Tamela Mann: What I thank God for [is] Him living in me and giving me the opportunity to represent Him, and my thing is always to represent Him well. I just want Him to be proud of me.
Using Our Skills to Bring Hope & Joy Toward a Brighter Day: David and Tamela Mann and Laura Story – Episode #312
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. We humans are, by design, creators. We build. We write. We cook. We adapt. We learn. Hardship tends to bring out the best in our creative abilities. The first book of Hebrew describes in poetic brilliance the story of God creating order out of supreme chaos, bringing light out of darkness, and life from lifeless spaces. We praise our Creator in no greater way than when we take what is before us in our skills, our desires, and our time to create beautiful things where there was nothing.
Today’s guests found that difficult times and their unique life stages gave fertile soil for their creative ideas. The husband/wife team of David and Tamela Mann turned to their music and comedy sketches to bring joy and hope. Singer Laura Story turned to writing and penned a book about courage not being the absence of fear but the strength to take another step.
Let’s start with David and Tamela Mann’s story.
Tamela: Hi, my name is Tamela Mann. I am an artist, singer, actress, mother, wife, grandmother, songwriter, oh my goodness, entrepreneur—I’ve just started my own clothing line—but foremost, I am a true believer and I’m a child of the King.
David Mann: I’m David Mann. First, I’m a believer, I’m a husband, I’m a father, grandfather. I’m a comedian, actor, entrepreneur, author, label owner, a little bit of everything, but I’m just a good guy.
Tamela: We’re just servers.
Representing God Through Creative Pursuits
David: My faith has always played a—I remember [as] a little boy, just being in church with my grandfather and my mom. You didn’t have a choice. In my mom’s house, you got up and you went to church and that built a foundation in me that even today is part of our house. So that played a big part in my faith is having them to give me that foundation.
Tamela: Growing up in the church, I started singing at eight years old. Well, after going to rehearsals with my older siblings doing choir rehearsal, I kind of found myself standing on the side of the choir stand on the floor. They would be up in the stand, and I’d be singing along. And I really kind of fell in love with it. And the musician heard me singing and learning the parts, so he encouraged me. And I started singing with the youth choir, even though then when I was singing it was called The Sunshine Band for the Kids. But then I started singing along with them in rehearsal. By the time I was twelve, I was in the senior choir, and I think I really found my place. It’s something that I loved. And I kind of realized at twelve that this is something that I could do.
But at first, they had some older singers and a couple of them got married and they moved and went off to churches with them. So they brought me in, and then I started singing with this other group. I background sang with Willie Stewart, then I background sang with James Moore, and then every time Mattie Moss Clark and Twinkie Clark would come to town, I would always go and be a part, the director would always include me and take me to be a part of the workshop.
I mean, singing has been my life. It’s been my world. It’s been my savior. I thank God that church was free.
David: You didn’t have to pay to go.
Tamela: I don’t have to pay to go.
David: No cover charge.
Tamela: I thank God for Him living in me and giving me the opportunity to represent Him, and my thing is always to represent Him well. And I want to make my heavenly Father—I want to be pleasing unto His sight. I just want Him to be proud of me.
“I thank God for Him living in me and giving me the opportunity to represent Him, and my thing is always to represent Him well.” – Tamela Mann
Being a Christian in the Entertainment Business
David: Some of the highs and lows of my career, one is just having the faith to step out and let this be what I want to do. Because in our entertainment business—here today and tomorrow—you can be eating caviar and then you can be down to Beanie Weenies. That’s what comes along with the territory. And what I love about this is being able to go out on stage, [with] the gift that God has given me, to be able to spread joy.
What I always tell the audience when I’m doing my stand-up comedy is, “At the door, I want you to leave all the problems, the worries, and everything that you are dealing with and have dealt with. Just come and let the laughter that I give you be the medicine.”
