Climbing Out of My Tree

After a brief stint writing in another space, I find myself back here in the comfort of this place for a variety of reasons. The biggest reason being that writing deadlines, are not my forte. Which is additional proof that my decision to not pursue journalism or some other writing major in college was the best decision for all of us. 

Now, why do I find myself back here? Well, because as usual God has been at work in ways that I couldn't fathom until yesterday. Before I explain exactly what happened yesterday, let me give you the back story of what led to this latest revelation...

One month ago, on September 30th, 2016, a dream that was 6 years in the making became a reality. Thanks to my current role at my company, I finally moved to Nashville, TN (albeit only for 6 months... for now). I was ecstatic, and literally could not wait to get down here. I have always been enthralled with the Music City and was incredibly confident that I would love every moment spent here. I can now confidently tell you, after a month of being here, that my view of what this was going to be like was highly romanticized. That's not to say that I don't still love this city, or that I'm not as excited as I once was. It's simply to say that the transition has been anything but easy to cope with.

In my head, I think I thought I was immune to the feelings of homesickness, that I would be resilient in this new place and that my social life, faith life, and general sense of community would remain as it was back home, where I had lived all of my 28 years (aside from college life). That first week was a lot of "new" to explore -- new office, new apartment, new roads, new running trails, new adventures were around every corner. It was fantastic! Then my parents came to visit, which made everything that much more real. However, about halfway through that 2nd week, reality set in.

A new office -- where I didn't really know anyone
A new apartment -- where I lived alone, without knowing any of my neighbors
New roads -- that were unfamiliar and easily confused
New running trails -- which were the only thing that quickly became comfortable
New adventures  -- which aren't quite as exciting when you're adventuring by yourself

See, for those of you that may not know me... I'm quite the extrovert. I thrive on human interaction, and usually am so busy that a random Friday night home alone is welcomed. However, when you spend the majority of your evenings alone, it starts to become overwhelmingly... lonely.

Before anyone gets worried or upset that I didn't reach out to them, I'm not talking about the same kind of loneliness I have experienced in the past. Not the kind of loneliness that finds you in a dark place. It was just out of my element, and I wasn't handling it as well as I should have been. I started to internalize a lot of things, and in turn, I started to project those same things onto the people I care about. Whether that was in the form of pestering them about trivial things, or pushing them away -- neither was healthy. Despite that I've apologized, I can't help but still feel some disappointment in myself for handling it that way. I digress - I knew at the root of all of this, was the need to find a temporary church home in Nashville. That's where I had to start building this community I craved.

I had a short list of churches - 5 to be exact. At the bottom of that list was Crosspoint. The reason this particular church was at the bottom, was because I felt like I had already been there. I've been following their (now, former) Pastor Pete Wilson for years on his blog and the books that he has written. I've also followed Carlos Whittaker (often referenced in this space) and Jon Acuff for the last 9 years, both of whom attend Crosspoint. I knew that the ministry style was very similar to the church I so dearly loved in Lexington during college, and so in order to "broaden my horizons", I stuck it at the bottom of the list so as not to overlook the other churches on my list. That was the logic in my head at least...

There's an old saying... "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" -- or in this case, if a ministry style works, don't ignore it.

On Saturday night, I made a plan for which church on my list I would attend. I didn't sleep well at all Saturday night, and I was grumpy as hell on Sunday morning when I got up. As I was trying to give myself a pep talk about getting up to make it to the 9:00 AM service at the church I had planned to attend, I felt this pull to go to Crosspoint instead. Even as I got in the truck, I was trying to argue with myself (and with God) about going to Crosspoint instead of the other church, but it was like the truck just started driving itself -- my plans for that morning be damned!

I walked into Crosspoint that morning, and while it was totally new, there was a peace about being there. There were plenty of people at the doors talking and greeting people as they walked in. One guy in particular shook my hand and introduced himself as Jordan. Asked me if I had been coming there long, and when I said this was my first time visiting, he quickly told me to follow him and took me to introduce me to a guy named Kenny. Kenny started asking questions, I mentioned I had moved from Indiana and he promptly hollered over to another guy (whose name escapes me) and said "This is Brad, he's from Indiana -- aren't you from Indiana?". While overwhelming, I couldn't help but be thankful for the welcoming these guys were showing me. Kenny and I talked a bit longer, he gave me a free coffee mug (kudos to Crosspoint for that welcoming gift!) and asked me to look for him after the service (as did Jordan before him) so I could let him know what I thought.

