Forward Motion

December 14, 2012 at 10:42 pm (Uncategorized)

I woke up this morning with a burning in my soul.
Morning air it hit me like it’s never done before.
I woke up this morning with a turning in my bones.
-Green River Ordinance

It’s scary to let go of the past. Memories are an old familiar blanket that keeps you warm but tears to shreds the more you use it. I’ve been living in the past far too long, thinking back to younger years when I had no cares and life was one joyous day after the next. I’ve made several half-hearted and unsuccessful attempts at discontinuing this. Even in the exciting new life I’ve found in Nashville, I haven’t completely let go and allowed myself to move forward. It’s unhealthy and it’s prevented me from giving my heart to the God I follow.

Recent events have me realizing that I need to move on. It sucks to want to give your heart to someone new when your heart isn’t all yours to give. And it sucks for the other person more.

I am blessed with close friends who aren’t afraid to tell me difficult stuff. I love being called out, pushed, challenged. When someone I respect tells me I need to do something, my obedient nature makes me do it. That’s why it’s so important for me to find fellowship (and why it’s such a blessing that I found that here). A couple of my friends suggested that because I lost my mother at sixteen years old, I’m subconsciously terrified to lose anyone important in my life. Namely women. I never thought about that, but it seems pretty legit.

It’s not been long that I’ve been a single man venturing into this interesting world, carving my own path with dull tools that I built myself or found along the way. My life is far from conventional. Contrary to the image that I have become pretty good at conveying, I don’t, in fact, know what I’m doing. I am focused on my career goals, yes, but on an emotional or personal level, I’m still doing some growing. It’s time for me to work on discovering who Kevin is. Not Kevin in relation to a woman, not Kevin wearing fashionable clothing, not Kevin on a stage with a guitar. Just Kevin. Child of God Kevin. Kevin the man, because I am that now. (Apparently that happens when you’re a male that continues breathing for a few years after graduating high school. No one told me.)

Five years ago, I would not have seen myself where I am now. Five years ago I also didn’t understand life nearly as well (I’m not saying I’m an expert, so don’t give me that “you’re too young to understand life” crap). I had not yet met Hard Work, Confusion, Vices, or Heartbreak. Now I know them well. I feel like I can be pretty proud of where I am today. I’ve done what I’ve needed to in order to pursue my lifelong dream. I’ve proved that I can move to a new city with literally nothing and make a living for myself (that was, of course, with insane amounts of blessing from God and dumb luck). I always spoke of throwing caution to the wind and trusting God to provide. That’s easy to say until you actually do it. Then you find yourself digging between the couch cushions, hoping to find enough coins to buy something for lunch off the Dollar Menu at McDonald’s and wishing you could suddenly have gone the cautious route and gotten a decent job. But I did it, and I made it through a difficult six months or so, and now I have a pretty comfortable life. I can’t say I’d want my kids to go through the exact same thing someday, but I definitely now understand the value of pushing young adults to be more responsible for themselves. Our culture often prolongs and even encourages an extended childhood for boys. Mothers, especially, baby their sons and, in doing so, prevent their sons from being what they are supposed to be – independent, wild, and courageous. I’m glad that finally, in my early twenties, I had to figure that out. In figuring that out, I feel more content and have reached a level closer to self-actualization than I ever have before.

Speaking of self-actualization, I recently created a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund my debut EP. I won’t lie, I didn’t think it would be successful until the very last day when the pledges started coming in. I’ve been waiting for so long to get this debut going, so it’s absolutely amazing that it’s finally going to happen. I can’t fully express my gratitude to the family and friends who contributed to make the campaign successful, and I can’t wait to record the best EP possible to thank them. I go in for the first two recording days January 5-6 of 2013. We’ll be nailing all the instrumentals down, then I’ll have a couple weeks to work out all the vocal kinks before going to back to finish those. This EP is such a long time in the making that some of the songs are actually outdated, which was a concern for me. “Outdated” as in the lyrics that I wrote, which were heartfelt at the time, are no longer an accurate portrayal of my heart (that’s what happens when your songwriting doesn’t keep up with your personal growth). But I’m treating the EP like a snapshot of my heart at one point. Aleq suggested that Adele probably doesn’t still want to “find someone like you.” She probably hasn’t thought of “you” in months and wants no one even remotely resembling you, but it’s a fantastic song that people can relate to, so she continues to perform it. That said, I’m definitely excited to get this EP out.

So in summary:

  • Forward motion
  • Doing well
  • Recording soon!

Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once again. I will praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, O my God; I will sing praise to you with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel. My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you – I whom you have redeemed.
Psalm 71:20-23

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“The August sky will then bear witness to a brand new chapter…”

August 28, 2012 at 1:06 am (Uncategorized)

How has it been well over a month since my last post? How?

