faith hope love
for KING & COUNTRY’s Joel Smallbone
His New Movie, Marriage & Musical Roots Melissa d’Arabian
At Home with the Food Network Star Andrew Doan
Addicted to Gaming: Why Your Digital Device is Like A Drug
Singing, Shedding Pounds & Forgiving Simon Cowell
Mandisa Former American Idol
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02 Risen Magazine
Our cover girl Mandisa sings about it and 1 Peter 1:8 reinforces it; the feeling to “rejoice with joy unspeakable.” As we reflect on a year that has proven to be Risen’s best yet, we too are embracing this emotion as we thank the Lord for His many blessings. An abundance of significant stories standout including the one with Mark Burnett, who brought The Bible series into the homes of more than 100 million viewers. Billy Ray Cyrus speaking candidly about fame and finding purpose was noteworthy, but the story I’ll remember most is a little more personal and includes a proposal ending with a dream wedding. Two thousand thirteen marks the year I tied the knot. It was a day filled with family, faith, and yes, joy unspeakable. Set on the ocean cliffs overlooking La Jolla Cove and surrounded by loved ones, I married Paul Richardson, the man God handpicked for me. So I couldn’t resist sharing some of my favorite photos showcasing my personal family, my Risen family and the confirmation of a promise fulfilled. This issue reflects all the same sentiments. Not only did for KING & COUNTRY’s Joel Smallbone marry his sweetheart this past summer, but she, along with several of his siblings are all singers. This “New Artist of the Year”, credits his success to his family and unshakeable foundation of faith. Food Network Star Melissa d’Arabian created a show in the kitchen with her four kids because she cares more about the people around the table then the food that’s on it. And former American Idol Mandisa may still be waiting on her future husband, but she’s enjoying this season of influence, hope and Joy Unspeakable, at least that’s what she titled track number nine on her latest album, Overcomer. So it is with full heart’s that our Risen family wishes you and your family a very Merry Christmas and God’s blessings for the New Year.
04 Risen Magazine
(L to R) Brideâ€™s Family; Father of the Bride; Risen Team (Samantha Baer, Mei Ling Nazar, Heidi Ortlip, Rob Springer, Paul Richardson, Kelli Gillespie, Allan Camaisa, Megan Camaisa, Patti Gillespie, Henry Ortlip, Sue Sullivan); Paul & Kelliâ€™s First Look risenmagazine.com 05 Venue: Scripps Seaside Forum - La Jolla, California Photographer: Jackie Wonders
08 for King & Country’s Joel Smallbone
Recently Named “New Artist of the Year” Joel Smallbone Hits the Silver Screen in the movie Like A Country Song
16 Melissa d’Arabian
Food Network Star Stirs up Success in the Kitchen and at Home
22 Darin Downs
Bumpy Road Leaves Major League Pitcher Focused on His Faith
Former American Idol on Influence, Faith, and Losing Weight
32 Scott Stapp
Book and Song Reveal His Journey
36 Point Of Grace’s Denise Jones
Reaching Out Through Music and Conferences, Point of Grace is Making a Difference
40 Ron Luce
Turning Down the Volume to Hear God
Dr. Andrew Doan
Understanding and Overcoming His Own Addiction Leads Doctor to Write Book on Video and Internet Gaming
Singer and Radio Personality Reaches Out to the Muslim Community Around the World
Michael Douglas, Robert DeNiro, Morgan Freeman & Kevin Kline
Sandra Bullock & Alfonso Cuaron Forest Whitaker & Angela Bassett
Company Helps Local Craftsmen Grow Businesses Across the Globe
Haim, Chvrches, Lorde, Snakadaktal
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ART ART DIRECTOR :: Rob Springer CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS :: Henry Ortlip, Rob Springer, Phil Bray, Kristin Barlowe, David Barlow, Jeremy Cowart, Jackie Wonders
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The views and opinions expressed by the subjects interviewed are not necessarily those shared by the publisher or staff of Risen Media, LLC. All interviews remain the sole property of Risen Magazine. All rights reserved. No part of the contents of this magazine may be reproduced without the written consent of Risen Media, LLC. Copyright © 2013 “Risen” is a Trademark of Risen Media, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Cover Photo :: Kristin Barlowe Contents Photo :: Jackie Wonders, www.jackiewonders.com
N a m y l ed t n e c e R“
KING & COUNTRY
Writer: Kelli Gillespie Photographer: Rob Springer
It’s not uncommon for family members to be involved in the same business. Whether it is in education, law enforcement, farming or medicine, siblings gravitate to what they have known or experienced growing up. But, when the “business” is the music industry, it often followed with rivalry and comparison. Not the case for the Smallbone family. The wildly popular band, for KING & COUNTRY, features two brothers – Joel and Luke – but their sister is well-known singer Rebecca St. James. Add Joel’s wife, singer Moriah Peters, and you’ve got one extremely talented bunch sitting around the family table. Risen visited with Joel Smallbone to talk about his soon-to-be released movie Like A Country Song, working with his family, and maintaining his Christian walk through it all.
Interviewed exclusively for Risen Magazine in Carlsbad, Ca
Risen Magazine: You and your brother Luke make up the band for KING & COUNTRY; your older sister is Christian artist Rebecca St. James, so clearly you have a musically gifted family. What was your house like growing up that it produced so much talent? Joel Smallbone: I’m one of seven kids and when I was a boy in Australia, some of my first memories were bands and artists coming through the house. My father was a concert promoter so he would bring all these groups to Australia from America. I remember as a four or five year old, sitting in front of a vinyl 45 record player just staring at covers of bands. Stryper was one, they always had these flamboyant covers and I was kind of enamored by the music, and the sound, and the visuals, and that is something that has never really died in any of us. I think we sort of liken ourselves to the Australian version of the Von Trapp family (Austrian singing family from The Sound of Music). Obviously my brother travels with me as the other half of for KING & COUNTRY, and my father manages us, and in some way, shape, or form, my other brothers are intertwined as well. Rebecca wrote on some of the stuff, so we’re all there somewhere.
We prayed for everything. First we prayed for a car, and the first Thanksgiving we were here, we were over at some folk’s house we had never met before, but we were invited through a friend of a friend [to join them], and at the end of the night the host, the father, walked up to my mother and said, “I really feel like God is prompting me to give you the keys to my brand new minivan.” We also didn’t have any [medical] insurance obviously so there was no way for my little sister to be born in a hospital, but someone anonymously paid for the whole thing. People would drop groceries off on our doorstep; a few schools found out we didn’t have any furniture in our house so they went out and collected a whole bunch of furniture, threw it in the trunk, and came and dumped it out at our house. We saw God do amazing things… so this was the moment for us, getting back to your question, where they say, three strands of cord are not easily broken. There are nine of us, so nine strands of cord are not easily broken. We really knotted together and it has never been the same since. That’s how we can do this now; that’s the foundation. So frankly, we love it! I have four brothers and every chance we get to work together, we’ll take it. I prefer to work with them over anyone in the world.
RM: With so many family members involved, how are you all able to work together so effortlessly and not have turmoil mixing business with family? JS: We had a really defining moment as children with my father being a concert promoter, when he lost a quarter of a million dollars on a tour that went bad. Six kids at the time, mom was pregnant with the seventh, dad was about 40 years old, and that was the moment he said, “If there is ever a time to take a risk, take a chance, and move half the world away, it would be now.” So we packed 16 suitcases, sold what little we had left, and moved from Australia to Nashville, Tennessee. He had been offered a job, and that was the first time I ever came here [to the United States]. A month after he got here, he lost his job. So we were literally on the other side of the world sleeping on beds made out of clothes, in a furniture-less house, no car, and not enough money to fly back to Australia. We sat in a circle and we really had no other alternative except to just pray. And it was we believe, through those prayers, that one, we were knit really strongly together as a family; and two, we saw unexplainable, miraculous things happen.
RM: All of you ended up in Christian music. Was there ever a discussion about another genre? Was this always where each of your hearts were? JS: I am a Christian and I do take very seriously the last thing Jesus said before He left the Earth. I’m paraphrasing, “Go out to the whole world, every nation, and transform people into people like me and you.” So I see myself, and Luke would second this, that for KING & COUNTRY is a group of musicians who write stories about life. Now we’ve been very fortunate that Christian radio has taken a huge liking to some of our songs and we love that. Just as quickly as we’ll play in churches, we’ll play The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, we’ll play in a club or a theatre, so we’re unabashed about our belief in Jesus and that we want to serve Him, but at the same time we’ll write songs about break-ups and just life. There was a time where I made a clear divide in my mind where I said, “No it’s only going to be mainstream, or it’s just going to be Christian.” And in the end I thought it was a bit legalistic. I decided I’m just going to write music for people and whoever loves it and gets behind it, so be it. risenmagazine.com 11
RM: What does being a Christian mean to you? JS: The day before yesterday I flew back in from El Salvador. I was there as part of a child advocacy trip, and I found myself sitting in this shack that couldn’t have been larger than probably an 8’ x 8’ space. It was powerless and waterless. We were invited to have lunch with a family whose child was part of this program. When we walked in my initial thought was, “It’s so dark in here, there are no lights, we need to switch them on.” Well, then you turn around and realize there are none. We sat down and had fast food for lunch and we listened to their stories. The woman talked about how her grandson had been impacted by this child advocacy program and had been introduced to Jesus, and he had taken [that experience] back to the family. Being the boy’s grandmother, naturally I asked, “Where’s his mom?” She said when the boy was 40 days old, his mother was kidnapped by gang members and killed. This grandmother was the one that had to identify the body four days later when they recovered it. So here we are probably six years on and she reaches up and pulls down a picture of her daughter off the wall, so proud of her, but obviously saddened and hurt at the same time. Underlying that whole thing was hope and peace and understanding. I’ve never sat with a family apart from Jesus and [experienced that]. I’ve only seen despair. People can argue, “I need proof.” But the fact of the matter is none of us were there when the big bang happened, none of us were there when creation happened. No matter how you slice the cake – you’re atheist, you’re agnostic, you’re a Mormon, you’re a Christian – it all takes faith. In my 29 years simply put, what I have seen is proof through people like that grandmother and her son, that Jesus exists. And that’s why I do what I do. Not because of religion, or some institution, but because I believe Jesus walked the Earth two thousand years ago; I believe that He was who He said He was and that He wasn’t a looney toon, and as a result He asked me to respond by giving my life to this cause, so I do.
very serious commitment to relationships both with family and vertically [to God]. Day to day we pray before we go on stage, we have a devotional before we go on stage and we have spiritual conversations, but we’re not legalists.
RM: Speaking of your wife, congratulations on your marriage this past July to recording artist Moriah Peters, who you actually met at your brother’s wedding. How did you know she was the one and what is it like both being in the same industry? JS: First of all, the fact that we met at Luke’s wedding is just ironic and serendipitous and so many different things. I knew pretty fast when I met her. I came into that wedding as a single guy thinking, “It’s my brother’s wedding, this is the last place I’m going to meet my wife.” After the ceremony and during the reception, I turned around and there she was. I will never forget that first glance; I was just so taken off guard. The more I got to know her, the more I realized how wonderful she was. Music [careers] can create competition and rivalry and I would have to tie my marriage back to faith. We are functional in doing this together because there is no rivalry or conceit but when there is, we talk about it and we work through it. We have such camaraderie and deep understanding. I say I’m going onstage and she knows what that feels and looks like. If she were a doctor, she just wouldn’t have that same understanding. It’s been a very rich thing for us.
We had a really defining moment
AS CHILDREN WITH MY FATHER BEING A CONCERT PROMOTER, WHEN HE LOST A
quarter of a million
ON A TOUR THAT WENT BAD.
In my 29 years
RM: Your debut record came out in February of last year  and quickly topped the charts, earning you Billboards “New Artists to Watch.” What did it feel like to not only get to be doing what you love for a living, but also to have the awards and fan support? JS: First of all, there is no greater compliment than people listening to your song on the radio, buying your music, or voting for you for an award. You make music for people. I don’t care who you are, if people aren’t buying your music, you might as well hang your hat. What’s held us is that for KING & COUNTRY was forged two years ago, but Luke and I have been working on music for roughly seven years. So there was a lot of time before this that we really ironed out the reality of who we were, what we were trying to say, where we were going; and I feel like in some ways we were prepared for success because we had each other, and we had these years of failure frankly, before something hit.
SIMPLY PUT, WHAT I HAVE SEEN IS
RM: When it comes to your relationship with God, what does that look like practically in your life regarding prayer, devotions on the road, quiet time, or Bible reading? JS: If I came to my wife in the morning and said, “Darling, I’ve got thirty minutes. This is your thirty minutes that we get to hang out and then I’m off.” Or I came back to her at night and I reprised the same statements, “I love you. I’m so glad you’re my wife and now I’m going to go to bed.” Then I think she would wave a flag and say, “This doesn’t feel authentic or real.” I think we are dangerously close when we perceive our relationship with God of doing the same thing. We sit down and pray the same monotonous prayers, we do the same monotonous reading, and I do think prayer is as absolutely essential as communication is. I believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God and reading it is important, otherwise we don’t have a clue. But with that said, there are so many other components like mentorship, which is huge, leaning on others that have gone before you. We are kind of a band of brothers out here and we’re all either married or engaged, or dating and there is a
12 Risen Magazine
RM: You star in the upcoming film Like A Country Song with Billy Ray Cyrus, how did you get involved with the project and was acting something you always wanted to add to your resume? JS: If I had to title myself anything, I would title myself as an artist; and art can be a thousand different things. Even as I boy I would sing with my sister that traveled, but just as quickly I would run out on my parents farm with my brother and our Super 8 camera and do little short films. Film and music were always both loves and passions. In fact, if I was going to be honest, film probably came before music. But more recently with for KING & COUNTRY
AS CHILDREN WITH MY FATHER BEING A CONCERT PROMOTER, WHEN HE LOST A
quarter of a million
and the way my life has kind of been geared, music has absolutely taken the forefront and it’s been a beautiful thing. But through music, specifically with Like A Country Song, there have been doors opened into film. Johnny Remo, the director of Like A Country Song, saw on a blog the music video of one of our songs – very theatrical, very dark, post-apocalyptic telling of prisoners, and this escape and metaphorical things. He was captured by it and when he saw me he said, “That’s Jake” the lead character in this film. Through a long list of providential circumstances we were able to figure out a way to carve out 15 days of film schedule. It was a crazy and daunting time, especially playing the lead, and being an American trying to wipe out this Australian accent.
lean into him and see the majority of the things that were done to him, he didn’t have control over them. There are so many people that have anger management issues or addiction problems or struggle with depression, or being arrogant, because of things that were done to them in their past. I’m not saying it excuses them and we all have a choice and a responsibility, and we’ve all been dealt different hands – some are fortunate and some are unfortunate – we’ve got to make the most of it. But it does give you the liberty to show grace.
ON A TOUR THAT WENT BAD.
In my 29 years SIMPLY PUT, WHAT I HAVE SEEN IS
RM: Billy Ray Cyrus plays your father in the film and is a great example of a singer that has been able to maintain a TV and movie career and at times integrate his music and even work with family members too. What did you learn from him? JS: He was in an interesting spot filming, just with his family and working through very big questions in his life and where he was going as a man. On this side of things, I’ve been thrilled to see the decisions that he has made. You could tell he was in the dark night of the soul, if you will, while he was working on the film. It sounds awful to say this, but I think he’d tell you too, it played very well into the film because the film kind of works through a lot of the things he was working through at the time –betrayal, loss, hope, risk, relationships, and family. We had great report, and he was very gracious to me from the moment we met. I’ve really had a heart for him since we met and we’ve communicated on and off, bits and pieces since then… he’ll send me a text here or there. He calls me little brother and will say, “Pray for me little brother…” I’ll say, “How are you doing today mate?” And we’ll have a bit of an exchange. I have nothing but good things to say about him. As a man and as a professional I thought he was exceptional. We didn’t have too many moments together on the film, but I thought the moments we had were very dynamic and captured the right thing.
