Copyright 2008  B. L. Schappell


God has a plan for each individual’s life, and to each one He has given the power to choose.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that some of us turn from His promptings and opt out of the program, choosing instead to make our own way, independently of His guidance.  In my case, I believe God’s rescue plan involved employing a human agent as a “contract angel” to work His merciful intervention.


 I was getting antsy.  More than three years had passed since my rock’n’roll band broke up, following a most incredible two-year ride.   The four of us had been nearly inseparable, playing all sorts of venues, culminating with two unforgettable recording sessions, a contract with Cameo Records and, at the tender age of just seventeen, an unbelievable summer for four blokes, fresh out of high school and on the road to promote our record.   But that was then.  This was now, and I was awfully antsy.


Guitarist George had enlisted in the US Navy, sax player Ken had elected to further his education, so drummer Doc and I retreated to our separate homes and sought real jobs.  I sat in with a couple of local bands, but nothing substantial came of it.  I continued writing music and recording the best of what fell out of my head, with the intent of doing something with it, although I wasn’t sure what that “something” might be.  There was no specific plan – only a restlessness to make that “something” happen.


Mostly, I was antsy to play again in a good band that had a solid sound and a plan.  I wanted to re-taste the camaraderie and to once more be a part of something bigger than the sum total of its components.  I was just about as antsy as a guy can get, and I could no longer contain myself.  Of course, my Heavenly Father had His plan for my life, even then, although  I didn’t know it, and likely would not have cared.  I was already in a sideways slide on life’s highway.


It was March of 1965 when I dialed the New York office of the William Morris Agency, the foremost entertainment booking agency at that time.  A courteous, articulate account executive named Wally Amos asked how he could be of assistance.  When I told him who I was and that I wanted to go back out on the road, even as a back-up guitarist, his tone softened and to my surprise, he offered me a generous morsel of unsolicited, sage advice.


More than forty years have dissipated since this brief encounter, so rendering a verbatim accounting of our conversation would be impossible.  But, as long as I live, I will never forget Wally’s genuineness, his concern, and what would ultimately prove to be the pure wisdom of his counsel.  There was more, but the essence of it went something like this:


“Listen, man, you sound like a really decent guy,” he began, “but I’ve gotta tell you, you don’t want to go back out on the road; not now, not these days.   It’s not the same as it was even four years ago, when you were last out there,“ he admonished, citing the increased prevalence of drugs, a new wave of predators, and a startling menu of unmentionable activities associated with the previous two.


“This is an entirely different ballgame from the one you remember,” Wally continued, sounding much like a caring uncle.  “How about looking for a good local band, or even forming one yourself?   You really want to think about what I’m saying here before you go ahead with your plans, “ he concluded.


Initially, I was disappointed with this entertainment agent’s response to my inquiry, because his job, as I understood it, was to facilitate my request to put me back to work in the music industry.  Instead, he was talking me out of buying what he should have been selling me.  I was puzzled as to why.  What to do with Wally’s advice was a monstrously-difficult decision facing this 22-year-old, who had already tasted the fruit and was hankering for another bite.  Nevertheless, I thanked him for his time and his input.  He wished me well and then we hung up.  Many times over the years since that conversation, I’ve wondered whether Wally knew the Lord, and even whether he …


At that time, I wasn’t remotely acquainted with God on a personal level, nor was I the slightest bit interested in making any alterations to my life’s style or direction, or who was to be the captain of my ship.  I was determined to continue the slow-ride, downhill slide that had begun some time back.


How does our wise God deal with stubborn rebelliousness?  Well, when the manna-weary Israelites clamored incessantly for “the fleshpots of Egypt”, God ultimately gave them their fill of the object of their obsession.  That’s precisely how He dealt with me, as well.  The road I had chosen only led me around in circles, banging into things, hurting people, alienating what little family I possessed, and discrediting my Maker.  I really left Him no viable alternative but to permit me to run my course until the batteries were dead, the tank was empty, and I finally surrendered a broken, bruised, exhausted life to His custody.


One glimmer of hope still shone through the darkness, though.  After much deliberation, I had taken Wally’s counsel to heart, back then, and forsaken the selfish notion to go back out on the road, which most assuredly would have resulted in the irretrievable wreckage of my young life.  By this time, I had initiated the serious pursuit of a better road than the one that had put dents in my car, in my wallet, in my relationships, and in my very psyche.


Do you recall when a young Solomon, who could easily have grasped at power and coveted riches, instead asked God to endow him with wisdom and understanding?  So pleased was God with Solomon’s choice that He blessed the young ruler with all of the above!   I now praise God for the relentless drawing of His Holy Spirit through those times, blended with the wisdom imparted by His “contract angel”, Wally Amos because, as a result, I began seeking God’s counsel on a somewhat consistent basis and, consequently, was making wiser choices regarding the direction of my life.


