A “Ladies” Touch:
It was on the night of January 20th. It was Point of Grace. For just a moment, it reminded me of the movie “The Perfect Storm.” If you remember, in the movie a ‘perfect storm’ destroyed the crew and the ship. It took a “perfect storm” to do that, a storm so unusual, a storm so specifically unique had to occur to destroy that crew, a storm with just the perfect ingredients. That perfect storm happened and the ship was destroyed. Well, how does that relate to the Point of Grace concert? It was the perfect night. Everything was just right, it was a perfect setting for a “great” concert to take place and it all came together for one of the most impressive concert WBVN has ever produced. It was the “perfect concert.” I’m going to share with you why I think that.
I’m going to let you peak behind the curtain a little bit. Concerts begin with calls to artist agents and conversations about travel expenses to and from the concert, meals, financial considerations, phone numbers to exchange, security, sound systems, light systems, spot lights, load in crews, insurance coverage, maps to the venue, publicity, hotel rooms, ticket prices, road managers, location for the event, the dates that work and general information in what is called ‘a concert rider.’ A ‘rider’ is pages and pages of detail and organization to make sure everyone’s on the same page. That all begins months before the actual event and each item must be agreed to, must be organized, and must ‘come together’ for a successful two-hour performance. Contracts are mailed, signed and exchanged. Tickets are printed and sold. A play list is created at the station of the artist music and ‘spots’ are written, produced and rotated to give the public the information needed.
All that takes place slowly and particularly for a successful concert. But all that doesn’t make a ‘great concert.’ You need more than that. You need some things that can’t be written into contracts, things that while you hope for and you might have a conversation about with the agent, they are things that for the most part come out of the ‘heart.’ Things that come from the motivation of the producer and things that you trust will show up when the artist and their management arrive at the venue.
We have a load in crew that volunteers for the event: we have a Phil and a Phil, Danny, Nathan, Bill, Keith and Ann, Aaron, Mike, Seth, John, Chase, Gup and there’s a Cindy, Rachel, Barbara, Jane, Laura, Dan and Trina, Brittany, Tammy, Sherry and Tim, Jerry and Linda, Larry, Matt, David and Colleen. I’m not sure that’s all of them but it’s some of them and they make the concert possible for all of us by helping out. The WBVN staff: Alisha, Andria, Amy and Tom are all involved with the production as well. Chris Parton does the sound and David Schell makes sure the lighting and spots are taken care of. Mike, Bill, Julie and David are our host at the Civic Center and they always do their part to make ‘the room’ a pleasant place to work. There’s petty cash to remember to get, contracts to have on hand. We have an audio recorder to get ‘liners’ for the station. Alisha scripts those for us. Must remember to have towels on the scene. Water’s a must. Then there are the points in time when the load-in happens, sound checks take place at an agreed to time. Food must be in place at exactly the right time so the artists get a warm meal, not a cold ‘rice’ dish. Must get the CD’s, t-shirts, necklaces, rings, caps, song books, pictures all inventoried and on the tables. Need to remember the checks, seems like lots of checks need to be taken. We take the newsletter sign-up book. We take a CD of mixed music to play before the concert, got to entertain that hour you know. Four stools for the stage. Get the piano tuned. Fruit and candy for the dressing rooms. Make sure the hotel rooms are reserved and probably add one room because someone is coming that we didn’t know about early in the contract discussions. WOW! That’s quite a laundry list. But we have it all in place. People are lined up outside and we’re just about ready. You know what, all that can make a good concert, but all that can’t make a great concert. Here’s what makes a great concert.
At about 2 pm, Cliff Young arrives, POG road manager, and immediately puts everyone at ease with his friendly manner. Matt’s with him (Leigh’s [POG] husband, by the way, who plays the guitar and works the inventory for the table of CDs, shirts and pictures out in the lobby). The ‘girls’ get there about 3:30, at least three of them do: Shelly, Denise and Leigh. They immediately greet people with great big smiles and not one ounce of ‘pretense.’ They make sure we are all comfortable with the plans for the event. At 4:45 Heather arrives, (she’s 7 months pregnant) arriving after driving by herself from Louisville, KY. While we’re getting the sound-check ready, Shelly Breen from POG is calling the local hospital. She’s taking the time to encourage Amber Farnam; she and her husband had tickets for the concert, but she was in the hospital the night of the event. They work on a play list of songs, making sure they check with us to see what our expectations were for that night. At this point were running about 45 minutes behind most of our schedule. They’re all still just as calm and as pleasant as can be! Matt’s treating the volunteers at the tables wonderfully and they are actually smiling at me when I walk by. That’s a good sign for me of how polite this guy is. Casey travels with POG and operates the sound systems during the concert and Chris Parton is giving me a ‘thumbs up’ for the cooperation, expertise and the attitude that Casey has with him. That doesn’t always happen. It’s good when I see that happen.
