Miracle in a Dry Season    Dangerous Passage


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The Advocate

I Have A Dream . . . Now What?
29 Top Music Artists Share Advice on Pursuing Your Dreams

by Tracy Darlington

Maybe you dream of being on a stage, lights flashing, with a crowd screaming back the words to a song you wrote. Or maybe you see yourself starting an orphanage in Africa. You might even be dreaming of earning an Olympic gold medal! You’ve prayed about it and asked Jesus to show you His will for your life, but you don’t know where to start. Here’s the lowdown on how God helped these top music artists fulfill their dreams, and how He’ll help you too!

Rebecca St. JamesREBECCA ST. JAMES:
The book that really impacted my life the most when it comes to knowing and doing the will of God is a Bible study called Experiencing God I did in my late teens, possibly early twenties. It really talks about the key elements in hearing the voice of God. Those keys are spending time in the Bible; having accountability and people speaking into your life; being involved in the church, the body of Christ; being led by the peace of God; and circumstances being aligned in such a way that you can see God’s hand ordering them. Another point from the study that I really have held onto in my life is that we are to be looking where God is already at work and joining Him in His work.So it’s not necessarily about us getting our own little vision and saying, “God, why don’t you come along with me because this vision is something I want to do for you?” It’s saying, “God, what are you doing? How can I come and be a part of what you’re doing already?” When it comes to dreams, ris, courage and fearlessness are really important things. Saying, "God what do you want me to do? What would honor you most in my life? Give me the dreams that You have birthed in my heart. Help me to live those out." One of my favorite movies, Strictly Ballroom, says: “A life lived in fear is a life half-lived.” I think a lot of people really let fear rule their decisions as opposed to the courage that God gives us, and letting that courage help inspire and empower.

For a long time I got really busy with the opportunities right in front of me, and I don’t think I really listened to my deep heart, the dreams and visions God had birthed in me that were really, really, deep. It took me taking time out on a sabbatical. For some people that could mean taking a weekend to pray. A friend of mine took forty days to plead with God to show her a new vision for her life, and He did. I needed a sabbatical to help me to uncover the distractions and get to the deep parts of my heart again and realize there were some unfulfilled dreams I needed to follow. I had to make some major changes in my life. It’s cool, because I’m now seeing the confirmation that it was right. Only He can open the doors that truly need to be open. That’s what we need to pray, “God, I surrender to You. If I’m wrong, close doors. And if I’m hearing from you just open the doors, and help me to be led by you.” Being in relationships where we’re kept accountable is incredibly important, too.

Amy Grant AMY GRANT:
When I was in my teen years, my life was really affected by a band called Dogwood that played every Saturday night at a coffee house in Nashville. I don’t know that I ever woke up one day and said, “God I believe you’re leading me to do this.” I had a passion for music, and a passion about faith. I still do. I know some people had that big sort of epiphany moment, but I think for most of us there are the things in life that energize us, and they are connected to the gifts that God gives us. I tell my kids all the time, find something you’re passionate about because then you’ll want to get out of bed tomorrow and pursue that. The fact that it includes telling people about Jesus makes it especially rewarding.

Jimmy Needham JIMMY NEEDHAM:
So many of us Jesus followers are concerned with the answer to that age old question: "What is God's will for my life?" In that simple question we're asking so many things: What college should I go to? What job should I take? What about my career path? Who does God want me to marry? What does God want from me? If you're anything like me you've waited and waited for that still small voice to whisper in your ear, "Go to this college...marry that person...take that job...". And very often we just seem to wait...and wait...and wait, and all we often get is silence. Don't you just want to say to God sometimes, "Hey! Can't you just make this easy and TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO?!" For much of my Christian life I wrestled with this question, "What is God's will for my life?" About 6 years ago, God finally showed me the answer, and it was not what I expected. In fact, it was far better.

