Bob Kilpatrick - I'll Still Be Here
- 2000 29 Feb
Have you heard the fashion rule that says if you wore a style once, you don't ever have to wear it again? My daughter is bouncing around in bell-bottoms and beads. Retro is in. Disco just won't go away. It is a questionable honor to claim, I suppose, but I was there for it the first time around. I protested things, I had long hair (when I had hair), I drank herbal tea, I drove a Volkswagen camper van and, yes, I wore bell-bottoms and beads. Groovy. So, by the rules of fashion, these days I can skip trying to match my daughter and be content in chinos and a polo shirt, sipping a latte, munching a blueberry scone and reading my email through progressive lenses. Man, so much has changed. Far out. Someone has said that if you can remember the sixties, you weren't there. I was there and I remember.
But there's a reason why I remember it; why I didn't pump myself full of hallucinogens and fall into free love or radical politics. I met Jesus Christ. I had a life-changing encounter with God. I was only seventeen years old, but I was ready to give myself passionately to a cause. I was ready to give my life if necessary. The Russians were going to invade America and take away our Bibles; the Antichrist was probably Henry Kissinger or Richard Nixon. No, wait, I mean JFK. He was going to come back from the dead and rule the world. And we'd all have to take the mark of the Beast or die. So we memorized whole books of the Bible and scouted out hiding places just in case. We didn't plan too far in advance because we knew that the rapture was only a moment away. Time was too short for college, marriage, or a career.
Here I am, thirty-some years later, writing these words on a computer (the first one filled an entire room and took a lake-full of water to cool it in the sixties), thinking about all that has changed: fax machines, palmtop organizers, pagers, cell phones, Global Positioning Networks, sound bites, ATMs, air travel, cable television, email, politics, and inhaling. Yeah, groovy. When Cindy and I first started singing for Jesus, there was no Christian music industry except for the Southern Gospel scene, and we really didn't fit there. We felt that we were part of a movement that would change America and the world. That's why we did it. It wasn't a career choice, it was a commitment to a cause. Young lives were being taken out of darkness into light. We traveled to Munich for the 1972 Olympics and slipped out just before the tragic massacre of Israeli athletes. We sang on the streets of Berkeley and San Francisco, Los Angeles and Oakland. We were threatened, mocked, ridiculed and reviled. I started traveling solo when our first son, Joel, reached school age. I would bring home exciting reports of changed lives so Cindy and our two boys would know it was worth it for Daddy to be gone. Another son was born, and another. Our friends made jokes about our basketball team. Then Cindy had a little girl and our family was complete.
Fast forward from 1976 to 2000. I'm still here. I'm still singing for Jesus. It's been twenty-three years since we decided to try music full-time for six months. Why am I still here? Why didn't I get a regular job? Why am I not burned out or cynical? It is for the same reason that I started: I see people's lives changed. I see a biker baptized in water after a miraculous conversion, children's souls awakened to God for the first time, marriages healed, addicts delivered, inmates set free.
One recent story says it all. It was after an evening concert that a young woman approached me. She was well dressed and from the way she carried herself, appeared to be successful and fulfilled. She introduced herself and said, "your music kept me alive." I smiled because I thought she was deliberately exaggerating in a lighthearted way. Then I saw the tears well up in her eyes. She said, "I am one of eight children. Six of us are dead. They took their own lives. Only one sister and I are left. I have struggled with the very same depression that troubled my siblings. For the past five years, I have listened to your music day and night. It's encouraged me to go on. You took me into the throne room with your worship songs. You are the only reason why I haven't followed my family into the grave." Now we were both crying. And I had been shown another reason to go on. Everyone needs to know that their life has a positive influence on someone else. Some sing, some preach, some pray, some give, some share their technical talents, but everyone can make a contribution to the family of God. And that is why I'm still here.
Things change. We're into a new millennium now, wondering what God has in mind. I'm still waiting for that trumpet sound and for the snatching away of the church. If we're here in twenty-three more years, I'll still be singing about Jesus. I'll still be touched by the stories people tell. I'll still be excited about what God is doing. I'll still be here.
Bob Kilpatrick is indeed the composer of "Lord Be Glorified." His newest recording, Find It Here (on the TPG label), is available in Tower, WalMart, Virgin Stores and Amazon.com. He is available for speaking and concert engagements and welcomes your correspondence at PO Box 2383, Fair Oaks, CA 95628, [email protected]. Visit the website: www.bobkilpatrick.com .