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February newsletter-Prayer

Posted on by Laura Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

1Thes. 5:17 encourages us to pray always, finding Grace and Help for all our needs.

Recently prayer has been a full time job it seems because of some personal experiences in my wife’s family. Her 97 year old mother, her sister, her brother, her sister-in-law, her nephew and his children all contracted Covid. As a friend related to us the other day, many shared in the sorrow when Jane’s brother and sister passed away. Jane and I have spent hours discussing between ourselves and personally praying during those days. During those conversations I remembered that I had only discussed prayer one time in a newsletter. That letter appeared in 2016. I think I mentioned in the letter that I’m not very verbal about what prayer is but that I have some definition of what it’s not. Because of our recent family experience and specifically because just about everyone I know is praying intently for many reasons because of the world we all deal with each day, I thought I’d share a few thoughts.

There are 25 incidents cited in Matthew, Luke, Mark and John of Jesus praying. One of my favorite prayer scriptures is the lengthiest one found in John 17. In the 25 times recorded of Jesus’ prayers, He prayed alone, in public, before meals, after meals, before healings and after healings. He prayed for The Father’s guidance and showed us how to pray boldly in the Lord’s Prayer. (Matt. 18, Luke 11) And of course we all grew up with the example of the 23rd Psalm as a Messianic Prophecy prayer about a future Lord. I think there’s a difference to be noted in the Old Testament prayer teachings contrasted with the New. There’s a victory in the New Testament prayers that are only hoped for in the Old. Something happened in the prayers of Jesus and Paul that confirmed the presence of a new way of praying, a new confidence in the relationship between the Creator and the human heart.

It’s been said that prayer is not what we do in a panic or exhausting effort, but it is what God does in us and for us during those times. If true, that’s a wonderful freedom found in the Gospel of Christ for New Testament believers. Being in Jesus brings Peace and Comfort because He listens and He cares. In the O.T., Israel had a central, annual day of worship and prayer called the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). On that day the priest gathered up all the prayers for the whole year and they were presented to God by one participant, the High Priest. That Priest uniquely represented many on that day. While the High Priest prayed inside the Holy of Holies, the nation prayed outside. Upon exiting the Holy Place the Priest always brought a message of Peace and Blessing: ‘The Lord bless and keep you. The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord turn his face toward you and give you Peace. And they may put my name on them and I will bless them.’(Numbers Chapter 6) While in the sanctuary the Priest made sacrifice, not a sacrifice to calm an angry God, but a sacrifice to represent the Covenant of God with Abraham. God is a God of Covenant and as such had chosen to bless Israel through Abraham, blessing Abraham’s future generations with a gift of Love and Grace. God is not a God that has to be persuaded to Love and be Grace filled; He is that by His very nature. He is not like a pagan god caught up in blood sacrifice to placate anger and wrath but a God identifying the seriousness and cost of sending a Son to be sacrificed by the world, that sacrifice to be a propitiation for the world’s sin. I prefer to think of that as God saying He really means business in paying such a price for us. Our God is so serious that He built a bridge to you, built it with the blood of Jesus. God wanted to show you something so profound it would, in God’s dream, make obvious to humanity His desire to share His Life with us.

In the O.T. God had called Israel to be priestly over all the nations of the earth – they failed to do so. They shouted with joy on escaping Egypt and then died in the wilderness, forgetting to trust and obey the One that had rescued them from Pharaoh. If you look at the world today, it appears many are making the same mistake Israel made; embraced the Grace of God and then kick Him out. The story of the O.T. is that God did not abandon His purpose in building a people to have communion with. Jesus’ life represented that desire in God. He is still committed to that same purpose today.

Presently, we have a High Priest (Heb. 10-19). He is an eternal Priest ‘of the order of Melchizedek’. (Heb. Chapter 7) A risen Christ left earth and entered into continuous prayer in the presence of the Father. Today and every day, just as on Yom Kippur, we have a representative in the Holy of Holies that gathers our prayers and intercedes on our behalf. That’s part of the Glory of the New Testament. Christ entered into the Holy Place and entered into it for us, sinful men and women, and stands in for us continually. Christ died for us while on earth. He now acts as a Brother by standing in with us in prayer. Paul taught in Romans (Chapter 8) that we do not know what to pray but the Spirit intercedes for us with groans that words many times cannot express. Christ is God’s way, even when we do not know how to pray, to draw us into personal, private communication with the Creator of the cosmos. Our prayer at times can simply be ‘Abba Father.’ Mary’s prayer at the appearance of the angel was: ‘…be it unto me according to Your Word.’ Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane was simply, ‘Thy Will be done.’ Both prayers were simple but heartfelt and powerful.

