Every Beat of My Broken Heart
Stories, Jokes, Movies - All my favorite ones feature a twist I was not expecting. The twist is why I’m a fan of M Night Shyamalan movies (yes I just googled the spelling of his name). It’s the reason why my favorite jokes are funny… and it’s the payoff at the end of so many of my favorite stories.
I think God likes the TWIST just as much as I do…. because it can reveal a new and fascinating side to something I thought I already had figured out.
The guys and I had been talking about our favorite bible verses the other day…. (I KNOW how that sentence sounds, believe me.. if I’m honest I didn’t decide on a favorite bible verse until the first time I was asked to put it next to my signature and I realized I wouldn’t look like much of a Christian unless I had one. Ha.)
One of the guys mentioned Jeremiah 29:11.
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’”
That’s a wonderful and comforting passage. It reminds me that no matter where I’m at in life right now, that God is thinking of me, and is already preparing a future for me. I can absolutely see why this would be a favorite verse of favorite verses….
I think, though… that some of us find this hard to believe. We look at our lives… our circumstances… our struggles… and we can’t help but ask…
"God, where are your plans? I don’t see them. If you plan to prosper me, why am I struggling? If you promise not to harm me, why do I feel hurt and wronged, sometimes even by other believers? I don’t feel a hope or see a future…. Where are you?"
For me, and I think a lot of us…. we read that verse, and it feels as though God is promising that He will eventually make life pleasant and comfortable for us. It feels like if we hold on long enough, believe strongly enough, and pray hard enough…. God promises to reward us with wealth, a family, a beautiful house, a job with paid vacation and medical benefits, and a healthy long life.
We are quick to say that we are aware that “these aren’t the things that really matter”…. but deep down we believe that if God was really prospering us, we would surely have these things.
So sometimes when we don’t see these things in our lives, or even the hope for these things in the future, we can’t help but feel disappointed. We wonder if God really sees us, and really has plans to prosper us.
This, I think…. is the TWIST.
I’ve begun to wonder if God means something entirely different when He says “prosper”. What if it’s when we’re at our lowest points… when we’re in the midst of our deepest struggles…. that we have the chance to prosper the most? Life-changing moments come in many shapes and sizes… but the most pivotal ones… the most crucial defining moments, are often the hardest ones to live through.
In Genesis, Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, and he was sent to prison after that. He had done nothing wrong, yet he was treated brutally and unfairly. I’m SURE there were moments when he looked around and failed to see God in his circumstances… but in the end, what became of him? Second-in-command of all of Egypt, even as a foreigner. His own brothers didn’t even recognize him because his experiences had helped shape him into the person he was made to be. All other kinds of blessings aside, the true gain was who he BECAME.
Maybe God is doing that in our lives right now. Maybe when He says he has plans to prosper us, He means it the way he did for Joseph. Maybe God is already working in our lives to prosper us in His way. He’s not doing it in spite of our circumstances, He’s doing it through our circumstances.
What if His plans to prosper us don’t just exist in some rosy future we imagine for ourselves… what if He is prospering us in his own way - here and now? What if our circumstances aren’t evidence of God’s absence, but instead they’re the very things that enable us to EXPERIENCE Him.
I’ve come to feel God closest in my life during the tough times. These are the times I’m reminded of my need for Him. I lean on Him… listen for Him… and I can feel him shaping me into something better than what I used to be. It’s hard. It hurts… but it is good….. maybe even better than what I know how to pray for.
So this is what I believe…..
"Maybe the shattered parts are the places where Your love starts, and I am closer to where You are with Every Beat of My Broken Heart."
Step Up To The Microphone
On Friday night we played our first festival show as the new Hawk Nelson. Wow. So much fun!
I say “the new Hawk Nelson”, knowing such a phrase sums up a mountain of changes that have occurred over the past year, and also knowing that those changes might make many different people feel many different things.
I wanted to share a little bit with you all about some of the events of the past year, and let you in on what it’s been like inside Hawk Nelson during that time.
By mid-2011, Hawk Nelson had been a band for 9 years, put out 5 records with Tooth and Nail records, and played shows all over the world. We were (and are) keenly aware that not every band gets to experience that kind of career…. We felt, and continue to feel, incredibly blessed by that.
Jason Dunn had always been an integral part of who we were as a band, and his presence on and off stage was one of the things that made us who we were. We had been through so many highs and lows together, and those shared experiences create the kind of relationship you can only have with a brother. Honestly, the times we spent hanging out off stage were one of the things that made the band special. We really do love each other and enjoy each other’s company. It was not lost on any of us that this is not the case in every band.
By 2011, each of us had been wrestling with the desire to grow beyond what we currently were as a band. We all agreed that we wanted to become more than what we were. The struggle was figuring out what that looked like. As time went on, Jason began to express that he wished to make a transition into a solo career. Of course, as brothers, we wanted to be supportive his dreams and aspirations…. so we knew we had to let him go and not hold him back. At the same time, the question naturally arose…. What does this mean for us? Is Hawk Nelson over?
We wrestled with that question for many months. Publicly, we were not yet talking about the developments, but they weighed heavy on our hearts, and I’m sure people coming to shows could probably tell we seemed different. There were unresolved questions in our minds and it is very difficult to perform when everything is so uncertain.
In early 2012 we went on tour with MercyMe on the Rock and Worship Roadshow. MercyMe was made aware of our upcoming changes and they took us on tour regardless. I think I will forever be grateful for that decision on their part.
The tour was wonderful, and as news of Jason’s departure spread amongst the other bands and crew on tour (it wasn’t yet public), the level of support for both Jason and the band was unreal. It was honestly a godsend that we were on tour with such a supportive family.
