Special to the WPT
Maura McIntosh Fields thought she had faced the hardest challenges of her life a long time ago.
She had dealt with the sudden death of her first true love; she had survived a divorce as the daughter of a high-profile and much-loved United Methodist minister; she had battled a tough period of severe depression and she had come out the other side with the resilience all believers hope would be theirs in the face of life’s challenges. Her life had finally settled into a predictable and safe routine.
She adored her job as the public school music teacher at Pontotoc’s elementary school. It was pure delight and an opportunity to fill her days with two of her favorite priorities – music and children. She wrote many of the songs the students performed over the years, making them laugh as well as causing them to think deeply about values like love for country while mixing in a wealth of music appreciation.
One of Maura’s favorite sayings had a prominent display in her classroom: “All Rock or all Bach makes Jack a dull boy.” Students emerged from Maura’s classes literate in music history – from Bach to Elvis, the Beatles and beyond. She was one of those teachers who touched lives and made a difference. The love of Christ kind of oozes forth from everything she does.
Then God began to stir the waters of her settled life. Was she hearing him correctly? She was sure God was nudging her to step out of her comfort zone and launch herself fulltime into singing for Him. She had long done weekend concerts, retreats and conferences. She had recordings out there that had brought her some recognition and success.
But still, there was no logic behind a decision to leave her steady job with a secure retirement and believe that she could financially make it. For every argument she had for God during his relentless pursuit, he seemed to remind her of a scripture or what she professed to believe about him and the strangest affirming coincidences began to occur everywhere she turned.
After months of wrestling with God and feeling very hounded, she uttered her final prayer of protest one night, spelled out her fears, and said, “Ok, God. I’ll do what you say and trust you to take care of me.” She slept better that night in the face of all the unknown than she had slept in all the previous months since God first introduced this preposterous idea.
The next morning she began to mull over the challenges ahead and consider the timing and the way in which she would announce this radical career change. There was no turning back. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not on thine own understanding. In all thy ways, acknowledge him and he will direct thy paths (Proverbs 3:5,6).” Maura clung to that scripture. She was going to believe that the same God who had led the patriarchs of old to do bold things was the same God who was leading her in the here and now.
It was Thanksgiving, 2009 when the McIntosh clan gathered in Jackson. Maura told the family just before lunch that at the end of the school year, she would retire from teaching and begin to sing fulltime because God was calling her in a new direction and although she wasn’t sure how it was all going to work out, she had no doubt that she was acting in obedience to him. She laughs that her family did not seem to have gotten the same memo from God. Nobody cheered. The silence and the blank looks said it all.
Her parents, David and Rosemary McIntosh, admit that when their only daughter made her announcement, they had mixed emotions, ranging from “scared to death” to “It was a mistake,” to “What are you thinking?”
In the end it was Maura’s statement that, “I am only doing what you taught me to do” that brought to mind all the times in their own journey God had called on them to do things that seemed so void of reason, total leaps of faith on their part and how blessed they had been for being willing to walk by faith and not by sight on more than one occasion.
Still, it was hard when it involved their daughter. Today, three years down the road, their faith has been encouraged by seeing how God has blessed Maura’s leap of faith.
Her songwriting frequently incorporated some of the old hymns into new original works in the uniquely “Maura” style which is a mix of Anne Murray, Joni Mitchell, Carole King and James Taylor.
“The songs you will hear are a big part of me – written from experiences of great joy and deep pain. They tell of answered prayers – some in the ways I’d hoped for and some in ways I didn’t understand at that time. There are songs about the love of friends, sharing life, holding each other up when needed and ‘being Christ’ to each other. You’ll hear my questions of ‘why?’ and my discovery of the peace of just trusting God’s plan, she said”
She is a veteran performer whose rich sound and poignant lyrics can move the listener to deep worship. She also has quite a sense of humor and can pull off one of her “silly” songs for kids that leave the whole audience in laughter. There is a sparkle in her blue eyes when she speaks about this new, unsettled life where she is doing house concerts, church concerts, conferences and retreats.
“Doors keep opening. It is fun to watch God work.” She admits it is kind of a “hand-to-mouth-day-by-day” existence, but God keeps coming through and Maura keeps singing. He opens the doors and she walks through them. And people’s hearts get changed.
A longtime friend of the Harper family, she was invited by Rev. Trey Harper and Eupora Arts to perform for the Booth-Lacy-Yates Concert in 2010. Now she is returning to Eupora for a special service of worship at Eupora First United Methodist Church on Sunday, Aug. 19 at 11 a.m.
“Maura’s music has been a blessing to me so many times in my life and any opportunity I have to share her gift and ministry with others is time well spent,” said Harper, pastor of EFUMC. “This truly is an event for the whole family. Maura has the gift of keeping even the most inattentive child riveted with her music and her heart.”
The public is invited and encouraged to come and worship. For more information contact the church office at 258-2611.