She’s a little old fashioned
That sweet mother of mine

My Mama quotes this old gospel hymn often when reminiscing about her Mom, who we affectionately called Granny.  Now, Mama Rose carries on the legacy of “Granny” to our children, and her first great-grandchild, Rosemary Jane Myrick.

The Holifield women of Soso, Mississippi (Jones County) are undeniably among the legendary warrior princess women of our modern times.  Rosemary Holifield grew up on a little plot of farmland that her daddy, momma, and siblings worked until they were grown enough to move out on their own, or married.  She married Lonnie (our dad) at 16 yrs of age, and began her whirlwind life of marriage, ministry, and music that would fill the pages of our family Story.  The story continues to this day.  She is now married to Bob Garst and lives just up the road from us.  We cherish every moment we get to spend with her and she continually gives, serves, and leads our family in ways that offer Hope and Peace, no matter what this crazy life throws our way.  To this day, her favorite hobbies include cooking for her family — some of the most amazing dishes you’ll ever taste — and singing classic gospel hymns and songs that we grew up with during our family gospel band years as the “Rosetones”.  What a legacy!

Sarah Jolene Roles Dinwiddie grew up near the coal-mining hills of West Virginia, in a little place called Bill Holler.  I’ve been there once to visit the Roles Family Reunion and yes, it’s as Appalachian as you might imagine.  Oh the stories!   “Jo” married Gene and they raised their girls in Richmond and Williamsburg Virginia.  When the family relocated to Pascagoula MS, their baby girl caught my eye in church one Sunday.  And, the rest, as they say, is history.  Jo Dinwiddie was the ultimate homemaker, wife, mom, and “Nana” to her grandchildren.  She loved being a wife and Mom, kept up with all the neighborhood scoop, knew everybody’s family tree it seemed, and was beloved by hundreds of children who grew up in Nursery and Childrens Ministry at Arlington Baptist Church in Pascagoula.  Her life and love influenced generations of families.  She was and is our beloved “Sweet Nana”.

Sheryl and I enjoy laughing and crying when we recall the fun memories with Jo and Gene.  They were the heart and soul of our lives for more than 35 years of our marriage and left indelible marks on us and our children.  They are awaiting us in Heaven, and what a Glad Reunion Day THAT will be!

By God’s Grace, we continue to enjoy meals, family gatherings, and occasional community outings and special events with Granny Rose. We gush with joy as Granny gets “sugar” from behind baby Rosemary Jane’s soft pink little ears.

Looking back in time, I am amazed by the heroism and fortitude of these mighty women in our family.  Rose and Jo grew up during America’s “golden age” of rock and roll music, sock hops, classic films, and … during America’s most turbulent modern history of civil rights activism, riots, and racial divisions of the 1960s and 70s in the Bible Belt South.

Our moms knew how to stretch a dollar to the last penny. They could heal any wound with a quick home remedy and a smooch on the boo-boo.  They could listen to our childhood fantasies, teenage rants, and coming-of-age questions into the wee hours of the night.

They loved their husbands well, despite the ever-changing roles that women were expected to fulfill in the home, in the church, at the school house, in the community … and, they seemed to never complain nor grow weary.  But, we knew then, and we know now, they were exhausted. But, would never let their weariness defeat their mission — to LOVE their families and to defend their honor.

They loved and cared for their children and their grandchildren, modeling a Christlikeness that caused all of us to want to be more loving, kind, and generous … especially to those who we knew were less fortunate or faced extreme challenges.  They prayed for us, and over us in the night.

They cooked our favorite meals. They bailed us out of last-minute homework assignments and science projects when we frantically called upon them for help.  They repaired our broken toys.  They made sure that our clothes were clean and fresh every day.  They washed behind our ears, and all the other “behinds”.

And most of all … they LIVED for LOVE.  Our moms are our HEROES.  We will never, ever forget the price they have paid for our wellness, for our joy, and for the Legacy of Goodness that we now enjoy.  And, by God’s grace … we will carry their legacy through our children and grandchildren too.


New Year

So, I have not posted here for a minute.  It’s been quite a year!

2022 brought us new jobs, new friends, new connections, and a new GRAND BABY!

This Christmas was quite different.  Our little family traveled back-n-forth from Birmingham (AL) to Nashville (TN) to celebrate our first-born baby girl’s graduation from Belmont University College of Health Sciences and Nursing. Yay, Blaire!

