It’s amazing how standing in the same spot at a different place in time provides a completely different vantage point.
Standing in front of the congregation of Prairie Oak Community Church in Andover, MN on Sunday morning a few weeks ago, standing on that very ground brought that perspective for me.
It was worlds away when I stood on that ground under a red and white striped tent and made the decision that would forever change the course of my life. Walking forward to the altar as a child symbolized the first step I took in my faith journey, and I couldn’t help but reflect on each step I’ve taken since as I took the steps up to the stage that morning to lead worship with their team and share my story.
Pastor Steve Gahagen, his wife Jane, and their family were essential people in my early years of my walk with Christ, creating an environment that was a safe place to dream, trust God, and grow in my faith. So I couldn’t help but be moved to tears as he spoke of the dreams God gives us all, and shared his continued vision to maintain that very place as a church where dreams can be birthed and blossom. For it was during that point in my life where God gave me the dream to sing and I was able to begin to hone that craft as Jane, my mother and I would lead the congregation in song each Sunday morning. It’s quite surreal to return at the invitation from Pastor Gahagen to share my testimony and songs and see God move in that place and amongst the hearts of the body of Christ. Hearts that are broken, hurting, and desperate for God to move…hearts just like mine. I was truly humbled to be a part of the service. Humbled mostly because I still think, “Who am I? I have in no way ‘arrived.’ But I’m willing. I’m surrendered (on my good days). I know my life is not my own and I want God to use it however He sees fit…”
But that’s the beauty of the Christian life. That’s the beauty of a dream. God calls us to take up our cross and follow Him[i]. He calls us to lose our life so that we might gain it.[ii] We must decrease so that He can increase[iii]. And it is the same with the dream He gives us. He plants a dream in all of us and then asks us to entrust that dream into His care, to surrender it to Him, to…give it up. It took me many years to come to that place of surrender. But what a beautiful thing it is when we give our hopes and dreams and desires to the Lord and, in return, He gives us something better. He does a new thing[iv].
I’m still trying to figure out what this new thing is. As I’ve begun this thing that is music ministry I feel like such a rookie. There’s so much I have to learn. So much refining that has to be done – most of which I wasn’t prepared for as the chiseling and refiners fire has felt too hot and too painful to bear lately.
But God is faithful. I know that after I have been tried for a time I will come forth as gold[v], and what a humbling privilege to know that I have the body of Christ standing beside me, holding my hand, and spurring me on in this dream. Steve and Jane are such vital people in that process and words cannot describe my gratitude for them and my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who have been and continue to be like-minded in their support of me and my dream and the vision God has given me for this ministry.
So far it hasn’t proven to be easy in the least bit. The old, cliché adage of “anything that’s worth doing won’t be easy” comes to mind as I’ve faced so many trials and uncertainties so far. Lately, it’s been enough to, at times, rock my faith, and others, make me feel like I’m just plain off my rocker.
But one thing is certain: The steps that I take from this point on can only be that which involve a steady and certain march forward toward the goal. Because the goal is clear: God has given me a sense of urgency, a heart for the broken, and eyes to see the need. It has not nor will ever be about me, but instead, about His children. So although the world and the evil forces of this world may try to shake us and knock us off course, I will continue to stand firm on His promise that He who began this work in me will carry it onto completion[vi].
So I write these words, not so much as a sermon for all of you, but as a proclamation and affirmation of my own commitment that I will continue to stand firm on this solid ground.
On Christ the solid Rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand[vii]
[i] “Then he said to the crowd, ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.’” Luke 9:23 (NLT)
[ii] “If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.” Matthew 10:39 (NLT)
[iii] “He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30 (ESV)
[iv] “Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19 (NASB)
[v] “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” Job 23:10 (NIV)
[vi] “I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 (HCSB)
[vii] Edward Mote, “My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less” (No. 370) in The Lutheran Hymnal (1834, cento)