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Christian Music Stars Share Their Favorite Verses from the Scriptures
By Les Sussman
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 1998 Les Sussman
All rights reserved.
... If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
Sandi Patty's world was shattered in 1995 when her millions of adoring fans learned the shocking news that the internationally acclaimed Christian music superstar had been involved in an extramarital affair.
Particularly disturbing to her fans was that this incredibly talented singer and songwriter had, over the years, carefully cultivated a pro-family image.
When Sandi, the winner of an incredible thirty-four Dove and five Grammy awards, finally broke her silence on the subject, more shock waves reverberated through the world of Christian music.
The blond, blue-eyed Oklahoma native revealed that she had been sexually abused as a child and cited such abuse as a contributing factor toward the failure of her marriage and her subsequent affair.
Today Sandi recalls those days as one of the most trying times in her life. Not only was the possessor of three platinum and five gold albums spurned by her fans, but many Christian music radio programmers stopped playing her music. In addition, some retailers refused to carry her albums.
The Word Records star praises the verse from John and its message of speaking the truth for aiding her return to wholeness. It's a verse, she offers, that encouraged her to admit her mistakes publicly and to hold herself accountable to her family, church, and fans.
"I will always carry scars, because I know I let lots of people down," Sandi declares. "But when your world feels shattered, you have to begin rebuilding. You can stay where you are broken or you can choose to move on and build something better by God's grace.
"And one way to do so is by being honest. I have asked for God's forgiveness and I feel clearer before God than I ever have felt. As the scripture states, the truth always sets you free."
* * *
Having learned some painful lessons in recent years, Sandi Patty attests that she is now prepared to move on with her career — one that has produced more than 11 million in record sales since she began performing fifteen years ago.
Although the Christian music superstar who once performed at the White House for the president and first lady acknowledges that she continues to heal, it has not kept her from completing a new Christmas album, while preparing a concert schedule that includes everything from performing at pop concerts to appearances with major national and international symphony orchestras.
Sandi, who resides in Anderson, Indiana, with her fitness-instructor husband, Don Peslis, and eight children, is also keeping busy teaching music at Anderson University.
Behind this flurry of activity is a desire to get on with her life and not abandon her remarkable, God-given talent that has made Sandi one of the nation's best-loved performers. Sandi also hopes that by rebuilding her own life, she will serve as a symbol of encouragement to others who have suffered hard times.
"God has walked me through some incredibly difficult times, and now I'm on the other side of it," she declares earnestly. "I want to share God's love and joy with anyone who is struggling with the realities of life."
Sandi believes she is on the right track, and describes an experience that she construes as a sign of approval from the Lord. That incident took place when the entertainer and her husband arrived at a local hospital to bring home Samuel, a baby boy they had recently adopted.
"You know, Samuel means 'God has heard,'" Sandi explains. "And when we saw him and picked him up from the hospital, the nurses had written his name in a little heart with rainbows around it.
"The first time God gave a rainbow was as a promise that there would never be a storm like that again. So here, after a kind of storm in my life, for us to be entrusted with a child — the promise of a new life, a new beginning — and to see that rainbow, for us today as much as it was for Noah back then it was a sign that God was still with us."
Although Sandi may have stumbled briefly in her walk, the Christian music luminary comes from a family with a deep commitment to God. She was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the daughter of an Assembly of God minister, and religion was always very much part of her household.
Sandi relates that at age three, she and her family relocated to Phoenix, Arizona. Another move to Sacramento, California, followed. After high school graduation there was yet another move — this time to her current home of Anderson, Indiana, where Sandi attended her church college.
Besides religion, the Christian artist recalls that music also played a big role in her family life. Sandi's father served in various congregations as minister of music, and her mother, when not at home raising the kids, often could be found in church accompanying her husband on the organ.
"Growing up there was not a lot of strong rebellion against my religious upbringing," she submits. "Christianity was a big part of my life, and church was a big part of my life. My heart's desire was always to be a disciple of Christ. I guess I was basically a compliant kid."
Although she always loved to sing, Sandi recollects that being a performer was not her first choice of a career. "I always wanted to be a schoolteacher and teach music," she reveals, "but toward the end of my college years I started to get invited to sing here and sing there and doors really began opening. So I felt that was the direction that God wanted me to go."
In 1978 Sandi married her first husband, John, when they were both students in college. Twelve years later, however, there were major cracks in their marriage.
