Tag Archives: gospel plowboys

Grass that Withereth…

“For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever.”- 1 Peter 1:24-25

With so many things in life, something began to stand out to me the other day that hadn’t seemed so obvious before. It is sometimes stunning what we lost in a matter of just a few years of life. While inviting people to like the new page for my book, The Light in the Darkness, I kept running across pages of dear friends and loved ones that have passed away. All of them had been here when my first book had been published. They had all liked it, and as such, were some of the first ones to come up to be invited back to like the new page. In a matter of four years, we have lost so many. Each time I would go back in and look to invite more people, their names kept moving to the top of the uninvited; a solemn reminder that they were no longer with us.

I let it go, and as usual, tried to move on.

Tonight, while sitting in church listening to the sermon, the passage of 1 Peter spoke to me. So many friends and family, like those blades of grass in the field, hath withereth away. The thought of all those who had died came back again. I had been in prayer for two other friends, both facing incurable cancers, both looking toward the end of their life’s journey; both too young to leave this world with so much left undone.

There were just so many.

With each one that goes on, they leave behind a little bit of themselves with each of us. Their stories only kept alive by our own existence.

I can still see Randy Shumaker in his golf cart at the Bluegrass festival, up before all the others with his fishing rod in hand. The sun was just barely on the horizon of the cow pasture behind our campers. I caught him heading out to his favorite fishing hole at Denton. With that infectious smile, he called out to me, “Great is the day the Lord hath made.” Together, we finished, “Let us be glad and rejoice in it.” We had as much fun hanging out, cooking get-together meals, and just sharing stories as we did playing music at the festival. He left behind a loving family that still pain from his death and many friends that will never forget his memory.

Thanks to Carol McDuffie Photography

Then there was David Murph, the founder, and leader of the Gospel Plowboys. David and I had also met at Denton. Both he and Randy were brothers in Christ, both devoted to living the word. David would ask me to write a story that he had hoped would someday be published in the Our State Magazine. We had begun working on it while he and his band were at Denton, but one thing led to another, and we never finished it. As I was busy answering my calling to serve and moving a farm and family, I had one last phone call with him. He was still upbeat that things would get better for him medically. He longed for the time we’d be back together, not only to finish the piece we had started but to just revel in one another’s fellowship. Before we knew it, he had too left us for that home on high. One of the last songs the band recorded was “Welcome Home.” After David passed, I found the song and played it, over and over. The words touched my heart beyond measure. It was as if David was speaking to us from above, through the words in that very song. Again, another friend gone before his time, so much work had yet to be done.

Then there was the slow, painful story of Ronnie Joyce. He battled his brain cancer longer than any thought possible. He had become the calm, assuring principal to so many during his lifetime, both in the public schools and at Chatham Charter. I can recall one of the first times I met him, playing music in a pasture at Dwayne Hart’s bluegrass festival. He and several others, probably Bryan Goldston for one, were all there making beautiful harmonies. Ronnie shared with me his love of the mountains and the bluegrass group, IIIrd Tyme Out. He told me that they didn’t sing a bad song. Now, when I drive down some winding mountain backroad, and IIIrd Tyme Out comes on the radio, Ronnie crosses my mind. There were some that lead by example, but to me, Ronnie led by grace. He lived long enough to make it to his daughter’s wedding, but left us not long after, leaving behind a void that will take many years, if ever, to heal.

Duane Hart, a friend to so many, passed as well, and without him, the Hart’s Pumpkin Festival will never be the same. He was my neighbor for as many years as we owned our farm, but he was also someone that encouraged me to reach out in ways that I hadn’t ever thought possible. Sharing the love of music and teaching, we spoke to thousands of school children each fall when they would come out to his farm to tour the Pumpkin Farm and hear how the pumpkins grew. Each year, I would add another instrument to the barn show, until I eventually could play almost all the bluegrass instruments. Duane was not only an encouraging soul, he too was another brother in Christ. Meroney’s Church and the surrounding community will never be the same without him.

There are many more that have passed; some that I knew, while others were only acquaintances through friends of mine. Each of their stories caught a little piece of my heart and took it with them to their new home. With each painful loss, we turn again and again to find comfort in God’s word. There, we find the voice of Jesus, giving us hope and a future. We know that we can face tomorrow for we are not alone.

When my parents passed in these past four years, I was blessed to tell them both goodbye, knowing that they were about to leave us forever. Each one, in their own way, left behind a legacy.

For each one that leaves, those that remain have the burden to carry their torch, to share that story. Yes, it is up to each of us to carry on.

Yes, the grass withereth, the flowers will fall away, but the Word of the Lord will endure forever. Like those precious memories, the Word is with us always. He is our comforter in times of darkness and loss. We may be without those loved ones, but God gave us a gift that would never leave us lonely. Each of my friends and family mentioned here were all brothers and sisters in Christ, and each one had their own walk with Jesus. To this day, I know that someday, we shall meet again on that golden strand, on that far distant shore.

Hug the ones you are with and don’t let a day go by without telling them you love them.

Don’t wait until their face appears on your invitation list to remember that they are gone.

His love endureth forever, and even though they are gone, you are not alone.

Thanks be to God.

