We all have stories that shape us in ways that we can’t see. And my unfolding story has been a journey of ever growing awareness of God and myself. As each new season brings deepening awareness, I discover new chapters that I had never realized were there. So this story may change over the years as my perspective changes. But as I see my life today, it’s a beautiful unfolding of wonder.
SEEDS OF WONDER
I was born into a conservative Christian home and sang a solo in church for the first time at age 3. By the time I was 6, I was already involved with songwriting and loved imagining music in my head and feeling it in my body. These were the seeds of wonder that God was sowing in me.
ROOTS OF FREEDOM
One day, as I was pretending to “direct music” and was waving my arms with everything that I had, an authority figure at the time looked down at me with disgust and said, “What are you doing?” I replied, “Directing music.” And then they said, “You’re not supposed to do it that way. You need to do it the proper way. Keep it under control. You’re being too expressive and too emotional!” It was in that moment that the seeds of wonder within me began to be buried.
That next year, I was physically abused at school every day. My teacher would hit me across the face and tell me not to cry. If I teared up, she’d hit harder and tell me to stop crying. So I now had a physical reinforcement to shut down and suppress what I was feeling inside.
Four years later, I was introduced to the idea that if I sinned, I could lose my salvation. And while this idea would come to terrify me, in a strange way, it felt healing because it gave me permission to question the script I was being handed by my teachers at school. This permission birthed within me the roots of freedom that I would one day come to need.
My teenage years were filled with terror of judgment. When I got my drivers license at 16, I was told that I could lose my salvation for speeding. So I would constantly stare at my speedometer, hoping I wouldn’t go 36 in a 35 mph zone. And then one day, I ran through a stop light. I came to a skidding halt. And I said, “I just didn’t want to lose my salvation.”
I knew then that something was seriously wrong. And while I was convinced of my theology from the Bible, I began to adapt my theology as a survival mechanism. And over time, I began to see the Bible differently. However, the freedom to question the script had begun to take root.
When I was 20, my unbelieving grandfather was on his death bed. So I wrote him a very detailed letter about hell. But I didn’t send it. And within a couple weeks, he died. I was convinced it was my fault, and even wrote a song about it. But one of my friends heard the song and then told me that God had planned who would go to heaven and who would not. So I could be free from the guilt of not sending the letter. Once again, my theology shifted as a survival mechanism to suppress the shame I was overcome with.
A year later, I got married. And Ruth Ellen and I moved from South Carolina to Denver, CO to help start a church. Those seven years were the most exciting, exhilarating season of our lives. We saw God do some really amazing things and met some really beautiful people who we are still friends with today. But ultimately, that season culminated in our pastor’s divorce. And then we lost our church, our reputations, our friends, much of my business, and even a baby in miscarriage. Then after staying out there for another year and having our first child, we decided to call it a chapter in our lives and move back home to South Carolina, Those seven years had been a season of reaching out that would foster within me a solidarity with the suffering of others.
LEAVES OF HEALING
Four years into serving in voluntary worship roles at our megachurch in South Carolina, our church invited a group called Ten Thousand Fathers to take us on a year long journey of discipleship and worship development. On that first night, Ten Thousand Fathers told us that we need to have God awareness and self awareness. And I figured, “My God awareness is totally fine. But I’ve never thought about self awareness. So I guess we can try that.”
They had us write down our top 10 high points and hard times in life. And my heart began to sink. I had no idea how hurt I really was.
Over that next year, I was introduced to such authors as N.T. Wright, Dallas Willard, Henri Nouwen, John Ortberg, and others and walked through a season of grieving and healing. I began to awaken to the seeds of wonder that God had planted in me at age 3. I began to feel the freedom to question the script and listen to others who believed differently than I did. And I became aware of my own suffering as well as the suffering of others that I had been previously unaware of.
After graduation, I wanted to invest myself full-time in my vision and gifting for worship. So I began applying to churches for worship pastor roles. I was getting a lot of interest. But ultimately, they’d choose someone else. Until one church came along. We hit it off so well. And eventually their pastor told me that their elders unanimously said that I was the guy they wanted. Finally, I was going to no longer be cleaning floors and toilets for a living.
Then a week and a half later, the pastor reached back out to me and said that he feels really awful, but that they originally promised their congregation that they’d find someone who had been in the lead worship pastor chair for the past five years. So they decided to change their minds and go with someone who had that on their resume.
I read that e-mail with a toilet brush in my hands. And I was angry and stunned. Over the next month, I began to die to the need of being a worship pastor. Little did I know that this death would be my healing.
WINDS OF WONDER
My season of healing with Ten Thousand Fathers had awakened within me the awareness of my wonder and my wounds. I knew what my questions and interests were. But I also knew when I would suppress them out of the wounds of my childhood. During this season, I had begun having some very significant theological questions that were arising out of reading and listening to others who believed differently than me. But in order to get a church job, I felt that I had to suppress that wonder and stick to the script. And when I died to that need of having a church job, I was free to explore the questions and the wonder that I had been suppressing.
So I then went into a two year season of silence, listening, and reading. During this season, I was introduced to the Unbelievable Podcast, Peter Enns, Tim Mackie, and eventually BioLogos. One of the most convincing books for me was Adam and the Genome by Scot McKnight and Dennis Venema. Getting to know God through science became extremely fascinating to me. And after hearing Rob Bell take me on a journey from singularity to us, while exploring the poetry of science in his video Everything Is Spiritual, I was hooked.
I now had the seeds of wonder, the roots of freedom, the solidarity to reach toward others, and the leaves of healing to begin blowing new winds of wonder.
So this year, I am remaking Worship Overflow as I can to reflect these new winds of wonder that the Spirit is blowing in our lives. And we are also excited about some projects that we will be announcing in the near future.
Please feel free to check around the site. But also be aware that I’m on a journey, and that this site will reflect that. If you have any questions, I’d love to hear from you!