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Lynda Randle’s Pilgrim Journey

We are all on a journey.  We all get tired.  We all need to be encouraged.  And Lynda Randle’s new album, “Pilgrim Journey,” is the encouragement that so many weary sojourners need.  It can relate to each one of us and meet us right where we are. This album is not just another collection of songs.  It is an outpouring of her heart.  Lynda says, “It’s an art form.  This album is artsy, and it’s very well done.”  This album literally takes you on a journey, and its powerful lyrics, phenomenal instrumentation, and unique style will uplift your soul. 

And uplifting souls is clearly Lynda Randle’s focus, whether in church ministry, music ministry, women’s ministry, or her family ministry.  Currently residing in Kansas City, Missouri, Lynda plays a special part in her church, Mosaic Bible Fellowship, serving next to her husband Michael, who is the pastor.  “We are living out in our church the cross-cultural ministry that I am always talking about.  We do have a multi-ethnic church that we planted a few years ago.  And the Lord continues to bless it,” Lynda states.  Outside of church, Lynda stays busy with many other exciting developments in her life and ministry… “This is probably one of the busiest times I have ever had in ministry, with the new record, and the television specials, and the opry, and then our daughter got married this past weekend.  It’s just a lot.  We moved out of our home of sixteen years and moved to a smaller place, while we are building another home at some point.  And then our daughter moved from Kansas City…to Oregon.  And I can’t even remember a time that there was this much transition…but God gives me what I need to sustain this type of schedule and lifestyle.” But through it all, her genuine devotion to the Lord and love for her family stay her number one focus: “For me, my greatest treasure and joy is definitely my family.” Lynda says, “And our two daughters, Patience and Joy, I always love telling folks about them, and I love being their mama.” 

Believe it or not, Lynda did not become interested in music until she was in college.  That is when it was revealed to her that music was what God wanted her to pursue.  She explains, “I realized I had definitely been given a gift to help bring people together through my music and communicate that love and truth through the gospel in my songs.”  So, for Lynda, her new album is extra special because it was inspired from those early years, but also from those who came before her – those who were in the bondage of slavery. This album pays tribute to her black heritage.  Despite their difficult journey in slavery, freedom was found in their worship.  And this album is about that freedom.

Pilgrim Journey is such a special project to me because it is a bridge between my roots and my present–a musical coming home of sorts.”  Lynda says that what makes this album stand out from her other projects is, “Authenticity.  It’s not like I wasn’t authentic on the other albums…but this is the first record that I can remember in a very long time where I’m one-thousand percent free.  I’m singing for me – I’m singing for the Lord – but I’m singing for me in the sense I am just emulating myself.” 

In years past, Lynda explains that when she first started singing, she tried to emulate others such as Sandi Patti or Babbie Mason…“I just didn’t know who I was. Well, I know who I am.  And on this record, I just got to be completely, one-thousand percent me.  And whatever that sounds like, whether it’s your flow or not your flow, when I stand before God, I don’t have to acquiesce, I don’t have to do anything other than be me…What sets this apart – it has the potential to reach those who are in the church, who know the Lord, but it’s out there on some of the blues charts and folk charts.  It’s far reaching in the secular market, so I think that’s pretty cool.”

Inspired by Lynda’s childhood, this album was cultivated by the pandemic and brought to fruition by years of countless prayers. Randle states, “I just wanted to move people.  It’s just an album of lament and redemption.  I had people who said they have cried…It’s also redemptive. You know, giving them an opportunity to be on this journey together and learn a little bit more about each other.” Reminiscing about her childhood, she explains, “I went to a predominantly white Christian school and seeing in some of those audiences what kind of music white people and white churches sing, versus how I grew up in the black church with some of the music I sang, it was vastly different.  Randle reveals that the music mainly sung in the black church was very repetitive.  The songs had just a few words sung over again and again, unlike the hymns sung in the white church having three to four verses, which was shocking to her.  Speaking of the black church, Lynda says, “But every time they sang that particular word over again, you could tell in a different inflection in their voice or different sounds they made with their voice – whether it was a moan or a tone – they were saying something different.  Even though it was the same word, it was how they expressed that word each time they sang it, it would mean something different in their hearts…While the stanzas to all the hymns were written to explicitly explain exactly what you are thinking and how you are feeling, so there is nothing left to try and figure out what they are trying to say.”

Although Lynda says that choosing a favorite song off the album is like trying to choose a favorite kid, she particularly likes “I Want Jesus to Walk with Me.”  But there is another song that holds a special place in her heart and in the creation of the entire album.  Lynda explains, “ ‘Motherless Child’ – I don’t even know how to begin to describe that one…having a mom who loved me and prayed for me and helped me when things were hard and difficult and helped me through so much and missing her a lot.”  The creation of her new album was definitely a lengthy process that makes for an incredible story.  She remembers, “With the pandemic, I think I cried more about the racial disunity and unrest, not just in the world, but in the church, more than I cried about Covid.  And we had lost some people that we know to Covid…but for me it was more of how in the world could we name the name of Christ, and our brothers and sisters that we see every day, we don’t love, and say that we love the Lord, according to the book of 1 John.  I’m thinking, we’ve gotta do something.”  So, Lynda did do something.  In January of 2021, she called the great producer and communicator, Cindy Morgan, to meet up and write.  Lynda says that Cindy is the one who brought together “the best of the best musicians” for the album.   But the journey of this album began even before that.  Two and a half years ago, she worked on this special track with Jason Clark of The Nelons.  Lynda explains, “One of the other tracks that we worked on was ‘Motherless Child.’  And around ‘Motherless Child,’ all of these other songs just came as a result of that spiritual.  So, I always give Jason Clark his props because he is a brilliant producer.  Even though we didn’t go on with that particular record, that song made it off of that studio time…But the pandemic really brought it out.”

