It was the summer of 1979. I was a seven year old farm boy consumed with an inordinate desire to play piano. That desire had led to the death of two toy pianos which prompted my mom and dad to seek a regimen of formalized training- piano lessons! The anticipated day arrived. One finger, one note, one measure at a time my training began and would continue the following ten years. During this time an exciting discovery was made.
God had equipped me with the ability to play "by ear," an ability that allows me the freedom to creatively express myself without the aid of written music, an ability that still perplexes me to this day. Finally convinced that I was going to "stick with it," my parents purchased a piano. The purchase remained a secret until the evening it was delivered. It was a sacred moment that will forever be etched on the concaves of my mind. Moved beyond words, I found myself sitting on the bench, starring at the keys in disbelief. My very own piano. It was all I could do to hold back the tears as my heart exploded with gratitude. All I could whisper was "thank you God." The piano proved to be a wise purchase as countless hours were spent sharpening and developing my skills.
My talent remained hidden until one summer afternoon when our youth pastor overheard me playing in the basement of our church. Shock and amazement came over his face as he discovered my nine year old fingers dancing across the keys of a Kimball upright. Instantly, I was drafted to play a Sunday night special. A month later, in front of an unsuspecting congregation, I found myself beating out a spirited medley of carefully selected Bible School songs. The response was overwhelming. This led to more specials and opportunities of service. It was during this season of my life that I found Jesus. On June 8, 1983, I accepted Him as Lord and Savior, receiving from Him value, meaning and purpose. Little did I know that He would use my talent to connect people with Himself and each other.
Soon my talent became more public as I entered our annual fifth grade talent show at school. Somehow, I managed to medley "Nine to Five," Bobby Sue," and "Amazing Grace." The performance drew a thunderous applause and landed a position playing for our sixth grade choir. Church and school became outlets where my talent could be utilized to glorify God and edify others. While church provided me with a nurturing atmosphere of love and acceptance, school became a battle ground where I dodged a constant round of poisonous darts fired from slanderous arsons, reminding me daily that being a boy and playing piano was not cool. I remember begging my sixth grade teachers to let me practice piano during recess to avoid the rejection I faced on the playground. But what could've been destructive, God used for good.
At the age of fifteen, my calling became more specific as I accepted a position playing piano for the Gospel Crusaders. This was my first exposure to Southern Gospel Music. Sadly, after forty years of ministering the opted for retirement. (I still think they hired me just to carry in that heavy equipment.)- ha! Soon after, I joined the Goodnews Quartet. More performances followed. Then, the Northmen, a brand new group with aspirations of spreading God's word to a larger audience, asked me to join their cause and I accepted. In the spring of 1990 we were thrilled to be the opening group at a Phipps Gospel Sing in Warsaw, Indiana. After the concert, as I was ready to walk out the door, the promoter caught me, escorted me to the stage and personally introduced me to the Perrys, one of three professional groups that had performed that night. They had recently lost their pianist and hearing me play felt confident I could fill the void.
However, it would require me to relocate to Dahlonega, Georgia. Throwing all caution to the wind, I accepted the offer. Taking down my name and number they assured a future call with details. Two weeks went by without a word. Convinced that it wasn't God's will, I gave up. I remember sitting on a John Deere in the middle of a field cultivating corn when I saw my mom pull up in our pick-up truck bearing the news that the Perrys had called wanting me to come. Answering the call, I packed my bags and left the comforts of home to join this full-time ministry. Although short-lived, my time with the Perrys was an enriching experience, challenging me musically and spiritually. After an arduous six months I came home, went back with the Northmen and began working for a local implement dealer. By this time I was experiencing feelings of failure, thinking that getting back with a full-time group would satisfy my search for significance. I was wrong.
I'll never forget the young man who approached me one evening after a concert. His enthusiasm for the Lord was absolutely infectious as he showered me with encouraging words of affirmation. Uninhibitedly, he embraced me, then walked away. I stood speechless, knowing that in some way, I had just experienced Jesus. Before my head hit the pillow that night I asked the Lord to "give me what that guy has, cause I don't have it." The next morning I opened my Bible and for the first time began to read Matthew.
From that day on, my life was never the same as I would seek to know and experience God through the revelation of His word. Shortly after deciding to leave the Northmen, a strange thing happened, I started receiving concert invitations. Though I was green and inexperienced, I obediently fulfilled the obligations knowing that God doesn't always call the equipped, but He will equip the called. As my faith grew and matured, so did the music ministry. I soon found myself writing songs, making recordings and traveling every weekend. With each concert rich in scripture and personal testimony, I saw God encourage, challenge and strengthen audiences week after week. In 2001, the purchase of a home presented a new set of responsibilities and obligations. By July 2003, God called me out of the field and into a time of reflection and rest I now call my "Season of Selah."
God revealed issues in my life that required counseling. Through that ten month process I gained a proper perspective of God and my role as His child. Refreshed, I enter into this new season of ministry with confidence, trusting Him for the extraordinary.