Poem: Amore Salvatoris

By Alyssa Gamache

AMORE SALVATORIS
(Love of the Savior)

Adorned in gown of flowing righteousness,
She treads the aisle on the arm of Grace;
While Faith, her bridesmaid, in the front keeps pace,
She thinks upon His calling’s soft caress.

She sees the Groom, with hand outstretched, in place,
And looks upon the scars that are no less
Than on the day He sealed her righteousness.
Rejoice! for now she sees her Savior’s face.


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A Family Meal

All of these tasks send a message to

My children are grown and gone, but as the matriarch of our family, I feel it is very important that we still gather together weekly or bi-weekly for a big family meal.

I’ll be honest.

I saw our grown sons start to separate and not be as close as they once were when they all lived at home. As an Italian family, the importance of food and family gatherings have been passed down to us from generation to generation. We often say jokingly, If we feed them, they will come. And so many good things happen as you gather together with a captive audience around a table with food.

When my kids were younger, breakfast was always rushed and lunch was unavailable during the week. But the one thing we did do was make it a point to gather together at dinner time with relaxing music on and the TV off!

The purpose to having a family meal is to cultivate the relationships in the home and build a sense of community. We share our victories and failures of the day with those whom we love, warmed by the knowledge that they love us. We gain wisdom, knowledge and understanding from one another when it comes to life. Sometimes, we just need to hear some encouragement to go out and face another day. Whatever the need, a family meal can begin to cultivate solutions and a sense of closeness.

If families started doing this one simple task each day or week, we would not have so much strife in our homes as we have today, and even possibly less divorced families. People gravitate for a sense of belonging and to be accepted and accountable. This is the foundation for every child to become a healthy adult before they are released into the world. This can happen during the family meal time.

Back when my boys were growing up, the family meal was also a time for them to learn how to work as a family. One would help me set the table and one would help with the cleaning up after dinner. When my oldest got towards Junior high, he would even cook the meal on the grill for me if we wanted hamburgers or hotdogs while my husband was traveling. All of these tasks send a message to your community or family that says, “I belong, I matter and I am responsible.”

Whether your kids are grown and gone or still at home, I challenge you to have a family meal as a routine in your home. It can be breakfast, lunch or dinner; whatever works best for you. Just do it!

If you’re alone or your kids live too far away to have a family meal, then I challenge you to share a meal with someone in your home. Use your best china if you want to or make it as simple as you want. It’s not about having a gourmet meal or the elaborate ambiance, it’s about building a sense of community and strengthening the relationships in your life and someone else’s!

unnamedBon Appetite’! Be well
Debra Trusela

Debra Trusela is a writer, public speaker and a mentor when it comes to issues that deal with marriage, family and healthy living. She lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her children and grandchildren as well as her husband, who also writes and does speaking engagements with her.

She may be contacted at Dtrusela@cox.net.

 

 

 

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A Healthy Tonic

photo 2As I was leaving the gym the other day, I crossed paths with an old friend. She thanked me for the recipe that I had given her and told me that she uses it daily. She said her energy had increased. She believed it was helping her lose weight. My old friend also commented on how good it tasted and said that even her ever so persnickety daughter enjoyed it.

In turn, I must thank my mentor, Carolyn Schnitzer, for sharing this recipe with me over 20 years ago. Neither Carolyn nor I really know the origin of this elixir, but it really is good for so many things. For instance, in the flu and cold season, I recommend it to anyone who is battling any signs of the illness. If they are days down the road with a bug, I always tell them to start using it to speed up their recovery.

This tonic is also a great substitute for water on those cold days that you can’t seem to get enough fluids down. The lemon is a natural internal cleanser and the cayenne warms you up as it speeds up the metabolism. This hot tonic works great if you feel led to fast. For me, it seems to keep my blood sugar balanced and suppresses my appetite. I am sure this is why my old friend felt that it helped her with weight loss. When I am experiencing fatigue, that cayenne kick gives me a boost of energy.

So what is this simple homemade hot tonic recipe?

All you need is three simple ingredients – lemon, cayenne pepper and real maple syrup.

