Artist M.D. - Day 1

1:50AM. Day one with Artist MD is complete. We had such a rich day creating music to fit the poems. My typical recording day starts with the gym if I can get there, it definitely makes me feel like I have way more energy during the day. Maybe I'll get there tomorrow, but chances are slimming with each minute I stay up. I was going to go to bed early but then I had this idea of making recap videos for our studios - one to have some great memories from each stage of the project, but also that you might enjoy it too. 

When making music, it is always amazing to pause and realize what you're doing. We all had that moment together today. We were like "we are freaking making music!" - Something I hope to never take for granted. Val is putting his heart and soul into song for everyone to hear, and I get to be a part of directing it and watching him and the others come to life. There are few things that bring me more joy than to watch artists come into themselves.

I hope to be making more videos. For now please enjoy the VERY first episode of Bloom Sounds: From the Garden. Rock on!

Producing Artist M.D. - Day 0.5

Happy New Years to all! I hope it has been a great time of celebration and hopefully good introspection and some solid dreaming. And though 2018 feels much like 2017, I love when the calendar gives an excuse to rearrange, reprioritize, and feel a temporary clean slate from life. I am looking forward to this year, and believe deeply that it will be one of the most important years of my life. 

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I am wrapping up my day, eagerly awaiting the week ahead. This week, I have the pleasure of working with some of the sweetest people on planet Earth. I met Val Tromonte, Sol Grimes, Gabby Li and Gabby Case in July of 2017. We were all students at the United Pursuit School of Worship up in Knoxville, where God did such a special knitting of hearts, souls and dreams. The people at that school are such a deep and rich part of my story now. At the school, God unlocked a freedom and passion for poetry in my friend Val. It was so wonderful to watch him step into it at school. I could tell he really came alive when he would share his poems. We would be worshipping together and all these beautiful words and phrases would come to him. It was unlike anything I had experienced. It was refreshing. Val, Sol, Gabby and Gabby were in the same band at school, and  they arranged and performed music for Val's poem for the school's final showcase. 

After school, Val decided to follow his passion and pursue making an official album of his poems. That's where our worlds collided. Over the past couple months, we have been planning this time in Athens to produce his record, and I am so honored he thought of working with me. This will be unlike anything I have ever made, but I am excited about the possibilities of what this will become. 

Today, everyone showed up from all across America. Val from Oklahoma, Sol from Illinois, Gabby Li from Oregon, and Gabby Case from Atlanta. I still can't believe this was possible and that we made it happen! We got coffee, caught up, and I got to show them around town a little bit. Then, just now we dedicated a couple hours to prayer and worship, to invite God into this process. We prayed for His hand to be on it, and that we would simply have fun and enjoy this creative process. 

Tomorrow, 10AM, we begin. Follow along, can't wait to share this journey.

New Realm: photoblog

Yesterday, I finished mixing and producing my latest project for New Realm. We began recording this 10 song album in September, and have been working at it ever since. It has been such a growing and challenging process, and in the end has yielded something truly beautiful. I am proud of all of us for the work we accomplished together as well as each person's dedication to the project. Today I slept in until about noon and a half, as I have felt like I have just finished a marathon! I'm sitting down this afternoon to relax, enjoy some coffee, and share about the recording process. Since we started, I have been keeping my Canon Ae-1 film camera with me at all times, capturing our times in the studio and in the mixing room. Here are some of our amazing memories shot through 35mm.

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From the early days. September, in the early tracking stages. I remember when we discovered the Juno 106 in the back room of Chase Park. This piece of gear went on to shape a lot of the records' sound. I remember staying until 3:30am playing with the synths and pianos one night. I believe we composed the "Invitation Reprise" this night

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Here's Drew Dotson, the bass player and all of the rest of the goons in the back. This is sometime in late September or early October. This is the Bloom Sounds studio, where I edit, mix and track keys and guitars for my records. 

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One of my favorite pictures. Bobby singing into my Avntone CV-12 and a Neumann U67. In the end we actually used a couple of takes from the CV-12 over the 67. Maybe there isn't much of a difference in $500 and $11,000 after all...

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This is the back of Chase Park, where we tracked pianos, drums and bass and some of the guitars. pictured are Brian (drums) Will and Holly our interns, Drew (Bass) and Bobby (voice). I remember that we played football in the back this day to take a break from the project. playing football with 5 people is really hard

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Here was our setup at 1093 in late October for vocals and piano. Here we were recording vocals with an original Neumann U67, RCA 77DX ribbon, and a Shure SM7B. One of my favorite mics to use on the piano is the Neumann RSM 191. One of my favorite sounds on the record is Bobby's voice on a song called "Keyholder" which has sort of a vintage warmth from the sound of the ribbon RCA.

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Mackalie Davidson was a huge part of this project. Her vocals are on about half the songs on New Realm's project, and I also have to mention that she drove all the way down from Nashville to sing on the project. Her voice is featured on a song called "Peace Be Still," where her and Bobby sing a duet. This is one of the best sounding vocals I have ever touched on  a song, them two together were such a gift. I remember that we used an original Neumann U47 on her voice, which didn't hurt the quality at all :)

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We had an incredible group of singers come in to help us put a choir in the tracks. These are some of my favorite sessions because there is such a togetherness about it, everyone singing together. And then when we come together to listen how it all sounds in the mix... always a special moment. This was taken in late October.

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Dango. I think this was my favorite day of making this record. This is Dango Forlaine, from Atlanta. New Realm met Dango at a camp over the summer and ended up collaborating with him to record a rap section on the album. Dango was such a joy to work with, so passionate and so easy to create with. Dango showed up, listened to the beat, and rewrote the rap right there on the spot. I was amazed. We ate BBQ for lunch that day, and geeked out over Kanye West, and had such a wonderful time together. I know we will cross paths again. Bobby and I drove him back to ATL late this night and ate Wendy's on the way home and talked about the purpose of life. Typical stuff.

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making a record takes a lot of humility, patience, and focus. There is a lot of waiting, listening and attempting to communicate ideas that don't exist yet. I love this photo because it captures so accurately the grind of sweating the details. It is often like this.

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decisions decisions. Brian Wallace (drums)

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Guitar tracking day at the Bloom Sounds studio.Left to right: Bobby with glasses on, myself, John Dexter Burch and Evan Reece. 

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Kirsten Boss. a true boss. Kirsten threw down some amazing cello lines for the record for a song called "Divine Architect." This is us in late November, Bobby is working out the parts with her at Chase Park studio B. (taken on iphone)

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iphone self timer. The day we finished tracking. A great day indeed. Special thanks to Jeffery Vernon (far left) for being an amazing assistant engineer on this project. You're awesome man!

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a wonderful crew. Late October.

Thanks for following along. It has been such a beautiful journey with these people! We are preparing to get the artwork done, and the album is being mastered now. I can't wait for everyone to FINALLY here this thing! I am gearing up to record some of my own songs, as well as a spoken word artist named VAL who is flying in from Tulsa in early January to record his first record with Bloom Sounds. Here's to all that's to come.

Love, Andrew

How Low Should You Go

 

This morning, I washed my dad’s feet. Honestly, I didn’t know what else to do to get through or to let him hear what was going on in my heart. After we woke up and had breakfast, I awkwardly asked him… “hey dad, I was wondering if I could do something with you. Do you have a bucket?” He responded adamantly, “No, I’m not getting baptized.” I explained to him that I didn’t want to baptize him, and that this act was more  like a symbol of service, an act of recognizing his dignity and his humanity. This is definitely a weird thing to do by most standards, and is one of the most awkward things I have ever done, but I just knew it was what I needed to do. I’ve been thinking about it over the last few weeks, even through all the difficulty and all the struggle, and I just knew it was right. I didn’t believe it would change him, I didn’t believe that a lightning bolt would come down and strike all the pain away, I didn’t believe it would make everything perfect again. But I knew, and still know, that it would move something deep inside both of us. For me, the most important thing was to be obedient to what I felt in my heart, in hopes that God would use it to release something in our relationship. I definitely didn’t want to and fought it to the very last minute, but I am so glad I pushed through that feeling and did it anyway.

