We are just two days away from the joyous holiday of Christmas, where Christians around our nation and the world celebrate the miraculous birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. In honor of Christmas, NC Family is bringing you a special edition of our Family Policy Matters radio show and podcast.
Dana Catherine is a Christian singer and songwriter based out of Nashville, TN. A graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, Catherine now travels the country sharing her music and faith with others. She joins Traci DeVette Griggs on this week’s episode of Family Policy Matters to discuss her new Christmas album, and to share the important role of music in the lives of Christians. This show features an excerpt from one of Catherine’s newest songs, “Emmanuel.”
“You know, when you’re an artist,” says Catherine, “you want to make music that matters. And for me, the thing that mattered the most and that can heal people the most and help them the most is the Lord.”
“Whenever people leave my concerts […] whenever people are listening on Spotify, I want people to always come away with hope with whatever their situation is. Hope that the Lord is here, that He’s not just here with them and close, but He’s powerful and He’s working on their behalf.”
“I want people to be convicted of wanting to get to know the Lord better. He’s not just some idea; He is a real, real person that wants to be with us every single day and wants us to fall in love with Him. I hope my music can kind of make people want to step into that love a little bit more and choose Him.”
Dana Catherine’s music is available on Spotify, and through her YouTube channel.
Tune in to Family Policy Matters this week to hear Dana Catherine’s music, and her message of faith and hope.
TRACI GRIGGS: Thanks for joining us this week for Family Policy Matters. As we move into the celebration of Christmas, we wanted to do something a little different and fun on the show.
So, we have a special guest today. Dana Catherine is a young Christian singer and songwriter who hails from right here in North Carolina. Dana, who is a UNC Chapel Hill graduate and former youth minister, now travels throughout the country, encouraging and inspiring others with her songs and witness. She has released two albums and several singles, including for the first time this year, a Christmas collection. We’re going to discuss the important role of music in the lives of Christians, and how it can help us conquer chaos and find that peace that sometimes seems so elusive, even for those of us who love and trust God.
Dana Catherine, welcome to Family Policy Matters.
DANA CATHERINE: Thank you. I’m really excited to be here.
TRACI GRIGGS: So, your relationship with Christ is somewhat tied up with music, right? Tell us about that.
DANA CATHERINE: So yeah, my relationship with the Lord has definitely been tied to music my whole life. But especially in college when I was away from my family, I really, really chose Christ for myself. It was the first time I was able to, and college was definitely very hard. And so it made me fall deeper in love with the Lord because I was just running to him in the middle of confusion, in the middle of sadness or the chaos, whatever it was. And it was kind of during that time—like from 18 to 21—where as I grew deeper with the Lord, I also felt this desire to write songs more and more. I had received a guitar for Christmas the year before I got to college. And so I had this guitar, I was growing deeper in faith throughout my time at UNC Chapel Hill, and at the same exact time, I was writing the songs that became all about the Lord. When you’re a singer/songwriter, you generally want to be writing about what really matters to you most and what’s going on in your life. And the biggest thing that was going on in my life was me finding the Lord more and more and more during those years.
TRACI GRIGGS: Was music an important part of your childhood and growing up as well?
DANA CATHERINE: It’s kind of funny because now I actually live in Nashville and I’m surrounded 24/7 by all of these people that have grown up in musical families, and so it makes sense that they are in music. But my family, really none of them played music, played an instrument or even sang formally. But we always went to concerts and probably the most prevalent kinds of concerts we went to were actually Christian concerts. My parents were definitely very into that and loved exposing my brother and I to that often. And then I just remember always in the car, when we’d be on road trips or whatever, my parents loved music. And I remember I’d be singing certain songs just with my dad; I would do the harmony and he would do the melody. And so we were definitely very into music. I really loved music. And I guess that awakened that in me because I did have the natural gift.
TRACI GRIGGS: Did you choose Christian music specifically. Did you ever consider another genre?
