This year, more than most, will be remembered as a year of change in our family. In May, our Angela got married and moved to Portland, Oregon. In August, our son David and his family (including my grandson!) moved to Dallas, Texas, to become a worship pastor intern at The Village Church. Now, this coming Saturday, our last remaining child at home graduates from UF with a degree in Music Education.
Allison is our youngest, and has been her daddy’s helper her entire life. When she was five, she announced to me that she wanted to learn to play guitar. And furthermore, she told me that I couldn’t die until I taught her everything I know on guitar! She wasn’t kidding either. She stayed dedicated to her goal. By age 8, she was performing songs, and by age 9, she played on a Sunday morning, accompanying an adult singer.
When it came to projects around the house – Alli was always right by my side. From carpentry projects, to assembling furniture, to putting up Christmas lights, every job was of great interest to her – and she was tirelessly helping me, wanting to learn to hammer, to hold the drill, to drive that screw in, or get the decorations set just right.
When it came to playing guitar, I have had the privilege of her company as a jam partner, especially the last several years. I have a very musical family, and it has been my privilege to both teach and jam with all my kids, but my oldest daughter Stephanie got married in 1998. My son David moved away to Orlando 8 years ago, and to Dallas this past summer. Angela moved to NY in early 2012, and as stated earlier, to Oregon this past summer. Allison has been right here all this time…up to now…
We are proud of “Alli” as she comes to the end of this journey. We are excited to see her realize some of her dreams, and are encouraging her to step out into the direction to which she feels called. But oh, I will miss her. Cindy and I are trying our best to ready ourselves for this next season, and we can tell that it won’t be easy. Many of you have already crossed that threshold, maybe years ago. But this feels new, and frankly, a bit awkward. We are definitely “those parents” that have LOVED having their kids at home. It is hard for me to get my brain around the fact that those days are just about over.
But, I have learned this…every season of life comes to an end. My Mom used call these seasons “phases.” It is hard to come to the end of a phase, especially those that you have loved so dearly. But, God is faithful. He has always been faithful, and will be so in the future.
Congratulations, Allison! And to all graduates, best wishes to you. On behalf of all “empty nesters,” you’all come back and see us, OK?
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland
*Picture on home page was taken backstage when Allison opened for Colton Dixon at Abundant Grace here in Gainesville
Memorizing long sections or passages of Scripture has not been a forte of mine, but I sure can see the benefit in this practice. I can remember the first time I was ever challenged to memorize a single verse – it was in the church where I gave my heart to Jesus. The pastor’s wife led a “club” of young people every Sunday night called the “KYB Club”, an acronym for “know your Bible.” I was a new Christian, only ten years old, but I still remember the night that this dear lady looked at us and issued a challenge – “I would like to ask each of you to memorize Romans 6:23!” Well, I worked at it, and was able to commit it to my memory. To this day, those words that I “hid in my heart” are still firmly in place. The effort to memorize paid off.
Over twenty years later, I was part of a weekend outreach event. Over thirty youth pastors and youth leaders had traveled to converge upon “Derby Eve” in Louisville, Kentucky, the night before the “most exciting two minutes in sports” – the Kentucky Derby. There is an annual large street party in the neighborhood near the race track on Derby eve, a get-together that is pretty much an all-night affair of drinking and partying. Those that were part of our group had an aim to just be there to share the Gospel with as many as we could.
If you’ve ever been a part of a street witnessing outreach, you know how intimidating it can be. For a while that evening, we all split up and went out on our own with the goal of sharing in friendly conversation with any partygoer we could, hoping that “small talk could turn to “big talk,” thus transitioning into a presentation of the Gospel. That is when it got exciting for me. While standing in a food line, I realized that the guy in front of me was also alone. He was HUGE, and I felt very small next to this tall guy with the big beard. But I was there to talk. So, here is how my efforts went…
“This is quite a night! A lot of people out here…” (Well, not too bad for a starting effort, I thought…) “Yeah,” he said, “The crowds - they’re here every year…nothing really ever changes….” (Aha, I thought – here is my chance to turn small talk into big talk!). “Well, I know someone who NEVER changes…” He looked a bit puzzled, but bit anyway, and said, “Who?” I answered, “The Bible says that Jesus never changes! He is the same yesterday, today, and forever!”
