Interview with Mary Sarah on Living Your Faith as a Country Music Artist

Recently, Mary Sarah (widely known from The Voice and KidZBop) graciously agreed to Mary Sarah 6have coffee with me while I was passing through Nashville on family business. If you are a person of faith or if you love country music, you WILL WANT to read this interview.
Now, before she entered the coffee shop I was honestly concerned that I might become a bit star-struck. But when she arrived none of that was an issue. And mostly due to her demeanor. Mary Sarah is a born and raised, down home Southern girl. That popular Southern hospitality shines through loudly in this young lady, greeting me with a hug and a smile.
Starting up our visit was so easy. In fact, after spending just over an hour getting to know her I left feeling like I had just gained a new friend.
The interview answers that follow below come directly from the heart of someone who follows Jesus and has been in the music and performing industry for roughly 12 years…and she’s still just 23 years old!

[Brent]: What would you say is the single most challenging part for young country music artists to stay strong in their faith?

 

[Mary Sarah]: “It’s the ones who don’t give up who make it. There are so many no’s. You simply can’t let people in the industry crush your dreams and stop you from doing what you truly love. It comes back to not finding your identity in what others think…your identity is in the Lord.”Mary Sarah 5

[Brent]: Looking back, if you could give 12 year old Mary Sarah any advice for the years ahead of her, what would it be?  (I think she enjoyed pondering this question)

[Mary Sarah]: “Remember to never forget where your ‘true’ joy comes from. It comes from the Lord.”
[Brent]: How do we practically do that?
[Mary Sarah]: “Pursue the giver of joy. Take the time and sit in silence with God. Don’t fear the silence.”

She told me one of her all-time favorite verses is Psalm 46:10, Be still, and know that I am God.” She emphasized the word ‘know.’ When we know something there isn’t any question about it. When we know that God really is all he says he is we can rest in that hope. 

“Never forget where your ‘true’ joy comes from.” If I’m being honest and not careful, my joy can be found in the number of followers and comments I get online. Or in how happy I can make others around me. And especially around the positions/accomplishments I’ve accumulated in my life. How about you? Mary Sarah’s first answer didn’t include the word ‘true,’ but she quickly added it. She clarified that true joy can only be rooted in Jesus. Joy in anything else is just a counterfeit hope. 

Then she said these word about the giver of joy. “Don’t fear the silence.” This is proof that us older adults (I’m not OLD, just older) can definitely learn spiritual truths from some who are younger. I’m not sure about you, but I do occasionally fear the silence when I’m sitting with God in prayer. Why? Honestly, because I might not really want to hear what loving challenge or new direction he might be calling me into. Fearing the silence, however, leads to avoidance. And avoiding time with him actually hinders our relationship with him. 

 

[Brent]: What is one of the most helpful pieces of life advice (outside of family) anyone has ever offered to you?
[Mary Sarah]: “I’d say that would probably have come from working with Ray Price – At age 16 he shared these encouraging words with me and my parents. ‘Know your audience, tailor your show to them. Give them their own personal show. Also, don’t be too sexy. Know who you are (in person and online) and don’t use your body to advance your career.’ I still reflect on those words today.”
After getting to know Mary Sarah, I can honestly say she is the same person off stage as when she’s performing. The young lady I met with was the same person we all watched on cheered for on The Voice. 
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[Brent]: Do you have any personal boundaries in place for accountability with so much available to you?
[Mary Sarah]: “Alcoholism…it has been passed down through my family. I’ve had to develop a mindset that re-enforces the fact that I really don’t need to do whatever everyone else is doing around me. Also, I never drink heavy at all before a show. I have a job to do and that responsibility to my audience is taken seriously.”
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[Brent]: What does Mary Sarah’s personal quiet time generally look like?
[Mary Sarah]: “Quiet time with Jesus every day is a necessity for me. Waking up and realizing that God loves me and that I have value in that day is something I try to focus on each day before my feet hit the floor. Also, Prayer is a natural lifestyle for me. It reminds me that I’m not alone and keeps me grounded. My most favorite thing is to sit in quiet in the morning, just my Bible, coffee, and Jesus. We  make time because the Lord makes time for us.”
[Brent]: How do you continue to cultivate your relationship with Jesus with all the music venues and travel on your calendar?
[Mary Sarah]: “Well, it’s definitely harder on the road. I look at flying as an excuse to shut myself off from the world. I also actively journal, which has really become a precious conversation with the Lord. Surrounding myself with others for loving accountability is critical for me. But this is on me. I’m responsible to ask for this.”
I want to wrap up this post by highlighting a pivotal moment in Mary Sarah’s life. Just a few months ago she posted on Instagram that she was going off-line for a few days. And she did! She got out of town to a beach somewhere with her Mom for about a week. There was no work, no writing music, no social media engagement. In essence, she took an extended Sabbath rest. She got quite authentic and told me that she felt a nudge in her spirit. A tugging on her heart to get away and reflect on her personal life, career, and walk with Jesus. And this proved to be beneficial. She returned to life as usual with a renewed vision and clarity for the direction her life needed to head. I love that she practices what she said earlier, that we make time for God because he makes time for us.

