(This article originally appeared on RockinGodsHouse.com)
Jordan Feliz and I have something in common: we're both from the Central Valley in California -- he from Fresno, me from Shafter. Even many people in the Central Valley haven't heard of my small town where I grew up, but Jordan, to my shock, new Shafter.
So it was easy for me to imagine the beginning of his journey from California to Nashville: speeding down the road with the wide panorama of the mythic, John Steinbeck-ian Central Valley looming behind -- an adventurous drive across the country that he and his wife made completely by faith. They only had enough money to get to Phoenix, AZ, and yet they both felt without a doubt that God was calling them to move to Nashville so that Jordan could put his musical talents to work in the Christian music industry.
And when I heard the rest of the story -- how God actually got them to Nashville -- my jaw dropped. (And you'll have to read the interview below to find out why.) The story will be deeply encouraging for anyone in the midst of a scary faith journey.
It's a great example of how God uses events in our lives to confirm we're on the right course.
And the way that God has provided for Jordan and his family, even during the leanest of times, reminds me of Abraham's journey of faith and the journeys that many of us take when God calls us to leave behind the familiar and jump headfirst into the unknown. An awareness of this miraculous provision and of the true riches of Christ permeate Jordan's music. And thanks to the success of his smash-hit single "The River," which reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot AC/CHR Chart, millions of people are getting exposed to those riches of faith that Jordan has found in Christ.
Jordan and I spoke recently over the phone about his new album Beloved that is turning a lot of heads in the music industry, his new single "The River" and the meaning behind it, and, most importantly, his inspiring faith journey:
In your bio I noticed you're from Central California. I'm from a town called Shafter, near Bakersfield. So I just had to ask.
Yeah, I know Shafter!
You do? Wow that's crazy. So what is Nashville like compared to our neck of the woods in Central California.
Man. It's better. (laughs)
I bet! [And I said that because we Central Valley dwellers are known for being self-effacing about some of the less than desirable qualities of the Central Valley -- like its soul-crushing heat in the summer.]
Yeah, it's better. It's really green which is something I never used to see. It's also just a totally different dynamic with the people. It's almost like you have to get used to it. The people of Nashville are just so welcoming and very communal. Everybody wants to be your friend and hang out. It's just awesome, really great.
That makes me want to visit Nashville. Though I do get kinda homesick when I'm away from Central California. You kinda get used to John Steinback-like vast plain of agriculture.
Oh, totally dude. There are definitely things I miss. But the "miss" doesn't outweight the things we have out here. But I completely agree. I find myself every time I think about a restaurant over there or my coffee place I get a little homesick.
I love the imagery of the song "The River," and I was curious what inspired you to use that imagery?
This song stems from John 7:38 and the verse says, "Whoever believes in Me will have rivers of living water flow from within them." So the imagery got kinda drawn out of that verse. The song is an invitation. That's what it's written to be -- an invitation to everyone, maybe someone who feels like they've lived their entire life by the books or someone who is maybe on the opposite side of that who feels like they have so much baggage that they're just too ashamed to bring that to the Cross. More than anything it's the opportunity to go down in amazing grace and rise up being made new.
That's awesome. It just has that communal feel. "Let's all go down to the river." It has a warmth to it besides that powerful theology. Very cool.
It's funny because some people have taken it as a baptismal kind of vibe. Essentially it's kinda like that, but really the song is -- those rivers of living water -- that is the Holy Spirit. That's what the verse is talking about. So let's go down. It's almost funny, so yes, it's about the river but it's about the river inside of you. It's about the Spirit flowing inside of you and going down into that and being made new from that.
Reading your bio I was really inspired by your journey of faith. It kinda reminded me about how God called Abraham out -- a calling to go into the scary unknown -- because of how God called you out on this crazy trip to Nashville. I was just curious; what gave you the sense that God was moving you to Nashville? Or how did God help you make that decision?
I took a job as a worship leader for a year after the band I was in broke up, and in that year I had a really, really close friend of mine (who actually is now my manager), but he reached out to me. He used to be in a band that played with my band. He was talking to me about how he would love for me to come to Nashville. Around that time I was really feeling like God kept giving me revelations and ideas for songs. So I was just like, wow, that's weird that Adam calls me, and then God is giving me these song ideas. That's weird. So I felt like I wanted to explore it.
So I flew out to Nashville. I just felt like God's hand was over the entire trip like, "this is something you need to pursue." I came back home, talked to my wife about it. We prayed about it for about a year. We both felt like we had made a couple trips to Nashville. We both felt that every time we left it felt like home. It felt like we were going back somewhere that wasn't our home. We just really felt like God was just "go."
It's really interesting because sometimes you want to know, and it's really hard, there's so much wondering in your journey as a human being. You're like, "Am I just saying this to myself? Am I the one speaking this into my life or is this God?" Our journey w
as just a testament to God's abundance in our lives. It was really amazing to see Him and His hand over us in our journey.
