Meredith Sharp – “Worship is a Battle”

Meredith Sharp – “Worship is a Battle”

Meredith Sharp’s passion is to be a worship leader. From Wilson, North Carolina, she is a project manager for a healthcare IT company, a vocalist lead out on the worship team at Elevation Church Raleigh, and eGroup leader there, among other things. And she’s only 23.

My first time meeting Meredith was in August of 2015, at one of the Actors, Models and Talent for Christ Launch weekends (a 2-day training event) in Atlanta, Georgia. Both of us were there as singers, training for one of the bi-annual SHINE events in Orlando, Florida, which is a huge conference where aspiring talent of all ages auditions for professionals representing nationally and internationally-recognized record labels, modeling agencies and other industry brands. In the AMTC training program, trainees are required to participate in a few other showcases, besides the one(s) they are planning to audition for, such as acting and modeling.

It was the “Scene Read” prep showcase, and we were 2 out of 4 people in a group who had to memorize a script, assign characters to each other, and decide how each prop on stage would be utilized, all within 30 minutes! We freaked out a little, but that short amount of time was all it took for the 2 of us to connect and begin a God-directed friendship.

Yesterday we shared a conversation in which we were able to share some of the everyday things going on in our lives, but I was so excited that I had the opportunity to find out more about her background, who she is as an artist, and the themes that God is weaving into her life experiences.

I asked her when she began singing, and what made her decide that she wanted to become a worship leader.

“My first solo in church was when I was in 5th grade – Easter Sunday – I was supposed to be at the beach. My aunt said that someone needed to sing this song, ‘Here I Am to Worship’, and I still to this day love singing that song. It brings me to tears.” On when she realized her calling: “When I was 15, I was in youth group, and I just remember – as soon as the sermon was over, he gave an altar call…I just went down to the altar with my face in my hands, crying. I just knew God was calling me to join the worship team.”

We turned to songwriting, and as any songwriter can relate, it is not only a challenging process, but also a practice that is hard to sustain when you don’t feel inspired.

“I had my highlight reel in 2012, and I haven’t written much since then,” she laughed softly, seemingly somewhat self-conscious. “I was younger, a freshman/sophomore in college – busy, played sports, had more free time to write. I had just really discovered this passion, and it was almost the honeymoon stage. I wrote a song in 2015, which was really cool. I stopped writing in grad school – didn’t have time. It’s been difficult to just sit down and write, but if I’m in the car or something, I always try to write down in my phone so I won’t forget it.”

However, she has recently been revitalized with a different perspective that is circulating fresh themes for future songs. “A lot of the songs we do at Elevation are based off of biblical stories. ‘Do It Again’ is about the Israelites walking around the walls of Jericho… ‘Walking around these walls/I thought by now they’d fall/But You have never failed me yet’.” It speaks of God’s faithfulness, a daily reminder for her that God has begun this work in her heart, and He will see it to completion. “I try to get lost in these Bible stories, and not to get too artsy and weird, but really feel the emotions of the stories.” Most recently she’s been inspired by the story of Hannah, and the patience she had to develop when God had promised her Samuel. “There’s a lot that I’ve been praying and asking God for, so I can really relate to Hannah.”

God has many avenues which He gives each of us to discover His will for our lives. What is that for Meredith?

“Kim Walker does a lot of teachings about leading worship in general. Steffany Gretzinger, Elevation teachings – I get that on the Raleigh campus. I try to pull from them different ways I can build myself as far as being a worship leader…am I being a good steward of what God’s given me?” She learns a lot from being a vocalist lead out and getting training from her worship team leaders at church, and other leaders in contemporary Christian music, including Jenn and Brian Johnson, co-founders of Bethel Music.

The most evident theme that God is pouring into her life currently is preparation.

“A lot of the times, I go, ugh, I’ve sung this song a million times, I don’t need to practice, I’ll be fine…just because you know the lyrics, you know the tune – doesn’t mean there isn’t preparation that you can’t take someone to a place they haven’t been before. One of my biggest challenges at church is making it fresh and new every time I sing it – emphasis on different things, and going deeper in our songs.”

Before we ended our conversation, I wanted to capture some final thoughts on what God is speaking to her now.

“If I’ve learned anything in the past year, His main words to me have been, ‘Just praise Me. Just worship Me.’ That’s all God really wants. True worship is giving your life – my arms are held high, I’m living in surrender. Instead of complaining, when you just raise your hands and praise God, He honors that and the enemy has to take a step back.”

During our entire dialogue, I could hear and feel where Meredith’s heart and desires lie. She is single-minded in her purpose, and as she pursues God’s calling on her life, I know He will continue to guide her into heights she couldn’t even envision. The last thing she said really showed me not only her desire to follow God’s will, but the drive she has to make sure her focus stays there:

“Worship is a battle; and if I’m not prepared, I’ll lose the fight.”

Meredith’s songs, “Sun Stand Still” and “Pour Out” can be found on iTunes under Life after Living, and on YouTube!

 

The Way Up is Down

The Way Up is Down

Matthew 23:12

“And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.”

Everything visible and invisible in our lives is a tool in the Hand of God. He is so masterful in showing us that His Eye is carefully watching over each one of His children. Innumerable times in Scripture and in our daily experiences we see how He uses the unexpected and unthinkable to confirm what He has been quietly working in our hearts. The only question is whether we choose to respond to the prodding of that still, small voice, or continue to walk our own path. Proverbs 12:15 reminds us, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.”

