When In Bryan (Month Five)

Well, it’s been a minute since I made myself sit down and reflect on what life has been lately. Mainly because sitting down and reflecting means processing and processing means time and I’d rather not give myself time out of some pseudo-humble mindset thinking that’s the most selfless and servant-hearted thing to do. It’s funny that I perpetually think this way after so many times of realizing that the most selfish thing I could possibly do is not deal with what’s going on with me and the way I feel and what has been great and what has sucked.

 

Don’t worry, the point of this post isn’t to list out all of those things, just wanted to let you know that’s why I didn’t have a blogpost about December and why this one about January is so late!

 

Some things I learned in December/January:

  1. I can’t change who the Lord says that I am. (see this, this, and this)
  2. People really can care about you. It’s O.K to believe them.
  3. It’s O.K for goodbye’s to be hard. It’s actually really normal. So I shouldn’t act like it’s not hard.
  4. “True peacemakers love God, others, and themselves enough to disrupt false peace.” – EHS
  5. Everyone is different from me. So let them be different. Different is wonderful.

 

I’ve been chronically bad at praying for myself for the past I don’t even know how long. My most consistent prayer in the past couple weeks is for the Lord to teach me 1) to recognize my need and 2) to humble myself and just ask for help (because it’s not like I stand a fighting chance of satisfying my needs anyways, honestly.)

 

So that’s the quick and easy version of where my mind has been the past couple months.

 


 

As for work, my job has been a lot of reading, which I love.

We’ve still been going through “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” as a staff and it, of course, has continually be kicking me in the gut and making me realize that I am not nearly as put together as I would’ve said in August (or December, honestly). So I highly recommend it for anyone. Find some pals, get the book, be honest with each other, and delve up all of the fun things you didn’t even know you were suppressing! It’ll be fun, I promise, you just may have to wait until the end of the book to see how fun it is…

 

The other book I’ve been reading is specifically for “worship” leadership, and it’s called “Doxology & Theology“. I’ve been going through it with a couple of friends and am about to teach through it with some of our band members at church. It does an incredible job of teaching the whys and the hows of worship leadership, and it’s also incredibly readable.

 

My team is still incredible. We’re excited to have Blake back from Sabbatical tomorrow and to finally be a full team again. I couldn’t have asked for a better team and family in this season of life. (The people’s faces that are covered are like so because I am not about to potentially compromise their ability to get into certain countries because they are linked to a church).IMG_5093.JPG

Advertisements

When In Bryan (Month Three)

If you know me in any capacity, you know that I love kids. As a matter of fact, kids aged      1½ to about 8 years old may be my favorite demographic of human being on the face of the planet. They teach me so much about living life to the full and having fun and laughing a lot and being an adventurer.

One of the highlights of November was going to watch my pal Jett at his first soccer skills showcase (try saying that 10 times fast…). While it obviously wasn’t the best soccer I had ever seen, it was unbelievably incredible to see how much he lit up when Drew, Marissa, and myself all showed up just to watch him! (It was also incredible to watch his mom play goalie against his dad and hope that he didn’t kick her in the face and also hope that she didn’t beat him up for kicking her in the face).

Screen Shot 2016-12-01 at 2.26.28 PM.png

There were a few other things that happened in November, as well:

-The Aggies’ football program spontaneously combusted.

-I’ve begun to practice the art of task delegation. Which means I get to actually equip and train people in areas instead of doing jobs myself.

-I turned 22.

-My niece, Zoey (check out the #zoeywatch on Instagram, if you’d like) who is three years old will finally snuggle with me for more than ten seconds.

 

This month has been far lighter than the last couple months and I am so incredible thankful for that. In my last blog, I wrote about how the Lord was growing me in emotional health and that has absolutely continued. But it has been wonderful to live in the kind of freedom that is offered by living in the light. I’m learning how to communicate with my co-workers, friends, and girlfriend better and better. I’m learning that I don’t have to hold in my emotions or how I’m feeling and that it is OK to externally process the good and the bad with my people. However, this month has not been quite as much of a punch in the face as last month was (praise the Lord).