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As I knelt before him, in this dark, wet and dusty, living room, I began to wash his feet in the water. I told him that I forgave him for everything and that I was sorry for the ways I had treated him in the past, like he wasn’t human. That he was a failure. That he deserved to be punished. He told me that I had nothing to forgive, that he never did anything wrong, and that I was arrogant for saying that I forgave him. But somehow, in this moment, it didn’t matter what he said back to me. It wasn’t just about him. In some ways, doing this might have been more for me. Over the past two weeks, as I sat face to face with this man, as we sat quietly in trains, and busses, as we’ve fought, as we’ve yelled, and as I’ve cried because of his actions and my own, as I hid in the streets, praying for God to tell me what to do, not wanting to share the same roof as this man, as he embarrassed me and tore me down in front of strangers, as he reminded me that I didn’t have what it took to make it - In those moments, strangely, I slowly began to see my own reflection. What has grown for so many years in my heart, the hatred, finally began to be melted away into compassion. I wanted to separate myself from him and from the choices he’s made in life. I wanted to put him into a category of someone I would never become. But the truth is that, without God’s spirit in me, I am him. We all are. In the moment of washing his feet and through what might have been a giant God moment over the last decade, I was finally able to see myself in his eyes. I would probably turn out a lot like him given the circumstances and having no faith in the goodness of God and the world we live in. My old man and me, we’re not so different after all. Just broken and hurt at the end of the day. I’ve just found a faith that has given me the power to change the course of my path. More accurately, I’ve been given a choice for a new story to written. A better story. Jesus’s role as my savior, has taken whole new meaning. There was a path of destruction, death, and sin that, when I was born, the world paved for me. My dad’s mother and absent father paved it for him, and I was destined by history to walk it too. But Jesus stopped me in my tracks and led me to a narrow path, one that requires care, hard work, balance and a lot of humbling moments, but this path has given me freedom and many answers amidst the unknown, within the deep struggle of being human and coming to terms with my own inadequacy.

God loves this man, as God loves me. I feel like somehow God was able to give me a little piece of His heart - to extend compassion and to serve and love my dad unconditionally. And this morning as I washed his feet in that red wash bucket, I felt like that love was able to touch his heart deeply. My dad began to tear up, but still said nothing about what I was doing. Even after we finished, he didn’t say anything about it, other than that it touched him. He still doesn’t believe in God, but I think he was touched by the heavenly Father’s love today. After that we hugged and I left for the airport. That was it.

There is something that Lee and Lisa Mason, my amazing bosses and pastor’s, said to me once that I think changed the direction of my life. They encouraged me to, when at all possible, fall on the sword - meaning to take the place of humility and the lowest seat at every table. They told me that they trusted God to defend them and that we didn’t need to defend ourselves and that He would always watch out for us. It’s ultimately what Jesus did for all of us. His humility was his power, not His might. When we take a look at our lives, in the culture that we are raised, we are taught that we can do most things ourselves. It’s the American way. We’re taught that justice is ours to serve, and revenge, unforgiveness, tearing down of our enemies, are all within our rights and power to do. But I think I am realizing that I don’t need to defend myself. I don’t need to fight for my place in life. I don’t need to prove to my dad that I’m anything. I don’t need to prove to society that I am worthy. Justice isn't mine to serve. All of these blow-ups that happened between my dad and me over the last few weeks, I was trying to gain ground through might, through power, through force. I was defending my heart. But today, as I decided to kneel and serve him, I believe God moved further and more deeply than any other time in his life. It was in the quiet sound of the water splashing, the awkward silence, and in the “I’m sorry’s and I forgive you’s” that Jesus was able to breathe life into my father's soul and into mine. And much to my amazement, Jesus actually did defend me. He strengthened my spirit and helped me fight the lies, and they began to lose their power. He has wrapped my soul in his arms of protection, truth and grace.

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This man, dad, now owes me nothing. I’m no longer waiting for “good jobs” or “I’m proud’s,” I have walked free from the expectations I had set on him to be a reflection of God in my life. He doesn’t yet know the ways of Jesus. A beautiful exchange is taking place as I feel my spirit cry, “Abba.” And my cries don’t fall on deafness and aren't met with silence, but are answered with the voice of God. The wonderful, mysterious, still, small voice of Jesus. 

Two months ago, I received a prophetic word from a lady at my church that I was a bird in a cage and that God had opened the door to the cage so that I could fly free. In the cage, the lady saw food and water, and she told me that she felt that even though I had food and water to survive in the cage, it wasn’t where I was meant to be. I wasn't just meant to survive, but I was meant to fly free and high in the sky. Six months ago I had a vision of my dad. I saw him in a jail cell, across from mine. I looked down in my hands and saw the keys to both of our prisons. These keys represented Jesus and the forgiveness that I could only receive and share through faith in Him. I heard Him beckon to me, “Would you both walk free? You have everything you need.” I know now what all of that meant. It takes a lot of faith to fly from our cages because in most cases in our lives, the cage is all we have ever known. There, we have the same food and water we have always had. But we have not yet seen the open skies and the view of the mountains, rivers, and lily fields of a full life. A free life. We do not yet know the fullness available because we are not willing to do the uncomfortable work of pursuing and living in the truth. Pursuing freedom takes all the courage we have.

Last night, on our last subway ride together in Taiwan, a young person offered her elderly priority seat to my dad - and it all hit me. Time is relentless. Life is relentless. My dad is now old. The world will not wait for you, and our fragility will be realized sooner than we had ever thought. We cannot afford to wait until we feel ready or we are equipped to pursue Jesus and to pursue reconciliation in all aspects of life. We cannot afford to wait until others “get it” or suddenly realize everything they have done to wrong you. We cannot wait for perfect situations before we begin to walk in faith. We can't wait for all the fog to lift. Because on this side, it never will. Nothing is going to fix itself. I want to encourage you - Have the conversations, take the trips, make the phone calls that you need to make. Do everything that you can do to make peace, to sow goodness on your path, and don’t be discouraged when nothing happens after one try. You will grow. Wash the feet you need to wash. You’re going to mess it up and it’s going to be incredibly trying, but know that the outcome does not depend on your perfection, but your willingness to go lower. It will be your willingness to serve that will move the mountain. A humble yes to God is more powerful than anything else - man’s plans, programs, or wills are useless when compared to the simple power of faith. 

Not a single thing in life is certain (Thank you Malcolm). Not a single thing. Not one single guarantee. Success, health, the future, realized dreams, relationships, a bulging bank account. None of these things. My dad's broken heart has not been healed and there is still so much that has not been dealt with. But I see now that I was never guaranteed that, not this time. When we take risks, there is no certainty of reward. That's why it is a risk. But nevertheless, we must continue to walk in faith. Continue to press on towards wholeness, seeking truth and being bold and courageous with our conviction. There is a chance that when we commit to a life of faith and passion and courage - that not everything we do will be successful, and we may never see the fruit of out labor with our own eyes. We may never pick the flowers with our own hands or smell them with our own noses. but I am realizing this: Everything we do might be worthwhile. With God, this is a life worth living, and not a single thing is ever wasted. 

Time to live.

Finishing Strong

Yesterday I left the house before my dad got up and hopped on a train down south to Kaohsiung, where I had made plans to get another tattoo from this amazing traditional artist, Horiking. He is the tattoo artist that did my other arm piece in 2013, and I figured while I was out here to get some more. It took 11 hours, and we finished, but boy I was hurting bad. We went from 2pm to about 1:30 in the morning, what an adventure. Anyways, I am back on the train now headed back North. I’m doing a lot of reflecting as I’m writing, it’s been such a wonderfully strange, difficult but ultimately beautiful time. I know less than ever. I will probably keep saying this, but it truly feels like I have way more questions now - about life, about family, about God, about who I am and also the powerlessness we sometimes feel to make a difference. I think I left yesterday without telling my dad because I didn’t want to have to deal with more harsh words or cornering conversations. 99% of me can’t really do it anymore, but there is definitely that 1% that I’m trying to live in. I was definitely planning to avoid him as much as possible before going to the airport tomorrow morning. The full scope of the dynamic between us would take quite some time to explain, but my father will use his words to guilt and manipulate people. Most times I have been vulnerable with him, he has used what I said against me. For example, the first day we were here I told him that I wanted to change the world through music and art. Now, every time I make a mistake or don’t do what he thinks is right, he will bring up what I said and say, “You can’t change the world by acting like that,” or “I can’t believe someone like you could change the world.” The safety of relationship -Trust, encouragement, mutual interest, love seem so far right now. 

