Early this year, I was invited to teach a message that I have called “The Power of Praise in the Darkness.” It was going to be one of the teaching sessions at a small women’s conference which ended up being cancelled because of Covid.
This message has continued to resonate within me as something that needs to be shared. I’ve been given no other opportunity to give it (Covid has not allowed the conference to be rescheduled), and I feel like the Holy Spirit is urging me to share it here. So this is going to be a series.
I want to start by sharing a little bit of who I am. This first post is going to be a sharing of memories. They might seem random, but they all have to do specifically with praise and worship. They will come together in the end and be a picture of who I am in this area of my life. I want those who find this blog and don’t know me in person to understand who this “Katie” is who is so passionate about praising and worshiping God. Indeed, I think a lot of this will be new even to people who know me pretty well in real life!
I grew up in a Christian home. My parents were sincere, and I did not see any disconnect between what they taught and demonstrated at church compared to the life they lived at home. They weren’t perfect (no one is), but I was very blessed to have them for parents.
I do not have a date for when I got saved. I think my mom once told me that I “asked Jesus into my heart” when I was three. Obviously my understanding was very limited regarding what that theologically-inaccurate phrase actually meant.
My earliest specific memory relating to my walk with God is actually one of my earliest memories of all. I think I was 8 years old, and I got baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit at the Christian school I went to. I have been able to pray in tongues ever since, and I saw at a very young age the effects that it had on the spiritual atmosphere of whatever circumstances were surrounding me. (See this link for a brief teaching on tongues.) So seeing that evidence of the power of praying in tongues has been a part of my reality for 36 years now.
I did not grow up with secular music at all. In fact, what I heard from endlessly-looping cassettes over poor-quality sound systems in stores was just about the only secular music I ever heard. (And that wasn’t often, because my mom avoided dragging all of us kids into the stores with her as much as she could.) Instead, my mom always had praise and worship music playing — usually the old Hosanna series that released a tape of live worship recordings every month. I still love some of those songs and recordings! But those (and the Scots Guard bagpipe music that my Dad liked to start Saturday mornings with) is the music that I grew up with. My mom’s parents also played only worship music, and my dad’s parents played only classical music. I think I was twelve before I heard a secular song well enough to actually learn the words. But I knew hundreds of worship songs. I had no idea how unusual this was, and I feel completely and entirely blessed to have grown up that way.
I have a number of other memories through my teenage years that were essentially me dedicating more of my life to God. As each new expansion in my life of maturity and understanding arrived, I made another choice to dedicate that to God as well. I was created to serve Him and follow Him and worship Him, and somehow I have never doubted that or had any question about it. I did have the normal early teenage intellectual questions regarding “Is God real or is this all in my imagination?” But the reality of what I had already experienced in my life answered those intellectual questions quickly. (This is one reason why I believe so strongly that parents have to introduce their kids to God, not just tell them about Him. It will be very hard for your children to deny the reality of a God that they already know and have experienced!)
We went to Pentecostal/Evangelical/Non-denominational churches through all those years (and I really don’t know or care what the difference between all those labels mean.) When it comes to praise and worship in church, I have a number of memories.
I remember that our church at the time (I was maybe 10 years old) liked to sing a song that had this line, “I would give my final breath to know You in Your death and Resurrection. Oh I want to know You more.” For a long time, I could not sing those words. I didn’t want to die. I wanted to grow up and have a life, and I was afraid of saying that I would willingly die for anything. And I was not going to sing words that I knew I didn’t mean! I did not at that point understand what it means to know Jesus in His death and resurrection, but I knew what dying was! Now, today, I could preach for hours on what it means to know Him in His death and resurrection, and I will gladly say that it is worth far more than life! If I had to lose those revelations, I would indeed rather die and just go see Him.
I also remember various different presentation-style dances that our church would have the young girls do. We got matching dresses, and we learned hand motions that interpreted the words of the song, and everyone would watch as we performed them. It was kind of like a Christian version of the chorus performances that lots of public schools do. While I can’t say I hated it, I can definitely say I didn’t really enjoy it. I didn’t like people looking at me. I don’t know why the boys didn’t have to do it.
I also remember standing while we sang songs, watching as my parents raised their hands to worship along with many other adults, while I stubbornly refused to do it. I remember the effort it took to keep my arms locked at my side, though I do not know why I was so intimidated by the thought of raising my hands. There wasn’t much in life that intimidated me, but that did. Looking back, I can see that it was the devil’s vain attempt to keep me from my calling in praise and worship.
I took six months of piano lessons at some point in middle school. I learned the basics of reading sheet music and the basics of chord structure. The very basics. We had a very old piano that was several steps out of tune, and I liked playing enough that my note-reading skills eventually got close to what you might call an intermediate level. In other words, if you took a music book that was written for an intermediate-level student, and you gave it to me, then if I spent enough hours and time working on it, I could learn to play that piece. I definitely could not just sit down and sight-read the notes and play it. But I slowly worked on various pieces that I liked, like the “Blue Danube Waltz” and “Fur Elise” and “Moonlight Sonata,” Twila Paris’s “Mount Nebo,” pieces from the soundtrack to The Man from Snowy River movie, and other random pieces that appealed to me. I learned those well enough to play them smoothly and fool people into thinking I could play piano. I could not play by ear at all. I knew what the basic chords were, and if you asked me to play something that sounded like it might fit an Indian chant, I could manage that with the chords. But anything else — anything flowing and graceful or strong and powerful — was completely beyond me. This was pretty much my level of piano skills from middle school until my early twenties.
