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Monday, June 15, 2009

Writing about home

Here is my latest offering at the Southern Authors Blog

My home's in Alabama by Theresa Shadrix
Kathryn Tucker Windham, Scarey Ann and Theresa Shadrix at the 2009 Alabama Book Festival.

With the latest issue of Longleaf Style magazine focusing on roots, even a Bubba could figure out why I’ve been thinking so much about home and the South. In the summer issue, we have Rick Bragg’s “Why I write about home”, Diane McWhorter wrote about Birmingham and the civil rights and Nathalee Dupree gives a tasty ode to Southern cooking. To think about anything other than the South would a downright shame after reading it.

Truth be known, I used to feel somewhat like a carpetbagger. Yes, I was born in the South and I’ve lived in the South for over two decades. But, my childhood memories of the South are slim, thanks to my mother’s second marriage to an Army man. (Vincent O’Neil, I so understand your post!)

With two separate tours in Germany, I was a bonified cultured girl. I toured castles and camped under the stars in Munich. I shopped stores downtown markets. I bought fresh pretzels from street vendors. I never went to church and didn’t know one single thing about VBS, GA’s, or Sunday School. I learned to play soccer with kids who couldn’t speak English. I listened to Oingo Boingo, Led Zeppelin and Generation X. I got my ears pierced in Frankfurt. I read C.S. Lewis and Trixie Beldon.

I was in the 9th grade when my family returned to the South and made our home in Alabama. I couldn’t have been more out of touch with Southern reality as I was then. In the mid-80s, I was a European-inspired fashionista who talked funny. My “oil” rhymed with boil and I had not grasped the concept that anything that came before “bless your heart” was probably an insult in sweet disguise. I didn’t eat biscuits or grits or lard in my green beans. I had never seen the Andy Griffith Show. I was really quite pitiful.

But, I’ve come a long way. I married a born-and-bred Southern boy almost 18 years ago. I live in the country and drive by pastures with grazing cows every day o my way to work. I can make biscuits from scratch, prefer creamed potatoes to rice, can’t stand to eat those five minute boxed grits and green beans are not cooked unless seasoned with a touch of lard. I reference tweezers to Barney and hunting tigers. I love my relationship with Jesus Christ more than I love fried okra and home-grown tomatoes. I also prefer to listen to Rick & Bubba than Larry the Cable Guy because they are real good ol’ boys. Speaking of which, I’m not scared of rednecks, overalls, trucks or camo shorts. I can’t wear white to before Easter, even if they do in New York. I don’t flinch if I see a Memaw put a pinch of chewing tobacco in her mouth after supper. And, for Heaven’s sake, I capitalize “South”.

And, I love Southern authors! As an editor, no writer has influenced me more than Kathryn Tucker Windham because she was one of the first “girl reporters” in Alabama. And, she has a mess of talent even at 91 and she really, really loves the South.

At the Alabama Book Festival, she told the crowd that something was wrong with people who put sugar in cornbread. She was serious too. She cried when I gave her a "Scarey Ann" doll that I found online. If you don't know why "Scarey Ann" means so much to her, well, read her latest book "Spit, Scarey Ann & Sweat Bees."

I really love to recommend Southern authors to my friend’s cause there is nothing like telling someone, “”One Mississippi” by Mark Childress will leave you feeling a little beside yourself but just remember that not everyone down here is crazy. He just wrote it that way for fun.”

Most recently, I recommended Cassandra King’s “Sunday Wife” to a northern writer friend, who is also a pastor’s wife. I also told one friend, who suffered minor headaches, to read “Ray in Reverse” by Daniel Wallace and she said she had to think so much that it cured her. (I’ve also learned to embrace my sense of humor, which, I think, comes from walking barefoot in red clay in Alabama.) The only books by northerners I recommend are “Life with Father” by Clarence Day, Jr., who died in 1935, and anything by Erma Bombeck.

My list of authors who influence, entertain and, sometimes, warp me is very long. I bet it will continue to grow. I like reading Southern authors because they make me feel at home. I may have lived for a few years in another country but I wouldn’t live anywhere else than in Alabama. I think it’s because the South has a way of wrapping her arms around you and squeezing the city right out of you. Bless all our hearts.

