January 18, 2020
Oh. Hello there.
Yes, it’s January. Yes, this blog post is going to be about November. Yes, there’s a decent duration of time between those two things.
But one of the many things I have decided since starting BSSM is that I don’t do shame. So stop trying that on me 😉
I promise I did start writing this in early December, but somehow time just slipped away. I suppose more of that can be discussed in my already-late post about December.
All that to say, this blog post is going to be written as if December hadn’t been completed and January hadn’t started yet. Think of it as a time machine, back to sometime around early December. Exciting, right? Bet you didn’t think you’d be time travelling when you clicked on this post.
Ok then... Ready to go? Press that button over there, and let's go back…
- Cue very realistic time machine noises -
What. To. Write about.
Three months? Really?
It just feels impossible. Was it really only three months ago that I stepped into the Redding Civic Auditorium for the first time, wide-eyed and completely mystified at this breed of Christian I was far less prepared for than I expected? That I went to that pool party to meet with my Revival Group for the first time, and somehow left without meeting some of the people who have now become some of my closest friends?
It also feels like three months is some laughable mid-estimation because of how much I feel I’ve changed. In fact, trying to sum up this month alone feels rather daunting:
The love of God and how little I understand it.
Why risk feels more and more like an essential lifeline.
How God is not a puzzle to be solved.
Worship nights & pillow fights.
Stars & guitars.
The deliciousness of truth.
How does one talk about all of these things in a single blog? Or how does one choose one thing to properly expound?
Oh well. Life is too short to be perfect. Let’s just pick one, shall we? Let’s talk about relationships.
No, no, not THAT kind. It’s still the first half of the year, and it’s been made pretty plain that dating relationships really kick into gear after Christmas. Perhaps I’ll talk about it more then. For now, let’s talk about Jesus relationships, and how I’ve come to value my own more deeply than ever before.
So. The greatest part of BSSM is Jesus. The second greatest part is the people. Yes, the leaders, but also my classmates. They are incredibly diverse, from tons of countries and a thousand different family, cultural, and religious backgrounds.
And, let’s just be real, different people can make you uncomfortable. Or, ya know, offend you.
Such was my experience with one classmate in particular. My knee-jerk reaction to him was to suspect him, feeling concerned that he was pretending or acting to gain approval from the rest of us students, rather than operating out of a real, honest-to-goodness relationship with Jesus.
I know none of you have ever made snap judgements, but it turns out I’m not immune to them.
Anyways, after I actually took the time to get to know him, my attitude shifted completely. I recognized that he actually carried things in God I didn’t, and I started being intentional about honouring him and learning all I could from him. I quickly counted him as a friend, and looked forward to hanging out with him.
Then, a couple months later, I felt something shift again. A vague, unsettled, uneasiness came over me whenever he was around. I would find myself getting irritated or frustrated without any obvious stimulant. I started mentally and Spiritually distancing myself from him, filtering what he said and not allowing it to easily impact me. And so, I started asking questions. Of myself and of Jesus.
Was this my discernment kicking into gear, warning me against an unsafe person? Was this arrogance on my part? Some sort of insecurity?
Spoiler: it wasn’t discernment.
It was certainly a more involved process than I’ll delve into here and now, but what I came to realize was that my feelings really had nothing to do with my classmate, other than perhaps his behaviour causing my brokenness to bubble up to the surface.
What I came to recognize was that I was comparing my personal relationship with God to my classmate’s relationship with God, and coming to the conclusion that mine was somehow less-than, lacking, insufficient, and thereby raising my insecurity level. After all, I have never related to God in some of the ways he did, ever; that must mean he is further along in God and I am dragging behind, right?
As with most types of comparison, this was already causing relational distance between us, though he hadn’t done a thing wrong. And then I felt God step into the scene and start to guide me into a few fresh understandings.
First, He helped me realize how futile this comparison to my classmate was. After all, I’m also in an environment with people I consider to be absolute giants in the “Kingdom of God,” such Bill Johnson and Kris Vallotton. That must mean I’m behind them too, right? Which one is the one I should most compare myself to? Whom should I try to emulate most closely? With whom should I feel the most insecure when examining my relationship with Jesus?
Then I felt Jesus say something so simple and yet, for me, so revolutionary:
“I don’t want you to be like him.”
Oh right. I seem to remember something like that... God created us unique on purpose.
I don’t suppose I had really forgotten that fact, but it had somehow just slipped too far into the background.