 

The Lord has also been growing me in thankfulness. Maybe it’s just the season, or maybe I’m just growing up, but I wake up most mornings more thankful than the day before. Thankful for my breath, thankful for the ability to move and walk and run and lift things, thankful for people that care, thankful for means of transportation, and ultimately thankful for the fact that Jesus came and took my place, lived a life I had no shot at living and died a death I absolutely deserved. And Jesus did all of this so that I could live with the Father forever? Dang. That thought breeds thankfulness.

 

It’s been a good month and I’m thankful for the breath of fresh-air with which the Lord has gifted me in this season. BRING ON THE HOLIDAYS!

When In Bryan (Month Two)

I can’t even believe it is already November. I feel like October would’ve been nearly non-existent had the LORD not totally began to demolish a bunch of the walls I’ve been building up in my heart and soul for the past five years. This past month has been a lot more emotionally taxing than physically taxing (as September was).

We as a church staff have started reading a book together and spending a good chunk of our staff meeting processing through it together. The book is called “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” by Peter Scazzero. This book has been a consistent kick in the teeth for the past few weeks. Here’s a few things the Lord has been revealing to me about myself (some of which I may write about as the month goes on, but this isn’t the time to go in to detail about all of this).

 

  • I am not good at submitting to leadership.
  • I am not even close to as humble as I thought.
  • I am afraid of being known because really anyone who has truly known me in the past has pretty much dropped me at some point (with a few exceptions).
    • This has led to me choosing to live in the dark on a lot of stuff and let me tell you, I wish everyone would live in the light. It is far healthier and far more bearable and joyful of a life. It far more closely reflects the life Jesus describes in John 10:10.
  • I have an inherent lack of trust for people within the Church.
    • I also generally have unrealistic expectations of people in the church, I think.
  • Love doesn’t hinge on clarity and clarity doesn’t bring forgiveness.
    • Love breeds forgiveness regardless of clarity.

 

And in the midst of all of this demolition of my synthetic inner walls, I’ve realized this as well: I am far less important than I thought I was, but I am far more loved and cared for than I could ever imagine.

I’ve had so many conversations in the past two weeks of repentance and forgiveness. Not because I am fully healed from things that have happened or the lies people have fed me or the abandonment that I’ve faced from people who have used me. No. Those things still hurt. But what’s different now is that I’m not pouring the salt of bitterness and resentment into those wounds while the Lord is trying to bind up my broken heart and heal my wounds. Now I get to sit and be taken care of by the Lord and by my friends and I don’t feel resentment anymore. I can sit and be bandaged and not rip the bandage off to pour in more dirt and salt. My wounds aren’t infected anymore and that is the first step of being emotionally and spiritually healthy.

Please don’t get me wrong, it has been really terrible and exhausting for the Lord to come in like a bull in a china shop and demolish all of my walls. But it has also been so good because I’ve gotten to taste, see, and feel the goodness of God the Father because while he’s come in swinging, he sits there with me while HE builds everything back up and speaks life and speaks identity over me.

“You’re my son.” He says. “Of course I’d fight off all of these lies that have surrounded you.”

October was crazy and tiring, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

When In Bryan (Month One)

Well. I’m officially one month into my Residency program at Declaration Church in Bryan, Texas. And let me just say, it was nothing short of exciting! I want to just highlight a few of things to give you the gist of my first month.

 

 

  • Not only did I reach my financial goal for my year of residency, but the Lord exceeded my goal and He did it through the most unexpected of means!! A HUGE thank you to all of you that are supporting me financially. I obviously could not be doing it had you not been obedient to where the Lord was asking you to give. I so appreciate you.

 

  • We had an overflow room! (kinda…). The first three weeks were absolutely crazy and our seating capacity was beyond maxed out. So, to counteract this so people could come and sit and hear and respond to the Gospel, we worked our tails off to create an overflow space in the back of the building.

 

  • We have interns and they are freaking stellar at their jobs! One of them is specifically our worship intern and he has been an unbelievable asset by helping me shepherd our band members and auditioning new instruments and singers and helping me cast our vision for our worship ministry. It has allowed me to breath a little more. And then our other intern is specifically focused on production. He has been so key in helping me drive up the quality of our worship services so that our excellence will point people to the excellence that is the person of Jesus.

