In which I have a [powerful] free download for you :: In which I am practicing

A few months ago, I wrote an essay for Deeper Story called In which I am practicing. It was born out of a turning point in my own life, and I wanted to mark it by writing about it.

After it was published, I was surprised – and so blessed – by the behind-the-scenes response to it. Email after email from readers and friends and strangers, all saying: YES. Yes. That is exactly what I want, too.

And then Sarabeth Jones decided to perform it at her church.

She’s a talented actress and creative soul from northwest Arkansas’ Fellowship North. On the Sunday of the performance, I was crazy excited and nervous, and I wasn’t even there or involved in the least! It was all her and her team. She changed some of the words to reflect their community’s unique needs. Then, with her lovely friend playing Bach’s Prelude in C alongside, she performed that crap out of that essay.

After she was finished, the church swung right into Matt Redman’s 10,000 Reasons (which I’ve linked below as well), and they had a time together.

I asked Sarabeth if I could share the audio with you and she graciously agreed. It’s available here as a free download just below. When I listened to her perform it, it felt like every word was new to me. (Maybe it’s her lovely Arkansas accent.)

Sarabeth, thank you again so much for this gift and honour!

So here you go – just click the link below:

In which I am practicing – audio file

In which I am practicing

I have practiced cynicism, like a pianist practices scales, over and over.  I have practiced being defensive – about my choices and my mothering, my theology and my politics – until I was on the offense. I performed, with repetition, outrage and anger, the victim of someone else’s god, I jumped, Pavlovian, to right every wrong and defend every truth, refute every blog post, pontificate to every question. I called it critical thinking to hide my bitter and critical heart, and I wondered why I had no real joy.

It didn’t take long for my proficiency in cynicism to become obvious to others. My aptitude didn’t take a lot of work, I’ll be honest, it seemed to come rather naturally to me, maybe I was a prodigy. I practiced poking holes, deflating arguments, identifying the pill in all of the jam. My response to it all was, “yeah, but…” and I set up my piano on the border between Funny and Mean, playing sarcastic scales in the name of wit, you might be surprised by how much snark you can fit into 140 characters. And over and over and over again, I practiced and practiced, but no one liked to hear me play.

Give me just a moment here, follow me outside. I’m done with this grand piano, with this glossy stage. I’m done with the concert proficiency at Being Right, I’m ready to be Beloved instead. Here, now, let’s head for the Canadian wilderness together, I’ve got just the spot in mind, and wouldn’t you know it, out here, in the sunshine, there’s a battered old thrift store piano, just for me.

Look at me, clumsy, and learning to practice goodness and truth, like scales all over again, it’s like I’m born again. I want to practice gentleness and beauty, over and over again, until my fingers find the keys without thought. I am performing the bare basics, once more and then one more time and then again, boldness, discipline, silence, prayer, community, again and again.

I want to practice faithfulness, and practice kindness, I want to fill my ears with the repetitions of wide-eyes and open hands, and innocent fun, holy laughter. I want to practice, with intention, joy. I won’t desecrate beauty with cynicism any more, I won’t confuse critical thinking with a critical spirit, and I will practice, painfully, over and over, patience and peace until my gentle answers turn away even my own wrath. I will check the notes, ask for help, and I’ll relax my shoulders, straighten my spine, and breathe fresh air while I learn, all over again, the gift of grace freely given and wisdom honoured, and healing, and when my fingers fumble, when I sound flat or sharp, I’ll simply try again.

I’ll practice the ways of Jesus, over and over, until the scales fall from my eyes, and my ears begin to hear, and soon, my fingers will be flying over the keys, in old hymns and new songs, and on that day, when I look up, I bet there will be a field full of people dancing, beside the water, whirling, stomping their feet and laughing, and babies will be bouncing, and I’ll be singing and singing and singing the song I was always and ever meant to sing, the rocks will be crying out, and the trees will be clapping their hands, and the banquet table will be groaning with the weight of apples and wine and bread, and we’ll sing until the stars come down.



One design company made a little graphic for their office.

  • Kelly

    Wow. Just got home from church…having church all over again.