And then, to our somewhat surprise, our first grand-baby girl made her early appearance just two days later.  What a Merry Christmas gift!!  Welcome to earth, Rosemary Jane!  And, thank you Vanderbilt Hospital and NICU staff for your amazing emergency care for our newborn baby girl.  Ya’ll are rockstars!

The last two weeks have felt like a blur. And yet, with every new day, there has been a sense of calm and peace. Almost, relief. It’s like, we have been anticipating these two major events for the past year, and they have finally come, and we are exhausted, overjoyed, and relieved, all at the same time.

Graduation from college for Blaire has been a lifelong goal.

Our baby girl was born with a strong will and determination to get-it-done. I have never known her to back down from a challenge. Her childhood was filled with lots of love, beautiful memories with family and friends, and the unrelenting support of her parents and grandparents to accomplish anything she set her mind to achieve. And, she has endured her fair share of trauma, challenges, and setbacks.  Yet, she determined in her mind that she would GET THAT NURSING DEGREE.

She gets that strong determination from her Mom and maternal grandfather “Papa Gene”.  And, her incredible musical talents from her Dad and paternal grandmother “Granny Rose”.  She is a winner, in every possible way.  We love you, Blairest!

Marriage and family have been lifelong dreams and goals for me and Sheryl.  We have accomplished 38 years together as husband and wife. We are so grateful for the love, the joys, even the tragedies we have endured; all of which have made us stronger individuals, and even stronger in our marriage.  But, not without hard work and dedication.  Marriage and family are among the most difficult tasks any person will ever face.  It’s the most challenging feat in life, in my humble opinion.

For us … 2022 also ushered in a new grandchild!  And, for my Mom, her first great-grandchild!!

Our second born, Christian, married his college sweetheart Breanna. Through a myriad of jobs, continuing education, and several relocations over the past seven years together, they are now home near us in Birmingham, and celebrating the birth of their firstborn, a precious little girl named Rosemary Jane.  We are all giddy and mushy over her!

Cameron, our third born and second son, is moving onward towards his dreams and goals as a digital media producer.  He has worked diligently in retail sales, merchandising, and inventory management, and continues to hone his skills in computer programming, digital media concepts, and all things technical.  He is a genius with smart devices and is our resident “geek squad guy”, when his old-man Dad can’t remember which button to push on my iPhone. Yes, it happens.

Cameron loves people, is a relentless Advocate for others, and his knowledge of the Marvel Universe is fascinating.  We love our amazing Cam-Cam!

So, 2022 is almost a wrap!  Our prayer for 2023 is simple:  Love God and Love People.  I hope your life this coming year is filled with much Joy, Peace, and Love. Let’s all do our part and make this world a better place.


Sabbatical Sundays

Sundays … are now my favorite day of the week.

For more than 50 years, since childhood, Sunday has been mostly early out of bed, auto-start coffeemaker, get the family up and hustling, quick shower-n-shave, put on the suit, don’t spill coffee on the newly pressed shirt, don’t get a speeding ticket, don’t cuss slow drivers, don’t forget your music charts … and get to church on time!

Breathe. Confess sin. Unload gear. Have church!

Then, for the remainder of the day … rest. Well, nap.  Then, do it all again Sunday night.  Unless, like me, you saw the light and migrated over to the contemporary churches who realized that Sunday evening really was designed for some kind of sabbath.

Today, my typical Sunday is much different.  I still get up early, but not out of ‘alarm’, rather because my body just says, ‘get up’.  And, most often, it’s just time to go to the bathroom. Again.

As I enjoy my first few cups of freshly brewed coffee, I sit quietly. Usually, on my little back porch. And listen.  I listen to the wind, to the leaves rustling, to the birds singing, to the critters scuffling under the brush, to the rocker legs on my chair squeaking, and .. to the Spirit speaking.  I listen more. I hear the Spirit better.  I’m not rushed and hustled. I am still.  And, for moments at a time, all is well.

I announced to the last little church congregation where I served as worship leader, that I was taking a ‘sabbatical’. That was seven months ago.

‘ve never done this in my entire ministry life. I am still not certain what that concept even means to a protestant born Baptist like me.  We never stop. We never rest. We never quit. And, we sure don’t take ‘sabbatical’, whatever in the heck that means.

But, I am taking a sabbatical.  I am choosing to rest.  I am choosing to listen.  I am choosing to be led, rather than to lead.

