Saturday, September 29, 2018

Trusting God's Wisdom

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose."  
Romans 8:28

I'll be the first to tell you that I truly do not know exactly what God is doing in our lives right now.  I feel perplexed, unsettled, and completely at a loss as to how to figure things out.  In our circumstances, I think often of Joshua 3:3-4. "And they commanded the people, saying, When ye see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it.  Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure: come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way heretofore."

We have not passed this way before—not even close.  Life feels very unfamiliar, and as Joshua instructed the children of Israel, my little family and I are trying with all our might to stay "2000 cubits behind the ark," as we lean hard on God for guidance.  We don't want to rush out ahead of Him, nor do we want to lag too far behind Him.  Doing either would mean getting outside the parameters of what it means to stay in the center of His will.

It is a fine line to walk—keeping in that "secret place of the Most High."  Psalm 91:1

As I struggle to "understand His logic," and I repeatedly come to the realization that my thoughts are so far beneath His, and I will never be able to think like He does, I am continually coming back to the same conclusion—"when we can't understand His logic, we must trust His wisdom."

As He calls us out into deeper waters, I am learning that each step forward requires a deeper level of trust.  As the water depth increases, so does the necessity to more fully trust Him.  In the midst of my questions and anxiety over the future and all that is happening, He did something recently that completely arrested my attention.

He always knows when we need extra assurance and confirmation that He is with us, doesn't He?

We had to be away from home for an extended period of time, and on the night before we were to leave to come home, I called our home voicemail to get our messages.  There was a message from our neighbor asking us to call her.  I tried, and when I got her voicemail, I left a message for her.  I didn't hear back, and we left to come home the following morning.  On our way, it hit me that I didn't hear back from her, so I texted her asking if everything was okay.  She texted back saying she needed to talk to me, and I instantly knew something was wrong.  You might know that our cell phone has been having issues, not allowing us to make or receive calls, so I texted her back explaining about the phone and asking her if she could text us instead of talking.  She texted back and told me that she was out of state at the time, but another of our neighbors had called her to tell her that the 3rd-floor french doors that lead from Zach's bedroom to his balcony were standing wide open!  Keep in mind that there are no screens on the doors!  I asked her how long they had been open, and she said for two weeks!  The other neighbor hadn't known for sure that we were out of town, and she didn't know how to reach us.  After such a long time, she called and mentioned it to the neighbor who had contacted us.

Instantly, we began to wonder how the doors came open, and of course, the first thought was concern that someone may have broken in.  But, how?  They would have had to use a very tall ladder, and it just wasn't likely that this had happened.  Then it hit us.  Not long after we left home, Hurricane Florence had passed through our area!  We figured Zach's doors must not have been securely latched, and the hurricane winds had blown them open.  Imagine the scenario.  We were a few hundred miles away from home, in the car, traveling, and this is the news we received.  You can just picture the thoughts going through our minds.  Strong winds, possibly heavy rain, wide open doors for two weeks, etc.  What had blown out of or into Zach's room?  Did excessive rain come in through the open doors and damage the flooring?  If the wind was strong enough to open the doors, had it caused harm to any of Zach's things?  Had birds, insects, or animals made their way in?  Not only Zach's room was exposed but his doors being open had made the whole house vulnerable!

Right there, in the car, the three of us prayed, and we spoke faith into our situation.  We chose to believe that GOD had taken care of everything, in spite of the potential for our home being violated.  I am not going to say it was an easy ride home.  Worry tried to overwhelm time after time as we kept putting it back in God's hands and realizing there was not one thing we could do BUT trust Him and His protection.

(In another post that I will more than likely publish on Biblical Minimalism, I want to elaborate about how thankful I am that we have minimized our lives.  There wasn't anywhere near the fear I would have felt had this happened a few years ago when our lives and home were overloaded with stuff.  Following Jesus into a simple, minimal life has brought about enormously advantageous changes to our perspective.  Never has it been more evident to me than on that ride home.)

I kept thinking how merciful it was of God to NOT let us know there was a problem until the very day we were on our way home.  He wanted to warn us of what was going on before we got home and saw those doors open and panicked, and yet, He withheld the information from us during the time that we could not get away to leave to come home and check things out.  He withheld that information from us until just a few hours before we returned home!

We finally made it home safe, by God's grace, and as we pulled into our parking area, Kevin told me that he and Zach would go in first to assess what was inside.  Bless his dear, kind, thoughtful heart, he wanted to spare me from seeing it first.  As I stood downstairs anxiously staring up at Zach's wide-open doors, I recalled the morning we left, and how, like every other time we get in the car to go anywhere, I had prayed this prayer, "Lord, please protect us, bring the three of us safely home together, protect everything here while we are gone, and let everything be just as we left it when we return."  Leaving home, we had placed everything we had in God's hands, trusting Him to watch over it while we were gone.

As I stood on the ground outside under Zach's room and balcony, what was actually only a few seconds felt like an eternity.  Then my heart rejoiced to hear the reassuring voice of my dear, even-keeled husband say, "Honey, everything is fine.  I don't see anything wrong at all."


