Embrace Your(single)self

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I’m 22, an adventurous type who prefers spontaneity. I’m in College in my home-town where I’ve made a lot of friends from different groups and I love it. I’m surrounded by my peers becoming men and women as they pursue careers through college and for the first time since my first girlfriend in Middle School, I’m REALLY single. I don’t mean that as soon as one girl was gone, I had another lined up and I gave her the call. It’s actually been a few years since I’ve had a Facebook official girlfriend (because that’s a thing now). I mean the kind of single where I’m not even invested in a girl or focused on her.

I’m the kind of guy that needs someone in my life. I’m dependent on the relationship, the girl to always be there and talk to. Even when I wasn’t officially invested in someone, I had my sights centered on the ONE I wanted. If it wasn’t one, it was another. I wouldn’t have a girlfriend but I’d certainly have a girl I wished was my girlfriend. That changed. It changed because of a girl who was different. This isn’t a story about her but she played a beautiful part worth mentioning. We never dated, actually she was the courting type and we never did that either. We spent countless hours talking and becoming best friends until eventually I wanted to pursue her further and she did as well. For a little less than a year this process happened and in the end it didn’t work out but that’s fine. Here’s the key.

She wouldn’t kiss me.

She won’t kiss anyone except her husband actually. Alright dudes, throw up your red flags, I know this is such an important part of a relationship! No one wants to marry a terrible kisser! You start dating someone because you’re attracted to them and you want to find out if they’re the person you want to marry. Along the way you test out married things and some people even live together to see if it would work. Eventually, once you’ve settled in and you think you’ll be with that person forever, you ask them to marry you.
Right?
No that’s crap.

To tell you the truth, I was really excited when I found out she wouldn’t kiss me. I actually knew it all along but as it became more of a reality that we were interested in each other, this uncommon thing of hers grew on me. I loved it. Why? Because of the unbelievable freedom I had in this growing relationship between friends towards more. I had the ability to invest in her person, not her intimacy. I could talk to her without other things creeping into my mind. The fact is, I wasn’t willing to try and steal this gift for her husband, it just wasn’t an option. And we’re just talking about a kiss! How many of our relationships involve much more than that?

For the first time, I pursued a girl righteously, with intent, and I left proud of the way I conducted myself. The best part; she’s still my best friend. It wasn’t a perfect end, it was really hard honestly. But here I am, a much better man because of it and I left with a mark. I want that freedom in the next relationship I pursue and the only way I know how is to not do that one thing that inspired it all. Kiss. I know this is so counter-cultural but I’m no saint either when it comes to dating. I wasn’t happy with how things went when I dated to date, when I dated solely because I liked the person or was attracted to her. My views on dating have completely changed, my standards have raised and it has left me free from trying to impress every cute girl, free from dwelling on whether “it could work”. It’s much more serious than that! I only want to invest in someone worthwhile. I’m not playing the Stock Market anymore and instead, I’m investing in a Roth.

And now where does that leave me? Single. And happy. I suppose this is the point that I wanted to get to and we took a little trek to get here. See, I have such a different view on dating now. And I have a different approach to dating called courting. I feel incredible because like I mentioned earlier, I’m not with anyone and I’m not focused on anyone. It’s not intentional, I haven’t taken a vow of temporary (or permanent) celibacy. I’m certainly open to considering a girl as a potential wife but that’s my standard now. Future WIFE, not future fun. I don’t take that lightly. At the same time, I’m able to have fun and make new friends including girls without wondering what my plan is to get a girlfriend.

So last stop, here’s my proposition to guys and girls. If you’re in a relationship that you enjoy, awesome! Treat them with respect and be intentional! If you’re single like me, embrace it. It’s a rare opportunity to pursue dreams, make friends, find a hobby, do life as YOU. Make yourself happy, don’t make someone else do it for you. When you can be content with yourself, imagine the overflow of joy you’ll bring to a relationship when you’re intentional with him/her. When you’re REALLY single, you stop doing things to impress others. Make yourself proud! Don’t be lazy, do something! Be adventurous.