Theresa Shadrix is the managing editor of Longleaf Style magazine. Her first book “Naked before God” is in the Lord’s hands, on her agent’s mind and hopefully soon will be in a publisher’s heart.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Mandisa: True freedom found in God

Mandisa's new album "Freedom" comes out March 24, 2009 and it is filled with both up-beat songs as well as emotional and reflective ones. I had a chance to talk to her this week about this album and what is going on in her life. I posted the article on The Christian Post but here it is:

Mandisa: True freedom found in God
By Theresa Shadrix

Gospel performer Mandisa defines herself not by the world’s standards, but God’s, and said she has finally discovered what freedom means. Her sophomore album “Freedom”, available on March 24, is a testimony to her struggles with food and deliverance from her addiction. After five weeks, the first single, “My Deliverer” is number 16 on Billboard’s Christian Adult Contemporary chart. “Lose my Soul”, her collaboration with Toby Mac and Kirk Franklin is at number eight.
“I used to think freedom was the fact that I’m free to do anything I want to do,” she said via telephone from her home in Tenn. “True freedom is doing what I want to do within the boundaries of God.”
The Grammy and Dove Award nominee had a goal to lose 100 pounds before the March release of “Freedom”. “I’ve lost 80 pounds,” she proudly admits.
In order to lose the weight, she had to change not only the way she eats, but she had to dig deeper into the word of God. “The more time we spend with God the more we are chiseled into the image of His son,” she said. “We need to reflect the glory of God.”
Mandisa hit the national scene as a contestant in the fifth season of American Idol in 2006. Her powerhouse voice garnered her loyal fans, but judge Simon Cowell brought up her weight with such comments as needing a bigger stage. Mandisa said his comments hurt, but she credits Simon with helping her learn how to forgive.
“I’ve just learned based on the word of God, that we should forgive because all that God has forgiven us for.” This is exactly what she told Cowell during the show and he apologized for his comments. She said she forgave for herself though. “I’ve learned that forgiveness is as much for the person. Simon would have gone the rest of his life not thinking about anything he said. I would have gone on and let a bitter root set in me,” she said. “I forgave him for me. As soon as you realize that you are holding on to anger, then forgive.”
Although she finished ninth on American Idol, she has found success as a solo performer in Contemporary Christian music. In 2007 she debuted “True Beauty”, the highest chart entry for a debut artist in Sparrow Records history and the only female soloist to hit number one in the 27-year history of Billboard Christian Retail charts. In 2008, “True Beauty” was nominated for Grammy’s “Best pop/Contemporary Gospel Album” and she was nominated for the Gospel Music Association Dove Award for “Female Vocalist of the Year” and “New Artist of the Year”.
She said last year’s nominations were a total surprise but she really didn’t expect her Dove Award nomination this year for “Female Vocalist of the Year”, which will air April 23 on the Gospel Music Channel at 8 p.m. EST. Among the nominees are Francesca Battistelli, Brooke Fraser, Karen Peck Gooch, Natalie Grant, Sandi Patty and Laura Story. “I don’t allow awards to define my success because I really want to let the fruit and the message speak,” she said. “But, these are saying you are on the right track.”
Mandisa is humble about all of her success and credits her relationship with Jesus Christ first and foremost. The Calif. native said one of the songs on the “Freedom” album, “Not Guilty” speaks to the message of grace from Christ. “We are given the verdict of not guilty. It is not by our works but it is the grace of Jesus Christ.”
For now, the 32-year-old said she is trying to stay focused on singing about this message of grace and freedom found in a relationship with Christ. “God has given us freedom over anything that will hold us captive.”
Copyright Theresa Shadrix.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Warm Springs, where a president 'let it all hang out'

I wrote this story in 2007, but you can see some braces made by Marion Dunn for yourself. On Saturday, Jan 31, 2009 from 10 AM - 2 PM, Dunn's tools and several types of orthotics he made while employed at the Polio Foundation will be on display at Roosevelt's Little White House, 401 Little White House Road, Warm Springs, GA.