  • Joy Lenton

    Amazing message, Sarah. Sounds like a great resolution for all to take up and practice. What an oasis of truth, hope and blessing you are in your writing. Love the honesty and deep reflection here. The free gift is an added bonus! :)

  • Alison Chino

    I have only recently discovered your blog through my precious friend Sarabeth and have been most blessed by it, as I was also by this piece. Thankful!

  • Sarabeth Jones

    I said this in my email to you, Sarah, but I want to say it again for anyone reading here: memorizing these words was a gift to me, truly. I keep saying to myself – I will practice, painfully, over and over, patience and peace until my gentle answers turn away even my own wrath…

    I have teenagers. And hormones. I need those words all the time. :)

    Thank you again for writing them, and for your wonderful graciousness in all of this.

    • Amanda Williams

      Sarabeth! This was beyond gorgeous. I was crying like a wee babe over here. You have such talent. And Sarah, you know how I feel about you and your words. It’s like you pry open my soul and shout out the contents, gently but with a fair amount of ass-kickery as well. I need that. And this! I needed this. Thank you both, sincerely.

      • Sarabeth Jones

        Amanda – thank you so much! It’s truly been one of my favorite pieces.

  • Suzin Brenton-Kelly

    I really have no words.. no words…

    Beautiful beyond anything… and stinging and graceful all stirred in one…

    and oh my soul, that southern accent!!

  • Kim Van Brunt

    Cried all over again when I heard her say your words, “… until my gentle answers turn away even my own wrath.” And I don’t think I really read, never let it sink in, your words about the scales falling from your eyes. This piece is such a gift. xo

  • Rebecca M

    That was so beautiful.

  • Miles O’Neal

    Yet another way you are subverting the system for good, Sarah!

  • Amy Young

    Yes, my heart whispers. Yes, Jesus, I want to pracitce too.

  • Linda Stoll

    Your words back in September gave me lots of food to ponder … the whole jaded, cynicism thing, the attitude problem that disguises hurt and pain. And then it kicked off ‘What We Battle With’ …

    As always, I appreciate that you beckon us to go deeper …

  • Mar

    Your prose has a way of entering the soul like poetry, Sarah … that’s what I love about your writing. It enters heart rather than head. And here is such gorgeous confirmation, your words read in poetic and musical rhythm, presented so beautifully by Sarabeth. Many many thanks to you both.

  • Mallory Pickering

    I love.

  • Amy

    This touched my soul. I now humbly whisper… yes, Jesus… me, too.

    Thank you for this gift.

  • the Blah Blah Blahger

    Oh, crap…this was insanely beautiful!!!

  • another sarah

    so lovely!
    (and a sidebar…. the church is actually in central arkansas, not NWA 😉 a distinction I must make as a native Arkansan)

  • Preston Yancey

    Stunning. Sharp intake of breath, stunning. I bought my thrift store piano yesterday and pushed it to the borderland of grace. Time to practice.

  • Teresa Henry Eccles

    Thank you Sarah and Sarabeth!! What a beautiful way to begin my Monday.

  • Marilyn Gardner

    So beautiful. thank you. Words for the soul on a Monday morning.

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  • Sarah Van Beveren

    Beautiful words, I loved that post.

  • Sarah Westphal

    Wow. Incredible. Thank you for sharing.

  • Jillie

    Ohhh Sarah…So glad I scrolled further down here today! See, this is what I’m talkin’ ’bout…You are just so cool! Cannot tell you how absolutely moved my heart was at the reading of your words by Sarabeth. Tears. (I am that woman who has so often hidden behind cynicism and sarcasm. I grew up in it. My words have very recently hurt someone very dear and precious to me. My heart has been deeply critical and bitter toward her because I have waited for years for her to fulfill MY expectations of what HER spiritual life should look like after all these many years since she accepted Christ. She is an ex-Jehovah Witness and it has taken her YEARS to even fully believe that Christ is the Son of God, and fully God Himself.)
    I have deeply apologized to her, and determined in my heart to love her just as she is…and let GOD do what He does so well in the human heart. I guess I’m finally learning to play a new song on the battered, thrift-store piano, especially where it involves my dearest friend. I pray God rid me of my critical heart.
    Thank you so much for this—one of the most beautiful blogposts I’ve read in a while.

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  • Angie Allen

    I just discovered your blog. What a treasure chest of gold! This pierced and then plucked the strings of my heart. Simply beautiful!