What if the world was going to end Friday morning at 10 o'clock? How would you act? What would you do with your time left? Would you be scared? Excited?
Obviously, we don't know when that's going to happen. For some people, it COULD happen Friday. Or it could happen in 70 years. Something I've been thinking about a lot lately is time. Every time I get the privilege of leading people in worship I think this could be the last time I get to do this. Every time we get to speak about Ellipsis I wonder if it's the last time we will get to talk about the kids. What if everything we did in our lives, we did it like it was the last time we were going to do it?
I know, for me, if I had one day left, I wouldn't spend it watching Netflix or doing something that, at the end of the day, wouldn't really matter. (Although, I do love a good Netflix series. I'm not hating)
My point is this: We should live like there isn't going to be another chance because frankly we only get one. One shot at this life. I want mine to count for something eternal.
Whatever you do, do it unto the Lord and do it with all of your heart.
I HAVE NEVER HEARD OF SOMEONE REGRETTING HARD WORK.
I’ve been praying for two weeks that God would give me my “word” for the year. This idea of having a word be the theme for me over the next 365 days is pretty new to me as I’ve only heard about it the last two years. I like it because I tend to move in one direction one day and another another day! I’ve done this for quite some time now so I thought this year I would give it a try. There’ve been a few times I thought I had it but nothing stuck until I was reading from Luke 18 the other day.
“And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” ...
This kings heart was hard but because this woman kept coming back to him he finally said I give in. This woman was persistent! As soon as I read this, I knew God gave me my word.
I'm working on some lyrics right now for an EP I would love to put out this year. I’m in the middle of learning Tagalog. And, my wife and I fight for kids who can’t fight for themselves. In all these things, God says keeping praying. Keep going back to the page for lyrics. Keep advocating for these kids. “My kids.” Keep getting headaches from looking at words that are as long as the margins are from one another.
Maybe this word is for you this year? Maybe you’re really wanting to give up on something that God is saying, keep pushing!
I’m writing this to say persistence is key in any endeavor. Rome wasn’t built in a day so keep pushing and when you can’t anymore push harder.
“…For in due season we will reap, if we do not five up.” Galatians 6:9
Some days here are very rewarding. Today one of the new kids, we’ll call him lil dude, came with us to feed the kids under the bridge. We do it everyday at five O’clock. Lil dude is the most loving, nice, kind-hearted kid I’ve ever met. He’s pretty young but his temperament is well beyond his years. I don’t think there’s ever been a time I glanced at him and he’s wasn’t smiling. Matter-of-fact, that just happened. If you need encouragement to keep going when your day just isn’t working you should have a picture of him in your wallet/purse. Message me for details and I can make that happen. Joke!
Anyway, on the way to feed the kids today, they stopped to get him some flip flops because he didn’t have any shoes. He didn’t know he was getting them and the sheer joy on his face and pride in his heart blew me away! He was so grateful, and later on he pulled Natalie aside and told her he loved her. Talk about rip your heart out! I then pulled him aside and told him, “She’s taken.” Joke!
We didn’t know much about lil dude until recently. You would think he comes from a pretty good situation seeing as he’s literally the sweetest kid ever. After a little digging, we found out his background. To make a terrible and long story short, his dad used to beat him and CHAIN HIM UP so he couldn’t go anywhere. That used to be lil dudes reality. He no longer lives with his dad but is still exposed to that kind of treatment living on the streets. At Ellipsis, we don’t believe anyone, much less kids, should have to grow up or live in that environment. There is a place being prepared for kids like that to move into. A place of refuge, family, community, structure, education, JESUS and love. (The latter two being the same thing :))
I’m super excited to see lil dude’s face when we pull up to the homes, his home, and he realizes that’s HIS house! He’s safe and loved and learning about Jesus. You can be a part of that. There are several ways you can help. Pray, go and give. Would you pray how God would have you help? We can’t do this without you. We love you guys!
I think one of the most important things about us is the way we, first, view God, but also the way we view ourselves. When you think of you, what do you think? How do you view yourself? What do other people say about you?
Being a musician, I know about struggling with thinking you are what you do. We put so much effort into what we do, we begin to think that’s who we are. This is true for every facet of life whether your a football player, CEO, a mom, a preacher or a cop.
The crazy thing is, this way of thinking can go both ways.
The other day I was having a chat with a guy telling him about our ministry. I began to explain how we are trying to give kids living on the street a fighting chance to get off and to meet Jesus. When he realized the target group I was talking about he said “Oh, you mean the rugby boys?!”