Horiking doing his thing

Horiking doing his thing

I feel bad that I left the city without telling him. I definitely should have said something. But I was so tired of hurting too. Another gray crossroad. Most decisions with him I don't know really what to do because I want to protect myself but also honor and serve. In this case, it seems almost impossible to do both. But I am open and what to learn how. Last night he continued to text our family group, tearing down my mother and me, saying he couldn’t believe he raised someone like me and that my mother was to blame for how I turned out. He tore down my life, saying I wasted all my time in college to get a degree and not work in the area I studied. He told me to not bother coming back, and told me I was abandoning the family. All this time, I’m reading these texts as I’m getting the tattoo, a piece that I wanted to serve as a reminder for the beauty of life and God’s faithfulness amidst my imperfection. This overwhelming heaviness came over me. I began to hear the voices of shame again. You are selfish. You are dishonoring. All you care about it yourself. I felt strangely hated. I felt like my own dad hated me, and in that moment, I honestly felt like I hated myself. I was so frustrated with the circumstance and tired of reading all these words, all this death. I felt hope leave me in that time. 

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After we finished the tattoo, I went and stayed at my uncle’s house. It’s now 2:30 in the morning. And I’m sitting here in this room, at this desk, alone, thinking about everything. Questions race through my mind. Is this a colossal failure? Did I mess this up? Can my decisions destroy what God has in store or what He wants to do? For a moment I resent the tattoo because, to me in that moment, it felt like this one amazing thing caused all this shit to unfold again. I felt like I made the wrong choice and somehow it messed everything up. But in that time, after talking to mom and Kerb, who were so amazing and helped me see the fuller picture, I began to take up courage and hope again. There is something so amazing about the breaking moments, when you are on your knees, on your face, where you have a choice to get up, look up, and walk again. I was so defeated and so full of shame, but as I began to ask the Lord to reveal himself to me, I was able to be free from those words from my dad yet again. There were like weights on my soul, speaking death to my heart, but as I turned my face to the Lord, He began to answer. I am no failure. My life truly is beautiful. I am loved. I am a friend of God and the world, not an enemy.  Something deep began to shift, and I began to understand grace even more. God’s holding me, God’s holding this situation - and though it is really tense right now and really really difficult, I somehow believe Him more than ever. 

What do we do when we fall? We must get up and finish strong. I am on the last leg of this part of the journey, and I felt like I  caused all these things to unravel. But I only have two choices now, run towards what is right, or continue to bury it. I am running towards the light. This morning I booked the first train back to my dad’s place and am going to apologize for leaving without telling him. He’s pretty furious at me, so I’m a little nervous as to what will be said here in a couple hours. I am expecting the same words that are aimed to control me and tear me down, but I am somehow filled with the grace and wisdom to understand that these words are mere words, powerless against the inner music of Jesus in my heart. I am crawling to the finish line, but I am resolved in my heart to finish without regret. To finish with honor, with strength, with actions I am proud of. I want to hear my dad say “well done” but have made peace with the fact that he might never say those words to me. More than anything, I now know, I just want to him to see my life and be proud of who I am. But I see now how much his pride and his past have blinded him and disabled him from loving or even being loved. But in my Christianese world the words, “God loves me,” have lost their power. But would they powerful now again. Would they be the life within and the power to face the most impossible circumstances with grace, faith and courage. 

Last night, after the lowest point, at around 4 in the morning, I laid down and prayed one last time. I even smiled at the ceiling, thinking, “what a wonderfully strange and beautiful life we live. Thank you God.” I do not understand so much of this situation, but I am beginning to see the deep purpose of it all. It’s not just for me and not just for dad… But it might just be for everyone. When we face trials of many kinds, might we count them joy. Would they become laughable. Would they not overwhelm you, You have God in your corner - So fight twelve rounds if you need to, let Him take care of you when you get hit and when you fall, finish strong, and don’t forget to smile along the way. We will be more than ok.

Hualien, Kenting, and the Three Day Bus Tour

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Hey everyone, wanted to throw a quick update with some pictures. The last 3 days, my dad and I have been traveling via bus and train around the whole island. Literally. The orange was day one, and we stopped all along that we checked out some of the most amazing rock faces and tunnels I have ever seen. It was in a place called Taroko National Park. I believe this is where a lot of monks lived. It was unlike anything I had ever seen, and is so hard to explain. But rock faces surrounded us on every side, hundreds of feet up, and rivers rushing below. It looked like it was from a movie! My dad told me that when he was my age him and his friends biked all the way up into this region and camped. He also had the cops chase him because of his long hair! Wow, have times changed. It was so hard to capture the grandness of these canyons because we were so close to them, pictures turned out looking like close ups of rock walls. But I tried to snag a couple, including this amazing overlook and this beautiful temple and waterfall. 

TAROKO 

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The next day we travel via bus and train for six hours to Kenting, which is the national park that spans over the most southern tip of Taiwan. It looks like what I would imagine Hawaii would be like. It is almost identical to Jamaica, for those who have seen it there! Imagine looking forward to bright blue water, beautiful beaches, and then behind you are massive steep mountains. I believe the area is under a good bit of protection so a lot of the land has been untouched and remain really beautiful. 

My dad and I walk down to the beach form our hotel and enjoy a beer during the sunset. Everything is perfect except for the fact that we're not getting along too good right now. I've got to share about this part cause, really, was one of the main reasons I started writing the blog. I have tried to express this feeling, but it has many layers. But overall, when it comes to him right now, I feel like a tiny ant that has come face to face with a boulder. Things seem so impossible, immovable. There is definitely some deep unrest, deep questions, deep pain that continues to arise as we spend time together. I want to paint a full picture but also feel like I need to reserve the details at least at this juncture. In some ways to do that would be to focus on the wrong thing. I am realizing that my eyes in the last couple days have been set on the lack. On what is wrong. On what I might be falling short in and on my dad's failures. I am being challenged, led, by what I believe to begin to seek the better path. How do I honor this life, how to I honor my dad not as a failure but as a human being, and most of all, how to I honor God? I have a sense that God is building patience into my heart, for my dad, myself and everyone. I am being given deep insight into the reasons behind a man's ways. In more ways that I want to admit too, I see myself in my dad. Anyways, after all the arguing I continued to pray and I felt like God was leading me to change my position. I felt like I was supposed to listen. And that's what I've been trying to do. And regardless of what is happening, I am learning to worship, pray, and talk to God deep in my spirit. He's the closest thing to me. 

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The next day, we got in a van and toured Kenting National Park. We saw some amazing sites. Not much to say about these other than that it was truly amazing. 

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It's a short one guys! I'm on the move today. But thank you for following along continuing to pray. Honestly, I'm pretty tired. I miss connection, I miss my friends. I've spent a long time alone and am just missing the fun of being with people who know and love me. But I've only got two more days here, so I am praying that I will finish strong, and not miss anything God wants me to do here because I'm too distracted by what is next. It's currently 9:11am here, and is actually thanksgiving day for me, but not you yet :) Someone have some Turkey for me!

Love you, Andrew

Yingge, Longtan, Kaohsiung

Hey everyone. I wanted to write a quick thank you to all of you... Who have sent texts, emails, and phone calls of your prayers for my time here. I want to know that your prayers are pillars. I save them and re read them in moments over the last couple days that have been uncertain or trying. I am beginning to see the importance of every single piece in the whole puzzle. You each are pieces in this chapter that are so vital. Whether your reading, thinking, sharing your story back to me... It is all so vital for every single person. I hope that makes some kind of sense. You know what I've been doing? When writing these, I'll put this song on repeat, and imagine a single crystal tear being shed out of each persons left eyeball as you read my posts about my family and asian food. Haha seriously this song is so beautiful, it makes me feel like I'm writing the most epic tale ever told. But again, truly, I am being so encouraged and so loved. Your words are helping me actually tangibly believe that God has got my back, as He does all of us. The last few days have been filled with travel so I have not had the same amount of time to sit down and write. So here is a recap with some pictures!

Yingge

After everything happened with my father the other night, I decided to take a ride alone out to a city called Yingge. Here, there is one street that is solely dedicated to the selling and making of pottery. It's cobblestone street and high sides almost enclose you as you meander through and see many different kinds of ceramics. I love being amidst things that are made by the human hand, there is nothing like it. The cab driver and I share the same last name, we are probably related somewhere far up the line, we look alike even. He asks me about Trump and Lebron James and Tom Cruise. After getting dropped off, my first encounter was with a traditional Chinese calligraphist. I was peering through the window into his studio and he warmly welcomed me into his place. He even made me some traditional tea and pulled out his computer to show me his current presentation he was working on. We stayed and talked there for about 30 minutes. Taiwanese people are some of the most hospitable people I've ever met. So many times have people invited me to sit with them to talk, for tea, for no other reason than the share the time. Taiwanese folks love to eat and hang out together. I hope to carry that sentiment deeply and practice hospitality half as good as they do. I wonder sometimes if we get too busy doing things in America that we overlook the amazing power in simple hospitality, in slowing down for each other -  the healing power of "make yourself at home." These random friendships are some of my favorite things about Taiwan. Here's a sweet photo of his studio, calligraphy is so mysteriously beautiful to me. It's the imperfection that makes it perfect.