While on that tour, we decided that we definitely wanted to continue as a band. There were so many things we still wanted to do, and so much we still wanted to say. Jason was supportive of our decision, and that made the whole thing so much less stressful. So, the search began for a singer.
We began considering several singers that we had met over the years and really loved. I think any one of them would have done a bang-up job. We met with several different guys, and there were some personal connections made which felt really fun and exciting… but we weren’t certain if we had the right guy just yet.
Then, one day, Bart Millard pulled me into the MercyMe dressing room and gave me the sales pitch of my life. For those who don’t know him, he can be very very persuasive. He thought that there was already a member of the band who should step up to the plate and be the new singer…. Someone who the fans already knew, and who the fans would want to support and rally around, since they wouldnt feel blindsided by a new addition to the band in that key frontman role. Bart thought that someone was me.
The truth is, the first person to suggest the idea was my mom. Of course, I brushed it off and thought that every mom probably thinks her son can do anything, so of course my mom would think I could do this. Haha. I disagreed. I had been the singer in bands before, but I had grown accustomed to the support role of the guitar player, and I enjoyed it. If I’m honest, I was terrified of the idea of being the singer and frontman.
But when Bart and my mom agree on something, I take notice.
I started to consider it. We began to rehearse in dressing rooms on tour as a 3 piece. All of a sudden, the idea didn’t seem so ridiculous. It even felt fun. We began to like this option.
As soon as I got home from that tour, I began writing songs. At a ridiculous pace. At this point, I’ve written 20+ songs for new HN. With every new song, the idea of being the singer felt more and more real. Internally within the band, it started to feel really good!
The new songs are so fun. Tons of energy. Super singable. Really meaningful and heartfelt. Everything I wanted them to be… And we think they’re some of the best songs we’ve created in years. As we began rehearsing them, we had so so much fun. It was like new life had been breathed into the band. It all felt new again.
There was still the question, however….. What were the fans going to think of this?!
Then came this week.
We had a hometown Nashville show and a festival in Michigan booked. This was going to be the first real test…. How would the new songs feel? How would people feel about me as a frontman? I could feel the pressure, but quite honestly, I didn’t feel overly stressed. I can only attribute that to sheer grace. This whole time we’ve all had the feeling that God is doing stuff behind the scenes and all we need to do is trust in Him, work hard, and stay positive, and good things would happen. I clung to that through this week.
The Nashville show on Wednesday was incredible. First off, the place was packed. I was so moved by the showing of support from friends and fans alike. We had so much fun playing the new stuff and old stuff alike. I’m sure anyone there could see the smiles on our faces. We were just loving being a band and singing songs we believed in. I watched my wife in the crowd as she sang every word back with me. She had never seen me as a singer before.
After the show, the feedback was great. Both friends and fans were so so supportive and encouraging. It felt like all our hard work had been so worth it. It was nice to know that we weren’t alone in loving the new songs!
Then, Friday night, we played our first festival. I’ll be honest, I was more nervous at my second show than my first. A main stage slot in front of several thousand people is enough to make a new frontman want to chicken out and go home! But we played about an hour of new and old songs, and even had the chance to do an acoustic worship section we had talked about doing. I stood out on the thrust and lead several thousand people in singing to God. Woowwwww. At the end of that section I stood and listened to the crowd sing “I could sing of your love forever” all on their own. That was my favorite.
After the show we signed autographs and met festival-goers. Everyone was so so encouraging about the new direction the band is taking. People were singing the choruses to new songs and sharing their favorites. So fun!
I can honestly say I’m astounded and humbled by the level of support we’ve had through all this. This week has been really exciting for us and it’s been awesome to realize that we have a great many people alongside us on this journey.
We have never been more excited to be a band… Never more amped to share these new songs with you… And never felt more anticipation about our future. God has been of faithful in our lives, and he has a plan bigger and better than our own. We are stoked to see what it is.
It’s my hope that when you hear the new Hawk Nelson, it will be as fun, meaningful, and sincere to you as it is to us. I hope that you will sing your hearts out alongside me at shows.
More than anything, I hope that the new music will bring you into a place where you feel the hope that we feel. Nothing we are going through is unique to us. Everyone struggles through changes that bring an end to the old and a beginning to the new. But God is faithful, and he’s always willing to prove it if you are willing to let Him.
I’m enjoying my last morning in Australia. I woke up about as early as usual, around 6am, threw on some clothes, and went for a walk around downtown Perth. It’s sunny and warm even this early in the morning, and the nearness to the water gives the whole city a beachy feel. It’s beautiful here.
The people are beautiful here as well. Everyone seems so put together. Even at this early hour, professional men and women are walking to work, dressed in sharp, neat business attire. I briefly feel self conscious walking among them, having just rolled out of bed and thrown on a disciple t shirt and a beanie. Then I sit at a coffee shop and decide to just take in the moment (isn’t there always something to take in?).
Australians seem to care deeply about how they present themselves. Most are fit and well groomed, and always dress sharply. Just now I saw a businessman walk by me, headed to work wearing a tailored suit, carrying a packed lunch in one hand, and a pair of running shoes in the other. I can only surmise he plans to go for a run on his lunch break. This is exactly the kind of lifestyle so many Australians seem to subscribe to.
In North America we love casual. We love t shirts and shorts and sneakers. Most of us avoid dressing up if we can help it. How many times have I heard someone say (or said myself), “well at least I don’t have to wear a suit every day.” If we see someone in a suit, we assume it’s against their will, that this person must have been forced into a career where he’s forced to wear a suit. Surely he’d rather be in shorts and flip flops.