Summer is drawing to a close, and while it has been full of great times, I’m relishing the cool down. Instead of 105 degrees, today is a relatively comfortable 90 or so. Nights and fashion have ended their enmity against each other, allowing jeans and long sleeves. I have the luxury of an eight-foot-tall van that drinks gasoline like I would drink cabernet if I were a rich man (yubby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dum), so I no longer have to bike everywhere. I’m eager to see fall in Nashville. I’ve heard it’s beautiful, but I’ve lived through twenty-two falls in Wisconsin (including a handful in Eau Claire), so my standards are pretty high. School is back in for all my college-going friends, and I suspect per experience that I will be spending a good amount of time on campus at Belmont wearing v-necks, drinking Bongo Java coffee, and using my appearance to inconspicuously enjoy all the benefits of college without the inconvenience of classes. I tend to do that in any given city in which I live. High school dates ended with walks around Lawrence. After my first year in Eau Claire, I spent many an evening leaving work at Guitar Center to write in the library there. When I lived in Eau Claire but wasn’t a student, I was often on that beautiful campus, writing and sipping blueberry coffee while watching the inch-wide snowflakes kiss upon the windows of the Davies Center that no longer exists. I’m pulled to college campuses like a love that just won’t die. Maybe it’s regret for not having finished up the four years, or maybe it’s the energy to be found that gets lost too easily after graduation, or maybe it’s just me cleaning to the past. Conor Oberst says:

Life’s a slippery slope. Regret’s the steepest hill.

I played my first real show in Nashville this summer. I played in an elegantly lit, intimate lounge full of plush armchairs at 12th and Porter, a great venue where I saw Bonaventure earlier this summer. I opened up the evening for some great acts from Belmont – My Red and Blue played catchy pop rock and Emily Reid played with a small lineup but was incredibly tight. It went very well. I played a handful of newborn songs, and they went off without a hitch. Had some nice compliments on my writing, which is great. I’ll probably never be an Adam Lambert, but hell if I can’t outwrite him. Oh, and guyliner isn’t my flavor. Anywho. Playing live is my remedy for just about any feeling of despondency, and this time was no exception. It brought life back into me, and I had a great time doing it.

I’ve been realizing how ridiculous it is to be where I am having come to Nashville on the spur of the moment with $1000 and no plans. Honestly, who does that? I’m still blown away with the fact that a month into being here, I had nowhere to spend the next night so I made a Couchsurf account and ten minutes later one of the dudes at The Crewhouse called and invited me to crash for a few nights and that that phone call has absolutely forever altered the course of my life. Undoubtedly because of that blessing, I’m surrounded by some of the most solid friendship I could ask for from so many people. Through that I met the man I call my best friend and some of the dudes and bettys with whom I most enjoy spending time, and because of all these people I now love, I love Nashville and call it home.

Random facts in no particular order:

  • Dan Dicke came down to visit in his finally-up-and-running droptop Del Sol.
  • Dan dropped half a stack on Gibson TV Special Les Paul which might have slightly relinquished my strict, Fender-only regiment.
  • I got my nose pierced. Just because.
  • Seven dudes riding a wooden surfboard around on a sports field like a skateboard during a torrential downpour makes for unhappy police officers. Moreso when none of the seven guys have IDs.
  • My new roommate Brian moved in and we are going to make some fantastic music together.
  • I got a second job selling photography at Opry Mills. Paid in cash. Niiiiice.
  • I typed this on the computer at my second job over the past three hours. Niiiice.
  • If there’s a dog, I probably love it more than its owner does. Even when it chomps on my phone and my arm.
  • Healthy food is a financial priority. Your body is the one thing you’ll have all your life.
  • If you pray for the chance to talk to a beautiful girl, and after church she ambles past you looking like she has nowhere to be, man up.

That’s about it.

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A Work in Progress

July 18, 2012 at 9:22 pm (Uncategorized)

It’s been a wild and beautiful couple of months. To quote a new favorite band Late Night Habit, “it’s been a long, sweet hell of a ride.” A learning and testing period to be sure. I’ve had some tough times to complement the good ones. At my best, I am joyously relishing the fact that I finally found my way out of Wisconsin, the state that kept me for twenty-three years, the state that I love and call home but needed to leave so I could grow and write my own history. At my best I’m appreciating the simple joys – the company of new friends, connecting with someone I serve a drink to, watching a thunderstorm from the comfort of the back porch at the Crewhouse, enjoying a great microbrew in a hip bar in Midtown, or working on a musical endeavor. At my best, I’m learning a hard lesson about how frighteningly able I am to hurt someone before reconciling so that an awesome friendship can continue. In the low moments, I face the ever-present frustration of losing everything from money to love so I could chase this damn dream. In the low moments, I second guess myself and my abilities. In the frustrating moments, I feel trapped in the concrete jungle of downtown {though I love downtown, I’m a creature meant for open water and mountains} and cuss out the hot sun as I make my way – sans air conditioning – through a two-week-long wave of 105 degree heat.