"I felt rejected time after time by my husband," she asserts. "I was extremely vulnerable — more vulnerable than I ever realized. I needed someone to care, someone to hear me, and someone to listen to me."
Now Sandi tends to place less blame on her husband for the breakup of their marriage and is willing to accept more of the responsibility for its deterioration.
She also speaks openly about the psychological wounds she suffered as a young girl, when she was sexually molested by a female church member.
"I think as I continued to grow and continued to grow closer to the Lord, I realized that there were pretty rough wounds in my life and my childhood from sexual abuse — it was from a woman who was a schoolteacher and sang in my dad's choir.
"Whenever you have those kinds of wounds — especially when they're unconscious — there's no way to bring wholeness to a marriage. I think that by the time I realized that, there was just a lot of damage that I brought to the marriage.
"And one of the things that happens when there is sexual abuse, there are literally no boundaries. There are no personal boundaries, friendship boundaries, sexual boundaries. I could almost just flip sort of back and forth from being a person who had absolutely no boundaries — and therefore no conscience."
Despite what happened to her, Sandi remains puzzled why a woman like herself, who grew up in the church, was unable to determine the difference between right and wrong and to recognize the need to establish boundaries.
"But back then I just couldn't think clearly. I knew I was probably headed for a nervous breakdown. I was vulnerable to anyone who wanted to come into my life."
She remembers becoming intimately involved with her present husband, Don Peslis, while waiting for her divorce to be finalized. Don was a member of her band at the time and also was married.
"We began what in our hearts felt like a new and fresh friendship," she recently told a magazine interviewer. "We knew we loved each other very much and that continued to grow."
Looking back, Sandy today admits that regardless of how the two of them felt about each other, what she did was inappropriate behavior for a Christian.
"I had an affair and that was wrong," she states unequivocally. "I was not honest about it, and that was wrong. I made decisions and choices that greatly hurt the name of the Lord and the cause of His people."
When word of the affair eventually leaked out to the media, Sandi, who by then was already undergoing spiritual counseling, was devastated. She reacted by publicly admitting her mistake and begging forgiveness from her disappointed fans.
She further recollects turning to prayer, close friends, and scripture to help comfort her though this bleak period of her life.
"I surrounded myself with people who appropriately extended the hand of mercy," she submits. "These were people who no matter what I needed would not walk out of my life — people who were there to help me put my life back together.
"Reading scripture was also very important to me — particularly John 8. I kind of found it in high school when I was doing Bible study. It's a very powerful scripture and it helped me through all of this. There's live truth packed in scripture and a lot of wisdom in scripture — basic good, moral principles."
Today Sandi is able to see that the public exposure of her affair had some benefit, because it gave her the opportunity to confess her sins.
"As embarrassing and humiliating as it was, when I acknowledged the truth first with myself, then with my pastor, my church family, and with the people I individually needed to go to and ask forgiveness, there was also something quite freeing about doing that," she declares.
"There's a lot of freedom found in acknowledging and handing over the truth to the Lord. My commitment was to be honest and be held accountable. I knew I was dealing a little bit with the dark side of the truth right now, but that there would be a freedom and a release that came — there would be hope on the other side of devastation."
For those who may be involved in an extramarital affair, Sandi counsels that they confront the truth about the type of life they are leading. "As quickly as you are able to do so, don't minimize the truth," she counsels. "Don't deny the truth of what you're doing or hold back pieces of it. That will help your healing come so much quicker.
"Read John's words and acknowledge the truth. Go to church, and don't be afraid to surround yourself with people who will reflect the honest truth back to you. Just know that God forgives your sins and that he loves you. ..."CHAPTER 2
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
When two-time Grammy winner Bruce Carroll looks into a mirror, what he says he sometimes sees gazing back at him is the reflection of a man who has had a "lifetime of falling down and getting up."
It seems an apt description of this award-winning contemporary Christian music superstar who, despite having contended with some difficult times — including struggles with alcohol and drug addiction — has always managed to get back on his feet.
Still another severe blow knocked the six-time Dove nominee to his feet — learning that his wife had cancer.
It was during this anxious period of his life that the forty-three-year-old San Antonio native, who in 1997 was voted Favorite Country Artist by readers of CCM Magazine, discovered the verse from Romans 8: 28.
He credits that scripture not only for supporting him through those trying days but for bringing him even closer to his wife, and the Lord, as well.