We apply these same principles to our church lives. I grew up in a church that was proudly “come as you are!” Ripped jeans, biker jackets, short shorts, whatever. No doubt when my parents’ generation started these churches, it was in reaction to the legalism and traditionalism of their parents’ generation. They didn’t want to be a part of a church that forced them to dress a certain way on Sundays. I can understand the sentiment. I might have felt the same way if I grew up the way they did.
The churches my Dad pastored were more of the “anything goes” type churches. In addition to the casual dress, anyone in the congregation was free to speak up at any moment, with a prophetic word, question, or shout of affirmation. Again, I am sure this is a response to the fact that my parents generation grew up in churches where the activity was quite one-sided. The ministers preached, the congregation listened.
When I was 17, I moved out on my own and began to search for a church of my own as well. I checked out a Pentecostal church, Baptist church, and several others. I ended up getting involved in a Harvest Bible Chapel, which is an offshoot of the baptist church, but I also began attending a Sunday night youth service in Toronto.
These youth services were held in an ancient church downtown, and they were unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. It was emphasized that God was HOLY, and not someone to be approached lightly. Scriptures were read with care and detail, and the point was clearly made that these writings were SACRED. The word of God given to men. There was a heaviness to it all. An appropriate heaviness. I realized that all these years I’d been thinking of God as a vending machine. Put praise and worship in, get good things out. A convenient arrangement.
There at those services I saw an aspect of God’s nature I had missed until that point. The Sacred. The Holy.
A few days ago the guys and I traveled to the southernmost tip of the Albany area, and saw these incredible rock formations on the coast. There are massive cliffs, and the sea comes crashing into them with incredible force. The experience was humbling. I approached the edge of the cliffs with care, and awe. There is one place where you can climb underneath a section of the cliff face, where you’re literally standing under millions of tons of rock. Just feet away massive waves are slamming into the rocks. I was struck by the sheer scale of the forces I was in proximity to. Beyond comprehension. I couldn’t help but feel that approaching God is like this. With awe. Not with fear, but with awareness of the bigness of it all…. How easily I could be crushed, swept away, or buried, in a moments notice.
I don’t mean this to be any kind of indictment of charismatic churches. I merely mean to say that having grown up in one point of view, I appreciated experiencing others. There’s got to be a balance to it all. If I had grown up in a more traditional church, I’m sure I would have sought out a place with more freedom. Most of us crave new points of view when we come of age.
I’m continually amazed by a God who has absolutely no reason to do things only one way. He is bigger than that. He cares about what is in our hearts more than anything. Our outward expressions are a beautiful union between who He is, and who we are. We all share a need for salvation, but beyond that human beings are so wonderfully different from each other. No wonder our walks with Jesus can look so different.
I am thankful for a world full of different points of view. I love stepping into other people’s perspective for moments. There continues to be so much to learn.
Sometimes I like to stand on a street corner at a busy downtown intersection. Just stand. I enjoy the flow of people all around me. Their conversations. Their facial expressions. Their hurry. I’m certainly the only one still just standing there when the walk sign lights up. 30 seconds later I’m with a new group of strangers.
It’s like little 10 second snapshots into other people’s lives. Amazing to get that tiny window into so many different people’s daily realities. Each one is different, but almost without exception, they’re in a rush. They have places to be, things to do. Hurry up. Faster. You can almost feel people muttering it.
How much of my life do I spend in such a hurry? A ton of it, don’t I? I’ve got worries and concerns and things to get done just like anyone. How much am I missing when I rush?
Right now I’m sitting on a bench in Australia. I’m in Australia. The other side of the world for me. That’s amazing.
I’m sitting on a bench at the side of a stone walkway. Amongst the regular stones there are specially made black stones scattered throughout, with little steel leaves embedded in them. The whole design makes it appear as if leaves are blowing down the street, shimmering in the sun.
Someone made those metal leaves. Someone else placed them into the black stones, and someone else incorporated them into the stone walkway. How much effort to go to for something people are just going to step on? Who is even going to notice?! I think it makes the walkway look beautiful, but I only noticed because I sat down here and chose to notice. I slowed down…. And the gratitude an appreciation had a chance to catch up with me.
It’s amazing how wonderment is possible only when we slow down.
Normally it’s the big things that force us to slow down. We see a huge sculpture or archway, and we sloooooooow down to examine it’s beauty. We stand at the edge of the grand canyon and it’s vastness commands us to slow down. Big things tower over us and demand this reaction, and appropriately so. When we feel small, the world feels big, and we are in awe. Things feel right when we feel small. Almost as if that’s how we were meant to feel all the time.
Maybe slowing down intentionally can help us feel small in other moments. I can’t imagine how much effort went into this walkway. The immensity of the job makes me feel pretty tiny as I stare down the entire length of it. It must have taken incredible effort to design and build it…. And now I walk on it.
I’m grateful for the reminder to slow down and feel a little bit of wonder at the bigness of it all. Slow. Small. This feels right.
What To Feed
On the plane to Australia I watched one of my favorite movies, and found that it was not a favorite anymore. Weird feeling.
I hadn’t watched this movie in quite some time…. And I assumed I’d love it just as much as I used to. Instead I found myself watching it with new eyes.
I first saw it over 10 years ago. I had just moved out on my own, and I was so unsure of my direction in life. Insecure. Quiet in groups of people. The guy in the movie is just like this. He was someone I could identify with back then…. constantly paralyzed by fear and uncertainty. I was that guy.
