Below are writings from SoulFest artists and speakers whom we asked to share their thoughts on this year's festival theme, True Love is Everywhere.
Essays can be found in the festival program, available on-site.
Dan Russell [SoulFest Founder]
It's year number fourteen, number eight here at the beautiful Gunstock Mountain Resort. Some of you have been attending SoulFest since 1997, year one. Some of you are returning and some of you are here for the first time. We want you all to know that you are welcome here and that we are very excited that you are joining this Revival, this uniquely wonderful blend of risk taking, soul-connected, water-walking and True Love Believers.
We sincerely believe that whether you are aware of this or not, you have arrived here on your sacred adventure, for more than just the great music, the fellowship and the inspiration. We have great expectations that you will experience something profound, something so powerful, that you'll look back on this SoulFest experience years from now, as a pivotal point in your life. As an audience, we have a few requests of you, but one of the most important requests is that you expand your expectations as to why you are here to include something you were not expecting, something that will transform your life, this very weekend.
SoulFest, a name that was coined from The Inside Out Soul Festival, exists to inspire all who attend to grow in their understanding of God's love, so that our capacity to reflect God's love to everyone, everywhere, can increase. Each year there is a festival theme, one that we hope and believe is a trigger point for change in your life. A few years ago, we put a large rugged cross up in the Revival Stage arena, not to reinforce any cliché, but to invite us all; attendees, artists, speakers, staff, to consider whether or not we actually believe that in dying on the cross, Jesus actually paid the price for each and every sin, for everyone's sin, for all time. He covered the debt our nature creates. He set us free. Through this horrific act we are forgiven. The question is, why then do we hide some of our failures, live as though sin is greater than forgiveness, that there are additional conditions? What do you believe? Do you live and believe your debt is paid and your salvation is contingent, not on your capacity to stop sinning, "falling short of the glory of God," but on God's unconditional love which was made clear though Jesus on the cross and right on through to His resurrection.
We still invite you to come to the cross, to tap one of those nails, symbolic for a specific sin or sin in general, onto the cross, and then reach up and put your fingers back on the nail and decide whether or not you will leave it there. Try to be honest, because if you are going to truly take what happened on the cross at face value, your capacity to love yourself, love your neighbors, live the revolution Jesus started, increases, and you become unstuck. You are no longer governed by sin, guilt and fear, you are transformed, made new and the Good News flows through your life and actions in ways you could not otherwise predict or imagine.
Another year, the SoulFest Pledge emerged. We asked everyone who entered the festival, artist, attendee, staff alike, to read the pledge and sign it. The belief is that living from the inside out as a soul-connected believer in God's love will transform us. Thousands have taken this pledge and not just once. The SoulFest True Love Pledge has been printed on the back cover of the festival program ever since.
Then the SoulFest True Love Pledge walls were built and erected just inside the main entrance where you are greeted and given an opportunity to reflect your heart on a small piece of heart-shaped paper. The act of writing a few words, your expectation, your hope, your worry, your experience, and tacking it on the wall as you enter, seems to lay the ground work for something powerful to happen. By Saturday, the SoulFest Pledge Walls are completely covered with hopes and prayers written on hearts. Not only do we ask you to write and post one each day, but please spend some time reading what others have written. This whole process of writing, posting, reading, can ignite your loving heart.
The True Love exchange showed up a few years back, inspired by the simple idea and mutually beneficial process of expressing a practical need in writing, putting your cell phone # on the request and allowing God to supply your need as someone else reads your request, dials your number and you both begin to figure out how the spare dishwasher, washing machine, laptop, car, etc... is going to get into your life. Friends are made and we experience a fundamental truth that if we each truly trust that God loves us and will look after us, our capacity to share increases. By the way, on the other side of the True Love Exchange Wall, you'll find postings with phone numbers saying things like, I've got a spare bed, a sofa, set of tools, a guitar, frequent flyer miles, I'm a plumber and can volunteer some time, etc.... It's really a healing experience to confess your needs as well as loosen your grip on your possessions, because you believe that God will not forsake you or abandon you.
The Dollar Nightly Offering takes place each night at the Revival stage. We are asking everyone to put One dollar in the buckets to support the charity of that night. If you can afford more, fantastic, but if each person donates just 1 dollar, 4 charities will be helped significantly. One dollar a day, $4.00 for the entire festival and the 4 primary charities will receive essential fuel to reach more people with the Good News through their efforts to fight human trafficking, connect more orphans with families through adoptions, provide clean water and provide essential and vital support for women, young mothers who have been rescued from abduction by the LRA. Thank you for taking this to heart, and for your action.
