Tuesday, October 07, 2008

My favorite pastor's wife

Some of my pals have asked me how I met Eileen Button. Maybe it is because I refer to her as one of my spiritual advisers and brag about her columns all the time!

Well, my first introduction was reading an article she wrote in Newsweek about the role of the pastor's wife.

But, I "met" her when she emailed me to ask me if I was going to attend the National Society of Newspaper Columnist conference and how she needed a room mate. I chose to go to the beach, instead of the conference. Eileen won the cartwheel contest and I have wondered if hanging out at the beach was worth not being able to participate in the competition. I do plan on attending next year so that I can embarrass myself trying to throw my body around in awkward spins.

Needless to say, Eileen and I are kindred sisters. We do things to amuse people, while not contradicting our faith in the process!

As soon as she gets her book published, I'll tell you where you can buy it:) In the meantime, check out the Newsweek article and her site.

Thou Shalt Not Turn Me Into a False Idol

Eileen Button

Monday, September 15, 2008

Award-winning Christian pop band to play in Anniston

Mercy Me is, from left, Robby Shaffer, Barry Graul, Bart Millard, Mike Scheuchzer, Jim Bryson and Nathan Cochran.





By Theresa Shadrix
Consolidated Publishing
09-11-2008

Popular contemporary Christian pop band Mercy Me will perform at Harvest Church of God on Friday night.

Bands are usually formed by happenstance. There are no business plans or meetings with bankers before deciding if the idea has merit. It is the music, and sometimes the mission, that guide members to create a union.

Such is the case with MercyMe. In June 1994, Bart Millard and Jim Bryson traveled from their hometown, Greenville, Texas, to Switzerland on a mission trip. With Millard singing lead vocals and Bryson on keyboard, they lead military kids in praise and worship at a summer camp. Maybe it was the positive reaction from the campers or the spirit in the air, but the pair decided they could possibly make a go with a real band.

"We prayed about it being possible if we could do this full time," said Millard. Speaking by phone from his home in Texas, Millard said when the duo returned home, a friend, Mike Scheuchzer, joined them and their praise and worship band was born. All they needed was a name.

Millard was living briefly in Florida and his grandmother from Texas called to check up on what he was doing with his life. He told her, almost jokingly, that he was going to be in a band. "She said, 'Well, mercy me, why don't you get a real job?'" recalled Millard. The name stuck and the following year, Millard, Bryson and Scheuchzer returned to the same camp in Switzerland. However, this time they played as MercyMe.

The trip home brought more additions with Nathan Cochran on bass and Robby Shaffer on drums. It wasn't overnight success, but MercyMe gained a loyal following and signed with INO Records in 2001. That same year they released their debut album, Almost There and the song "I Can Only Imagine," penned by Millard, brought success from both Christian and mainstream radio. MercyMe won music industry awards and sold more than 2 million records in three years. Their success continued as a multi-platinum band, with albums featuring chart-topping hits in 2002, 2004 and 2006.

Millard said it is the mission behind the music that keeps them singing, and adds that nothing has happened by chance, including their current number one song. While in the studio recording their 2007 release All that is Within Me, he said he only had two songs prepared.

"I was scrambling around trying to find songs and got an online instant message and talked to Steven Curtis Chapman," he said. "He said he had 40 songs leftover from his album. Who has that many songs but Steven?"

The first song Millard heard had lyrics that compelled him. "I listened to it 20 times, over and over." He called Chapman and told him about a simple chorus he'd written but hadn't done anything with yet. When the lyrics and chorus were joined, the song "You Reign," which is number one on the Adult Contemporary Christian Billboard this week, was created.

With all the success, the accolades, the fans and the honors MercyMe has received, Millard said the band's core message is still all about the gospel of Jesus Christ. He also feels that being good messengers shouldn't conflict with being the leaders of their families. The band members have 13 children among them, and two "on the way," so trying to maintain schedules around their families is a priority. The balance between touring and being fathers comes from learning to say no.

"The family wins every time. We've been blessed that we can pick and choose," he said.

However, he remembers a time when saying no wasn't an option.

