A Work of the Heart: “Letting Go” Song Story

There is a constant struggle in my life as a worship leader— a persistent drive to do all and be all to everyone and everything. When I formally became a worship leader in 2011, a co-worker made an observation: “You didn’t realize when you accepted this job that you would be doing more than just playing music. You are going to have to work with others, collaborate, and embrace different personalities.” This same person later approached me to impart some tough-love advice. “Sometimes you may have to sacrifice perfectionism for compassion.”
In my early days as a worship leader, I quickly learned that I was indeed a perfectionist. I was blessed with like-minded female vocalists to make up my first worship team, and we called ourselves OneVoice because we truly sounded like one voice— a pleasant-sounding unison that blended seamlessly. Singing with OneVoice was easy and low on the stress scale.
But then less-than-perfect dynamics began to bump into my music-making. I struggled to collaborate with one of the other worship teams. I fumbled through the summer of 2014 when all of our teams were mixed up and in chaos. We began to welcome new members into our teams who changed the easy and once in sync sound we had established. Instead of simple unison, we branched into harmony. New songs were being introduced frequently. I was creating new arrangements and trying to keep up with piano accompaniment. All of it was rewarding, but it was hard too.
Then one day, I was too critical of a fellow musician, and not-so-gentle words were exchanged. I felt lower than low and as far from being Christ-like as I could possibly be portrayed. I doubted my role as a worship leader who was prominently visible on Sunday mornings. In many ways, I felt like a fraud because of the conflict that sprang up in our department. Another team member pulled me aside and wanted me to explain how worship team members were selected. Were there standards that needed to be upheld in order to participate in ministry? I felt crushed that someone would even question those standards. Again, I felt like a fraud because obviously something was wrong with me and my leadership of our teams. I began to wonder if we were even effective. Were we fulfilling our mission to lead others in worship and bring our congregation into His presence? When others saw me on the stage did they see Christ reflected in me? Or did they see someone who was failing miserably?
I thought back to when I had just graduated from college. I performed anywhere I had an invitation as long as someone was willing to drive me there. I was confident in my abilities. I had a voice and I knew I was talented. When I was asked to provide special music for a Sunday morning service, I usually chose a song that was flattering to my voice and would showcase my skills well. I was pretty egotistical, and leading worship was definitely not on my radar.
Then to my absolute horror, my pride and joy (my voice), was taken from me. I battled through nearly eighteen months of debilitating sickness and weakened breathing. I coughed and wheezed to such a degree that I no longer had the breath support to sing, and my voice was raspy and fatigued.
I cried out to God, devastated that the one thing I loved so dearly— singing— was clearly not going to be a part of my future. I questioned my gifts and talent, my calling, and purpose. I spiraled down into deep depression. My world was shaken, and my once intimate relationship with my Savior was now strained.
I was a mess, but little by little, God began to love me back to life. Those dark days between 2009 and 2011 taught me that I was never too far gone to be deserving of His compassion and mercy. My voice gradually returned to full strength, although I still relied on medications to keep my breathing clear and calm. As my physical healing took place, God also worked in my heart. Spiritual healing did not materialize overnight; instead, it has continued to be an ongoing process, as I witnessed in my interactions with my worship teams. As the dynamics changed, I had to make room for the new and unknown. I couldn’t be afraid of the questions and potential conflict. In the end, I wasn’t leading worship for my own glory or notoriety. I was leading worship to do just what my title implies: lead worship. With leadership would come struggle and challenging circumstances, but it didn’t mean I was a failure. I needed to realize that the most important factor in all of this was that I simply needed to let the Lord into my life. I had to embrace imperfect progress and move forward. I had to let go of all of my intentions and let Him work through me.
“I’m letting go to let You in.”

It Almost Didn’t Make the Cut: “Jesus is your Friend” Song Story

The arranging and recording process is not for the faint of heart. I learned that rather early on as we made progress on The Dawn. Although I enjoyed hearing my songs come together, there were just some pieces that weren’t evolving in the way I had imagined. As the end of June, 2018 approached, I realized we were at a realistic point in the production process where I could see the end in sight. The only problem was that I only had nine songs that were coming together, and I had anticipated an album with ten tracks. Something was missing but I wasn’t quite sure what that could be.
It wasn’t until I was rehearsing for an upcoming performance that I found clarity. I went back into the archives, so to speak, and stumbled upon one of the first songs I had ever written. I had put pen to paper at age seventeen, composing the music in my living room during a quiet afternoon when I was finally alone. When you grow up in a household with parents and three younger siblings, it is rarely quiet, so I was taking full advantage of the solitude when I wrote “Jesus is Your Friend.”
The song was inspired by a difficult sophomore year in high school. I didn’t have many friends, and I was lonely. I observed as many of my classmates learned to drive, started dating, and planned to go to the prom. I witnessed break-ups and catty drama; it seemed like relationships changed in an instant during my high school days.
“Jesus is your Friend” was probably the easiest song I have ever written. It flowed from my heart in probably twenty minutes, but I wasn’t keeping track of the time. Once I finished the song, I was proud of it, but I was reluctant to play it for an audience because I was so emotionally attached to it. But once I played it for my mother, I found that maybe performing it live wasn’t going to be so difficult after all.
Over the next few years, I performed “Jesus is Your Friend” at our family concerts. The Lokker family was occasionally invited to share music and testimony at area churches, and although my parents took lead on most of our songs, they encouraged me to do a few songs on my own, and that served to boost my confidence.
In the Summer before my senior year, I was commissioned to write a song for a local Relay for Life team in support of the American Cancer Society. I was unable to attend the Relay and perform the song live, so I made contact with someone who offered to record me in their home studio. “Beam of Hope” turned out so well that I ended up adding three other songs to create a four-song demo. “Jesus is Your Friend” was the first track.
In 2008, I had the opportunity to record again, and this time, I self-produced a full album at a local studio. The album opened up with “Jesus is your Friend,” which I felt was one of my strongest songs at the time. So when it came to recording again ten years later, it only seemed fitting to include the song that had been on my other two projects. It isn’t the first track on the album this time around, but its there and its reimagined. From the rain and thunder to the countermelodies from Jenny’s violin, the song has taken on new perspective.
I’m no longer that lonely seventeen-year-old, but I still resonate with the lyrics, because loneliness comes in adulthood too. On those dark days when nothing makes sense and I’m feeling unloved, I only have to remind myself of the simple but incredible truth; even though others may let me down, there is Someone who will always be my friend. In fact, I have often referred to Jesus as my best friend, and its His friendship that I cling to when I need an anchor.
I already know the impact this song has had on my audience. I have heard stories that have detailed depression, anxiety, and despair, but I have reveled in the hope that this simple message has conveyed. The love of Jesus and His presence doesn’t solve the world’s problems. In fact, it was Jesus who told us in His Word, that we would have trouble in this world. But He also told us to take heart, because He had overcome the world! To have Jesus as your close and personal friend is a pretty powerful reality, and He’s one friend you want to have in your corner. Even when life gives the impression that its not okay, we can know that we are okay because He is holding the world in His hands. A true friend cares for those he loves, and as the Scriptures say, if He cares for the sparrows He can certainly care for you and me.
“Don’t give up. Don’t lose hope. Jesus is your friend.”

