By The Reverend Bob Holland
“Hold my mule” is a figurative expression from the American South that means when a person is leading a mule and they need to go somewhere, or do some-thing very important they will ask someone to hold their mule. Sometimes it meant they were going to enter into a confrontation be it a verbal or physical one, but in church settings where the members were not embarrassed to express their emotions, the phrase meant they were getting happy and praising the Lord or spending time at the altar crying out to God. Do churches still use altars? Do people still get happy? When it comes to people expressing their worship, I’ve been in a lot of assemblies over the years and witnessed several worship styles. I was raised in a conservative Baptist church where I sang the wonderful hymns and later became a worship pastor for more “lively” groups such as Vineyard, Charismatic, Pentecostal, and Assembly of God churches. I love all styles. I’ve written and recorded several albums of Christian music and wrote a book about worship, but whether we raise our hands or we are more reserved, God knows what we believe in our hearts. Spiritual music is dear to my heart, and often I feel that God is speaking to me in a song. Powerful emotions well up inside and many times tears will flow as it seems the Lord is embracing me with His love. I will never forget a day back in the 80s, I was driving and listening to the radio when Steve Green began to sing “In God Alone” and I just started weeping. Among many others, I remember another song that is very special in my life and that is, “His blood” by Shirley Caesar. If you’ve never heard these songs, I highly recommend them. As a young minister, I used a small segment of “His Blood” as the intro for some of my teaching cassette tapes. You do remember cassettes, don’t you? Anyway, for those familiar with Shirley Caesar’s music, you know that she gives everything she has when she sings. She was known around the world as the First Lady and the Queen of Gospel which included 17 Dove Awards, 10 Grammy’s, 12 Stellar awards, and forty albums. She would always say, “I’m called to be a preacher first, and a singer second!” When you listen to her, you will know what she means. One of Shirley’s songs is called, “Hold My Mule” where she tells a story about an 86-year-old man named John, who joined an ultra-conservative church where everything was dreadfully sophisticated and solemn. From the moment John began attending, his presence disturbed the reserved and comfortable congregation. He was such a positive and encouraging personality and would come in beaming with joy. As the sermon was being preached he would loudly exclaim amen and praise you Jesus with sincere enthusiasm. Everyone scoffed and raised their eye-brows in disapproval and when the deacons tried to intervene, they could not contain him. I’m reminded of the passage in Luke 19:40when Jesus spoke out and said if these people keep silent, the stones will cry out in praise. One day the deacons when to see John dressed in their finest and driving their big fancy car. They found him around back plowing his field with a mule. He saw them coming and said, “I know why you are here, you want me to stop worshiping my Jesus.” They replied, “John we don’t act like that in our church. There are dignitaries and many wealthy and important people in our midst and they have a reputation to protect. If you don’t stop shouting, dancing, and praising we are going ban you from our church.” With tears in his eyes, John said, “Well, then you’re going to have to put me out because I can’t hold my peace. Let me tell you why. Look at all that beautiful land that you just drove through. God gave me that land. Look at my children. God gave these blessings and they all love Him and have never given us any trouble. Look at me, I’m 86 years old. I’m still able to walk behind this old mule and harvest my crops and you don’t want me to show Jesus how much I love Him in your church? Here, hold my mule, because I’m gonna sing and dance and shout and give thanks to God right now!
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