Peace, Anticipation, and Posture for the New Year

Woke up early. Blog brewing though not yet birthed. Thinking about getting ready for church, making broccoli casserole, and still pondering a devotional I read the other day from Max Lucado.

Celebrating our one year anniversary.

Not yet light outside, I slip down the hall to what we’ve come to call the reading room. One of my most favorite spaces. We both love reading and have designated a space in our home to practice that privilege. Pulling out ‘My Utmost for His Highest’ I discover a new word. Imperturbable. That’s a lot of letters. I had to look it up.

The context…how our lives are hidden with Christ in God from Colossians 3:3. And how the imperturbable peace of Jesus Christ is imparted to us. The definition…very calm, very hard to disturb or upset; marked by extreme calm, impassivity, and steadiness; serene. And sometimes a synonym or two helps as well: unflappable and unshakable.

“When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the Child with His mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped Him.” Matthew 2:10-11

Remembering my first visit to the Holy Land several years ago, I could picture exactly what Mr. Lucado described in an excerpt from his book, The Applause of Heaven…the small cathedral outside Bethlehem where behind a high altar in the church is a cave, a little cavern lit by silver lamps. You can enter the main edifice and admire the ancient church. You can also enter the quiet cave where a star embedded in the floors recognizes the birth of our King. There is one stipulation, however. You have to stoop. The door is so low you can’t go in standing up.

I recall hunching over in descent to this dimly lit space, merging with another tour group already present. Huddled together I quickly recognized the song they were singing. A familiar melody in an unfamiliar language. German, I think. And as they sang “stille nacht”, I joined with them singing “Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright.” And in those moments it felt like a glorious foretaste of Heaven…every nation, tribe, people and language, only smaller. And not as many tribes.

Max continued his word picture, “The same is true of the Christ. You can see the world standing tall, but to witness the Savior, you have to get down on your knees.” 

Wow.

As we celebrate CHRISTmas and prepare to ring in a brand new year, I find myself pondering…what will it look like to stoop low this year? How can I best bow down to my Lord and King?

I don’t know.

But, if I know my Savior, I’ll find out soon enough.

Grace and peace to you, dear ones. Grace and imperturbable peace.

Your friend,

Cheri

P.S. To bow. Another good word. Only not quite as many letters…to cease from competition or resistance: submit, yield; to bend the head, body, or knee in reverence.

 

CCM Reunion Recap – A Concert to Remember

Greetings, and a Happy Reformation Celebration to you and yours…

“Experience testifies that, after the Word of God, music alone deserves to be celebrated as mistress and queen of the emotions of the human heart. For if you want to revive the sad, startle the jovial, encourage the despairing, humble the conceited, pacify the raving, mollify the hate-filled, what can you find that is more efficacious than music?”  -Martin Luther

L-R: Pelle Karlsson, Evie Tornquist Karlsson, Janice Archer Cruse, Jayne Farrell, Bob Farrell, Cheri Keaggy, Tim Archer and Steve Archer

On the heels of the Inaugural CCM Reunion concert Luther’s sentiment seems especially fitting. The vision of my friends and industry veterans, Tim and Cynthia Archer, this historical event was a special night that all who attended will not soon forget. And I was most honored to be a part.

For those who missed it, here’s the inside scoop with a few cell phone pix to boot!

Master of Ceremonies, Marcus and Lisa Ryan, welcomed everyone with the perfect blend of warmth and professionalism. I had the privilege of starting out the night and made myself at home at the keyboard. Inspired by Psalm 91, the very first worship song I ever wrote was, “You, Oh Lord, Are My Refuge”, originally recorded on my 1994 debut. With so many songs to choose from, many of the artists opted to perform a medley of hits and their most requested songs from Facebook polls. After “Refuge” came a verse/chorus of “Child of the Father.” Then, moving out from behind the keys, the band launched into that power house vocal intro on “My Faith Will Stay” (the production somewhat modeled after Steven Curtis Chapman’s, “Great Adventure”…remember that intro? “Saddle up your horses…”). And we were off to the races.

Next came “Make My Life An Altar” followed by “There is Joy in the Lord.” While the  latter is a staple in my ministry today, I admit it had been years since I’d sung “Make My Life.” I couldn’t help but recall how my young son and I were hit from behind while driving home late one night after recording the demo of the song back in Southern California.

Catching a quick sound check before the show.

Performing with a band was such a treat for me as I usually fly solo accompanying myself at the piano with a track or two mixed in for variety. These guys were smokin’, many of whom I have worked with at one time or another…shout out to Tom Hemby, Mark Baldwin, Scott Williamson, Gary Lunn, Blair Masters, and arranger Tim Akers of ‘Tim Akers and The Smoking Section’ (although someone made a clever joke calling them the ‘non-smoking’ section!). I didn’t catch the names of the horn players, but they were legit, not to mention seasoned background vocalists Chris Rodriguez, Joey Richie, Kim Keyes, and Tabitha Fair. They had a ton of material to learn and delivered the goods with grit and enthusiasm.

After the medley I sang the communion song, “In Remembrance of Me”, which I wrote in the early 90’s borrowing generously from scripture. It is as timeless today as it was back then. My set concluded with the acknowledgement that just as Christ suffered for us on the cross, He invites us also to participate in His sufferings. We finished with a more recent tune, “There Will Be One Day”, from my 2012 release, SO I CAN TELL. Born out of grief and loss, the hope-filled anthem brought encouragement to many.