Just a Stepping Stone: “Adore” Song Story

I’ve written about it already— about the fact that 2009 was a difficult season for me and many of my friends. In the fall of that year, our church family learned that a dear friend had received the diagnosis of terminal cancer. It was heartbreaking to watch this vibrant and fun-loving man be forced to comprehend the realities of impending pain and eventual death. Just days after his diagnosis, he seemed to come to terms with what awaited him on the horizon. I asked him if he was okay. He told me that he had lived his life with one goal— to glorify God and to share His story— and he felt he had done that to the best of his ability. It didn’t seem fair that his days were now limited, but it didn’t change his purpose and perspective. He had his eyes on eternity and nothing else.
I was so inspired by his hope for eternity, that I felt the first stirrings of a new song. I was running errands with a friend a few days later, and I could no longer ignore the lyrics spinning around in my head. The radio was cranked up as we drove along, and I asked my friend to turn it down. I fumbled in my purse for something I could write on, and the lyrics spilled out so quickly it was difficult getting it all down on paper before they slipped away.
“This world is not my own.
It’s just a stepping stone to Your glory.
I lift my hands and pray that I can live each day
Just to tell Your story…”
There was no melody— just the lyrics. But I didn’t despair at the unfinished song. I knew the music would follow soon. I just needed to sit with the lyric for awhile until it came together.
That evening, I couldn’t concentrate. I had grad school homework due the next day, but the crisp breeze and fall colors drew me outside. I went for a long walk, repeating the lyrics in my head over and over again. With each step on the pavement, I found a tempo. A melody began to weave its way into my heart, but it wasn’t anything like I expected. I was saddened at the impending loss of my good friend, so I had in mind something more introspective with a depth that would reflect the nature of the circumstances. But what emerged was something upbeat, almost bouncy— an almost happy anthem about love, life, and eternity.
It was so different from my typical writing style that I set it aside for awhile— not because I didn’t like it but because I didn’t know how to bring it all together into a cohesive whole. Little by little, “Adore” found its sound. It started on the piano with my sister Becca lending her harmony. Then we took it to the studio as I prepared for the trip to Nashville. I did my best to create a full sound with synthesized drum tracks, guitar, and strings. It turned out all right, but it didn’t resonate as anything special. Perhaps I was just too close to the project.
When I was considering the songs I wanted to include on “The Dawn” album, I knew “Adore” had to be a part of it. But I was stuck. I needed new vision for the song, so I turned it over to the producer to work his magic. The track began to take shape with electronic drums, a rhythmic bass line, and of course, the piano. The vocals layered over the top with some added effects and reverb. It certainly wasn’t something I would have come up with on my own, and in the end, I liked the vibe. As I cranked it up in my kitchen one day, I recalled the afternoon I had written the lyrics while cruising down the interstate in my friend’s car. It wasn’t hard to imagine “Adore” blaring over the speakers with the windows down and the wind blowing in our hair. I don’t know what you think, but when I hear “Adore,” I picture a sunny Summer day on the highway, and this song blasting through the speakers on repeat.
“And to all who hear, I will proclaim the saving power of Your glorious name.”

A New Day… A New Direction: “The Dawn” Song Story

“The Dawn” came crashing in without apology. It was one of those songs that refused to follow a conventional format. It drove me crazy, the lyrics and melody coming to me in a frenzied mess. I wrote it in less than an hour, but I fought with it for weeks afterward. There was no chorus— only four verses that when written out on paper looked like a poem. I was convinced it was going to be one of those never-completed songs that would clutter my composition book and constantly remind me of everything it could have been if I would have given it the chance.
It kept coming back to me though and refused to let me go. I had written it with a good friend in mind. For me and many of my close friends, the years between 2009 and 2011 were riddled with grief and heartache. One friend lost her mother unexpectedly to medical complications. Another came home after a failed relationship to start over again. I battled through adult-onset allergies that debilitated me so greatly that I struggled to breathe. It was a dark time for all of us, and it seemed like we couldn’t catch a break. They say bad things happen in threes; well, I was convinced we were up to six, seven, or maybe even ten. My prolonged illness was draining, and even though I was in grad school and working toward my passion for church ministry, I often couldn’t find the energy to get up in the morning. I cried a lot. I felt like I couldn’t keep my head above water. Stress and anxiety were constants in my life during that season.
In talking with one of my dear friends who had been walking through her own struggles during that time, we spoke of our quest for hope. I compared our time of darkness to a never-ending night. It’s often been said that it’s darkest before the dawn, and at that time, it made a lot of sense. We were in the inky blackness of midnight; there was no light at the end of the tunnel, no shaft of light from the lighthouse on the raging sea, no glimpse of light on the horizon from the coming sunrise. We just needed to find the dawn!
To lighten our perspective during those dark days, we would often text or call each other when we happened to be outside at the time of sunrise or if we glimpsed something that reminded us of dawn. “I found the dawn!” we might say at such times, and for a moment, it made us smile.
Midway through 2010, I began to catch a glimmer of hope on my horizon. I prepared to travel to Nashville, Tennessee to compete in something called “Immerse,” and my song “The Dawn” was still not letting me go. I finally stopped fighting and forced myself to record a rough demo of it in the studio. I wanted to take some of my recorded tracks to Nashville in case I had the opportunity to workshop with other songwriters. I wanted feedback on my unconventional format. Although the song refused to comply with a typical structure, I still loved it. I thought of it as my diamond in the rough that just needed a beautiful unveiling.
I got good feedback about the song in Nashville, but the time for “The Dawn” and its unveiling didn’t come about until August, 2017. I spent a few hours in the studio at Bailey Park simply as a means to work my way back into recording. I hadn’t recorded anything since 2011, so I was a little out of my element. I was considering recording an album, but nothing was ironed out yet. During that two-hour session I laid down piano and vocal for two tracks: “The Dawn” and “Waiting here.”
As I got ready to leave the studio that night, I asked the producer: “Do you hear any other elements that we could add to the songs?”
He thought for a moment and then said without hesitation: “On “The Dawn” maybe some violin.”
Instantly, I knew he was right! I had always loved the interplay between violin and piano, and I got so excited that I could hardly sleep that night. Even though I was technically on vacation starting the next day, I sent off a message to the only violinist I knew would have the potential to add something special to my diamond in the rough: Jennifer Kittleson.
When I sent that message, I had no concept of the reply that awaited me a mere twenty minutes later. Jennifer immediately expressed her interest in helping me with my project, but her eager response was tempered with deep pain. She proceeded to tell me that her fourteen-year-old brother had recently suffered cardiac arrest and was no longer conscious. She didn’t know if he would make it, and their family was reeling. She told me that she wanted to collaborate with me, but that she needed time.
I felt the sting of Jennifer’s pain, for it was only six months earlier that I had experienced my own unexpected loss, also as a result of cardiac arrest. John was only 39 when he passed away suddenly, and I was still processing the void his loss had created in my world. I told her there was no timetable for my project and that we would move forward when she was ready.
On September 2, 2017, Jennifer and her family said goodbye to Chris as he peacefully passed into eternity. The loss was significant for their family, but even in the midst of all-consuming grief, Jennifer’s mother had this to say on their CaringBridge site: “It is up to the rest of us to live life to the fullest in order to fill the void that we will all feel because we knew and loved Chris.”
“Live life to the fullest”— that line struck me profoundly. It spoke of the will to go on even when the pain of loss was still so sharp there was no comprehending its release. Jennifer embraced this will to move forward by going back to work and returning to the music she loved. By the middle of October, we sat dawn to talk, and I relayed my vision for “The Dawn,” not only the song but the album I had begun to piece together with the songs I had written over the past ten years.
“The Dawn” album found its beginning in the darkness of despair, when grief, physical pain, and suffering were all-consuming. Sometimes life and its trials don’t make sense; but even when answers don’t come easy, hope is never out of reach. It may be the darkest before the dawn, but when morning breaks, there is no denying the beauty of color and light as it paints the sky. “The Dawn’ celebrates God’s faithfulness and His promise of life everlasting.
“Yesterday has come and gone. You’ll wake to see the light of dawn.”