I am floored by how little I identified with him this time around. Obviously the movie hasn’t changed. The story is the same, the characters are the same, and the ending is the same.
It’s me that’s changed.
I still experience fear, but I am learning to refuse to be paralyzed by it. I still experience uncertainty, but I recognize it as a part of life, and do my best to move forward. Watching the movie, I still identify with those feelings. They haven’t gone away. Fear and doubt never leave. I just try not to feed them.
We choose what to feed, I think. When I begin to feel afraid of something, I steel myself for the urge I know is coming. The urge to run. To back away. To avoid the opportunities for hurt and failure to strike. However, if I act on that urge, I miss opportunities for joy as well. That last thought is where the energy comes from. I’ve known few joys as great as the joy of a fear conquered. You can feed the fear, or feed the courage to find the joy beyond it.
This actually enters my decision making processes now. When faced with a tough decision, I try to ascertain which route I’m most terrified of. I see the opportunity to conquer another fear. Or fall flat on my face. Either way, I refuse to succumb to it, and that’s a triumph in itself.
I can feel determination grow in me. I refuse to be a slave to fear. I repeat this to myself.
I’d rather have a history of failed somethings than successful nothings. Immobility is the greatest of all failures, and one that you can avoid by choice. The race isn’t over. Keep moving. I repeat this to myself as well.
I can’t know how it all will end, but every day I can choose where to begin, and what to feed.
God, thank you for life and breath and for the time that we are given. Thank you for melodies and phrases. Thank you for families and friends. Thank you for courage, the fire inside each of us that is kindled by your love, and ignited by our suffering. Thank you that you know better than we do.
Ive been thinking a lot recently about safety. Security. As a man, and a husband, it’s something that’s built into me. I want to provide a safe place for myself and my wife, and someday, my kids.
The more I can provide this with my own two hands, the better. I’m the kind of guy that likes to be in control. I like to plan, and execute. I like to have backup plans. All of this is an effort to insulate myself and my family from the dangers that exist in the world. To create a barrier between me and life.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with this. There’s nothing unwise about being careful when it comes to important things…. but at the end of the day we have to admit that we can’t control everything. There is only so much we can prepare for, and we are not all-knowing, all-seeing, or all-powerful.
I remember being in high school, and being told how important my grades were to my future. Get good grades, and that will lead to a good university, and that will lead to a good job, and that will lead to a good life. This was drilled into most of us, right? ….and it’s not entirely untrue…. It’s just like the security thing. None of these things guarantees anything.
That’s what we’re really talking about, right? Life comes with zero guarantees. You can do everything right, and still end up with nothing. You might even look over at a guy that made all the mistakes in the world, and somehow ended up with a great job and a beautiful family…. How did that happen?
These days, I bet a lot of people are asking themselves that. Maybe folks that went to college and got a degree, and found themselves unable to find a job afterwards…. Or people that lost a job at a company that they never dreamed would become unstable. There are a ton of people in tough spots right now because life came with no guarantees. I can empathize. Especially right now.
I only know of one guarantee that I can trust in. I know that Jesus Christ has saved my soul, and that when I die (there’s a guarantee) I will go to be with Him in heaven. I can think of no greater guarantee and good news!
But - for many, the obvious question is: How does that help me right now?
Sometimes, as believers in Jesus, it’s easy for us to simply say…. “Jesus is the answer.” and walk away. It’s almost an excuse not to empathize. An excuse not to help in a practical way. We tell ourselves, “God has a plan for them, and will take care of them.” and thats true.
However, there’s an element to the equation we don’t think about as much. God’s provision involves his followers. We are here to do more than talk. We are here to serve. Sometimes that’s messy. Sometimes it’s inconvenient. Sometimes it costs you something…. But I can think of no greater security on this earth than this….
So if you’re hurting and tired today….. Worried about the present, and scared about the future, this is what I want you to know…
The One who made you holds you, and He will never let you go. There are millions of us who know Him too, and we are here to pick each other up. As God loves you, we want to love you. We’ll get tripped up in our own struggles sometimes, but know that you are not alone in this. Ask for help. Ask to talk to someone. Don’t face life alone. We weren’t built for that.
There are no guarantees until we step into eternity. Until then, God has given us each other.
So This Is The New Year
New Year’s. What a sneaky holiday.
Just as you’ve finished polishing off a turkey, stuffing, and 8 pounds of pie, it ambushes you. It’s like it knows its big brother Christmas will get all the attention, so it just lingers a few days behind, and smacks you faster than you can say “No-one actually calls it having thirds, right? It’s still called having seconds?”
Yeah…. Thanks Pope Gregory XIII. Put the most reflective holiday exactly 1 week after the holiday on which we indulge the most. Nothing like starting a new year with an extra 10 pounds of cake on ya. It’s almost as if someone knew we’d have to hit bottom before we’d even consider anything like a New Years Resolution. Ahhhh those clever Catholics!
- Side Note: The week between Christmas and New Years has got to be the LEAST productive week of the year. Nobody really takes it seriously, right? It’s like a free week of….. Whatever. …. and then BAM come the resolutions!
New Years Resolutions are probably one of my favorite parts of the end of the year. I just love hearing all the grandiose changes people plan on making all at once, expecting it to stick like magic. Do you know what percentage of New Years Resolutions are kept for the entire year? 8 percent. That means 92% of resolutions fail.
I’m not rooting for failure here, I’m just wondering if maybe there’s a better way to do this…. maybe some adjustments can be made to help us actually meet our goals. Here are some thoughts.