I remember a pivotal night when I was 15, I think. At the time, our church was having Sunday night worship services. We would praise and worship for an hour or two, and there was no message in these services. Our church was quite large, but the worship services usually had fewer than 60 or 70 people. I honestly do not remember that much about why I went to them. Most likely my parents loved them and so we all went, though I have no memories of my younger brothers and sisters being there. I suppose they must have been there though. This church had a dance team that did a lot of Jewish-style dances, and even people who weren’t on the dance team liked to dance before the Lord. So the church kept an open spot down in the front (which was not as conspicuous as it might sound) where anyone could dance. So when we sang Jewish songs, there was often a group of people linking hands in a circle and dancing in celebration. And when we sang ‘modern’ (for the 90’s) worship songs, there were frequently adults with flags, just waving them in celebration. There were pretty much always young children dancing their heart out to the music. On that particular night, the urge to raise my hands in worship got overwhelming. I fought it like always, but then the power of God overwhelmed that resistance, and somehow, I was out of my aisle and down there dancing before the Lord. Even immediately after, I had no memory of how I actually got there. God did it. In one instant, He broke down my resistance and carried me beyond that wall that had held me back for years.
There has never been any looking back for me from that night. I call it the night I was set free to worship.
I joined the dance team and was a part of it for several years until we moved away, but in all the years since, I have loved to praise and worship my God. There is a freedom in praise and worship that doesn’t exist anywhere else. I’ve always (since that night) found it so easy to enter His presence in praise and worship. I believe the presence of God is the ‘high’ that humans are searching for.
After that point, I was no longer satisfied with my-less-than-mediocre piano skills. I wanted to be able to play worship songs. But I couldn’t. I simply could not do it, even though I knew every chord. I would spend hours with the chords to a worship song, trying and trying and trying to play something that sounded even the slightest bit like that song was supposed to sound. I could not figure it out at all. I tried off and on for years. I’ve always been pretty good at teaching myself things, but I could not teach myself this. The ability was simply not there.
We got married when I was 19, and I had three kids in the five years after. At one point, we were going to a church where the pastor was also the worship leader. He could play by ear, sing at the same time, and do both really well. I wanted that ability so very badly — simply because I loved to worship so much. But still I could not figure it out.
Until one day in 2002. This was a number of months after the transformational revelation that my Ultimate Makeover story tells. The church we had been attending shut down VERY suddenly, and we had nowhere to go that Sunday morning. I sat down at the piano once again, once again wishing with all my heart I could play worship songs. I tried as I had tried hundreds of times before…
And suddenly my fingers knew how to do it. I cannot explain what happened, other than to say that it was the power of God, supernaturally giving me an ability that I lacked the day before. And I could sing at the same time. It was so glorious! I played song after song after song!
Not long after, my father-in-law started a small church for those of us who were church-homeless, and he asked me to lead worship. Of course I agreed, and I was blessed to lead that small group of people in worship every Sunday for three years.
I attended a few Aglow meetings in 2004, I remember a couple who ministered through praise and worship came to lead one Saturday morning. They must have offered to pray for people afterwards, because I remember that the man laid his hands on me, prayed for me, and said he had a prophecy for me. He said that I would hear the music of heaven. I did not understand what that meant and thought it would be something like hearing angels singing. But in the years since, God has given me several worship songs. My name is on them as if I had written them, but I did not create them. I cannot write songs. I’ve tried, and wow are the results bad! I am still just as unable to write songs as I was unable to play worship songs on the keyboard years ago. No, these songs that have my name on them — I merely heard the words and the music, which I wrote down on paper in the same way that a secretary would take down a message that her boss dictated to her.
I have also realized that when I play keyboard, I’m not actually creating music then either. My fingers have merely learned to play what I’m hearing in my spirit, played with the assistance of the chords. For songs that I’ve played for years, yes – my mind remembers what I usually play. But I’m reminded of what I’m actually doing whenever we learn a new song, for I learn it by listening in my spirit. Sometimes what I hear is a version of whomever recorded the song we are playing, but sometimes I hear new things which I’ll find on the keyboard. Sometimes I’ll even hear new things for songs that I’ve played another way hundreds of times! I’ve been reminded in a new and more powerful way recently that this ability is His grace – His empowerment – at work for His purposes and His glory. How humbling it is!
The season for that church ended in 2005. We went to another church where I was not called to play or sing for a couple of years. Then we moved to Ohio, joined a church pastored by a childhood friend of my husband’s, and I was blessed to join the worship team. This is where I am now every Sunday, behind the keyboard, slipping into God’s presence through worship, singing my heart out, and silently begging anyone and everyone to follow me there — into His presence, where He reveals Himself to us and changes us. It is my favorite part of every week.
This is who I am. This is probably the most important part of my life, and the part that would be hardest to surrender, if God ever asked it of me.
Worship and praise is powerful. Whether we realize it or not, we are worshiping and praising something — with our actions, our thoughts, our words, and our priorities. And it’s especially powerful in the darkness — in those seasons and areas of our life where we are struggling.
But how is it powerful? Why is it powerful? What actually is praise and worship? What happens when we choose (or don’t choose) to praise and worship God in our seasons of darkness? That’s what I’m going to share, based on all the Holy Spirit has taught me and demonstrated to me over the years. I pray that it will be a blessing to you!
I’ll end this with a video of an old recording of one of my absolute favorite worship songs from many, many years ago. This is led by Paul Wilbur.