I don’t ask for autographs from famous people. I did once and was turned down.
In 1989, I was seated court-side at the ACC Tournament in Greensboro, NC. To my right sat my date and to his right sat Sugar Ray Leonard. At halftime, I mustered the courage and stuck my program in front of the professional boxer. He shook his head, “No.” I felt myself melt into the highly polished maple wood floor.
“No’s” are sometimes hard to swallow.
I’ve been blessed to hob nob with some great folks. Spending time in the home of Billy and Ruth Graham was a highlight. Tom Lester, the actor who played “Eb” on Green Acres was such a good friend of our family that he’d spend days with us at our home in South Carolina. My little sister and I affectionately called him, “Uncle Tom.” In 1974, Uncle Tom played one of the bad guys in Joe Camp’s movie, Benji. He came to stay with our family after the Hollywood premier and I remember Mother and Daddy trying to convince Christa and me that Uncle Tom wasn’t really a kidnapper. He only played one in the movies.
I’ve always admired Tom Lester for many reasons. He has been consistently vocal in Hollywood about his love for Jesus and refused to accept any acting roles with nudity or profanity. Tom said, “No,” to thousands of offers and the Lord used his boldness to encourage my establishment of healthy boundaries.
Recently, I was blessed to spend a few moments with another famous face, Amy Grant. I had met Amy once before and she was as genuinely sweet then as she was last month. A little star-struck around one of my favorite singers, I tried to recall with her the year of our first meeting. I failed and immediately looked it up when I returned home.
The exact day was April 13, 1983. Amy Grant and my mother, Deanna McClary, were both nominated for a Dove Award in the same category. I’ll never forget sitting in the auditorium with Daddy, Christa, Mother, and her team consisting of Mae Axton who co-wrote Elvis Presley’s first number one hit single, “Heartbreak Hotel,” Mae’s son, Hoyt, and the actor who played “Chester Goode” on Gunsmoke, Dennis Weaver. Mr. Weaver had written one of the songs for my mom’s album.
I could hardly believe the popular actress Lisa Whelchel, who played Blair Warner in The Facts of Life, was reading my mother’s name as a nominee for “Artist of the Year.” After Lisa’s dramatic pause upon uttering, “And the winner is…,” our whole row joined the rapturous applause as Amy Grant accepted her well-deserved award.
Mae Axton looked over at Mom and winked. I sensed immediately Ms. Axton, known in the music industry as the “Queen Mother of Nashville,” was already planning her strategy for next year. But…
Mom said, “No.”
It dawned on me the other day when I pulled this list from the CMA archives just how much Mom’s “No” to Mae Axton has influenced my life.
W Amy Grant
N Deanna McClary
N Sandy Patti
N The Nelons
N The Cathedrals
At first, when I glanced at the list, I was taken aback that everyone’s names were in blue but my mother’s. Then I discovered the blue signified a “hot link” to each artist’s body of work and website. Mom didn’t have anything to advertise because she chose my daddy, sister, and me over Mae.
You see, with her successful nomination in 1983, Mae Axton decided Mother needed to drop her last name, move to Nashville, and go on tour. Mom, however, made it clear to Ms. Axton that after her relationship to Christ Jesus, the most important relationships in her life were with her husband and girls. She refused to put her pursuit of a music career above her calling to the mission field of motherhood and she said, “No.”
Now, am I saying that a woman cannot do both? Absolutely, NOT. My many friends in the entertainment industry have shown that it can be done and done well. Prayerfully, what I am communicating is that whether we stir a dish on a stove or stir hearts in music or movies, our roles are ultimately the same. We are to bring glory to our Heavenly Father and what He has called us to do.
Encouraging women of all ages to get into God’s Word daily is a personal focus. I watched my parents and know it works. I’m blessed to host a weekly Bible study for women in our home and one of my favorite Bible teachers is Denise Glenn. Denise has written many studies for women, but one of the most impactful to me and the girls I have hosted in our home has been “Wisdom for Mothers” in which she provides this checklist to apply to any volunteer ask or full-time career opportunity:
- Does it build your home and not tear it down?
- Can you do it in the name of Jesus?
- Does your husband approve of this activity?
- Can you stay under the person in authority over this activity without compromise?
In Denise’s words, “This test will help you evaluate the way you clean house or which job offer to accept. It will help you decide whether to commit to teaching Sunday school or whether to take that trans-coastal job offer.” I Corinthians 10:31 is my focus verse this week, “…whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.” I like how Oswald Chambers paraphrases this passage:
“We have a tendency to look for wonder in our experience, and we mistake heroic actions for real heroes. It’s one thing to go through a crisis grandly, yet quite another to go through every day glorifying God when there is no witness, no limelight, and no one paying even the remotest attention to us. If we are not looking for halos, we at least want something that will make people say, ‘What a wonderful man of prayer he is!’ or ‘What a great woman of devotion she is!’ If you are properly devoted to the Lord Jesus, you have reached the lofty height where no one would ever notice you personally. All that is noticed is the power of God coming through you all the time.”
Mom, thank you. Your “No” helped me know a mother’s presence matters. And that whatever the height of the dishes in the sink or the number of toys strewn about on the floor, I can never be down when I am looking up and living for His praise and glory.