Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Amy Grant shares how she finds God in times of stillness and tells us about the joy of making music with her new project “Tennessee Christmas.”
Narrator: Welcome to the Experience Jesus Calling Podcast. Recently, we got a chance to speak with Grammy-award winning singer/songwriter Amy Grant by phone. Amy has been working on a new Christmas record that is slated to release in October. Amy shares a little bit about what went into making that record, and where she is in her faith journey after nearly four decades of being a popular recording artist, in addition to her roles as wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend.
Amy Grant: I’m Amy Grant, and I’m a singer-songwriter, and I have been since I was a teenager. I have 3 sisters I see all the time. I’m a mom of a blended family of 5, most of us live in the Nashville area, and now I have one grandson who’s two. Life is crazy…how did this happen?
Coming Back to Christmas
I’ve made a lot of Christmas music over the years. Let me see – 1982, 1992, 1999 and some new songs in 2009. I can’t even say exactly why this felt like the exact right time to do some new Christmas music, but it just did. I’m back in the swing of touring, actually as intensely as I was touring at Christmas time 20 years ago. I never saw that coming, but so glad for the opportunity. But this record is different.
Years ago Vince put a studio in our house, ‘cause he actually does a lot of studio work, so it was a way for him to be home a lot more than he would have been. For this record, I worked with three different producers. They all have studios. They said, well, we’ll probably work on familiar territory, if you don’t mind coming to us…and I said, that’s fine. I started talking about the record…and I said, what I want somebody that is fixing a meal, alone in the kitchen, to feel like this feels like good company. I want it to talk about the fun things, but also include the hard, sentimental and sad things about Christmas. “This year’s different, because this loved one passed away; feeling isolated.” The more we talked, one by one the producers just said, “hey, I think, why don’t we just do this at your house?” So even the nature of the project—we would go in the kitchen and fix snacks, we ate at the kitchen table, or on the back porch ‘cause it was July. The environment encouraged everyone to tell their own Christmas stories. All of that feels like it informed what we wound up recording. It’s very open and genuine and inclusive.
I am really excited about some of those new songs that are nestled in between White Christmas and Joy to the World. I feel like “To Be Together,” a song I wrote with Chris Eaton, I feel like is one of the strongest songs I’ve written in a long time.
I’ve got a friend who lives in New Hampshire, and I gave her a copy of the music when she was driving from Nashville back to New Hampshire. She called me, and she said, “The sad songs are my favorite. They make me so happy.” I feel like we went out on a limb including three fairly sad songs, and I agree with her. I feel like just acknowledging the melancholy-ness that accompanies every Christmas, it somehow, I don’t know, just giving myself permission to sing that, makes the good stuff better.
Understand God’s Love
When I was young, I was captivated by this book called “Good News for Modern Man” that my mom gave me, and it was the Living Bible in a paperback form. Reading that book, for a church kid who grew up, just I felt like I knew 100 hymns by heart on a cellular level.
I think I was maybe in the 5th grade, and that book was on my bedside table, and I would read it at night. Mostly just the Gospels over and over again. I was so taken with Jesus and curious about Him, and it made me feel good reading that book, even if nobody knew I was reading it. Then I went from that to, in my high school and college years and young adult years…those years for me were such voracious times of experiencing Scripture, a lot of Bible study groups, a lot of learning.
I think when I was younger it was it’s either this or that. Now I go, “no, no, no, no, it’s both” and, I mean, what I thought I knew, I did not have an idea of. I think I was so full of thinking that I knew when I was young.
Then I would say that my years of being a young mom and all through my first marriage I learned I had so much need. I felt the rescue of Jesus. I was always exhausted. Then I went through a divorce, and I felt the mercy of God.
I love that Thomas Merton prayer about, God, I don’t know if I’m doing anything right. I don’t even know if I’m actually following you, but it’s my desire to follow you. I hope you see that. It has nothing to do with being right ever. It was Gloria Gaither that said to me “we spend our youth thinking it’s either or, and we spend our, the last chapters of our life knowing it’s both…and.”
Now is my favorite stage in life. I feel the adventure of it. I feel the adventure of being led by the Spirit. It is the best time in life, absolutely. I pray almost every morning, the prayer, “God lead me today to those I need and those that need me, and let something I do have eternal significance.” Just with maturity, my skill set for living, even though I am artistic and chaotic and disorganized. As my OCD daughter told me, “You thrive in organized chaos,” and she’s right.
I feel the vibrancy of, you know, that Scripture, “In Him we live and move and have our being.” I feel like I don’t see anything, even if I don’t say it out loud, I don’t see anything at face value anymore, not anything. Everything you just see the depth and the layers of the spiritual implications.
I do pray God’s mercy on my brothers and sisters on this planet who live out of the only thing they’ve ever received, which is fear. You know you see someone acting out, and you go, hurt people hurt people, and loved people love people. God so loved us, there is no dividing line. There’s no dividing line between race. There’s no dividing line between culture. There’s no dividing line between faith groups. I don’t think, because whatever he’s doing, clearly our minds are too small to capture it. Whatever we think we know, we don’t know.