True Love is everywhere is the SoulFest 2011 theme.
This theme addresses chronic fear and anxiety both of which inhibit our ability to experience what we've been called to experience. Fear and anxiety block, mute, diminish, and dilute our abilities to live the revolution Jesus started. While it seems life is constantly riddled with bad news, stories of horrific happenings, predictions of tough times, suicide as an epidemic among teenagers, kids dying from drug overdoses, families giving up on each other, house foreclosures, unemployment, oil spills, floods, wars, disease and depression is at an all time high. Its hard to see evidence of Love winning out in our lives, in our communities, in this world. At SoulFest this year, we're asking that if you simply believe God is omnipresent and if you believe God is Love, then God's Love, True Love, is everywhere. We need to believe that True Love will prevail if we are to grow further in our faith. Fear and anxiety will consume us and hinder our capacity to experience love, love ourselves, those we live with, our neighbors, and prevent us from being engaged in helping those in need. We're asking everyone to take a close look at whether or not you believe True Love is everywhere. If you do, then you can live with great confidence that nothing will separate you from True Love and True Love will ultimately prevail.
Please review the festival program. Not only does it contain the daily schedule of events, and information about the charities we are highlighting, you'll also find some testimonies and essays from artists, authors and staff who are transparently writing about how they have experienced True Love, how they became victims of God's love, how this love transformed them and continues to daily transform them.
One of the key ingredients to the SoulFest experience is the annual Walk for Water produced by the Blood Water Mission. This vital one-hour walk takes place on Saturday at 11 AM. It's only a one mile walk of solidarity, but it will likely change your life. The walk gives us a visceral understanding of what thousands of people, mostly women and children, do daily. If they don't walk for their water, they will die. Risking their lives and many times, collecting polluted water, they have no choice unless we provide them with a deep water community well. In the past we've just taken an offering and the SoulFest attendees have funded wells. A few years ago, we learned of a few other organizations doing Water Walks and felt it was important to establish and annual Walk for Water at SoulFest. This walk takes only an hour. We will provide you with an empty bucket and directions to where the water is. If you can contribute a donation towards this year's well, thank you, if not, please walk just the same, collect the water and carry it back to the starting point. This will trigger a release of understanding that's essential to living as Jesus has told us to.
You get the picture. If you're reading this program, you're likely somewhere within the festival grounds. Maybe you are sitting at the Gate Way Cafe or on the Mountain side waiting for Chris Tomlin. You'll catch a glimpse here in this program that there's so much more to experience here at SoulFest. Don't miss the Mountain top rare unplugged music performances in a panoramic breathingtaking setting, the candlelight experience at the Revival stage, the Soul University conversations and workshops, five different music performance stages, meeting some of the festival focus charities and discover where your sacred journey might be headed next. (The ministries include: Not For Sale, Show Hope, Child Voice International, Blood Water Mission, Gospel For Asia, the Amirah House and several others.) Gunstock has expanded their activities to include New England's longest Zip line. SoulFest will be fun, the music will be great, the fellowship like none other. We request that you allow yourself to grow further in your understanding of God's love.
Aaron Gillespie [The Almost]
We are seriously right in the middle of the trendiest time I'm sure any of us can remember. Life seems to orbit around Facebook, Twitter and the never-ending urge to capture the latest "trend". If you are a songwriter, you are dying to write a "hook". If you are in the fashion business you are dying to get to "the next thing" first. I hate to say this but even in ministry I fear that half the time we feel if we are "up on the trend," people will actually come to our gatherings more often, frequent our churches more often. While I think it is awesome and necessary to do whatever we can to bring and point people toward Christ, have we begun to make ministry, social justice and all the trappings that come with it a trend?
The problem with trends are that they are temporary, fleeting, shallow and hollow. They are not concrete, they are not never-ending, they are not freeing.
I'm sick of trends, I want to make Jesus famous, I want to bring hope to people, yes spiritually, yes tangibly. We are called to give to people, to provide for their needs (Matthew 25:31-46). If we believe that the gospel is truly good news, if we believe that His love and mercy are everywhere we will be public about it whether it is "cool" or "trendy" or not. We will offer help, and peace, and the love of Christ no matter what.
Have we made social justice a trend? Cause if we have we have lost. The hope and help in the name of Christ is not a trend. It is total reality. It is the beginning of all things. Let's forget the trend, let's offer the hand and hope of Christ no matter what anyone else is doing. He is everything. Let us give Him out.
Andrew Schwab [Project 86]
A conversation took place inside of me not long ago, where I heard a nearly audible voice inside my head asking me, “If you truly believe in my Love, why do you hold back?”
