He Made a Difference

Thanks again to Rufus for allowing me to utilize his blog for my own purposes. This is one of those occasions when I’m deep in thought, reflecting on a dear friend who is about to retire. This fella is important to me for many reasons, some upon which I’ll elaborate.
In my first book, Mighty Hands – Victory Over Adversity Through The Grace of God, I took the opportunity to recognize several of the men (and women) who have made a profound impact on my life. I briefly mentioned the man on which I will now expound.
Bob Morrison has been my minister of music at First Baptist Church in Pensacola for nearly the past 20 years. He married Lisa and me and, more importantly, found a way to involve our youngest son in chapel choir. I’ll try to describe further how his ministry has impacted my family and me in such a meaningful way. Sunday after Sunday his has been the face (and hands) upon which I have focused intently as his drummer in the church orchestra. That familiarity notwithstanding, our relationship (at least from my perspective) is much more significant. You see, Bob has been that “thundering velvet hand” that many of us crave and need in our lives. I used that term to describe my high school band director who, during my 3 short years under his tutelage, was integral to my development as a young man. Bob, on the other hand (who is only 4 years older than me), filled a void that I didn’t even know existed as a 40 something year old man. Throughout my entire professional life, I have been called upon to lead and, even though I had seniors to whom I answered, I was seldom taken to task. Bob is, indeed, a stern (but loving) taskmaster. And I now know that, no matter your age, we all need someone to which we are regularly accountable in order for us to continue to grow and mature.
I was reintroduced to being an instrumentalist (years following a failed attempt to major in music) after I had lunch with a friend from church during my initial months at First Baptist. We discussed our mutual stomping grounds up in north Alabama and I happened to mention that I had been a percussionist in high school and college. Not knowing that there was a vacancy for a drummer in the church orchestra, I was surprised when Bob contacted me and asked if I was willing to give it a go. (My friend had ratted me out.) I protested that I hadn’t held a pair of drum sticks in more than 20 years but Bob persisted by saying he was willing to pay for lessons to get me back up to speed. Lessons? Lessons? I didn’t need no stinking lessons! Bob had pushed my challenge button and I agreed to sit in on a rehearsal or two to see if I even still had the coordination to play a drum set. I suppose it’s fair to say that I was moved by the spirit to continue and there I’ve stayed.
During my first few months I had a relatively steep learning curve which Bob, no doubt, sensed. In an effort to boost my confidence with a little humor he emailed me the following quip: A conductor was having a lot of trouble with a drummer. He constantly gave this guy personal attention and much advice but his performance simply didn’t improve. Finally, before the whole orchestra he said “When a musician just can’t handle his instrument and doesn’t improve when given help, they take away the instrument and give him two sticks and make him a drummer.” A stage whisper was heard from the percussion section – “And if he can’t handle even that, they take away one of his sticks and make him a conductor.”
So, for these past many years, mine have been the eyes that were glued to Bob Morrison’s “Mighty Hands” and, for those in the orchestra (and choir) whose eyes were focused entirely on their music, my hands and feet have been an extension of his baton. I should note that being an orchestral drummer is a lot different than playing with a small group. The conductor has the latitude to slow or speed the tempo at his discretion so the drummer is not the one setting the beat. And with Bob, of course, autonomy is out of the question.
One of the most profound experiences I shared with Bob was about 15 years ago. I was accused by a disgruntled “girl friend” of a crime I did not commit in an effort to discredit me in our community. Even though I had a sterling reputation, I soon learned that in our judicial system (and even within our church), despite the widely believed doctrine that we are all supposedly presumed innocent until proven guilty, the process is precisely the opposite. In my time of great spiritual need, Bob did not judge me. Rather, over a milk shake and some very kind words of encouragement, he embraced me with the assurance that he and many others knew my character and would be there for me. That is ministry in action.
There are countless others, I’m sure, with similar stories of how Bob was there for them, too. His ministry has touched the lives of singers, musicians, staff, and congregants by his staunch, unyielding dedication to ensuring that our traditional music is perpetuated while also recognizing the value of more modern, contemporary genres of Christian music.
Upon the occasion of our death, we all like to think that, perhaps, someone will think highly enough of us to offer an epitaph of praise for the accomplishments of our life. And, of course, we all hope that we will have made a positive difference in the lives of others. I subscribe to the thought that it is better to express our gratitude to someone while they are still living rather than to wait and express it only after they are gone. So, to Bob Morrison I say, from the book of Timothy, “(You) have fought the good fight, (you) have finished the race, (you) have kept the faith.” And from the gospel of Matthew, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”
May we all be blessed to have men like Bob in our lives. He has made and continues to make a difference.