To be clear: this post has almost nothing to do with politics and everything to do with something far more important IMO.

Yesterday, someone on Facebook shared a meme that stated, "I don't lock my doors because I hate the people outside my house, I lock my doors because I love the people inside my house."

My heart cracked a bit. The way I see it, this isn't about what keeps us safe here in the US - we have enough trouble keeping us safe from our fellow Americans. From what I've read, this refugee crisis has been an ongoing horrific tragedy for nearly 6 years now. I think until having a massive executive order/ban draw our attention to it, this crisis has been so consistently trickling in the news that we've almost become desensitized to knowing it exists. I say this because I became one of the desensitized. However, this past weekend has rendered me nearly incapable of doing my day to day activities without feeling dirty doing them. I don't even know if "dirty" is the correct word, but I am aware that at the same moment I am eating a hot meal in the safety of our home watching Stranger Things on Netflix, there is a family that may never know what that's like. Not because they couldn't afford a TV or stove top, but because they were never even given a chance in the first place. While I sit in my studio and begin the mixing phases of a song, I've found myself losing attention and instead considering what it would be like to pack up only what Morgan and I would need to (hopefully) survive and just start running. Where? I don't even know. 

I think the bigger thing here is that the majority of public eyes are now seeing and feeling the gravity of millions of people running for their lives to a closing door that promises freedom. I think the Syrian Refugee Crisis has perked a lot of our ears; the images and news stories cracking millions of hearts regardless of political party allegiance. Because herein lies a rub that cannot be denied or justified by a ban. The Syrian War has been going on since 2011, and just as we look at the Holocaust shaking our heads and feeling our stomachs turn, we must start seeing this for something bigger than our "safety" here in the US. And because there is more political back-and-forth on social media than I have ever witnessed, I will (try to) leave my political stances and the thoughts of a narcissistic billionaire tyrant dividing and running our country into the ground unspoken. Instead, laying a foundational intention for this blog with a quote I read today: 

 

"Love is a harsh and dreadful thing to ask of us, but it is the only answer."  - Dorothy Day

 

I'm starting to realize the reality this speaks to. The aforementioned Facebook status about locking our doors to keep what's inside safe gives this quote a sad and justifying truth to it. The human tendency is to protect what is ours. But then that begs the question, what is truly ours? Now, permit me to air a little on the side of Christian for the sake of values taught to me on this journey. Firstly, I am convinced we were not put on this earth to gather and protect what is ours; that much I am certain of and at the same moment 100% guilty of as well. Time and time again in the Bible we are taught to love our neighbor, give to the poor; that the last should be put first, blessed are the poor in spirit...if you want to make it to paradise give away everything you own and follow me...and the list goes on. The recurring theme in each of these passages is to see the brokenness and give wholly of oneself to it. When the very foundation of the new church, Jesus Christ, was asked which are the greatest commandments, and he responded, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself," it was intended to go beyond the fences we've put up between us and the Petersen's next door.

And this is why the current crisis is less about keeping certain people out of this country, and more about the call to our culture to counteract the injustices happening all around us. The intention of this post is barely political, and almost entirely in the interest of human lives. I know there are many out there who truly believe this executive order is going to make the US a safer country; and all stats and viewpoints aside this could be true. But if in doing so we prioritize our comfort and safety above and disregard the least of these (the millions and millions homeless) running for their lives in a war torn country; then I have to believe we are missing the point of the very commandment we seek to uphold. **And just to put this fire out before it starts, I am painfully aware and am in no way excluding the poverty, homelessness, sickness, sex trafficking, crime, hunger, inequality, and many other forms of injustice within the borders of this country -- rather, I'm trying to illuminate the source of what I believe to be a growing epidemic. 

The truth is, we are far and above the wealthiest country in the world and at the same time we hold the highest rates of depression, loneliness, and suicide. Shane Claiborne says in his book Irresistible Revolution, "We are the richest and most miserable people in the world." If money really doesn't buy us happiness, or at the very least, sustain it, then what can we do? This is the question I've found myself asking over and over again through the weekend. 

I WANT TO HELP, BUT WHAT CAN I EVEN DO?

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The answer that kept resonating in my head is that I need to give. More. But that was the extent of it, which left me with more questions. Any of you who know me well, know that for years I have been rolling in more debt than money...so what does it mean to give then? I went to church at Elevation's new campus here in Winston-Salem yesterday, and the message spoke to this question and provided me with day's worth of contemplative action plans. The central takeaway I received was that our Creator is not concerned with what we hope to do; rather, hopes we use what we already have now.

