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!




Juggernaut Cars and Glorious Chariots

Along with my Bible I have a little pile of devotionals I try and read every day. Not because I have to, but because on any given day I genuinely hunger for God needing constant reminders of Truth to keep me anchored, sane, and centered. Like panning for gold, I sift through them one by one in search of something shiny and strong to hold in my heart as hidden treasure.

Wrapping up my quiet time one morning, I glanced ahead to the next day’s date…August 8. For a moment I couldn’t remember what was significant about it. I just knew there was something familiar about August 8.

And then it hit me…

It was that day thirty years ago that I married my husband. The first one.

Wedding Day – August 8, 1987

You think you’ll never forget certain dates in your life. The date of a birth, or a death, or some sort of trauma, an anniversary, a wedding, or the date the divorce was final. It surprised me that it actually took a minute to jog my memory.

Weirdly, just a few weeks prior, a passage from my ‘Springs in the Valley’ devotional made its way onto the pages of my journal. The writer spoke of that person who was “the juggernaut car to crush my soul into the very dust” who became “a glorious chariot to carry me to the heights of heavenly patience and long suffering…”

Intense, I know. The language is strong. I had to look up the word ‘juggernaut’ to gain the implied meaning…something (such as a force, campaign, or movement) that is extremely large and powerful and cannot be stopped; a very large, heavy truck.

Now, please don’t mistake this as husband bashing. That is not at all my intent. Nor do I recommend the practice. I loved that man for more than half my life. He’s the father of my children and had many good qualities that we as a family both celebrated and benefited from.

My point is to reveal the hidden treasure God showed me that day. A new way to frame my story. My ex is not just this painful thing or that painful thing. He is, in fact, that ‘glorious chariot’ in my life. That tool that God used to mold me into someone quite different than before. To mold me…into something more. And for that I am thankful.

Psalm 30:11-12 (NIV)

Coincidentally, or perhaps not so, the Psalms reading for that date included Chapter 30, verses 11-12. And on August 8, I posted it on Facebook punctuated with several exclamation points…“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.” 

And God certainly has. He’s turned my mourning into dancing and clothed me with joy. But, not entirely for the reason you might expect.

Wedding Day – December 2016

It’s not simply because I moved onto Husband #2 and now I can finally be happy (although we are quite happy!). It’s not because I’m naive enough to think that the second half of life will be all kittens and rainbows. Nothing against kittens. It’s just that I prefer a certain Shihtzu.

No. What’s significant is that I had actually underlined these verses in my Bible many years ago. Even in the midst of the struggle. It was a verse that had become evident in my life in spite of the crazy it had become. Because God had taught me how to dance, and keep on dancing. He taught me how to choose joy, and keep on choosing it. He even taught me something miraculous about gratitude: it is entirely possible to have it in spite of the not-so-fun and in spite of the not-so-happy.

As I belabored whether or not to write yet another post about that time in my life, I resolved to do it anyway. If it helps someone have a more redemptive perspective on those juggernaut vehicles in his/her own life, so be it. I have done a good thing.

Or rather, God has.

At the time of this writing my daily reading from the Psalms began in Chapter 31, verse 19…“How great is your goodness which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you.” 

For His many blessings (husbands included!), and the tools which take me further up and further in, I say thank you. For, oh, the treasure I’ve found in Jesus Christ! Of much greater worth than gold.

Two songs come to mind as I close. Lyrics from American singer/songwriter Bobby Darin…
If I were a carpenter
And you were a lady
Would you marry me anyway? (Yes!)
Would you have my baby? (At this age? Are you kidding me?!)

Angel and Statue – Rome by Samantha Higgs

Ha! And the ‘ole negro spiritual by Wallace Willis…
Swing low, sweet chariot
Coming for to carry me home
Swing low, sweet chariot
Coming for to carry me home

As we think on life’s significant dates and times, let us frame them or re-frame them if necessary, to propel us toward greater heights in Jesus. To put it another way, strap yourself in and enjoy the ride! He’ll be waiting on the other side…

Love and prayers from a carpenter’s wife (and a Carpenter’s bride!)…