And Away We Go

Well friends, we did it. We really did it.

I could probably post about seventeen blogs about the last three years that I spent in college, but instead why don’t we just celebrate that we’re finished?

This is a blog mainly focused on catching you up on what’s coming up next in my life.

 

  1. I’m graduated from Texas A&M University – College Station with a degree concentrated in Leadership Development and two minors: Business and Psychology.

That may sound like a lot, but the program through which I accomplished my degree has a set-up conducive to having three areas of study. For those of you that are trying to do quick math in your head, yes I did graduate early. Most people ask me why I decided to graduate early and the answer is really super simple: no more student loans, please!

      2. I’m staying in Bryan/College Station for at least the next year.

For the past year I have been working as an intern for a newer church here in Bryan/College Station. My roles have included anything from setting up/stacking chairs, standing and directing traffic in a burning hot or freezing cold parking lot, teaching  kids about the person and works of Jesus, playing in the worship band, running slides, getting coolers for after-church parties, and everything else operational that you could possibly think of. I lived the intern life real hard. However, this summer I have transitioned into a more specific role(s) (though still moderately general).

The majority of my job will involve wearing three hats. The first hat is in the role of Executive Assistant to our Lead Teaching Pastor. The main thing this entails is scheduling and helping him with administrative tasks so that he can be freed up to think about our vision and direction as a church and plan for sermons and shepherd our people really well. The second hat is an oversight role over all of our worship and production. This hat entails shepherding our band and production (slides/sound) volunteers, coordinating setlists and music with our worship leaders, and fighting for the most effective and efficient services on Sundays (in terms of operations). The third hat I wear entails oversight of all of our social media and graphic design. This mainly involves making graphics and keeping announcement slides updated (or delegating graphic design to one of the awesome designers in our congregation).

I love doing all of these things and more, don’t get me wrong. But my absolute favorite part of my job hands down is the fact that I get to be the team leader for the best parking team in the land. I could write an entire blog on how incredible my parking team is, but I’ll only brag on them briefly. They are part of what make Sundays doable for me. They are the bomb.

3. In order to do all of this, I have been given the opportunity to raise support.

I legitimately mean it, too — it is a fantastic opportunity, because I have gotten to totally brag on the LORD for what He’s doing in Bryan/College Station numerous times and it absolutely pumps me up each time I get to talk about it. My salary for the next year is 100% fundraised. What this means is that unless I have a group of people around me that buy in to my vision and/or the vision of Declaration Church, I do not get to work for DC full-time.

As of right now, I currently need $3,142 more in order to meet my goal. (That is $261.83/month if you’d like to think about it that way). If this is something in which you’d like to partner with me or at least hear more about, I’d love to talk more about it with you. I’ve attached a link at the bottom of this blog that takes you to a page with more information and where you can give if you feel so inclined! Don’t feel pressured, but do know that I would absolutely love to have you on my team going forward!

 

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*above is a picture of the church staff and wives and the couple that hosted our last staff retreat. We’ve lost a couple of them to other jobs and other cities but the majority of them are still around!

 

In short, I never thought I would finish college in three years. I never thought I would stay here. I never thought I would love this little city called Bryan, Texas so much. I never thought I would be support raised. I never thought I would have people here for whom I would do anything. I never thought some of my best friends would be under the age of 10 (lots of babysitting).

The LORD has blown up any kind of expectation I had for my life post-graduation and I couldn’t be happier to be part of the church planting movement here in the South-Central United States.

 

If you’d like to hear more about what I’m doing or more about Declaration Church, please don’t hesitate to ask! My email is heyden@declarationchurch.net and I’d love to answer any question that I can. The following link goes to a page that has more information about my Residency Program.

https://www.declarationchurch.net/Heyden.aspx

 

You said to WHAT my Neighbor?

Whether you believe that Jesus is the Son of God or not, you probably are down with the fact that he commanded the crowds to love their neighbors as they love themselves. It’s a seemingly simple command that any truly rational person can get behind.

