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Flipping The Switch

By David Daniels - CCM Magazine

  Mandisa 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 Top 25.

  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?

  Mandisa: 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?"

CCM: Overcomer inspired thousands of people. Did you reference those works as a way to overcome those doubts?

 Mandisa: 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 half years.

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?

  Mandisa: 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 time.

  Probably the 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.

  I ignored 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,"

  Mandisa: 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.

See Mandisa talk about the story behind the song, "Good News." -
Click Here

See the "We All Bleed The Same" with Mandisa ft. TobyMac, & Kirk Franklin -
Click Here

See Mandisa's acoustic performance of "Unfinished" - Click Here

  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."

  But the 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?"

  Mandisa: I 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?

  Mandisa: 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 safety.

  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 about it.

  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?

  Mandisa: 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 - Click Here


MANDISA - Out of the Dark

   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 "Stronger."
  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 wanted me."

  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.

  "I''m Still 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.

Deluxe Edition

"What If We Were Real"

"True Beauty"

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