"In the beginning, we had to do 300 shows to make ends meet. I thank God that I can see my family during the week." Typically, MercyMe is on the road Thursday through Sunday, then they spend a few days at home, then go back on the road. It is the life they only dreamed about in 1994.

Millard said coming to Anniston Friday night is part of a new journey. Recently, the band members talked about the need for father's and men to have conferences like Women of Faith that target Christian women. So, he feels it is no coincidence they received a call that a church in Alabama wanted them to perform a concert and speak at a men's conference. "It seemed a right fit," he said.

MercyMe will play a mix of songs at a concert at Harvest Church of God on Friday at 9:30 p.m. The following day the church plays host to the "Conquering Heroes" conference, where Millard will be a featured speaker.

"I'm never nervous about singing to a crowd, but speaking is a first for me," he said. "I just pray that I do a good job."

'Hymned Again': MercyMe frontman releases solo album

By Theresa Shadrix
Consolidated Publishing

It seems appropriate that Bart Millard collects baseball caps, considering he wears so many hats. Not only is he the frontman for the contemporary Christian band MercyMe, but he's an award-winning songwriter, a husband, a father, a son, a grandson, a friend, a champion for juvenile diabetes, a worship leader and a solo artist.

His hat-wearing days in the ministry can be traced to his youth. Attending a church camp in Mexico when he was 13, he said something connected in him when he heard a sermon one day. There were no fireworks but he said he made a decision to follow Christ. However, it was when he was 19, after the death of his father, that he began to question what he was doing with his life. “I surrendered to full-time ministry. This is the time when I realized that I could give back to (God).”

He eventually formed the praise and worship band, MercyMe, with some friends and began a journey in full-time music ministry. While the band has been more successful than he could ever have imagined, Millard still had a desire to play around with other projects.

It was a promise to his grandmother that prompted Millard to release his first solo album, Hymned No. 1, in 2005. She simply wanted him to remember the songs he grew up singing in church.

“These songs have been a huge part of who I am spiritually," he said. "It became more important to me (to record them).” He also realized that many of the hymns on his album, written mostly in the 1700s, were no longer a part of worship in church and so his children would not experience them.



“I want these songs to be a part of my kid’s life," he said. "If nothing else, it is good to be reminded how the church, generations before us, worshiped.”

His second solo project, Hymned Again, is another compilation of hymns. Released last month, the album features hymns, written mostly in the 1800s, as well as the song “Jesus Cares For You”, a duet with Vince Gill.

Millard admits he was nervous to ask Gill to record with him, so he asked Gills’ wife, Amy Grant, to intercede on his behalf. He wasn’t a bit nervous about calling up Grant, because she has been a friend to MercyMe for many years. In fact, Grant was the first to record “I Can Only Imagine,” but waited until the band’s first album was released. She then recorded it as "Imagine/Sing the wondrous love of Jesus” on Hymns & Faith in 2002.

Millard said that when he left Gill a message one night, he didn’t want to come off like a raving fan and was glad that he didn’t talk to him. “I’m not typically one to get goofy but with him, I was trying to be respectful.” When Gill called him back he told him that it was no big deal and he would be honored to work with him.

In some ways, he said that working on other projects helps his creativity, which is something he learned from Amy Grant. “She took up painting and said she needed to be creative.” He said that as long as he has the opportunity, he will purse being creative in various avenues.

He has been toying around with the idea to record an album of old western-style campfire songs. “(I) may do a worship album like old lonesome trail. A Johnny Cash kind of vibe. I love that kind of music.”

He would like to do a jazz album too, he said. But there is no need for MercyMe fans to worry. Millard says his number one priority in music is MercyMe. “If it wasn’t for MercyMe, I wouldn’t have the chance for this,” he said.

One big goal that supercedes everything is raising money for juvenile diabetes. His son, Sam, was diagnosed with the life-threatening immune system disorder when he was two. Sam is now five and Millard prays for a cure, not just for Sam but also for every child with the disorder.

