Rebekah’s Recital

Nope – #celloadventuresofcille is not having a recital (though rumor has it I will play in the Academy of Arts recital later this spring!)

My teacher, Rebekah Grace Miller, will perform her final undergraduate recital at Belhaven University of April 6th. For more information, you can click here. Rebekah is a gifted artist. When she plays her cello, it is an emotional encounter. She uses her God given talent to minister in so many ways and to touch the lives of those around her.

In addition to her teaching me for nearly 17 months, I have been privileged to hear her play professionally with the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra as well as during various other events: Best of Belhaven and a number of Music Studio Classes at Belhaven, her Cello I recital in 2017, at First Baptist Jackson, and as part of the mission team for Epiphany Nights in St. Petersburg, Russia in January 2019. Honestly, when I don’t think her music can get any better, she plays something else that touches me. My current favorite (in a long list of favorites), is Rachmaninoff’s Sonata in G minor for Cello and Piano, Op. 19. While I love the whole thing, the third movement, the Andante, moves me to tears every.single.time. You don’t want to disturb the moment by breathing as the movement concludes. Seriously.

Cello lessons with Rebekah (and hanging out with other young adult friends who love classical music) have rekindled my love of classical music. Part of it is the music itself and the genius of the composers; part is the interpretation of artists who perform these works: their devotion to their craft; how they use their God given talents to touch the lives of others; the sacrifices they make to pursue their dreams. I am thrilled to be along for the ride in a small way and to be able to see just how God is going to use them. Who knew that deciding to take cello lessons at the young age of 62 from a 20 year old would have such an impact on my life.

I encourage you to come and experience Rebekah’s music on April 6th. Frankly, if you are not taking advantage of the musical offerings that Belhaven regularly produces, you are missing something special.

Rebekah’s sister, Zoë Miller, perhaps said it best: “Rebekah has known for years that the cello was her calling. On April 6, she will showcase years of hard work, tireless dedication, and, above all, her God given talent as she performs for her senior recital at Belhaven University. I am so proud of how much Rebekah has grown and I’m excited to see where God takes her next!!” To know your calling and to pursue it, that is what God wants from each of us.

I cannot wait to see what God is going to do in Rebekah’s life and with her gifts. As that plays out, I am thankful to be taking lessons, learning all I can from her, and being able to give back a little where I can. My encouragement to you today is to take a chance on doing something different (and hard) and where you can, make investments in the lives of those who come behind you. Trust me. You will be thankful you did.

Still Choosing Joy!


Epiphany Evenings – 2019

A summary of the Russia 2019 mission trip for Epiphany Nights in January 2019.

Often during the Christmas Season, we sing The Twelve Days of Christmas. That song represents the period of December 25th, the day we celebrate the birth of Christ, up to the period of the Epiphany which begins, historically, January 6th. “Epiphany” is a manifestation or an appearance. In the Biblical sense, it was a recorded revelation where God made Himself known.  In scripture, “The Epiphany” pointed to these specific events:  the coming of the Magi to worship the child Jesus; the baptism of Jesus, and Jesus’ appearance at the wedding in Cana when He turned water into wine. In each of these events, scripture makes clear that Jesus was not just another man as God made his presence known.

Most western churches focus on the appearance of the Magi or “wise men” in celebrating the Epiphany.  In Matthew 2:1-2 NLT, we are told: Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise menfrom eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking,“Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” How did they know to ask about this? They KNEW from their studies of the scripture that a star was to appear and that it would lead them to a king!

In the Orthodox Christian Church, Epiphany focuses on the baptism of Jesus. Matthew 3:16 NLT says: After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him.And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”   In that moment, God revealed Himself as the Trinity – God the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.

In January 2019, a team of extraordinary musicians (with a couple of extras) celebrated the Epiphany through our participation in the XIV International Festival of Evangelical Culture know as “Epiphany Nights” or “Epiphany Evenings” depending on who’s translating. Our team included members of the First Baptist Jackson Sanctuary Orchestra as well as myself and Leslie Hancock. Most are students at Belhaven University. This 10 day adventure required sacrifice. In addition to being full or part-time undergraduate and graduate students, the young adults in our group (6 of them) depend heavily on “gig work” for meeting expenses, paying tuition, dealing with life. They play as contract orchestra and ensemble players, are members of the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, do wedding and other event work, are studio musicians, teach privately or through First Jackson’s Academy of Arts, and work other non-music jobs so they can follow their dreams and embrace their passion!