In a Letter from Paul to the Christians in Colossae-

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”

Complete yourself in Christ.

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One Thing Conference 2013!

I went to Kansas City with a few friends for the “One Thing” Conference held by the International House of Prayer (IHOP). I brought my camera expecting to snap some pictures but really enjoyed taking video at the conference. This was great practice because I plan to do short videos while I’m abroad this summer! Look forward to more!

Abandoning Kansas

If you want a grasp of how truly awesome this post will be, I recommend you read my last post from NINE months ago here titled “Time to Carry On”. In it, I explained my situation at the time, desperately wanting to play music and not knowing in which direction I was headed. I knew God had a future plan for me but I didn’t know how long it would be. turns out, it was nine months! And no, I am not about to be a new father..

AK- Midwest Summer Banner

Abandon Kansas is a touring band from Wichita, KS. The first time I saw them was in California, I don’t know how that worked out. They have been going at it for years now and are at the brink of major success. They have been through a lot as a band including many member changes but the most recent one is their drummer. With Brian stepping down, I will not be taking his place, but will be filling the drummer role for a few months.  The reason I say a few months is because beginning in April, I will be taking another opportunity to play music called No Longer Music (NLM) but I will get to that in a minute. So far, I’m incredibly blessed and excited that even this opportunity is happening. You can start to see God’s providence and timing already in my life when it comes to music. When the opportunity for AK first presented itself, I was all-in and then NLM came along and required some wrestling and decision making. With NLM starting in April, I thought I was faced with an ultimatum and had actually decided that if it came down to it, I would say no to Abandon Kansas to pursue it. Requirements for NLM would be from April-September and those are huge months for a band so if I wouldn’t be around, they might as well not waste their time in search of a drummer. Preparing to say no, I was told that Abandon Kansas wasn’t looking for someone to replace Brian just yet and they only wanted a fill-in drummer for shows from January-March. WOW. They don’t overlap. I can do both! So, starting in January, I will be filling in as a drummer for Abandon Kansas.

April 2 is the first day of rehearsals for No Longer Music.

No Longer Music is a tour through Europe playing music and using Theatre/Drama to illustrate the story of the gospel. If you know my story at all, this sounds very familiar. It’s not EXIT Tour but it’s very similar. No Longer Music is operated by Steiger International, a Missions Organization. Started by David Pierce in the 80’s in Amsterdam, NLM uses music to travel and tell people about Jesus and connect them with the local church. I am very excited about this opportunity to use music in a missions environment. This summer we have plans to travel to Germany, Poland, Ukraine, Lebanon, Turkey, Albania, Austria, Croatia, and Spain! Ministry aside, I can’t want to travel to new places and even revisit Poland. My Polish friends need to come see me! Years ago, when I was still in high school and trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, I thought I could never do both things I had a heart for; Music and Missions. When the opportunity for EXIT Tour through Josiah Venture came up, I thought it was one of a kind! Man, was I wrong. I am constantly meeting more people who are embracing the “musicianary” lifestyle and although it might not be a title to write on a resumé, it is exactly what I want to be. If in the process I also get to travel, call it a double-blessing!

I have been officially accepted for the role as drummer for No Longer Music and with it comes a great task and an awesome opportunity. Thousands have responded to the gospel through NLM and the ministry is being demanded more than it can supply. Consider this a missions trip for its’ primary purpose is to share Christ. It also means I need to raise support. Five months of touring, lodging, eating, and flying is a daunting reality when it comes to financing the operation but it will only cost me $2,000. Yes, two thousand dollars. For the whole thing. I’m not going to give you a fund-raising plug this time. The truth is, this is what I do and it has impacted thousands of people in the past and I can continue doing it. Youth want to know Jesus after I play these shows. That’s what I’m here for. If you share a heart for that, I am an outlet. If not, stick around and enjoy the stories! I will have plenty.

Follow Steiger on Vimeo to watch video summaries of each concert! Here is an example of one of the many shows I will play this Summer.