All I could do is praise the God who sees—who hears—who knows every, single thing about every, little detail of our lives—who cares more for us than we can ever even imagine.
The relief that flooded over me was enormous.  But, even more than my relief was utter astonishment at what Kevin was telling me.  My mind replayed the whole thing once more—of all times, a hurricane had come through (of course we did not get anywhere near the brunt of the storm, but nevertheless, there had to be some awful strong wind to blow those doors open), who knows how much rain had fallen, etc.  I tell you what, as soon as I could come inside, the three of us prayed together, this time a prayer of wholehearted thanksgiving and praise to the God who loves us with an everlasting love, who hears us when we pray, and who faithfully answers those prayers!  Oh, how we praised Him and continue to praise Him!  There is just no explanation why things were "just as we left them when we returned" other than our dear, loving, faithful God answering the prayer we prayed that morning in the car.
God's providential care should never be underestimated.
It is there when we don't even realize how desperately we are in need of it.

Oh, the lessons He has taught and is steadily teaching us through this!  At the beginning of this post, I mentioned how unfamiliar and uncertain everything feels to us right now.  If God can shield our home from invaders of any kind, from hurricane rain and wind damage, and from all harm when we didn't even know we needed the extra protection, can He not take care of our future?  We don't understand the logic of all that has happened and is happening in our lives, but God is all-wise.  We don't need to understand His logic.  We simply need to trust His wisdom.  We simply need to believe with all our hearts that He never takes His eyes off us and all that affects our lives.

"The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me: Thy mercy, O LORD, endureth for ever."
Psalm 138:8

I know He absolutely allowed those doors to come open and for us to find out they were open for two weeks without us knowing about it just to prove that we do not even need to know what is going on for things to be okay.  The only one who needs to see the whole picture is Him.  He is in control.  We do not have to be.  He takes care of us and what pertains to us even when don't realize we need taken care of.

When we turn our lives over to God and hand Him the reins, we are no longer responsible.  Total surrender to God means letting go—completely.  Turning loose.  No longer worrying about the outcome.  Trusting that whatever comes our way passed through His hand first and only made it to the point of touching our lives after getting His permission. 

We do not need to fear getting out of His will.  He will make things evident to us on a need-to-know basis.  It is all about trusting His wisdom.  He is not going to shine a flashlight several steps in front of us and hand us a schedule of life events, along with the dates they will happen.  If He did that, why would we need faith? 

Romans 8:28 does not say that everything that happens in the life of a Christian will be good.  It says that all things will work together for good—both the good things and the bad things will work, 
hand-in-hand, for good.  

God's ways are far higher than our ways.
"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts."  Isaiah 55:8-9

"I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God?  If he will contend with Him, he cannot answer Him one of a thousand.  He is wise in heart and mighty in strength: who hath hardened himself against Him, and hath prospered?  Which doeth great things past finding out; yea, and wonders without number.  Job 9:2-4,10

"Behold, God is great, and we know Him not, neither can the number of His years be searched out."
Job 36:26

"O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been His counselor?  Or who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?  For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen."  Romans 11:33-36

Dear friends, I do not know what each one of you is going through.  I don't need to know.  God already does, and none of it surprises Him.  He absolutely has you in the palm of His hand, and you are going to be okay.  It may look like the enemy has the upper hand, but there is no hand higher or more mighty than our God's.  He is in control of every little and big detail of your life.  He is watching out for you when you don't even know you need to be.  If it touches your heart, it touches His.  You are the apple of His eye, and He loves you with an unconditional, unchanging agape love that will never end.  He leads you gently, and He often spares you the worst details.  He will let you know what you need to know when you need to know it.  You don't have to be suspicious of Him because He has no ulterior motives.  He always, always has your best interests at heart.

When you can't understand His logic, trust His wisdom.

In closing, I hope you enjoy a song that encapsulates and expresses my personal testimony right now.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Inner Views of Paul Wilson

"O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"
1 Corinthians 15:55

Somewhere around 10 years ago, Kevin was searching on Youtube for a song.
Neither one of us can remember which song it was, but what we do remember is how, on that night, we were introduced to the music of the man I am interviewing today.
It didn't take long for Kevin to call me to come and listen, and soon the music of Blind Pig and The Acorn began to fill our home.
We fell in love with this dear family, began to read their blog, and it felt like I had known them for years.
When Pap died in April of 2016, we felt like we had lost a personal friend.
(Please click HERE to read Tipper's account of that sad day.)
Last year, we were abundantly blessed to get to meet them face to face.
It is a memory we will always cherish.
They are the real deal—as friendly and down-to-earth as they can be and blessed with amazing talent.
So it is with great joy I bring to you—

Blind Pig and The Acorn's, 
Paul Wilson.

Cheryl:  Please tell us about yourself.

Paul:  Well, this may be a little bit literal, but here goes: My name is Paul Wade Wilson, and I was born on January 1st, 1974 in Copperhill, Tennessee.  I have lived my whole life in North Carolina, but we are very close to the Tennessee line, and that’s where my mother’s doctor happened to be. I was the last child born to my parents. I have a sister who is 5 years older than I am and a brother who is 9 years older. My first name comes from one of my Mother’s brothers-in-law that she was very fond of, an Army veteran, and from the Apostle Paul in the Bible. I didn’t know this fact until I was in my 30’s, and once I learned the sources of my name, I liked my first name much better. I should have guessed the second source because my father was an ardent student of the Bible, and Paul was certainly his favorite teacher after Christ. My middle name comes from my father’s father, Wade Earl Wilson, who was a Baptist preacher for many decades. 

