April 3, 2022
God can be stubborn.
As I referenced in my previous blog post, one of the first things that happened after I settled back into Redding and life as a BSSM student was getting the news that I didn’t get chosen to play drums for the school worship team. And again, as I referenced in my previous post, this news carried way more emotional weight than I felt it should and certainly more than I could logically explain. But it did. And with that weight came all sorts of mental temptations, most of which I gave into without much of a fight.
I very quickly gave in to a lot of beliefs which may seem ridiculous and even silly. Please bear with me. But they were real, and I believed them, for varying amounts of time:
“I guess I’ve reached my peak as a drummer. I shouldn’t have even tried auditioning; clearly I’m nowhere near good enough. Practice doesn’t work for me; I practiced a lot and I’m still not good enough for this environment. I should just quit drums.”
My lovely new wife Kendra tried desperately to pour some truth into those spaces, but I’m afraid I made it hard on her. The proof is here, I reasoned. Here is where I start my decline as a musician.
Yep. Pretty depressing and overdramatic, right?
Here’s where the stubbornness of God comes in:
He refused to let me stay in any of those beliefs.
As a coping mechanism, I would agree with and lock in to a thought like those listed above. It was convenient. Comfortable. Safe. I could give up with solid reasoning.
But then the next morning when I would wake, get my morning coffee, and try to connect with Jesus, it was as if there was only one topic He cared to discuss:
My faulty beliefs.
I couldn’t squirm my way out of it. I couldn’t sing enough worship songs, read enough Bible, or journal enough emotions to convince Him to just move on and let me continue my existence with these new, comfortable, limiting beliefs. He kept on pressing on them, poking at them, stubbornly refusing to change the subject.
“Okay Jesus, You win,” I would finally relent, too tired to keep fighting. “What’s the lie I’m believing, and what’s Your truth to replace it?”
Eagerly He would answer, dismantling the convenient lies and building up the courageous truth. It was hard, at times, and rather confusing and frustrating at other times. I wondered why God even cared that much about my drumming; surely He could use me without it, in other ways? Surely there were other drummers around, some of whom were obviously better skilled?
It took me awhile to realize that the whole process had almost nothing to do with drumming.
What I began to realize was that I was in danger of repeating a cycle that I had subconsciously grown accustomed to throughout my life:
1. Attempt something risky.
2. Receive a disappointing result. Feel like I failed.
3. Use the experience as justification to put a new limit on myself.
I realized this cycle had repeated itself many times throughout my life, sometimes even skipping the first step, and sometimes with even the most gracious of letdowns. I would receive some mildly negative result or vaguely disappointing feedback from someone I trusted, and inwardly shrug my shoulders, musing “well, I guess I’ll never try that again. I must just not be gifted at that.”
Now, I should mention here that as I mentally list off moments that meet this criteria, few of if any of the resulting limitations feel like they still have any hold on me. I think there’s just something about being in the environment of BSSM that makes you believe, like Jesus said in Mark 9:23, that “All things are possible for one who believes.”
But my experience with drum auditions showed me something really important:
That coping mechanism is still well & alive inside me.
Even if the limits I once held over myself no longer exist, my knee-jerk reaction to certain types of hardships continues to be self limitation.
And I think God, in His grace & mercy, was essentially telling me: “Hey. That thing can’t come where I want to bring you. It has to die, and it has to die now.”
The trigger could’ve been just about anything, I think; it just so happened that my journey with drumming was the spark that brought this mindset to the surface, so God could clean it up.
God absolutely cares about my drumming. But He cares more about my beliefs & mindsets.
Now, I’m guessing if you allow yourself to sit back and think over your life, you can pick out a moment or two that you can identify as having limited you. I imagine most of you could relate to my experience on one level or another.
Perhaps it was just a lack of consideration, a missing apology, or a flippant label. Or maybe it was direct, tactless, and harsh feedback. Or, maybe a lack of feedback that left you to assume the worst. Other times it can be as subtle as body language, a single quick word, or a hushed chuckle.
Through this process, God brought me to the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30. Allow me to quickly paraphrase and summarize:
A master heading off on a journey gives three of his servants differing amounts of “talents” (a 1st century unit of currency): one servant got five, a second got two, and the third servant was left one talent. Then, the master leaves. The first two servants invest their resources and double them. The last servant literally buries his talent. The master returns, and is pleased with the first two servants; less so with the third.
