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By David Daniels - CCM Magazine
released her comeback album "Out Of The Dark" on May 19,
2017 (Sparrow Records). The first single, "Unfinished,"
reached the top 10 on Billboard's Contemporary
Christian Music charts.
The followup, "Bleed The Same," with Tobymac and
Kirk Franklin is near the
top 10 as well.
Now, the third single from the CD, "Good News," has entered the
It has been nearly four whole years since her
previous project, "Overcomer," dropped to critical
praise. Since then, the GRAMMY Award-winning artist faced such
deep and personal adversity, it threatened to choke the very
life from her.
In June 2014,
close friend Lakisha Mitchell lost her battle with breast
cancer-the very subject that had inspired Mandisa's Overcomer
album. The tragedy produced such a cloud over the talented
singer that it created doubts about God to the swinging points
of the highest outrage to the deepest depression.
On the other hand,
God was showing up for Mandisa in the very midst of her
depths-physically appearing in the form of love from her closest
of friends. Relentlessly caring for and pursuing her-amid
Mandisa's choosing isolation-with God's strength, their
persistence paid off, and Mandisa can attribute her proclamation
of "I'm Still Here" (lead track on Out Of The Dark)
to these selfless acts of love.
In this cover
interview with the popular American Idol alum, CCM
Magazine allows Mandisa to share her vulnerable story in the
hopes that if you're choosing to live in the darkness, you too
will consider flipping on the light.
CCM Magazine: On the
opening lines of your lead single "Unfinished," you
transparently said, "That world I painted, where things just all
worked out, it started changing, and I started having doubts."
What caused those doubts,
and what were you doubting?
Kisha was pregnant with her second child when she was diagnosed
with breast cancer, and I prayed for her. I believed God was
going to heal her. When her son Brennon was born - who is
beautiful, healthy and will turn four in June - I really thought
that was just the first answer to my prayer. So, when she had
one year with him before she went home to be with Jesus, those
are the doubts that I'm talking about.
I've had people
in my life die before, but because I really believed God was
going to heal her, that is what was such a crushing blow to me.
I questioned everything. I questioned whether or not I could
hear from God. I questioned why He allows things like this to
happen to His people who are called by His name.
Why would He
allow a mother of two young sons to die, leaving a husband
behind to take care of them by himself? If I'm being honest, I
questioned His existence. I started to think, "Am I praying to
someone who's not hearing me at all? Am I even praying to
anybody up there whatsoever?"
inspired thousands of people. Did you reference those works as a
way to overcome those doubts?
No, I didn't want to listen to anything that had to do with
Jesus. I didn't listen to Christian radio. That's a big deal for
me, because I'm the biggest Christian music fan. I didn't pray.
I didn't open my Bible. I didn't go to church. I didn't want to
be around people who I knew carried the light of Jesus because I
wanted to stay in the dark. I was mad at God.
When you're in a
dark place, light is uncomfortable. It hurts your eyes. Even
though I was miserable, I was content in that dark place. I just
wanted to stay there, and I stayed there for about three and a
CCM: Out Of The Dark
begins on a triumphant note with "I'm Still Here." How did you
get from where you were to where you are now?
The album actually starts out with something called
"Voicemail (Intro)," and that is a snapshot of some of the
messages I received from my loved ones who were calling me. A
few of them were even banging on my front door at one point in
biggest thing that helped lift me out of the dark were loved
ones who loved me just as I was - but loved me too much to leave
me there. They were concerned for me, and they really had every
reason to. I would not be here today if I had not gotten off of
that really dangerous path.
everybody. Like I said, I didn't want anything to do with anyone
who was walking in the light. I didn't answer a text. I didn't
answer phone calls. I put in earplugs and shut out the world. I
started hearing that little lying voice in my head, telling me
that God didn't want me to live in such pain, and so if I just
take my life, I can be in heaven with Jesus - right now.
It was just a
very dangerous path. I hardly left my house for three-and-a-half
years. I did nothing but order food to be delivered to my house.
If I did leave, it was to go to pick up fast food.
One day, I left
my house to go to a movie theater by myself. I saw two movies
that day, and so after four hours, I came outside and noticed
that my car had a bunch of sticky notes on it. They said things
like, "We love you," "We miss you," and "Come back to us."
