It’s easy to say when life is good. It doesn’t take any effort to utter it under normal circumstances, nor does it require any forethought to realize the impact of the words. Life sometimes moves along at breakneck speed, cruising through obstacles with no sense of their difficulty. But other times, it seems to crawl. As the journey goes, we wonder if we can lower our shoulder any more. The thought of another obstacle, no matter the density, brings fear of the future. The hardest part is the mental process of not knowing how much more you can take. The good flies by, but the hard seems to crawl. All sense of time gone. And these are the times that this phrase is necessary.
It is well.
When life is upside down and you are totally forgotten…
It is well.
When your heart is broken in more than one place…
It is well.
When your bank account is empty and the bills keep piling in…
It is well.
The phrase means nothing to us by ourselves; “But it ISN’T well!”, we say. And these are the times that God sits and remembers who we are. His voice quiet, a whisper floating in our heart that simply says “It is well. I have not forgotten you, and your name is written on my heart.”. So today, if you are in a place where things quite simply are not well, listen for His voice.
It is well.
Recently, I’ve been running across the same question in my head: “Who am I, where am I going, and what do I want to do when I get there?”. It isn’t an easy question to ask myself as I don’t have an answer to any of those as of yet. The even more difficult part of this question is its’ response from the listener. In our world, asking these kinds of questions is almost irresponsible. To say them in front of most adults is to commit conversation suicide. Dreaming is often seen as recklessness; living is the primary concern of life. When did living and dreaming become such a dichotomy of the journey? Since when did life become divided into separate, not so equal parts? “You are either a dreamer or a doer”. What about the option that combines the two? Where dreaming leads to living, and through that living, the creation of new, greater dreams. So much time is spent plotting out the journey and learning the necessary steps of life before we begin the journey. Surely, this will cut down on our failure percentage.
We can spend so much energy attempting to fit the lens that has been given to us that we never get the chance to dream again.
We just live and live and live and move and move and move without taking time to adjust the direction we are heading. Afraid of what our circles will think of our new directed energies, the attempt is forever put on hold.
Dreamers stand out. Dreamers make it happen, despite the cost that inevitably comes. Often, the world echoes those in Genesis 37:19: “Here comes the dreamer! Let’s throw him into a well and see what becomes of his dreams…”. Don’t let the living get in the way of the dreaming! Take the living, insert it into the dreaming, and press forward. Separating dreaming from living does justice to neither option.
Dream big dreams, live full lives, and create a world that you want live in. Don’t settle with the circle you have been dealt but thrive in a circle that is handmade! Fill it with your experiences. Don’t stop creating. Live recklessly. Think dynamically. Carve out new experiences.
Ignore the voices, shut out the naysayers. If you dream it, commit to it. Stand behind it. Enjoy it. Rejoice in who you are becoming and what you are creating. Revel in the praise of your Creator as you change your landscape into a place of life, beauty, and joy.
Our church is going to be doing a summer long series working through the book of Ephesians so I figured I’d get a head start and read through the book. It’s only a couple of chapters, so why not, right? Seemed like a good plan until I got to the end of the first chapter and couldn’t continue. Why? Have you READ the first chapter? So much content worth unpacking. To simply go on to the second chapter doesn’t give the first chapter exactly what it deserves.
Something I have said for a long time (think early high school Ryan. The loud overweight one. NOW you know what I’m talking about.) is that my desire in life is simply to 1)Love people and 2) be Jesus with skin on. Not in a weird way. But I’ve understood that living life isn’t simply attending a church service and giving answers. Oftentimes, it is walking into a room and being the visual representation of who Jesus is in in the flesh. To not only say what Jesus said, but to do what Jesus did, and live how He lived. To live a life set apart, while still being likable and enticing. I know someone is going to read that and think “Ryan, sometimes being a Christian calls you to be set apart and people won’t like that”. Valid point…maybe? But when was the last time you had relationship with someone you didn’t like? I’d venture to say that Jesus was the life of the party (Plus, the guy turned water into wine FOR a party. You KNOW they liked him there.) and generally a pretty fun person to be around. So why is it wrong for me to think that maybe it’s ok for someone who isn’t so fond of christians, or Jesus for that matter, to like me and generally enjoy my presence?
This brings me back to the beginning. Ephesians. Chapter 1, verse…um. Sorry. It’s the message. I’m gonna guess 23, but I could very easily be wrong. So we’ll go with 23ish. Anyways.
