Saturday, November 5, 2016

Interview with Solo Artist : Penny Clevenger

Good afternoon, everyone!

I don't know about you, but I am really enjoying this cool weather.  I know what you're all waiting for, so grab a hot cup of coffee (or tea, if you're like me and not a coffee drinker) and let's get started.  Today we will be featuring a solo artist from Boaz, AL -- Penny Clevenger!

     1.  Tell us a little bit about your solo ministry :
"Penelope (Gillilan) Clevenger is solo artist with a composing style all her own. She uses her love for various genres (styles) of music to appeal to an open audience of various ages with a timely gospel message. Her newest cd, Journey Home, depicts this with melodies of blue grass, country gospel, southern gospel, praise and worship, and there is even a little jazz. Each one reflects a part of our journey here in this life toward our heavenly home and is based upon her own faith and life experiences. Her message is a clear one of faith which gives us the courage, encouragement and faith to continue with Christ, trusting Him for our strength and deliverance, while clinging to the hope and surrendered trust in the Savior and sovereign King."

     2.  Tell us a little bit about yourself :
"Penelope, also known as Penny to her family and close friends, is the oldest child and only daughter of Dewayne and Laura Gillilan, formerly of Gadsden, Al., and now retired in Boaz, Al. She is the granddaughter of Walter and Stella Murray of Springville, Al., and J.C. and Pauline Gillilan of Boaz, Al, all deceased. She has been singing with her parents, traveling choirs and praise bands on the public stage and in churches, since she was five years of age. Dad Dewayne has played piano for several well-known gospel groups as a stand-in on occasion. In his earlier years he also sang with the Hightone Boys of Al. Penelope has two younger brothers, both of which have sang CCM and/or Southern Gospel music for several years. Kevin was with Keith Lancaster for a time and also had his own group, The Vocal Boyz, and traveled extensively. Jamie sang with a Pop Group at an early age and spent several years with a Southern Gospel group from Gadsden, Al., which also included Nashville’s very own, Gordon Motes, former pianist for Gaither’s and Lee Greenwood, also a recording artist and producer. Incidentally, Gordon Motes produced Penelope’s first cassette in 1988 in his home studio. She has studied music since the age of 6 years old and has been composing since she was 13 years of age, penning over 400 songs. She was married to Bishop Steve Clevenger of Clay, Alabama in March of 1980. Steve is an Ordained Bishop of the Church of God (Cleveland, TN), a licensed Christian counselor and has served with the Church of God State Council, Education and Ministerial Licensing as well as the Missions Board for Missouri. They have served in ministry together for 36 years in Alabama, California and Missouri serving in various ministry roles: Children’s Ministries, Youth Ministries, Assistant Pastors, Teachers, and Senior/Lead Pastors. Penelope has formerly served as a professional business manager, financial advisor, owned a childcare facility and piano studio, is a public speaker and/or minister to churches, community groups, women’s groups, and as CEO of Heaven in Sight Ministries since conception in 1988, enjoys encouraging and mentoring young girls and women alike, to become future Christian mentors and leaders in society. She has always desired to own her own restaurant, full service wedding service and a professional training center for abused/battered women in transition from home to the workforce. Additional desires for ministry include writing for other popular groups/soloists across a spectrum of genres."

     3.  Can you share your Testimony with us? 
"Penelope was raised in a southern Christian home, in the Bible belt, with strong morals and values. What she learned at an early age was that if you wanted others to have respect and value your witness as a Christian, then you first must respect and value yourself by honoring God’s Word and trusting His guidance. You must be willing to follow before you can lead. “I probably got saved every week for the first ten years of my life.” She says laughing. “Like every teen wanting to explore and experience new things, I went through a brief time of rebellion and wanting my own way. It ended with my walking out of the house for a road trip to Florida with friends and an experience that has forever stayed with me and changed my life. This time when I prayed and asked forgiveness…it was a total commitment and I believe truly altered the direction of my life. It is because of praying parents, grandparents, other relatives and a loving Bible-teaching church that I knew how to call on Jesus. It’s because of a His unconditional love, mercy and grace that He reached down and saved me from the enemy and his plan to take my life and that of my friend. He extended His hand saved us both that day. There have been multiple times throughout my life that He has showed up and given me healing mercies and shelter in the midst of life’s storms. I share enjoy sharing these testimonials of His grace and mercy so that others will see He is truly a loving Savior.”

