Rita Wilson: What are we all blessed with? What are our gifts? And even if you think you have a gift for something, but you’re not quite sure, you should check it out because maybe you do. And that’s something worthwhile and worthy and might be affecting and touching somebody else. So go for it.
God’s Perfect Purpose for Our Imperfect Lives: Rita Wilson and Lisa Osteen Comes – Episode #170
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. Today’s guests have learned that God created us all for a purpose, and put greatness inside of each of us: actor/producer Rita Wilson and pastor Lisa Osteen Comes.
First up, we talk with Actor/Producer and Singer/Songwriter Rita Wilson. Rita has a long list of credits to her name, including many roles in television and film, and as the producer of such blockbuster films as My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Mamma Mia! Rita also shines as a singer/songwriter, and has just released her fourth album called Halfway to Home. Rita tells us about growing up as a small-town kid in the bright lights of Hollywood, and how it’s never too late to chase a dream.
Rita Wilson: I’m Rita Wilson. I am a singer, a songwriter, an actor, and a producer. I was born and raised in Hollywood, California and my dad was Bulgarian and my mom was Greek. They met in New York and moved to California after they got married.
I’m a first generation American, and growing up in Hollywood it was just my little hometown. I grew up with really solid family values because my parents were extraordinary people. My dad converted to Greek Orthodoxy, and then [my husband] Tom [Hanks], who was baptized Catholic, converted to Greek Orthodoxy, and both my kids are Greek Orthodox.
For us, it was really great going to church on Sundays. Easter is a huge holiday for us. Christmas as well, but Easter is really the big, big holiday in Greek Orthodoxy. Yes, I’m a firm believer in rituals and traditions, and we did all of that growing up. I have to thank my mom, but I also have to thank my dad for doing it too, because a lot of times you see the moms going [to church] and the dads are kind of like, “Catch up with you next week.” But my dad would come and feel very blessed that he was very much embraced by the Greek community, [he] had a bunch of friends and golfing buddies at church.
Even though I grew up in this big town that is iconic, and people come from all over the world to visit [Hollywood], I just grew up like a normal kid. We rode our bikes and we climbed the hills and went to the movies, except the movie theaters were on Hollywood Boulevard. [We] would get ice cream and that was on Hollywood Boulevard. But my parents instilled in us really great family values and my parents were married for fifty-nine years. I think you can grow up in a big city, and it doesn’t mean that you have to abandon who you are as a person and who you are by the nature of how you were raised. So I really have my parents to thank for that.
Music was always playing in the background, whether it was in the car or on the radio at home. It was AM radio, so it was just one station, but that one station played everything. It played country, it played pop, it played soul, R&B, rock, everything. So that’s how I was exposed to all this great country music and all sorts of genres.
My mom was very funny, because we’d be driving in the car and she would hear a song on the radio and, in her Greek accent, she would say, “That song is going to be a hit.” And she was always right. So in some weird way, I think I started listening to music and identifying like, Why did my mom say that was gonna be a hit? What did that song have in it that other songs didn’t have? So, that was kind of cool, Greek ladies thinking, That’s going to be a hit.
A Winding Career Through Entertainment
I didn’t know I wanted to become an actress. I was discovered on my first day of high school, when I was fourteen years old, and that led to a modeling job for Harper’s Bazaar. Then that modeling job led to an agency, and then I got my Screen Actors Guild card by doing a part on “The Brady Bunch.” That led to acting, and I felt very thankful because it was a great job, and I kept working but I didn’t have any idea that I could be an actor until it was almost telling me, You are working so much that I think this is your job. And so that’s how I ended up getting into the business.
What I have memories of wanting to do is to be a singer. But because the acting thing took so much time and a lot of precedence, you become very ensconced in that. Back then, it was sort of looked down upon if you tried to do two things, like “I’m going to be an actor and I’m going to be a singer.” So I feel really lucky and really blessed that I get to be doing music now, writing and singing.
I always wanted to be a musician, I think in my heart of hearts, but a[big part] of it is you’re scared and you kind of think of it as a thing that happened in the past, but for me it didn’t happen. I didn’t play an instrument. I didn’t read music, and then I met a woman who changed my life in many ways: Kara DioGuardi, an incredible songwriter and producer. She said to me, “Well, what kind of things do you want to do?” And I said, “Oh boy, I would give anything if I could write a song like you.” She said, “Well, what makes you think that you can’t?” I said, “Because I don’t play an instrument and I don’t read music.” And she said, “I don’t either. Do you have something you want to say?” And when she said that, I was like, Do I have something I want to say?! I have so much that I want to say, and it had almost been bursting, wanting to get out, and I didn’t have an outlet for it.