That thought led to another:
The fact that I was insecure in my relationship with God revealed a lack of trust in God. I realize that might seem like a bit of a jump, but hear me out:
Really, part of what I was saying in deciding my relationship with God was inferior to my classmate’s was “God, I don’t trust the way You are leading our relationship. Clearly we are supposed to look like that over there, and we don’t, and I don’t know how to get there, so the problem is that You haven’t showed me how.”
Mhmm. That’s for real.
And then we went deeper still. I felt God essentially ask me if, given the opportunity, I would trade my relationship with God for my classmate’s, or, for that matter, Bill Johnson’s. If it was possible, would I simply switch my relationship with God for what I apparently deemed to be a better relationship with Him?
The answer I came to and will cling to until the day I die is “no.” I have become convinced that there is no single thing more important or valuable to me than my relationship with God.
Because if you step back and think about it, any relationship is based on history, whether it's moments, months, or decades. And the history I have with God is something I realized I wouldn’t give up for anything. Thus, the relationship with God that that history has created is the most valuable thing I have.
From my 6-year old self praying some sort of salvation prayer I only just barely understood to my 12-year old self beginning to journal my endless prayers that the Ottawa Senators would win the Stanley Cup (apparently I need more faith).
From an experience at a youth conference at age 17 that convinced me anew that God was real and that He was the only thing worth chasing for the rest of my life to brutally hard seasons that made me question almost everything about my life. From wild nights of worship at youth church to solitary nights in my parents backyard under a moonlit night with nothing but a guitar and my untrained voice.
From the mountaintops to the darkest valleys. My victories and my defeats. My failures, successes. From the childish hopes and dreams that have long since melted away to the ones that have persisted, and the new ones. From my uncertain decision to take Computer Science in college to the jobs that seemed to fall into my lap afterward.
And, most recently, this journey to and through BSSM in Redding California.
Would I trade that? Would I trade the history that my relationship with God is built on?
No. Not for all the money in the world or my name in the brightest lights or the most glorious leadership position in the grandest organization. Not for anything or anyone.
My relationship with God is the most valuable thing I have. It is unique and beautiful and unlike anything anyone has seen before.
This is how it’s supposed to be. It’s how it was always supposed to be.
God creates billions of people and yearns for unique, individual, personal relationships with each one of them, somehow reserving a little special slice of Himself for each person that no one else gets to see in quite the same way.
My relationship with God is something no one else could ever have. It’s all my own, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. And I am so thankful for fellow classmates who relate to God so radically differently from me that I am forced to realize that.
Truly, the most valuable thing I have is my own relationship with God.
November 1, 2019
Hi friends. As I mentioned in my previous blog post I have the incredible opportunity to go to the Netherlands on a missions trip for about 10 days next March. I’ll be travelling with a radical group of revivalists, with the goal of expanding the Kingdom of God everywhere we go. We’ll be supporting churches, praying over and through businesses, and helping local leaders that are trying to cultivate a Kingdom Culture similar to Bethel’s in their own spheres of influence. Past groups have had opportunities to teach (true) religion in schools, talk and pray with political leaders, and connect with high-profile cultural icons (e.g., musicians), and we’ll likely have openings to do some or all of these during our trip.
And through it all, we’ll be aiming to bring the love of Jesus to every single person we come in contact with.
Maybe you yearn for a missions trip but present circumstances don’t allow it. Maybe you have a heart for Netherlands. Maybe you have a heart to see the light of Jesus infiltrate the darkness of an atheistic country. Or maybe you simply feel to invest in me as I invest my energy and resources into this year and into this trip to the Netherlands.
Regardless, if any of this sparks some measure of excitement inside you, I’d love to invite you to partner with me in this trip.
First of all, in prayer, both for Netherlands and for me and the team as we go, that our trip would be incredibly impactful, and that the ripples from it would continue long after we’ve come back to North America.
Secondly, yes, finances would rock too.
I know everyone's circumstances are unique, and this is not intended to be a guilt trip of any sort, but I am deeply convinced there is no greater way to spend time, energy, or money than in building the Kingdom of God. It’s the reason I am here, in Redding California. It’s the reason I left friends, family, my house, and my job for nine months. It’s the reason I’ve spent a lot of savings on tuition, housing, and relocation.
I can’t guarantee a direct, monetary return. I really can’t guarantee a direct return at all. But I can guarantee that God is Faithful, and that this trip will impact eternity. Because, ultimately, that’s our mission: to expand the Kingdom of God in such a way that the eternal destiny of eternal beings changes from death to life.
So, if you are willing to partner with me financially and donate towards this trip, you can do so here.
I have a total of $2,150 funds to raise. Any and all donations are massively appreciated!
Thank ya’ll for reading!
