In this divisive political climate, we desperately need to work on our ability to listen

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There’s something far more dangerous to American society than Hillary’s corruption and Trumps harmful rhetoric, and that is our increasing inability to listen and learn from one another.

How could that be more dangerous than inept leadership? Because in America, we the people are the rulers. This is a democracy. If we don’t like a personality or a form of government, we can vote them out a few years later. But our society isn’t ousted every 4 or 6 years, patterns and habits in people become wet cement that becomes far more difficult to remove than a politician.

What scares me far more than two poor candidates is the trend I’m seeing where we’re hastily locking into our options and we’re quicker to shut down an opposing line of thinking than ever before. I’ve seen more bullying and shutting out of counter opinions than I’ve ever seen in my life during this election cycle. Statements like “If you vote for _____ or if you hold ____ HATEFUL opinion go ahead and unfriend me right now” are not only acceptable, they’ve become the norm. I’ve been blocked and had comments deleted this year that we perfectly civil that were offered in the hopes of adding to the discourse. But because that view differed from the original one given, it was deleted from the discussion immediately. That type of action is so dangerous for several reasons. When you participate in that type of behavior

1.  You assume the moral high ground and give no chance to be removed from it.

2.  You remain stagnant in your viewpoint because you don’t allow it to be challenged by opposing thought

3.  You lose the chance to empathize with the opposing stance because you don’t open yourself up to another persons experience.

Your opinion isn’t just a set of lifeless facts, and an opposing view represents far more than a different thought, to someone else there is a life experiences that shaped that worldview that contradicts yours. Once your opinion is detached from the human who thinks different than you, you are then free to use the most damaging and harmful language without any repercussions.

Here’s what’s happening – before you’ve even shared your life experience, I’ve already labeled you. I’ve already told you why you’re hateful, dangerous, a bad christian, a bad american, racist, homophobic, or any new label from our seemingly daily updated rolodex of tags we use to define and marginalize people. I’ve decided no matter what your story is, your conclusion is invalid, but not only invalid, it is DANGEROUS and must be avoided altogether. So I’ll set up boundaries to make sure I don’t have to even think that there’s a real human that carries an opposing sentiment on the other side of my often rage filled opinions.

For americans, our political allegiance should simply represent loyalty to what we feel are the best ideas and convictions. What has happened in American politics however is loyalty to ideas and convictions has been replaced with loyalty to party lines, and loyalty to party lines have been replaced with loyalty to personalities.

One of the greatest gift democracy gives us is the ability to share ideas freely. Facebook, twitter, Instagram, blogs, all of these technological tools become an avenue for thought and ideas to be shared freely amount the governors of society, the people. But because we can control the interface of all those platforms, we can completely isolate ourselves into one worldview. We unfollow any opinion that we don’t like. We unfriend any passionate conclusions that differs from our own. We feel a false sense of security because we’re now “safe” because of the boundaries we’ve placed around us now guard us from having to feel any negative emotion that we might incur from being confronted by someone that thinks differently than we do.

Whether we are celebrating or mourning the results of this election, we need to remember that we do not see the world as it is, but rather how we are. Our lens is formed from our experience, and we have to understand our life story, emotions, and encounters aren’t more valid than the person who shares a differing worldview. I’m not saying there aren’t absolutes, I fully believe in absolutes. However, if I can’t have a civil conversation with someone across party lines without reacting emotionally, then the problem doesn’t live in that opposing view, it lives in me.

As some are celebrating democracy by protesting the result of a democratic election, I hope more of us take advantage of democracy by paying attention and learning from those who have a different response to the election results than our own. I think more empathy and compassion will cause us to dial down emotionally when political seasons get intense, heal the divide in our society, and also help us form better, more well-rounded opinions ourselves.

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We’re moving to Michigan!