I happened to stumble on a verse that has since drastically changed my life. I was reading 1 Thessalonians when I came to this verse, 1 Thess. 4:3 "For this is the will of God...". "Here we go!", I thought. "Finally, some answers". The verse continued, "...your sanctification". My sanctification? This is the answer I've been looking for? In fact, it was the answer. To be "sanctified" means to be set apart for a special purpose. So, what Paul is saying here is that God's will for my life is that I be different from the world, totally set apart for whatever God wants me for. If you've ever wondered, God's will for your life is this: to make you more like Him.

I know what you're thinking, "This is a really frustrating answer. I mean, that doesn't tell me what college I should go to or anything like that!" I would respond to you by saying this: So many of us are caught up in what we should do in our day-to-day that we completely miss that maybe God is more interested in the development of our character than whether we should work at McDonald's versus Starbucks. I would love to see a generation of young girls and guys no longer concerned with earthly things, but with the eternal things.

When I finally understood that God had a will for me that was much deeper and more powerful than any answer I could have wanted, it set me free in a way I couldn't have imagined. It is now my opinion that ultimately, it doesn't matter where I am or what I am doing, as long as I am allowing God to sanctify me daily, and that I am being obedient to what He requires of me. Therefore, whether I am a Christian music artist, a teacher or a plumber, I can still be in the will of God so long as I am seeking Him and doing what He commands, that is, to know Him and make Him known.

Don't get me wrong, God CAN give you specific answers for what He wants you to do with your life, but don't seek those answers if you haven't first concerned yourself with God's ultimate will for you, your holiness.

I had a desire from early on to pursue music and to pursue music as a career. My folks are in ministry, and they would often volunteer our the services of my brother and me (laughs). Put Donnie, my brother, on the drums, let him play . . . and she’ll sing a song for you! I’d be grimacing. But I know it was just God preparing me for what He had called me to ultimately. As I started writing music and would perform and minister those songs in different churches and venues, people would come up to me and ask me where they could buy the songs. Do you have an album? When I started getting enough of those inquiries I one year took my tax returns and invested in what God had put in me. The rest is history. But guess what? I questioned my purpose. I questioned my destiny. I wondered if God was really concerned with everything that had to do with my life. You’re not alone in this thing.

Pat Seals FlyleafPAT SEALS (Flyleaf):
For me it was a point of surrendering and saying I don’t know what you want me to do with my life, God, but I want to do what you have for me. I remember door by door working hard and walking through them. I didn’t receive a vision or anything, but the Word says “I’ll be a lamp to your feet, and a light to your path.” Not a light to the horizon or ten miles down the road. My Dad told me that. Immediately in front. You just have to every single day trust God and follow where He has you go.

Stephanie Smith STEPHANIE SMITH:
I remember a specific evening in my youth group just before my senior year of high school. One of our leaders spoke on the topic of "What is your passion?" It was the first time I realized that I really was passionate about music and singing, and as I laid it before the Lord, I sincerely felt released to pursue it for His glory!

One of the awesome things about our God is that He is so intimately involved in our stories that He works uniquely in all of our journeys, but I also believe we can learn from each others experiences. That being said, all I really have to offer is what I know from my failures and successes. He truly gives and takes away, and he has done just that in my life. I knew as a little girl that I wanted to be on a stage singing someday. The Lord has walked me through seasons where he's given me my dream, and where He's taken it away because my dreams had to die so He could resurrect them, or purify them so they matched up with what He was dreaming for me.

You see the best advice I can offer about following and achieving your dreams is to remain surrendered to the Lord’s agenda. It may look very different than yours at times but the question boils down to "Do you trust Him? Even with your most intimate of dreams?" He loves you so unfailingly, His word says in Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart! That sounds like a promise to me. He is always doing a new thing and thankfully He has given us His Spirit to lead us and direct us along this adventure!