Right here…: “Waiting here” Song Story

In 2013, I was spread thin, rushing around, and beyond tired. I was leading worship at FRC, mentoring fellow individuals with disabilities through the local Center for Independent Living, coaching a young musician, serving on staff for a teen center, and directing a camp for high school students three-and-a-half hours from home. I was busy and felt extremely fulfilled, but there were days I nearly crumbled.
My work at FRC was fairly routine and relatively easy. I was grateful for the fact that I could live out my faith without apology. My co-workers were believers and so were my team members. At every turn, I felt love and support.
But my other job roles were more challenging. I had spent a great deal of my life in the sheltered Christian bubble. I became a member of my church at 15, went to a Christian school from 6th-8th grade, attended church youth group and led in-school Bible studies, attended two Christian colleges… It wasn’t often that I encountered people outside of my typical frame of life.
But the more I began to serve outside of the walls of the church, the more people I encountered from different lifestyles and backgrounds. It brought about some significant conversations about life, faith, and perspective, and sometimes, it didn’t go well. Right away, I’m thinking of a night at Camp. I had just finished leading a staff meeting, and I took my Bible over to the CCTV so I could spend some time reading God’s Word. That’s when the first verbal attack came from one of my staff:
“What’s that— a Bible? You’re going to read that?” He said “that” like it was something offensive.
“Yes,” I answered.
“But why?” he pressed. “You know it’s just a bunch of made-up stories, right?”
And that was just the beginning of a discussion that spanned more than an hour. I answered the best I could, but at every turn, I felt like my faith was under attack. He had a response for everything! I would hardly get a word in before he debated yet another aspect of my faith. I held it together until it was well after midnight, silently pleading with God, begging Him to give me the words in response to this man’s incessant rebuttal.
“It sounds like you’re living for the moment you die! How ridiculous! What if you’re wrong, and there really is no God? All of this is a waste of your time,” he taunted.
“I don’t look at it that way,” I said. “Wouldn’t you rather live your life with the hope of spending eternity in heaven than have no hope at all?”
And on and on it went… until finally, mercifully, he excused himself for the night and went to his room. On shaking legs, I walked to my suite and let myself in. I couldn’t hold back the pent-up tears much longer, and my roommate heard me. She came out of her room to greet me, and the whole thing spilled out.
“Why am I crying over him?” I remember choking out between my tears. “I don’t even like him.”
“But deep down, you love him,” my roommate said, breaking through my tear-filled haze. “I know it doesn’t make sense, but God has given you this love.”
Deep down, I knew she was right. I cared deeply about each one of my staff. Many of them are still close friends today. It didn’t take them long to learn of my convictions. I wasn’t as if I stood up in the front of the auditorium and declared my testimony during large group session, but moment by moment I was able to share my faith story. Some received it well; others respectfully shared their thoughts:
“Cassie, it’s good that you have this faith, but it’s not for me. I’ve spent my whole life trying to be independent and self-sufficient. I don’t need anyone or anything to save me or make me whole. Believing in God is for weak people, and I’m certainly not weak.”
“God would never want anything to do with me. I’ve made too many mistakes, screwed up too many times. He couldn’t possibly love me.”
“I don’t understand why God would create me like this… broken, with a deformity, a disability. How could he possibly use me if I can’t do the things others can do so easily? Does he even love me?
It was these last words that struck me most profoundly. I have lived my entire life with a disability, and I have never once questioned God’s love. Of course, I have felt the sting of rejection— the feeling like I can’t measure up to my able-bodied peers. I know what it’s like to ask for help when all I want to do is complete something on my own. I don’t like to need people, and it’s in times of need and rejection that I question God’s plan. I know God has created me this way, and he has a purpose for me, even in the presence of my disability. But the questions come when life just doesn’t seem fair. I can’t change the fact that I have a disability, but somehow, I wish I could will away the challenges that come with it. If only I could drive, then I could help more around the community. I get frustrated because I hire someone to clean my house, all because I’m insecure about the messes that I can’t see with limited vision. Heaven forbid there would be something on the floor that my guests would see and they would be so appalled that they would never come to my house again! I sometimes dread going shopping for clothes because I know I won’t be able to get a good sense of whether or not something looks good on me unless I rely on someone else’s opinion.
I have written about this concept before, referring to it as the “Compensation Game.” It relates to this idea of finding ways to compensate for the fact that I have a disability. If I just try harder, excel at everything, and exceed expectations, maybe then everyone will forget that I am limited.
I imagine it’s similar to what my peers with disabilities felt like when they were introduced to a God who offers unconditional love. If a person has spent all of their life trying to fit into society, wouldn’t it be much the same in relationship with God?
All of the above and so much more inspired my song “Waiting here.” I actually started writing it on the way to the grocery store one day. I was feeling a bit lighter since it was early Spring and the deadlines for Camp weren’t looming on the horizon yet. I was contemplative too, and before long, my thoughts drifted to the many people I had encountered over the course of the past year… so many people broken, without hope, striving for something they couldn’t find on their own. If only they would reach out to their Creator, embrace a relationship with Him, bask in the incredible reality of His unconditional love. But I knew it wasn’t that easy. I couldn’t just snap my fingers and all of my co-workers and friends would suddenly embrace faith. I could pray, however, and my prayers became focused on restoration, a release of doubt and fear, and that these friends would know that His love was waiting for them at any turn; they only needed to reach out and take hold of it.
I wish I could say that all of my prayers have been answered. I still long for the salvation of many of these friends and co-workers. More than anything, my tears still flow for the antagonistic staff member who saw my Bible and launched into an all-out debate. I haven’t seen him for many years now, but the pain from that night is still so sharp, it’s as if it happened yesterday. “Waiting here” is a song of hope for those who are on the fringes, who are so close but yet so far away from embracing the Gospel.
“His love is waiting here… right here.”