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“The Lord is birthing something in you, and in 9 months from today He’s going to transition you into your next season”. That was the sentence that end-capped a prophetic word Rachel and I received November 9th, 2011 that ultimately highlighted a 9 month season that ended in Dave Perkins calling me and interviewing me to come to New Life to be hired as the associate director of DLA on August 9th, exactly 9 months from when we received that word. If you know us, we don’t base direction or key life decisions off of a prophetic word, but that word was incredibly accurate in describing the next 9 months in which the Lord spoke time and time again that we were to move to Colorado Springs. I remember driving the moving van and thinking, “If God spoke so dramatically, what does He have in store for us here?”

Here we are 4 years later, in what has been a much shorter, but nonetheless equally as strong of a transition whirlwind, looking back on what has been nothing short of an incredible 4 years here at New Life. Incredible relationships built, some of the most profound encounters with the Lord we’ve ever had, ministry growth, family growth, and too many laughs and tears to count.

Below this is a letter that I wrote to the New Life staff before leaving. But for this post, we wanted to highlight briefly some of the transition story and why we’re so excited to be at Radiant Church.

In May of this year, Rachel and I experienced a sweet time of renewal from the Lord. Among other things, we felt a gentle course correction and an invitation to return to our first love. We were far from the ministry cliff, however, we felt that there were areas in which we had let performance drive or motive us instead of the call to simply love the Lord with everything. That sweet season ended abruptly when I suddenly contracted meningitis. The sweetness gave way to what would be the hardest 40 days of our lives. Fear of death, intense pain, financial stresses, and above all that feeling that God was silent. In the middle of that time, a friend and mentor of 3 years Pastor Lee Cummings contacted Pastor Brady to ask permission to pursue me for a position at Radiant. We’ve received offers while working at New Life, but this one was undoubtably intriguing, because Lee had been a extremely valuable relationship as we had grown close talking about theology, ministry, and leadership, among other things. I heard him share passionately about the vision God gave Radiant and it always spoke to a place inside of me that shared similar vision and passion.

So here we were, in the middle of going in and out of the hospital, and trying to hear from the Lord regarding this decision. We met with Pastor Brady and other valuable leaders to seek counsel, and received some invaluable wisdom but still didn’t feel led one way by the Lord. On day 40 of having meningitis, we were praying in our close friend Brandon Cormier’s basement with Anna Asbury, and Stefan and Candace Davis, and the Lord spoke to us in a clear and profound way. I came out of this prayer time completely healed of meningitis. I went from having a migraine almost 24/7 to having no symptoms. The neurologist estimated that I wouldn’t recover fully until November, and there was a threat of permanent brain damage. Well, Jesus had a different plan in mind and not only did I never feel another effect of the illness, but I left with a new clarity and vision for what the Lord wanted me to pursue. He said “not yet” to Radiant, which were the exact words I shared with Lee when I turned down the position. The Lord in a moment had healed me, given me a renewed purpose and clarity, and gave a directive word.

When we heard “not yet”, I interpreted that as another 5+ years we were supposed to be at New Life.

The last couple months we felt continually the Lord downloading vision and passion for worship into our hearts. We absolutely love the worship team here at New Life, and getting to lead the school of worship here has been enormously life giving. Still, we couldn’t shake Radiant. Moreover, 3 weeks ago we started feeling the same things we felt in KC 4 years ago, right before we moved. It felt like the winds of change were blowing again. The next part of the story would take hours to type out everything. All of the sudden, right when we felt there might be transition coming, the barrage of dreams and prophetic words started coming through. Again, these didn’t act as a way to lead us into this next season, but they served to confirm what we felt in our spirits, mind and hearts. It all just hit holistically, and seemingly in a moment. To give context, we received 4 words of transition from friends unaware of our situation within a few days. I haven’t received that word ONCE from anyone the entire 4 years I’ve been at New Life. So last week I accepted the role of executive pastor of worship and prayer at Radiant Church. It’s an incredible place filled with passionate and gifted people, and we are so excited to run with strength with the Radiant family.

I thought that coming out of the season of meningitis and receiving new vision and passion from the Lord was for New Life, but now we can see the timing of the Lord and how He had such a specific and brilliant reason for leading us through what He did this summer. He is so much more creative of a leader than we realize sometimes. Some of the things the Lord was stirring in us we see how those things were specifically for Michigan, even before we realized it.

