Between my junior and senior years in high school, a group called Dust and Ashes
visited my church one hot July evening. They'd come to lead a worship service/concert for the evening. At the urging of my family, I decided to go and give it a try, not really sure what to expect from the music or the experience.
One thing I did know--there was going to be ice cream after the concert, so even if I turned out ot not be a big fan of the music, well, at least there was ice cream.
I got there a bit early, found a seat and was chatting with my friend when a trio--two men and a woman--took the stage (if by stage you mean stood up in front of the church). They greeted us and said they were going to get started. I settled back as they started playing the song, "It's All Right" and for the next hour or so, I sat there totally transfixed. Every song they played was wonderful, compelling, challenging and I loved every one. I kept hearing one new favorite after the next and soon my visions of ice cream were replaced by not wanting this concert and experience to end.
It was that night I became a Dust and Ashes groupie, if you will. Oh sure, there are those out there who follow the Grateful Dead around the country but if I were ever going to give up my day job to follow a band, it'd be Dust and Ashes.
At the time, Dust and Ashes was a trio--Tom Page, his wife, Mary Lou Troutman and Lee Domann. Tom and Lee are ordained Methodist ministers whose call is to musical ministry. Thye don't have an assigned church but instead travel the country, sharing their message through song and testimony. One of the great things about a concert by the group is that they will share the stories behind the songs or go a bit deeper into the scripture behind the songs and why they were written.
Thankfully, the group had tapes available and I used some of the money I'd earned on my paper route (yes, I actually had one) to buy the tapes...and then proceeded to pratically wear them out, listening to them over and over and over again. I signed up for the mailing list so I could know when a new release came out and I was happy the next summer when my parents bought me their latest release and gave it to me as a present before I went off to UT.
Now, at the time, my mom worked at another Methodist church as a secretary. In fact, the group wrote a song about the church. The group would often call the church my mom worked at and so my mom got to be friends with Mary Lou through their conversations with Mary Lou would call. In fact, my mom told them how much I enjoyed the music and their tapes and the group autographed a picture for me that I still have framed.
Over the years, I've had a special fandom for this group. I've travelled to hear them and I've tried to keep up with the tapes and now CDs they release. Thankfully the Internet has made that a lot easier (and you thought it was just for blogging...)
As the years went along, I noticed Lee had gone on to pursue his own individual ministry. I know that Lee wrote a lot of the signature songs of Dust and Ashes and those were included on a collection of songs called "Old Friends." (Kind of a greatest hits album). As the years went along, I kept up with Tom and Mary Lou. I'd e-mail them and was always warmed to hear they'd remembered who I was and they were always curious as to how I was doing. I kept looking on their web site, hoping they'd come within a driving radius of somewhere I was becuase I would travel for a concert.
But I lost track of Lee....until earlier this week.
I got an e-mail from my old church, saying that there would be a special service this week, led by the Rev. Lee Domann. As I sat reading my mail, I wondered--could it be him? He had a web site
and I surfed over. I knew in 30 seconds that it was the same Lee Domann.
Years ago, Lee wrote a song called "Howard Grey." It's based on a real event from Lee's life of a young man he knew in junior high school. Howard's family was poor and Howard took the brunt of the mocking from the kids at school. Lee didn't join is becuase "Momma taught the golden rule"...well, at least until one day in the hall, Howard is being picked on and Lee sees it and laughs. Because Lee had never joined in before, Howard figured they must be friends and Lee's laughter..well, it hurt. As the song says, "I laughed until I cried, but through my tear stained eyes I could see, the crying eyes of Howard Grey looking back at me."
The song ends with Lee expressing regret on how they treated Howard and how he yearns for forgivness from God and Howard for this. It's a powerful song and one that really speaks to me. I think we have all either been Howard or known someone like Howard in our lives.
(If you'd like to hear the song on-line, Lee has a sample of it here)
As soon as I saw Lee's website and it listed information about "Howard Grey" I knew it was him. I have to admit I was excited and anxious to hear him lead worship, giving his sermon through song and testimony.
I went and all I've got to say is--it exceeded any hopes and expectations I could have had. Again, as with every time I hear Lee, Mary Lou or Tom play, the experience is one where when you get to the end, you feel as if only five minutes have gone by and you're left wanting more, more, more. Lee played some of the old favorites and then some new ones that I am sure will be on their way to favorite status as I listen to them again. It was, in short, a powerful and profoundly moving service and one I'm glad I attended.
After the service, I went up to Lee and spoke to him about his music. I told him how his music had been a blessing to me over these past years and how I'd heard him for the first time back in the summer of 1990. After some memory prompting, he remembered who I was, thanked me for blessing him with my telling him how his ministry had blessed me and asked me to come back to his table for a CD to take home. I replied, of course I am going to buy a CD or two and he looked at me and said, "Well, you can have one on me for the blessing you've given me with your story today."
I was stunned by his generosity. I hadn't approached him wanting a free CD, but to honestly share how his ministry had touched me. His gift was a blessing to me and he told me I'd blessed him. I was, honestly touched and we enjoyed a bit more of sharing about the times I'd seen him and how I still had that autographed picture.
Looking back now, I can see the whole experiece as an answer to a prayer I didn't know I'd been praying. Years ago, when I first saw Dust and Ashes, I was at a point where their ministry touched me in a way I've not really been touched since. And today, on old friend sang some old and new songs and touched my heart in a similiar but new way. It's hard to put into words really, and I don't really think this accurately or completely explains it. But all I can say is--it's a blessing.
I'm pleased to note that Lee will be leading some more worship services in middle Tennessee over the next couple of weeks. There are two in Murfreesboro--one next week and one in July. I hope those churches can hold at least one more visitor that week because I plan to be there.
In the meantime, I'm going to do my best to wear out his new CDs of new and old favorites...
posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/11/2006 06:13:00 PM