I knew what the voice was referring to. I had been living a safe Christian existence for many years. I was doing what I was "supposed" to be doing. I was attending church and sponsoring a World Vision child. I gave a few dollars to the homeless guy on the side of the freeway every now and then. Our family donated old clothes to the Salvation Army. Like a to-do list with a check
mark, I was giving back. But I had gotten comfortable in a spiritual state that was without much risk, content in a life that rarely brushed with real poverty or third-world desperation.
I knew I was being called to do so much more with the platform, resources, and gifts God had given me. Specifically, I felt like I could be doing more for those who had no access to computer screens, smart phones, rock shows or even the means to provide a simple meal for themselves. And whether this meant getting involved in helping those in my immediate community or those in a far-off land, I knew I needed to up the ante in my life in terms of charitable action. I knew I was being called to a more active participation in the world around me.
So where to begin?
Then, the Haiti earthquake happened. When I saw the images of absolute destruction and hopelessness in that country I knew this was an obvious opportunity where I could do something to help. I did some research, and found a charitable organization that specialized in drilling fresh water wells. I partnered with a friend in designing a t-shirt we could sell through Project 86 in order to raise funds to drill a well in Haiti. I was amazed to see how many people purchased the shirt and became part of the campaign. Even more amazing was that a few months later I got an email with GPS coordinates of the well in Haiti when it was completed...
Soon after this, a friend came to me with another opportunity. He told me about a city in Africa called Nazaret, where prostitution is rampant, where young women are pressured by economics and social strata to sell their bodies in order to be able to eat. And he told me that there was a chance to do something about it. There was an opportunity to help set up a shelter in the city that would house these women and be a safe harbor where they could build relationships and be taught viable trade skills that would provide income apart from selling themselves. To get involved we began building a team of people who basically committed their change every month to fund the staff and materials for the shelter. We have already heard some inspiring success stories of women who have become empowered to radically change their entire communities through developing and teaching new trades.
For me, this was a starting point and has already evolved into a different way of life. And I began seeing love in a new light.
I realized if God is Love, and God Is everywhere, then...
My life must be more than just a series of performances.
Christianity must be more than a social club, clique, or emotional high.
My life must be more than words in a blog or a song.
Christianity must be more than just slogans on t-shirts, spiritual catch-phrases, or suburban megachurches.
If God is Love, and God is everywhere, then...
I must be a living defiance of stereotype.
I must not only worship with my tongue, with a gesture, or with a presentation.
I must be a demonstration of justice, socially.
I must not succumb to the gravity of the curse that lives inside my skin.
If God is Love, and God is everywhere, then...
And for the sake of Love we must do what we can with the gifts, resources, and voices we have been given to help the needy, the widowed, the homeless, the downtrodden, our neighbors, wherever we can, at home and abroad.
We must be the transactors of love, everywhere, every moment, every waking breath, so as to bring a voice to the voiceless.
Arwyn Jackson [Director of Operations, Amirah House]
”Christian action is above all a secondary reaction to the primary action of God toward man.”
~Hans Urs von Balthazar
In 2007, I decided to leave my career path in politics and join the ranks of modern day abolitionists fighting modern day slavery. Four years later, through the numerous unexpected twists and turns characteristic of journeys of God’s design, I find myself navigating the fluctuating and unpredictable waters of the non-profit world to open a refuge of whole person care for those rescued from human trafficking in the Boston area.
Why? Love. Justice.
Humanity has struggled with the idea of human rights and social justice since the beginning of time. Plato discussed them. The Magna Charta addressed them. John Locke wrote about them. The Bill of Rights defines them for American society. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “recognition of the inherent dignity, of the equal and inalienable rights, of all members of the human family, is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” Agreed, but there’s more to it…
Justice begins with God’s Love and His view of His creation. He created each of us for a distinct and unique purpose best expressed through perfect community with Him. Yet we are not in community with God, we are enslaved. We exist as slaves to the results of the Fall of Man. We are slaves to fears and lies that we were not originally created to endure and cannot escape from on our own. These fears and lies blind us to the true nature and beauty of God and of others. Our blinders cause us to self-protect and isolate ourselves; we are left with a warped view of ourselves and of others. Although we may try, we don’t look at others and see the intricate handiwork of the heart of God, instead we unjustly see competition for attention, for control and for purpose. Without God’s intervention, judgmental thoughts would allow members of the Body and Bride of Christ to self-destruct.