 

Love your neighbor as yourself.

 

So why can’t we seem to do it?

Why is it that Whites hate Blacks and Blacks hate Whites and Latinos and Asians seem to be going unnoticed in the fray of the crap shoot that is our world? Why are police officers being shot and militaries starting coups against their leaders? Why do women still feel unheard and uncared for? And on a whole other level, why are there still Black churches and White churches?

It doesn’t quite seem like we’ve figured out what it means to love our neighbors, does it?

 

So if we have not figured it out, then what could it possibly mean to love our neighbors? Well, I’m glad you asked, because that’s the exact question I’m trying to answer.

Before I start typing out what I have figured out, let me clarify that I have merely thought about this. Putting it to practice is obviously much harder than it seems, but I feel like if we can practice together and fail together and succeed together, then success will be all the greater.

Here is the primary example I will use of someone loving their neighbor: Paul telling the church in Rome that if he could lose his salvation for the sake of the Jews gaining their salvation, he would do it.

Did you catch that? Paul says that if he could GIVE HIS SALVATION AWAY for the sake of other people, then he would do it. What?

The mixture of salvation and adoption is the ultimate freedom that any human can experience, and Paul would take slavery to sin in order for his people to have eternal life (if that’s how it worked). Would you consider that neighbor loving or nah?

 

Friends, do you know what it would mean for us to start loving our neighbor? Let me give a few yes or no scenarios:

  1. Would you be willing to give up your American freedom so that someone else could have it?
  2. Would you would be willing to let a lower-class person of a different ethnicity take your place and your freedom? Even for two-weeks?
  3. Would you would be willing to trade places with a Syrian refugee so that they could taste and know the freedom you never have to worry about losing?

Chances are good that we would answer “no” to every single one of those scenarios. At best, we would hesitate. Do we not realize how unbelievably selfish this is to not wish and yearn for the freedom of others?

 

Loving your neighbor means listening to and confirming your neighbor when they tell you that their lives matter.

Loving your neighbor means sympathizing and mourning with your neighbor when tragedy strikes.

Loving your neighbor means celebrating with your neighbor when it’s time to celebrate.

But people, loving your neighbor is far greater than any action. Loving your neighbor means fighting for their freedom physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually.

 

I think we are genuinely afraid to love our neighbor because “what if I fail”? Well, failure is inevitable and it’s what we’ve been doing for the past who-even-knows how many years. So, why don’t we at least try and test the waters? Who knows, maybe loving our neighbor is what will truly make the world better.

 

Here’s a fun feel-good song that’ll be stuck in your head all day long:

south by spring break

wrapped in an incredibly cozy blanket

It’s a feeling that most people would never refuse or deny.

It’s a feeling that makes many people think of home.

It’s a feeling that breeds warmness and softness.

As you may know, Austin hosts an annual music and film festival called “South by Southwest”. Now, I didn’t grow up going to SXSW, but I have gone for the past few years because I’ve had friends playing at different venues throughout the week. I want to give a shout out to some of those people because they are currently slaying it at what they do.


First, let’s talk about the band Joseph.

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(left –> right) Allie, Meegan, and Natalie — three sisters from Portland, OR, that hold the power to sing such impeccable harmonies that it forces you to close your eyes and forget that you are anything but a pair of ears that were made to listen to beautiful things. I saw them five separate times this week and not only are they more than remarkable musicians, but I was reminded that they are some of the kindest humans with whom you’ll ever interact.

They have been writing and recording some new tunes and they are…well…yeah. Not a descriptive enough adjective for the goodness of the new songs. So far, my favorite new track is a song they call “White Flag“. Natalie describes it as a song “with a fist in the air towards all the things in the world that make us feel afraid”. Here’s one of the lines from the chorus,

I could surrender, but I’d be pretending

I’d rather be dead than live a lie

Burn the white flag

Joseph is also currently traveling with three more friends and adding those friends has done nothing but add new dimensions of wonder to their music. Also, they love denim! Go check them out!

website: thebandjoseph.com

facebook: www.facebook.com/thebandjoseph

twitter: www.twitter.com/thebandjoseph

instagram: @thebandjoseph

YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/thebandjoseph

 


Next, let’s talk about a little group that goes by the name of Judah & the Lion.