Leaving Colorado is going to be difficult. As outlined by my letter below, we are so grateful for New Life and our season here. Beyond that, some of our dearest life friends were made here in Colorado. But God is clearly calling us to Radiant. We’ve felt the wind of the Spirit behind us as we’re dreaming about what God is going to do. Pastor Lee and I have been swapping stories of timing and details that are aligning in such a crazy way that the only explanation could be God. We’re dreaming of presence worship, songs that will touch the ends of the earth, a creative community rooted in the presence of God, schools, events, and training programs to disciple the next generation of worship leaders, leading a prayer movement to contend for revival in the midwest and the northeast, and above all, dreaming of being right at the center of what God has for us.

This has been the craziest summer of our lives filled with the extremes of great pain and difficulty as well as great hope and freedom. Above everything else, we can say in a way we never were able to say, “God, you are so good. Your goodness is far beyond what we even could comprehend. We thought we knew you were good, but we never knew you could be this good”

We want to thank Pastor Brady for giving us countless opportunities to lead and serve at New Life and for pouring into us. We have learned and grown so much and we’re eternally thankful for New Life and the leadership God has put in place here. Thank you as well to everyone who’s been a part of this journey with us. We feel like we have the best friends in the world. We’re excited to share this next chapter with all of you!

Caleb and Rachel

My letter to the New Life Church Staff

New Life Family,

What an incredible 4 year journey Rachel, Aaliyah and myself have had at New Life. David Perkins called and interviewed me for the associate director of DLA position on August 9th, 2012. I remember the date because we received a dramatic prophecy 9 months earlier that the Lord would transition us out of KC and into our new season on August 9th. This word only confirmed what we knew in our hearts, that even though we didn’t know much about New Life at the time, God was calling us to come and be a part of what He was doing here.

Like a movie montage, the Lord has been playing memories in my mind for the past week. Moments with DLA like 10 hour van rides on tours, worshipping in the mountains, early morning and late night prayer meetings, worship nights at our house, classes going an hour over because we’re excitedly about talking about the Word, tears in intercession, joy in worship, and watching students hearts awaken in love to Jesus as they fully surrender their lives and come alive in Him. Since joining the worship staff a year and a half ago, I’m recalling so many moments where we as a team were dreaming about how to make Jesus’s name glorious through worship. From taking time every Tuesday at noon to pray together, watching deep discipleship happen through one-on-one meetings, hearing our church family SING and worship God with passion on Sunday mornings, or pausing in the middle of budget meetings to give prophetic words to each other, the evidence of the grace of God has been all around us as a worship staff. We’ve walked through much transition and to see how we all love Jesus more on the other side is truly amazing.

This is bitter-sweet. Rachel and I know the Lord is calling us to Kalamazoo to join what God is already doing through Lee Cummings and the incredible people at Radiant church, but we will miss the family we were adopted into 4 years ago. I want to thank Pastor Brady for the opportunity to serve here and for giving permission to activate so many things that were in my heart and for providing a safe environment for me to grow as a young leader. I want to thank my oversight, Pastor Stephanie, who has relentlessly invested into my family and has spoken life straight into me time and time again.

I feel like I need a sabbatical just to process all that I have learned and all the Lord has done in just 4 short years here. Leaving so many deep and meaningful relationships is hard, but right now as I write this letter, I don’t know if I’ve ever been more aware of God’s faithfulness, or been more convinced of His goodness. Through 4 years of tears and joy, pain and healing, setbacks and victory, at the end of it all my confession is, “I thought I knew that you were good Lord, but I never knew you could be THIS good.” I’m excited to watch New Life flourish in this next season, and Colorado Springs will always have a dear place in my family’s heart. Thank you to everyone who has touched our lives in our time here. You will be missed. Much Love,

Caleb

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What Interstellar taught me about worship