I spent the first half of my life obsessed with baseball and was very accomplished as a pitcher. Baseball is the only reason that I went to college, but I am so thankful now that I did because it led me to a better job and easier lifestyle than any of my family members ever enjoyed prior. I earned a bachelor’s degree in literature from UNCA and a master’s in school administration from WCU. Today, I am 44 years old, and I am principal of a small, rural, public school in Western NC, serving grades pre-k through 8. I taught for 10 years and have now been a school administrator for 10 years. Although it’s very difficult and stressful at times, it’s a rewarding, meaningful job that allows me to stay close to my family. I am blessed to work in a wonderful community and with a wonderful staff. In my spare time, I play tennis and make Appalachian and gospel music. I also have a classic muscle car that I restored, which I suppose is my third hobby, although it takes far less of my time than the first two hobbies. 

Cheryl:  What was life like for you growing up in the Appalachian mountains?

Paul:  Growing up in Appalachia was idyllic to me. I was surrounded by the beauty of nature, family, good food, music, love, and most importantly, faith in God. Me, my siblings, my friends, and my cousins could run and play outside all day long, even miles away from home, never worrying about any danger other than bees, snakes, and ticks. In addition to playing baseball, and a little bit of hunting, I spent a lot of time riding bicycles up and down gravel roads. I had a very close friend, and we spent a lot of time together. Dad and I did a lot of fishing together when I was a kid, sometimes joined by my brother and/or sister. In those days, Dad was a truck driver, and he would usually use his one week of vacation to go fishing, mostly in the Hiwassee River, and we would fill our freezer with Catfish and Pike. At around 13, my dad convinced me to borrow records from my Uncle Ray, records of the Louvin Brothers and Reno and Smiley. After hearing the first song, which happened to be “Must You Throw Dirt in My Face?” sung by the Louvins, I was hooked. Up until that time, I listened to things like Rick Springfield and other rock music that was popular in the 80’s. There was something about the sincerity in the singing on those records that was undeniable, and although I hated to admit that Dad was right, I learned what real music is. It wasn’t long until I wanted to play guitar like Dad and his brothers. At around age 14, I learned to play my first songs on the guitar: “Red River Valley” and “Ghost Riders in the Sky.” Like a lot of folks native to our area, the older I got, the more I appreciated my Appalachian Heritage and living in the mountains. 

Cheryl:  Can you tell us about your parents—the two people we have come to lovingly know as "Pap" and "Granny?"

Paul:  Mom and Dad, known to Blind Pig followers as Pap and Granny, married late by standards in our area. Where we live, folks often get hitched at age 18, or sometimes younger. I believe Pap was 26 when he asked Granny to marry him. This means that Granny would have been 23. His uncle Wayne Elliott married a lady who lived across the road from Granny’s family. Wayne played matchmaker by bringing Pap out to his house then walking across the road to invite Granny over. She refused to go meet Pap multiple times on several occasions. Finally, her mother told her, “You better go on over there and meet that boy or folks are going to start thinking that you and Wayne are seeing each other!” She reluctantly went. When she returned, she told her mother, “I believe I just met the nicest, best-looking man in the country." I believe they dated 1-2 years before eloping. They rented for about 10 years and had my brother and sister before dad built our house in Brasstown on land that his uncle Frank (brother to Wayne) bought during WWII by sending home his wages to family and telling them to buy land with it. I mentioned above that I was the youngest child. I learned as an adult that I was unplanned and that the landlady of the house they were renting tried to convince Granny to have an abortion. It’s safe to say that I am thankful that abortion was against my parents’ beliefs! While we kids grew up, Pap and Granny were always working. Pap drove trucks mostly, but he also cut wood, built houses, and used many other God-given talents to provide for the family. Granny worked in dress factories, a factory that made electric motors, and other businesses. They also fed the family by always planting and tending big gardens and canning food for the winters. Neither of them ever made much money. The highest salary I remember Dad having was around $17,000 a year; yet, I never remember wanting or needing anything that I didn’t get, including two used cars and a college education. Like any couple, Pap and Granny had some arguments and hard times over their 52 years of marriage, but they always loved each other dearly, and to my knowledge, the word “divorce” was never mentioned or considered. They took good care of each other. Both were great cooks, and I remember often seeing them make each other laugh heartily while recalling memories or stories about things that happened over the years. 

Jerry "Pap" Wilson

Cheryl:  We would love to hear your Christian testimony.  When did you become a Christian?  What life events led you to make a decision to follow Jesus?  

Paul:  As we Baptists would say it, I was saved around the age of 7. The reverend Hoyt Brown (who also preached Pap’s funeral and Uncle Wayne’s funeral 30+ years later) was the pastor of our church at the time and was preaching. I went up during the altar call that he gave. I asked Jesus to forgive me of my sins. I told Hoyt that I had been saying bad words. The Word of God communicated directly with my conscience and with my spirit. I believed that I had heard the Truth, and that’s what led me to go to the altar and pray. This was the moment that I publicly accepted Christ as my Savior. But the older I get, the less I think of salvation as an act or moment, like a one-time decision. I believe that my salvation is a general state of being in that I believe Jesus was the Son of God come down to earth and that He died to make the unrighteous righteous in God’s eyes. I place my faith in Him. My salvation has very little to do with me and everything to do with God’s Grace. My part is to accept it. 