I grabbed some free coffee -- something I really love about the way churches are changing -- and walked into the main room (Sanctuary? Meeting room? Big Church? I don't know what they call it). I was greeted again -- these people love saying hello -- and decided to take a seat in the upper rows, middle section so I could see everything and everyone around me. I sat there for a few moments looking around the room (hoping I would spot Carlos or Jon), and checking my phone - when a lady behind me squeezed my shoulder and said "I noticed your coffee mug, glad you're here with us this morning". Thanks, me too.

All I can say about the ensuing service is -- God knew what He was doing when He directed me to Crosspoint that morning. They had a speaker who had never preached before, but absolutely killed it. His message was Biblical, Christ focused and as a speaker he was engaging, sentimental, funny, and heartwarming. He challenged me right out of the gate by simply saying that "Jesus chose us, so that we could choose others". Let the overwhelming sense of conviction commence.

I won't recap the whole message, but I highly encourage you to listen to it online. He talked about Zacchaeus and being up in the tree. Now, I had heard that story (and that annoyingly catchy song) 1000 times or more, but this was the first time it had been presented from the viewpoint that Zacchaeus had a choice to make that day. He could either stay in that tree where it was safe, and comfortable, observing Jesus and then going back to his day... OR he could accept Jesus' invitation, trust him, and enter into community with him at his house over a meal.

I'm starting to get a headache from all the times God has smacked me in the back of the head.

It was exactly what I needed to hear. You see, in many ways I am Zacchaeus and Columbus/Hope, IN is my tree. Nashville, was my invitation to trust Jesus and enter into a different kind of community with him. That's not to say I'm giving up on Columbus/Hope, or the people there that I love. I just needed to realize that I had a choice to make. I could either continue comparing this opportunity to the safety of my tree, OR I could accept Jesus' invitation to trust him, and experience some real growth as a person by diving into a new community here. I had to let go of the comfort of "this is temporary, I have friends at home" and enter into the awkwardness of "Hi I'm Brad, I'm new, and I want to make friends". So I climbed out of my tree Sunday, and put both feet on the ground of Nashville, TN. I don't know what the next 5 months hold, but I'm pretty excited about what God is going to do with me.

Just so you know, I cried my whole way to the bakery I had found nearby (and then the whole way home because it took too long and it cost too much -- thanks a lot hipsters) because I was overwhelmed by how much Jesus loves me enough to meet me where I am.

Jesus chose us, so that we could choose others.

It's better that way.

Grace and Peace


Storytelling: The Current Story

Stories make up this world that we live in.

If you think about it long enough, you realize that all the things that happen during our lives are not only part of our bigger story, but they are also individual stories in their own right. Individual stories that have meaningful, lasting, impacts on not only ourselves but on the people around us at that time in the past, at this time in the present, and at some time in the future. And when you put it that way, it can feel one of two ways: either a lot heavier, or a lot more freeing.

For me personally, I love stories – of all kinds. I love reading and listening to other peoples’ stories and other peoples’ lives. What I’m not always good at is telling and writing my own stories. I realize today, during this current story, that that’s a common theme within humanity. It’s easier to sit in silence and focus on other peoples’ stories than to come to grips with and vocalize our own. At the moment in which we are comfortable with that, I find that God uses someone else’s story (even someone we’ve never met) to impact our own, and stir within us the desire to share our story.

That’s what happened to me today, during this 8.5 hour ride from Staley, North Carolina back to Hope, Indiana. The person God is using is Jamie Tworkowski and his book “If You Feel Too Much”. I’ve never met Jamie – although I did hear him speak at a conference once – but I can say I feel connected to him. I can say that his stories continue to impact my own in ways I never dreamt they would. I could talk… or rather write… pages about Jamie, the good he is doing and the impact he is having on my stories and the stories of countless people. It’s human nature to divert attention to someone else instead of ourselves when it comes to the tough parts. What is important today is that Jamie reminded me that writing my stories, it’s engrained in who I am. When I’m not writing these stories, when I’m not vocalizing them I don’t feel like myself as much as I should.