 

Her beautiful vocals and ability are found to be similar to that of Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline. Mary Sarah’s music can be streamed on Spotify, and the best ways to keep up with her online is by following her on Instagram and Twitter. I highly recommend you give her a follow.

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3 Steps To God’s Will For Your Life Today

Have you ever found yourself in a season where life just sucks? And then God tosses an image like this out on your Facebook feed. prayer

 

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus FOR YOU.”  1 Thess. 5:16-18

 
It’s important for us as believers to recognize these 3 ASPECTS of God’s will for us provided here in 1 Thessalonians.
 
  1. Rejoice ALWAYS – Meaning, be glad. Look for the joys of life that are all around us but often difficult to notice.
  2. Pray WITHOUT ceasing – Having a constant mind of prayer throughout the day helps to strengthen our faith. It keeps us focused on God more than our circumstances. It reminds us that we need him. Lastly, it encourages us not to give up praying for things that we’ve been asking God about for a while.
  3. Give thanks in ALL circumstances – It’s easier for most of us to give thanks to God when life is pleasant. But when things really stink it requires a ton of effort to be actively thankful.
 
So, why are these 3 things such a high focus for God’s will for you and I?
 
As our father in heaven, he truly wants for us to be happy. Continual prayer is needed to maintain our relational connection with him. And a thankful heart keeps us grounded and hopeful.
 
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t actually going to post anything this morning. But this image on PRAYER caught my eye as I was scrolling through FB. My wife had posted it. She’s awesome. Anyway, we’re currently in a very difficult season and walking through mental health struggles with one of our adult children.
 
The most frustrating part of it is that there is virtually nothing we can do to FIX their situation. Nothing we can do to take their pain away. All we can to is be present, offer a thousand hugs, and be a sense of security and safety. We also pray a TON.
 
While I say ‘all we can do,’ those things really are powerful. In all actuality, they really are ENOUGH. But as a parent it doesn’t feel like it.
 
Nevertheless, I choose to focus on these ACTIONS today…tomorrow…and the next day.
 
How about you? Do you wrestle with these? How can I pray for you this week?

 

 

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Discovering Every Day Just How UnGodly I Really Am

Godliness. It’s one of those words/traits in the Bible that feels vague, a bit self-righteous, and unattainable. Don’t you think?

Our level of ‘Godliness’ actually consists of our personal knowledge of him. How much of God’s revealed knowledge, truth, and wisdom do we have? How much of this have we experienced? This is what it means to be Godly. How much of all truth of God do we really know?

With that in mind, some might assume that Bible scholars, theologians, and veteran pastors might be some of the most Godly people. This is definitely not the case.

godliness

Godliness is not attained by perfect Biblical behavior or simply memorizing scripture. While those things are good to aim for, it is the actual experienced character of God that makes us Godly.

For example, I can read in the Psalms all day long that God is my protection and my strength. But that stops at head knowledge if I’m only believing what I read about him. To truly know that he protects and strengthens me is to personally experience it.

Now, in 1 Timothy we learn that there is one additional component to be added to Godliness.

“But godliness with contentment is great gain,  for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.” 1 Tim. 6:6

So, having an experiential knowledge of God paired with being content with how he has chosen to bless and provide for us is great gain!

How about it? Let’s strive for Godliness and legit contentment today.

 

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Same Blog…New Focus!

Guys, I’ve been blogging for over 10 years now. I started in the early days with a blog I called ‘Brain Gum, spiritual thoughts to chew on.’ I miss that one. Then after some church leadership experiences, Lead Right was born. This blog had a few posts about scripture and faith, but it largely focused on healthy leadership.

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As my blog needs to adequately reflect my personal season of life, it is now transitioning back to a more ‘devotional-type’ of blog.

My wife, Cailey, and I co-pastor a Missional Community in Yakima, WA. This endeavor has been completely new and invigorating for us. It’s an approach to living and spreading the Gospel, while making disciples, that we’ve never experienced before.