RM: In the film your character Jake acts above the law and his behavior impacts his singing. Being a young up-and-comer yourself, with much success, what are you learning are the best ways to deal with added exposure, wealth, fame and fan access? JS: I’d love to sit down with Jake – and in some ways I did have the chance to sit down with him for a few months – and dive into his psyche. Jake is the kind of guy that I would judge pretty quickly, honestly. He’s the kind of guy that I would meet and say, “ You pompous, arrogant…” and I’d have a few other words for him. [Laughter] The beauty of the story is, when you 14 Risen Magazine
RM: All too often people turn to a substance like alcohol when they are out of options or to cope with decisions, or suppress feelings. How do you handle disappointments or missed expectations? JS: Well, I’m an impetuous person, so I’ve had to overcome that. When I’m upset, my first reaction is [snaps fingers] deal with it. Not only am I going to deal with it, I’m going to go straight for it. I’m not going to skirt around, I’m not going to be passive-aggressive; I’m going to go for you. And I’m going to let you know how I feel about it. So the first thing I have to do personally is I just have to take time. Time is key. But I would also say, [another key is] working through an issue and doing the best to see it from another perspective. I think that is for life in general, but particularly in conflict. Finally, I think dealing with it is crucial. The rug was not designed to have things swept under it. It was meant to be walked on. It’s not easy, but I think it’s the best way to handle things.
RM: What would you say to an individual who may feel that they have messed up too much, or that God couldn’t use them after all they’ve been through? JS: I would honestly, without any religiosity attached, say, “Go and read the Bible,” because it’s made up of murderers and liars and scoundrels, and thieves, and they are the heroes of the stories! These awful people are the benchmark of our belief system. So if that doesn’t give you faith that no matter what you’ve done, you can become the person that you’ve been designed to be, then I don’t know what will. But for me, I take such solace in their mistakes. Not that I feel at liberty to make them, but I feel as if they understood. And in some way God understands.
Food Network Star
Melissa d’Arabian Stirs up Success in the Kitchen and at Home
Writer: Kelli Gillespie Photographer: Rob Springer
ife is busy for any television host. But mix in cookbook author, speaker, and full-time mother of four daughters and the word busy takes on a new meaning. Known for her victory as Food Network Star’s fifth season winner, Melissa d’Arabian’s days are jam packed. This MBA graduate used her former corporate finance and strategy professional career to launch her into the food and TV world. Her affordable and stylish home cooking continues to propel her popularity. Risen sat down with d’Arabian as she shares her insights about cooking, her faith and just how important that family dinner time together really is.
Interviewed exclusively for Risen Magazine in Coronado, California
Risen Magazine: Raised by a single mom, you grew up knowing how to stretch a dollar and work a kitchen. What from your childhood has been passed on and now used in the way you run your household today? Melissa d’Arabian: Being raised by a single mom we never had extra money to spare and I think that is just something that stayed in my blood. I believe in purposeful spending. I still clip coupons to this day, and I think a lot of that I can trace back to my mom. I remember one day when I was little, my mom fed us dinner and she was really proud of the fact that it had cost her thirty-five cents. She had gotten some chicken wings on sale [the whole chicken wing, not the little appetizer size] and I think that pride in having fed her family for so little money, carried on in me. I always feel good about not overspending and I feel we should be good stewards of our resources. RM: Your career background has been diverse from finance, to entertainment, to working in Europe, which I understand is where you met your husband. How did this happen? MDA: My career has been a huge blessing and gift. I was on a really classic business track. I went to business school, I worked in consulting, then I worked in finance –and that’s when I met my husband. When we got married, we had four kids right away so then I had the gift of becoming a stay-at-home mom to a pretty big family. I didn’t meet my husband until I was well into my thirties, so I had my kids later on, I was [had kids at] 36, 37 and then twins at 38. So to become a stay-at-home mom to four babies in diapers was a huge switch. And it was when the twins were about a year old that my husband said, “ You know, maybe you need a project.” And so that’s when I started speaking to “moms” groups and “parent” groups about money saving techniques and strategies at home. Then it snowballed from there into Next Food Network Star and Food Network. It’s a trajectory that only makes sense to me now in hindsight. RM: You won season five of The Next Food Network Star [after season 7,
the show was rebranded to Food Network Star]. Why did you want to be part of a reality television competition and what were your expectations or reservations? MDA: Food Network Star is an interesting animal because it’s reality TV and I think the approach that a lot of people have going into a show like that is that it all is about the reality show. And I really saw it as a job interview. I saw it as a piece in the bigger puzzle that is our family, and my mission statement and what I want to do on this earth before I leave it. That kind of took the pressure off in a sense, because I figured I’m there to do what I think I’m meant to do and where the chips fall, I can make my peace with that. There is a real comfort in knowing that if I suit up, and show up, and put in the work, that’s enough for me. Food Network Star for me was fantastic. It was great schooling, it was interesting, it was challenging, it was demanding; all the things that reminded me of going to business school. I like to work hard. Sure, is it great that I won? Absolutely! But the experience would not have been less great, had I not. RM: When you mentioned your family mission statement, I’m curious. How do you define that or what do you think is your calling? MDA: Every year for New Year’s Eve instead of going out, my husband and I would stay at home and talk about what we wanted to accomplish in the upcoming year – personally, professionally, as a couple, and as a family. It sort of started when our kids were young and babysitters were so expensive. We would just jot down; What are we about as a couple? What are we about as a family? What am I about as a human being? That became a tradition for us where we revamped and revisited our life mission. My personal life mission has not changed since long before I was on TV – and it has very little to do with TV and food – but my career in TV and food certainly fits into my personal life mission. I think that we are called to do something bigger than television here on this earth. When I judge Food Network Star or other culinary competitions, there are people risenmagazine.com 17
The Picky Eaters Project really came from me wanting to create a project to do with my kids. It didn’t come from, “Oh I think this will make great TV.”
that will say, “I just know that this is what I am meant to do. I am meant to be on TV.” And I don’t know, I don’t think God’s plan is for me to be on TV. I think His plan is so much bigger than that. Sure, could we use TV as a means to an end? Absolutely. But the truth is, I don’t need TV to [fulfill] my personal life mission. I think our circumstances are sort of props to get us there. When we start confusing our means with our ends, that’s when I think we get into shady territory, at least for me.
faith; one that was more purposeful and one where I participated in more actively. My mom died 24 years ago and that completely changed my faith. I think as an adult my faith changed yet again once I had kids. The love of a parent to a child is the closest thing to unconditional love, and I think it’s the closest thing to what God’s love is for us. So that morphed my faith a bit and how I viewed God as a fellow parent. It’s how I get through the day as a working mom. It’s not just a part of me; it’s everything. I have Bible study on Thursdays and my publicist knows that if I have to fly somewhere it’s after 11 a.m., because from 8:15-10:30 a.m., that’s what I’m doing. Obviously sometimes it happens and I just can’t be here if I’m gone all week or something, but it’s beyond a priority. It’s how I structure my life and my day. It’s not that I have to; it’s just that I treasure it that much.
I believe that if I have to choose between the people around the table or the food that’s on it, I would choose the people.
RM: Faith is an important part of your life. When did you become a Christian and what does that mean to you and the way you raise your family? MDA: For me, my faith is everything. As a purely logistical note, I don’t know how people get through the day without faith. I just don’t know how they do it. And I wouldn’t want to. I grew up with a general sense of faith. I went to a Christian junior high, I went to Christian camp, I went to church, but I think Christianity and my faith were more of academic exercises through my teenage years. When I was twenty, my mom died by suicide. My parents got divorced when I was just a couple months old so that left me without any parents. So that put me into a little bit of a faith crisis. I had this general sense of faith, but I had a very hard time reconciling what my mom’s suicide meant. That was a decade long crisis and it took those ten years for me to reconcile that faith and how my mom’s death fit into that. My faith shifted from this automatic, academic, acceptance of Christianity, to really questioning and probing where I stood on everything and what my personal relationship [with Christ] was. I came out of that with a much more mature sense of 18 Risen Magazine
RM: When your mother committed suicide, you were a junior in college. Unfortunately, I feel like we are hearing of more and more stories of families affected by suicide, or lacking hope. What advice or tools could you share with someone on that front? MDA: There are sort of two parts stemming from suicide crisis. The first is, “Why me? Where is God when it hurts?” That isn’t what sent me into a decade-long tailspin. While that’s awful, that wasn’t the stuff that kept my mind spinning. It was the nature of suicide, how people talk about suicide in whispers and I think we should be having louder conversations. I think that as long as I am on this earth, I cannot allow somebody to be in that vortex of despair and not do my best to breakthrough and let them know that people care.
Food Network Star
The Picky Eaters Project really came from me wanting to create a project to do with my kids. It didn’t come from, “Oh I think this will make great TV.” To the person that is worried about a family member or friend, I think there is a big myth out there that, “If I bring up that I’m worried about them, or that I think they may be considering suicide,” then they think, “I don’t want to put the idea in their heads.” I think people need to find ways to reach out and to let somebody know that they are concerned, and to be that hand that breaks through that whirlwind of despair.
I believe that if I have to choose between the people around the table or the food that’s on it, I would choose the people. And then I think as a society, specific to my experience in suicide, when we are talking about preventing suicide – and suicide is preventable – there is this whole spectrum of prevention options depending on the life cycle of where someone is. For example, are they a survivor and need help coping afterward, like I was? There are a lot of risk factors for suicide like alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, mental illness, bipolarism; there are a lot of indicators and I think that as a society, if we can remove the stigma from people seeking help for depression, we will help suicide. If we can remove the stigma of any of those risk factors, it perhaps is just as important as removing the stigma from suicide itself.
Food Network Star
what you’ve been doing in the kitchen? MDA: The Picky Eaters Project really came from me wanting to create a project to do with my kids. It didn’t come from, “Oh I think this will make great TV.” I thought that this is the program I want to create, but I want to communicate it with other people because I think there will be some interesting lessons learned. That’s when I went to Food Network, and I said, “I’m doing this. Do you guys want to come in and film it?” And they got on board right away. It wasn’t an exercise where I thought, “I really want to do some sort of show with my kids. Hmmm… what could I do?” It wasn’t that. It really came out of this organic desire to make some changes in our family household, and then we invited in Food Network, and they said, “ Yes.” And then all the cameras came in! My kids are 8, 7, 6 [twins], so they are not tiny anymore, but even now they refer to days as either being “school” days, or “family” days. I don’t know that we even use the word, weekend. We’ve just set the tone that weekends are family days. That doesn’t mean that we may not have to work on a weekend, but we’re not the family where my husband sets up a match for tennis at one o’clock on a Saturday. He would make it for an early Tuesday morning before work, or go after work or on a lunch hour. We are very family focused, and for us, that works. For us, that is where I get my strength and my refreshment, by spending time with my family and having us all together. RM: And it’s important to you that your family eats dinner together because it’s more than a healthy meal, it’s a time for that family connection. What encouragement would you give to a mom that wants this, but just feels like it’s not achievable? MDA: As moms, I think we are really hard on ourselves as a group. I think there is this tendency to think, “If I can’t do it perfectly, then I’m not going to do at all.” And I’m here to say, “Do it imperfectly.” If it seems overwhelming to get a cookbook and cook a dinner every single night, then take baby steps. Order your pizza. But maybe you sit down and have your pizza at the dinner table together instead of in front of the television. Get into the habit of the dinner table first, without worrying so much about what you are serving. I know it sounds like the opposite of what a food person would say. I believe that if I have to choose between the people around the table or the food that’s on it, I would choose the people. It’s amazing how once you get in the habit of having family sit around the dinner table, then you’ll find a way to toss something into the slow cooker, as I have mine going right now since we’re interviewing and I won’t have that much time to make dinner. It will be a simple dinner, nothing fancy. But that’s okay; I’m still going to have dinner with my family. Once you get into the habit of sitting for dinner, then you find the three minutes for the slow cooker. Or maybe on a Sunday, you find an hour of time and think, “I’m make a roast pork, or roast chicken and freeze half of it. Or I’ll make a lasagna.” Then next thing you know you have some leftovers in your freezer you can pull out one night. Here’s the thing, and I’ve found this to be true for sort of any endeavor, I think if you take a baby step, that little bit of traction that you create will turn into something much bigger, almost all on it’s own. My experience is that if I take one tiny step toward what I think God wants me to do – as a mom, career person, whatever – I feel like He reaches out and pulls me three steps. So every step I put, I get three more for free. Take the one step. Sitting down at the dinner table will turn into cooking dinner regularly for your family. This is my experience over and over and over again.
Melissa d’Arabian RM: Incorporating faith within family, parents sometimes feel like they are better at developing studying skills or sports. When it comes to instilling the importance of children having their own genuine relationship with the Lord, how do you make sure your kids know God is more than church on Sundays? MDA: I think as a mom, the spiritual to-do list can kind of change. One of the things I’ve newly added to my repertoire of spiritual activities is praying very specifically, and individually, for my children with specific Bible verses. I started this last year from a “Mom’s in Prayer” group where we will talk about healing one week, and then we will pick one of our children to pray over about healing and pray together and have that power of praying moms. Everything from, “Oh Mom, Anita from your Bible study is here,” [at the front door] to the fact that they see my books lying around, or doing VBS [Vacation Bible School] and seeing their friends participate [reinforces the message]. Also, this year was the first time we did Family Camp. There are ways to infuse that this is not just a Sunday thing, and the fact that there is this seamless transition between what is “normal” life and what is “Christian” life. We live in a small town so it’s very blended here, and we are blessed in that sense. I feel like I blended my Christianity into my regular life which has been a very key component to how I mother. I think it’s true, kids do what you do, not what you say.
Stirs up Success in the Kitchen and at Home
RM: Spending time with your kids is important and that’s evident with the creation of your current show, The Picky Eaters Project, which is a web series on FoodNetwork.com that encourages kids to have a more adventuresome palate. What have you seen with your kids getting to be more involved in 20 Risen Magazine
Reprinted from the book Ten Dollar Dinners. Copyright ÂŠ 2012 by Melissa dâ€™Arabian. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House, Inc. risenmagazine.com
Photo: Detroit Tigers Organization Alex Kendrick as Coach Taylor in Facing The Giants. 22 Risen Magazine
Darin Downs Bumpy Road Leaves Major League Pitcher Focused on His Faith Writer: Charlie Lapastora Photographer: David Barlow
rom getting hit in the head by a line drive that almost killed him in the minors, to bouncing back and experiencing a World Series, Detroit Tigers pitcher Darin Downs has seen it all. Through every circumstance his faith has been at the center. Beginning with the loving and non-judgmental atmosphere from his minor league teammates when he was drafted, to the accountability his Tigers teammates give him today, it’s all about community for Downs. It’s what has helped him through the good and bad. Being a husband and father first and foremost, professional baseball takes a strike to faith with family stealing first in his life. NOTE: As this article went to print, Downs had been traded to the Houston Astros for the 2014 season.
Interviewed exclusively for Risen Magazine in Troy, Michigan
Risen Magazine: Could you share your testimony of how Jesus came into your life? Darin Downs: A lot of guys that are Christians have been brought up in the church, but I never went to church, never read the Bible. When I was probably about 12 or 13, I went to a [church] youth group with my buddy. [The group] invited me to accept Jesus into my heart; I said, “sounds good, let me do it,” and bam, I did it. But I didn’t feel any different and didn’t really know what it meant. I was drafted [into baseball] while in high school, [but it wasn’t until] 2006, during Spring Training, that I went to church with some friends and began to meet a big group of people—(ages) 19 or 20 or so—and started hanging out. At this point in my life, I knew about Jesus, I knew the Bible, about Christ and what He had done, but that friendship with them and how they loved on me and showed me love and grace in everything I did, made me want what they had. They were so happy all the time, they just loved life. I mean everybody goes through all types of stuff, they’re mad or sad, but they were just a light for me and they showed me the way without saying, “Oh, Darin, here’s what it says in the Bible.” Instead they outwardly just loved on me. I knew they had something that I didn’t. I eventually gave my life to Christ and I made a complete 180. He’s still working on me day in and day out, but that’s when I committed my life to Christ. RM: You mentioned how important it was for people to love you and not judge you. I think in the Christian world today, a lot of Christians can be so judgmental. How big was it to have your friends who loved you and supported you, yet not judge you? DD: That’s part of the reason that drew me to Christ. I knew I wasn’t perfect, they knew I wasn’t perfect, but they still invited me [to be with them]. I would go to dinners in their homes, not knowing others in the group, but they loved on me. You know, they weren’t just saying, “ You got to do this, this,
and this,” or “Darin you’re sinning ‘cause it says here [Bible], you should act this way.” And as they loved on me, I started to feel it on my heart and I wanted what they had. RM: As a professional athlete, how do you go about witnessing to your teammates? Do you show that same type of love? DD: You have to. As a team in general, you have to love on everybody but, yeah, I personally just tried to love everybody on the team. [Even if it is] guys who are doing totally opposite of what I would do, I still go out to dinner with them, still get coffee with them in the morning because this may be the only truth they see in their day. I’m showing them love and being gracious to them. [And hopefully] they might realize, he’s different. RM: In your bio, you said, back then [you] understood everything, but were mostly going through the motions. I think a lot of Christians today struggle with this – becoming lukewarm in their faith. Why do you think that is? DD: I personally believe that a lot of people might know the truth, they know the Bible, they know verses, they know everything, and they might not be in a group. For me, this season has been a complete blessing because I’ve been around the baseball chapel, but I’ve had other teammates, not one, but a handful of them that if I’m down that day, they’ll pick me up. Or if I’m doing something, they’re holding me accountable. Or say I had a rough night last night; I’m doing stuff I shouldn’t have—just re-confessing. When you’re talking to them; whether it’s a Bible study or just hanging out with them, you have that strength day in and day out to tackle the evil in your life or the evil in the world because they’re keeping you strong too. Nobody can do it by themselves. That’s why we have God, Jesus. I think people think they know everything; they say “Ah, I think I memorized everything,” but they’re not getting in that fellowship and really trying to grow as a follower of Christ. risenmagazine.com 23
RM: You were hit in the head with a line drive back in 2009. How were you able to recover from that and how did you cope with such a devastating injury? DD: I recovered very slowly. I remember not wanting to ever step on the field or play baseball again. I was terrified. I prayed day in and day out for God to strengthen me, heal me, keep me going, and energize me because I was completely tired; and [I prayed] for His guidance. By the grace of God I’m playing, I’m here now, and it’s been a blessing.