Here’s the current story.

The current story that I’m in, the one that fits inside the 27 (and a half) year story of my life is one of restless content. I realize that’s an oxymoron… so let me explain.

I like my life. I have a great job, a nice home, reliable truck, many friends, a small group of trusted advisors, and an amazing family. I’m content with those things (most of the time). I have no need to complain, and believe me when I say I’m not doing that here. This isn’t me trying to find a reason to write by looking for something to complain about – this is me organizing the restlessness and telling this story. Where I find myself feeling restless is in the kind of work I’m doing, the changes that come along with investing in other people’s stories, and the often annoying uncertainty of what God is doing “behind the scenes”. I have to say that being restlessly content is quite the double edged sword. One edge being that I am thankful for the way that God has blessed me, the other edge being I am… expectant for what is to come, both the good and the seemingly bad.

The writer in me is almost always trying to finish the end of a story before it’s time. I can compare my thought process as being very similar to a “Pick-your-own-ending” novel. You remember what I’m talking about, those books where the author would present a cliff-hanging-esque moment and then write “If you want to explore the dark, cold cavern go to page 57 OR if you want to walk back to your truck and drive to your Mom’s house for pie turn to page 71.” If you and I are honest with ourselves, we know we ultimately try to read both without getting confused. We want to be risk takers within our stories, but also stick to what’s comfortable. What that means for this current story that I find myself in is a lot of time considering both scenarios, and ultimately being none-the-wiser for doing so. Whether it’s navigating a friendship that has changed drastically, planning my career path, anticipating the next big accomplishment, or deciphering a stirring in my heart for someone I’m not sure I had thought of in that way previously – I want to “cheat the system” and explore both endings before it happens. I want to skip ahead and write my own ending. Ultimately that ending is the friendship returns to what it once was and I get the girl. We all want to create the endings to our own stories. And while we have an impact in the direction of our stories, we are merely the protagonist, while God is the Author.

What I’m learning is that my choices, in fact, due lead to the ending to my stories. Slowly. What I’m realizing is that if I keep trying to jump to the ending, I miss the rest of the story. If the classics jumped from beginning to end without the story in the middle, they wouldn’t be classics. How many people would be talking about Moby Dick 165 years later if it said “Call me Ishmel.” And then the next words were “Now small fowls flew screaming over the yet yawning gulf; a sullen white surf beat against its steep sides; then all collapsed, and the great shroud of the sear rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago.” The only thing that would be said about a story written like that, would be that the author was a nut job and the book was awful. There is beauty in the journey of the story.

That’s the moral of my current story. That there is beauty in the journey of the story. At some point in a future story I’ll look back at this story, at the confusion, the uncertainty, the enjoyment, the restlessness and the contentment – and I’ll wish I had slowed down enough to appreciate the journey of that story. I’m realizing this current story is one worth telling, and that’s very telling in and of itself.

To be continued…

Grace and Peace,


It just took one bad tumble...

This last two months has been... interesting? I'm not sure if that's the right word in all honesty. In fact, I'm not sure if any of the words you are going to find here are the right words. However, I am going to write them anyway. The question is where do I begin to process things, which lesson do I start with first, who do I give the first thank you too...

Instead of trying to give you the play by play of the last two months, let me just start with the most recent lesson. A lesson, that I did not realize God was teaching me until about 10 minutes ago, before I pulled my MacBook off the counter. You see, today something happened to me for the first time... today, I broke the screen on my iPhone. I know what some of you may be thinking, "first world problems" and you would be correct. When I dropped my phone (without a case mind you) as I got out of my truck this morning, and watched it fall in slow motion to the concrete floor of the parking garage, I felt the anger and disappointment rise inside me. I have carried a smart phone for 6 years, and never once have I broken it. In the 14 years I've had a cell phone, I can't recall ever breaking one. I began to beat myself up over it with silly thoughts of "Why didn't you have a case on it dummy" and "If you would be more careful this wouldn't have happened". Funny thing is, those things aren't true nor are there guarantees that a case or being more careful would have prevented it from breaking. Naturally I told a few people, and the one response that really stuck out was "It just took one bad tumble". All day I kept playing that comment over and over in my head. When 10 minutes ago it hit me that God was using this silly phone to teach me a lesson.