So, if Hymned Again is downloaded from iTunes, a portion of the proceeds with go towards Imagine a Cure, the non-profit Millard set up to benefit research for juvenile diabetes. He said Sam is doing great. “He is as normal as can be, aside from a cure.”

Online Resources:
www.mercyme.org
www.imagineacureonline.com

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Homelife - March 2008


I received an advance copy of the March 2008 issue of Homelife magazine (Lifeway) and an article I wrote about modesty is featured. I love Homelife magazine and can't wait to open it every month.

On the issue of modesty, I love fashion and style, but I get so bored with TV programs and fashion shows handing out advice on improving the way we dress as women by dressing sexy. This type of advice to me is an easy road to take when you don't know what else to say. Sure women want to feel sexy or look sexy for her partner, but to dress this way outside of the bedroom is a sign of insecurities and lack of respect. Dresing sexy is an attempt to be suggestive and stimulate men. I have been happily maried for over 16 years and this part of me is for him only.

I really do believe the way we dress reflects our hearts and it was an honor to write this for Homelife. If you don't subscribe or receive Homelife through your church, you can order it here.

For this article, I interviewed the following women:

Shannon Stewart, professional model. myspace.com/model4christ
(Shannon will be on the Tyra Banks show on Feb. 20, 2008. She is working on her first book.)

Dannah Gresh, Pure Freedom founder and author, Five Little Questions That Reveal the Life God Designed for You www.purefreedom.org

Wendy Shalit, Modestly Yours blog founder and author of Girls Gone Mild, www.girlsgonemild.com

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Don Piper Story

Author, pastor talks about how prayer brought him back from heaven
By Theresa Shadrix
The Alabama Baptist
February 28, 2008

Don Piper died on a bridge called Trinity in January 1989. But in January 2008, Piper stood before the congregation of Parker Memorial Baptist Church, Anniston, and declared he is alive. And thousands of people came to hear, so many that the second service featuring Piper had to be moved to Anniston High School.

“Sometimes a person standing up and saying, ‘This is what God has done in my life,’ is powerful,” he told the crowd. His powerful journey to the Calhoun Baptist Association church began Jan. 18, 1989, on the Gulf Freeway near Lake Livingston in Texas.

As a staff member at South Park Baptist Church, Alvin, Texas, Piper had attended a conference in Trinity, Texas. When the conference ended early on that Wednesday morning, he was eager to get back to church for the night service.

Driving his 1986 red Ford Escort, Piper made two fateful decisions — he wore his seat belt, and he took a different route to Alvin.

Just 15 minutes after he said goodbye to friends at the conference, Piper approached a bridge.

As he drove in the rain, he thought about a sermon, “I Believe in a Great God,” he would deliver that night, not knowing his belief would be put to the ultimate test.

“I was a 38-year-old preacher on my way to church, and my life was turned upside down,” Piper said.

On the other side of the bridge, an 18-wheeler, transporting food and driven by a Texas Department of Criminal Justice inmate, weaved, hit his car head-on and then sideswiped two other cars. Among the carnage of the crash, Piper’s broken body had no pulse. The only one injured in the accident, he was declared dead at 11:45 a.m. by emergency medical technicians.

While his bloody body was covered up with a tarp, the spirit of Piper was having a reunion with family and friends in heaven. “How ironic the 18-wheeler, driven by a prisoner and filled with food, would hit a pastor and send him to ... where there is no hunger,” he said.

As told in his best-selling book “90 Minutes in Heaven,” Piper remembers being outside the pearly gates of heaven with a welcome committee of people, long deceased, who made a spiritual impact on his life. As he basked in the glory and symphony of heaven, on earth, his family and members of his church began praying after being informed he had been in an accident.

Dick Onerecker, a pastor who attended the same conference, was stuck in traffic caused by the wreck and asked a police officer if he could pray for anyone on the bridge. When the police officer told him everyone was fine except the deceased man in the shattered red car, God spoke to him to pray for the man.

“He wasn’t interested in theology as much as he was obedience,” explained Piper of Onerecker praying for a deceased man. He prayed and eventually sang “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”

Piper recalls being suddenly ripped from heaven and singing along with the praying pastor. Barely alive, the emergency crew rushed into action and transported Piper to the hospital. He had no internal or brain injuries — a significant prayer Onerecker told him he petitioned God for that day.