By Theresa Shadrix
The Anniston Star(AL)
Originally published: February 17, 2007

Marion Dunn was only 17 when he met President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

A certified prosthetic and orthopedic technician, Dunn made the braces that FDR wore on his polio-stricken legs. Dunn was - and still is - a frequent visitor to the Little White House, Roosevelt's favorite retreat for relaxation and polio treatment in Warm Springs, Ga., located about 60 miles southwest of Atlanta.

"He joked and played around with employees," Dunn recalls. "There was one time FDR dunked a boy in the water and then roared back with a big belly laugh. He had a great laugh."

Dunn, who often brings homemade pies to the staff at the Little White House museum, says Warm Springs gave Roosevelt a chance to be himself outside the scrutiny of politics, the public and the press.

Roosevelt was infected with the polio virus in 1921 (although a study in 2003 said he may have had Guillain-Barré syndrome, a different neurological disease). He was paralyzed from the waist down and doctors said he would never walk again. (The polio vaccine would not come around until 1955.)

His relationship with Warm Springs began when he visited the area in 1924. At the suggestion of close friend and Georgia native George Foster Peabody, Roosevelt - at the time he had left politics to practice law in New York - traveled to Warm Springs because Peabody believed its warm swimming pools might help him. When in the pools, filled with natural mineral water from Pine Mountain springs that stayed at a constant 88 degrees, patients felt recharged and some, like Roosevelt, were able to freely walk about in the swimming pools.

But Warm Springs was not designed as a treatment center. From the 1890s until the 1920s, it was a place for the wealthy to relax. The Meriwether Inn, located on the property, was capable of housing 300 guests and keeping them entertained with a bowling alley, tennis court, trap shooting and swimming pools, among other amenities.

Roosevelt invested $195,000 of his personal fortune to buy 12,000 acres in Warm Springs and to rebuild the resort and make it a place that offered polio treatment. The land deal included the Meriwether Inn, cottages, swimming pools and the land on which he built the Little White House.

With Peabody and others, Roosevelt formed the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation (now the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation), a center for treatment of polio. He consulted physicians and scientists on rehabilitation and worked with architects on the design of a new pool complex, which featured indoor and exercise pools.

Since there was no cure for polio at the time and patients were quarantined, Warm Springs and Roosevelt's foundation offered polio patients what they could not get in modern medicine - relief, acceptance and seclusion.

But Roosevelt's hope of restoring Warm Springs to a resort failed as the president learned firsthand the fear felt by people in regard to polio. The misunderstanding and lack of knowledge about polio kept visitors away because they believed swimming in the public pools would infect them with polio.

But it didn't prevent Roosevelt from visiting it often, and it was there that he died.

The last image
One of the most treasured pieces at the museum is the unfinished portrait of Roosevelt. It was on April 12, 1945, during a sitting for the painting that Roosevelt collapsed in the tiny living room at the Little White House. He was carried to his bedroom and pronounced dead at 3:35 p.m. His body was then taken to Washington, D.C. for a state funeral and Roosevelt was buried at Hyde Park, N.Y.

Greg Morrow says the room that holds the original portrait was designed by him and Burke. The room is equipped with lighting to preserve the painting for future generations.

It was at Warm Springs that Roosevelt found a purpose in life far beyond politics. His reputation before 1921 was that of a stoic, somewhat aloof aristocrat, but some would say that the small Georgia town warmed his personality as well. In his car, specially equipped with hand controls, Roosevelt traveled the country roads around Warm Springs and stopped to picnic or talk to people along the way, Dunn says.

"Roosevelt's experience in Georgia influenced him philosophically and politically," Burke says. "I hope everyone walks away with something positive."

"His programs and the things he did for rural people had me in awe of working at a presidential site," Morrow says. "They say when he came down here, he didn't realize how people in rural areas lived and it opened his eyes and it was what inspired him to begin all the social programs. Those programs started in Warm Springs."

Warm Springs actors bring history to life

This was the sidebar to a story I wrote about Roosevelt's Little White House in Warm Springs, GA in 2007.

By Theresa Shadrix
Anniston Star, The (AL)
Published: February 17, 2007

As the wind blows through the trees, Tom Wentland and Nancy Simko relax on the porch. Wentland adjusts his wheelchair while Simko focuses on the knitting project in her lap. Then Wentland spots an approaching visitor.