It’s now 6:30pm and meals have been served. The ‘girls’ sneaked a birthday cake into the room for Heather and they have a little birthday ‘thing’ for a couple minutes. Everyone is relaxed. They’re doing the phone calls to family, etc. Resting before start at 7:30. It’s a time I like to leave the artists and their manager alone for the most part. I’ve found that at peaceful ‘backstage’ creates a peace ‘on-stage.’ Many of the artists use this time to pray, many like to read before the concert, some just want ‘a quite-time.’ At 7 pm I remember that the local newspaper has asked for a short interview. Something I should have taken care of hours before. Now I have to interrupt them to make that request. Denise greets me with that friendly smile and tells me to bring the person to the dressing room during John David Webster’s opening. What! Yeah, that would be fine; they’ll take the time to do the interview then. That sure ‘blessed’ the lady that did the interview. Thought she was going to miss that opportunity because of my bad memory. We still hadn’t found time to do WBVN ‘POG liners’ and seemed that might not happen. But again the ‘girls’ asked me to bring Alisha back during the intermission for those. That’s the first time in 95 concerts that the artist has been that generous about liners, making sure we get what we need for the station even if it took away from their private time ‘during the concert.’
We’re into concert now. The photographer’s in place taking pictures for the website and ‘for the fun of it.’ The audience and POG have that moment in time I’ve seen occasionally and rarely. The crowd is responding to the performance and POG is responding to the reception of the crowd. Those are special times and they’re vital to a ‘perfect’ concert. I’ve seen it before, none better than this concert. During the concert Shelly whips out an email to POG from Stephanie Cumbelich (who used to live here) and read it to Amy Graves and Belinda Keller, both in the audience. That was a little thing that meant a lot to those ladies. Another surprise after intermission: Denise reads a letter from four young ladies that have a vocal group and ‘sing a lot of POG music.’ Denise called Bonnie Childers, Julie Culbertson, Mary Kim Dothager and Erin Ainscough to the stage for T-shirts. A little thing; a big thing. The ‘girls’ sang a total of 19 songs! Not because they had to sing that many but because they recognized the unique quality to the evening. One great concert.
It had a ‘ladies’ touch! Point of Grace and their management never missed one opportunity to encourage, to be positive and to take little things and make them ‘huge’ for the people in this concert and backstage. It was the perfect concert, many things coming together all at one time: music, thoughtfulness, and ministry, professional, talented and creative. Guys can do one or two things at a time; these ladies did dozens all at one time. To be called perfect the storm in the movie had to possess many unique and powerful ingredients all coming together at one time, to call a concert perfect it must be more than special, more than good, it must be unique and powerful. This concert was both.
Man, I do like to ramble in January. By that I mean, each January I end up just sitting down at the computer and writing the February newsletter without any idea where I might go with it or what I might say in it. Forget developing one thought, I’ve got several to talk about. The first of each year is always good for thinking about the past, the present, and the future. I’ll give you the condensed version.
I’ve been thinking about what’s happened over the past years of my “born-again” experience and what I’ve come to appreciate over that time span. I’m not talking about a religious doctrine or formula; it’s more of an observation of God in the earth rather than a definite way to “do” the Gospel.
First, I like what Rich Mullins said once referring to Christians being too hard on one another, about the differences we might find in comparing each of our beliefs. His statement can be summarized in just a few words, “(if we were honest with each other)…We’re all just guessing anyway.” Put any two believers in a room and you’ll have a room with two people that are wrong about something in the Gospel. I know we’re trying, but none of us is “perfectly correct.” So we can relax a little with one another, enjoy our common beliefs. I’ve learned, especially while being involved at WBVN, to respect our differences more. For many of us, I’m not so sure they’re really differences as much as they’re just different ways of seeing the same thing. But we’re seeing it differently because we’re standing in a different place than the other person is standing. Standing and looking at the mountain from the East side or standing an observing it on the West gives two completely different descriptions but it’s still the same mountain.
I’ve learned a lot about my feelings over time. I value so many ‘little things’ that occur each day. Value them more than I openly express most the time. However, I observe many more “tender-hearted” moments than I mention to people around me. If I would open up more I think it would be easier for people to see how much I value the variations found in this life. I’ve found value in the sad experiences and in the good ones as well. I really like the good days, but I’ve learned to appreciate the emotional and spiritual experience of either. I’ve mentioned before, the day that my father died was the most terrible day in my life and one of the most precious at the same time. The loss was terrible, but the comfort and sense of the presence of God was overwhelming at the very same moment. Now I prefer the good days rather the sad ones, but I still have discovered a way to find “life” in both. What a great creature we are! God has put together complications and wonders by combining three in one: body, soul and spirit. The good days are enjoyable; in the other days, our strengths are revealed to us.