But God’s response comes as extravagant love. He sees our weaknesses, anger and judgmentalism, and offers Himself. He promised reconciliation and redemption in His covenant with Abraham and fulfilled all calls for justice through His own sacrifice on the cross. He humbly walks with us, constantly inviting us to know ourselves by fully knowing Him and seeing all of creation through His heart. He invites us to Love. That is Justice.
Human rights and social justice become summed up by loving as Jesus loves. We are offered the freedom to see each and every human being as He does and respond as He responds. We bear with one another in His love and vision because that is the basis of our value and the value of all those around us. We answer the call of Psalm 146 and Isaiah 61 to care for the afflicted and oppressed, because we ARE the afflicted and oppressed. And God sees fit not to leave us there.
Brian ‘Head’ Welch
I remember the day like it was yesterday. I was sitting on my couch with a twelve pack of beer getting ready to watch an episode of South Park. Oh, but this wasn't any ole episode. I was actually going to be IN the cartoon. At the time, my band Korn had a brand new single ready for release from our newest album, and we worked out a deal with the South Park camp to world premiere our song at the end of the episode we were in. I was on cloud nine! I remember sitting there drinking beer feeling especially lucky. Our album release date was only days after the South Park episode and it was guaranteed to enter number one on the billboard album charts. On top of that, Korn's management called me earlier that same day and told me they had closed a deal for our band that would put around 3 million dollars in
my bank account after taxes. I felt like I was on top of the world, but there were other things in my life that weren't going as well. I wanted my wife to join my party and celebrate the South Park episode with me, but she was hell bent on starting a fight that night as usual. I screamed at her at the top of my lungs, "My band is number one in the country and you and I just became multi millionaires! What is your problem? This is what life is all about!"
I'm so glad God loves idiots like me.
After a few years of bloody fights with my wife, divorce, and a horrible drug addiction, I found myself in complete agony, waving my flag of surrender. But just as I was at my lowest point in life, God's love entered into my soul. That was precisely when everything in my life changed. It happened one night while I was at home thumbing through a bible, high on drugs. The Hand of divine love reached in from eternity and touched my heart. It was so real and there are no words to describe the intense love of Jesus I felt being poured into my soul. I didn't deserve it, and I felt so incredibly thankful for being rescued. Soon after that experience, I walked away from millions of dollars and fame to raise my daughter and give my entire life to Jesus.
I was given such a deep understanding of God's love and forgiveness after my dramatic change, but I would be lying if I told you I've never had doubts since then.
I have invested every single part of myself into this calling God has given me, but it hasn't exactly been financially successful. I've lost a lot along the way. Since becoming a Christian, I've lost my best friends, millions of dollars, two record companies, a recording studio, guitars, my house, my Rolex, diamond earrings, my BMW, and many other things. I wasn't exactly wise when I made some of the decisions back then, but I did invest believing God would come through for me. It hurt me deeply when things turned out the way they did. To be honest, I really felt betrayed by God, but today I am extremely thankful for going through those difficulties. In fact, I asked for them. I had asked God for more faith, so He gave my money wings and it all flew away. He was teaching me to learn to trust in Him. Isn't that what's printed on our money anyway?
"In God we trust?"
As of today, I am still battling with the effects of some of those financial trials, but I can definitely see the light at the end of the tunnel. I am on my way out! Even though my future looks very bright, I refuse to take on the mindset that everything is going to end up perfect in this life. I know I'm called to be in this messy fight with Jesus! Perfection is what Heaven is for.
I really feel the main craving of God's heart is that we would surrender everything in our lives so He can conform us into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). He does this through mountains and valleys, blessings and pain, and yes, Heaven and hell. He uses the evil that comes against us to strengthen our faith, and all of this is done out of His overwhelming love for us. He loves us too much to leave us as a beaten up, weak church. That's not what Jesus died for. It gets me really excited to know that the enemy of my soul is only being used as a tool to make me more like Christ. I actually need the enemy to help build my faith!
Today, I can truly say my doubts about God's love are totally gone. I don't always understand His ways, but I am confident in His great love for me. I now take pleasure in knowing that I am suffering with Christ when I go through trials. I truly feel the deepest form of intimacy with God is suffering with Christ. The suffering on the cross showed us how much Jesus loves us and going through our sufferings without complaining, shows Jesus how much we love Him. It's a bummer that so many of us in the church don't want to accept sharing in Christ's afflictions. Every time we fail to embrace our sufferings we are really missing out on a true treasure people - the treasure of intimacy with Jesus and the treasure of carrying His power to the world:
"Each time He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me." 2 Corinthians 12:9
And Christ's power has worked powerfully through me as well. I have seen many thousands come to Jesus through my testimony, and that my friend, is my real paycheck. Nothing compares to seeing lives transformed right before your eyes.