Thank God for making life anything but boring or stagnant. Though some moments try me unspeakably, I love the journey.

Now and then I find myself relishing memories of high school years, presumably because of the carefree ease with which I lived during them. It stuns me that I am the same human as the seventeen-year-old kid who thought he knew everything. That kid who drove a convertible and woke up early so he could get coffee at Rock Island Cafe and cruise around Riverside Park before class. That kid who walked the halls of St. Mary Central with his head up, confident in his future, in love with life and a girl. That kid who loved {and still does love} Jesus and, because of such, was viewed as a “good kid” who could get away with skipping a class or wearing jeans to school. All of those rules which we despised seem silly now, but they helped shape me for sure. Not only in following them, but in choosing not to follow them at times. The age at which one makes conscious decisions to break rules is a wonderful time – frightening for parents, for sure {if they find out}, but completely necessary for the growth of a young adult. Did I go to a handful of parties my junior and senior years of high school? I did. Did I do some dumb things that I would never, ever want my kids to do? You bet I did. But were those things imperative to my growth into an adult? Absolutely.

Yesterday I saw a man with a saxophone sitting at Bongo Java, one of the coffee houses I frequent. His case was open, and I would have loved to walk up, put the saxophone together, and be connected again to the instrument that founded my musical identity. I had to sell my saxophone last summer, and it broke my heart. It was the sax I learned on – the tenor my mom bought me in fifth grade after I had played alto for a year and decided I wanted something with more soul {more on soul later}. In a few months when I’m wealthy I’ll go to Oshkosh and try to track down the nice man who bought it from me but had no idea of its value to me. SMC Jazz Band – what a wonderful memory. That seat at the end of the saxophone line that was mine all four years, the concerts, private parties, and bus rides, the solos, the late night pizza party practices where we spent more time eating and joking around than actually practicing. Not to mention the Pep Band – so much fun! At football and basketball games, my bro Eric Koch and I {and the whole band, really} would joke around the entire time all while somehow maintaining the integrity of the music we were playing. Ah yes, I miss my saxophone and all the wonderful times we spent together.

Despite being in nostalgia-mode, I have no choice but forward motion. This past week, I enjoyed a late night phone call from a very good friend of mine who gave me the little boost of encouragement that I needed in order to stop wanting to give up and move back to Wisconsin, reminding me that my talent is a blessing from God and that it would literally be a sin to refuse to pursue music, even when that means enduring some trials. It’s so straightforward a concept that I was surprised I hadn’t thought of it like that. The prayer I’ve prayed throughout my whole adult life has been “to be used” by Him, “to be exhausted” by Him – this stage of my life is probably a bit of a hard answer to that. Of course, this is not the end of that answer – I sure hope not, anyway – but the struggle is such an important part of the journey.

Thank God that He gives us what He wants us to have and not what we want.

I’m so excited to start all this music stuff. I’ve written an EP worth of songs, most of which I’ll be debuting tomorrow night at 12th and Porter for my first show in Nashville. These songs are entirely different from the music I’ve been making for the past couple years. For lack of better words, this new material is much less John Mayer and much more a tribute to the music that comes naturally to me: pop rock, though this time tinged with folk and country vibes stemming from two-step rhythm and the addition of fiddles and mandolins. Instead of using obscure chords for the sake of sounding sophisticated, the new material uses basic, easily-understood chords. I’ve focused on writing soulful lyrics and using a completely different style of vocal delivery, and I think it will show quite clearly once Like A Map Laid Out {the name of the EP} is recorded. Speaking of soul, Late-Night-Calling-Friend also suggested that through everything I’ve experienced over the past year or so, there’s a good chance that my music will have finally taken on that elusive quality which can’t be contrived but which simply appears when it is able to: soul. Said one particular standout rocker in the Wisconsin circuit: “If you don’t have love, you gotta have soul.” {I’m the Number One Fan of these words.}

I’m a work in progress, and I might have a lot farther to go than I’d like, but I’m getting there.

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Traveling Light

May 13, 2012 at 5:38 pm (Uncategorized)

Last night’s rain that graced me with a refreshing shower of a 3 am bike ride home from work has continued into this morning, and I’ve surrounded myself with candles, French pressed coffee, and the lovely precipitation on the back porch of the house. Even though I was up late and stayed up even later once I got home, I was up early to enjoy this beautiful morning.

