Thanks for the affirming words Andre. Sometimes I wonder if I let the outside world in on my world a little too much, but for every time it has burned me, it has blessed someone else twice as much and I can deal with those odds. Thanks again man, let’s keep in touch.
At this point I came to a junction in my head and heart. I had quit my job, asked my band mates to drop out of school, and all of us had given up or at least paused everything else going on back home. We narrowed down the list of things we wanted to accomplish with our lives to pursue this one dream with everything we had. Now we found ourselves up to our necks in failed shows, multiple wrecks, dwindling funds and members jumping ship left and right.
The last thing I want to do is abuse the phrase “this is what God is calling me to do.” People neglect their commitments with that phrase. People break other people’s hearts with that phrase. People manipulate co-workers, family members and friends with that phrase. I believe that God calls people to do some incredibly radical things, but I never want to slap the phrase “God’s will” on my plans as an insurance policy. I never want to explain my plans are “God’s will” as if it gives me the right to do whatever I want.
I have answered God’s calling in my life confidently and quietly, letting the work and fruits of my labor be evidence of God’s will, rather than my empty words. Instead of announcing his blessing on my future plans, I can turn around and give God the glory if any success comes my way.
How was I supposed to interpret the misfortunes of our first year on the road? Was this a trial by fire? A challenge to see what we are made of, to help us grow stronger together so we could be ready to face anything down the road? Or was this God’s way of saying, “Go home.” I was a college graduate who left home to answer a crazy call, and now I had nothing to show for it.
In my last semester of college I spent a lot of time in a book by Ray Anderson called Unspoken Wisdom. One of the chapters was entitled Put Your Faith In The Seed, Not The Harvest. The lessons I learned from that chapter didn’t mean much then, but couldn’t have resonated stronger with me that summer.
When you are working in ministry, in social service, or anything that has to do with impacting people for Christ, hardly ever will you get to see the results of all your efforts. Our lives are complex; our stories are long, with hundreds of characters coming in and out of our worlds every day. You can’t expect to be able to waltz into someone’s life and see it transformed in a couple months, or even a couple years. I know there are people in your life you have been loving on and talking to for what seems like forever. You have been sharing the love of Christ by listening, sacrificing your time, or just quietly going out of your way to make their lives a little easier. Now they have moved away, or got married, or somehow aren’t involved in your life and you wonder if you ever made a difference.
Or maybe you’ve been volunteering at the same organization for years now, giving up all of your extra time and money, yet nothing of real substance seems to be progressing and now you’re not sure if you believe in the initial idea at all. What started out as a small commitment over the course of a couple months has now turned into the majority of your adult years and there hasn’t been any growth, at least that you can see.
When situations do not develop the way we had envisioned them, or when things do not come together and succeed as fast as we would like them to, it can be difficult to stay committed to our calling. But in the same way we buy a homeless man a meal, never knowing if we’ll see him again, we continue to serve the people in our lives, uninterested in our legacy, because it’s what we have been called to do.
I can’t base whether or not I have answered God’s call sufficiently by a mathematical equation of the victories and defeats of my band. We are more than the sum of the things we have and haven’t done. I have to put my faith in the seed, the good work that I am doing, because I was made to do it. Humbly I realize I am just one small part of a process, an extensive and mysterious work God is doing to restore humanity. As much as I would like to see issues solved and people changed from beginning to end, I have to trust that God will have someone to pick up where I left off, in every city, every night.
Here’s what I am saying; If you’re answering a call by God into full time ministry, whether that be in church, social work, music, or missions, then prepare for a new system of evaluation. God is not in a bottom line sort of business, in fact, he isn’t in business at all. He doesn’t care how many CDs we have sold or how many shows we have sold out. He doesn’t care how many people go to your church or how many missions trips you have been on. Grace has nothing to say about numbers. God cares about our heart. He cares if our hearts are in the right place, resonating with His desires, serving His purpose.
Chances are high that if despite your blood, sweat, and tears, if you’re in ministry, you won’t have much to show for your hard work on this side of the grave. But if you are answering your call, serving people in a way that God specifically created you to do, then your words and actions will echo through eternity. My faith is in the seed, knowing that God will take care of the harvest and we’ll be there in the end to celebrate, together.
How much time, money, and effort?
How many opportunities and friends?
How many late nights and long weekends have you spent?
How much have you given up to prove ONE person wrong?Too much, ya silly goose.
In the middle of those spring ‘08 tours our bassist and keyboard player quit at the same time. They didn’t feel like life on the road was the life for them and headed back home to get regular jobs and find wives. Thankfully they both did exactly that, moved home, got jobs, and found wives! While they’re exit from the band did not come as a surprise, it still made it tough on us as a unit to know whether or not we should keep going or not. They had just joined a few months earlier and the more we were distracted by finding a lineup the harder it was to stay motivated in pursuing our original calling. We pressed on, having friends fill in on bass while searching for a permanent member.
A couple days after playing Cornerstone Festival in Illinois we had made an overnight drive from Bay City, Michigan to Louisville, Kentucky. Our friend Clayton had just joined as a temporary bass player a few days earlier. Brad was wrapping up his shift, just a couple hours shy of our destination, when a trailer tire blew and the van swerved into the guardrail on the interstate. The left front corner of our van was destroyed and the tire and tire rod were dismantled all together. We got towed to a Chevy dealership and only had the bare essentials repaired. The van looked worse than ever but was running fine and we had to get back on the road in a hurry to not miss our show in Louisville.
