are tied up in our Faith, and having held on to them helps us hold on to our Faith. I think we like what we read, not because it is teaching us something new; I think it touches those things we’ve known all along. God has placed within us a candle of hope and a desire for His Peace that only seems to be matched when we hear, see or read about God in a certain way, finding in someone else’s picture of God a picture that looks a lot like your picture of Him.

If you read the papers, the internet, watch television or just talk to folks, you know we are in a pinch in this country. It always bothers me to be excited about Faith in the middle of terrible things. I sometimes feel ashamed of having such a positive hope in the middle of trouble. Then, I remember that’s exactly what this Gospel should produce: hope in the middle of trouble. I mean, in this life, Hope is our destination, right? A Hope in Him.

I’m about to be positive in a very uncomfortable, unstable and unpredictable economic and cultural time. And, telling people about what excites me about Life in the middle of all this is how it must feel to describe the color green to someone who has been blind from birth. Where do you start, where’s the words, what’s the reference point in such a conversation? Try it. What are the first words to use and explain green to someone that has never seen color at all? How do you describe the tears that flow involuntarily during a conversation with someone? How do you explain crying out during the conversation, “God is Good”, good even in times like these?

But that’s what happened in that conversation with my friend; tears of Joy and moments of not being able to speak because so much of our personal Faith is hard to explain with words. The personal moments of relationship are so much more powerful than all the books, cassettes, and teachings that we’ve collected over the years. You see, knowing Him is so much more wonderful than knowing about Him. I’ve discovered that what I’ve experienced with Him is more powerful to steady me than all that I’ve heard and read about Him. It’s not so much getting to an understanding as is it getting to the Peace that passes our understanding. We go around trying to ‘get our degree’ in understanding Him, but what we really need more of is a personal experience and relationship with Him.

Our interpretation of who He is, this vision of Him, is far more important to our hearts than all the knowledge we’ve accumulated about Him. I don’t draw on what I understand about God when I’m in trouble, I draw on who I believe He is. Knowing God is about intimacy. It’s about being close and comfortable with Him, not just having information about Him. Trusting the person of God is superior to researching all the facts about God. Our search is, if stripped to the bare bones, a search to recover some of the original relationship we had in the Garden; to recover what we had before we declared our independence from Him. Once we find a portion of that relationship, even a tiny portion of it, that friendliness of God and the acceptance of God, we discover the Joy that the relationship brings. That Joy is present no matter what the economic condition is, no matter the political climate. People that find relationship have a Joy no matter if they are rich or if they are poor, no matter what we drive or wear, in spite of what the newscast says. That confidence comes from trust. It’s not a confidence that comes from having understood Him all the time. It’s housed in our hearts and not in our heads. We keep a library of books in our heads; we store the intangible Love of God in our hearts.

There are many things I have accumulated over the years, things I’ve worked hard for, things I find pleasure in. But, the Peace and Joy that comes from trusting Him is a far greater pleasure. It’s independent from what we feel like or what happens to us. Assuming His Love permits us to draw close, just as we did as children when we climbed up in our parents lap. We can rest there and if we are still for a while we can hear the heart of God.

So, what are we to do in the middle of all this mess? I don’t know. Each day brings the opportunity to ‘cozy up to God’. I’m not so sure that knowing the future is as important as knowing the present. Love casts out fear. Love does not fail. The Gospel for me is not a vegetable soup that’s made up of what we think, what our friends think, what traditions we’ve followed, or what the world has brought for us to deal with today. The Gospel is one thing: one Faith, one God, and one Lord. He’s all we need. Even if we had everything that we think would settle us down during times like these, would it do us the good that we imagine? From what I’ve seen over the years, it would not. We would find something else to worry about, something else because without Him being close, we fear! We spend our lives trying to figure out God. We do that and at the very time we’re trying to figure out how to have a deeper understanding, you know with more reading, more praying, more something, I think He stands behind us, wishing we would just turn around and realize His presence.

Instead of being shocked and afraid, we can just know we are in His hands. It’s not to be transformed to the point of living a perfect life. (The Bible in not an ethical book, it’s a love letter.) It’s being transformed to the point of believing and trusting in Him. The goal is not to have become perfect people but to become dependent again, just as Adam and Eve were dependent before the fall; they depended on God for everything. Their choice to try and live their lives from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil separated them and left them to determine what to do, how to do it, and use knowledge as a basis for their daily lives. That was their mistake then, and for many of us it’s a mistake now. The Bible compares knowing God to how Adam knew Eve. It was not that he could read her mind, it was intimacy. We’re to know God that way. We can’t do that because we are super spiritual. We can do that because Jesus has taken down the wall of separation for us. We can trust and depend on God because he paid a price which makes us free to do that. I enter the future peaceful, not because I know what to do in the future, but I know the present. I know God. I know how much He Loves, I know how much I can trust. It’s not because I see what’s going to happen, it’s that I know I’m a companion of God in the present and in the future that calms me down.