I remember not wanting to ever step on the field or play baseball again. I was terrified. RM: How did the injury take place? Were you in the minors at the time? DD: Yeah, I was pitching for AA Montgomery Biscuits. I remember it was my second start. I had just got moved up from the high A and it was the fifth inning. It was a very long at bat; a 12-15 pitch at-bat. I was throwing everything at this guy. I was getting tired, hot and sweaty. Fastball, he was fouling it off; curveball, fouling it off; I never throw change-ups to lefties— but change-up, he’s fouling it off. Ball was out of the zone, ball was in the dirt, ball was in the zone; fouled everything off. By the 15th pitch or so, just fast balled away; [he] connected. I didn’t have really any time to react. I put my glove up and it hit me above the left ear. RM: Do you remember that moment specifically? What were you thinking when that happened? DD: Everybody asks me if I was knocked unconscious, but I remembered everything that whole night. At that point, I was kind of terrified and I couldn’t speak. I just started praying a little bit: “God help me get through this one.” As it got a little more serious, I was like “God, just perform a miracle in my life.” At that moment, I was starting to get really terrified. My head’s hurting, my brain’s swelling. I found hope in Him. I knew whatever happened, I couldn’t really change it and He would get me through. RM: That reminds me a lot of Job and the stuff that happened to him back in the Old Testament. Why in the world would God allow certain things? DD: It really makes you stronger. Sometimes it’s not easy and my career hasn’t been easy. I thank Him I got to pitch in the big leagues. I thank Him that I got to be a part of the World Series. Sometimes you’re let down, but just sit back and be thankful for everything you have instead of wondering, why this or why that. Baseball’s been a blessing in my life. Give or take, I almost died on the field. So, anything extra, I can’t complain. RM: How would you say your faith has played a factor into the injury and your current standing? DD: Huge factor. I know if this was ten years ago, I’d be angry and punch a hole in the wall. My faith has grounded me. It’s taught me to thank Him through the trials, thank Him through the good stuff, everything and has kept me grounded. I know if I follow Him, everything’s going to be okay. It 24 Risen Magazine
might be hard or a struggle, but I’ll get through it. I’ve got my family and I’m truly blessed to be playing. RM: It does take faith. You can’t plan it on your own. DD: We do try to plan everything. Probably about five percent of the time it works out the way we want it, the other 95 percent, we just get angry or upset. In July, I went on the DL [disabled list] for a shoulder thing. I spent about a month and a half on the DL. [As a result] I get optioned down to a AAA team. That’s a bummer. I’m there for three weeks; but thinking, “I’ll get called up in September.” September 1st rolls around, and I was not getting called up. Our [AAA] season ends on the 3rd, and I still don’t get called up. That night, I told my wife that I didn’t want the season to end. We prayed about it…About five days later, the phone rings but I don’t pick it up. I then get a text message from the assistant GM; “Darin call me ASAP.” As I called the GM, he said, “We’re going to need you in Chicago tomorrow.” So, I got re-called up to the big leagues and it just shows you never know what is going on. I had thought the season was over and yet I got called back up, pitched good a couple times, had a chance to make the postseason roster and didn’t make it, but you just can’t get in your own way. You’ve got to let God sort it out. He’s going to do what’s great for you. When I look back at it, at things that happened, [He had] sent me home. Why? Because I had a pregnant wife and I didn’t want her to drive home by herself with our daughter. I was able to drive her home and [still get called] up a week later. You have to trust and have faith. Sometimes you’ll feel let down, but it’s all part of something a lot bigger. RM: How long have you been married? DD: Almost four years. I just want to be the most godly husband, father and provider. Without my faith helping me and really grounding me and showing me the right way to be that man, husband, and father, I’d be lost. RM: How do you stay grounded and keep that perspective? DD: Reading the Bible and reading some verses. Maybe things aren’t going great in the house—nobody’s perfect—maybe things aren’t’ going great with your wife. But, in the end, you turn back to Scripture and you’re supposed to lead and stay strong and be courageous. I got that encouragement and keep going no matter how bad things get. I’m not saying I have a terrible marriage or anything but you know, things like less patience here and there, you just got to keep at it; keep going. RM: You’re in the spotlight and according to the world, you’ve got it all. You’ve got money, you play professional baseball, and you’re married. There are so many guys, especially in the church, who use many excuses of being weak as a man. What advice can you give to guys that aren’t stepping up and leading their families? DD: Before anything, I’m a husband and a father. You have to be the man, husband, and father that God has called you to be. I fall short on that a lot of times, but there’s a lot of encouragement and strength in the Bible to help pick me up. I think the more you’re encouraged by the Word, and by the Truth, no matter how hard things are, you just continue to be that godly man. That’s one of the things I try to do my best, even before baseball or anything. RM: When temptations do come, whether in the clubhouse or on the road, how do you deal with those?
Photo: Travis Hatfield
Alex Kendrick speaking at Sherwwood Baptist Church. risenmagazine.com 25
Without my faith helping me and really grounding me and showing me the right way to be that man, husband, and father, I’d be lost. DD: I try to not be at the wrong place at the wrong time. I know what I should be doing and shouldn’t be doing as far as the social life. I know how to put myself in good situations with people who aren’t going to let me slip up. RM: Would you say there is one person that has impacted you the most? DD: Coaches. I can’t put my hand on one specific person. All the coaches that loved on me, encouraged me, taught me discipline, work ethic to where I am today. It’s a true blessing to have people in my life that would be gracious enough to take time out of their day, especially when I was younger. RM: What’s something that you’re most passionate about in life? DD: Baseball and my family. I really want to do something with the youth. I’m not hands-on yet. But I feel like the youth is so skewed and they’re going off in all types of different directions with everything the world says they 26 Risen Magazine
should be. I really want to be a leader to them. Especially with my platform. I mean who wouldn’t want to play in the big leagues? So, who wouldn’t at least listen to me, whether they hear it or not. That’s something I’m trying to look for, more avenues to get involved with kids and teens. It breaks my heart when kids have no dads or structure in life or that person to turn to. RM: What are some of your favorite Bible verses? DD: I like John 3:30. Very simple. God needs to be greater, I need to be smaller. Get out of your own way. Let God lead you. When you’re trying to do it all yourself, things don’t happen right. Sit back, take the background. Let me be the backseat driver. You lead and I’m going to follow you. (He must increase, but I must become less” –John 3:30 (ESV)) And, Romans 12:2. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. –Romans 12:2 (ESV) He says do not be conformed and goes on to tell you how to be transformed, by the renewing of your mind so we can test His good and perfect will. That verse tells us the command, how to do it, and the why. As an athlete, and being around the spotlight, the fans, the money, [it’s important to not become] what the world wants you to be. [I want to be] who God wants me to be. That’s been my verse this season. When I feel like I’m slipping or I feel like I’m starting to drift towards that worldly being, I don’t conform, I try to turn around. How? By praying, renewing my mind.
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Mandisa Writer: Kelli Gillespie Photographer: Kristin Barlowe
andisa Lynn Hundley, known professionally as Mandisa, captured the hearts of fans during her run on the fifth season of American Idol. The competition, in which she placed ninth, helped launch her career as an American gospel and contemporary Christian recording artist. Recently releasing her album, Overcomer, Mandisa is, by her own admission, happier and more content than ever before. This talented singer speaks candidly with Risen about her strong Christian faith, her battle with weight and what she feels is her responsibility to counter balance the many influencers reaching young people today.
Interview Exclusively for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: Raised in Northern California, what was your upbringing like and what role did faith play at a younger age? Mandisa: I grew up in Sacramento, my mom was raised in the church, but she really was gone so I was not raised in the church. Every other weekend or so, I would go to church with my dad and stepmom, until I was 10 years old. But really I became a Christian when I was 16 and I went to a performance of The Singing Christmas Tree at a church called Capitol Christian Center. We were invited by a co-worker of my mom’s and I’ll never forget just being really nervous and not knowing what my mom believes about the Lord, but just feeling like I wanted to make this decision to give my heart to Jesus. And I did. I raised my hand and walked down the aisle and started going to church two years later when I got my driver’s license. I felt my faith was really strengthened once I left Sacramento and moved to Nashville to go to college. Something about being on your own makes you start to develop what you really believe in, so that was a big turning point for me. Strangely enough, it’s always a neat part of the story, when I moved away to college. I started travelling after I graduated, with a woman named Beth Moore, who is an amazing author and speaker. She has really been a spiritual mentor for me. I was singing on her worship team and we did this event in Phoenix, Arizona, in November of 2001. I saw my mom give her life to the Lord at that event. She was just coming to visit and cheer me on. Now my mom is involved in BSF [Bible Study Fellowship] and she’s just a completely different woman. It’s a neat turn of events to see how that all came about. RM: How did the decision to try-out for American Idol happen? Mandisa: If you asked anybody who was a singer – at least around that 28 Risen Magazine
time, because there are several shows now – anyone who was a singer and watching that show was thinking in the back of their mind, “I wonder what would happen if I were to audition?” I think I could’ve auditioned the first couple of years, but at that time the age limit was 24 and I was passed that. So once the age limited was raised, Season 5 was my last year to be eligible; you couldn’t be over 28. I just thought, “I don’t want to get to the end of my life and still be wondering what could’ve happened if… let me just give it a try and see what happens.” At that point I was still singing on Beth’s worship team, I was singing background for different artists, but I did it because I didn’t want to have any regrets. I’ll never forget; I walked off the stage for my last event with Beth, in Vacaville, December 2005, and [directly] hopped on a plane straight to Hollywood week. And my life has been on a wild roller coaster ever since. But it was really a neat transition to go from that [situation]into American Idol, it was good preparation for me. RM: You became a Finalist on Season 5 (2006) and were quickly thrown into the beast that the industry can be. Now, with some time and distance from it, what did you learn the most? Mandisa: Any time that you are very outspoken about your faith in that sort of environment [Hollywood], you can sort of expect your faith is going to go through some testing. And it did. Honestly, in an industry that is most often focused on promoting self, and getting yourself ahead, for me, I said, “I am just going to put my life in the Lord’s hands and let Him promote me, and let Him take me where He wants to.” It made it different for me. Looking back, coming in ninth place, I don’t think there were a lot of expectations for me. But because I really let the Lord lead me in what direction to go, and didn’t take just any opportunity, by saying, “ You know God, this is an open
up. It was either you have no worth because you don’t look like [the girls] on the magazine covers, or you can have it your way and super-size it and have it any way you want to; just be happy and let your heart guide you. For me, those were the lessons that I learned. But I actually think those are contrary. I believe my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, I believe I can honor God with my body, so it’s less about looking a certain way – every girl wants to be cute – but for me, knowing I can honor God with my body, is my main focus. I never learned that growing up. And I also learned growing up that I could eat whatever I wanted to because I’m free and that’s what free people do. I’ve learned true freedom is when you don’t have to give in to everything you want. It’s where you can let the Spirit guide you as well. I feel very strongly about that and want to do my part to show people that there is a different way that they can live.
for You is a song that I wrote for my future husband, whoever and wherever he is. In the past I think the song would have been, Would You Hurry Up I Am Waiting and You’re Taking Too Long. door, but is this a door you’re opening and you want me to go through?” [I found that] some of those doors [weren’t the right ones]. So really being guided in that direction made my faith that much stronger because you can’t really go through something like this testing of your faith and come out the same. It’s either going to go away, or [make you] come out stronger. And it became stronger for me. Looking back, I am nothing but thankful and I love that part of my journey. I like that I came in ninth place, honestly third would have been nice if I had my choice. I really left it in the Lord’s hands because it was like, “Okay God, if you don’t do this thing, then it’s just not going to happen.” And He did it. RM: Idol gave you a platform to showcase your faith and use it to connect with Simon Cowell and demonstrate Christian attributes. How much responsibility do you feel using your fame to make a positive impact? Mandisa: On one hand, it is who I am. I remember the producers on American Idol advising all of us, “Don’t try to be anybody other than who you are. If you try to pretend to be somebody else, the audience can see through that. And they are not going to respond to you.” This is really who I am. I love the Lord with everything in me. He’s the most important person in my life and I can’t hide that, nor would I want to. So it’s naturally who I am, but at the same time, there are a lot of “influencers” out there for young people and I feel a responsibility to show an alternate route for people to take such as not letting the way that they look, or the clothes that they wear, or show as much skin as possible be a way to define beauty for girls, and also not letting what we do for a living define our worth and our value. [I believe in] not letting decisions be made simply because they look like a good idea, but rather bathing them in prayer and only taking the path that the Lord has. I love that because I have done that, and these are lessons that I have learned and can teach to others. I want to help that little girl struggling with her weight in high school to know one, that her value does not come from outward appearance, and two; God cares about our bodies and wants us to use them to honor Him. Those were lessons that I never learned growing 30 Risen Magazine
RM: You’ve been open and inspired so many people regarding your one hundred pound weight loss and your transparency with the exciting aspects of your life as well as the harder times. What do you see fans connecting with most when it comes to your music? Mandisa: Overwhelmingly, it’s the weight. It’s such a struggle, and so many people deal with it that I can honestly say on a daily basis I feel like I’m hearing how certain songs helped them in their weight [struggle], and I love that I can do music that has a funky beat that you can listen to on a treadmill, or even hear in Zumba class. I love that. And I love that there is an inspiring message behind it; because it’s a journey that I went through and telling them, they can do this. I also love that people have watched my weight loss journey and they may have felt hopeless, but seeing me on American Idol made a difference. Looking back I’m so thankful that Simon [Cowell, Idol Judge] made fun of me – because every fat girl that saw that said, “Oh my gosh, I’ve experienced the same thing.” Maybe not on national television, but every girl that has struggled with her weight has had somebody pick on her, make fun of her, embarrass her and made her want to cry. I am so thankful that happened to me, especially when I did forgive Simon, because I forgave him for so much and now seven years, later to be one hundred pounds lighter. I’m really thankful my journey has been chronicled on national television. I think it gives hope to those women who think they can’t do it. I’m living proof that if I can, anybody can. And my story is not one of, “I have arrived.” I’m still working, and I’ve come a long way, thank God I’m not where I was, I’m still on this journey, and I still have quite a ways to go. I kind of dig that my story is not, “Look at me I’ve made it.” But rather, “Look at me I’m making it and you can make it along with me.” I like that I can help others on a similar journey.
