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Interview: CeCe Winans (2008)

CeCe Winans - 2008Recently, BlackGospel.com had the fortune of sharing an intimate conversation with one of Gospel music’s favorite personalities – CeCe Winans.  After 30 minutes of delving into the heart of her ministry and her unwavering love for God, it was easy to understand why Mrs. Priscilla ‘CeCe’ Winans Love has remained “The Darling of Gospel music” for nearly a quarter of a century.

With her consistent commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, CeCe Winans is passionately living the life she sings about. In fact, CeCe personifies the portrait of discipleship.  It’s evident in both her business and in her family.

As the chief label executive and artist for Pure Springs Gospel, her business operates above reproach.  As the glue to a family unit consisting of husband and two children, CeCe Winans is finding her greatest success as caring mother and adoring wife.  In fact, our conversation with CeCe Winans quickly segued to how ministry is a set of choices and priorities manifested through relationships, actions and a purpose-driven mindset. It’s not just about singing songs.

As the conversation warmed up, CeCe noticeably loosened up on a number of topics, including her prolific career as a psalmist and role model, the particular personalities who influenced her life, and the inspirational factors driving her to record and sing Gospel music. 

Christopher Heron:  CeCe, is there one biblical text, one verse you hold near to you that serves as a reminder of your Christian walk?

CeCe Winans:  Definitely, one that keeps me going is “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me” – Phillipians 4:13.  It reminds me that in the rough times, everything is going to be alright and that I can make it.  

I can accomplish what God wants me to accomplish, whether it’s in music or whatever else and “if God’s before you, who can be against you” and “greater is He that is in you than He that is in the world”. We can go on and on with scriptures that continues to keep me on the right path and keeps me encouraged in the Lord.

CH:  Let’s turn our attention to the album, Thy Kingdom Come.  Why did this title make the most sense for your latest album?  And why did this song title become the perfect fit to entitle your eighth album?

CW:  When I was in prayer during the process of doing this record, I just kept hearing the word, ‘Kingdom’.  It’s what God’s whole plan is all about.  I just think we’re living in a time where the church needs to be the church. It’s time for us to put away our separate agendas and get on one agenda that’s the Kingdom agenda.  It’s time to be Kingdom minded. That’s the only way God’s purpose will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.

We need His way of life and His principle to be on Earth so that more souls can be saved.  We can accomplish everything that the body of Christ wants to accomplish through his Kingdom and through his wonderful peace, joy and happiness.  I kept hearing, ‘Kingdom’.  I just feel the Lord wants us to do His will here on Earth and we need to encourage the whole body of Christ to stand up.  In a time where they’re calling right wrong and wrong right, it’s time for us to be about Kingdom business.

CH:  You’ve released some memorable albums and each one seems to have its own character and color. When I think of Everlasting Love it is very contemporary and very crossover but it still spoke to contemporary Christians.  You had meditative albums like Alone in His Presence, worship albums like Alabaster Brock and Throne Room. How would you characterize this particular album, Thy Kingdom Come?

CW:  I think it’s a mix of all of those descriptions. You asked a hard question, a good one but a hard question. To sum it all up, it’s a CD with an attitude. Our single was entitled Waging War.  I didn’t write the song.  A friend of mine wrote it but when I heard it, it summed up what the whole CD was about. The Bible tells us that since the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence by force and Waging War is about knowing the power that we possess inside. It’s empowerment. I think that’s the way I would sum it up.

It’s a CD that’s meant to empower God’s people, to take back everything the enemy has stolen.  We have to resist the enemy and he will flee.  We have to understand the power we possess. So many of us allow weaknesses in our lives yet there’s no weakness in God. We have to understand we need to take back the land.  We can’t get past it because the enemy is not going to get past it.  He tries to kill our kids, he tries to kill the next generation and he tries to make us confused, unless you stand up with an attitude and accept the power that lives within you. That’s what this CD is about. 

It’s about empowerment, it’s about reminding us that we are worthy because God counts us as worthy. Stop living in the past, in your mistakes.  Stop allowing the devil to trick you with that same lie. You know what I’m saying?  It’s time to move past that. You were molested when you were young but guess what?  The power of God is greater that what you went through and it’s time for us to move on, so God can give us the fullness in our lives. It’s time for us to expect a miracle.  That’s what this CD is about.

CH:  CeCe, take us back to when the inspiration came to produce this eighth album. What goes into the process to produce songs?  Are their special experiences in your life influence you when writing or singing new songs?

CW:  You’re going to hear experiences on a CD, you’re going to hear a song that drops into your heart because you were praising him that day, you’re going to see struggles and remember how God took me through the struggle. You’re going to hear what God gave to you in a prayer, crying your faces off, while fasting. They’re different things that bring songs to you. 

Certain songs I didn’t even write, I will hear when people present to me. A lot of times for me, I don’t know what I’m looking for but you know it when you hear it. You’re before the Lord, you’re singing certain songs, you can hear a great song but it’s still not the right song.  They come at different times in different ways.

CH:  I still have my vintage LPs of you and your brother – BeBe Winans – featured on albums like Relationships. You have a rich recording career. What still brings you inspiration after 20 years to create or interpret music as an artist and is it still exhilarating to be an artist?

