Monday, July 28, 2014

Rejoice in the Lord Always

(In Memoriam)

“Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again:  Rejoice!”  (Phil. 4:4)

I’ve thought a lot about this verse lately.  What does “rejoice” truly mean?  Miriam-Webster says that it means to show that you are very happy about something.  The Greek translation means “to be cheerful or calmly happy.”   It makes me wonder how often I rejoice and when I do, how do I chose to rejoice? 

My heart is broken these days.  I have an uncle that will soon be leaving this earth and will be in the presence of his Savior.  My heart aches for the loss, but celebrates for what lies in my uncle’s future.  I have to tell a little about my Uncle Gwyn.  Forty-eight years ago, he was severely burned over 80% of his body in a plant accident.  I have never known him without his scars.  I have never known him without struggling to walk.  But I have also never known a time he wasn’t rejoicing, and his way of rejoicing is to sing.  When my sister and I were little, my family would make trips from Columbia to Ashe County to visit family.  My uncle would sit us on his knee and sing a song about “uh-oh, I’m falling in love with you”.  As time passed, when we would make these trips, the minute we would see his car in the driveway, we started cheering “Hut-oh!  Hut-oh!” excited to hear our song.  And so, he became Uncle Hut-oh.  Through the years, Uncle Hut-oh has gone from walking with a limp, to being unable to walk without the use of crutches, to a motorized scooter, and now to a wheelchair.  And even though his life changed in the blink of an eye, I have never heard him complain.  I have never heard him ask why; and although his pain has often been unbearable, he is always rejoicing.  He is always singing.

Looking at his life and his love for Jesus makes me think about how I rejoice.  Psalm 9:2 says, “I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will SING the praises of Your name, O Most High.”  Rejoicing and singing seem to go together.  And when we sing praises, we worship!  And no matter what we are going through in our own lives, we should rejoice, sing and worship!  I often look out on Sunday morning and I see very little singing and even less rejoicing.  Some people sit, some drink coffee, some cross their arms and stare into space.  Is God not worthy of more than that?  When I close my eyes, I can see the smile on Uncle Hut-oh’s face as he is rejoicing and singing in his majestic baritone voice.  Oh what he would give to stand and raise his hands to the heavens and worship Him!  But time has confined him to a wheelchair.  He no longer has use of his limbs, but he still has a voice.  And he still rejoices!  He still sings!  He still worships!

I know his time on earth is coming to an end.  But my heart is already rejoicing because when that day comes, there will be no more scars, no more pain, no more wheelchairs.  And the voice that has been rejoicing and singing to the Most High will stand before Him with his hands raised in praise.

So what is my excuse for not singing praise to the Most High?  What is holding me back from truly rejoicing?  Jesus has saved me from my sin and I will live with Him forever!  Now that is something to be very happy about.  So rejoice!  Sing!  Worship! 


Monday, July 21, 2014

A Song Recycled

In today’s “green” world everything gets recycled, (well not always at my house).  I must admit that I grew up in the day when we just took our trash outside and burned it.  We lived 30 miles from town so I didn’t even know where the landfill (or “dump” as we called it) was even located, and we for sure were not going to pay someone to pick up our trash. In fact, I still don’t think that there is garbage collection on the street where I grew up.  Now don’t get me wrong I do see the value in recycling, it’s just that old habits are often hard to break.

Recycling is also occurring in music today.  No matter what style of music you listen to, artists are incorporating parts of older songs into new songs.  This is where recycling really excites me.  Our Praise Team has been working on a new song, well not entirely new, but anyway I am really excited about it.  The song is titled “Lord, I Need You.”  This song was written by Matt Maher, Daniel Carson, Kristian Stanfill, Christy Nockels and Jesse Reeves.  The writers of this song were working on a project together and started talking about old songs and the song “I Need Thee Every Hour” came up in discussion.  They all loved the old song and decided to write a new song around the main chorus of the original.  They took the main chorus line “Lord I need Thee, oh, I need Thee, Every hour I need Thee” and made that the first part of the chorus in the new song except they changed “Thee” to “You.”   I like the words of the new song but when it gets to the “recycled” part then I really love it.