I really didn’t have that comment planned out – but it seemed right in the moment. He looked at me with that look that said, “Oh, now I see where this is going…” His tone suddenly changed to near anger, and barked out, “OK, chapter and verse!” I was confused, and said…”What?” He said, “Chapter and verse! You and your kind are always out here talking about love and Jesus…but you can’t even tell me where it says that in the Bible!”
Wow, I thought for a moment that this grizzly-sized man was just going to pick me up, tear me into pieces, and throw me out on the street. I paused and silently prayed. Immediately, the answer came to me. “Let me ask you a question!”, I said. “It is a math question. What is two plus two?” “What??!!!”, said the guy, with a puzzled look that was apparent even through his massive facial hair. “The answer is FOUR, of course.” To that, I replied, “Tell me the name of the math book from which you learned that fact, and what was the page number?” He continued to stare as I went on…”Just because I can’t remember the ‘chapter and verse’ doesn’t mean that it’s not true…”
There was a nervous moment, but suddenly his scowl turned to a grin. “Aw heck, let’s talk!”, he said (well, not exactly what he said!…) Now he was laughing, and it was clear that the tide had turned in this conversation. We talked for more than half an hour, and I was able to share the Gospel with him. He even prayed the sinners’ prayer! What an amazing experience.
When I got back to the church, I pulled out my Bible, and realized that the passage I had quoted was from Hebrews 13:8. I determined that I was never going to forget that fact either!
My poor efforts at sharing a passage that I had committed to memory still bore fruit. But then, the Word of God always does. That is the power of God’s Word.
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland
I grew up LOVING Thanksgiving, for many reasons. First of all, it was the official launch of the Christmas season! Like with most of us still today, an every-year tradition was watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and waiting for that moment when “Santa” closed out the parade. Yep, that made the holiday season official – Christmas was right around the corner.
As I got older, Thanksgiving meant even more to me. In studying the origin of our country, and the sacrifices that were made by the founders of this great nation, I couldn’t help but be grateful for all that this holiday represented. A day set aside to offer thanks to God for His bountiful provision and protection.
But the call for Thanksgiving is much older than the Pilgrims and the American Indians that celebrated that first American holiday. As believers, we have the most for which to be thankful! Our God is the Author of Thanksgiving, the source of its deepest meaning. The Book of Psalms are full of declarations of Thanksgiving…here are a few, from the English Standard Version:
…proclaiming thanksgiving aloud,
and telling all your wondrous deeds.
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and perform your vows to the Most High…
I will praise the name of God with a song;
I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
This year, as we gather with our families, let us be thankful…for our country, for our families and the privilege we have to be together, and most of all, thankful to God. He is the Lord, worthy of all praise, and the object of all our thanksgiving.
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland
I love our station’s moniker – “Positive Hit Music.” The truth is – the biggest factor in making our music so positive is the Gospel, the “good news.” While the actual quality of the arrangements and the inherent production is great, all of that pales in comparison to message behind our songs. That Jesus came to redeem us, to offer Himself as a substitute on the cross, and thus not only paying the penalty for our sins, but also reconciling us to the Father – THAT is good news indeed. That is what makes our music so positive and powerful, and that is the heart of the message carried by every true Christian music artist. It is the really positive part of our radio station.
Today’s Christian music is represented by some fantastic people who are giving their lives and talents, singing songs that tell the greatest story ever told. Some of our artists have been doing this for years, having “developed their chops” in secular music before surrendering their hearts to the Lord, and literally changing their tunes for the glory of God. But some are like Jamie Grace, who grew up in Atlanta and in a Christian home, the daughter of a pastor. Jamie just may be one of the most extraordinary preacher’s kids you’ll ever meet. Some of the reasons: She overcame the handicap of Tourette’s Syndrome in a big way, refusing to let it stop her or her music, but she also serves as a great inspiration to those who battle with this condition. Jamie has an unstoppable personality that seems to be boundless. She began to use social media to record songs that she was writing, and to share encouragement to those that took the time to watch her videos. Through YouTube, she caught the attention of TobyMac, and as they say, the rest was history! Toby signed her to his label, and together they recorded a song that would launch Jamie’s recording career – “Hold Me.” It was not long after this song came out that we brought Jamie to Abundant Grace Community Church here in Gainesville. On that first visit in 2011, my wife, youngest daughter Allison (also a “PK’”) and I had the privilege of spending most of the next day with Jamie, and we enjoyed that time immensely. It was easy to see why so many people love Jamie – she is sincere and fun, and committed to the Lord. She loves people. She still loves and respects her parents – and even bought a house next door to them!
