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Downhere Tour pt. 2 – The Perfect Time for Something to Go Wrong

April 9, 2007

 

Downhere & Jason (& Taya) at the Mittelbergs

Downhere & Jason (& Taya) at the Mittelbergs

Taya and I flew into LA and were picked up by the guys (and girls) of Downhere to join them for the Spring “Wide Eyed and Mystified” tour. Upon getting loaded into the van, they brought us up to speed on their adventures since we talked the previous week. The tour bus fell through after the other band backed out of the tour and some of the dates cancelled, so Downhere loaded up their van to head west only to find the van was in need of some repairs. After finally setting out about a day behind schedule, they soon encountered some problems with the trailer and extreme weather (tornados in OK and snow in TX!). But this wasn’t the end of it. All told, the van or trailer would break down a total of 6 times over 9 days.

I have to tell you that though this trip has been beset by challenges every step of the way, I’ve never once heard these guys complain or be anything other than optimistic. Not only is Downhere one of the best bands in CCM right now, but they are also one of the kindest. I’m continually grateful for the good company that I’ve been blessed to fall into.

We set off for San Luis Obispo for our first show. I was a little loopy that night due to some new allergy meds I took, but it was still a great night – hopefully it just made me interesting ☺. It was fun for Taya and I to take in our first Downhere show – they’re even better live than they are on their records! From here we headed north, spending a day with Dave’s (the sound guy) dad who works at Saddleback Church, pastured by Rick Warren. We got a tour of Saddleback and spent the rest of the evening with Mark Mittelberg’s family (Mark is the co-author with Bill Hybels of “Becoming A Contagious Christian”). Mark’s wife Heidi treated us to some excellent Lasagna and we played the new Nintendo Wii gaming system with their kids. We made Taya try her hand at the Wii bowling game they had, and though she hates bowling, she did pretty good!

One of the things we are continually grateful for in our line of work is the varied and interesting people we get to meet on the road. Meeting Mark who works with some of the highest profile church leaders of our time like Bill Hybels, Lee Strobel, and others, was a great blessing. God populates our lives with such an interesting cast of characters.

Our next stop was San Mateo where after the show we went to stay with our dear friends Abe and Staci Frenes for the weekend while the Downhere guys flew to Alaska to attend the Juno awards. Staci is an incredible artist and one of our best friends (check her out: http://www.stacifrenes.com). We did a concert together the next night in Modesto and then a house concert at her and Abe’s house, before we all spent the day hanging out in San Francisco, where we hooked back up with the tour and welcomed back Juno award winning band (!!!) Downhere. The competition was stiff this year, but they brought home the Juno which is the Canadian equivalent of a Grammy. I can think of no group of guys who deserve it more.

Here’s one of the reasons I love these guys: For their acceptance speech they thanked friends and family and then said: “you know, I know an artist in this category would typically thank Jesus at this point, but we’ve been thanking Jesus everyday of our lives that we got to make this record and get to do the work we do, so we thought He wouldn’t mind if we thanked someone else tonight. We’d like to thank Paul the apostle. Let’s hear it for Paul! He wrote half the new testament…”

I guess they got mostly blank stares from people who don’t expect Christians to have a sense of humor (or God for that matter), but I thought it was great and was jealous I hadn’t thought of it… It still makes me laugh.

As we wrap up the first leg of this tour, we thank God for the many blessings and signs of His care. Though we had numerous breakdowns, consider this – they always happened at the “perfect” time, when there was time to get the repairs without missing a date. The axle of the trailer broke the moment we pulled into a tire and alignment shop. We just pulled off the road, barely cleared the edge of the driveway, and THEN the wheel fell off! (literally fell off, the spindle was sheared…) The story was the same everywhere we went. If a breakdown had to happen, it happened at the best possible time. 

At first I was frustrated that they were happening at all, and I was reluctant to see any of it as a sign of God’s providence. I would rather He use His immeasurable power to prevent the breakdowns from happening at all. And these were expensive repairs on a tour (like most tours) struggling to stay above the red. But after thoughtful consideration, it became clear that God is more interested in our trust than our comfort – and even in the face of such challenges, most of us have enough stories of God’s interventions that we ought to know He’s faithful to provide and care for us.

It reminds me of a few years ago when Taya and I came off a tour that left us in debt – both financially and emotionally. The day we got home, I got in our car to go to the post office. On the way there, the car started to sputter and protest. That was it, I’d had it and I told God as much. I told Him that if we’re going to follow Him by faith and spend our lives for Him, then the least He can do is to keep our car running. That’s the PG version of that prayer… 

I limped the car the rest of the way to the post office, slammed the door and went in to get the mail. Imagine my surprise when I found an anonymous gift of $500 waiting for us in our PO Box. The repairs for the car ended up being $498, leaving $2 for a cup of coffee and a piece of humble pie. It was a lesson for me in learning not to fear, and not being too quick to accuse God of not caring. God’s not afraid of my honesty and I don’t believe He begrudged me of my “venting” prayer (in fact, I imagine He found it rather amusing), but you never know when you might have to eat your own words, and there are some words I don’t like to have to eat… So I’m slower to react in fear these days. 

I kept thinking of a book that Andrew Peterson loaned to Taya called Byzantium about a monk who nearly loses his faith after going through numerous trials, feeling like God abandoned him. He went to his mentor to tell him that he was leaving the order, and his mentor asked something along the lines of: “what did you expect? Did you hope to be magically spared the troubles that all humanity endures? Did you expect to not suffer the hardships that everyone around you suffers?” And it reminds me of what we all signed up for. We signed up to build the Kingdom, brick by brick, heart by heart. And it can be challenging work at times, and we are told that there is an enemy who opposes us and wants to undo our work. Add to this that we live in a world that is hostile to our endeavors. We knew this when we signed up, so hardships should be no surprise. What did we expect? And yet we are told to take courage, since we serve the One who has “overcome the world”. 

I expect challenges now as part of the deal. Nothing worth doing is ever easy. But I also have an expectancy of God’s faithfulness, and believe that the same God who cares enough to keep our wheel from falling off until the very moment we pulled into a Firestone tire business can certainly meet the needs for covering those expenses – and any other need for that matter. We wait and watch expectantly for it to happen.

By the way, speaking of building the Kingdom, God has blessed us with 120 World Vision sponsorships so far on this tour! Though the sponsored child receives the most direct benefit, it is a fact that for every child sponsored, five children are indirectly impacted as their community is transformed by child sponsorship. That’s 500 children whose lives are changed! We know that hell is provoked when the Kingdom of God is established in the hearts of these children.

So what did we expect?

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