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#867 - "Heartland" by John Tibbs
John Tibbs' home country fueled this song about our true home and hope as believers.

Posted: October 19, 2017 | By: KevinDavis_NRT
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Singer songwriter John Tibbs made his mark last year with his impressive debut album Dead Man Walking, which was one of my Top 20 Albums of 2016. He offers a musical style reminiscent of John Waller, Brandon Heath and Josh Wilson. John has strong vocals, personal lyrics and a testimony of grace that can be heard in each song. 

His follow-up independent project Heartland has been preceded by the release of his songs "Won't Let Me Go," "Heartland," "Shepherd" and "Midwest Magic," which all reflect John's personal experiences of traveling and singing throughout the heartland of the country. This is one of the most uplifting, challenging and introspective albums I've heard this year. Whether as an album to set the mood for reflection and worship or for personal times of devotion, I rate Heartland highly for fans of truth telling singer-songwriters. John's vulnerability and ability to connect emotionally in his songs brings me closer to God. I had the chance to speak with John about "Heartland."

Please tell me the personal story behind this song.

I was born in Kentucky, I grew up in a coal-mining town in western Pennsylvania, and I went to college and fell in love in central Indiana. Over these past two years being able to tour all over, I've encountered a lot of hurt and a lot of pain and a lot of anger in people. There was something about all of that which I had a hard time dealing with. 

When it came time to make my next album, I wanted to create something that echoed what I was experiencing internally, which is about trying to bring some of heaven to earth. This earth has a lot of pain and a lot of hurt, and there are a lot of problems here, and that's how it is going to be until we are connected to Jesus. Because of who Jesus is in us and how He teaches us to care for others, we can try to get a picture of Him. 

The heartland represents home to me. And yet, I realize that this world is not my home. It a place full of struggles and pain. But no amount of war, famine, anger, disease or political division can overcome the love of God. So this song is a response to the strife I see every day and a reminder to myself to carry the love and kindness of God wherever I go. I believe that we are all in this together. 

I don't know what it will be like after earth. One day, things will be made right and sorrow will come to an end, but until then, I want to live a life of joy and love that is a blessing to those around me. What I understand is an overwhelming sense of being home: Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Indiana, the heartland. That turned into this song about being in the heartland, which speaks ultimately about heaven, and those places on earth.
Which Bible verses connect to the message of the song?

Proverbs 13:12 (NKJV): "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life."

Hebrews 13:14 (NLT): "For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come."

Ecclesiastes 2:11 (NLT): "But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless--like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere."

Matthew 11:29-30 (NKJV): "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV): But He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV): "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."

Revelation 21:21 (VOICE): "The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate expertly crafted from a single beautiful pearl. And the city street was pure gold, yet it was as transparent as glass."

What is the takeaway message?

I spent a lot of time working on this song. I was concerned if people would understand it. I've been singing the song on tour, and it's been so cool to see the reaction to it. It connects to something that is all of us, to be closer to Jesus. In the season of being okay that everything isn't okay and truly accepting that, there's been hurt and pain in all parts of the country. I went through a time period where I wasn't truly okay with not having all of the answers and solutions. I kept coming back to wondering how all of us as humans got to this place. How are people okay with all of this pain and suffering? 

It came back to putting complete trust in Him and trying to be faithful in every situation and opportunity that He opens up. It's okay, because I choose Jesus. All of a sudden it took away pressure to have the answer for every situation. For everything, seek Jesus and His calling. I hope this song encourages people to accept the emptiness on earth, because one day it will be perfect. Hold on to that longing and sense of seeking Him out. As Christians, it's not comfortable and not easy. We need to accept that everything isn't perfect but Jesus is, and choose Him. 

Each song in Heartland embodies the place where I learned the stuff of life: fear, love, anger, doubt and hope. But more than anything, I hope that when you hear this record and listen to these songs, you hear my heart. Because I mean every last bit of it.

Out of hope, all alone, on the road I'm chasing
Dirty hands, just a man, with a heart that's breaking

I look high, I look low
For a way, for a way
But the road's so long and the light is fading

And oh, I wanna go where, this love is standing higher than the mountain
And oh, I wanna dance in the river right here, with grace that's never ending
And oh, I wanna rest in the shadow of the tree that won forgiveness
And oh, I wanna be found in the heartland

In the valley below I heard a story
Of a hill where the Son revealed His glory

Where the weight of the world
Falls away, falls away
I can hear Him now, He's calling for me

And oh, I wanna go where, this love is standing higher than the mountain
And oh, I wanna dance in the river right here, with grace that's never ending
And oh, I wanna rest in the shadow of the tree that won forgiveness
And oh, I wanna be found in the heartland

At the hill where mercy died for me
At the grave when death met its defeat
And in Your hands is where I wanna be

And oh, I wanna go where, this love is standing higher than the mountain
And oh, I wanna dance in the river right here, with grace that's never ending
And oh, I wanna rest in the shadow of the tree that won forgiveness
And oh, I wanna be found in the heartland
In the heartland

"If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world," wrote C.S. Lewis in the book Mere Christianity. As believers in Christ, we know that we are made for God. We were all created to find our home in Him. No matter your worldview, we all need to remember that Earth isn't our permanent home, and our freedom from the pain and suffering and heartache of this world will come when we enter the true rest that can only come from living eternally with Jesus Christ. This song has become a personal anthem for me to sing daily and remember that "everything under the sun is meaningless." As St. Augustine put it so perfectly, "our hearts are restless until they rest in You."

We all have insecurities in some way. God has wired us to need Him. Having anxiety and being able to overcome fear can be accomplished only by stepping into God's supernatural ability. He desires that from us as His children. It's in our weakness that God is made strong. It's only through God's grace that we can overcome our emotional conflicts of feeling invisible and conspicuous at the same time. When we feel like we are on shaky ground and we are dealing with the uncertainty of our situations, the economy and our world, this song allows us to dwell on the unshakable nature of God. When all else fades away, He will remain.

"Heartland" beautifully captures the emotion of the biblical truth expressed in Proverbs 13:12. That prayerful language instills a reminder in us about not being heartsick from a hope deferred, but to believe in the hope that Jesus offers us as His followers. His plans for us are not to be a heartsick people, but a hope-filled people. God promises us in Matthew 11:29-30 that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. God comes and claims us in our darkest place. When we are in communion with God, it is joyful and not a burden. I sing along with the truth of this song at the top of my lungs: "I wanna rest in the shadow of the tree that won forgiveness, and oh, I wanna be found in the heartland." Amen to that!

Listen to the song below.


NRT Lead Contributor Kevin Davis is a longtime fan of Christian music, an avid music collector and credits the message of Christian music for leading him to Christ. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and three daughters.

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