First, rugby is the drug of choice for most street kids.
Second, do you see the problem there?
People identify these kids as “rugby boys” or drug users. I’ve heard the kids themselves call themselves this. It so easy to catch yourself thinking you are what you do.
The CEO and the kid on the needs to know they are not their situation. You are not what you do. We know situations can change in an instant, take my word for it! God sees us as His. We are reflections of God.
It’s time we start viewing ourselves as Sons and Daughters of God. We aren’t what we do or what we’ve done. We’re loved and Adopted and God sees THAT.
I remember growing up in the 90’s vividly. VCRs, Surge and Bop It were all hot commodities back then; not to mention yo yo’s, Are You Afraid of The Dark, Guts, Rugrats (I could literally write a blog just about 90’s cartoons..) and can we talk about rollerblades, slap bracelets and see through phones? Maybe 79 cents a gallon? The Big Green. (Favorite 90’s movie) That white cup with teal and purple squiggly lines on it. For those of you who aren’t old enough to know, if you didn’t rewind your movie when you took it back to blockbuster, you were charged 50 cents. I don’t wanna know how much money I wasted from being too lazy to take two minutes and rewind my movies. (Rather, my parents money) And who can forget the ever-famous “Clean your room!” I think that last one spans over generations but it was a reality for ME in the 90s! Unless, for some weird reason, I was in the mood to clean my room, I always had an excuse. I was too busy watching power rangers or gumbi. Or playing outside in the mud. Or ramping hills on my dads 4 wheeler.
I don’t know about you but when I was a kid, I had an excuse for a lot of things. I would always put things off. “Tomorrow is better because _______________.” In short, I was lazy. I didn’t want to work hard. A friend of mine in Manila who we do ministry with said he was allergic to work growing up. Sometimes, he still is! I’m afraid I’m in the same boat. I think if we are all gut level honest, none of us like work. Work is hard. Miley got it right when she said it’s the climb. That’s what anything worth having is. It’s an up hill climb. Being lazy is easy. If Natalie and I were over here being lazy, the buildings would never get built and we would never see the kids progress. If I just expected music to somehow take off without putting in hours and hours and weeks and months of hard work, I would be disappointed in the end. If you look at any story in the Bible where the star of the story was being lead to do something significant, they had to work hard and have faith. Moses, Daniel, Abraham, Noah etc. You might look at someone and say, “They are just naturally talented.” “He could dunk a basketball at age 5.” “She can sing in 4 different octaves.” “He has a 4.2 GPA and sleeps everyday in class.” (Those people weren’t my BFFs in high school although I strategically placed myself around them if you know what I’m saying)…… (I’ve repented and am sorry).
The fact of the matter is, there ARE talented people out there but we don’t see the kind of work they put in behind closed doors.
Something I’m working on is getting better at writing songs. I used to think songwriters just popped songs out like a candy dispenser. This un-educated assumption is far from the truth! I was able to talk to the ex-assistant of the writer and composer of songs like “Dude Looks Like a Lady”, all of Ricky Martin’s stuff and a ton of other hits around the world. To this day, he goes in at 9 in the morning, starts writing and leaves at five… with the occasional lunch break. Even people who make it to the top still have to work their tails off.
I believe God meant for life to be this way. Today in church, I led a song called “I have decided” rearranged by Elevation Church. During the song, I mentioned that in Hebrews there is a verse saying Jesus continued on with the hard work set before Him because of the joy that was also set before Him! He believed, by faith, the joy was far greater than His current struggles. This is something we have to keep in the front of our minds everyday over here. The payoff will far outweigh the struggle right now. This is my encouragement to the people in the church who are struggling right now. Keep pushing. Keep fighting. If it seems like nothing is working out, that’s not the point. The point is, you’re doing what God is calling you to do. All we need to worry about is working hard, doing what we can do and the rest will take care of itself.
We’ve come a long way since the 90’s, (I still buy Ouch Bubble Gum) but the progress we’ve made hasn’t come without a price: Hard Work.
Church, lets Do Work.
Definition: Grabe - serious, extreme, exceptional.
Pronunciation: Gra’ be (“e” as in “egg”)
Grabe is a term they use here to express a feeling of being overwhelmed. For example, if I traveled two hours south of where we live and sat on top of one of the mountains that overlooks a 50-story waterfall, I would say, “Grabe!” If I walked outside, and it was extremely hot, which is very often here, I would say, “Grabe! Mainit talaga!” (Gosh, it’s really hot!) If I just heard someone with the pipes of an angel, (a beautiful voice for non-musical people) I would say… well, you guessed it! If you still don’t get the way the word is used by now, you can compare it to our “Wow, dang, gosh, geeze etc.”
