Trying to drive in the glaring westerly sun on the annoying construction-coned southbound lanes of the North East Extension's Pennsylvania Turnpike, is just about as irritating as reading this l-o-n-g drag-on opening sentence. But I did it on Sunday, and I feel very accomplished. Each time my eyes would start to drift into the shaded eyelid half moon stare, my body would jolt with a surge of adrenaline. "Time to stop...", I said out loud, to no one, but me. "If I can just find a safe place to stop, I'll put my head back for a few minutes and I'll be fine."
And that's what I did. At the rest area. For about two hours.
This type of exhaustion follows every time there's an out-pouring of God moments at a thirty-six hour marathon called a women's retreat. And this time was no exception. About one hundred and eighty women gathered at the beautiful Tuscarora Inn near the Delaware River in Mt. Bethel, PA to experience a hopeful encounter with Jesus and their girlfriends. Some came as far as Maine, Connecticut, Ohio and mostly from Jersey, NYC and Pennsylvania. I came from a history of speaking for over two hundred retreats in about a decade. But this one was particularly special on many fronts.
Women weren't expecting to laugh so much. That seemed to be the eternal conversation starter. Women didn't expect that laughter would do its healing as much as it did. This was talked about over and over. Women enjoyed the fact that their fallible and imperfect speaker was relevant and real, and not so super-sized spiritually, but walking this same journey as they. I heard this over and over. Women, who at first fought as to whether to even attend, thanked me because they just weren't expecting this kind of thing.
What "IS" this kind of thing? The Church of the Lutheran Brethren Women's Retreat covered a vast array of denominations. I mean, it wasn't just CLB women who attended. Like a smorgasbord of culture and beliefs, there were some that came just to have fun. Perfect. They're exactly who I prayed would come. And this "kind of thing" was setting the atmosphere so the Holy Spirit would show up.
The topic and message of the weekend, as invasive as it can get, was called "Serving from the Second Chair". It was my fourth time presenting this message. But again, I felt the inward pangs of conviction and scrutiny, "How can I lead from the second chair, when it seems all I do is war against being first or wanting to be first in everything?"
One young woman named Rebecca reminded me. "Sue, I didn't want to come. I struggled to make it to the first session. But I stayed. I made myself stay. And now I realize that God had something miraculous for me to experience."
So, we wipe away tears and we store up the laughter, and praise God for an encounter that will probably go down as an all-time fave. Many women found Jesus as their Savior. Young women poured their hearts out to God. And the seasoned saints were reminded that our God is real. We laughed, we had spontaneous dance (like a Go-Go girl!) and we begged our heavenly Father to hold us accountable to Him and to each other. One woman expressed, "I really liked the weekend. It definitely wasn't what I was expecting. I'm still learning about this God stuff."
I don't know how everyone drove home that afternoon without passing out! But thankfully, it looks like we all made it home safely. As I awoke from the power nap off of 476, I laughed to myself as I saw signs of bone-tired effects. My hands were still on the steering wheel! I popped them off with a firecracker release and raised them to the air and said out loud, "Dear...God! I even try to drive in my sleep!"
Our small town high school football games were always the highlight of the fall. It was a chance for everyone—no matter what age—to come out and support the kids, enjoying both the camaraderie and competition of the surrounding schools. It was also a chance for students, like me at the time, to check out the other guys from neighboring schools. You can imagine my disappointment when my girlfriend called and said, “My mom says we have to bring my baby sister with us to the game.”
Great. This was just what two teenagers needed to spoil a potential fun afternoon— babysitting a four-year-old at a packed football stadium! I had visions of her whining, crying, begging for snacks and killing our dream of checking out the boys on the football team! I panicked about what would happen if—worst case scenario—we lost her or someone stole her!
My fun-filled opportunity turned sour at about half time. The toddler kept complaining that I was holding her hand too tightly. She had to go to the potty at least four times. We sat on the lower level of the bleachers, but still fought the fear that she’d slip off the back of them and tumble to the ground. I was a wreck! The only good thing happening was that our team was winning. With every touchdown, there was elation and screams of joy— fans standing, jumping and cheering. For one second, when we were captivated in the euphoria of the moment, I glanced down beside me and noticed the toddler was gone! My heart stopped. My friend started screaming her name, while I was suddenly translated into FBI mode, feverishly looking underneath the bleachers. Her mother is going to kill us, I thought to myself.