Cheryl:  How has living for Him enriched and changed your life?

Paul:  Believing in and accepting God’s Grace gives me Hope. I know that atheists would disagree, but if God didn’t create us and the universe, then none of this life makes sense. If God isn’t real and this life is the only life we’ll ever experience, then ultimately nothing matters. My belief in God’s Word enriches my life by helping me understand why I’m here and what God wants for us. Without the Promise of our Lord, things like losing Pap would be unbearable, and I would sink into a depression and waste my life or engage in self-destructive behavior. Because I believe, I can move forward with a positive outlook, and I may be able to help others along the way. I could never say all the ways that God has blessed me. 

Cheryl:  Who has most influenced you in your Christian walk?  Is there a particular mentor who has helped to strengthen your faith?

Paul:  Throughout my life, I’ve been blessed to experience many passionate preachers of God’s Word, but certainly, the biggest influence and mentor for me was Pap. Pap taught Sunday school for probably 50+ years, and he studied the Bible more meticulously than anyone I’ve ever known, including the many accomplished preachers that I’ve known. I’ll share a story that goes back to Pap and Granny’s early days. After they eloped, they lived at Granny’s home for a couple of weeks. One day, when Pap exited the living-room and went outside, Granny’s father looked at her and said, “I’m really worried about that boy.” Granny quickly asked, “Why? What’s wrong with him?” Her father proceeded, “All he does is read that Bible. Every time I look at him, he’s got his nose stuck in it. If he don’t quit, he’s going to lose his mind!” Pap was no doubt searching for understanding and for Truth. I believe that in time, God allowed him to reach a very advanced point of understanding, and he was able to share that knowledge and understanding with many others, including me. Anytime I was confused about something in the Bible or when something seemed to be a contradiction, a conversation with Pap made things clear, and he showed me that God’s Word contains no contradictions, no errors, and no problems, only perfect harmony and deep meaning. He could do this through knowing the Bible in entirety so that he knew everything written about any given topic in various books of the Bible. Truly, he didn’t read the Bible; he studied it. He wasn’t one to take a verse and try to make it support how he thought things ought to be. Instead, he let God’s Word speak. In addition to all that he taught me about God’s Word, Pap taught me through the example of his life and how he lived it. Although he did a lot of good in this world, I never for one second recognized any sort of self-righteous attitude about himself, although I know I am biased. I have faith in God primarily because of God’s Word; however, to be honest, I also believe it's because Pap believed it. I’ve never known him to be wrong about anything ever when it mattered, and so I am placing my faith where he placed his. In the Book of Acts, we are told that a man’s household may be saved because of his belief in God. Although I cannot fully explain it, I think I may be an example of that promise coming true. 

Cheryl:  During your growing up years, who were your strongest musical influences?  

Paul:  In terms of professional musicians, my biggest influences were definitely the Louvin Brothers and Reno & Smiley. Of course, I learned to sing and play from Pap, and Pap is the one who convinced me to listen to the music of the Lovins and R & S, so that makes him the most influential overall. 
Jerry Wilson

Paul & "Pap"

Although these two groups were my favorites, I could never sing or pick like them, so I don’t think I ever tried to copy them but tried to develop my own sound. Trying to be original was something that Pap supported. He wrote around 50 original gospel songs using the above mentioned Biblical knowledge, and he told me once or twice (which was enough) that I should never want to sound like anyone other than myself. I actually worked that concept into the lyrics of a song that I wrote called “Guitar Blues.” I have a recording of me and Pap singing it, and I hope to release it eventually. "Pa

"Pap" & Paul

Cheryl:  Who are some of your favorite singers/musicians to listen to on a regular basis?

Paul:  When I was young and first started listening to music, I would never have imagined that my taste would be as broad as it is today. I listen to a wide range of music regularly, everything from early country/gospel performers like the Browns Ferry Four to independent folk-rock groups like the Fleet Foxes or the Avett Brothers. Basically, I like any type of music as long as it is actual music and is well done. What I mean by that is, that it must be genuine music with a real melody, chords, and rhythm, and it must be authentically made by the musicians and singers. I’m happy for those who like it, but I cannot tolerate modern country music because it seems to be the most artificial and superficial thing ever produced. The vocals are computerized, and the topics and lyrics of the songs are shallow and vain. If I had to choose between listening to heavy metal and listening to modern country music, I would choose the heavy metal because it is less fake than the “music” played on CMT and on radio stations featuring the modern country genre. 

Cheryl:  Please tell us about The Wilson Brothers and their music and how it has helped to shape your musical style. 

Paul:  Pap and his brother Ray sang as a gospel duet for around 40 years, with Ray singing the lead and Pap singing harmony. They both played acoustic guitars, and toward the end of their career together, Ray played the mandolin. They sang some of Pap’s original songs but devoted most of their time to covering songs from the Louvins and Reno & Smiley.

They also sang hymns and songs from other groups, like the Blue Sky Boys. In many magazine articles and press releases, the reporters oddly cited the Stanley Brothers as influences on their music. However, this was very far from the truth because neither Pap nor Ray cared for the Stanley sound. Their younger brother, Henry, played with them early on, using an electric guitar, which he played in the style similar to Chet Atkins’ guitar playing. They sang in countless churches and other venues over the years and never recorded any secular music. They had weekly programs on at least 3 different radio stations over the years. They made their first released album in 1973, called “Words of Life,” which was very well received and is still played on the radio today. They made their last recording (“Today, If You Will Hear His Voice”) in the early 2000’s. All told, they recorded and released around 6 recordings, plus a CD featuring a compilation of live music. They won the NC Folk Heritage Award from the NC Arts Council in 1998, receiving the award and playing on the same stage with Arthur Guitar Boogie Smith (co-writer of “Dueling Banjos”), who also received the award.