Piper’s recovery took 13 months and required 34 surgeries.

The fact that he was able to share an evangelistic testimony with almost 4,000 people in four services Jan. 27 and 28 in Anniston is what resonated with Parker Memorial Baptist pastor Mack Amis.

Initially intrigued by Piper’s story when he received his book after his mother died, Amis said it was the aftermath of the accident that affected him the most.

“What intrigued me was what he felt when he came back,” Amis said of the emotional and physical recovery Piper endured. “How he learned to come to grips with that and how he came to realize that he has a new purpose in life. I thought that would be a universal message to people.”

Reflecting on Piper’s visit, Amis said, “God sent (Piper) back here to minister to people. So I ask, what are you doing to make sure people get to heaven?”

Piper’s book is available by visiting www.thealabamabaptist.org and clicking on the LifeWay Christian Stores button.

Copyright 2008. The Alabama Baptist

Mark Harris

After 4HIM, Mobile native finds ministry in local church
By Theresa Shadrix
The Alabama Baptist
February 28, 2008

Mark Harris is a normal guy with an anything-but-ordinary music ministry.
The Mobile native is a former member of and songwriter for 4HIM, a solo artist and the head of worship ministries at Bay Community Church in Daphne.

His musical journey began as a singer in the contemporary Christian group Truth. In 1989, when Harris, along with Andy Chrisman, Marty Magehee and Kirk Sullivan, left Truth and formed 4HIM, it proved to be a successful move.

The harmonies and pop-gospel sound of 4HIM earned eight Dove Awards, 24 No. 1 singles (22 were written by Harris), a certified gold record, a Grammy award nomination, induction into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and the Alabama Governor Achievement Award.

But, in 2004, after 15 years together, the four men found themselves at a musical crossroads and the group disbanded as each decided to explore solo projects and new ministry opportunities.
Harris said he was still a member of 4HIM and working on his first solo project when he discovered the least possible ministry opportunity in his home church.

“I was talking to the pastor one day, and he said he needed help finding the right person in the worship area,” Harris said. “For about a month, I looked around and at the same time, the pastor and I both said maybe it was me.”

A change of heart
Harris said that while on the road with 4HIM, he often met with worship leaders but he couldn’t really understand their needs. But that is no longer true. “I really feel like now God sends me out to minister to the staff, not just the people,” Harris said. “I have a real heart for people who serve the church.”

Amazingly, he said all four of the members of 4HIM are now serving in either full-time or part-time worship ministry at their local church. Although Harris admits life is busy, he still keeps in close contact with each of them and said the ending of the group was God’s plan.
“We didn’t stop because we were tired of being around each other,” Harris said, adding there is a lot of love between the four. “We are like brothers.”

He also said the doors are not closed to 4HIM performing together again at some point in the future.
For now, he has enough on his plate to fill anyone hungering for worshipful music. Harris’ first solo project in 2005, “The Line Between the Two,” featured the popular hymn of fatherhood “Find Your Wings.”
In September 2007, he released his second solo project, “Windows and Walls.”

‘Windows and Walls’
Though a devoted husband and father himself, the theme of fatherhood in Harris’ solo songs is a nod to his own parents. And passing on the legacy of a Christ-filled home is important to him as reflected in songs like the second CD’s title track, “Windows and Walls.”
“I really feel like this album has a strong message for everybody to hear,” he said.
For more information, visit www.markharrisonline.com.

Copyright 2008. The Alabama Baptist.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Bony Hands

Not long after posting an "All the Rage" column about my obsession with my aging hands, I was contacted by a reporter with MSNBC.com. She was so great and we talked for so long about living in the South, Alabama tornado's and beauty rituals that an hour past by quickly.

The result of the interview is a wonderful story about how women are trying to erase aging in hands. For me, I'll try natural remedies cause I am quite afraid of needles. Read more here on MSNBC.com - Turning back the ‘creepy old hands’ of time by Diane Mapes