Dennis Quaid: You know, I think Jesus was here to teach us not just about life after death, but this life right here, about having heaven on earth in your daily life and what that felt like. And, you know, that’s a joyous celebration.
Yearning for the Divine: Dennis Quaid & Makenzie Phipps – Episode #369
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. The search for God is a deeply personal endeavor, often paralleling our journey to self-discovery. As we seek to know more about Him, we might read books, listen to sermons, or study Scripture. These all add to our understanding of who God is, but the best way to find Him is simply to talk to Him like you would a friend. And in case we think that we have to pray a certain way, or act a certain way to talk to God, we can rest in the knowledge that a relationship with Him doesn’t demand perfection; instead, it thrives on authenticity and humility, fostering a safe space for exploration, growth, and understanding.
When actor Dennis Quaid was a young man, he went on a quest to find Him by simply asking along the way one question: Who is God? After much searching and not finding anything that filled the vacant space inside him, he returned to the faith of his childhood and found the joys of a relationship with Jesus. Country singer Makenzie Phipps has been playing music from a very young age, much to the delight of her grandmother who has supported her all along the way. But now, Makenzie has found herself in a place of needing to support her grandmother as she faces the long decline of Alzheimer’s disease, and how she’s seeking God through it all.
Let’s start with Dennis’ story.
Dennis Quaid: I’m Dennis Quaid. I am a musician today, an actor and whatnot. I’ve really had a very lucky life. I really have, you know, I pinch myself sometimes. And I’ve gotten to do what I love to do and I get paid for it.
Music has always been a love of mine. Probably the first love, I guess, and not to take away from acting, but it’s so portable and it’s so therapeutic and it’s just fun. You know, I was thirteen and it was summer, and I wanted a guitar. I think I had seven bucks or something like that, and my grandfather put in another seven, and bought me a guitar.
It was like a friend to me, a guitar, because we had moved from the block that I’d grown up on and my parents were divorced. And so after school, my mom would be at work and my brother was locked in his room doing his thing, and having a guitar was having a friend, really, you know, something good to really put yourself into.
Who Is God to You?
We went to the First Baptist of Bel Air down on Bel Air Boulevard and we’d go to Sunday School, and then we’d, you know, go to church. My brother and I both got baptized at the same time. I think I was nine and he was twelve, and I remember his assistant baseball coach came over and talked with him on the couch about getting baptized. And I was watching television in the next room, but I could hear them and I decided I wanted to get baptized, too. So that’s how that occurred.
I was about nine, and I did become kind of disillusioned with church. I think it was an incident, actually, that I’d forgotten [to bring] my quarter for offering at Sunday school. And I really got reprimanded by the Sunday school teacher. And I guess in retrospect, it’s not just one person, but it just kind of turned me off as a kid. And it was the sixties and everything, and everybody was looking for other things as a teenager.
I think I was always a seeker, but I went out of searching for the same thing I wound up finding, really. I read a book in high school that introduced me to kind of another way of thinking about who God was to other people around the world. And from that, I wound up—I read the Dhammapada, I read the Bhagavad Gita, I read the Quran. I went around the world. In my twenties—I had a video recorder—and my question to just random people would be, “Who is God to you?”
I think I’m one of those people that you have to turn over every stone, sometimes two or three times. And after I did get sober, you know, I think I expected things to get better, but you know, they don’t necessarily get better just immediately like that. And it was a real kind of struggle and grinding of the teeth.
I think people do drugs or, you know—people worship all kinds of things. If you’re doing drugs, your god is drugs, because that’s what’s filling that hole inside you, or it’s money or it’s sex or it’s a relationship, all these things that could break down, because we all handle it our way instead of the real deal, which is God, which is, you know, Jesus.
And I still needed something to fill that hole. I read the Bible again, I’ve read it like four or five times from cover to cover—this was back in the nineties—and I was really struck by the red words of Jesus, which really brought me around for the first time of having a personal relationship with Jesus that I don’t think I had really understood before, because I was trying to handle things myself.
God was always over there or He was out there and not here, and it was just something about what Jesus said. He’s a personal experience that you have with Him, rather than something that’s just an idea. It’s hard to express it in words, that relationship, because words don’t capture it. It’s about letting go and letting God work in your life, that’s all.
“God was always over there or He was out there and not here, and it was just something about what Jesus said. He’s a personal experience that you have with Him, rather than something that’s just an idea…It’s about letting go and letting God work in your life, that’s all.” – Dennis Quaid
We’re all going through the same things. A lot of people get embarrassed. I mean, I myself was like that, kind of embarrassed or reluctant to talk about my faith, to express it. Music helps, it was also something to give to other people. That’s what it’s for, you know? And I guess that’s really what kind of started the start of the idea of doing a gospel record. I already had one song written, which was “On My Way to Heaven.” And then, you know, things started to come.
