Acclaimed singer and songwriter JJ Heller announces that she plans on releasing a new album of hymns. I Dream of You: HYMNS will be released on March 1, 2024. However, she will begin releasing a hymn on the second Friday of every month until the whole record comes out. This week, Heller releases her own version of "His Eye is on the Sparrow" following last month's "Joy Joyful We Adore Thee."
Heller has taken the time to reflect on what the hymn "His Eye on the Sparrow" means to her.
To say the summer of 1999 was a pivotal time in my life would be an understatement.
After achieving my dream of playing college basketball, I discovered I wasn't as good as I used to be, and playing just wasn't fun anymore. At the end of the season I decided I was done with basketball, but I didn't know who I was if I wasn't an athlete.
When the school year ended, I went on a missions trip to Kenya, Africa to serve the poor in Mombasa and surrounding villages. During my six weeks there, I grieved the loss of my old dream of being a collegiate athlete, but I also started to learn how to play the guitar and wrote my first song with the help of my friends Sarah and Tracy.
One night when our little team of five was staying in a cement house in a rural region, it was my turn to clean the dishes. With my soapy arms submerged in the red and white tie-dyed washing basins, I started to sing "His Eye Is On The Sparrow" to pass the time.
After the first few notes, my team started to gather around to hear me sing. Feeling embarrassed and vulnerable I stopped singing and asked them why they went out of their way to come listen to me. My friend Phil said, "I'd pay money to hear you sing."
I'm sure he doesn't remember saying that, but it was the first time in probably a decade that I thought of my voice as anything special. It was a life-changing moment for me: one that God used to give me the smallest little nudge to keep dreaming and keep singing.
I honestly don't know where I'd be without that night in the little cement house. "His Eye is on the Sparrow" will always be special to me. It's a song that was there for me at the very beginning of my career in music, and I'm so happy to share this version with you!