A Call to Worship: “We will Sing” Song Story

When I formally became a worship leader almost seven years ago, I had no idea what to expect. I had been performing and writing songs since I was a teenager, but I knew right away that leading worship would be different. For the first time, I realized I had to consider the congregation, those sitting in the pews or standing to sing when the music began. It definitely wasn’t about me and whether or not I could put on a good performance. I was a leader now, and the songs I chose had to be approachable for those gathered in the sanctuary— in a vocal range that would suit the average singer and lyrically rooted in Biblical theology. I couldn’t choose a song simply because I liked it; I had to consider what words I was putting in the mouth of my congregation. What was I asking everyone to say to the Lord through the songs we sang? It was a great weight, but also a great honor and privilege as I began on this journey. It quickly became more than just a job but a calling. How had I lived so long, fumbling through songwriting and occasional performing without experiencing this incredible reality? I felt like I had found a piece of myself that I never knew was missing. I found the heart of worship— the way in which I connected most intimately with my Savior. I get choked up now just thinking about it.
I have been blessed to lead worship in an extremely accommodating congregation. My visual impairment has never been a barrier to ministry. I have many gifted musicians willing to lend their voices and instruments to our Sunday morning services. I have grown as a musician, being stretched to learn new music that I never thought I would have the ability to play without the aid of written music. On the surface, it would be easy to say that things were going extremely well as I transitioned into formal ministry, and for the most part, this is still true today.
But in 2014, the road got a bit rocky. When I look back at that year, two things come to mind: abounding creativity and absolute chaos. It all started early in the Spring when I walked through a time of personal examination. I found that I had erected walls around my heart when it came to some of my relationships, and I knew this was a result of a recent rift in a friendship. I had my guard up from then on and moving forward. I didn’t let just anyone into my life… or my heart. I threw myself into my work and that’s when things got crazy.
Our pastor came up with an idea for a summer experiment. He wanted our worship teams to consider unity and connectedness, so he orchestrated a major schedule change. He took team members from each rotation and mixed them up. Every team that was accustomed to playing and singing together was no more. Leaders fumbled for a plan. What would the blend of voices be like? How would we go about scheduling practices? Who would carry the responsibility of accompanying these newly formed teams?
It was a great experiment in theory—forcing us to branch out and work with others we may not have considered earlier. It worked well for me in the long-run. The worship leader from the Praise Team eventually became an asset to my OneVoice team, and I never would have considered working with her if I had not discovered that we could collaborate that Summer. But in the midst of the crazy, we were a mess. The hoped-for unity and connectedness was slow to materialize. But we certainly learned a lot on the journey, and it inspired my song “We will Sing (Let the Walls Fall Down.)”
I was reading Joshua 6 one day, and I was struck with a realization. I read about the Israelites as they prepared to conquer the city of Jericho. For six days, the Israelites marched around the walled city of Jericho one time each day, blasting the trumpets. Then, on the seventh day, at Joshua’s command, they raised up a shout. It was the shouts and the blast of the trumpet that caused the walls of the city to come crashing down. Can you imagine the sound that must have created— a sound so powerful that it demolished the walls just like that?
Why such a grand and glorious conquering of the city? “Shout! For the LORD has given you the city! The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the LORD” (Joshua 6:16). It got me thinking: what if we at FRC worshipped so intently and so loudly that the walls we had erected came crashing down?
Now, lest you think that I’m comparing worship to a militaristic exercise, hear me out. Just like the walls erected around Jericho to protect the city from invasion, many of us have walls around our hearts to protect us from painful circumstances. I certainly had my walls up in the summer of 2014. Instead of being open to growth and change, I closed myself off from others as a means to stay in my own safe little bubble. I knew that the text in Joshua 6 was trying to tell me something about my personal faith journey and the current state of our worship teams.
It would take time and intentionality, seeking unity within the messy chaos. But when the summer ended, we had come to a few conclusions. First, we would return to working with our typical teams with a new sense of purpose. We no longer took our leaders and accompanists for granted. We expressed gratitude for those people and things we had overlooked in the past. Second, we celebrated what we had learned when we were split up and given new roles. We explored new avenues for collaboration. Third, we welcomed the arrival of some new participants in our department, something I truly believe would not have happened so easily if we had not walked through the struggle.
In the end, I realized worship leading was a bit like a battle, just like the one that took place at the walls of Jericho. Again, I wondered: what if we at FRC worshipped so intently and so loudly that the walls we had erected came crashing down? What if we sang with such passion and unity that the people in the neighboring homes came running outside because they were curious about all of the noise? What if people in the surrounding communities began to hear about our worship and marveled about our devotion to the Lord? Do you remember Joshua 6:16? “…The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the LORD.” What would it look like if FRC and the literal walls of the building were devoted to the Lord! Wow, talk about a revival in our hearts and minds! Maybe the brick structure wouldn’t actually come tumbling down, but maybe our preconceived ideas about worship would become altered. Maybe we would start to care less and less about what we could get out of church and begin to care more and more about what we could bring Him in worship. Perhaps we could move past our worries about what other people think and simply immerse ourselves in worship: raising our hands, shouting out loud, dancing in the aisles… For a traditional congregation, it seems like a crazy idea, doesn’t it? Dancing in the aisles— really?
But our members don’t have to dance in the aisles for the walls to come down. It begins simply with a willingness to open our hearts up to the One who deserves our highest praise. It will happen one step at a time as we let go of everything that is holding us back. Then we will find a way to come together, and with one voice bring those walls to the ground.
Four years later, we are still on this journey, and to my knowledge there hasn’t been any dancing in the aisles, but I have witnessed the hope that exists for barrier-free worship.
“Let the walls fall down. Let ‘em fall. Let ‘em fall.”