I’m keeping all prior posts on this blog. But as a transitional post, here are a few of the more popular leadership writings I’ve shared.

‘Godly’ Doesn’t Always Equate to a Good Leader  //  Why Churches Should Be In The Habit Of Spilling The Beans  //  Leadership Burnout: 4 Signs To Watch For  //  3 Things To Always And Never Do In Leadership  //  6 ‘Easy’ Ways To Begin Leading Your Home Spiritually  //  4 Ways To Embrace Failure  //  The One Commandment Most Church Leaders Break Often  //  4 Food Groups of Leadership  //  Church Health – an Oxymoron?

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And for those of you who are looking forward to future reflections on Scripture and living out our faith, here are a few past posts that readers have liked.

4 Keys to a Successful Devotional Time  //  3 Things to Avoid When God Begins to Speak  //  Why You’re Being Attacked  //  3 Ways To Find Real Joy  //  How To Listen When God Begins To Speak  //  God Is Working On Your Behalf This Very Moment 

Before I let you go, can you do me a favor? Please let me know what > TOPICS < you are most interested in so I can focus on those.

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3 Things Every Believer Must Practice Regularly

Great pastors and authors like Richard Foster and Dallas Willard have taught about the subject of Spiritual Disciplines for years. Now, there isn’t a complete list like the Ten Commandments in the Bible that groups all of the disciplines together for us (although that might have been handy). The Bible doesn’t even refer to them as Spiritual Disciplines. Yet, these are spiritual practices Christ followers can observe so that they are able to grow and mature in their faith and their understanding of God.

3 things

While disciplines like solitude, fasting, and tithing are among well over a dozen others, below are three spiritual practices I believe to be absolutely critical if a believer wants to experience life fulfillment, have joy, and grow closer to Jesus.

Bible Intake |  The Bible holds all that we need to know about God’s character and his heart toward us. If we never read the Scriptures and only pray and spend time with other believers, all we will have is a highly personalized philosophy of God. Very little truth or foundation.

But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) And of course we know that all scripture is inspired/breathed by God. It’s not an option. We were created for God’s word to fuel us, to give us life.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105) God’s word guides our choices and directs us on our life journey. He’s our GPS! And here’s the great thing. We you and I take a wrong turn in life, he simply says, ‘re-routing.’

“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” (Psalm 119:18) A couple of those ‘wondrous things’ would be learning about God’s will for us and making new discoveries of his character and personality.

Prayer | When we take time to pray we are making an investment in our relationship with God. I’ve often said that prayer is like taking God to coffee. You hopefully enjoy each other’s company, learn something new about each other, and openly share what’s on your hearts.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6) God already knows what you want and need. So why pray? Because God actually wants us coming to him, talking to him, and acknowledging the relationship. God is not a deadbeat dad who is disconnected and merely sends a child support check in the mail each month.

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.” (Psalm 34:17) God both hears and acts. He’s accessible 24/7. And he works on our behalf.

Community with other believers | We were not created to do life alone, nor to thrive or struggle on our own. Not only do we see the importance of community in the Creation story back in Genesis, but it was also fully lived out by Jesus with his disciples.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)  Believers should lovingly encourage each other to do good for others and to love in ways like Jesus did.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2) Walking 100 yards with a 500 pound weight on your back is MUCH EASIER if you have a large number of like-minded friends near you to help carry it.

So, would YOU add anything to my list? Have you experienced these three things in your own life?

And possibly more important, do you struggle with one of these more that others?

 

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What To Run To And From

run
A quote by Erwin McManus from the final day reading of The Way of the Warrior devotion on Youversion.
Sometimes we need to run. Toward or away, but running is action. Away from fear, negativity, and unhealthy influences. And toward hope, love, and real community.
Now, regarding people we need in our lives…let’s define ‘need.’ Need isn’t the same as want, or even demand. The people we really need in our lives can be defined this way. We need those who honestly care about what’s best for us and who will journey with us.

 

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2 Images of God You May Have Forgotten

SUN & SHIELD!img_9666

The Psalmist describes God as a sun. There is some clear imagery here. The sun is our source of light, warmth, and life. Additionally, it’s the center of attention.

We should be giving God all our attention all of the time.

Next he is a shield. God is our constant protection. He gives his angels authority and responsibility over us.

We need to trust his protection.

All of us, even those who are exceptionally strong in the faith, benefit from this regular reminder.

God is our life & sustenance….
AND he’s our impenetrable fortress of protection.

Do our lives reflect that we believe this?

 

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Do You Have A Bad Attitude?

