Tag Archives: Michael W. Smith

Small moments, Big impact

Have you ever looked at your life and wondered, “what is my legacy? How am I making a difference in this world?”

I think for some people it’s very clear. Pastors, missionaries, humanitarians and aid workers — these people can see how they are influencing lives and doing God’s work on a daily basis. For the rest of us, it may be hard to look at our lives and know how/if we are leaving a mark. Sometimes the way people touch our lives and impact our spiritual journey is bold and immediate, like a large rock being thrown into a pond, making a huge splash, and maybe even displacing us. But more often I think it is the small interactions, the bits of encouragement or truth that are said in passing, that end up staying with us, like quiet raindrops on the pond, slowly filling us up and over time changing our core substance.

Over the last 15 years I have been a youth group leader, confirmation teacher, Sunday school teacher, and led adult small group Bible studies. I can’t say that in any of those roles I’ve witnessed anything I said or did causing a big splash in someone’s life. But I certainly pray that my words, or perhaps even just my mere presence have contributed drops of hope, encouragement or truth that has stuck with them.

I know there are several instances of these small blessings in my life that have had a lasting impression. They were seemingly insignificant  at the time. Simple conversations or gestures that likely the givers don’t even recall. But they have had a huge impact in my life and stayed with me.

small raindrops

I’ve already written about how my dear friend Mary gave me my very first Michael W. Smith cassette tape when I was 13, which began my 25 year love affair with his music. It might sound silly, but that gift really changed my life. It came at exactly the right time to get me through an incredibly difficult period of life, but more than that, it introduced me to the world of contemporary Christian music and how good music can have a significant impact on the worship experience. I am not much of a musician — despite 7 years of piano lessons I can’t really play anything more difficult than Ode to Joy (the easy version), and the three years I played clarinet I spent as the perpetual third chair — but I know and appreciate good music. I know that it can change the entire worship experience, and can surpass language and cultural barriers to bring people together. I have experienced the Holy Spirit through song. And my most profound worship experiences have been set to music.

Today, I have the pleasure of working with the worship leader at our church to recruit and schedule musicians, evaluate potential songs, and help plan and create additional creative arts elements that go into our services. Despite my inability to sing on-key or play an instrument, I have a way to influence and support the worship experience because of my love and understanding of music, and it all started with that “Go West Young Man” cassette.

When I was 17 and a senior in high school I was eagerly planning for college. After a trip to Appalachian State to interview for some scholarships and tour the campus, I came home and excitedly relayed to some friends all the reasons college was going to be totally awesome! (said in my best 90’s voice) As I told my friend Cara, who was a year younger than I, about the campus and the facilities, she asked,”did you look at any churches while you were down there?”

“Well, no, I didn’t get a chance to do that yet.”

“Don’t you think that is important? That you find a church you can attend while you’re there?” Cara was clearly wise-beyond-her-years. While I had been so caught-up in the campus life, looking at dorm rooms, checking out the football stadium and the coffee shops, I had not once considered looking at churches or finding a Christian student-group.

After that conversation with Cara, I contacted the school about the Christian student groups and ultimately joined the Lutheran Student Association (LSA), which had a HUGE impact on my spiritual formation during those four years. I also found the local Lutheran church to be my home-away-from-home. The pastor and his wife became like family to me, and in 2000 I was married in that church.

I’m sure my friend Cara didn’t know the impact her simple question would have on me, and probably has forgotten it ever happened. But 25 years later it still remains in my thoughts.

The last story I’ll share is more recent. In my 15 year career as a marketer, I’ve had the joy to work with some fantastic managers and mentors, many of whom have become personal friends. When I first started working at my current company I had two managers, one of which was in South Africa. Soon after I started in the new role I got to travel to Johannesburg to meet her, and we spent a good bit of time getting to know one another on that first trip . Ironically, we shared bits about our personal lives that might not have come up so soon if we worked in the same office. Over dinner my second night there the topic turned to our personal beliefs and we found out we were both Christians and our faith was a big part of our lives. This bit of early knowledge, I believe, really shaped our professional relationship and personal friendship because we could be very candid and honest with one another and didn’t worry about crossing any professional boundaries.