It’s just the idea that I myself, you know, I’m a sinner, I’ve always been a sinner. And there’s always room for sinners. Jesus hung out with sinners. That’s where He went, into those places of the Pharisees and those who said, “That’s beneath us,” that’s where he went. That’s what we all are, that’s who I am—I speak for myself—but yet there’s still room for you at the table. That’s why I call it, “Fallen”, and “Fallen” is a song that is about that, about somebody who leaves home, and it’s a prodigal son story.
“There’s still room for you at the table.” – Dennis Quaid
We’re Forgiven Before We Even Ask For It
We’re all sinners, and it’s taken me a lot to get the point that Jesus actually came here, and we were forgiven of our sins even before we committed those sins—that’s all we need.
“We’re all sinners, and it’s taken me a lot to get the point that Jesus actually came here, and we were forgiven of our sins even before we committed those sins—that’s all we need.” – Dennis Quaid
Prayer is a way of having an experience of having a personal relationship with God that is yours, and there’s peace in that that’s not dependent on what’s going on today. You know, sometimes it’s just sitting there with Him, but it’s a connection.
This is from Jesus Listens, August 30th:
Lovely Lord Jesus,
Help me to look in the right direction as I go through this day. In the world around me, there are vistas of bright beauty as well as dark, ugly wastelands. When I look the right way—toward what is true, noble, lovely—I’m encouraged and strengthened. You created me with a wonderful capacity to enjoy beauty and goodness. My soul resonates with these blessings and draws strength from them.
Every day I encounter some things that make me cringe— things that are wrong and ugly. Help me deal with these things without letting them become my focus. I need to bring these matters to You and seek Your perspective. Then I can go on my way lightheartedly. I’m blessed by hearing You say time after time, “Beloved, look the right way.”
This world in its fallen condition can never satisfy me fully. I yearn for perfection, and only You are the fulfillment of that deep longing. You are perfect and holy, yet You choose to stay close to me as I walk through this sin-stained world. When I look the right way—toward blessings, toward You—the Joy of Your Presence shines brightly upon me.
In Your perfect, holy Name,
Narrator: Be sure to check out Dennis’ new record, Fallen: A Gospel Album for Sinners, wherever you get your music.
Stay tuned to Makenzie Phipps’ story after a brief message.
Spreading Hope With Samaritan’s Purse
At Samaritan’s Purse, we bring spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. We go into dangerous situations because in disaster and disease, in war, Jesus calls us to love our neighbor, to heal the sick, and feed the hungry, restore the broken. All who work and volunteer with Samaritan’s Purse follow the example of Jesus. We go to serve, not to be served. And we go in Jesus’ name. Join us at www.samaritanspurse.org.
Our next guest is singer and songwriter Makenzie Phipps. Makenzie opens up about the challenges of witnessing her grandma’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease, and how through the pressures of being a young musician, God has always been her anchor and place of peace.
Makenzie Phipps: My name is Makenzie Phipps, I’m now living in Nashville, I’m a Nashville singer/songwriter and recording artist, and I absolutely love to sing. Singing has been my entire life for as long as I could possibly remember, and I just love being able to share my music with the world.
I started singing at a very young age, you know, on my mom’s side of the family especially, they were all very musically oriented and they loved playing different instruments and singing. And one of my uncles, actually, was a big songwriter back in the day, and he had actually written songs for Johnny Cash’s brother, some for Alison Krauss, Crystal Gayle, and so forth. So I definitely had some musical roots to me, to say the least.
Failure Doesn’t Define You
The West Virginia State Fair was like the first competition I had ever done, and I think I was probably thirteen maybe, and this competition was set up so everybody would go in the first round and you’d sing a song and the judges would all talk amongst themselves and they would pick who would go to the final round.
I did “Because of You” and I made it through, and the other song I had practiced was actually by Evanescence, and that probably sounds so shocking because I’m a country singer and I’m singing Evanescence back in the day, but I actually could have chose to sing the first song that I had prepared. But my family and my friends were like, “You know, you’ve worked so hard on this other song, I think you should do it.”
So I went up there and got just so nervous, scared out of my mind. And I sang that whole song, but I sounded like a goat the entire time because I just shook the entire time. I was so nervous. And I just remember getting off stage, I went to the bathroom, and I was just crying my eyes out because I was like, Oh my gosh, this is like the worst day of my entire life. I’m so embarrassed.
And that was honestly what I needed at that time because, you know, I’ve always been such a big perfectionist with my music. I still am to this very day. And when that event occurred, I always tell people—the biggest piece of advice that I give people that are starting out in the music business or just doing stuff like that—to not be afraid of failure. Because I always say, “There’s going to be one point in your career that’s going to be rock bottom, the absolute worst,” and for me it was that performance. And I always just say, “From that point on, nothing is going to beat that. Nothing’s going to be as bad as that. So everything from that point on is just going to be bigger and better opportunities.”
I always try to stay humble. I always try to stay kind. And, you know, especially with the Lord, you know, He gave me this talent and I’m trying so hard to just be able to do as much as I can with it and to make Him proud and to have all these people know that God is definitely the reason I’m doing this. I cannot stress that enough. He is the whole reason I’m doing this, and I’ve been very fortunate for all of the opportunities that I’ve been given.