The past week or two have been good. I’ve gotten a lot of things accomplished and experienced some great things. We had a bonfire at the house with a bunch of great people and s’mores. I got a bike fixed. I started bar tending. I got a bank account down here so I don’t have to keep using cash and trying to manage money via my Wisconsin bank account. I finally got my ABC card (Tennessee’s version of a bar tender license) so that I no longer have to keep watch for a suited man to come in and fine me for tending bar without it. A couple days ago some of us went cliff jumping at a beautiful place called the Cedars of Lebanon which reminds me a lot of Mount Simon in Eau Claire but is colossally larger. The hike out to the cliffs was a nice change to the concrete jungle in which I’ve been planted recently. The cliffs were taller than any cliff I’ve ever jumped from – a definite adrenaline rush – and the water was the perfect temperature to be both comfortable and refreshing. I’ve met a bunch of great dudes at the house, including some great songwriters with whom I anticipate some great writing sessions. I and a whole bunch of folks enjoyed some sand volleyball and slight sunburn recently. Work has been going well. I get along great with my coworkers and bosses, and I’ve been told by one of my bosses on several occasions that I’m one of the best employees at the place. I really do enjoy my job. As a server and bar tender, I get paid to connect with people for an hour or four and pour wine for older women on weekday afternoons and flirt with them. I love people, so the more real I am – the more I let myself come through instead of a fake cheery typical-server version of me – the more money I make. It’s pretty great.

All these happenings add up to the feeling that after just a month and half here, I’m at home. Those skyscrapers and neon lights that slightly intimidated me at first are now familiar. I casually stop in at my favorite neon sign (Conor Oberst lyric, anyone?) to catch a drink and a band after work and I weave through the streets without having to check GPS. I hang out with people I love everyday, and I can’t wait until all the people I loved before I moved here meet the people I’ve grown to love since. Probably at my wedding or funeral.

I’m in the process of moving my stuff into my new apartment with Riley. Though I’ll miss living at the house with all the guys and will probably make the mile-or-so journey on a daily basis to come hang out, I’m excited to have my own place where we can write and create and set up however we like. Riley is a student and writer and I am a musician and writer, so we will definitely make great use of having our own place. Bringing my stuff into a bare apartment feels like a fresh page in life. I’ve only done it once before – in Eau Claire – and that was a part of one of the happiest times of my life. This time feels a bit different, but it’s as much or more of an adventurous feeling because I’m completely on my own in this one. I brought all my old dishes and glasses and household items from that apartment to this new one, and along with those come a whole lot of great memories. Hopefully many more are to come. I love going out and finding thrifty ways to decorate and furnish. For now I’m sleeping on the floor in a sleeping bag, and that’s perfectly alright with me. Priority items right now are not a mattress and a dresser but a French press and a loaded wine rack. 🙂

Random thought: I would love to be a physical therapist. That idea has been bugging me for a few months now. If ever I go back to college (which I would really love to do – I just know it’s not right for me currently), that’s what I’ll go for.

I’ve had a really cool life so far. I have memories and abilities that stay with me no matter my circumstance, and what I need is always, always provided. I’m reading the amazing book Wild At Heart and recently read John Elderidge’s insight that God enjoys letting the odds stack up against Him. He lets us get to our wit’s end so we trust Him. He loves conversation and being needed. He is jealous for our attention and for our recognition of His beauty in a powerful but inherently feminine way. He makes us yearn for Him and beg for his Providence and He gives us our portion at the last minute. I see this reality strewn all over the past year or so especially – happening even when I didn’t recognize it or appreciate it like I should have. When I don’t actually own a musical instrument (right now included), God has placed high end guitars and instruments and recording studios in my life and at my disposal. When I don’t have wheels to get around town, God has put people in my life with bikes and vehicles and kindness of heart to let me use them. Heck, I’m typing this on a borrowed Macbook. Pretty much anything of value to me is packed up neatly into a few cardboard boxed in the basement. I know what worldly distraction and possession-driven attempts at self-worth feel like, and God has (thankfully) taken that from me. I’m traveling light but living like a king because He provides, opens the door upon which I knock, and answers (in some way or another) when I ask. Moreso – and I mentioned this a couple posts back – the Providence doesn’t stop there. I know sin and its crippling weight on the back of every person, and I know how He offers a way out. Not only am I traveling light in the sense that I’m free from the weight of emphasis on worldly possessions, but I am traveling light because the burden of sin has been lifted from me. Those every-day, every-hour, every-thought failures don’t keep me from God anymore. They’re no longer road blocks but learning opportunities and a means to show God’s glory.

Another fantastic service at Ethos tonight. Every time I’ve been there so far, I’ve consciously hoped that the worship leader would play some songs I know from Navigators in Eau Claire. Until today that hasn’t happened, but today God read my heart just right and set it on the leader’s heart to unload all those songs on me. Those songs speak to my worshipping heart in a remarkable way – so much that I find it hard to sing without my voice cracking and I resort to lifting my hand and closing my eyes with tears rolling down my face, trying not to let the cute girl next to me see me crying even though she is doing the same. At the end of the service a guy from Wisconsin who happened to come into Ethos for the first time decided to accept Jesus and get baptized right then and there. The entire congregation cheered and took down all the chairs and crowded around that old horse trough to watch him go under water and come up a new man and brother. I love it. I LOVE IT. God works in crazy and miraculous ways.