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After we talked he told me I needed to go somewhere. I can understand and speak basic Chinese, but after about a 4th grade level I am useless. So the artist is telling me I need to go see something so he draws me a map. I was delighted to find that the map led me to the Yingge Ceramics museum, which I actually had been to in 2013! I just didn't know it was in the same place. But I enjoyed so much seeing some of the art work in that museum. Here are some other pictures from Yingge. It was much needed time alone to explore some of the amazing things in Taiwan.

favorite photo 

favorite photo 

Yingge Ceramics Street

Yingge Ceramics Street

Longtan

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This same evening my dad and I went out to Longtan to meet my cousins, and aunt and uncle for dinner. This is my mom's little sister's kids and husband. I love this sweet family. We caught the bus right to the lake in Longtan and ended up waiting there for about an hour and a half. I really enjoyed getting to sit there. I listened to United Pursuit and took a walk around and took some pictures. Uncle picked us up and we went to their house. I have really good memories there of aunt making coffee and taking a traditional asian painting lesson in Longtan back in 2013. It was good to see again. We all went out for dinner that night.

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Kaohsiung

Yesterday and today, me and my cousins shot down south to Kaohsiung, where my mom's side grew up. This is where most of her family lives. Kaohsiung is the second larges city in Taiwan and one of my personal favorites to go. It's really big, but has a really amazing peaceful feel to it, at least the places we have been to. We took a high speed rail train down there, and it only took about an hour or so... which is amazing because the regular train takes about 3 hours. We shoot down on the train and meet my "Ayi," aunt at the train station. The first thing we did was to go pay our respects to grandpa and grandma, who both passed in 2015. 

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When we opened up my grandparent's resting places, I was surprised to find that a photo I took of my grandpa in 2013 marked his urn. I cannot express how honored I felt and proud in that moment to be a part of this family. I could tell a longer story later. But these two people pictured here created a way from nothing for their kids. I owe so much to them, my whole family does. Thank you Ama, Agong. 

The rest of the two short days in Kaohsiung were simply a blast. I got to see my cousin Kevin, who I haven't seen in 12 years. I got to meet his family. I saw my other uncles, who I haven't seen in four. I appreciate this time so much. When we go there, there are only a couple activities. Waiting to Eat. Snacking. Eating. Waiting. That's really it! We just hang and eat, they take us around and show us their favorite things in Kaohsiung. this morning, we went to this really cool restaurant place, if you can call it that, that had a petting zoo, coffee shop and deck that overlooked a international airport runway. So we just chilled there forever watching planes take off and land. It was one of the coolest things I've ever been to. I took a lot of special pictures of all of us today. It was such a perfect day with all of them, they are so amazing and I am proud to be a part of their lives. 

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Late night cards

Late night cards

biggest shrimp ever.

biggest shrimp ever.

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funniest picture ever.

funniest picture ever.

NEXT: 

My dad and I are about to get on a bus in the morning. We will be on this bus for three days and it's going to drive us all the way around the island. This will be a great tale.

Andrew

Who Is My Father?

The last couple days have been heavy. Thanks, as always for hopping into the story and your prayers. I am lonely, tried, and have had some intense breaking moments already. It's in these moments where the muscle of faith can be exercised. Believe, believe believe. Hope, hope, hope.  follow, follow, follow. That's all I've got left to do. This one's going to be split into 3 chapters...  

  1. Dad's Court Sentence
  2. Visiting Grandma's Grave (photo gallery)
  3. Who Is My Father?

Chapter 1: Going to my dad’s court sentence. This was  a surprise, I didn’t know we were going to this together until this morning. A lot in me was fighting it because I knew it would be boring and honestly didn’t want to spend my time sitting in a court room with my dad. But I was so glad I went and was willing to say “yes” to whatever he wanted me to do. I didn’t know the seriousness of what was happening and the importance of my unconditional support. 

The Courthouse

The Courthouse

Some context. I am back and forth about what is appropriate to share, but I’m also wondering what the point of protecting this information is. What stays in the dark has power, so maybe I’ll light it up on a computer screen. We’ll see. This is my family’s mess, but I think it is important to share what is happening so we can be praying for my dad. It is heavy and dark, but at the same time I find myself un-surprised that this is happening because humanity, without Jesus (and most of the time with Him), can be so backwards to the core.  Days before my grandmother died, my dad’s little brother and his family emptied her bank account and transferred the rights to all her property without telling any of the other siblings. The amount they stole equaled about $300,000 dollars US cash and close to $1,000,000 dollars in property. Yeah... When my dad confronted his little brother about the matter, his brother filed a restraining order against him and also pressed charges claiming that my dad “robbed them of peace and well-being.” There is  clear evidence of my dad’s brother’s behavior, including forged signatures at multiple banks for the withdrawal of my grandmother’s savings. My dad has already been to court in attempts to accuse his brother’s actions, but expects that some bribes may be involved since they have ruled in his brother’s favor despite blaring evidence of what has happened. It's unnerving knowing how much money and power my dad's brother has in this situation. In these matters in Taiwan there is no jury, just a judge, giving a lot of power to single entities without input from citizens. It’s just a big mess. 

He wanted to go early so he could observe the judge. To see if he got a good or bad apple. Bad apple. We sat in on a couple cases. Honestly I was a little nervous watching all of what was happening. Though I couldn’t understand everything that was being said, I could understand the judge’s behavior and attitudes. The first case we saw, the judge was yelling at an old man because he couldn’t speak loud enough for him to hear. It broke my heart to watch that, and made me nervous for dad. I could tell me dad was getting nervous too. I read Psalm 34 and prayed for my dad and that God would soften the judge and that the truth would be revealed and pursued. I shared some of the Psalm 34 and told him to read it in the courtroom. Time went on, we waited for about two hours. Dad checked the waiting list and saw that he was about 5 names down the list, and each case lasted about 20 minutes. So decided to step out and get some fresh air. This was a really amazing moment for us.

We prayed right in front of this eagle.

We prayed right in front of this eagle.

We walked up to this area with this giant wooden eagle sculpture. And my dad said to me, “I think it’s a godsend that you are here. Just by you being here, has helped me through this.” Then he opened up about this whole thing to me and told me that he was so amazed at my faith. He said he wished he could have faith like that. He is frustrated and saddened by his brother. He told me that it was hard for him to believe in the goodness of God when people like his brother and sister-in-law could be so evil. He told me that if his trial went well, it would be a sign that God is there. I believed deep in me that God would bless the trial, that he would make a way for my dad to have a voice and for that voice to be heard. I was so confident and so expectant that God was going to move. Before we went back into the courtroom, I asked my dad if I could pray for him and for the trial, and we bowed our heads right there in front of that magnificent wooden eagle. I began to realize today a little more why my dad can't trust anyone. His own brother framed him. When we left he told me that the only people in the world he had was me, my sister, and my mom. He is an orphan. 

I really believed that God was going to move on the judge and the trial and allow the truth to be heard, but when we went back downstairs, we had missed his slot by one hearing which was so mysterious to me because when we left there were at least 6 people in front of him. They reassigned his time for another day. This is all so mysterious. But maybe, God was protecting him so that he could get a better judge next time. Or maybe the purpose of all of this was so that we could lift up prayers in front of that eagle. Maybe it was so that I could see all the layers beneath my dad's pain and help me to understand why he is the way he is. When we left, my dad kept saying, "there must be some kind of design in all of this." Yes, yes there is. 

 

Chapter 2: Visiting Grandma's Grave: Yesterday morning, we left the city on bike and rode to the temple where my grandmother's ashes are kept. Wr payed our respects, cleaned her resting place, and spent some time in this beautiful field right outside of the temple. This is best told in the pictures.

Chapter 3: Who Is My Father? This part is a little heavy. You've been warned. I must let the truth of the situation speak, good bad and ugly truth. I need to preface all of this by saying that it is imperative to separate the deeds of a broken man from the man himself. These are the actions of my father, but they are all spewing from deep, unresolved brokenness. I write these things not to illicit pity for me, or incite anger towards this man. I write it so that we might find some freedom in facing the truth of my life. I won't take any "I'm sorry's," but maybe a couple "Praying for you, you are not alone's."