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(left –> right) Brian, Dylan, Judah, Spencer, Nate, and Daniel, simply put, have more fun on stage than just about any other band or artist that I have ever seen. Joy not only fills their faces, but this sense of overwhelming joy takes over their bodies and creates one of the biggest parties that any stage has ever seen. I saw these guys play twice and they were as unbelievable as ever.

They just put out their new album called “Folk Hop n’ Roll“. My thoughts? Well, there a two kinds of people in this world: 1) people who don’t care what they look like when they dance in the car and 2) people who are too baptist or self-conscious to dance in the car. Either way, this album is going to make you want to dance. It’s also going to make you want to see them do it live, and I highly suggest you getting a ticket to a show near you to experience this album live. Word on the street is that the side-effects of a folk hop n’ roll show are pure joy and happiness. I wouldn’t want you to miss out on that! One of my favorite lines is from one of their new songs called “Insane“,

I think that we’re all going insane

hiding behind some smiling face

Go check them out. They are fantastic!

website: www.judahandthelion.com

facebook: www.facebook.com/judahandthelion/

twitter: www.twitter.com/judahandthelion

instagram: @judahandthelion

YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/judahandthelion/videos


 

 

Those were my two most-notable of the week. Other artists and bands that I really enjoyed were:

Rayland Baxter, whose rock n’ roll feel will put you straight into some good vibes.

Margaret Glaspy, whose Janis Joplin-esque vocals and in-your-face lyrics will make you take a step back and think while also making you want to lie down and never stop listening to her make beautiful noises with her vocal chords and fingers.

Penny & Sparrow, whose wonderfully ominous melodies and lyrics will make you want to sit next to a fire with four-fingers of whiskey or wine and contemplate the important things in life.

Snarky Puppy, whose beautifully constructed instrumentals will put you in a groove that is near impossible from which to be removed.

I also spent almost all of my free time at a coffee shop called Seventh Flag Coffe Co. on south 1st street where the drinks and baristas are nothing short of marvelous. If you’re ever in Austin, please give them your business!

 


 

wrapped in an incredibly cozy blanket

That is the best way to describe this past week spent at SXSW. The music, the coffee, the old and new friends, the food, and the more than stupendous weather all combined to create an atmosphere worthy of celebration. It felt like a place that I am proud to have called home for eighteen years.

If you had a spring break, I hope it was marvelous. If you are a grown-up and not a teacher, then I hope you can find some rest and solace in some of these bands listed above. They’re all so incredible and worth giving a listen!

Written in Ashes

If you know me to any capacity at all, you know that my love for stories supersedes my love for any thing in this world.

 

Growing up, I thought it was so cool that my dad smoked cigars and his dad smoked pipes. The sweet aroma of pure tobacco smoke still to this day takes me back to summers spent with my grandparents. As I grew, I dreamed of the day that I could smoke a pipe beside my grandpa and just simply exist in that moment with him.

 

When I was a junior in high school, my grandpa was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. With the reception of that news, he put up the pipe. Cold turkey. And the craziest part to me was that it wasn’t hard for him to stop. He knew what he had to do and just did it. Selfishly, I was somewhat disappointed about the timing of it all. I mean, I was just a few months away from being eighteen and being able to stand on his back porch and smoke with him! Obviously, I never mentioned my disappointment to him or anyone else.

 

November rolled around and I turned eighteen and my parents and I went to my grandparents’ house for Thanksgiving. After supper, my grandpa told me to meet him on the porch. Being the incredibly obedient child that I am, I made no move toward the porch and I looked at him with a puzzled look written all across my face.

“Just go outside. I’ll be out there in a second.”