I recall one conversation in particular, about 5 years ago, when I was considering going back to school to get my Master’s Degree. I was lamenting to her all the reasons I was afraid to make the commitment. She said to me, “Yes, but God does not want us to have a spirit of fear. We are called to trust in Him.”  Wow! Convicted, this girl right here, thank you very much!

Again, that one statement –that little raindrop — struck me to my core and has stayed with me. Whenever I start to get caught-up in the fear and worry of branching outside of my comfort zone, I remember Jo-Anne’s words and I turn to God to take away my fear and give me strength.

This past weekend at the She Speaks conference, keynote speaker Lysa TerKeurst reminded us that it is not about our words, it is about The Word.

His word.

When we speak the truth to all who come across our path, God will use it to change hearts, encourage the hurting, and create a lasting effect — whether it shows up as a big splash or a tiny drop. I try to remember this and trust God that He will use my words to encourage others and shine a light on the truth.

Do you have a similar story? I would love to hear how someone has said or done something in your life that’s had a lasting impact on your spiritual journey. Please share either through the comments section or on my Facebook page.

“Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.” – John 7:18

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Dear Michael W. Smith, I love you. That is all. Sincerely, your number one fan.

Whenever I meet someone new it doesn’t take long before they find out that I am a HUGE Michael W. Smith fan. I’m not sure how this always comes up so quickly in conversation. I mean, it’s not like I go around wearing an “I ♥ Michael W. Smith” t-shirt…well at least not every day! But my love for Smitty (yes, he is totally OK with me calling him that) is just one of those things that is core to who I am — like having brown eyes…or ten toes…or, you know, breathing. It is a deep-seated love that spans nearly 25 years. Don’t worry, my husband knows and he is OK with this. After-all, Michael was in my life before I met David.

Michael W. Smith

To truly understand how I earned my “number one fan” status, you have to know how it all began. When I was 13 my friend Mary gave me my very first Michael W. Smith cassette tape for Christmas (if you are under 25 ask your parents what a cassette tape is) . I remember opening that gift and thinking “umm, thanks? I have no idea who this is.” She assured me I would love him. Oh boy was she right! Years later I offered her my second and third born children as payment for introducing me to Smitty, but she decided to settle for being their godmother, instead.

That year I was 13 was a particularly difficult time in my adolescence. I had just moved in with my dad and step-mom, leaving behind all of my friends in another state, and a strained relationship with my mom. I was in a new home, new town, new school, and recovering from a traumatic experience that had happened earlier that year. It was a little more than your average 13-year-old-girl-angst. As I listened to that tape I felt like every song had been written just for me.

Every.

Single.

One.

How did this man from Kenova, WV know how I was feeling or what I was going through? I blasted that tape in my bedroom, memorizing every word. I listened to that tape until it broke!

Three years later I got to attend my first Michael W. Smith concert. I was excited in the same way the audience at the Ed Sullivan Show was excited to see the Beatles perform. And to top it off? They were taping the concert video right there in Fairfax, Virginia! Five months later, when the concert video came out, I found out I was actually on the video!! Ok so it was like for two seconds, and if you blink you miss me…but let me tell you, if the concert was the highlight of my year, being on that video was the highlight of the decade! I still have that video tape (again, if you are under 25 ask your parents what a video tape is) and I made EVERYONE watch it…even if they didn’t know who Michael W. Smith was. I even marked on the back cover where I could be found — right between “I Wanna Tell the World” and “Color Blind”, in case you’re dying to dig out your copy and find me.

Over the years my love for Smitty grew, and his music became the soundtrack to my life. When I was graduating high-school and saying goodbye, I listened to “Friends” over and over again. When I graduated college, I cried along to “Pray for Me” for months. When my husband and I got married, our first dance was to “Love of My Life.” When I was in the hospital in labor for 26 hours with my first born I had the Freedom album on continuous play. When she was a baby I sang the song “Anna” to my eldest daughter (changing it to Hannah). You get the point.

