No Can Be Better Than Yes

Imagine being a beautiful young woman with the world at your feet. A new mother with a loving husband, thriving career ‹ and in a moment, the ground around you begins to crumble. Suddenly, due to no fault of your own, your career is stripped from you, your marriage takes a nose dive and all you have left to cling to are your two young children and God. Sound familiar?
Bonnie Keen sings about the glorious and amazing “God of Many Chances” in her new CD on Reborn Records. “The title song from the project came from a chapter from my first book, God Loves Messy People: Finding Hope When Things Go Wrong,” explained the vivacious blonde whose energy still mirrors the girl emerging as a young actress, model and singer in Nashville in the early 1980s.
“I did an interview with a woman named Regina,” Bonnie continued, “a former prostitute working at Magdalene House* in Nashville [a beautiful home for restoration of lives]. After her interview, we were both crying and I said, ‘the thing about God is he is the God of endless chances. It’s never too late with him.’ I love the title of this project, it speaks of forgiveness and about him never letting go.”
Bonnie and Mel Tunney, two of the three original members of First Call, reunite for a song.
If you’re unfamiliar with Bonnie, let me refresh your memory. She was the tall blonde singer in the trio First Call whose 15 year career took a drastic turn as a consequence of another’s actions. Following the group’s breakup, Bonnie released a solo project on Spring Hill, but with all respect to her friends at the label, admits they didn’t know what to do with her.
Bonnie’s manager, Wendell Gafford, had been approached by Stephen Alexandersen about doing radio promotions for his label. In the coarse of their discussions, Gafford introduced Bonnie to Alexandersen through her books and music. “He got very passionate about what I’m doing,” Bonnie reported. “In my first book I speak about divorce, divorce recovery, being a single mom, going through clinical depression – you name it. One messy thing after another. Stephen said ‘I wish I had had this book when I went through my divorce.'”
Alexandersen loved her ministry, the way she speaks to and from the heart, and wanted to be involved with what she was doing. He bought the tracks he wanted and then told Bonnie¹s three time Grammy award-winning producer-husband Brent King to start over from scratch, “let’s do it right.”
For Bonnie that meant the freedom and encouragement to try all the things she wanted to do like three acappella songs and mixing styles – a variety that could be considered representative of the singer’s life experiences. “People who liked First Call arrangements will love this album. It’s really different, that’s what First Call did and that’s what I love to do.”
A long term goal following Bonnie’s days with First Call was to resurrect “Parable of the River.” Recorded here with Ricky Skaggs, his wife Sharon White and daughter Molly, the track opens with the ensemble singing an acappella Bluegrass chorus of the old hymn “Shall We Gather at the River.” The song truly has new life and wonderfuly blends the traditions of the faith with revival.
All the songs were written or arranged by Keen except “A Gate Called Beautiful.” Earlier in her career she sang it as a demo. Although it was pitched to other artists, apparently it was always Bonnie¹s song to release.
A favorite campfire song, “Kum Ba Ya,” has been reborn in this African rendition that takes the messy things in life and gives them a heart-cry to God. Bonnie dedicates this song to her passion for World Vision and the lives of the innocent perishing for lack of knowledge.
“God of Many Chances” is a summer release in stores August 15 and the title cut will most likely be the first to be heard on radio. Finding a favorite on this CD is hard to narrow down. Each speaks to the heart in a different way for a different season of life. Especially “When God Says No” co-written with friend Suzanne Gaither Jennings (Bill & Gloria’s daughter). We’ve all had something we wanted so desperately and God said “no.” This turn around says… “there’s hidden affirmation . . . he’s always saying yes” to so much more. With God yes always comes from no.
“I keep thinking how Gethsemane looks like the biggest no of all time. But – behind that is the biggest yes of all time. It’s like there’s always a yes because he loves us so. We just can¹t always see it.” For a taste of the love Bonnie knows of the Father, you only have to listen to “My Beloved,” an abandoned, free flowing heart-of-worship song from the Father to his child and back again.
Bonnie’s ministry doesn’t stop with singing. She’s written two books for Harvest House and is working on a third. For years Bonnie has been touring as a speaker including women¹s conferences. “When I go out to speak, because of my theater background, I pepper what I do with interactive video pieces and comedy. I’m not the three-piece-suit, 3-point-whatever,” Bonnie admits. “I’ve been there and I try to be as honest and transparent as I can. I think people are starving for relevancy and authenticity. They can listen to your record or read your book, but what is real is what¹s going on in your life.”
“Especially our kids, they see through the facades. It’s the reason many in the Baby Boomer generation rebelled against the church – because they saw the hypocrisy in their parent¹s lives.” This is the perfect CD for people who stopped going to church because they felt they “weren’t perfect enough.”
In open cander Bonnie revealed, “My first book was a real opening of my veins, it was taken from my journals. I went through a near date rape experience. I talk about everything I did wrong in hopes somebody reading the book, especially singles going through it now, would maybe not do what I did. Including my divorce.”
“The sad thing is that if we are able to say ‘I’m sorry, I made a bad choice, but I love you and I’m walking in forgiveness and grace and the humility of God,’ it takes all the power out of what you’ve done wrong,” Bonnie testified, “It’s like David in Psalm 51, ‘Against you [God], you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight,’ and then go on with your life knowing that God goes on with you. If we try to cover it up, it just festers. Confession is truly medicine for the soul and forgiveness is really part of the healing. I’m utterly convinced it is the keystone.”
Bonnie talks openly about her redemption. “It’s painful, but worth it. I get a little sick to my stomach each time before I speak knowing I’m going to have to talk about the underbelly of my life. But every time I do and see the hope it brings to other people – it’s so worth it. It’s okay. It’s all worth it. It’s a small thing to do for God.”
Bonnie’s ministry and artistry is all about sharing her messy life and the messy lives of other people. “Since the beginning of time, God knew we were made for the Garden, but we’re not there any more. So, life’s going to throw us a one-two punch and be intense.” Spoken with softened confidence, “But he’s going to be there for us. Christ died for those places. That’s the bottom line. He’s going to be there with us.”
* Magdalene House in Nashville, Tennessee ministers to prostitutes desiring to change their lives by taking them into a beautiful home, giving them back a sense of dignity, helps them clean up and get off drugs, attain their GED, reunite with their kids, find a job, and thus restores their sense of self-esteem. In the meantime, they learn about the love of Jesus.
SPECIAL INVITATION for Singles – See Singles
Cruise with Bonnie Keen
2003 GMA Journal: Tuesday – Stonehill , Minstry Partners, Bonnie Keen
For more information about the writer, go to About Vicky Branton


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