Successful musicians and authors focus on self-esteem

Christa Black was on tour with the Jonas Brothers, looking out into a sea of teen and pre-teen fans, when she was struck by a need to help. In spite of the kind of excitement that can fill entire stadiums, Black says, “There was so much pain and so much ache and hurt.”

Black identified that many of these young women who appeared to be in the throes of an innocent school-age obsession simply wanted to be loved — and Black knew all too well the kinds of barriers to self-esteem they would SUBMITTED PHOTO - Christa Black will serve as the keynote speaker during Saturday's event in Tualatin.

“In the world’s eyes, you have to be beautiful in order to be loved, and actually that’s the cart before the horse,” Black says. “It wasn’t before I learned to receive unconditional love that I started being loved, and that healed everything.”

Black, a pastor’s daughter, was still in elementary school when she began binge-eating to cope with anxiety. She didn’t observe any modeling of this behavior — she developed an eating disorder almost out of instinct.

“I think food is the Christian drug of choice,” Black says.

She fell back on the faith she’d been surrounded by her entire life.

“I think it’s the perfect example of how what you know and what you believe are different,” Black says. “I knew God loves you, and his love is unconditional, but my behaviors were very different.”

A new calling

Black first tried her hand at songwriting while in a rehab facility to confront her eating disorder. Years later — happier, living with “peace and confidence” — she looked at these audiences of young women and decided to write again, this time for them.

The Jonas Brothers — Paul, Joseph and Nicholas — are open about their own Christianity, and Black knew their fan base was open to the kind of spiritual message she had to deliver, first by blog.

Her original goal was to get 100 regular readers, but by last year, she had around 30,000. The response was overwhelming, she says — she received thousands of emails from young women engaging in self-destructive behavior who had found solace in her writing. In 2012, Black’s blog became her published memoir, “God Loves Ugly: And Love Makes Beautiful.”

The title is based on a song Black penned about her experiences rediscovering her spiritual relationship with God. The song has been recorded by “American Idol” winner Jordin Sparks.

Black’s largest readership, she says, might be the mothers and grandmothers of these young women who she feels never learned how to receive love themselves. Black hopes her book facilitates a more open conversation between these women.

“If (young women) get this, they’ll avoid the heartache their moms are living through,” she adds.

Back on tour

When the 35-year-old singer-songwriter was approached to deliver her message as keynote speaker on the Revolve: This Is Love tour, she was eager to step away from musical performance to lead a large-scale workshop.

“What I do on Revolve is I talk about the two things everyone wants in that world: love and beauty,” she says.

The Revolve: This Is Love tour is organized by Women of Faith, a Plano, Texas-based events promotions company that specializes in day-long events that combine author presentations and music sets by Christian talent. The tour, now in its eighth year, is meant to provide young teenage women with the resources to build a healthy body image and to stand up to bullying and depression. This year’s line-up includes the band Anthem Lights, popular youth pastor Kramer Rasmussen and singer Tiffany Thurston, among SUBMITTED PHOTO - Tiffany Thurston will lead worship and sing at Saturday's Revolve: This Is Love event.

“I would say my concept is that God loves everybody and then love makes beautiful,” Black says. “I want to give people very practical (advice), because there’s a lot of words (in religion). I think our heads are set in Western culture, theology-wise. It’s not theology that changes your heart, it’s an experience.”

Black looks forward to her Tualatin visit, and to staying with good friends — Oregon City author Paul Young and his family — during her stop.

Young wrote the wildly popular novel “The Shack,” an account of one man’s unconventional encounter with God and Jesus, who are manifested as everyday people. The novel’s focus on theology as a conversation is particularly in line with Black’s feelings about Christianity.

For example, Black takes issue with what she sees in most branches of religion as “a love of the law as opposed to the law of love,” a focus on strict guidelines rather than one’s relationship with a higher power.

“I knew how to do the things I was supposed to do, but not how to have a relationship with (Jesus),” Black says. “And that was the part that changed me. So the desperation in my life, the eating disorder, it actually drove me into the arms of love, which saved me.”

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