Directions: First, make a cup of hot water in your favorite coffee or tea mug. Next, cut the lemon into four quarters and squeeze the juice of one quarter of the lemon into your cup of hot water. Add 1 tablespoon of real maple syrup, a dash or two of cayenne, and stir. If you are out of real maple syrup, organic agave nectar or local honey works perfectly well.

Sip slowly while it is hot or warm. You will likely notice your body temperature rising and may even begin to sweat if you are fighting off anything. Be forewarned, drinking this at night might give you energy unless you’re feeling fatigued and under the weather.

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Enjoy! Be well!
Debra Trusela

Debra Trusela is a writer, public speaker and a mentor when it comes to issues that deal with marriage, family and healthy living. She lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her children and grandchildren as well as her husband, who also writes and does speaking engagements with her.

She may be contacted at Dtrusela@cox.net.

 

 

 

 

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5 Things You Should Do During The Mid-Term Elections

That is, these Christians could not voteThe last election had multiple problems. Too many Republican candidates were more interested in their own careers, Christians who wouldn’t vote, and allegations of voter fraud. In this article, I would like to encourage you to get out and vote for the best possible candidate.

It is my prayer that the Republicans and Democrats think about the people they represent and our country, less about their career longevity; our economy and our fly-away budget; and work on our healthcare. It is my prayer that the Republican party stops being a party that compromises and one that steps up even if it might be an unpopular choice. It is also my prayer that we can stop voter fraud and dead people from voting.

In 2012, a lot of chatter happened on blogs and social media, focusing on Mitt Romney’s Mormon background. Friends of mine told me point blank they wouldn’t vote for a Mormon. Depending upon what news sources you read, Christians either didn’t show up to vote due to the Mormon issue, or places like NBC said, “

“In fact, white evangelicals/born-again Christians made up the same percentage of the electorate as they did in 2008 – 26%. They voted for Mitt Romney, a devout Mormon, by a wider margin than they did for Sen. John McCain four years ago.”

In my opinion, I am with Franklin Graham when he said,

“We know that from of the statistics that I’ve heard that the majority of Christians in this country just did not vote for whatever reason. The vast majority of evangelicals did not go to the polls.” We have ourselves to blame, Graham said.

And we do have ourselves to blame. There is no such thing as not voting. You either make a decision or the decision will be made for you. Let’s not repeat 2012’s error by not voting because someone follows a cultish religion. If you have a choice between worse and not-so-bad, vote not-so-bad. That was the Christian’s choice in 2012.

So if you don’t know whom to vote for, consider doing the following five things:

  1. Vote on the better candidate. Not voting is voting. For those who voted for Obama the first and second time, or didn’t vote both times, you are responsible for the mess our country is in. Your non-vote or your vote for Obama gave us Obamacare or the Affordable Healthcare Act, IRS attacks on conservatives and churches, new hate crime laws that protect the very people who want to harm society, and executive orders bypassing congress.
  2. When someone shares an article, do a search on the topic and read both sides of the argument. Learn how to intelligently comment and talk about the things going on in our lives. Watching one news source, even one like Fox News, keeps you in a bubble. Everyone has a bias. You need to make your own decisions. This also prevents the sharing of hoaxes and badly written articles whose sources can’t be verified. When we forward on our emails or share on our social media places bad information, it makes your party and you look bad. It makes you a less than reliable source for people to come to regarding politics.
  3. Keep Discussions Civil. Disagreement is not hate or a personal attack against you. This happens on both the conservative and liberal sides. It’s not just one side that is always name-calling and attacking. I’m a conservative, but I am also a believer in Christ. This means I see everything through His lens, including my own behavior.
  4. Ask questions. When you disagree with someone, ask questions. Questions in a friendly tone of voice create safe discussion where perhaps the conclusion might be a different perspective.
  5. Vote. I don’t care how early the voting polls are open or if Person of Interest will start soon. Hit the record button and go vote. Or register for early voting.

To help you, I have provided a link to an election guide. Write down who and what you are voting for in your own area so that when you arrive at the polls you can get in and out without trying to figure out what you forgot.