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*MAJOR SPOILER ALERT*

Disappointed. That’s how I felt when the credits rolled and I was left to ponder what had just happened the previous 3 hours. Granted, my expectations were soaring when I heard that my favorite director (Christopher Nolan) and favorite scoring artist (Hans Zimmer) teamed up for what looked like a visually stunning and emotionally heart-wrenching movie. “I just, I just don’t know why they had to write the 5th dimension into the movie!” I lamented when Rachel, I and our friend Mandie got back to the house. “They could have written the same story and just left out the sci-fi weirdness, and it would have been probably been the most incredible movie I’ve ever seen”. I explained how “Inception”, another original Nolan creation, wrote the rules for the movie at the beginning and then tied everything up brilliantly by the end. Isn’t that what a movie is supposed to do? Introduce the setting and characters, ease into conflict, build that conflict to it’s peak and then resolve it by the end? I felt so unresolved at the end of Interstellar. I felt like I left with as many questions as I had answers, and I hated that. I took to twitter to voice my complaint about the many plot holes in the movie and how I couldn’t justify putting it at the level of its Nolan predecessors because of those holes. The beauty of the brilliantly crafted music, ground breaking visual elements and amazing character development only fueled my feeling of regret of what could have been.

But I couldn’t have anticipated what happened over the course of the next few days. I couldn’t let it go. I couldn’t drop it. I couldn’t get over it. The night after we saw it, Rachel and I laid in bed talking about scenarios and explanations. I woke up the next morning and the first thing we talked about was the movie. I thought about it as I drove to work. I talked about it with friends who had seen it. I read plot summaries. I looked up timelines and charts on fan sites. I thought about it at least a couple times a day for the next week.

The following weekend Rachel and I went on a triple date with some close friends and saw another movie that had just been released. I found myself being incredibly disappointed by the shallowness of the plot and the narrowness of the scope as I sat through my first movie since Interstellar. As we ate dinner that evening after the showing, conversation morphed from the movie we had just seen into a lively talk about interstellar. “Wow, you’re really passionate about this movie!” Candace, our friend who hadn’t yet seen it, exclaimed as I unloaded about how amazing the setting is, how epic the storyboard, and how emotional I felt as the movie sucked me into the story in a way I hadn’t felt in a very long time. “Ha! Actually, I kind of felt disappointed after it because of some elements. But you guys HAVE TO SEE IT!”. Next thing I know, we’re all sitting down to watch the 10pm showing that night in the IMAX theater, having just come up with a spontaneous plan to spend the night at Stefan and Candace’s house and get up early the next morning just to watch the movie! I wasn’t disappointed. I left with some questions but this time I was fully ok with the story and how it developed and I was moved even more the second time than the first. I can honestly say that night was the most entertaining theater experience I ever had.

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As christians, it’s almost universally known that we were created for worship. Often we just think of our complete and total surrender to God when we’re imagining giving God our worship. The importance of surrender can’t be overstated, but something we can easily get disconnected from when considering worship is the burning internal desire in the human makeup for mystery and fascination. Whatever captures that desire is what we give our worship to. It’s not a matter of if we worship or not, but a rather of what we worship. If interstellar had answered all of my questions and alleviated all of my wondering, I would have have thoroughly enjoyed the moment, but that would have been the peak of appreciation – the moment. It wouldn’t have lead to me thinking about it before I went to bed and having it be the first thing I thought of the next morning. It wouldn’t have led to talking about it and hashing out the details with others who had seen it, and it most definitely wouldn’t have lead to going to see it late at night AFTER I had already seen another movie that evening. The beauty of the movie for me was not just that it allowed for some plot variables that weren’t tied up neatly in a bow by the end, but that it embraced that tension at its core.

At a more immature place in my Christian walk, I thought as my knowledge of God increased, my questions and wonderings would cease at the same pace. By the time I got to heaven, I thought internally, surely I would see him in His fullness, I would fully comprehend Him and THAT would inspire deep worship. I’m beginning to understand that I will never full know God and that is incredibly joyous news. If we fully knew Him at some point and understood his ways perfectly, eternity would be boring. He’s inexhaustible, he’s limitless, he’s beyond comprehension, he’s an ocean with no floor or boarders, he’s a sky with no limit, a mystery that is never solved, a story that is eternally evolving. The paradox of his mercy and justice, His sovereignty and our free will, Jesus’s full humanity and Deity invite us to dive into this ocean of the depths of God, yet fail to ever find the floor. It’s the mystery and wonder of God that makes Him so beautiful, so worthy of our worship and the only One that can truly fascinate us now and for eternity. It’s the glory of God to conceal Himself, but it’s the glory of kings to search it out. It’s not as much about that glory being hidden from us, but for us.