Daniel Biro Hawk NelsonDANIEL BIRO (Hawk Nelson):
When I got to that searching moment in my life wondering who am I, what am I here for and all those things, the music I was listening to at that time reached me at a place that nothing else did. It spoke to me in a way that I didn’t even really fully comprehend. It affected my life, and I remember a lot of things changed when I noticed that. I felt like music had this power to reach people on a level that they’re not even conscious of. To inspire people. Ingender hope in people.

Caroline Williams PureNRGCAROLINE WILLIAMS (PureNRG):
My advice to guys and girls my age can be found in Phillipians 3:14 - I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. I think it is important to show initiative and work toward your dreams, but I also think you need to keep an open heart and be willing to accept opportunities God sets before you. For example, I love to perform so I spent a lot of time in dance class. When the opportunity to audition for a Christmas show at the Acuff Theater here in Nashville became available, I actually delayed an out of town flight to attend the audition. God gives us talents and wants us to use the gifts He has given us to the best of our abilities but He also wants us to keep our hearts and minds open to His plans for us and follow the path He sets before us.

John Cooper SkilletJOHN COOPER (Skillet):
I guess it was a combination of things. One is that music is one of the only things I’ve ever been any good at (laughs). So that helped. The possibilities were not endless! Christian music affected me so much as a kid. I used to think if I ever played in a band it would be a Christian band. I never even considered not playing in a Christian band, actually. Then when I was in college I had a band and I thought, “Would I actually want to do this for a living instead of having some other kind of job?” It was always a really easy answer for me. Yes, I would rather do that. When I was about twenty was when I knew from the Lord, and my pastor really encouraged me in my music, is when I really felt like yep, this is what I’m gonna do. If in the end I’m wrong and God’s not calling me to this the very worst that happens is that I waste a couple years of time I could’ve been in school failing. (Laughs.) I feel certain this is the Lord, and my pastor prayed with me and also felt that it was from the Lord, and that helped.

Sarah Kelly SARAH KELLY:
I don't think that we can dream big enough! I don't think that we are able to! I mean, I was in college to be an English teacher when I made an album for my church group to make money for a drumset, and I ended up getting a Grammy nomination! What????? It seriously wasnt' until that moment that I thought, "Ok, so maybe I am a singer!” The key is not to follow your dream, but to stay daily obedient and to walk into every opportunity! You may just find what you never even knew you wanted! I know I did, and I am so glad that God knew what I wanted more than I did! Your call is to simply "love the Lord with all your heart and soul and mind and strength." That is it!!!! The rest is up to him! Mere details!

When something is obviously a "God given task" to fulfill, don't think that it will be easy. Look for the marks that it is obviously God's will, but don't expect that it will be a small amount of work on your part. Even after the 1st two Grammy nods, I still tour 250 gigs a year, and feel like quitting sometimes. Oh, and it must be driven by something more than fame. I keep going in the dark times for the sake of "to inspire and accompany people on their journey" and to openly shed light on the issues of physical abuse, even within the church, to inspire the church to take a stand on this issue that has stolen years from my own life and so many others.

Dawn Richardson FireflightDAWN RICHARDSON (Fireflight):
It's so important to understand how much God loves you! The more you learn about who God is, through reading your bible, reading devotions and books by biblical teachers and writers, as well as growing in a real personal relationship with God through prayer (talking with God) and praise and worship, the more you will begin to see your life through God's loving eyes. Once you gain God's perspective on your life, the decisions that once seemed so confusing, and the fear of failure that so frequently haunts us, no longer seems so overwhelming. Then, we are free to walk by faith down the path God reveals to us.