Twenty years ago I had both the terror and the pleasure of learning: ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God.’ Starting this radio station, I had the experience of having to live that verse out and become comfortable with the feelings of insecurity that it would bring. Living through that time created the great pleasure of having learned to trust God in a way that I had never had to trust before. In these economic times, living scripture makes life easier, much easier, than just memorizing or saying it! Truth has promised to make us free! Free to trust and free to believe no matter what we see, hear and read!


Posted on by Ken Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

When we first started the station, and still today, we are challenged and purposed to encourage people to a personal, daily relationship with God. In all its detail, each of us may perceive that Love in thousands of ways. However, in spite of all those differences, we still all belong to one body–one faith, and celebrate our faith together each day on the radio over FM 104.5.

In January, we broadcast a series of teachings on the Forgiveness of God from Bill and Anabel Gillham and their Life Time Guarantee Ministry. They were a part of the programming here beginning in 1990 until they quit producing their radio program in 1999. While putting their classic programs together for broadcast, I remembered a story that Anabel shared with us many years ago. I called Bill and Anabel to try and get a copy of her story sent to us. They were both eager to do that and the following is that story. It’s about one of Anabel’s childhood experiences, and more importantly, it’s about the way we should perceive the Love of God in our lives. I sometimes wonder how the Father feels when we’re consistently suspicious, constantly asking Him, ‘Do You love me.’ That’s a question that has already been answered on the Cross. It’s something that’s a given. It’s a question He asks us, not the other way round.

In the story, Anabel does a perfect ‘tying it all together’ at the end. (As a side note, Bill and Anabel are doing well. Both are still transferring their faith to others with their funny sense of humor and a bright smile that comes across even on the phone. They are the kind of people that once you have met them you put them in a very special place in your life. They understand the Love of God in a very personal and special way that always comes through in the stories and material they share with the body of Christ. If you wish to contact or learn more about their ministry you can visit their website: Here’s Anabel’s story about Patrick. It’s for all of us who sometimes forget about the amazing Love of God.

Dad loved to fly fish, and it wasn’t necessary for him to have a friend along. He thrived on the solitude, the quietness, the beauty, the “swish” of the line from his reel, seeing how close he could put his fly to “that dark shadow under the tree across the river—they’ll be hiding in the shade by that stump.” They? The Bluegill. Goggle-eye perch. Smaller fish, but real fighters. You knew when one was on your line!

He had gone to Blackfork and was heading home … alone. The roads were made for 4-wheel drive vehicles and would have been an exciting challenge, but 4-wheelers weren’t around when Dad was here; so he drove the old black Pontiac slowly, carefully, lingering, still enjoying his own private forest.

It was then that he spotted the deserted campsite. There was a cleared place where the tent had been staked, a deep hole that had been used for ice, and a burned out campfire. And there was something else—a little black and brown dog sitting forlornly and expectantly by the pile of rocks that had bordered the fire.

Dad got out and made friends with the dog, sizing up the situation pretty quickly. The dog had no doubt been exploring and wasn’t around when time came to break camp and head home. (I can imagine how they had waited and hoped and whistled and called and finally left … without him.) It seemed like the dog knew that Dad was his last chance, so he hopped into the car and they headed for Poteau together.

We were “dogless” at the time (a rarity), so seeing the lost dog in Daddy’s arms was a real thrill for us. He was a small terrier with wiry black hair and tan feet. His tail hadn’t been bobbed and the tip was tan like his feet. With his ears up, he was not over a foot tall. He let us hold him and love on him, sensing perhaps that this was going to be his new home. We tried every name that we could think of, but we just couldn’t excite him. He answered best to a two-syllable name, so we finally called him Sonny.

Dad put an ad in the LeFlore County Sun: “Dog found at campsite on south end of Blackfork River. Call 410 to identify.” When a call would come, he’d always ask them to describe their dog, and Sonny never fit the bill. We were so glad, because he had won our hearts. His master had obviously spent time playing with him and training him … one of his favorite pastimes was knocking a pop bottle around with his nose and playing with it like a ball. Sonny had accepted us and we had accepted Sonny. He was part of the Hoyle family.

Then one day Dad called, “Honey, we’ve got a young man here who thinks the little dog is his. I’m sending him out to let him see Sonny.”

I was at home by myself and didn’t know just quite how I could face someone coming and claiming Sonny, taking him away. I put him on the back porch and closed the kitchen door.

