Less Things

Hey, my friends-- In response to the questions I've received about my choice of minimalism, the team & I have decided to release a single-- a piece from my heart that was written a while ago, but is not on any album. There's much to say about living a life with less things-- but the choice of minimalism means something different to everyone, & no one's journey is the same. Certainly, it's not "How to Own 50 Things or Less" or how loving your prized possessions is wrong. On the contrary, I know minimalists who own nice cars and have great homes-- but they don't have anything in their lives without intention and purpose. I know individuals who chose minimalism so they'd have the freedom to travel, and families with children who chose a lifestyle of less so that their kids grew up with more experiences than items, and so their home could house many guests. Again, everyone is different. It's not a check list. Or a cult. It's more of an outlook-- a decision to be rid of clutter, so we don't miss out on the important, beautiful things in life. It's a choice-- to not let consumerism, or the world's idea of status define how you live your life, make your purchases, or how you define yourself. I could talk about minimalism in clothes, social media dependency, nostalgic collectables, how we should only own what we love, etc., but the heart of my personal choice is this: I want to make room for an extraordinary life. I want to be intentional with the time I've been given. Let's not be so distracted by stuff, status, or the pursuit to always be buying the latest & greatest-- otherwise, our lives may pass us by, and we never had the chance to truly live it.

Hope you enjoy, "Less Things."

Download "Less Things" for free here.


Less things

More experiences

Less things

More joy in the world around us

Less things

More indulging in communities surrounding us

Less things

In hope to be free, and deliberately live lives of purpose

 

We can get so distracted

This culture of consumerism has conned us

Into letting materials and status define us

Piles of purchases have persistently persuaded us

That they will somehow fulfill us

But this pit is practically bottomless

If it were truly fulfilling we wouldn't keep having

To fill it

And all of our energy, all our time is wasted

On things that don’t add any value

And subtract from what's really important

 

But there must be more to living

Than competing to be impressive

 

If we

Emptied ourselves of our materialism

All that extra space

All that extra time

How would we fill it?

 

Less things

More conversations

Chances are high

That the world's greatest riches

Are in the lives

Of the people right next to us

Less things

More passions

The art of hobbies and daring dreams cannot be dead to us

Complacency and laziness

Cannot hold a flame to minds motivated by purpose

Less things

More investments

Into leaving legacies

That out-live trends

Into relationships

That can't be purchased

And that inspire others to live beyond them

 

For though we

Have become

A culture of hoarders

I want to propose this

That we start hoarding experiences

That we can't get enough

Of exploring new expeditions

That we become community gluttons

Obsessed with

Knowing

Loving

And sharing life with everyone

 

Minimalism

In the end

Is not about owning less

It's about loving what we have more

 

And finding joy

In the things that grow you

The things that make you know you

Living the life you want to

 

Having less things

Is really

About having a life of more

 

I've chosen

To live my life a little more empty

So experiences, stories, and communities of people are what fill me

 

Less things

More intentions

 

Because in the end

Life is brilliant

And we don't want to miss it

MAPS: Finding God's Perfect Place to Be

(This blog speaks on the piece, "Maps," available to watch below.) 


I wrote “Maps” on my knees, crying before the Lord, in the middle of my first “tour” as a solo artist.

I hesitate in calling it a tour because that sounds way more extravagant than it actually was. It was Summer of 2011—earlier that year I had turned down stable jobs, left relationships that meant a great deal to me, and was throwing a wrench into my life's plans as I packed up my bags and crossed state lines in pursuit of preaching the Gospel through spoken word. What was this girl thinking? Who knew. I had close to no idea what I was doing or what it would turn into. I lived out of a suitcase—literally. I had no place to call home. I was going from booking to booking, city to city, state to state, just barely making ends meet. “Tour” seems to imply that it was a temporary journey, an expedition to various places that would eventually come to an end. That is not what this was. I had burnt all my bridges. I had nowhere else to go. I was far more of a starving, nomadic missionary than a touring artist. I had bookings for the next few weeks, with no idea if I was going to keep getting jobs for the rest of the year or if I was going to be homeless. I so badly wanted to go where God wanted me to go, to be where He desired me to be. But all alone, in a new city and state, in the guest room of a pastor’s family that I didn’t know, whose church had hired me for the weekend, I thought, “Am I in the right place? Where am I supposed to be?

I am not alone.

We’ve all been there. Juniors in high school and college, desperate to pick the perfect school or pick the right job. Singles in their mid-twenties, longing to find “the one.” Anyone & everyone thinking of switching careers or relocating a family. We’ve all been at this place, a place of internal desperation & seeking, or quite literally on our knees, begging God to reveal to us His cosmic preferences.