1. Set reasonable goals.
2. Set a real timetable for results.
3. Start small, and build momentum.
Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Change is hard, and takes determination. The larger the change, the more difficult it will be to stick. Choose a goal that is lofty enough to inspire you, but not so out of reach that you won’t have any realistic chance of reaching it.
If weight loss is your goal, come up with a plan to lose weight with goals to meet each week, instead of blindly saying “I want to lose 30 pounds”. If debt reduction is your goal, do the same. Attack your goal in chunks, setting small goals along the way. Meeting these goals will create momentum that will encourage you to keep going!
Small changes are easier to stick to, so try changing some small things, and practice sticking to the change.
For instance, my wife is trying a juicing fast for 15 days. I’m not really prepared to go that hardcore, but I have decided to replace 1 meal with a homemade juice each day over that same time period. Only a couple days in, and I feel really good about the change. Since it’s a relatively small change, it doesn’t feel like much of a sacrifice, and getting the nutritional value of 1 juiced meal sure beats having no veggies at all (Funny enough, I’ve actually kind of started craving the juice - it’s really quite delicious).
Making this one change, and feeling good because of it, has actually inspired me in other areas. I’ve been running more recently (5k every morning), and just being more aware of what I’m eating. The way that makes me feel only inspires me to continue. That’s the kind of momentum I love!
So…. What are your New Years Resolutions?
Aging has a way of keeping you honest. I’ve heard it said that Time and Truth walk hand in hand. That’s a phrase I find myself coming back to all the time. We can talk a big game when we’re young, making up for all that experience we don’t have yet, but time moves forward and the truth is revealed… and talk becomes very very…. cheap.
Everyone has different experiences with growing older, but I can only really write about my own…. and in my experience, aging has knocked me down a peg or two. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful. I look back at my younger self, and I’m embarrassed at how big a game I talked with such little experience. I’m sure ten years from now, I’ll look at my current self and roll my eyes in just the same way. It’s healthy. If you’re impressed with who you were ten years ago, you’re not growing.
I’ve found that time has worn down my sense of certainty in many things. You know how this works. You’re 19, and you think you know everything about the world because you’ve graduated high school, you have a car (that your parents helped you get), you have a job (part time, pays the phone bill only), and you have an apartment to call your own (that you split with 3 other people). You’re anxious to prove that you’re not a kid anymore, so naturally, you feel that you have to voice an opinion on everything.
This describes 19-year-old me perfectly. I really was that guy. Luckily for me, I ended up bombing hard in a few areas…. bands, finances, relationships…. I messed a lot of things up. If I had succeeded in everything I did, I’d have turned into an awful person to be around (even more than I must have already been back then). My arrogance would have only grown. It was good for me to experience failure.
Since that time, I’ve been so blessed to have some incredible life experiences. Touring the world playing music for a living, getting married to my favorite girl ever, buying my first home, and simply having amazing family and friends. If I had never been humbled by a healthy dose of defeat from time to time, I’d probably think I deserved these things. I’d most likely think of them as things I’d earned rather than things I’d been blessed with.
Overall, I’m growing less certain of my own knowledge and strength. I’m sure I know more about the world now than I did ten years ago, but knowledge is not always empowering. It reminds me that I’m small, and the world is huge.
All that being said, there are a few things in which my certainty has grown with age…. Sometimes the hard truths, while most difficult to face, can be our most potent allies as we walk into the future. Certainty in these truths is powerful.
I am certain that I will experience many more failures in life, and it is a crucial success to recognize how little they define me.
I am certain that there will always be someone more talented than me, but being hard working, kind, and honest will always take you further than being lazy, arrogant, and deceitful.
I am certain that my family will always be there for me, and I will always be there for them. We’ll face difficult times together. They may live in my basement, or I may live in theirs. We may have to prop each other up even when we don’t entirely understand each other. We may live in different continents, but we’ll also live in the uncommon joy of unconditional love.
I am certain that my wife is the single most significant and humbling blessing of my life. We share both light and dark, and are stronger and better for it. I know we will have good times and bad… and we’ll have moments where we’ll wonder if our marriage will survive… but we are in this for the long haul, and neither of us is going anywhere. We are each other’s fiercest defenders. So many of the best parts of me are simply emulations of her. I still have much to learn from and about her.
Finally, I’m more certain than ever in the things I cannot see. I am certain that I am not here by accident. I am sure that God’s plans for my life so far have proved to be way more ambitious than my own, and I need to stop fighting Him about my future. I’m finding that the more people around me express their doubts, the more certain I become.
The truth needs no defense. Time is its defender. Of this I am unwaveringly certain.
Today is the final launch of the space shuttle program’s 30 year run. I’m up in the front lounge of our tour bus watching CNN in the front lounge. It’s strange to think that this is going to be the final shuttle launch ever, with the mission designated as STS-135.
When I was about 14, my family traveled down to Florida for vacation. This was one of my first time really exploring the United States, and we were driving down to FL from Canada, so we really got to see quite a bit.
We saw a ton of amazing things on that vacation, but the highlight for me was the shuttle launch we went to watch in person. We went to see the launch of STS-89, a shuttle mission to the Russian MIR Space Station.
I will never forget the experience.
It was a night launch, taking off just before 10pm. We watched from a causeway about 5 miles away. There was a body of water between us and the shuttle. Roughly 50,000 people were gathered alongside us to watch the launch.
We waited and waited…. and when the shuttle finally burst into life, a fireball was all we could really see. I watched a shockwave come across the water, and when it reached us, the sound of the shuttle hit me right in the chest. I was amazed at how something 5 miles away could be so powerful as to hit you that hard despite the distance. Amazing.
