Busy, but pumped!

My most recent blog discussed the “Too busy” syndrome.  Yes, I’m busy, but I’m not stressed about it.



LEVEL GROVE BAPTIST CHURCH MUSIC MINISTRY.  First of all, it is a delight to serve the Lord with this wonderful church family.  This church has vision and a great desire to make an impact on North Georgia.  These folks are fun, yet serious in their mission to share Jesus.  A few days ago, LG hosted between three and four thousand at the annual Fall Festival.  The people of North Georgia know that Level Grove is here and eager to share the love and grace of Christ.

LG’s CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION 2014 will celebrate the season and the Savior.  On Saturday and Sunday, December 5 and 7, 7:00 PM, approximately 80 singers and instrumentalists, plus a number of adult, student, and child actors, along with the LG Media Team, will present a multimedia celebration where the Gospel of Christ will be vividly shared and celebrated.

On December 14, 6:30 PM, the Children’s Music Ministry will LG Kids at Christmas.  Visit the Level Grove Baptist Church website for details of these and other special Christmas events. 

LAST WEEKEND, I had the honor to work with my dear friends, Clyde and Betty Chiles at First Baptist Church, Centralia, Missouri, near Columbia.   I traveled with Clyde Clyde and Bettethroughout the U.S. and the Middle East back in the ’70’s during my “road years.”  Of the over one hundred Turning Point Crusades I had the privilege to lead music, I don’t remember a single gathering where I did not see people come to know Christ.  Last week was no exception.   (Yes, I am still “old school” when it comes to being excited when adults, students, and children come to know Christ.)        The Centraila Choir was not large, but a wonderful family of singers.   Minister  of Music,  Danelle Matthews, is an amazing musician with a marvelous spirit and a heart for ministry.  I am honored to have partnered with her leading the music.

IN THE MONTHS AHEAD, in addition to the ministry at Level Grove, I will sing MESSIAH with the Truett-McConnell Music Department and the Lord has opened a number of other opportunities with the Sons of Jubal, The Regional Gideons Conference, concerts, conferences, and choral workshops.  I love what I do.  (I should have retired years ago….)

FAMILY:   Dorothy and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to meet our new great grandson, William IV.  As of  this writing, Will is about six weeks old and has captured the  heart of our entire family.  Of course, we cannot express in words how much we love our children and grandchildren. All are actively serving the Lord in local church ministries.  I knowDottie and Will blogs are often reserved for intellectual discussion, but in a few days, I think I will give an update on all the wonderful things God is doing through our crew.  If the Lord called me Home today, I would leave this world of all men, blessed beyond words.

I am so grateful to our Lord for calling me those many years ago and enabling me to serve Him.

So much going on….

Not sure why I wrote the words below on this particular evening. It isn’t what I sat down at my desk to write, but this is what came out.  Apparently the Lord wanted to speak to me and maybe you too….


Stressed OutI hear all the time from church members, friends in the community, as well as family, “I’m tired, there is so much going on…”         I come into to church and as upbeat as I can, I say, “Good Morning, how are you today.”  Then I hear,  “I’m tired….”  Interestingly, for the most part, I don’t hear this much from older people, the ones who have a right to be tired.  I hear this from  young adults, teenagers, and even children.  (It happened just this past Sunday.)

Generally, they are referring not only to busy schedules, but “drama” in their lives. Work, bills, running the kids everywhere, dance, ball practice, games, homework, keeping wife happy, keeping hubby happy, keeping the in-laws happy, shopping, community and church activities, and even stressed about vacations and holidays.  Add to this, not only handling their own issues of life, but all to often getting wrapped up in other people problems.  Hey, folks, chill out…

Many years ago I sang in a brief meeting with E.V. Hill, pastor of the Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles.  In a way only he could say, “You know, people say to me, ‘Pastor, you don’t understand, I have a’ peculiar situation.'”

Then E.V. trumpeted in his booming gravel voice, “EVERYONE has a pa- (quooooool)- iar  situation.”

Of course there are extremes in our individual  “situations;” extreme illness, job issues, major family issues, etc.  However, the fact are, for most of us, we are all extremely busy and no one is particularly impressed about how much busier you are than they.   Our situation is not peculiar at all.  But there are so many things that wear us out and keep us so busy that are of no real value.  I love the word from Francis Chan…

Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but succeeding at things in life that don’t matter.

Each person must deal with that decision within themselves, however,  it would be good for all of us, every few weeks, or better still, every few days, better still throughout every day ask the question,  “Are we wearing ourselves out, working hard on “good things,” when there are “much better things” that deserve our energy?”  Too often, even Christians, settle for much less than the best.   No need to list all the things we do that distract, yet I admit, I struggle with this as well.

Even when  I was very young in the music ministry, spiritual giants have said to me, “Don’t you know the Lord says to BE STILL!” (Always with the exclamation point!) These were admonitions to not sing so loud.  However, this misinterpreted verse has become one of my all time most precious passages from God’s Word.  Psalm 46:10 reads,

“Be still and know that I Am God.”  What an overwhelmingly powerful word from our Lord!