I have more questions now than I did when I started my Christian walk, but He is far more beautiful to me now than when I first met Him. My prayer is that the questions never cause me to draw back, but rather draw me in and propel me to give Him my worship, adoration and affection. After all, I have the opportunity to give Him something right now that I’ll only be able to give him for another 50 years or so; my worship in the midst of my doubt.

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I had the opportunity to help lead a team of our second year Desperation Leadership Academy students on a 10 day missions trip to Cardiff, Wales last week. Our team was hosted by the outstanding City Temple Church in the downtown area. Our team led everything from homeless outreaches to youth services and prayer meetings. It was a incredible experience and a true joy to watch our students serve with such excellence and passion. Here’s a couple things I learned (or was reminded of) from my time in the UK.

 

Things that (kind of) surprised me

 

25.     Starbucks on every corner

24.     Ubiquity of American pop culture

Most Welsh young people knew more about American entertainment than I did. Strange, connected world we live in.

23.     How kind and gentle most people were

22.     How small, yet alive every church was

I knew going in that the average church size in Wales was roughly 20 members. When   you see massive church buildings of old and hear shocking statistics about how much church engagement has declined in the past 50 years you assume, whether consciously or not, that a numerically receding church equals lifeless congregations. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Church members were strong, mature, spirit filled, life giving, on a mission Christians and their gatherings, services and outreaches reflected this reality. Man might look at the outward (statistics) but the Lord looks at the heart (what’s happening at the nucleus of the church).

 21.     The lack of American hate.

With all the rhetoric from the media about how the entire world hates America, you almost expect everyone to hate you for being American. But in fact, every interaction I had with locals featured a very positive outlook on America and her citizens. I’m sure many disagree with certain political and military actions the US takes, but most everyone I encountered was excited happy to talk to an American and generally had pleasant things to say.

 

Things that I wish would catch on in the States

 

20.     Saying “cheers” as a farewell

19.     Reliable public transport

18.     Hostels

 Having a place you can stay as a single person for under 20 dollars that doesn’t remind you of the most recent horror flick is really tremendous. Our hostel doubled as a bar that was open at night, at held its own as a primarily youth hostel round the clock. In this day and age of trendy coffee shops, I don’t know why the hostel hasn’t caught on

Image(Pictured) Our hostel’s lobby

17.     Indian and Kebob restaurants EVERYWHERE

 Please God, we have plenty of sugary coffee places and fast food restaurants in the states. What’s a guy gotta do for a killer Kebob place right down the street?

16.     Primark and Topman

15.     Great music played everywhere

In the US it’s rare that I go to a restaurant, elevator or place of business without being bombarded by awful music. It felt like everywhere we went, there was creative and beautiful music playing. It didn’t matter if it was a shop, bank or grocery store, the music added charm to every place. Well done, Wales.

14.     Sugary Ketchup

13.     Great tea served at every social event

12.     Full usage of the English language

 I’m increasingly bothered by the lack of variety in young peoples vocabulary. The Welsh, like their English counterparts, were very articulate. Everyone likes clarity and no one likes being confused. Say what you mean (and say it well) and mean what you say.

 

Things that I wish would catch on in the UK

 

11.     Ice in drinks

 I mean, I don’t want to sound arrogant, but our way to serve drinks in the states is definitely the best way. Let’s be real here, soda that’s flirting with room temperature isn’t doing it for anyone. There’s a reason God spews lukewarm out of his mouth, it’s because it’s nasty. Ok fine, I don’t care if I sound arrogant. Just put some ice in my drink. Similarly….

10.     Understanding why someone would ask for a slice of lemon with their drink

 Listen kind serviceman or woman, You don’t have to look at me like I just strangled a puppy. Your water has a hint of nasty to it and I’d like to disguise that if at all possible.