Don’t allow a bad attitude to mask your GREAT CHARACTER today. character
We all have those moments. Stub a toe, wack a finger with a hammer, spill the morning coffee. The right situation can negatively effect those with even the strongest character, myself included. And we’re not perfect.

Galatians 5:22-23 reads, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control These are basically CHARACTER TRAITS, evidence, for believers that God’s Spirit is thriving in us.

The key is to RECOGNIZE it and ADDRESS it. Hope you enjoy your Thursday!

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I Don’t Like Wearing Pants!

Ok, let me explain.

Not wearing any pants is frowned upon in most parts of our society. But I’m talking about shorts! I love wearing shorts. They breathe, and are simply more comfortable than full-length pants.

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And today is the first day I’ve gotten to wear shorts after a very long, snowy winter here in central WA State. It’s a small thing, but it makes me very happy. And somehow putting my shorts on this morning reminded me of soul care.

Taking time to actually take care of you when needed is unfortunately viewed today (by some) as being selfish. But if we are careful and pay close attention to our physical, emotional, and spiritual health, we will quickly learn to recognize those moments that we need to change things up a bit.

What does that look like? It’s different for everybody. Take an afternoon nap on the couch. Read a good book at your favorite coffee shop. Go for a long walk. Take a trip to the beach or go camping.

My wife and I take a 24/hr Sabbatical every two months. We try to get out of town, go offline and off of social media, ignore our phones and email, pray, read, journal, and enjoy solitude. And for those of us who are believers, we can count numerous references in the Bible that instruct and model the practice of good soul care.

Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” – 1 Kings 19:7  Sometimes the journey IS too much for us. So we must eat, drink water, regain our strength so we can continue moving forward.

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” – Mark 1:35  We read about Jesus doing this often! He got alone and spent some quiet time with God. But it was a ‘solitary place.’ Jesus removed himself from people.

So, what’s the purpose in practicing comfort and soul care? I’ll tell you. It interrupts our chaotic rhythms of life so that hopefully we might rest and take honest inventory of ourselves. It’s like stepping off the football field and sitting down at Row 50 on the 50 yard line. That athlete has a better vantage point than the rest of the players on the field. He has stepped out of his current reality and into a place where he can see the bigger picture all at once.

Challenge: Take time to determine what your personal Soul Care plan might looks like. Or what it NEEDS to look like. Write it down, pick a date and time, and then make it happen!

I’d love to hear about your experience with this.  Join the discussion and LEAVE A COMMENT below.

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4 Keys to a Successful Devotional Time

Ok, let’s begin by defining ‘Successful.’

For the purpose of this blog post, a ‘Successful’ devotional time is one that actually happens and is intentional. It also lays the foundation for us to more easily experience something God has for us that day.

Here we go…

Eliminate distractions | I’m a little ADD, so it doesn’t take much for my attention to get notifs offhijacked. If you can relate, you might want to try some things that have worked for me. Listen to instrumental music using headphones. Use a room or space where others are not present. Mute your phone and set it face down. Or if you use your phone for your devotion time, turn all of your notifications off. Set it to ‘Do Not Disturb.’ If you’re using a laptop, close all tabs for things like email and Facebook. They alert you when a new message arrives.

 

Make a plan | Treat this like an appointment. Set a time and stick to it. I’ve even placed calendarit on my calendar before.  And if you plan to journal, will it be paper or online? What will you journal? Planning ahead before your devotional time helps it to occur more smoothly.

 

Come prepared | Determine in advance what scriptures you will be biblereading. What Bible translation will you use? Do you prefer using a physical Bible, or an App like Youversion? Any devotional books or podcasts? Oh, and don’t forget your favorite coffee!

 

 

 

Include prayer | Woman with bibleThis may sound unambivalent, but I’ve found this piece to be something that can be easily overlooked. I almost always try to open my devotional time with God in prayer. Asking him to speak clearly to me through the passages I’ll be reading and for his Spirit to guide me to the areas of scripture I need to reflect on that day. Doing this also helps me to focus my attention on the things of God and away from the issues, errands, and concerns I’ll be facing later.

All 4 of these keys have the makings for a strong, successful daily habit of spending some valuable time with God. Now, this list is obviously not comprehensive, it won’t guarantee your salvation, and it’s not going to ensure a euphoric connection with God every day!

But here’s what it does do! It provides a basic foundation for us to grow in our relationship with Jesus that otherwise becomes virtually impossible.

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. – Psalm 119:15

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. – Colossians 3:2

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. – Romans 8:5

What KEYS would you add? Has this been helpful to you? Feel free to leave a comment or DM me.

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