When pastor Steven Furtick spoke, "The pain of falling short is nothing compared to the shame of stopping short" I heard, "Do what you can right now with what you have."

So with the big dreams I house, I'll need to start small. Using music as a way to cultivate community, I hope to bring those who support my endeavor closer, and together we can start to support others outside ourselves. Give by giving, knowing that big numbers and big change are an accumulation of the many smaller. 

Please stay tuned, I've been digging into organizations and ways to team up so we can begin making a difference through this shared platform from our own neighborhoods to developing countries we've never set foot in. I will be starting to do live Facebook concerts and song giveaways as well. This entity is called COMPANYON for a reason; together we can find ways to help the least of these.

 

 

 

 

 

So I auditioned for The Voice...

This past weekend I trucked it to Nashville to fulfill a promise I had made a few months back; to both myself and to my dad. The idea behind the commitment was multifaceted as most are, but seeing as Nashville is only a short 6 hour drive (6 hours is short when you've driven to North Carolina twice in 6 months), I couldn't pass it up. I was going to audition for The Voice. At first, I felt as though I was succumbing to the majority; as I have always thought the show to be a bit staged. And of course soon after the idea perked my ears I had begun doing much research and found that most winners on the show have gone on to being bound by a really awful record deal. Lastly, I still remember Dave Grohl give a speech at an award show a few years back about how no judge sitting in a chair should ever be able to tell you how good you are or whether you're worthy of a record deal. He said good was defined by the passion and hours of sucking until you transitioned into it. Enduring was necessary, and though I feel I've endured quite a bit on this journey, it was hard not to think I was giving in and attempting a short-cut. 

Of course, this is assuming I'd even make it past the initial audition. I had prepped a lot despite getting married, honeymooning to the Dominican Republic, doing four Christmases, and spending New Years in Nashville with good friends. But as I headed toward the audition city I thought about the songs I had chosen to sing and how I actively created hours of space each day to warm-up my voice, and rehearse these 6 songs. I thought about the advice a new friend I made in Winston-Salem gave me about the process, as he had made it all the way to being casted for the show. I thought about the other side of the audition; daydreaming of performing on the Live show, building an audience, and the things I'd do with that kind of platform.

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I arrived two hours prior to the time I was to sing nakedly in front of a producer from the show and nine other strangers. I say nakedly because rarely do I sing without my hands being on a piano, guitar or microphone. This was not such an occasion for hand occupancy and A Cappella was the route. I moved into the room and prepared to sing, obsessively humming the same 3 notes over and over again in my head. If I started too high, there was no saving that performance. Too low would be a safer route, but probably not as impression-making. Though I had prepped for months I was given 45 seconds to sing: roughly a verse and chorus. They called my name second and I walked up to the green line much like stepping into a batter's box. In an instant I was rolling into Hallelujah, and though there's no way to confirm, I am about 99.98% positive I landed in the right key. It was probably the best I had sung it to be honest; at least it felt that way. My high school football coaches used to say before the games and at halftime, "Leave it all on the field!" -- it felt as though I had accomplished that much.

I finished and she said thank you. Then told me I could take a seat. The last in our group to go was an elderly gentleman by the name of Daren. I would peg him somewhere around the age of 70 or so. Daren wore suspenders, had a hearing aid, and bore a hat with "Jesus Loves Me" in bold colors across the uneven velcro strap. He no more stepped up to the designated green line when he began to speak, "yes, ma'am my name is Daren. And I'm going to sing you an original song. I composed it myself after I got saved by Jesus Christ. And, well, I love to sing so here it is."

I specifically remember reading in all capital letters on their audition page NO ORIGINAL SONGS, at any point in the tryout process. Obviously Daren had not gotten the memo and the producer just nodded with a smile. I truly do wish I remembered it; however, with absolutely no offense to Daren, it reminded me a bit like that moment in Elf at the Christmas store where Buddy proves to Jovie that ANYONE can sing. If you haven't seen the movie, then I'm sorry, but plan accordingly next Christmas. I know I was smiling at the courage Daren had shown paired with the lack of awareness or care if it was against the rules or not. He had come to sing because, well, he loved to sing.

