Listen to the new single from Elevation Worship!
Listen to the new single from Elevation Worship!

JFH Staff Blog | April 2018

Saturday, April 28, 2018

“What does it mean to be ‘Above The Water’?” - by Roy Tosh

This last season of my life was the most difficult  year I’ve ever faced.  

After just tearing my meniscus and moving, I thought things were finally getting back to “normal”.  That’s when I received the worst phone call in my life.  It was my mom, and I could tell by the tone in her voice something was really wrong.  She told me my dad had been rushed to the ER and that things did not look good.  A couple of minutes later, I spoke with my brother who was at the hospital.  He said the doctors told him that my dad had less than 10% chance at surviving.  He was bleeding internally due to a aneurysm in his abdomen.  Devastated, I could do nothing but cry and pray to God.  

That phone call started a 3 month process where my dad underwent 6 major surgeries.  During those months, we were told on five occasions that he probably would not make it through the night.  One night, after another successful surgery, he flat-lined for 5 minutes due to one of his breathing tubes being clogged.  By the grace of God, the doctors resuscitated him back to life.  He went through 9 total surgeries that year, and by God’s grace, He’s alive and thriving!  One surgeon said' "I didn't save his life - are you people praying?"  Praise God!  He’s currently in physical therapy and we recently heard the great news that he will be able to walk again. 

During that time, if my family and I focused on the circumstances or what the doctors told us, it felt like we were drowning.  Hopelessness, numbness, and sadness surrounded us.  Yet, if we looked to God during those times, He gave us strength and faith to face the next minute.  We literally experienced that God is an “ever-present help in times of trouble”.  He comforted us, and extended mercy to us beyond our wildest dreams.  My dad loves Jesus, so regardless, we knew where he was heading.  However, I’m so grateful to have my dad still around.  We named our daughter “Selah Grace” - which means pause and calmly think on the grace of God.  His grace truly is sufficient in our weakness!

I wrote “Above The Water”, and especially songs like “Stronger” ft. V. Rose, to encourage those suffering around the world.  I wanted to challenge others to not focus on their present circumstances, but instead look to the God who is ever-present in the midst of those circumstances.  Jesus called Peter out of his boat to walk on a substance he had no business walking upon. The moment Peter took his focus off of Christ and looked at the storms all around him, he sank.  It’s no different with us.  If we look to Christ to be our strength in the midst of difficulty, we will find ourselves rising above the water.  I can’t promise the circumstances will change, but one thing I can promise is that His love will surround you in the midst of the storms.  It sounds cliche, but His love truly is enough!

-Roy Tosh

Saturday, April 21, 2018

"More Than Survival," by Sanctus Real

 

 

What does it mean to live life to the fullest?  To seize the day? 

Most of us are really just trying to get through each one of our days feeling like we’ve accomplished something that has some meaning, some purpose. 

A few years back the band had a writing getaway and I sat the guys down and had them all tell what was going on in their hearts and lives.  Mark said something that kinda sat with me, he said,” I’m tired of feeling like I’m just surviving days rather than living them, I really just want more than survival.”  I wrote that line down in my little notebook and the next day came back to it sitting down at the piano and kept repeating, I want more, I want more than survival. 

I mean, don’t we all? 

Yet we just continue to go through our motions, day after day, trying to to get ahead running on our spinning wheel like a mouse trying to escape its cage.  Yet, unlike the mouse, this is a cage of our own making, our own choices, our pursuits and desires to get more, gain more, be more than others, so we built our cage.  Before we know it, all that we have built has become our very own prison. 

This is not what we are called to.  We are called to freedom, to prefer things that are heavenly over the temporal gain that success offers.  We were built for more than stuff, we were meant to live, to love, to spread the kingdom of heaven everywhere we go. 

Don’t trade contentment for greed, don’t sacrifice the love of Christ for the love of stuff.  Live like there is no tomorrow, live for more than just survival.

-Dustin Lolli, Sanctus Real

 **You can grab a free download for Sanctus Real's "Surival" right here on JFH. Their brand new album "Changed" will be available wherever music is sold on April 27th!  

Friday, April 6, 2018

The God of Redemption Is the God of the Average, by Chris Sligh

If you’ve grown up in the past 40 years, you’re hard-wired to believe that the payoff of one’s journey is the Rocky moment… it’s the climbing of the stairs, out of breath, sweating and raising your arms in triumph, and the world cheers; it’s beating the Russian who is better than you, after you’ve been counted out; it’s rising to the challenge and ultimately winning.

Yet the reality of most people’s lives is not the Rocky moment, but a life of ordinary moments – some good, some bad, but everything comes out in the end as pretty average. And in a world made for Rocky moments and Instagram memories, the average journey is seen to be as good as the ones that end with the hero of the story winning or getting what they’ve always wanted.

I’ll admit it. I want the Rocky moment. I want to be more than average. I want my talent and my charisma to carry me and let run (or in my case, walk slowly) up those steps and raise my hands in triumph (exhaustion).

But I’m coming to believe more and more that the point of our lives is redemption – both minor and major – not success according to normal measure.

I was having a conversation with a pastor friend of mine a while back and I was talking about my own failures and the changes I’d made in response. And he looked across the table at me and asked, “Chris, I think you’re really good at identifying what’s wrong in your life and really good at trying to fix it. I wonder if you’re conscious of God’s redemption in those situations?”

I hate to admit it, but I’d not considered this thought before. But I’ve considered it often since. Especially since I began this “comeback” to my artist/songwriter/producer career last year.

I know what I got wrong last time. I allowed the focus to become myself. I allowed myself to become competitive in the realm of art. I allowed myself to be cut off from the people with whom I did ministry. I allowed myself to be consumed by how much money I was making. Etc., etc. There was more I got wrong than right, as I look back. So as I restart, how do I not just identify what I got wrong and repent of it; but how do I see God redeem it?