“The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.”
Now you see why I didn’t bother skipping ahead to chapter 2. But I’ve been stuck on this verse for a few days, incapable of continuing on.
I think my favorite part of that verse is the final sentence. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence. It is made even more astounding when we take into consideration 1 Corinthians 12:27: “YOU are Christ’s body–that’s who you are!”. Taking this into account, let’s tweak that verse just a little bit. “You are Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.” As I live in my body, as I act and demand that it does what I want it to, I must remember that who I am is designed to accomplish the words and actions of Christ. By choosing to live in absence of the calling of Christ is to deny my heart what it has been created to be. Have you ever seen those studies about people who work a profession that is in direct conflict to their own desires? To live outside the calling of Christ is to directly hinder your own existence. You are created to be the instrument in which Jesus chooses to act through. You are the tool that He uses to fill everything with His presence. To read that just once is to acknowledge a different way of living life.
We transition from simply meandering through life to being the physical activity of God who is in love with humanity. The same God who in Isaiah 43:3 tells the Israelites that He “would sell the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you!”. This God who acknowledges his desire for relationship calls us to be the beginning of His relationship with others. Through OUR relationships, He builds HIS relationships. And this is how Christ desires it to be! He is pleased to make us his instrument into our spheres of living.
In a single verse, Paul is showing us that our lives are to be lived intentionally. As the hand connected to the body of Christ, every interaction has the possibility of allowing the entrance of the tangible presence of God into that moment. We have the ability to forever alter that moment of time for eternity. Realize that every moment has the ability to be a starting point for the presence of God to be welcomed in a place where it has not been experience before. The journey should be filled with joy, knowing that as you live, you shine a new, unique form of Christ that only you can live.
I’ve got this amp. Needs some work, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I used to keep it in an amp case, to protect it from scratches and whatnot. When I moved to Boston, the case wouldn’t fit in my car, so I left it. Since then, my amp has been completely uncovered. It travels often, getting put in loading bays, car trunks, stages, closets, racks, etc.. You should see this thing. Ever since I took it out of the case, it’s gotten so beat up; so broken in. It looks used. It looks awesome. It’s starting to look like it has some stories underneath the ripped tolex, in the chunks of wood missing, in the fabric tears. By now, you’re probably sick of this. My amp really doesn’t interest most of you, and that is totally alright. (Ok…maybe I’m a little offended, but whatever. I’ll get over it.) What I’m getting at is something that I’ve been processing for a significant amount of time.
Life has this way of uncovering the protective layers and revealing what lies beneath. As one meanders along, striving for all the things worth fighting for, pieces of us are broken off. The protection that we’ve covered ourselves in is torn and cut. All of a sudden, all the things we were fighting for pale in comparison to how we see ourselves in the mirror. What we see of ourselves is not longer that fresh, fearless self we once knew. What is left is often a broken shell of dreams; ambitions not yet achieved. Unconvinced if the battle is worth it, giving up seems like the lesser of all of the evils.
I wonder, if we could step back, could we appreciate our scars? The stories that they bare? In the journey, we get so tired of the wounds, of fighting it out. But that is where the battle is won. In the trenches. But there is another side to this coin…when God takes time out of His schedule to remind you of the promise that is yours. When He reminds you that He chose you. The ending is already in His hands, we just walk in his shadow. When we get so tired of the journey, of taking the beatings, of figuring out exactly where I’m headed, He reminds me to simply trust. I’m realigned and ready to begin again. And it happens again. And again. That is the journey of life. But the stories that my scars will tell. All the bruises and scratches tell a much bigger story than I’ll ever remember. We don’t know exactly where we are headed; we just know where we’d like to end up.
In the end though, it is our choice to whether the process makes us bitter or better. We can get angry at all the scratches, that it is ruining our appearance. Or we can let it make us vintage. I for one would rather be the old amp, the one on the top shelf. Yeah, it might look ugly. But the stories that it tells. The sounds that come out of it. The price that it commands. We could probably all learn something about life from walking around a vintage shop. Taking time to think about where we’ve been, where all of our scars came from. Most importantly, what was learned from the battle? I think I’m finding that more and more, I’m proud of the injuries I’ve sustained. I know that they are taking me to where I want to go, and that He is leading me every step of the way.
Here’s to the fighters.