Our front door opened into a hallway. The first door on the right was to our guest bedroom, the immediate left to the living room. The living room and dining room were one large, long room, with a door at the end of the dining area that opened into the kitchen; the door to the back porch was in line with that door. The divan had been placed as a “divider” between the two areas. Sonny could go around the divan, or crawl under it, but it was too high for him to go over.

A knock on the front door. I didn’t want to go. I dreaded it, but knew I had to. The young man at the door stood on crutches—you could tell they had been his life-long companions. He introduced himself and I ushered him into the living room, right at the front end by the piano. We talked a moment, then I suggested that he call the dog when I opened the door to the back porch so we could see what kind of response he would get. He agreed. When I opened the door, Sonny was playing with a pop bottle.

Suddenly there was a short, clear whistle and a call, “Patrick!”

Sonny froze and tilted his head to one side, the abandoned pop bottle rolling toward the wall. Then again, the whistle and that name, “Patrick!”

Patrick scratched at the linoleum floor with his little short legs, trying to get traction, and then he started running—through the dining table legs, over the top of the divan and, with one wild leap, into the outstretched arms of his master, who was ready … balanced … watching anxiously with tears on his cheeks. He grabbed that little dog and held him so close and tight! Patrick knew his master’s voice.

* * * * * *

I hope I did justice to that story. It’s one of my favorites. Why did I tell it? Because I want to talk about “who we are” and “who God is.” We are Patrick, and we have a Master who loves us more than we can possibly comprehend. Oh, Patrick was surviving with us, but his heart was still with the person who loved him, played with him, trained him, and drove 160 miles over a crooked, narrow road to claim him and identify him as his own.

Do you know who you are? Do you know that those arms are outstretched, that He is standing and waiting, with a tear-streaked face, for you to run and with “one, wild leap” jump into His arms? Do you know that you are totally and completely loved? Oh, you may be “surviving” in your present surroundings, entertaining yourself with your “toys,” but are you separated from the One who loves you so much that He gave His life for you?

Whatever you have in your hands, let it go. Then, kind of tilt your head and listen. Did you hear that whistle? Sharp. Clear. And you recognize the voice, don’t you? Okay. Start scrambling. Run. Faster. Go under and over the obstacles, no matter how tall they seem to be. Then, jump! He’s watching … he’s able to catch you … and His arms will gather you close and hold you, and you’ll be back where you belong.

20 Years of Stories

Posted on by Ken Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

Well, I guess I’m not finished talking about the past 20 years just yet. On February 7th, we will celebrate those 20 years by gathering together at the Marion Cultural and Civic Center with an artist that has spent many nights at that venue, former NewSong lead vocalist Michael O’Brien. While preparing for that evening I thought of many things that we’ve experienced over those years. Obviously, you can’t get 20 years into one newsletter, but I thought I’d reminisce a little.

Many of the memories are associated with concert nights. My first image is of Rich Mullins, barefooted and drinking Coke while performing our second concert, produced July 7th, 1990. That memory will never leave; it was such a terrific evening, being our first concert with Rich. I remember the times at the end of an evening’s concert, Rich would be performing, having gotten the audience into a worshipful mood, joining with him in song (with their eyes closed). We would be singing and Rich would silently, secretly slip off the stage, leaving us to sing quietly and eventually opening our eyes to find no Rich Mullins present at all. That was a special treat and the unique personality of Rich Mullins. It was a bit of his signature humility. I remember a staff member’s son being born again at a Guardian concert. I have a memory I’d like not to have because David Meece got lost on the way to our concert and ended up in Mt. Vernon before figuring out he had missed Marion all together. Similarly, Phillips, Craig and Dean arrived at 4:30pm one snowing evening, just an hour and a half before ‘doors’ at their concert. Randy Stonehill got iced in at the St. Louis airport one concert night in March 1998. He actually hitch-hiked a ride in a rental car to Carterville with a professor travelling to SIU that night. It was a strange evening all in all. Randy finally arrived at John A. Logan and started the concert at about 10pm. Everyone that had come for the 7pm start waited on Randy and he gave us a great concert well past midnight. Bryan Duncan did two concerts in one night there that same year. He is such a dude! He loved every minute of it and the first concert crowd got invited to the second concert. I remember a young artist, not having a lot of experience on the road, running out of material to talk about and just turning around and asking the crowd if anyone had any questions for him in between songs.