And that’s the thing. The large part of me wants to have that moment where I sell a Gold record and have number 1 singles and get recognition for what I do. I’ll admit it. That’s what my flesh views as my Rocky moment.

But my redemption is nothing like that. The way I see God redeeming this is through relationship; it’s through provision; it’s through humility. It is in the “average”, not the “victory”. It is every day waking up and building relationships with the pastors and worship leaders I’m booking shows with. It’s submitting myself to what their church needs, instead of what I want (nearly every night these days I do a different set list based upon what the church desires). It’s truly trusting God as my provider, as I go out these days for no guaranteed honorarium, but instead for only love offerings.

My guess is my career over the next few years until I’m done looks like this: pretty average. Yet daily I am blown away by how God moves. Every day I’m excited to see who God brings in my path; by what church I can breathe God’s love to; by what worship leader I get to be in relationship and pour what wisdom I’m afforded into; by what those worship leaders pour into me!

That is success. That is redemption.

And it reminds me that the Apostle Paul’s journey didn’t end with a Rocky moment, but with losing his life. That was success. That was redemption. And yet he proclaimed every step of the way how happy he was, how thankful he was, how incredible the God he served was.

That’s what I want.

-Chris Sligh

 

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Is It A Lie, by Ravenhill

 

There is a possibility that the reason I continue to write music (and this very blog) is a lie. Maybe I believe this lie because a handful of people either believe it too or are too nice (or don’t care enough) to tell me the truth. At least that’s what I constantly ask myself. Most musicians are insecure babies so we can’t help but think about our motives and ourselves relentlessly.

 

Still, no matter how often I question this lie, there’s a catch—I actually believe it. 

 

Okay, so here’s the lie.... I actually believe I am good enough to earn and deserve your attention, even though I act humble at shows or interviews. RAVENHILL and I have played with hundreds of musicians and bands, some household names and others you’ve never heard of.  What’s crazy is I trust that lie enough to truly believe that RAVENHILL is more important of a band than 99% of those other artists. There have been literally only a handful of artists that I believe deserve your love more than me. Why the heck am I telling you this? Why am I not just sharing the same type of interview most people are use to? The ones that say stuff like, “I was washing windows and listening to The Gaslight Anthem and the chorus for 'Brooklyn Blackout' hit me.” That's how it did happen though and we recorded it the next day. But the reason I don’t want to share only that stuff is, I want to be honest. Honest about the fact that I may be buying into a lie and you may be also. If you like RAVENHILL and bought our music, liked our Facebook page, gone to a show, or even if you’re reading this article, you’ve helped perpetuate this lie. The truth is that Jesus Freak Hideout asked me to do a guest spot on their site because we released, ”SPIRIT” an EP of songs that we wrote for or shortly after we released our last full length SOUL. It’s a collection of alternate versions of songs off of SOUL and two songs that I couldn’t see on a real or formal RAVENHILL release. Honestly, these songs are available to you because being in a mid to low level band is tough. You see, I believe we deserve your attention but my beliefs don’t get you to buy records or pay me $1,000 to come play you bar or church youth room. It doesn’t justify my wife continuing to work a job she hates so I can do what I believe “God has put me on this earth to do.” 

 

These beliefs persist because sometimes after enough disappointments, enough shows playing for no one, broken tour vans, hurt feelings and arguments, band members leave or lose interest and leave me questioning if we are good enough. RAVENHILL actually has about 30 songs we could record and put out but something slows us down. Something keeps us from taking risks so we released these 6 songs. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in these SWEETWOOD songs. SWEETWOOD is the name of the street we recorded these songs on and has now become the name of what we call alternate versions of previously released songs. I’d argue that a few of the SWEETWOOD songs are better than their SOUL counterparts.

 

There’s a chance this article is garbage and the ramblings of a madman. Maybe this should’ve been bounced off my brother Brady or best friend David, but I’m talking to you now.  

 

I get tired of all the lies.

 

I get tired of all these “Christian” “artists” acting perfect and on the other side of the spectrum confusing cussing as being honest, both are immature and fake. The truth is as musicians we never grew up. We don’t deserve your attention. We should probably stop making records, but we won’t. As long as people believe the lie, we will continue.  

 

So is it dangerous to believe this lie? Or is it a necessary evil, a tool by another name to push us creatives further. One compliment outweighs a hundred disappointments. One good review will push me to play 20 more shows for no one. Is the lie worth believing in? 

 

This is just one thing that I struggle with when picking up a guitar, but I believe RAVENHILL to be authentic and pure at its core. We plan on releasing a new EP every four months for the next year and a half. That is the basis for our next set of risks we are going to take. We are ambitious and we are going to try to prove to you and ourselves that we deserve your love.  

 

If you’ve given me the grace of reading this far into this blog, you’ve probably come to your own conclusions about me and maybe RAVENHILL. The truth is that after reading this you may think I’m an arrogant jerk, that I really think RAVENHILL is better than everyone. I hope that isn’t what you take from this. Music is subjective and almost unquantifiable when it comes to the question: Who is better?

 

I’m trying to be as honest with you as I’m being with myself. While there’s a part of me that worries someone reading this will take it the wrong way, the rest of me is okay with it if you mishear me. 

 

I know that I have believed this lie to produce the music and content I have in the past. I watched these bands we played with and thought to myself: I have to become better than that!  I don’t think it’s wrong to be honest. I’ve never hated myself for being honest. I would hate myself more if I allowed fear to dictate my life decisions. I may be wrong in some of my stances, but I’m working them out, publicly, publicly because I trust other people’s point of view. I learn best that way. 

 

-Joshua Clifton (a liar)