Time to carry on

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A lot had been going on in my mind lately which happens to be in stark contrast to what has been happening in my every day life. To get to the point, it’s all about music. I’ve made a lot of coffee in the last year and a half, but not a lot of music and it’s starting to slowly kill me, I swear. I’ve created such a hunger and deep appreciation for music, that it has become a love-hate kinda thing. Music REALLY moves me, it gets that burning coal, welling spring kind of feeling flaring up and if you don’t know what I mean, it’s probably comparable to starting and ending a relationship simultaneously. The indescribable joy overtaken by incredible loss. You know you’ll eventually make it through but for the moment, it’s a stormy sea of emotions, and you’re hardly a skilled sailor.

So why have I been making coffee for the last year and when the heck will I move to the Czech Republic already? Good question. Ask God, I haven’t gotten a clear answer yet but i’m trying to be patient. I’m also trying not to be stagnant in this season of no direction. Last year, I worked at Starbucks and from the day of my interview, I said I would be leaving in the fall to return to the Czech Republic and I actually did. Early 2012, I was planning on returning to the EXIT Tour to resume playing drums and make steps toward full-time ministry in that culture. As time went on, plans were changed, the EXIT Tour was put on hold but we still made plans for my trip, with a different priority. I attended a week long conference and spent the next week living with a former czech tour-mate Jena, and meeting with the right people to determine my future overseas. My time was fantastic, i had a blast thanks to Jena, and my trip was extended for three weeks so that I could help with the EXIT Tour in Slovakia. Most of this stuff has been mentioned in my previous update from a while back but here’s where we pick up where I left off.

I was contacted after I returned home, and it was decided the best course of action for the present situation was to hold off on inviting me to be a full-time missionary to the Czech Republic.

The door closed.

Where does that leave me? I’m a little confused but in a way excited about the opportunities I would have now that God was holding me back for an undetermined amount of time. I wanted to play music and now that I knew I wasn’t headed the direction of the missionary for the moment, this door seemed to open. Don’t get me wrong, this was tough. For three years, I was determined and willing to move my life to another country and in a moment, the road just vanished. I was frustrated, but the time came to carry on, to find new direction. This is my current state. I’m suspended in the air of “where to go from here?”. I’ve considered many possibilities, admittedly let some fleeting desires creep into my thoughts. What if I got a nice job, settled down in a nice house, made my life comfortable and still put much of my effort into supporting other missionaries who are able to go? There is NOTHING wrong with wanting to be a supporter rather than a goer.
My friend reminded me of this today by quoting John Piper. He said “There are only three kinds of Christians when it comes to World Missions: zealous goers, zealous senders, and disobedient.” The truth is, God has not given me the same overwhelming desire to send as he has to go in the past. I just want to be comfortable, but thats not acceptable. I am burdened to go. The question now is where?

Music is the platform, the gospel is the reason, “where” is the question.
Recently, i’ve contacted many people i’ve had the pleasure of knowing in the music industry to seek out a group looking for a drummer, and it just hasn’t worked for the moment. I still have complete confidence that eventually God will provide for me in that direction, but my battle is what to do NOW. How do I be a good steward of my time? I have plans to intern at my church this summer which I am incredibly excited about. I’m looking to buy my first car and come Summer’s end, I’m considering the idea of moving to a location more suitable for playing music. There are many things I would want to do if I stayed here and I still just might. The next step is a little too dark for comfort. Or maybe my eyes haven’t adjusted yet.

Thanks for reading, I truly appreciate those friends out there who have supported me, asked me so many questions and have just genuinely been interested. I’m on the brink of something bigger and I can’t wait to figure it out! I hope to at least make use of my website, even if I don’t have such exciting stories as I did when I created this. I’m receiving a keyboard for my iPad in the mail this weekend so that should help a lot. the one I’m current borrowing to write this update is the only reason I decided to do it.

Thanks again, follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

A letter from Prague (part 2 of 2)

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Now that you’ve had time to recover for a few days after my previous words, here is the rest of the tale to be told, although not written from Prague this time unfortunately.

