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January Newsletter: Anyway

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

ANYWAY

There is an old saying that goes like this, “Many people look forward to the New Year for a new start on old habits.” Doesn’t that sound like most of us? How many New Year’s resolutions do we really keep? How much do we really change from year to year? Below is an item I used 20 years ago in a newsletter that made sense to me back then and I still try to follow it in my Christian life experience.

“Anyway” has been quoted and published by politicians, business leaders, military commanders, teachers, religious leaders, and coaches. It’s been used by the Special Olympics, quoted at the United Nations, and shared friend to friend for many years. I first read about it while reading an article on Mother Teresa’s children’s home in Calcutta, India, where it is hanging on the office wall.

If we would just make up our minds to follow our hearts and to live the Truths of God found in the Word of God, we would end up doing the things described in this “poem.” We just need to make up our minds to do the things that God says works for us. And even though so much is against us, we can have a confidence described in this “parable”. “Do it anyway!” should be our motto as Believers.

“Do the Gospel anyway.” It doesn’t matter how illogical or how unpopular with the people around us, just do it anyway. God said His ways would be seen as foolish to men, so quit being so ashamed of that! For me, the Gospel creates a quiet confidence, even when it doesn’t look or feel like things are working for us at all. Remember the story of Samuel and Saul? Samuel was trying everything to solve his “king problem,” and had done everything but trust God. But, even without Samuel’s understanding of it, his answer was already sitting in the field; a shepherd boy was God’s provision even though Samuel was unaware! Where our provision might be hidden may not be obvious, but provision is present to sustain us just the same. Even in a world that seems focused on throwing out God, God even still quietly continues to bless, encourage, and establish His children.

Psalm 4:6-7 says, “Happy is that people whose God is Jehovah.” God is our source of abiding gladness and joy, actually the only true source of those things. It’s not the things we can put in the bank or our garages or our homes, or wear on our backs that fulfill that. It’s what we can put in our hearts that matters. Secularism depends on circumstances to be happy. God’s Joy is available in any circumstance simply because God is present in all circumstances!

I’m thrilled to have some old habits to start again this year. Some of those make it feel like home here. Yes, I might even resolve a few old patterns away for 2021. But the idea shared in this poem is one I don’t want to resolve away. It’s one I try and encourage myself with, and one I’d share with as many as possible. In some ways, it’s a paraphrase of the Scripture: Do not grow weary of doing good. (Gal. 6:9, 2Thes. 3:13) Another way of saying that and being literal to the scriptural meaning is to live vigorously. In God’s language: doing God’s beautiful. Something I believe is true: to follow the world will make living on the outside easier, but living on the inside harder. Living the God kind of life, living the beautiful, will make the outside harder but the inside will be much more peaceful and calm. The world suggests buying stuff will make us happy; the real Peace of God is not available in stores.

I know the winds are raging, the lightning is flashing, the rain’s falling and the noise is frightening, but we can trust the “calmer of the storm.” Calm down! There is Rest in God and that Rest is not obtainable by our labor or pain. Many times that’s not how God gives gifts. Solomon (1Kings 3:3-15) and Adam were given a bride and Abraham a forever covenant while each was asleep, unable to do for themselves. Significantly, Jesus’ confidence was so stable in his Father and Spirit that Jesus slept in the storm– can we?

The times we live in are stressing, but He is calming. At the time of Jesus’ rejection it was a time of confusion, doubt and fear. John had questioned who Jesus really was, people had rejected him saying Jesus was a drunkard and a glutton, and to the observing eye, his works were fruitless to the point of death. It was a time of seemingly great failure and trouble, yet Jesus found Rest in knowing the Father’s will. While the disciples were “weary and heavy laden” with burdens, while everything seemed to be going wrong, Jesus offered a solution. He invited them to “come unto me and I will give you Rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find Rest unto your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-9) The rest we seek in/from the world is only to be found in Christ.

Love anyway, do good anyway, succeed anyway, be honest anyway, think big anyway, fight for the underdog anyway, build anyway, help people anyway, give the best you have anyway. Do it without looking around, without being moved by what we hear and see. The world has taught us to live by what we see and what we feel, but sight and feelings are not good judges of what’s possible with God, or even what God has going on in the earth. Do these things because God said they would work for believers “anyway!”

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.