The Lonely Corner

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When it’s quiet, I remember the past. My constant companion, fear, still haunts me in nightmares. Yet, I’ve found peace in Cedar Springs, living with my son. I can now walk out the door. No walls confine me.

One day, I found myself on a tree-lined street and just kept walking. No one tried to stop me. The alarm didn’t emit shrill screams when the locked door opened. The wind blowing through the trees whispered as I walked. I will never leave you, Megan.

“Is that you, Lord?” I looked up as the multicolored leaves fluttered around me lightly brushing my cheek. I held out my hands. They reminded me of snowflakes falling from the sky. Falling leaves. Drifting snowflakes. Freedom.

A sudden shiver ran down my spine and I backed into the shelter of a huge tree. I looked around. My hand tucked thinning gray hair into the red velour hoody. Again I shivered and wished I’d worn a warmer coat. Just the same, I’m grateful I wore heavy red sweat pants.

I strolled aimlessly until I found myself in the midst of a parade. I clapped my hands in delight while the cymbals clashed and drums kept time. How I loved music. I remember Mama playing the old upright piano and the regal glow of Papa’s golden saxophone as he placed it in the velvet lined case.

I turned around and around and a smile broke-forth like the sun rising over the ocean. The memory of this town came back to me. It’s known as the “Red Flannel Town,” and it’s their October celebration.

Oh, my. I chuckled, thinking how Cedar Springs celebrates underwear―red flannel long-johns. I remember seeing Papa’s red flannel long-johns flapping on the clothesline. What a sight.

I watched as the Keystone Cops enforced the law and placed offenders in a portable jail.

“That’s where they all belong,” I muttered. “I won’t go back!” My anger rose to the surface and I turned to see if anyone paid me any mind, ducked my head, and tightened the drawstring under my chin.

“Hi there. I’m Jane.” A young woman in a red parka appeared beside me. She scared the daylights out of me, as Mama used to say. “I don’t believe I know you. New in town?”

Startled, but sensing she meant no harm, I gave my name as Megan . . . Megan Graves. After all, that’s my name and I couldn’t lie, could I? “I’m just enjoying the festivities and looking for the hot dog stand.”

“Over there,” she pointed. “Where’re you from?”

“Nowhere.” I replied curtly.

The woman looked at me in such a strange manner. “Are you lost?”

“No, of course not.” With a frown and a little wave, I left the bewildered woman staring after me. I followed the aroma of plump hot dogs sizzling on the grill.

My open hand held five quarters and a dime. I stared at them. With a shake of my head, I turned to the vendor. “Just take what you need for a hot dog and cola.” He motioned to a nearby picnic table.

“Lord, thank you for this nourishment. I trust you’ll take care of my tomorrow. ” Leaves rustled above me.

I will never leave you.

“I know, Lord,” I whispered.

I later found myself in a pumpkin patch. As I lowered my weary body to the ground and leaned against a bale of straw, I was captivated by a sea of orange. I closed my eyes and saw a simpler time, another place. How long ago was it? My three year old sister, Susie, sat on the tall stool where Mama placed her, out from under foot and safe from our knife wielding brother, who sat at the table with several pumpkins needing faces.

I hugged my arms around my middle, feeling the warmth of yesteryear. As I drifted off, I could see Susie cuddling her rag doll. The aroma of pumpkin seeds roasting in the oven of the cast iron stove made our mouths water.

“Umm, done yet Mama?” Remembering how she’d pulled a handful of the slimy, gooey seeds from the pumpkin, Susie made a face.

“Not yet, my darlin’.” Mama chuckled as she wiped her hands on the old flour sack tied round her waist. She shoved a piece of wood into the stove. Susie watched as Mama washed the stringy slime from the seeds, then smeared a little lard on the pan before spreading out the seeds and sprinkling with salt.