About five minutes later, we found the little girl at the far end bottom of the bleachers. She sat on the ground, face filthy, grinning from ear to ear, and was chewing a wad of something rather large. I grabbed her and picked her up and said, “What in the world is in your mouth?” She responded proudly, “Gum!” When I inquired about where she got it, she replied, quite happily, “Underneaf da seats!”
I was cured for a long time from ever agreeing to take a toddler to a football game! My friend and I ran to the ladies room, washed the girl’s mouth out with water and soap, and prayed that God would somehow protect her from whatever disease and germs she had ingested “Underneaf da seats!”
I wish you could have seen her cute little face as she proudly relayed the story of the treasure she had found that day. She had no idea how deadly that little act of “bubblegum search and rescue” could have been for her. Thank goodness, she never got sick!
Here are some fun things to “chew” on:
1. Taking a baby or toddler to a football game or a large venue with lots and lots of people will insure that you will be “underneaf” stress and pressure for sure!
2. Stay “underneaf” the protection of God. Pray daily for the covering of His Holy Spirit—in your coming and going, and especially in difficult situations when you are totally unaware!
3. Live “underneaf” the grace of God. Carol Kent’s book, Between A Rock and A Grace Place, is an amazing look at how we can discover divine places amidst the tough spots in life.
4. Walk “underneaf” the knowledge that there is no fear in Christ. He is our provider and our strong tower. He is our safe place! I guess we could say, we’re “underneaf” His wings!
“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and are safe” (Proverbs 18:10).
(Originally posted on Laugh Lines, click here! (The Women's AG website) Also, more on SUEbiquitous! too!
As I walk the park this morning, I see a young couple trying to play disc golf. Their terrier thinks he is part of the game too. I laugh as I watch. Every time "dad" or "mom" try to throw the disc towards the goal, the dog catapults into a rocket run and retrieves the disc back to their starting position. They keep yelling, "No, Butch! NO! Put it down! Butch! Sit down!"
Now, I'm no dog obedience trainer and I'm especially not an expert on training dogs for sport, but I had to chuckle at this escapade. What did they expect, when their little furry child isn't on a leash? And for goodness sake, this is like heaven for a dog. Of course he thinks he's part of the game!
I'm assuming they think it's unfair to put Butch on a leash. So they let him run around. But the constant yelling throughout the park today, sets another thought in motion for me: "You take your dog to the park, you throw little round discs all around and you expect your dog to not be engaged?" Weird.
Butch saw me as I made the final lap and made a dash for me. Of course, mom and dad are yelling, "Butch - get over here! Butch - NO!" But me being the dog lover, I just bend down and put my hand out as if to say, "It's OK, Butch, I understand you." He sits in front of me and I pet him for a minute. I talk to him, "I'm sorry Butch. I get you. Mom and Dad take you to this awesome park and you're not aloud to be a dog. Just take it in stride, Butch. They'll come around some day."
Parenting is a tough thing. And we all make mistakes and do dumb stuff. But a favorite memory of mine happened when I insisted that my kids NOT play in the mud and the rain, even after letting them play outside. I remember yelling, "Get out of that mud puddle! Don't you dare get dirty!" Yet, I still let them play outside after the storm. Finally, my friend said (since we were at her house), "Oh, just let them get dirty. Who cares. They're having fun. And they'll never forget the day their mother said they could frolic in the filth."
She was right. My kids never forgot that.
Let a kid be a kid. And for sure - let a dog be a dog!
Maybe I'll go back to the park and rescue Butch from his conflicting mixed-messaged parents. I have plenty of new mulch in my backyard he can roll around in. :)
I don’t think much about warranties on things. I usually turn down extended warranties just because they are so over priced and not necessary. I did succumb to Apple Care for my iPhone and computer, but that’s only because I’m such a klutz. My technology gear goes with me everywhere I go. So if I fall down steps with my iPad flying or drop a few iPhones in toilets, I’m covered.