Now then. Actual blog update time:
I trust and believe almost everything I hear around BSSM. Most things I hear ring true in my Spirit, match up with the Bible, and make as much logical sense as this Jesus stuff ever does (turns out that sometimes it’s not really a lot).
But there’s a phrase I’ve heard a few times now that I disagree with wholeheartedly. I’ve heard it from peers in first year, people I’ve met in second year, and yes, even from the stage out of the mouth of some leaders I respect a ton. It sounds innocuous enough; the kind of phrase a crowd of enthusiastic ministry school students would tend to clap and cheer for:
“This year is gonna be the best year of your life.”
Why, you ask, am I so averse to this line of thinking?
Well, to answer fully, one needs to step back in time some 8 years. I was 20 years old, and had already spent a year out of high school working because I wasn’t sure what sort of college direction I wanted to go in. And, truth be told, I was flat-out terrified to make any sort of meaningful decision about my future. I was paralyzed by fear, so I spent a long time just… Not moving in any direction. This blog post isn’t really about the details of that phase of my life, but suffice to say it wasn’t until about a year into my college schooling, as I was making yet another late night drive from Cornwall back to Ottawa, that I recognized, for the first time I can remember, that I had a genuine sense of excitement for my future, rather than that sense of fear that had become so familiar to me.
Ok, so step back to the more recent past, around the start of October, and I’m loving life at BSSM. Being here has brought an abundance of joy, peace, and a feeling of safety that I simply haven’t lived in before, though I may have dabbled in it on occasion. The Holy Spirit is digging up dirty things in my life that I didn’t even know I carried. My identity as a Son is being defined, reinforced, and then reinforced some more. I’m hearing more and more whispers of my destiny. It is honestly absolutely incredible. But, in the midst of it all, a fear starts to grow. A fear of the future. It’s reminiscent of that fear I lived in 8 years ago:
What am I supposed to do after this year? Where will I work? Am I supposed to come back to BSSM for a second year? A third? How do my new understandings of God and the Kingdom fit back into my hometown and home church? Or do they? What if I don’t fit back into where I came from? Where will I go?
It started off as background noise, but it just kept growing louder. I found myself letting these useless, downward-spiralling thoughts cycle around my head far too often. And, coupled with that, this recurring proclamation that this year is the best year of my life.
Then, one morning with Jesus, I started saying “no” to it. “No” to the endless attempts at figuring out a future that, as the great Yoda once so wisely said, is always in motion. And “no” to agreeing with the sentiment that this year at BSSM is the best year of my life.
Because it’s not.
I believe that partnering with this idea goes against God’s nature, and starts to kill hope. It leads you into feeling frantic to glean every nanosecond from this short 9 months because, after all, life won’t ever be this good again. And if, like me, you’re tend to be a little scared of what life post-school looks like, this idea can quickly start to steal the joy it’s intended to inspire.
“Life won’t ever be this good again and, what’s more, life after BSSM is probably gonna suck.”
If you boil it all the way down, that’s basically what this line of thinking can lead to. Seems like a kinda dismal, depressing outlook on life if you ask me.
But one thing I have come to believe about God is that He’s always leading us into better things in Him. From “glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18), one good thing to another, with a hope that doesn’t disappoint.
I believe this is the way that the Christian life should always be lived: it keeps getting better. And then we die. And when that happens, life gets a whole ton better.
Look, I get it: the idea that this year at BSSM is the best year of my life is intended to encourage us students to enjoy this year to the full. I want to. I plan to. Because this year, in all likelihood, will be the best year of my life... So far. But only so far.
So let me appeal to any of my fellow BSSM students who happen to be reading:
Don’t believe it, not even for a second. Don’t believe that this is the best year of your life. It’s not even close. The God I believe in always has more in store. He’s always scheming up the next thing. And it’s always better.
God doesn’t have a plan for your next 40 years that involves you looking back in longing at BSSM 2019-2020. Sure, there will be down moments and hardships and hurts and frustration and offense. But despite all that, I believe that overall, life with Jesus just keeps getting better.
So replace the fear of the future with Faith in a God who always has good plans. Look with hope at the mystery of the unknown. Choose to have confidence in God’s character. Recognize that He’s brought you to an amazing place for an amazing season, and enjoy every moment you can… But I believe it’s just the start, merely the launching pad. For most of us, the future is hazy at best, but if we truly believe God and what He says, it’s also better than we can possibly imagine.
My best years are not behind me. They are not actively passing me by, compelling me to desperately grasp every second as they go by, wishing uselessly they’d last longer. I have confidence that God only has better things in store. BSSM is amazing, but I believe that I ain’t seen nothing yet.