It’s warm in the kitchen. The door to the living room’s shut tightly to hold in the heat. I glanced out the window at the wind softly blowing snowflakes to the already white ground. Smoke gently curled upward from the neighbor’s chimney and vaporized in the sky. Susie divided her attention between Mama cooking and our brother carving the last pumpkin on the old wooden table. Hearing the sound of bubbling water in the black pot, she turned as Mama placed chunks of pumpkin in the pot. They made a plopping noise when they hit the water.

“Wha’ cha doin’, Mama?”

A lock of red hair curled across her cheek and Mama brushed it aside before explaining to her child with the large brown eyes that she was cooking the pumpkin to use in baking pies and cookies.

“Umm, cookies. Mama gunna make cookies,” Susie babbled. She again turned her attention to our brother.

I rested my chin on my arms and watched as he meticulously carved teeth while softly chanting a nursery rhyme: Peter, Peter pumpkin eater, had a wife but couldn’t keep her; He put her in a pumpkin shell, and there he kept her very well. With each appearance of a tooth in the orange pumpkin, the chant became louder as he teased our baby sister.

Mouth gaping, Susie soon began to whimper. “I dun wanna be in a pumkan.”

“Hush now, child. You’re not gunna be.”

Suddenly Mama scooped Susie into her arms and thrust her into our brother’s lap yelling, “Outside. Now.” She ran to the stove. The roar coming from inside the chimney prodded her into action. In one swift motion she closed the damper, pulled the pumpkin seeds from the oven, removed the pot of simmering pumpkin, and grabbed coats; the screen door slammed behind her.

Brother made snowballs while Susie nestled in Mama’s arms and I held onto her skirt. Silent in the light of the snow, we watched the stovepipe that protruded from the roof turn from black to crimson.

The chimney fire soon burnt itself out and we returned to the warmth of the kitchen. Spying the pan of roasted pumpkin seeds, Susie exclaimed, “Umm, done yet, Mama?”

Now, the dream faded. I opened my eyes, my mind muddled. I felt dazed and groggy. “Must’ve dozed off,” I spoke aloud. “Where’s everyone?’ Thunder rumbled in the distance. I rubbed my temples and tried to clear my head of cobwebs that surely took up residence while I napped. Where am I? Where is home? The pumpkin patch was deserted. Black trees outlined a darkening sky.  A gust of wind rustled through the trees above me.

I will never leave you.

“I know, Lord.”

I grimaced as I pulled myself up, my bones stiff from sitting on the cold ground. “Now, don’t fret yourself,” I mumbled as I pulled a hankie from my pocket and wiped my nose. I began to walk. A breath-snatching wind pushed me backwards and my instincts cried out for shelter.

The steeple of a small white church appeared in front of me. I reached the door just as God opened up the sky and let the rain come pouring down. Gritting my teeth, I pushed the heavy wooden door, but couldn’t budge it. My knees wobbled and I lowered myself onto the pavers and backed into the bushes for shelter from the torrent of rain and swirling wind. How long I lay beneath the bushes I don’t know. The rain became a steady rhythmic music; it lulled me into a deep sleep mixed with pleasant dreams ― and nightmares.

I can’t go back. I won’t… I won’t.

“Help me. Help me.” Day after day, a woman’s whinny voice called out. “Help me. Help me.” She said nothing else. Just sat in her lonely corner crying for help. One day I no longer heard her. Whoosh! Just like that she’s gone. Where did she go? There are others there ― where I used to live and we all wondered, but no one’s brave enough to ask. We just know she wasn’t the first to disappear. So we squeezed our tears back behind closed eyes and hummed a tune to drown out the thoughts we dare not voice.

The dining room hosted food fights and cries in the night left me cringing beneath my blanket. “I hope they don’t make me bathe tomorrow,” I whispered to myself, remembering the scrubbing that left my thin skin bruised.

I tried to avoid the lady with the claw fingers. If I didn’t, she latched onto my arm and wouldn’t let go. I’m afraid. Who will rescue me?

The workers circled wheelchairs like a wagon train and the people sat, hour after hour, heads drooping onto their chests.

“Once upon a time…” Great-Grandfather told stories of circling the wagon trains and fighting Indians. But these people looked like carved pumpkins with their hollow smiles and empty eyes. Thank God I can still walk! I won’t need to take the wagon train to nowhere.