CW:  God continues to inspire me through my relationship with Him. Because of the time I’ve invested in it and because of where I’m at in life, I really don’t have time to waste. You can have the hottest song on the radio and people might be impressed but it’s not about any of that.  It’s all about God.  It’s so important that I hit the bull’s-eye each time because I understand everything now. 

When I first started recording, I was a kid. I loved God and I was excited but now I don’t worry about what this one thinks or that one thinks. I’m passed that. I’m so into being who I’m called to be.  I know who I am and I need to please God each and every single day. If I please Him and my album never hits the charts, I’m fine with that. God is amazing with what He does with each and every one of us, especially when we yield to Him.  I understand who’s on my side and I know God is going to do great things.

CH:  CeCe, your ministry and lifestyle serve as inspiration to many Christians, particularly women who’ve watched you as an artist, as a wife and as a mother. Over the years, who has helped you stay the course, who has been a compass for you, which women has served as models to you, whether as an artist, professional or Christian women?

CW:  I’ve been so blessed to have so many great models in my life and that’s why I know there is so much more I have to do in helping the next generation after me because God blessed me tremendously. I never had to wonder what holiness looked like. I never had to wonder what a godly wife or mother was because of my grandmothers and wonderful mothers, who I still have and hope I have for a longtime, mothers in the church as well as my mother’s friends all served as examples  and great teachers in my life. I’ve been blessed to have discussions with spiritual mothers about purity and how to be a lady in school. 

So, I never had an excuse for not doing the right thing. Even when I messed up, I knew I had to get back up. My mother is another perfect example of gentle strength.  She’s a strong women but she’s a lady. She loves God with all of her heart.  She taught us to love God and believe and to live the life we talk about.

My mother and father were great example of a married couple.  They went through rough times but I saw God take them both though rough times. I could cry just thinking about my heritage and what they set before us. I tell everybody, “If you see the Winans acting crazy, it’s because we want to act crazy.  It’s not because we don’t know better.”  Like you said, they helped me stay the course. They told me what I needed to hear not what I wanted to hear. My mother was never trying to be my best friend even though she is my best friend today. She reared me in the right direction.  She taught me the truth and she didn’t mind saying no and because of that, I am who I am today.

I have a son and a daughter who I pray I’ve given the same foundation that my parents and the older saints that paved the way, gave us. There are no words to express what that example does to your life through the course of time. When I travelled to countries I never thought I could be in, I could still hear the teachings and the prayers of the saints. I could still hear their words in my spirit.  When I tried to act like somebody else, it brought me back to a safe place.  I’m so forever grateful of the models I had.

I would have to say my mother and my grandmother are my greatest examples.  I think Shirley Caeser is a wonderful example, too.  Tramaine Hawkins has always been such a lady to me, seeing her and hearing her sing. That’s been incredible to me. I could go on and on but if I had to give you the main examples it would be my mother and my grandmother. There’s nothing like someone who’s molding you in your home.  That’s why I want mothers to understand the importance of their role.  If you never hold a job or you never run a corporate business or never put a CD out, if you’re a mom that’s an awesome calling, to be responsible to mold and shape someone’s life

CH:  I am going to end with one final question.  As an artist and Christian woman, and family member, what advice do you offer an aspiring artist who desperately tries to balance the personal and the professional life with their personal pursuit for the heart of God?

CC:  You said it.  If they pursue the heart of God, everything will be alright. You just have to make sure it’s God’s heart that you’re after, not just what you want to do. He said, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all His righteousness and all these things shall be added onto you”.  God’s word is true and if you put God first, you must prioritize your life. I’m so glad again because of the teachings I have.  I understood I was called to be a wife and a mother first. That was my first calling and my most important calling.  So, when you honor God and honor your family, God will honor you.

If He gave you a vision, if He gave you a dream, it will come to pass but God is a God of order and if we stay in His order, He’ll honor you. His time is definitely not our time.  The timing isn’t always perfect, so you just have to be patient. You have to go through the process, but know that God will honor his word. If you honor Him, He will honor you. Just get your priorities straight.  

People ask me, “How do you have it all together?” I don’t have it all together.  I’ve learned how to keep it in perspective, but it’s not something you put in place and it stays there.  You have to continue to evaluate your life and your relationship with God and your family. When my kids were a certain age and I was touring a lot, I said to myself that I have to take them out of school.  God blessed me to hire a teacher and they went on the road with me. He never blessed me to save the world and lose my family. That’s not what He called me to do.  So I took the family with me. 

My husband came out on the road as well and we were all travelling together. I have a wonderful husband who helps me.  There’s no way I could do what I’ve done without him. He’s there to support me every step of the way.  So I get the awards and the pictures and all the nice comments said about me but I’m not standing up there by myself. I’m standing with people holding up my arms, my legs and holding up my children. So thank God for those people in our lives who tell us the truth. Living for the Lord and giving Him your all…it’s an amazing life and I’m not in control of any of it. God is.

For more information regarding CeCe Winans, visit her official site at www.cecewinans.com. 

About Christopher Heron