You see, the last two months have been difficult for me, despite the fact that very few people know that. I haven't been honest with a lot of people about the things I've been facing. In fact, the person who sent that text today, doesn't even know the whole story -- or the impact that text had on me. That statement "It just took one bad tumble" pretty much sums up the last two months. It's been one bad tumble for me on an emotional and spiritual level the last 8 weeks. Of course my immediate reaction to a broken phone, was that I needed to replace it. Buy a new one, fix it somehow, do anything I could to "bandage" it. That's what we do with our lives when they take a tumble. We look for the quick fix, we look to replace the problem. The funny thing, is that aside from a few cracks at the top of the screen it's fully functioning, there's nothing wrong with it really. In all honesty, as I've sat here this evening, I've noticed how much better care I've taken of it. Which is how we should respond to our lives when we take a tumble. God doesn't replace us once we are broken, he doesn't try to find a way to change what has happened in the past... He uses it to teach us to take better care of our lives, and shows us that there is nothing wrong with a few cracks.

I've always talked about the beauty of brokenness. Somehow I forgot to listen to my own words. I talk a lot about transparency, but I've failed miserably to do that in the last 8 weeks as well. While I don't think I need to list out all of the cracks at this moment, mainly because I know some of them are meant to be between myself and God, I do know that I needed to write this. Maybe it's just for myself, maybe it's so God can continue to teach me the things He's doing, the ways in which He is working. I'm not really sure. What I do know is that God is starting to connect the cracks that have appeared the last 8 weeks. He's teaching me the stories of each line, showing me what it leads to next. And just like with this phone, those cracks are going to grow, change direction, connect to one another, and ultimately at some point, create a situation in which I need to retire the current version of my phone and move on to something new, and something different. Which, is exactly what He does with our "one bad tumble". Over time, the wounds, the cracks, the brokenness I have felt over the last 8 weeks will grow some, it will change directions, they will all connect with each other. And once they do, God will use that time to retire that season of my life, that version of me, and move me towards something new, and something different.

The beauty is in the breakdown.

Grace and Peace,



507: Planting the Seed of Passion


That's how many days have passed since the last time I wrote in this space. To be honest, that's probably how long it's been since I've written anything of significance. I wish I could say it was simply because I've been busy, or I haven't been "inspired" -- but if I said that, it would be untrue. I think the true issue behind the lack of writing, is that I lost my desire to pursue my passion. I let everything else in my world distract me from this. Whether or not that is because I was afraid to enter back into this place of vulnerability or that I needed a season that didn't include writing is something I can't be sure of. However, what I am certain of is that, I've felt an emptiness and a longing to return to this. Instead of updating you on all that's occurred in the last 507 days, I want to try and pull together the conversations, thoughts, experiences, and insights that have prompted this return.

Conversations planted a seed.

Since the beginning of this new year, I've had a number of conversations with people about what this year holds for us. Some of those conversations revolved around relationships, work, the gym, and how to better ourselves. You know, the typical "new year, new me" mentality. All the while, I was thinking about all the years past that I set goals for myself that I failed to achieve, many of which, revolved around writing. I remember driving home from work and thinking "That whole writing thing, that's the old me! That's not who I am anymore, that season of my life is long gone". Moment of sheer vulnerability: I think that was me trying to convince myself that I didn't have to do this ever again. I wanted to believe that my season of vulnerability was gone! As usual, God had different plans...

Fast forward a few weeks, and you'll find me down in Louisville with a group of people that I truly consider to be family. Around 10-11 years ago, these people invited me into their lives and they've been paying the price ever since! In all seriousness, they aren't just good(e) people, they are some of the best. Granted that day was filled with a lot of furniture moving, logistical thinking, and even a few under the breath curse words now and then (door frames hurt your hands), but more importantly it was filled with laughter, love and great fellowship. It was during that time, that the matriarch of this crew (even though she's surely not a day over 27), and someone I consider to be a Mom to me in every sense of the word (her and Woman even share the same name!) made a comment that planted the seed. During the conversation Lori asked why it had been so long since I had written anything on my blog. She went on to tell me how much she enjoyed reading it, and that I was good at it. It had been a while since someone had told me I was good with words. From that moment forward, God began working in my heart, the return was imminent.

