Friday, September 11, 2015

The Man with the Mustache (or How I Met Ron Block) By Jonathan Noël

Nearly 20 years ago, I was living gig-to-gig as a touring musician in Nashville, Tenn. On weekends that I was “off the road,” one of my great joys was being a part of leading worship at my local church. About five or six times a year, my worship director would ask me to sub for him so he could have a break. It was a great honor that I would happily accept.

I was a member of a church in which many of the other members were also road-weary-artist types.  On one particular Sunday that I subbed, a kind-faced gentleman, wearing an impressive mustache, approached me after the service. He introduced himself as “Ron,” warmly encouraged me and told me that he appreciated my leadership and musicianship. He then said he’d enjoy leading with me if I needed a guitar player. I thanked him for his encouragement and his offer. Not knowing him, I would all but forget his offer to volunteer.

At the time, I was also working part-time at Circuit City (a store like Best Buy, now extinct), in the Music Department. One of my required nightly routines was to straighten up all of the CDs (compact discs, nearly extinct) that had been mixed-up during the day. As I was straightening the Country/Blue Grass section, a familiar face (or mustache), on the cover of an Alison Kraus & Union Station record (“So Long So Wrong” – I’m listening to it now as I write this; SO good), caught my eye. “Wait a sec,” I said to myself, “that’s the same dude that talked to me after church.” I knew it was him, even though the kind face I’d met at church was a bit more austere in the cover photo.

Though I wasn’t a huge fan of country music, I bought the CD and threw it into my boom box (a portable cassette/CD player, also nearly extinct) as soon as I got back to my tiny apartment. The music was amazing. The harmonies were so tight and the precision of the instrumentation was mind blowing. The final track, “There Is a Reason,” left me an unexpected, tearful mess. In the liner notes (record/writer credits that once came inside the cd case, also extinct), I discovered that "Ron" -- Ron Block -- wrote the song. I was floored.

That following Sunday I spotted Ron as he was heading out the door of the sanctuary after church. I caught up with him and nervously said something like, “Hey. Hey there. Hey, I’m leading worship again next month. I’d love – I mean, would you still like to play guitar? You don’t have to.” Ron smiled saying, “I’d love to, though I’d prefer to play electric if you don’t mind. I play a lot of acoustic.” “Anything you say – I mean, that sounds great.”

To make a long story short, Ron and I (and later on, his wife Sandra and my wife Amanda) became dear friends. Looking back, it was almost like he knew I needed him that day – when he encouraged me after church – and not for the obvious “musical” reasons. Ron became a trusted and honest voice in my walk with the Lord. His love for Jesus and his life in the grip of grace spurs me on to this day.

On Sunday evening, October 4, come to Apostles to hear a great man share some great music. Tickets are available to the public now. Get yours before they sell out!

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