Father of Lights

James 1:17 reads “Every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” God has many names, but “Father of Lights” has been one of my favorites lately. I love the image it creates in my heart and the memories it evokes in my imagination. I love lights. They are extraordinarily important to me. When I think of who God is in my life, I often think of lights: a small candlelight flickering to life for a moment before being snuffed out and lost for years, then being suddenly drowned by the blinding light of the noonday.1

To explain what I’m trying to say, let me start at the beginning. My brother was a worship intern at a church, starting about six months before my first semester at DBU. The summer between high school and college, my family and I decided to visit this church to watch him lead worship. To put it gently, I was not on good terms with God at that point in my life. In fact, I’d scarcely ever been on good terms with God. In my heart, we were not friends; He was a presence I couldn’t get rid of even when I asked. The flickering candlelight of my faith had been snuffed out for so long I could hardly remember what it looked like.

When I walked into that church, something felt unfamiliar to me. I was no stranger to services at different churches, but there was something special here—something special about this worship. I didn’t exactly realize what that something was, but I felt it during one song in particular. The lyrics resonated with me in a way none ever had. I felt honest and true in worship for maybe the first time ever. I wanted to raise my hands, but I was afraid to look foolish. I scanned the room nervously to see if anyone was watching. To my relief, the lights were low—low enough that no one would notice one person raising her hands. I felt free; it was entirely new and wonderful.

Now, allow me to skip ahead a few months. First semester, freshman year, I took an Intro to Broadcast class. For this class, I had to volunteer twenty-five hours on a media project. Twenty-five is a lot of hours, and I was really freaked out at the idea of finding a media project where I could volunteer. I freaked out quite frequently in those days—mostly to my brother. His advice for this particular meltdown was to ask the Sound Guy* at our church (the same church I had visited that previous summer) if I could volunteer on the media team. The first words out of my mouth were, “Do you think he would let me?” To me, the media team was a well-assembled group of super individuals who, for lack of a better description, knew what they were doing with all that fancy equipment. They looked like superheroes to me, and I could hardly imagine joining their ranks. When I spoke to the Sound Guy about volunteering, he asked what kind of experience I had with broadcasting. My heart dropped into my stomach, and I said I didn’t have any experience at all, thinking he’d deny my request. “Great!” he answered. “Then we can train you the way we want you to be trained.”

A few weeks later, I found myself shadowing the engineer for that Sunday. She was in charge of adjusting how bright everything looked on-camera, but it seemed to me that she was piloting a spaceship for all I understood of her job. I mean, the screen in front of her looked like this:

av equipment

The whole video suite was daunting, and I was nowhere near confident I belonged there. Still, I felt welcome in that atmosphere. Being with the media team was nothing like I’d imagined. Everyone was so nice; they pulled me into their conversations and didn’t mind at all that I was too shy to speak at first. I remember one of them showed me pictures of horses on his phone for almost twenty minutes between services. After church, when my brother asked how my morning was, I remember saying something like this: “It was awesome! The equipment is so cool, and everyone’s so nice, and they had donuts!” He laughed.

Long story short, I showed up again to volunteer the next week. Then I showed up the week after, the week after that, and every single week for almost five months. During that time, I learned to be an effective engineer. I also became efficient in other media team positions:

Camera Operator **

camera

Technical Director (TD)

technical director

Stage Hand

stage hand

Computer Graphics (CG) Operator

cg operator

I began to really bond with the other team members, who ended up being the first friends I made in college.

Along with the excitement of joining the media team, there was a whirlwind of changes that came with starting college: new living arrangement, new job, new friends, new independence. The culmination of these changes came one Sunday morning at church when I was acting as the Technical Director. I was gazing at the screen in front of me, letting my mind wander, when I sensed a voice speaking to me. It was almost like when a thought pops into my head, except this thought popped into my heart. I knew instantly it was the voice of Holy Spirit, but I had never heard it before; I needed Him to confirm what He was telling me. I returned my focus to the screen for the time being and decided to ask Him if this was true when I could be alone.

That night, I sat down at the desk in my dorm room. I wasn’t sure how to go about praying with such an odd question in mind, but I thought having a Bible in front of me wouldn’t hurt, so I opened one up to a random page and set it on the desk. I also played some worship music on my phone, attempting to invite Holy Spirit to speak to me again. Once I’d done everything I could think of, I asked aloud something like, “Is this real?” Immediately, Holy Spirit spoke. The sensation is as clear in my heart today as it was in that moment. The darkness that’d choked my heart was broken through by a flood of daylight2, and the darkness has not overcome the light to this day3.