RM: After your success on the show you release your first full-length album, True Beauty, which debuted number one on the Top Christian Albums charts, making it the first time a new female artist has debuted at number one in the chart’s 27-year history. How did that make you feel? Mandisa: I had a lot of different offers and routes that I could’ve gone. I remember Randy Jackson [Idol Judge] saying on Larry King Live –with Ryan Seacrest, Katharine [McPhee] and Taylor [Hicks], just “Do the music that comes most naturally for you.” I had people wanting me to do an R&B thing, and I could have. Had I done that, I would be nowhere to be seen right now. [Laughter] It’s not the music that comes most naturally for me. The style of it does, and I think if you listen to my album you’ll hear that
funky soul and it has a little pop, but I love that I can sing about the most important person in my life, Jesus. You know, there are no Christian chords, there are no Christian sounds, and it is just what we are singing about the makes it Christian. I love that I can have get-up-and-dance music, and have it be talking about the one that makes me want to get up and dance. I think that because I was obedient to that, the Lord has really blessed me. It really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and some of the things I’ve been hearing recently about where I rank, honestly it doesn’t make any sense. I’m just happy and I love that I get to do this for a living. It’s really hard to not judge my success by the chart stuff, and how songs are doing, and how albums are doing – every artist does, honestly. But to really [judge it] by the stories I hear from the people we were just talking about, who tell me what the songs have meant to them is what I really try to stay focused on for defining success for me. I feel like as I stay focused on that, and who I’m making the music for, and having it be true to who I am and true to who the Lord is, then everything else works out. And that has definitely been my story over the last seven years or so. RM: Releasing your fourth album this past August, the first in two years, called Overcomer, what are you most excited about when it comes to these songs? Mandisa: I think this album is different for me, because I’m in a different place with the Lord. I’ve never been happier, I’ve never just been more content in all areas. I’ve been super-duper single my entire life, pining away for a husband, and this last year or so I’ve really been content with who I am and my relationship with the Lord. I am in a really great place, so that
was reflected in this album. There are a lot of celebrate and I want to thank you Lord, you’ve been so good, songs on there. I think in the past, because I have had so many things that have been difficult, a lot of the songs have reflected that. There are still a couple of those [on this album], but this is really a celebration album and everything deals with very specific things in my life. Praying for You is a song that I wrote for my future husband, whoever and wherever he is. In the past I think the song would have been, Would You Hurry Up I Am Waiting and You’re Taking Too Long. But now it’s more like, you are going to come when you are supposed to come, and in the meantime I am going to be praying for you. I’ve never really been able to say that before. There are a lot of songs on there that are just praise and thank you Lord. Joy Unspeakable and Back to You are just worship songs and lots of great songs for the treadmill. It’s a thanking-to-God-for-all-He-has-donein-my-life album.
Fans can get tour and other information to follow Mandisa by visiting her website: FB: www.facebook.com/mandisaofficial Twitter: www.ftwitter.com/mandisaofficial Website: www.mandisaofficial.com risenmagazine.com 31
32 Risen Magazine
Book and Song Reveal the Journey for
Writer: Henry Ortlip Photographer: Jeremy Cowart
cott Stapp has sold over 30 million records as the lead singer of Creed. The Grammy Award-Winning artist has had a long journey involving addiction and rebellion against his faith. This past fall, Stapp released his book Sinners Creed, along with his second solo album, Proof of Life. By his own admission, his remarkable journey and the fact that he is still alive is evidence of God’s mercy. Stapp has done it all, and seen it all. In his new book, he candidly shares his story and how his new album is a commentary on his journey.
Interview Exclusively for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: You were the man of the house at a young age. Describe your family life growing up? Scott Stapp: Yes most definitely, my father left when I was five years old, or sometime around that age. I kind of took on that role, to take care of my mom and two baby sisters. A lot was thrown at me at a young age. Until my mother remarried when I was ten, I definitely felt that I had that role. RM: How did you react with your mother remarrying when you were ten? SS: It was a dream come true. I wanted a dad, I was picked on, I guess in today’s words you could call it bullying. I was picked on at school and at church because I didn’t have a dad. I couldn’t go to certain functions, where it was father/son. I felt different from everybody else; coincidence would have it that I was very much into sports as a child, my whole life actually still to this day. My favorite football team, college football team independent of even knowing who this man [step father] was, was University of Alabama, and the Dallas Cowboys. But I say Alabama because he [step father] was a former University of Alabama athlete, basketball player and baseball player. When I met him I was just enamored by him because I had wanted a dad so badly and we had all these connects especially through sports. I had been running track and playing on the all-star team in baseball and he was a former All-American. I just fell in love with him from a kid’s point of view. He paid attention to me and played catch with me. RM: In your book you mentioned you told your mother that you would sell more records than Elvis as a way to provide for your family. How did you navigate that growing up? SS: We were always listening to Elvis records and she loved Elvis Presley and I’d imitate him and sing like him. One of the things I did outside of sports at school was, one day I tried out for chorus and the teacher loved me, and I ended up having all the solos. Part of it [reason for Elvis reference] might have been a little bit of child’s jealousy; I don’t know what it was, but all this talk of Elvis music, which was playing in the house. I recall the president at the time; I believe it was Ronald Reagan. My mom loved him too.
One day when my mom was upset and worried about how she was going to feed us and how she was going to pay the power bill I just felt compelled as a very, very determined and very passionate young boy, at that age I thought I could do anything, and with all those factors thrown in, I wanted to console my mom to save the family. I remember she was on the bed crying, I stood up on the bed and said, “Don’t worry mom, one day I’m going to sell records and be more famous than Elvis, and when I’m done with that I’m going to be president. Then you will never have to worry about anything again.” RM: When you left home for college what were your goals and where did you start? SS: There were a couple things going on in my mind. One thing was I was very disappointed and upset that I wasn’t going to Vanderbilt University on a full baseball scholarship. I wanted to play; another boy’s dream I had was to play pro baseball, and did pretty well in high school and had earned some baseball scholarships and had decided that I wanted to go to Vanderbilt and play in the SEC (Southeastern Conference) thinking maybe I would get a chance to play pro-ball too. Well, to make a long story short I was confused by what a full scholarship meant to my father, he wanted me to go to a small Christian college in Tennessee for a year. He told me just for a year, and then we would see how that went and he could help me for what the full scholarship didn’t offer and then I could go back to Vanderbilt. So aside from my athletic dreams I wanted to be a lawyer, not knowing what a lawyer’s job really was; my view of a lawyer was to change the world and do things that made a difference and help people. So aside from the baseball dreams I wanted to get a law degree. RM: How did that transition into music? SS: Music was always a part of my life as far back as I can remember. It was just there. I remember being a very little boy before my sisters were born and mother was singing in the choir and I was playing in church pews and crawling under the pews and taking the little grape juices they would use for communion, while she was in choir practice. That was just normal to me; risenmagazine.com 33
that is what people did. Music was always on, my mom was singing around the house, my grandmother played guitar. So that’s what you do in life and everything else comes with it. RM: When did Creed take shape? SS: The band started to take shape when I left Lee College and my dreams of playing [baseball] in the SEC were shattered. I came back to Florida and that’s when I began to get further into rock and roll music, especially older
to record us. The experience Mark and I had throughout our entire lives in music, and then through John Kerswick with all his recording knowledge and experience, [made the needed difference]. [Kerswick] was the son of a preacher and raised in church music ministry. He went on to become a professional musician at Atlantic Records. It just was the perfect synergy to create that first record and for it to turn out like it did. RM: Your lyrics with Creed come across as very self-aware. During your struggling times did you understand your self-destruction? SS: I think a lot of that self-awareness came from addiction and the struggle that was going on within me and in my life spiritually. It all came from there, growing up having a father that made me write the Bible, particularly Psalms and Proverbs, over and over again. And then, [I would] write commentaries on what each chapter meant to me. I think there was a definite imprint of the Bible within my soul. I knew right from wrong. There were moments of guilt and shame and confliction. I think that is where the self-awareness came from, the spirit inside of me knowing what is right and that still small voice speaking through me that got planted in me by the Word of God. It gave me a commentary on myself, and that is the power of God’s Word. Thank God for that. It’s so funny that even though we know the truth, how quickly we can get fooled by the lies. I continued that struggle back and forth dabbling in the things I knew I shouldn’t have, all the way until that sin and very bad choices nearly killed me. Just like the Bible says, the wages of sin is death, and that’s what sin wants to do.
think the imprint of song structure and how a song was supposed to be written was imbedded in me from the time I was probably three years old. rock and roll music, like The Doors and Led Zeppelin. I began to wonder what I was going to do. It finally clicked in my brain that there were other ways to reach my dreams besides playing pro-baseball. I reconnected with the promise I had made to my mom and decided I was going to do it. I went to Florida State University and by coincidence, I don’t really believe in coincidence now but back then I did, and I met Mark Tremonti who was a year younger than me. We had gone to the same high school. We have had a couple brush meetings over the years with him playing guitar and me walking up on him and making that glance at each other like, “We both are into music and could play and sing.” At Florida State it all kind of came to fruition, without me knowing he was there or he knowing I was there. I connected with him through a mutual friend. When he [the friend] mentioned Mark’s name, I remembered those brief encounters in high school and asked the guy to give Mark my number and tell him to call me because I was looking to start a band. RM: Creed started out as Naked Toddler before the name change and your first album went platinum. How did the band become polished and so well produced by the release of that first album, My Own Prison? SS: [Laughing] Naked Toddler was only our name for one week, just one week then we changed it. [Laughing] I believe there are a lot of factors that go into that. One is just an innate music sensibility from being raised around music and having pop songs like Elvis and everyone in between all the way up through the 90’s, before we got together. I was constantly playing at home and being involved in different choirs. I think the imprint of song structure and how a song was supposed to be written was imbedded in me from the time I was probably three years old. I think that definitely had an impact. I had the ability to create songs without any real song writing training. It was just in me to know how a song should be structured. I believe a lot of people can relate to that. I think another coincidence or serendipitous thing was for us to run into a fella named John Kerswick in Tallahassee who had a brief music career and had some pretty big success in the south east. If it weren’t for some drug/alcohol problems of his own, we might be saying John Kerswick instead of John Cougar Mellencamp. That is who filled his [Kerswick’s] void when he had his issues. But he was on the rebound of losing that opportunity and for extra money would make demos and helping young artists record their songs out of his house. I think we paid him ten dollars an hour 34 Risen Magazine
RM: When did you first meet your wife Jackie? How has your wife supported you throughout your journey? SS: Oh man, I’ll never forget meeting her. It was New Year’s Eve 2004. I was by myself, just taken a shower and put on a bathrobe sitting on the couch. I was just going to sit there and enjoy feeling sorry for myself that I was alone on New Year’s Eve. I kind of found a feeling of romanticism and satisfaction as the lonely artist, so that is the state I was in. My buddy comes in my door about 11:15 and says, “Hey man you going to come down?” Referring to going to our friend Jonah’s who had opened a bar called the Rock Bar in South Beach, Miami. I was living right in the heart of South Beach so it wasn’t a big ordeal to throw on some jeans and walk three blocks and he talked me into it. I was in a really retrospective place mentally and emotionally. I was kind of beginning to feel another moment of all this around me having everything. All these women and all this money and all these things mean nothing and are so unfulfilling, and I’m not happy. I walk in, say hi [to my buddy] and add, “Well, alright man I’m out of here.” I watched the ball drop and then I was gone. As I was trying to catch a cab, I see a whole strip of bars and outside the door of each bar it’s just a mob of people all crowded around each door trying to get in. As I look to my right, there is a girl doing the same exact thing that I’m doing about 50 feet down the street. What struck me about her was that she was dressed conservatively and beautiful, just stunning. My buddies called to me; they had four girls around them all skimpy, South Beach clad, and they were telling me that these girls want to meet me. I remember I didn’t even know who Jaclyn was, but I said no to my buddies [and pointed] “That girl down there is the kind of girl I want to meet.” And I turned around and put a hand up for a cab. About two minutes
later I look to my right and see my friend talking to Jaclyn. He had been drinking and ran over to talk to her. I felt embarrassed so I began to walk towards her and apologize for my friend and offered to get her a cab. In my showboat fashion, wanting to impress her, I pulled out a one hundred dollar bill and stood out in the middle of the road and got her a cab. When the cab came I had to work my moves, and asked if she would mind if I rode with her, [Laughing] saying that the driver could drop me off before her. She paused for a second and looked at me funny. I asked if she was going to say no, and she says, “ You are Summer Stapps’ brother.” “ Yeah that’s my sister Summer, but her modeling name is Summer Posey.” And what do you know that Jaclyn had worked with my sister Summer for six years, everyday traveling around the world doing marketing promotions and modeling gigs. Because of that connection at that moment she felt comfortable enough with me to sit in the cab with her. Through that cab ride about three blocks, I totally played up on the fact that she knew my sister and then asked for her number. For three months I courted her by phone. She comes from a strict Jordanian family and she honored those traditions. Before I could take her on our first date I had to fly to Baltimore, Maryland, and ask her mother and meet with her mother, her brother and three sisters. We got to go on our first date and it’s all history from there.
knew that I wasn’t really living the life of a Christian and to have that type of lens looking at me, I knew that I was a hypocrite.
RM: What was your state of mind when releasing The Great Divide in 2005? How does that differ from where you are now? SS: I think when I released that; I had somewhat of a chip on my shoulder. I felt jaded from how things had ended up with Creed at that point in time. Unfortunately, by the end of that record I had discovered a drug I had never done before and it had taken control of me. Anytime future for that record was going to be quickly demolished because of that, and it was. My downward spiral began there. What was different between then and now is that spiritually, I now know where I stand and I live in that faith. I know that my motivations behind this [current] record were in a real pure organic place of love as opposed to the chip that the other record had, and I was doing it for different reasons. I made the Great Divide for my ego, and this record came from just trying to share my heart, and I think those are dramatic differences. RM: The song Slow Suicide has been a theme from the way you were living. Can you expand on that? SS: Most definitely that song is a commentary and an honest reflection of what I was doing to myself and what I think I was doing to myself even before alcohol and drugs came into the picture. We can slowly begin to kill ourselves spiritual and emotionally and then physically by many things that we choose to put ourselves into, whether that is in relationships or other poor choices. That epiphany, that choice, is that I want to choose life. So
articulating that and being honest with myself was important to me in that song. RM: When you were younger you were frustrated with Creed being labeled Christian. Do you still feel that way about Creed or your solo work? How would you define your craft? SS: I’m a Christian without a shadow of a doubt, and I boldly proclaim that when asked. My music is a reflection of my soul and my heart and what matters to me. I was afraid of saying that Creed was a Christian band, even though I would say I’m a Christian, because I had three other guys in the band that didn’t believe in God. They were very angry with me that they were getting asked that [about being a Christian] so part of me was trying to preserve the relationship with the band. Also, I knew that I wasn’t really living the life of a Christian and to have that type of lens looking at me, I knew that I was a hypocrite. I knew that I was living in sin and that I was willfully living in sin. But the word of God couldn’t stop coming out me in the moments of honesty and clarity in which I found the most inspiration. So today, I’m very clear with what I am as a human being and as a spiritual being and knowing that and sharing that, can be easily assumed by the type of spirit and heart that generates this music. I have yet to feel that being a Christian limits you in the type of music that you can write; I don’t think there is mold. I don’t know how that applies to my music except that it’s written from the mind and from the heart of someone that loves Jesus Christ and loves the Lord. And I am trying every day to live to the word of God and be more Christ like in everything that I do and say. I’m far from perfect in that, but that is the spirit that the songs are inspired.
Reaching Out Through Music and Conferences Point of Grace is Making a Difference
Up Close with Singer
Photo: JP Yim 36 R) Risen Magazine (L TO Leigh Cappillino, Denise Jones, and Shelley Breen.
Writer: Shelley Barski Photographer: Word Label Group
onored with twenty-seven, #1 hit songs, 13 Dove awards, two Grammy nominations, career album sales in excess of 7 million, including Platinum and Gold albums, Point of Grace is one of the Top 10 Best-Selling Artists in the history of Contemporary Christian music. Easily one of the most influential Christian groups in the industry, this all-female trio consists of Denise Jones, Shelley Breen ad Leigh Cappillino. In 2002, the group had a desire to bring teenage girls together and talk about issues that affect them, and as a result, launched the first Girls of Grace conference. “At times girls feel like they are the only ones who struggle with certain issues,” says Point of Grace’s Denise Jones. Now in its eleventh year, Girls of Grace conferences give girls “the opportunity to come together in a large group and realize that we all have our own struggles, and yet, we are in this together,” adds Jones. Risen had a chance to talk to Jones about the conferences, balancing family life and how to “steady on” through the hard times.