And, for my dear readers who aren’t here with me at BSSM, if you find yourself looking longingly at some event in the past you deem to be the high point of your life, I encourage you to reconnect with the mastermind planner that is God. In Him, I don’t believe the best years are ever intended to be behind us. Whatever season you’re in, hold on. Lift your head up. Keep holding on.
Hold on to hope.
October 21, 2019
I wouldn’t say I came to Bethel warily. In fact, the more I chat with fellow students, the more aware I become of how easy the path really was for me, at least in some respects. It seems almost everyone had family or friends that had genuine concern over their choice to study at Bethel’s School of Supernatural Ministry, sending them links to sites or videos accusing them of having sketchy theology, or of being a straight-up cult. I’m grateful I didn’t have that. In all honesty, I had pretty high expectations for Bethel, and minimal doubts.
But there’s always a bit of wondering when coming into a new environment. What will the leaders really be like? Will the community accept me? Am I not going to be extreme enough for this environment? Does the church culture have an arrogant slant, looking down on other churches or movements? Is their theology actually as strange as some people think?
Well, I’m (more than) a month in, and I can say I feel nothing but a ton of relief around those questions.
Again and again and over again I see, hear, or experience things that set me at ease.
Leaders, by default, believe in and empower you. Within three minutes of meeting my main pastor for the first time, I was told to feel free to release any words I got for people. Mind = blown. They are brimming with grace and patience. They will talk about and explain Bethel’s theology, why they do what they do how they do it, but they also have no problem with students that disagree (as long, of course, they aren’t disruptive or trying to tear apart the school from the inside out).
Community is more vulnerable, authentic, and encouraging that I would’ve dared to hope. The people in my “Revival Group” (basically groups of 70-ish students that have an assigned pastor and assigned leaders) have shared incredibly vulnerable stuff, things that they likely have shared only with the closest friends before, if at all. Everyone is quick to encourage and build up, and the idea of being competitive or jealous honestly feels a bit foreign.
References to other churches, movements, and denominations are completely honouring, perhaps more than I’ve ever encountered before (though my home church does an absolutely fantastic job too). Basically, if you’re part of the 2.2 billion people that profess to be Christian, Bethel is on your side. The way Bethel puts it, every part of the global group of Christians has their own God-given emphasis. Bethel has theirs, and they are fully committed to it, but they totally support and encourage the emphasis that other groups feel God has given them.
All in all, if there is one word I would use to describe my first month here at Redding at BSSM, it would be SAFE.
I feel safe to be myself. More than that, I feel safe to change who that is, or, more accurately, to discover more fully who God made me to be. There is no expectation to live up to who I am or who I used to be, only encouragement to discover who I was originally intended to be. I feel safe to be vulnerable, safe to be in community. I feel safe to explore my identity and authority in God.
I feel safe to disagree, to think for myself, to consider what’s being taught and decide for myself. I feel safe to go at my own pace. There is no sense of pressure or urgency to get on board with what’s being taught. There’s an overwhelming sense of grace for each person’s individual story and journey.
I feel safe to move on from things in my past, not in a way that dishonours it, but simply to keep moving forward.
This might sound a little wacky, but I feel safe to test out new theology. I’ve decided that even I don’t immediately agree in my mind with some teaching of Bethel, as long as I don’t feel a Holy Spirit warning, it’s actually ok to just try it out and see what happens. If it turns out that it’s not Jesus, I trust that God will redirect me back to the right path. And, if it is Jesus, I don’t want any of my previous experience or teachings to hold me back from one shred of correct theology. One of my most frequent prayers in the first month was “Jesus, if this is You, I want it.”
I feel safe to risk in a way that I’ve never experienced before. I feel safe, oh-so-safe, to fail. To make mistakes, many of them. I feel safe to own up to those mistakes, learn from them, and carry on in my pursuit of Jesus and all that He has for me.
As Kris Vallotton put it, “if Bethel were a cult, we’d be the worst cult in the world, because we tell everyone to think for themselves and to leave once they’re done.”
Yep. I feel so very, incredibly, completely, SAFE.
But I suppose I should also tell about what I’m actually learning more than just what I’m feeling. The hard part is figuring out what specifically to talk about.