I’ve never been provided a sabbatical in my entire life.  I was once assigned a time off the platform, by my pastor who loved me, because he saw the chaos and imbalance in my life and how that my un-wellness was affecting my family and all my teammates.  He was right.  And, it was time.  That sabbatical lasted about a year.  Maybe less, as I was invited back to occasional platform moments as the backup singer and keyboard player.  Within another year, I was back to the grind as the lead worship pastor.  That was 20 years ago.

I now know many pastor friends who are provided with sabbaticals, every two years or so, depending on their congregation’s determination of the ‘need’ and ‘purpose’ of the sabbatical period for their lead shepherd. The congregation and eldership actually place the Sabbatical into the job description, or contract, however the governance of said congregation might be structured.  This actually sounds like a Jesus principle.  And, it works.  And, my pastor friends are better off for it.

As the worship guy, musician, worship leader, whatever title you place on the “music director” — I have never been provided a Sabbatical.  I’m not bemoaning my churches, because it’s never been within their custom or tradition to provide such. And I willing signed up for the tasks for which I was hired. So, I’m grateful for the opportunities, but my Lord, sometimes the hours and the expectations were simply overwhelming.  And, I often saw the imbalance first, in the eyes and spiritual demeanor of the pastors and other staff members around.

So, I am choosing to take a sabbatical.  I am seven months in, and I’m not sure if I will ever return to a worship platform. And I’m ok with that, I think. Or, at least today, I’m ok with that.  Because, I am still. And I am quiet. And I am being led.

I attend virtual worship with several churches who I love, and who are loving me back.  And, who are fully aware of my personal sabbatical decision.  Occasionally, I pop in the back door of a congregational gathering, just to sit and soak. Just to be led. And to observe.

My faith is changing for the better and my theology is becoming enriched, as I engage with pastors and leaders who I have observed from a bit of a distance, but who are now becoming friends in the faith journey.  I am realizing that there is a wide variety of believers and Christ followers.

We love to camp out in the Red Letters of the gospels. We love to touch people not like us. We love to boast of Grace and Kingdom.  We mourn with those who mourn. We stand with those who are oppressed. We rescue those who are abandoned.  And we worship as those in desperate need of Grace and Peace and Love.

I am on sabbatical.  Or, maybe I am on a new path. Maybe this was in the Plan, all along.  #GRACE #PEACE #LOVE




Everybody’s got a Story …

One of my favorite worship songs written by Lenny Leblanc and Lindell Cooley is “Love Came Down”.  The opening lyrics say almost perfectly what I feel, most days …

Everybody’s got a story
Everybody’s got a song
Every one’s a little different
We all went wrong

Then the Savior came
And He took the blame
Changed everything

(c)2001 Lenny Leblanc, Lindell Cooley | Integrity’s Hosanna! Music

So, as a child of the 60s from small town Bible Belt Mississippi, born and raised a country boy and a missionary Baptist, my worldview and understanding of life included only a few necessary life lessons:

  1. God owns everything, and you do not.
  2. Mama talks to God daily.
  3. Don’t cross Mama

With that very simplistic view of Life, it was inevitable that I would become a Mama’s boy, a musician, and a lifetime lover of the Bible, of good food, and of family.  These simple elements of life continue to drive my heart and soul.

I began singing gospel music on church platforms at around 6 years of age with my brother Danny, one year younger than me.  We were like twins, though born a year and 10 days apart, like two peas in a pod.  In many ways, we still are.  We helped Mama start the family gospel band at around 7 and 8 years old, adding family friends to the mix, and by the time we hit high school, we were touring the entire Southeast, making records, and even scoring a top Ten song, written by Danny and recorded by another family band, The Lesters of Branson Missouri fame.

God blessed our little family band for about 10 years, and we had the time of our lives.  We met all the southern Gospel icons of our day, and even had the chance to sing alongside many of them in our little town civic center, on a few larger stages, and even in some county football field stadiums.  It was the 1970s, and the roots of Moral Majority America were sweeping the Bible Belt. We were caught up in it and were flag-waving, gun-totin’, Bible-thumpin’ believers … three piece suits, revival tents, and all. It was quite a show!

Fast forward 10 years, and it’s the 1980s. I graduated high school with a diploma from an online school in Chicago, since the family band was touring across Texas, Louisiana, and the Gulf Coast.  Then I met a girl.  No, I met THE GIRL. MY GIRL!

We married in 1984, took church music and school teaching jobs, and were a real pair, setting out on our [my] life goals of marriage, ministry, and possibly, somehow, getting those college degrees. One day.  Meanwhile, there were souls to be won, and church pews to fill, and we were making our headway through ministry life, together.  Or, so I thought.