A theologian I’m not, however, I do know that this word from our Lord speaks directly to you and me,

“Chill Out, I’m in charge.”  “I am weak, but He is strong.”  “Be of good courage, I can handle it.” 

The Apostle Paul wrote penned it this way in Philippians 4:6 and 7,

“Be anxious for nothing (don’t worry), but in everything by prayer and supplication (serious focused prayer), with thanksgiving,  let your requests be made know unto God…And the peace which surpasses comprehension will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” 

Now, what is the point of all this rambling?  For too many of us, “the things of the Lord,” regular Bible study, prayer, weekly corporate worship,  fellowship with other believers, and living out our faith, is simply on a list of the many things we do each day.  Instead of the framework on which all of our life hangs, our faith is simply just another rung on the ladder.  Now, friends, who happen to be reading this composition, even as a believer for over sixty years and one who has been in the ministry fifty, I admit I have fallen into this very consortium.  Still, I must remember, and you must as well,  Matthew 6:3

“Seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.”

The preceding verses reveal the Lord is talking about what we will wear, eat, and drink, our general well fare.  However, if it were written today,  I believe He would add our schedules, the kids, spouses, the boss, our deadlines, etc.  If we allow God to be the “uprights” on the ladder, He will help us decide the order of the rungs.

There have been a few folks in my ministry, and even some right now, that when I ask them “How you doin?” I hear, in so many words,  “GREAT!  Ready for a fantastic day. I’m excited to find out what God is up to today.” Father, help me to be one of those….


Musical Talent, uh…gifts?

I  am certainly aware that if totally prepared or flying by the seat of our pants, God often steps in and does His perfect work through our music.  We sit down exhilarated or defeated, we realize we had absolutely nothing to do with what He did.  I also know that God honors work.  He has given us “gifts” to develop, hone, and use for His Kingdom and to be a conduit of His love and grace to encourage the saints and witness to the unbeliever.  (I know I have written on this subject at other times, but it is vividly on my mind tonight. For fifty years, and now at Level Grove Baptist Church, I have been surrounded by marvelous musicians with hearts to pour themselves into ministry.  I am simply sitting at my desk feeling very grateful.  Of all men, I am so very blessed.)

Anyone who knows me, is vividly aware I am no theologian.   As a matter of fact, every time I preach, I know God has called me to sing….so does everyone else.  Still, after being saved for nearly sixty years and being in the ministry for fifty, God has taught me a few things.  I have listened to lengthy discussions of men far smarter than me concerning music, talent and gifts.  Is music a “gift” from God or is it a talent that, when developed, helps us to manifest the gifts God has given us?

..Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith.  Romans 12

…there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord……to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.    I Corinthians 12

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1

At the end of most worship services, someone will say to me or to one of our team, “Oh, God certainly has given you a wonderful gift.”  These comments are true, are well meaning and heartfelt.  We understand and appreciate it.  Yet, as a  leader, a minister of music, I am so very grateful that many wonderful people have taken their “God given gift” and taken the time to develop and sharpened their “gift” to skillfully play and sing.  The musician is blessed, the saints are encouraged, the lost see Jesus, and God is “lifted up” and glorified.

Thank you to the literal thousands of saints who have partnered with me these many years.



I thought I knew what “retirement” meant.  WRONG!  I certainly didn’t expect to rock on the front porch until I drop dead, but I did anticipate a little slower pace.  Of course, for the most part I set my own pace and I guess it is in my nature to run full steam most of the time.  Still, I am thoroughly enjoying these days living in North Georgia, though I understand the COLD  weather is coming soon.

OUR HOME:  Dot and I are enjoying our new home. The mountains are a long way from the beach, but they are beautiful.   Our house is considerably smaller than anything we’ve lived in probably forty years, but it fits us well.  The setting is very nice and I enjoy working round the house and the yard.

FAMILY: Of course, living near our daughter and son-in-law is a great blessing as well as a great  help.  We have not had any of our children close in nearly fifteen years.   We even get to see our sons and their families fairly often.  Though we aren’t “ancient” and are still in the “youth of our old age,” Dorothy and I sure do love to have our children and grandchildren around.  Speaking of grand children….

Will IVOUR NEW GREAT-GRANDSON, William Carl Coen, IV arrived last month. We have met him only through Skype, but we hope to meet him face to face when we visit Will, III and his lovely wife, Christian, in a couple of weeks.  They live in Wake Forest, NC, where Will attends Southeastern.

Level-Grove-LogoLEVEL GROVE:  LG is a wonderful place to serve and I am having a blast serving as  interim music man. Pastor Brian James is focused and fun, as is the entire staff.    The choir has about 50 members averaging 45 or so each week. The potential, however, is obviously at least 70.  Some think I’m crazy, but I can see that if they get serious about inviting and encouraging people to sing, there could be at least 70. Of course, with a platform designed for no more that 53, we’ll need to get creative.  As I have said over and over again, though many have tried to kill it,  the church choir is not dead, at least as long as I am alive…..