But the highlight of my long-time fandom came in 2008. The year before I found out that Michael W. Smith had a cruise. Back then this was a relatively new thing to be able to cruise with a favorite band or musician and I could not believe that this existed. As a joke I sent a link to the cruise website to several close family and friends with the subject line “Guess what I want for Christmas?” My friend Erin was prepared to start a fundraising campaign for me, complete with T-shirts that read: “Cruise tickets: $2,500. Airfare from Washington to Ft. Lauderdale: $300. Getting to see Jelise put suntan lotion on Michael W. Smith: priceless.” I still totally want one of these t-shirts.

It was an expensive trip and we had three young children; I had absolutely no expectations of going. So you can imagine my surprise when my mom and step-mom came together to buy two tickets to the cruise for my husband and I to go. It was my birthday and Christmas presents for the next five years, but I totally didn’t care because to me this was the trip of a lifetime. Finally, I would get to meet the man. I mean, how excited would he be to finally meet his number one fan?!

Me and Michael W. Smith
Michael W. Smith hangin’ with his number one fan.

But then, it got even better. I found out that in addition to all of the concerts, events, and exotic ports we’d get to experience there was something called Smitty-oke that would be played on the ship. This is where you get to go up on stage with Michael W. Smith and his band and sing one of his songs with him!!

OH!

MY!

WORD!

Can you even imagine? Ok so maybe the idea of singing with Michael W. Smith doesn’t excite you. But just think of your all-time favorite singer or band. Now, imagine getting to go up on stage and sing with them! Are you with me? Now, I am a terrible singer, and not particularly thrilled about sharing that in front of a room full of people, but I knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance and I had to do it. Here is the evidence:

Smitty-oke
Just me and Smitty, singing together. No biggie.

There were many other super-cool experiences from that trip. Like, there was this other artist on the cruise? Her name is Amy Grant. Perhaps you’ve heard of her? Also, Michael and his whole family were in a cabin four doors down from us, so we passed him in the hall daily;  I talked to his wife once on the elevator; I got to play a version of Family Feud against his mom and in-laws — you know your normal vacationing with a celebrity stuff.

The thing is, as much as I joke about my love for Smitty, what has made me a life-long fan is that his music continues to speak to me and touch my life. His most recent CD has a song on it called “You Won’t Let Go”. It’s a great phenomenal song, and the bridge of the song goes like this: “neither height, neither depth, highest height or deepest depth, nothing can, nothing can separate.” When I first heard this song I had just made the decision to start building this blog and call it Neither Height Nor Depth, from my all-time favorite Bible verse. I had started to write posts but not yet published anything. I wasn’t sure I was up to it, quite frankly. I doubted if I had what it takes to write new content each week, or that anyone would be interested in reading what I had to say. But when I heard that song, it suddenly became my anthem. Not unlike that 13 year-old-girl who felt so lost and alone until she heard the words: “If there are millions down on their knees, among the many can you still hear me? Hear me asking where do I belong?” And she suddenly felt like everything was going to be OK.

While not everyone may share my undying love and devotion for Michael W. Smith (poor, poor, misguided souls), I bet many of you can identify with this post because music is one of those rare, universal elements that spans generations and cultures. Whether your favorite artist is Lady GaGa or Lady Antebellum,  B.B. King or Carole King — whoever it is, if you have been touched by their music I know you can relate. If you have ever cried into your pillow while one of their songs played over and over again, or driven your car, windows down, singing along at the top of your lungs, you know what I’m talking about.

And admit it…you’re just a little bit jealous you haven’t gotten to sing on stage with them, aren’t you? 🙂

Who is your Smitty? I’d love to hear how music has touched your life.

 

“I will sing to the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.” Psalm 104:33