But the logic of today hits me like a ton of bricks. I’m debating whether to invest in a really good smoothie-maker machine. You know the one. The one that costs like 3 billion dollars (well, not really), but its claims are stellar. This particular model has a built in blade guarantee for seven years. Seven years. Yes, sev-en.
Forty years ago as a newlywed and homemaker, a seven year warranty claim and bragging rights of being the best of the best smoothie maker (or blender, as they once were called) wouldn’t impress. I mean, really? Who cares about that long of a warranty? Just buy another one or a cheap one when it breaks. I also wouldn’t care, to tell you the truth. But this shift known as “my sixtieth year” (shocking as it is), makes me think, “Wow. If I buy this, I’ll be sixty-seven by the time the warranty runs out!” Ouch.
It’s both sobering and encouraging at the same time. I even find myself thinking, like after buying our new Ford Flex back in May, “Maybe this will be the last new car I’ll need for the road . Great extended warranty and mileage coverage.” Never thought this way before..
These are all new feelings, new territory and a new queasiness, actually. The day you start thinking ahead and predicting where you’ll be in the equation to “how much time do I have left?”, or “what kinds of funds will I have later on?” puts me in a more strategic way of thinking.
Webster’s definition of “guarantee” is: A formal promise or assurance (typically in writing) that certain conditions will be fulfilled. I love that. And here it is in writing, according to Ephesians 1:14 (The Message)
“It’s in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it (this Message of your salvation), found yourselves home free—signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit. This signet from God is the first installment on what’s coming, a reminder that we’ll get everything God has planned for us, a praising and glorious life.”
Talk about a perfect warranty! I didn’t have to pay for this extended guarantee either. It was already purchased for me, a gift. All I have to do is receive it in faith through Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. And the best part of this warranty is: It never runs out. It never expires. I am completely covered. And you can be too. The upgrade is simply amazing!
I've done this before. Many times, in fact. But I always know, that if you monitor or document what you eat every day, you'll see the real truth. And here's the truth: I'm not dying of hunger. I'm not "dieting"... I'm literally eating good food, healing foods, that (coupled with cardio and workouts) I'm slowily seeing the bathroom scale as a good friend. But better than the scale, it's the overall feeling of wellness. An old guy named Draper, lapped me at the walking park today (he's 75; I'm 60), but I told him it won't be long before he'll have competition!
All I can say is this: Do this. This is the day to start. Even if you've had trouble meeting your health goals before, take the time to (like the Old Testament book Habakkuk 2:2 says), "Write it down." And in our case here, post it every day on MyFitnessPal.
I have 42 pounds to go to my goal. So far, it appears that I'm losing about 8 pounds per month. And that's right on schedule. Thanks My Fitness Pal app - check my blog post there!
YES, we definitely need new ways to use our already app-filled IOS or Android devices! As if we're not on our phones long enough as it is! But this one, I gotta say, is like broadcasting live from wherever you are, and followers have a chance to interact with you while your broadcasting! Crazy crazy... So, the app is only about fourteen weeks old and it's off the charts already. It's a great way to interact with your audience if you're a performer or speaker or a nut-zoid like me! Download the app today (Periscope) and find Sue Duffield... She's there doing something, I'm sure!
"And pray in the spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying FOR ALL THE SAINTS.”
I studied this verse for years, not knowing really why Paul, even in his hardship and imprisonment, would say such a thing. For surely, wasn’t Paul a “saint”? And wasn’t Paul in the toughest place in his life when he said this? Of course he was. But rather than asking for believers to pray for his release or for comfort from God to detox the stress in his life, he instead instructed others to “..pray in the spirit on all occasions….and be alert….and keep on praying for all the saints.”
This one verse has revolutionized how I approach my prayer life. For years, I would (of course) pray for my needs, my kids, my husband, my ministry, my my my…..everything. And for years, I saw the hand of God be slow to answering many of these prayers. Some of our prayers are not prayers at all. They are need lists, rant lists and “to do” lists, as if God is some kind of cosmic bellboy.