I say all of that to say… Grabe!!
The past 3 months have been a whirlwind for me. So much has happened that all I can do is step back and say, “Wow.” I’m overwhelmed with the favor God has shown Natalie and me and the rest of the staff as we continue. We have kids who haven’t done drugs in nine months, kids who are eager to get back in school and kids whose whole demeanor has changed. We’ve broken ground on our new land. The construction for the new rehabilitation center is underway. We think within three to four months the kids can live up the mountain to start rehab. I’m heavily involved with a church in the music department. God is opening doors within music I didn’t know were possible, at least not this fast! On top of all of this, God has found it appropriate to give me only the best woman in the world! We are getting married! If God’s grace wasn’t clear enough already in my life, she definitely makes it a city built on a hill. Maybe I’m a little sentimental but what can I say? She’s, “Grabe!” I’m still in shock I get to marry her. It seems as though I’m in one of those seasons of life that you dream about. You can see God’s hand working in every facet. I really am blessed.
Truth be told, I struggle with realizing that on a daily basis. Very quickly, I can get distracted by what the next person has. “His house is a little bigger than mine.” “His job is a little cooler than mine.” Honestly, I think this comes from a slightly skewed perception of what blessing actually is. You know, the measure of our “blessed-ness” isn’t found in our surroundings or our stuff. It isn’t found in our careers or our popularity.
Our biggest blessings aren’t found in the tangible things, on the contrary, they’re found in the intangible.
When I stop and have a “Selah” moment, without looking at what the next man has or even at what I have for that matter, and look at what really matters for me personally, I see grace, relationships, kids lives being changed, Natalie, my family… It’s then that I realize what real blessing is. Look at Matt 6: 19-21, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where our treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Don’t get me wrong… I’m not one of those people who think having a big audience is from the devil. Ha! Or having a huge house and nice car is something to feel bad about. I am saying the blessings worth dwelling on are the ones we can’t necessarily measure. I struggle with that a lot, but I’m beginning to realize life is a matter of focus. When we focus on the wrong things, we’re misguided, but when our focus shifts, we see that real blessings were there all along.
Here are some pictures of whats been going on lately!
When moving to another country, one can seem to get busy with building relationships, pursuing new opportunities and, well frankly, setting up a new life! It’s been too long since I’ve posted and a lot has happened! First off, I want to say thank you to everyone who has committed to partnering with me in our ministry over here! You’ve given enough for me to reach 80% of my funding, which means I’ve had my monthly income released to me! I wish I could portray to you what a huge stress reliever, and more importantly, a blessing this is. I feel like I can really pursue my purpose over here now 100%! And speaking of 100%, I still need to reach that goal! If you feel led to partner with me, just click the support tab. J
It seems, finally, I’m starting to really get to know people and build healthy relationships with the locals. One of which is my language teacher. Btw, if you’ve ever learned another language you can testify that it’s no walk in the park! I’ve been learning Tagalog for the past month and a half now. That’s the main language for the Philippines. My brain is overloaded with words! The main reason I’m learning the language is to connect. I’ve gotten to a point in my learning where I can listen to someone speak in their language and generally know what they are talking about. When that happens, I instantly feel more connected to them. It’s funny, every time I use what little Tagalog I know, the face of the person I talk to almost goes white, and they get giddy. Natalie and others in the ministry can testify that sometimes they get so flustered, they can’t even talk. I think the most mind-blowing fact about the Philippines is that everyone here is either bi-lingual or tri-lingual. Sometimes they even speak four languages. While Tagalog is the national language, the region we live in speaks Bisaya. So here, everyone is fluent in Bisaya, Tagalog and a pretty good bit of English. So if there is a good place to learn a new language, it’s here!
For now, I’m mainly using English to connect with people. God has been with us as we continue to work toward getting a place for the kids to get off the street. The way God weaves everything together, even when we think it’s nothing, is astounding and reminds me how ‘in control’ He is.
Recently, I met a photographer who does things all around the Philippines. I asked if he would be interested in shooting some pictures for an upcoming EP I’m releasing next year. (Stay tuned!) He happily agreed and we have cultivated a cool relationship through that! As it turns out, he is pretty well known and someone saw the pictures he shot through social media. At this point, I thought I was just getting pictures for the project I’m working on. About a month later, that same person saw me drinking coffee at Starbucks and asked if I would be interested in being an ambassador for a tourism event for the city we live in, and I accepted. Fast forward two more weeks to a meeting that was held to explain what one of the main end-goals for this event is…
To get street kids off the streets and off of drugs. To give them a future. To give them real hope.