You know, when you think the anointing is on somebody, you think, Okay, it’s just on the preachers and the singers and the teachers. And so I always thought my gift had no anointing. And the Lord just stopped me one day and said, “What I gave you is anointed. You’re anointed to do what I gave you, and you’re anointed to make people laugh.”
The way I like to use my platform, there are certain things that I will and won’t do because I want my life to be a reflection of who He is in my life. And there are certain roles I know I could have gotten paid some good money, but I want to make sure that when I’m on that set, I don’t have to go on the set screaming, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!” They’ll see by my actions, and they’ll see not just by my actions, but by my consistent actions. Because sometimes I’m going to mess up, just because of the nature of who I am. But they see my consistency and who I am and who He is in me. And that’s how I try to use my platform to bring more light to Him.
“I try to use my platform to bring more light to [God].” – David Mann, on his comedy career
Tamela: But even in the industry that we work in—TV, movie stuff—some of the senses can get kind of crazy. But we chose to let Him be the light in our lives and set the tone of what we would like to be around us.
David: We come in and we always tell each other we’ve got to set the atmosphere, and we know the atmosphere. We want to come in with an atmosphere of peace, love, some of unity. And so we set that atmosphere. So if we are on a set, that’s the atmosphere, we say, “Okay, that’s what it’s going to be today.”
Tamela: And then it starts helping people and people kind of join. They will catch it.
Becoming an Overcomer
Tamela: My new album is entitled Overcomer. There’s things that I’ve been dealing with over the past few years, and God is really helping me overcome, first of all, some fears, and insecurities, and that’s how Overcomer became the title.
A little bit more about it is I have a song on there entitled “Help.” I realized myself that it’s okay to ask people for help. A lot of times we run from that. It’s okay to get mental help. If you need to go sit down to talk to someone, it’s okay. It doesn’t make you bad, it doesn’t mean you’re crazy. You just need another outlet to express yourself.
A lot of us need help, but we’re afraid to ask for the help, and we all need a touch from the Lord. There’s a song on there—it’s really fun—called “Hello, God.” We’re talking to Him like the thing that you do every day with Jesus Calling. You take that time to just say, “Hello, thank You, Lord, for this day that You’ve given me.”
“A lot of us need help, but we’re afraid to ask for the help, and we all need a touch from the Lord.” – Tamela Mann
Actually, Jesus Calling, I discovered it on a rack on tour. You know how you have the little racks—
Tamela: Like in the gas stations?
Tamela: They had some of the little small booklets there. And that was the first—
David: That’s right, that’s right.
Tamela: And then the second one when I got some more books, we’ve gotten some from Christian bookstores. And then we were doing our book and they were like, “We got a whole bunch of stuff that has this…”
David: “We have this book called Jesus Calling.” Let’s see what it’s like.
Tamela: I love that it’s an easy read. It gives you enough. And it’s encouraging to me because it gives you enough to just stay through the day, that time that you can speak with God, to give God some time.
David: I think that we all should be praying for—not to sound too deep—is just peace for this country.
Tamela: For our country.
David: Our country is just a great divide. You know, when you encounter people, you kind of try to figure out, Are you friend or foe? And it shouldn’t be that way. So I’m just praying that we can all just unify somehow, see each other as people, not skin color and not political affiliation. So it’s just like, “Lord, let’s just see each other as people and walk hand in hand, and we can sit down and have a conversation and not become, ‘Oh, you’re affiliated with that party? Okay, I can’t be friends with you.’” I’m praying for peace.
“I’m just praying that we can all just unify somehow, see each other as people, not skin color and not political affiliation.” – David Mann
Narrator: If you’d like to see and hear Tamela and David and the ways they are bringing hope and joy to the world, you can catch David on the Tyler Perry show Assisted Living on BET, and you can find Tamela’s new record, Overcomer, wherever you buy music.
Narrator: Stay tuned to our interview with Laura Story right after this brief message.
A Gift of Encouragement & Peace: Jesus Calling for Moms
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Narrator: Our next guest is contemporary Christian singer/songwriter Laura Story. Over the years, Laura realized that the concept of a “normal” life always felt unattainable, and she was tired of grasping at straws when God created her for so much more.