Samir Bhattacharya FlyleafSAMIR BHATTACHARYA (Flyleaf):
I remember being in junior high listening to music. I didn’t listen to a lot of Christian music growing up, just music in general and how it spoke. It spoke so powerfully, to the core of myself. And people around me were sitting around listening to music and getting moved as well, to the lyrics and the music. I thought, “Wow, this is a very powerful medium.” It’s something I really wanted to be a part of. I understood that it was going to be a really huge part in my life. Then there was this message that our assistant pastor did. Pastor Ken was talking about how to figure out what you’re giftings are, how to figure out what your purpose in life was. Obviously we’re to love God and love our neighbor, but what tools were we equipped with at birth? What are we supposed to do? This guy was a worship pastor as well, and a lot of people wanted to come in and sing backup and stuff, and he would say, “Some people just aren’t gifted to sing. As much as they want to, they just don’t have it.” He was talking about falling into your calling in life. There are several different ways to find what it is. What do you enjoy doing? What do other people say that you do well? That’s probably what you need to be doing. Music was just one of those things for me.

Cammie RubyzCAMMIE (The Rubyz):
I'm sure every person has
been told something along the lines of "reach for the stars!" or "go for your dreams!", and as cliche as they always sound, they're all true. I think every person should do what they love, no matter what. It's hard nowadays when money seems to be the only reason to do something, but honestly, money doesn't make you happy. So don't worry if what you love won't make you money one day. You'll be fine. God will get you through any financial problems you may come across. God made it clear that The Rubyz was what I needed to do by actually putting me through some hard times. Those hard times made everything that I thought was important seem really insignificant, and showed me what I really needed to be doing. Sometimes God shows you what to do with your life by changing everything around you, and sometimes it's as simple as somebody saying "hey, you're really good at this". God is always giving me signs on how to live my life, but sometimes I overlook them and do what I want to do...sometimes that gets me in trouble. So be on the lookout for signs from God. Theyre everywhere :]

Nathan Piche Article OneNATHAN PICHE (Article One):
Both my parents are music teachers and from a young age I’ve always been drawn to music. Once I reached high school, I knew that music would always be a part of my life, and after a few years of university, I felt it was time to pursue music full time. Everything happened in a gradual way. Slowly, but surely, we got so busy that we couldn’t keep up with school and our touring schedules. I decided to leave school and go full time with the Band.

One thing I have come to realize is what I believe to be my desire and what my true heart’s desire really is are often complete opposites. I believe that dreams are important and something to strive and fight for. I also believe that we must have the discipline to become neutral in our desires--giving God the opportunity to reveal something more beautiful than we could have ever imagined. In my own life, I desired for the opportunity to share my love for music and figured that was my destiny. As I began to pursue music God began to open doors I never thought possible. When I began to lay that dream at His feet and ask what He desired from me I began to realize that music was just a tool God would use to open doors for me to speak about my life and my testimony. Never in my entire life had I ever wanted or desired to get on stage in front of thousands and share how insecure and empty I was--and sometimes still feel! In fact, when those doors began to open I cried and begged for it to pass me by. I have since come to realize how much of a privilege it is to share my story with others. Sharing how much God has impacted my life and the wonderful things He is still doing. My life is not my own, it is God's to use how He desires. I am finally coming to the point where I realize when He is in full control, my life makes sense and a peace begins to come over my life. It's such a wonderful feeling knowing that the creator of the universe is still interested in and wanting to grow me and love me. I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone and step into faith. Give God the desires of your heart and let Him use them for His Glory. Our true desires lie with Him because only He knows our true hearts desire.

Dustin Ruth DUSTIN RUTH (Ruth):
I think teen girls and teen guys can have their dreams fulfilled just the same. Being a teen and wondering what to do with your life is a hard thing to go through. Don't get me wrong, I think direction changes all through out your life, but people face this reality during their teen years for the first time. The best thing I can suggest that has worked for me is to try and remember to ask God for direction and seek His dreams for our lives. It says in the Bible to "seek God first always and he will give us the desires of our hearts." If He places a desire in your heart (because you're seeking Him first), I guarantee He'll make your dreams/desires come true. One thing I've found is that 9 times out of 10 they don't look the way we thought they would in the end, but they're more fulfilling. This is truly living.