If we are living in right relationship with God, and in daily obedience to Him, the times in between those experiences can be very disconcerting. Sure, it is discouraging when we don’t “feel” God. But, one of the benefits to those occasional times of silence is the building up of our faith. In Sunday school we had a discussion about how we can maintain a close relationship with God – how can we keep ourselves from drifting away? Just as in any relationship, the way you get to know someone is first communicating with them. When communication ceases, the relationship deteriorates.

As someone in my class pointed out, if we aren’t attentive to our relationship with God, our drifting from Him can significantly affect the next generation’s perspective of our faith, and ultimately, their own. If we find ourselves compartmentalizing our lives, in such a way that our church attendance is separate from our domestic life, we disallow God’s leadership and eventually come to a place where we realize we are helpless – and hopeless – without Him.

When you find that you don’t measure up, what is your response? Our Father created us to be truth-seekers, and unfortunately, we complicate things all too often by trying to come up with our own solutions. In my effort to reconcile situations, I subconsciously torture myself because the answer to the problem is out of my hands. The problem is that I envision the way I think things should be. Instead, I should envelope myself in the love of my all-knowing Father, Who divides each phase of my life into those “teachable moments” that He knows I need.

We are blessed to know that there is always a converse to the situations in which we find ourselves desperate and despondent. One of my favorite Bible teachers, Dr. Charles Stanley, pointed out that the recognition of our inadequacy directs us to God. What burdens can be lifted from us if we would just take the Sword of Truth to our pride and trust that our battles don’t have to be fought alone.

Let me encourage you to find peace in your inadequacy. Let your Father’s love fill the void that you feel right now. Know that He created that void and it was meant to be filled by Him only.

“God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time. Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you.” 1 Peter 5:5b-7

“But Whom say ye that I am?”

“But Whom say ye that I am?”

I know that the personal battle of fear is not individual to me.

Yet, because I have struggled with it for as long as I can remember, it’s as if that conflict is something I have ownership in. I tend to allow it because it has become a part of who I am.

But wait – what do we really mean when we say, “This is who I am”? Do we even realize the depth of what that is, what it means, and what the repercussions are? There are so many labels that we put on ourselves because (and I would daresay I am not the only one) – we’re not comfortable when we are faced with a question we don’t know the answer to. My husband pointed out to me fairly recently that if I don’t know the answer to a question he asks, it’s okay. Don’t make up an answer. Just say, I don’t know. And I found freedom in that realization. And I’ve put it into practice.

On a much deeper level, when I relinquish that habit of scrambling for an answer to a problem I don’t have the capacity to resolve, I find freedom in the knowledge I DO have – that is, Jesus Christ has the answer. He IS the answer. I don’t have to continue the struggle of fear because He is Love, and Love casts out Fear.

There was a short period of time when I was younger, when I had made a mistake and felt so guilty, so condemned, and so self-conscious. My best friend at the time found out and was absolutely devastated – furious. It was years before our relationship became semi back-to-normal. During that time I learned a lot about confiding in my Father by praying consistently, and waiting to hear His voice. I will never forget one day when I was driving and I told the Lord about how I was struggling with my friend and I wanted SO badly to have our relationship back to where it was, and I worried so much about her perception of me. At a stoplight, I heard God’s loving but firm voice whisper to me: “You don’t have to worry about what I think about you, so why are you worried about what she thinks about you?” Eureka! I still think about that statement when I feel insecure about my relationship with her. I hope one day we will be as close as we were before, but in any case, I don’t have to worry about what my Father thinks of me!

When Jesus came into Caesarea Philippi with His disciples, He asked them, “Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am?” They answered Him saying that some thought He was John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. And then the kicker came:

“But Whom say YE that I am?”

And Simon Peter answered, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

If we simply believe that, then we can believe everything that HE says about US. And we don’t have to have the answers. We can accept without reservation that “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit”; that “there is no fear in Love”; and, “If God be for us, who can be against us?”

Thank God, THAT answer is so easy 🙂

Share your thoughts and testimonies of how God has given you peace when you felt afraid!

 

Aside

Saturday’s Small Thoughts – Simplicity and Practicality

I had such a nice Friday evening with my husband, Glenn, and our dogs, Peanut and Stitch. Our downtown hosted a showing of The Secret Life of Pets, and as the evening cooled down we were able to enjoy laughs with other families and their pets as well.

This morning Glenn and I just sat down on our couch and had a relaxing time, conversing about pretty much everything going on in our lives – sharing funny thoughts, ideas about our music (the great band chemistry we have, songwriting, the excitement of arranging our songs, etc.) – but most importantly, how of all the things we and people of the world spend on things to make us happy, and then as soon as it is over, so is that happiness. Our pastor recently spoke of the difference between joy in the stability of our relationship with Christ, no matter what else is going on – and the temporary period of happiness that comes in intervals of life.

So much of life is counter-intuitive. Lots of things can make our lives feel empty, because no matter how much we collect, we realize there is so much more to accumulate. Having less makes us realize how little we actually need to be happy. We started making a monthly budget, and when we live by those boundaries, the desire to buy impulsively just dissolves and gives us the freedom to focus on what our goals are, and motivates us to stay on the path we’ve determined. That has been an overwhelming life-changer!

I find myself now more thankful about living a simple life, and being able to give greater attention to what is most important – allowing God to fill that void He put in my heart so that my joy can underscore the fluctuating circumstances of life.