Sometimes I pushed my friend, Jack, in his wheelchair, and we sat in the courtyard as the sweet perfume of Camellias drifted from behind the block wall. Jack was in the Navy. I pictured him handsome in his uniform. I loved to listen to him tell about growing up on the farm in Alabama. How he used to run home from school and head straight for the garden to pick and eat strawberries. He said he carried two containers of water and because the berries were sandy, he washed and rinsed each one in water before popping it into his mouth. Says they owned 100 acres and grew sugar cane. A man came each year to turn the sugar cane into syrup and he gave him some of the syrup as payment. Jack helped put it in jars to sell in his brother’s general store.

His story always ended with a tear trickling down his leathery face.

The raspy high-pitched sound of a lone frog cried out in the night and stirred me from my slumber. The rain gently fell now and the wind whispered, I will never leave you.

“I know, Lord,” I said as I curled into a fetal position. “I’m tired, Lord.” I shivered, sighed, and again closed my eyes and thought . . . If I owned a red umbrella I could sing and dance, twirling round and round in the rain, yellow galoshes splashing the puddles. Twirling. Twirling.

Once more, my eyelids became heavy . . .

“Help me. Help me.” Who is that? Please make her stop. I can’t see anyone. Oh, no. Is it me crying out? Am I the one sitting in the lonely corner? No, Lord. This can’t happen. You promised you would never leave me. It’s cold in the lonely corner. Dark. Where are the others? Where are Jack and Rose? Where’re Virginia and Flossie? Why am I alone in the corner? Am I bad? I sobbed.

And then it’s as if I was lifted up from the lonely corner and wrapped in the warmth of my Lord. I leaned into a strong chest and heat slowly seeped into my cold, numb body. I heard the soft rustling of leaves in the trees.

I will never leave you.

My eyelids fluttered and I looked into the familiar face of my son.

“It’s okay mother. You’re not going back there. Not ever. You’re safe now. How about we go home?”

By Shirley Conley

An Old Fashioned Christmas presented by North Valley Christian Church

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MARK YOUR CALENDARS! If you’re in the Phoenix area and you’re looking for something to get you into the Christmas spirit, join North Valley Christian Church as we present “An Old Fashioned Christmas.”  There’s fun, music, laughter, cowboy poetry, the telling of the Christmas story through scripture, and the singing of traditional Christmas carols. Elvis has been known to drop in and do a song!

Music is provided by Karmann and Kompany, and the North Valley Christian Church’s Choir. The event is on Saturday December 20, 2014 at 7:00 pm at the Opera House at Pioneer Living History Museum.  Fellowship and refreshments follows this free event. Come and celebrate the reason for the season!

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Elvis!

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Kirby reading the Christmas Story.

Jeff Cody, Cowboy Poet

Jeff Cody, Cowboy Poet

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Laura Richards. 5 year old soloist

Time Stands Still CD Cover

SAYING ‘YES’ – An Interview With Songwriter, Recording Artist Tom Booth

2012-TomBoothBand-0054 What Roman Catholic songwriter was nominated for a Dove Award, has performed twice for the Pope, has co-written hit songs with well-known Christian musicians, has toured the US with a monk who plays bluegrass, was a worship leader for a mega-church and was into Christian music before Christian music was cool? Well, if you guessed Tom Booth, then you’re right!

Tom learned to play guitar when he was young. He started writing songs when he was in the 8th grade. He thought that’s what everybody did, until he realized that most kids his age, while interested in music, didn’t give it the time and attention that he did. Tom would write on the usual topics of interest for his age – love, philosophy, his view of the world, etc. In high school, he played football and basketball, but in his Junior and Senior years, music took over. Tom had a band, long hair and a girlfriend.

“What more could you want?”  Tom asks. “Well, what you want is purpose, hope, salvation and to know who you are in God.”

During Tom’s senior year, he met a woman whom he calls a “prayerrist.” Tom explains that,“a prayerrist uses prayer violently to help people. A terrorist uses violence to hurt people.”  He found out later the woman prayed for him every day for years. Around the same time, Tom had a discussion with a friend on a rather serious matter.

