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Please Welcome Bill Tonnis 

Listen to Your Heart

Today I would like to introduce you to singer-songwriter Bill Tonnis.  I am so grateful for Bill and others who are writing and singing such beautiful music while spreading their inspiring spiritual message.

Bill has graciously agreed to “chat” with me a bit and answer a few questions.  Thank you so much for doing this Bill.

I know that in addition to being a singer – songwriter, you are a fully trained chaplain, retreat presenter, former Youth Minister and former radio news anchor. That’s quite a leap — from news anchor to your ministry. Tell us a little bit about how you came to be where you are today.

(Bill) Well…I could actually write a whole book to answer this! Let me try to give you the “abridged” version. Somewhere along the line of me being a radio news anchor and reporter in Cincinnati…I realized that this could not go on for the rest of my life. There was a growing discontent…which expanded into a full-blown misery. The trouble was…being a “radio news anchor” was all I wanted to be from college. So the question was: If I’m not “Bill Tonnis the radio news anchor”…then who am I?

On top of that…I was actually really good at what I did…and listeners would routinely tell me how much they enjoyed listening to me! It was one of the most listened to stations in town…the one that broadcasted the Reds and Bengals. But the more I wrestled with my inner turmoil…the more I realized that delivering bad news on the radio was not what I was intended to do. At least not any more.

All my attempts within radio to make changes…like doing more entertainment-type reporting, doing movie reviews, etc. did not change my inner misery. Then in March of 1997, an almost biblical event occurred: A record flooding of the Ohio River! I was sent out by the News Director to report from sites along the river for an entire week while the flood remained…wreaking havoc for many who lived along its banks. It was the “coup de grace” you might say. I came home after an exhausting week of long hours reporting misery upon misery…and I sank into my couch in total surrender. I literally cried out to God, “I give up.” And it was in the silence of my surrender that I heard a small voice in my heart say, “Get your guitar.”

Now this made no sense as I had not even touched my guitar in probably ten years. And I hadn’t really played it much since I was a boy. I had more or less stopped playing after grade school…succumbing to the belief that I wasn’t as good as other kids who played…and how could my guitar playing ever “get me anywhere” in the world?

But the voice was clear…and so I went to my bedroom and opened a dusty guitar case that contained my boyhood guitar…and I began to tinker around with it. I even started to write a song about the flood. I had only written two songs in my life, both to a girlfriend, first in high school and then in college. Now, at the age of 37 in 1997, I started feeling an inner “yes” to what I had so many years earlier had said “no” to.

The songs started coming…slowly but surely. It was a work in progress. Eventually they became prayer put to music. Song lyrics…melodies…would come like little gifts to unwrap. I had already been re-examining my Catholic faith for the last several years…reading all kinds of books. I had been struck by a scripture in which Jesus asked his followers, “Who do you say I am?” I suddenly felt that the question was personal. My quest to figure out the answer led me back to school. I started taking classes on the weekends at the College of Mount St. Joseph (now known as Mount St. Joseph University) in 2000…and in 2004 I had earned a Master’s degree in Religious and Pastoral Studies. I had a new dream of being a Youth Minister so that I could help young people in their quests to find a purpose in life. Meanwhile, I continued working in radio.

In 1999, I had joined a contemporary Christian band that played at a local Catholic Church. How it happened is another story for another time. But in 2003, the band put out an album with three of my original songs, including the title song, “What Kind of Love?” Soon my friends were telling me to do my own album. In 2007, I released my first album titled Listen to Your Heart. In the summer of ’07, I interviewed for a Youth Minister job at a local parish…and to my surprise I was offered the job! I shocked a LOT of people when I told them I was leaving my successful news anchor job…for youth ministry.

The next five years were difficult…but more rewarding than any other time of my life! Then amidst this calling…came a new one: chaplaincy. That is also another story for another time…but it all involves listening to the movements of my heart or soul or inner spirit…whatever you want to call it. I had been practicing “contemplative prayer”…sitting in silence…also Lectio Divina…where you read scripture and mull over a word or phrase that strikes your heart. These practices were instrumental in helping me make decisions.