Lee Brace of the Navigators says, “Prayers in the Bible are primarily for praying and interceding for the believers. When Christ is lifted up through believers, He draws people to Himself.”
I thought about this for quite some time. Except for Jesus teaching us “how” to pray the Lord’s Prayer, there are few scriptures that tell us how we should pray. So, for a few months I did just what Paul said to do - Pray FOR ALL THE SAINTS, that they would be equipped for duty for the cause of Christ, to fight and resist the devil and his tactics, and that by this, those around them would be drawn to Him.. I prayed and listed missionaries, pastors and ministry leaders right and left. I prayed and singled out specific Christians around the world who are on the front lines; those who literally have to choose between life and death everyday.
Can I honestly tell you? Some of the very prayers that I had prayed for years have now been answered. That’s right. I’m telling you the truth. It’s as if God heard me, because I was interceding for His children; the ones who are spreading truth around the world. I quit praying for my needs, and made it about the needs of others. And all the while I had my focus on scripturally-sound prayers and petition, God has been answering my first prayers.
Here’s an example: Instead of praying for my son, his new job and his relationship with Christ, I’ve been praying, (1) “Lord, thank you for the co-workers and bosses that surround my son everyday. Bless you, God, for raising up the strong Christians at his work, to be an influence on my son.” (2) “I praise you Father for my daughter. I ask in Jesus’ Name, for a strong, Christ-like man to come into her life; the one you have prepared her heart for. May you strengthen him right now, whoever and wherever he is.”
Both prayers mention my kids, but both prayers do more than just ask God for personal reasons. I’m asking God to “equip” the saints around them, to be a hedge of protection, to bring living breathing life to the Christians that my children come in contact with every day, as a guide and spiritual influence. I never prayed like this before. And I also have to say, I’ve never seen such miraculous moves of God in my adult kids’ lives - either, ever.
On this National Day of Prayer, be mindful of “how” you pray. Write it down. Ask God to “equip the saints”, to do the work of the Lord. Be ready FOR CHANGE when you change how you pray.
(written for SGNScoops online Magazine)
Special thanks to author/speaker, Cynthia Heald, who changed my life with her teachings and Bible studies.
Women from all over South Jersey came to share in the joy and hilarity of preparing our hearts for service. I am deeply changed by responses of so many, ranging in ages from teen to...well, let's just say... my age! Powerful words of edification were spoken. Thanks to Fairton Christian Center Women's Ministry for giving me the chance to let God use me. I'll never forget you!
Almost 150 ladies jammed into the fellowship hall of Bellview Baptist in Paducah on Saturday night, April 18th, 2015. I knew from the start that this would be a monumental experience of chocolate, California Chicken Salad sandwiches, chocolate fountains and tons of laughs. Over twenty churches represented, it was a stellar event directed by Carolyn Martin and her committee of creatives. But the best part was the power of the anointing that fell fresh on the place; many moments of tears and laughter. I praise God for every opportunity like this, never ever taking it for granted. Women of all ages, including Madi - who helped me play air guitar! Praising God today, that many women will be empowered for greatness today, walking in total forgiveness by our Savior.
Jeff and I were newlyweds, just married about six months when we were asked to join the music staff of the Delanco Family Camp Week in NJ back in 1974. We have Dave VanSciver of then Ocean Grove, to blame for all this. He’s the one who thought we were worthy of such an invite. And that first visit turned out to be a life-time of memory making Delanco calendar stops from 1974 all the way through to as recent as 2010.
I remember meeting Carleton Bodine, Sr., president of Delanco Camp and recalling him eyeing us up and down. I’m sure he was thinking, “There’s no way that these radical contemporary singers will fit into our more conservative audience.” He probably was right. The song services, as they called them in ’74, were much more traditional and more mainstream, usually led by inspirational artist, Frank Jacobs. On the piano was the ever-present Mary Boughton, a favorite for many years.