I feel acting is like [this]: you have a character, you’re playing somebody else, and then you do that performance and it’s out of your hands. Other people, editors, take care of it, and you know your performance is formed afterwards in a way. But writing music, to me, is a really intensely personal connection, and I am so thankful for it because when you’re writing a song, you’re really writing your own personal experience. It’s an idea or a theme that you want to explore with your co-writers, for example, but it is still a personal story that you’re telling. I love that.
I’ve always been attracted to the story in songs, so that is what I’m always looking for. Like, Is this a good story? Am I going to be drawn in by what this song is?. Even growing up and hearing songs like “Ode to Billie Joe,” [I think], What was happening up on that bridge? Or, “She’s Leaving Home,” by The Beatles. Why is she going with that man from the motor trade? Don’t go, stay. What about your parents? They’re going to miss you. It was always the stories that engaged me. I feel, in a way, like I’m a storyteller.
Thinking About a Life Halfway to Home
My new album is called Halfway to Home. It’s based on the feeling that I always have that we’re works in progress. We’re not really finished, and we are constantly trying to be better. When you think you have something figured out, something comes from this side and says, “Oh, well, I’m going to give you this new challenge and here’s what you can do about that.” So I feel that sometimes you’re kind of one step forward, two steps back. But at the same time, I wouldn’t have it any other way, because if we’re lucky enough to be alive, we’re lucky enough to be a work in progress.
“We’re works in progress. We’re not really finished, and we are constantly trying to be better.” – Rita Wilson
The song “The Spark” was written about anybody who’s in a long term relationship. You can define what long term is for yourself. But when you get married, what’s that thing that happens? You have a connection with somebody, you have this electrical thing, you have this chemistry and you have a spark and that’s what lights the flame. I think in any long term relationship, you’re going to have your ups and downs, and sometimes there is going to be big flames happening and it’s awesome. But sometimes, those flames can get a little dim, and there’s [only] little embers, and you have to blow on them to get them going again. [The song] is about if you keep that little spark lit, there’s always a way to bring back that fire.
“Throw Me a Party” is the single off my album Halfway to Home. It was inspired by the fact that four years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and I’m a survivor. When you first hear those words, “You have cancer,” it’s pretty terrifying. And I’m not alone in that. It was scary. Before [I] really knew that [I was] going to be okay, and [I was] dealing with all the bad news, I said to my husband, “Look, if something happens and I should go before you, I want you to be very sad for a very long time. But I also want to have a big party.” And I described everything that I wanted. I wanted a party and I wanted sparklers and I wanted food and I wanted my friends and I wanted everybody to sing and dance and tell stories and laugh.
And thankfully, that’s not going to happen for a long [time]. But, I had the title, “Throw Me a Party.” And so, I had a little writing camp with a bunch of songwriters, and Kara DioGuardi was there. I came, everybody was broken up into little groups, and the group that wrote, “Throw Me a Party” was Christian Bush and Liz Rose, two incredible songwriters, and me. We wrote the song about how you want to be remembered.
I realized that so many people are having that same experience, or have thought about what it is that they want to do when it’s their time. I have gotten the most beautiful comments on social media about people who have used the song for memorials, used the song at their funerals, have said, “This is the song that I want.” I do think people ultimately want to be celebrated for their lives, and everybody wants to be remembered and missed. But at the end of the day, you want to be remembered for making someone’s life better.
“At the end of the day, you want to be remembered for making someone’s life better.” – Rita Wilson
God Continues to Give Gifts to His Children
My faith has evolved as I’ve gotten older because, for one thing, it’s different. It’s not the same as when you’re younger, because the things that you think you want when you’re younger are very different. And having been blessed with an extraordinary life, you almost become more thankful. You can’t take credit for it. In a way, I feel like everything that I do—anything good that is coming out of it, I believe—is from a higher power.