I grew up in a small country church on songs like “I Need Thee Every Hour,” so when I hear them they touch a cord with my heart.  The original song “I Need Thee Every Hour” was written by Annie Sherwood Hawks.  Annie and her husband joined a church whose pastor was the noted hymn writer and composer, Dr. Robert S. Lowry.  Dr. Lowry recognized Mrs. Hawks’ talent for writing and encouraged her to use it.  In fact he even offered her a challenge, “If you’ll write the words, I’ll write the music,” and in 1872 Annie penned the words to the song and Dr. Lowry, being true to his word wrote the music. 

Often times this song comes to mind when I am in a low spot in my life and singing it brings comfort when I cry out to Christ “I need Thee, oh, I need Thee, every hour I need Thee.”  I did a little research on this song and found out that it wasn’t actually written during a low point in Mrs. Hawks’ life.  Here is a quote in her own words, “I remember well the circumstances under which I wrote the hymn.  It was a bright June day, and I became so filled with the sense of the nearness of my Master that I began to wonder how anyone could live without Him, in either joy or pain.  Suddenly, the words I need Thee every hour, flashed into my mind, and very quickly the thought had full possession of me.  Seating myself by the open windows, I caught up my pencil and committed the words to paper – almost as they are today.  A few months later Dr. Robert Lowry composed the tune for my hymn and also added the refrain.”

Mrs. Hawks also stated, “It was wafted out to the world on the wings of love and joy, instead of under the stress of great personal sorrow, with which it has often been associated.  At first I did not understand why the hymn so greatly touched the throbbing heart of humanity.  Years later, however, under the shadow of a great loss, I came to understand something of the comforting power of the words I had been permitted to give out to others in my hours of sweet serenity and peace.”

The newly recycled “Lord, I Need Your” was written in 2011, 139 years after Mrs. Hawkes penned her hymn.  This song talks about needing the Lord to face temptations, going to him for confession, and grace and holiness being found in Christ.  I sure need a lot of that, LORD I NEED YOU!!!!  I am glad that the writers of this new song “recycled” a classic and have given it new life to a new generation. 

What comforting words.  Whether it is recognizing that all is well and being a song of prayer and Thanksgiving, or being a song of prayer during a hardship and time of need, or most importantly a prayer of confession, we all need “Thee.”

Just today our Pastor sent me a link to a new song titled “My Heart is Yours”.  This song recycles a part of “I Surrender All,” another classic.  I LOVE recycling!  The writer of this song is Kristian Stanfill (hey, he was in on the writing of “Lord, I Need You), oh well I guess he loves recycling as much as I do.


Monday, July 14, 2014

A Life Celebrated

I come to you today celebrating the life of my grandmother, Reba Minton.  Better known to me as "Nana".  Her life on this earth came to an end on Thursday, July 10th.  She was 70 years old and had been battling cancer since 2005.  She had lung cancer twice and brain cancer between 2005-2008; all of which God wiped away for her while on the earth.  I'm not here to tell you about why her body failed her, but rather share her testimony and celebrate her life.

In 2005 when she had her heart attack and was diagnosed with cancer, I remember what that felt like to me.  Even though she was my grandmother, she at most times was more like a mother to me.  She helped raise and care for me when I was younger and she is a huge reason for who I am today.  After her initial cancer diagnosis and heart attack, she was given about 1-3 years to live, tops.  The doctors told her that there was just no way she could live past 2008 with her condition.  After she was given that time, I remember her telling the Lord that whether he gave her 6 months or 16 years, she would praise Him and speak His name with not only her mouth, but her life.  I must say, she kept her word.

She loved to sing.  Before the cancer and treatments began to effect her lungs, she had a beautiful voice and used it often.  Instead of praying out loud, I remember that she would always sing a song to Him that related to the words she wanted to say to Him.  She loved to communicate through song.  After the cancer effected her, I watched that voice get weaker and slowly begin to fade.  To her, that was no reason to lose heart.  She still kept her word to the Lord.  She got used to living with oxygen and having to limit herself, but she was still happy.  Not just on the outside for everyone to see, but you could tell her heart was filled with joy, whether she had the breath to tell you or not.

