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Amy Grant has been guided by faith all her life, without becoming that ‘preachy Church Lady’

Amy Grant is the best-selling female Christian music artist in the world.

With 30 million albums sold worldwide, nine platinum albums, six Grammy Awards and 26 Dove Awards under her belt, Grant also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

But she has said she prefers an evening of hanging out with her family to life in the spotlights, and that her faith is a simple gift that she relies on, both in tough days and good ones.

Married to country star Vince Gill, Grant has three children from her first marriage — Matt, 21, Millie, 19, and Sarah, 16. Gill has a daughter from his first marriage, Jenny, 26. And the couple have a daughter, Corrina, 7.

We caught up with Grant this week at her home near Nashville for a discussion of her faith and family.

Q: You've said that you went to church regularly with your parents. When and how did you make that relationship with Christ your own?

A: It sort of was in two phases. I remember that May evening when I was 12. I knew I was going to walk down the aisle that Sunday evening (to accept Christ). It was very thought out. I just remember how special it was.

Then, two years later, when I was 14, and on through high school, I started going to a different church. My two oldest sisters went to school in Boston and started going to a church that was very active. When they came home, they looked around and got active in a Nashville church on Music Row. It was musical, but people were in blue jeans and barefoot. Street people came. A lot of college kids.

I had so much Bible; I knew it like I knew history and my math facts. But it was in that free-form setting at Belmont Church that I came to know a relationship with Jesus. All the dots were connecting. I prayed a lot as a little kid, but it was a lot of King James speaking — a lot of reverence. I loved it. I loved the old hymns. At my all-girls high school, it was a very intense education; really high standards. I saw a lot of mental, emotional, spiritual need, but it's easy to medicate when you have money — new clothes, a new car. But I wasn't around a lot of physical need.

When I went to the (Belmont) youth group, we walked into an apartment. These kids were so welcoming, so inviting. None came from my school. They were so easygoing and open. There were drug problems, a couple of unexpected pregnancies, people whose parents couldn't pay the rent. I loved my school, but I plugged into that youth group.

I began writing songs and asked another friend to do songs with me in a school assembly. We sang and shared stories. After that, I found letters stuffed in my locker, in my books, from a lot of upperclassmen saying, "Can we talk?" More needs than I knew.

Q: Do you have a favorite Bible verse?

A: So many. When I was in college, a group of us used to run, or jog or limp, and for a time, we had to bring a verse and then we had to memorize it while we were jogging. I think that lasted maybe one week. Mine was Hebrews 10:23 — "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful."

Q: You've gone through a lot of challenges and changes in the past 10 years. How has your faith helped you?

A: For all of us, our faith shapes how we see life. My husband came back a while ago after having lunch with a new friend. This man had opened up about his war experiences (in Vietnam), about the killing and the horrors. This man said, "My faith saved me from the war." That's true. Our faith saves us from ourselves, our circumstances. There have been times of amazing growth and times of feeling stagnant for a lot of reasons.

I think a great thing happens after you turn 40. I have found that my emotional pendulum doesn't swing as wide, and my emotional and spiritual roots feel deeper. I remember looking at my parents' spiritual maturity when I was a kid and wondering, "When am I going to feel like that?" I think it's the hard times, whether they're imposed on us or whether we bring them on ourselves, that brings it.

Q: Are you doing anything different in sharing your faith and beliefs with your youngest daughter, Corrina, than you did with your older three children?

A: Probably. I guess I'd have to ask them. I'm older and probably more relaxed. I would imagine that hopefully at times, I'm a better listener than I was as a young mom.

Q: Now that you're the mom of a couple of young adults, how has your spiritual advice or practices changed? Do you ever want to throttle them for some of the choices they're making?

A: I find I say less the older I get. They're not going to listen anyway, unless they want to hear. When they're children, you're sort of gearing toward them. As adults, I talk to them like I would talk to myself, only I say a lot less. Mostly, I try to be encouraging. Life is the greatest teacher. At this point, it's not going to be mom's words.

One of my kids, I won't say which one, was having a really tough time the other night. We were out on the front porch. You know, you can't fix it. We sat in the rocking chair. I said, "Two things come to mind right now. One was a verse your grandmother used to quote all the time — 'All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.' And then I added, 'You know, all of us are called according to his purpose.' That might not be other people's theology, but it's what I believe — that all of us are called for his purpose.

Second, I heard Bruce Springsteen once say, "Great enlightenment is always preceded by a f---up." I don't talk that way, but it was a quote. It's life. The things in heaven and things on earth are so articulated by Bruce and God. That's the way I've raised my kids — I'm not preachy Church Lady.

Q: What's the best part of being God's daughter?

A: The best part is knowing if I never lifted a finger, it wouldn't change his love for me. That's true of everybody. We just live in such a performance-based world — who looks the best, who serves the best, who tries the hardest, who does the most. I mean I don't want to lay around in bed and eat bon bons. But I'm so thankful that I don't have to work to earn his love.

Bee staff writer Sue Nowicki can be reached at 578-2012 or snowicki@modbee.com.

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