The Apostle Paul teaches: confess Him with your words, say the same thing about you as the Father says about you, and be the same in little and in much. What’s true about God and what was accomplished by Jesus, was a Victory He grabbed for us. It is true even in times when it may not look like it is true. On the 5th floor of a Chicago hospital, while staying with Jane during the paralysis created by GBS in 2012, in a room with one small window, each day that window had a ray of morning sunshine. There, I discovered a whole new truth about the scripture that refers to not living by sight. No matter what I was seeing in her hospital room, no matter what was being said about her condition, I knew one thing more than anything else: that God was with both of us. We knew that God was for us, knew God was present. Jane, paralyzed from head to toe, likes to say often that Jesus was all she needed, He was enough. God was her Father, loved her more than even a husband can, and He had said, and confirmed, with His Love, to be with her, to hold her, and have great compassion for her. It was obvious to us that the Love of God interceded with us, prayed with us. In our prayers, we were never alone praying. We had a powerful Brother in prayer. Our prayers were not about convincing God to help, our prayers were about thanking Him for what He was doing right then, and today, right now!

We should not regard prayer as a legal duty that we must fulfill in order to get God to bless us. Our God is not a God/Father who says to His children: ‘I shall only love you if you….! Prayer is a joyous response to the Love and Grace of God. One of my favorite quotes about prayer was written by E. W. Bullinger:
Prayer is the breath of the new nature.” Just as the natural breath is the sign and evidence of physical life, so prayer is the mark and sign of the possession of spiritual life… Natural life commences with breathing and the breathing produces a cry. It is so with the New Birth… From that moment, breathing continues as the spontaneous outcome of the New Life. No knowledge of Physiology is required for the one(breath), and no knowledge of Theology is necessary for the other(prayer)… The moment it becomes the subject of discussion—its essence is gone…The moment we reason about prayer we make it artificial. But true prayer is spontaneous. Our business in natural life is to breathe and not to think about it. Our business in spiritual life is to breathe (to pray) and not to think about it. The moment we begin to think about our prayer we are occupied with the means and lose the end…

In John 17, Jesus prayed for himself, prayed for his disciples and for all believers in such a way that it’s an example for us to see the heart of God for praying today. Simply, it’s a prayer of hope established upon Jesus’ unique knowledge of the compassion of God for Him and for us. Jesus knows the Father more than anyone knows the Father, and he reflected a huge confidence in the Father’s heart in that prayer. To paraphrase: Father be with me (on the way to Gethsemane)…what We (the Trinity of God) set out to do before there was time (before the foundation of the world), that is now finished. Father be with Your people, keep them, be One with them as We are One that they may know that You Loved them as You Love Me. …(know) that, the Love I have with You may be in them and I in them… Jesus knew full well that the Father was to be and could be trusted in all things, and gloriously.

30 Years of Memories: Point Of Grace

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30 Years of Memories-Point of Grace

I wrote about this concert in a newsletter many years ago. It was about a concert on the night of January 20th, 2006. It was Point of Grace. 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 concerts WBVN has ever produced. Those ladies had the perfect touch to make a great evening.

I’m going to let you peek behind the curtain a little bit. Two-hour concerts are more complicated than what we simply see on stage. Perfect concerts require many things to come together in one place at one time. Concerts begin with calls to artists’ agents and conversations about travel expenses to and from the concert, meals, financial considerations, phone numbers to exchange, security, sound systems, light systems, spotlights, load-in crews, insurance coverage, 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’s music and ‘spots’ are written, produced and rotated to give the public the information needed.

All those things take place slowly and particularly for a successful concert, but all that doesn’t always 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 artists and their management arrive at the venue.

