Award Winning Band Point of Grace Singer Denise Jones
Reaching Out Through Music and Conferences Point of Grace is Making a Difference. Up Close with Singer Denise Jones
Written by Shelley Barski
Honored with twenty-seven, #1 hit songs, 13 Dove awards, two Grammy nominations, career album sales in excess of 7 million, including Platinum and Gold albums, Point of Grace is one of the Top 10 Best-Selling Artists in the history of Contemporary Christian music. Easily one of the most influential Christian groups in the industry, this all-female trio consists of Denise Jones, Shelley Breen ad Leigh Cappillino. In 2002, the group had a desire to bring teenage girls together and talk about issues that affect them, and as a result, launched the first Girls of Grace conference. “At times girls feel like they are the only ones who struggle with certain issues,” says Point of Grace’s Denise Jones. Now in its eleventh year, Girls of Grace conferences give girls “the opportunity to come together in a large group and realize that we all have our own struggles, and yet, we are in this together,” adds Jones. Risen had a chance to talk to Jones about the conferences, balancing family life and how to “steady on” through the hard times.
Interviewed Exclusively for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: When and how did you first experience God?
Denise Jones: I was fortunate to grow up in a Christian home in Norman, Oklahoma. Both grandparents were in town and went to my church. At age 6, I had the realization that I needed a Savior. In my small little heart and mind I knew that I was a sinner. I went with my dad to talk to our pastor about it and committed to follow the Lord then. It’s been a journey. At 44, I’m realizing how much God’s grace followed me all these years. Am I perfect? No! God has really freed me in just these past four years from feeling like I had to do everything I was supposed to do. Even though I knew as a little girl that Christ gave me the free gift of grace, somewhere along the line I started focusing on following the rules and doing the right things instead.
Risen Magazine: Was it ever hard to sing encouraging, happy songs during times when you felt hopeless or far from God?
Denise Jones: I think I’ve learned through life that there are times when I had to keep singing. I don’t always want to sing Zippity Do Da, but sometimes it’s important to keep singing through the hard times. I relate it to Chariots of Fire when Eric Liddell says, “When I run, I feel His pleasure.” That’s the way I look at singing. God has always met me there when I’ve had little depressions or got in a fight with my husband. There is a song, Nothing Greater than Grace that we sing and that helped me through a hard time. God, through a great counselor and mentor, freed me from trying to be perfect and I accepted His grace once again.
I sang Blue Skies when I thought my husband had cancer. We were recording Blue Skies and the Lord met me there—it was hard to see past my fear on that gray day. I remember driving to the studio and told the Lord, “I don’t know if I can sing this!” I heard a voice in my heart saying that no matter what the outcome, it’s going to be okay. Singing is one way I can look to Him and place my faith and trust.
Risen Magazine: Who was your biggest role model growing up?
Denise Jones: My mom and grandmothers were a huge influence in my life. When I think of who I want to be, I think of them. I saw them on their knees and I saw them daily in God’s word. My mom would give me verses on my mirror and as a teenager, I was like, “Ugh, really mom?” But you have to have that daily reminder to keep worry away, a reminder from the daily distractions. I get it now. I also had a high school teacher that musically really inspired me and made me believe in my giftings.
Risen Magazine: What is some advice that you received that helped you become the woman you are today?
Denise Jones: People matter. The way my mom lived showed me that people matter, and no matter what the circumstances, she cared about the heart of people and looked past wealth and status. I try to show that to my own kids. Sometimes we get caught up in our own lives and forget about others.
Marriage is important. My parents have been married over 50 years and my grandparents celebrated over 60 years of marriage. They aren’t perfect, but there is a commitment there. I think saving myself for my husband was very important. I’ve been married 20 years and purity almost matters more now than it did then. I think because we are the only ones each other has had sex with, that cheating would take so much more to go there–it would be that much harder. We are at an age where unfortunately a lot of our friends are getting divorced. I think that commitment has made a difference in my marriage and kept us together. I try to instill in kids that purity really does matter!
Risen Magazine: You’ve experienced so much success in the 20 years as a trio. How have you stayed humble and balanced amidst the success?