Brooke BarrettsmithBROOKE BARRETSMITH:
We all have so many dreams for our lives! God designed us to hope and dream big because He is a BIG God with BIG hopes and dreams for us! He is our number one fan! To know what paths God has paved for our lives, we need to spend time with Him. He's not withholding answers from us, He just wants us to draw closer to Him. When we grow stronger in our faith, we learn to hear His voice more clearly so we can follow His path and not the world's path. Following God's dreams for our lives is exciting because there will be rewards that never end!

Don't be afraid to pursue your dreams! Do with your life what makes you come alive and determine to always use your gifts and talents for His glory. That is how you will truly make a difference in this world. Be passionate about serving God and others! That is why He created you! Make sure to take lots of time listening to the Lord and find direction in His word. Otherwise your dreams will become about your own happiness and satisfaction rather than His glory. Don't forget that's why He saved us...for His glory! Find ways, places, and people to serve with your gifts and always give Him back the praise. Growing up, my Daddy (who is also my Pastor!) encouraged me to say "Praise the Lord" after every time I sang a solo in church so that I would be reminded my voice is gift from God to be used for God and to encourage people. Please remember to seek lots of godly counsel from people in your life that you trust...your parents, your Youth Pastor, or even your closest Christian friend. They know you the best and believe in you, so they can help point you in the right direction and encourage you when things get tough.

Solomon Olds Soul Glow Family Force 5SOLOMON OLDS "Soul Glow Activator" (Family Force 5):
It kinda comes at a young age. I got saved when I was eight and fell in love with music. All of us, at around ten, eleven, twelve, it hit us pretty hard. I remember praying, “Lord, do you want me to be a doctor or a musician?” I actually did go to school to be a doctor and I got D’s, so it obviously wasn’t in His will. It all came at a young age. We used to go with our Dad to the Christian music festivals, and seeing all these people, it really inspired me and my brothers to look at the Newsboys and DC Talk and go, wow, that looks fun. I want to do that. I want to spread the message just like them.

Jason Dunn Hawk NelsonJASON DUNN (Hawk Nelson):
I didn’t really want to do music. I wanted to be a hockey player. That was what I wanted in life. But I just am not good enough, so plan b was, okay, I’ll just be in a band. But deep down I think God has a plan for everybody. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I’m doing. I love music. I was passionate about it, but it was just one of those things I didn’t think would ever really happen. And I still can’t believe it’s happening. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and think, this is crazy! We’re gonna play a show tonight and people are going to come and actually watch us. I guess it hasn’t really hit me this is what I’m doing. Nothing’s going to stop us. I’m very thankful that God has opened this door for us. I don’t ever want to take it for granted. The passion grows inside of us everyday the more and more we do this, the people we meet, the songs we sing. It’s starting to become more and more real.

Vicky Beeching

My advice would be to spend as much time as you can with God seeking Him and getting to know his word. That will prepare you for everything ahead. With your dreams, lay them at Gods feet and surrender totally. Then serve and love others as your main aim in life, and never use people. Make relationships the most valued thing in your world. and all the rest will fall into place. Dreams can sometimes make people self centered and slip into a 'user' mentality. So love, serve, give and God will open the doors for you!

Alexis Slifer RubyzALEXIS SLIFER (The Rubyz):
Don't let anyone tell you that you're too young. Or that you can't do what you want to do. One of the biggest things that has helped me in my life is my family and friends being so supportive of my dreams. If you're close with God and trust in Him, He will give you the desires of your heart.

God is chasing us and longs to have a personal relationship with us which is, and always has been, the constant desire of His heart since time itself. So I honestly feel, despite the cliche's, that walking daily seeking God with all your heart will truly lead us to where we are called to go and ultimately where we will feel most alive. The real question it seems for a lot of people, including myself, is "how do I separate my dreams and God's dreams for my life?" None of us want to pick door #3 to find out that we were really supposed to pick door #1. But at the same time I believe that God is bigger than that and ultimately can re-set our sails if we are daily listening for His spirit. I have personally found this to be true countless times in my life. God has designed us all specifically, as the psalmist put it "For you formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mothers womb." So I believe He knows how we can best live this adventure called life and if we daily are trying our best to listen to His heart beat we won't miss a step along the way even though the ground under our feat can feel shaky at times.