“Finally, all the elders of Israel met at Ramah to discuss the matter with Samuel. ‘Look’, they said to him, ‘ you are now old and your sons are not like you. Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.’ Samuel was displeased with their request and went to the Lord for guidance. ‘Do everything they say to you,’ the Lord replied, ‘ for it is me they are rejecting, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer… Samuel passed on the Lord’s warning to the people who were asking him for a king. ‘This is how a king will reign over you,’ Samuel said. ‘The king will draft your sons and assign them to his chariots and his charioteers, making them in his army, some will be forced to plow in his fields and harvest his crops, and some will make his weapons and chariot equipment. The king will take your daughters from you and force tim to cook and bake and make perfumes for him. He will take away the best of your fields and vineyards and alive groves and give them to his own officials…when that day comes, you will beg for relief from this king you are demanding, but then the Lord will not help you.”
Lots of words. Lots of content. But it leads to something that is a common occurrence, and I think it also leads to a scary place for us collectively, those of us who call ourselves followers of Christ.
I think one thing to realize is that it costs a lot to be like everyone else, doesn’t it? What Israel was asking for was to be like everyone else. They wanted a king to rule over them, just like every other nation around them. Isn’t it ridiculous? We read this and say “Stupid Israelites!! Don’t you see how great your king is?! You have the ruler of everything behind your back and you want a man to be your king? You really think you are missing out on something? Saul is going to RUIN you!”. Today, we think we have it all together; how often do we attempt this compromise ourselves?
Lately, I’ve been having this ongoing conversation with myself about the idea of being set apart. About personal scruples. About boundaries in faith. I keep hearing “Let’s be relevant! Let’s be just like everyone else, but with Jesus!” We’re trying to expand the gray areas of our faith to fit in with this world yet still trying to hold on to Jesus. It’s a mindset of “What am I allowed to do yet still be on the good side of Christ”. Whoah. WHAT? Seriously? To read that? Total cray-cray. We sell out ourselves out in order to be ‘relevant’ rather than say “Let’s see how close we can get to Jesus and still have relationship with the world”.
Just like everyone else; count your cost, Israel. Your new king is going to take part of everything you own. He will break up your families. He’ll enslave your children. Is that what you want? Is fitting in worth the cost? You can just hear God saying “Is that reaaaaaally what you want, guys?”. (Yeah. God says ‘guys’. He’s a cool bro.) And they keep saying “YES. SO MUCH!!! PLEASE! WE JUST WANT TO FIT IN!”.
We’ll do whatever it takes, at whatever cost, to make that happen. We’ll push our boundaries, find gray areas where we can camp our beliefs out. Edgy enough to be trendy. To be as close to ‘normal’ while still maintaining our call to separate from ourselves. Trying to hold on to Jesus while still entertaining our own ideas of what we can (and cannot) do. We make this compromise daily. We change and pull just to fit in, to be relevant, in the hope that people will listen to us because ‘look!! I’m just like you!’. We’re attempting to squeeze our beliefs, our faith, into this box that everyone can relate to, yet actually live without changing a whole lot.
When I’m broken, I’m not looking for someone else who is also broken, looking for the same answers that I am. I look for someone who is on the other side of their broken-ness. Some who has been there and survived, even thrived. So why do we make this compromise in our own faith?
Take another angle.
How did Jesus do it? Did Jesus push his gray areas in order to fit in just to have some sway with others? Did Jesus figure out how close he could be to everyone else and still be in a place of influence? It says that Jesus became fully man, while also remaining fully divine. He maintained his complete God-ness while still carrying influence in his Man-ness. So where does that leave us? Am I still crying for my own king? Do I keep trying to find how far I can swing to one side while still maintaining a part of me in the place I’m called to be?
Daily battles are the worst, aren’t they? To know that until I die or He comes, I’ll never arrive. To realize that this is a struggle that will never be completely overcome as long as I am in my current condition? Kinda depressing, really. Can we change our focus? Can we stop trying to get as close to the world and still be connected with Jesus? Let’s get as close as we can to Jesus and allow Him to enable us to touch our world.
“Sometimes God is holding you back from something you want, so you can do a certain thing, a certain way, at a certain time.”
Well. I think it might have just happened…?
