My wife has been out of town, so I spent the weekend at my friend Jonathan’s house, and we dubbed it Bachelor Weekend. Jonathan is a second year med student who studies big words all day, so “Bachelor Weekend” actually consisted of a lot of his nose in his books and me taking advantage of Brandi’s absence so that I can work on Christmas projects.
At any rate, I got home from church yesterday after having attended the service with Jonathan, and two of our other friends, Caleb and Zephan. Ironically, the service was about singles and married couples (topping off “Bachelor Weekend” with a bang for our miniature posse). We’re in the middle of a series on Malachi, and have been studying much of what it looks like to leave a good legacy. I had a thought near the end of the sermon, and thought I’d share it with you:
I attend and am a member of a church called Mars Hill. Our preaching pastor’s name is Mark Driscoll. Lately, Pastor Mark has been in the press a lot. This isn’t another blog contributing to that conversation, other than to say that I am not oblivious to it, nor am I unaffected by it. There are things that I see and love, and, respectfully, there are things that I see and don’t - wouldn’t that be the case for anyone at any church? - much like any any son would in appropriate relationship to his father (which is a significant distinction, by the way - “son to spiritual father” - as opposed to “blind mule for the celebrity machine”). There are also things that I see and have absolutely no clue about, and I guess I’d just rather trust the Lord and take some of those thoughts captive than speculate the world away about it.
Being as how I travel and participate in a lot of conversations with people across the country who hold various beliefs in the spectrum of evangelical Christianity, rarely a day goes by that I’ve not gotten to experience the joys (if you’d like to call them that) of having Mark Driscoll as my pastor. Ever since bands starting printing “Don’t Go To Church, Be The Church” on their t-shirts, I knew I was in for a rough go of things if I were going to stand by the ecclesiological convictions the Holy Spirit was producing in my heart at the time that I began attending Mars Hill, let alone whatever other unacceptable doctrine that a wealth of YouTube clips will happily provide you.
Most of my conversations go one of two ways when people find out I go to Mars Hill. Route #1 is excitement, because the person has been blessed through the church’s ministry in some way. Perhaps through podcasts that help people (including touring artists like myself) stay connected to the Word in a consistent way when they’re unable to attend, or through Resurgence literature that has been used for training curriculum, or something like that. Route #2 is… ”Oh.” And then the conversation (and the potential friendship) ends as quickly as it began. I appreciate the dialogues that I am able to have with those who go beyond “Oh…” and are at least able to practice some sort of respect toward me, as a person, who would otherwise be tainted by mere association with that man, were it not for agreeing to disagree with a maturity and objectivity that is disappointingly few and far between.
This all affected me in weird ways, especially when it came to conversations among friends, who had seen the fruit of the Spirit increasing in my life. If Paul says that we are, ourselves, letters of recommendation to be known and read by all, then I couldn’t understand why others could so comfortably slander my church while seeing evidence of the work Jesus was doing through it in the life of their attending friends. (Obviously, I understand that 2 Corinthians 3 is not a chapter written about Mars Hill Church, though principally, the Lord was writing letters on the tablet of my human heart through the ministry.) I will admit that my responses, circumstantially and generally, often reflected the very same sin which I claimed to hate (revealing the planks). I became prideful, upholding Mark’s teaching with a type of ultimacy by which I criticized everyone else’s. I became cynical and skeptical of other pulpits. I was the epitome of young, restless, and reformed, taking up offense and thinking I knew everything because I started reading books. I guess a lot of people think of Pastor Mark in that way, or did. Who knows, maybe Pastor Mark looks back at seasons in his life and sees the same thing. If the grace of God is truly changing us, then I hope we are all doing that.
Yesterday though, as I was sitting in church, listening to my “spiritual dad” talk about family, and the love of Jesus, I saw a man who reminded me of my own father, who burnt with love and compassion for his kids. There have been particular moments over the years, in Mark’s teachings, where he will readdress something that he has taught in the past. It will be the same principle with a vastly different delivery a few years removed, and I will find myself overwhelmed at the sanctification that I see in him, and it gives me hope and encouragement that the grace of God can be as noticeably effective in my life as it is in his. I mentioned it to my friend as we were leaving, and he said that that is exactly what you’d want to see in a pastor who grows with his congregation: repentance, and sanctification in the man that our family follows as we are all transformed from one degree of glory to another.
I’m thankful for Pastor Mark Driscoll. I’m thankful for Mars Hill Church. My dad always used to say that when he became a Christian, God gave him the church as a second chance at having a real family. Maybe I feel the same, at times. Not that my family was never real, but that this church has been here with us through all of our brokenness, and it feels like home.
This isn’t a defense letter. I was simply inspired to say “thank you”, and it happened to come in the midst of a storm. Call it providence. (Wink, wink.) Nor will this be a place where the witch hunt continues and we all go searching for places that haven’t been repented of. Comments are disabled. Frankly, I’d just love to see people as devoted to their own pastors and churches as they are to dismantling mine. It’s always easier to stand outside of something and criticize it than it is to put in the hard work of cultivating the changes you’d like to see (although, this can be your formal invitation to move to Albuquerque and participate, if you’d like).