So, to break in to this well-established Delanco machine was no easy fete. But we were no dummies either. In while I would have loved to have turned up the amps and fire up our reel-to-reel tracks, filled with drums and Andrae Crouch songs, our very first song on that infamous July Friday night in '74 was “Down By The Well”. I chose this sacred song because it was written by good friends of the Bodines, Herb and Blanche Osborn of Bridgeton, NJ. I smile as I think even back then (only twenty years old), I knew what political persuasion and favor could do. Everyone smiled. Everyone lifted their hands. And the start of the Duffield music influence began at Delanco.
Needless to say, two twenty year olds - Jeff on the piano and me on vocal - were some of the early singers to introduce a more contemporary worship sound to Delanco Camp. Carleton Bodine, Jr., and his leadership, desired to reach out to a younger audience. The singing group he led, The King’s Crusaders, performed a mix of contemporary and gospel favorites sung by some of south Jersey’s best teens… many of which are still our friends today.
On those July summer nights in the 70s when Family Camp was at its peak, you could hardly find an empty seat on those wooden benches. And be prepared that if you didn’t come early enough for those evening services, you’d have to park way off in some sand ditch! It was an exciting time of our lives. It was the formation of our worship music. It was the beginning of something supernatural in the lives of teens as well as adults.
Oh, and we can’t forget the sandpit softball games with Jerry Ruff! We’d die of exhaustion and heat, but those were some great duels. After ten days in a row of softball, singing, leading devotions, consuming some pretty doggone good camp food, preaching, drinking way too much BOOST, and staying up late every night - I gotta say, “I miss it all.”
With her permission, I want to share an email with you. This woman recently attended a service where Jeff and I ministered.
My heart was heavy today as I entered my church. It was a cold and bitter day outside and it almost reflected exactly what was going on in my own heart. I was surprised to see that we were having a guest ministry share this morning. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I was disappointed that my pastor wasn’t speaking today. My husband and I had a terrible fight just as I walked out the door. He’s not a Christian, and I go through this almost every time I make any concerted effort to do anything spiritual. It’s quite a battle. He especially hates when I give money or tithe and that makes me so sad.
You wouldn’t know this, because I attempt to smile a lot and cover up my despair on the inside. We’ve also been slammed with financial hardship and that makes it doubly hard to live in that house. My husband’s uncle passed away recently and he was a good Christian, but all my husband could say was, “Foolish man - gave most of his money to that church. Just think how he could have taken care of all of us with that!?” Of course I think, “Foolish man (my husband), if you took care of your wife it wouldn’t be so hard”. I work two jobs and my husband is on disability.
I’m sorry to drag you through all this, but it will make sense to you in a moment: What happened today during the worship time while you were singing, was such healing for me. I “heard” my Heavenly Father say to me, “Daughter, I know you. I love you. I am your Source. Please love your husband unconditionally and walk tall and stand firm. I got this. Do not suffer despair anymore. I will deal with your husband and he will turn around, but you must love him first. Do not be his slave, but love him. You are not to blame. You have been faithful.” So instead of hearing my pastor this morning, God brought you. And even through the laughter and tears I can say, thank you for all you shared to help me open my eyes, ears and heart. Bless you for coming…
In Jesus’ name, Jane
Now, here’s the technical details of that worship service:
1. No song was sung about marriage.
2. There was no mentioning of tithing or giving.
3. No instructional teaching or preaching on “wives, love your husbands…”.
4. No sharing about depression or despair and how God can overcome.
5. I didn’t sing a single irrelevant song, just to tickle ears or make people like me.
6. I never once mentioned the “how to” or even give a five point sermon on relationships.
7. But what we did do was laugh, sing and worship.
We worshiped so much that the atmosphere was filled with a calming presence of the Holy Spirit…just singing and worshiping and letting God heal, transform, enlighten, speak, encourage, convict, and inspire! And best of all, God did all the things that I could never do. This is how lives are changed - not by our own methods, trends, statement songs or pragmatic routines - but by being in His Holy presence. If you’re a worship leader, a singer or musician - create the space, the capacity, the room that will allow the Holy Spirit to breathe.