“Having been blessed with an extraordinary life, you almost become more thankful. You can’t take credit for it. In a way, I feel like everything that I do—anything good that is coming out of it, I believe—is from a higher power.” – Rita Wilson
And the older I’ve gotten, I think it’s about much more of a trust and much more of a faith that things are going to be okay. I think we shared this the last time, one of my favorite quotes in the Bible is in the middle of a longer quote. “Who by worrying can add one hour to their life?” That has given me a lot of peace, because you can spiral into the craziest sort of thoughts, and when you let go of that piece of it, It’s very helpful.
I’m a big believer in prayer. It’s the way I start my day, so I don’t get out of bed without saying a prayer of gratitude. It’s funny, because it’s like I want to say, “Are you getting bored hearing all this?” Because it’s like, “I’m thankful for this and I’m thankful for that,” I just go through my list. I pray for the people that are struggling or need a little bit of extra support. I really do start my day with a prayer of gratitude, and I am saying prayers throughout the day. I think everybody, well, not everybody, but a lot of people do that. For me, it’s just a part of my day.
[My] first copy of Jesus Calling was gifted to me by my friend, Faith Hill, and it was the leather-bound one, I still have it. And then, I think, I told Kristin Chenoweth about it. So she now has it, and it’s so funny, because now that we have the app—the app is great too because it’s with you everywhere—I will send quotes back and forth to my best friend, like, “Have you read Jesus Calling today? How about this quote?” It’s kind of crazy that sometimes you read the passage from that day and it’s exactly what you need to hear. I don’t know. That is crazy and I love that on the app you can mark your favorites and that’s very helpful.
What I love about the book is that it’s a devotional. There are so many different devotionals, meditative devotionals, spiritual devotionals. But for me, what I love about it, is that Sarah Young, the writer, has basically taken her own meditations on scripture and remade them in a way that feels very accessible and very manageable, so that it’s personal in a way. It makes [me] feel more connected than just reading scripture.
This is from March 23rd:
I am a God of both intricate detail and overflowing abundance. When you entrust the details of your life to Me, you are surprised by how thoroughly I answer your petitions. I take pleasure in hearing your prayers, so feel free to bring Me all your requests. The more you pray, the more answers you can receive. Best of all, your faith is strengthened as you see how precisely I respond to your specific prayers. Because I am infinite in all My ways, you need not fear that I will run out of resources. Abundance is at the very heart of who I AM. Come to Me in joyful expectation of receiving all you need—and sometimes much more! I delight in showering blessings on My beloved children. Come to Me with open hands and heart, ready to receive all I have for you.
So good. I like the Psalm that goes along with this, too, because it says her in it.
I will bless her with abundant provisions; her poor will I satisfy with food. – Psalm 132:15
Thank you, Psalm 132:15.
“Creativity is time independent.”
I think there’s a myth that things just happen easily for you, “Oh if you want to do this, you make this happen,” and we want that to happen. But I think anybody who has worked really hard at something knows it takes a lot of effort. It takes a lot of vision and it takes a lot of discipline and consistency. Right?
For me, I think that one of the things that is the most important is to not give up. To believe that you can do something. I think if you’re doing things for the right reasons, if they’re really truthful, it’s slightly easier to make the things that you want to do happen. And I do believe that you can set goals and make them happen. But before you do that, you have to know what it is that you want.
Earlier, I talked a little bit about everybody having a gift. Since I’ve been doing music, I meet people and I sign CDs and I get to talk to people a little bit. I realize and I hear a lot of people say something like “Oh it’s so great that you’re writing and doing music now,” and “Oh I’ve always wanted to dot dot dot,” and they have a thing or a dream that they always wanted to do.
I always say, “It’s not too late to do that dream,” and, “You don’t know where that will lead you.” Like even if it’s something like taking a painting class, or drawing or sewing or cooking, whatever it is, drama, comedy, there’s always a place that you can find to start pursuing that creatively. I think that that is a really important thing that people know they’re never just stuck. It’s never too late to follow your dreams. A really good friend of mine, he’s a very successful singer/songwriter, had this amazing quote when I started writing music, and I [had] said, “What makes me think that I write music now? You’ve been doing it all your life.” And he said, “Because creativity is time independent.” And I was like, “Okay, yes, there are no rules. Do what you love.”
“Creativity is time independent.” – Rita Wilson
Narrator: You can find Rita’s new record, Halfway to Home, on iTunes or wherever music is sold.