Along with her music that was inspired by songs of her younger years, Lynda has a desire for discipling young women that was also born out of her childhood.  And out of that desire came forth the Women After God’s Own Heart Conference.  “That was just born out of me not having older sisters.  Even though I had older sisters, they weren’t in a position for a long time growing up, to mentor me with the choices they were making…and so that desire to sister other young ladies came out of the way I didn’t have that when I was younger.  So, it just makes me want to have all these little sisters all over the world and love on them.” 

Ask anyone involved in ministry, or those just walking this journey of life – you get tired.  But Lynda has a secret to what keeps her refreshed throughout all her many ministries. She says that she is “in the Word every single day. There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not journaling, or praying, or writing, or reading God’s Word.  Not to over spiritualize or sound super spiritual, cause I’m not, ask my family – I’m quite flawed; but what keeps me on the straight and narrow and steady and consistent is me and my time with the Lord every day.”

I was blessed to hear so many great stories as Lynda reminisced over her journey of touring with the Gaithers.  Stories telling of the funny antics of David Phelps.  Stories telling of tearing toilet paper off Janet Paschal’s shoes before hitting the stage.  Stories about the amazing people she got to minister with during the making of the Gaither Homecoming videos, which Lynda says “will go down in the vault.”  Lynda remembers a few years ago… “Kim Hopper and I were talking…we were at a Gaither event, and we were just talking backstage about how incredible it has been to be a part of something so historically great.  We were there when George Younce and Vestal Goodman and Howard Goodman and Jake Hess and J.D. Sumner and Dottie Rambo…and all of these incredible people…people that I didn’t even know prior to beginning Gaither…because again, don’t forget I was raised in a predominantly black neighborhood, black church, so we would listen to a lot of the black Gospel artists.  I mean I didn’t know who Vestal and them were…I had no idea…You know Bill was filling arenas with eighteen to twenty-thousand people a night.  I mean it was like nothing I had ever seen or been a part of, before or since.  But I know I believe we have another wave coming.  I believe that.  I don’t know who or what.  But I believe that we are gonna see folks coming out in droves as it relates to healing in our land that needs to take place, particularly starting in our churches.” 

Lynda has walked through a great deal and is still walking a great journey in her life.  It is amazing how God is using her journey to touch countless lives.  “Things that we are doing today were just dreams and little desires in my heart that I know God put there,” Lynda says.  But what is the key to her special connection with every listener?  It is something she learned from her dad – authenticity.  Randle tells us, “My nickname was Chub, and my dad used to say to me, ‘Chub, if you don’t mean it, don’t sing it.’  I think that right there is the biggest lesson in music that I have learned.  If you don’t mean what you are singing, don’t sing it.  But when I can relate to a song, when I’ve had the experiences of a song, I’m able to communicate that more effectively to those who would hear the song.  That is why I am told a lot, ‘I feel it when you sing, or I can relate to that, or it seems like you meant it’…yeah, because I am not singing songs that I don’t mean or feel.  And I’ve done that.  And it fills that space on the record, but does it fill the space in your heart?  It’s not all about having a great groove or being popular…but it’s about where it meets that person who’s going to hear it.  Will it bring about all the peace and change they need to see in their life?”

It is quite clear that wherever Lynda’s ministries continue to take her, her music will leave a lasting impact for generations to come, standing as a testament to the journey she has traveled, and beckoning others to embrace the freedom found in Christ.  She spoke so many beautiful words of wisdom that she has learned over the years, so as we continue on our journeys, here are a few truths that we can glean: “That I don’t have to perform – God has reminded me time and time again. Not singing to perform, but living in a way where you are just trying to do everything right and perfect just because you want Him to love you more.  But He can’t love us any more than He already loves us as He does right now, which is hard for people to fathom…But that’s how we as humans are.  God loves us as much as He could ever love us.  I mean, that’s just unchanging, so it just blows my mind to think about that, that there’s nothing I can do to get Him to love me any more than He already does.  So that helps me when it comes to performance.  Now I do want to make Him happy.  I want Him to be pleased.  I want to do my best to walk in obedience and faith every day; and on my lowest, I know He’s right there to forgive and pick me up and start again, but it’s just wonderful knowing the security I have because He loves me.”

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Formed over 19 years ago by Deon & Susan Unthank originally as SoGospelNews.com, the site was birthed from an email discussion group by the same name. The SoGospelNews email discussion list was created by the Unthanks after the Singing News shut down its extremely popular discussion list. SoGospelNews started as a simple webpage listing artists, fans, individuals, etc. that were avid supporters of the newly formed SoGospelNews talk list. The site eventually took on printing news for Southern Gospel artists, and eventually took on reviewing the latest recordings from both signed and independent artists within the small genre. SoGospelNews became the most viewed Southern Gospel website on the Internet with over 4,000,000 hits per month.

The Unthank family are now involved in the site, as well as the addition of over two dozen staff writers. The website is based out of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. In April 2010, SoGospelNews changed its name to AbsolutelyGospel.com. The name change allows them to cover news items of not only Southern Gospel, but also Country Gospel, Inspirational, and Black Gospel.

On January 5, 2011, Susan Unthank passed away, leaving the website in control of Deon, their son, Chris, and their daughter Amy.