Chapter Two: Worship Doesn’t Require a Stage or Mic

So, in the fall of 2009 I got accepted into Christ For the Nation’s Institute in the school of worship, a week before fall semester started.

I had wavered back and forth all that late summer about applying.  It took watching a favorite worship artist’s testimonial about attending the school (Kari Jobe, now Carnes) for me to finally make the last minute decision to attend.

While in Hardesty, OK that summer, I had spent frequent times at the altar in my brother’s church, praying and asking God for His will regarding attending CFNI.  After hearing Kari’s testimony, I felt that the Lord confirmed what He was saying to me:  “This is the way, walk in it.”  So, I sent in my application, and I got my acceptance, and that mid-August, my brother helped me move to Dallas, Texas with all my belongings, as his family moved further South toward Houston to pastor a new church.

It was another chapter, another new beginning, and I was hoping I made the right decision. While I was wrestling it all out, it was just like God to give me grace for the transition time.

When I got on campus, I learned I was assigned a whole apartment to myself due to my allergies to strong scents.  The positive side of having my own place was that I had extra space to unpack all my stuff.  My place didn’t look at all like a college dorm room. It looked like a home.  With all its hominess, it became a hospitable hang-out for my colleages and I to study for our tests, to practice worship, and/or to just fellowship.  That was grace.

There were also some obstacles that grace helped me to overcome with this apartment. Ironically, in spite of my allergy/breathing issues, for the first few days, I was living in an apartment that smelled like minty mildew, and I had no option of moving to another room. As a result, I had to learn to trust God with my health concerns for the school year, as I prayed for protection for my breathing. Thankfully, the smell eventually went away or was covered up by my neighbor’s cooking.

However, for some reason, I was sick that whole year at CFNI with respitory and sinus issues.  In a weird way. I sense this was God’s grace, as well, keeping me in the center of His perfect will.

Nothing just happens.  So, I tried to see what God was doing in that situation.

God knew I was using the rest of my teacher’s retirement to attend CFNI.  He knew my heart was to grow as a worship leader.  So, if I was struggling to sing in worship because of coughing and congestion, I knew He had a purpose. I had too much peace for it to be anything else, but His simple keeping hand.  Many were my plans, but His purpose was about to win over it all.

At times it seemed like God didn’t want me singing on the stage at all. I sensed Him telling me not to audition.  For times of uncertainty when I did, my auditions were never quite right due to those sinus/respiratory setbacks in my voice or insecurity of whether or not I was hearing and obeying God’s will. 

There were so many amazing and talented worshipers around me. I wasn’t surprised that I never got picked for a worship team. But, it was the PEACE that made me realize it was God’s perfect will that I NOT be chosen to be on a team.

Instead, He wanted me to die to that performance mentality.  He was asking me to walk a different way in my worship, to not stare at the stage, but to seek His face.

So, that first semester, I spent a lot of my time in the prayer room.  I soon realized God was calling me to worship AND prayer.  To me my personal worship times were essentially prayer times, anyway, set to music. Apparently, going to worship school only clarified that I was called to spend quality time with Jesus face to face in that secret place, ministering to Him and communing with Him in prayer.  That kind of worship training didn’t require a stage, just a posture and willingness to bow my life lower and to go deeper in prayer and intercession to meet with Him.

That winter I served my worship internship in the prayer room on a team. Ironically, even on the team God was asking me to go deeper, to crucify my flesh.  There were two younger girls who loved singing and worshiping who were not even studying worship leading yet.  Would I be willing to pass them the mic, so they could sing and glorify God in song?  Would I let them sing when I wanted to, instead?

I have to admit the Father ultimately tried my faith in these ways. I wrestled.  Why couldn’t I sing?  Did my voice sound bad?  Why had God brought me here to worship school if He wasn’t going to let me sing? I had to die to these insecurities to obey God when I didn’t understand.  I felt God’s peace and knew I could trust Him.  But crucifying my flesh was a process.  I wrestled for several weeks with insecurity. 

Then one evening God showed me His purpose.  Our keyboard player on the team was missing.  Would I fill in for him?   I’d never played keys with a band before.  I was stretched in my faith. But, that night, I trusted God and stepped out in faith to do something I had always wanted to do. I played the keys that night.  WITH GOD ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE!

God showed me that if I’m willing, He can use me whenever and wherever He needs me.  I just need to always trust Him and have faith to say yes when He leads me.

I learned that fall semester more practically that worship isn’t about the stage or the mic.  Worship is only and always about seeking God and honoring and obeying Him, growing closer to Him in Spirit and Truth.

It’s amazing to me that this was yet only the beginning of what He had planned in the days ahead.  A new chapter would begin that winter, as well.

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Chapter One: Not About My Plans, But His Purpose

When I resigned from 10 years of English teaching in Central Illinois, I thought God was sending me as a missionary to Africa…

Instead, He brought me out here to Texas,  honestly an “Africa” in its own right, at least by its 100 degree temperatures, but to be clear, it’s not Africa at all- the culture, values, and people are all different.

Where I thought I was going is not where God sent me.  What I thought I would be doing is not how God has used me.  And, who I thought I would become is not the person I am today.