This year 2019 marked the 14th year of the festival which revived the old traditions and resumed historical concerts of sacred music, which took place in the capital of the Russian Empire from the time of Peter I until the 1920s. This is one of few opportunities now open to evangelical culture involving non-Russians. During the festival, our team performed in ensemble, chamber and solo concerts and the large festival choral and orchestra gala event. During each and every presentation, the Gospel was presented to a standing room audience (in venues ranging in size from a couple of hundred people to over 1200). Most of those listening were not believers. Russian evangelical Christians, for this festival, take what they have – the love of classical music by the Russian people – and use that to get them in and then using Christian music played in the classical style, present the Gospel to them through music and the spoken word.

It was so evident that God was at work. How the local churches worked together was amazing. How they included teams like us and others from other parts of Russia and Europe and other individuals from the US (Southern California) was as well. We met and served with people who lived Romans 1:16: I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, then to the Greek.

In addition to the Festival, our team was privileged to lead worship for the St. Petersburg Evangelical Church on Sunday and were asked on an ad hoc basis to play for a dinner of retired members of the Russian “police force.” Both were exciting opportunities to share our faith and to participate in the local culture.

We worked with Rotila Ilie Croitoru, a native of Moldova and a graduate of the N. A. Rimsky-Korsakov Saint Petersburg State Conservatory. Ilie is a world renown conductor and one of the festival’s founders. He is extensively involved in presenting festivals throughout Europe that focus on using music and the local culture to share the Story of Jesus. Ille is also extensively involved in Crescendo, an international organization of Christian musicians who use their gifts to share the Gospel in their communities and around the world.

Our missional experience concluded with the presentation of a Thank You concert at First Baptist Jackson on January 13th. Then we were able to thank our many donors and prayer supporters who made this trip possible by performing music we shared at the festival and sharing our stories and testimonies.  Already we are praying about returning to participate again in 2020 – we have been invited. Please pray with us as we determine God’s will in this. For those who graciously supported us financially and in prayer and other support tasks, please accept my personal thanks. For more information, please contact me at

A Piano Recital – Announcement — Hannah Bonner

One of the students I have grown to know and love over the last year or so is Hannah Bonner, a senior at Belhaven University. Hannah is an accomplished pianist as well as having interests in the humanities and sciences.  Join her for her recital on March 23rd at the Center for the Arts Concert Hall at 2PM.  It will be time well spent.

Recital Announcement for March 23, 2019

via A Piano Recital – Announcement — Hannah Bonner

NOEL – Fearless for Him

Carols Weekend 2018 is here.  I am looking forward to the weekend and sharing with the thousands who have tickets and who will watch via the web and television (Christmas Eve and Christmas Day).

This year has had more than its share of challenges.  This is my 38th Carols (out of 49 total) and the challenges, at times, have been staggering. But, I was reminded last night in a conversation with a long time choir member, that this is not about us.  Not at all.  And if we lose our excitement in the pettiness of circumstances that surround us, then we have completely missed the point of why we lead worship (for we are all “worship leaders”) be it for Carols or on Sundays.

I do believe Carols is a time of worship – always have – and though there are performance elements to Carols (and for Sundays, for that matter), my personal conviction is that this is not a show or performance or maybe even a concert. It is a worship service and I try my best to treat it as such in how I spiritually and emotionally prepare. And no, I am not always successful because I am human and I allow myself to get distracted and derailed by circumstances that surround me.

nativity.jpgStill, I want to “be fearless in what sets my soul on fire” and that is to use the gifts I have been given to tell others about Jesus in the best way I know how (which frankly, my gifts may be interpreted by some as just being BOSSY!!).  This year I have had a chance to mentor some amazing young adults and often we have talked about this very thing, using the gifts God has given them fearlessly in pursuing their life goals – what truly has set their souls on fire.IMG_0325

I am praying for those participating, those coming, those leading, those supporting in countless roles, those extending the invitation to follow Jesus – that we will not be distracted by circumstances but will, instead, be fearless in sharing His Story from the fire that is within us.  Truthfully, we are going to be digging deep at times because Carols is physically draining but the JOY in sharing this gift with the community and the world WILL sustain us as we share what is on our hearts.  And because it is all for HIM then we should be without any kind of fear for He lives in us and sets our souls on fire if we allow Him to do so. I also pray that we will express this in how we approach each other and by what is seen on our faces and heard in our music.

