Joni Eareckson Tada is revered as one of the most inspirational women in our day. Her life story of spiritual transformation and emotional healing after the accident that left her a quadriplegic resonates with millions. Her compelling story and gifts are the reason she was asked to sing the theme song for the movie, Alone Yet Not Alone. Yet, Joni is quick to reveal that her inspiration comes from God, and He uses hymns and spiritual melodies to sooth her soul even in her darkest moments.
The Benefits of Music Research clearly shows that music can ease pain, relieve depression, elevate mood, and reduce stress. Scientists have also recently found that emotions experienced while listening to or singing music have a healthy effect on our brains, circulatory system, and lungs. It’s no surprise that music is an important tool to keeping the body healthy. London University’s Music Professor, Graham Welch asserts that, “Singing has physical benefits as an aerobic activity that increases oxygenation in the blood stream. Helen Astrid from the Helen Astrid Singing Academy in London feels that, “Singing is an excellent way to produce those happy hormones called endorphins and keep our bodies fit.” According to the findings of a joint study by Harvard and Yale, singing can actually help you to live longer, and The Music Making and Wellness project reveals that music even slows down the aging process. To Joni Eareackson Tada, the benefits of singing go well beyond the physical and psychological to meeting our spiritual needs. It’s one of the secrets to her success and ability to deal with the trials of life. Her love for music, prayer, her marriage, and her intimate relationship with her Savior, are probably the reasons she has lived this long as a quadriplegic.
Her latest song, Alone Yet Not Alone, is the theme song for the movie of the same name. The movie Alone Yet Not Alone had a limited release in the Fall of 2013, and now will open in theaters across this country on June 13, 2014. This video of her singing this song has hit over one million views on YouTube. Take a listen and allow the words and music to penetrate your heart. It’s powerful and something to share with others. I’m predicting that after the movie is released, it will become the inspiring song that everyone will be singing. Joni admits, “I was captured by the sweet melody and words when I first heard the song.” Listen to Joni’s song below:
Mutual Submission Joni recently performed the song at the MovieGuide Awards in Hollywood and at the National Religious Broadcaster’s NRB) Convention in Nashville. The response was overwhelming, including a standing ovation, and her husband Ken proudly said, “She did a great job.” Ken is her biggest cheerleader, and both Joni and Ken support each other in their ministries. “It’s called mutual submission to God,” says Joni. Ken and Joni have also on occasion sung together for special events.
After retirement from coaching and teaching, Ken now works as Director of Ministry Development for Joni and Friends, and he accompanies her when she travels. He also partners with Jan Janura to put together men’s fly-fishing retreats in Montana called The Wild Adventure. Before the trip, the men read Wild at Heart by John Eldridge. “Fishing,” according to Ken, “Is just a hook to disciple men.”
Sonoma Contributor Ginny Dent Brant spent some time with Joni and her husband Ken at the National Religious Broadcaster’s Convention to ask her about the role of music in her life and her latest recording for the movie Alone Yet Not Alone.
SCH: When did you start singing to inspire others? JET: I’ve been singing since I was a little girl as I was raised in a family that loved hymns. My daddy would take us tent camping on the Delaware shore, and we would sit around the campfire and sing one hymn after another. I’m not a professionally trained singer, but I memorized a lot of hymns. My preparation has always been my ten years of piano lessons and singing in the alto section of my high school choir.
SCH: It is amazing to me that you are still singing at the age of 64 with your limited lung capacity. How difficult is it for you to sing live in front of audiences? JET: I have good days when I can fill my lungs easily and not so good days. I happened to record that sound track on a good day. Tomorrow I may not be able to sing it. I have also performed the song at the MovieGuide Awards and during worship at NRB. God gives me the grace to be able to do what I need to do. SCH: Joni, my health and wellness coach, Tim Wiles, followed my heart and stress responses for 24 hours recently. After reading the data, he told me, “I can tell when you ran, prayed, slept, and sang.” He’s always teaching me how to help my body to recover from stress. Music, prayer, rest, exercise, and relaxing activities are God’s natural ways to help us to alleviate stress and restore our bodies. JET: I’m glad to hear you say that, Ginny. When I arrived at NRB, I took a deep breathe and said, ‘I’m not going to believe the lie that I should not be here due to my disability.’ I’ve often wondered about God’s restorative and healing power of music and prayer in my life. It’s so miraculous that I’ve lived this long as a quadriplegic when so many are struggling with health issues.