Now, I realize a talent was a unit of currency, but I think we can pull out the principle and easily apply it to our modern understanding of the word as it relates to skill thusly:
Feeling like you’re a one-talent bum surrounded by five-talent billionaires doesn’t give you the right to bury your talent.
In some ways, God doesn’t care how inadequate you feel compared to those around you. He doesn’t care if the guy next to you runs 17 businesses, can finish a marathon in 45 minutes, and routinely gets visited by angelic beings sharing heavenly revelations with him, while you feel like you’re only discernible skill is fiddling with your pen while trying to stay awake during the Sunday morning preach.
If you have a talent, you have no right to bury it. You have no excuse to hide it, no justifiable explanation for pretending it doesn’t exist or failing to use it.
God isn’t as interested in how much we think we have as He is with what we are doing with it. He’s less concerned with where we are and more fascinated with where we’re going.
Failures cannot be dead ends. Hardships cannot be justification for giving up. There’s never a good reason to bury a talent. Not when everyone around you has more impressive talents, nor even when people around you are better at the one talent you feel you have. If you have a talent, God wants you to use it.
God’s delight is not in pretended perfection; it’s in the consistent, pesky, “yes,” even when we not-so-secretly wonder why & how God would use what we have.
Yes, God can be stubborn. I suppose He’s teaching me how to be as well.
He’s teaching me to stubbornly refuse limits, even when they would be oh-so-easy & tempting to agree with. He’s teaching me to stubbornly refuse to bury my talent, even when I’ve already dug the hole. He’s teaching me to simply keep walking forward.
With God, there are no limits.
Stop burying your talents, no matter how insignificant they may feel.
Never give in to the lie of limitation.
February 9, 2022
Well then. Hello, and welcome back to the blog. It’s been a bit.
There’s been a change or two in my life since the last time I’ve updated this thing. Let’s take stock, shall we?
Move back to Canada? Check.
Move back to California? Check.
Start my third year at Bethel’s School of Supernatural Ministry? Check.
Marry my best friend and embrace the wild, wondrous, and beautiful adventure of marriage? Check.
And, despite the title of this particular blog, let me first make it abundantly clear that my life is amazing. Living in Redding again is great (especially now that the imminent threat of wildfires has abated). Third year is incredible and the more time I spend with my mentor, Chuck Parry, the more amazed I am at him and the more honoured I feel to get to spend my school year serving him. My team is incredible, and getting to do third year with many of the great friends I made in the it’s few months of first year feels like a gift too valuable for me to yet understand.
And yes, marriage is awesome. I highly recommend it. It was a good idea God had to make such an institution. It’s just too bad for you that I have stolen away the best 😊
But outside of all that, early in the school year I walked through an experience that ended up being more painful & more productive than I could’ve predicted:
My drum audition wasn’t good enough to make it onto the school worship team.
Now, even as I write it, it feels trite. Silly, perhaps. After all, if I’m truly in this environment for Jesus & to serve my third year mentor, whether or not I get to play drums for our school worship sessions should be irrelevant. I played drums before BSSM, and I can play drums after. And I still have an incredible opportunity to play drums for Bethel’s Healing Rooms periodically. Not making the team shouldn’t be that big of a deal.
And yet, somehow, it was. It stung, over and over again, more painfully than seemed appropriate to my logical tendencies.
It hurt when I first found out, feeling the disappointment at having worked and practiced and invested in something only to come up short. It hurt even when I had a helpful chat with one of the worship leads about the reasons behind the decision. It hurt when I went to the next class session with worship, again on Sunday morning when that team took the stage, and again for the next school worship set.
Each time it hurt, every time those feelings surfaced, my initial reaction was that I really aught’a be over this thing by now. These feelings shouldn’t even be there.
And yet, here they were.
And so, I gave them a voice, let them speak, and carried them back to Jesus to let Him help sort things through. And almost every time I did, I came away with some little nugget, some gift from Him, some fresh perspective that grew me and increased my hope.
Like the thought that this disappointment is part of the preparation for what God has planned in my future. Or letting myself embrace God’s pleasure in my drumming as fully enough. Or recognizing that, while I may not have a good understanding of how good I am at this craft, I can always get better, and that should be enough to keep pressing in. Or understanding that while I may feel frustrated, like the guy given one talent in the parable in Matthew 24:14-30, that doesn’t give me permission to bury what I have been given; I am still responsible to increase whatever I have. Or coming to the foundational belied that I cannot let pain dictate my limitations.