OUR COMMUNITY I have had the opportunity to meet a number of people in the Cleveland, Helen, and Cornelia communities and have developed some great new friends.  I have had the opportunity to sing for several community clubs and events and more are scheduled later in the year. 

Wrap Up One ChurchONE CHURCH I am honored to have been cast as Pastor Robert Young in the new motion picture, ONE CHURCH, A true story that hasn’t’ happened yet.  This timely story concerns the government’s attempt to totally overtake all religion in America.  The movie is produced by JC Films and Tri-Rahn Productions and stars Jessica Lynch, the young soldier that was captured in Iraq in 2003 and was the first successful rescue of an American POW since World War II and the first ever of a woman; truly an amazing woman.  I got to know Jessica during the film and found her to be a lovely young woman with a marvelous sense of humor, yet a powerful sense of purpose.  The film also stars Jason Fredrick and Tim Ross,  two very fine  young men.

Outside of the very powerful and timely story, one of the things that literally “blew me away” was the wonderful spirit on the set.  With a large production crew, a number of extras as well as the cast, I did not  hear the first  cross word during the entire month I was involved in filming.  With many set locations, there was a lot of pack up and move on, load and unload, set up, quick wardrobe changes, flubbed lines, corrected lines,  etc, etc, etc.     Of course there was serious and tense dialogue, long  hours, a lot of “hurry up and wait,” standing in place for long periods of time, stopping to move cameras, what seemed to be only inches,  and yet,  cooperation and a light-hearted spirit prevailed.  Everyone simply did what was necessary, serious about our work, yet there was lots of time for laughter and just plain fun.  We became “family.”

The obvious reason for the beauty of the filming process was that the Lord was in charge, no question. The director, Bill Rhan, is greatly experience, a true professional, but Bill is an unapologetic Christian and his marvelous spirit set the pace for everyone else. It was so cool to watch it all play out.  The film will be released later in 2015.

TMCTRUETT-McCONNELL COLLEGE:  We live just about three miles from Truett-McConnell and the music department is filled with good friends.  Dr. Ben Caston is chair and Becky Lombard and Dennis Allen are professors.  These are godly people, are marvelous musicians and wonderful friends.  Several of the students have become good friends as well and I get to sing MESSIAH with them November 20.

Of course, not all of the music students will become “professional” church musicians, but this school is not only teaching them to become outstanding musicians, but also teaching them how to live and relate in the “real world.”  The is HUGE.  (More about this later.)

Sons of JubalSONS OF JUBAL:  I have been active with the Georgia Baptist men’s chorus, The Sons of Jubal for about ten years.  Though I know the extreme value of being part of such a group, for the first nearly fifteen years I was in the state, I felt I was too busy.  Now I realize the SoJ should be a priority for EVERY minister of music in Georgia.  SoJ is far more than a “glee club.”  The SoJ is like going back to the university or seminary every time we meet. I may be “retired,” but there has never been a time that I have met with the Jubals that I have not learned something to “take home with me.”  Sometimes it is a technique, often is a great spiritual truth for me personally or one that I can share with my singers back home.

Of course, the fellowship is amazing and the friendships and bonds are eternal.  We sing, pray, laugh, and learn.  Some of my closet friendships I have ever  had have been birth through the Sons of Jubal. More importantly, some of the most sacred encounters with Christ were during a Jubal concert or in a small group in prayer.

I believe any minister of music in Georgia is making a phenomenal mistake if he is not in the Sons of Jubal.  I have served large churches and small I know first  hand that there IS time.


Well, my blog has become a “newsletter”  this time, but I just felt I would share the journeys of a newly “retired” music man. As busy as I am, I am actually setting my own pace, as the Lord leads and opens the doors.  Though I’ve loved my full-time work over the past five decades, it is so cool to go home in the middle of the day or even stay home if I choose.   I remember something Billy Graham said as he got older; he said something to this affect, If I had it to do over again, I would have traveled less and prayed more.  

I am no sage that calls young ministers to sit at my feet, but I would certainly say that I have spent a lot of time doing things that really don’t matter.  I’ve haggled over a $10 purchase while thousands were being spent on other things.  I was once in a church business meeting where the main discussion that went on, for what seemed to be hours,  was  what kind of mower the church should purchase.  (That is a discussion for another blog post, you get my point.)  SPEND TIME ON WHAT  MATTERS AND SPEND TIME WITH PEOPLE.  GET OUT OF THE OFFICE, “LET THE DEAD BURY THE DEAD.”  I believe I may have been more effective in ministry if I had retired forty years ago……..

Of course, God called me to serve Him and I will do it until a draw my last breath and then I’m quite certain I will continue in Glory.