Interviewed Exclusively for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: When and how did you first experience God? Denise Jones: I was fortunate to grow up in a Christian home in Norman, Oklahoma. Both grandparents were in town and went to my church. At age 6, I had the realization that I needed a Savior. In my small little heart and mind I knew that I was a sinner. I went with my dad to talk to our pastor about it and committed to follow the Lord then. It’s been a journey. At 44, I’m realizing how much God’s grace followed me all these years. Am I perfect? No! God has really freed me in just these past four years from feeling like I had to do everything I was supposed to do. Even though I knew as a little girl that Christ gave me the free gift of grace, somewhere along the line I started focusing on following the rules and doing the right things instead. RM: Was it ever hard to sing encouraging, happy songs during times when you felt hopeless or far from God? DJ: I think I’ve learned through life that there are times when I had to keep singing. I don’t always want to sing Zippity Do Da, but sometimes it’s important to keep singing through the hard times. I relate it to Chariots of Fire when Eric Liddell says, “When I run, I feel His pleasure.” That’s the way I look at singing. God has always met me there when I’ve had little depressions or got in a fight with my husband. There is a song, Nothing Greater than Grace that we sing and that helped me through a hard time. God, through a great counselor and mentor, freed me from trying to be perfect and I accepted His grace once again. I sang Blue Skies when I thought my husband had cancer. We were recording Blue Skies and the Lord met me there—it was hard to see past my fear on that gray day. I remember driving to the studio and told the Lord, “I don’t know if I can sing this!” I heard a voice in my heart saying that no matter what the outcome, it’s going to be okay. Singing is one way I can look to Him and place my faith and trust. RM: Who was your biggest role model growing up? DJ: My mom and grandmothers were a huge influence in my life. When I think of who I want to be, I think of them. I saw them on their knees and I saw them daily in God’s word. My mom would give me verses on my mirror and as a teenager, I was like, “Ugh, really mom?” But you have to have that daily reminder to keep worry away, a reminder from the daily distractions. I
get it now. I also had a high school teacher that musically really inspired me and made me believe in my giftings. RM: What is some advice that you received that helped you become the woman you are today? DJ: People matter. The way my mom lived showed me that people matter, and no matter what the circumstances, she cared about the heart of people and looked past wealth and status. I try to show that to my own kids. Sometimes we get caught up in our own lives and forget about others. Marriage is important. My parents have been married over 50 years and my grandparents celebrated over 60 years of marriage. They aren’t perfect, but there is a commitment there. I think saving myself for my husband was very important. I’ve been married 20 years and purity almost matters more now than it did then. I think because we are the only ones each other has had sex with, that cheating would take so much more to go there–it would be that much harder. We are at an age where unfortunately a lot of our friends are getting divorced. I think that commitment has made a difference in my marriage and kept us together. I try to instill in kids that purity really does matter! RM: You’ve experienced so much success in the 20 years as a trio. How have you stayed humble and balanced amidst the success? DJ: It’s funny when people ask us that because we don’t feel like we’re that big and successful. We have just always had great people around us–family, husbands and mentors along the way. When we were at the most successful [worldly success], you’re so busy at that time and everything is so crazy, that you can’t even think about the success, let alone have time to enjoy it. I’ve never felt like, “Oh I’m huge!” I’ve always had a sense of my brokenness and my own limitations. The hard part is balance and schedules and knowing when to say No, because your family needs you to stay home. At the age we are at, we love what we do. I can say no because my son is playing football on Friday and he’s playing varsity and I want to watch him. We’ve come to a point where our kids are growing up so fast and so we trust the dates that come to us and pray that we can take them. I have to be dependent on God to direct my path. He’s provided the grace. When I live outside of grace, that’s when I can’t handle the busy schedules and start dropping plates. RM: What does a strong woman of God look like to you today? risenmagazine.com 37
DJ: A strong woman of God knows how dependent she is on Him. I think of my grandmas and how they always had the right thing to say because they were in tune with God. A strong woman of God doesn’t overact. It doesn’t mean you can’t have a fiery personality, because we need leaders, but she knows when to wait on the Lord. She takes things with ease. She knows when to listen. She doesn’t have to have the answers. She knows when to just sit by someone or when to respond. She knows how to respond correctly instead of just reacting. When I overreact, I know that’s when I’m not trusting the Lord. It says in Proverbs that wisdom is so important. We could read books all day long, but how do we know God if we don’t know His word? I don’t have His word hidden in my heart like I want, but it’s something I am working toward.
DJ: We celebrated our 10 year anniversary of Girls of Grace this past year. In our career, girls have been a huge fan base of ours. Before email, we used to get handwritten letters from them. We also had a small group where we would help girls. We partnered with Mercy Ministries who helps girls ages 13-28 overcome life challenges like addiction and unplanned pregnancy. The Lord had given us this platform to encourage people and speak into their lives. We know the struggles females face in American culture - society is telling us that success is based so much on how we look. We wanted to come alongside these girls and their parents and tell them they can walk differently, that what the world says about talking and dressing isn’t true. All of us grew up with people that we looked up to. If I went to a conference when I was young to see Amy Grant, I would have listened to every word she said. We always wanted to go beyond Point of Grace and we knew there would be a time when we weren’t the young hip singers anymore. Now we get to bring along great groups like Brit Nicole and the hit artists of the day, and that’s been awesome.
Kids are more connected in a global sense, but we face a generation that is extremely alone. They’re not hands-on anymore. Instead of apologizing to someone to his or her face, they’ll text it.
RM: How do the three of you collaborate on songs together? Can you explain the process? DJ: We have written a few things like, A Thousand Little Things, and Good Enough, but really, we have not been much of writers. In the long run I think that was good for our career. In other groups, one writer is stronger and there can be jealousy amongst the group. Also, when you’re so close to a song, you can’t look at it objectively. When we listen to songs written by other people, we can listen like an audience. When it speaks to us, we know it can speak in the heart of our listeners. Saving Grace, The House That Mercy Built [for Mercy Ministries] and Circle of Friends are some of those songs. Sometimes we will say, “Oh we didn’t like this or let’s change that,” etc. We have met writers in all different places. Cindy Morgan is a writer lately that we just love. She is in the same age and place as we are in life. How You Live is such a song for us and the song, I Wish - she like, reads our mail! She gets us! I think God has brought the right people along our path at the right times.
RM: What are your thoughts on where Christian music has been and where it’s going? DJ: The music industry has changed so much over the years with downloads, etc. I love Christian music and that it is progressive and there are artists that can be current with the culture. I think it can get a little saturated though. I think music needs to speak to the heart. As a mom, I know the message of the lyrics of secular songs on the radio; why wouldn’t I want my kids to listen to the same kind of talent that gives an eternal message? Whether it’s about friendship, forgiveness or a happy day, it can be about a lot of things. I love that there are so many options out there. Now you’ve got rock, rap, country, pop, but most of all, it’s the message that’s important. At the Girls of Grace conference, we’ve got all of that! RM: Where did the initial inspiration for the Girls of Grace conference come from? 38 Risen Magazine
RM: What kind of impact have you seen on young girls over the years as a result of this conference? DJ: It’s been really neat throughout the years to run into girls who have gone to the conference. One girl I ran into, who is in college now, came to the conference when she was 13. She told me she made different choices based on what she learned at the conference, like how she approached dating. Another girl’s dad said, “I don’t know what you did at that conference, but my daughter came home treating her siblings completely differently.” I love hearing those stories. One of the things I love about this conference is the speakers we have and how they can speak in such a way that girls can really resonate with them. From the inexperienced 12-year-old to the older girl who has experienced a lot, they all can get something out of it. RM: What kind of challenges do you think young girls face today that previous generations didn’t have to deal with? DJ: In some ways our challenges are very similar, whether you’re 12 or 45, a girl still deals with being okay with who she is, and that she’s enough and perfect the way she is. I do think in this generation, their world moves so fast and they rarely have a quiet moment to themselves. There’s constant noise or Facebook, texting, etc. I think social media is a new challenge for teenagers. It can be used for great things, but it is so much self-promotion. It heightens their insecurities, like if you’re not in a picture at a party on Instagram, then you start feeling bad about yourself. Kids are more connected in a global sense, but we face a generation that is extremely alone. They’re not hands-on anymore. Instead of apologizing to someone to his or her face, they’ll text it. It’s easy to text someone who has had a bad or good day instead of putting your arms
around them. We lose a sense of community that way. This heightens the feeling of being disconnected and alone. Parents and teens and relationships will always be difficult. Eating disorders and self-harm are still big issues. Teens often don’t know what a real friend is and isn’t. I think they are missing out on some really special experiences that teach you about life by being connected in a different way. I work with girls at my son’s school and they tell me they are so much more comfortable texting instead of talking, but those are skills everybody still needs. RM: What are you most excited for in this new conference season? DJ: Our new theme is Live, Love and Lead and it’s really encompassing what God’s grace is about. I want the girls to come and really learn about how God’s grace is the starting point. A girl who grows up in a Christian home knows the rules very well. But does she know how much she is loved? Does she know there is a God that totally adores us? When we really understand what a Girl of Grace is, we can understand that God’s grace meets us every day even when we don’t do our best on a test. It’s about the sun coming up in the morning and God meeting us there; that He gave us friends and relationships to enjoy. We live and love differently when we understand grace. We learn to love a person that is not as easy to love. Out of that love, we learn to lead a different culture. National speaker Chris Wheeler, and Annie Downs, speaker and author of Perfectly Unique: Praising God from Head to Foot, are speaking at the current conference and are some of the best communicators I’ve heard lately. They always have a fresh approach and they really understand how to communicate to this culture.
RM: What else is on the horizon for Point of Grace? DJ: We have a Christmas tour. Crackle Barrel is releasing a Christmas CD with us and we’ll be doing some impromptu singing by the fire; that’s always fun. We did some stuff with radio too. The three of us have the gift of gab [laughs]. But we’ve never wanted to speak beyond our experiences. You think when you’re 20 you’ve got to say something really profound, but you don’t really know that much when you’re that age! We took that advice. We spoke to teens and college [students] then. Now we are a little older and we celebrate that. We’ve seen a lot more. We’ve had friends die, seen divorce, had babies and have aging parents. We want to come up with creative ways to speak into the lives of women because we know where they’re at. RM: Favorite Bible verse? DJ: John 16:33. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” I think for me, when my heart is restless and worrisome, and I can easily get anxious and uptight about things, I have to be reminded that I can only find Peace in Jesus, who loves me unconditionally. He knows the outcomes of the circumstances better than I do. People are going to let us down, but it’s in Jesus that I find peace.
ChildFund, WinShape Camps, Zondervan, Grand Canyon University and NewReleaseTuesday.com serve as sponsors of Girls of Grace conferences. For more information, visit www.girlsofgrace.com risenmagazine.com 39
40 Risen Magazine
g Down n i n
Volume e h t
Tur Writer: Mei Ling Nazar
ext messages, television, billboards, commercials, online videos...the youth of America are bombarded daily by hundreds of messages. A leader extremely keen to the technology war bidding for the attention of our teens is Teen Mania Ministries president and co-founder Ron Luce. With more than 27 years of youth ministry experience, he’s seen the shift and adapted his delivery to stay connected, including the creation of an interactive movie experience called Surge. Luce shared with Risen the importance of slowing down and eliminating noise to hear God, how media has impacted cyber bullying, and the need to be creators, not just consumers of media.
e are in desperate need of spiritual leaders Interview Exclusively for Risen Magazine that have character. They don’t just have a title, they have a life that is worth following.
Risen Magazine: You started Teen Mania in 1986 with your wife, what did your ministry look like back then? Ron Luce: It was Katie and me in our little apartment and we turned one bedroom into our office. We drove our car around the country doing youth rallies at whatever church would take us. The crowds were awesome. We would have ten to 20 kids at a time and we were doing ministry in living rooms across America; then we took an offering and that is what we lived on. I would preach in front of those ten kids like there were 10,000 there. I’d spit all over them [during sermons], do altar calls, and then invite them to go on mission trips with us during the summertime to change the world. That’s how it all started and by the grace of God we’ve been able to reach a lot of kids. Things have grown. We started Acquire the Fire conferences in 1991. We have had over three million kids attend the conferences. We are in 34 cities a year, giving kids a face-to-face weekend experience to take them away from the white noise of all the business and media long enough so that they can hear the whisper of God in their heart.
another. Then we are asked to think about something serious and we don’t want to. You have to pull them away from the pleasure so that you can show them the really important things that they need to think about. We have such a pleasure driven culture that it is hard to accomplish that. In youth ministry, we are constantly trying to figure out how get their attention long enough and once we have their attention, how do we say it in a relevant way so that it is not quickly dismissed. We don’t want to just be a message people hear on Sundays and then go back to their noise-filled life.
We are in desperate need of spiritual leaders that have character. They don’t just have a title, they have a life that is worth following.
RM: I love that analogy! RL: There’s so much noise in the world. People say, “I can’t hear God.” Well, you have to get quiet. You need to do a “be still and know that I am God,” type of thing. What we do is we take the 27 hours that we have over the weekend and peel the layers of the heart like an onion, so that they can say, “Oh, that’s what it is like to hear God.” People get frustrated because they can’t hear God because they have so much noise going in their ears all the time and they have a hard time quieting their soul. It is really exciting to help young people really connect with the Lord. RM: Twenty-seven years later you are still going strong. What would you say has been the biggest change in youth ministry over the years? RL: There are so many types of media that is ready whenever you want it. People call it multi-tasking, but they are really multi-using different types of media at the same time. Now it is just harder to get their attention and most media has to do with pleasure. I go from one fun thing to another to
RM: What do you foresee as the pivotal issue for this generation to overcome in pursuing their relationship with Christ? RL: There has always been sin, but we have such heinous sin that it is so convenient. It is at the touch of a button. It is like quicksand; you dip your toe in it and it sucks you in. It is all around us. This generation will have to learn early on that just because you can, doesn’t mean that you should. Paul says, “I can do all things…” but not all things are beneficial. There needs to be that self-control to realize that it is candy and it tastes good, but it has poison in it and I’m not going to taste it because it is going to pull me into the quicksand and it’s going to be hard to get out. RM: I was reading through some of the stats from your book, Battle Cry: Magnitude of the Crisis, and it blew me away that our culture views 16 to 17 hours of television each week and sees on average 14,000 sexual scenes and references each year. That’s more than 38 references every day. Even if people aren’t looking for it, it surrounds them. What do you say to young adults that want to walk away from this, but it surrounds them? RL: What’s even more staggering is by the time someone is 18, they will have seen 40,000 hours of movie and television. They will have spent 11,000 hours in a classroom and only 800 hours of church. In terms of the amount of intake that we have it is not what you say. It is realizing that we are dumbing down our society. Instead of thinking about concepts and being the generator of concepts, we are the consumer of other people’s concepts. It has been said that 98 percent of the culture are followers and two percent risenmagazine.com 41
e are in desperate need of spiritual leaders that have character. They don’t just have a title, they have a life that is worth following.
We are in desperate need of spiritual leaders that have character. They don’t just have a title, they have a life that is worth following.
are the shapers and creators of it. The 98 percent are being shaped by the two percent. The people that are submerged in all this media, are not the ones that are making discoveries. Grab a book and let it stimulate your mind. Engage in a conversation with great minds who have written great books. Think about the productivity of your life. What type of contribution do you want to make to society? You don’t make a contribution by being a consumer of other people’s creativity. You’ve got to pull away from it long enough to ask the questions, “Why am I here?” and “What can I contribute?” We really have to decide if we are going to be the consumers or the creators of culture.
RM: I love how you put that in perspective and you are doing exactly that with creating. Your new movie, Surge uses technology to leverage a powerful message. How did you come up with this idea? RL: For several years, there have been these quasi-live events in movie theaters. [Things like] an opera and then it is broadcast around the world. We began thinking two or three years ago, “What would it be like to have a national young adult event where they all converge for a concert, comedy show and you are interacting with all the other people that are at the event through social media?” We wanted to try and leverage the technology to make a new type of event. We do events all the time with Acquire the Fire, but we can only be in one city at a time. With this, we can be in 500 theaters in one night. We can bring a message of hope. At Surge, we are dealing with all of the fears that young people face when they go back to school. The biggest fear is not being accepted. We all want people to like us and to accept us. People often make bad decisions because they are manipulated by that fear. They might decide to take a dare to do drugs or drink. They give away their purity because they want to be accepted. They make these decisions and often 42 Risen Magazine
times end up regretting what they did. We talk through those issues in the movie. It is fun, interactive and we have some great artists like, Lecrae, Casting Crowns, and Newsboys. It is a life-giving event. Instead of just going to a theater to see a horror flick where you are scared out of your mind, it is an encouraging movie where you actually get some tools and wisdom for life. RM: Over the last couple years, bullying has taken a new twist. We see groups of people ganging up on a student and being able to hide behind a computer or phone [while doing it]. What words do you have for the cyber bully? RL: Most bullying comes from people being insecure about themselves and bullying is a way for them to feel like they are in control. We speak to that in the film. Everyone is wearing a mask, some a bullying mask and we don’t want people to see what is going on behind that mask. Girls are ending their lives because they have been bullied online in a sexual way. They are being taunted to expose themselves and then the pictures are shown all over the place. It is happening all across the country. People are being bullied with words. We need to get perspective on this. Teenage life is a subculture. We need to help them to see past this little world. It is just like a movie set that you go to and everyone is playing a role. The lights go off, people go back home, and they return to whoever they really are. It is so important to keep perspective that while it may seem like a big deal now, it won’t be as important over the span of your life. If you are able to get perspective on it, then you are less likely to be manipulated by people’s bullying.