When we pulled into the church parking lot the bands and concertgoers met us in the parking lot as a pack. Apparently a staff meeting had been scheduled in the church building for the same night and our concert was cancelled. One of the kids coming to the show volunteered his place for a house show, claiming he had the power and space to handle a full band show on his parent’s property. A house show is better than no show, and after the day we had with the wreck, we needed a chance to make some money and meet some friends.
When we pulled in to the address on the map we immediately regretted our decision to move the show to a house. A sign hung over the driveway welcoming all of us to “Noah’s Ark Petting Zoo”. In the middle of fenced in squares full of goats, chickens, mini ponies and geese there was a plywood “stage”. I’ll never forget that day, because Brian made a trip to Best Buy to purchase the new John Mayer DVD “Where The Light Is” while I tried to figure out how to make the best of our situation.
I ended up playing an acoustic set and we bailed from the show fairly quickly after our tour mates finished their full band set. In Fair Verona was out of money, suffering on the road and this show was the last straw for their team morale. They decided to leave us to finish the tour by ourselves, and would head home to break up for good a few weeks later. We were broke as well, but all we could do is laugh about the ridiculous day we just went through. We bought the In Fair Verona guys dinner at Steak ‘N Shake, bid them farewell, and fell asleep in and on our van in a Wal-Mart parking lot somewhere outside of Louisiville….
Months and Years is the only song I’ve really written specifically about the band. My goal here isn’t to give a history of the band, but it’s going to seem like that for a bit. This song was inspired by a year’s worth of events and I thought I’d share the story. I told an abridged version of this tale on The Living Room Tour II, so enjoy the extra detail and don’t spoil the ending;
In January of 2008 we took the leap together. We made Abandon Kansas our full time job and left school, work, and our families behind in Kansas. Before we took the leap we had just been playing on the weekends during the school semester and doing 10-12 day tours throughout the summer. Then Mike moved from Michigan to play bass and Derek moved from North Dakota to play keyboards and we released a record called “You Build A Wall, I’ll Build A Ladder”, our first full-length. We felt like it was as good a time as any to hit the road for more than just a few weeks. Brad and Brian dropped out of classes, I had just finished my degree, and all of us pushed our belongings into one suitcase and a backpack each. I think all of the parents thought I was crazy for pulling their sons out of college to follow a calling I didn’t know how to explain yet.
In all honesty we did not have a clue what we were doing when it came to booking an extended tour or putting on a good show or marketing ourselves like a professional band. I put our CD in a bunch of manila envelopes addressed to all of our favorite labels with a sheet of paper explaining our plans for the future of Abandon Kansas. Weak effort, but I was a rookie. Not a single label responded, but I did not expect them to, so I wasn’t fazed when my phone never rang.
One thing our band has never had is unrealistic expectations or “stars in our eyes”. It will be a never-ending battle to balance confidence in our art and humility in who we are through Christ. We all recognized the gifts we had been given, and while they will always need more crafting and honing, we sensed a responsibility as believers to be good stewards of the gifts we have been given. What better way for a bunch of single twenty-something’s to go figure out God’s calling on their lives than jumping in a van to travel coast to coast for a year?
Our first tours were successful in the sense that we didn’t lose money, we sold records, and we built our fan base. They weren’t huge shows, but people were so kind to us and we never went without. Our first tours were stressful in the sense that we had promoters cancel on us, got stuck on dysfunctional shows with eight hardcore bands, and we were never sure how we were going to fill our tank or where we were going to stay. We never had more than we needed, but we always had that, and looking back, that is a miracle. Needless to say, we learned a lot about ourselves.
We were still driving our first band van through February of that year and in Jefferson City, Missouri the drive shaft fell off and dragged across the road beneath us. We were stranded and through some friends connected with a generous used car salesman in Warrensburg who sold us a nice used conversion van at cost. It was all black with comfy seats, a bed in the back, and a tv on the floor between the front two seats that we managed to hook our Playstation 2 up to. Perfect!
Three days after we bought the van we left for our second tour of ’08, a four-week jaunt out west. I was driving south on I-35 in Kansas and there was snow and ice on the roads. I lost control somewhere near the Kansas-Oklahoma state line, hit the dividing wall, careened across the interstate back towards the ditch and slammed right into a small pickup that had already spun out. The trailer jackknifed so far it was nearly parallel with the van and the front fender, bumper and headlights were mangled. No one was injured, but we were stuck in the snow and had to wait for a few hours in the freezing ice storm until two tow trucks came to pull us out.
Brad’s dad came and picked us up and our friends and a few fans chipped in enough money to get us back on the road by donations via PayPal. We only fixed the parts that were essential to us getting back on the move. We had to rent a U-Haul trailer for four weeks because our trailer axle was broken and the part had to be shipped. We took the headlights off of one of Brian’s dad’s service vans and mounted them to our damaged van. We pressed on without a fender or a bumper. The best way I can describe it is our van looked like it had a major overbite with a few missing teeth as well. Some of you probably saw us in this van at one point, we drove it until March of 2010. After two months solid on the road with our beat up van the hits kept coming…