 

  • We had baptism service on the 25th and it was SO INCREDIBLE. Kids were getting baptized, students were getting baptized, adults were getting baptized. The Gospel is advancing in Bryan/College Station and the trajectories of people’s lives and their family’s lives are beginning to radically change!

 

Screen Shot 2016-10-04 at 3.25.45 PM.png

 

The bulk of the past month has involved learning that I can’t do everything. And even if I somehow could do everything, I shouldn’t; because then others can’t have a stake in the kingdom advancing.

I’ve learned a lot about delegation and leadership of leaders.

I’ve been starting to learn again that I don’t always have the most important thing to say and that my opinion isn’t always the best one.

I’ve gotten to have incredible Gospel-centric conversations with kids and with students and with adults.

The Lord has been super gracious and kind as He always is and I’ve been growing more and more thankful for all of the gifts He’s lavished on me.

The Biggest Thing I Learned in College

I learned a lot in college (I think…); but to me, college became a space where I finally learned to love learning. This love for learning led to so many life lessons, because I didn’t just want to be a better student in my classes; I wanted to learn how to be a better human. I wanted to learn how to be a higher quality man. I wanted to learn what it really looks like to be an adopted son. And I wanted to learn how to make people feel noticed and valued.

Well, at least I scratched the surface a little bit, right?

In hindsight, the last three years have been a freaking whirlwind. Dickens was right, it really was the best of times and it was the worst of times (he was talking about college, right?).

To sum college up, I never wanted to come to A&M, but I came anyways. I made a lot of really stellar friends. I pushed all of those friends away because dating seemed way cooler than friends at the time (a-whoops). I lived with guys that I didn’t gel with at all. I almost quit on College Station and moved to Nashville. Spoiler: I ended up not moving to Nashville. Then, I made some of the best friends I’ve ever known.rectangle love shack

I got connected with a few super incredible families that treated me as if we shared blood. IMG_3782.JPG

I went on a crazy, 7-week road trip.IMG_1487.PNG

I started an unbelievably awesome job with co-workers that are more fantastic than I could even ever explain to you.IMG_2102.JPG

There has been losses and gains of friends and community and houses and rats (long story). But in all of it — the really crappy and the really wonderful — there was the Lord. And he wasn’t just there, but he was the one brainstorming, planning, strategizing, and executing the adventure with absolutely no help at all from me, because I don’t have the attention span to help him plan something super awesome, crazy, fun, and growing.

 

All that to say, I came into college thinking I knew quite a lot about how to live life both on my own and with people. I now know that I knew very very little, if anything at all, about anything at all. I don’t mean any of this to be self-deprecating; it drives me crazy when people pull that. I mean all of this to say that I’ve learned that I have more than a lot of room to grow in humility. But I know that growth has happened and is happening because of something that C.S. Lewis said,

“If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realize that one is proud.”

It’s comforting to me that I’ve gained the self-awareness over the last few years to assess myself as being depraved. If I weren’t depraved, then Jesus would not have died in my place to make me an eternal heir to the Kingdom of Heaven, for he would not have needed to do so.

*****

“I am far less important than I thought; but I am far more valued than I thought.”

These words have been stuck in my head like duct tape for the past couple of weeks as I’ve reflected on the past few years. I think it was so important for me to realize that I am not irreplaceable in any way, shape, or form. I am not the only one who can do my job or be a friend to those around me. People are not dependent on my presence for joy and satisfaction in life. But here’s the deal, even though I am not as important and irreplaceable as I thought I was three years ago, I am far more valued than I thought I was three years ago. Far more valued by the Lord; far more valued by my friends; far more valued by my co-workers.

In short, the biggest thing I learned in college is that life is not about me.

We Were Made For This

“That is true success in ministry, that you are being obedient to the gospel. Success is not kids becoming more moral or that they even show up to club. Thank you for being on the front lines and for following Jesus in the midst of a crooked generation.”