RM: There’s another role in bullying; the person that turns the blind eye. Instead of turning a blind eye, what do we need to do when we see bullying?
RL: We encourage young people when they see someone being made fun of in the cafeteria for how they are dressed, we need to be the ones that go sit with them and befriend them. We need to do what Jesus talked about. The ones that appear to be unlovable or unlovely, that we are the ones to reach out to them and be friends with them. If that means we get persecuted and thrown into the same category, then let that happen. There’s something more important than your reputation, it is that human being that deserves to be treated with respect and love. RM: Growing up, you struggled with drug and alcohol abuse, how did you overcome those things and what encouragement do you have for others who might be in a similar position? RL: I was a party animal for part of my teenage years. Everything changed when I had a real encounter with Jesus. I was raised in a church that was dead and dry and boring. When I was 16 years old, I finally heard the message of the Bible presented in a real way that finally made sense to me. I remember thinking, “Why didn’t anyone ever tell me this? This is the best thing in the world.” Once I really gave my life to the Lord, I don’t know anyway else to say it, but it was a miracle how He changed me. Drugs, alcohol and parties were still there, but they lost their luster. They weren’t fun to me anymore because I found something so much better. No one got in my face and said, “ Young man, don’t party anymore.” When you fall in love with Jesus, you fall out of love with the world and everything that it has to offer. I found something better, why do I want a second-class high, when I can get the best high? Why do I want the high that lures me away to something that will hurt me, when I have something that shields me from those hurts and can lead me to a path of wholeness? RM: What words of advice do you have for our readers who are considering going into ministry? RL: We are in desperate need of spiritual leaders that have character. They don’t just have a title, they have a life that is worth following. That is where we all need to start. We need to make sure that we are continuing to grow. So many Christians, two years after they accept Christ, level off and stop
growing in their character, heart for God, and knowledge of Scripture. If your desire is to be in ministry, than let’s be people of character. We all know someone who was in a leadership position in ministry and was later disqualified because they lacked character. Let’s be authentic, let’s be real, and let’s be on a growth path that takes us somewhere. You will work out what type of ministry along the way. RM: What about those that are in ministry and they aren’t seeing any real change in their ministry and are ready to quit? RL: You have to keep yourself fresh. Keep your heart in tune with the Lord and also keep yourself fresh with ideas. Find people that are successful. Whether you meet them personally or you read about them, immerse yourself with creative ideas that are working for them; just adapt it to your scenario. Scripture says, “There is nothing new under the sun,” so just because you can’t see a way right now doesn’t mean there isn’t a way. We all go through those types of challenges, look at Jesus with the twelve disciples. We just need to keep our ear to the ground and stay informed of new strategies. RM: Over 27 years in ministry, you’ve written books, and now the movie. What do the next 20 years of ministry look like for Ron Luce? RL: We are very excited about finding new ways of leveraging technology. We have a smart phone app that is a discipleship tool for kids. At Acquire the Fire, we have a video game module. That is just one piece. We are looking at doing Acquire the Fire conferences all over the world. We are getting demand from leaders saying, “Our teenagers in Africa or Asia are more like the teenagers in your country because they watch all of your media.” They are calling and asking us to help them reach their youth because they don’t know what to do anymore. We are looking at doing an Acquire the Fire world tour and come alongside those churches. There are 1.5 billion young people worldwide. We want to do everything we can to win them to Christ and disciple them. Teen Mania Ministries. “Battle Cry: Magnitude of the Crisis”. Archived from the original on 2006-08-24. Retrieved 2006-09-04. risenmagazine.com 43
44 Risen Magazine
Writer: Kelli Gillespie Photographer: Henry Ortlip
e started innocently enough as a kid playing video games, but that took a drastic turn when he discovered internet video gaming. Andrew Doan used the gaming as an escape. He wasn’t your typical bored young adult. He was a busy, promising medical student with a young family. While Doan continued to move forward in his career obtaining both medical and doctoral degrees in neuroscience from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, he suffered for years with a depth of addiction to internet gaming. He knew he needed help and through a conviction and commitment to Jesus Christ, he now helps others by sharing his story. Today Dr. Doan is a recognized expert in technology and video addiction and the author of Hooked on Games. As a prominent eye physician and surgeon, his practice also involves a mission to restore the sight for many in Ethiopia. Risen met with Doan to talk about his path, his faith, and his passion to help others.
Interviewed Exclusively for Risen Magazine in Del Mar, California
Risen Magazine: Tell me about addiction and how someone can actually be addicted to technology? Andrew Doan: Addictions can be broken up into two categories; substance abuse, which we know – alcohol and drugs, and then behavioral. What’s amazing is that regardless of whether it’s substance abuse or behavioral, both lead to the same prefrontal cortex neurotransmission pathway called the dopamine pathway. Pretty much all substances and all behaviors that feel good, lead to that pathway. For instance when someone takes cocaine, they will get a whole dose which makes them feel high. When you have a behavior, let’s say even a common one, like eating chocolate, it hits your mouth and the pallet and then you feel this rush from your face all the way to your head, that’s the dopamine rush and the association with eating something that feels good. Same concept with sexual intimacy. So the question now is, can a behavior like technology stimulate the same pleasure centers in your brain? And the MRIs and research show that dopamine is released in the brain similar to that of drugs and alcohol. You take somebody addicted to technology – like internet pornography or internet gaming – and their head lights up like someone addicted to alcohol or drugs. It all leads to the desire to escape something. Another example is if you took an MRI scan of someone using their cell phone; their brain lights up like somebody in love. When you get a text message, it’s kind of like the Skinner rat experiment, where the rat pushes a lever to get a food reward. [Similarly] when we hear this ding [from our cell phone] we think, “Oh, it could be my fiancé.” And frantically you check it, you get a nice message, and you feel that rush. Or you took a picture of yourself and you put it on Facebook, and you feel this incredible sensation
when someone you are attached to “likes” your picture. That’s why we fall in love with our devices; it stimulates the pleasure centers. RM: How did your own addictions with video games manifest? AD: I grew up in an all-white neighborhood in Hillsboro, Oregon, in a Buddhist family that did not know Jesus and was constantly picked on. On the surface I was well adapted as a kid and even lettered in three sports. But ten years of getting picked on can really chip away at a person’s confidence. I didn’t like being Asian, and I had all this emotional baggage, so in order to gain control of my situation I became angry and became a bully. When I grew up my parents always said, “Don’t worry about the video games. You’re home and we’d rather have you do that than be out using drugs and alcohol,” because those were the known addictions. Being Vietnamese immigrants, they felt I’d be a loser if I got caught up in all those other things. But gaming seemed smart and like it would teach a kid something. Before I even knew the Lord, He blessed me with incredible talent and I had six full- ride offers to medical school, four of them were the top programs in the country…Johns Hopkins, Columbia, Washington U… and I ended up going to Hopkins and did an MD/PhD program. When it came to relationships, I needed love and acceptance and dove into any relationship I could – it was always a mess. I got married too early to my wife Julie because I didn’t have Christ in my life and we were living in sin and we got pregnant with our son, who is now 16 years old. At that time I didn’t know how to deal with relationships because I grew up in a family that didn’t love each other, that didn’t know how to accept each other; there was always fighting, and it was a hurtful family. risenmagazine.com 45
So when I had my own young family, I looked for ways to escape. I found internet gaming. Internet gaming allowed me to beat up other people because you play online, and you can pick any avatar you want, so they didn’t know I’m Asian. I was a hero online. If I would’ve had internet as a kid, I would’ve been messed up. I was a young man who wanted love and acceptance, so why would I want to play by myself. I would play a game and then get over it. But with the internet, you have the socialization, camaraderie, acceptance, and you work as a team. Then pretty soon, you’re playing all night. It’s never ending. So I slept about 2-3 hours a night and played about 50-100 hours a week. It’s not like you start out playing this much. It starts with half of an hour and then you find a buddy called maybe, Johnny, and you and Johnny start playing a lot and then you become a team and start beating people and you’re laughing; you play over and over hoping to climb up in the world leader board ranking. You blink and it’s been ten years. But you justify it, “It’s only gaming. It’s not an addiction, it’s just my hobby.”
Doan with his son, Nick. 46 Risen Magazine
RM: What finally made you realize you were out of control? AD: Oh boy. After 20,000 hours of gaming, I had all this adrenaline built up and I started raging. I was verbally and almost physically abusive to my wife. At one point she was in a fetal position in the closet just rocking back and forth balling. One day we had an argument and she knew the next step was going to be physical abuse, so she took my daughter, who was the age of one at the time, and our son who was two, went three-thousand miles away with only the clothes on her back and slapped a restraining order on me. I still had two more years left of medical school from one of the best in the world, and I was like, “Wow, what is my life coming to?” That night I was balling. I was just crying and praying, “I’m broken. If there is a God, please redeem me and I promise to serve you as your servant for the rest of my life.” That was my prayer. I was planning suicide; IV drip, potassium chloride. I had full access to this as a medical student. I’m supposed to be a surgeon soon; I’m supposed to be a successful doctor and my wife just left. I kept telling my wife that the money would be coming soon, and she would say, “Money is not going to fix this.” Luckily I called my mom and she flew out to Baltimore the next day. Here I am 29 years old and my mom is living with me to prevent me from hurting myself. And then here is the addict, after the shock of the departure, I think, “Sweet, I don’t have my wife.” And I go back to gaming again. [Within in several months] My wife sent me a Christian book called, Winning Your Wife Back. I am reading it on the plane as I’m flying to Oregon from Baltimore with my lawyer planning to steal back the kids. We get there and I see my wife and I’m thinking, “I do love her and I miss her.” We end up reconciling against all our family’s expectations. She had been gone for six months and she said, “If you go to church, then we can get back together.” Academy of Ophthalmology saw my talent and picked me up. [Then] I became addicted to business. It was a seven year rehabilitation before I got my sleep patterns back to normal. I didn’t act like I was bipolar all the time, so it really was a long road. RM: You touched earlier on being raised in a Buddhist home and not really knowing or having a relationship with the Lord. What did your relationship with Jesus look like through your addiction and how have you seen Him heal? AD: It goes through phases. We have awareness, “Wow God is real.” I had a week where I just balled and said, “I’m sorry Lord. I just can’t believe I did all this stuff.” It was during my ophthalmology residency in Iowa when I discovered that God is real, He’s very real. And I had a week of repentance where I thought, “Wow. I am a sinner. I’ve been abusing my life, not managing my time…” And I went through that process, but I didn’t know how to have a relationship with the Lord. I was so arrogant and thought about the verse John 3:16; I’m good to go, I’m done, I’m tagged for Heaven. But my wife had gotten saved before me and
she was in Bible study and kept encouraging me to read the Bible. I was lazy and I didn’t want to take time to get to know [ Jesus]. My life got to the point where I was a Christian, but things weren’t working. I was still spinning my wheels. About three or four years ago, I started with a men’s Bible study and we went through the book of Hebrews. When I started reading the book of Hebrews, I got it. That’s when things started opening up. The scales fell off my eyes and I could see what I needed to do in the world and what the Lord created me for. That’s how I ended up writing, Hooked on Games and that led to the Ethiopian Eye Hospital Mission and other things I’m involved in. I’m not anti-games, I’m just anti-abuse of games. It’s like water, you drink too much water and you’ll die from brain swelling. Too much video gaming is bad, but enough can actually teach hand-eye coordination. So doing cataract surgery is like playing a game of asteroids for me. I can sit there at the microscope and divide the cataracts into half, quarters, eighths; the little pieces are moving around, it’s like playing a video game. I can do that all day. I realized the Lord has blessed me with these surgical hands and I can restore sight and minister to [people]. RM: You’re not only changing lives through your personal recovery and your book, but you are using your ophthalmology gifting both locally and abroad. Why did you pick Ethiopia? DD: As an eye doctor, I learned that you can do ministry anywhere. I built an eye clinic next to my church to serve the church’s rescue mission and we’re trying to make a model where we can serve paying patients and nonpaying patients. The beautiful thing about that is Rick Eisemann, who works for e3 Partners and has been in Ethiopia for 18 years, approached me about a northern part of Ethiopia that has been closed off to Christian ministries for 200 years. But [the country officials] said if you bring eye care, you can come in. I said, “Okay! We can do that.” Later, I was sharing my testimony at the American Eye Study Group and another Christian ophthalmologist named Scott Lawrence pulled me aside. He told me he had been planning to move to Ethiopia to do the same kind of thing that had been placed on his heart for many years. We were able to synergize and look at the research and found that there was only one eye surgeon for one million people in Ethiopia. In [contrast] for example, in Coronado, California, there is one eye surgeon for every eight thousand people. [We made a way that] For sixty dollars, we can restore sight to someone in Ethiopia and they can get their life back. RM: When it comes to technology, you’re not saying it is bad, you’re just saying like alcohol, or food, or fitness, everything should be done in moderation. From your perspective, what type of relationship should people have with technology especially as we move more and more in that direction with smart phones, tablets and gadgets everywhere? DD: I think it depends on the age group. I say, “No video games until a kid is 13 years old.” The reason is that the brain is very plastic. This is so important and my heart is broken for this because parents don’t know this. The problem is we only have 24 hours in a day and the brain needs to develop self-control. A child needs to learn how to sit still and imagine in order to keep himself/herself busy. If we give a digital device [to a kid] it’s like an anti-depressant, drug, or a stimulus. When you take it away, they will never learn how to sit still. Why do you think we have so many hyper kids and then the mom gives them a device in the grocery store and they stop [because they are mesmerized by the screen]. So a kid should not touch the stuff and respect the game rating.
Restored sight to a local woman.
Performing surgeries in Burkina Faso.
When it comes to young adults, this is where I would say using everything in moderation. Recognize that if Facebook is causing dysfunction in your life – meaning you constantly have to update your status, you are checking other people’s status and comparing yourself, it takes more and more time to feel good about yourself, you are using it for escape – then it is too much; use it in moderation. I’d say the rule of thumb is that if you are using it for entertainment purposes, then use it less than one hour a day. And if you are doing it for work, make sure you are well balanced. You can judge by whether or not relationships are suffering from it.
48 Risen Magazine
son r e y P t i l o a i n d o a ioerPearnsd R lim d slim a u R M g d n n e i a S h s t r u e Sing o cthhee sMOutldto t t u O s a e Rend the Woround the World Reach Aroumunity Ar y t i n u m Com Com
Y Y R R R E P PER E I E A I H LA AHA
Writer: Samantha Baer
rom a young age, Perry LaHaie loved music. As an adult, he has taken that passion and turned it into a career becoming an instrumental, on-air radio personality and recording artist, specifically leaving an impact on the Muslim world. Despite struggles of depression and brokenness, LaHaie has used those wearisome times to compose songs and provide comfort to others suffering. Risen sat down with this artist to talk about his mission, the five most common objections Muslims have towards Christianity, and how God has used what he thought were his weaknesses to craft a flourishing ministry.