None of us were given callback cards, and it would suffice to say that I was feeling a little defeated for obvious reasons. I mean, the hours of practice, the daydreams I entertained, and the sheer number of Facebook friends and family that responded to my posting that I was giving it a shot overwhelmed me all at once. A good friend texted me and said, "you've got a lot of people rooting you on." I wanted to come back with good news for him but my hands felt rather empty. And as I was leaving the room, over my shoulder, I caught Daren breaking yet another rule as he approached the producer's chair while being told "Sir, you are NOT supposed to pass that green line to talk with the producer." I heard him say, "Well I just want to know what she thought of my song!"

My first takeaway post-audition was to embody Daren-like determination this year despite losing this round.

While I felt like a failure, it beckoned the question: what about this process was actually failure? Truth is, despite not getting chosen to come back, my worth was not about to be decided by a young lady who had been sitting in a chair listening to hundreds of people sing for the last 9 hours. Obviously I had high hopes going in, and coming out, I still do. All too often on this musical journey I have resorted to wallowing in the wake of No's. Where words of affirmation do wonders for my ego, rejection has torn it to shreds all the same. My point in typing this whole thing up is to uncover a bit more about me, which I hope you might find yourself connecting to: 

-Every time I fail, the odds for success go up.

-There is much to be learned when I don't succeed. In fact, the greatest gains I've experienced happen here.

Practicing nearly every day for a month and a half has me feeling more confident about my voice than I ever have; I mastered more cover songs in this short time than I have in all the years I've been singing, and you best believe writing hasn't slowed one bit. Though I didn't make it on to The Voice this time around, I see it as one more puzzle piece locked into place in this big-ass mystery of faith; one more stepping stone on the path from birth to death. I have not the slightest what Daren's path was, but in the brief minutes of his life I witnessed I could tell you that he auditioned because he could, sang because he wanted to, and he did so with reckless abandonment (breaking a few rules along the way). 

 

Perhaps choosing a vocation for the right reasons is a good step - not because I want to but because I get to. Not for me; but for you.

 

Bryan

 

I wrote this to connect with you by talking about me to prod at us.

Starting something new is always scary. In fact unpacking all the anxiety that comes with it can lead to a clustered room no matter where you're standing. Alas, if you never try you'll never know.

But embracing that cliché isn't easy either. Regardless of how long it might take, that first step does feel pretty good. The only step I can confidently say I've taken without even an ounce of hesitation or second guessing was getting married this past December. If I could only model all of my decisions around that one. Sure, it was a leap -- and most of those who talk of love and marriage will say it is just that: a risk/chance. After all, we can only be so educated in our decisions; so precise in our steps. I can't tell you how it will end up or even how the marriage will unfold, but I can promise you that each day I will show up to create, grow, change, and love her because I am lucky enough to do so. Again, if only I applied this to every aspect of my life so confidently. 

 

 photo taken by Dan Thorson of  Dan Thorson Photography

photo taken by Dan Thorson of Dan Thorson Photography

Because I haven't been the best at doing so, I made some resolutions. While some of my New Year's resolutions were new altogether, there were recycled ones in need of some more love this year as well. Coming in a close second place: a two-way tie/contradiction. On the one hand: MOVE -- start releasing music I've been hanging on to for years, shoot more videos, be more present on social media, cultivate a community of friends and fans whose support may one day lead to sustainability as an artist. On the other hand: SLOW DOWN. Stop sizing up other artists, quit chasing sustainability like it's the promise land, the latest sounds like they'll get me there, the latest social media antics so I can stay relevant. Instead, create art because I love it and see what that does. Create for the simple fact that the creativity was placed in my brain and on my hands in the first place. 

Therefore, my top resolution puts both of the above to rest: simply have more faith. More faith in myself. More faith in the God that created and continues to create with and through me. More faith that those around me telling me I am enough means exactly that. 

By the way, I've put something into practice that has really helped with the aforementioned. Every time I catch jealousy as it claws at my heart and mind, every time I hear of another's success and feel it clog my creative synapses like plaque to an artery; I tell myself one simple truth:

Their path is not my path.

Meditating on this has proven to be tremendously effective since I implemented it. I am certain this year will be a year of growth; hopefully for me but assuredly for a large number around me. And I would do well to see their growth and achievements as a good thing and not twist it to be debilitating; as the latter has not one time proven helpful.

So here's to a new year, and to tons of growth for us all; may we celebrate in each other's victories, and build one another up in the wake of failures. Those failures suck, but at least we are trying. And trying can lead to success; if nothing else, learning.

 

ps. if you made it to this point, I suppose it is appropriate to inform you that this is my website and if you click on the LISTEN tab at the top there are two unreleased songs for you. 

Bryan