When I was around 16, Ray had a recorder capable of overdubbing and producing fairly good audio quality on high bias or metallic cassette tapes. He allowed me to borrow this recorder for over a year. At the time, I had written many songs. The recorder, along with headphones and a mic, allowed me to play guitar (lead and rhythm) on two separate tracks, as well as sing lead and harmony with myself, then mix it all down into a finished recording. Having access to this type of equipment probably advanced my musical ability and understanding within that one year as much as I could have advanced it in five years otherwise. There was no YouTube or even Internet back then from which to learn music. I used Ray’s recorder until it was almost worn out. When I got my first job, I bought him a new one. I learned a lot from them in terms of how to play music, but because I traveled with them from age 17 till my early 30’s, I may have learned even more from them about how to perform in various settings and how to interact with an audience.  

Paul & "Pap"
Cheryl:  Please share with us about the blog, "Blind Pig & The Acorn" and its author, Tipper. 

Paul:  Around 10 years ago, my sister Tipper started a blog called Blind Pig & The Acorn. She realized how much she loves our Appalachian Culture and that she wanted to do her part to preserve it. While she still doesn’t make much money from the blog, the fact that it has readers from all over the world and averages 7,000 hits a day, indicates that she has succeeded in her mission. On the blog, readers learn about Appalachian cooking, folklore, history, geography, music, farming, art, and more. An unexpected outcome from the blog is that we now have around 200 videos of Pap singing and playing music with me and some of his grandchildren. 

These videos are precious to us now that he is gone on to be with the Lord, and if not for the blog, they would never have been filmed. 
The videos appear on the Blind Pig Youtube channel, and to date, some of them have been viewed almost 70,000 times. Much like the blog followers, the people watching and commenting on the videos are from all over the world. It’s really neat to know that people thousands of miles away are able to enjoy the things we did right there in my kitchen.  

Tipper certainly didn’t start out as a tech wizard, but over time, and through a lot of hard work, she learned how to make the blog function as it should to really appeal to and attract readers. I think this shows some of the resolve and ingenuity characteristics of Appalachians. She also discovered and honed her voice as a writer. Many blog followers have contacted her to say that her blog has made a powerful difference in their lives and given them inspiration and hope on a personal level. 

Cheryl:  How did the name "Blind Pig and The Acorn" originate?

Paul:  When Tipper first conceived of the blog, she wanted to name it after a common Appalachian saying. She went through a long list of possibilities and finally settled on “Even a blind pig finds an acorn once in a while.” Her Husband, Matt Pressley, is from Haywood County, NC, and someone from his family suggested this saying as the title for her blog. At the time, I had never even heard the expression, but I’ve heard it and various versions of it since that time. Tipper thought the idea of getting lucky went along well with her attempt to create something new from scratch. The title has proved popular. 

Cheryl:  How has the music of "Blind Pig and The Acorn" evolved over the years?  What is the story of its history?   Please tell us about The Pressley Girls, their music, and their involvement with "Blind Pig and The Acorn."

Paul:  The Blind Pig music has changed over time as the younger generation, The Pressley Girls, began to become more accomplished with their music and to take more of the center focus. After the first few years of filming music in the kitchen, Tipper joined us on bass, which really improved the overall sound of the music. 
Left to Right:  Paul Wilson, Corie Pressley, Katie Pressley, & Jerry "Pap" Wilson

We started out doing mainly music one could describe as “canon” from the world of hymns, classic country, bluegrass, etc. And at times, we would throw in unexpected numbers, like “Memphis” or “El Condor Pasa.” I don’t think that aspect of variety has changed. Katie and Corie have been more heavily influenced by the music of the John C Campbell Folk School than either Pap or I was. This means they have more interest in playing Irish and Scottish music, such as traditional fiddle tunes and ballads. Above, I mentioned that Pap and Ray never recorded any secular music. Now that Pap isn’t physically with us, I only sing his songs when I have the opportunity to sing a solo during one of our concerts. For the most part, I sing harmony with Katie and Corie and back them up on guitar. I try to impart to them the things I learned from the Wilson Brothers. 

The Pressley Girls focus a lot on traditional music; however, they also compose their own songs, both lyrical and instrumental. 
Left to Right:  Corie Pressley, "Pap," & Katie Pressley

In my estimation, their original material is at least on par with the cover material they perform, and I encourage them to avoid the mistake of polishing a lot of cover songs while neglecting their own original compositions. Most weekends, they stay fairly busy. This past weekend, they were booked for and performed 3 separate shows at 3 separate venues. Although they sometimes appear on the Blind Pig channel, they have their own website, ( Visitors to the site can find their performance calendar and how to purchase their music. With the exception of fiddle playing, which they learned from other teachers, the Pressley Girls learned music from Pap. They attended Young Harris College on full-ride music scholarship but decided to change their major to sustainability and interdisciplinary studies. They changed their major because they didn’t like the type of music they were learning and performing at the college. I hoped that they would stick with it and learn about different genres of music and more about reading music. Pap and I only played by ear. Corie and Katie learned to play that way, and I thought if they learned the other method too, it would give them the best of both worlds.