Denise Jones: It’s funny when people ask us that because we don’t feel like we’re that big and successful. We have just always had great people around us–family, husbands and mentors along the way. When we were at the most successful [worldly success], you’re so busy at that time and everything is so crazy, that you can’t even think about the success, let alone have time to enjoy it. I’ve never felt like, “Oh I’m huge!” I’ve always had a sense of my brokenness and my own limitations. The hard part is balance and schedules and knowing when to say No, because your family needs you to stay home. At the age we are at, we love what we do. I can say no because my son is playing football on Friday and he’s playing varsity and I want to watch him. We’ve come to a point where our kids are growing up so fast and so we trust the dates that come to us and pray that we can take them. I have to be dependent on God to direct my path. He’s provided the grace. When I live outside of grace, that’s when I can’t handle the busy schedules and start dropping plates.
Kids are more connected in a global sense, but we face a generation that is extremely alone. They’re not hands-on anymore. Instead of apologizing to someone to his or her face, they’ll text it.
Risen Magazine: What does a strong woman of God look like to you today?
Denise Jones: A strong woman of God knows how dependent she is on Him. I think of my grandmas and how they always had the right thing to say because they were in tune with God. A strong woman of God doesn’t overact. It doesn’t mean you can’t have a fiery personality, because we need leaders, but she knows when to wait on the Lord. She takes things with ease. She knows when to listen. She doesn’t have to have the answers. She knows when to just sit by someone or when to respond. She knows how to respond correctly instead of just reacting. When I overreact, I know that’s when I’m not trusting the Lord. It says in Proverbs that wisdom is so important. We could read books all day long, but how do we know God if we don’t know His word? I don’t have His word hidden in my heart like I want, but it’s something I am working toward.
Risen Magazine: How do the three of you collaborate on songs together? Can you explain the process?
Denise Jones: We have written a few things like, A Thousand Little Things, and Good Enough, but really, we have not been much of writers. In the long run I think that was good for our career. In other groups, one writer is stronger and there can be jealousy amongst the group. Also, when you’re so close to a song, you can’t look at it objectively. When we listen to songs written by other people, we can listen like an audience. When it speaks to us, we know it can speak in the heart of our listeners. Saving Grace, The House That Mercy Built [for Mercy Ministries] and Circle of Friends are some of those songs. Sometimes we will say, “Oh we didn’t like this or let’s change that,” etc. We have met writers in all different places. Cindy Morgan is a writer lately that we just love. She is in the same age and place as we are in life. How You Live is such a song for us and the song, I Wish – she like, reads our mail! She gets us! I think God has brought the right people along our path at the right times.
Risen Magazine: What are your thoughts on where Christian music has been and where it’s going?
Denise Jones: The music industry has changed so much over the years with downloads, etc. I love Christian music and that it is progressive and there are artists that can be current with the culture. I think it can get a little saturated though. I think music needs to speak to the heart. As a mom, I know the message of the lyrics of secular songs on the radio; why wouldn’t I want my kids to listen to the same kind of talent that gives an eternal message? Whether it’s about friendship, forgiveness or a happy day, it can be about a lot of things. I love that there are so many options out there. Now you’ve got rock, rap, country, pop, but most of all, it’s the message that’s important. At the Girls of Grace conference, we’ve got all of that!
Risen Magazine: Where did the initial inspiration for the Girls of Grace conference come from?
Denise Jones: We celebrated our 10 year anniversary of Girls of Grace this past year. In our career, girls have been a huge fan base of ours. Before email, we used to get handwritten letters from them. We also had a small group where we would help girls. We partnered with Mercy Ministries who helps girls ages 13-28 overcome life challenges like addiction and unplanned pregnancy. The Lord had given us this platform to encourage people and speak into their lives. We know the struggles females face in American culture – society is telling us that success is based so much on how we look. We wanted to come alongside these girls and their parents and tell them they can walk differently, that what the world says about talking and dressing isn’t true. All of us grew up with people that we looked up to. If I went to a conference when I was young to see Amy Grant, I would have listened to every word she said. We always wanted to go beyond Point of Grace and we knew there would be a time when we weren’t the young hip singers anymore. Now we get to bring along great groups like Brit Nicole and the hit artists of the day, and that’s been awesome.