It’s been a day since I started this entry. After Ethos, we went to our friend Jessica’s apartment where we were treated to a delicious dinner, dessert, and a sip of Bailey’s coffee and shared songs and laughter. Wonderful time. It’s 2:30 am now and the house – despite holding nearly fifteen dudes – is quiet. Aleq is puffing his pipe and I am sipping a late night brew on the back porch before bed. This is peace. Not only this serene late night setting, but this feeling in my soul. I am at peace in the comfort of Grace.

Oh, brothers, let’s go down, down to the river to pray.

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Happy Birthday

April 27, 2012 at 6:21 am (Uncategorized)

This comes an hour or so late, but oh well…

April 26, 1960 is the first part of the tattoo on my shoulder.

Some people have told me that my words and music have touched them and spoken to them in various ways.

I would like to thank Cherie for sharing with the talent for which I am most grateful – accuracy in communication.

She was a college English teacher and librarian for a reason. Be it in the field of songwriting, instrumental expression, words typed on a page, or a voice-to-voice conversation, my madre shared with me her love of language in all its forms, and because of that I have the abilities and ability-based dreams I have today.

Happy birthday to her!

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Brothers

April 25, 2012 at 8:40 pm (Uncategorized)

It wasn’t too long after my last post that the rent was due the next day and I couldn’t pay it. My choice was to either experience the luxurious suite of Mother Earth (bushes, under a bridge, et cetera) or to bring the matter to the Lord, who feeds the birds of the air and dresses the lilies of the field in splendor. The first choice seemed cold and inconvenient (not to mention the difficulty I’d have showering), so I decided to try the latter. I made a profile on CouchSurf.com and asked God – in desperation – to give me somewhere to stay.

“God, give me what I need when I need it.”

I continued sipping my coffee and waited. I’d waited not even twenty minutes before a guy emailed me, telling me I could crash at his place for a few days. This guy seemed nice, lived in a good part of town, and brewed his own beer. Prayer answered. Praise God. But God had something else in mind. Not long after this guy responded, I got another email. This time, it was a 21-year-old dude named Josh who said that he lives in a house of 6-10 college age dudes who would be happy to let me stay for awhile. Most of them were believers. Hmm. I thought, “That sounds right.” So I called up Josh and headed over.

Those guys are now my brothers.

The fellowship in this house is reviving, uplifting, and so good. A house full of dudes mostly in their early twenties who love Jesus. I am so, so, so grateful for where I’m staying right now. Not only did God give me a place to stay, but He threw me into amazing fellowship that I haven’t experienced since my first year of college at UW-Eau Claire. These guys, myself included, push each other in so many ways. We call each other out on things and affirm each other’s worthy actions. We work out and go running together with a healthy amount of testosterone-filled competition. Every guy in the house has a fantastic voice and plays guitar. Most of the guys go to Belmont (whose campus I’ve been frequently invading to use computers and to pretend to be a student), and a couple of the guys are in transitional periods of life. Even in typing this right now, I’m blown away by the fact that God not only answered my prayer immediately, but He went above and beyond what I’d even imagined.

Ask and it will be given. Knock and the door will be opened.

I took the bartending course at the Nashville Professional School of Bartending in early April. It was a two-week course, but my friend Elyse and I took it in one week. It was exhausting and mentally draining to spend eight hours each day memorizing and practicing making drinks, but we both passed with a Technical Degree in Mixology and a lot of fun memories.

I found work as a server at a bar/restaurant in the heart of downtown Nashville called Past Perfect. It’s not the bartending that I hope to be doing soon, but I am so grateful for this job. I needed it desperately, and God provided it for me at the exact moment that showed me He’s got me. He likes doing that lately – letting me go until I trust Him, then giving me what I need and more. I sure hope He does that with my music. Past Perfect is a really nice atmosphere – far enough off of Broadway (the touristy strip of honky tonk bars downtown) that it’s mostly regulars and locals (not the cowboy hat tourist types) but in a location for good business. We have absinthe and vodkas infused with everything from lemon to hot peppers, bubble gum to cucumbers. Phil Vassar likes to stop in and entertain guests on the piano whenever he’s in that part of town. I haven’t seen him yet, but I’ve heard it’s pretty exciting when he does.

There was a night a few weeks back when I had no food and literally one dollar to my name. It was dark already, and I was walking home from somewhere, and as I passed the Circle K station, I decided to bring the matter to the same Father who provided this house for me to stay in, who provided a Taylor guitar to me after I sold mine to cover the move down here, who provided me with a ride down here in the first place. I asked God to provide, and I walked inside and traded my dollar for a lottery card. Twenty-five dollars. Just like that. I think I remember literally laughing out loud at God’s ridiculous Providence. I’m not down to my last dollar anymore, but I have a heck of a lot more trust in God than I ever have in my life.