I could talk about how my assigned church service never ran shorter than three and a half hours (because, um, it’s UHMAZING). I could talk about how my “Revival Group” already feels like family in a way that I honestly wouldn’t have expected possible. I could talk about God redefining and reconstructing the concept of worship in my mind, using in part the experience of not making the student worship team. I could talk about nature adventures to Whiskeytown Lake, Clam Beach, Founders Tree Park (Redwoods! 😳), or Minder Park, my go-to running route where I’ve seen deer two or three times already. I could tell of several life-giving coffee chats with people, talking about hopes, dreams, fears, failures, hurts, and struggles. I could talk about a collection of sin issues and broken mindsets that have been revealed and resolved, things that I was entirely unaware of. I could talk about how Jesus has taken me back some 15 or so years to illuminate and heal moments and experiences that I had long since given up on understanding.
But I think there’s a better topic to sum up the focus of my first month in Redding.
I think it was when my sister-in-law, Brittany, asked me a few days before I left Cornwall in August that I finally worked out the best, most concise answer to the standard question of “what’s the one thing you want to get out of your year at Bethel?”
“I want to find my fit in the Kingdom of God,” was my response. I suppose to sum it up even further, I could’ve just said destiny. My goal in coming here was finding my destiny in God.
It still is. Kind of. Except… Well, I guess it’s not my main goal anymore.
Yes, I came here for my destiny, excited to find my fit in the Kingdom of God and discover what that looked like for me.
And I feel like God was just sitting back, chuckling to Himself, saying something along the lines of:
“Aww, that’s cute. You can think that if you want; whatever gets you to BSSM is fine with me, but my plans look a little different than yours…”
Turns out God’s way more interested in my identity than my destiny. He’s way more interested in my status as a son than in my productivity in the Kingdom.
Jesus says in Matthew 22:37 that the greatest commandment, the one we should focus on the most, is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” That’s actually our main “job” as human beings.
But at the same time, 1 John 4:19 says that “We love because He first loved us.” We’re actually not capable of properly loving God (or anyone else, for that matter) until we are loved.
I’m already loved fully and completely. Before doing anything, before impacting the nations, before witnessing to my neighbour, before worshipping, before reading my Bible, I am loved. I could literally lie on my couch for the next 13 years of my life eating potato chips, and God’s love for me wouldn’t dial down a millimetre.
My identity as a loved son of God is concrete, set in stone, unable to be shaken by anything or anyone.
I realize that none of this stuff sounds revolutionary for anyone who has lived in a church culture for long enough, so it’s hard for me to fully convey what I feel like I’ve learned, but it starts to change everything.
I guess parts of this start to dribble into my second month in Redding, but I’ve felt God challenge me in strange ways recently.
“Don’t read your Bible today; instead, just let me celebrate you.”
“Cut your devotion time in half, and watch how you are still my delight.”
It’s breaking my knee-jerk thoughts that I have to reach for His delight, that I have to do something to obtain that feeling of love.
Rather than trying to run around getting the whole world saved, my first priority needs to be pointing the cup up my life upward, letting it get so full of the love of God that I couldn’t help my overflow on the people around me. I’m still working on that. I don’t think I’ve received enough love yet.
I’ve also been learning about what kinds of things come from being the son of a King. Ephesians 2:6, talking about Christians, says that God “… raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Colossians 3:1 says that we are “… raised with Christ.” John 20:21 & 23 say “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you,” and “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; and if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Matthew 28:18-19 says “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore…” The implication (as I read it) is that Jesus has passed on that authority to us.
What’s all this mean? I definitely don’t have it all figured out, but I think it means that we, as Christians, actually have a lot more authority and power than we generally tend to walk in. If we are, right now, actively raised with Christ and seated in heavenly places, I think it’s safe to say we as Christians should really be walking around with more power and authority than those that aren’t (yet) believers. If we’re supposed to be Jesus’ representatives on the planet and He was given all authority and explicitly gave us the authority to forgive sins, I’d say we should walk with a little bit of confidence.
Now, don’t misunderstand me: none of this is for us. None of our authority or power is to puff us up with pride or give us grounds to look down anyone else. This is not, in any way, to condescend unbelievers or anyone else.
On the contrary, all of this stuff has only one purpose: to point people back to Jesus (or, to use a Christian-eze term, “make disciples”). Should Christians walk in miracles and signs and wonders? My answer is “Heck yes!,” but not so we can parade around talking about how great we are. We should walk in miracles and signs and wonders so that human beings can encounter the love of God through, as Jesus put it, His “Kingdom.”
So yeah… I guess those are some things I’ve been learning at BSSM. My identity as a son is enough, fully enough, and there isn’t a single thing I could do to change God’s constant flow of outrageous love that I will never full understand. What I do or don’t do or accomplish for the rest of my life has absolutely no impact on that. However, if I am really the son of the King of Kings, that actually means I’ve got some serious pull. And the more I use that pull, the more I can point people back to the King, and the larger the family of God gets.