9.     Restaurants opened later than 7pm

8.     Good costumer service

7.      Miles and Fahrenheit as form of measurement

 Not because it’s more accurate (it’s not), but because it sure would be great to not try and figure that stuff out when I’m in there. Especially because siri can’t convert anything when I don’t have an international data plan.

 

This, that and another thing

 

6.     International flights are brutal

 No way around it. Airplanes and 6’4″ dudes just don’t mix. 

5.     Revival heritage is a beautiful thing

 I talked with many charismatic and non-charismatic Christians during my stay. Every believer, no matter what the denomination, had a cry in their heart for revival to return to their nation. I loved the reverence that there was for a great move of the Spirit that happen in their nation. If you belong to a church, city or   nation where God has moved mightily in the past, honor that legacy. Be thankful and content for it to happen again.

Image(Pictured) Our students visiting Moriah chapel, the birthplace of the Welsh revival) 

4.     The fellowship we believers have in Christ through the Spirit is greater than the connect we share with any other age, color, economic class or any other demographic

 It was incredible to meet 70 year old men and women from a different country, social class and denomination and feel a kindred spirit like we grew up together. We don’t look the same, speak the same or have the same life experiences, and yet I feel more connected in spirit   than someone in my city who’s my age that doesn’t know Christ. I guarantee I did not like the same foods, movies, TV shows, music, sports as these people, but I was moved to tears when we began talking about who Jesus meant to us and our need for a move of God in our respective nations. The body of Christ is beautiful.

3.     The impact the church can have on a community when they decide to serve with no strings attached

Street Pastors” is a movement in the UK, where the pastors in a city get together and serve the weekend partiers. Because of massive government cutbacks, Cardiff had hardly any police officers on duty at any given time. The hospitals were massively overloaded as well. Because of this, people who get drunk and get kicked out of bars and clubs don’t receive the medical attention they often need, and they are extremely susceptible to sexual or violent attacks. Every weekend, the street pastors set up a temporary location where they get basic medical treatment (fluids, EKG, etc) as well as a sober individual who can help them figure out how to get home safely. Of course naturally they have lots of impromptu counseling sessions as well. The street pastors have statistical evidence of massive decrease in crime, DUI’s, injuries and fatalities since they’ve begun the volunteer program. I got to meet with the director of the Cardiff street pastor team during my stay and I was amazed to hear him talk about the favor they’ve gained with the politicians, media, businessmen and even bar and club owners through their outreach. When I asked how it was possible to have gained so much influence within the city in such short of time, the answer came quickly; “We didn’t ask for anything in return”. Beautiful. 

2.     Countries with a long and eventful history are cool

 In Wales, almost every major town or city has or had a castle at its center. Walking around cities that could double as a historic landmark made me wish America had a longer history as a nation. I have about as much national pride as anyone I know, but even I was jealous of the rich history, architecture, and tradition of a people that’s been in their land for over a thousand years

Image(Pictured) The 13th century Caerphilly castle)

1.     Relationships and ministry experiences are dramatically accelerated when we leave our church sphere, even if it’s only for a couple of days

 I can’t say this was a new principle I learned, but it sure was affirmed during my trip. The way our students stepped up to the plate to lead with strength beyond what many of them had displayed in the previous year could only be attributed to ministering out of their element. I also felt more knit to all of them than I ever had. Anyone who is in youth or college ministry can attest to the power of taking your students to a conference, retreat or summer camp. Add in the foreign missions dynamic and that acceleration is increased to an even greater degree. Missions take a lot of work and it can be extremely draining, but the impact in students is undeniable.

25 Things I learned (or was reminded of) from my trip to Wales

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Thoughts on being 28

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18 year old me would relentlessly mock the 28 year old me for this post, but as I get older, on my birthday I like to reflect on the story of my life. These are in no particular order…

 

He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and children are a heritage from the Lord, and the fruit of the womb a reward. (Proverbs 18:22, Psalm 127:4)

 

 I’m going on 8 years of marriage and no year like this past one have I discovered the joy of family. Last year Aaliyah was born just 2 weeks before my birthday, and reflecting on this past year I can’t believe how much enjoyment of life she’s brought to me. I was going through photos of Aaliyah on my flight back to Colorado Springs last night and the entire time I was sitting there grinning like an idiot. For all the words of warning about how my life would be over when we finally had kids, I feel that I wasn’t equally as equipped with statements about how life was about to get incredibly fun. There has been hard moments and sleepless nights, but the payoff is so much greater than the price that it’s almost laughable to count the cost.

