True Christian Stories
by Deb Matthews
Welcome! Here's another true Christian story from my collection of things that have really happened to me (including stories about miracles, angels, Civil Air Patrol and God's love and blessings). This is one from August 1999 about God's help and longing for us to draw close to him.
"Worship In The Garden"
Copyright © 1999 by Debra K. Matthews. All rights reserved
My dad's greatest dream was to be a famous singer like Frank Sinatra. I grew up hearing all the songs from Frank's movies, and other popular musicals. By the time I was ten, I could sing them all with dad when he practiced at home, or as we drove on the highway on long trips. I knew all the words. I knew when to sing strong, when to sing softly, and how to add tenderness to the songs.
I can't remember a time when I didn't hear love songs. They became a part of my life just as naturally as eating and sleeping.
Shortly after my tenth birthday, we moved to Gig Harbor, right down on the water. While we were there, we started attending a local church and Sunday school for the first time ever. It was there I heard the gospel message preached in-depth for the first time.
Don't get me wrong. Mom and dad both grew up grounded in their respective Sunday schools, and prayed every night with us kids. They told us stories like about David and Goliath, and that Jesus loved us and watched over us, and I just naturally learned to love the Lord. But somehow in that 1964-1965 school year, he suddenly became very real and near to me.
I loved to sing the songs that my dad sang, but they didn't really apply to a ten-year-old's life. Somewhere during that year, I started changing the words so I could sing them to the Lord. He was the one I loved more than anything in the world and "love songs" became the way I could express that love to him.
In the years since, my church has gotten used to me changing words to songs here and there, and adapting them to the Christian world. One of my favorites is Wind Beneath My Wings, which I've sung a number of times there. It was written for one person singing about another, but I've changed it into a song of wonder at the Lord's faithfulness, and my desire to have his heart and ability as I minister to others.
Another song that's very dear to me, is In The Garden. Most people sing it as coming to the garden in the morning and fellowshipping with the Lord. Not being a morning person, I picture myself coming to the garden in the evening and communing with the Lord in the quiet of the night.
Lately when I would sing it alone to the Lord, I sensed a deeper picture in the song. I changed the words around to not only come to the garden and meet Jesus, but to where he leads us into the Father's presence in a special way. For me, the song has become almost a sacred place -- akin to the Psalm 91 admonition of dwelling in the secret place of the Lord.
As I adapted it more and more, and communed with him through the song, I felt him nudging me to sing it in the church. I sensed that yearning he has for his people to draw close to him, to enter into his very presence in the throne room and leave the cares of the world behind. I sensed the cry of Jesus' heart as he asked the disciples to pray with him in the garden on that final night, and felt the grief he felt when they couldn't do it.
Singing In The Garden at church held a certain amount of fear for me though. The one thing about singing with my dad was that I grew up singing with a tenor voice. To find an accompaniment track to sing along with is nearly impossible for me, and I don't play any instruments well enough to do it in front of people.
So, ... I chickened out and avoided doing it for months. Then one day, I felt the Lord really nudging me, so I took a bold step to keep from backing out. I put a note on the pulpit before song service that said, "Deb has a song today."
When the song service ended, my pastor had me stay up on the platform to sing. I told the people about Jesus coming to the garden on the night he was betrayed, and how the Bible said that Judas also knew the place because Jesus "ofttimes resorted thither with his disciples."
In the back of my mind as I spoke though, I had the nagging fear that I would start the song on the wrong note -- usually too high -- and flounder. As that concern weighed on my thoughts, I found it difficult to really tell the congregation what I wanted them to know. I wanted them to see how much Jesus longs to commune with us today, and to bring us into the Father's presence with him -- into that secret place. He is the new and living way whereby we now have access to the Father.
Well, I floundered along, and just decided to start the song and let it do the rest. I sang the first verse just as it was originally written. Right away I knew I had started too high, and risked straining my voice. I hoped and prayed within that when it came time for the chorus, I could do some kind of "transition" to lower the key, just like musicians do. With instruments, there is a series of notes that can be played to make a key change sound smooth and planned.
As I neared the end of the verse, I knew there was no way I could do what instruments did. I was lost as to how to get back on the right key, and feared I would strain my voice by continuing as is.
It's the Lord's message, I thought as I sang. I just have to trust that even if my voice breaks, he will bless the message to the people's hearts -- besides that, they'll just love me and forgive me like the Bible teaches (I hope).
As I ended the verse, something happened. A strength I've never had suddenly kicked in and I found myself listening like a bystander as I sang the song. God's anointing had taken over, just like in the old days when I was preaching in Bible College. It was my voice singing, but it was in a key that's impossible for me to sing in. The Lord gave me the strength and ability to sing the message he so longed to bring to the congregation.
Praise God! He can use every one of us if we'll just yield to him and let him take over. Yes, we should do our part by studying and preparing, but then work together with him as we step through whatever doors he's opened for us.
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Added September 3, 1999
Updated January 16, 2000