So I walked outside into the thick, lukewarm, humid air of a southeast Texas winter and waited. As my grandpa slid the back door open, I noticed him carrying something in his hand. Rather, I noticed him carrying a few things in his hand. As he came nearer, I recognized the shape of the objects. In his hand was two pipes, a bag of tobacco, and some matches. I’m sure he got a kick out of my non-verbal response, because he just offered a full-teeth smile and started walking me through how to pack a pipe and smoke it as a gentleman. As he taught me the art of smoking a pipe, he began to tell me a story. I’m convinced that this is wear my love for stories began, because the story he told is still incredibly intoxicating to me even to this day.

 

Grandpa had been having this reoccurring dream since just before he was diagnosed with the cancer. As I laid in bed after he told me about this dream, I pulled my phone out and wrote down everything that I could remember him saying. All the details. All the meanings. Everything. Here is Grandpa’s story of his reoccurring dream during his battle with the cancer that took him home.

 

Heyden, I’m really not one to dream, especially to have the same dream over and over. But I feel like I should tell you about this dream I’ve been having since just before the doctor told us what was going on.

For the first few weeks of having this dream, I was walking along this hard, red dirt road in the midst of this beautiful countryside. There were a few people on the road with me, but no one I knew. Then I would wake up and that was it. Then the next night I would have the exact same dream with no more clarity. Every time I would wake up with no new information.

A couple weeks ago, the dream not only went farther, but it finished. I was on that same hard, red dirt road; I was in the midst of the same countryside; however, now I was the only one on the road. As I continued down this road, my eyes exploring the landscape around me, I came upon a fork in the road, and I just kept to the path that I was already on.

Then the climax of the dream. I started to catch a glimpse of a beautiful pasture on the other side of a long fence line. A fence line that extended in both directions as far as the eye could see. With each step toward the fence, it grew more and more beautiful. As I approached the fence, a warmly toned voice wrapped itself around me and this is what it said,

“You’re almost to the end of the road. You’re almost home.”

 

And that was it. As he finished, we just existed together in that moment. When the tobacco devolved into ash, we cleaned the pipes and went back inside to join the rest of our family back at the kitchen table.

 

As the next nine months went by, he grew more and more frail and became less and less the physical grandpa with whom I grew up. But as he grew more and more frail, the legacy of Jack Peery grew stronger and stronger. I learned that if I could even be half the man that he was, then that would honestly be enough.

 

Grandpa went home in July of 2013. For some reason, I was allowed to be at the table and in the conversations planning his funeral. As we sat around that same kitchen table that held all kinds of memories, the preacher that was doing the service asked all of us to give him any stories that spoke to the character and person of my grandpa. There were incredible stories left and right from my dad and aunt and grandma of who he was as a man, a dad, and a husband. After they shared all of their stories, the preacher looked at me and asked if I had any stories.

I did. I absolutely had stories of Grandpa. I had a ton of stories. Why couldn’t I think of any? Then it came to me. The one story that came to mind was the story of his dream that he had shared with me over a pipe nine months earlier. I spoke of the dream as though it were common knowledge; as though he had clearly shared it with my dad and aunt and grandma. After I shared it, my family looked at me and told me that I was the only one with whom he had shared his dream. Me.

 

He only shared that incredible dream with me. 

 

Now, I hold incredibly tight to the stories that people share. Why? Because to me, stories are the easiest and most effective way to change the world. I think of the stories that Grandpa told me and how they have shaped and formed the man that I am. They’re vital. Holy hell, they’re so incredibly vital.

So stop being afraid to tell stories. Your stories could completely change the trajectory of someone’s life. Your stories could shape and form them in ways that no one knew was possible. Your words carry weight; and when they are put into story form, they hold the potential to bring life from the ashes of people’s past.