I left off revealing my new job for the next three weeks, which would be part of the Czech Tech Crew responsible for the traveling tour equipment, enough to fill two cargo vans. We headed for Bardejov, Slovakia to the church we stayed in for the week and the band showed up late that night after flying in from London. We spent a couple days teaching the local youth volunteers their responsibilities and how to set things up. The band also had some time to rehearse with the new equipment and then after packing it back up we had the traditional prayer meeting with the churches that were involved in exit tour and the volunteers who would be there. This all was actually held in a church where Dizmas had performed acoustically in the past. The next day began the tour with the first school, waking up at the customary 5:30am to be out by 6 and completely set up and sound checked in a school gymnasium by 8. Volunteers are CRUCIAL and it’s so cool that the teens in the local churches are the ones we get to work with. We’re not only meeting new youth every day by the hundreds but we strive to build up the local church through it! Teaching them correct ways to wrap cables, to hook up monitors, set up a truss system, stages, speakers and subwoofers. By the end of the week, these youth volunteers are almost capable of setting it all up by themselves! That’s three tons of equipment in record speed, and there’s no breakfast until its done.

The schools in Bardejov were well-receiving to Exit Tour! The band with its dance/hip hop style and fun stage presence got the majority of all four schools moving around, having a good time. the morning session is used to introduce the school to the Exit Tour, some of the lecturers they’ll be seeing, and the band that they’ll have many opportunities throughout the week to meet. Over the course of the week, we met with students for “afternoon activities” playing futbol and card games, drinking tea and chatting and building relationships with those who came. At the end of the week, a free concert was held in a gymnasium in an accessible part of town for students, their friends, parents or grandparents could attend if they wished. (didn’t see an grandmas this time) The next day is a day of farewells and a couple last hours of fun with the students we met during the week. The after party is intentionally held at a local church that we worked with to see students in church that would have never crossed that threshold before.

255 students attended afternoon activities
500+ students attended the concert – 206 of which filled out a survey. 96% said they were interested in Jesus after hearing the gospel presentation during the concert!
130 students came to the after party at a church, most of which never attend church

These numbers are truly a work of God but the next number I want to share is absolutely culture shattering, mind blowing, and ultimately Christ exalting-ly incredible.

185 students responded to the gospel IN their classroom after hearing from one of the lecturers working with EXIT. Frankly, this doesn’t happen. I won’t be the judge of this number regarding whether or not it was sincere, that’s not our place. The truth is, these are students who after hearing the gospel and asked if they wanted to pray with the lecturer to know Jesus, said yes and followed through. It’s a very simple and child-like faith to accept Jesus. He doesn’t require a systematic theology or deeply convicted doctrine, all he requires is confession, belief, and acceptance. Confession of sins, we all have them. Belief in the Son of God as perfectly sacrificed and death conquering, He is the only way to the Father. Acceptance of the freely attainable gift of salvation, only by what Christ did are we to enter into union with God.

This is just a glimpse of ONE WEEK! I won’t go into details on the next week, but we moved to Poprad, Slovakia and did Exit Tour all over again with new churches, new volunteers, and new students. After the two weeks were over, we had to say goodbye to the people in Poprad but also Faith Child as they left to return to London. When it was all said and done, we returned to our homes and thanked God for what he had done in such a short time.

Since Poland had cancelled on their week of Exit Tour, I headed back to Ropice with Jena, spending a few days of recoup and review. For my last few days, I was sent off to Strakonice, Czech Republic to help a local JV missionary, Leah Cox with ministry there.

I sit here in Hutchinson, Kansas writing about these things that happened not so long ago across the world in a country not many people know about. The harvest is plenty, it’s all around us across the world and across the street. I’m back in my hometown working at a local coffee shop, building back into my church and searching for what God wants me to do in this time. I have developed an inner desire for education, one that I haven’t had until now. Pray for me as I figure out what I need to do, and that I will hold fast to it.