Several months after my “Wally encounter”, I had founded a small business which, after three-plus turbulent years, was walking with a limp but, by God’s grace, still had a pulse.  However, once I surrendered to the one Who had relentlessly pursued me like the Hound of Heaven that He truly is, and once I had appointed Him its Senior Partner in 1969, He was able to bless incredibly and grow that business into one which He could use as an effective instrument and witness for the Kingdom.


Occasionally, I would catch myself briefly lamenting my abandoning the pursuit of a career in the music field, but those were the times when selected memory-bites of Wally’s gentle counsel brought me back to reality, returning me to “center” once more.   The fruit was on the tree, as my business endeavors prospered under God’s guidance.  Thank you, Mr. Amos, for caring, and praise You, Lord, for your tweaks, pokes, and promptings!


Numerous opportunities to make music through various church-related associations presented themselves from time to time and, to a great extent, these seemed to scratch that itch well enough to keep those old “antsys” from returning.


As the years rolled on, subsequent business ventures effectively swallowed up the remainder of my time and most of my energy, crowding the out any opportunity or inclination to make music.  However God continued to use my business endeavors to advance His work and richly bless my family in the process.


I really would have liked to pick and grin a bit with some happy, bouncy music once in a while – strictly for the therapeutic benefits – but I had no desire to disturb what proved to be working well for God and for me, too!  I had absolutely nothing when He came into my life, and if He was happy with me in this capacity, then who was I to upset His apple cart?  His temporal rewards and the tremendous personal satisfaction derived from simply being a willing, productive instrument of my Lord were more than adequate compensation for this grateful little sack of dirt!


But, I never could have imagined what God had reserved for me in my later years. After relinquishing the musical ambitions of my youth in deference to a more conventional life of working and witnessing, it was only after my retirement that God’s blessings suddenly began to multiply beyond any of my reasonable expectations.


Since turning over the reins of my industrial sales business to my very capable general manager, the Lord dabbed a generous helping of Cool Whip on my retirement pie by steering into my life’s path some delightfully unique musicians.  Now, “Marvelous” Markie plays the sweetest slide guitar; Rick can bend those harmonica notes with the best; and Stan lays down a solid bass foundation.  Add to this mix my old-time scratching and scraping on the guitar and, billed as The New Earth Band, we joyfully deliver God’s Kingdom News, wrapped in a loose-and-easy, hopping-good-time package of throwback country Gospel music wherever the Gospel might be welcome.

 NEB Laugher 0877

This band has that full sound and the genuine camaraderie that I had been antsy for a generation back.  But now, my “plan” is verily my Master’s plan, rather than my own.  We don’t make things happen – He does!  We are merely His willing disciples.


Now, as for Mr. Amos, I have never personally met this man who unquestionably, long ago, offered me the soundest advice of my life, nor have I spoken to him since that day in 1965.  But quite some time back, I was watching a TV talk show when out came the most pleasantly placid, middle-aged man, dressed in floral-print shirt and straw hat.  The host introduced his guest as Wally Amos, a former talent agent with the William Morris Agency. 


Through his serene smile, this gentleman told how he used to bake batches of home-made cookies in his kitchen and then discretely use little gift bags of his treats as “door-openers” when calling on clients and prospects.  But after a goodly number of successful years in his field, Mr. Amos lamented that the entire entertainment industry underwent a metamorphosis, and his profession became a completely different ballgame from the one he had once so thoroughly enjoyed. 


That comment in particular bore an eerily familiar ring to my ears!  Meanwhile, those cookies of his were earning rave reviews wherever he went, accompanied by suggestions that he package them and market them professionally.  So, that’s precisely what Mr. Amos did.  Oh, yes, he did!


By now, you may have surmised, and correctly so, that Wally Amos, the caring account executive and suspected “contract angel” who was instrumental in gently redirecting this stiff-necked, post-pubescent, loose cannon back onto a safer, wiser path in 1965, is indeed one and the same as Wally Amos, the creator of the world-renowned Famous Amos Chocolate Chip Cookies enterprise!  Although I’m really not much of a snacking-type of guy, I admit that, for very personal reasons, I do hold a warm and fuzzy place in my heart for that little saffron-colored bag of goodies!


Mr. Amos, if you’re out there, I sure would love to buy you lunch some time.  Really! Oh, what a conversation that would be!  I’d look you square in the eye and tell you just how much your counsel, and the courage it took to voice it, still means to me to this day.  But most of all, I’d ask whether you know our Maker as I’ve grown to know Him; and if not, whether you would let me tell you of His goodness, and that He still has an incredible plan for your life, too!