Tom heard himself tell his friend, “You need God.” He thought, What am I saying? I need God! Tom decided to figure this God thing out, so he began a ‘church search’.

He tried several churches and denominations, but having been raised Catholic, the Catholic church felt like home. He began attending mass every morning.

Tom recalls,“I was hearing the gospel, hearing people say ‘yes’ to Jesus.”

He decided to attend a charismatic prayer meeting that people were talking about. The meeting left quite an impression on Tom.

“I thought, these people are either crazy or right. I found out they were both,” Tom said. “They loved Jesus and they were giving their lives to him.”

Tom, also, gave his life to Christ.

In The Beginning

The year was 1979. Tom started writing songs about Jesus, faith, the Bible and truth. His band was not happy with the change and didn’t want anything to do with the new direction Tom was taking. Tom now reflects on his beginnings as a Christian artist:

“It was a radical, daring thing to do. ‘You play at the church? You write Christian songs?’ It got you asked out of places, not into places.” Tom felt what he calls a “profound destiny” to follow Jesus, to say ‘yes’ to Christ.

Tom recalls the beginning as a “lonely and crucial” time in his life. “It was a different culture then. It put you on the outside of the mainstream. People who were buying Christian music were people from the Jesus movement.”

It was around this time that Tom went to a John Michael Talbot concert. John Michael Talbot is a Catholic monk and founder of a monastic community known as the Brothers and Sisters of Charity. He is a songwriter, a recording artist and has his own TV show on The Church Channel (Tom calls it “The Monk Dynasty”). As Tom puts it, “John was radically saying ‘yes’ to Jesus and writing radical songs.”

Tom bought John’s album and met him at the end of the concert. It was the beginning of a life-long friendship. Tom thinks of John as a big brother.

Tom went to college and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Music History, with a Minor in Philosophy and Religious Studies In 1985, he was hired as the Associate Music Director for St. Timothy Catholic Community church in Mesa, Arizona. His job was to reach youth in the surrounding area through music.  St. Timothy’s had grown to a mega church with about 12,000 members. Christian musicians and songwriters often attended the church, most notably, Rich Mullins and Kathy Troccoli. Tom and Kathy collaborated on rewriting one of Tom’s songs, “I Will Choose Christ,”  to appeal to Kathy’s audience.  Kathy recorded the song and it went to number one on the Christian music charts.  Tom was nominated for a Gospel Music Association Dove award. He co-wrote another song with Kathy, “Love Has a Name”, which topped the charts, as well. This opened many doors for Tom.

He was invited to play in Europe. He toured the United States with John Michael Talbot. He was asked to write and perform a song (Cry The Gospel) for the Pope John Paul II’s visit to the United States in 1999, and played in Rome for the Pope and 2 million other people on World Youth Day in Italy in 2000.

Tom and Rich Mullins became good friends and co-writers in the two years before Rich’s fatal car accident in September of 1997. Tom remembers taking a cassette with a song that he and Rich had co-written and recorded, rubber banding a piece of paper with the lyrics around it. He dropped it in the mail to Rich. The cassette, found at the scene of the accident where Rich died, eventually made its way to A&M records. The song,  Nothing Is Beyond You, was recorded by Amy Grant and topped the Christian music charts. Tom still misses his friend, Rich, and knows he is with Jesus.

Tom attributes all of his success to God. He has done things most people just dream about, but success didn’t keep him from what he loved doing the most:

“I got to play at my church every Sunday. Sometimes people think the stage and concerts is a bigger deal than a Sunday mass or a Sunday service. I think a more profound calling is to be in the church every week to sing for friends and family, and being in relationship. That was a great honor to me to do both. To be traveling, but also to be ministering at the same church every week.”

In his opinion, churches are a huge mission field which is often over-looked. He’s discovered that many people don’t know how to pray. He thinks it’s important to remember that, “people in our homes and neighborhoods need evangelism.” Tom paraphrased Mother Teresa, “don’t come to India, walk across the hall in your home. Reach out to your mother, father, sister, brother, who need love in their life.”