We are now 2 mins to launch of this final shuttle.
In the Light of What I Have Chosen To Be
This morning I read a tweet that said, “We are not defined by twitter.” I thought about that for a minute…. and found myself disagreeing with the core of what he was trying to say.
The whole story is this…… @daveramsey sometimes like to get into little one-liner matches with people who wish to argue with him. Haha. I think it’s mostly sport for him, but every once and a while there’s an interesting truth or lesson to be drawn from the exchanges. This was one of those times.
It started when @daveramsey tweeted, “If you have thousands of tweets and 7 followers what does that mean?”
A local Nashvillian responded, “Absolutely nothing. We are not defined by twitter.”
At first glance, most people would agree with this statement. We hate the idea of our identity being dictated to us by an outside entity, be it a corporation, social network, government, or anything outside our control. This is understandable. I completely agree with the sentiment that WE decide what defines us.
However, the core of what he’s saying is “What I say on Twitter doesn’t matter. It doesn’t define who I am.”, and I have to emphatically disagree with that………….. but we do agree that defining ourselves is important, right?
So then, the obvious big question is:
How do we go about defining ourselves?
I believe, and I think most people would agree, that it’s by our actions… our behavior.
If I’m kind to people, a hard worker, self-reliant, resourceful, and honest…. I am choosing to define myself by those traits. If I’m cruel, lazy, a mooch, unimaginative, and dishonest, I am choosing to define myself by THOSE traits. Either way, people will see me in the light of what I have chosen to be.
I’ve heard the phrase “Actions speak louder than words.” a million times, and I can’t help but feel that this catchphrase is unrealistic.
Words ARE actions.
When you speak, you’re communicating ideas to others, and those ideas can either build or destroy, just like actions can. They can be powerful.
Your words are part of the fabric of what you are choosing to be.
So when it comes to twitter, facebook, and other social networks….. I agree that they don’t define you in and of themselves. I agree that no CEO in a suit (or in this case, Adidas flip-flops) can tell you who you are… and no, I don’t think that your number of followers defines you either.
However, the definition of YOU is still up to you. What you say on these social networks is an extension of who you are. Words ARE actions. I’m not saying that you need to treat every tweet like a press release… but I am saying, in all things…. be true to what it is you want to be.
Be true to your definition of you.
If you’re a wonderful person in real life, you will be a wonderful person on Twitter.
If you’re a miserable person in real life, you will be a miserable person on Twitter….
…and you might end up with more enemies than friends, both online and off.
Swimming on the Surface
Information has never been more readily available to most of us than it is today. News travels across the globe in seconds, not hours; long lost old high school friends are at our fingertips on social networks; and the answer to nearly any question is just a google away. As more and more aspects of our lives are connected online, some of us find ourselves asking what kind of a future we’re moving into, and what exactly are we leaving behind?
Now, I know what you’re thinking…. PLEASE don’t tell me this is another blog post written by a self-righteous white male twenty-something who is going to preach at me about the evils of technology from his Apple computer and broadband internet connection. I would be thinking the same thing if I were you. That’s not the point I’m interested in making. I’m not going to tell you to throw your iPhone into the lake, or delete your facebook account… so chill out.
I don’t think technology is evil at all…. I think it’s incredible! The truth is, all these amazing developments in the flow of information are overwhelmingly adding more to our culture than they’re taking away from it. Having said that… I do believe there is a very real trade-off we’re making for all this instant gratification.
In centuries past, humanity’s greatest thinkers were all gripped by questions that moved them, and filled their imagination….. questions that started with the words “I wonder……”
Newton wondered what caused things to fall to the ground. Galileo wondered if the Earth was perhaps not the center of the universe. Einstein wondered if light and energy could potentially be two forms of the same thing. They all spent time observing the world around them, and their observations eventually led them to ask questions which they were driven to find answers for. Of course, their pursuits of those answers are why they left such a mark on the world as we know it today.
The key here is that each of them spent a great deal of time……. just……… thinking.
It seems as though the sparks of wonder and curiosity tend to creep into our minds gradually….. They find us in long car rides staring out the window, and late night conversations with sympathetic imagineers. They find us in the lazy Sunday afternoons and long walks with the dog. They find us like the sun beginning to burn off the fog at the lakeshore in the early morning hours. Imagination seems to wait for us to stop moving………. and only springs into being when we’re at rest.
The danger with the information we’re bombarded with each day is that it can cause us to never actually be at rest. We’re constantly checking our email, or watching our twitter feeds to see what our friends are doing. We’re checking up on our spouses’ facebook pages to see who they’re befriending and who’s writing on their walls. We’re scanning news websites for news and opinion pieces disguised as news.
Our lives are filled with soundbytes.
These morsels of information satisfy us for only a moment before we’re left looking for the next thing. Smartphones make everything even more accessible. Now we don’t even need a computer. We bring it all with us. When we leave the house, we’re bringing the totality of human history and knowledge along, so long as we have a solid 3g signal.
Again, I’m not bashing any of this. I think it’s amazing…. I simply want to be aware of the things I’m in danger of giving up in return for these incredible abilities.
So, that little rabbit-trail brings me to the main thing I wanted to share….
I’ve made a small social change recently that’s opened my eyes to some of the effects of having an iPhone on me all the time…..
When I go out to lunch or dinner with Jess, my wife, I’ve started leaving my phone in the car. Since I tend to be glued to that little thing, I decided that this was the only way to give her my undivided attention. Really, didn’t think it would change anything, but I was wrong.
