in the spring of 2003, after turning down an offer to stay on full time as youth and music minister at the church where i was serving, college graduation came (finally) and went. for the first time in seven years, i was facing a summer that would end without my being in the city of martin. and more importantly, for the first time in twenty years, i would not be going to school in the fall.
i had my life planned out at this point, at least week to week. i went back and worked at summer camp for the second year (which further fueled my desire to grow in my knowledge of just what it is that i believe) and after that, moved to the nashville area. i was in a band that over the past year or so had gotten some decent exposure, and we felt pretty good about our chances. the plan was for us to migrate to the nashville area, have a day job (or two), and gig on nights and weekends. this plan started to settle and even out and we were on our way to see what lay ahead for us.
in october, during the last song of a pretty successful show, my back went out again. i remember the feeling like it was yesterday. a searing hot, sharp pain, something akin to someone stabbing me in the small of my back paralyzed me with pain. after being helped off of the stage and into the car, i was on my way back to andrew and haley’s house thinking “not again”.
two days later i was back in the room where i grew up at my parents house. at first i was certain that i would be back in nashville in a few days. but days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months. doctor visits, x-rays, mri’s, and physical therapy filled my days that fall. i remember sitting on the edge of my bed, strumming my guitar wondering what i had done to deserve this punishment.
its funny how short sighted we are, or at least i am. and also how short our memory is. in the years since my back surgery in 1999, i had told the story over and over of how the lord had to break my back to get me to slow down and pay attention, to seek him and his will. well, here i was again, with back problems in the same house where it all happened the first time, and i have to be honest and say, at the time, it never occured to me that this might be a similar circumstance.
as i would wake up everyday, faced with hours of absolutely nothing to do, i turned to the handful of books i had grabbed to bring with me for my “brief” recovery period. as i read the bible, john piper, j.i. packer, michael s. horton, martin luther, and others, i found my heart at times nearly shouting “yes!” as they wrote of the glory of god and our need to not only be aware of it, but to live in pursuit of knowing it.
late night phone conversations, especially with my friend john nelson, began to turn into vague scenarios and “what if..” questions. without realizing it, i was actually contemplating going to seminary. i had been brought to a place where i was daily realizing my need to be taught how to read the scriptures, and my hunger for knowledge and application of doctrine and the things to be learned from theology and church history had grown to insatiable heights. so i moved to louisville and started at southern seminary working towards a masters of arts degree in theological studies. “just the basics” i told myself. enough to get me started so i can continue to learn on my own.
ebeneezer still had promise and exciting opportunities were coming up, one of which, being an unbelievable opportunity for me to play at a derek webb concert as the opening act, which in turn, led to a second opportunity to do the same.
going back to school was simply for my own edification. “just th ebasics”, then i would see what happened.

well, almost two years later. a lot has happened. i met and married my best friend for one. and through christi and the advice and encouragement of other close friends, the lord has continued working in me, changing my heart and desires.
after the second time i opened for derek, he extended an invitation to open for him anytime he was playing near where i would be. i still have his phone number in my cell phone. i havent had the desire to call him and take him up on his offer once. i still play music, not too much, but it has taken a back seat. my priorities have switched, as have my passions. no longer do i hope to write and sing original lyrics that affect the people who hear them, i want to be used as a messenger of words that are thousands of years old….

to be continued..
-stephen

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