Thank you so much for reading about my life over the past couple of months and last few years for anyone that’s been keeping up. I wonder what next year will bring.

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A letter from Prague (part 1 of 2)

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To those whoso desire to learn of my travels abroad, herein is an account, not in full, but in part, as much as my memory allows me of my happenings.

That was a fun intro! I’ve read the first two Lord of the Rings books as well as the Hobbit since I’ve been here so you can tell where that came from. As well as these books, I’ve found time to read at least a dozen biographies written by Pastor John Piper about various influences in Christian history. On top of these, I’ve been keeping up with the Esther sermon series by Pastor Mark Driscoll so besides missions work, (which I’ll get to shortly) this trip has been nothing short of a learning experience.

Originally, as I told many people, this trip was supposed to be my fourth Exit Tour, the same thing I’ve done every fall for the last three years. Until the last month before my departure, I planned to be away for close to three months as I always have but things change, as they always have. The Exit Tour wasn’t in God’s sovereign plan, at least the one in the Czech Republic. I was asked if I would still like to come to Czech for the Josiah Venture Fall Conference and leave a little earlier but only be here for a couple weeks. Of course I said yes, I’ll gladly take any time over here so I booked the plans to be overseas for two weeks. I gave my two weeks at Starbucks and hopped on a train to the West Coast a week before my flight to spend time with friends and adoptive family in Fresno and LA. I met with my former band members of A Current Affair, now known as The Current, a few other friends and the Kenedys in Fresno before heading south to stay with my Mexican half known as Mario Gonzales. His wife Kim understands, don’t you Kim? While there, I was able to meet a few of my brothers from previous Exit Tours, including Mario, Jake, and Adam as well as some friends I’ve been able to meet in my limited time in SoCal. The day before my departure, Mario, Kim and myself headed even more South to Biola University to see our good friends Hannah and Ben, spending time in downtown Disney before dropping me off at LAX to spend the night as my flight left at 8am and we were two hours away from the Gonzales home.

Before I move on, a fun side story. I was actually dropped off at the wrong terminal (my fault). While waiting in line for this wrong terminal, I saw two guys who, after being in the music industry for a short but long enough time, I knew immediately to be in a band. I approached them and asked who they are to find out they’re the singer and drummer of The Afters. After a short conversation and farewell, I offered a handshake to the singer and to my dismay, one of his hands was carrying a bag, the other some papers. One of THOSE handshakes..politely he still returned the gesture, I got the paper-hand and a smile. As they walked away I couldn’t help but laugh and think “of course”.

On to my time abroad, I’ll skip the travels straight to the conference held at the Josiah Venture owned hotel in Malenovice, Czech Republic. One week of lessons and seminars with and by a couple hundred of Josiah Ventures missionaries from all over Eastern Europe! If you’re able to, search #jvfallconference in Instagram for 50 pictures of the event from various people involved. Amidst all of the lessons and fun to be had, we spent a day as a group going out to different cities in Czech, Slovakia, and Poland to share the gospel with whomever was willing to hear. Here’s one of the Instagram pictures showing the results when we returned!

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Try to cross cultures for a second. This is HUGE! This was one day of a church body simply evangelizing and in Eastern Europe, these numbers are absolute victory! Even if the 8 people who trusted Christ were removed, the gospel being shared to this magnitude is a breakthrough and that’s victory enough. But let’s not forget those 8 people whose eternity was changed simply from a stranger sharing the good news.

You’ve read this far, hang in there!
During the conference and the next week, arrangements were made for me to stay an extra three weeks to help with Exit Tour in Slovakia and Poland. Now that’s more like it! During this week off, I traveled with Jena, my host and also previous bass player for Exit Tour to Prague and was so happy to spend my 21st birthday at a classy little jazz bar on the river called the Jazz Dock. Staying with Jena’s family for the next few days in the city of Cheb, I attended a Czech/German wedding that I wasn’t so much invited to but was still welcomed! Somehow I ended up playing drums at the reception with the best amateur worship band I’ve heard in this part of the world. I wish they would believe it! After visiting the famous little natural spring town of Karlovy Vary, we returned East to prepare for Slovakia.

