May 23, 2020
(Photo courtesy of Janet Bozeman)
By Tracy Riggs
Correspondent, The Alabama Baptist
Singer-songwriter Mike Rathke sees some powerful significance in dates associated with his just-released EP “The Dawning Fire” — significance he sees as confirming God’s hand has been in the album all along.
It started when Rathke looked at his phone the first morning of studio recording. In the busyness of preparation, Rathke hadn’t noticed the date. Quickly checking Facebook, he saw a post that reminded him of his salvation anniversary — 22 years to the day since he accepted Christ and bought a Bible for the first time.
“It didn’t even dawn on me that first day in the studio was going to be … on the anniversary of my salvation,” Rathke said. “I thought, ‘Wow. That’s so awesome God would orchestrate those events for that weekend to happen that way.’”
The two days were a flurry of activity, getting all the songs for the EP recorded. After the final track was laid down, a friend texted, asking if Rathke realized he had recorded one of the tracks, “Oh, Lord, You’re Beautiful,” on the 37th anniversary of the death of the song’s writer, Keith Green.
“It was one of the moments where you stand back and say, ‘Man, God, thank You for Your fingerprint on this weekend.’… I take a lot of stock in that because when God says something to you and you hang on to it, even when the circumstances don’t look like it’s going to be coming any time soon, He comes through and says, ‘Here I was directing your steps the whole time.’”
Looking back, it is obvious that God was directing Rathke, even when he had no idea it was happening. He grew up in a poor family in Kansas, attending Sunday School at a local Baptist church when he was a child. There he got a basic understanding of the gospel, but due to his mother’s mental illness, they stopped going to church when he was 9 or 10 years old.
As his mother’s condition got worse, he and his siblings left home. Rathke began staying with friends at 12 years old. But even during those hard years, Rathke recognized God is faithful — he always had a roof over his head.
In high school, Rathke went through a rebellious phase and drifted further away from God. However, after he dropped out of school, God intervened.
“It all kind of came to a head. I was around 19. I was working for a cemetery of all places. I was mowing grass and listening to my headphones while I was working. For some reason, the Holy Spirit started to compel me to come close to Him. I would find myself listening to sermons on the radio. … Through that the Lord really began to convict me, and I felt this strong urge to buy a Bible. I felt like He didn’t want me to say the sinner’s prayer again but that He wanted me to take up my cross and follow Him.”
On the way home from work, Rathke bought his first Bible and started reading it, starting with Ezekiel. Even though he had no idea what he was reading, God used that time to instill in him a love for the Word.
Rathke later discovered his biological father, whom he didn’t meet until he was 19, was a devout Christian and had prayed for him daily. “I have no other explanation for why the Lord called me except that there was somebody … praying for me every day,” Rathke said.
Rathke had taught himself how to play the guitar while staying with a friend who had a guitar. At 14, he bought his first guitar with $20 he had gotten for his birthday. Though he spent a lot of time playing throughout his teen years, this passion didn’t really take off until he got into church. He started playing on his worship team, led worship and then went to Christ for the Nations Institute to study in the school of worship.
Now working full-time for Prazor, a Christian music streaming app, Rathke has the flexibility to tour and record as God opens the doors. He leads worship for the team at Prazor and also is a guest worship leader at local churches whenever he gets the opportunity.
‘In His time’
“The biggest takeaway from this whole experience has been God is faithful and He’ll do what He says He’s going to do. Just hold on. Whatever the circumstances are, just hold on. Be faithful. Serve Him. Serve His Church wherever you’re at, and the Lord will open up doors in His time.”
To learn more about Rathke and his music, visit mikerathkemusic.com.