I’ve been attending a church with some of the guys at a place called Ethos. Ethos meets in a bar like San Damiano in Appleton used to. Ethos is one of the most real churches I’ve ever attended, and I’m leaning towards making it my home church. Glamor, bright stage lighting, and over-the-top production are nowhere to be found, but the Spirit flows so powerfully in the services. Worship is whatever the Spirit brings into each service. My first time there, the entire congregation got on our knees on this dirty bar floor and prayed for a guy near Portland, Oregon whose spine was covered with tumors. We prayed for a miracle and told Jesus that even if there was no miracle in the cards, we worship Him ever the same. I held one of my brothers in Christ, both of us in tears, as we prayed for each of our past relationships. Let me add that this congregation pours everything into singing worship music; I mean, there are people falling to their knees and people jumping up and down as they scream the words of adoration. This past weekend was a baptism service. Two guys I had met and befriended not even days before were baptized in a horse trough and publicly declared Jesus as their Savior. The entire church sat on the floor, crowded around these guys, and cheered like mad for every person who got dunked. When no one else was to be baptized, we all stayed bunched up and the pastor invited anyone to stand up and yell out why we love Jesus.  Another of the guys said that at one service awhile back, the pastor decided right there that instead of sitting in the church, everyone was going to go grocery shopping for homeless people, and the entire church went to a local grocery store and bought food to give to homeless people. That was their worship service for the week. The Spirit is so present at Ethos.

Not even two months ago, my heart and my life were weighed down by my location and the negativity in my heart.  Here I am, in daily reliance of Him for not only my physical needs but for His constant Grace, which pulls me through the darkness of my heart and into the brilliant light of His Purity. Lately I speak often of how He provides for my physical needs, but that’s just the beginning. That’s a mere testament to the awesome fact that He covers my sin. He takes a broken, jealous, hard-hearted, insolent man and loves him. He offers us unlimited chances to get it right, and even before we get it right, He loves us.

Over tobacco pipes on the back porch recently, one of the guys said this, which rings true to me and and anyone who loves my Savior:

“I am not a good man, but I serve a good God.”

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Providence

April 3, 2012 at 5:22 am (Uncategorized)

Taxis are expensive.

Last week Tuesday my pals Aaron and Ben came through Nashville on their way to an event they were working in Florida. We met up and had some burgers and some overpriced drinks and caught some musical entertainment. It was great to hang out with some folks from back home.

Thursday I taxied over to Cafe Coco, a 24-hour cafe that has open mic on Tuesday and Thursday. There’s a ton of outdoor seating to relax and have a beer or coffee and enjoy the beautiful warm breeze and the pollen dripping off the hanging flowers. I’ve never seen such a big group of people descend on a sign up sheet like vultures on roadkill. I knew that slots filled up quickly, so I’d been praying for a spot all day, and voila. Last slot. Call it luck; I call it Providence. Enjoyed some great talent from other acts and played a couple of my tunes. Met some fellow Wisconsinite musicians and some other Coco regulars.

Meanwhile during all this time, I’d been looking at a few different cars. I was seriously considering buying a 2012 Honda Civic Si. I was in the dealership a couple times, talking to one of the salesmen and getting my financing approved. That was a hot car. 6-speed stick shift, fully loaded. I wanted that car. I figured I could swing the monthly payments, since I had basically gotten hired at two sales jobs. But I had this strong feeling of hesitation about both jobs and about the car. I swear it was more than logic; normally I can ignore logic and jump into what I really want to do. I wanted to jump into a sexy car that would force me to do well at one of these jobs. But, like I have this whole time, I asked God to stop me if I wasn’t supposed to go through with it. It came down to me, sitting at a desk in Honda with all the paperwork ready to go, still feeling hesitant but prepared to ignore that and drive off in a sick whip, and us not being able to do the deal because I didn’t have adequate proof of my employment needed by the financing department. Boom. I grabbed a free hot dog and walked the mile into downtown, thankful to have been saved once again from my own misjudgment.

“If You don’t want me to go to Nashville, don’t let it happen.”
Ride offer.

“If I shouldn’t buy the car, don’t let it happen.”
Stopped by a would-be minor detail.

Tonight I went to The Bluebird Cafe. It’s a small cafe a healthy taxi fare away from my house, and it’s known to be a hub for songwriters. Mondays they have open mic from 6 to 9. Sign up starts at 5:30 and the order of acts are drawn at random at 6. I got there at about 5:20 expecting to hop in and sign up right away. Not so. The line out the door of this tiny place stretched down the entire outdoor plaza, leaving some 200 people in the hot sun as the line crawled forward. I ended up getting chosed to play 44th (there were many after me, too). That’s a lot of songwriters in a three hour period, but each only got one song. As the night went on, I got to know the nice family from Las Vegas with whom I shared the table. They really wanted to see me play, but the 9pm mark was rapdily approaching and they were only on the 40th act or so. Barbara, the host, came on the microphone and announced that two acts before me had cancelled, so I would be the last act of the night. What are the chances? Call it luck; I call it Providence and the fact that God didn’t want me to have spent all that money on cabs today for nothing.