I’m in Boston, yes. But now my band has a record. When I left school, I had just quit a band. I wasn’t sure where I was going; what I was doing. It felt like life was setting me up for something completely different. It’s still frustrating, feeling lost. But I know that now I have a direction. We’re gonna ride this music into the ground, in a great way. I’m pumped. I’m scared. I’m nervous. I’m confident. My guitar sounds awesome. My drummer sounds awesome. My bass player sounds…well. You get the point. 6 months ago, I had no desire to do what I’m now about to embark on. But…God has our entire lives in mind when he tells us to go. So I’m still going. I’m trusting. I’m working hard. But we just rolled the ball a little bit.
Anyways…here’s some pictures of us recording our record. Enjoy.
I’m not totally sure where I am in life if I’m honest. I’m leading worship. I’m playing a lot of guitar. I’m working at Marshalls. I’m pretty sure I’m in a band with my two best friends. How does this all fit together? I’m not sure.
But I’m in the process of writing an EP. Just instrumental post rock. So I’m trying to find some inspiration. It’s raining. I open up to my favorite character in the Bible, Moses. What a life that guy had. Lived with a king. Killed a man. Lived in the desert for 40 herding sheep. In his eyes, he stalled out in the desert herding sheep for twice as long as I’ve been alive. And for what? I’d say I’m feeling a little like Moses, just waiting for my burning bush experience. Maybe it’ll be a car on fire in Dorchester or something. I’ll kick off my Sperry’s and maybe take off my beanie in reverence. Maybe God will speak out of the burning Civic and say something to the effect of “Ryan, it’s your time to go. Ready?”. Who knows. I mean…that would be pretty crazy. I doubt it’ll happen like that, but I’m hoping.
So I’m reading some excerpts from Exodus. I set down my Bible and start to play. As I’m playing, I hit this melody. And as I’m playing, I remember the very end of Moses’ life in Deuteronomy. The part where “and the Lord buried Moses”. This is my favorite chapter so far in the scriptures. The idea of old friends hanging out, God showing Moses all of the land that he’s heard about for years, and then says to His friend, “Alright man, ready to come live with me forever? Or do you want a couple more minutes?”. I imagine Moses saying “Can I have like…5 more minutes?” to which God smiles and nods. When the 5 minutes are up, Moses stands up, stretches, and finally says he’s ready to go. Then it get’s to my favorite part. “And the Lord buried Moses”. As a friend buries a friend. Every shovel of dirt a memory. Sure, God could have just snapped his fingers and the body could be six feet under. But I don’t think He did. I think he shoveled and every time he dumped the shovel, another memory from the journey hit His mind. Maybe when He was all finished, He sat on a stone for a little bit and took another look at the land, meditating on the life of Moses. A life that was planned in every single detail from the beginning. He created Moses with a speech problem on purpose. He sent Moses to the desert for 40 years to herd sheep. He thought about the entire journey with the Israelites, day by day, year by year.
What’s this have to do with me playing music? It’s a journey. Playing music is a journey. We write music to take people on a journey. We live to experience the journey. And that is what this life is, a journey. I struggle to remember that. When I’m leading worship, I’m journeying. When I’m playing guitar, I’m bettering my journey. When I’m working at Marshalls, I’m still on the journey. And maybe when I’m at Marshalls, I’ll get to be a part of someone else’s journey of life. Maybe I can alter their journey for the better. Maybe they’ll learn something for the slight hippy kid who just moved to the area but they all know plays music and works at a church even though he looks 17.
All I know is, I can’t rush the journey. I can’t move it any faster than it goes on it’s own, as much as I would like to. Do I like waking up everyday and wondering what I’m doing or why I feel unfulfilled? Nobody does. But my hope is that one day, hopefully long down the road, when I die, maybe God will do what He did with Moses. Maybe He’ll take a second and think about our journey together. Maybe He’ll think back to when I was but a kid, fresh off the graduation truck looking for where He wanted me. He’ll think back on my time I spent working at Marshalls, doing my best to show people who Jesus really is and not what TV shows them. And He’ll think “Goodness, how worried Ryan was all that time and look what I had planned for him. Look at where I brought him.”
So for now, I’ll lead worship and speak into peoples lives at Marshalls. I’ll sit at coffee houses during open mic’s and wonder where this young kid got the courage to play ukelele and sing in a very out of tune voice. I’ll drink coffee and read books. I’ll write music and record an EP with my two best friends. And maybe someday soon, I’ll come across a burning Civic in the road, take off my sperry’s and beanie, and listen to where God tells me to go.