 

 Something about having a child really made my wife shine. She has always amazed me with her humility, but this year I couldn’t believe the amount of selflessness she displayed. I can’t imagine my life without a companion who I could run along side. Life is so much greater when shared with a kindred spirit. I feel the Sara Groves lyric rings particularly true this year; “life with you is half as hard and twice as good”.

 

Above all other resolutions and goals for this next year, passion for Jesus exceeds them all.

 

Since I work with either teenagers or young adults on a daily basis, I’m constantly either calling myself or being called old. I almost always follow it up with “I like being old”. And it’s true, I like being 28 more than I like being 18. Part of that reason is family, but part of that reason is the wisdom and settledness that comes with age, particularly age that has been seasoned with an ongoing pursuit of God. I don’t miss spending most of my worship wondering if God really likes me, I don’t miss feeling mostly awkward and just wanting everyone I meet to like me and I certainly don’t miss my teenage immaturity. Perspective is a beautiful gift that I don’t take lightly. However, if I use those years of experience, wisdom and maturity to domesticate myself and take me out of the race of passionately pursuing Jesus, then I’m missing the entire point of the wisdom. I’ve seen too many friends go from having the main goal of their early years to align with Paul’s heart cry in Phil 3:10 “I have to know Christ” to settling down and making the enjoyment of life the focal point. Being settled and having perspective was never meant to replace the passion and tenacity of our youth, it is meant to be a guiding line, a lighthouse, a steadying hand along the race of knowing Jesus. The beauty of how the Lord set things up is the fruit of a life given over to the Spirit is love, joy (enjoyment of life is part of this!), peace, patience, etc. It’s not that I don’t value enjoying life, it’s that I know that the way to live life the way we were intended to live is in constant pursuit. This next year, it’s not enough to help my wife and kids know Him. It’s not going to fly to just help those under my ministry know him. I HAVE to know him. Let this cry in my heart never die down.

 

Time is valuable

 

The older I get, the less free time I have in my schedule. Ministry, family, house, friendships, being old, these things all require more and more attention as I age. Things like getting up earlier, cutting out entertainment, not being obsessed with every social networking site/app are all part of the process. Things that have been in my life that neutral or even sometimes a good things need to go or be severely reduced.

 

I’m 28 years old and I still have yet to have a professional sports team that I cheer for win a title in my lifetime.

 

I mean, c’mon. I root for the Buffalo Bills, OKC Thunder, Baltimore Orioles and Buffalo Sabers. That’s 4 professional teams. If you average it out each team should win 1 title in my 28 years of existence. Is it really to much to ask for one of those teams to win a title one time?

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Blessed are the merciful, for they do dumb stuff too

On Wednesday I got up early to rent a U-haul truck to move our piano and couch into my work office. Thanks to a couple friends we got everything situated, but in the process of moving the piano it tipped onto our couch and broke the capo bar as well as a number of hammers and put a couple of nice big dings into it. Being a particularly froogle person, I was wallowing in my failure and thinking about how much it would cost to repair while driving the rental truck back. When I got to the U-haul place, the lone employee checked the truck out and said to me “wow, you drove it 80 miles?” I laughed out loud, because I had only been out of the lot less than an hour and a half. After I realized he was serious I responded, “uh, no. I drove it 20 miles. I drove a piano 3 miles down the street and then returned the truck. I reset the milage calculator when I pulled out and now it’s at 20”. Immediately he responded rather boldly, “no, it clearly shows on the odometer that you drove this 80 miles. I’m going to have to charge you 79 cents a mile.” After going back and forth on how it would be impossible to leave the lot, load up a truck, drive it 80 miles, stop for gas and return it in less than an hour and a half, he called his manager to discuss the situation. After a lengthy phone conversation where the employee was throwing me under the bus while telling his manager what happened, I’m feeling increasing frustrated as not only the piano repairs are weighing on me, but I’m late for work and I might possibly be stuck with a ridiculous charge. My mind starts thinking cruel thoughts toward the employee; “What kind of simpleton can’t figure out an obvious situation? How can this dude be the only guy working here when he possesses the kind of costumer care that an airline company would shiver at? As degrading names are running through my head, I overhear him say, “well he keeps saying he did, but the odometer clearly says”.. At that point I almost snap and start raising my voice at him. I came so close to vocalizing the thoughts that have been coming into my mind. Instead I turned around and took a deep breath. I decide to treat him kindly and patiently the rest of the time even though I want to bite his head off. Anyone who knows me knows how I love to win an argument and how being patient when comes to money when I’m in a bad mood doesn’t come naturally for me.