Tomorrow I start a week long bartender class at Nashville Bartending School. It’s usually a two-week program, but I wanted to get it done quickly so I could start work sooner, so I’ll be going to double classes. Upon completion, I’ll have an actual state-recognized degree, which is pretty cool, and job placement assistance from the school (which was 91% successful last year, so I feel great about that). The class is held in a simulated bar environment with everything exactly as if it were a neighborhood tavern. Probably the coolest classroom I’ve ever seen. I’m excited to start bartending in Nashville, not only because it’s fantastic money, but because it will likely leave me plenty of time to still catch and play shows (not to mention the live music I’ll hear at work depending on where I’m hired).

“If I shouldn’t go to this school, stop me.”
Went in, interviewed for a spot, paid money, signed papers.

Sometimes I think I might be a cat. I always land on my feet.

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Time is a spider…

March 26, 2012 at 12:16 am (Uncategorized)

…and for awhile there, I slipped into her web.

2011 was easily the worst year of my life. I don’t mean that I was thinking about hurting myself or spending my evenings in a dark room cursing the world and expecting it to owe me anything. Simply put: the easy life I’d led up to that point faded, and comforts that I once knew were gradually swept away. I was left with pretty much nothing except finally the motivation and personal ability to get up and do something.

“The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

So here I am in Nashville. Few plans, less money, boundless trust. Honestly, I have never trusted God more. When you are under the impression that you “could make it without His help” (even though you know better), you don’t really know what trust is. Money, stability – these things are from Him, but they also tempt us to believe that we don’t rely 100% on God for everything. When you move to a big city where your chosen field is as competitive as it gets and you can walk into a hundred different bars anytime and hear a mind-blowing musician’s performance, you get a taste of what trust in the Lord feels like.

I’m there.

I’ve also never been more open to anything in store for me. For the first time in my adult life, I am the only person who plays any part in my decisions. Of course, I immensely value input from my loved ones, but now in the end, it comes down just to me. Maybe I’ll get signed tomorrow. Maybe I’ll get nowhere in the scene but keep trying to for two years. Maybe I’ll leave the city sooner than expected and turn right at every red light until I get to to the next city. Whatever it is, I’m open to it.

Sometimes it’s not enough to “be open” to things, though. Sometimes you have to actively decide to do something whether or not you feel like it’s your absolute calling. Yes, music is definitely a part of my calling, but it was pretty much on a whim that I decided on moving to Nashville to pursue it. If you sit and wait for things to magically fall into place, you rarely get anywhere past a pleasant daydream. I needed a push to go through with this thing. I’ve been talking about Nashville for a handful of months, but I had things I “needed” to do first. It could have been another few months before I got around to doing it all, if I even did. But apparently God was bored with my inactivity, because it happened that a very good friend of mine gave me the push I needed by saying she could drive me down if we left within three days. In just two days, I took care of those tasks that could have occupied three months. I barely had time to say goodbye to even a tiny fraction of the Wisconsin folks I love so much, but it was the true meaning of a “now or never” moment.

So we left at 5:30 in the morning. The ride down was interesting. A huge car crash brought us and a few miles of traffic to a complete standstill for at least an hour. We and a lot of other folks got out of our cars in the meantime. I took it upon myself as civil responsibility to ride my longboard through the mile of stopped cars and figure out what had happened, reporting it to people in their cars along the way back (the second time I’ve longboarded on an interstate highway, though this time it didn’t result in a $300 ticket). Katie and I talked to the very sweet older couple who got stopped next to us and ended up covering life with them, singing duets for them, laughing at the crazy guy who was shamelessly obnoxious to them in front of us, and talking about the fact that God is crazy awesome. They ended up buying some of my CDs right there! Finally traffic started moving again, and we parted ways with our new friends. We stopped as many times as we passed coffeeshops, and we got into Nashville around 9pm. Forrayed into downtown, met our Eau Claire friend Jessica and her mother (who by complete chance happened to be visiting Nashville – more on that later), and had a blast checking out some of the clubs. When people say there is a great band anytime anywhere, they absolutely mean it. We saw and met a handful of fantastic bands. Karaoke was involved. Such a fun first night in town.

So I met my roommates at the hostel where I’m currently living. Andrew is a crazy thirty-something with whom I went downtown and had a blast on Thursday night, and Johnny is a fifty-something who loves Jesus, drinks beer with me, smokes weed outside on the back patio, and knows a random handful of inconspicuous famous people; his buddy plays drums in Amos Lee’s live show and recordings. Living here is comfortable and easy. There’s a nice patio out back on which we spent today’s lazy Sunday afternoon having some beers, firing bottle rocks, and getting to know each other.