In March of my freshman year, the team was in need of a new lighting operator—someone to control all the lights in the Worship Center and on the stage. The Sound Guy asked me to try operating the lighting console one Sunday morning. I wouldn’t be programming the way anything would look; I would just be in charge of pressing a button at the right times to make the lights change according to the music. I liked it immediately. I was terrible at it, but I liked it. I started doing the lights a couple of Sundays a month, and I slowly began to get the hang of the musical timing. One day, I asked the Sound Guy if I could learn how to program the console myself, and he told me he’d teach me***. The next Saturday, he sat with me at the console, and we programmed the next morning’s service together. He walked me through every single motion I’d need to know. It took 13 hours. After several weeks of patient work together, we eventually got to the point where I could program alone. Today, I’ve been the volunteer Lighting Director at my church for a year and a half.

sound board

another sound board

The beautiful irony that I once walked in darkness and now work with light is not lost on me4. I am now the person who can dim the lights enough that a newcomer to our church can raise her hands freely in true, honest worship to my God, my Savior, my Lord, my King, my Lover, my Father of Lights5.

Notes and Scriptures:

*Definitely not his official title. Also definitely what everyone still calls him.

**I didn’t get a picture of the cameras at my church, but this one looks a lot like one of ours.

***I later found out that he hated programming the lights so much that he was beyond excited when someone else wanted to take it over.

  1. Isaiah 58:10-11
  2. Genesis 1:3-4
  3. John 1:4-5
  4. John 8:12
  5. John 1:8

Written by Becca

Header image credit: Becca Redmon

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He Met Me In St. Louis

I know who you are.

You were raised in the church. Your parents sent you to Sunday school fifty-two weeks out of the year, signed you up for every children’s and youth event, and prayed with and for you nearly every day of your life.

You’ve been baptized, probably before the age of nine. You don’t quite remember the details surrounding the day you prayed the ABC prayer because life after that prayer doesn’t feel much different than life before. You still go to church, read the Bible, and pray, but that has always been true.

You don’t really like to share your testimony. It’s not interesting. There was no drastic, world-rocking change. It feels incomplete sometimes, like it never really happened. Occasionally, although you don’t really admit it to anyone, you wish that God had come to you in another way. Other times you secretly wonder if he ever came to you at all. But you ignore those thoughts when they arise; you dismiss the strange, churning nag that something somewhere is a little off. Because why would it be? You aren’t just a Christian; you’re a called, dedicated Christian who, on most days tries to pursue Christ.

I know who you are because, until December of 2015, I was just like you.

I spent my last years of high school and the first years of college trying to reconcile the confusing pieces of my Christian life. On one hand, I doubted my relationship with God; on the other hand, there were moments that I couldn’t ascribe to anything apart from the work of the Holy Spirit in my life. By the time I made my way to St. Louis for the Urbana 15 Mission Conference, I was at the breaking point of my spiritual chaos. In the most hidden part of my heart, I secretly delivered God an ultimatum for that week in St. Louis: Either you are everything I thought you were, or you do not exist at all. I no longer cared which one turned out to be true, but if God was really there, I needed him to meet me in St. Louis.

One morning, half-way through the week, David Platt got up in front of 16,000 conference attendees to talk about the impossible task of manufacturing a heart for missions, and delivered God’s response to my demand. “You can’t create yourself a heart for missions…and you can’t manufacture your own heart for Christ, either. Only He can do that.”

That was my problem and I knew it. I didn’t know how; I couldn’t explain it. My life in the church, my years of prayer, my countless hours of ministry, my sincere desire to follow Christ in life and in missions—it no longer seemed sufficient.

I spent the rest of the day arguing back and forth with the Lord, who whispered honest replies of Truth. The conversation went something like this:

“But God,” I reasoned, “I thought you called me into missions. Why would you do that if you are not already the Lord of my life?”

The Spirit gently reminded me, I never change my mind about anything. Your surrender cannot quiet my call. But I still want your surrender all the same.

“But God,” I asked later, “all these years I believed you were speaking to me, comforting me, convicting me. If that wasn’t really your hand at work, what was it?”

Everything I have ever done in your life was done for the purpose of drawing you to me, he explained. Everything I will ever do throughout the remainder of your life will be for the same purpose.

“But God,” I pleaded, exasperated from my failed justification, “I can’t even name what exactly I’m holding back from you.”

He answered leaving me no room for excuse: It doesn’t matter. I want every piece of you. Just give me everything.

So I did. It was then that I discovered that my ultimatum earlier in the week was altogether false. Of course God exists, but thankfully he is not everything I thought he was. The God I met in St. Louis is bigger and stronger and more loving than my self-made image of him ever could have been. Doubts no longer creep into my mind. My call to missions is clearer than ever before. My prayers are more frequent and sincere, my study of Scripture no longer brings empty results, and my shortcomings have ceased to define my status with the King.

So, like I said, I know who you are. And I know who you can become.

I write this because you need to know that you aren’t the only one asking the questions you’re asking or doubting the things you’re doubting. I write this because God wouldn’t let me write anything else until I let you know that you are not alone.

Throughout the conference, there was repeated emphasis on the truth that for Jesus to truly be Lord of your life, you must give all of yourself to him. Before December 30, Jesus wasn’t really Lord of my all. That night I gave Jesus the rest of me so that he could finally have all of me. If Jesus isn’t the reigning Monarch of every single aspect of your existence, no amount of lordship in any other area of your life will ever be enough to make up for that. He is either Lord of all or he is not Lord at all.

Written by Savanna

Image credit: Savanna Mertz