Here’s another ramble. I’ve noticed how much the President and Congress are given authority in our lives, ‘space that they’ve been given to influence our lives’ if you will. I mean it’s huge. So much of what we do and what happens to us is directly under their influence. Comparatively, in each in our lives we’ve been given “a certain amount of space” as well. Most of us don’t have a very big space of influence: our immediate and extended family perhaps, the people we work with or go to church with, possibly people we’ve met over the years and that have become friends or acquaintances. For most of us it’s not much bigger than that. But, I’ve discovered that that small amount of “space” can still be important in the Kingdom of God. If each of us would just “make a difference” in those small places for the Gospel it could make a real difference. For our listening friends during the 16 years that WBVN has been on the air, I think we’ve been an “encourager.” I can live with the idea that WBVN may not be profound but that we’ve helped people that listen in some small way. For each of us, just leaving the “space where we’re influential” a little better off than how we found it is something all of us should seek to do.
If I were to give our girls any single advice about their purpose in life, I think I would sum it up much like that. Being ambassadors of Christ, did you leave the people and places you were involved with better off than if you had not been involved with them at all? It’s a small accomplishment in comparison to the President or Congress, but I think it’s just as important in the “Gospel” sense. You might not change the world but you can make a difference in “your space.” Simply, were you a giver or were you a consumer of the environment you lived in? Did you only take things out of your environment or did you leave it something.
My last ramble, I think. Sixteen years working at WBVN is the longest span of time that I’ve ever been in one place. I think that’s because of the opportunity to make that “little space” a better place. Our purpose is to use the Spirit of God found in the hymns and psalms we play to create an atmosphere in believer’s lives that’s more enjoyable and more pleasant because we were there with them; not earth shattering, but with value just the same.
I don’t know much about the future. God does know the future and we’re just finding out about it as we go along. I remember telling people, “the Father has already lived this out once in His heart.” He knows the beginning and the ending. As we go along, we’re discovering what we’re going to do about Him; He already knows what we will do about Him.” That makes it (as Steven Curtis Chapman once sang) a “Great Adventure.”
I can’t say that I’ve ever met a prophet but I’ve been in the middle of what I would call the spirit of prophecy. It’s never been an environment where someone knew, knew without a doubt, the future; but occasionally and rarely, I’ve been around expressions of encouragement and confirmation for other believers. At WBVN, we’ve had many “wonderful” expressions of faith given to us over the years, encouragements that have carried us along from one event to the next. We never knew the future, but just the simple encouragement of our faith made a big difference in our lives. We hope WBVN has been that type of encouragement in your life as well.
This ministry has seen the “unbelievable” happen to it and seen some tragic things as well. We’ve stood on dusty ground and stood on ground that’s “over-flowing” with the green gardens of life. This past year, we watched as our giving totals were not at the levels of the year before (down about 17%). The total number of gifts received was nearly the same however; the amount that people could give was smaller in 2005. But you know, we made the budget needs of this ministry. Each bill was paid and year-end contract obligations were satisfied. We did that in a year in which we had increases almost in every monthly expense for this ministry. That’s part of that discovery I mentioned earlier. I don’t have a doctrine of how that works; I’m just sure that it does.
God has taken such good care! It’s never been predicable where our funding would come from or how much we would need from year to year. We had three years in a row (2001-2003) that we lost revenue on the concerts in each one of those years. This past year, the concerts helped make up the difference in the short fall of our gifts. We did that with the lowest ticket prices in the country for some of the most popular groups in the country. We’re just left simply to believe in God! Occasionally, Jane and I are asked questions about the future of this station or sometimes about the future of our own lives. We always reply that the same God that provided for us at 40 years old is just as capable at holding us up at 80 years old.
Your graciousness to the ministry doesn’t go unnoticed. The kindnesses have always been there, but more and more the “fellowship,” the oneness with our listeners, is manifested. I’m convinced that that “one accord” is significance to us all. It manifests in some of the concerts. There, a thousand people from many denominations, are all worshiping and being of a single fellowship. It’s not complete in all that it could be, but it goes a long way in bringing us together with a single purpose of praising God. I really believe we’re the better for having gotten together. I know we are for having the experience of meeting so many of you. Each day WBVN shares into each listener’s heart through the music heard commonly between us all. I can’t measure that blessing. However, I do believe the environment is better with us here than without us here. I hope you agree and join with us for the 2006th year of celebrating the most glorious life that was ever lived: Christ Jesus.