That sounds like a pretty fun way to live a life.
Sidebar: March is gonna be epic
Ok, so this isn’t really part of my first month at BSSM, but I wanted to sneak it in here anyways.
Part of the year here at BSSM (which, funny story, I kinda forgot about before I got here) includes doing a missions trip. All the students apply for seven of them, ordered based on preference, and then the BSSM staff figures out who actually gets to go where. And I kinda feel like Jesus likes me a lot ‘cause I got my first choice:
[Cue dance music here]
Yeaaaaaaaaas indeed. I AM STOKED.
Ok, so why Netherlands? Two main reasons.
First, all four of my grandparents came from the Netherlands, so my entire heritage is from there. I still have some distant relatives there, but I’ve never been, not even anywhere in Europe. So it will be super awesome to visit the motherland, as it were, and connect with some of those roots.
But the second, far more important reason, is because the Netherlands needs Jesus. Most countries do, but the Netherlands is predominately an atheist country, making it ripe for some Jesus light to come break open the prevalent darkness. And getting to do with a group of healing-working, prophecy-spewing Jesus freaks from BSSM makes me more excited than watching the NHL playoffs live.
Yeah. I went there. It’s for real.
But going on this trip also involves something else:
(Did I mention I kinda forgot about this trip when I came here? Man, why couldn’t these things just be magically free…)
Ok, so for real, my intention is not to turn this blog into one of those heart-string pulling, guilt-inducing pleas for money. I know Jesus wants me here in Redding right now. I believe He wants me to go to Netherlands in March. I also know He’s not short on cash. I’m not worried about Him providing. He’s pretty good at that.
Really, this is an invitation.
An invitation to invest in me while I’m attending BSSM, investing in my ability to “build the Kingdom", and an invitation to invest in bringing the light of Jesus into the Netherlands. I cannot wait to take what I’ve learned all year at Bethel and unleash it in the country of my ancestors.
For those interested in details, I need a total of $2,150 for the trip, about $300 of which is due by November 1st.
Again, none of this is to make you guilted into financing me or my trip, but if you find yourself getting excited about it and want to be part of my journey here in California at BSSM, any contributions would be a massive blessing! I will be most appreciative of any and all donations, which can be made online here.
Please shoot an email to Kevin@KevinBrink.com if you have any questions at all.
Ya'll rock and I love you. Thanks for reading this far. You'll be hearing from me again in a couple weeks.
September 1, 2019
I pulled out of my parent’s driveway that day with a lump in my throat, a spring in my step, and hope in my heart.
I thought back over the past couple of weeks. To my last group gathering with the Cornwall crew, after which I took stock of where all of our group was or would be going.
Ireland. New Brunswick. Australia. Portland. Though not part of that friend group, I also had family in South Africa and Malawi at the time. And then there was me, preparing to load up my little car with all (or at least most) of the stuff I needed to jump start a temporary life in California. It just seems crazy how geographically diverse my friends and family have become. Maybe this is part of the “going into the nations” that Jesus talked about?
I thought back to creativity sessions with my little sister while she was in Cornwall, which have quickly become one of my favourite things to do while we’re together. I thought about her genius repeating of a super appropriate Winnie the Pooh quote in response to my musings about my imminent departure:
“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
Thanks for the endless well of wisdom, little sister!
I thought back to my last meetup with two of my closest friends, Josh & Josh, filled with the requisite youtube videos, church talk, future plans, and prayer. As always, I left with a well-fed soul, feeling like a ship that just caught the perfect gust of wind, sent gently but firmly with a beautifully aligned trajectory. Friends like these will make you stand up taller and straighter, and fill you with confidence.
I thought to my last time with a small group of young worship leaders, and prayed again that what I started would grow far beyond my wildest dreams.
I thought back to the last campfire at my house, the light sources limited to a torch, dying embers, and the occasional flash of distant lightning as I strummed my friend’s ukulele and let my voice fill the night air with words of hope and heaven.
I thought back to the countless, seemingly endless goodbyes. Some of them surprisingly easy, and some of them equally surprisingly difficult. I thought about how there isn’t any perfect way to say goodbye, and about the people I didn’t get to see before I left. I thought about how I had learned that frantically trying to check off all the boxes wasn’t the best way to enjoy my dwindling time at home, and instead to let the stress roll off and simply enjoy every moment as best I could, even if I didn’t get coffee with every one of my friends or do all of the Canadian things.
I thought about my last service at my home church, the one I had attended since it started some 16 years ago. Certainly I had visited other churches in that time, but, my goodness, it was going to be a strange thing for me to attend another church on a weekly basis.