And while the specifics of this particular experience may be valuable, I started to realize something bigger:
PAIN is an incredibly potent teacher.
I found myself somewhat astonished at how much learning came from this relatively insignificant disappointment. And it caused me to think back over my life, at moments that were more significant, more meaningful, and much more painful. And it’s amazing how much I learned and grew through those seasons.
Pain demands attention. It refuses to be quieted. And, at least in some of my experience, it tends to resurface itself as many times as it takes for God to help us glean all we can from it.
I don’t believe God causes or sends pain, but I do believe He refuses to let anything be wasted, even if it’s the shrapnel from our broken world.
It reminds me of a couple verses from the Bible that seem to be applicable:
“… we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance”
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness”
Suffering and pain may not be given by God, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be used by God. Pain should be productive. It should create something. It should produce.
It makes me wonder how many growth opportunities I have side-stepped because I wasn’t willing to engage with the pain in the process.
Of course, this kind of approach to negative circumstances is difficult, and it only gets harder the more painful the situation is. But I think the principle remains true.
I don’t want to experience pain. But when pain comes, I don’t want to run from it. I want to lean in, because I believe pain isn’t pointless if it’s processed well.
There's a lot of productivity hidden in pain.
May 16, 2021
I’ve been thinking about this one for awhile.
Weeks. Months. In some ways, for years, possibly even decades.
I always tend to get a little more retrospective around my birthday. But this year is different. Because this year, I turned 30.
I suppose I’m probably not alone in this, but 30 has always felt like a massive milestone age for me.
As with most people, I’ve been asked at various times what my greatest fear in life is. Since the age of 16, 13, maybe even 10 or younger, it’s been basically the same thing:
“I fear hitting the age of 30 and feeling like I haven’t done what God wanted me to do.”
That’s it. That’s been it, consistently, for a very long time.
To drift through life missing out on the path He’s laid for me. To make decisions independent of His will and only realize years later that I’ve separated myself from His plan. To fail to make a real, lasting, eternal impact on the world around me.
That has been my fear. And for whatever reason, my 30th birthday always seemed like the day when I might awaken to take stock of my life and possibly come upon such an awful realization that my life is, in large part, being wasted on my own selfish pursuits rather than being maximized and optimized by following wholeheartedly after God and His ways. That would be truly heartbreaking.
And now, finally, 30 has come to me. And I will tell you without hesitation that 30 doesn’t look like what I thought it would. Not like I hoped it would, dreamed it would, even prayed it would.
In my younger mind, a successful, God-chasing life would find me at age 30 leading some sort of large and growing ministry, being known by many in the Christian world, having a real and tangible impact on vast numbers of people, and ultimately building the Kingdom of God as a normal part of my everyday life.
But I’m not. At least, not the way I thought I might.
I’m not leading any ministry. I’m not known by thousands or millions of Christians worldwide. If one were to investigate my life, I expect they would find I am not dramatically transforming a large number of lives.
On first glance, then, one might assume my greatest fear has been realized. That I’ve reached that magical age of 30 and happened upon the harsh realization that I’m far off course, failing at my ultimate goal of honouring God well with my life.
But it hasn’t, and I’m not.
It does feel strange because it doesn’t look like what I thought it would. But now, perhaps more than ever before, I am brimming with confidence that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be, doing what I’m supposed to be doing, when I’m supposed to be doing it, and with the people I’m supposed to be doing it with.
I am right in the pocket of God’s will.
Sure, I’ll stumble and fall and wander and waver, but I have grown into an assurance that I do listen to God and He is quite able to make Himself heard when He wants to. It may look entirely different to what I had assumed it would, but I know I’m walking in His will right here and now.
All those external, public, obvious things might someday happen. I do have nagging dreams in my heart that I think have been planted by God, and so I believe will someday bloom.
But I have grown to trust Him deeply. And that means I trust His timing, His way, and what He thinks it should look like.