Not only has God blessed Tom’s music ministry, God has also blessed his personal life. Tom and his wife, Tammy, have been married over 25 years. His oldest daughter, Haley, is an elementary school teacher. His daughter, Carly, is a professional ballroom dancer, and his son, Anthony, is a Junior in High School who loves to play basketball.

Saying “Yes” to Jesus

“My focus hasn’t been Christian radio or performing as much as it’s been……what has it been?” Tom asked himself. “It’s been about expressing my faith in an artistic and musical way so that young people, who, like me, are searching and looking, could find direction and find an answer…We find Jesus and we think we’ve found all the answers. And we have, but following Jesus, we discover a lot more questions. Life is not simple. We want to say, ‘if you know this, and you know this, and you know this, you know life.’…Then we feel like we got it down, but to me, there’s a lot of questions.”

“Even Jesus had questions. ‘Father, let this cup pass from me.’ In Gethsemane, Jesus wasn’t sitting on a stone…saying, ‘I know what’s going to happen. I got this.’ The pain of being a human being, and Jesus was 100% human and 100% divine. The human part says, ‘what is going on? I don’t want this, but Father, your will be done.”

Tom looks to Mary, Jesus’ mother, and to Mother Teresa as personal examples:

“For me, saying ‘yes’ to Jesus gives me the answer, but it’s also a ‘yes’ to the unknown, the mysteries of life. So, as a songwriter, as an artist…I want to write about pain in our lives and how life is challenging. There’s questions and there’s mystery and love calls us into places that are uncomfortable. I’m trying to say ‘yes’, not only in my music, but in my life.”

Tom is aware of the distance that seems to exist between the Catholic and protestant churches:

“A lot of your readers might be saying, ‘I’ve never met a Catholic who is passionate about Christ’, but let me promise you, there are millions. And one of these is called Pope Francis. The new Pope is a radical follower of Christ.

In every church, there are people there because they love God. There are people there who aren’t sure. They’re checking it out. There are others saying, ‘well, if I don’t go, my wife is going to kick me out of the house.’ There are other people there that are saying, ‘I can’t wait until this is over!’. In every faith, every church, you’re going to have a range. It comes down to two types of people. You become a religious authority, where you learn all about religion, telling people what’s right and wrong in their life. Or, you become a follower and a disciple. I suppose there are people in between, but in terms of my own Catholicism, which some find unique but really isn’t…

I’m put to shame by many Catholics I meet, by their profound love of the Lord and their ‘yes’ to God’s will in their life. In fact, we call them Saints. Catholics have a tendency to have heroes. Humans have a tendency to have heroes. We call our heroes Saints. Mother Teresa, St. Francis of Assisi, all kinds of saints through generations of people, who have said ‘yes’ to God, that we look at as heroes, to encourage us, to be examples of what it means to follow Jesus.

People who don’t understand the faith say ‘you have these statues and you’re worshiping them’. That’s like saying every American stands up every morning, says the Pledge of Allegiance, and eats apple pie. It’s a beautiful faith. It’s the first Christian faith. It’s the church that Jesus founded and it’s a church that needs help, like every other denomination that I have encountered. We all need to put our eyes on Jesus, to share Jesus, to sing about Jesus, to imitate Jesus and to love one another.”

What’s Next?

Tom has released eight CD’s on the spiritandsong.com label (and 8 previous albums on vinyl and cassette). His ninth CD, entitled, Time Stands Still, is scheduled for release on December 3, 2014.

“As I get older,” Tom said, “there’s less years ahead of me then there are behind. Life is really a preparation for death.” That’s what the title song of the CD is about – death, life and pain, but in eternity, time stands still.

In My Father’s House is a tribute to Tom’s brother-in-law, who said ‘yes’ to Christ, even in the midst of a struggling with a disease that eventually took his life.  Other songs on the 8 song CD include More Than Conquerors, from the writings of St. Paul; By the Love of God, a song about salvation; and The Jesus Song,  a simple prayer sung to the backdrop of a full symphonic string arrangement.