Allow me to sum it all up with this: I am extremely confident in God's love for me now. I am happy to receive everything that He feels is best for me. Whether it be blessings or pain. Because every single thing God gives is given out of His extreme love for me.
Dale Kuehne, Ph.D. [Professor, Saint Anselm College]
My name is Dale Kuehne and I am an adrenaline addict.
I’ve learned the hard way that adrenaline is as addictive as cocaine. My body wants a fix today and will every day for the rest of my life. My therapist tells me that if I want my life to be long, I have to resist the overpowering urge to give in. There is no “cure” for this addiction. But I’ve lately discovered there is a path that brings healing. The path called love. I’m not sure I have the courage to walk that path. It scares me. Deeply.
Why? It is not a solitary path. You cannot walk this path alone. This admission may strike you as beyond odd. “Who in their right mind would want to walk alone, if healing is available?” Who indeed. The problem is my mind is not right. My soul is not right. My body is not right. My body doesn’t want healing. It wants a fix. My mind tells me healing is not possible. My heart, however, speaking to me in a still, small voice, is telling me to take the path. Why am I so afraid to obey my heart? I’m afraid of confronting the overwhelming pain and shame caused by childhood trauma. My trauma occurred at the time I was unable to understand its personal impact and what to do with the pain.
Trauma is personally overwhelming, because we are not designed to handle trauma by ourselves. I didn’t know that. So, I did what any morally upstanding rugged individualist would do; I self-medicated with the social acceptable drug called adrenaline. There are many trauma treatments. I opted for adrenaline. The high that accompanies an adrenaline rush drowned my pain. My adrenaline rush comes when I am involved in high achievement. I started this treatment in my teen years and never stopped. Achievement dictated every aspect of my life, including relationships. I viewed all my relationships as tasks. For me relational achievement meant being REALLY nice to the other. It never occurred to me that being nice is something I can do, but love is something only “we” can do. So rather than take time to slow down and be in love with my family and friends, I poured myself into achievement in order to generate the ever-increasing amount of adrenaline needed to numb the pain. I lived for decades in a sleep-deprived, relationally deprived, and physically unhealthy way as though the laws of physics didn’t apply to me. Last year physics took over and I crashed. In order to save my life, I had to slow down and deny myself adrenaline. My addiction is so acute that I can’t do this by myself. Fortunately I have a team of people that won’t let me go back.
Today I feel better, I’m told I look better, but I still crave adrenaline. Recently, however, I discovered a path of deep healing I never knew existed. Now I see it and I am scared. Of what? Love. Until now I thought love was a task. I thought love was a command to carry out. It turns out that love is not a task, but a state of being, and it is a command that can only be fulfilled with others. Love is a state of being that we can only enjoy in relationship with other people and God. Love is not something “I do,” but something that only dwells in relationship. What so horrifying about that? The gateway to the path says that in order to walk it, I have to love myself. Why? Love is an activity involving our entire being, and unless I am willing to love myself enough to give others the gift of myself (as opposed to my achievements), I cannot love. By myself I can only counterfeit love. What is so hard about loving myself?
I haven’t loved myself since the trauma. The trauma defiled me. It became me. I’ve been trying to escape from me ever since. Yet I can neither escape myself nor heal myself. When it comes to the wounds of trauma, we cannot heal ourselves. Only love heals such a wound, and love is only found in healthy relationships. Relating calls us to a gradual opening of our mind, heart and soul to the other and ourselves. Love can only heal us if we allow love, through others, to access the wounds within us. I am 52 years old and I now see that humans are made for relationship. We are made for love. So here I stand at the crossroad of love. To take this path I only have to love myself enough to take the first step. My family and friends have their hands and hearts open to me, I just need to love myself enough to step into their arms and allow them to carry me down the path. The path has always been there, but now I see it. Will I live what I believe? That I am made in the image of God and loved by God and therefore I can love myself?
My name is Dale Kuehne and I am an adrenaline addict. I stand at a crossroad and wonder which path I will take. Adrenaline or love? Love rescue me.
Nickey Mullen [MA, LMHC, RCST, Health & Education services]
Our National Epidemic of Teen Depression and Suicide: Nurturing the Hearts of our Youth to Love and Live
Teens ages 15-24 years old are at high risk in our culture for depression and suicide. Factors (to name a few) include depression, low self esteem and ability to perform, pressure from a demanding culture, emerging mental health issues, isolation, bullying, parental verbal, physical abuse or divorce in the home, exposure to risky behaviors in peers, and substance use. These challenges for our young have risen dramatically recently.