Certainly, we have ideas, many plans, in our own hearts of what our lives will look like when we step into our futures following Jesus Christ; however, God has a purpose for us that always prevails.

This is a story of how God has purposed me to come to a new perspective about worship by trekking me through a wilderness…

I left Illinois on a hot day in July 2009, following my brother’s white pick-up truck, loaded with all my valuables, in my lil’ faithful Toyota sedan. They had invited me to come and live with them for the summer.  Since I had just resigned that spring from teaching, and God had not given me peace about going to Uganda, I agreed to move to the panhandle area of Oklahoma for the summer. So, they came all that way with their truck.

I had to give away my 7 foot Christmas tree, the one I used to always put up in the broad picture window of my beautiful Victorian apartment. I had to say goodbye to the place where God healed, filled, and restored my life:  those wooden floors that had met my tears in prayer, the plastered walls and mouldings that had watched God transform my life, growing me from glory to glory, the longest place I’d ever lived.

I still don’t know how I packed up 10 years of steady living onto the back of that white truck.  Honestly, I don’t even know how I finally managed to let myself be pealed off that couch to go with them, to head into the unknown future, just like that.

Every U-turn along the way screamed at me to turn back.  If I were traveling alone, I may have changed my mind.  However, I had all kinds of witnesses watching me and my reaction to stepping out in faith, including four precious young nieces and a nephew.  No turning back.  No turning back.

I ended up in Hardesty, Oklahoma that July of 2009, a town that held about 200 people.  Although it was an opportunity to rest, my whole world seemed up in the air.  This was no Africa.  I was not doing any mission work.  And, I was no longer an English teacher, which is how I saw myself for a decade.  Instead, I was now living in a place not my own, doing nothing but typing away on the increasingly popular social media, and I was uncertain of my future.  But, even in all this, God had me.  For where I had plans, He had something greater: God had purpose for me.

His purpose for me that summer was to bond with my family, get rest and healing (I had a hurt back due to stress causing muscle spasms that I hadn’t gotten healed of in years), and to share Christ with the youth in my brother’s church.

His purpose was also for me to practice piano in front of my nieces who would someday come to love playing the piano and to eat ice cream with my 2 year old nephew who thought my bowl of ice cream was his, as well.

I laughed so much for the first time in years that summer, shedding off my English teacher life of always grading, always in solitude, for children’s laughter and family connections.  God always knows what He is doing.  He always has a purpose.

As if those purposes weren’t enough, God also had a purpose to seed my heart with convictions regarding my walk and worship.

One day, I was at the church, sitting behind the organ.  A hymnal caught my attention. I can’t remember if it fell, and it landed on the page, or if it had already been opened to that particular page, but the song on the page was, “I’d Rather Have Jesus.”

It was so anointed in that moment. As I quietly played and sang each verse on the organ, God asked me to respond to His simple, but convicting question, “Would you?”

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold.
Would you?
Yes.

I’d rather have Him than riches untold.
Would you?
Yes.

I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands.
Would you?
Yes.

I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hands.
Would you?
Yes.

I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause.
Would you?
Yes.

I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause.
Would you?
Yes.

I’d rather have Jesus than world-wide fame?
Would you?
Yes.

I’d rather be true to His Holy Name.
Would you?
Yes.

Every line broke me.  I was left with nothing but my “Yes.”  I knew it was just the beginning. 

God’s purpose in showing me that song, in having me commit a response to Him, as He went over it line by line, built convictions in me for the days of testing ahead of me.  His purpose was to seed me with what would solidify my walk of faith in Him in the days that would follow where I would have to choose by faith to trust Him.  He already knew my heart.  He was making me respond, so I could hear it, as well, so I would remember.

It was shortly after that, that I received confirmation in prayer that I was to attend worship school in Dallas, Texas.  It was also shortly after that, that my brother’s family got the call to be a pastor near Houston.  On their way further South, they were able to drop me off in Dallas.

Amazing how smooth transitions are in God’s timing.  Amazing how God always knows the true desires of our hearts.

You see, I had wanted to study worship more than I’d ever wanted to go to Africa, but I had been afraid to admit that to God.  After all, I wanted so badly to serve Him doing His will, not mine.  Would God allow me to attend worship school, instead of doing missions?  Well, He did! God already knew the true desire of my heart, and I now see that part of His purpose that summer was placing me where I needed to be to make that next step happen.

Where should I be? What should I do? Who am I?

These are important questions which will truly try our hearts.  God always has an answer for us. However, sometimes He will allow those answers to unfold, as He fulfills His purpose in and through us.

God’s Word says in Proverbs 19:21:

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.

That summer I began to learn this truth.

Well…like every story God writes, this was just a chapter in His glorious plan.  As, I finally got settled in for the rest of that summer, spending time with my family and finally getting some rest, I watched God quickly close this chapter with another new beginning for me in worship school.

Looking back, I am amazed at how quickly that time flew by.  Chapters in God’s story of our lives tend to do that. However, I’m thankful that His purpose always remains even as we enter the next chapter.

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