 

First off, I want you to know three things:

1) you are loved

2) you are noticed

3) you are appreciated.

Now, let’s talk about your ministry. See, I get it. I’ve been there and I’ve done it. Ministry gets hard and Younglife is no exception. Maybe your co-leaders are irresponsible and don’t do what they say they will do. Kids bale, they say they’ll be at club and campaigners and they never show, they cuss you out and consistently tell you to leave. Maybe you can’t even get kids to hang out with you in the first place. You’ve done all you can and the kids you are chasing won’t budge. Maybe your kids are still drinking and partying and smoking weed and having sex with each other even though they always tell you they won’t do it anymore. It’s beyond frustrating and it’s exhausting. I get it. 

 

Have I earned the right to be heard yet? If not yet, hopefully I will after you hear some of my story.

 

It’s a Sunday night, April of 2013. Specifically, it is the Sunday night before my last high school club at which I would be giving the club talk. Why do I remember it so well? Because that’s the night the Lord told me I wouldn’t be a Younglife leader. This rocked my world. “Why Lord? I love this ministry, I’m bought in, I love students, I’ve been a leader for a year already, why can’t I do it?” No answer.

 

So I can’t be a leader. That’s fine! For the next year and a half I was on a journey figuring out my role with Younglife. I wasn’t about to shut the door between me and this ministry completely. After getting back to school for my sophomore year of college, I began to figure out that there was an epidemic in my area:

Burnout

I began to learn about leaders leaving Younglife and really struggling with self-worth and value and many of them questioned their salvation and many others turned their exhaustion towards addictions. I hated that, so I made it my mission to find out why this was so pervasive. As I befriended leader after leader and staff people really all around the country, I learned that it almost always boiled down to one thing…lack of support.

 

You get trained, you get placed, (maybe) you sign a contract, you start doing club and then contact work and maybe you even convince kids to come to campaigners, and often times…the emotional support ceases to exist real quick.

 

By the grace of God, my natural inclination didn’t come. Rather, my heart broke and I had compassion and true compassion takes action. So, I had a new mission: supporter. In Exodus 17, the Israelites are (of course) in battle. Here’s how the story goes:

As long as Moses’ hands are raised, the Israelites are winning.

With every inch his arms lowered, the Amalekites began to gain the upper hand.

Aaron and Hur gave Moses a stone to sit on and then became his strength by literally holding up his arms as they got more and more exhausted.

 

That’s it! That’s what I want to be! I want to be Hur or Aaron for Younglife leaders! This is the charge the Lord has given me. And it took being removed from leadership in this ministry that I love to realize how important this role is. That is why the title of the blog is “We” rather than “You”. Sure, you were made for this and I was too, but we are a team. You hold your hands up, and I’ll be your support to make sure your hands stay up and we keep winning the battle.

 

I’m not alone in this charge, though. It is not just me that is for you and about you. See, I contacted a slew of people (old YL kids, old leaders, old staff people/area directors, past and current committee members, etc.) and asked them this question:

If there is one thing you could tell a Younglife leader or staff person today, what would it be?

A lot of the responses legitimately had me crying. It was so incredibly encouraging to see that my friends are so loved and so supported by so many people other than myself! Some of the responses are advice, but most of them are honestly strictly encouragement. Here we go:

 

From kids:

“Don’t grow weary in doing good, for at the right time you will reap a harvest if you don’t give up.”

“When I was a freshman in high school, I met my Young Life leader for the first time at my lunch table as I was creeped out as he asked me if I wanted to come over to his apartment this weekend. But little did I know that guy would be consistent in my life through my parents divorce, through depression, through terrible choices, through me blowing him off, and through everything sucky that happened in high school. Not only was he there during the bad, but we rejoiced through the good. Like when the time he taught me that my worth was found in being a son of the King, my Daddy, instead of my earthly father who left me. I didn’t realize how much my Young Life leader meant to me until I was a freshman in college. Not one time did I realize that he is the one person that I credit for making me into the man I am today. So what I have to say to Young Life leaders now is that my Young Life leader is the reason I follow Jesus now. It wasn’t glamorous. It wasn’t a big moment. But it was consistency. It was love. And it was the best picture of Jesus I have ever seen by my Young Life leader not giving up on me, by showering me with Grace and Love, and showing me where his unwavering Joy came from.”