I thought about some of my last moments packing, running around my house collecting last-minute things, and thought about how God had been preparing too. He hadn’t been idle. He had already gone before me, thoughtfully planned out every aspect of my learning and growing during this time at Bethel’s school, and even on my road trip to California. As excited as I was to arrive, God was probably even more so, more excited to start revealing all the things He’d been preparing for so long than I was to see them.
I thought with excitement and anticipation about the road ahead, the days of driving through the beauty of Canada and spending time with my dad. I thought about the rockies that I would be driving through later in the week, their towering peaks filling anyone around with an undeniable sense of awe.
Jump forward almost two weeks, and I was driving again, only things were a little bit different.
I had finally changed the time zone in my car, along with my watch and phone. The digital speedometer in my car was now reading in miles, as was my phone’s GPS, and my passport was stamped. British Columbia, Washington State, and the city of Portland were somewhere off in the distance of my rear view mirror, and I had just seen the sign.
On the right, the sign read 122, now a measurement of miles instead of kilometers. On the left, in all caps, a simple word that managed to make me feel all sorts of jittery butterflies: “REDDING.”
I breathed in deeply and definitely didn’t start tearing up or anything.
God is so good and so Faithful and so gracious and so kind. To bring me safely across much of the continent to a beautiful city to fill me up with all sorts of Spiritual goodness over the next nine months… It’s hard to contain the thankfulness. I suppose maybe that’s the point.
“Bridges & Hearts.” “The Cool Kids.” Harvest Christian Fellowship. My house, my job, my cat, my friends and family. So many things left behind, if only for a time, and really a rather short time in the big scheme of things. Somehow, in that moment at least, it didn’t seem so hard.
I kept driving through the night, feeling like I was swimming in the goodness of God.
Since then, I’ve attended a Bethel church service, attended three different sessions of school worship team auditions, met with my “Revival Group” (a group of 70-ish students intended to build community outside of the massive 1200-person main sessions), and planned out my first adventure to the nature surrounding Redding.
I know that Bethel isn’t perfect. Redding isn’t perfect. The school isn’t perfect. But I will say that I feel an immense sense of peace and joy, and it seems like every day holds some brand new revelation of how good God is, every time in corporate worship deeper than I feel I’ve gone in years.
Maybe this won’t last the whole nine months, but for now, I’m gonna enjoy the moment.
So yeah. I guess I'd say Bethel is pretty darn neat. More updates to follow 😊
July 14, 2019
What’s that, you say? You say it’s bad form to publish the first of a two-part blog post and then go silent for three months?
Yep. You’re probably right. Sorry about that. Turns out life gets busy when you’re trying to move to a different country.
Anyways, I promise to dig into more of the meat of the reasons I’m leaving Canada in this blog post. I suppose if you just read my last post, you’d probably think leaving would be the last thing I would want to do.
So. Why am I paying a bunch of money to leave my hometown, my house, my friends and family, my job, and my church for 10 months?
There’s a few reasons, but I think to give context to the rest of this blog post, I should start off by directly stating the context by which all of the other reasons start to make sense:
I believe in this Jesus stuff. I actually believe there’s a real, honest-to-goodness God that created all of humanity. I believe in a real heaven and a real hell. And I believe that God puts people on earth for a reason. I think the only reason I’m still sucking air is that God hasn’t run out of use for me down here; otherwise He might as well just take me now.
I also believe that one’s life is most fulfilling when it is lived most aligned to God’s plan.
None of any of this makes sense without that. I would be rather insane to do what I’m doing without that belief.
Anyways, with that out of the way, let’s get into some specifics:
I’m leaving Canada to get equipped.
I don’t know what my life looks like after I’m done at Bethel. I’ve described it a few times now as an all-consuming black hole of mystery; you can throw whatever ideas you want at it, but you’re still no closer to actually knowing anything. Maybe I move to a different country and start working at a church full time. Or maybe I move right back to my hometown, resume work at my current job as a software developer, and continue helping around at my church in a similar capacity to what I do now.
But regardless of what my 9-5 job is, I believe that life after Bethel involves “more” in the realm of “Kingdom-building,” to use a Christian-eze expression which I would condense down to meaning simply more of Jesus and what He does in the lives of the people around me, from handing out purpose and meaning to leading people into healing and freedom; life to the full, you might say.
As involved as I may be right now in “building the Kingdom” through my local church, I believe God has way more for me to do; more discipling, more pouring into people, more seeing people healed and set free, more city-level transformation, more of simply seeing human beings encounter the eternity-altering love of Jesus. I don’t believe there’s a better use of one’s life than using it to help lead people who are far from God even just a few steps closer.
