“Praise and Worship is engaging in a conversation of the heart, spoken or unspoken, with our Creator.”
This is the fundamental lesson Cindy Cruse Ratcliff learned as a young girl. Now, as an adult this creed steers her career as a Dove-award winner, an internationally acclaimed worship leader at Lakewood Church, Christian artist and award-winning songwriter.
Last year, Cindy took the studios by storm recording her highly anticipated solo album entitled, “Twenty-Three.” Her new album is a unique mix of genres: contemporary rock, Latin, and beautiful worship ballads blended to create an album expressing the faithfulness of God and the promises He has made to His children. Cindy’s powerful, one-of-a-kind delivery energizes these songs filled with heart-felt lyrics and explosive melodies that charge the atmosphere. She describes it as fun, empowering, honest and engaging.
With an indescribable love of the Lord, Cindy debuted her new CD at her home church, Lakewood Church, before a packed house and a Live International Television audience. In 2011, RPM Music, Inc., the record label founded by Cindy and her husband Marcus signed a distribution deal with Universal Music Group in collaboration with L.A. based Dream Records. Currently, the album is set for release with Universal Music and Dream Records in July of 2011.
“Twenty-Three” contains 12 all new, original songs written by Cindy and other artists, such as the Grammy award winning Israel Houghton and Aaron Lindsey. The title cut, “Twenty-Three”, also features a special guest appearance by Lincoln Brewster.
Already known as “America’s Worship Leader,” a singer, and music director, Cindy also is a legendary songwriter. She considers her writing to be a personal risk because of the fact that you openly share your thoughts, feelings and convictions; package them into a gift of melody and rhythmic pattern; and then send it out to tell your story.
“I write through the process of experience, need or making a declaration, for instance “Hurricane” was written during hurricane season in Houston. I’ve evacuated my family several times to avoid the power of the storm…and I’ve come home and found that everything that wasn’t nailed down had been “removed.” I thought to myself God is a force to be reckoned with. He’s mighty and strong and powerful and He sometimes needs to “remove” things in our lives and yet after it all He’s still gentle and loving always with our best interest at heart,” said Cindy.
Another song written through inspiration was, “Livin’ in Me.” Cindy wrote this at Easter. She explains how she wanted a modern Easter anthem that stated not only is He alive but He’s alive in us! Romans 8:11 spoke loud and clear to Cindy’s heart, “the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is alive in our mortal bodies.” Written solely to shout her love of the Lord, “Shout it out Loud” declares the name Jesus over and over, while “Twenty-Three” is a new twist on an iconic scripture, the 23rd Psalm.
“I felt like this song embodies the overall message and spirit of the CD, that’s how it became the title cut” said Cindy.
“My goal is to give voice to someone that may not have had a voice, to worship or cry out to or celebrate our God…a vehicle of sorts into God’s presence. Life is not always a neat little package with everything put in its proper place; in fact, most of the time we’re sorting things out. Every song on this album reflects some moment in my life. A moment of joy, pain, question, certainty…the same feelings all of us feel while making our own journey,” said Cindy.
But how did Cindy get to this incredible place of peace and joy in her life? What hand did God have in this unbelievable journey?
“Leaving a legacy”
Growing up as a pastor’s daughter, just outside of Tyler, Texas, Cindy was constantly surrounded by talented people who loved the Lord. One of five children, her journey of music began very early as she traveled alongside her family, The Cruse Family, a vibrant, evangelistic ministry of music and preaching, traveling and ministering throughout the world. Traveling day after day, singing night after night, this became the norm for Cindy. “You had to participate in ministry or you were left behind!” Cindy joked. Throughout her childhood, Cindy’s family gained popularity as they traveled and ministered full time. Recording 23 albums and winning multiple nominations and two awards, one of which was the Gospel Music Association’s Dove Award for “Contemporary Album of the Year.”
“We saw thousands of people give their lives to Christ through our ministry events,” said Cindy.
Cindy has seen the good times and the bad times of ministry. She remembers seeing her parents suffer greatly at times in life when doing the right thing, no matter the cost and when times got hard. She learned to be faithful to God no matter what. “My parents encouraged us to be true to who God called us to be…not giving in, to go with the flow because it’s easy, but standing for what you believe in. Knowing even if it hurts, God will cover and protect you,” said Cindy.
Because of these memories and life lessons, Cindy lives by the legacy that her parents instilled within her, and it is strongly reflected in her songwriting, on stage when she ministers and in her business and personal life with her family.
“Legacy is all about passing something on, generation to generation. That something has to be planted deep, woven into the fabric of your being. The tapestry of my family and what God has done through our lives and ministry is amazing…some might even say historic,” said Cindy.