"Hi there, young man, and what is your name?" he asks. Shy and doubtful, the young boy is not sure if what he is seeing is real. He looks up to his mother for assurance and walks toward Wentland.

"So, do you have any questions for the president?" Wentland asks in a deep voice.

"Uh, no, sir." the boy replies, as he quickly makes his way to the door that leads back into the house.

Wentland is used to such perplexed responses from young visitors. After all, it is not every day one meets the 32nd president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), especially since he died in 1944.

History comes to life on special occasions in Warm Springs, Ga., at the Little White House, getaway home of the former president. The porch is the stage for Wentland as he portrays FDR and for Simko as first lady Eleanor.

For Wentland, it has been a 16-year engagement and along the way he has gathered a lot of information about the only president to be elected four times. It's a commitment that he takes very seriously and one he says leaves him humble at the end of the day.

"It is an incredible honor to be able to step into his skin and make him seem alive, like to make people understand what that time was like, what our country was going through with the Depression," says Wentland.

"Some days you feel like cardboard cutouts," says Wentland. "Then there are some days here when ... well, they are humbling."

Wentland finds it difficult to finish his sentence but Simko looks up from her knitting.

"People thank him. We have had World War II veterans thank us," she says. "These moments are precious."

History to life

Wentland and Simko appear as FDR and Eleanor on special dates at the Little White House:

· Jan. 30 - FDR's birthday.

· March 17 - FDR and Eleanor's wedding anniversary.

· Oct. 11 - Eleanor's birthday.


Copyright, 2007, The Anniston Star, Consolidated Publishing Co. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Sacred Encounters: from Rome to Jerusalem


If you are looking for a great book to read, I recommend Sacred Encounters: from Rome to Jerusalem by Tamara Park.

"Tamara Park signifies all that is good about the Christian pilgrimage. Her honesty and openness in Sacred Encounters from Rome to Jerusalem allow for a true spiritual journey in finding God. She is a contemporary pilgrim with a fresh journey to the living, breathing Yahweh."
Theresa Shadrix

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Chris Tomlin: 'All about love'

Chris Tomlin shares about worship, church plant
The Alabama Baptist
Thursday, November 13, 2008
By Theresa Shadrix






From the moment Chris Tomlin received a guitar from his dad when he was around 11 or 12, he has used music to worship and praise God.

He wrote his first song, "Praise the Lord," when he was 14 but said he can't recall it and confessed his first songs were "not any good."

Now 36, the Texas native has written some of the most sung contemporary worship songs in church today, such as "Indescribable," "How Great Is Our God" and "Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)."

Looking back on his career, he can see the way God orchestrated his music. "I really didn't go knocking on people's doors. God really opened the doors. He did it the whole way through."

Awarded male vocalist of the year at the Gospel Music Awards in 2006, 2007 and 2008 and artist of the year in 2007 and 2008, Tomlin is sometimes overwhelmed to see people in authentic worship with songs he has written.

In a recent telephone interview from his apartment in Atlanta, he expressed humility for all the attention and laughs off comparisons to Psalmist David.

"I spend most of my time ripping [David] off," Tomlin joked. "I don't consider myself [a modern-day David], but it is my heart to write. I do feel a sort of mandate from God to help people express."

Tomlin believes people are created to worship God, and he has always felt a calling to lead Christians in worship. He credits his parents with helping him fulfill that calling.

When he wanted to cut a demo just out of high school, his father, who taught him how to play the guitar, gave him the money.

"He really believed in me," he said.

But although his father and mother believed in his gift of music, they also wanted him to go to college. Tomlin respected their wishes and finished with a degree in psychology from Texas A& University in College Station.

"I remember getting the 'dad talk' about getting a real job. That wasn't me," he said. "I did finish my degree but by the time I was in college, [God] was already opening the door."

It was during his college years that Tomlin met Louie Giglio, Passion founder, and started a union with the first Passion concert in 1997 that is still thriving today.

Now just off the first Passion world tour, Tomlin, Giglio and Matt Redman, author of other widely sung worship songs and Passion regular, are planning to plant a new church in Atlanta.

"This is something we have been looking toward for five years," Tomlin explained.