DANA CATHERINE: Oh yeah, I definitely considered back when I was 18. It was my freshman year of college when I was really starting to write music. I remember I told the Lord in prayer kind of, I said, “Hey God, if this works out, I’d love to do pop music and maybe I’ll write some Christian music for you.” And then that didn’t work out. I still stayed in college, which was a good idea. But eventually it became a no-brainer because like I said, I just grew deeper and deeper in love with the Lord. And you know, when you’re an artist, you want to make music that matters. And for me, the thing that mattered the most and that can heal people the most and help them the most is the Lord, talking about the Lord. So yeah, there’s always going to be something about God and something about faith in my music, I think, no matter what.
TRACI GRIGGS: Regarding the importance of music in the life of our faith and spiritual growth, do you think those should be or are tied up together for all believers?
DANA CATHERINE: Based on the people I’ve come across—and I’ve traveled so many places—I think some people are very surprised when they hear my music. People sometimes seem very surprised when the music really spoke to them and they felt closer to the Lord in that moment. Or the Lord kind of spoke something to them through the lyrics. And so that’s made me realize that maybe people haven’t had the experience or all people haven’t had the experience that I’ve had growing up, where music was always a way that the Lord was able to show that he was close to me through the melody, the lyrics, whatever it was. I’m not sure it’s something that happens for everybody, that every Christian thinks about. But I think it should be definitely a tool for every single Christian because the Lord wants to work through everything. And I think almost now more than ever sometimes when some people try to arrive at the truth, sometimes people don’t use reason. They don’t use logic as much in our generation and in the world. The Lord can still point to himself through the good and the true and the beautiful, and that’s always going to be found in music. I think it’s a beautiful tool for the Lord to use.
TRACI GRIGGS: You often sing about trust and surrender. Talk about those concepts. Why do they show up in your music and why is that an important message for us to be hearing right now?
DANA CATHERINE: I think it goes back to the foundation of my music and my career and my ministry. Because back, once again, in college, and then when I got out of college and I still didn’t know what I was doing with music, and I just said, “Hey, God, you have to show me the next step. I can’t do this alone.” Because I didn’t know what was happening. I didn’t know where I was going, but I just knew the Lord was calling me to use my gifts for Him, and He was going to do something great with it, but I just had to be kind of carried by Him. And that takes the most amount of trust in the Lord and complete surrender of my plans to Him that I’ve ever had to do. And so, yeah, I think every single person, whatever age you are, whatever stage of life, whatever role you are in, in general, the Lord is calling all of us to trust and surrender. And I think throughout this year, it’s been a really hard year and there’s always going to be hard times in my life. I think the more that we give to the Lord, the more we just like throw ourselves in His arms, the more He can show us that He does provide. And even if we don’t see it in the physical sometimes right away, He will always be happy more than happy to provide peace for our hearts, and joy, and all the gifts and the fruits of the spirit. And that almost means more than anything. So, I’d encourage people if they want to see the Lord provide in spiritual or physical ways in any way whatsoever, we have to trust and surrender whatever we’re holding on to, to give Him the space to show that He’s good and that He’s powerful and that He’s taken care of us.
TRACI GRIGGS: Here’s an excerpt from Dana’s song “Emmanuel.”
You also talk quite a bit about conquering chaos and finding peace. And that seems especially appropriate during not just this holiday season, but perhaps even more so in this 2020 year. Do you have any other strategies as far as ways to remind yourself, you know, not to worry or any other practical advice?
DANA CATHERINE: Philippians 4:6 says, to “not be anxious about anything, but in everything with thanksgiving, by prayer and petition, present your requests to God and the peace that passes all understanding will guard you in Christ Jesus.” And so I’d say often we’re anxious about things that we can’t really control or that we think we can control, at least at the moment. We can’t really do much to affect change, but we still worry all the time. Especially this year, right? There are so many things we think about, we worry about, but what can we really do sometimes? And so the Lord has really told us through the scriptures to just give every single worry and request to Him and He will guard our hearts with His peace.