So following album number two that I released in 2009 titled Live to Love, in 2012 I began my studies in Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at Good Samaritan Hospital here in Cincinnati. There are four units of 400 hours each, 300 in clinical visits and 100 in class, plus 8 overnights on-call per unit. Those are where you are the overnight chaplain at the hospital from 9:00 in the evening to 8:30 the next morning. There were very powerful encounters with the Sacred during those times!

I released my third album titled Give Praise and Thanks in 2013, and finished CPE in 2014. My position at the parish switched from youth ministry to pastoral care. I began visiting shut-ins and the local nursing home…bringing Communion or simply having pastoral visits. The mystery to me was in figuring why I was called to write songs but then seemingly called to do the opposite…to sit with the sick and suffering and be a compassionate listener. I had another spiritual epiphany one night while at a Mass when the priest (who was a good friend of mine) gave his homily. He spoke of a young woman in his parish who had recently died but who had received much relief from a man who would drop by her hospital room with his guitar and sing to her. At that moment I “heard” a small voice say to me: “What if I asked you to sing for an audience of one?” Well…I thought…yeah…I could do that! I told my CPE supervisor and he made that part of my goals…to bring my guitar on my clinical visits. So that began my practice of bringing my guitar on my visits and sang my songs to those I ministered to.

My other role at the parish in overseeing the social justice programs, I also began taking part in Jail Ministry. That has become one of the most fulfilling ministries of all. Who would have thought back on that Friday afternoon in the first week of March in 1997 when I heard, “Get your guitar”, that all this would have happened? Not me!

I released my 4th album in 2017 titled, “Mercy Reigns”…which is mostly made up of songs spawned by my ministry to those who are ill or are hurting. And I’m also just about to publish my first book! It’ll be a devotional for an entire year titled, Mercy Reigns: A Daily Devotional of Compassion, Comfort and Healing. It came about through my blog in which I do scripture reflections each week day. I started that practice back in 2008 when I emailed reflections to my youth group. Eventually it turned into the blog. So instead of writing bad news like I did on the radio…I’m now writing Good News every day!

(Genie) I appreciate you sharing your story with us.  I love to hear peoples’ stories of finding their calling.

I know you are a contemplative Christian. Briefly, how do you live as a contemplative in the modern world?

(Bill) I have a regular meditation practice which is very important. Each morning I do “Centering Prayer” for 20 minutes. Centering Prayer is a type of meditation done in the Christian tradition. I attempt to get in another session later in the day if I can. I also practice mindfulness…attempting to be present as much as possible.

Most people tend to be lost in their minds and their non-stop thoughts. It’s good to focus on what is happening each moment. Chaplaincy was very helpful in this area as we were trained in the “ministry of presence” or the “sacrament of the present moment” as it was termed by the Jesuit priest Jean-Pierre de Caussade who lived in the 1700’s. It’s good to remind myself that God is always present…so I must be present as well. My “monkey-mind” (as Richard Rohr has called it) needs to slow down and stop periodically. Listening to talks and reading books by Eckhart Tolle have been very helpful to me in this regard.

(Genie) Thank you for mentioning these specific teachers.  I think that will be helpful for our readers. Bob and I incorporate the teachings of Richard Rohr and Eckhart Tolle into our own practice.

Tell us about “Love Will Always Lead You Home.” This has to be my favorite. I listen to it often for its gentle message of grace and encouragement.

(Bill) “Love Will Always Lead You Home” is one of my favorites as well! I’m flattered that it means a lot to you. It reminds me of Psalm 23. We all “walk through the valley of darkness” more than once in our life-journeys. It’s the human condition. We all share that experience. My “dark valleys” have turned out to be paradoxically the most meaningful and transformative experiences of my life. Like Jonah…we have all experienced not wanting to do what deep down we know we are being called to do. We don’t want to move out of our comfort zones! But sometimes we need to experience helplessness and a lack of control…like being swallowed into the belly of a whale…to be directed to a place of transformation and new life. I have gone through this type of thing many times…especially when I had a ruptured appendix back in 1998. That’s when I had a Spiritually Transformative Experience (STE) in the hospital…when I knew…that I knew…that I knew…that God loved me exactly as I was…and that I didn’t have to earn it. I knew that Love was leading me…and that I had nothing to fear. Love would certainly lead me where I needed to go…and eventually safely home…back to the Love that created me. That’s my message for you, too!