SCH: Music has played an important role in your life. Can you tell us about that? JET: As I was flying here to NRB, the movie on the plane was dampening to my soul. I asked Ken to hook up my iPhone so I could listen to Handel’s Messiah. It brought me back to my high school chorus days when I memorized and performed it. Listening to The Messiah showed me once again the healing power and influence of music to well up within you an emotional response to God.It enabled me to put the images from that movie out of my mind because of the power and presence of God in that music. Music played a key part in my early life, even when I was first injured and despairing of my life. I would hang on to hymns. I felt so wounded and neglected, but God brought this message from a song, “There is a Balm in Gilead that Heals the Wounded Soul.” And my soul was wounded, but He could heal me. Music has this ability to reach within us and touch a chord in our hearts that nothing else can reach. When you combine God’s words with music, it’s even more powerful.
SCH: Were you surprised when Enthuse Entertainment approached you about singing the theme song in their movie Alone Yet Not Alone? JET: No one was surprised more than me when they contacted me and asked if I would record the theme for the movie. Last year I spoke at NRB and integrated several hymns into my talk. It was then they approached about performing the theme song. I said, “Surely you want Amy Grant, not me!” They responded, “We think what we heard tonight and the message of your life story will add a depth and richness to this theme song.”
SCH: How did you feel when you heard the song was nominated for an Oscar? Then how did you feel when you found the nomination was withdrawn? JET: When I first heard it was nominated, I was amazed because there were 75 other songs, and some were sung by artists such as Beyonce, Carrie Underwood, and Taylor Swift. And singing is not my main talent or calling. I’m a disabilities advocate. After I received interviews with Rolling Stone Magazine, Billboards, Variety, and the Hollywood Reporter, etc., I realized that the Academy was under immense pressure from the Hollywood elite because this small budget film with a limited release containing a Christian message was elevated to this status.
Was the nomination rescinded because of this Christian message? I can’t say for sure. I do know this movie was under the radar until this happened. The award was never mine to win. That honor falls with Bruce Broughton and Dennis Spiegel, the songwriters. It is my hope that this song will increase awareness of and encourage those with disabilities. This song is all about “God’s power in our weakness,” and I love the chance to advance that message. SCH: This controversy has given the song and movie some wonderful publicity. When I first heard the song, it brought me to tears. And I agree with those who selected you that your life story and melodic voice were the right choice for this song. Just as Mama Leininger sang hymns to comfort her children, you have used hymns to encourage and nourish your soul. And after over one million hits on YouTube, this song sung by you is now their best marketing tool!
SCH: How do you feel about the number of movies such as Alone Yet Not Alone being made today that glorify God and give a positive message? JET: I think we are at a point in our country where people are becoming tired of media messages and movies that degrade the human spirit, defame the human heart, weigh people down, and reinforce hopelessness and despair. People are looking for a change from that. I’m thrilled at the gifts and courage of those who are stepping out to do this. SCH: How should Christians respond when the politics and prejudice of this world come against us?
JET: Unfortunately, when the world thinks of Christians today, they think of, “Oh, that’s those people who hate.” We are known as haters and that should not be. We need to do the Ephesians 6 thing and daily put on the helmet of salvation, wrap the belt of truth around our waist, take the breastplate of righteousness and the sword of the spirit, and take up the shield of faith. And then go out into battle to love people to the side of the Savior. It is in small practical ways that we reach hearts. This is not the time to be wagging our prophetic finger at the liberal left and saying, “How dare you hijack our culture.” We know who wins in the end. Knowing that should give us the courage and confidence to win the battle. Our weapons are not be carnal, but spiritual.
For more information on Joni and her ministry go to Joni and Friends
To find a showtime for Alone Yet Not Alone in your area, visit the Alone Yet Not Alone Official Website
Follow the link to read Ginny’s former exclusive SCH interview with Joni Eareckson Tada