Another decade passed and we were now a house filled with elementary school kiddos, holding down three-to-four jobs between the two of us, and just trying to make ends meet.  The ‘dream’ of achieving those college degrees was fading fast.  Revivals were ‘breaking out’ across the Coast and spreading across the Bible belt, so there were meetings to be booked, concerts to promote, conferences to host, and new music to record. The big dream at that time was to possibly  land a Christian worship record deal, like all the ‘big-name’ artists were doing!  It’s the 1990s worship music wave after all, right?

With a few dear friends, we produced a few very semi-professional records, a live worship project, and then all hell broke loose. Marriages failed, churches divided, and the World Trade Towers fell. The world was going to hell in a hand-basket, and I felt as if I was “working for the Lord” harder and faster than I ever had in my life.  But, something was off. There was something just not right.  God was “moving” across the land and church houses were filling with massive numbers of people in this ‘modern worship’ revival movement.  What could be wrong?  How could life still be so confusing?

A new millennium arrived, the Y2K scare came and faded, the world did not actually end, and now the Information Age was changing everything. Phones were now made for our pockets, and no longer were attached to a wire.  The world was moving at warp speed towards whatever was “next”.

Hurricane Katrina, August 29, 2005. The big one. The 100-year storm.  And, yes, we were there. It was horrific, and terrible, and fascinating all together.  Like most folks along the Gulf Coast, we lost nearly every material possession that we held dear.  And, we learned that the most valuable ‘things’ in life were looking back at us in our mirrors everyday.  Stuff no longer really mattered.  People, and especially loved ones, were and are EVERYTHING.

I’ll hang out here a minute.  And I’ll hold off on the “next” chapter.  For now, let’s just say my Story is only now beginning to unfold.  My Story is Our story:  Me and Sheryl and our babies.  But our story began a long, long time ago, way before the two of us were even conceived.

That’s THE story.  And, I can’t wait to tell you what’s NEXT!

The SOUND of Music

“Every kid has a sound, and that sound needs to be heard” –  Kyla Duckworth, co-Founder – MusicalityStudio

2022 has brought me ‘back’ to my roots in so many ways. I entered into this year with an intentional personal mission – SIMPLIFY.  And, RETURN to the innocence of your childhood.

I was raised in a home filled with music. My Mom was a prodigy musician by age 10 and was playing church piano at her small country church for adult choirs and gospel music quartets.  By her teen years, she was performing with ‘all star’ musicians across her little hometown region, and even enjoyed some local TV time in her high school years.

As she married our Dad, the young preacher boy, and her kiddos came along — me FIRST — my brother Danny and I began singing alongside Mom, sitting beside her on the piano stool at home and church.  By the time we were 6 yrs old, Mom had us in recording studios, making vinyl records and touring across the Gulf Coast with our little namesake family band, The Rosetones.

Fast forward 50 years, now there are three boys — me, Danny, and Jeff (the smartest of the litter!) — and ALL of us have music woven into our DNA, all because of a little girl from Soso, Mississippi … Rosemary Holifield … Momma.

Back to 2022 …

This year, I partnered with Kyla and Dustin Duckworth at Musicality, and began teaching students with their small startup up business.  The mission is very simple:  every kid has a sound, and that sound needs to be heard.

We just completed our Spring semester at Musicality, with 150-plus students registered, after only two years of literally word-of-mouth and social media marketing in our small suburban cities across North Alabama.  It’s been phenomenal to watch this little dream of a music studio come to life and grow in popularity.  And, it’s changing ME.

I am remembering as I teach these young students, the JOY of playing, singing, and listening to the SOUNDS of music.  I am being transported back in my memories of my own childhood, sitting at the piano bench with Mom in our tiny little houses, in small country churches, and in local civic centers, where we cut our teeth as small town gospel singers and musicians.  It’s all coming back to me!

I love watching our students learn, practice, and perform the sounds of music that come out of their young and bright hearts and souls. I love hearing them sing and play their own unique styles and blends of worship songs, pop songs, country songs, techno-funk, and jazz.  I am fascinated and inspired all over again, and I am fully confident that the world will be a better place … because of the SOUNDS that are emerging from these kiddos.

These sounds come from hearts of LOVE, which have enjoyed life, death, pandemic, pain, suffering, and yes … a longing for our Creator who is the Giver of the SOUNDS that we make.

So, as sister #AmyGrant sings in her recently remixed familiar pop tune, let’s all go make our sounds and, “… put a little love in your heart … and the world will be a better place …”