A letter

Stronger than before

In 2018, Entering Spring on April 6, 2018 at 10:48 am


I was eight, maybe nine. Yep, just as you imagine: stringy blonde hair with my “just don’t care” look. The one you know so well. The concert was at the new sanctuary. I don’t remember anything until I remember what I remember. And that part is branded in my heart forever. And it feels illuminated— almost like I’m still there if I close my eyes long enough. I didn’t know then how that evening would shape me. I didn’t know the seeds it would sow deep into the bedrock of my soul. I don’t know if you even remember it. But I sure do. She was all the kinds of crazy I felt inside. Inch-short, spiked hair. Fierce, passionate, bold. I distinctly remember feeling the bass in my chest. The ground shaking. I remember exactly where I was standing in the room. And then she began, and like a wrecking ball these words came, again and again: “they’ll be stronger than before.”

I was eight, remember? Stronger than before. Great! Why would I need to be stronger? For what purpose? What would make me stronger? I feel great now. Stronger for what? And Why? Now at thirty-four, I know all too well what those words meant. And the reason they branded me was for that very reason. She was stronger than before. Before life. Before things you never want. Because of things you never want to face. Because of hardship. Because of tears. Because of winter. Because of things you never dream you’d walk through. Because of pain. Because of life. And, on the other side you are stronger. But no one signs up for the “stuff” in life. No one welcomes it with wide open arms, or goes looking for it. It just comes.

I remember being at a conference a few years later. I think I was 11. I’m sure you remember it. A grandfather spoke. Well, he may have been my dad’s age now, but then he was definitely “older” to me. His message was about pain and ministry. I don’t remember his exact phraseology, but I remember what I came away with–a sinking feeling that God could never use me because I didn’t really have much to show for in regards to “stuff. ” In regards to suffering. In regards to pain. Not everyone can say that at eleven, but I could. And I desperately wanted God to use me. I remember me and Al having a serious talk with Dad that night, and him reassuring us, in his ever-so-gentle way, that God would certainly use us. We didn’t really know what he meant at the time, but I sure do now. He was so confident that pain would come, though he wouldn’t wish it for us in all the world. Almost everything was roses for us then. I wish I could say that it stayed that way, but dad was right: God would use us, and life was sure to come, full of heart-searing pain.

Janny marked me. Her words haunted me for years and years. Something about her raw passion. Something about her journey. Something about her hot-love for God.

In 2014, when I was compiling my album and choosing which of my songs I wanted to include, I kept coming back to that song. I wanted to sing her song. I had this ache to sing it. I now understood what she meant. And, as powerful as it was then at eight, it was grippingly real to me in a new way. It was a tribute to her, a woman I never had a chance to meet, but one I will one day on the other side. But more than anything, it was a testimony. A truth. Still resounding years later. That we will be stronger than before. He see’s us through, always. I hope you’ll listen to my recording. And, I hope you’ll listen to hers too. But more than anything, I hope you’ll be encouraged that seasons do change, and we do come out stronger on the other side. And rest assured, that even when we feel we can’t hang on, His grip on us never changes.






In Bloomfield, Year 3 on November 12, 2017 at 12:14 am

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Today is November 11th. Or, 11/11. That might not be significant to many people, but as you know, it is about as significant a number as any number ever will be for us. Of all the times it’s been significant, this yearor I should say a year ago today— it marked something that changed our lives forever.

Funny to think it was just like any other day in our life: crazy, chaotic. Big surprise. Me at our school co-op, David at his early morning men’s group. And then a simple question at the end of a conversation that would send us on this insane journey. “I just don’t understand why you don’t have your own church.” Little did David know these words would haunt him and spark our dream back to life. That dream we didn’t really think about anymore. That one we had almost forgotten about. But the one that God had not forgotten at all.

I’ll never forget David’s phone call that day—where I was, the smell of the building, me trying to walk Goldie to sleep in the hallnone of it. It’s branded in my mind forever. I just knew that after three years of almost bleeding out in this crazy land of NYC, that the spark we felt was not natural, it didn’t make sense, but was undeniably God.

Those next four days are also days that I will never forget. The string of mind-blowing confirmations and happenings were almost eerie. You can’t make this stuff up.