I was now part of the Czech tech crew, responsible for the safety, set up and tear-down of three tons of equipment used for Exit Tour.

Thus ends the first half of my tale. The second half is almost over, mostly accomplished already but to spare the reader of exhaustion, I choose to postpone the rest!
I’ll make the next update before I leave (in a few days) but until then, I would LOVE to receive questions or comments! Feel free to use the comments section or contact me personally via email – JreddACA@gmail.com or Facebook.

It has been a long time since I’ve been here, on this site. I guess when I moved to the daily grind of a regular job serving coffee, nothing seemed adventurous anymore. When people pay more for their coffee each month than my paycheck is worth, it brings me down to square one, the bottom rung. I’m not doing anything special at the moment, like traveling to the next festival to play music for fans or jumping from rooftops being chased by a helicopter. Last summer was the best summer of my life, hands down the most memorable times I’ve ever had and the people I shared it with are what made it so. I may not have been as vocal about it, but I truly appreciate those friends and family I had and still have; will have for eternity.

But moving away was my choice, I did this to myself so why does it seem like the best is behind me? I had what I once considered my dream occupation, playing drums, making music. I left it with a purpose and as humbled of a heart as I could to step away for better things. At a certain point, God abandoned his still, small voice and resorted to yanking my heart from my chest trying to tell me His plans are so much better. I could excuse myself all I wanted saying “This is good for you God, I’m doing something good for your name” but WHO AM I? to say that. I AM. not much more than a speck of dust that God chooses to use. that’s it.

I chose this because there is a better use for me somewhere else called the Czech Republic.
Shortly after I left my band and music, I was able to return to Czech for the third time, and so happy to do so. When I left A Current Affair, I wasn’t expecting to go on the upcoming fall trip but God closes and opens doors to His will, and that’s exactly what He did to make it happen. This time around, I am pressing onward to the goal in which Christ has given me, and right now that means making lots of coffee. In a little over two months, that means returning to Czech to do work once again with my cross-culture generation.

My departure flight was from Los Angeles, my return to Wichita, Kansas. I have been so blessed to live in a gigantic house with seven other dudes that I call best friends two blocks away from my church, no lease, and cheap rent while working a great job at Starbucks doing something I’m passionate about. I’ve been blessed to borrow a very nice road bike to commute with so I don’t have to buy a car, gas and insurance and I can put that money towards better things. Plus I stay fit, and have taken up cycling as a new hobby that I can see myself doing until two wheels turn into four and a bike seat turns into a wheelchair. I’ve been blessed by a home church that loves and supports me and my mission. Needless to say, well it’s needless.

Now begins the 4th edition of my Exit story, #Exit2012

I am so excited to say that I am returning again to Eastern Europe this Fall to extend the work God has already done through me and my fellow Exit tourists, now including some people I’ve yet to meet! The mission is growing, but always needing. Needing people to go, people to give, people to pray. What we do is a collective global effort of Christ followers, family supporters and prayer warriors to bring Christ to the graceless, a light to the darkness. I want you to be a part of this with me if you are reading and willing. I want to share this wonderful opportunity with you as it progresses. Pray for me, hard! These next two months are going to be hectic and stressful but awesome. And when I finally get there, the hard work begins! Pray for Exit as we search for mission-minded musicians willing to live and work temporarily overseas and raise money to do it! It’s narrow criteria but What God wills, he provides for and I’ve seen it. I’ve been it. Pray for Josiah Venture. As their ministry grows, the light brightens. Pray for us and if God calls you to give, give! Give until it hurts the pockets and warms the soul. Let’s make a difference and call a generation of teens to follow Christ and be an example to their schoolmates. Let’s empower the next world changers.

 

P.S. – A Current Affair now goes by “The Current” and just released their new 5 song EP titled “New Colors”! Go give it a listen and support them in their new and growing ministry through music. I have been truly honored and blessed to call these my friends.  click below to be taken to The Current’s iTunes page.