Kelly Lang: Since my diagnosis, I do really look at the blue sky as bluer and the green grass as greener. I appreciate my friends more, I burn the good candles, and I use good sheets now. And I use my good china now, you know? Today is the day, and we are not guaranteed tomorrow.
The Gift of Music to Heal Our Broken Spirits: Kelly Lang and Chris Brown – Episode #376
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. Music holds an incredible spiritual power that can’t be easily defined. It serves as a universal language, connecting people across cultures and experiences, and has a mysterious way of mirroring our innermost feelings and thoughts. The gift God gave us through music can heal, uplift, and inspire, providing spiritual nourishment and a deeper sense of connection to the world around us.
Singer/songwriter Kelly Lang found herself in a dark place after an unexpected and frightening breast cancer diagnosis. As she began to contemplate her mortality, she started to look at the world with different eyes, and was inspired to write songs about her experiences during this season that would greatly test her strength. Chris Brown, a worship leader and songwriter at Elevation Church, has written amazing songs of worship during his life that help people feel closer to God. Chris describes how music gets him through difficult times, including the loss of his mom, and how God shows up for Him in those challenging places.
Let’s start with Kelly’s story.
Kelly Lang: Hi, I’m Kelly Lang. I’m a singer/songwriter and I live in Hendersonville, Tennessee, and I’m also a breast cancer survivor of eighteen years.
An Unexpected Diagnosis Upends Kelly’s World
I was only 36 years old, I was single, and I had two children—nine and thirteen years old were my little girls. I had a lump under my arm that I only found out because The Oprah Winfrey Show was talking about breast cancer under forty. And I thought, I don’t want to do a self-exam. I put it off for a little while. I went to my regular OB/GYN doctor a few months later, and she said, “Oh, you’re too young, no worries. I’ll do a little test on them and see, but yeah, we’ll keep an eye on them.” But I knew something was wrong.
So I insisted that a few months later, after I felt a pain under my arm, that the doctor do a little bit more thorough investigation, and it did not show up on an MRI. It did not show up on a mammogram. It did not show up in an ultrasound, which is really crazy because I knew something wasn’t right. So when I was doing the ultrasound, I asked the technician if I could just borrow her wand and push it down a little further where I was feeling this. And lo and behold, the radiologist came in and he said, “You need to go back to have this biopsied.”
And it was Christmastime. And I was out shopping at Marshalls for my daughters, and I was getting ready to go pick up a bicycle for my oldest girl. The phone rang and it was the doctor that did the biopsy. And he says, “Ms. Lang, I need you to come to my office tomorrow morning.” And I said, “Well, can you tell me now?” And he says, “Can you sit down for a minute?” I’m like, Oh, my goodness, so this is what this feels like. And he said, “You have breast cancer.” My world just stopped.
I saw people moving around me, but I was just still, and my heart started beating. And all of a sudden, I went into denial because I thought, I don’t have time for this. My career was starting back up. I was traveling, I was in Switzerland a couple of weeks before that performing. I had a lot of songs that were being looked at for movie scores and people were recording my songs. I didn’t have time, so I just simply went through the mindset of, God, I don’t know what this is about, but I know you’re going to get me through this.
Finding Beauty and Love Amidst Breast Cancer
There was one day in particular that I remember—at the time, I was dating my now husband, and I never let anybody see me cry or without a wig or hair cover or makeup on. And we didn’t live together, but he did have a key to my condo. So I let the kids go to school that morning, and I thought, You know what? Today’s my day. I’m going to cry. I’m going to get in the shower and I’m going to let it all hang out and I’m going to ball and scream and look at myself really in the mirror by myself. I thought I had that privilege to do that. As I’m wailing and screaming and looking in the mirror at this monster looking back at me, I didn’t realize that he had heard me. He was dropping something off at my house and he let himself in and he ran upstairs. And I was mortified because I was like, Oh my gosh, I do not want you to see me looking like this.
He wrapped me in a white terrycloth robe and pulled me down into my closet and rocked me like a baby. I was so embarrassed because I didn’t have a wig on or anything. He’d never see me bald before. And I said, “TG, please don’t look at me. I’m so awful. I look like a monster.” And he says, “No, you look beautiful.” And I said, “Please, you know what? Now is your out, here’s your door. You’re not getting married to me before cancer. Why on earth would you stick around?” And he said, “Kelly, you are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. I will never leave you. I’m not going anywhere.”