All my life my dad has cut me down. When it comes to music, he has always found ways to make sure I knew I wasn't good enough at it. When I was nineteen I started posting videos on youtube of me covering some songs and he would comment on them and criticize things about my performance. It tore me apart. That's why I am scared to do youtube videos. I am coming to understand that he doesn't do it to hurt me, it's just that he has a plan for my life and it doesn't look like what I'm doing. He doesn't know how to deal with that reality, it is out of his control, so he tries to control me through discouraging me. In his mind, I might come to my senses and get a real job. His whole upbringing was struggling to make it, so he cannot understand a perspective that isn't about making money. 

Yesterday, he took me to see a band and meet up with his college friend in Taipei. At dinner he told me that my last album didn't impress him and that he thought the songs were weak. He said they didn't move him and that they needed more dynamics. As the one who wrote the songs, engineered and produced the record, it broke me. We worked relentlessly on making that record. This comment burned deep inside me. I felt like there was an open wound in my heard and my dad stuck his finger all the way in there. We stayed at the show and my dad got a little drunk. We end up missing the last train back to home, which is 2 hours away. We are sitting in the train station now. My dad refuses to pay for a cab and tells me we're going to spend the night at the train station. It's 11:30pm, the next train comes at 5:30am. There's something in him, that I have inherited, that needs to pay in full for all his mistakes. In his mind, it was his fault we missed the train so we had to punish ourselves by being homeless for the night. His pride won't allow him to be loved. At this point I'm fuming because he will not listen to reason. I offered to even pay for the cab, to no avail. He began to take off his socks and shoes to fortify his decision.  And for some reason, at this point. Everything in me broke and I lost it. 

I mean, I went insane. It felt like years of anger, frustration, confusion came spewing out of me. 24 years of never being known or sought, of being treated like I was stupid, of not being heard. I would be heard now. I wanted to give justice to every comment he ever said to me to put me down. I wanted to pay him back for how his pride and his anger and robbed my family. For that one time when I was sixteen and he came into my room and punched me in the face. For every time I heard my mama cry. For feeling like I never had a safe home. He stuck his finger into the biggest wound of my soul. Everything went red. I felt like a nine-year old kid, on the playground, and the playground bully pushed me one too many times. I grabbed him by the collar and threw him to the ground. Standing over him in the fluorescent light of the station, my face pressed against his, I released everything. I am yelling at the top of my lungs, "I don't understand why it is like this! I don't understand why you are like this!" I was afraid of myself in that moment. I didn't want to hurt him, I just wanted to be heard. I felt like I had tried everything I knew how except force. My desperate measure: You. will. hear. me. It felt like I was a cornered and this was my only way out. I wanted him to feel the hurt that was inside me. I wanted him to hear me. He gave me the keys to the house and told me to leave and do whatever I wanted, but that he was staying in the train station. Before I left he said this to me, "If I had succeeded as a father, I would not have raised someone like you."

Those words follow me . I am frozen in the cab, fighting back tears. I was afraid and alone, confused and hurt. I should not have let this situation push me to that point. I should not have touched him. I also thought I had undone all the good that was done in the last two days. I wondered if I destroyed any chance of God moving in this situation. I also wonder how my own dad could look at me and say those words to me. Honestly, I felt like, in this moment, hope had left our relationship. It's 1:30 when I get back. I am a lunatic in the park, pacing back and forth and crying on the phone. I reach out to my home bases. Mom, Kerby, and Michael and Ivey who know and love me the best of anyone. They prayed for me, encouraged me, and helped me to understand the whole situation. They helped me hope again. 

I will not let this situation stop what God has in store. I apologized to my father this morning for my actions last night, owning my side of the street. He took my apology and threw it right back in my face. God, we need some second chances here today. Today I am feeling tired and discouraged. The depth of my father's brokenness and irrationality is continuing to be revealed. I feel like I am trying to move an immovable object. I am facing a giant. And as pain is being revealed in my dad's heart, I am seeing the same pain within my own life. I am being brought to the end of what I can manage and what I can understand. I am in a foreign place with a man I cannot trust or believe. I am alone. I am in the belly of the beast. But in the depths of my soul I am crying out to God to come and minister, to pour out His grace and peace. I don't really know what else to pray right now. I prayed for this trip for so long, for salvation, for life change, and it's so hard for me to believe right now. My prayer is now, God, show me the point of all this. Help me believe. Father me. Tell me the truth. 

I am pressured to assure you guys that despite all this I am doing fine. But let's leave the masks in the jail. Masks free no one.  The truth is, I am not doing fine. This hurts like hell, to face all this. I am confused and unsure in what to do now. There is a lot of tension. But you know what is so amazing about this after all? The even here, the Holy Spirit dwells in me. I can feel Him whispering to my heart. He is the eye in the storm. In a moment of great disappointment, which way will we go? In the presence of failure, what will we choose? When we feel defeated, will we let God raise us up? Who is the father? Who is my father? This man that raised me, who has made sure all my life I knew I didn't  have what it takes. He is just a man. A broken and lost child whose body resembles an adult human being. But He is just a man, a dad, and he might be trying the best he can. But my real, heavenly father loves me. He knows the depths of my heart, my desires and my hurts. He was there at the train station yesterday. He catches all those words and corrects them. He protects my heart. He leads me through the night with a pinlight in the distance. This is His hope. He makes a promise an follows through on it no matter the cost. My father loves my music, my heart, and the person I am becoming each day. He forgets the ways I have sinned against Him and His people. He is very proud. Let me walk in this and this alone.

Thank you guys for the prayers. We continue to climb.

Andrew

 

 

The Yoke Of Jesus

It's my first morning in Taiwan. My dad and I went to breakfast this morning and got some yummy Taiwanese bread and one of my favorite breakfast moves: the hot soy milk. It's like a sweet, hot milk. My sinuses are acting funny, sneezing a lot, it might be the air or from not sleeping. Either way, I hope I'm not getting sick. Lot's of tea, lot's of water. Lot's of tea, lot's of water. After breakfast, I decided to take a walk around the city, and ultimately landed at this tiny little coffee spot called Louisa Coffee. The coffee is really good! I'm here listening to Coldplay (rainy day anthems) and letting Galatians 5 encourage me. The time here with my dad has not been rainbows and butterflies, but I have been prepared and equipped to engage, love and support no matter what. I needed some introvert time to meet with the Lord, read, and experience the quiet and become recharged for the rest of the day. I am reading about the yoke of Jesus. 

What does it mean to take on the Yoke of Jesus? In the book of Matthew, chapter 12, Jesus says "Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." This is such an interesting command to me because a yoke still signifies slavery, something we have been freed from in Jesus. In Galatians 5, Paul even commands us to "not submit again to the yoke of slavery, for it is for freedoms sake Christ has set us free (paraphrased)." So then which is it? How is it that we take on someone's yoke and are fully free at the same time?

Trusting Jesus is the great exchange of yokes. It is the great surrender of all burdens, for one ultimate price: Your life. Trusting Jesus means that you give up all your rights to let Him govern your life, to let him direct, guide and take care of you. It's trading the need to know all the answers for the need to know the person, and it's giving up our perspective for eyes to see the bigger picture. The yoke of the world is a completely different yoke by nature than the yoke of Jesus. The yoke of the world ultimately leads to slavery because at it's core it is about ourselves. It's about protecting our own lives, accumulating more, and being the biggest thing we can be. The yoke of Jesus leads to freedom because at it's core it is about God, and it positions us to be used for a greater purpose. Any yoke that points inwards is not freeing. We are in bondage to our selfish desires.

The yoke of the world wears many guises. Here are some I can think of: 