Cheryl:  In the current group that makes up "Blind Pig and The Acorn", which part and instrument do each of you sing and play?  

Paul:  As stated above, Tipper plays the bass, a 4-string acoustic bass that we run through an amp. Katie plays the fiddle. For the most part, Corie plays guitar, but she occasionally picks up the mandolin. In performances, I primarily play guitar. On their first recording, I played a smidgen of harmonica, mandolin, dobro, and keyboard to accompany their singing. The only instrument I recall playing in a public show other than the guitar is the mandolin. For the most part, Katie sings lead and Corie sings high harmony, what Pap always called tenor. On a few songs, Corie sings low harmony underneath Katie, and Corie also sings some lead on the verses of songs. When I sing with them, I sing primarily harmony that could be described as a low tenor or some sort of baritone.  

Left to Right:  Paul Wilson, Katie Pressley, Corie Pressley, & Tipper Pressley

Cheryl:  What are some of your favorite songs to perform, as a family?  What makes them special?

Paul:  We really like doing “Working On The Building” because it is a crowd favorite and also because it’s a song that we sang with Pap as a trio. Katie now sings his part. He sang high lead on the song, and Katie sings low lead. 

We also have a lot of fun on unusual songs like “Give the Dog a Bath,” which they wrote. We love singing “Walking My Lord up Calvary’s Hill,” which we learned one year for Easter. Songs can be special to us for a variety of reasons, but mainly it comes down to shared experience and creating music as a family. 

Cheryl:  Please share with us about recording projects of The Wilson Brothers, Blind Pig and the Acorn, and The Pressley Girls and how we can purchase them. 

Paul:  Some of the Wilson Brother recordings are no longer available, but the ones that are still available can be purchased through Blind Pig and The Acorn. The Pressley Girls' first album can be purchased there and on their website. Pap and I made a recording of some of his original gospel songs that can be purchased through the Blind Pig blog. That recording, called “Shepherd of My Soul” is also available through iTunes, Spotify, CD Baby, and some other digital distribution services. We hope to produce some new recordings for distribution in the coming years, and these will be available in those same places.

Cheryl:  Looking back over the years, what do you identify as being some of your favorite musical memories?

Paul:  I mentioned above that the Wilson Brothers performed on the same stage with Arthur Smith. This was at NC State in Raleigh, NC. This was one of the largest audiences that we ever played for (around 1,500 people), and we were very well paid! We also traveled to a festival in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio around that same time. Between those two shows, we were paid $8,000 total, and Pap and Ray sold 90 recordings. These two shows stand out in my mind not because we did them for the money. We didn’t even care that much about the money, and we put over half of it back into making another gospel recording. They stand out because, in those moments, we felt like we were recognized for our gospel music, almost on a professional level. Most of our performances were for free. We also had some memorable performances in Kentucky, Georgia, and Tennessee. In the summer of 1998, I traveled with Pap to Bell Buckle Tennessee to meet with Charlie Louvin. I brought Charlie a demo recording of around 20 original songs that I wrote, and he was kind enough to give the demo to the manager of Valerie Smith, who was a rising bluegrass star at the time. Although no one ever recorded any of my songs, it was a special day. We ate lunch with Charlie, and Pap and I sang on the local radio station there. I played Charlie’s guitar when we sang. Charlie even added a third-part harmony to a song that we sang back at his museum in Bell Buckle. We declined his invitation to go to the Opry with him that night, but that evening as we drove back to NC, on the radio we heard him dedicate “See the Big Man Cry” to us before he sang it on the Grand Ole Opry. Another favorite musical memory I have is hearing the Marksmen Quartet perform one of dad’s original songs on stage. But my most treasured musical memories will always be those times singing with Pap, times when our harmony seemed so tight, and we would look at each other across the two guitars and smile, even if it was only with our eyes. 

Paul, Tipper, Pap, Katie, & Corie

Cheryl:  If you could accomplish any musical dream going forward, what would it be?

Paul:  In a sense, I have only two musical dreams remaining. Before I die, I hope to record an anniversary CD of the Blind Pig blog, and I hope to record/produce one more gospel CD with the rest of Pap’s original songs, some of which have never been heard outside of our family. This CD may feature 1 or 2 songs that he and Ray recorded, using a different arrangement, but for the most part, they will be songs that have never been published. My dream is to do the songs justice. I have been learning as much I can about recording for digital distribution as the way to reach a much larger audience. My focus has shifted entirely away from selling music. My goal is for as many people as possible to hear his gospel songs, even if it means that the music is completely free.  

Cheryl:  As a Christian living in a culture that is growing increasingly hostile toward God and His Word, how do you stay spiritually encouraged?  Are there certain Scriptures, songs, books, or other resources you turn to in times of discouragement?

Paul:  As a Christian, I know that God’s Kingdom as it relates to me is a spiritual one for now, and I don’t expect this world to improve. There are many verses and songs that greatly encourage me. In today’s American culture, the commonly accepted thing is to lash out through social media toward anyone who has a different opinion, and Christians are portrayed as hate mongers. I am writing a song called “Faith & Facebook” so that I can release some of my emotions and stress about the current state of things. Along those lines, a verse I really like is Proverbs 16:26: “The heart of the righteous studieth to answer, but the mouth of the wicked poureth out evil things.” 