 

From leaders:

“We’d say first and foremost, stay connected to the vine, Jesus. Out of the overflow of your love for Jesus will flow good ministry.”

“Your choice to simply step out is brave, any bravery you need beyond that first step I promise your friend Jesus will provide. He has gone before you in every interaction, every football stadium, every lunchroom, every leader meeting, every unexpected conversation. Lean in to Him – he has brought you here and will walk with you. You have a divine privilege to enter club rooms, homes, classes and share Jesus. The only way that will happen is if you abide in His great love for you. There will be moments where you say the wrong thing or make a mistake, but those moments are not lost to our Creator. He is an Artist and loves to weave our weaknesses together with His sufficient grace. So step out in to the scary, know Who has gone before you, and trust in his abiding love to weave together a story of grace as you reach out to lives untouched by His healing hands.”

 

From staff:

“The enemy’s #1 goal is to steal, kill, and destroy and with you as a leader being on the front lines in ministry, you are going to be a target. So fight lies of discouragement (whatever you may hear as you lead) with truth, and the truth is that you are being obedient to your call to talk about Jesus and all that He has done. That is true success in ministry, that you are being obedient to the gospel. Success is not kids becoming more moral or that they even show up to club. Thank you for being on the front lines and for following Jesus in the midst of a crooked generation.”

“God doesn’t desperately need you for his venture to save lives, but He desperately desires for you to participate. It’s for your greatest good that He’s called you to your work. Just like any good adventure, there’s failure and just like every good story God ever told, he works those failures for the good of his people and the glory of his name. Do your best and don’t stress the rest.” 

“Thank you, thank you, thank you for giving up countless hours, putting yourself in awkward situations and giving up all kinds of energy and resources, so the gospel may go forward and the kingdom may advance  in some of the most broken places in this world. Middle schools, high schools, households, families and generations will never look the same, because you said YES and had the courage to show up. There is so no better way to spend your days than sharing the gospel and your life, both in word and action, with those who do not yet know the fullness of Life. What you do matters! Keep showing up!”

“The first thing that comes to mind is pretty simple and every leader/staff person has heard it before but here goes: You are loved, rest in that above all, and love people from that place.”

 

From committee:

“Each gesture of love that is extended to a kid, every act of inclusion and encouragement, every glimpse into a life lived with Jesus leaves eternal imprints of the kingdom!  Imprints that break the bonds of discouragement and set people free!  Imprints that forever change the direction of one’s life because someone said ‘here I am Lord, send me!’ Put your armor on and keep fighting the good fight!!”

“Your investment in kids matters. A lot! Let your love for others tell the story of Jesus. ❤️”

 


 

Friends, what you do matters. Whether you’re in San Fransisco doing Capernaum, or outside Denver at a school with heavy history, or in Austin at some of the biggest clubs in America, or in Hearne with some really unique situations, or at private schools in Dallas, or in East Nashville with hard situations, or on camp staff working your butt off year-round, or starting clubs in Costa Rica or Africa, or anywhere far and in between those places, what you do matters.

It’s immensely important.

I love you.

Don’t quit.

Thank you for being on the front lines and for following Jesus in the midst of a crooked generation.

You Were Made For This

Image

I am not your typical “Younglife story.”

For most kids, being a “Younglife story” means for the first time finding the Lord in Younglife, whether that be at summer camp, Polar Bear, campaigners, club, etc.

For me; however, it was a different story.

You see, I knew all about who Jesus was all growing up. I was the nice little southern baptist boy who would treat you as inferior because in my mind, my sin wasn’t as bad as yours. Simply put, I had no idea who Jesus was and what his Gospel meant. Sophomore year was my lowest point. I had inferiorized (new word) all of my friends to the point that I essentially had no friends except for a few faithful that to this day I have no idea why they put up with me.