There are so many other things that cause chaos to enter our hearts and a lack of peace, but I think the biggest thing this year is probably just all of the things that have changed. All of the things we can’t control. And I would say, you know, take it as an invitation this year and even beyond, to realize that we never had control anyway. Even when we have the semblance of control in our lives, where we think we’re on top of everything, I mean, everything can change in a minute. It kind of shows us that the Lord was always in control anyway. And if we truly do see ourselves as His sons and His daughters, and He’s a good father, He’s always going to carry us. It’s always going to be okay. The end result is always going to be beautiful. So looking at Philippians 4:6, just whenever you feel that worry, that anxiety, just give those things to the Lord and even just say, “Lord, I don’t feel the trust right now. I don’t feel the peace that you’re telling me you’re going to give me, but help me to feel that peace, help me to feel that trust”
Even using your physical, you know, what God has given us physically with our bodies. We don’t think about it sometimes. And so even breathing in slowly for four to six seconds, holding it for a second and then letting that breath out for four to six seconds, and doing that a few times over…that even slows down our heart rate. And sometimes we think we’re very anxious, but then we can kind of take control of our breathing and that’ll give us some peace too, as we’re also praying, as we’re also trying to dispel that anxiety. And then of course, I think the biggest thing I see, and I already talked about this with scripture, but if we’re not taking time to pray? I would dare to say a lot of people’s anxiety and worry, a lot of it would be dispelled (if they’re not praying) if they did start praying even 15 to 30 minutes a day. That’s going to really help usher in peace because you’re allowing the presence of the Lord to be with you, you know, in a new way.
TRACI GRIGGS: I love your example about physically working out some of this too. I know that in my own life, I can physically, on my knees, hand things over to Christ. And that helps, just that act of laying them at his feet can be a huge help. You’re right, if we can do things in our physical body, it really sends that message that we’re trusting him.
Is there something specific that you would like people to go away with when they listen to your music or go to your concerts?
DANA CATHERINE: One of the virtues the Lord has always given me pretty naturally that’s just such a gift, is this feeling of hope. And so whenever people leave my concerts—even if right now, we can’t really have many concerts—whenever people are listening on Spotify, I want people to always come away with hope with whatever their situation is. Hope that the Lord is here, that He’s not just here with them and close, but He’s powerful and He’s working on their behalf. And the biggest, biggest thing with anything I do in life—so it’s going to overflow into my music—I want people to be convicted of wanting to get to know the Lord better. He’s not just some idea, He is a real, real person that wants to be with us every single day and wants us to fall in love with Him. I hope my music can kind of make people want to step into that love a little bit more and choose Him.
TRACI GRIGGS: This year, as we mentioned in the opening, you’ve released your first Christmas songs. Was there a reason why you decided to do that this year?
DANA CATHERINE: So actually it’s pretty funny. A priest friend of mine, Father Ian, he was the one of the biggest influences. We actually do a Christmas or an Advent Holy hour every year; we’ve been doing that for the past three or four years. I go back to North Carolina—or when I lived in North Carolina would be there—and I would just play Christmas music during adoration, like very reverently, and his whole parish would always love it. And we always loved it; it was so beautiful. And then everybody would always be saying, “Hey, can you record some of this?” And I was just never able to do it. And then I had this song “Emmanuel” that I had written. And they were like, “Why don’t you do that?” I said, “I don’t have the means to do that right now,” and so Father Ian found a way to work together with me this year. He was very excited to kind of put out this music that I had been playing at these Holy hours. I picked three songs including one of my own, and we just kind of made it happen. I could’ve never done it without my friend, Father Ian. And honestly, I think it’s the most well-received collection of songs that I’ve put out thus far in my career, which is very funny.
TRACI GRIGGS: We are about out of time for this week, but before we go, Dana, where can our listeners go to find your music and follow your schedule of events?
DANA CATHERINE: You can go to DanaCatherinemusic.com. That’s just my website, or I’m very active on social media. Instagram just look up Dana Catherine music, Facebook look up Dana Catherine music, YouTube, I have a bunch of videos that go along with my Christmas music actually. So just look up Dana Catherine basically anywhere you go, Dana Catherine, with a “C.”
TRACI GRIGGS: All right. Well, Dana Catherine, thank you so much for being with us today on Family Policy Matters.
DANA CATHERINE: Thank you for having me.
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