30 Years of Memories-BIG DADDY WEAVE

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30 Years of Memories-Big Daddy Weave

It’s been awhile. Not because we haven’t tried, not because they haven’t tried, but Big Daddy’s travels and our opportunities to have them in for our concert series simply has not crossed paths. Obviously, they are one of our favorite events. They are a great band with tons of great music and message. They are great people; artists with ‘pastor’s hearts’ from my perspective. Even if they did not sing a note, did not play a chord, BDW are the kind of people you would want to have come to your town just to create a ‘family union’ atmosphere with members of the band. In 1998, Mike and Jay Weaver started the band while in college in Mobile, Alabama. They were worship leaders from Florida. Today’s BDW band also has Joe Shirk (keys), Jeremy Redmon (guitar), and Brian Beihl (drums). (Original drummer Jeff Jones left in 2013.) We first came in contact with BDW in 2002 with a concert at the Aldersgate United Methodist Church. I remember that night pretty well because of something Mike told me that afternoon. According to him, one: they were thrilled to be here. Two: that night was their first touring ‘headliner’ event. Three: he hoped they had enough music to fill the evening because they only had one cd (One and Only, let’s see… 9 songs and 2 hours to fill!). That caught my attention, made an impression for sure.

This fall’s concert scheduled for September would have been the 17th appearance for them for WBVN. As you can tell we kind of like them, and even better, you kind of like them. They are unique in that only Mark Schultz and BDW have filmed DVD’s here. That tells you that not only do you love them, they love coming here, choosing you as their audience to be filmed for that DVD. I will always remember hearing Mike and band singing ‘Redeemed’ and you singing louder than they were. I think I will hear that in my memory until my dying day. BDW also have been so popular with our concert family that they have done what only two other artists have done in 30 years, two sell out concerts in one day. (others: Schultz and NewSong) They are unique in another way; out of 213 concerts we have produced over the years, BDW (and Lincoln Brewster) are the only ones I’ve not been able to attend. Both those events were in the spring of 2012. The night of the BDW concert I was in Chicago with my wife Jane as she was being overcome with GBS, paralyzed from head to toe and in ICU. I remember Mike Middleton sending me videos from his phone that night to just give me an appreciation for that event. I remember getting a phone call a couple days later from Jay Weaver just wanting to assure Jane and me that they were praying for her and that they would keep her in their hearts over the next few weeks. Nice guy that Jay Weaver.

As you are aware, Jane survived that illness. And after three months in Chicago hospitals, she came home and finished her recovery back here. Ever since that experience, every time BDW is in town Mike and Jane have spent a few moments discussing that specific experience. A comment that Jane came away from Chicago with, and one Mike has spent time contemplating, is that thanksgiving is a place established in God, a place we can occupy, that it can hold us up in times like hers. (A He in us, we in Him place.) Mike still quotes Jane’s comments about thanksgiving being a dimension in God while on stage. He always brings that conversation up when they visit on the day of concerts.

I mentioned earlier that BDW coming to town is something like a family reunion. Many times, they have rented an extra bus and brought their wives and children with them. They are the typical traveling band but prioritize their families as well and make sure that their home life is preserved and cared for while out on the road. Another family connection that gets made in Southern Illinois when BDW comes to town is the family reunion between the Shirks. Joe (keys) went to grade school in Murphysboro. His dad, Steve Shirk, was a pastor/worship leader in Carbondale until his death a few years ago. (Steve was always a favorite with me, calling the station just to encourage me occasionally. Steve asked nothing in return for his encouragement and prayers, just loved folks, pastored folks and majored in kindness to me.) When Joe comes home his mother Betty is always present and his sister and family always attend. I remember just a couple years before Steve passed away that the bus pulled into the parking lot at the Civic Center and a little later the tour went to Murphysboro where Steve and Betty had prepared a huge picnic for all involved with the tour. The Shirk family has been very special.

Big Daddy Weave: one of the huge memories and experiences of WBVN’s 30 year history. It could not have been any better. I will always remember, and this was after the second night of two sellout crowds in a row, I mentioned to Jay that they were getting so big nationally, so popular in the large venues around the country, that I was concerned whether they could keep coming to a small venue like we have here in Southern Illinois. His response still rings in my ears because I think he sincerely meant it, ‘Big Daddy will always come to Marion, I promise you that!’ We are and they are going to make that come true again in 2021.

(As I write this memory it is appropriate to ask the readers to pray for Jay and his family. He has been and still is going through a very hard place physically and needs those prayers and certainly, the encouragement of God.)