Goodbye Good Friends by Phil
Three men who had a profound impact on my Christian walk have graduated to Heaven in the past couple of years. They were mentors, friends, and examples of how to follow Christ through the ups and downs of life. They will be missed (until we meet again!) and they will be treasured.
Dave Robinson gave me one of my first jobs in gospel music as pianist for his quartet, The Watchmen, but Dave became so much more than a singing buddy. He showed me it's OK for Christians to laugh at dumb jokes and to look for God to do amazing, miraculous things in everyday life. He'd call out of the blue and say, "Let me buy you a cheap hamburger," and we'd catch up on life over lunch. He wasn't afraid to go deep and he was always real. I still share Dave's stories as proof we serve an all-powerful yet very personal God. Thanks, brother.
Jim Christensen probably played a bigger part in launching our ministry than anyone else. He believed in what we did and hounded a reporter from the Kansas City Star to write the article that was released in the Associated Press which led to our appearance on Oprah. Over the years (especially after he moved to Arizona) Jim would call, usually in response to something he read in one of our newsletters. He was not afraid to question my motives, make sure I was staying on track, and offer ideas - especially about the business side of ministry. Jim was quick to honestly share his own shortcomings, fears, and failures. Whenever he called, I'd put aside whatever I was working on and savor the moment. I'll miss those calls. Thanks, brother.
Finally, of all the people who lead churches we've attended, Pastor Bill Bunge will forever hold a special place in our hearts. Bill was our first pastor as a married couple. Bill exuded love, a cross between Jesus and Santa Clause, and was always ready with a big smile and gentle word. At the children's time on Sunday mornings, all the kids would rush to see who would get to sit on Pastor Bill's knees as he shared a story. Bill was always eager for us to use our gifts to serve the Lord. Even though he worried about two young kids giving up their jobs to travel around the country singing gospel concerts, he encouraged us and prayed for us one Sunday morning to bless our ministry. And to think, it all started with a near tragedy.
Our first home was a third-floor apartment (with the laundry room in the basement and no elevator. Oh, the blissful ignorance of youth!) We had visited Pastor Bill's church so he came one evening to welcome us and answer any questions. Instead of parking in the back, second-floor lot where there was just one flight of stairs to climb, Bill parked in front where he had to walk up a large hill and three full flights of stairs. Pastor Bill was a big guy, so when we opened the door to see him pale and panting, we thought he was about to have a heart attack! We gave him a big glass of lemonade and ended up having a great conversation. Of course, we joined the church...we almost killed the pastor! God used that time to grow us and call us into the ministry we have today. (As a bonus, at the end of this newsletter, I'll reprint a devotion from one amazing Sunday morning from our time with Pastor Bill. Prepare to be blessed!)
I'm so glad God brought these men and so many others into my life to grow me into the man I am today. As I look back, there is a common thread that runs through them all - they were real. They weren't ashamed or afraid to let me know they were far from perfect, but they loved Jesus and boldly followed where he led. I pray I have that kind of impact on others coming along behind me.
One day we will all reach the end of this earthly journey. What we pour into others will outlast our days here. Be real, be available, be concerned, be compassionate. Be the kind of friend (and mentor) Jesus can use to shape the next generation of faithful followers.
A life lived only for ourselves is far too small.
Phil and Pam
The Story of HOLD ME
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
- Romans 8:28
I believe that. I also believe that God works in amazing ways for those who need him. He brought that lesson home to me in a powerful way one beautiful September Sunday morning, but let me back up a little…
I’m a musician. That’s all I’ve wanted to be for as long as I can remember, and since the age of 15, music has been a rather successful part of my life. I’m also a Christian. Born and raised in the church, I accepted Christ as my Savior when I was ten. Twelve years later, God brought my soon-to-be wife, Pam, and I to the point where we turned our lives completely over to Him, and He became our Lord. Not long after this we felt God calling us to serve Him with our music. We were hesitant at first, but God began to give me songs that touched the lives of those who heard them. Soon it was apparent that this was God’s purpose for our lives, so we cut an album of original songs and began ministering to churches throughout the Midwest.