For a complete picture, it is important to understand the 1st highest cause of death in teens is accidental, the second is homicide and the third is suicide. We understand from MRI brain studies adolescence spans until around 25 years old, when the logical thinking section of the brain more fully develops and connects to more impulsive centers. Dangers of impulsivity through risky behaviors strongly influence how safely youth make the transition into maturity. We adults are the guardians of their passages, with the help of God, our faith, morality and ethics. It is no one else's job but ours to take on.
The good news is -- Our faith in God, our love, and our commitment to battle these statistics. This is our strongest ally. We all need to wake up to and take action against these frightening statistics. There is no silver bullet. Medication, for example, has been found to run the risk of increasing the suicide rate for some teens. The primary antidote is to wake up, and pay attention. We need to discover the dangerous thoughts and feelings by hearing our teens cries for help before they become lethal and it is too late.
Here are the painful statistics. From research from the National Institute for Mental Health, suicide occurs as the 3rd leading cause of death among youth ages 15-24. Furthermore, 8 of the 10 youths ask for help before acting this out, and 1 in 12 youth have attempted suicide. I work as a therapist and also as a First Responder Grief Counselor called to action when a tragedy strikes in our local communities. I visit schools, funeral homes, community centers, hospitals-wherever we are called to help. More and more, we are called to assist after youth drug overdoses and suicides, which can shock an entire community into collective grief. Often, you discover the youth who took his/her life was perceived to be an integral and active part of the community. Depression frequently goes undiscovered. I wonder how we all miss the cues. It is easy to feel guilty for this, however, it is all too common for these thoughts to go undetected and stay private until, sadly, suicide seems the only result.
When the call comes to help, there is always an initial moment in my heart where I ask God for help to be present with myself and the unknown people and circumstances I'm asked to witness and sit with. What's next is unpredictable, and painful. It is never easy. An individual loss deeply affects the entire community. One loss reverbates outward to the entire group and stirs each person to their core. It is a call for their hearts to awaken and love amidst tragedy. In fact, LOVE IS the essence of the call. To remember to love in the depths of loss and pain is the spiritual awakening.
We transform these dark moments by offering each other our heart strength. When one of us is hurting it is not WHAT WE KNOW but HOW WE FEEL that heals. Our heart holds ancient wisdom and connects to Gods beat. Gods beat is the force of vibration at the center of all heartbeats ever guiding us. We are stronger united than isolated. Our hearts shut down when we feel we can no longer bear the feelings passing through. Counseling offers a space for the heart to reboot and reconnect after such painful events take over. Why and how have we culturally come to this painful crossroad where adolescence into young adulthood is such a big challenge that our kids see their lives as optional and jeopardize their health and vitality giving up when they seemingly "have it all" and resources, opportunity at their fingertips. Why is this issue growing? Could it be that our kids are forced to grow up too quickly without the expected cognitive capacity for impossible cultural expectations?
This generation of youth has to navigate so much complexity. We push them hard. We frequently discover in retrospect our kids were suffering. They masquerade it well-until they hit the edges that sometimes they can't or don't come back from.
This is the generation of information technology. Our youth grew up with computers as the center of their world. There is currently a new conversation about identifying "Nature Deficit Disorder" in kids who are too connected to machines at the expense of nature. We also talk about "Facebook Depression" resulting from the issues kids face with bullying, exclusion, or humiliation resulting from Facebook relationship experiences.
This is also the generation of prescription pills. The variety and array of Rx choices are staggering. We frequently now use medications to help control behaviors in our youth that perhaps would be more tolerated as "quirky' in years past. Perhaps our fast paced modern media-filled culture is wearing us down, which we then need to be medicated against in order to survive in!
Certainly our medical treatments have saved lives. This is not a black and white situation. I have seen the miracle of a properly medicated person turn their life around. However medication is not a silver bullet for isolation, depression, bullying, or self loathing...potentially resulting in ending a life. Unfortunately, kids use pills in all forms from all places, including family medicine cabinets, to get high, to blur the lines, to space out. Innocent prescriptions become letal tools.
Slow, steady, relational, heart-centered contexts for being present for our young adults work best. Relationships with God, and use of resources in our communities are integral to find our balance and center. Let's be role models worth modeling. Let's not be afraid to speak up and out when we are worried about our kids mental health. Let's find resources. It takes spiritual strength and courage. Pray. Share our faith and love of life. In this, adults start to hand teens the reigns. Let's sit quietly and presently and listen to hear our youth. We don't want to lose our youth, they are the greatest gifts we have. Let's bring them to the light of their day, and for many days to come, let them live and love in the light.