As I walked
around to the driver's side door, I realized about eight or nine
of my loved ones were there. They had been sitting outside of
that movie theater for four hours waiting for me. They found me.
They essentially had an intervention and said, "We're concerned
for you, and we need you to get some help." They pretty much
forced me to go to counseling.
That began my
ascent out of the pit. It was my loved ones who fought for me,
it was the power of community and it was dealing with the
emotions I had been stuffing down with food. I had gained all
the 120 pounds back that I had lost over the years, plus 75
more. I was miserable. I felt helpless. But through my loved
ones fighting for me, and through dealing with all of that
grief, God finally started lifting me out of the dark.
CCM: What were the
messages instilled to you that opposed that little lie in your
head that once was tricking you by saying,
"I don't need to live,"
Essentially, I needed to let the light back in. I was only
listening to dark influences - nothing but media, movies and
television. I wasn't listening to anything of the Lord, and so I
think it was just a matter of my friends and council speaking
life back into me - speaking hope.
talk about the story behind the song,
the "We All Bleed The Same"
acoustic performance of
I remember one of
the things my counselor shared was, "Don't focus on the mistakes
that have happened in the past." It's so hard for me to not beat
myself up when I looked in the mirror, especially seeing that
200-pound weight gain over three and a half years. It's so easy
to give up and just think, "I can't do this again."
encouragement to just focus on today was helpful. "What can do
you today to walk in the light? Let's just live in the moment.
Let's make healthy choices right now."
CCM: On "I'm Still
Here," you said, "Everything for my good..."
Today, how do you look back on the
suffering you endured as "good?"
feel like I'm living 2 Corinthians 1, that with the comfort I've
received from God, I'm able to comfort others.
I can see how God
is using the dark period I was in to give hope to somebody else
in similar situations. That's why I know the best is yet to
come. What the enemy intended to harm me, I'm seeing how God is
now using it for good.
CCM: Also during your
difficult three-and-a-half years, racial tension in America rose
amid numerous tragic deaths. Did they, and the division you
address on "Bleed The Same,"
also contribute to your depression?
They didn't contribute to it, but they didn't help. My
depression was all very much self-imposed.
I would say
this... It was Fourth Of July week 2016. On the fifth of July,
there was a shooting of a black man by police. On the sixth of
July, there was another shooting of a black man by police. And
on the seventh of July, there was a shooting in Dallas of
policemen by a black man. I just remember feeling like the world
was falling apart.
I'm just going to
put it out there... I am one of very few black women in
contemporary Christian music, and I have black nephews and I
have black brothers.
One of my
brothers is a police officer. Honestly, I didn't know what to
say in those moments. I knew I would offend somebody, no matter
what I would say.
I did a lot of talking to God that week. I was scared to say something,
and at the same time, I was concerned about my nephews and
brothers. If they had gotten pulled-over by police, I wanted to
make sure they said and did the right things so nothing would
happen to them. And at the same time, I was concerned about my
brother who's a police officer - about his protection and
I remember writing "Bleed The Same" that week because I really
wanted a song that would help us to realize we look different on
the outside, and that's pretty much it. As believers in Christ,
we should look different than the rest of the world when it
comes to how we talk about things like this.
In my opinion, our differences are what make us so beautiful. When I look
at how God created me and how God created TobyMac, for
example, I think, "How awesome of God to make us so intricately
and look so different?" All these different cultures in every
tribe and every language and every nation will come together,
and it's Jesus who unites us.
That's something to be celebrated and not something we should be scared
of - not something that should make us color blind. I don't want
to be color blind - I actually want to celebrate it and rejoice
So, TobyMac got a
hold of it somehow and said, "Hey, I need to be on this song."
Then I heard Kirk Franklin speak about this when he was
at the Dove Awards, so then I was like, "Okay, Toby, we need to
get Kirk on this, too." It pretty much culminated into this song
that is at the very core of what Toby, Kirk and I feel so
strongly about, and that is unity in the body of Christ. We need
to be the ones who are sending the message. We need to be the
ones that let our love point people to Jesus. It's a song I feel
very strongly about, and our prayer is that God would use it to
help us be a united body of Christ.