Jamie came back to Gainesville this past April (by the way - the photo above shows my daughter Allison with Jamie, taken backstage at that concert). Now she is returning for a third visit this coming Sunday night. What a perfect example she is of an artist who is writing songs with a positive message. But beyond that, Jamie is living for Jesus, and doing life…big.
Hope to see you Sunday night!
~ Till next time.
It seems to be happening more often than ever before…the phone rings, and I’m suddenly hearing a report that takes my breath away. And not in a good way either, for it is news of a dear friend that is suddenly facing a life-changing diagnosis, or some other formidable obstacle. It is one thing to read about or hear of people going through desperate times, but when it is someone in your family, or a friend that is very close to you, it suddenly becomes painstakingly real. And it is never easy.
Such is our life. In fact, Jesus promised us that we would face many difficult trials, including persecution due to our faith in Him. Suffering is part of living. Not a part that we enjoy, or happily anticipate, but suffer we will. Such times teach us about our life as believers in a very unique way.
How do we respond in these moments? How does our faith in the Lord inform our hearts when we are in the middle of such a crisis?
I have found Psalm 112 to be an immense help in guiding me in these moments. The first six verses describe a righteous man, who believes and trusts in God and delights in His commandments. Several great promises about such a person’s life are given in these verses. But verse 7 is the focal point for this post. It is the verse that helps me when I receive such a call. It is a trustworthy verse, worthy of memorization. Here it is, from the NIV:
He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. (Ps. 112:7 NIV).
What hope – I can respond to bad news and not fear, trusting in the Lord, knowing that He is holding my heart. I may be facing a crisis, but I am not facing it alone. He is there. And the disposition of my heart while in the battle? The Lord wants me to simply trust Him.
My sincere hope is that you are not having to face such circumstances today. But if you are having to do that very thing, take hope – and begin to meditate on this verse. It is like good medicine for the soul. He is firmly holding your heart.
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland
I grew up on the outskirts of Evansville, Indiana. Our house was situated on a rural road, literally the last road within the city limits. We lived on one acre of land, immediately adjacent to my grandfather’s property. I loved him so, and had many amazing memories at his house, and on that land. Granddad always had a large garden, and I grew up working in it.
Later, after moving into the city, my Dad and Mom also gardened each year, even if the only items were tomatoes. So naturally, after getting married and buying our own little home, I had to give gardening a whirl! I borrowed my Granddad’s tiller, marked off the garden plot, and away I went! Included in our garden would be items to make salads…tomatoes, lettuce, and radishes.
Cindy and I had never been solely responsible for a garden before, and truth be told, we didn’t have a clue as to what we were doing. But it was fun. Soon after planting the rows of radishes, we were excited to see green growth pop up out of the ground. Talk about lush growth! I could only imagine how great our homegrown salads would taste, especially topped with the zingy flavor of those radishes.
The days went by, and each afternoon I was out there, pulling weeds, and admiring this beautiful garden. Before we knew it, we were harvesting, and that is when we realized just how clueless we had been. Discovery number one…our radishes looked more like tiny carrots! I learned that what I should have done was to thin out the crop, giving them room to grow. To me, the max amount of growth that I could see above the ground, the better. But to have normal radishes (that are round!), the crop had to be cultivated.
Discovery number two…we tried to eat those radishes, but I had never tasted such hot bitterness in all my life. They were impossible to eat. My other crops were OK – but my radishes were a complete bust!
I realized later that this experience contained some very practical applications. Had I thinned out those rows of radishes, my crop would have had a better outcome. And likewise, just like our garden, our hearts have to be carefully cultivated - at times, we need to give special attention to their condition. Some aspects in my life might need to be “pulled out” to enable me to live as I should.
I also learned that bitterness is a natural outcome of a neglected garden. The same is true in my heart, where bitter root can grow, and become firmly established. And that bitter root will mess things up royally!
The writer to the Hebrews made it very clear in chapter 12, verse 15:
See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled… (Heb. 12:15 ESV).
That kind of bitterness will do more harm than just causing a momentary nasty taste in our mouths…it can do real damage – the kind of damage that deeply impacts our lives, and those of our loved ones.
May God grace us, and give us a resolve to work diligently to cultivate our hearts to prevent such bitterness, and courage to take the steps to make those needed changes in our lives.
Till next time.
~ Mike Gilland