That's incredible. I think it is awesome how God will confirm things with external signs that you know you couldn't have invented on your own. And that brings me to my next question about your amazing story of how you actually made it across the country, somehow getting shows along the way. Could you fill us in on how that happened?
In that year of planning and praying I started putting together some kind of tour so that we would basically not have to feel the financial weight of the move and the costs and the gas to get to Nashville because my wife -- I mean, I'm a musician and a worship leader; it's not like we're really rolling in it. [laughs] It was kinda one of these things where I put all these things together. I've always been that way, just a planner and I want to take control of things and just kinda do it.
Two weeks before we decided to move everything fell apart. Everything fell apart. All the shows got canceled. I was just like, "oh my gosh how are we going to make it?" My wife and I were both kinda looking at each other like, "Is this God saying don't go?" Is this Him saying you've been misinterpreting this the whole time? There was much confusion. We just really, we prayed together every night for the next two weeks. We really felt like God was still telling us to go. So we hopped in my van and trailer that had everything we owned, and I just starting calling. I mean the day we left, the first day, I didn't have a show, so I called and ended up getting a show in San Bernadino, California. That show paid to get us to Phoenix, which is where my wife's family is from. So we stayed there as a home base for a couple days while we tried to get a couple more things kinda figured out.
Basically that became the trend: calling, just cold calling people I've never met before like "hey, do you need a worship leader today? or for anything?" It was crazy because all of a sudden we're making like literally just enough money to get us to the next place, and it's just like "oh my gosh God you're providing." I'm seeing all these things, and then we're driving through Texas, and I'll never forget it because I felt like all of a sudden we're running out. We're just not going to make it. There's just no way. I'm calling everyone, like can I get a show in Oklahoma City? I don't know anyone there. We have nothing else. I've called hundreds of people in a matter of like seven days.
I end up calling a friend from Dallas, and I say, "Dude, by any chance do you have any connection in Oklahoma City?" And he says, "Actually, yeah, I do. Let me text you his number and see if you can work something out." So I call him, and the guy goes, "Oh man that church doesn't even exist anymore." I'm like great, great, that's awesome. Thanks. He goes, "But honestly though, I have a buddy of mine who just started a church in his backyard in a barn. I'm thinking, yeah that sounds about right. Yeah, send me his phone number.
So I called this guy, his name is Tony, he's amazing. A super awesome guy. We end up going there. He's like, "I can pay you a hundred bucks if you want to come in." I'm all, "Hey, it's better than nothing." So I go in and this is just total proof that God is way bigger than anything we could ever imagine. So I go in on the day of the Oklahoma City Bombing Marathon, and so their entire church is participating in it, so I played to 26 people in two services. So I don't know how, but I ended up making like $1,500 from a church with 26 people. There was a guy who literally wrote me a check for $300 and just told me, "I don't know why, but when you were up there God told me to give this to you." [Jordan pauses on the phone for a moment] Dude, I have goosebumps right now. Everytime I talk about it, it's just crazy. The only answer to it is just the fact that God's provision is such that He wants much more for us than we even want for ourselves. Because I was striving just to get to Nashville, and I ended up making money moving to Nashville. It's just proof that His ideas for us are much bigger than we even have for ourselves.
Incredible. I knew there was a story in there, but I didn't know it was that awesome. [laughs] Thank you for sharing that. Just hearing that story is going to keep me encouraged for the rest of the week. Wow. My next question ties into all of that. What advice would you give to a Christian who feels God is calling them to do something big and scary but they're really not sure they can pull it off?
Man. Even though it's terrifying and I've been there, done that legitimately the thing is is that if God is calling you to do it no matter what comes out of it because even when we've been in Nashville there have been things that God has asked me to do that have not ended up in the moment really being a good idea. You're like why am I doing this? And all of a sudden three months later you're like, oh that's why I did that. So I say, go, jump headfirst. You know what I mean? Dive into it. Ever since that move my wife and I have been living our lives like that. Of just saying, "God we trust You. Do what you have to do." I mean we have been provided for in moments that you would have though how are they going to make it there's no way that's going to happen and we have. The moment you abandon all your earthly fears and all these things that weigh you down and that is a lot harder than you think it is, I still struggle with it. But the moment that you run from them is the moment that you see God doing some amazing things in your life that you would have never though you would have happened because it's totally true that He wants so much more for you than you want for yourself.
Wow. [pauses] Yeah, I'm just kinda absorbing that right now. That's really awesome, thank you so much for that, it's really encouraging. Are there any tour plans or anything you want people to know about that's coming up?
I'm going to be home all fall. Being a family man, being a dad. Being a husband. I'm writing for my next record. But in the spring I'm starting, well, I guess it's late winter in January, I'm starting a tour with Big Daddy Weave and Plumb. It's called the "Beautiful Offerings Tour." So keep your eyes pealed and hopefully we will be able to hang out.
Check out the official Jordan Feliz website to learn more about his music and to stay up-to-date with the latest news.