And that happened to be the title of a song I had just written a few months before. I wrote the song before I was diagnosed. I had seen a friend of mine suffering. He was in hospice, actually, and his wife was there, but she was just exhausted. Luckily, she had nurses there around the clock, but the only time he would feel comfort is when she would walk into the room and she would say, “Honey, I love you. I’m not leaving. I’m not going anywhere.” And his face would soften. And I thought, Wow, if you could bottle that up, that would be worth a million bucks. And it just dawned on me, Wait, I can write a song like that. So I did.
The Ascension Saint Thomas Hospitals—they’re all across the country—they took it upon themselves to use that song as their national commercial. It was like sixteen years later. It breathed a new life into that song.
Since my diagnosis, I appreciate my friends more. I surrounded myself with very positive people just throughout the whole eighteen years that I have been a survivor. I survived with an attitude of gratitude and looking at things positively, like, Okay, I’ve got breast cancer, but at least I’m here. And I was just really grasping at every little detail because the people that I surrounded myself with taught me that. You could choose to live in a dark place or you could choose to live in a lighter place.
“I survived with an attitude of gratitude and looking at things positively, like, Okay, I’ve got breast cancer, but at least I’m here. And I was just really grasping at every little detail because the people that I surrounded myself with taught me that. You could choose to live in a dark place or you could choose to live in a lighter place.” – Kelly Lang
And I’ll give you a for instance, like the day I was diagnosed, I lived in this little condo and the sun that would beam into the mini blinds, into the crack on the side at 5:30 every morning. And ugh, I hated that. I’m a light sleeper, so I would curse that window. I couldn’t stand it. The day after I’m diagnosed—and you think you’re not going to see it again? I blessed that window. I was grateful for that light coming through. So it was just a mind shift, and it was a continual mind shift.
Recognizing God in Everyday Moments
I became a Christian at twelve years old. It never has left me, but it has deepened greatly. I see Him in everything. Now I have deep conversations, and I see His glory and details like nature, red birds, and dragonflies and songs that play on the radio. I sense Him ever so deeper in my everyday walk of life. When I’m thinking of someone and a song comes on the radio, I don’t want to give credit to anything but Jesus because it comforts me and He’s a great comforter. I really have tremendous conversations with Him, and I find myself not afraid and not lonely and not scared because I can cling to Him.
“I don’t want to give credit to anything but Jesus because it comforts me and He’s a great comforter. I really have tremendous conversations with Him, and I find myself not afraid and not lonely and not scared because I can cling to Him.” – Kelly Lang
Some people might disagree with that, but I actually wrote a song called, “I Think It’s Jesus” about those very things.
Jesus Listens, January 27th:
I’m so grateful for the bountiful blessings You shower on me! Even the hardships in my life can be viewed as Your blessings—they train me in perseverance, transforming me and preparing me for heaven. So I come to You with open hands and heart, ready to receive all that You have for me.
In Your great Name, Jesus,
Narrator: To learn more about Kelly Lang, check out her new song, “I Think It’s Jesus,” wherever you get your music.
Stay tuned to Chris Brown’s story after a brief message.
Order Reba McEntire’s Not That Fancy
The best things in life are really not that fancy. Superstar Reba McEntire’s new lifestyle book Not That Fancy: Simple Lessons on Living, Loving, Eating, and Dusting Off Your Boots invites readers to get back to the basics of life: fun, food, friends, family and faith. Not That Fancy features never-before-told stories, delicious recipes, and some of the Oklahoma-style truths that guide her life. Plus, photographs from Reba’s childhood, her career and personal life. Order your copy wherever you buy books, and be sure to check out the audiobook version read by Reba herself!
Our next guest is worship leader Chris Brown, who shares his experiences songwriting for Elevation Worship, and how the lyrics he’s helped pen have unexpectedly ministered to him in times of deep grief and sadness.
The Music That Moves Us
I grew up in a small town in South Carolina. We moved there when I was eight years old. My dad had just finished seminary, he took a position as the worship pastor at this small church in a very small town. My mom and dad served that church for twenty-seven years. My mom played piano and organ in the church. My dad played guitar. Our whole family sang all the time.
I learned hundreds of hymns just growing up that way. I’ve got such a deep appreciation for them still because, of course, hymn books that are filled with songwriters who wrote songs two hundred years ago, and that’s kind of mind blowing that a song would have that type of not just longevity, but that type of impact.