It may not look like a global ministry, but if He leads me to a ministry school, I’m in His will, and that’s enough for me. It may not look like having a tangible impact on thousands or even hundreds of lives, but if He leads me to pray a simple prayer for a random couple from Michigan at a coffee shop in the middle of Utah, I’m in His will, and that’s enough for me. It may not look like being known on earth, but if the way I live my life gets me known in heaven and feared in hell, I’m in His will, and that’s enough for me.
True, I have always had some sort of picture in my mind of what it could look like, but in the end my deepest desire has always been the same: make Jesus happy with the way I live my life.
So yes, 30 looks different from how I thought it would when I was 15 or 20. But I know I’m in His will. And that sort of confidence floods me with peace and hope and joy. The fear has fallen, proven to be impotent, forever broken. I am not missing God’s will; I know I’m right inside of it.
To my first 30 years: you have been painful, hard, heart-wrenching, and hurtful. But way more than that, you’ve been happy, hopeful, joyful, beautiful, nurturing, growing, and restorative. You have been incredibly privileged, more than I believe I will ever fully comprehend. You have been easy compared to many, but not without your own challenges and mountains to conquer. You have been surprising in a thousand different ways, but you have been better than my wildest dreams.
To my next 30 years: I cannot wait to see what adventures and treasures you have in store. There is no end to the potential you contain in God.
Let’s rock this. Just like the first 30… But better.
May 7, 2021
Love proves us.
A few weeks ago during a worship set outside in the tent with the rest of my second year class, I found myself letting my gaze wander around the sea of faces, and started realizing how very much like a family our class has come to feel to me.
Not just my homegroup. Not just my tightest circle of friends. Not even just my revival group. My class. All 700-ish of us.
Not, mind you, that I’ve met everyone or have connected on a deep level with everyone I have met. But it really is incredible to look around a crowd of hundreds of people and be able to pick out many of them, instantly connecting to some history with them.
He’s my housemate. She’s in my revival group, and I’ve watched her completely transform this year. I’ve gone for runs with him. I’ve never talked directly with her, but the way she prayed during a zoom class early in the year still moves me. He is an incredible worship leader who still feels easy to connect to though we’ve only interacted a few times.
There’s that couple that I had never noticed until I went on a trip with them and discovered how incredibly powerful they are. There’s that girl who can’t quite sing on key, but has such a gentle, sweet heart despite the hardships of her past. She is always overflowing with uncontainable joy, bursting out in laughter at sometimes funny moments. I led worship with him. She is hilarious on zoom chats. I would’ve gone to Netherlands with him last year.
Lovely grey-haired women anyone would want for a grandma, and heavily muscled men that would be rather intimidating were they not full of the love of God.
Mentors. Adventure buddies. The ones who were simply with me while I was trying to sort out a tangled mess of emotions and thoughts. They challenged me in the simple way they value prayer, prophesied into my life when I needed it most, and educated me on church history. There are quiet, loud, sweet, and fierce. There are those I have barely met, and those I can hardly remember not knowing. They flood me with joy and hope, inspire me, and, at times, make me nervous.
They are friends. All of them, friends. Some deeper than others. Some friendships, perhaps, I expect to dwindle after school, but some I know will last, in some form or another, for the rest of my life. And in all those relationships, love is the foundation.
As I was thinking through all this, I was reminded that, as a group of Christians, our love for one another actually proves us.
John 13:35 says “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” And the same author, John, writes in 1 John 4:8, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love,” and in verse 20 of the same chapter penned “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. “
Our love for one another proves us. Without it, we’re just a group of people going to classes together for a year. With it, our Faith is proven.
This year has been wild, hard, beautiful, adventurous, confusing, frustrating, breaking, revelatory, and ultimately transformational in ways I am sure will only unfold over time. And while there are lots of reasons for why this BSSM journey has been everything I dreamed of and more, a massive part of it is you, my fellow students.
So thank you. Thank you for saying yes. Thank you for showing up. And while I haven’t met all of you and likely won’t get to say a proper farewell for the summer to many of you, I hope you know this:
I love you. All of you. Deeply and truly.
Until next year, fam, keep blazing. Be shot out like flaming arrows in the night, setting fire wherever you land. Preach the Kingdom, heal the sick, raise the dead, rescue the lost, deliver the captives, and, through it all, LOVE.
February 7, 2021
Oh October. You were a good one.
September, as I mentioned in my previous post, was different. Different than the start of last year, different than the end of last year.
