I met Nathaniel when I was in college. He had just started drumming for our church, and I thought he was pretty cool. I also learned that he was a fourth grade schoolteacher. For some reason, this made me think he was rocking out undercover. Later that same week I approached him and asked if he'd be interested in collaborating. I quickly rattled off my favorite 90s underground punk music in an effort to persuade him that my songs were worth a shot. He was kind and told me to call him with details. Of course, I announced to my band that I had found THE drummer for our project. I called him, left messages with his wife, and cleared out space in my basement for a drum set. He never showed, and I never called him back.
I couldn't blame him. As far as he was concerned, I was just some kid in a basement. I had nothing to my name, and little to show for my ambition. I had a long way to go before people like Nathaniel would ever take my music seriously.
Years later, I was asked to lead a youth weekend called JOURNEY as a last minute stand-in for a band that had pulled out. I had no band, myself, but I jumped at the opportunity. I called Nathaniel again. This time, I had a show, I had a purpose, and I desperately needed help. Surprisingly, he called me back and agreed play drums for the event. That was three-and-a-half years ago , and we've been making music together ever since.
What changed for Nathaniel to finally give my music a chance? I believe that the second-time around, my invitation to Nathaniel was contingent on something more than just me. We both were drawn in by a bigger purpose. This bigger purpose has blessed our music from then until now.
My band, Beggars Made Believers, went on to lead the music for JOURNEY for three years in a row. For the last two years, I wrote songs specific to theme of the event. Our new track, "Haven", comes from one of those weekends. Here's a clip of the song as it has progressed in studio:
"Haven" is about believing in something so much that the belief becomes your home as much as you become a home for your belief. Faith brought my band together, and faith is what propels us to create. Faith is our home. The song communicates the sense that we are never truly alone because by faith we carry the Spirit of God with us, and in us, so that it may flow through us to mark our world with beauty and grace. This purpose guides our efforts and holds things together when it feels like it's all about to fall apart.
Many friends have come and gone in collaboration with Beggars Made Believers. Just recently, a few of our big role players moved away. The band survives. Why? Because the band is not dependent on me, my songs, or any group of people in particular. We cherish the community that comes from creating music, but what we create communicates the story of life, love, and faith through suffering. If the words of "Haven" are really true, then no matter where we go, we represent "living stones" of a dwelling place for the very breath of God.
My brother Neal is an aspiring writer. He always tells the story of meeting one of his favorite bands and taking them out to eat after a show. A musician from the band gave Neal this piece of advice in regards to pursuing his art: "The best place you can start as an aspiring writer is to realize that you have nothing to say."
I asked Neal how he felt when he heard that, and here's what he thought: "I was confused at first because of course I have something to say, but the more I thought about it, and the more I connected the pieces of the conversation, the more it made sense. Before, we were talking about writing out of a sense of entitlement or selfish pride. We, on our own, however, have nothing to say. Our pride tells us that creativity comes from ourselves, but really, creativity comes from something bigger than us."
Neal's experience resonates with me. It's the pursuit of "something bigger" that keeps me going as well. A holy purpose waters holy ambition. So, even if you're just some kid in a basement trying to make a living off of three chords and uncooked Ramen, remember the potential of your purpose. Connect with "why" you do what you do, and share the joy of creating with others. They may call you crazy, but dreamers can change the world.