     4.  What got you started singing Southern Gospel Music?
My parents, I suppose. Well, this is basically what I was raised on. I sang Southern gospel with my parents for 11 years before I married. When I first went on my own, CCM was just breaking out and I had already began to compose it long before then and even sharing from time to time. But it truly wasn’t easily accepted in the church world for several years after its introduction. I still sing a variety of Christian music, but the older I grow the more I appreciate and revert to my roots. Actually, it’s ourroots because most all music began with hymns. To be honest, I wake up at various hours of the morning hearing the new songs, penning them and composing the music and it inevitably becomes a part of the Southern Gospel genre, which now is a much broader spectrum with style, by the way.”

     5.  What is your favorite book of the Bible? 
Wow…I’m not sure I have one because they are all great. Each one has a different way of sharing His truth. I love the story of creation in Genesis and how He just speaks and everything comes into existence. I love the stories of courage, faith, strength and victories. I love His promises to us from beginning to end. I love the Psalms. David was an eloquent writer who wrote with passion. I love the Proverbs and the wisdom of direction. I love the various women of the Bible and how God used them to minister and lead others. I love that He showed us two very different personalities through Mary and Martha, and that both were good, yet if we are not careful to focus on Him, we will lose sight of what is important. I love the stories of His sacrifices for us and that He paid the ultimate price for our salvation. I especially love the prelude to the ending when He will return for His bride, the church, and together we will reign with Him for eternity. There are so many incredible stories of adventure, culture, history, science, mathematics, chemistry, English and literature, that if this was the only school and book we ever had, we could successfully live our life.”

     6.  What is your current favorite song that you sing? Why is it special to you?
Without second thought it is I Surrender it All. I have always been an individual that feels things deeply and often carries them around like a camel with his burden. I suffered a perforated ulcer which almost took my life. As most know, this is truly a very dangerous stage of an ulcer. I coded twice, was in and out of hospital for a period of 6-8 weeks and lost over 30 lbs. during the process. Although I do not believe that my consistent burdens were the cause, it was during this time that I lived in a state of constant prayer and communion with God that He showed me the importance of surrendering my all….everything! My heart, mind and soul, my finances, my physical needs, my burdens and worries, my children and grandchildren along with their needs, our ministry and pleasing people, our extended families, our dreams and failures, the list goes on. We all deal with these in life and I thought I had surrendered them, but He showed me that I had not. This song was birthed from all of it.”

     7.  Who has been one of (or some of) the biggest influences in your SGM singing? 
My first heroine of the industry was Reba Rambo McIntyre. My voice was very similar in range as a young girl and teen. I have always loved and admired Karen Wheaton for boldness as a leader and singer. But my heroines were not always southern gospel singers. I was an avid Karen Carpenter and Whitney Houston girl. I enjoy a little Connie Francis. That’s from way back! But as a writer…nobody can hold a candle to Dottie Rambo. Oh, what a gift! Nobody says it better.”

     8.  What are your hobbies?
Wow. I love spending time with my grandbabies. We currently have four, one boy and three girls, ranging in ages 3-10. I enjoy time with my son and daughter. I like to hear about their interests and the things they care about. I have a few special friends that I enjoy getting together with from time to time. I love my dates with my husband. These are very special to me whether we go out or stay at home and cuddle. I especially enjoy time with our parents because these are very precious and time is flying by us. I enjoy blogging and reading other’s blogs, especially my niece, Taylor’s blog. She is extremely insightful for her age and such an incredible role model for young ladies. I love listening to various genres of music. Some you quickly turn off. Others you just soak up and enjoy. You can truly learn a lot about life and society by listening to the words of a song. I adore reading and I could make a living out of traveling.”

