Standing on the shoulders of giants

Published 6:32pm Tuesday, March 4, 2014

By Rev. Jonathan Yarboro

Greetings from the corner of Bridge and Bridge! The frivolity of Fat Tuesday has gone. The somber, humble season of introspection known as Lent begins today. May the blessings of Ash Wednesday be upon you!

A couple of months ago, a good friend of mine called to say he needed a favor. I told him I would help any way I could. I did not need to know what the favor was up front because I trust my friend and know he would not ask for help unless he really needed it.

My friend Shannon  laughed at me and asked, “Don’t you want to know what the favor is before you agree?” I explained that indeed I did not; I would help any way I could. He laughed and explained the favor.

My friend is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Birmingham. He has been in ordained ministry for more than 30 years. We have been friends for the last seven of those years. We have worked together on several church projects and share a love of music and beer.

Shannon explained that he was taking a sabbatical at the beginning of 2014. I assumed he had some construction project or something in mind for that time and that he wanted my help, especially since my pre-ministry job was roofing and sheet metal. Boy was I wrong.

In addition to being a pastor, Shannon is a songwriter. He has been writing music for several decades. His style is reflective of his New Mexico and Texas roots. I call it Cowboy Country. He is a gifted guitarist and lyricist.

Shannon informed me that during his sabbatical he would be traveling to FAME Recording Studio in Muscle Shoals to record 16 previously unrecorded original songs. He invited a group of pastors he has been close to for more than 10 years, all of whom are also musicians, to help him put the tracks down for the songs. It turns out he needed a bass player.

I spent three and a half days in Muscle Shoals last week recording at FAME Recording Studio in Muscle Shoals. I repeat that mainly for myself, because it still does not seem like it really happened. The experience was beyond my wildest dreams.

I stood on the very spot of parquet flooring, playing my instrument, where some of the giants of popular music once stood. Duane Allman, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Picket, Percy Sledge, Etta James are but a few. I could feel the creative spirit flowing up from the floor. The walls of the place are lined with gold records and autographed glossy publicity photos. It was a magical experience.

I was overcome with excitement and enthusiasm. The most powerful aspect, though, was something completely unexpected.

I was overwhelmed by the feeling that all of us present, from the very young recording engineer and interns all the way to the gathering of hobby musicians, felt like we belonged there. Whatever feelings of unworthiness or inadequacy any of us had were hardly evident. We were all doing our very best, doing our part and enjoying the ride.

I learned a great deal about living as a person of faith last week. It isn’t about being outstanding or perfect. It isn’t about heritage or pedigree. Living the life of faith is all about being truly present wherever you are and doing your best with what God has given you. You think about it. I’m going to try and put it to music.


The Rev. Jonathan Yarboro is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Wetumpka.

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