No More Pretending

The day had finally come to record violin in the studio. This had been on the calendar for months, and I was excited to hear my songs come to life with the incredible string arrangements that had been pieced together and sent to me one by one over the internet. I quickly learned that nothing compared to the real deal. Unpolished rough mixes were just a bench-mark for the studio-recorded melodies. I sat and observed in awe as the violinist recorded line after line of music, gradually building a full-sounding ensemble— as close to an orchestra as we were going to get.

At one point, she stopped recording and began to tune her viola. She explained that the viola needed a lower, deeper sound for the next lines she would record— something that would sound more like a cello. In order to accomplish this, her viola would need to be tuned so the pitches sounded lower in tone, almost like what it would be like for an electronic piano to be transposed. I was excited when she told me this. I had always loved the sound of cello and piano together, and it looked like I was moments away from hearing this transposed viola provide that element to the song.

When she was done recording that section, I jokingly asked: “What do you call this viola-that-sounds-like-a-cello? A vi-cello? A faux-cello? Maybe we should just credit you with playing the cello in the CD liner notes and no one would know it was actually a viola.”

“Yeah, but there’s just one problem with that,” she said. “My friends from the orchestra know I don’t play the cello. They would know right away that it wasn’t true.”

In the end, we decided to just call the instrument what it was— a viola. Whether it was pitched lower or not didn’t matter; it was still a viola through and through.

Later, as we wrapped up cables and got ready to depart the studio, we started talking about truth and honesty. Somehow, our conversation worked its way into talking about the MTV show “Catfish.” I explained to the producer and violinist the goal of the show: to help an individual discover the true identity of someone they had been talking to on the internet. Quite often, the show reveals that just because someone says they are 25 years old, athletic, work as a model, or have been through cancer or disease does not mean any of it is true. Quite often, it is discovered that the person being portrayed online is quite the opposite in real-life. Instead of the good-looking model, meeting in person reveals someone who is socially awkward, hiding behind the computer screen in their insecurity.

“Why would you lie about who you really are?” the violinist asked. “Especially if you say you have cancer and then it turns out to be just a story.”

“Yeah,” the producer agreed. “What happens one day when you actually do have cancer and no one believes you because of what you led everyone to believe on “Catfish”?

Cancer is too serious of a factor to lie about or fabricate. In fact, of the three of us in the room at that moment, cancer had been a factor for at least one of us. It was no joking matter. Why would you tell someone you had cancer or any other disease if it wasn’t true? Was it for the purposes of gaining attention or sympathy?

“Are you trying to tell us something, Cassie?” the producer asked without a hint of humor, but yet, I knew he was joking. “I always knew you were making it up… telling all of us you’re blind, needing rides, getting assistance from the state of Wisconsin. I knew it! You’ve been playing us all along.”

“Yup, that’s me,” I said with a hint of a smile, although, again there was no humor. “You caught me. I’m just your average catfish.”

We may have been joking with one another, but I couldn’t shake the deep truth behind the day’s events: the recording of the violin-turned-cello, the realization that people may not be who they say they are, the attention-seekers looking for sympathy… none of it was genuine. It made me question myself and my motives. How did others see me? Was I being genuine in my words and behavior? Was I being authentic?

It wasn’t long before I had some answers. It was just over twenty-four hours after leaving the studio, and I was in bed, but I was far from comfortable. Just before going to bed that night, I had heard an alarming sound coming from my furnace room. It sounded suspiciously like a smoke detector, and I was nervous. It was now 12:30 a.m., and I heard the sound again. It was strange because the other alarms in my house didn’t trigger, so I was left to wonder what was behind the furnace room door.

When I finally garnered enough courage, I wrenched open that door and looked inside: no fire, no smoke, nothing. So why the alarm? I was on edge all night, so much so that I called my father and also a good friend to tell them what was happening. Both assured me that everything should be fine, my father elaborating that it was probably the smoke detector he had recently disconnected making the racket. Although it was no longer mounted on the ceiling, it still had a battery inside, and was making its presence known from a shelf in the furnace room.

But even though I was being reassured of my safety, I was still nervous. I have never liked the thought of fire, especially in the middle of the night, and with very little effort, I could almost conjure up the piercing tone of the smoke detector as it went into alarm mode. To be honest, I was nervous, sleep-deprived, and feeling pretty embarrassed for so readily displaying my weakness to family and friends.

In the days that followed, I found it refreshing to witness the authenticity of my friends. I told some of them about my fear-filled night, but even the ones I didn’t confide in began to tell me of their own fears, the things they worried about, or what caused them to lose sleep at night. I was vulnerable in admitting my fears, but my friends were equally vulnerable as they came alongside of me and consoled me with the knowledge that I was not alone. Our fears are different, but the raw emotion is the same.

As that week bled into the next, I prepared to lead worship at church. During that service, the pastor asked us to take a few moments and talk to someone near us in the sanctuary. The goal was to share our heart with another congregation member and perhaps pray for him or her. It was a wonderful idea, one that I was very open to based on how my week had transpired. I was fully prepared to open my heard to someone, but I quickly realized that I was alone on the platform. Sometimes, it’s easier for me to just stay on the stage throughout the course of a service instead of having to navigate the steps numerous times. So alone I sat on the stage. I bowed my head and started to pray silently, and that’s when I felt a presence behind me.

It was one of my worship team girls. She had come up to the stage, specifically seeking me out so we could share heart with one another. We sat on the steps of the stage and began to talk with great depth and honesty. We quickly learned, that in many ways, God was leading us down similar paths. We were learning some of the same lessons and seeking to discern where God was leading us next. Our conversation was raw, authentic, and genuine. Although it was hard to talk about the tough stuff, the result of our interaction was refreshing and encouraging. I felt supported, motivated, and loved, and I pray she walked away feeling just as valued.