Grandpa 10.png

 

In Whom Do We Trust? (Part III)

One of the more dense focal points of the argument against an originally Christian United States is that there was a severe wanting of true Biblical Christianity; a wanting which started during the founding of America. This is especially pervasive as they moved past the founding and into the Second Great Awakening. Fea describes the Second Great Awakening as so:

Humans were no longer…waiting passively for a sovereign and distant God who…offered select individuals the gift of eternal life. Instead, ordinary American citizens took an active role in their own salvation…the new theology empowered individuals to decide their own religious fate by accepting or rejecting the gospel message.[1]

In this philosophy and theology, Americans became their own saviors. They were in charge of saving themselves; whether or not God wanted to save them did not matter. The problem here is that this was not and is not Christianity; this is moralism. The implicit idea of this theology is that humans can be good enough to determine if they may enter heaven or not. In other words, this theology is centered on the idea of self-salvation.

The Second Great Awakening was a force driven by its teachers and preachers. Many of these “Christian” teachers, such as Theodore Dwight Woosley[2], proclaimed that the majority of Americans believed in Jesus Christ and the Gospel. This pervasive assumption led to evangelists such as Billy Sunday that would take the assumption even further and say, “Christianity and Patriotism are synonymous terms…”[3]. This absurd assumption projected Christianity onto Americans and inspired a self-fulfilling prophecy across the nation. This notion encouraged Americans to think, “I love this country; therefore, I am a Christian. God bless America!”

This is just not how Biblical Christianity functions; this is American nationalism. Mercy Otis Warren was another teacher who did not fight for Biblical Christianity but rather fought for this sense of nationalism. She is quoted as saying “religious and moral character of Americans yet stands on a higher grade of excellence and purity than that of most of other nations.”[4] There was an implicit sense of arrogance in the fact that the people Ms. Warren knew were better than the people she had heard about in other nations. A true Christian would see Romans 3:23[5] and acknowledge the equal depravity of all mankind. The practicing Biblical Christian was the exception in this revival, not the rule.

If the United States was founded and purposed in Christianity, then America would look vastly different than it did and does. If the founders of the United States intended for the nation to be attached to a specific religion, then they all would have had at least moderately uniform thought processes on that matter. The part of America that gives people hope – domestically and internationally – is that basic American tenet of freedom and the ability to believe what one wants to believe without ridicule and persecution. The United States was not founded and purposed in any specific religion; rather, it was founded and purposed in freedom – all encompassing freedom.

[1] Fea. Was America Founded… pg. 5

[2] Fea. Was America Founded… pg. 26

[3] Fea. Was America Founded… pg. 32

[4] Fea. Was America Founded… pg. 9

[5] The Bible in the book of Romans chapter 3 verse 23

In Whom Do We Trust? (Part II)

It is important to note that a moderate number of the founders of the United States were not Biblical Christians; if they even considered themselves Christians at all. As was previously discussed regarding John Adams and the Treaty of Tripoli, Adams believed the government of the United States to not at all be founded on the Christian religion[1]. He was also a Unitarian and disbelieved the Trinity, an important aspect of the Christian faith. Unitarianism is also part of the universalism movement, which teaches universal salvation to all who believe in any god they so choose. In other words, no matter which god or religion to which you ascribe, everyone will end up in the same place. Thomas Jefferson also did not believe in Scripture as written; so, he decided to write his own bible removing content at his own will and discretion. Jefferson also wrote, in a letter to John Adams in April of 1823,

The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus by the Supreme Being in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.[2]

Furthermore, because of Jefferson’s manifested beliefs in this letter, one may conclude that Jefferson thought of Christianity as tomfoolery at best. If two of the first three democratically elected leaders were so clearly not Christian, then it is, at best, ill reasoning to assume the nation to be explicitly founded upon the Christian religion.