For me, it was here, on my knees on the side of a bed, in my early 20’s, hoping that I was in the exact physical location God wanted me to be.

Turns out, there is far less in the Bible on God being specific in His preferred destinations & plans for us, and far more of an emphasis on where He wants our hearts to be. He doesn’t talk so much about the precise “will” He wants us to follow through with, but instead talks abundantly about the “way” He wants us to do things in the first place— the way He wants us to think and treat people, the way He wants us to surrender and be faithful. He never seems to care about anything more than people knowing and loving Him, and loving His people. He doesn’t seem to care too much about the things we so adamantly obsess over.

The verse I reference in my piece is from Paul, in prison for preaching the Gospel, speaking on being content wherever He is. I love that verse. He did not care if he was behind riches or behind bars—as long as he was living for Jesus, he was content wherever.

Another verse that really spoke to me in that state of wondering is found in James 4.

Verses 13-15 state, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city. We will spend a year there. We will buy and sell and make money.’ You don’t even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? It is a mist that appears for a little while. Then it disappears. Instead, you should say, ‘If it pleases the Lord, we will live and do this or that.’”

Here the writer is practically mocking us, giving us a fresh perspective on the things we worry about. He is saying, “Who cares about the details? Who cares about the plans? You’re not going to be here for forever anyway. Wherever you go, whatever you do, make sure you please the Lord there.”

I learned something that changed my life that year, and it’s the ending line to my 2013’s album & tour’s title piece, “Maps.”

When I am here, asking, “Where’s the right place to be?” He answers simply, “Where you are seeking Me.”

As it turned out, my physical place didn’t matter all that much. What mattered was that I was in a place of surrender. I was in a place of seeking God. I was so desperate for Him, reading His Word everyday, having hours of intimacy with Him everyday, longing to have His discernment everyday—and that place of hunger, that place of obedience was indeed the right place to be.

We can’t ruin God’s plan by choosing a certain school, job, or city. We are just not that powerful. But we can ruin our own relationship with God, the quality of our own lives, by not being in a place of seeking Him daily, by not being in a place where He is in the center of our thoughts and desires. If we miss Him, then we are the ones who undoubtedly miss out. Instead, we need to be in a place where we are content with knowing and following Him. We need to be in a place where we say, “If it pleases the Lord, I will do this or that.” We need to be in a place where we say, “I am seeking God with all my heart. I am right where I am supposed to be.”

In Psalm 84:10, the songwriter states,

“A single day in your courtyards is better than a thousand anywhere else. I would rather guard the door of the house of my God than live in the tents of sinful people.”

Prior to the Summer of 2011, I had been in a place of worshipping men, status, and my own fleshly desires. But that day, I was in a different place. For the first time in a long time, I was in the right place. I filled that room with worship as I spoke to the Lord over and over, “One day with you is better than a thousand somewhere else. I just want to be where you are. I just want to know you.”

I was in the right place.

May we all be in that right place. That place of seeking God. That place of indulging in His Word. That place of looking like Him, loving others like Him, and trading in our own desires for Him. May we not obsess over the maps. May we not worry about the plans. If we are pleasing the Lord, we can do this or that. Wherever we go, whatever we do, we will be in the right place if we are seeking, loving, and following Him.

 

"...Until The Day I Die."

Blood everywhere. I’ll never forget the first time I saw my dad get beat up.

We were having Church in the Park—our bi-weekly, sometimes tri-weekly outreach to the homeless. The band was playing. My dad was worshipping God with his arms raised high. A man began to loudly and angrily curse at him and the musicians on stage. This was not new. No man who is living for himself likes the sounds of surrender.

But this time was different. My dad asked him to step away. The man pushed him. My dad touched his shoulder and said, “You’re being disruptive, would you stand on the side?”

Swing.

My dad crashed onto the brick cement street. A man we would later identify as Donald Peoples continued in his rage and his continuously swung at my father.

I could go on and on about what it was like standing with my little brother and older sister as she tried to cover our eyes—unsuccessfully, and what it was like to watch a hero fall. I could go on even longer about the beauty of the Church—as my dad hit the floor, dozens of homeless men who were addicts, alcoholics, some of who at one point also cursed at my dad came rushing in defending him, fighting off Mr. Peoples. Truth be told, there was a lot I learned about the world that day.

But perhaps the best part was after the riot. My dad had bandages all over his face and arm. The music had stopped. The park was overrun by sounds of whispers and questions. Should we all go home? The pastor was hurt.