"I believe in those words absolutely," he testifies. "There's a lot of promise and hope in them."
* * *
It's been a Bumpy road for Bruce Carroll, a talented singer and songwriter with a Texas-flavored folk music style who is not afraid to express through his music all the trials and tribulations he has encountered along the way.
But there's more than just gritty reality to his lyrics — Bruce's music also offers a positive message of God's love, grace, and protection no matter what peril may be encountered on life's journey.
In fact, if there is one theme that permeates much of his songwriting, it is about how God more often than not reveals Himself during times of personal crises rather than when life is going well — a philosophy that Bruce honed when Nikki, his wife of more than eighteen years, faced cancer surgery.
The voice of the soft-spoken Texan still brims with emotion when he recalls those harrowing days.
"It was about five years ago and my wife had a real bad case of cancer. And I just really stood on that verse, you know, like Lord, I don't know why this is happening and it doesn't seem very fair. And I could lose my wife over this. But I'm just going to believe that somehow this is good for us and that it's going to work together for our good and for your glory."
Bruce still recollects his feelings of helplessness and how he decided to step out into faith as a way of coping with those feelings. "The stress was so high and things so weird that all I could do was step out in faith and just hang on to that verse. I just kept saying that even though I didn't understand why this was happening, I knew that it would somehow be okay.
"And I knew that while I might not know for a long time why this was happening, that God would ultimately one day reveal to me why this took place. I also knew that He loves to take dark and dismal things and turn them around for our good and His glory.
"I believed that if I was just patient and just hung on and stepped out in faith — you know, as the Lord says, 'walk by faith, not by sight'— that He was in control and would reveal these things to me."
Bruce's faith in the Lord was rewarded. Not only was the surgery successful, but he also walked away from that experience stronger in his marriage and faith than ever before.
"They were able to get all of the cancer. And in the process — you know, going through that — it caused me to deal with a lot of things. It forced me to reassess the relationship that I was having with my wife. It brought us closer together as a family. It brought us closer together as a man and his wife.
"So in many ways what happened was God's way of bringing us closer together as a family. That's what I think it was all about. It really impacted our lives for the good.
"And in the midst of it, God also showed what He's able to do and how powerful He is and how He can do anything that He wants to. And he chose to heal her, so you know, it was a cool thing."
Today Bruce is a contented man with a passion for religion. He even describes his career as a "musical ministry." His music gives him an opportunity to share God's word outside Christian circles, but Bruce adds that he does so "without beating people over the head."
His newfound love of religion also extends beyond the concert arena. Almost any Tuesday night Bruce can be found at a men's Bible study group near Hendersonville, Tennessee, where he, his wife, and six children live. He is also active with a humanitarian organization known as Mercy Ministries.
But Bruce's life hasn't always been such a contented, God-filled one as it is today. For more years than he cares to admit, Bruce descended into the abyss of alcohol and drug abuse — once nearly losing his life as a result of an overdose.
The oldest of four siblings, Bruce speculates that one reason why he fell prey to chemical addiction is because "I came from a broken-home situation. I remember at a very early age going to church, but after Mom and Dad split up, we didn't go at all. I was about ten when that happened. And after that I didn't have much of a religious grounding.
"The whole spiritual aspect really didn't start creeping in until I was in my teens. Then I started to ask all the big questions like 'Whoa, how did all this get here?' I was starting to search for my spiritual significance, but I was also into drugs a lot and was drinking a lot."
Meanwhile, Bruce continued to pursue his dream of becoming a professional musician. "I've always loved music — I've always had a passion for playing and singing," he asserts. "Everyone in our family has this God-given musical bent."
At age ten, Bruce was already singing in public, and he was performing professionally at fifteen. When in his twenties, he could be found plying his acoustic style of music in clubs and bars throughout the state.
While Bruce's reputation as a talented performer was growing quickly, so was his addiction to alcohol and drugs. "I was really an out-of-control guy with any kind of substance," he reflects. "I guess I was really searching for my own inner being in a reckless kind of way."
After nearly losing his life in a drug overdose, Bruce believes that God stepped in to save him. His "angel" came in the guise of Bruce's older brother, Milton, formerly a country music performer and today a pastor in Boulder, Colorado.
Excerpted from Praise Him! by Les Sussman. Copyright © 1998 Les Sussman. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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