This article also posted on Southern Gospel Times.
All these blessings include:
the smell of children who rarely bathe
rice & beans everyday
a marathon of hugs
a sick stomach
a broken heart
and a life that is changed...forever.
"Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing. Then they said among the nations, "The LORD has done great things for them." The LORD has done great things for us, and we are glad. - Psalm 126:2-3
Laughter and singing. It's just a few of the ways that God does great things. This is my mission to the world. I'm not a theologian but I believe I have a degree in the Ministry of Laughter & Singing, creating a sacred stop of fun so desperately needed in our churches and within the leadership of women's events worldwide. ..Setting the atmosphere so ALL women, no matter their learning or listening curve, will hear.
Join me on this WE. ARE. GLAD. journey for 2015 & 2016!
I was so in the moment cooking & having Sunday dinner w/my fam & Jeremy that I never took pictures. This is how you know.. #putyourphoneaway— Sue Duffield (@SueDuffield) November 10, 2014
It's pretty sad when kids have to remind their own parents that they're on their smart phones way too much. I see it all the time. It's the "forty-to-sixty-somethings" that, for whatever reason, seem to be even more addicted to social media than their offspring. I'm not going to get all personal and preachy here, but I too have been guilty of not being in the moment, wasting away precious REAL face time with my family, instead of actually being present. My body is there, but my mind - somewhere far away..
An amazing phenomena happened yesterday though. I was completely caught up in the process of cooking, preparing and jumping around the kitchen like a little girl, that I totally had no recollection (or care) as to where my iPhone was. In fact, I never once thought about it. Sunday dinner. At home. With my family. Rare.
The pot roast with golden potatoes, organic carrots and a side of garlic asparagus was the feature, but it surely wasn't the focus. It was a true Sunday dinner with laughter, good conversation, barking dogs, the NFL in the background along with jazz music on the boom box. It was complete with my husband, my kids and one exceptional guest - Jeremy - that made the day worthy of no social media bragging rights. Just a day to be... present.
Take the time to detox from your phone. It's really a healing remedy. And what I pray for you most of all is: I hope it happens so naturally that you forget to make it a all about a photo shoot.
I never regret being so caught up in a sacred space that I forget to take a picture. I have a photo-graphic memory going on right now in my head and heart. And to quote Andy DuFresne (from the movie Shawshank Redemption), talking about the beauty of music without having anything to play it on. He had to go purely by memory:
"That's the beauty of music. They can't get that from you... Haven't you ever felt that way about music?"
"It's all in here.." (pointing to his head and heart)
Stay in the moment. Turn off the stuff that keeps you from being present... with the people you love most.
"It's all in here.." (pointing to My head and heart)
And if they were really "smart" phones, there'd be an app alarm that would say, "Get off it. You're with the people you love!"
This is how you'll know.
Six huge Bradford Pear trees adorn and surround the pool in the backyard. It is very appealing in the summer, providing shade from the hot sun. It looks so beautiful with the contrast of hunter green leaves against the aqua blue sky and water. But what's ahead for us is the constant undertaking of keeping the barrage of leaves out of the pool. I guess I should buy a pool cover and be done with it. But then I wouldn't be able to see the pretty water all year! Whatever..
Last season's clean up got way ahead of us and it literally took all summer to get the pool in perfect condition. Holistically speaking, it would have been better just to drain the entire pool and start all over again. Every day that we were home was consumed in cleaning, clearing out the filter, buying PH balance products, shock and treat. Over and over again. Finally about Labor Day, we were ready for the plunge. Guess how many times I actually got IN the pool? Three times. That comes out to be about $500 a plunge, I figure. For that amount of money, I could just join the country club pool in town... And they can worry about those laughing leaves.
God's beautiful handiwork of autumn's arrival - the gold, the red, the yellow, the burgundy - couldn't possibly be a menace, but it is. When the colors fall, there's a mess to contend with. As glorious as my backyard is, I know there's work to be done.