(Genie) Thank you so much Bill.  Now, I want to leave our readers with Love Will Always Lead You Home.

Bill’s music including his most recent album, Mercy Reigns and Listen to Your Heart. You can see them by clicking on these album titles.

Interview with Robert Robbins, author of Revealed Vol. 2: What the Righteous Desire to See: and The Revelation of Jesus Christ to St. John, The Literal Authorized Version

Today we have my interview with Robert O. Robbins, author and my husband (Bob). Last summer he released the Kindle version of REVEALED – Vol. 1 – Prophetic Language: and The Prophet’s Dictionary. To mark the release of REVEALED – Vol. 2 – What the Righteous Desire to See: and The Revelation of Jesus Christ to St. John, The Literal Authorized Version I asked Bob a few questions.  I tried to get him to do this on Kindle Live, but he’s camera shy.

Thank you for agreeing to do this Bob.  I’m going to start by getting the obvious question out-of-the-way first. Why The Revelation?  It’s not the easiest subject matter you could have chosen.

No, it certainly has not been “easy” to find how best to comprehend the message being sent to the believers of the Christian Church, especially when recognizing that the book of The Revelation and its parent book where we usually find it, the Christian Holy Bible,  are recognized as the most popular yet most controversial books which have ever existed. When I was a child, listening to my family’s nightly readings of The Bible I remember hearing brief discussions about how every book in the book would be read faithfully until we got to the last book, The Revelation. The way it was written, its picturesque language and nearly fairy tale like scenes and theme was considered just too complex for us to approach as a common, untrained American family. Besides, the other books stated much more clearly how to follow Jesus, about his life and the history leading to him, and why we should. But, to answer your question, I did not choose to attempt to understand and explain this book. Through the years as I grew into adulthood I found that the avoidance of this one book was not unusual. Many people found it simply too “other worldly” to be understandable including Bible and seminary students and their teachers, preachers, priests, and other religious leaders in churches and denominations.

I did not choose to interpret the figurative language of The Revelation, it rather was chosen for me. Here’s what I mean. When I started college, I also started attending a church regularly for the first time. Though I grew up in a faithful believing family, due to unspoken conflict we did not attend an established church as a family. I was surprised to find that most of the students at the state funded and run school had no idea of what the message of Jesus was really all about, much less understanding the allegoric language that The Bible was written. In fact, most of my fellow college peers did not even understand some of the more common phrases of the churches’ language. Words like: “Saved.” “Born again.” “Faith.” and many, many more became stumbling blocks to those who had no or little background in the Christian faith. Therefore, in an attempt to follow the spirit instilled within me by my grandmother a few years earlier, I began gathering words of the Christian faith and recording them very methodically never imagining where it would lead.

What I found was that the church world who claim to be following Jesus as the Christ had through the centuries became so divided and controverted in its ways of comprehending the faith, themselves, that no one glossary of terms could possibly be adequate for all Protestant/Catholic sects. Thus, I asked the spirit what to do and the answer came in a very simple way where a scripture was shown me that the “key” to understanding scriptures were in the scriptures themselves. I followed this thought for several years, gathering one word definition after another as I attended a multitude of churches in various denominations. Finally it started making sense. The parables which Jesus used to tell his flock about how to create and enter the Kingdom of God on Earth was also the way Jesus, the “Master Teacher,” taught his disciples how to understand the messages “hidden” within the chronicles of the Hebraic records. While a daunting task, to say the least, it became obvious that in order to comprehend the message of true Christianity it would first be necessary to understand the alliterations of these records, which today includes The Revelation.

By the time I came to this realization, I had already recorded over 40 figurative words with provable scriptural definitions which had been gathered by my visits to the widely scattered churches through the years. But, to be able to explain the process as a complete unit I needed an example which all interested were familiar with and that would be easily obtainable. Thus the choice of The Revelation. But I did not have enough words “defined” to be able to change the words from figurative to literal, so I determined how the process worked on how the words were defined in The Bible and proceeded to find a few volunteers to help me search the scriptures for more. The result is what is now available in the Amazon/Kindle bookstore.