Sometimes, talking about our fears and sharing from our hearts can be intimidating. We might wonder how we will be perceived. How will being real affect the trajectory of a relationship? Will there be a cost for speaking in honesty? Sometimes, it might seem easier just to hide behind our self-erected facade because it’s safe, much like a catfish behind the computer, hiding his or her true identify. To be real and authentic means that a risk is often involved. We’re not pretending anymore when we set aside the mask, tell the truth, and give of ourselves to better community. To be vulnerable with another is scary, but what if, on the other side of a heartfelt interaction, you find that there is camaraderie and the knowledge that you are not alone. There is depth in truth and honesty.

It brings me back to the viola and the work it took for Jenny to make it sound like a cello. Was she impersonating the sound of the cello with her viola? Maybe, but I tend to look at it as means to obtain more depth in sound. It took a lot of fine-tuning and playing just right to get the correct tone, but eventually, this deep, resonate quality filled the room. Once recorded and mixed with the other strings, I could hear the dark tones of the viola provide stability to the ensemble, and I realized that the song would be incomplete without that cello-like tone. Jenny was able to take something that some people would see as fake and make it into something authentically beautiful. We can do the same with our interactions. It might take some time and intentionality, but when we are real with one another, that’s when true community begins.

Holding it Together

From the moment I opened my eyes one morning last week, I knew it would be an uphill battle. A headache pounded behind my eyes, and when I sat up in bed, I felt the nausea set in. Not wanting the headache to develop into a migraine, I shuffled my way into the bathroom and fumbled for the aspirin. In the process of retrieving my pill organizer from the drawer, the pills spilled out and clattered onto the counter and floor below. On my hands and knees, I fumbled to clean up the mess, grumbling the whole time about my klutziness.

I set about completing my morning routine: taking glaucoma meds, cleaning my prosthetic lens and then inserting it, brushing my teeth, and then finally reaching for my allergy pills. It was then that I realized that there was only one pill remaining in the bottle and that I would need to call the pharmacy for a refill. When I reached for the phone, it slipped from my grasp and clattered against the porcelain tile. The battery compartment snapped off and went flying across the room. I couldn’t see where the piece had landed, so once again, I was on my hands and knees on the floor, searching for the elusive thing. At last, I found it wedged in the far corner, but not before some more grumbling to myself.

“Why can’t you just get it together?” I remember asking myself out loud. This was not a good start to the day. The headache, the spilled medication, the broken phone… all of it didn’t offer high expectation for success, and that really made me nervous. You see, I had big plans for my studio time that day. Oh, have I mentioned that I am recording an album? If I have failed to share that, I am sorry, but it’s true. I am in the studio this summer, recording a project that will hopefully be releasing before year’s end.Reocrding Waiting Here Vocals

But anyway… back to my big day ahead in the studio…

I had been under a lot of pressure lately. I had nine songs that were gelling and coming together fairly well, but I wanted one more piece to round everything out; a ten-song album just seemed like it would be a better fit— more complete and final. But we didn’t have a plan for a tenth song; I had tossed aside a song months ago, disappointed with its lack of promise and started moving on to other alternatives. For several weeks, I toyed with a few options, consulting with the producer and violinist. I needed a guitarist for one of the options I was considering, and the reality was that we only had about two weeks for a musician to learn that material. So that option quickly fell through, leaving me feeling stressed and on edge. Would I have to settle for a nine-song album? I had an idea for a hidden track; could that be my tenth song?

Then while I was practicing for an upcoming live performance, I played a song that I hadn’t performed in years. The lyrics went straight to my heart, and tears streamed down my face. It wasn’t an extraordinary song; in fact, the message was quite simple. But there was something special about the song and it struck me then that perhaps this could be the missing link. I sent a rough recording to the violinist and producer, and within the hour, I had my answer. We would record the tenth song in just two days.

I was confident in my decision, but I hadn’t played the song in so long that I was rusty. Would I remember what chords I would need to play? Would I recall the lyrics with ease even after all these years? How would I arrange the song in such a way to leave space for the violinist to add in her melodies? The two-day deadline was daunting, and when the morning of my studio day dawned with the headache and mishaps, I was immediately frazzled.

I took to my Facebook page, and asked my friends to pray for me. This isn’t something I do very often, even though I value Christian community. I have no problem asking for prayer, but I felt so vulnerable admitting that I was worried and stressed. My mind was buzzing with so much, that every time I tried to open my heart to God, I would quickly divert to something else that needed my attention.

So I left my studio time to the prayers of my Facebook friends, and above all, to God, and when I sat down at the piano to record, I felt instant peace. The studio session wasn’t easy, but the creativity was flowing, and the arrangement came together bit by bit— piano, scratch vocals, back-up vocals, and even some sound effects. I left the studio that day feeling good about our progress and so relieved.

In the end, I didn’t need to hold things together in my own strength. The stress and worry were real, but they were wasted effort. When I couldn’t seem to pray, my Facebook friends had it covered, and even more significant than that, God had it covered. He was at the center of everything, and He knew the end result. Sometimes I have this mistaken belief that I have to hold it all together: be the brave and independent disability advocate, set a good example as older sister and auntie, set achievable standards for the worship teams, and somehow manage to make my album come together with incredible musicality. I can’t do it all in my own strength, but somehow, I think I can if I just try. It’s so easy for me to divert to my independence driven mindset; I don’t need help and if I just work hard enough, it will be okay.

But entering into the studio that day, I was not okay, and it took me awhile to realize that I had been chasing after success through my own ability when I should have been relying on the strength of my Savior. Colossians 1:17 reminds us that He holds all creation together, and since I know that is true, I can say with confidence that He is holding me together as well.

He is holding my album together and growing it into something beautiful… and He is holding me together even as I fumble and grumble along the way. I am so grateful for His patience and kindness toward His stubborn child. He holds the mess of my life together and He’s guiding me in the midst of the journey.

As for the songs that are making the cut for the album, you’ll have to stay tuned!

 

Try… Try… and Try Again

I don’t know why I enjoy cooking shows so much— those competitions when it’s a race against the clock to finish a dish fit for the judges to taste. It’s almost stressful to watch, and I’m not one of the contestants who are rushing around the kitchen, trying to get everything done before the time on the clock expires. But even though it’s stressful, there’s something about the drive for completion that keeps me watching until the end. I have seen contestants cut themselves, needing to be bandaged and losing valuable time as they face a medical delay. I have watched as recipes have flopped: the chicken breast is raw in the center, there is no filling in the center of the pastry, the soufflé doesn’t get the beautiful caramelized puffed-up top, the bread putting is soggy in the center, the fondant on the cake is cracked and that same cake is leaning precariously to the side… Trust me; I’ve seen it all: contestants swearing under their breath, sighing dejectedly, and even crying.