And while many differences continued into October, there was also an air of recognition in the month. Perhaps it’s just the in way God tends to speak to me.
Last year, I found myself consistently astonished and surprised at the way God would grow a specific theme over a few days or a week. I would read a random verse one day, have a conversation with a friend a couple days later, and find myself writing down a quote from a message a few days after that, all somehow honing in on one specific point or theme, and all of it confirming, to me, that God was on it. It wasn’t just one source; He would come at it from all sides.
And I think it’s that mechanism that God seems to enjoy leading me with that led to a sense of familiarity with October.
But, let’s be clear: none of the lessons are the same as last year. While everything builds on last year’s foundation, God is leading me into brand new and brave new concepts and territories.
Recognizing and responding to opposition.
Or, more specifically, the lack of lack.
I think most of us have areas of our life where we worry about lack on some level. Perhaps the most obvious is in the realm of finances, but I think relationships, opportunities, and belief can all be spheres where we carry an underlying sense of uneasiness, either feeling like we’re missing out on something or are about to hit the harsh reality at the bottom of the barrel. October found me fighting with this in a whole new way.
It probably doesn’t surprise you that school wasn’t what I expected. It still isn’t. It isn’t really what anyone expected. We’ve been in person, online, in person, online again and, more recently, outdoors. I missed auditioning for drums and the usual start-of-semester retreat, which was massive for me last year. Missions and ministry trips certainly won’t be anything close to normal, and the normal hang outs with friends are more difficult and complicated to navigate, as we grapple with state restrictions and school guidelines.
All that to say, I found myself battling against discouragement and frustration on a regular basis. Like many people in this era of COVID, I felt like I was being cheated by this virus and was powerless to change it.
More than that, I felt myself getting frantic as I worried that I, as a Jesus follower, would be in lack. That I would have a lack of growth, lack of experience, lack of hands-on ministry training. I came to BSSM to get instructed in how to build the Kingdom for the rest of my life, but now I worried I would be ill-equipped to handle the situations of the future with this less-than-normal year of ministry school.
All of this brought me to a morning where I sat down with a notebook, a Bible, and my swirl of emotions ranging from fading hope to discouragement to anger.
And, as He does, He met me.
In the midst of my doubt and frustration with school and the state of the world at large, I found myself flipping back and forth between a couple of specific verses:
“And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus”
- Philippians 4:19
“But seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
- Matthew 6:33
I had read these verses before. Studied them. Marinated in them.
But I had always read them as a promise exclusively for my finances, and, while I’m not perfect, I can say with confidence that I have watched God come through in my finances enough times to recognize I have no reasonable excuse for doubting that He will keep on coming through. I may still slip into doubt occasionally, but I have only to remind myself of what He’s done for me in the past and the promises He’s made to me, both personally and through Scripture, to align myself back to the truth that He will never let my finances fail.
But when it came to experiences, or training, or even friends and connections, I was met with the harsh reality that I didn’t trust God nearly as much as I thought I did. It seemed something inside of me felt a need to force relationships or come up with opportunities for growth if either were going to happen.
Now, to be clear, I firmly believe there’s a measure of responsibility in all of this, and the verses have context that shouldn’t be discarded. But as I read the verses over and over again, I became convinced the promise applied to me.
So yes, finances. But also growth. Training. Internal structures. Relationships. Discipline. Love. Connections. Opportunities. Experiences. If I have need of it, my God, my Daddy, who gives good gifts, will supply it.
End of story.
And when it comes to school specifically, it turns out that God is the best Teacher anyways.
Worship may be in my living room in front of a TV screen with my one roommate rather than in a crowded auditorium with a near perfect audio mix packed out with thousands of people. Classes may look like zoom calls rather than face to face interactions with teachers who rapidly become personal heroes. Church may look like inviting a few people over to my house to watch the live stream instead of driving up the College View hill, past the prayer house, and up to that picturesque Bethel church building. Retreat may be replaced by more time home in a quiet room alone with God, and missions trips may look like being intentional about visits to the grocery store or hosting international zoom calls.
But as long as Jesus is in charge of the curriculum, I am going to get every single thing I need for my future. Whatever I feel I may have missed out on or am lacking in due to the restrictions of COVID and the impacts on school, God will supply at the right time, be it during my time in Redding or not.
I have God. Thus, I have no lack.
Indeed, I have only a lack of lack.