I know you spent a lot of time researching this book.  Could you tell our readers a little bit about the process?

The process, when explained, may seem somewhat simple; however the motivation to complete this process without allowing frustration of not finding some definitions caused me to want to cheat or perhaps just give up the search was at time overwhelming. The process is easiest explained by using an example from the book of The Revelation, itself. In the very first chapter John is given a “vocabulary” lesson when he is told what the “stars” and “candlesticks” represented in the vision he just had and was currently involved in. That’s simple enough. But not all pictures or allegorical words in the scriptures are so clearly defined as being explained by an angelic being saying “this is that.” So the search requires delving into the scriptures intensely to find parallelisms, poetic phrases and other language arts skills which indicate that one word actually represents another. I was fortunate enough to have access to the Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance and other research material, but this search was done before I had access to a computer or the internet. Thus, much time was required from both me and many volunteers who helped me in this search. 
What is the “prophetic language” and how did you begin to learn about it?
The prophetic language is a collection of spiritual allegorical words and phrases which are scattered throughout the Bible. Jesus used this picturesque language to try to explain to his followers things about the unseen spiritual world through his parables. Nearly every book of the Bible contains some definitions of the figurative words used in the dreams, visions and parables found in the scriptures. Many denominations recognize this but have fallen short of finding all of the multitude of words needed to have good comprehension of the message. Once I recognized this challenge I felt it important to do nothing else before building a glossary of those words with provable definitions found only in the canonized Christian scriptures.
The original form of this material called What the Righteous Desire to See:  The Revelation Revealed and the Prophets’ Dictionary was first published over 25 years ago. Why was it so important to you to re-release this at this time?
Hope.  The world is in a constant state of chaos. It has been for most of recorded history which I think is about 6000 years. Sadly enough, as predicted by Jesus, today Christians are right in the middle of this chaos and much of the time we are the cause of it. There have been 2000 years pass since Jesus, the Christ, gave his message here on Earth. That’s two spiritual days that the world has been in labor awaiting the birth of the Kingdom of God here on Earth as predicted by Hosea (6:2). While my book has remained undiscovered by the reading public, and avoided by the mainline publishers because it does not follow the majority of the established world denominations’ interpretations of prophecy, I have never lost my belief that this book of The Revelation of understanding can help bring a form of peace and unity to mankind which we have never known before.
In my book I have placed footnotes updating several phrases and comments which explain where we are at today in The Revelation prophecy. Things like the Islamic/Muslim extremists continuing their “assignment” of being the “scourge” or correctors of the Earth. The conservative Christian’s role in electing Donald Trump as the U.S. President even while many Christians believe this man to possibly be an antichrist. Even the tearing down of the Berlin wall between the east and west were summarily predicted in my first publication of this book. Though not stated in phrases like, “the wall will come down,” the spirit of the question is there and the footnotes I’ve added to the book attempt to point these places out to give evidence of how accurate this systematic understanding of prophecy is.
But the whole reason for this book, or John’s record of The Revelation itself, or any other prophecy is to give correction where needed and to give hope. The hope comes not in the pages throughout these writings which describe the millennia of destruction caused by the separation of humans from God, but instead it comes at the realization that eventually mankind comes to realize that the acceptance of the Christ life as our own will lead us to the long hoped for Kingdom of God as a part of the Universal Kingdom of Heaven.
 
Thank you Bob.  Both books in the Revealed set are available in the Amazon Kindle Store.  
 
Today and tomorrow only — June 15th and 16th, REVEALED – Vol. 2 – What the Righteous Desire to See: and The Revelation of Jesus Christ to St. John, The Literal Authorized Version is available FREE! in the Amazon Kindle Store. 
 
We feel a sense of urgency to get this information out to give people hope during these difficult times in which we live.  You can help us do this by leaving a review on Kindle, reblogging this interview and sharing it on social media.