You may have been watching along with me recently as sisters Remy and Olivia battled it out on MasterChef Junior. For a number of weeks now, the ten and twelve-year-old sisters have competed side-by-side, cheering each other on as they made their way well into the top ten. With only a few weeks to go until the finale, the junior chefs were placed into two teams to prepare a dinner for a pop-up restaurant. Ten-year-old Olivia was appointed as team captain for one of the teams, and her older sister Remy was a part of her team. At first, Remy took charge, assigning duties and calling out orders until the judges took notice and set things to rights. They reminded Olivia that she was the captain and encouraged her to assume leadership. Improvement came along pretty quickly after that, but it wasn’t without Olivia breaking into tears at one point due to the overwhelming nature of her leadership role and the stress of the rapid pace of competition. But in the end, Olivia came storming back, and her team did well… but just not well enough to escape the dreaded pressure test.

The pressure test was no easy feat: presenting a perfect batch of macaroons, all lined up in a bakery box. The two sisters were competing against one other contestant, and the stakes were high. The judges made it clear; two chefs would be going home after this pressure test and only one of the three competing in the pressure test would continue on the show. To put things simply: either both sisters would be sent home or they would be split up for the first time all season.
Remy, the older sister, did quite well as she prepared her macaroons and piped them out on a tray to put in the oven. But Olivia struggled, piping out her macaroons only to realize she didn’t have enough batter in her piping bag. She began to cry, despairing over her unfinished tray of cookies. From a nearby station, Remy took note of her sister’s distress and began to call out encouragement, instructing her to start again and mix more batter. Time was of the essence though, and with macaroons it is crucial that the cookies rest and dry before the filling is placed inside. Olivia needed to stay on track if she was going to have a successful box of macaroons.

With the help of one of the judges to get back on track and her sister continuing to offer encouragement from across the room, Olivia dried her tears and tried again. Her batter turned out perfectly, and she managed to get her tray in the over with just enough time remaining on the clock. The judges spoke highly of her macaroons, but in the end, it wasn’t quite enough. Remy was the only one left standing at the end of the episode, and she was forced to say goodbye to her resilient sister.

I marveled at Olivia’s tenacity. At the age of ten, she showed remarkable courage and maturity. Yes, she may have had melted down into a puddle of tears, but can you blame her? I’ve been there; haven’t you at one time or another? In fact, I’ll be the first to admit I’ve crumbled under pressure, particularly over the past six months, and tears and panic have been a regular occurrence.

Some of you may be aware that I had surgery to repair my retina just over six months ago. Recovery was difficult simply because my vision was compromised in my one sighted eye. Over the first few weeks I couldn’t see much of anything, and if I dared to fix my attention on anything, the pain was intense enough to make me want to close my eyes in agony. I was at a pretty low point then, wondering if independence would even be possible with the reality of my altered vision. I recall sitting at my parents’ kitchen table, eating a rolled-up pancake one morning, silent tears streaming down my face. My mother had tried so hard that morning to make me and her daycare kids breakfast according to our needs. She rolled up my pancake because it was easier for me to use my hands instead of a knife and fork. I like my pancakes with brown sugar and butter, and because I am allergic to egg whites, my pancakes also have to be egg-free. As my mother hurried around the kitchen that morning, placing pancake batter on the griddle, cutting the toddlers’ pancakes into manageable pieces, drizzling syrup, and rolling my pancakes into neat bundles, she got frazzled; Before I knew what had happened, she placed a rolled-up pancake in front of me, but it was made from the batter that contained egg and bathed in syrup. She realized her mistake and quickly made it right, but it caused me to spiral down into frustration.

I know she tried, but I just wanted to make my own pancake— to slather on the butter and sprinkle on the sugar, to cut it with a knife and fork, and eat it without making a mess. I hoped that day would come soon, but I knew for the moment that I was limited, and the things I once thought were easy were now twice as challenging. I knew I would bounce back; I don’t give up easily. But in the moment, I broke down. I threw a fit just like Olivia on MasterChef, the ugly cry that you hope no one else witnesses. I needed a cheerleader at that moment, someone like Remy to tell me it was going to be okay and to try again. But even though I love my mother and I know she loves me, she was far too busy with her daycare charges to cheer on her thirty-four-year-old baby.

It’s strange when roles suddenly reverse. There is a dear family member who has been struggling with her health lately. This once spunky, independent, and motivated woman has always been my inspiration. She encouraged and supported me in the early days when I first moved out on my own. She lived close by, but always gave me my space to learn, grow, and make mistakes. We spent a lot of time together, and after my surgery, she was among the first to remind me that I had to take my recovery process slowly. I wasn’t going to see improvement overnight, and it was okay to ask for help. I felt reluctant, however, to reach out to an eighty-seven-year-old for help; she wasn’t as energetic or quick on her feet as she used to be, and I worried about fatigue. But she reminded me that I needed someone, and it might as well be her.

But now, six months later, I am watching this ever-helpful and independent woman struggle just to put one foot in front of the other. The mobility is impaired, confusion is quite often present, and pain is a constant. One day, when she was particularly cognizant and talkative, she told me that she just couldn’t understand why she couldn’t do the things that used to occupy her time; reading, coloring, word finds, walking without aid, etc. It hurt too much, she would feel dizzy and nauseated, and just wanted to give up.

It was then I knew that I needed to cheer on the one who had once cheered me on from the sidelines. I said things like: “You can do this. It may take you longer because of your age and the fact that you have been laying down for a long time. It might hurt at first, but you won’t see results unless you keep trying to move. I know the food doesn’t taste good, but if you don’t eat and drink, you’ll only feel weaker. It’s not going to be easy, but we’ll take this step-by-step, and we’ll be here with you.” And by “we,” I meant myself and the other family members that frequently visit her.

One would think it would be discouraging to see a loved one struggle like this, but it was the first time in weeks that I had been able to talk with her to such a degree. It was difficult to hear of her challenges, but it was also refreshing to hear her confess her struggle. It gave me the opportunity to come alongside of her and offer comfort and support. It gave us common ground, because you had better believe I reminded her of my discouragement just six months prior. We talked about persevering and trying just once more… to hold out hope for a better tomorrow. We found a little perspective that morning as we cheered each other toward the next steps on our journey.