Steven Curtis Chapman [Show Hope]
Love isn’t safe. We’ve all heard the saying, “Be careful what you ask for.” Well I’ve learned to be careful of what I sing in my songs. I have written about going on a great adventure, taking the leap of faith and diving in, waking the neighbors and living out loud; and it’s almost overwhelming to think about how God has taken me at my word and led our family on an incredible adventure—the adventure of adoption—not once but three times.
It wasn’t until our second adoption that I began to really understand what God was doing with my family. I walked into church one day, convinced that one adoption was enough and that we were not going to adopt another child. During that service, our good friends, who have four biological children and five children who were adopted, were brought up on stage for the dedication of a child with special needs they had just adopted.
What happened next was almost as if God lifted my chin, and as clearly as I’ve ever heard Him, He said to my spirit, “I’ve heard you pray that you really want to know Me, experience Me, and love Me. There it is; that’s my heart you see on that stage. That’s your story; that’s my story. There in front of you is a picture of the Kingdom of Heaven.”
The Father’s Call
We know God has a huge heart for orphans. In Psalm 68, He calls Himself the Father to the Fatherless who delights in setting the lonely in families, and through out Scripture He asks us to care for the orphans. But we also know God loves orphans because God loves us. For while we were still hopeless orphans, God showed us His great love by adopting us into His family (Ephesians 1:5), and giving us the “Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father’” (Romans 8:15). As John Piper says, “Adoption is the visible gospel.”
What I saw that day in church was this family that had taken in these children and with whom Mary Beth and I have walked through some of the darkest parts of adoption. We’ve gone with them into treatment centers and have shed many tears together. They knew exactly what they were getting into by adopting again, but still, here they were, saying, “This is what God has called us to do. We know it’s messy, uncomfortable, and will turn our lives upside down, but this is God’s heart.”
I realized that God was showing me that He was going to keep pouring out His love for orphans, and He was looking for hearts to pour his love into, for people who really want to do what He is doing. He didn’t say, “Caring for orphans is your duty, and if you don’t do this, I’m going to be disappointed.” Instead, it’s as if, as a Dad, God put His arm around me and said, “You don’t have to do this, but I’m inviting you in, because I want you to know Me. If you really want to see Me show up, I want to take you on another adventure.” God was saying, “I’m going to glorify My name by pouring out My love for these children, and I want to invite you to be a part of that.”
Reviving Our Hearts
The Lord is our Good Shepherd, so we do not need to worry about our path as long as we are willing to follow Him for His name’s sake. What does it look like to step out into the things that honor God? We know that faith is at the center, because “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). So we look to the very definition of faith found in Hebrews 11:1, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.”
In other words… Faith is hope shown! God calls His children to “show hope” and reveal the authenticity of their faith through obedient and loving actions to a needy world. Didn’t Jesus Himself show that to us by the way He lived?
So if we are to “show hope,” we must first ask ourselves what are those things for which we hope: the hope of glory, the hope of redemption, the hope of the weak becoming strong, the poor becoming rich, of joy replacing tears, the hope of a heavenly home…
How are we to show those truths to the world?
• Show hope of your heavenly inheritance: give your money to the poor
• Show hope of the marriage supper of the lamb: feed the hungry
• Show hope of forgiveness in Christ: forgive your enemies
• Show hope of God’s justice: seek justice for the oppressed
• Show hope of God’s mercy: be merciful to others
• Show hope of your heavenly citizenship: welcome a foreigner
• Show hope of freedom from captivity: visit those in prison
• Show hope of the resurrection of our risen bridegroom: bring joy to widows
• Show hope of your heavenly adoption: adopt a child.
God comes to us as a Father, full of love. We are not His children because of what we’ve done or because of any merit of our own. He predestined us to be adopted into His family, “According to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise and glory of His grace” (Ephesians 1:5-6a). How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!
As we recognize God’s love for us, we simply say, “I want to respond to Your love, what can I do?” And I believe God says, “Let me recreate that love in your heart.” There are millions of waiting orphans around the world, and they represent innumerable opportunities for God to show up and reveal His glory when we, His church, reflect His love by caring for them. And that’s the invitation from God, “Come and know me. In faith step out of your safety and comfort, and I will make myself known through you, members of my body, the church, as you love orphans and show hope to them in their distress.”
Trevor McNevan [Thousand Foot Krutch]
True love is everywhere.
It sounds like such a hopeful, yet impossible statement...but it's true.