Stay tuned for our conversation with pastor Lisa Osteen Comes after this brief message about the Jesus Calling Weekly Prayer Call.
Did you know that Sarah Young, the author of Jesus Calling, prays for her readers each day? In that spirit, we want to extend the Jesus Calling prayer community out to you in a more personal way. Each Tuesday morning, you can dial in to the Jesus Calling Weekly Prayer Call, where the team from Jesus Calling and special guests will minister to us during a ten-minute call to reflect on that day’s passage from Jesus Calling, read scripture references, and pray together for each other and our world. Prayer call times are 8:00 a.m. Eastern, 7:00 a.m. Central, 6:00 a.m. Mountain, and 5:00 a.m. Pacific and are for U.S. only.
For more information on the Jesus Calling Weekly Prayer Call, or to submit prayer requests, please visit jesuscalling.com/prayer-call.
Narrator: As Lisa Osteen Comes grew up learning and loving the Bible in a pastoring family, she never would have predicted God was planning a life in ministry for her—especially after she went through a painful divorce as a young woman. But God used Lisa’s love for the Bible and her heart for helping others and she began teaching classes for those who had been through similar relationship struggles. As she started to see healing in her life and in the lives of those she was teaching, Lisa realized God was telling her, You Are Made for More, a sentiment she shares with others in a book with that very title.
Lisa Osteen Comes: My name is Lisa Osteen Comes, and I’m an associate pastor at Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, where my brother Joel is the pastor. I’ve been working at the church for thirty-five years now. I’m married to Kevin, and we have twin girls and a son. Our son is seventeen years old, so we stay very busy between our kids and family and the ministry.
My family grew up in a little town outside of Houston called Humble, Texas. My parents had five children together and we were just normal. We loved God. We loved each other. We fought each other, just like all kids do. But our home was really a home of peace and safety and joy. It was a great childhood.
My parents started Lakewood in 1959. They were such great mentors, great parents, [who] trained us in the ways of the Lord. We all look back at our home life and realize what a blessing it was to have what we had as a family.
God Can Use Our Hurts to Heal Others
I remember that as a teenager I had this love for reading the Bible, studying the Bible. I would order Bible correspondence courses, you know, I would get books and study them because I just wanted to know more about God, I wanted to know more about His Word.
I didn’t know then, but I look back now and I see that God was preparing me to be a Bible teacher and to be a pastor, and I didn’t really realize it.
I don’t really think I considered anything else. I mean, even though I got a degree in business education, my heart was for ministry. I loved how my parents enjoyed ministry, and the one thing I love about it is that I saw it was fulfilling to them because they were helping people. I think that was my heart, I want to help people. I knew how good God had been to me, and how He had helped me through so many things in my life, and I wanted to help people too, in ministry. I think I always wanted to work in the ministry, but I don’t think I knew where.
I worked in the organizational side, just the day to day dealings of a church, helping Pastor, helping organize, working with people. And I began to teach this class of people who had been through divorces, who were separated from their mates, or even still together but struggling in their marriages. God brought me these people, and I began to teach them every Tuesday night. I looked back and [realized] He was training me to teach the Bible.
I have a best friend of over thirty years, her name is Deborah. And many years ago, when I went through an unwanted divorce, I was down, I was discouraged, but I finally got myself on track and realized that God still had a plan for my life, and I was not disqualified from ministry.
In that time, Deborah and her former husband were married, they were big youth pastors in the state of Texas and had everything going for them. But her husband left her, and she was just so broken-hearted, like I had been. Two different ministers told Deborah, “You need to go to Lisa’s classes.” Well, she didn’t want to because she thought, “I don’t want to go to a meeting where I have to stand up and say, ‘My name is Deborah, I’m divorced,’” and all that.
But anyway, she decided she really needed to come. When she did, I had already known that she was coming, these ministers had told me they were going to send her, so I began to pray for her before I ever met her. When she came into the meeting, she stood up and she said, “You know I’m new here,” because I ask for visitors to stand up. I went back and I just said, “Deborah, I’ve been praying for you for weeks. My friends told me about you. I went through a divorce also and I can tell you that God’s going to get you on the other side.”