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Welcome Home, Dave, Welcome Home…

 Another soldier, and brother in Christ was called home today.

Brother Dave Murph went to that far distant shore. The first words he might have heard were, “Welcome home my son, I knew you’d come. Welcome home, you’re here for good. Look around, was it worth the wait? Welcome home, step through the gate.” These were the first few words of the chorus to the song recorded by Dave and the Gospel Plowboys called “Welcome Home”.

Tonight these poignant verses touch my heart deeply. One cannot help to sit and listen to this beautiful rendition of “Welcome Home,” by the Gospel Plowboys and think of Dave.

His passing has touched me in a way I can’t describe in mere words.

To know Dave was to know true faith.

Seeing him and the rest of the Gospel Plowboys for the first time, a few years back, in person at the Denton Bluegrass Festival was a treat in and of itself. I had heard them on recordings and videos on YouTube. I knew that someday our paths would cross. On that peaceful May evening, I heard the band like never before, in person. That is when I came to know the real David Murph and what his calling in life was meant to be. His witness there on stage that evening was nothing fake, no façade of an image for the sake of selling something, it wasn’t an act, it was the real deal. With his hand raised in testimony as he spoke, there was no rush for the need of getting to the show, for the sharing of God’s Word was what he felt in his heart and on his lips. Standing underneath the stage lights, their crisp white shirts stood in stark contrast to the blue of their Pointer Brand denim overalls and red matching ties. There was a statement in what they wore which matched as much who they were as much as what they were about. They were truly living for God.

It was that same moving evening that Dave had found me. It seemed we both had wanted to meet for some time. God had finally put us together, and from there a friendship grew. Our kinship was in Him, and through our personal commitments to follow God’s plan, we had crossed paths, and as such, we had a common goal; to share His Word in all we did; Dave through the music I loved, and myself through my writing. That weekend we met and talked about all that we shared and what Dave had hoped would someday be an article that we would hopefully submit to “Our State” magazine. In my interviews with the band, I learned how they would always pray on stage before starting their show or performance, regardless of where they were. One evening, at a Fiddler’s Convention Contest, they debated whether to pray before their competition. Knowing that they could be disqualified for praying beforehand, Dave told me, “It didn’t matter if we won or not, we were there to lift up God, and that’s just what we did.” That evening, they were never disqualified, never stopped, for after praying, they went on to play the winning songs that they became known for, and never looked back. It was who they were, there to serve Him.

However, that article we worked on that precious weekend was not meant to be. One thing after another kept putting off our editing and publication request. They performed near where we lived at the time at Cumnock Baptist Church. Looking back, I didn’t realize it would be the last time I would get to see Dave. We never know when or where we’ll be called home, but I know in my heart, Dave was ready. A few months later, I called Dave after seeing Rita, his devoted, lovely wife,  post an update on his health; it concerned me. When he answered the phone, we picked up right where we had left off; a friend is a friend no matter the distance or time. He shared with me his battle with his disease and how he knew God would lead him through whatever this world would put in his way. He wanted to know where I was in my life, so I talked with him of my own personal leap of faith. That day I was literally driving down the road on the way to start my new journey as the Director at the Trail of Faith. I told him how he had inspired me to go further in my faith, and for that, I was forever grateful. Once more, my friend was doing what God had intended for him to do, lift up others through his message. Although he was suffering and battling the disease that eventually claimed his life, he was not complaining, nor discouraged. He only wanted to get better so that he could continue the ministry God had placed before him. We said goodbye hoping to meet again soon, but it never happened. Dave went on to get well that particular time and eventually he and the Plowboys would make it to the Outer Banks Bluegrass Festival where I’m certain they found many more to whom they could share the faith. In the meantime, he and the Plowboys went on to record what would be Dave’s final album, titled, “The Gospel Plowboys – Welcome Home.”

The title cut says it all in a prophetic message that cannot be denied.

It wasn’t but just a few days ago that his wife Rita posted how he had become gravely ill. It didn’t seem right to know that a man my own age was so near death. It didn’t seem fair. He had so much more to give. But when the Father calls you home, you do not tarry, you do not delay.

As I walked home from Church last night, I could hear the sound of a lonesome whippoorwill calling. It was almost dark by the time I found the porch steps. The deep woods call of the lonely bird made me think of souls that had gone on and how in their journey to Heaven’s shore happens in the twinkling of an eye, leaving us sorrowful souls behind, alone in the dark to sing praises singularly until we too will one day be called home to sing in that Heavenly choir. Dave and our other bluegrass buddies like Randy Shumaker are surely there, jamming around that campfire along with so many who have already gone on, singing and rejoicing in the glow of God’s graces. They have so much to look forward to, and so much to share with us on the glorious day of reunion.

Somewhere I have the article that we started. I might find it and glean pieces from it that speak about Dave. Perhaps it will inspire me to write something, perhaps not; either way, there’s a wake in his passing that I cannot ignore.

A great man, a loving husband, a dear grandfather, and a brother in Christ has left us, and God has gained another angel.

See you soon Dave, until then, give God the glory and tell Him I said, Thanks.

Please lift up prayers for Rita and the rest of Dave’s family as they struggle through this time of loss and sorrow.

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