Risen Magazine: What kind of impact have you seen on young girls over the years as a result of this conference?
Denise Jones: It’s been really neat throughout the years to run into girls who have gone to the conference. One girl I ran into, who is in college now, came to the conference when she was 13. She told me she made different choices based on what she learned at the conference, like how she approached dating. Another girl’s dad said, “I don’t know what you did at that conference, but my daughter came home treating her siblings completely differently.” I love hearing those stories.
One of the things I love about this conference is the speakers we have and how they can speak in such a way that girls can really resonate with them. From the inexperienced 12-year-old to the older girl who has experienced a lot, they all can get something out of it.
Risen Magazine: What kind of challenges do you think young girls face today that previous generations didn’t have to deal with?
Denise Jones: In some ways our challenges are very similar, whether you’re 12 or 45, a girl still deals with being okay with who she is, and that she’s enough and perfect the way she is. I do think in this generation, their world moves so fast and they rarely have a quiet moment to themselves. There’s constant noise or Facebook, texting, etc.
I think social media is a new challenge for teenagers. It can be used for great things, but it is so much self-promotion. It heightens their insecurities, like if you’re not in a picture at a party on Instagram, then you start feeling bad about yourself. Kids are more connected in a global sense, but we face a generation that is extremely alone. They’re not hands-on anymore. Instead of apologizing to someone to his or her face, they’ll text it. It’s easy to text someone who has had a bad or good day instead of putting your arms around them. We lose a sense of community that way. This heightens the feeling of being disconnected and alone.
Parents and teens and relationships will always be difficult. Eating disorders and self-harm are still big issues. Teens often don’t know what a real friend is and isn’t. I think they are missing out on some really special experiences that teach you about life by being connected in a different way. I work with girls at my son’s school and they tell me they are so much more comfortable texting instead of talking, but those are skills everybody still needs.
Risen Magazine: What are you most excited for in this new conference season?
Denise Jones: Our new theme is Live, Love and Lead and it’s really encompassing what God’s grace is about. I want the girls to come and really learn about how God’s grace is the starting point. A girl who grows up in a Christian home knows the rules very well. But does she know how much she is loved? Does she know there is a God that totally adores us? When we really understand what a Girl of Grace is, we can understand that God’s grace meets us every day even when we don’t do our best on a test. It’s about the sun coming up in the morning and God meeting us there; that He gave us friends and relationships to enjoy. We live and love differently when we understand grace. We learn to love a person that is not as easy to love. Out of that love, we learn to lead a different culture.
National speaker Chris Wheeler, and Annie Downs, speaker and author of Perfectly Unique: Praising God from Head to Foot, are speaking at the current conference and are some of the best communicators I’ve heard lately. They always have a fresh approach and they really understand how to communicate to this culture.
Risen Magazine: What else is on the horizon for Point of Grace?
Denise Jones: We have a Christmas tour. Crackle Barrel is releasing a Christmas CD with us and we’ll be doing some impromptu singing by the fire; that’s always fun. We did some stuff with radio too. The three of us have the gift of gab [laughs]. But we’ve never wanted to speak beyond our experiences. You think when you’re 20 you’ve got to say something really profound, but you don’t really know that much when you’re that age! We took that advice. We spoke to teens and college [students] then. Now we are a little older and we celebrate that. We’ve seen a lot more. We’ve had friends die, seen divorce, had babies and have aging parents. We want to come up with creative ways to speak into the lives of women because we know where they’re at.
Risen Magazine: Favorite Bible verse?
Denise Jones: John 16:33. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
I think for me, when my heart is restless and worrisome, and I can easily get anxious and uptight about things, I have to be reminded that I can only find Peace in Jesus, who loves me unconditionally. He knows the outcomes of the circumstances better than I do. People are going to let us down, but it’s in Jesus that I find peace.
ChildFund, WinShape Camps, Zondervan, Grand Canyon University and NewReleaseTuesday.com serve as sponsors of Girls of Grace conferences. For more information, visit www.girlsofgrace.com
Exclusive interview originally published in Risen Magazine, Winter 2013
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