My first memory of church music was the beautiful pipe organ in the Lutheran church we attended. I must have only been 4 or 5, but the bellow of the organ and the operatic voice of the music leader mingled to create a richness that silenced all other noise and captured my attention and imagination completely. I began to wonder about and, with the help of my newly saved parents, even talk to the God we sang about.
Later our family would trade the organ, opera, and pews for synthesizers and tambourines, modern choruses, and padded folding chairs. Amazingly I discovered that, though the form was radically different, the same God of the hymn met me in that place. It was during my pre-teen and early teenage years that my relationship with God began to deepen. Not only did He have my attention, but especially in those times of worship I touched what I would later learn to describe as real communion or fellowship with God.
Unfortunately, I didn’t protect my heart. Eventually the noise of the world began to drown out the melody of my life with God and that place where we met together was harder and harder to find. I wasn’t a real partier. Most of my friends weren’t into drugs and alcohol, and compared to the ones that were I looked like “the good kid.” My backsliding may have been subtle, but I was no less far from God. I ignored the rules in my life and filled my mind with godless music, sneaking off to watch movies I wasn’t allowed to watch at home, and somehow—I still have no idea how—talked my parents into letting me date a preacher’s kid.
I thought none of this could hurt me, that I was better than the druggies and was laying low enough not to appear too rebellious, and I was going to marry a preacher’s son in a few years. Still, at age 17, after an ugly break-up and being betrayed by my lifelong best friend I was a suicidal “good kid.” My head was still swirling with all the voices of the world I had let in; rebellion, lust, and selfishness were now joined by shame, guilt, and despair to create an uproar so loud I wanted to die. I was in my car driving to work when it got so bad I just wanted to floor it and let go of the wheel and be done with it. Somewhere inside I wanted to live so I cried out to God, “If You are there and You could possibly still love me, I need You NOW!” Everything went silent. The noise and chaos in my head was replaced with a flood of peace. I had to pull off the road to weep and laugh. He really had been running to welcome me back, just like the Prodigal Son.
I knew that my life had to change or those voices, the noise of the world that I had allowed to separate me from God, would creep right back in. A few months later a man came to my church to preach, and told me about the Bible College in northeast Missouri where he taught. I was skeptical at first. I wanted to go to college far away, play volleyball, and work things out with God on my own terms. My parents, however, were convinced that we should at least visit. I spent time with the Bible College girls and went to a church service there. They talked about God when they were just hanging out, they worshiped God with intensity and passion I had never seen in people my own age, and I was hooked. I came to Northeast Missouri Bible College (now called Heartland Christian College) and found more than I knew to look for. Bible College was the place where I shut out everything that had distracted me before and focused on God. During that time I learned that things like right relationships, serving others with a humble heart, and working to build the church were a beautiful harmony added to the melody of a real relationship with God.
In the years since I graduated God has blessed me more than I could imagine. I will be married 10 years in March to a wonderful man I met at NMBC, and we have three handsome sons. A few years ago I was given the opportunity to work for Heartland Christian College where I am the librarian, a shepherd group leader, and a worship leader for chapels. I serve alongside some of our best friends and leaders from our Bible College days. I am so thankful for the chance to help young people learn to shut out all other noise and hear God for themselves. I have by no means arrived. The world is always out there clamoring for our attention and the demands of daily life raising three young sons can be overwhelming if I let it. I’ve learned that if I will make time to quiet myself and all other sounds and get alone with God He never fails to refresh me, give me vision for the tasks at hand, and wash me with His precious word.
As a worship leader for Heartland Community Church you can sometimes see me in church, or on TV, getting emotional as I worship. Don’t worry about me, I am just so grateful that my heart can still hear the song that the little girl caught a whisper of from under a pew.