The Jesus I Know: Chynna Phillips Baldwin

Chynna Phillips Baldwin

I loved listening to the Mamas and the Papas in the 1960s. They were hip and California cool, and their beats and harmonies were magic. I dreamed of one day making a life for myself in the entertainment industry that beckoned to me from sunny California.

Chynna Phillips grew up in this world, the beautiful daughter of John and Michelle Phillips, founding members of the band. They were rock-’n’-roll royalty. And although she inherited her mother’s beauty and her parents’ musical talent, Chynna also fell into a life of drugs, alcohol, and abuse. Then, in 1995, she doubled the drama by marrying Billy Baldwin, one of the four famous acting Baldwin brothers.

While I’d interviewed Chynna in the past, I had never really had a conversation beyond her career with the music group Wilson Phillips, which she founded with Wendy and Carnie Wilson, daughters of rock-’n’-roll legend Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. To say Chynna surprised me is an understatement. I found her to be raw and authentic and articulate and refreshingly brave about her life in a world very few of us could ever imagine experiencing. I fell in love with her. I think you will too.

KATHIE LEE: I was a huge fan of Wilson Phillips. I think we met when I was on with Regis.

CHYNNA: It was a crazy time. That was thirty-three years ago!

KATHIE LEE: I have to tell you, first of all, how impressed I am. I knew you were happily married, but I didn’t know about your amazing YouTube channel, California Preachin’. I am so blown away by it. You come off so real and honest, and God is obviously blessing it. A lot of people have heard the headlines about your family, but what I think surprised me the most is how deep your walk with Jesus is. This is not surface Christianity.

CHYNNA: It started out much more produced: hair, makeup, teleprompter. I started getting this horrible back pain before I started to shoot. I prayed, “God, I know for sure You told me that You wanted me to do a YouTube channel, so why does it hurt?” I just got this really strong message of “Just turn the camera on and show the world who you are. Just be you. You’re not a pastor or a preacher; you’re just a sheep. Go out there and be a sheep among many, and people will identify with you.”

KATHIE LEE: You’re an adorable sheep! I thought you were charming, but then I started getting really pulled in when you stripped it down raw. And made your suffering not as a victim. You’re somehow doing the impossible, which is telling all these incredible things that happened in your life without begging for our compassion because you’ve been so victimized. You come off like, “Yeah, but God saw something in me.”

This book I’m writing is The Jesus I Know because Jesus is so many different things to different people. It doesn’t look the same ever. Because we don’t look the same to Jesus. No story is like anyone else’s. God went to so much trouble to make us unique. Tell me your story.

You grew up in a Hollywood family, and so did your husband. All sorts of drama. What was your picture of God when you were growing up?

CHYNNA: I had a nanny when I was one year old. Her name was Rosa Garcia, and she didn’t speak a word of English. My mom grew up in Mexico City and spoke fluent Spanish, so she was ecstatic that I would have no other choice but to learn Spanish. I was basically raised by this woman. She lived with us until I was nineteen years old. She walked me to school, fed me, read my bedtime stories, danced with me, sang with me, prayed for me. I remember she had crucifixes hanging over her bed, and she had candles with Mother Mary; she was incredibly Catholic. When I was sick, she’d douse me with holy water. So that was my first introduction to Jesus.

Then when I was in a public elementary school, I was struggling. I begged to leave because I was being bullied, and my mother reluctantly transferred me to a Christian private school. She said, “You do realize they’re going to talk to you about the devil and 666.” But I was so miserable, I just wanted out.

About a week in at the Christian school, I stole a chocolate milk from the cafeteria. The next day, these girls came up to me and said, “Chynna, we saw that you stole the chocolate milk,” and I said, “Well, I didn’t have any money.” I gave them a quarter, and they said, “We don’t want the quarter.” They said they were wondering if I’d accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior. And I thought, “Ugh, I stole the milk; look what I’ve gotten myself into. Now I’m gonna have to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. All right, fine, I’ll do it.” So they brought me to the girls’ bathroom, and they all surrounded me — not awkward at all! They stood around me, and I said the words out loud on the card that they gave me. As I began to read the words, I started to feel a holy scan begin from the top of my skull, moving down my face, down my shoulders. As it was happening, I felt as though I was being completely purified. By the time it got down to my feet, I felt like I’d become a new creation. I was saying the words sincerely, but I didn’t think anything would happen! I couldn’t speak; I was paralyzed. I was holding on to this card, and I was thinking,

“This Jesus person is for real. This is not a joke; He’s really the Son of God.” I left the bathroom a completely changed person. He put a new heart inside of my body and made me a new creation.

I went home to the marijuana roaches in the ashtray, no Bibles in the house, no father to talk to, and a very busy single mother. I didn’t know how to explain what had happened to me. I told nobody about my spiritual experience. So, basically, I stole a chocolate milk, and I got saved. A true sinner saved by grace.