CCM: Most of your new
album seems to be about your story to overcome. How do you see
"Bleed The Same" within the grand storyline of Out Of The Dark?
If there's anything I can say about a dark blot on our country,
it's where we are racially divided. There's so much darkness. I
feel like it fits within the theme of coming out of that
darkness and shining our light. That's the way the Bible says
people will know we are followers of Jesus - it's by the shining
light of our love.
I love Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s quote, "Darkness cannot drive
out darkness - only light can do that" (paraphrased). How are we
shining our light in such a way that it will drive out the
darknesses in our society?
from CCM Magazine -
- Out of the
Salvation gives us assurance of eternity in heaven, but that doesn't
mean the journey here on earth won't be riddled with heartbreak,
confusion, questions and pain. Being a believer doesn't exempt
anyone from hardship, but trusting God does help in navigating
life's tragedies and challenges.
Just ask Mandisa. After the prayers of a multitude didn't stop her
dearest friend from succumbing to cancer, Mandisa withdrew, wrestled
with God and fell into a deep depression.
Now Mandisa is back and she has more to share than ever with the album, "Out of the Dark." And her fans have welcomed her back
as the first single, "Unfinished," has already reached #8 on
Billboard's Contemporary Christian Music charts. Two other followup
singles, "Bleed the Same" with TobyMac and Kirk
Franklin and "Good News" have also charted.
The album follows Mandisa's No. 1 hits "Overcomer" and
In the initial track, she sings, "Not scared to say it; I used to be the
one; Preaching it to you; That you could overcome; I still believe
it; But it ain't easy; Cause that world I painted; Where things just
all work out; It started changing; And I started having doubts; And
it got me so down."
"To be honest, that's not how I
thought things were going to happen," she says of her friend Kisha's
passing. "I was disappointed with God. I was mad because as I prayed
for her, I believed that God was going to heal her. I'm not the kind
of person who shakes my fist at the Lord and yells and screams. I
just shut down and started turning to food again for comfort.
"For years, I
was turning to Him for comfort, but I didn't trust Him anymore, so I
isolated and went back to my old friend, food. My loved ones were
reaching out and I would ignore their phone calls and text messages.
It got to the point where I had friends who, out of love and
concern, came to the house banging on the door and I just put in
some ear plugs and pretended I wasn't there. I stopped going to
church. I didn't open my Bible. The enemy had me exactly where he
In the middle of her pain, God answered a prayer she had been fervently
praying for years when her older brother, John (the subject of her
song "Dear John") accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior.
"That was God
reminding me that he did indeed hear my prayers," she says. "He was
still there, and even though things didn't turn out the way I wanted
them to with Kisha, sometimes God says 'no' and I'm just learning to
be okay with that.
"That's been my
life for the last three and a half years. I wish that I had all the
answers, but at this point I say, 'Okay God, I'm either gonna trust
you with all of my heart, or I'm not. There's no middle ground here.
I'm going to let the value and the weight of the character of God
outweigh my need to know or understand."
God is not done with me yet...
Mandisa is back with a renewed
passion for her music and a willingness to be totally transparent
and vulnerable about her journey. She's reconnecting with people,
losing the weight she regained during her depression, and writing
and recording such potent songs as "Prove Me Wrong" where she
lays bare her soul and voices her questions to the Lord.
Here" is a comeback song that proclaims that God is not done
with her yet.
"The Lord started lifting me out of this pit as I started this
album," she says. "My hope is that people will be on this journey
with me. When I began, I was in a really dark place, but where I am
today is so much better and so much lighter. He pulled me out of the
dark! I'm hoping that the same way that God is restoring me, that He
will restore those who listen to it."
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(from Out of the Dark)
After a nearly 4-year hiatus from the studio, American Idol star and Grammy and Dove Award winner Mandisa is back in this brand-new recording! Acclaimed for her powerhouse vocals and inspirational lyrics, she praises God's boundless strength, grace, and love in "Unfinished," "I'm Still Here," "Bleed the Same," and other Spirit-filled songs.
"What If We Were Real"
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