Another aspect of the debate is the discussion of national mottos; such as, “In God We Trust” – imprinted on coins and Treasury notes – and “…one nation, under God…” in the Pledge of Allegiance. In regards to “In God We Trust”, this was not imprinted on money until 1861[3] and was only done for political appeasement of the National Reform Association, not out of true belief on behalf of Congress or President Lincoln. The NRA brought before the president an entire amendment to the preamble of the Constitution that would explicitly make the United States a Christian nation. This was too great a favor to ask, so the politicians compromised with the committee and put “In God We Trust” on United States coins. A few presidents after that, namely Teddy Roosevelt[4], attempted to remove the motto from money, but every attempt was failed on grounds of tradion. In regards to “…one nation, under God…”, this phrase was added to the pledge in the middle of the twentieth century by President Eisenhower[5]; this was not, by any means, and original phrase, contrary to popular belief.

 

[1] Fea. Was America Founded… pg. 4

[2] Schweitzer. Founding Fathers

[3] Fea. Was America Founded… pg. 23

[4] Schweitzer. Founding Fathers…

[5] Schweitzer. Founding Fathers…

In Whom Do We Trust? (Part I)

My junior year of college, I decided to take a class called “History of Religion in America Pre-Civil War”. It’s a mouthful, I know; but it was fascinating! We got to learn about Native American religions and the Church of England and Catholicism and German religions and everything the French and Spanish brought over and we also got to learn about Puritanism amongst many other things.

My favorite part of this class; however, was not any of the lecture material. It was one of the papers we had to write. The paper tackled the question of whether or not America was founded and intended as a Christian nation. Growing up in the church and in a Christian school with Christian parents, I always just assumed as much.

This is going to be a three part blog series that contains my answer to the question and my research behind it. Obviously, since this was just a final paper and not a thesis or dissertation, limited (yet, still adequate) research was done. I have changed some of the wording and sentence structure to make the flow a little smoother for a blog rather than a formal paper, but all the content will remain! I hope this series is informative and I honestly wouldn’t mind if it ruffled some of your feathers, too. Friction is a good thing!

 


 

 

For centuries, one of the most extensive and impassioned North American debates has been the question of whether the United States was founded and purposed in Christianity. Many forget the original American tenet was freedom. Even though it came out of religious oppression in England, the immigrants nonetheless migrated not primarily to spread Christianity; they migrated to practice that which they desired. The United States was not founded as a Christian nation. The founders had no intention of the nation being solely Christian, and even those that did want established religion did not, in regularity, practice true Biblical Christianity. This notion is commonly disregarded.

There are numerous documents and even founding fathers themselves that may uphold this idea. For example, Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli – a document partially created by President John Adams – asserted,

“the government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion”[1].

Fea added that the treaty was “signed by John Adams and ratified unanimously by the Senate” [2]. The fact that is the most important in this case is that the U.S. Senate ratified the treaty unanimously. This means that every member concurred with Article 11 and agreed that neither the country nor the government, in any sense, was founded on the Christian religion. This agreement is so vital to the case because during Adams’ presidency, the U.S. still clang tightly to its founders, as they were still the explicit leaders of the new nation. This is one instance that proves that the founders had no intention of creating a Christian nation.

Another document that corroborates the intention of the founders is the Declaration of Independence. In this document, Thomas Jefferson – the author and co-contributor of the content – states that

“governments…[derive] their powers from the consent of the governed”[3].

One of the points that Schweitzer makes in his article is to “note that the power of the government is derived not from any god, but from the people”[4]. Many consider the United States to have begun with this important document; moreover, if this founding document gave the power of the government to the consent of the governed and not to any particular god or religion, then the United States is not bound by or to any religious code or conduct constructed by any known or unknown deity or holy scripture from any religion at all.

The final document that supports this claim of the intention of the founders is the United States Constitution. The Constitution made it clear – in Article III of the Bill of Rights – that there would be no official or established religion in America[5]. The simple fact that the two documents by which the government and citizens of the United States function on a daily basis both deny any national power or authority to any religious deity, god, or religion affirms the argument against the intention of a Christian nation on behalf of the founders.

[1] Fea. Was America Founded… pg. 4

[2] Fea. Was America Founded… pg. 4

[3] Schweitzer. Founding Fathers…

[4] Schweitzer. Founding Fathers…

[5] The Bill of Rights