I can’t personally remember a time I wasn’t singing. I fell in love with playing guitar when I was about thirteen. I started a couple of bands in high school, wrote bad songs, played them wherever we could, and that’s actually how I met Pastor Steven Furtick.
He’s a few years older, but I first met him as a musician and as a lover of music and certainly well before he was a pastor. We’ve been writing songs together now for Elevation, for our church, for almost ten years. We’ve written songs like, “Oh, Come to the Altar,” “Do It Again,” “Graves Into Gardens,” “The Blessing,” “Rattle,” “Jirah,” “Same God.” Each song comes with its own story.
There’s been so many ways I felt God move through the songs that He’s given us over the years. We have one called “Here Again,” and that one personally carried me through my mom passing away after battling cancer. The bridge of that song sings, “Not for a minute was I forsaken, the Lord is in this place.” That song was written just a month or two after she passed, and for someone who was desperately needing, at that moment, the presence of God in the middle of deep grief—that song I felt like was an instrument that God used to remind me of His kindness and His nearness to me in that season.
Earlier this year, we were getting ready for a night of worship and to record new songs. And the week leading up to the Friday night [we were recording], I had the flu. And as a singer, I was really struggling that week. And I woke up one morning and I’m looking at the text right now from a good friend in our church, and it’s dated January 11th, 5:50 AM. He was texting me, just, “Hey, I’m checking on you. I know Friday’s coming up. I also know you’ve been battling the flu. I read this morning in Jesus Calling something that I feel like would really help you.” This is what he sent me:
Trust Me by relinquishing control into My hands. Let go, and recognize that I am God. This is My world: I made it and I control it. Yours is a responsive part in the litany of Love. I search among My children for receptivity to Me. Guard well this gift that I have planted in your heart. Nurture it with the Light of My Presence.
When you bring Me prayer requests, lay out your concerns before Me. Speak to Me candidly; pour out your heart. Then thank Me for the answers that I have set into motion long before you can discern results. When your requests come to mind again, continue to thank Me for the answers that are on the way. If you keep on stating your concerns to Me, you will live in a state of tension. When you thank Me for how I am answering your prayers, your mind-set becomes much more positive. Thankful prayers keep your focus on My Presence and My promises.
It’s so important to daily set aside time with Him so that these truths get rooted deeper into my spirit, into my mind, that whatever I’m worried about or facing right now, God is in it with me. Whatever I’m feeling inadequate to confront, God’s working through me. Whatever I’m concerned about, maybe anxious about, He’s already fighting for me and He is for me, not against me. He wants the very best for me. That’s His nature, that’s His character. That’s who He is as a loving Father.
“It’s so important to daily set aside time with [God] so that these truths get rooted deeper into my spirit, into my mind, that whatever I’m worried about or facing right now, God is in it with me.” – Chris Brown
Tending to the Gardens of Our Souls
Spending time with Jesus every single day is watering and tending to the garden of my soul. Of course, not only am I spending time with my Creator, my Father, and I’m being reminded of who I am, but there are seeds of promises or little sparks of things that I feel like He’s spoken to me through the years.
“Spending time with Jesus every single day is watering and tending to the garden of my soul.” – Chris Brown
And then just like any of us who’ve ever pulled up weeds from our flowerbed or any other garden, there’s parts that need tending to of our souls that aren’t necessarily fun, but that find their ways in. And I also need those moments where God can also pull out things in my heart and in my spirit that don’t belong there, and He can reveal those things to me.
“I need those moments where God can also pull out things in my heart and in my spirit that don’t belong there, and He can reveal those things to me.” – Chris Brown
If you’d like to hear more stories about seeing God in unexpected places, check out our interview with Francesca Battistelli.
Next week: Aarti Sequeira
Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we’ll hear from chef Aarti Sequeira, who rose to fame after winning Food Network Star. Aarti passionately shares about the conversations she began to have with God when she entered the kitchen that led to finding a peaceful sanctuary and place of connection, both in the kitchen and around the table with loved ones.
Aarti Sequeira: What we do in the kitchen is important to God. Jesus says that He’s preparing a table for us in heaven. And I just think about what that feast will look like. I think God wants to communicate to us that as vital as food and drink feels to us, He’s even more vital to us.