The image I’ll never forget is my dad walking onto the stage and grabbing the microphone. We were outdoors, and this is what could be heard for blocks throughout downtown San Francisco: “The truth is, I used to be just like that man. But then I found Jesus. I’m going to talk right now about a Savior who can change your whole life.”

I watched as my dad tore off his bandages, and preached the Gospel to hundreds of homeless men and women. I watched as he prayed over them and led dozens to the Lord. I watched from the backseat as he drove my family home. And I decided, for the rest of my life, no matter how hard the punches came, I would not wallow in my bandages or wounds. I would use every opportunity—every bruise and scar, to tell people the story that could change their whole life. I would tear off my bandages, get over myself, and get the job done.

No, I'm not a singer. But from time to time, my dad and I would lead worship together in the park with our homeless friends. Those are some of the best moments of my life.

I used to ask my dad if he was scared. Was he scared that one day another Donald would come around? By the way, many did. Was he scared that people would hate him, and violently stand in the way of him telling people about Jesus? By the way, many, many did. My dad never said much about that. But he did always say, “I will see souls saved until the day I die.”

He did.

He preached in that park for over 20 years before he died.

5 days before his death he was preaching to the homeless in that very spot he got beat up at many years before. 2 days before his death he was sharing the story of Jesus to a plumber that came to his house to fix his sink. And when he died, March 12, 2008, I know there was nothing left in him—he put it all out on the line for the Kingdom—everyday, and never missed an opportunity to tell people the truth about Jesus.

May no wounds stand in our way. May no discouraging men stand in our way. May we use every opportunity to show people how they can have a radically new life.

Bring on the punches.

Bring on the curses.

Bring on the riots.

There is a Savior who can change lives.

May we see souls saved until the day we die.

Pesto Pizza & Other Ways God Owes Me

An encounter with pesto pizza traumatized me for my whole life.

Growing up as a missionary’s kid, we had very little money—Christmas gifts were a luxury, rent money was something we prayed for as a family to come in every month, and we used water and electricity very sparingly (I would time how long I used water in the shower, turning it off and on as needed). Those are all pretty normal things-- it really wasn’t a horror story.

Until the pesto pizza came. Dun. Dun. Dun.

We ate the same food we served the homeless: whatever was donated to the local food bank, and whatever was left over at the San Francisco Giants & 49ers ballparks—hotdogs, burgers, fries, etc. It was pretty baller. One year, Candlestick Park installed a new restaurant: a pizza restaurant. And this season in particular they had garbage bags left over filled with pesto pizza.

Yum.

Livin' that Food  Bank life.

Livin' that Food  Bank life.

We were excited. We looked forward to it. And we ate it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. For a week.

And then the next week.

And then the next week.

And the next.

Kids at school began to make fun of my consistently boring lunch. I started hating waking up, knowing what I had to heat up for breakfast. But my family and I were not complainers, we were very grateful, and we knew how to live with little, so I held it all in-- thinking that this was what it took to be in full-time ministry. It was about a month and a half of eating this once-amazing meal when at the dinner table, as my dad was praying for dinner, I started crying. “Daddy, PLEASE don’t make me eat pesto pizza anymore!” I couldn’t control it any longer; I start bawling my eyes out. My mom looked at him, “Yes honey, I think it’s time to buy some groceries.” My dad laughed, and later that night bought us some fresh food.

Not only did this story make me unable to enjoy pesto, pizza, and specifically pesto pizza for the rest of my life, but I commonly reference this story whenever God calls me to do something I don’t want to do. I see it as a hilarious example of what I once thought was “sacrificing for the Kingdom.” Because we were missionaries, we commonly gave up luxuries for the sake of the Gospel. But for whatever reason—this is the story that sticks out—whenever God asks me to sacrifice something else, be humbled once again, or live with little once more, I am known amongst my friends for joking, saying, “God! Don’t forget about the pesto pizza!”

Of course, this isn’t serious. I’m not really bitter towards God about this (though I can’t say the same towards my parents). But this is a childhood story that shows a real, adult truth. Sometimes, I feel the need to remind God of the sacrifices I’ve already made for Him, letting Him know I’ve already paid my dues, and if anyone owes anyone, HE owes ME.

When God called me in my adult life to leave a job, be in full-time ministry, and live by faith once again, I thought, “Haven’t I been poor enough already?” When He called me to leave relationships behind, I thought, “Haven’t I lost enough people already?” When I had to couch-surf, and be practically homeless for years so my traveling ministry could continue, I thought, “When is this going to end? When is He done asking so much of me?” Time and time again, I constantly want to say, “God! Don’t forget about the pesto pizza!”