Interviewed exclusivelyHe forjust Risen Magazine hasn’t given me the blueprint; Risen Magazine: As an on-air radio personality and recording artist, where is doing in their lives and that doesn’t really get shared in the mainstream shows a how light topurpose of my job is to let people know that God loves Muslims did your love for music comeme from and did it for begin? the next step media. The and thatblueprint; He is doing amazing things so many Muslim families and Perry LaHaie: I would say my love forhasn’t music is the firstgiven thing I discovered Hewithin just execute my specific inme thethe plan. across the Muslim world. I work with a ministry called Frontiers, and we in my life. It was the first gift that emerged and for somepart reason, the influ-
D O G
out with the love of Jesus across the whole Muslim world. We have shows me a light reach forthan the next to countries, and our mismore one thousand workersstep in over 50 Muslim sion is with love and respect to guide Muslim people to follow Jesus. We execute my specific part the have a real heart to in go into Muslimplan. communities and be a blessing while
ence of musicians, or the radio, meant a lot to me. At a very young age, I remember going up to my dad’s workbench and saying, “Daddy, I would love to learn how to play the guitar!” So I started taking guitar lessons, and my dad – being the wise person he is – saw early on that that was a direction I should be moving in. So there it was, music became the first gift I realized God had given me. When I was a teenager, I started playing basketball and that became a passion for me alongside music. But when I was in college it shifted again and I realized I was better at music than basketball. So I came back to the first gift that I recognized.
sharing our faith in the process. For example, one of the friends I have named Alex is in Central Asia, and he is a physical therapist. He has a physical therapy clinic and he serves the people in his community with their needs, but while doing that he shares the good love of Jesus. In fact on one of his physical therapy beds there’s a TV screen on the ceiling and he always asks his Muslim patients if they want to watch the Jesus film. Most of them say, “ Yes!” So he combines meeting physical needs with spiritual needs in the Muslim world. Frontiers strives to be a blessing to other communities and we want to introduce them to the love of Jesus.
ims have a huge misunderstanding of Christianity. ey think that Christianity is synonymous with immorality.
uslims a youhuge misunderstanding of Christianity. RM: How oldhave were you when started taking lessons? PL: I started taking lessons at nine years old. We had a gal that came and They isgreat synonymous with immorality. lived with think us for a time –that kind of like Christianity a foster situation. She was a really guitarist and influence in my life.
RM: You host a nationally syndicated radio feature that is aired on more than 300 stations and translated worldwide via the Internet. What does this program talk about? PL: I do the radio station and a daily morning show. The radio feature called “Cast Yourself In,” tells stories about how God is working in the Muslim world which is a big subject today in the West, because we have a lot of fear towards extremism and terrorism. The real untold story though, is what God
RM: Your inspiration for your album, “Ahead,” draws from a quote by Dawson Trotman, the founder of the Navigators: “When you can’t see very far ahead, go as far ahead as you can see.” Can you speak more about this? PL: I think what the quote really describes is the journey of faith. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I know the big picture of what God is. He is on a rescue mission, because as a believer of Jesus, I believe that we fell long ago, that Adam and Eve fell in their sin, but immediately from that time God revealed that He had a rescue plan for all people – and that is really the main risenmagazine.com 49
onality s r e P o i ad slimand Eve. er andwhatRwas tlosto inththeesinMofuAdam story of the Bible. ingrestoring SGod t That’s the big picture story; onu a rescue mission. hesis O orld cGod a e eW R h t d n God hasn’t given me the blueprint; He just shows me a light for the u o y Ainrthe plan. Although I want t i n u next step to execute my specific part the bluem m Co
life is depression; God has caused me to learn to be dependent on Him through that instead of being so prideful or self sufficient, or instead of being a person that tries to make things happen my way. By Him allowing that kind of suffering in my life, He has helped me not be that way. He knows what to do in our lives, which will cause us to let go of our own agenda.
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print! I want to know how everything works and how everything fits in, but God says, “Nope. Just trust me. I will give you light for the next step… just trust me.” And that is what faith is all about like in Isaiah 42:16. I think God leads us one step at a time, in two ways. He leads us one step at a time more into knowing Him and this love relationship with Jesus. The other way He leads us, is to be a blessing to the people around us. I believe that Jesus’ DNA to be a blessing to the world is in every follower. For example, if it’s on my heart to pray for a particular group of people in Sudan that have never heard of Jesus’ love, I pray for them. Then He might put on my heart to write a song about that country, so I do. He leads me one step at a time into His love and into my destiny to be a blessing to people around me. For a long time I tried to make a lot of things happen, then I realized that God doesn’t need me! He doesn’t need me, but He wants me. It’s a process, but I think I’m getting the message a little more clearly these days. Oneway that God has caused me to let go and trust Him was actually through some suffering in my life. Something I have struggled with in my
RM: What encouragement can you give to others who have also struggled with depression? PL: That is a huge subject, but I would say having depression is more than just having a down day or two… or even a week. It can be months, or it can even be years for some people. I have friends that have actually struggled their whole lives with depression and have never gotten better; they are disabled all their lives. I’m thankful that God has given me grace in my struggle and that it hasn’t been too extreme. It is important to remember when God says, “When you are weak, then I am strong.” I think that’s what the Bible screams at us, it’s not our strength that God wants, it’s our humanness. He wants to work through regular broken human beings. I just think that God uses weakness and creates ministry out of suffering. I think day-to-day it’s just learning how to not rely on our feelings, because I so often would align my feelings with faith, and faith really doesn’t have anything to do with feelings. Faith is a decision and understanding certain truths about trusting God. I think really getting that clear in my mind, that faith and feelings are different helped. I knew some days I wasn’t going to feel great, but I needed to stand on what was true whether I felt it or not. I think another helpful thing is that we have a conversation always going on in our heads, and so many times it is negative. We can talk negative things to ourselves, and as a Christian I believe we have spiritual enemies called the devil and demons. And they can introduce thoughts in our minds, so I think that a practical thing is just to realize that when you have negative conversations in your head or the enemy is accusing you, you need to interrupt that thought in your head even if you have to say, “Stop!” out loud. Then introduce the truth and stop those negative thoughts. Personally I have also found help in medicine, for which I have been thankful. I’ve written a lot of songs out of my brokenness, weakness and oppression that God has used to help others. It’s given me more empathy for people who suffer with their struggles as well. God has really created a ministry not so much out of my strengths, but really out of all my weaknesses.
hasn’t given me the blueprint; He just shows me a light for the next step to execute my specific part in the plan.
uslims have a huge misunderstanding of Christianity. They think that Christianity is synonymous with immorality.
RM: When did you start following Jesus? PL: When I was ten years old. My par-
Perry LaHaie with Bob Crittendon at NRB 2013
ents had a spiritual awakening in their lives that was so real, authentic, and genuine that I wanted it for myself. I privately asked Jesus to be the leader of my life and forgive me. I didn’t tell anyone about it. It was during recess when I was in fifth grade and I knew that this other kid was a believer because he was outspoken about his faith. He said after recess one day, “Perry, I hope that you can follow Jesus one day.” And the first thing that came out of my mouth genuinely was, “Well I am a Christian.” And that was the first time I said that out loud to anyone, but I knew that it was true and the Holy Spirit gave me assurance that I belonged to God as well. I went on from there but struggled a lot during my teenage years with sin; with immorality and feeling trapped by my sins. I felt a lot of shame because I was truly a follower of Jesus, but I didn’t really know how to follow Him every day or how to tap into His power. I was trying to break free from sin with my own strength. Most of it was sexual sin. My senior year in high school, I had a turning point. I was playing basketball and I sprained my ankle badly. My friends carried me home and I asked my mom to pray for me because I was in excruciating pain. She prayed for me and all of a sudden my pain went away. God took away the pain in my ankle! The swelling was still there, but there was no pain. I was blown away because I knew how dark my heart was, but still Jesus was reaching out and helping me. He found me at my worst and loved me! After that, my life started to change; the ugly stuff started falling away because now Christ was changing me. I think that one of the things that people misunderstand about Christianity is that they think just being a morally good person is enough. And certainly being good is important, but at its essence the Gospel says we need a Savior who is Jesus who lived a perfect life and died the death that I deserve, and rose again to prove that the Father accepted the sacrifice for all my sins.
RM: Earlier you talked about Frontiers. How did you become involved with the organization and what does it means to you today? PL: Frontiers was started by a guy named Greg Livingstone and has been around for about 30 years. It is the largest mission agency exclusively devoted to the Muslim world. Frontiers is in more than 50 Muslim countries and we have more than one thousand workers blessing the Muslim communities and sharing Jesus. I’ve had mainly three passions in my life; reaching people who have never heard the gospel, the love of radio, and the love of music. I thought that my wife and I would end up going to another country and God surprisingly said, “No.” Which was strange to me because here I want to go where most people don’t, and He clearly closed the door. But what happened was I then went into radio and God continued to give me songs and develop my craft as a worship leader. That’s where I found my passion of reaching people in the world through radio. I contacted a bunch of mission agencies and asked if they needed a radio and music guy. Frontiers was the organization that we really connected with and we just found a kindred spirit with them. So we joined the Frontiers community in 2007. I resigned from my current radio position and my family and I packed all of our belongings and traveled two thousand miles to Phoenix, Arizona, so that I could use radio and music to reach the Muslim world. After three years, and after creating a position to use music and radio to mobilize people in the Muslim world, I hit a wall. I thought, “This is not going to work.” That’s when a friend confronted me and said, “ You’ve done what you’ve had in mind, now let’s see what God has in mind.” And that’s when it really started to take shape and take off. I started traveling, doing concerts, leading worship and talking about Frontiers. My wife and I found out we didn’t like living in a large city – or heat. We realized that risenmagazine.com 51
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what I’m doing was not limited to living in Phoenix, so we moved back to our home state in West Michigan in 2010. Since then things really started exploding and continued to grow with so many different opportunities to make God known to the Muslim community through radio and music. I wouldn’t say I’m an entrepreneur, but I think God saw something in me, pulled it out and allowed it to happen. It was a little painful at times but the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.
RM: What have been the biggest obstacles you have seen while helping Muslims to fully understand and comprehend the Bible? PL: It reminds me of an article I just read. You see, Muslims have a huge misunderstanding of Christianity. They think that Christianity is synonymous with immorality. They figure the West is Christian and they see the immorality of the West and automatically think that Christianity must be immorality. They associate pornography with Christianity; Madonna and Britney Spears with Christianity; they associate all the movies that come out of the West with Christianity, and it’s because most Muslims have never
hasn’t given me the blueprint; He just shows me a light for the next step to execute my specific part in the plan.
uslims have a huge misunderstanding of Christianity. They think that Christianity is synonymous with immorality.
Perry LaHaie in Nashville studio 52 Risen Magazine
been a follower of Jesus. This is why it’s so important that we go and show them that we are passionate for God and passionate for holiness. When they start seeing that there is a difference between following Jesus and from being an American, or from the West, perceptions shift. That is a huge hurdle for them to get over. There are five common objections Muslims have to Christianity. One is that they believe the Bible has been corrupted, that somehow it has been changed throughout the years and it’s not really God’s word anymore. The response to that would be, God is powerful enough to protect His word, who can be strong enough to corrupt or overcome God’s word? Another objection is the whole idea that Jesus is God’s son. Muslims think that God the Father had sex with Mary to produce Jesus. I would say, “I do not believe that God would defile Himself in a physical relationship with a women - just like you don’t.” The third objection is that Muslims believe that we serve three Gods. They have a difficult time with the concept of the Trinity. They think our Trinity is God, Jesus, and Mary. So we have to clarify, and the response to
that is, “We worship one God revealed in three persons; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” I would then ask my Muslim friend which existed first in eternity, God, His Son, or His Spirit, to get them thinking in a different way. A fourth objection is that they don’t believe that Jesus died on the cross for their sins. They have a hard time believing that God would let a great prophet suffer such a great defeat. Muslims greatly revere Jesus. He’s mentioned 93 times in their holy book. It’s blasphemous for them to think that God would allow His prophet to be killed. A response for that would be, “Which is greater, for God to save His prophet by keeping Him from death, or to save Him by raising Him up and defeating death?” The final objection is, Muslims say you have to pay for your own sins, and Jesus can’t do that for you. They have this real “works” mindset. Muslims are really trying to atone for their own sins by doing all of these good works. A response for that would be, “ You’re right. Sin is serious. Maybe you would like to take a look with me about what the Bible says about Jesus forgiving sins, so that we can have hope on judgment day.” If the Lord is working in their hearts, they are going to sense the heaviness of how to earn God’s favor and perhaps take another look at how they don’t have to atone for their own sins and that maybe Jesus really has paid the debt for our sins. And then you get into a Bible study with them. Those [answers to the] five objections have been extremely helpful for me as far as the main things Muslims struggle with. RM: What story sticks out in your mind or has affected you since working with the Muslim world? PL: I will tell you two stories. When I was in Turkey I met a Muslim who is now a believer [in Christianity] named Savosh. He came to know Jesus through a dream. In his dream, he was levitated off his couch where he was sleeping and his arms were wrapped tightly around him as if he were chained to himself. During the dream he felt like someone had come into the house through the sliding glass window, but it was the Holy Spirit. He realized he was being held in bondage by himself and then the Holy Spirit came into the room and said, “ You are free.” That’s when he wakes up. And he felt like the dream was so real that he went to the sliding glass door to see if someone had come in, or if there were footprints in the snow. But there was nothing. So that led him to go to a church for the first time, he heard the Gospel in the church that day, and received Jesus as his Savior. Savosh had never heard the gospel before that time and was actually part of the Kurdish resistance – which is in the Middle East because the Kurds don’t have their own country and are oppressed. There is a Kurdish resistance where they rise up against different governments in the different countries where they live, which is the reason they eventually bought their own country. Countries like Turkey, or Iraq, hate the Kurds because they don’t want them to have “our” country, so the Kurds have resistance. Savosh heard about Jesus through this Kurdish resistance, but only the fact that He was “a great man that laid down his life for us.” And then he had this dream, connected that with the Jesus he had heard about, went to church, and heard the gospel. What is so special is that God can reveal Himself to people who have never heard. And this is exactly the case. God is not limited by our ability to get somewhere. He is there already and can reveal Himself. I wanted to tell that story because I heard that directly from Savosh. Another story concerns a pastor in Egypt who was sleeping and then awakened rudely by a masked gunman who forced him out of his house and up onto the roof. He was then forced to jump to another roof and down the stairwell into a small room lit by one candle. In this room there were 30
Perry LaHaie at The Harvest Show
Perry LaHaie with Chris Shenk at NRB 2013
people, and this gunman took the mask off his face and said, “I’m really sorry I had to do that to you but I figured that was the only way to get you here.” He said, “We are 30 imams (which is Christian equivalent to a pastor) and we’ve been having Jesus dreams. We don’t know what this means but we want to know about the Bible. Will you teach us?” So now this pastor is teaching a secret church about the love of Jesus! I can’t tell you how many stories I have like that, it’s not like something rare, it’s just where God is working in the Muslim world and there are true signs and wonders, dreams and visions. This is also happening in America where my friend Tom was doing an outreach to Muslims and he stopped at this gas station to fill up his gas tank. He swiped his card and it said, “See cashier.” So he goes in and the cashier happens to be a Muslim woman and he says, “ You’re a Muslim, I’m a Christian. God has given my wife and I a real love for Muslims.” She was blessed by that and then he said, “Have you heard about this phenomenon that’s been happening all around the Muslim world?” She said, “What is that?” He said, “Muslims are having dreams and visions of Jesus all over.” She looked at him and said, “I don’t understand but I’ve been having Jesus dreams too, and I’ve been having them for 40 years!” He came back the next day and brought her a copy of his book about Jesus awakening the Muslim world through dreams. Thankfully there was no one in the station at that time and he shared the gospel and she received Jesus. So it’s not just in other countries, Muslims are having dreams even in America!
© 2013 CBS Films © Summit Entertainment
Michael Douglas, Robert DeNiro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline Writer: Kelli Gillespie Photo: Courtesy Of CBS Films © 2013 CBS Films
Las Vegas has seen its share of party goers over the years, but none as unlikely as this group of four guys who have been best friends since childhood. Academy Award Winners Michael Douglas, Robert DeNiro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Cline join forces as their characters hit the Vegas scene for a bachelor party. When Billy (Douglas’ role) the sworn bachelor of the group announces he’s finally getting married, these friends decide to escape retirement and reunite in the Sin City, which they soon discover is not quite the same as decades ago. All four bring their own perspectives to this new comedy.
Interviewed for Risen at the Aria Hotel in Las Vegas , Nevada
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Risen Magazine: The film is about friendships, so if Michael Douglas is hanging out with friends, what would you guys be doing?
Michael Douglas: Probably reminiscing… old friends is normally about old memories. For us, it’s been about a year since we shot this. I have seen Bobby a couple of times. I haven’t seen Morgan much at all, although he and I are golf buddies. We had a very pleasant time working together.
RM: The guys love each other enough because they make sacrifices for each other and have tough needed conversations. So who Robert, in your life would be that person to keep you grounded or encourage you to dream?
Robert DeNiro: It could be a few people in my life. My good friends, family, and we’ve all gotten to be friends. We’ve all known each other and run into each other from time to time. These guys.
RM: Michael your character is the most youthful, even down to his dress, so what keeps you young? Michael Douglas: I kind of concur with Morgan. I like flying without a net. The exciting part of acting, or projects, are when it’s a little dangerous, they aren’t safe, have too short of schedules to be able to make them in, the subject matter – I enjoy all that.