Saturday, September 21, 1996 was a very special day. Grandma offered to babysit our 16 month old daughter Kayla while Pam & I went out. Those of you without young children won’t understand what a rare treat this is, but believe me, it’s special. Later that night after we all returned home, Pam was putting Kayla to bed when I felt a song coming on. I sat down at the piano, and words of comfort and peace flowed along with a simple, soothing melody. In my songwriting experience, God composes the good songs, I just write them down, and for the bad ones I take full credit. This time the words and melody came to me complete except for the last half of the second verse. I knew this was a good song and anxiously wanted to hear the finished product. But the more I hurried, the more I realized that these were my words, and they just weren’t right. Frustration set in. Finally, I stopped and prayed as I should have in the first place. “God, this is your song. Help me finish it the way You want it to be.” Almost immediately I sang, “I still need to feel a loving Father’s touch…” and the song was finished. The words and emotions expressed here weren’t my own, but I knew God had written it for someone. It was a keeper.
As soon as the last notes faded, I had the feeling that someone needed to hear this message the following morning in church. Even though Pam and I musically minister to many churches, we aren’t comfortable singing specials at our own church unless we are asked. That’s why I prayed, “God, I’m not sure about singing this tomorrow, but if it is Your will, show me a sign and I’ll do it.” With that I thanked God for the song and went to bed.
Sunday morning came and no sign. But the feeling was still strong as we pulled into the parking lot of Christ United Methodist church. I approached Pastor Bill about my conviction to sing this song for someone who needed to hear it. Without hearing or knowing anything about the song itself, he inserted it in the service after the children’s time.
As soon as the children prayed and filed out of the sanctuary, I quietly went to the piano and explained to the congregation that I felt someone needed to hear this new song. Barely ten hours after it had been given to me, I began to play and sing “Hold Me.” As I finished and returned to my seat, several sniffles arose from the congregation. Pam tapped me on the leg and pointed to the bulletin. There in bold letters was the sermon for today, titled “Lord, Hold Me In Your Arms.” I felt a tingle run the length of my spine. Our pastor was sitting where he couldn’t hear the words I sang, but as he preached his sermon, it was almost identical to the song, right down to the illustration in the first verse. Coincidence? I don’t believe in those anymore. I smiled and thought, “God, I would have been happy with a little sign. You didn’t have to rearrange the whole morning worship service.”
When the service was finished, several people approached us in tears. “I know why God gave you that song,” they said. “It was for me.” Several letters also arrived during the following week with the same sentiments. They added that if the song hadn’t occurred in that exact spot in the service, they would have missed it.
I tell this story not to claim any credit or glory for what happened that morning, but to show that we serve an awesome God who loves His children enough to come to us when we need Him. God doesn’t promise our Christian walk will be free from pain, but He promises to always walk beside us. God gave this song to me as a gift, but He didn’t intend for me to keep it myself. That’s why Pam and I share this story and song in every concert. We’ve seen thousands of people touched by this simple, yet eternal message: God is always there, waiting with arms open wide to love you through whatever storms you face. All you have to do is ask.
I remember as a child, how I feared the stormy nights,
The wind would pound upon my window pane.
I’d jump out of bed, run to mom and daddy’s room,
With a quiver in my voice I would say…
Hold me, oh I need you,
Wrap your arms around me, hold me tight.
I won’t ask you, to make the hard times go away,
Just hold me, till this storm passes by.
Now I’m not a child, but my fears are still the same,
Though the storms I face are of a different kind.
I still need to feel, a loving father’s touch,
So Lord please hear my heart’s humble cry…
Hold me, Lord I need You,
Wrap Your arms around me, hold me tight.
I won’t ask You, to make the hard times go away,
Just hold me, till this storm passes by.
Jesus hold me, till this storm passes by.
Words & Music by Phil Morgan. © 1997 Phil Morgan, Jammin Gentile Music, BMI. All Rights Reserved.