Galatians 6:9 states, “So let's not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't give up.”

I know sometimes we get tired of doing what is good. I know we feel like we’ve sacrificed enough, worked hard enough, and frankly are exhausted from this never-ending dying to ourselves. But through His Word, and through the Apostle Paul, God urges His children to not grow tired, weary, or faint. Keep forgiving that one friend who doesn’t make you a priority. Keep trying to reconcile with that one family member who hurt you. Keep investing into your kids, even when days are overwhelming. Keep putting in the blood, sweat, and tears into your youth ministry. Keep giving back to God a percentage of your income. Keep asking God what more you can do in your community. He says at the right time, we will be blessed, there will be fruit to our labor—but we can’t give up.

That's my crazy dad.

That's my crazy dad.

Mi familia - ministering on the streets together. About a decade ago.

Mi familia - ministering on the streets together. About a decade ago.

My dad once said something like this when I very little. After a particular week on the streets serving the homeless, where a demon-possessed women was physically violent towards me, a man assaulted my mother, hit her and broke our ministry’s equipment, and my dad was pulled of the stage and beaten until he was bloody everywhere, I remember begging my dad to not make me go on the streets again that week. I was tired, I was scared, and I had paid my dues for the month. My dad said, “Hosanna, do people still need Jesus?” I cried, “Yes, Daddy.” He said, “Then we can’t stop going. Get dressed, and let’s go.”

We can’t grow tired of the sacrifice. We can’t get discouraged from the vast amounts of setbacks. We can’t stop doing good. God promises us blessings if we don’t give up—and His blessings are the best.

I want to remind God of all the days I was on the road going hungry, the pictures in my mind of my father beat up on the cement in front of me, the days when I desperately wanted a long, warm shower—I want to remind God everyday of the pesto pizza, and let him know, the buck stops here.

But God doesn’t owe me. He has given me salvation, the greatest gift. My life is His. It is no sacrifice—it is a privilege and joy to serve God again today.

I reflect on this verse. I will not get tired.

I reflect on what my dad said. People still need Jesus.

Today, I’ll get dressed, and go.

God remembers the pesto pizza.

And still…

We can’t stop going.

Waking Up When It's Dark

Waking up in Alaska is difficult— at 8 am, the sun is still nowhere in site. Though I’m normally an early-morning person (way earlier than 8am), I have to put extra effort into getting up and getting moving, even though it seems that the world around me is still asleep. I know the sun will come, but it’s hard to function—when it’s still dark outside.

This isn’t just a weather phenomenon. This is something we deal with in all of our lives. This happens when we lose our job. This is when a loved one dies. This is when someone we thought we’d spend forever with leaves us. This is when the future is unclear. This is when our closest friends have hurt us. This is when money is low. This is when the cravings for past addictions come back.  This is when we are in that place where we know we’re supposed to get up, but the sun hasn’t risen yet. We all know—it’s hard to function when it’s still dark.

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In the book of John, we read of a story of a man who also lived in life’s darkness. For 38 years he was what different versions call sick, disabled, lame, or invalid—we’re not sure if he was crippled, had cancer, was depressed, or what—but either way, he lived days without the sun coming up, and spent 38 years drowning in discouragement. Maybe it helps that we don’t know exactly what was wrong with him—truth be told, this man could have been any of us. When Jesus approached him He asked the man, “Do you want to be well?

This story found in John 5 continues as the man has many excuses for why he hasn’t been healed. He says that he’s tried many times. He says that others have gotten in the way. He says there’s been a lack of people to help him. But Jesus didn’t ask Him, “What are your roadblocks?” He asked, him “Do you want to be well?” Jesus then commands him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” The man was healed, and he walked.

Do we want to be well?

Or are we so comfortable being sick, sleeping in darkness, that we almost prefer it?

We've memorized our excuses so well, putting the blame on others, circumstances, and past failures-- are we like the man from John 5? Just telling Jesus our roadblocks?

Jesus gives us a reason to rise. He gives us a reason to keep going. If we want to be well, if we want to be healed, if we want to be rid of laziness and apathy, if we want to have a life that we are proud of—we need to wake up-- even if it’s dark, get up-- even if no one helps us, and keep going-- even if the world seems against us. Why? Because there is healing. There is joy. There are things more important than our comfort. A new life is available. But it can’t be attained while sitting. It’s worth the extra effort to be awake. It’s worth the pain of standing up to be alive.

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