  • The Yoke of Accumulation: We become enslaved to more. More possessions, more status, more praise. It's even more guised in the church. Who can seem the most perfect? Who can have it all together? Who can do more for God? The yoke of accumulation enslaves us to ourselves, disabling us from living generosity and giving freely our resources, time and love. 
  • The Yoke of Emotion: We become enslaved to what we feel. I know this thing first hand and I'd be first to raise my hand as someone who is tossed left and right by every emotion I feel. And though emotions are important and give insight into what's going on, we must be careful to not let them dictate our path. Emotions are part of the truth, but not the full truth.  The yoke of emotion disables us from being agents of change in situations that are uncomfortable and give us excuses to disengage situations that might desperately need the salt of heaven. I have been at fault in confusing my low emotional capacity for "discernment," judging people or situations on what I feel rather than what God may think. 
  • The Yoke of the Past: God doesn't put us in time out. It doesn't matter what you have done or where you've been. It's just not the truth. The most beautiful image of the Father's heart is depicted in the parable of the prodigal son, in which the father runs to the son while he is far away. In that culture, it was shameful for old men to run and to pick up their garments in that fashion, it signified weakness. There is a waterfall of grace through Jesus, that pours over your soul day and night. Before you fall, you are already loved and made whole. The Yoke of Past makes us walk in circles at the base of the mountain, making us falsely believe that we have to work our way back into God's good graces. We waste our time trying to polish a heart that is already made clean through the blood of Jesus. When we live under shame from our past mistakes, we dismiss the work of Jesus on the Cross and insult God's promise to us. We put limits on God's love and  restrict his healing power to a work's-based game - a game which, as we already know, we will lose very time.
  • The Yoke of Offense: When we live as the world does, everyone and everything begins to owe us something. When we live like this, every interaction and every venture becomes a self-centered grab for accolades, praise, love and attention. Then, because of their very nature, people and systems begin to fail us. Friends don't include us like we feel like we deserved to be included, church leaders turn out to actually have problems of their own, people use you, you feel like you don't get the thanks you deserve. You become offended in your core. You become bitter. Bitterness grows when we let the sun set on our anger. It begins as a small disconnect, shoved into darkness and isolation, left to grow mold and multiply. Then it manifests as a wounded heart with an open sore. And it's like a massive, throbbing blister - where even the slightest rub insights gripping pain. It is the same with an offended heart. Every little thing begins to offend. Every failed expectation is interpreted as a personal mission to hurt you. It's an illusion. The yoke of offense makes enemies out of the world. We stop listening and only hear the narrative we've written in our own wounded heart. We cannot change the world wearing the yoke of offense.

I could go on.

But, there is another way. The Yoke Of Jesus. I hear His invitation to us:

"Dear sons and daughters. You have been carrying the weight of your brokenness all your life. You have fabricated a world to live in all on your own. This world has your rules, your expectations, your opinions. And though it is all yours, you are enslaved to it all the same. You have not yet experienced a life that is beyond the reaches of yourself and you have not yet walked to places that you were not able to see with your earthly eye. You are a slave of the Earth and it's rules. You plant many seeds but don't see them grow because the shadow your self hides the seed from my light, that makes it grow. You are so tired and you don't know why. You have filled your life with many things, much noise, but when you lay down at night, the quiet reveals the emptiness of your soul. The purposelessness of all your labor. But I have a yoke. I have a way of life. I'm throwing a party. At this party, you are fully loved. My love fills you up so full that you don't have room to be offended anymore. You don't have time to be bitter anymore. You won't need to accumulate the status and praise of the world. There's so much laughter at this party, not at the expense of others, but laughing at the wildness of grace and unbelievable life available through surrender to my ways. There's a lot of dancing at the party because you have forgotten the pressure to be presentable to others. You've forgotten yourself. The party is going to be so loud and bright that people will crawl to it from the mud and the desert. And we will greet them at the door, undo their chains, and cloth them inside with a new identity. Together. The party only has one condition for entrance: Your whole life. Leave your expectations and limitations at the door. Leave your low self-esteem outside. Leave the dark patterns, and the ways you are trying to fill your life with meaningless noise. Leave the darkness. Leave your need for all the answers. Leave your self-centered ways. You won't have time for any of this. We will be too busy living. My yoke is so different than the one you brought with you. It's a moment-by-moment challenge to die to yourself, not preserve yourself. But in this death, you will find your true life, fulfillment, and rest for your souls. Sin and shame have lost their voice in your life. Though you will continue to fight many voices and temptations of many kinds, my voice is the only one that can truly move your heart. The music of the party will play over your victories, struggles, breakthroughs, and dark nights. There is a seat at the table with your name on it. Come in when you get tired of being in the cold. This yoke is open wide for you and all people who want to come under it, all who have come to the end of themselves."

The Family Cacoon - (Orange County Last Day)

My time in California has come to a close. I haven't cried until I just sat down at the airport. This whole week has been so overwhelming - one of those times that you wish you could stop and look at with a microscope, understanding and absorbing it all. But life moves on and it doesn't care if you go with it. Fighting to be in the moment but also enjoy my memories. 

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Yesterday we all went to the beach. It is a pilgrimage to go to the beach with the Ketterers. We brought a tent, a table, charcoal grill, 3 surf boards, chairs, boogie boards and Rodee's beach crusin wheelchair/boat. I was dying laughing. I finally had the opportunity to go surfing, something I have heard so much about. I have been so curious about the feeling and the culture that is almost as important as the sport itself. And let me tell you... it did NOT disappoint. I caught two baby waves and stood up on them for a couple of seconds! The waves were really crazy and the currents were a little too strong to enjoy it out there, but I wish I could have tried it a couple more times. 

Ivey whipped us up some amazing burgers and I enjoyed watching the kids have a blast. Rodee was having a great time in his wheelchair and we got to go for a little push down the sand. When we got home we had some pizza and got in the healing hot tub once again. This time Dusty joined us from way down in San Diego! Everything was just so wonderful... It is so good for the soul to be around people without any agenda. I think it is the essence of living, to just be and not worry. The ladies watched a movie and the little ones were upstairs. The dogs slept on the couch. The hot tubbed steamed as we laughed about life. Just normal, full, life.  

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After we got out, we all bombarded Ivey's room because I had to say goodbye. I will cherish this picture forever! We got to pray over Ivey and Michael, I want God to bless them more than anything. They give and give and give to every single person they meet. They've made the way for their amazing children to have a home, and I've seen first hand this week that it's not an easy path, but it is the one with the most meaning. If you want a cookie-cutter, Christmas card, Hallmark movie life... Don't go into the soul saving business. 

Michael was telling me about Chase, the middle brother of the three white boys, and how he wanted to be called Chase instead of his real name because he said the old version of him did bad things. Michael said that early on, he had to wrap all of his children in a cocoon of love - a safe place for them to experience their metamorphosis. When we are wrapped up in the love of family, we are safe to become ourselves. We are safe to make mistakes, learn from them, and grow. I really believe that this stop in California was more than just a time with friends, it was time to experience the cocoon for myself. It's really weird, I kept expecting Ivey and Michael to put up boundaries... to say "I'm tired, let's not engage, find something to do..." I found myself being so careful about how I acted or what I said because I think deep in me, I felt like I had to earn my right to be there and to be with their family. But the whole time they just gave their lives for me, took care of me, spoke truth into me, and encouraged and prayed for me. On Thursday, when I dropped Michael off for work, he gave me $60 and said that he wanted me to enjoy myself that day. I kept feeling indebted to them, wondering what I did to earn their love. But I have since had an amazing revelation of what family is: It is a cocoon of love that makes us feel whole and ultimately empowers us to step into the world without fear, because there is always a family to fall back on.

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It is so timely and just like God to do this: To show me what real love looks like before I go to try to invite my dad into the same love. When the sons of God realize who they are, they are empowered to father everyone around them and show everyone the father's heart. I have a sense that even though my dad raised me physically, I now have the tools to father his heart and to show him the power of Jesus and forgiveness. I understand now why there is so much brokenness in the world, in our friends and our families. It is because we have not yet experienced the Cocoon of family. 

I left the house at 6:30 this morning, and Shawn came and hugged me in my room and even helped me bring my suitcase to the car. I had an amazing conversation with my Lyft driver about Jesus and the power of God's love and forgiveness. I am seeing the brokenness in my life being turned for good right in front of my eyes. I'm sitting in LAX now, and am just trying to wrap my head around everything. I feel like a new person. My cracked lens was repaired by Jesus and this family. I went through security and got this text from Michael. 

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I'll let you use your imagination for the text before that one haha!!! But when I read this I began to cry. Thank you God. Please continue to pray for this time with my father. It is more exciting by the moment, I want Him to meet God. I want full reconciliation and friendship and trust to be restored. We are about to board so I am going to wrap this up. As always, I can't thank you enough for sharing in this with me and taking the time to care. Be full wherever you're at. Taiwan here I come!

Love - Andrew

Use Your I's! (Orange County Day 3)

Ivey!

Ivey!

Range of feelings

Range of feelings

There's a game called Use Your I's that Ivey and I played the other evening. In the game you land on certain emotions like "anger, confusion, calm, frustration" and you have to process your feelings of a certain situation  in your life where you felt that way. You begin by saying "I feel..... when.... because. Then I want." It's totally weird because we don't ever do this in real life, and I think it's because we just hate situations that are uncomfortable... and being vulnerable is one of the least comfortable places ever. I think it's ironic that the game says "For ages 5-10," yet 5-10 year olds are better at expressing their true emotions than most adults. Michael and Ivey have really shown me so much about unconditional love this week, and how it is ok to express what is going on in you. Ivey says that by the time I leave their house, she wants me to know how amazing I am. It's been such a hard pill to understand or even swallow because I am so full of crap, but I'm learning that it's God's grace that is powerful within me, not my own holiness, morality, or will. But anyway back to understanding our emotions - Just because we feel tension, doesn't make us terrible people. Being unconditionally loved frees us to express our hurts and expectations without feeling wrong for feeling them. It allows us to understand our weakness and separate our brokenness from our identity. There is a post about Perfectionism that is brewing in me. I think a lot of us don't say what we really feel because we think avoiding confrontation and hard conversations brings peace to people, when in reality hiding in the darkness enslaves ourselves others around us. How come in our churches we don't ever share in the messes and struggles of the people in our own pews? The church is God's hospital, but it's hard to treat symptoms we cannot admit. If we always project the image of perfection, how will anyone ever feel safe to explore and grow in their weakness?