The difference was profound. Once I stopped instinctively reaching for it every 60 seconds, I found that I was far more engaged in conversation. I didn’t just listen and respond…. I watched her mouth form words, and found myself interested in the little movements of her face as she spoke. I wanted to know more than what she thought about things, I wanted to know why she thought them, and how she found herself feeling this way, etc.
I felt as though I had been spending most of our time together swimming on the surface of deep lake, without ever realizing how far down it went. It was amazing.
So, while I’m not planning any kind of crusade against technology, I am determined more than ever to prevent it from robbing my life of real depth and wonder. I want to be ready to set it aside at times, and allow myself to be inaccessible to anyone other than the one in front of me.
I plan to remember to sometimes just sit and be…. and let the sparks of wonder and imagination find their way to me.
The Awkward Years - Part III
The conclusion to a discussion about life’s “Awkward Years”.
CLICK HERE for Part I
CLICK HERE for Part II
I wanted to conclude here, with another thought, and this one may or may not make you feel better….
The awkward years never entirely end.
Sucks, doesn’t it? But it’s the truth.
Here’s what I mean by it….
The things that we worry about the most during this time, we tend to worry about our entire lives.
Who am I?
What is my purpose?
Am I capable of fulfilling it?
What if I can’t do it?
What if I’m not good enough?
As we grow up and into adulthood, these questions tend to linger in the back of our minds. It’s easy to look at successful people and think that they don’t worry about these kinds of things, but that is a lie. They absolutely do worry about these things. In fact, I sometimes think that success ups the ante on these questions. The more successful someone is, the more others tend to rely on them, and the more crucial it begins to feel that they need to have the the answers to these questions.
The truth is that nobody has it really figured out.
Think about this.
Most children tend to think that their parents know it all, and have all the answers. You can see why they would think that. As children, we had so little life experience that an adult appeared to have infinite experience. As we got older, we began to question our parents’ judgment. We began to assert our own thoughts and opinions. This felt great at first.
Then comes the fateful day where we see our parents make a mistake. A big one. One we don’t think we would have made. It’s a terrifying experience. In our heads, we already know that our parents don’t know everything, and they’re not perfect… but this experience brings that knowledge down to our hearts, and it leaves us feeling incredibly uneasy… because it shows us that our parents struggle with these questions just as much as we do. They STILL do.
They ask themselves questions like…
Am I a good parent?
Am I doing a good job raising my kids?
Would their childhood be better if we had more money? Or less?
Am I spoiling them? Or am I too hard on them?
Would their childhood be better if we lived somewhere else? Or if we moved less?
Are they missing out on anything?
Am I teaching them about God the way I should?
Am I turning into my father/mother?
Look at these questions….. Do you see that they’re just variations of the questions we asked ourselves before?
Who am I?
What is my purpose?
Am I capable of fulfilling it?
What if I can’t do it?
What if I’m not good enough?
The only difference is that now life has superimposed specifics onto the questions. The stakes have been raised, because the questions don’t just involve them anymore… the questions involve their children… You.
So our search for the answers to these questions never really ends.
While that thought seems daunting at first, it’s also liberating…. because it means that everyone on earth continues to struggle with these thoughts to this day. Everyone. Including the cool kids at school, the boss at your job, your teachers, politicians, presidents. Each of them is searching for these answers too. You are not alone.
I tend to think that part of the process of moving on from the awkward years is partially the acceptance of this fact. We know we don’t have it all figured out, and we know that nobody else does either.
As we get older, we continue to learn, and life gets a little less awkward as time passes. Haha. If we stay humble and constantly ready to learn, we get better at dealing with people, better at relationships. We start to figure out things we are good at and interested in, and follow those hints towards a life purpose.
Through all of these steps there will be hard times. There will be new awkward phases that come and go with new challenges and lessons. I’ve heard that the average person changes careers five times in their life. I’d be willing to bet most of those career changes are produced by an awkward year or two.
We all worry about the future. I certainly do. I wonder if (and hope that) the boys and I will do the HN band thing for another year, five years, ten years, or however long - and I wonder what I will do afterwards. I wonder how I will provide for the family and children that I would love to have someday. These thoughts are constantly in the back of my mind.
If I can give any advice for these times - and I’m speaking to myself as much as anyone…. I would share these thoughts….
- Stay close to God. He is the paver of the path.
- Stay humble. Pride will delay blessings far more than failure will.
- Stay kind. Be good to those around you, a blessing, not a burden.
- Stay positive. I’m constantly amazed at how far unstoppable joy will take you.
"My brothers and sisters, think of the various tests you encounter as occasions for joy. After all, you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. Let this endurance complete its work so that you may be fully mature, complete, and lacking in nothing." - James 1:2-4, Common English Bible
Thanks for bearing with me on this incredibly long rabbit-trail.
The Awkward Years - Part II
A continuation of a discussion about life’s “Awkward Years”.
CLICK HERE for Part I
I wanted to continue here, with a truth and a picture:
Everyone has awkward years.
I certainly did.
This is me with a few buddies during my awkward years.
I’m the second from the left. Yep. The guy with the glasses, the sideburns, the attempted soul-patch, the greasy hair and the white coral necklace. CORAL. What was I thinking? Giving the camera that sideways stare like I knew it all.
These were some of the most lost years of my life. I was aimless. I felt like I was waiting for life to begin. I was done high school, but real adult life was nowhere to be found. The longer this period of time went on the more self-destructive I got.
For a period of about 3-4 years between finishing high school and joining Hawk Nelson, I didn’t have a whole lot of purpose in my life. Sure, I was part of a church, and I was active there. I had a job and I had friends. Even still, there was always something missing. I needed direction. Goals. Something to put my mind and hands to.