The judges’ panel…L-R: Grammy Award-winning artist Tim Archer, Dove Award-winning artist Cheri Keaggy, Best selling author David Teems.

A few weeks prior, CCM Reunion held a talent contest in conjunction with Franktown Open Hearts, a non-profit organization committed to the success of Franklin’s inner-city youth. Dressed in a long red gown, fourteen year old contest winner, Naveysha Stewart, overcame her nervousness and did a beautiful job performing holiday favorite, “Mary Did You Know”, to a standing ovation.

Contemporary Christian music’s husband-wife duo, Farrell & Farrell, hit the stage next with an impressive six-song medley including “He Reigns”, Earthmaker”, “Let the Whole World Know”, “People in a Box”, “All You Need”, and the rapture-themed, “Get Right or Get Left.” Jayne Farrell gave a strong testimony setting up “Boundless Love” and the audience worshiped right along with them. A song I hadn’t heard before, Bob prefaced “Hidden Agenda” reminding the saints of the powers and principalities working against us. This song was a personal pick of band director, Tim Akers, as he had played for them when he was just starting out in the music business years ago.

L-R: Carpenter Husband, Evie, and yours truly after the concert.

Next came Evie. Inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2005, the audience erupted into spontaneous applause as the 4 foot 11 inch wonder started into “Give Them All.” The joy she exudes is palpable. Her medley included “Live for Jesus” and one of her most popular songs, “Come On Ring Those Bells.” This was a family favorite of ours, a must-play on Christmas morning. I was tickled at how much my husband fell in love with her voice and spirit on stage. She might be sixty-one as she informed us, but she’s still gaining new fans and faithfully drawing them to Jesus.

Her son, guitarist Kris Karlsson, joined her on the platform. He sang echo parts with his Mom on “Mirror”. Next came “Broken Up People”, “Bridge of Prayer” (a song she wrote herself), “Born Again”, and a stunning rendition of “The Prayer”, sung as a duet with her husband, Pelle. Finally, Evie concluded her set with the beloved Andrae Crouch classic, “My Tribute” and, as happened repeatedly throughout the show, folks had the cell phone cameras rolling to capture all their favorite songs.

Singer/songwriter Gary Chapman was the surprise “mystery guest” of the night. His acappella version of “Great is Thy Faithfulness” slays me every time. After his 1994 hit, “Sweet Glow of Mercy”, he performed the compelling ballad, “Everything I Know”, conveying a message that we often learn more from our mistakes than we ever do when doing everything right.

That brought us up to around 9 o’clock and all systems were go for the Archers to take the stage (see how I did that!). Steve, Janice, Tim, and Tim’s daughter, Ashley, were well worth the wait. “Celebrate” was the appropriate opener which matched the anticipation built up in the Williamson County Performing Arts Center that night. As they made their entrance, industry publicist, Lynn McCain, who was seated next to me commented how Janice looked exactly the same as she did way back when. They sounded ageless as well. Brothers, Tim and Steve, huddled close harmonizing on “Fresh Surrender” followed by “I’m Gonna Rise” and one of their most popular hits from the mid 70’s, “It Wouldn’t Be Enough”.

Mingling w/ the Archers in the lobby after the concert. L-R: Steve, Janice, me, Tim, and Tabitha Fair, one of the background vocalists.

Though Steve Archer quipped they don’t typically do medleys, they dove right in starting with the reverent “Give Us This Day”, “It Won’t Be Long”, “Make Me An Instrument”, “I Never Knew Love Like This Before”, and “Pickin’ Up the Pieces”, the latter featuring Tim Archer on lead vocals. His delivery of the song was powerful and particularly meaningful as Tim is a recent oral cancer survivor. Again, the audience showed the love with a standing ovation. It was one of the most memorable moments of the evening.

After the rousing “Stand Up” and “Give Him Praise” all the artists returned to the stage for the finale, “Jesus Is The Answer”. There were not enough microphones to go around, but it didn’t matter. People came to remember the music and, in turn, remembered the reason we’re still singing all these years later…Jesus.

Exactly three hours later it was finished. The evening wrapped with an informal meet and greet in the lobby with hugs and pictures all around. I admit I swapped CDs with Kelly Willard who came to show support for fellow comrades and happened to have her piano instrumental album in her purse (hey, blame it on the One I love!). And another interesting encounter, I met a guy who was the unknown recipient of a small couch I had to get rid of in the aftermath of my divorce and relocation in 2010. I never knew who it went to. I just knew it was someone in need. It was an unexpected blessing to actually meet him this many years later.

Reflecting on the sermon from Reformation Sunday, our pastor started a five week series on the book of Jude. The keystone verse comes from Jude 1:3…Contend for the faith that was once and for all delivered to the saints. What we witnessed was these dedicated artists still contending for the faith that has transformed each one of their lives.

Martin Luther wrote, “The gift of language combined with the gift of song was given to man that he should proclaim the Word of God through music.” Thanks to everyone who made it possible for these voices to be heard once more.

Until next time…To God be the glory for the great things He hath done!

Affectionately,

Cheri