Cheryl:  How can we pray for you, your family, and "Blind Pig and The Acorn?" 

Paul:  I really appreciate you asking. Please pray that we remain blessed with the freedom and opportunity to continue doing what we do musically and in terms of the blog. Granny’s health is declining with age, and she requires more and more care from us. Please pray that we are able to continue providing her with what she needs and that we are able to ensure that her last years on earth are happy ones. 

Left to Right:  Paul Wilson, Jerry "Pap" Wilson, Katie Pressley, Corie Pressley, & Tipper Pressley

A BIG thank you to Paul for sharing his heart and Inner Views with us!
What a blessing it was to get to know him and his family better!

Please take a moment and click HERE to sample and download Paul's song called, "A Wonder",
a gospel song and biographical sketch of Pap.
(You can join CD Baby for free and download the song for .99 cents.)
Also, if you could please take the time to write a review of the song for Paul, he would love to read it and be most grateful!

Please pray for Paul, his family, his dear Mom, Granny, and the prayer requests he mentioned above.
May God always preserve our freedom in this great country so we can all continue to spread the good news of the Gospel!

Thank you so much for reading, and may God bless each one of you dear readers.

To read previous
click the links below.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

The Door Will Open When It Is Time

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
Jeremiah 29:11

My dear husband uttered those words recently as he and I were talking with a sister in Christ about the uncertain place in which we now find ourselves.

As I listened to Kevin's words, my heart went out to him.
I knew those words were heart wrenched and coming from a place of concern over what lies ahead of us.
Not that any of us ever know what the future holds, but I can't remember a time when ours has ever looked so uncertain and unknown.

After the above conversation, I was walking into a grocery store, and I noticed that I was getting uncomfortably close to the automatic glass front door, and it still wasn't opening.  In my impatience, I began to wonder if the store was closed or if the door was operational.  Just as it looked like I would crash headlong into the closed door, it opened, almost as if it had been on some sort of delay.  Whatever the mechanical explanation for the unusual hesitation, I soon knew that the real reason it occurred was that the precious Holy Spirit was providing an object lesson to build on Kevin's words that were still fresh in my mind.

As I walked along, the still, small voice of our Lord began to whisper,
"Child, the door did not need to open until you got to it."

I realized that if the door had opened before my next step, it would have served no purpose to me.
I couldn't walk through it until I got there, anyway.

In my desire for things to be all neatly laid out in front of me with no hiccups or hesitations or plan alterations, I wanted that door to be standing wide open far before it actually needed to.  Even though I was not close enough to walk through it, I wanted to know that it was open.

Silly me.  I am always trying to figure out God's mind, trying to contemplate not just His next step, but next several steps in front of me.  I want a flashlight to shine up around the next bend in the road, up the staircase in front of me—I want to see the door and know that it is open and that I will have no problem walking through it.

Silly me, indeed.  I should know by now that God does not work the way I think He should.  As high as the heavens are above the earth, so far apart are His thoughts and mine.  (Isaiah 55:8,9)  I cannot put Him into a box or neatly-wrapped package that will suit my preferences.  Why would He open a door when we are not even close enough to walk through it yet?  What good would that do?  God has His own timetable, and His plans stretch from the beginning to the end of our lives.
God is in control of the doors in each one of our lives.  He sees every door in our future.

"And the key of the house of David will I lay upon His shoulder; so He shall open, and none shall shut, and He shall shut, and none shall open."  Isaiah 22:22

"These things saith He that is holy, He that is true, He that hath the key of David, He that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it."  Revelation 3:7,8

God determines whether or not a door should open or close, and if it is a door we are to walk through, He decides WHEN that door needs to open.
He directs our steps leading up to that door, and when we catch up with Him and get there, He is the only One who can open it.

"The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD."  Psalm 37:23

"For we live by faith, not by sight."
2 Corinthians 5:7  (NIV)

If we saw everything ahead of us and knew how and when God would provide and take care of us, why would we need faith?

For as long back as I can remember, we sang the song, "Living By Faith" in church.
I sang it right along with everyone else, but I don't think I have ever really understood what it truly means until now.  I wanted to share the words here today for anyone who may find themselves in an unfamiliar place with safety nets removed and no visible plan or open door ahead of them.
This, my friend, is what living by faith really means.
May the dear Lord encourage the heart of each person who reads this.
I am praying for you now.

Living By Faith
James Wells (verses 1,2,&3 & Chorus)
Robert E. Winsett (Verse 4)

I care not today what the morrow may bring,
If shadow or sunshine or rain,
The Lord I know ruleth o’er everything,
And all of my worries are vain.

Living by faith in Jesus above,
Trusting, confiding in His great love;
From all harm safe in His sheltering arm,
I’m living by faith and feel no alarm.

Though tempests may blow and the storm clouds arise,
Obscuring the brightness of life,
I’m never alarmed at the overcast skies—
The Master looks on at the strife.

I know that He safely will carry me through,
No matter what evils betide;
Why should I then care though the tempest may blow,
If Jesus walks close to my side.