She was so encouraged that God connected her with someone else who had gone through the very same thing. She said to me, “Lisa, looking at you and your family, I would never [have thought] that y’all would go through anything, and yet you’re telling me you went through all of this?” It just gave her hope. I said, “Let’s go to lunch,” because I wanted to encourage and pray with her. Lunch led to another lunch, another lunch, and then we became best friends and we are still today. She’s in the ministry. I just felt on my spirit one day, You are made for more, because that’s what God thinks about you when he looks at you. He says, “I made you for more, I made you for greatness.” All these things come against us in life, and sometimes it looks like we’re not gonna make it, we’re not going to live out our dreams. But with God’s help, we can.
“All these things come against us in life, and sometimes it looks like we’re not gonna make it, we’re not going to live out our dreams. But with God’s help, we can.” – Lisa Osteen Comes
Twelve years before I wrote the book, God put it in my heart to write a book about what He’d done in my life and how I overcame, how He helped me overcome. I wrote it and shared my stories, but I also interweaved it with the Word of God. How I overcame that fear, how I overcame an unwanted divorce when I was in my early twenties, just a hard and broken-hearted time in my life. I am very transparent about those those times in my life and am very practical to help you walk it out with the Word of God.
“I am God’s child, and He has a plan for me.”
I think the greatest thing that we can do as Christians, to follow the will of God, is simply follow God every day. I tell people all the time, “Do you want to know the will of God for your life? Do you want to fulfill your destiny? Well, follow God one day at a time and just get up in the morning and say, ‘God, I’m available to you. What do you have for me today? I want to follow you more than I want to do anything else.’” That’s simply making yourself available to God.
I think another thing is to just look at yourself. What did God put in you naturally? What are your gifts, what are your talents? Because whatever He puts in you, He’s going to use for your destiny, for His purpose, for His glory.
“What did God put in you naturally? What are your gifts, what are your talents? Because whatever He puts in you, He’s going to use for your destiny, for His purpose, for His glory.” – Lisa Osteen Comes
If we’re in tune with the Holy Spirit when we do that, then we will recognize God opportunities or people we can touch or minister to, or things that we need to be aware of.
I absolutely love Jesus Calling. It sits with my Bible. I read it all the time.
It so ministers to me, and it reminds me every day that Jesus is with me and that He’s listening to me and He’s directing my steps and I don’t have to be afraid. It just brings that peace into my life and I highly recommend this wonderful devotional to anyone, because it is a life-changer. I so thank God for Sarah Young and this beautiful devotional.
Let me just close by saying this: I think knowing that God has a plan and a purpose for you is key, because God created you. He created you on purpose, and He created you for a purpose. He put greatness inside each one of us. I think until we recognize that, we’re not going to move forward in the direction that He wants us to. Sometimes that means taking labels off of our lives and beginning to believe that, “I am God’s child and He has a plan for me. He will help me if He calls me. He will equip me and help me to do whatever He has called me to do.” Take those steps, pursue God, and say openly to God, “God, here I am. I want to do your will. I want to do whatever you call me to do.” He’ll get you there.
“I am God’s child and He has a plan for me. He will help me if He calls me. He will equip me and help me to do whatever He has called me to do.” – Lisa Osteen Comes
If you’d like to hear more stories about how God has created us for a purpose, check out our interview with country music artist RaeLynn.
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we talk with viral sensations The Singing Contractors. While working on a house one day, Indiana natives Aaron Gray and Josh Arnett decided to take a break and film themselves singing “How Great Thou Art.” Little did they know, their video would garner more than 100 million views and touch hearts around the world. Josh and Aaron share what drives them to sing.
Singing Contractors: I think people were surprised that a couple of ugly guys could belt out some tunes like that, literally dropping the tool belts where we stood, where we actually worked. It wasn’t a made up place, it was actually the job. Dropping [the tools], saying, “Let’s do this tune.” We recorded that thing one time. We had no idea what it would do, and it’s still staggering that within thirty-two hours it had a million views. That means a lot, but what we like about it most is that people are hearing a message of encouragement and [a message] about the gospel through a simple song, through a couple of simple guys.
Narrator: Do you love hearing these stories of faith weekly from people like you whose lives have been changed by a closer walk with God? Then be sure to subscribe to the Jesus Calling: Stories of Faith Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. If you like what you’re hearing, leave us a review so that we can reach others with these inspirational stories. And, you can also see these interviews on video as part of our original web series with a new interview premiering every other Sunday on Facebook Live. Find previously broadcasted interviews on our Youtube channel, on IGTV, or on jesuscalling.com/media/video.