Katie’s car decided to complicate our journey before she headed back to Wisconsin by needing a new timing belt. The mechanic who fixed her car works on Garth Brooks’ vehicles regularly, and the mechanic’s wife was at a meeting with Dolly Parton as we spoke to him. It’s crazy that the city I’m in is actually a hangout and home for stars. Anyway, while Katie’s car was out of commission for a night, I had a hostel to check into. By some amazing stroke of Providence, Jessica and her mom were able to cart me around for the day. Really, it’s amazing that they were even here at all, especially considering we really didn’t know they were hanging out in Nashville until we headed down from Wisconsin, because I would have had a heck of a time trying to get everything done without them to help me with transportation.

The Wednesday and Thursday night that Katie stayed in town were a reality check to me that as soon as she left, I was – for the first time in my life – on my own with about as much guarantee as far as my future as buying a used car from a salesman who “seems nice”. It was unnerving, but not debilitating. It was comfortable concern, like if you were ten years old and there was a power outage at your house: different, exciting, unusual, but not worrisome in the long term. You hang out in the dark with your parents for a few hours using nothing but flashlights. It’s a fun break from the norm. At twenty-three years old, a power outage is inconvenient and annoying, and depending on your situation, you might actually be concerned for how much you won’t be able to get done during the hours without power. For now, though, I have this mysterious resolve which I’ve had my entire life that “everyting gon’ be alright”.

Yesterday I picked up a bike I found posted on Craigslist. I had to catch a bus into downtown, wait out a rainy afternoon (which is really, really easy to do in a city where there is never not live music to be found), then catch a taxi to this guy’s house way out of town. We made the transaction, then I had to bike back to my house, which was about a ten-mile ride. The GPS on my phone was pretty much my guide, but I took a lot of wrong turns on purpose to see the town from a self-guided viewpoint. The city is really quite lovely in parts (really, I think all of it is beautiful, but I have an attitude of everything-new-is-beautiful shared by only a handful of people I’ve ever met). This week and every week thereafter will have my bike getting many more miles, and I’m quite excited for the rides.

Life moves forward. We’re all on a journey, and none of us – none of us – knows exactly where it will lead us. All we should do is make the most of wherever we find ourselves at any given moment, trust in God, and go where He leads us.

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February 27, 2009 at 11:00 pm (Uncategorized)

If I could think out loud, I wouldn’t have to worry about trying to hide who I really am or how I really feel.
It would be a lot less worrying.
I don’t want to live the life I’ve been dreaming about my entire life.
I wish I could just go to school, have an amazing college experience, and know where I’d be in five years.
My life is full of surprises. I believe God wants me to remember that it’s not really up to me what happens, what I’m supposed to do, where I should be, what my heart should be like, at any given point in time.
“You’ve got so much love in you.”
I have so much love to give it almost hurts. Not romantic, although that too. Just…so much passion. Too much, maybe. I tend to not be the most logical, reasonable, or sometimes efficient person on account of that. My mom taught me to love life, and I think I took that and ran way farther than a lot of people. I hate that there are going to be some places in my life where I can’t get that love out. I hate knowing that there will be places I’ll never be, people I won’t connect with, songs I won’t sing, life paths I won’t follow, bands I won’t be in, hearts I won’t reach, people I won’t show love to.
I just deleted a ton of thoughts I typed out regarding music, my life, and their correlation, but I just get so sick of it. I wish music could be a hobby for me, but no, I have to go and take the old cliche “follow your dreams” as literally as possible.
It’s ten pm on a Friday.
I need to get out.

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September 18, 2008 at 12:49 am (Uncategorized)

Wow, this thing has fallen into the shadows. It was once so important to me and so many others. We swore we needed it…but then something bigger and better came along.

Something bigger and better always comes along, and suddenly what used to mean the world no longer satisfies. And once we fall into the trap and give in to the newer bigger better, it’s a wicked, continuous cycle that leaves us constantly seeking and never satisfied. The past few months have made me very weary to all the product options that are open. Hundreds of kinds of soda, cereal, gum, guitars, cars, phones, gadgets. I wish the world was a more simple place. A place like the 1950s that your grandparents describe to you where a shot of cherry syrup in Pepsi was the soda, where couples went for walks and skipped rocks, where you were thrilled if you even got to borrow the family car for a date, where you really connected with people. No iPods, cell phones, energy drinks.

Today the power went out at Guitar Center. No lights, no electricity for about an hour or so. Besides the initial pride I felt for being an acoustic guitarist while the electric guitarists seemed to have just forgotten how to breathe, it was a reminder of how dependent everything is on electricity, power, technology. I know it’s necessary to get by in the modern world. Doesn’t mean I always have to like it.

It’s strange to know that most of my closest friends won’t be reading this. Most of those people are in Eau Claire. Where my heart is. But as much as my heart is in Eau Claire, it is even more in the hopes I have for these years when I won’t be going to school. I love school, learning, college life, but if things work out the way I hope, school won’t be a part of my life for a very long time. It’s bittersweet.

It has been a long time. I’m interested to see who has weathered the storm.

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