WITH ALL YOUR HEART Background
This piece is to be performed “with tranquil resolve” because that is the spirit with which Anne Sanford — in whose honor and memory this piece was written — approached her journey through leukemia.
About the dedication
Throughout my life, I have held to two verses from scripture tighter than any others; Proverbs 3:5-6. I have carried those verses with me day after day, but in retrospect, they have been carrying me.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your pathway straight.
As I began set those words to music for this piece, I was reminded of another meaningful portion of scripture found in Isaiah 43: 18-19, 20b-21. These verses were inscribed on a card that was given to me by Amy Baker, a member of Westminster PCA, Rock Hill, SC.
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.
In 2001, I began serving Westminster. Under the leadership of Rev. Dr. Shelton Sanford, the church grew to be among one of the largest in the Southeast and I was hired to help envision, create, and lead a new contemporary service. Those year, 2001-2007, were among the greatest times of my life musically and spiritually.
Shelton has often described some of the key figures in his life as “spiritual fathers,” and he - Shelton - has certainly been one of mine. He and I shared a good number of conversations over the years, and one of them stands out. I met with him in his office during a time when I was discerning whether or not to become a pastor. He encouraged me to take seminary courses but said, “there are very few people who can do what you do.”
Those encouraging world have helped me in my career as a church musician.
In February, 2005, Shelton’s wife, Anne - the church’s matriarch and a woman filled with God’s spirit, wisdom, and grace, was diagnosed with leukemia. At some point later, Shelton commented to Anne that he had claimed a verse from Isaiah chapter 43 that he would carry with him throughout their journey.
Anne, replied, "So have I, which is your verse?” Shelton answered, “Verse 2.”
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
Anne then shared that she had been drawn to verse 10.
You are my witness, declared the Lord, and my servant whom you have chosen.
Here is the February 15, 2005 entry from Anne’s journal:
Dear God, You and I are getting ready to start on an exciting adventure and I am so thankful to have You with me and to know You are in control. Thank you for choosing me to have leukemia, and my main prayer is that I glorify You in every way and through each event. Already you have blessed me so many ways.
I am claiming Isaiah 43:1-10 as my verses. I love all your Word but for now these are my most favorite.
Yesterday You gave me Matthew 11:28-30 and as I read Jesus said, “Are you tired, worn out? Come to Me. Get away with me and you will recover your life.”
I have been so tired and am thankful for this time with You and can receive strength from You. Thank You for all Your blessing through the years. I am most excited about these next few months with You. I don’t want to miss anything You want me to learn through this. I know the treatments will be hard, but I want to be strong and to be a good witness for You. Show me what You desire me to learn.
Thank You for loving me and all I can say over and over is that You love me and You are with me.
Anne bravely faced that dreaded disease and on March 7, 2006, just over a year after her diagnosis, Anne left this earth.
Before Anne passed, I was able to see God’s hand working in a mighty way.
On Monday, February 27, 2006, just days before Anne passed, Nancy Moll, a singer from church, and I met to work on some music. We had been collaborating on a number of songs. That morning, we both showed up with ideas for a new song. I came with a melody and chord progression and she came with a text.
Without having communicated beforehand, we were amazed to find that her words fit with my music seamlessly.
Soon, a number of the staff members from the church had gathered in the sanctuary to hear this new song. After we played/sang it, one co-worker commented, “That has to be called Anne’s Song.” We all stood together experiencing the weight of grief and also the hope we had in Christ. There was a unanimous thought that the song should be sung during the upcoming Sunday’s worship service.
On the following Sunday, March 5, 2006, we did offer the song during the worship service and by God’s grace, Anne was in her home watching the live television broadcast of the service. It was such a privilege to be used by God to bring a song to life that honored Anne; a song that was one of the last songs she heard during her earthly stay. Nancy and I did the song two other times; at Anne’s funeral service and later at a Night of Remembrance Dinner for Anne.
Several years later, Shelton remarried a wonderful woman, Mary Ann. When Shelton retired from Westminster, the two of them moved to Greenville, SC, where Shelton serves as Executive Director at First Presbyterian.
You can read more about Anne’s story in From Raindrops To An Ocean: An Indian-American Oncologist Discovers Faith's Power From A Patient, a book written by Dr. Kashyap Patel, the Oncologist who treated Anne. I would encourage everyone to watch the YouTube by the Doctor about what caused him to write the book.
I have merged Anne and Shelton’s verses with some of my favorites verses in this choral work to express my deep gratitude for the part they both played in my life.
Michael Austin Miller
Snohomish, WA, January 31, 2018
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