Thursday, September 29, 2011

Book Review: Let My Soul Surrender - Grace Notes of A Journey

Author:  Rickie Byars Beckwith

Reviewer:  Lee Boyack – Member, Center for Spiritual Living, Santa Rosa

A surprisingly funny and honest book about writing spiritual music—WITH an upbeat CD of the songs behind the stories!

I was not familiar with Rickie Byars Beckwith, the Music and Arts Director of Agape Int’l Spiritual Center and the wife of Michael Beckwith.  But the excitement generated by the announcement of her December 2nd, 2011 concert in Santa Rosa, moved me to buy her new book that comes with a CD of her music.    Wow!  I was not misled by the congregation’s anticipation of her appearance.  I feel I have been given a gift of peace and joy at a moment when it was greatly needed. 

The CD has 14 songs that have the kind of lyrics that move me into a calmer, more peaceful and joyful space.  But, unlike some of the “spiritual” music CD’s I’ve bought before—I like ALL of the songs on this CD and would listen to them even if they didn’t have a spiritual message.  To me, the music is a mix of R&B, Motown, and Jazz.  Sometimes Rickie’s voice reminds me of Tina Turner.  Sometimes the sound seems like Carlos Santana. There is a lot of variation in tone and beat which keeps me continuing to listen.

The book describes the stories behind the creation of each of the songs.  I love the surprising honesty of Rickie’s communication.  For example, the title song, “Let My Soul Surrender” was created at a meditation retreat Rickie considered a semi-annual “ordeal.”  “Sitting in silent meditation for three days…has never been

my idea of a good time,” she says.  (I love this woman!  That’s just how I would have felt.).  But from that place, she opened herself up and received a song that begins “What am I to do?  What am I to feel?”… and continues to discover that the answers lie in surrendering to God.

Another song was created by being hurried and running into a glass window! Another was created from being frustrated that it didn’t seem her prayers were being answered when three close friends passed away.  The situations in her life are easy to understand.  She doesn’t seem distant or removed.  And the music is very entertaining. 

I think this is a great book/CD and recommend it.  I have already purchased it as a gift for several friends and will probably purchase more for Christmas gifts.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Book Review: Let My Soul Surrender, Grace Notes of a Journey, by Rickie Byars Beckwith

Review by: Bette Smith, Professional Prayer Practitioner

Rickie Byars Beckwith has been inspiring me with her songs since the mid 90’s when I first heard her sing at a concert in Marin. I remember she was directing the choir with no shoes on. She started the evening with little sandals, but soon they were off her feet and she was barefoot. I could relate to this woman right away. That night I remember hearing “Use Me and I loved the lyrics. Audience members began to mimic the choir members with arm movements. It really felt like I was giving myself over to God as I sang “Show me all that I must do.”

Shortly after that I went to the Agape Church in Los Angeles and heard Rickie and Michael in person. What a glorious service that was. She played “I Release and I got to sing along with the congregation and really tune into what it can be like to let go and turn it over to God. It inspired me...
to look at life in a new way by letting Spirit run my life and allowing blessings to come to me.

I attended my first Revelation conference in 2001 in Los Angeles and was very inspired by her music again. As a choir director she pulls the very best performances from all of the choir members and nurtures various solo voices who have since put out their own CD’s. In “Had a Revelation”, Otis Freeman and Tony Novell sing solos that are very moving performances.

In her newest CD and book, Let My Soul Surrender, Grace Notes of a Journey, Rickie tells us how the Spirit works through her. With humble gratitude she explains how each song was born. I especially love the song Mabel, which honors the wise women, the mothers and grandmothers who include prayer their daily lives.

She writes about her grandchildren, her children, her mother and her husband, the Rev. Michael Beckwith founder of Agape Spiritual Center. She has a trim, slight build, but her voice is full and rich. And it is filled with soul from her roots growing up on gospel and singing R&B in nightclubs. She is a powerful woman who has done her work. She constantly tells us how thankful she is for all that she has been given. Her selfless service and humble grace comes through her writing.

I’ve got my ticket for the concert in December. Don’t wait too long to purchase yours. See you there.

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