Laura Story: Hey, I’m Laura Story, and I am a wife and mom of four kids, a worship leader, and a writer.
Wandering from Faith & Coming Back
I was raised in the church, a fantastic, big, Baptist church downtown. It’s not just where I kind of learned about God and learned about the Bible. It’s actually where I started to grow musically.
And it wasn’t until college that the faith I had been taught my whole life, I kind of had that opportunity to make it my own. I realized very quickly after starting college that not everyone believed all of this and started asking that question of, Okay, do I believe this?
I was living differently than I knew God had called me to live. And it’s like when we give our lives to Christ, He really does make us new people. We get a new identity. And I was living differently than a child of God should live, and I felt that. And it was more tiring because I just felt like I wasn’t living into who I really was.
It was probably right after my freshman year that I went on a mission trip, and that’s when God really got ahold of my heart. Going to a different context and seeing the power of the gospel, what that looks like in a world that had so much less as far as resources and things like that. I met so many believers who had next to nothing, but they had Jesus, and they were fine. I thought, Golly, That’s the gospel: the things of this world will come and go. But He’s enough to sustain me, whatever happens.
Music as a Vessel for the Gospel
So at first, when I felt like God really got a hold in my life and showed me that the rest of my life would be on mission for Him, whether that was in church ministry or somewhere else, I felt like I would be spending the rest of my life talking about this thing called the gospel that had so impacted me, but I had no idea how to do that through music. And so at first I kind of put music on the back burner and then I had some really, really wise people say, “Hey, you can actually use music to tell people about Jesus.”
So I started in Christian music as a string bass player. I was in a band called Siler’s Bald, and I was with them for about five years. We played college campuses and youth camps.
And eventually I began to write more. I guess it’s been ten years now that I wrote the song “Blessings,” and that was when I kind of moved. I kind of mark that season in my life as moving from the back of the stage to the front of the stage, reluctantly. I loved supporting on string bass. I loved writing songs that other people would record. But “Blessings” was very much my story.
I wasn’t intending to sing that as a soloist in front of audiences for the next ten years. But it was such an intimate song that was specifically my story, and it was where God had me. It was what He was teaching me in that moment. And ultimately, it was the song that God knew that I needed to sing to myself for the next ten years.
Where Are You in the Picture of Your Life?
Someone asked me years ago, ”If I took a picture of your ministry, would I see you in the middle of every picture? Would I see you front and center in every picture?” And the truth is, there are seasons where that’s needed, where I need to be front and center. But hopefully at this point in my life, I’m able to be on the sides of some of these pictures, and maybe even the person behind the camera at some point in time. I don’t want to be the one who’s always needing to be in the middle and then needing to be the one that is using my gifts, even right now.
So I work in a church, I’ve been here sixteen years. And I’d say my role here—I still do some worship leading on Sunday mornings, but for the most part, I’ve been able to move into a coaching role. And it can be humbling at times because I’m thinking, Golly, that guy’s doing way better than I ever did this, because I think I thought when I got to the point of coaching that I would be teaching and I’d be done learning. But that’s been the neatest thing is learning from this next generation things that I still need to know. And so it’s very much a kind of reciprocal role, and that’s kind of what makes it fun and beautiful.
I think about the times that I’m on stage with Casting Crowns in front of 10,000 people. And then I think about the days that I’ve spent at my church in a small, broom-closet-sized room teaching a discipleship group to young moms who are barely hanging on. It’s not like one is a greater calling than the other. It’s just the season that God has me in and being content, serving where God has me, whether it’s in front of the masses or whether it’s just to a handful of people. Again, exactly how Jesus did it.
You know, there were times He was teaching to the masses. There’s times that He was teaching just to the group of two or three. I always tell young songwriters who were asking me, “How do I get my song out there? How do I get my name out there?” I always say, “Don’t seek to be famous. Seek to be faithful, and trust God with the scope of your ministry, because He knows best, not us.”
