Priorities. We all have them. Or, at least we should if we want to function and be productive. The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines priorities as, (1) : the quality of being prior: (2) precedence in date or position of publication, b (1) : superiority in rank, position, or privilege, 2 : a preferential rating, 3 : something given or meriting attention before competing alternatives. I like the third one; something given or meriting attention before competing alternatives. (Boy, Mr. Webster was one smart man!)

I started having children late in life and tried to make up for lost time. As such, I am old enough to be my five children’s grandfather! That is something that in hindsight I might not recommend but it is what it is and the net result is that I am sensitive to that reality in their lives. I give special attention to culture that is part of my kids’ world because being relevant and having a good relationship with them is one of my top priorities. I eat a pretty healthy diet because being there for my children is a priority.

The article you’re reading is part of a journey I committed to a number of years ago when Danny Jones approached me and asked me if I would be willing to write a monthly article for Singing News Online. I was honored that he would ask and I agreed to do just that. So, pretty much every month for the last several years I have written that article. At times that has been a struggle and I have missed a few months here and there for various reasons. This summer has really been a struggle. My last article was written for May, so I am going on six weeks behind in my commitment to write for SN Online.

In case you don’t know, Memphis has been the hometown of the Blackwood Brothers since the group moved there in 1950. In 1957 we formed and held the first National Quartet Convention there at the old Ellis Auditorium, and in the ’70s and ’80s we held an annual event called the Blackwood Brothers Homecoming in that same auditorium. In 2013 we began to help host an event in Memphis every June called the Memphis Quartet Show. It is four days of nothing but great gospel male quartet music sung and performed at its best. It is held in the Cannon Center, which sits on the sight of the old Ellis Auditorium. So, Memphis and, in particular, that spot of ground, has great historical significance.

In 2015 I had an idea to host a bar-be-cue lunch for our fans and friends during MQS. Memphis is famous for several things, among them, bar-be-cue and Beale Street, the home of blues music. So, we combined great bar-be-cue with Beale Street and the Blackwood Brothers and began what has now been five years of a fan appreciation lunch at a BBQ restaurant on Beale Street held during the Memphis Quartet Show. It just so happens that our initials are also BBQ (Blackwood Brothers Quartet). It was almost as if it were meant to be! Several people have mentioned that the luncheon is the highlight of their weekend in Memphis. It is very impromptu, informal, and fun! But, it does require quite a bit of forethought and preparation, which translated means work for me.

The weekend after Memphis Quartet Show, I took my son, Will, to Gettysburg National Civil War Site in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and to Antietam National Civil War Site in Maryland. He loves military history, particularly Civil War history, and we had a great father/son weekend touring the battlefields.

The next weekend my wife and I flew to Phoenix for me to lead worship at an annual event called Athletes International Ministries Conference. AIM is a weekend of spiritual renewal and transformation for both professional and collegiate athletes. Packed with great speakers like Mets and Yankees star Darryl Strawberry, Olympic gold medalist Madeline Manning-Mims, and Pastors Tommy and Matthew Barnett from the Dream City Church in Phoenix and the Dream Center Church in Los Angeles, it is a battery-charging, life-changing four days of teaching and impartation.

And then this past weekend my youngest daughter, Ellie, GOT MARRIED! To say the last few weeks have been busy would be an understatement. It has been CRAZY at the Blackwood house with back-to-back weekends of varied but wonderful experiences. God has blessed me with a wonderful wife, wonderful children, wonderful friends, and a wonderful job/ministry with the Blackwood Brothers. I am truly a blessed man!

So, where is all this headed? I’m glad you asked! It’s about that third definition from Mr. Webster; something given or meriting attention before competing alternatives. With all those blessings comes the responsibility to prioritize. Managing to make time for my marriage, my children, my friends and my job requires making them a priority. Those who know me well might say I have just a little bit of perfectionism. (That was a joke. Please laugh appropriately.) I can also struggle with people pleasing. (Again, laughter is permitted.) Those unwelcome attributes being what they are, it is often difficult for me to say ‘no’ even when ‘no’ is the most appropriate response, or to let things go when I’d rather cross every ’t’ and dot every ‘i’. This article is an example. I completely missed writing one in June and I’m ten days late for July. (Maybe I’m recovering from my people-pleasing perfectionism after all.)

But there’s an even deeper point I want to share in this self-disclosing process. I’d rather not write or submit something just to meet a deadline. If I don’t have something that I think will benefit someone or be of value in some way, shape or form, I’d rather let it go. In the grand scheme of things, not submitting an article for a month or two will really not affect anyone’s world in any significant way. However, failing to make my wife, my children, my friends, and my ministry a priority will. I hope I’m learning to say ‘no’ and ‘let go’ when necessary.

If going through this process in a public way helps you to do the same, that’s great. Most importantly, make the Lord, your spouse, your family, your friends, and your ministry a priority. Let go of the little things that really don’t matter in the big picture. Someone once said that, “one of life’s greatest tragedies is climbing the ladder of success only to discover upon reaching the top that it’s leaning against the wrong building.” Someone also once said, “If you don’t put it on the calendar it won’t happen.” Plan time with the people who are most important to you.

In closing, let me encourage you to ‘keep the main thing the main thing.’ One of my life verses from the Bible is Proverbs 3:5&6, which says, “Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make straight your paths.” Say ‘no.’ Let go. Trust Him.

Billy Blackwood / July 2019

For questions and/or comments please email Billy at [email protected].

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