Carolyne Myers PureNRGCAROLYNE MYERS (PureNRG):
My advice would be to always follow your heart and make sure that you keep our Heavenly Father in the picture with you, and it will always turn out the way that he intends it to be. Remember too that even if it doesn't work out the way you plan, He always has a reason for it. This is a Verse that really helped me when I was in need for advice! "Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4 (NIV)

It’s a combination of prayer, checking into God's word and talking it over with people that have a spiritual authority in your life. Any major decision that I decided to jump at (as far as fulfilling and going after my dreams) was accomplished through these means.

Meredith Andrews
One of the most exciting times in a young person's life is when they are dreaming big dreams and standing on the verge of their calling, but it can be an equally confusing and scary time as well. I remember going back and forth during my last couple years of high school and well into college, switching my major a few times and praying hard about where God was leading me. One thing is certain, God is in control. He can be trusted, and if He is sovereign enough to breathe life into our lungs and place us on this earth, you can believe He has a sovereign plan for each of us. Jeremiah 29:11-14 is a familiar passage, but I would encourage you to read it and apply the promises in these verses to your life. Seek the Lord with all your heart, ask Him to clearly show you what to do and where to go. Also, ask yourself these questions: What are my God-given gifts and desires? In other words, what am I good at? What do I love doing? All my life I have been passionate about leading worship through music and loving on underprivileged children. During my junior year of college I was wrestling with what the Lord was calling me to do when I graduated, but it was staring me right in the face the whole time. Pointing people to Jesus by singing and writing about His truth and love along with giving of my time and energy to help needy children were the things that made me feel most alive. These were the avenues that showed me God's heart the most and they are the things that are still burning in my heart today. Scripture must always be our barometer, and God will never tell us to do something that will contradict His Word. But He most likely won't tell you to go to medical school in a head of lettuce either. He has placed desires and abilities within you, and when you team these passions up with prayer and God's Word, you will know what the Lord has called you to do and will have the confidence to carry out this sovereign plan for His glory.

Janna Long Avalon
JANNA LONG (Avalon):
My advice would be to seek God everyday. His perfect will for all of
us is to walk and talk with Him daily. In spending time with Him, our paths will be directed. I know His plans have always been better than anything I could plan for myself.

Chris Sligh

I think one key to life is being a master of something. Dreams are great, but if you're like me, you dream about a lot of things. You can end up being a jack of all trades and master of none. When I was in college, I made a conscious decision to chase hard after music. I thought about acting, pastoring, etc. But ultimately I chose music. And though there have been times I've thought I made the wrong choice, I continued to chase it.

God is sovereign and knows our needs and desires perfectly. Having faith in Christ is a great start :) God has been SO good to his people by giving us the tools we need to get through everything that comes our way. With that being said, life is messy and we don't easily gravitate towards pleasing God. For me, understanding my sin and understanding the cost of what Christ has completed on my behalf fuels my faith. Learn what pleases Christ first and let that be your NEW life. Your passions, dreams and desires will fall into place. FAITH will get you through the uncertain times of what exactly you need to be doing.

Tracy DarlingtonTracy Darlington is a freelance writer, and her work has appeared in Brio, Breakaway, YS, CCM Magazine, Insight, Susie Magazine, and other publications. She has interviewed countless Christian musicians including Rebecca St. James, Delirious, Newsboys, Leigh Nash, Barlowgirl, Krystal Meyers, Joy Williams, Pillar, Michelle Tumes, and many others. In her spare time she can be found riding horses or listening to music and sipping a Venti 3-shot sugar-free vanilla latte. Visit her online at her blog where she talks about Music, God, dogs and coffee. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.