God so loved us, there is no dividing line. There’s no dividing line between race. There’s no dividing line between culture. There’s no dividing line between faith groups.
You know what I appreciate most about Jesus Calling was the introduction when Sarah was so vivid talking about feeling the presence of God, and she said “maybe twice in my life had I felt that, maybe once.” But you cannot un-know something you’ve known.
The vastness of who it is that we think we are sidling up next to. None of us, we don’t get it. I mean, we don’t get it. The older I get, and I go, “Whew, what were the two things Jesus said?” What did You say? ‘Love the Lord your God,’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Love, love. What a time-saver to observe the world around to understand, instead of observing to judge. To observe my neighbor, to observe my opponent, to observe; to understand instead of observing, to measure and judge.
That’s the only job is just to love the people around me and love myself, you know?
Learning To Be Still
Narrator: Over the years, Amy has found great strength and refreshment when she takes the opportunity to be still in God’s presence. She shares a little bit about her “stillness” practice and how Jesus Calling has helped her during some of these times.
Amy: I had a club owner come up to me, call me, we happened to be out of town at the same place, and I had sung at her club several times. She said, “You talked to me about a stillness practice. Will you show me this?” I knew nothing about her faith orientation. I knew nothing about her, and I said, “I’m leaving town in two hours. Can you come by the place I’m staying?” And something so extraordinary happened in that room. It was so extraordinary. If we can find stillness, He’s there.
Jesus Calling and Sarah’s book. That was like the first time in sort of a study setting that I had ever felt a devotional affect me like that. Stillness matters the most to me of anything. Well, it quiets down the chatter on the inside, you know. The chatter is never trustworthy. It’s very destructive. I do have actual practices that I do and have come up with, and I don’t do it every day. It doesn’t matter if it’s first thing in the morning or middle of the day, or I’m overstressed with whatever. Everything starts amping up – that hamster on the wheel in my head. What I will do is, either by myself or with somebody else, or usually alone, I will just talk out loud. I’ll throw my hands wide open and go “Well this is how you live. This is how we all live. This is how we live with that giant measuring stick. Afraid of aging, scattered, overbooked. This is how we live responding to everything we see. Feeling always inadequate. This is how we live.”
Stillness matters the most to me of anything.
I always say “we,” even if I’m by myself because that’s how everybody feels.
I will take a deep breath, and I stretch all the way out on the floor face down, and I try to take two breaths, not more, two breaths. And I tell my mind to “shhhhh.” If I have to say anything at all, I will just say, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.” And then, “shhhh.” Then I get up, and I ask myself, “how’s the chatter? Oh it’s loud.” And I just do it again. This is how we live, full of chatter and unrest, and I’ll say four or five things, and I go, “but this is who we are.” It takes five minutes to do that seven times.
To me, this is the mystery of God. He always shows up. Yielded, which all I’m doing is putting a word to the action, yielded and loved. I’m just reminding me that all of us are loved.
Here’s the other thing. When I get back up and I go “this is how we live,” and I find that the chatter changes. For one thing, it gets quiet, but then eventually it will be like, I will feel a sense of optimism towards something, or I’ll go, “this is how we live,” curious. I mean, the words that are coming out of my mouth change. It is amazing.
What’s interesting about a stillness practice, somebody does not have to be a church-goer. So there’s no language barrier, but because you’re entering into stillness, God’s presence will be felt.
Narrator: Amy’s new Christmas record entitled, “Tennessee Christmas” is available October 21st wherever music is sold. Next time on the Experience Jesus Calling podcast, in celebration of Veterans Day, we talk to members of the “Journey Home Project,” a non-profit organization that is chaired by country music legend Charlie Daniels.
Charlie Daniels: Some people seem to think for some reason or another that our military people have an extra gene that isolates them from missing their families and loneliness and that sort of thing. It’s not so, they miss their families just as bad as anybody else does that’s away from them. They go and do that because they’re patriots and the least that we can do is respect and support them. I’m there. I respect them. I support them.
That’s what Journey Home is all about. We try to soften the landing for our military men and women who come back from service, most of them from battle areas, combat areas.
Narrator: Our featured passage for today’s show comes from the May 4th entry of the Jesus Calling audiobook.
Meet Me in morning stillness, while the earth is fresh with the dew of My Presence. Worship Me in the beauty of holiness. Sing love songs to My holy Name. As you give yourself to Me, My Spirit swells within you till you are flooded with divine Presence.
The world’s way of pursuing riches is grasping and hoarding. You attain My riches by letting go and giving. The more you give yourself to Me and My ways, the more I fill you with inexpressible, heavenly Joy.
Narrator: Hear more great stories about the impact Jesus Calling is having all over the world. Be sure to subscribe to the Jesus Calling Podcast on iTunes. We value your reviews and comments so we can reach even more people with the message of Jesus Calling. And if you have your own story to share, we’d love to hear from you. Visit JesusCalling.com to share your story today.