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The Real Deals with No Strings Attached

  

Chris Tomlin, one of America's great praise and worship leaders
Chris Tomlin, one of America’s great praise and worship leaders

Books could be written about lives radically changed by introduction to strings. Before duct tape, string had endless uses, ranging from Yo-Yos to string cheese. This time, we’ll limit fame’s floodlights to individuals who–at ages fifteen and ten, respectively–began pilgrimages toward major world venues–thanks to strings.

Of this “twosome,” Everett (Bunny) Martin is farthest down the road. He defeated one hundred others to win the 1950 city Yo-Yo championship in Houston at age fifteen.

This qualified him for the last World Yo-Yo Championship held the next year in Toronto, and he survived competition with 500 others from five countries, thus remaining the “defending world champion” at age eighty. He and his preacher dad won the expenses-paid trip, and Bunny claimed the $2,500 cash prize.

*****

   As remarkable as Martin—in his own way—is Chris Tomlin, arguably America’s best-known praise and worship leader. This Christian music artist’s career might never have taken flight had he not been struck down by mononucleosis at age ten.

Sentenced to a summer of indoor rest when he had planned for Little League baseball, Chris was devastated. He felt so low he could have ridden a unicycle under a bathtub with a firefighter’s hat on.

His dad, Connie, longtime Grand Saline, Texas, druggist, asked what he thought was a throw-away question: “Chris, would you like me to teach you to play the guitar?”

*****

   It was a distant second to Chris’ “druthers” of playing baseball, but it might make staying indoors more bearable, the youngster figured. His dad owned an old guitar, and felt brief instructional times would be his only investment.

There was one problem—Connie is right-handed and Chris, left.

Ever the concept man, dad figured Chris could figure out a way to learn—be it with mirrors, head-standing and/or brain flip-flopping.

*****

   Christian music lovers offer “amens” to Chris repeatedly. He’s a favorite in sold-out venues throughout the world and also is worship leader in an Atlanta church. Yep, strings have served this “lefty” vocalist/composer well.

His published works are chosen for worship in thousands of churches throughout the land, with some thirty million CDs sold to date.

They renamed Main Street “Chris Tomlin Boulevard” in Grand Saline, where 7,500 fans crowded into the football stadium to honor him on his thirty-nineth birthday, May 4, 2011. Looking back, Connie and wife Donna are thankful that as it turned out, mono—paired with Chris’ perseverance—led to much good as a left-handed son learned from a right-handed dad.

*****

Bunny Martin, yo-yo champion
Bunny Martin, yo-yo champion

Bunny knows the importance of strings, too, with extras always in his pocket. His talents have taken him around the world and he, too, has chosen Christian venues. Most programs have been for Christian organizations such as Fellowship of Christian Athletes, where he’s enshrined in the Hall of Fame. He has entertained thousands of times in prisons, churches, schools and on TV. As impressive as his mastery of entertainment and articulate testimony is his overcoming a serious speech impediment. “I was a classic stutterer until I was in college,” he said. “When in high school, if I wanted to ask a girl out, my sister made the phone call. I was embarrassed to attend church youth meetings, fearing I’d be called on to pray or read a scripture.”

He “wowed em” with a yo-yo performance early on at a state convention of magicians, where an 85-year-old member complimented him effusively. “Like nothing I’ve ever seen,” he said. “But I have to be honest—a couple of times I could see the strings.”

Eyes rolling, Bunny—whose sandpapered Yo-Yo once lit a match clenched between Garry Moore’s teeth on NBC’s “To Tell The Truth”—claimed he’d try to do better.

*****

   Really, these two men have much in common besides great reliance on strings. They’re both bold Christians, brimming with talent and commitment.

Bunny, now 80 and still in demand, resides in Dallas with Mary Etta, his wife of fifty-six years. Chris and wife Lauren live in Panama City, FL, with Ashlyn, 2. Another child is due soon.

Their fans—and folks who know them best—view them as the “real deal”—no strings attached.

*****

   Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. newbury@speakerdoc.com. 817-447-3872.

Please click the book cover image to read more Don Newbury inspirational and humorous stories in When the Porch Light’s On.

WhenThePorchLightsOn-3dLeft

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