I'm getting ready for a couple of gigs this weekend. I've got a new PA system and a new board to figure out. It's a fantastic distraction.

I spent half the afternoon messing with reverb and figuring out levels for my piano. When I finally got things worked out with that I found myself in the spot I've never handled well - the practice room with a deadline leaning on it.

My worst enemies hang out in the practice room. My Judges. They can turn anything into a competition. 

Lately they like to remind me of my first visit to the studio last summer. I rolled in there to do my demo tracks and came away feeling like a failure. It wasn't anybody's fault. I just blew it - over sang everything. Didn't know how to use a microphone (yeah - you have to make some adjustments to sing amplified). Pushed my tone. Just had a bad, nervous night.

And so this thought was introduced to me (from within myself): "Sarah, this is the way everybody hears you. And it will never change. They already think you sound like this, and they will never believe you're capable of anything else. Quit while you're ahead. Call it off. Go home. Nobody wants you."

I do music for my job . . . my life. So a thought like that is devastating. 

Statements like that are lies and we have to move beyond them. To believe them is to zoom in on one note and say that the whole composition is worthless.

There is something out there that doesn't want us to be in community with each other, friends. It wants us focused on Facebook. It wants us looking at what everybody else can do, and feeling desperately alone. Hey - I bet most of you found this post on Facebook. What were you doing on there? What purpose did it serve? Some purposes are good ones. Some are not healthy for us. 

You might be thinking, "Well, what if there's some truth to it, though? We're not good at everything."

You are right. Absolutely. 

We are not good at everything. And we do mess up. Boy, do we ever! And that first night of recording was rough. Yes. And I've had rough performances since then. I blanked out during a sound check right before I went LIVE on the radio this winter. One weekend I got a really awesome opportunity to lead 3 different styles of worship in one weekend at church here in Ooltewah and I got sick . . . had to do the whole thing with almost no voice . . . and that was rough. I felt sooooooo sorry for myself (which is not the right attitude, if you were wondering).

But our thought cannot be, "It's over. I quit."

If it's a matter of calling. If we can't do without it . . . if we feel that it's a part of who we are, then we need to be able to say, "Alright. That was rough. I need to learn how to do better. I need to ask for help. I need to do some practice and study. Then I'll get back to work. This is going to be amazing."

This is going to be amazing . . . 

Today in my practice I was singing a song called "Forever Reign." It's Christian pop music. It's actually a well written song, but if you listen to religious radio, then you've heard it a billion times. It has a line in it I've taken for granted. It says, "My heart will sing no other name: Jesus." The line repeats like a mantra.

Brennan Manning writes this in his book, "A Glimpse of Jesus: the stranger to self-hatred"

"To acknowledge that our Father is the source of all life and holiness makes gratitude the most characteristic attitude of the child of God. The petition 'Give us this day our daily bread' expresses our creaturely dependence and the acceptance of all of life as God's gracious gift. It strikes down possessiveness and makes us conscious that we are beggars . . . And yet how reluctant we are to receive the gift! . . . We sell ourselves to the gods of security, sensation, and power, and a sickness enters the very heart of our existence. We grow competitive rather than compassionate, make others our rivals, stepping stones to our enthronement in a palace overlooking Malibu, part of life's expense account, enslaved in the Babylonian captivity of the modern world."

Manning also states repeatedly that Jesus' posture throughout life was one facing God - God the Father. God the Parent. God the Artist. God the Maker of All Life. 

When I sing that line: "My Heart will sing no other name . . ." I am saying that I will put out of my heart the names of my Judges - the people I've silently turned into my rivals. The ones I assume judge me just because I believe that their lives must be more perfect than my own . . . just because I have become jealous of their talent or opportunity. 

Today when I was singing that particular line, I saw them very clearly: the faces of my judges. I saw people looking down at me . . . people I've envied, but haven't taken the time to know well. I saw myself failing over and over and over again. And then I saw the image I've always had of God - a smile. I've never seen a face when thinking about God . . . just a big smile. The image of the eternal "Yes" I've known in relationship with God. 

And I Stopped.

That's the problem.

That is the problem.

My heart - the soul - the center of who I am - needs to only sing the name of the One who has created all things. My heart cannot thrive if it is singing the names of other human beings.

And what does my heart know of other people, anyway? 

You want the Truth??? I spend too much time living in the world of Facebook, believing that people's pictures are people's souls - and I have bowed down to these images, making myself a slave to the thought that I can never live up to what they seem to be. I have allowed this to isolate me. It has become an idol. And it hurts me.

When we live in a REAL community, we know each other well enough to know that all of us are human. Nobody seems to be immortal. Nobody seems to have everything. We can see each other's struggles. And it causes us to live with compassion rather than comparison. That's what human community is meant to be. We live life with each other rather than at each other.

I know that the songwriting is a calling. And it's a privilege and a blessing to me when I get to go out and sing for other people. I will get to do that this Friday and Saturday. 

This is important: When we pack up to follow God into a calling, we can't forget to ask God to go with us. We are the ones who get to decide whose names our hearts are singing. Will our hearts sing about our imaginary Judges? Or will our hearts sing the name of the Lord of Life? Who will we choose to travel with us?

I've spent my life being led out of captivity by a loving God.

It has to happen over and over again. 

Slave to my possessions.

Slave to my ambition.

Slave to my regrets.

And still God comes back. Or I come back. I don't know which. 

All I know is this: God can be visible in the middle of anything. A pillar of cloud in the day. A pillar of fire at night. God can be found . . . "Search hills and valleys through, there He's found." 

I've had this song for a long, long time. Just sitting in the back of my head. And now I know what it's about. 

Peace and Goodness.