I knew I wanted to do music, so I started a band, and then another band, and then another. I was restless, and never really finished things I started. Nothing seemed to click. I started to doubt myself - my own abilities and gifts. It started to seem as though life made sense for everyone but me. I didn’t seem to fit anywhere.
These years seemed completely pointless at the time. So the question is - were they?
I don’t think so, and here’s why.
I look back at these years all the time. Partially because there were some fun times (I was incredibly reckless), but mostly because these years remind me that God always has a plan. During these awkward years of my life, God was working behind the scenes. He was preparing me, and also preparing the people He planned to bring into my life.
At the time, my wife would have been about 15, probably living out some of her own awkward years down in California. Who knows what would have happened if we had met during that time? God knew that we would be married in the future, but also knew that neither of us was ready. He had a lot of work to accomplish in each of us first, and He was waiting for the timing to be right.
If I had joined Hawk Nelson early on in these awkward years, I never would have been given the chance to grow into leading worship at church and youth events, and I doubt I would have come to feel so deeply about worship music. I have a suspicion that I will return to being a lot more involved in worship music sometime in the future, and I’m sure I’ll draw on those years of my life for inspiration. God had work to do in me before sending me out on the road with Hawk Nelson.
Also, God was teaching me the value of patience. Only a spoiled child gets whatever he wants whenever he wants it. Marriage means more to me because it took me a while to get there. A career is more valuable to me because I floundered for a while before finding it. Those years help me appreciate what I have. I’m grateful for those years.
God uses these awkward years to build you into who he made you to be. It’s so difficult to see at the time, but in retrospect, it’s amazing to see how God is constantly preparing things behind the curtains.
I needed the awkward years. To grow and put down roots.
Think about it this way.
When a tree is first planted, it doesn’t seem to grow much for the first few years. This is because it’s growing below the ground. You can’t see it, but the roots grow out and deep first…. only once the tree has a strong root system can it start to grow its branches and leaves above ground.
So if you feel like that is where you are right now…. and you’re not sure what your purpose is at the moment… this is it. You’re growing below the surface. You might not even be able to sense it yourself…. but it’s happening right now.
God is preparing you for the future he has for you.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." - Jeremiah 29:11, NIV
The Awkward Years - Part I
In the last couple of days I’ve run into a few people in a certain phase of life I call “the awkward years”. Most people go through this phase at least once in their life… often times when graduating either high school or college.
It’s the phase of life where the main focus of our lives has suddenly come to a conclusion, and we’re left wondering… “What now?!” Sometimes it can take a few years to find a sense of direction, and during those years life can sometimes feel purposeless, and maybe even hopeless.
During these times, there can be so much pressure. We feel as though we need to have it all figured out RIGHT NOW. We feel like the world is big, and we’re so small. Worst of all, we feel as though we’re the only ones struggling. Everyone else seems to have everything so figured out. We start to feel alone, and it feels as though it will always be this way.
I have some thoughts about this phase of life, and I wanted to share them with you. I’ll stagger it into several posts to keep it from getting too lengthy….
I wanted to start here, with this thought:
God doesn’t make mistakes.
We sure do, but God doesn’t. In fact, it seems as though one of his favorite things to do is take a mistake or wrongdoing of ours, and turn it into something glorious.
"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." - Genesis 50:20, NIV
Before you were born, God had a plan for your life. Think about that for a second. Before your PARENTS were born, or before THEIR parents were born, you were an idea in God’s mind. He specifically thought about creating you. At the same time that he was putting the stars in the sky, and igniting the sun, he planned on creating you. It’s a spectacular thought.
Now when you think about God having a plan for your life…. it has to be understood that this is not the kind of plan than you and I are used to. We tend to think of a plan as a linear, step-by-step process. I’m going to get up, get ready, go to work, get coffee at lunch, go back to work, get groceries, pick up the dry cleaning, and go to a birthday party, and so on. If you accidentally burned your house down at 10am, none of the post-10am plans would happen. It would all be thrown out the window.
God’s plans aren’t like that.
We are such linear creatures, human beings. We understand life’s little steps, but we rarely get a glimpse of the overall picture. When God makes plans, He sees it all, both the big picture and the minute details. His plans for you are huge and tiny at the same time. They also involve more than you… His plans include everyone you will ever come into contact with, and His plans for each them involve you also. They are infinitely intricate and elegant.
While that’s hard enough to comprehend, it’s even harder for us to grasp this next bit - God’s plans include our free will.
In order to have relationship with someone, you need to release them from your control. God created us for relationship…. with each other, yes, but ultimately with Him. He didn’t want mindless little robots that would do his bidding simply because that’s all their capable of. He wanted relationship with beings that CHOOSE to be in relationship with Him. That means that these beings would be capable of choosing just the opposite. The existence of that choice was necessary in order for the relationship to be real and meaningful.
The incomprehensible elegance of God’s plan for your life is that He’s capable of fulfilling it EVEN THOUGH we each have moments when we choose that second option. Regardless of what we’ve done, the times we’ve walked away from Him, and the moments we’ve chosen to live as though we know better than He does… He loves us…. and His plan is bigger than all that. He loves turning evil into good.
You can never go so far away from Him that this stops being true. God created you for a reason, and life is the very messy business of discovering it. It seems to take a lifetime, but God doesn’t make mistakes. You are not here by accident.
No matter where you are right now, God sees you. He loves you. And He’s always there… ready to take the darkest parts of you, and say… “Watch what I can do.”