About halfway through the first semester (I think) of my sophomore year, this guy named Billy Suess started this thing at my private high school called “Younglife.” Here’s the thing though, I didn’t know anything about it. The few things I had heard were things like “Ah, younglife hardly does ministry” or “they just hang out with all the partiers.” So to the nice little baptist boy who thought he was superior to all the partiers, Younglife sounded like hell. This caused a ton of cynicism and skepticism. Mostly because I thought I had life and Jesus and the Gospel all figured out. It’s almost comical how wrong I was. But really it just shows a fraction of the depth of God’s grace.

At the end of my sophomore year, I lost someone who was very close to me in a motorcycle accident. That’s where the process started for me. Jesus began turning my life over like the tables in the temple that he angrily flipped. He began driving out the thieves in my heart and making room for real worship to begin. But that’s a-whole-nother story.

So we get to football two-a-days my junior year and I was a trainer (aka I made sure no one died when they threw up or passed out). I see this familiar guy standing on the sideline that for sure was not a coach. He was wearing his cargo shorts, flip flops, t-shirt and his bear hat (regular hat, bear as the symbol above the bill). So I go up to meet him and talk to him and figure out that it was Billy Suess, the team leader/area director for Hyde Park Younglife and NW Austin Younglife. We get to talking and he listened to my insane summer and all my encounters with Jesus. He just stood there, listening to my every word. He actually cared (or at least faked it really really well).

Then comes the (unkowningly) life changing question: “So Billy. I hear all of these rumors about what Younglife is. But I want to hear from you what it is. What it’s intended to be.”

He goes on to explain that Younglife is just another way to show high school students who Jesus really is. It’s an avenue for the Gospel. Then, the life-changing answer: “Heyden, you can believe whatever you want about Younglife. Just come hang with us.” He never begged or pleaded. Just said “we want you to come hang” and left it at that.

DONE. I was completely sold at that point.

Heading to spring semester of my junior year:

I get asked to go on this “Student Leader Retreat” where I would meet friends who are to this day family to me. Then this burly, man’s man named Andy Baxter sits down in front of us and says: “We’re gonna learn how to pray.” So he and Billy start talking about prayer and how it truly is a conversation with our Dad. My mind was blown. Then he sent us out to be by ourselves and to pray like we had just learned (15 minutes of talking (out loud) to Jesus and 15-30 minutes of sitting still and listening to what He had to say back). Because Dad always has something to say back. That was the night, after 17 years of churching, that I learned how to pray.

WE MOVE TO SUMMER AFTER JUNIOR YEAR: (I’m getting pumped just remembering all of this.)

Load the buses! We are going to Crooked Creek (ahh CC). Little did we know that the bus ride would actually be hell. However, words leave me when I try and describe the incredibleness that was experienced when we pulled into Frasier, Colorado. Friend, I cannot begin to describe to you that it was literally the best week of my entire life. When I got back, there was the common question:

“So, Heyden. What was your biggest takeaway from camp?”

My answer?

“Life with Jesus is the greatest possible adventure I could ever go on.”

Guess who taught me that? Billy Suess.

So onto senior year:

About halfway through the first semester, I get a call from Pierce Harmon, the new Hyde Park team leader, asking my thoughts on being a student leader. My answer?

“*insert overly giddy emotions that cause me to hardly be able to talk* Pierce, is that even a real question?!?!”

I could go on and on about all the things my team taught me, but I won’t. Here’s a few, though:

-be all in wherever you are. Don’t play on your phone or think about what is coming next. When you’re with somebody, BE THERE.

-leading well and loving well means being organized.

-making people feel loved isn’t even close to as hard as some people make it out to be.

-silliness is essential in life.

-be patient and go where the Lord takes you.

-stories are important.

and finally,

-once you’re in the family, you’re never out. No matter what.

The theme of my Younglife story: Being able to love well isn’t dependent on my abilities, it is because I’ve been loved well. Not only by my Younglife family, but by my Jesus.

“Yes. There will be some people that just don’t like you, but at the end of the day, Jesus was the life of the party. You know why? Because he loved people. And he loved them with everything he had.” – Billy Suess