When a Loved One Has Alzheimer’s
I love talking about my Maw Maw. You know, when I was younger, I would go over to her house every single week. I always loved going over there, because she was always there, and it was so simple living. She always used to cook all these amazing meals and everything like that, and it was just a very, very happy place for my childhood. She has always been such a big supporter of my music, even today.
Over the last year or so, you know, the memory was starting to fade quite a bit. The Alzheimer’s was progressing very rapidly.
If you do have somebody in your life that suffers from the illness, you know that sometimes they have good days and sometimes they have bad days. You’ll go over and you’ll have a lovely conversation and then ten minutes later you’ll have the same lovely conversation. Sometimes my Maw Maw just didn’t want to cooperate.
I was taking her out for her birthday and I was going to take her out to dinner. And, you know, she hadn’t been to a restaurant in a while because especially with her mind not being where it used to be, we didn’t know how she would really react to going out at restaurants and that stuff. And I told my mom I was like, “I really want to take her out to dinner at Cracker Barrel and I want to get her a really nice meal and just spend time with her for her birthday, because she hasn’t done it in a while.” And unfortunately, when I brought her to the house, it was a not-so-good day.
When we brought her over that day, you know, she was having issues as far as cooperating, getting ready. And I just remember I went and I sat on the couch and I was just so upset because I was just like, “She’s not her. I wish she was, she’s not fully her.” And I just was so upset when she wasn’t cooperating with getting ready. And I went and sat down on the couch and I’m just crying my eyes out, and I was just so upset.
I’ve always talked about—especially with this illness—it’s not them. Like it’s basically a soul that’s gone, living away, but the person’s still here. I put on a brave face. I put on a happy face because I was like, “Today’s her day. I want to treat her.” So I took her out to dinner. We had an amazing time. She absolutely loved to go and get some Cracker Barrel biscuits and chicken and dumplings.
I’m just very fortunate that I still have her in my life because I know a lot of people out there don’t have that luxury of having their grandparents involved in their life, or have passed. So I’m very grateful that she is doing as well as she could be.
You Are Not Alone
I just want people to know that they are not alone in this world. And I just hope people out there do realize that they are not alone, and that everything will work itself out in the end. There definitely will be some things that may take you a step back, but you can only push through and persevere and go to the next step because it’s always just a climbing journey.
“I just hope people out there do realize that they are not alone, and that everything will work itself out in the end. There definitely will be some things that may take you a step back, but you can only push through and persevere and go to the next step because it’s always just a climbing journey.” – Makenzie Phipps
I’ve always told people that I would not be anywhere in this world without the good Lord above. You know, He’s the reason that I’m doing what I love today. He’s the reason that I’m able to share my music with the world.
I pray every single night. You know, that’s the last thing I do before I go to bed. I’ll do all of my night routine, skin care, do all that kind of stuff, and I’ll go and get in bed. And if I’m having a bad day or if I’m having a good day, I always just lay it out. And I always tell Him what I’m feeling.
I just feel like God has a path for everybody and I feel like He’s paving the way for me in my music. Every day is just a new opportunity and a new experience, and I just have to leave everything in His hands because He knows what He wants me to do at the end of the day and I just have to trust Him.
“I just feel like God has a path for everybody and I feel like He’s paving the way for me in my music. Every day is just a new opportunity and a new experience, and I just have to leave everything in His hands because He knows what He wants me to do at the end of the day and I just have to trust Him.” – Makenzie Phipps
At the end of the day, the Lord does love us. He loves every single one of us. And He’s always there in our lives whether we want to accept Him or not, but I do feel that if you embrace the Lord into your life and you know you have a good connection with Him and you allow Him to do what He needs to do in your life and have Him take control of any choices you make in the world, I feel your life will get better day by day.
I am reading Jesus Listens and I am reading from May 2nd:
Sometimes I hear You whispering in my heart, “I take great delight in you.” It’s hard for me to receive this blessing, but I know it’s based on the unconditional Love You have for all Your children. Please help me to relax in the Light of Your Presence—taking time to soak in Your luminous Love. I long to sit quietly with You while You renew me by Your Love.
I need to remember that Your delight in me is based on Your finished work on the cross. This remembrance protects me from falling into the trap of trying to earn Your Love. Teach me to live as the one I truly am—Your beloved child, saved by grace through faith. Then my gratitude will keep me close to You, eager to follow wherever You lead.
In Your wondrous Name, Jesus,
Narrator: To learn more about Makenzie Phipps and to keep up with her music journey, follow her on social media, and keep an eye out for her new song, “Life Gives You Love” releasing soon.
If you’d like to hear more stories about finding peace, check out our interview with Cam Ayala.
Next week: Jo Dee Messina
Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we’ll hear from powerful country music artist Jo Dee Messina, who shares about how she worked to build a beautiful life and career—only to watch it crumble because it wasn’t built on a solid foundation. It was at that rock bottom that she turned to Jesus for connection—and everything changed.
Jo Dee Messina: Prayer reminds you that you’re not alone. When you turn your eyes to Him, He will fill you. He will show up.