After that conversation, we were spinning. We couldn’t think or be productive, so David came home early from work and we headed upstate. Our usual: drive, talk, dream, plan. Earlier in the day I had sent David a screen shot of an opening show at a friend’s gallery I wanted to attend. In one of our many conversations that day I asked if he had seen my text. Upon looking at it again, he realized that across the photo I sent were the numbers 11:11. Goosebumps, chills.

You remember back in Wally, that 11:11 was our number? It was the birthplace of “The Rising.” It was God’s intent, His bringing things that seemed dead back to life. It was John 11:11. It was who Jesus is—was in that season of life for us. It was a number we saw everywhere, a constant reminder of what He was doing and what He could do. And then we moved, started law school and didn’t see or hear anything for what felt like a lifetime.

Fast forward five years later. It’s 11:11 and God is speaking again, reminding us that our dream was not dead, but sleeping, and He’s bringing it back to life.

We were almost ready to head out on our drive that day, and I realized I forgot something for Goldie. As I was upstairs, Leon piped up from the back seat. “Hey, dad, do you ever wonder if you’re supposed to do anything else big with your life?” “Like what, buddy?” “I don’t know, something else big? Do you ever wonder if you’re supposed to be a pastor again?”

I’m not sure anything could have spoken louder to us. David wondered if I had said something to the boys. Was God actually already confirming to us what he had sparked earlier that day through our own 7-year-old son? Without a doubt. I had not said a word in ear-shot of the boys. Heaven was shouting, loudly. We were listening.

A bit later in our drive, David turned to me and said, “Babe, today is eleven-eleven. It’s November 11th. Again, goosebumps—chills. God was writing it in the sky for us. Obviously. That day our lives changed forever. He’s writing such an incredible story. One laced with miracles. One so much bigger than anything we could think up on our own. One more life-giving than anything we could imagine. One more fun than we could ever dream up. It is unfolding daily. I know I’ve told you bits and pieces along the way. And someday soon I’ll tell you the rest of story. But for now I had to tell you one thing— DREAM. Dream. You should allow Him to dust off the pages of things forgotten. Dream again. Because I know this: His best is yet to come. And it’s beyond our wildest imaginations.

Love you,


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Dreams and scarecrows.

In Bloomfield, New York Summer, Uncategorized, Year 3 on August 15, 2017 at 5:39 pm


Three years, friend. Three years ago, today. Three years ago today that we sat at the Taco Box in the East Village and began our hunt for housing. Three crazy, wonderful years. Three years of the highest highs, and the most brutal lows. Three years of dreaming. Three years of blood, sweat and tears. Three years of living the dream. And, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

I will never forget the feeling I had that day. Elated and sick. I think I felt sick to my stomach for the entire week. I kept saying to myself, “We are here, our stuff is here, our kids are here, we’ve moved here.” I remember that feeling of “no return.” Not that I wanted to, but sort of. At the same time, there was nowhere else I wanted to be, and nowhere else I wanted to live. There was one thing we were sure of that day, and that one thing was NYC. Since that day, there is another thing we are sure ofscarecrows.

Scarecrows exist because there is treasure in the field. They exist because there is something of value there. Something they don’t want you to get. Something they don’t want you to find. Something they want to keep secret. They want you to leave and go elsewhere. They want you to move on. And, as we both know, NYC has been full of scarecrows for us.

It’s been full of ugly, mean, taunting scarecrows. Ones that have tried to convince us the field is empty. Ones that have tried to to tell us it’s a barren land. Ones that have tried to tell us we’d starve if we built a home here. Ones that have told us we’d only find fool’s gold here.

But, we are learning. We’re learning they tell lies. We’re learning where the biggest scarecrows are, is actually where we are supposed to be. We are learning that they are spineless, weak facades. We are learning they are lifeless, legless, breathless props. We are realizing the sight of them should actually cheer us onencourage us to walk bolder. They should remind us that gold is yet to be found—that bounty lies there. They should give us courage to stay. They should spur us on to dig deeper, to invite friends along, and to be tenacious. They should make us laugh, because we’ve called their bluff. They should make us dance because we’ve missed their trap. They should make us sing, because they can’t. They should encourage us to add pages to the dream, rooms to the house, buildings to the neighborhood. They should press us to write the dream. To speak it. To make it biggerso big that others must come with you. They should tell us to reach farther. Scarecrows should scare us into the very land they are staked in—where the treasure is hidden, waiting for us.

I think I’ll dream a little more. You should too.


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