In my life, I've definitely walked the plank of indecision at times, and sat at a table with doubt, but through my journey thus far, I can say without hesitation, I believe. The truth, the one true love, that's never changing, and without fail, and will never leave me or forsake me. God called me to music at a very young age, and by "called" I mean, that intense passion and focus of pursuit, the not needing to know why, or understand how, that consumed me early on. I was moved by everything about music, the way it captured me in a single lyric or took me to another place without going anywhere, and much more than that, the way it communicated to everyone...in different ways. It was much bigger than me, and that's how I felt about God. I've had to trust God to heal hundreds of allergies I had when I was younger, which would have never allowed me to travel, and he did, every last one of them. I've trusted him for gas money to get to the next show, on to many larger things along the way as new steps were taken. He has always been faithful. I can't say the same for myself, but that will always be a work in progress. I've always believed, that when you break it all down to the most basic structure, God's called us to love one another. He didn't ask us to separate ourselves by religion and culture, and economy, he asked us to love each other. Plain and simple...yet sometimes so hard to do. Life is a constant learning experience for all of us, a moving train, stopping at destinations we choose, and some we don't, but in the end, intended to be that simple. Just love...like you have no time left...and not just your family, your neighbors, co-workers, fellow students, your baristas, bank tellers...everyone you meet. It sounds exhausting! But if you ask God to help you love like He loves, and see people through His eyes, you'll start not having to try...and you will see a difference... A BIG ONE.
SoulFest had the opportunity to touch base with the guys from Third Day in their tour bus and asked the guys how the reality of God’s love was impacting them. Mac Powell’s immediate response was “Man, I don’t know! I just wanna rock!” but when he paused for thought, his more serious reply immediately struck a chord with the rest of the guys in the band: “Our perception of a Father’s love changes when we change from simply being sons to being father’s ourselves. When our kids express their love for us with hugs and words and kisses.” It’s a theme that Tai Anderson quickly warms to: “Absolutely! When our kids go off to school it’s not as if we love them any
less but they might not be as aware of our love when they are away from us. We might not feel God’s love as much as we could simply because we don’t spend enough time in his presence.” As if on cue, David Carr adds “Trust in anyone grows as intimacy with that person grows over time. It’s the same with God,” and then Mark Lee finishes the sentence by noting that “over time God’s faithful promises are proven true”.
Tai and David are anxious to address why it is we might not always live as if God’s love is everywhere. David shares honestly that “I guess we all have struggles. Am I connected with God? Does God really live in me? Doubt is a real part of faith and we shouldn’t pretend otherwise.” Tai continues the theme by suggesting struggle and doubt might arise from a mindset that believes “God’s love was present in the life of Jesus, is present in a future in heaven, but we might forget that God’s love is present in our lives here and now”.
Mac offers that some believers might have the misguided idea that being a Christian means an end to all our problems; “God’s love isn’t an antidote to suffering, pain, and struggles, but it will help us get through these difficulties.” Mark is nodding his head in agreement, and reflects that “the awesomeness of God’s love helps give us a big-picture faith, but more often we forget to invite God’s love into our day to day lives and the challenges we face. Sometimes we just need to go back to that simple truth of childhood faith that ‘Jesus loves me’”.
The conversation shifts, and with a concert stage beckoning them very soon, the guys in Third Day ponder for a moment the ways in which they can be more aware of God’s love more constantly and consistently.
David kicks off with another honest statement when he reveals that “fear became a big part of how I operated, especially when looking to future provision, but looking back I’m able to see that God has always taken care of my needs and I’m learning to believe that he will continue to do so! Any doubts and fears that I might have had-such as ‘Do I really believe the price has been paid for my sin?’ or ‘Does God’s grace have a limit?’ are gradually receding as I receive more and more of the Lord’s unconditional love.” Mac reminds the rest of the guys of what he calls the 3 witnesses; “We can experience the love of God and his guidance through the Holy Spirit especially when we pray, through scripture if we allow God to speak to us through it, and from God’s people-the church.”
The guys have heard Mac say this before, but nevertheless offer agreement, and Tai is prompted to add “You know we can find God’s love in a lot of places and circumstances, but too often cynicism and arrogance can get in the way. If I were offering a suggestion to someone feeling distanced from the love of God I’d tell them to meditate alone, or with another believer, on God’s love and even to have conversations about the love of God. Focus on the cross, share each others’ stories of God’s love and your perspective on the sacrifice of Jesus…. in fact just what we are doing right now.”
“That’s good” says Mac, “it’s about building up a greater faith and allowing God to overcome our lack of faith.” The guys pause to pray for the night’s concert, to thank God for his extravagant love shown through Jesus, and to ask that this perfect love will cast out all fear, then they are out of the tour bus and on to another show...