     9.  What is something that most people do not know about you? 
That I love to sit and watch people. I get intrigued by watching others and trying to figure out what makes them tick. Also, I am a bariatric patient. I use to weigh 324 lbs. and had various health issues. I had surgery, roux and y, lost 224 lbs. and maintain my weight. I have to take a regimen of bariatric vitamins every day and sometimes medically boost with prescribed extra IU’s of certain nutrients because my body no longer properly absorbs what is required. It has eliminated several medical issues, but I still have others that have caused a disability that requires some assistance and rest.”

     10.  What is one of the funniest things that has happened to you when traveling?
Oh! I probably shouldn’t tell on myself, but I was traveling from Albuquerque, NM to Denver, CO. I had my parents and my uncle, who isn’t much older than me. We always had a blast together and this was one of those times. Myron, my uncle and dad’s baby brother, saw a sign on the interstate that said, “Vegas 21 miles west”. Well, I adore city lights and had always wanted to see the bright lights of Vegas. Nothing really there for me otherwise, but the lights. Myron had also, so when he saw the sign, we began to rationalize that it just made sense to go through there since we were this close. So everyone agreed and I took the turn toward Vegas. We were laughing and singing…having a good time. I was clocking the mileage so when 21 miles had come and gone, I knew that I must have missed something. I pulled into a little store, got out and went in feeling a little apprehensive being in strange territory. When I entered I did an immediate assessment of who was in the building and where. Just a thing I do for safety. The owner hollered at me and asked what he could help me with. I began to tell him that my family and I were trekking from NM to CO and saw the sign Vegas. We had always wanted to see what it looked like so we took the exit. It said 21 miles, but we have gone passed that. By this time the three men in the place were in stitches (laughing so hard that one had fell off his stool and was slapping his legs from laughing so hard). I knew before he told me that this was most definitely not that Vegas. He began to tell me that we were in Vegas, but not Las Vegas, NV. Needless to say, I felt as small as helpless worm slowly crawling out of that store and back to the car. When I began to tell Myron and the parents, the humor of it all hit me and we sat there laughing and crying until I was able to get my composure and drive again. It is a humorous story, but it is so much like us and our spiritual walk with God. There is a straight and narrow path. He has told us that in the Word. But we are so easily distracted by the bright lights (our desires) that we often lose our way and become lost in the journey. When this happens, if we will just stop, swallow our pride and ask Him for help…ask Him to help us refocus on the things that matter…He will put us back on the right path to Him and our heavenly reward.”

Penny, is there anything else you'd like to add for our readers?  
“God has given us a road map for life…His Holy Word…our Bible. This is one journey that we all must use our map. It’s not saved in the GPS in your car. It must be read and followed to the letter. He tells us that we will have difficulties, temptations and trials, but He also gives us many examples of His divine providence and deliverance. This is the most important journey we will ever take…our journey home. There are no second chances. We only get one. Every good thing comes from Him. Nobody will ever love us like He has loved and nothing in this life, even that thing we adore the most, will ever compare to what He has in store. I, personally, have never had a circumstance or situation that He didn’t help solve. I’ve have had His healing touch so many times that I stand amazed. I have seen Him work miracles for myself and others that to the human eye seemed impossible. He promises that He will do for you the same He will do for me. He loves us all equally and so much more that we can comprehend. The most exciting news is that He is coming back for us. He isn’t deserting us, this isn’t all there is. Regardless of what our life is here on this earth, there is an eternity waiting and we have a choice to live with Him forever or continue in eternal hell. I choose Him. I choose life. This journey is what we make it. For me, it’s just another road trip…my journey home. Earth is not my home. I’m not looking for aliens because I am the alien on earth. My home is Heaven.”

Wow!  Penny, thank you so much for spending a few minutes with us and allowing us a peek into your life as a solo artist!  Readers, before you head out, be sure to click on over and find Penny on Facebook.  Who else has been really enjoying the interviews lately?  We have plenty more in the works, so keep an eye out for updates.  

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