 

30 minutes later, the store manager sides with me an I am only charged for the 20 miles that I actually drove. I thank the employee for his help and quietly drive away. I arrive at work and immediately go to pull out my computer to work on e-mails when I realize that I left my computer bag with my macbook pro and live music gear in the rental truck I just dropped off. I immediately speed off to the rental place without even calling. When seeing me on my arrival, the employee flashed a warm smile that was absent during our earlier interaction. “Hey I was just about to call you about your bag, sir. I pulled it out of the truck and put it in a safe area. Also, I looked into our earlier matter some more and sure enough the last employee didn’t log the miles correctly. I’m really sorry about the mixup, thank you so much for being patient with me”. I flashed a sheepish grin, thanked him for rescuing my bag and walked away to my truck. Right away I thought, “holy cow, what if I had torn this dude to shreds and started yelling at him and name calling like I almost did? Would he have looked the other way and left the bag in the truck, or maybe even hid it and kept it for himself out of spite?” Obviously that was only speculation, but immediately I heard the voice of the Holy Spirit speak to me; “Blessed are the merciful, for they will obtain mercy”. I started laughing out loud. Partly out of relief, partly out of seeing God in the situation. I have no doubts it was the Holy Spirit that gave me strength to not unleash on that poor soul, and I felt the Holy Spirit’s delight in obeying Him.

 

Selfish anger is byproduct of pride. We arrogantly think we deserve better, or that our opinion of a situation is superior to the people we are dealing with and so we lash out in anger. Moments before I chilled out, I felt fully justified to unleash on the U-Haul employee since I was being “wronged”. I’m not saying we shouldn’t stand up for ourselves when we’re being taken advantage of, but if we show patience and appeal in kindness instead of responding in anger, not only to we display Christ-likenss but we often defuse the situation. And it was only moments later when I did something stupid and I was in need of someone to be merciful and patient with me. My act of patience likely helped the employee respond in the same way I responded to him.

 

Jesus didn’t commit any wrong on the earth and still displayed the fruits of the spirit even though he would never need mercy from the people who were cursing, beating and crucifying Him. How much more can we show mercy to people who we ourselves might need mercy from?

 

Colossians 1:10-12 “that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joyImage

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My Album is finally out!

Pas Neos’s  album “The wheat and the tares” is finally out! I’ve worked harder on this project than any music project I’ve ever done. I co-wrote and co-produced the entire album with Bob Powers and I had a blast working on this project. In my mind, no one really was going to hear this album when we started working on it.  We mostly wrote it and recorded it as a godly hobby, thinking only the rare or occasional person would stumble on it. IHOP’s label “Forerunner” picked up the album after mixing and had helped us promote it and get out to way more people that we could have ourselves. Currently it’s still #3 on the Itunes christian and gospel charts, which is much higher than I anticipated. Especially for being 4 days after the album was released. I’m thankful for people’s support and for the opportunity to do what I love to do, minister to the Lord in Song. Hope you like it!

 

You can buy the album here – http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/the-wheat-and-the-tares/id439939962

You can check out our website here – http://www.ihop.org/Groups/1000080529/Pas_Neos.aspx

 

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