RM: Kevin, your character is the one that is married. In real life you are approaching 25 years of marriage, what has worked for you? What can you pass on? Kevin Kline: Forgiveness, grace, mercy, understanding…the seven deadly virtues. [Laughter] You are going to need them all baby!
RM: Morgan, your character is the risk taker, sneaking out of his house and gambling his savings. In real life, I’ve got to believe there is a little bit of that it you? Morgan Freeman: I would say yes. I like living on the edge. I take chances. Quiet life is not for me; I’d get bored.
© 2013 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC.
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Sandra Bullock & Alfonso Cuaron
Writer: Kelli Gillespie Photo: Courtesy Of Warner Bros. Pictures
© 2013 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC.
Academy Award Winner Sandra Bullock plays Dr. Ryan Stone in this 3D modern-day science fiction thriller and space drama written and directed by Alfonso Cuaron. Gravity is the story of Stone, a medical engineer on her first shuttle mission and veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) who tumble through space as survivors of a mid-orbit destruction of a space shuttle and their attempt to return to Earth.
Interviewed for Risen Magazine in Los Angeles, California
Risen Magazine: Most people have a hard time when they feel like they aren’t able to control certain aspects of their life. How do you feel when it comes to managing things out of your control?
Sandra Bullock: Everything is out of my control. I schedule, I plan, I’m A-type. Nothing ever goes to plan, usually. But as long as I did my part in scheduling, I know I’m good. Everything I worried about; never happened. Things I didn’t plan; all happened. That’s kind of this movie, adversity and life debris is going to hit you all the time, you can’t control it; how do you react to it? And how do people react when they just keep getting hit, and they just don’t want to get up anymore.
RM: Everyone has experienced some level or pain or hurt and therefore developed some type of protection, but you can’t stop living, you need to look forward and step into and enjoy the next season. What are some ways people can work through adversity?
SB: I don’t know because everyone’s situation is different. The beauty of this story that Alfonso wrote and directed, [is that] the end result always has to be that you have got to let go. You can’t try to control it. It’s going to happen or it’s happening. You let go and you go through it. If you constantly fight it, and you constantly resist it, you are going to spend your whole life fighting. And you are going to be at the end of your life thinking, “I don’t remember the times of calm and peace,” because you have created a fight. Everyone is going to be hit with something. And just when think it’s over, you are going to get hit again. You just hope that you have people in your life that are going to show you the light at the end of the tunnel if you can’t see it.
RM: When it comes to persevering, a big part is a strong mentality where you say to yourself, “I am going to make it. I am going to accomplish this.” When have you seen that played out most in your life?
SB: My whole life. You say, “I’m going to try.” And then a lot of times the, “I’m going to make it. I’m going to try,” doesn’t make it. But, you tried. Then something else appears where you say, “Wow. Who would’ve thought that the collapse of this actually was a blessing and opened up this [other thing]?” You know they say when one door closes, another door opens and you think, “ Yea whatever.” But truly, as long as you try, come to terms with the past, and let it go.
RM: In those defining moments, many turn to their faith. In the film I found it interesting when your character says something to the effect of, “No one has ever taught me how to pray.” What are you thoughts when it comes to prayer?
SB : Faith is so specific for whom you are. There is no right or wrong way to have gratitude, or to pray, or ask for help, or to talk to someone who might not be there; if it brings you calm and it brings you strength, it’s the right thing to do. It doesn’t have to be in the house of God, it could be sitting on your couch, or outside under a tree.
RM: As the writer/director, what are you hoping regarding the thoughts and feelings that audiences will have throughout your film?
Alfonso Cuaron: The film in many ways is about adversities and how they shape our life, as well as the possible outcome as a rebirth. Through adversity we gain knowledge. And when I’m talking about rebirth, I’m talking about a new knowledge about ourself. It’s also connected with the awareness of our mortality. And when you become more aware of your mortality, you become more aware of your life.
BLACK NATIVITY Writer: Mei Ling Nazar Photo: Phil Bray
© 2013 - Fox Searchlight
Black Nativity, a contemporary adaptation of Langston Hughes’ play, is the story of Hughes (played by Jacob Latimore) who spends Christmas with his estranged grandparents, Reverend Cornell and Aretha Cobbs, played by Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett. While Hughes does not want to follow the Reverend’s rules, the entire family discovers the importance of reconciliation, forgiving one another, and faith. Risen talked with the cast about forgiveness, family, and living out an authentic faith.
Interviewed for Risen Magazine in Los Angeles, California
© 2013 - Fox Searchlight
Risen Magazine: You have recently been in several films that have strong historical, faith and character messages. How important are these things to you when deciding to be part of a film?
Forest Whitaker: It is very important to me to feel like I am showing the face of humanity, bringing hope and that I am bringing clarity to some individuals that we might not know. I like being able to help others see behind the veil into someone’s heart. Part of my spiritual life is my work and my journey into finding the character and trying to find the connection. I seek God to guide me to be able to play this individual. A big part of my work is about surrender. At a certain point, I have to surrender to the character and trust through faith that God is going to reveal something. Those themes are very important to me, more than any other factor.
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RM: What is your personal faith story?
FW: I was raised in church. My grandfather was a preacher for 50 years. My father’s side is full of teachers and preachers. If you go to my family reunion, everybody is either a teacher or a preacher. I was brought up that way. The one thing that my mom did that I consider is really a great gift is that when I was a little kid [and we had to go to church] I would say, “I don’t want to get up. Why do I have to believe what you believe?” My mom in her great wisdom said to me, “ You don’t have to believe in what I believe, but you have to believe in something. So get up!” She was right in that way. So in that respect my mind is open to understanding the connections between all traditions and people trying to become better individuals and more divine. It has carried that way through me all my life.
RM: One of the defining moments in the movie is when your character is preaching and he says you have to love your enemies. Then your daughter’s ex-boyfriend walks in. How do we practically love our enemies? FW: People have to recognize that when you hold these pains and anger inside yourself, you can never become completely free to forgive. It doesn’t mean that you have to say what was done was right, but you have to find that sense of forgiveness. I think that is one of the doctrines that is taught in all traditions, but certainly in Christianity--forgiveness. You can forgive the world
because that is ultimately what God did for us. He forgave our sins. It is a powerful message. The big key again is forgiving that person. Sometimes people need to forgive themselves even for forgiving others. A person says, “I forgive. I’m letting that go.” And then they feel guilt because they didn’t let it go inside themselves. They didn’t truly forgive themselves. “ You’re okay, even though you did this horrible thing to me.” There are a lot of lessons about forgiving of self and forgiving of others that we can learn in order to be truly free and complete.
RM: There’s a lot of correlation between not just saying the words, but harboring that bitterness and not experiencing freedom. Your character lives with regret and has to face the consequences of his decision. Looking back on your life, what is one decision that you regret that you wish you could change?
FW: There are many things that I have regretted, but I try to let go. It happens to me even in small scale. It happened recently with my kids. I got angry. I raised my voice, and then I thought, “What kind of example am I setting for them?” I am working at becoming a better father and many times I think to myself, “Did I do the right thing? Did I make the right choice?” I did this yesterday. My daughter did something I wasn’t pleased with and I had just gotten back into town. She was asking me if she could go to a concert. I said, “I really shouldn’t let you go to this concert.” But she kept coming back to me. I have to give her so much credit,
because she kept saying, “Okay, if you don’t want me to go.” She went and talked to her mom and said, “If you decide, Mom said it’s okay if I go.” So I said to her, “Okay, listen to me… we have to sit down and talk about what just happened this weekend [the unpleasing behavior]. [However regarding the concert] You can go now.” It took me a while, but it was through my daughter’s intervention that she allowed me to be mature enough to let her go.
RM: Whether it is a preacher or being a person in the spotlight, there is that pressure to be perfect. What words of wisdom do you have for people to live an authentic faith?
FW: You have to remain true to your beliefs in every walk of your life. You have to recognize that there are things that will come at you in a way that you should celebrate your ability to stay true. I don’t think people do that. I think people look at it as, “I’m going to stick through it.” They aren’t thankful that they are able to do it. I don’t think people give themselves enough credit for staying true to their beliefs. In my life, not just my faith, but my acting career as well, I’ve tried to stay true to what I believe. There have been side steps I have taken with roles, but as a whole, I try to stay with what I believe and it has led me to where I am now. I feel very fortunate and blessed to be producing films that I feel proud of. I am very proud of Fruitvale Station, The Butler and Black Nativity. I stayed the course.
RM: How do you live out an authentic faith?
RM: As a mom what are your prayers for your kids?
© 2013 - Fox Searchlight
Risen Magazine: Your character deals with heartache when your daughter walks away from her family and faith. What words of encouragement do you have for those that are in a similar situation?
Angela Bassett: It can be really challenging and difficult. We can’t hold on too tightly to people. We have to allow people to discover and express themselves. To the best of our abilities, we have to try to not judge others and put ourselves in the seat of judgment. As long as there is breath, there is an opportunity for forgiveness, healing and reconciliation. We are born to be in relationship with one another. It is hard to do that when you shut down or shut someone out or cross someone off your list because they don’t agree with the way you think or see things. There are some things that we can take a hard line on if they mean a lot to us, but we are not clones of one another. It is exciting to think that there are different ways of looking at a situation. There are different perspectives.
AB: I try to live it out by remaining humble, grateful and appreciative. I have been trying to be more thankful lately. Whatever it is, I am trying to be thankful. Sometimes it’s what I want and expect, and other times it is not what I want at all. I am trying to find a way even when it isn’t what I want or the best circumstance, to find a way to be thankful. I want to be able to learn and grow from the situation personally. We grow best when we are tested and tried and come through it. It is hard to be thankful when it is falling apart and when people are gossiping about you. SB: My biggest prayer is not to mess them up. God gave them to us and we have to guide them and impart to them what we have learned. I always pray that good people would come into their lives. Whether it is friends or their future partner, I pray that good people would come into their lives. And when other people do, [I pray] that they would have a discernment to be wise and kind, but discerning. They are in second grade, but I already talk to them about peer pressure and prepare them for what they are going to see in high school. I pray that they would know which is the right way to go, and which is not the right way to go. My prayer is that they would have the courage of their convictions.
COMPANY HELPS LOCAL CRAFTSMEN GROW BUSINESSES ACROSS THE GLOBE AION FOUNDER
MICHAEL MASSIE Writer: Kelli Gillespie Photo: Courtesy AION
AION, (pronounced eye-on) consists of a group of designers focusing on adventure and nature to create a community across the globe for fair-trade clothing. Founder Michael Massie emphasizes that the company collaborates with local craftsmen in various cities worldwide to help them grow their businesses. AION is currently working people in Bali, Indonesia to produce T-shirts, hats and beanies with proceeds helping to support a local orphanage.
Interviewed exclusively for Risen Magazine in San Diego, California Risen Magazine: How did the idea for AION develop? Michael Massie: Basically, I was reading a book and the author was talking about the meaning of aion being heaven now, and elevating people up, and I was really inspired by that way of thinking instead of just waiting. As a Christian, you die and go to Heaven, but why not do something now that produces something good. RM: AION has a tagline: We put people before profits…What does this mean? MM: When we were over in Indonesia, or when we first started in Nepal, it was more about giving somebody an opportunity; an opportunity to feel productive, an opportunity to grow their business and to give them a way out [of their dire situation.] At first we were working with women from the sex trade industry and it was to give them a job. Now we are working with little manufacturers on the island of Bali and it gives them a chance to create orders and grow their business. We’ve also helped them with machinery like sewing machines and such as they don’t have the capital to grow their business with the machines they have. RM: How did you decide what type of products to produce? MM: My background is graphic design. I worked for Ocean Pacific, and other clothing and apparel companies and I’ve designed for them. Everything from their T-shirt designs, to their website, marketing and collateral. So that’s taking my gifting to create something positive now. RM: How do you find/select the Indonesian people that are actually making the clothing? MM: Some of them already have little shops. Like our beanie guy has a shop where he is selling beanies, sweaters and knits; but to him, it’s a struggle trying to sell that stuff in Indonesia because the weather is pretty warm. But Indonesian people ride scooters a lot, and even though it’s warm outside, they still cover-up with jackets and beanies because of the wind. So finding someone like that and coming alongside to provide them more sales chan60 Risen Magazine
nels allows them to produce more business. I find people like that through friends. I initially found that guy through a friend that has lived in Bali for 30 years and she helped me find the first few people. Now every time I go back there, I meet more people. Every time I leave the island, I leave with more friends; they are very friendly people. RM: Being there, what is culture like? How can making these items literally change the life of the workers in Bali? MM: What is really neat about working with the people of Indonesia is that as an owner, I get to work directly with them. When I go over there, I’m hands-on when they are screening shirts, I’m going over the neck label with the seamstress, I’m making sure the fabric and the trim are right depending on the style, so there is a relationship that a lot of manufacturers, especially in China, can’t share. There is a real sense of transparency and it makes the workers feel like they are part of a family and not just a part of some giant corporation. It’s not about throwing money at people; it’s about [building] a relationship and giving them sustainability. People want to know where their clothes are being made. I think American Apparel has set a standard for that by making sweat shop-free clothing in the United States. And on a boutique scale, we are doing that in Indonesia. RM: Tell me about how your personal faith has led to proceeds supporting a local Christian orphanage. MM: The lady, Susan, who had introduced me to some of these people, is an American who has lived in Bali for 30 years. She supported a Christian orphanage and got me involved with that. It was important to me because Christianity is the minority religion there. On the island of Bali there are three religions: Hinduism, primary Balinese religion, then there are Muslims, and that is followed by Christianity. It’s pretty interesting. So it was really great to be able to support them. We have given nearly 500 kids Tshirts, money and supported them with necessities, and that has really just begun. We are trying to set it up to where it’s an ongoing thing. 62 Risen Magazine
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HAIM - Days Are Gone
If you’re struggling to pronounce this band’s name, it rhymes with “time”. HAIM consists of three sisters from the San Fernando Valley. Este and Danille (Haim), the two older sisters started out with the group “The Valli Girls”, essentially a tween band. As the girls grew older college and life experience evolved their musical pallet. They started HAIM with the interest in combining pop music with R&B charisma. Alana the younger sister joined up with her two older sisters. HAIM’s sound fits in the bubbly synth pop sound which is a crowded genre in recent years. However, at their best they have some songs that rise to the top. At times, this album reminds me of Amy Grants’ 1991 album, Heart in Motion. Grade: Recommend tracks: Falling, Forever, If I Could Change Your Mind, Days Are Gone
CHVRCHES - The Bones of What You Believe
Chvrches is another energized electronic band climbing the charts in recent weeks. Hailing from Glasgow, Scotland, the trio is lead by vocalist Lauren Mayberry. Each band member had played and been a part of other bands before Chvrches was formed through some successful experimental studio sessions. They liked the sound of the name churches, and put the Roman “v” in their title to distinguish themselves. HAIM and CHVRCHES share a similar style and both bands have tracks that will be remembered following this year. Grade: Recommend tracks: The Mother We Share, We Sink, Gun, Recover
Lorde - Pure Heroine (alternative) Lorde is the “Napoleon Dynamite” of music this year. Ella Maria Lani Yelich-O’Connor (Lorde) is 16. She is from the quaint suburbs of Auckland, New Zealand. Her song Royals is the number one song on iTunes and is nothing more than her voice and a drum beat. The music video for her other hit track Tennis Courts is her looking into the camera for the whole song effortlessly. Aesthetically, she may be the simplest artist I have ever seen. Lyrically, her depth for her age is remarkable. Her songs aren’t for the taller pieces on the chessboard (the privileged), but for the pawns, the common folk-- a recipe that has worked for her. I’m sure with the success of Pure Heroine it will be hard for her to stay a pawn forever. Grade: Recommend tracks: Royals, Tennis Court, Team, 400 Lux
Snakadaktal - Sleep in the Water (alternative) Two years ago when I was in Australia traveling, a contest of high school bands was playing on the radio. One band that day caught my ear and led me to looking up the songs that had been played that day. The band was Snakadaktal, five high school students from Melbourne. Over the past two years they have released single tracks, but finally in 2013 they have their first album Sleep in the Water. They bring smooth guitar solos mixed with ambient tones that set a riding-on-waves mood. The vocals switch off between Sean Heathcliff and Phoebe Cockburn, creating a contrast in sound throughout the album. The only question that remains, how long with Snakadaktal remain a secret? Grade: Recommend tracks: Fall Underneath, Hung On Tight, Isolate, The Sun II
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