Listen to this promise.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Josh 1:9
God is showing me that wherever I go, whatever I do, whomever I come in contact with, He’s there. He’s there in the big things and in the minuet. Perhaps, in the latter, we can learn more. We plan our ways but He establishes our steps. God wants to work through us. Whether we are a businessman, athlete, musician, missionary, teacher, student, pastor, receptionist or whatever else you can think of, He can weave His purposes into your life. Hold on to the promises He’s given you and watch how He works.
After a lot of fund raising, I've moved. I'm officially back in the Philippines! The more I prayed about it, the faster i wanted to get back. My life was pointing me here and i had to get back ASAP! I believe when God calls you to something, you drop what you're doing and you follow Him. Matthew 4: 18 comes to my mind concerning following Jesus . Peter and his brother where fishing as jesus was walking along-side the sea. Jesus saw the brothers and said "Come follow Me." they immediately got up and followed him. I believe God calls us to do this today. If you look at Luke 9:3, you see basically the same attitude towards following Jesus. Jesus said, "Take nothing for the journey- no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt." Now you could take this literally but I brought a couple of shirts with me. (But I didn't bring a staff) As far as the money aspect, we'll get to that in a little bit! :)
Being back here has been exciting and challenging. The challenging part has been the jet-lag. I've been back for a week and a half now and i still can't hold my head up past 9pm! Even if the roosters didn't crow, what seems like right by my ear, I would still be up before the sun! Apparently I have the worst case of jet-lag anyone has ever seen over here. It's getting better though! Maybe I'm just week sauce.....(one that is generally unmanly)
It hasn't taken long to do what I've come here to do. Let me tell you a small, but significant, story. When I flew here I had to land in Manila. That's the hub for the Philippines. When we got here we stayed in the ministry center about two hours from the airport, still in Manila. (FYI if you ever come to Manila, I hope you like sitting in humid taxi's for a long time. :) Jk... Kinda.. Manila's great!) One of the nights we were there, I was randomly asked to lead for a children's ministry a little bit further into the city. I realized it was only going to be me with a guitar singing and leading. Out of habit, and after a conversation with my friend marc, I thought, "Lord, it would be awesome to have a box drum." So I prayed for a box drum. To me, when you're playing an acoustic session, drums add a great dynamic. It gives it a little more energy. When we got there, I kid you not, a kid came up to where we were and asked if he could play the box drum he was holding in his hand!... selah... Yeah, I had to sit back for a couple of seconds and breath before I cried. (Once again, could have been the jet-lag) This reminded me how powerful prayer is when we pray in the spirit and pray with God's glory being the for front of our motives. Here are some pics of that night. It was simple but it's always cool seeing kids sing to Jesus.
When we left Manila, we flew here, to CDO. (Cagayan de Oro)
(This map came from google)
this city is a little Manila. The population here is just North of 600,000 people. I'm sure there are more just outside the city limits. The streets are crowded with people from all classes and walks of life and it can take a long time to get a little-ways. I love it, though.
Immediately when I was back I plugged back in to the church i was involved with and will lead worship for the first time the first week in September! I look forward to the opportunities that will present themselves through that! There isn't a very big market for christian music over here. There are some Christian radio stations but as far as artists being and living over here, it virtually doesn't exist from what I understand. So because of that, I'm in talks with some people from here and hopefully from Manila about how we can change that ;)! Stay tuned for that!
And lastly, but absolutely not least, I got to see the kids at Streetlight! When I first saw them, it was like I never left. I'm excited to see how God uses this ministry in giving them hope and a future through jesus' work on the cross, not just for eternity but in the here and now. Some of them stole my phone yesterday so here is what they did with it.
(tried to put a video but I don't have the pro edition yet)
And they tried to get fancy and take an action shot.
Didn't work out as he planned.