Michael, Noah and I had a full time last night, sharing songs, watching America's Got Talent videos on Youtube and talking in the hot tub. I could write a book about things we've talked about, but I think something that has stuck with me that Michael said was that this idea that taking offense makes us part of the problem and not agents of change in the problem. I thought that was profound. Anyone can be offended, but who is strong enough to work through those feelings and ultimately become part of the solution, not the problem? We need to be people who are willing to live open-handedly always asking the cardinal question, "How can I be salt to this situation?"

Anyway, here are some photo's from the day! I have had some wonderful time with the crazy boys, playing trampoline, computer games and doing some photo shoots. They are such a gift! They have been such a joy to me, Shawn made me coffee this morning AND made us all eggs and sausage for breakfast. He even gave us a tour of house on instagram and showed us some of hsi sword moves. We have had fun playing Zombies and coolmathgames.com :) I looked up Shawn on google and the meaning in Irish is "A gift." So wonderful.

Thanks for reading! God Bless.

Running In Mud

God has a wonderful way of strengthening us. Every trial is an opportunity to grow and see the faithfulness of God. This is something that I realized just last night as Michael, Noah and I were talking about the process of forgiveness and the journey of growing dependent upon the Lord. I wanted to write this quickly before I forgot, as it was a profound moment for me in realizing the purpose hidden within the struggle of life. For me, my walk with the Lord has looked a lot like a hike through the woods climbing up to an incredible view. I know the full view is there, I'm just not there yet. Every so often there is a clearing in the trees and you can look out and be encouraged at the birds eye view you have of your life or circumstance. It is a clearing in the trees, but there is still mountain to climb. Realizing this has been a clearing moment for me. 

Running in mud. If you have found yourself in a trial that has lasted longer than you ever thought one could, if you have begun to lose hope in your victory, if you are getting distracted while you wait for the deliverance. If you feel like you are being brought through the cycle of refinement like a pair of dirty underwear going round and round in the laundry only to find that you're not fully white yet, if your feet are heavy, if it feels like you are running in mud... you have to Keep on running. What choice do we really have?

The purpose of your trial is to strengthen and prepare you so that you can sustain the freedom found after the breakthrough comes. Imagine running in wet mud for many years. The resistance becomes the norm. It is awkward, messy and clunky. You are encumbered by your trial, and restricted by your weakness. The mud could be a number of things: our addictions, our deep-rooted fears, the anxieties that don't seem to diminish, our endless battles. But then imagine that after many years of running in mud, the earth dries and becomes solid ground. Imagine the strength in your legs and the capacity of your lungs. Imagine the character forged in you capable of persevering and moving forward. Imagine the shear momentum. Imagine the understanding and the wisdom you would have of your difficult season and how you might could lead others through the same thing. It all has a wonderful purpose and is part of the process of growing designed by God. 

At what point will we stop being surprised that life can be difficult? We need to understand that not all the dots will connect on this side of heaven. Even the dots within ourselves. We are not perfect. Even the great apostle Paul cried out, "I do not understand myself,I do the things I don't want to do and I don't do the things I want to do." He felt the weight of the mud. But he also said this: "we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us (Romans 5)." The man understood the journey. From perseverance grows the character, the power, the sustainability, and the lift. 

When will the mud turn into solid ground? I don't know, and this will always be a mystery to me. Sometimes miracles happen and the mud dries overnight. Other times, the mud stays for years. There will still be mud when we die. But would  the doubt of God's faithfulness be transformed into great anticipation of freedom and a season of running with strengthened legs. Take heart and believe in the work God is doing amidst the trial. There is so much brokenness within me, and there is so much weakness that has yet to be turned to strength, but maybe in a deeper way than I have ever known, I understand why.

Thank you, Flight Attendant Richard, Hero Noah (Orange County Day 1)

THANK YOU

Hey guys... I am truly blown away by your prayers and support. I did the little post on FB and Instagram about the trip and how many have reached out to me, prayed for, and encouraged the journey has humbled me and lit a fire under me at the same time. I was thrilled to see many names on the email list from many different chapters of life - College friends, high school friends, past teachers, extended family, some I have not spoken to in years. There is a verse in Hebrews, one of the most encouraging and beautiful pictures, in chapter 12 where the author writes: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith." What a wonderful picture and reminder this has already been- your prayers and kind words, that we are indeed surrounded and cheered on. We encourage each other to run.

I've been typing your emails in, growing a little more nervous with each one. While on the phone with my friend Malcolm, I confessed that I was writing to more people than I thought I would, and that this scares me, since this journey will be a very personal one, definitely vulnerable past comfort. Calmly, Mal assured me, "It's good to do things that scare you."

FLIGHT ATTENDANT RICHARD

Anointed P-NUTS.

Anointed P-NUTS.

God has gone before and is leaving me gifts along the way. Already on my flight, I had an encouraging encounter that I believe served as a reminder of God's presence within me and His mysterious ways of setting the table without us knowing. After they passed out the airplane peanuts and cookies, one of the flight attendants comes back down the aisle towards me. I am listening to some of the current mixes of the band I am producing, seeing how our progress sounds on iPhone headphones. I'm bobbing my head to their song "Keyholder," enjoying the song's epic gang vocal hook at the end. The flight attendant stops in front of me and signals that I take my headphones out. He looks at me and says, "I just have to say. You have joy radiating off your face, what are you thinking about?" What he didn't know, and what I had almost forgotten, was that my brother Jake Hagan prayed for radiant joy on my life the day before I left. Anyway, we then starting talking about where I was going and I was able to share my experience with my dad and how important I thought this trip was. He told about his own family and he wished forgiveness could have happened sooner. *There's never a better time than now*. After it all he offered to gift me a drink and about a pound of Southeast airplane peanuts (literally), saying to bring them to my dad. "Who knows, maybe they'll be a good conversation piece with him." I'm open to it. The theme is going to be yes to everything no to the devil. 

BROTHER NOAH, MICHAEL, IVEY, P.P.

I met this amazing guy in July at worship school named Noah. He lives out here in O.C. and is a rad barista and guitar player. He's only 20, but God has grown a deep will in him. He's like a long lost brother to me. Noah has been my hero. He picked me up from the airport and took me straight to eat Poke (my first time). That blew my mind. Then we went right to Daydream Surf Shop, which was a really cool surf shop/coffee shop. Then we went to watch the sunset on the beach. The sky was one of the most beautiful I had ever see. The kind with the pink firey cotton ball clouds, and It was my first time seeing the Pacific Ocean. After seeing the beach, we make our way over the Michael and Ivey's house, where I'm staying for the week. Michael and Ivey have lived a wild life and continue to walk in youthful faith and obedience. Being around them is so refreshing because, though they have radically walked with God for a long time and have changed many lives, it is clear that their faith is simple. They have managed to avoid the red tape of religion. They managed to remember the point of it all and walk in that narrow vein. I could go on and on about them and Noah. We spent the evening out on the porch, talking with Ivey and the kids, and then when Michael got home, us guys just got to hang in the hot tub and talk. Michael shared the story of his father and his father's father. As you grow up, you begin to realize that each of us comes from a unique environment and situation. Some upbringings are seemingly easier or lighter than others, but not a single one without challenge. It is folly to ever compare. As you grow with God and understand His heart for your life, the issue begins to shift from "I can't believe this happened to me" to "with God, I don't have to repeat this cycle. There is a better way." It's the journey of freedom. I'm going write about the revelation I had in the hot tub about running in mud. But I think that will be a whole post in its own. I think when it comes to freedom in our relationships, the foundation needs to be a grace to release people from being your savior. The reason we grow to resent people is because they have failed to meet our expectations and standards, and we never reconciled the divide. Grace reconciles the divide and releases people from the crushing pressure of your astronomical expectations  of them. We expect people to be our perfect fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and friends. Let's release each other from that, and as that void is made by removing man from it, we begin to invited God, the father, in. 