Our Lord will return for His loved ones someday,
Our troubles will then all be o’er;
The Master so gently will lead us away,
Beyond that blest heavenly shore.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Blessings Follow Obedience ~ God's Unending Supply

"If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land."
Isaiah 1:19

If you've read these devotionals for very long, you may have noticed that God often uses my stumbling failures and spiritual insufficiencies as inspiration for the writing you read.  Humiliating mess-ups are pretty common in my spiritual life, but oh, the lessons God teaches in those moments! Later, I tend to look back and analyze those lessons, and they often turn into blog posts.

Recently, I was in the midst of a season of worship and praise, on my knees, pouring out my gratitude for the many blessings God has bestowed.  Tears flowed as my thanksgiving lifted to the throne of grace, and all at once I heard His gentle, still, small voice say, "Child, your obedience unlocked the blessing."  I began to carefully ponder His words, and my mind went back to the many things that have changed in our lives over the past few years.  Each of those changes was a direct result of our obedience to His call—each one of those changes was in direct response to what He told us to do.  It has all been "for His name's sake."  Not one, single change has been easy.  Every one of them has required a level of self-denial that I didn't know existed.  It has taken a complete, wholehearted surrender to God, and our decisions have not always been understood.  What I am finding is that following Jesus has always seemed radical to those who are not taking the same path, and His approval immeasurably outweighs the acceptance and applause of man.

As time goes by, and we are continually amazed at His—not scant, but abundant provision, the enemy has been planting seeds of doubt in my mind concerning the continuance of God's blessing upon our lives.  I keep wondering when the bottom will fall out and fearing that God's resources will run out and concerned that we will fall into a state of lack and insufficiency.  During all this doubting, God led Kevin, Zach, and me to start studying the books of Exodus, Deuteronomy, and Joshua as material for our times of family worship.  Since the very beginning of these radical life changes, God has always reckoned our journey to that of the children of Israel's deliverance from the bondage of Egypt, crossing the Red Sea, their wilderness experience, crossing the Jordan River over into the Promised Land, etc., but He showed us to dig deep and really delve into the details of their story to find the particulars of the parallels between their experiences and ours.  It turns out there are many.  We have finished Exodus and are now digging into Deuteronomy, and it has been downright amazing to see such marked similarities.  There have been many moments when our hands have raised and our tears freely flowed as He highlighted our journey through the reading of theirs, and we worshiped Him for the mighty works He has wrought right here in our lives.  

As we have studied and pondered these similarities, God has been showing me that as long as the Israelites were obedient to Him, He rewarded that obedience with blessing.  Once they made it to the Promised Land of Canaan and continued to walk in obedience, they never felt lack again.  No longer did they have to feel the sting from the cruel hand of their taskmasters across their backs or experience meager provision.  God became their Provider, and His provisions never ran out!  When they were thirsty and there was no water, He made it flow from a rock.  When they were hungry, and they had no food, He sent manna from Heaven and quails for them to eat.  When they faced enemies, He fought and victoriously won their battles, without them having to lift a finger or "fire a shot."  When they needed direction, He led them by a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day, and later, as they followed 2000 cubits behind the Ark of the Covenant.  Miracle after miracle after miracle He performed on their behalf, and He never ran out of resources.  The only thing they had to do to keep unlocking and unleashing God's miraculous, overwhelming blessings was to walk in total, unreserved obedience.  As long as they did that, the blessings unceasingly flowed.

As God has pointed this out to me, He is sending assurance that He has not changed.  He is still the same God whom they served, and if we serve Him wholeheartedly and do every, single thing He asks, regardless how it defies human wisdom and how counter-cultural it may be, we will get the same, exact results they did.  
His arm is still not shortened.  
"Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy, that it cannot hear."  Isaiah 59:1
He still cannot lie.
"God is not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man, that He should repent: hath He said, and shall He not do it? or hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good?"
Numbers 23:19
There is still nothing too hard for Him to do.
"Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there anything too hard for Me?"
Jeremiah 32:27
All these years later, not one word of His promises has ever failed.
"Blessed be the LORD, that hath given rest unto his people Israel, according to all that he promised: there hath not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised by the hand of Moses his servant."  I Kings 8:56

As I sought the Lord in prayer for further assurance (yes, I seem to always need extra~I continually marvel at His patience with me), I opened my email to find exactly what I needed from God.  You may remember that I interviewed a precious blogging friend named Karen Del Tatto back in June of 2016.  Many of you probably already know her and are familiar with the outstanding way God uses her and her writing. I had just finished praying for that added assurance, walked to my laptop, and opened email to find Karen's post called, "The Great Rewarder: How To Spur On Obedience" in our inbox.  As I read, I could not believe my eyes.  The Holy Spirit spoke straight to my heart through her words, and it was all the confirmation I needed.  How I thank God for the dear blogging community and all of the amazing friends He has brought into my life through it!  Iron sharpens iron, and so many of you do that for me every time I read your words.  If you've never met Karen, I hope you will stop by and subscribe to her blog.  You will instantly recognize that her writing is anointed, extremely edifying, and Holy Spirit inspired.  He steadily uses her to minister to my hungry heart.

We don't have to look back to Bible days to see the mighty hand of God at work.  If we want to see Him move in ways that are "exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think," all we have to do is lay our lives on the altar as a living sacrifice and be willing to do ALL that He asks, no matter what that happens to be.  Obedience will unlock His blessing in ways that are so far above what we can ask or imagine, and as long as we continue to walk in that same level of obedience, the blessings will never cease to flow.