“Don’t seek to be famous. Seek to be faithful.” – Laura Story’s advice to young songwriters
Looking to God in Times of Trouble
At the very beginning of the pandemic, like everyone else, we were at our house. I’m watching the news. Everything’s getting canceled. Everything’s crazy. And I realized it wasn’t just that everything was crazy, it was that *I* was crazy. I was just consumed by just the chaos. And it didn’t take me very long to realize when you have four young kids watching you, it really affects how you walk through a season of life. Because with your kids, you realize, Okay, my kids are going to remember a whole lot less about what happened in this season of life and a whole lot more about how I responded in this season of life.
And so rather than kind of looking to the news, or looking to social media, or looking to the cancelation of every event I had planned that year, rather than looking to that for stability, I began to look to God’s Word—because this is not the first time that we have seen our lives be shaken in such a substantial way. So the first time the church has been shaken, it’s not the first time that God has allowed a substantial shaking in our world.
One of the neat things that I began to see from the Scriptures was that God is often calling people to this unknown future. I think about Abraham. I think about Moses and Mary and Ruth, and I began to study their stories. But the coolest thing that I saw: it’s not just that God was calling them to something extraordinary and unprecedented. It was that He was beginning this unprecedented work by calling them away from what was comfortable and familiar. And it just struck me: God, what if You’re allowing this unprecedented season for an unprecedented work that You’re wanting to do through me? And it really shaped how I began to respond to all of it.
I am seeing this departure of normal as an opportunity for me to kind of see, Okay, what were the structures I was really leaning on in the first place? Because I would always tell you I’m a person of faith, whatever that means. And I’m great at being a person of faith until whatever chapter of my story actually requires faith. I’m great at being a person of faith when I have the whole blueprint in front of me or when I agree with the plan that God is inviting me to join Him on.
“I’m great at being a person of faith until whatever chapter of my story actually requires faith.” – Laura Story
I’d like to read a passage from Jesus Calling dated April 15th:
Trust Me, and don’t be afraid. Many things feel out of control. Your routines are not running smoothly. You tend to feel more secure when your life is predictable. Let Me lead you to the rock that is higher than you and your circumstances. Take refuge in the shelter of My wings, where you are absolutely secure. When you are shaken out of your comfortable routines, grip My hand tightly and look for growth opportunities. Instead of bemoaning the loss of your comfort, accept the challenge of something new. I lead you on from glory to glory, making you fit for My kingdom. Say yes to the ways I work in your life. Trust Me, and don’t be afraid.
The thing that we’re that we’re finding is that God didn’t create us for normal. He didn’t create us for average. He didn’t create us for these manageable, self-sufficient lives. He created us for extraordinary lives that are completely and utterly dependent upon Him.
“God didn’t create us for normal. He created us for extraordinary lives that are completely and utterly dependent on Him.” – Laura Story
Being a person of faith is that we’re not always getting it right. We’re not always understanding it, but we’re hanging in there because we truly are connected to a God who is greater than all of this. Through the person of Jesus, the world can fall apart and we can still be held because we believe our God holds the world.
Narrator: To learn more about Laura, please visit www.laurastorymusic.com. And check out her book, So Long, Normal: Living and Loving the Free Fall of Faith, at your favorite retailer.
If you’d like to hear more stories about reflecting the image of our Creator, check out our interview with Alex Seeley.
Next Week: Kristin Smedley
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we’ll hear from author, speaker, and blind community advocate Kristin Smedley, who shares the story of how she overcame hard feelings toward God when her son became blind.
Kristin Smedley: I was raised on a firm foundation of faith and that God is good and He wants good things for you in this world. And I thought to myself, What kind of a God does this? This is hard. I mean, honestly, I thought, It’s mean. I’m looking at this perfect little person and all of my hopes and dreams for him—I spent the next three years walking away from my faith because I just could not get my head around a God that would do something like this.