For her, it will be rehabilitation and regaining strength. For me, it will be making some difficult choices, making headway on recording the album, striving for better communication at work with my teams, and working on bettering myself in outlook and perspective. It doesn’t mean that every day is going to be easy; it’s a journey after all. “Courage doesn’t roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’”

Praise it Away

I woke up one morning, five weeks after my retina surgery. I groggily stumbled into my bathroom and fumbled for the light. I had to start the process of taking my meds, but I was in no mood to open my eyes. Mornings since my surgery had been rough— fatigue which made it feel like I hadn’t slept at all, blurred vision, sometimes a mild headache, and anxiety.

Yes, anxiety. Why did I feel anxious first thing in the morning? I can’t tell you why this happened day after day, but I think it might have had something to do with my experience on the first morning after the surgery. I woke up disoriented, my eye patched by a cumbersome metal shield. For a moment, I was confused until it all came back to me. I didn’t experience anxiety at the realization that my vision was limited; it was more related to the fact that the day ahead was largely unknown. I had no idea if I would be able to take my own meds, move around the house without sunglasses in place, be able to read anything other than an audio book, or eat without making a huge mess. My healing process was steady and stable, but I was impatient with my limited activity level. Thus, every morning upon awaking, I would be slammed with the reminder that I was still recovering and that my prognosis was mostly unknown.

So that morning when I stumbled into my bathroom, I was tired and defeated with a marginal amount of anxiety present. And then I turned on the light. Instantly, I saw it— a large, floating spot moving across my line of vision. Every time I blinked or moved my eye up and down or side-to-side, it followed me. Not even taking my meds made it go away. I didn’t have a headache and there was no pain in my eye. There was no reason this floater should be there.

I panicked. My entire morning derailed. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t pray. I was frozen. The only reason I made any effort to greet the day was because the doorbell rang and I went to answer it. With that task completed, I knew I had to move forward with my day, so I went through the motions of baking a batch of cookies for a church event that would be held that evening. But I was beyond distracted and my mind was drifting to all kinds of scenarios. Obviously, I had developed some kind of complication or maybe even my retina was detached again. I just couldn’t focus.

An appointment with the surgeons eventually assured me that nothing serious had happened, but that obnoxious floater was still there. Day after day, I would wake up to the dreadfully obvious reminder that I was still healing and that perhaps floaters would be my new normal.

My morning anxiety became so routine that it actually began to affect my work. But before you start to think that I began showing up to work late or let my commitments slide, it was quite the opposite. In fact, my anxiety often woke me up before my alarm went off, so instead of wallowing in my bed I would force myself to get up and get ready. I actually showed up at work so early one day that one of my co-workers asked me, “Why so early today?” My response: “Oh, I don’t know; I guess you have my panic attack to thank for that.”

“What?” he asked. “You’re serious?”

“Um… yeah. I wouldn’t make something up like that.”

And it was that day in my office that I realized I had a problem. I named that problem “panic” and gradually began to recognize my triggers and work through them. Eventually my floater began to dissipate to the point where I only saw it once in awhile when I would turn my head quickly from side-to-side. My ultrasounds and examinations proved I had nothing to fear in my healing process. I made it four months post surgery, slowly loosening my grip on the panic and anxiety. Deep down, I was afraid of a recurrence, but I knew I needed to move forward.

One day, about five months after surgery, I was practicing piano in my overly bright living room. I turned my head quickly, and out of the corner of my eye, I registered a dark, menacing, and very unwelcome guest. I wasn’t sure it was a floater or maybe just my imagination, but needless to say, it freaked me out. I turned my head from side-to-side again, hoping to get a sense of what I was dealing with, but I didn’t see the spot again. Part of me was relieved, but the other, larger part of me was paralyzed with fear. I knew I was over-reacting and that to panic was a waste of my time, but I was scared nevertheless. I said out loud, “Wow, panic is stupid!” I kind of had to laugh to myself then, and for a fleeting moment I thought about posting that revelation to my Facebook page, but I hesitated. I did not want to open myself up to the response that my statement was sure to create: What’s wrong? Why are you panicking? Are you okay?

So instead of standing in my dim kitchen avoiding the potential floaters that would manifest themselves in the glaring sunlight, I turned on the radio and cranked it up. “No Longer Slaves” by Bethel was playing, and it instantly gave me chills. At the top of my voice, I belted out the chorus: “I’m no longer a slave to fear/I am a child of God.” Wow! Thank you, God, for the right song at exactly the right time! Did it instantly evaporate my panic? Not quite, but it gave me new perspective.

I am of the firm belief that the enemy, Satan, loves to taunt God’s people with fear. Fear doesn’t come from God, after all. God wants us to trust in Him despite the uncertainty that comes with the unknown. Satan wants us to panic; therefore, instead of praying and drawing near to God, we isolate ourselves and turn away from Him.

In my panic and anxiety, that’s exactly what I had been doing: turning away from Him. God had been so gracious and loving throughout my surgery and recovery process, and my panic had drawn a line between myself and my Best Friend. It was as if I was saying that I didn’t trust Him enough to provide for me and protect me. But when I began to sing, everything changed. I don’t know if it was my attitude that began to shift, simply because I love music. Perhaps God used that particular song by Bethel at that exact moment to remind me of His love and presence. But maybe, just maybe, dare I say, the devil was on the attack that day, chiseling away at my weakness. He found a way to make me panic, but at the sound of my voice raised in song, he fled?

Someone once told me that the devil is allergic to praise and worship, so when we feel attacked, we should sing at the top of our lungs because he can’t stand it when we praise God. So that day I sang, holding nothing back. I just wish I would have done the same thing that first morning when the floater appeared in the glaring brightness of my bathroom. Come to think of it, I have actually used music throughout my life to banish fear, grief, and anxiety without even realizing what I was doing.

I can recall singing worship songs with a good friend of mine as we prayed her car would make it to our destination without breaking down. I could have claimed a family emergency instead of singing in the college choir concert the night my grandfather passed away, but I wanted to sing to honor his memory and work through my grief. When a family member was nearing the end of life, I sat by their beside and sang hymns with tears streaming down my face. I belted out Kari Jobe’s “I am not Alone” the day I got the news that I would need emergency surgery.

Without realizing it, music has played a significant role in my life as I have processed challenges, grief, and even panic. I would be so lost without music; I feel it so deeply within me that sometimes it’s all I can do to keep quiet when all I want to do is belt out a tune. It’s remarkable how one simple song can bring about such a change in attitude and demeanor. I may never be fully released from my tendency to panic, but I am fully aware of a weapon I can utilize to ward off its advances. From now on, I’m going to praise that panic away. Take that, devil! You’re not welcome when I’m praising the name of Jesus! I’m going to walk out of that panic prison with my chains dangling and my voice raised in song. “I’m no longer a slave to fear/I am a child of God.”