Being back has surely been a blessing and a ride already. I've met new people, made exciting plans, gotten to play with the kids and get to adjust in every way with the fact I'm over here now. (Mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally)
You now know that I'm back over here but what you may not know is...... (drumroll)........ I'm still not funded enough to have the funds released to me. I'm sure there are mixed opinions about coming before you're fully funded but i know if God says go and you go, He'll make a way. Am I nervous? Naturally. I'm living off of my own dime I've saved up until I raise enough upfront money and monthly money. Currently I'm sitting at $4,100 for the upfront portion and $1,000 in monthly donations. The upfront has to be $7,000 and the monthly has to be 80% of my goal and that is $1,380. That means I lack $2,900 for the upfront and $380 a month for the monthly goal to be met and all my funds to be released to me. I'm trusting God is going to provide everything I need maybe not in my time but in His. If you feel lead to give, all you have to do is click on the contact/support me tab or anywhere it says "Partner With Me." From there, it's easy!
Regardless, going forward, especially now that I'm here, I'm going to need your prayers.
thanks for taking the time to see what's going on :)!
It's been a couple of weeks since I posted my first blog. As they've gone by, I've started to grow anxious. It's something I've had to fight
daily. We all know being anxious isn't good. It's not healthy! It rarely ever helps any situation. Probably all of you can relate when I say I
feel like I have a purpose but can't begin living that purpose out until I get where I'm going. It's only been in the last few months God has really given me a new direction (or at least I've realized that direction) and a realization of what I was put here for specifically. With this new revelation, it seems as though it's on hold. Waiting is hard. We can quickly get caught up in the "mundaneness" of life. At least, I know I can! (I might be the world's worst!)
This past weekend, my brother, Matthew Alan, (I know what you're thinking, “doesn't Alan Jackson spell his name like that?”..... Yes..... Yes He does.) and I were at our parents house for Father's Day. We got to have an all too seldom chat about life and how each one
of us is doing. I told him a little about what I'm writing on this
blog. There are a lot of things in life we know but have to be reminded of a lot. One of those things Matt reminded me of is God's timing. God has His reasons. We won't always get them, but they’re good. If it were up to me, I would have been on a plane two months ago headed back to Manila. While I'm excited to get to the Philippines and start playing music and loving on and investing in kids and whatever else God has for me, I don't have to wait to do what I'm called to do. In fact, on the contrary! God has us where we
are for a reason. It doesn't matter how we got here, the fact of the matter is, we're here. It may not make sense now, but we'll look back one day and be thankful. Most of us know Isaiah 55:8 "'For my thoughts are not your thoughts neither are your ways my ways', declares the Lord." God sees the big picture. All we see is our version of the bigger story that's taking place. God is showing me life is a lot more about the journey rather than the destination. This side of Heaven, I don't want to wake up one day and feel like I've made it.
While I'm waiting, I'm going to love the people around me. I want to be
a light wherever I am, whether in Mississippi, Colorado or the Philippines. (Colorado was the first random state that popped in my mind.)
Here is a picture of one of the places God lead me to while I was in the Philippines!
If you've ever had one of those undeniable moments when you know
God is with you, you know what I'm talking about when I say this was one of those moments! Until I visited this church I was having a hard
time figuring out how God was going to work this out. (P.S., that's
not our job....)
At the end of the service, a hip young guy comes to the front of the stage and says they are in need of worship leaders and musicians. At that point God reminded us He was with us. Three weeks later on
that same trip, I lead for the first time! All it takes is the faith of a
mustard seed. (See Matthew chapter 17) Jesus says if we have the faith of a mustard seed, we can tell a mountain to "move from here to there," and it will. He goes on to say nothing will be impossible for us. People, that's huge! If we move forward in that kind of faith there is no telling the plans God has for us. There are more stories like that I'm eager to share!
Another reason I'm excited are these guys!
I stole this picture from Natalie along with the other pictures
from my previous blog post. (don't hate me :))
By being present and giving time to these kids, I'm hoping they will see they are beloved children of God. They aren't what their thoughts say they are (i.e. street kids). They're not the decisions they've made in the past. And they're definitely not what society tells them they are. They are sons and daughters of God. Forgiven. Fully loved and restored through the atoning work of Jesus.
Life is about growing and learning. It's about growing deeper in our relationship with God; taking that vertical relationship and flattening it out. Life's about loving people and showing them God's love. I hope you continue to pray about partnering with what God is doing in the Philippines and around the world. Taking on this
role requires a support system both spiritually and monetarily. If you would like to join our efforts in taking the Gospel to the kids and people of the Philippines through new and creative ways, both practically and musically, you can do that! If you would like to give a one-time gift, click here! All you have to do is select my name. If you would like to join with me monthly you can click here! Same goes for that, just click on my name in the drop down box.
Lastly and most certainly not least, I, WE, need your prayers!
I know God is going to provide for us everything we need to do
what he calls us to do!
Thanks for reading!