On Thanksgiving, 2013, her health really started to go down hill.  She was put in Boone hospital with symptoms of not being able to breathe and her blood gas level being really high.  While in Boone, we were told that she was going to die before she could go home, but the Doctors wanted to send her to Winston, where she was put on life support.  After a week of this, the Doctors in Winston strongly suggested that we take her off and let her pass, because there was no hope.  Instead, God breathed life into her lungs once again and she took a breathe on her own, going home a few days after.  I saw the hand of God move in her life once again.

This happened again about 2 weeks ago, but this time, God had a different plan for her.  She had done what she was put here to do.  She went into the hospital again, not being able to breathe and was put on life support.  My Grandpa believed that she would be healed, and she was. Perfectly.  Even though her body failed her, God did not.  He took her home on July 10th.  Even though it was very difficult to see, I learned a few things through it.  At the end of her life, her breath to sing had been taken, her energy had been taken, her ability to go to church had been taken, but her breath itself had not been.  She was still able to breathe and with that, she spoke the name of God up until the final breath she took on the earth.

I am confident that now, her energy has been restored, her body has been restored, her strength has been restored, but most precious to her, her ability to sing has been restored, and I know that's what she is doing.  Even though it was one of the most difficult things I've witnessed so far in life,  I saw the hand of God in her life so many times and am thankful for it.  I wouldn't have it any other way.



Monday, July 7, 2014

My Drums

For those that know me best, I sort of pride myself on not being terribly materialistic.  I don’t really care for gadgets, technology, and other “stuff” unless it is actually useful for something.  If I have something that I’m not using or that I’ve not used in a while, I’ll usually get rid of it.  As a matter of fact, I’ve sold quite a few beautiful instruments this past year simply because they were sitting in their cases, slowly collecting dust.  I’m not really into any sort of collecting just for the sake of having.  In addition, I’m sort of getting to an age that whenever I DO buy something, I either want it to be the last one that I’ll buy or I want it to last a very long time.

At the time I bought my Pork Pie drums (the ones I currently play at church), I had been playing another brand name of drums for about 7-8 years, and I had put them through the ringer.  I was on the road with them almost every weekend for many years (sometimes multiple times a week), and I had also done my fair share of recording with them as well.  Although they were in fairly water-tight cases, they had been rained on, baked in the sun, snowed on, dropped in mud, rolled down stairs (not intentionally), frozen, and beat to death for years.  While they had held up, I was finally in a place about 10 years ago where I could purchase another set.  During this time, I was still hopeful that I would be playing music full time someday, so I made the decision to research before investing in my next kit. 
When searching out what kind of drum set to get, I had decided to get a small-shop kit.  What I mean by this is I wanted to buy something from a small shop with a good reputation and attention to detail.  Instead of buying from one of the major conglomerates with hundreds of employees with various factories in a few different countries, I wanted to get an instrument that wasn’t produced for the masses.  I had been introduced to Pork Pie a few years earlier, so I decided to do some research.  Long story short (and one very, very fortunate eBay auction later), I had my kit.

Here’s my sad attempt at a bird’s-eye view of my drums (You will rarely see a kit set up with at tom off to the left.  I ended up doing this during late autumn last year because I was having some pretty serious back pain, and the less I twisted, the better off I was.  I ended up really liking it over there, so I left it.):

General specs:
Snare – 13” (width) x 5” (depth)
Rack tom – 12” x 9”
Floor tom on the left – 14” x 12”
Floor tom on the right – 16” x 14”
Kick drum – 22” x 16”

Where did the name “Pork Pie” come from?  The following comes from an interview Drum! magazine did with Bill Detamore (CEO of Pork Pie) back in 2009:  The name came from a movie from New Zealand called “Goodbye Pork Pie”. My friend Mark and I [Bill Detamore] were watching the movie trying to think of names, and I said, “What do you think of Pork Pie Percussion? He said, “It’s perfect.”(from