We have a ‘heavy lifters’ crew that volunteers for our events: we have a Phil, a Danny, Dale, Nathan, two Tim’s, Michael, Ethan, Ryan, Dave, Woody, Zane, Frank, and Terry. There’s Cindy, Debbie, Jane, Laura, Dan and Trina, Terra, Tammy and Alphonse, Tom, Kim, Norb and Karen, Sherry and Tim, Keith and Ann, Deanna and Lito, Kelly and Dane, Grover, Larry and Janice, Byron, Scott, Kent and Jim, David, Mary Kay, Edna, Pixie. I’m sure that’s not all of them but it’s some of them, and they make the concert possible for all of us by helping make all the things that are required happen that night. Of course the WBVN staff does significant work as well. Josh, Vince, Derek, Mike, Kevin and Russell, are our hosts at the Civic Center and they always do their part to make ‘the room’ ready but also provide a pleasant environment to work in— that’s special to us. There’s petty cash to remember to get for the ticket booth, contracts to have on hand for all concerned. Towels and bottles of water for the stage are a must. Then comes the point in time when the load-in happens, sound checks have to take place. Food must be in place at exactly the right time so the artists get a warm meal, not a cold Sam’s Lasagna 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 for all the expenses. We take the newsletter sign-up book and newsletters. We take a CD of mixed music to play before the concert. Four stools for the stage. Get the piano tuned. Usually (especially for Schulz) 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, a road manager arrives and hopefully puts everyone at ease with his friendly manner. In the POG’s concert I’m referring to, Matt’s with them (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: 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. On that day, 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. Amber and her husband had tickets for the concert, but she was in the hospital the night of our 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 we’re 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.

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 their families, etc., resting before hitting the stage 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 a 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 quiet-time.’

We’re into concert now. A photographer’s in place taking pictures for the website and ‘for the fun of it.’ The crowd is responding to the performance and POG is responding to the reception of the crowd. The night has become personal. Those are special times and they’re vital to a ‘perfect’ concert. I’ve seen it before, none any better than that concert. During the concert Shelly whips out an email that was sent to POG from Stephanie Cumbelich (who used to live here) and read it to Stephanie’s friends Amy Graves and Belinda Keller, both of them 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. It was a little thing; but a big thing as well. 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.

We’ve had many ‘perfect’ concerts over the years. Great concerts bring together various denominations but they share a unique message we all can hear. Great concerts soothe our souls and heal our hearts. They bring us together in universal praise and a crowd of worship. That’s why we’ve done almost 220 since 1990 and can’t wait to meet with you again ASAP. Under the current limitations we miss them and you very much. So many memories have been tattooed in our hearts. But uniquely, that concert in 2006 had a special ‘ladies’ touch! Point of Grace and their management never missed one opportunity to encourage, they were always positive. They were terrific at taking little things and making them ‘huge’ for the people at the concert and people 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. (You’re supposed to smile here.) To call a concert perfect it must be more than special, more than good, it must be unique and powerful. The POG concert was both and will always have a special place in our 30 years of memories.

30 Years of Memories: Bryan Duncan

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30 Years of Memories-Bryan Duncan

Bryan Edward Duncan, born in 1953 in Utah, raised the son of a ‘preacherman’ in North Carolina. I learned that a long time ago in a conversation with Bryan on the drive from Evansville, Indiana, on our way to our concert at the Marion Cultural and Civic Center. I’ll mention more about that talk later in this letter.

Beginning as early as 1973, Bryan was one of the early Contemporary Christian artists. Bryan originally was the lead vocalist for a group called the Sweet Comfort Band.

‘What a vocal gift!’ was one of my earliest thoughts about Bryan. I first signed him through the same agency that I booked Randy Stonehill and Phil Keaggy, the Street Level Agency out of Indiana. Holly was the agent and kind of a mother figure, I think, for all three. Each of those artists have faced personal disappointments and each is blessed with unique and God-given gifts to share with us all. All three have done WBVN concerts multiple times over the years.

Bryan is an artist that I used to say had an uncanny vocal range. If you talked to him you’d never expect that talking voice to have a range unlike anyone else. He can sing rather casually with little effort, actually, I think sounding better than on the cds you listen to. Bryan’s music expands from soul/jazz and pop to heartfelt ballads. Bryan’s a Harley motorcycle owner and has even written a song about that called “Hogwash.” (Ten #1 songs from 1993 thru 1997, 5 of those from one cd: Mercy. He was elected to the Christian Music Hall of Fame in 2007. Had Released 18 solo albums.)