“For I know the plans I have for you…” (Jer. 29:11)
Not only did Cindy see the blessings and rewards that God shared with her family, she saw God’s hand at work in her own life. At the young age of 6, she recorded in her first recording studio, and by the age of 9 she became the youngest licensed ASCAP songwriter.
At 19, Cindy signed as a solo artist with CBS Records. During her tenure with CBS, she earned a nomination from the Gospel Music Association for Song of the Year and also Songwriter of the Year. Soon after that, she launched her own studio and production company, to help other artists fulfill their dreams and visions.
To the outside Cindy appeared to have it all, yet Cindy found herself going through one of the most difficult times in her personal life. When her world was falling apart, she looked to God to encounter His perfect peace.
As time passed, Cindy remained faithful, trusting in God not knowing fully what He had planned and followed where He led. It was then she began leading worship.
During the next four years, Cindy launched a career ministering and leading worship for a series of different churches and ministries, what she considers to be her “university course.” Then one day, everything changed.
“Joining the Lakewood Family”
Jeremiah 29:11 took on a new meaning for Cindy as she became the Director of Music and Worship at Lakewood Church. With approximately 6,000 members and a 45-member choir, she felt honored to step into her role at Lakewood but to some her gender was an issue.
“It can be intimidating to be one of the few women in a man’s world, but I’ve never let position be a gender issue. Possibly I was just too naïve to realize it could be like that,” Cindy said. “Churches are commonly staffed predominately by men, but at Lakewood, Pastor Joel empowered me from the beginning. He never made me feel as though I was less capable because I was a woman. In fact, he was questioned on that very subject when he was considering hiring me and was very firm in his belief I could handle the job.”
Through the support of her pastor, Joel Osteen, and family, Cindy oversaw every aspect of the music ministry. She described her initial experience as a mission field due to the depth of work needed in the music department.
Within just two years the church grew to 25,000 people in attendance, five weekend services and the choir ballooned to more than 650 members. Everyone in attendance could just feel the Lord’s presence in the building!
“At times the workload was very overwhelming…but the rewards were unbelievable! We were setting standards in our field, a woman in leadership, multi-cultural worship and team leading, things that had rarely been seen before. It was a very exciting time,” said Cindy.
She spearheaded the production and recording of multiple albums. Under her leadership, Lakewood recorded three “Lakewood LIVE” CD’s, entitled, “We Speak to Nations,” “Cover the Earth” and “Free to Worship”, each of which sold in excess of 100,000 units. In October 2006, Cindy recorded another album at Lakewood, a collaborative Christmas CD with The Houston Symphony entitled, “The Gift”.
Thriving as Lakewood’s Worship Leader, Cindy and her music ministry are broadcast on nationwide television to more than 100 million TV viewers, in some of the largest markets in the nation. Voted the No. 1 most watched inspirational program in America, approximately 50 million online viewers, web casters and friends through social media see her each week. Additionally, through this platform, she is able to share her voice and music with viewers in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Korea, China and Africa.
This year, Cindy began her 6th year on tour with Joel Osteen to sold out arenas and stadiums throughout the U.S and the world, including: New York City’s Madison Square Garden, Staples Center in Los Angeles, American Airlines arena in Dallas, Texas, Olympic arena-Sydney Australia, Belfast UK, Wimbley Arena-London, New York City’s Yankee Stadium, Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, and Chicago’s Wrigley field in August of 2011.
In 2008, Cindy and her husband, Marcus, went through a very difficult season in their lives. Believing for more than five years for more children, doctors told them there was no hope. Cindy remained strong in her faith, not knowing that God had other plans. Her son, Windsor, prayed for more than three years for a brother and sister. Looking at the situation, one would say that it was impossible, but God held the reigns. That summer after going through a long process, Cindy and Marcus were blessed to adopt twins, a boy and girl.
On Saturday, September 27, 2008, she announced the adoption of her new, beautiful twins to the congregation of Lakewood. She not only had the joy of sharing this news but also, introduced “Lord of All” – a new song declaring God’s greatness, written by Cindy and her nephew Ryan Cruse. Today, Cindy and Marcus reside in Houston, Texas with their three children, Windsor, Merrick, and Emory, whom they consider to be their greatest treasures.
In 2009, Cindy decided to take a different approach in her career and released, "The Spoken Word", a collection of empowering and encouraging Scriptures set to uplifting music. To date she has released two CD’s in this collection “Faith” and “Healing”. During these years, Cindy’s building of Lakewood’s music ministry consumed her. After developing a foundation and structure for the music department, a team of worship leaders, ensembles, choir and band, she realized she needed a fresh challenge, which led to the creation of “Twenty-Three.”
Looking back, it is simple to see how God carried Cindy through her darkest days into His glorious light and peace to steering her to achieve His mission and goals for her life.
Listening to her heart and with her eyes to the heavens, it will be exciting to see what God has in store for her next!