And if nothing more, it's just for a season. For when the beauty falls, the opening on the branch where the leaf fell from the tree, seals up - to prepare for the next season of green. The beauty of growth and prosperity is in a holding pattern only for a little while. We might be sad to see the naked bare Bradford Pear trees, but again we'll be happy when we see the new shoots push their way through next spring. I think..
So where are this season's leaves we "oooh-ed and ahhh-ed" over? Some are in a pile in the backyard, while others have been hauled off kicking and screaming by the city maintenance truck. But the more ornery of the bunch stare at me from the bottom of the pool, just laughing, pointing and carrying on, saying, "You can't get me now! I'll be waiting for you when it gets warm! And then we'll be all brown and slimy." Scoundrels.
I'm psychologically late to this party called The National Quartet Convention and Southern Gospel Music Industry. I go each year to Louisville kicking and screaming with my husband (this year it's in Pigeon Forge). I go mainly to see the people; to chuckle about hair styles, towering banners, buses they can't afford, and circus-like booths on the midway of trinkets. I LOVE these people though. I adore them, even in their quirkiness. (I probably wrote the book on quirky, but whatever).
I'm less of a fan of the whole stereo-typed music industry thingy. Yet, Jeff and I grow more each day in creating engaging friendships with the people we love so much. And now living in Nashville, not a day goes by that we aren't stirred by their influence, their human discourse, their ache for bookings, their financial turmoil, their strive to live, write and dream. I watch. I observe their huge hearts for survival in this fickle-demanding "entertain me" church world.
Jeff and I look like latecomers, or maybe we're actually retro newcomers to this party. Not sure. We were way too early to that crazy party back in the 70s. Our music was probably a bit too hip for the room. Singing with Sammy Hall and then later turning down offers to play and sing for other musicians' dreams, we decide to write and create our own space. From the inside world of this progressive gospel inspirational music bandwagon, Jeff is an influence. Me? Maybe not so much. But my prayer is: "God, help me to inspire others. Help me to encourage, build up and edify other musicians." That's what I love to do.
Holy Spirit-filled musicians and songwriters need to think and dream bigger, beyond their expected audience criteria or cultural demands. I ask God to "open doors", and He does. I ask God to open my ears, and He does. I even ask God to blow my socks off and knock me off my feet. And He does. And He did. Last night. Set your musical preferences aside for six minutes.
Meet new friends, The Wilbanks. This is another level. This is anointed Holy Spirit infused music, in my own opinion. It transcends genre, gets beyond the brick wall barren land and brings together the vast separation between the stage and seats. Musicianship. They've been around for years. I hadn't heard them until last night in Pigeon Forge at Patterson Productions Homecoming. I love when I'm speechless, moved to tears and forced to experience worship music that not only feeds my soul, but feeds my insatiable palette as a musician starved for musical worship experience.
And the best part of this particular Wilbanks video? Besides the fact that they aren't "young", it's the shock, awe and utter hush of the NQC center stage audience that are blown away. Pockets of praise and adoration went on for several minutes, even after the video is over. How incredible, that the very venue, which has had its preferences, its buy-out, its struggling narrow ways - now becomes a sanctuary. Music, filled with God's anointing does this.
My special needs brother-in-love is making a major transition in his life. Wayne will be moving into a group home in Maryland. And he couldn't be happier! He loves his work and he loves his friends at Bayside. Over the years, Wayne has been extremely loyal to his dad, but through recent health issues, George can no longer be his 24/7 caregiver. While we as a family have worried and labored over how to tell Wayne this news, the irony is - Wayne has expressed his excitement about his new life and his new room! It's like he's that teenager heading to college! Who knew.
Wayne entered my world in 1968 and we have been buddies ever since. He'll say, and I quote, "You're my favorite sister-in-law, Sue..". (I'm his ONLY SIL!) He may be handi-capped in description but he has a sense of humor. Wayne does not suffer a handi-cap in his heart.
How fun it would be for Wayne to receive cards and pictures from his extended family, friends and even new friends. If you'd like to send a card, include a picture of you or your family with the names on the back of the picture, and send it to:
c/o Susan Kuff
25 Townsend Ave
Bridgeton, NJ 08302