And then I got into drugs and alcohol and got promiscuous. I was a Hollywood statistic kid. I was drinking, partying, hanging out with people who were just like me, until I had a second coming when I was about thirty-four years old. My husband’s brother, Stephen, got saved. He’s a great guy. Every time I’d see Stephen and his wife, Kennya, they’d be tagging along with their Bibles. I thought, “Wow, they’ve really taken it to the next level.”

Then about two years later, I was living in Bedford, New York. It was Super Bowl Sunday, and everybody came over. Some of my nieces got in trouble, so Stephen and his wife were praying over them with zeal. This was not just any kind of prayer. They had their hands over them, and I could hear it from the other room. The Holy Spirit said to me, “You go in there, and you tell them, ‘Whatever you’re doing to them, I want you to do to me.’” I was like, “Oh no, here we go again.” So I did. They said, “Are you sure you want us to pray for you?” and I said, “Yes.” It happened all over again with the holy scan down my body. I was bawling.

The first thing I did was go straight to my front door. I had purchased this expensive wooden Buddha that had sat there for years. I grabbed it and wrapped it up with duct tape and put it in my garage. I said, “That’s it, Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior, and I will dedicate the rest of my life to serving Him and furthering His kingdom. I’m sold out for Jesus.”

KATHIE LEE: What was your husband’s, Billy’s, reaction?

CHYNNA: Billy was supportive, but it scared him a little bit. I mean, how do you compete with Jesus? And he knew it was a profound experience. I had an anointing. He knew something had shifted, and it was out of his control. When I was baptized a few days later, Billy cried; he was really taken by it. He went to church with me that Sunday. I figured he was going to be right behind me. I thought, “It will just be a couple of weeks or months, and we’ll raise our kids Christian,” but that wasn’t the case. He’s still not completely on board, and it’s been fifteen years. We do attend church together as a family, and Billy does pray with me.

KATHIE LEE: Well, He’s The God of the How and When. We stand on God’s promises, but only He knows how and only He knows when. And that’s the maddening part, when we have to “live by faith, not by sight,” because everything we’re seeing is saying, “No, this is impossible.” The father of lies wants to tell us deception, deceit, and discouragement — all the Ds, instead of the Rs: refresh, resurrect, renew, restore. I knew some of your story, but wow.

CHYNNA: Billy and I are polar opposites. He’s into wrestling, politics, but I’m not a person who turns on CNN and reads the paper; it’s just not my thing. We also struggled in our marriage. We had financial troubles, and then our son got sick. I filed for divorce at one point. There are days when I wake up, and I’m like, “Why did I do this?” But you know what? I think that’s okay. Sometimes I wake up, and I go, “Ew. What have I done? I don’t want to look at your face.” People want the truth about the struggle and how to get through it, how to embrace the suck of your marriage.

Divorce isn’t an option for me anymore. Every single day, I wake up and ask God to help me navigate my marriage. Because it’s not a walk in the park. I have great days with Billy where we laugh and we’re best friends; we’re truly connected. No one makes me laugh like him; nobody’s taught me more than him. I’ve never met anyone more intelligent. I know he still gets excited when he sees me singing and writing songs; he happens to think I’m very unique and special. So there’s lots of wonderful things about our marriage, but we don’t stroll through our marriage. We have to work at it.

KATHIE LEE: This is just fascinating. I’m listening to your story, and I’m thinking this is cool, real stuff. I loved Frank Gifford so much; he was the love of my life, and he ripped my heart out when he cheated on me. I forgave him right away because God showed me all the things He forgave me for. I got angry with Frank because it was so easy for me to forgive him that he just thought it would go right back to being the way it used to be. I went to a counselor who said, “If you can’t forgive your husband, forgive your children’s father.” It took my eyes off of me and put them on what I needed to be concentrating on, my family. When I changed my focus, that’s when my heart was softened enough to do the right thing, and God could heal. I felt love, and he felt forgiven. Only God can do that.

CHYNNA: Yes, only God. We’re just not capable to forgive on that level. That’s provision by God.

Excerpted with permission from The Jesus I Know by Kathie Lee Gifford, copyright Kathie Lee Gifford.

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Your Turn

Jesus is real! He will seek you out no matter where you are, even if you aren’t looking for Him. Let’s keep praying for our friends and family who don’t know Him yet! Come share your thoughts about Chynna’s story. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily

Kathie Lee Gifford has enjoyed a diverse and successful four-decade career as a television host, actress, singer, playwright, songwriter and author. Though best known for her 15 years on Regis and Kathie Lee (11 Emmy nominations), and currently acting as the three time Emmy-winning co-host of the fourth hour of the Today Show with Hoda Kotb, she also is a NY Times bestselling author, hosts a podcast, performed and writes for Broadway, and devotes much of her time to charitable causes.

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