I remember a night at the Civic Center when Carla came to see her favorite group, Phillips, Craig and Dean. Carla was just a few days from ‘going to be with the Father’ but wanted so much to see that concert. We have a picture of Randy, Dan and Shawn singing to her that night as she rested in her wheelchair. Brought tears to the eyes of each as they sang. I remember standing back stage with Mark Schultz and he asked me why playing here is so different than any other place he plays. I remember the tears running down Mark’s face as the audience sang “Remember Me” with him at his first concert here on August 1st, 2001. He was so moved that people would know his music and sing with him that night. Obviously, that meant so much to Mark…He’s repaid that kindness over and over to us many times since then, high-water marking with Mark choosing to film his DVD here in July, 2005. I remember Andrew Peterson playing some kind of skinned armadillo or something instrument at Aldersgate Church. Got a picture of that thing somewhere.

I remember our first morning DJ, Sandy Payne, giving away Charlie Teacock P-shirts (actually they were Charlie Peacock T-shirts, but she got a little tongue-tied that day). I remember Sandy giving away an Imperial’s cassette one time and the winner was a CCM artist calling the station to get directions to the civic center for an upcoming concert. He just happened to be the right number of caller! She innocently asked Bruce Carroll if he had ever heard of the Imperials! Of course he had.

Not everything is wonderful you know! I have had some really scary nights in the middle of the night at the tower site. Not fun on a stormy night. We had the software crash on 1/1/2001 that took everything out! For a time we lost all ability to transmit our library of songs. That was a three-day nightmare. But, thank God, we were able to recover the material, something the techs said we would not be able to do.

And, the music…well, the song that changed my life 20 years ago is, of course, Rich’s “If I Stand”:

There’s more that rises in the morning than the sun
And more that shines in the night than just the moon
It’s more than just this fire here that keeps me warm
In a shelter that is larger than this room

And there’s a loyalty that’s deeper than mere sentiments
And a music higher than the songs that I can sing
The stuff of Earth competes for the allegiance
I owe only to the Giver of all good things

So if I stand let me stand on the promise that you will pull me through
And if I can’t, let me fall on the grace that first brought me to You
And if I sing let me sing for the joy that has born in me these songs
And if I weep let it be as a man who is longing for his home

There’s more that dances on the prairies than the wind
More that pulses in the ocean than the tide
There’s a love that is fiercer than the love between friends
More gentle than a mother’s when her baby’s at her side

And there’s a loyalty that’s deeper than mere sentiments
And a music higher than the songs that I can sing
The stuff of Earth competes for the allegiance
I owe only to the Giver of all good things

So if I stand let me stand on the promise that you will pull me through
And if I can’t let me fall on the grace that first brought me to You
And if I sing let me sing for the joy that has born in me these songs
And if I weep let it be as a man who is longing for his home

That song still means so much and I turn to it often in times when I’m searching for the comfort of God. I think the most powerful song we’ve played was Mercy Me’s, “I Can Only Imagine”:

And now we’re 20 years from that first song but still finding ways to celebrate the Gospel in music and affect our listeners’ lives. We currently have a song that continues to get requests over a year after its release, the Christmas song from Downhere, “How Many Kings”:

Follow the star to a place unexpected
Would you believe after all we’ve projected
A child in a manger

Lowly and small, the weakest of all
Unlikeliest hero, wrapped in his mothers shawl
Just a child is this who we’ve waited for?

Cause how many kings, stepped down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
How many Gods have poured out their hearts to romance a world that has torn all apart?
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?

Bringing our gifts for the newborn savior
All that we have whether costly or meek because we believe
Gold for his honor and frankincense for his pleasure and myrrh for the cross he’ll suffer
Do you believe, is this who we’ve waited for?
It’s who we’ve waited for

How many kings, stepped down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
How many Gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that has torn all apart?
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?
Only one did that for me

All for me
All for you

Well, those are some of my memories. This past year we experienced the passing of a dear friend, Larry Burns. Larry was one of 5 early volunteers at the station back in January, 1990. Larry ran a program on Sunday nights called ‘20 The Countdown Magazine’. He continued to volunteer up until his death a few months ago, attending his last concert, so weak that he had to be helped out of the civic center. Many of the pictures in our concert archive are photos Larry had taken for us for 19 years. We miss him, and he in so many ways represented what we wanted to be about at WBVN. And, finally, I remember the people that have been so kind to us for 20 years. Such kind words and strong words of faith and joy expressed from so many listeners. Letters, calls and comments at the concerts. Thank you for that encouragement– we needed that so much. Thank you for financially supporting this ministry for 20 years. I have always said that our testimony at WBVN is that people, by the Spirit of God, have been so gracious to us for so many years. We are so grateful for that help and the provision you have provided so that whatever this ministry has accomplished over the 20 years, the people that have funded it are directly responsible for that ministry. Thank you for that from all of us here and all the listeners that have benefited from your decision to help keep this ministry here that long. We look forward to many more years of WBVN.

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