In terms of construction, I guess I’ll start with the shells themselves.  The shells are made by Keller.  Keller shells have been a standard in various boutique/high-end drum set companies such as Orange Country Drums and Percussion (OCDP), Truth, Spaun, C&C, and DW in the mid/late 1990’s. 
So if Pork Pie uses the same shells that other companies do, what makes this particular company so great?  One thing that Pork Pie does is order a set of shells in graduated plies depending on size.  In other words, the bigger the drum, the more plies (to a certain extent).  In doing this, the kit actually sounds like one instrument as opposed to just a sum of its parts.  No drum is any louder or softer than the other, and no notes seem to “stick out.”  I’ve played many drum sets where maybe the kick drum (or bass drum) sounded great, but the low tom lacked rumble, or maybe the high tom was way louder than the low toms.  I’ve played a set where the smaller toms sounded great as did the lower toms, but they had two different tones.  It’s almost as if they could have come from two different kits.  This is not the case with my current set.
Another benefit of ordering a Pork Pie kit has to do with the hand-cut bearing edges; Pork Pie is probably the most famous and well-known for this.  The bearing edge is the wooden edge around the “rim” of the drum shell.  Without a good bearing edge, drums are difficult to tune and simply sound poor.  Not only are the edges perfectly sanded and cut, Bill Detamore cuts the edges himself…on every custom kit that leaves the factory.  As a matter of fact, he does such a great job cutting edges, many famous full-time drummers send their kits to Bill to have him re-cut their edges as well.  Here’s a picture of Mr. Detamore cutting the edges on a custom kit. (Picture courtesy of

On custom kits, after the edges are cut, the hardware installed, etc., Bill Detamore hand writes the serial number, his signature, and the born-on date inside of each individual shell.  While this picture is not of one of my drum shells, it is very similar to what mine look like. (Courtesy of

When I first got my drum set, I checked the numbers.  The serial numbers are sequential from one drum to the next.  Bigger drum companies tend to make a lot of the various-sized drums and then put them together in sets (and serial numbers will be all over the place in terms of order inside the shells): however, Pork Pie makes one drum set at a time.  I was very lucky to actually pick up a set with a snare drum with a sequential number to the rest of the kit.  Their snare drums are so good that when folks sell their used kits online, the snare is oftentimes missing (people tend to hang onto them).

I’ve had a couple of custom pieces made at Pork Pie as well.  The one that’s the most popular with choir members and anyone else that’s been up close is my drum seat, or what’s known as a drum throne.  Here’s a picture if you’ve not seen it:

Yup, that’s leopard print on a purple seat.  For Christmas one year, Marci got in touch with Pork Pie and ordered the seat, ordered a separate backrest, and had a the backrest shipped directly to the company, and they wrapped the back in matching material (mine is one of three that exist). It’s by far the most comfortable thing I have sat on besides my recliner at home.  After they had completed the work, they threw in a matching stick bag as well (you can see it clipped to my floor tom).

Another year for Christmas, Marci had this custom drum head made for me:

When Marci called Pork Pie, Bill Detamore himself answered the phone.  When she put in the order, he said, “I’ll get started on this today.”  Bill, himself, actually made this for me.  I’ve heard many stories about how when people call Pork Pie, Bill answers the phone and is more than courteous in answering questions regarding products and services.

In closing, I need to share this:

When I first got this set, I set it up in the little dining area in the tiny house that Marci and I were renting at the time.  I was so happy to have it, elated even, to have been able to get something pre-owned which was so hard to find at the time.  The first day I got them, I tuned up and played them for quite a while, and then I noticed it - just a little bit of rust on one of the rims.  I remember getting a rag and trying to polish it out to no avail.  The thought crossed my mind to get on the internet and order a brand new rim to get rid of the one with a little rust.  As soon and I did, this verse popped in my head:

Matthew 6:19-20 - “Do not accumulate for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But accumulate for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and thieves do not break in and steal.”

I felt like it was as if God was reminding me that no matter what we have, whether it be brand new, pre-owned, played, not played, passed down, packed up and forgotten, etc., it’s all going to pass.  No matter what possession we have, it will eventually break and fall apart. It will wear out.  It will mold.  It may be stolen or misplaced.  In my case, it will rust. 

Even though I love my drums, I know that eventually they will return to the ground from whence they came, along with my car, my house, my recliner, and anything else I own.  I believe that we need to use what we have (be it a skill, gift, or material possession) for God’s glory while we have the chance.  They are all His anyways.