Beautifully recorded with wonderful harmonies and a variety of styles from down home country to rock and roll,  Time Stands Still is worshipful and honoring to Jesus.  Although the song topics are a bit on the heavy side, the listener is left with a sense that those who say “yes” to Christ are, indeed, more the conquerors.

About half of Time Stands Still was recorded in Nashville at Blackbird Studios by Kevin Becka, who works with John McBride, husband of Martina McBride, and is a well-respected audio engineer. The other half was recorded at Clarke Rigsby’s Tempest Studio in Tempe, AZ. Tom considers Clarke an “Arizona treasure” and works with Clarke on personal recording projects.

Another Nashville audio engineer, Jeff Thomas, co-produced Tom’s last three CD’s, and recorded and mixed several songs on Time Stands Still.

Many years ago, Tom decided he needed a personal mission statement, only to discover it had been already been written by another well-known songwriter named David:

Psalm 100 (EVS)Time Stands Still CD Cover

His Steadfast Love Endures Forever
A Psalm for giving thanks.

1  Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
2     Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
3 Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
5 For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever,

Tom left his job with St. Timothy’s in 2005 and has been working with OCP, his music publisher. Tom is currently the Associate Director of Music Development and Music Outreach at spiritandsong.com, a division of OCP and Tom’s record label. Tom notes that the label works with many great artists and is a good source for Christian and worship songs.

When asked about his future, Tom said he will continue being a husband, father, songwriter and recording artist.  Tom has no business plan, no manager. He describes his career as, “stumbling forward and listening to Christ, listening to the Holy Spirit. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve made good choices. But through it all, I know I need God more today then I felt I did at 17. My prayer these days, ‘I need you God!’ My secondary prayer is ‘you don’t have to explain to me what I am to do next, just show me.’ I am not owed an explanation. Give me the strength to be faithful and follow You.”

Music In The Church – One Body, One Heart

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Our church, North Valley Christian Church (NVCC), is small, but I am always impressed at the magnitude of our raised voices in praise of the Lord. That beautiful, joyful noise transforms where we meet at the old Opera House at Pioneer Living History Museum in Phoenix, Arizona into a cathedral. As the worship leader, it’s a sound I love to hear. The music is simple at NVCC: It’s me, the guitar and the congregation’s voice.

I read an article that made me really think about the purpose of music in the church service. Written by Anna Haensch for NPR, the article, When Choirs Sing, Many Hearts Beat As One, details a study done by the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. Using heart monitors, the team examined the pulse rates and heart beats of a high school choir as they sang together. The researchers noted choir members pulse rate slowed, which they attributed to the breath control required to sing phrases. They were astounded to discover that the choir’s heart beats synchronized. It happened almost immediately after the choir started singing.  The researchers think this synchronizing effect can translate to other groups that sing together.

Singing and music in the church is often referred to as corp0rate worship.  The modern-day corporate worship service is made of up prayer, communion, preaching, and of course, music. The definition of corporate is, relating to, or formed into a unified body of individuals. If the findings of the Swedish researchers are applied to our congregations, singing together can be an effective means of unifying the church. The more we sing together, the more synched-up we become, the more the Holy Spirit can flow through us. With our hearts in the right place, we can then receive more of God’s word.

We have a powerful tool at our disposal, why not put it to use? Worship leaders, encourage people to sing. Turn the instruments down so the voices can be heard. Transpose easy to learn songs into a singable key. Let’s use the power of song to edify and unify our congregations so that we can all experience that sense of being the body of Christ, of being One.

 

Click on the link below to hear an example of worship at North Valley Christian Church.

WHAT A FRIEND WE HAVE IN JESUS

Review: Quick Start Guide to The Whole Bible

9780764211287The Quick-Start Guide to the Whole Bible: Understanding the Big Picture Book-by-Book by Dr. William H. Marty and Dr. Boyd Seevers is a great book for a beginning Christian to get an overall view of the Bible. I would recommend this book to any one new to the faith. Those who have been studying the Bible for a while might find this difficult to get into right away, but it’s well-written.

*Book given by publisher to review.