Experiences cultivated the seed.

All too often, when God plants a seed we are guilty of ignoring it, especially when that seed inevitably will sprout something we don't think we are prepared for. Of course, since God knows my heart better than I ever could -- He saw the reluctance I had to cultivate this seed, so He found a way that would do that, in a very subtle way. Over the last 3 weeks, I've gotten a number of opportunities to see people take part in the things they are passionate about. I spent time in Lexington with people passionate about helping others. I attended a wedding and watched two people start a life with the person they have passionately pursued. I went to Atlanta, and I stood in many of the same spots that Martin Luther King Jr had stood, while working fervently and passionately for Civil Rights. I went to a collegiate Indoor Track and Field meet, and watched a friend run with passion. Even better, I got to witness her hard work pay off as she achieved new things in her passion for running. That night, on the way home from IWU I spent some time in conversation with God. Over and over I kept hearing God say to me "Brad what are you passionate about? What are you doing to pursue those passions? What does that look like in a way that honors Me?" As much as I hate to admit this, I remember responding with "Lord, I'm not really sure in this moment, where my passion lies". Talk about an intrinsic kick in the pants! God was asking me directly what my passion was and how I was honoring HIS KINGDOM with that passion... and I couldn't answer him.

Naturally, I did what I do best. I got busy... distracting myself from that question. I put so much focus into other things, friendships, projects, big picture dreams, stressful situations, that not only did I lose sight of the seed... I began to lose myself. I started acting almost in complete hypocrisy of the person that God was calling me to be. My desire to honor Him at work was lessening, I wasn't handling stress effectively, I allowed myself to become the kind of "friend" I always swore I would never become. I was no longer Brad. I wasn't me. As always though, God was still the God I know is bigger than all of that. He sent waves to knock me down and carry me back to shore. It started with a Saturday filled with rest. A Sunday filled with a sermon, a conversation about relationships with my gym buddy, and plenty of moments of silence. A difficult but necessary Monday, filled with stress at work, uncertainty about the future, and a wake up call from a close friend. A Tuesday filled with more stress at work, an incredibly solid lunch time conversation about faith, some redemption within my soul, and some much needed sleep.

Wednesday the seed sprouts.

Which brings us to today. Today was just a good, solid day. I started my day with some quiet time with the Lord, and followed that with an hour commute with my dear friend (and now Dentist (in training)) Bria. Why wouldn't God combine someone I love and something I'm uncomfortable with (my teeth) into a day that brings everything full circle. Here's the thing, I've known Bria forever, and I've seen her succeed at basically everything she's ever put her mind too. BUT I have never seen her so passionate about something. Today it showed through in how she interacts with her co-workers, her superiors, the patient (me!), the focus she uses to excel at each task, the confidence she has in her ability, and her lack of fear when it comes to admitting she's not exactly sure about something. It was eye-opening, and after I got home (with freshly cleaned and much happier teeth!) I was able to really process today. I sent her a text to let her know how impressed I was and how proud of her I am. Not long after I sent that text, God slapped me in the back of the head and said "Get your computer, and get busy writing." So here I am...

What grows from the sprout?

That's a really great question. One that I'm exploring at length, but what I do know is it starts right here. It started to grow the moment I got my computer out, reset the password to my blog (I couldn't remember it), and started typing. Granted that first paragraph was reluctant, and I tried to distract myself with the TV, text messages, and anything else I could think of. Yet, as always, God watered the sprout. Except this time, I wasn't covering it with an umbrella of fear. No this time, I lifted my hands to the sky and let the rain wash over everything. I let God's grace and mercy wash over everything. And as always, with every keystroke, the weight of the last 507 days began to lift. I am lighter, I am calm, I am no longer anxious. While I'm not yet fully me again, I'm taking steps in the right direction. All I can ask from you, is that if we talk regularly, you hold me accountable to pursuing my passions of writing and serving God through serving others. It's really that simple.

"I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work." 1 Corinthians 3:6-8

Grace and Peace.