Bryan was WBVN Concert number three on 1/19/1991. His most recent was on October 19, 2019. In between, there were many interesting events and stories to remember about Bryan. I remember our first meeting with Bryan and how after the concert Bryan came up to me and Mike Middleton and wanted to know what we were going to do the rest of the evening. Mike and I looked at each other and said, ‘We are going home and get some rest’. We both had just spent three 12 hour days on the radio during a Celebration and we were exhausted. I actually spent a couple of meetings at later concerts over the years apologizing for that comment to Bryan. There are actually too many stories initiated by Bryan to put in this letter, but let me share just a couple. One that I’ve shared the most was a concert years ago where the Civic Center event was on a Saturday night. Friday night Bryan was performing in Springfield, IL. Bryan arrived as usual, on time, humor in hand, ready to go– he’s always ready to go, he loves performing. As he got out of the car Bryan asked that his luggage be brought into the dressing room. Problem, no luggage! Bryan was traveling with a road manager at the time and he and the road manager had set the luggage down on the ground in Springfield to load in the car and each thought the other had loaded it. Interesting face Bryan was wearing at that thought. The luggage contained a new Armani suit that Bryan had just worn to have publicity photos made for an album cover, and a suit with a significant price tag according to the interesting face he was wearing. At the time my car was in the shop and I was driving my mother’s Big Buick, not a sub-compact Buick– a big ancient Buick. Next thing I knew Bryan was jumping in my mother’s car and off to Target to get a concert wardrobe. Bryan said he was going to drive me like they drive in Los Angeles. Interesting skills they have in Los Angeles.

There was a lot of weaving in and out of traffic, much acceleration, and my big eyes and lots of Bryan laughs at my reactions! By the way, a simple black tee-shirt was that wardrobe. That night Bryan did the concert in that black tee and his leather winter jacket. That was a hot concert in a couple of different ways.

Another interesting moment over the years was the trip I mentioned earlier from Evansville to our concert. It took about 90 minutes to travel. 90 minutes with Bryan is always full of conversation. And I’ve traveled many times with him in the car but this time was different from all the rest. That trip Bryan was very relaxed and seemed to spill out a lot of personal family information about his relationship with his dad. And, without the details, I’ll just say that Bryan’s experience as a young man and the relationship with a parent was similar to stories you’ve heard before. The simple version is that his dad and Bryan had a falling out, a separation, and eventually a time of not much communication. Years of heartache and anger passed. However, Bryan told me the last trip in that his father had come to the point of needing health care and he was put in the situation of having to go and help his father during the last part of his dad’s life. That necessity had led to a reconciliation of sorts and brought the story to a loving end. Bryan’s story of how he felt about his mother was shared in a song a couple years ago called ‘Remember My Mother’ that he performed for us during the last concert.

Without going into details, Bryan has experienced a lot of personal hurt over the years. While one of the funniest people I’ve met, he’s also one of the most bruised people I’ve met. He’s mountain topped and walked in a few valleys. When I express that I’m talking not about one or two things that have broken his heart but a handful of things that were painful. Some have been made public over the years, many from Bryan’s radio program called ‘A Road To Redemption’ done over the past few years to help others recover from their pain. He also created his own record label called Red Road Records, Red short for redemption. Bryan had done what we all are likely to do with pain, we slap it away and either cried or yelled in anger. Being human, I think Bryan has had both of those responses.

I’ll close with this thought. At the pre-concert meeting with some concert attendees at our last event with Bryan, those people experienced the Bryan Duncan behind the stage. That moment was so personal, so caring, so real for those that attended. Bryan is the kind of person that expresses much of what he’s thinking without huge filters or masquerades. Now that can make you a bit nervous occasionally, but he’s so energetic it’s always fun to be around Bryan D. He’s still writing music, doing a bit of singing and traveling. He’s a sports nut; knows every team’s members and their stats. I used to tell people if I was stranded on a desert island and had one vocalist to be with me I would choose Bryan Duncan, an unbelievable voice and his stories aren’t bad either.