Although he sold his house in Texas and is "settling in" as a new Atlantan, Tomlin is excited about what will happen with the new church and being surrounded by people he loves.

To Tomlin, love is not just about friendships and partnerships in ministry it is also the focus of his seventh album, "Hello Love," which was the highest Christian album to debut on iTunes and peaked at No. 9 at Billboards Top 200 after its release in September.

"The heart of worship is a love relationship with God. Part of our relationship with God is how we love each other," he said.

One way to do that is through Passion's initiative, www.onemillioncan.com.

So far $266,169.25 has been given for work such as providing clean water in Africa, ministering to sex slaves in India and offering life-altering surgeries for children.

Love to Tomlin is a reflection of the heart and he said he encourages Christians to seek out ways to love others.

"When you get down to the nitty gritty and the heart of relationships in life, it is all about love."

For more information about Tomlin, visit www.christomlin.com. To gather more information about Passion, visit www.268generation.com.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Chris Lockwood of 33 Miles

Mobile native honors God through music
By Theresa Shadrix
The Alabama Baptist
October 23, 2008

Chris Lockwood never planned to play guitar in a contemporary Christian band, but the Mobile native is now topping the Billboard charts as a member of 33Miles.

Along with Lockwood, 33Miles consists of Jason Barton on lead vocals and Collin Stoddard on keyboard. The band, whose name represents the time Christ spent on earth in miles, gained instant attention, and the group was a Gospel Music Association Dove Award nominee for New Artist of the Year after their 2007 debut album, “33Miles.”
While the award went to Brandon Heath, 33Miles would not soon be forgotten.

Just last month, they released their second album, “One Life,” which has already peaked at No. 4 on Billboard’s Top Christian Albums chart.

While the success seems to have come overnight for 33Miles, Lockwood said God has been preparing him in ministry for many years.

His parents divorced when he was 8, and although he was baptized around the same time, he can’t say he really understood what he was doing. When friends invited him to a bowling event with their youth group, he said the Lord used the people to “knock on his door.”

At 16 years old, he felt a call to the ministry.

“The Lord got my attention,” he said. “It’s that whole mentality of I didn’t really choose the Lord. He chose me.”

Lockwood’s love for music started when his father gave him a guitar for his ninth birthday. Lockwood soaked up everything he could learn about the guitar, whether playing alone in his room or watching his uncle play.

“I spent hours in my room, and my dad always yelled, ‘Get out and do something!’” he recalled.

After graduating from Baker High School in Mobile, Lockwood attended the University of Mobile in pursuit of a music degree. He said his college experience gave him an appreciation for reading music and learning all types of music from classical to jazz.

After four years of college, Lockwood moved to Cincinnati and toured with Mobile-based TRUTH for a year and a half.

When fellow TRUTH member Jason Breland moved back home to Mobile, he asked Lockwood to join him as a worship associate at First Baptist Church, North Mobile, in Saraland. Lockwood led the music part time for about a year and with his wife, Joy, had plans to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston.

A phone call from former TRUTH and 4HIM member Mark Harris, however, changed everything.

“Jason (Barton) was filling in for Andy Chrisman with 4HIM, and Mark called out of the blue one day and said [Jason] was trying to start a group,” Lockwood said.

He had given up the dream of playing in a band when he was 16. Playing in a band was the furthest thing from his mind.

“When you have a family and have bills to pay, you don’t pursue dreams,” Lockwood explained.

Out of respect for Harris, Lockwood agreed to meet Barton and his management team at a sound check in Nashville and was immediately impressed. So Lockwood and Barton, along with Stoddard, cut a demo and waited.
Six months later, INO Records called.

“It happened really fast. Three guys who didn’t know each other, and God was the mastermind behind it all,” Lockwood said.

At 30 years old, Lockwood said he hopes to make the most of God’s master plan for his life not only as a husband and father to his 9-month-old daughter but also as a worship leader.

“We, 33Miles, paint a picture of Christ’s life in miles, and we turn it around as a challenge to ourselves and others,” he said.

Lockwood said the group sees the ministry as encouragement to believers and wants to promote the gospel.

“We can’t change everybody but ministry is what sticks. Christ is what sticks.”

Copyright The Alabama Baptist, 2008.

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