Here we go. Lord, please show us the way and give us the courage to be fearless for You.

Still choosing joy!






It is Carols by Candlelight season again.  Countdown to dress rehearsal (December 5th) is 8 days. As always, there is much to be done – details done now so that worship can occur without disruption.

Perhaps, at times, we lose perspective when in the details.  True, we are dealing with some things this year that in 49 years have not been influencers or considerations. Yet, why we do Carols should not be impacted by that. The Story has not changed. The Message is constant. We must not allow WHY we do this to be buried in emotions and minutia. We must be prepared, thus focused – spiritually, prayerfully, physically, mentally.

While working with Annerin Long to prepare this year’s prayer emphasis for Carols Week, I looked back through the devotional book we published last year for Love Came for Me. It was good to revisit the scripture, to be reminded that our God is Sovereign, in control, not surprised by anything, wants the best for us as individuals and corporately, accessible.  Our problem, often, though, is that we look to Him last rather than first, put our desires ahead of His desires, turn away from Him rather than seek His face. Why? Because we are human and He allows us to make choices. He also reminds us, that there are consequences of those choices. I am charging myself to stay focused on Him. How can I share His Story with others who don’t know Him if I am not looking at Him?

The devotional thought I wrote last year was based on JOHN 1:16-17 – I thought I would share it here as a reminder to all of us (and especially me) that this is not at all about me. It is about Him!

For God loved the world in this way:He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

Love Came for Me– how could that ever happen? Growing up in a small Mississippi town in the local First Baptist Church, we were taught early on that Jesus loved us and that we were to love Him. During Vacation Bible School in 1965, I gave my heart to Him. It hit me that day that His love was so strong that He chose to not only come to earth but to die for my sins as well. Love, Jesus, came for me.

Jesus is “That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:5). Later John restates this when he says: “Now this is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in Him.” (I John 1:5). Jesus did not just have love in His heart – He is love. Nothing Satan could throw at Him stopped His love for us, stopped His purpose in coming to earth as that tiny baby in that cold stable, stopped His facing harassment and condemnation we still cannot imagine, or stopped His facing the most horrible death imaginable.  Love Came for Me.  

Occasionally, I wonder what my condition would be had Jesus chosen not to come for me. Talk about lost and wandering! Really, it is beyond what I can now comprehend. Yet in my world today, and likely in the circle of influence of Carols by Candlelight, there are going to be those in the room or who happen to watch on television or other media that will wonder what in the world we are talking about? Surely, they are just putting on a show or retelling a fable. May that never be.

Following Carols one of the early years in the present Sanctuary, we determined that a young man who sat in the seats behind where the “boxes” are today, gave his life to Jesus. He tragically died in a car accident before Christmas that year and before anyone could follow-up with him. Since then, I keep that young man in my heart knowing that Love came for him, too. No matter what I am asked to do, no matter how tired I am, no matter even how many times things have to change for one reason or another, none of that is as important as that young man being with Jesus today or that there are others listening who need to know Him, too.

Jesus, thank you for coming for me. Thank you for a chance daily to tell others about You – all about You – Your coming, Your living here on earth, Your dying, and that You are coming again. Thank you for loving me enough to come for me. Amen

This year our theme is NOEL. Merriam-Webster defines noel from the French as a Christmas carol and from Latin natalis or birthday – in other words it is a carol about a birthday. What more important birthday will ever be celebrated than that of our Savior. I hope as we count down the days, deal with the tasks, learn the music, prepare ourselves in all the ways necessary, that we will indeed focus on this birthday of the only King that matters. Noel, noel, noel, noel; Born is the King of Israel!