When I graduated with my Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Texas at Austin in 1997, my aunt Evelyn and Uncle Amos presented me with a small book titled “God’s Little Devotional Book for Women.” Evelyn inscribed the inside cover with a sweet message in her beautiful cursive hand, “On the occasion of your graduation, may God be close to you as you make your accomplishments in life.” Two years ago, I decided to clean out an overpacked bookshelf and donate a few titles to Half Price Books. I opened the daily devotional book and started to read the first entry. One of my personal goals for the new year included more mindfulness about how I spend my time each day. I placed the book next to my computer with the plan to open it and read a passage each morning before I sat down to write. I recently reached page 152 with an inspiring story about the rhythm-and-blues singer Fontella Bass.
Can the Lord speak through a pop song? Fontella Bass thinks so. She was at the lowest ebb in her life during 1990. It had been 25 years since her rhythm-and-blues single had hit number one on the charts. She had no career to speak of, and she was broke, tired, and cold. The only heat in her house came from a gas stove in the kitchen. She had also strayed far from the church where she started singing gospel songs as a child.
Fontella says, “I said a long prayer. I said, ‘I need to see a sign to continue on.’” No sooner had she prayed than she heard her hit song, “Rescue Me,” on a television commercial! To her, it was if “the Lord had stepped right into my world.”
Fontella was unaware American Express had been using her song as part of a commercial and officials had been unable to locate her to pay royalties. Not only did she receive back-royalties, but new opportunities began to open for her to sing.
She released a new album entitled “No Ways Tired,” but the best news is she renewed her relationship with God. “For so many years I tried doing it on my own, and it didn’t work,” she says. “Then I took it out of my hands and turned it over to Him, and now everything is happening.”
The devotional included a quote, “Sorrow looks back. Worry looks around. Faith looks up.” This passage spoke to many struggles in my life. My mother had passed away, and I missed her terribly. I had recently reconnected to music, but I have always struggled with stage fright. I also felt frustrated with writing and whether anyone would ever read a single word I had written. Fontella released her last album, “Travelin,” in 2001 at age 61. Fontella passed away at age 72 on December 26, 2012, after a series of health problems.
One of my biggest dreams came true last year when I stepped on stage and played the 12-bar blues on my electric guitar. Fontella’s story reminded me to put my anxiety aside, keep moving forward in life, and embrace new journeys.