I am having a wonderful time here so far. I feel God's presence with me and He is really close.  I am loving getting to watch these wonderful friends live a full life and walk with God in the ordinary steps of their every day. It is life-giving. Here are some pictures from the first day. I'll catch up with yall soon!

Spain day 1: Secret to conquering jet lag and don't eat food as soon as it hits the table

We out here. Made it to Spain. We are staying 3 days in Girona, about 60 miles out from Barcelona in Catalonia. It is beautiful here. The weather has been perfect and the sites as beautiful as you could imagine. We reach the city yesterday afternoon around 3pm, after three flights (one missed flight thanks to me!) and a train. We are 6 hours ahead of the times here, so my brain was urgently telling my body that it had pulled an all nighter to about 8 in the morning. We had been traveling for about 14 hours. 

So I think the secret to defeating the jet lag is to force yourself to stay awake until you can go to sleep and knock out until a normal time the next day. So we forced ourselves out of the air bnb and went for a little hike through the city to avoid laying down, and man was it amazing! We stumble upon Catedral De Girona and were able to just walk around all the ancient buildings surrounding the area. We climbed and climbed until we were able to find an amazing view atop what seemed to be an ancient fortress. Weather out is sunny and 70 degrees, sun falling over an ancient spanish city. Praise God! We find a nice little restaurant in town and finish up the day with some calamari, cheese, toast and white wine. We fight til around 6 and them it was time to hit the hay. 

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Hilarious way to wake up. Set no alarm, slept 14 hours to wake up fresh in the morning. I wake up to the sound my mom yelling my name from the street. I mean YELLING. Our air bnb is 2 floors up from the street, when people talk down there it sounds like they're at the foot of your bed.  "ANZHOOOOOOOOO" (that's how she says it with her accent). I'm still laughing about it. I jolt out of bed. "ANZHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOoooOO!!!" I open the door and step to the balcony. "ANZHOOOOOOOO AHHHH" hahahahaha. So I'm so disoriented I put on my jeans but forget my shirt, can't find my glasses. I run down to the street and meet her at the door. "I got locked out!" She tells me. So I let her in and boom, we're all up! Turns out she had the keys but just assumed they wouldn't work for some reason!!! hahaha. Anyways we start the day just strolling the streets checking out different shops. We get coffees and croissants for breakfast then hit up Girona Museum of Art. It was quaint, quiet and lovely. I particularly enjoyed the impressionist paintings they had of the town. After that we hit the museum we decide to get lunch. here's our touristy hiccup at lunch:

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The menu is in spanish with some loosy goose translation. We get an appetizer so my mom and I decide to order something translated to "Pumpkin Cream." Sounds sick and new. My sister gets an amazing looking bread dish with some veggies and fish on it. and when ours comes out in a big bowl with about 5 croutons and 5 pieces of what appears to be fancy bacon bits. I mean BITS. So my mom and I look at each other... Im thinking... "The heeeeehhhh is this..?" She thinking "Thee heeeeehhh is this?" So I assumed its some fancy food thing and assure my mom that it's the pumpkin "cream." I mean Europe right? I start eating my crumbs and start assuring her... " mmm Mom it's good it's supposed to be like this!" "Mom it's really good." In my head I'm thinking "this takes nothing like pumpkin" I get about half way through the croutons and the waitress comes fills the bowl with the soup that is supposed to go in there.... the pumpkin cream. She looks at me now like "The heeeehhh is this?" And then every is like "The heehhhhh!?" We are FOOLS hahah. Anyways lunch is amazing we have pumpkin cream garnished WITH croutons, bake Hake(fish) and a Pistacchio Mousse thing for desert. 

Now we're at the pad for Siesta! Taking a few hours to rest and we're going to go to a beer festival here in a little bit!

On Spain and crying at the mall of georgia

I am on the way to Spain! Donna's friend is getting hitched out there so Mom decided to take the crew! Mom, Donna and I have connected here in Boston for a few hours of airport prison (layover) and we will be taking off around 5:30 God willing! I am excited for this time with family and a chance to see another part of Europe. I have only heard good things about Barcelona, and I can't wait to be along for the ride. I am obtained a fanny pack for this outing and it has proved to be the MVP of everything thus far. I can get everything I need right from my tummy. Well not from IN my tummy but right next to it ya know. 

I am reading "Abbas Child" by Brennan Manning. This book is absolutely life-giving and has been shifting so much of my perspective. This book is Manning's exploration of God's love - the depth and power of a truly unconditional love from the father. I am just in the beginning but I am being really challenged in  my ability to receive the love of God. "Do we let God love us?" With that underlying challenge, Manning has gone on to identity the false self, the imposter, and how we tend to live out of this false identity. We cling to meaning and significance in the external, through praise, success and the approval of others, and so often overlook the most important voice of all - our father's. I am re-reading the chapter entitled "Beloved." It is so much simpler than we ever make it to be. Life. Finding joy. Experiencing peace. Finding God. Nothing we can earn, but only open ourselves up to receive. This is one of many beautiful lines from the book. This one seemed to paint the picture of all of life in a profound way

"The ordinary self is the extraordinary self - the inconspicuous nobody who shivers in the cold of winter and sweats in the heat of summer, who wakes up unreconciled to the new day, who sits before a stack of pancakes, weaves through traffic, bangs around in the basement, shops in the supermarket, pulls weeds and rakes up the leaves, makes love and snowballs, flies kites, and listens to the sound of rain on the roof."

Are we content with the ordinary self today? To live an extraordinary life, to me, is the live fully in the ordinary. To let God dwell in the every day, trusting that He will make it full and beautiful. There is truly no striving and no pressure to do anything other than just be and be well. To live in this peace releases us from judgment and the rigid grip we have on the world. Our surroundings cease to be a slave of our expectations. The world is filled with color again.

Yesterday I was walking through the mall, I was getting a couple things to prepare for our travels. And this whole thing just hit me. It was like a blanket fell on my life. I used to hate going to the mall, I judged it's materialism. But now, I was able to even feel like my trip there was just another normal yet extraordinary part of life. It sounds kinda whack to write... I mean it's just the mall. But for me it signified a radical shift in my heart as I began to live in the ordinary and be fully thankful for the mundane things around me. I think I judged the mall for being basic, wanting everyone in there to "be better" (including myself). But what a wild thing to live in and to even be aware of. As our awareness of our belonging increases, our awareness of the negative and the lack will decrease. As I am diving deep in to the love of the father, I find that I don't have room in my heart to judge or condemn situations, lifestyles or choices. To draw close to God means to be also filled with love. Regardless, I think I was walking by an auntie Anne's pretzel and began to kind of tear up because I felt Jesus walking in the mall with me. It's hard to explain but I felt like He was really for me in the moment, and also for every single person I saw. It was either his presence that moved me or the smell of the cinnamon pretzel bites... but I want to say it was Him. Anyways, they are calling for boarding as I am typing this. 6hr flight into Madrid now and then off to Barcelona. Thanks for reading! 

Take a step back, find mountains soon.

A photo of the empty womb (credit mixerman). Paused for a moment.

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It is Thursday of week 2. We have halted the recording for just a moment. Recording a record is difficult on everyone involved. It is the searching for deep things in you. It involves dreams, ego, pride and many visions and opinions. In my experience, I have found it to be a process that acts as a mirror to reflect what is going on within my own heart. If I am impatient, if I am prideful, if I am lazy, if I am willing to settle for something less than amazing - Recording an album will reveal it. The band is working quite fantastically and we have sprinted through the first 2 weeks. We have most of the skeleton of each song recorded and we are weeks ahead of schedule. 

We decided to take a night off Thursday and pray for the album. We prayed to be re-centered, to be filled again with love. It is easy to get lost in doing something and forget why you ever set out to do it in the first place. It's good to revisit your core values and revisit them often. The prayer was so powerful and I felt like God was able to lift some blinders for the band and remind all of us the point of making music. 

I always try to remind myself. The process to anything amazing will be filled with difficulty and pressure. That's the price of getting to the view, the hike. So I am not surprised in the slightest that we have run into this. It's just another opportunity to see God move boulders and to be lifted on his wings to victory. The record truly sounds amazing so far and will have such an impact on it's listeners.

This weekend I decided to go to the mountains. It was a beautiful day with friends new and old. It was one of the most special days ever, truly. We hiked Mount Yonah, experienced some local wine at Yonah Mountain Vineyards, ate some amazing Chinese food, watched football and even encouraged each other at the end of the day. We were together all day. I love days where you have no where next to go... Those days are good for the soul. 

Here's a picture from the top. We'll be back on this soon. 

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