But all of that “more” also requires “more” from me.
More capacity to love and lead people. More of an attentive ear to what Jesus is saying in every moment of every day. More obedience, especially when it’s hard or uncomfortable. More skill in the gifts and talents God has already given me that I know I need to hone more. More understanding in theology and doctrine and more grounding in my Faith. More confidence in who God has created me to be, and more understanding of who that even is.
Like one would go to college before starting a career, I want to get trained and taught so I am ready (or at least, as ready as one can be) for whatever God has for me next. I want to have my tool belt well-stocked. I want to be prepared for anything.
That’s reason number one. Reason number two is this:
I’m moving to California for clarity.
Like I said, I don’t know what my life looks like after Bethel, or two years after that, or five years after that. And I’m not saying that I’ll absolutely come back from Redding with a crystal-clear game plan for the rest of my life, but I do think it’s sometimes very hard to hear God’s voice for the bigger picture type stuff when you’re down in the daily grind.
So one of my hopes for this adventure is that it gives space for Jesus to talk in ways that I may not be letting him in my current, comfortable environment. For Him to bring some measure of clarity into my future.
Psalm 119:105 was one of the first Bible verses I memorized as a kid growing up:
Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path
I like this verse because it assumes the reader realizes that the path is dark. No apologies for that; it’s just the nature of the path we walk. But God’s word illuminates it, and helps us understand where the next step is. That’s what I hope I’ll gain from my time at Bethel.
And I think sometimes you only get just enough light for one step at a time. I believe going to Bethel’s school is my next step, and I’m grateful for that measure of light. That’s the only step I can see right now, but I believe that as I take it, the light will shift a little farther down the path, and I’ll be able to see what comes next at the right time.
And who knows? I’m certainly not banking on it, but maybe my time at Bethel will allow God the space He needs to cast a full-on floodlight on His large-scale vision for the rest of my life.
I’m not sure what I’m going to be paid for during the next 30 years, but I know what I want to be known for, and it’s not developing software.
Ok, so that’s reason number two: space to hear God’s voice for what comes next. Let’s move on to number three:
I am going to Bethel’s school for discomfort. That might seem a bit strange so let me explain:
I own a house in Cornwall. I work at a job that is amazing (or at least I do for the next three days). I attend a church that I love, and serve in capacities that give me true joy alongside people that I genuinely love and respect.
And as great as all this is, I realize that if I’m not careful, I could settle in and do the exact same things for the next twenty years, and I believe that would come up short of what God has planned for me.
So I want to stay unsettled, and I think a very practical (if not drastic) way to do that is by completely blowing up my environment, so to speak, and seeing where the pieces fall.
Maybe it’ll lead to discovering brand new endeavours that end up becoming core components of who I am in the years ahead. Maybe it will make me even more confident in the things I was already involved in as they end up falling right back into my lap without me putting any effort into it. Maybe it will reveal limitations I was unwittingly living under because of the people and environment that surround me. Maybe it will lead to discovering that some responsibilities I thought I loved don’t give me as much life as I had believed when the expectation to fulfill them is removed.
I certainly don’t know what it looks like, but maybe it will be not playing drums on the worship team (though, full disclosure, I am absolutely auditioning for that). Maybe it’s trying something I’ve always been interested in but never had the time, space, or opportunity to pursue fully. Maybe it looks like discovering a love for something I’ve never imagined myself doing because someone who sees me in a way no one else has before encourages me towards it.
Sure, none of that will be particularly comfortable at the time, but I whole-heartedly believe the benefits of discovering more completely who God made me to be far outweigh any costs of temporary discomfort. The risk of staying comfortable is, for me, far too great.
Well. I guess that kinda sums it up.
I am leaving Canada to invest in my ability to build the Kingdom. I am leaving Canada as a next step, not exactly knowing what comes after it but trusting it will become clear at the right time. And I am leaving Canada as part of my continual efforts to avoid becoming settled.
And yes, in case you were wondering, I am outrageously excited for this upcoming Jesus adventure of epic proportions. 😊
I am excited to meet new friends who will sharpen me in new ways. I’m excited to interact with new leaders who, I hope, will challenge and push me in fresh and unexpected directions. I’m excited for the fresh slate that a new schedule and a new routine bring. I’m excited about learning more of the logic and rationale behind the Faith that I was born into; I certainly don’t want to ever be at risk of being a mindless Christian.
And, let’s be real, I’m super excited to pack up my Mini Cooper until it’s bursting at the seams and road trip across the continent.
I suppose the simple appeal of a new adventure is one more reason why I'm leaving Canada.