I’ve had a decent amount of arguments with myself about how closely I want to associate Levi The Poet’s content with posts like this. Is it better to just keep the art the art and my commentary out of it? But this informs the art. And how do I separate “Levi The Poet” from Levi the person, anyway? That’s the opposite of what I’ve always tried to do. This is who I am. This is the person who writes the poems, and I don’t want to quench the spirit by separating myself from my family because of dissension outside of it.
Pastor Mark, thank you for preaching the Word faithfully. Thank you for modeling the repentance that you preach. If there do exist areas that have not been brought to light, then I trust Jesus to faithfully pursue you in the same ways that I have seen him do so over the years that I have attended Mars Hill. Thank you for your humility. Your example has blessed my life and, seeing as how we’re trying to leave a good legacy, let me thank you for your fatherly affection, your service, your love, your conviction, and the legacy that you and Grace have begun. I hope that as I grow in maturity, I will be able to confidently trust and submit to you and the leaders who keep watch over us. I pray for you often. Thank you for presenting life in such a way that, as you said yesterday, clearly articulates our need for a savior.
Thanks for being my pastor. Truly, it is a joy.
My sister @breemacallister gave me a @Macklemore haircut today, and then I laughed whilst sitting by a fire. This is that moment. | #RCRR (at The Red Chair Reading Room)
Me, really excited to eat tacos. (at Lilly’s Taqueria)
Hope you had a great Thanksgiving. Here’s when America goes to stores and punches one another. Why not stay home, click your mouse and minimize the violence.
Last night’s show was the first time I’ve ever played Boise. There used to be a hair-stylist who ran a salon / venue called Blood, Sweat & Shears and wanted to book me through, but it never happened, and I don’t know that whomever that was, came. Good turnout, though. Upwards of sixty people through the door at District Coffee House to listen to me and dance to Sean. It was fun. The kid responsible for connecting with the local promoter took us out to a taco truck afterwards. I am falling in love with little street tacos, man. Lengua, cabeza, al pastor.
Driving to Salt Lake City now. Crazy to think that tomorrow night, we’ll be headed to Albuquerque. Parts of this tour have felt so slow, but hindsight always leaves you wondering where the time went. Definitely one of the best parts of touring is making great friends in the towns you frequent, and tonight is no different. I feel like all I’ve really written about have been friends here, friends there. That’s fine. Mr. Tommy Green is coming out; Chris and Carol Wilson. The guy we’re playing with at the Shred Shed is named Andrew, and his music is wonderful. Should be a fun show.
Today Bradley told me that I’ve been touring with a girl for too long. Mental note to remember to tell my wife that I have a newfound appreciation for keeping her farts to a minimum when we’re on the road.
Here’s a good story. Two weeks ago, when we were in Denver for The Chariot’s farewell tour, I got a ticket while parked at a meter downtown - one that I thought was unwarranted, as my time wasn’t up yet. A few days ago, Brandi called to dispute it, but the lady told her that the citation wasn’t for parking; it was for an expired sticker. We never got a renewal notice from the DMV, which we thought was weird, so Brandi started making some phone calls around town and checked our registration history. Turns out the City of Albuquerque still thought I lived in a house that I haven’t lived in for three years, and any notices sent there never came back, and never forwarded. Our car - our tour vehicle that we put fifty-thousand miles on this year - hadn’t been registered since February. Brandi had to re-register it, re-smog it, and pay double on the Denver citation. Sucks that we stacked another couple-hundred onto this month’s bills, but if we hadn’t gotten that ticket in Denver, we wouldn’t have known, and we’d have been in way more trouble to have been pulled over in Albuquerque, unregistered.
Oh the joys!
Alright, pulling into SLC. We’ve got a “matinee show” - starts at three, ends at six. Sounds wonderful to me.
We could have stayed in Albuquerque, but instead we got a really good rate on a gas pump at The Corner Store in Raton. | #AwkwardBlues #Snowstorm #FreezingToDeath (at Obie’s Fillin’ Station)
I am missing Albuquerque today. it’s my friend’s birthday, and I wish I could be there to celebrate with everyone. It’s also a celebration night for the people who participated in our church’s Redemption Groups - my sister and quite a few other friends included. In all, it’s one of those days where sacrificing time at home and the reality of tour-life collide and weigh heavy on my heart.
I enjoy touring. I do. I like the travel - especially on drives like today, winding down through the beautiful mountain valleys that make up the trek from Seattle to Boise. Coeur D’Alene to Twin Falls is even better. I love performing for people - something I’d never imagined possible at the end of high-school with my shaky legs distracting anyone trying to listen to whatever I had to say. I love praying over people - it is a beautiful thing to have the opportunity to go to the Father with someone in prayer. I love presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ through my art - even in the midst of lies that periodically come in and threaten my faith, my deepest desires are still to serve my King, and nothing has been able to shake the conviction that his resurrection life is the only life. I love hearing the stories - I am nightly humbled, encouraged, awed at the work that Jesus has done through this project in the lives of the people who have connected to it. Just four days ago I met a young woman who flew from Green Bay, Wisconsin to San Francisco, and then caught a Greyhound to Redding so that she could see me perform. The life that she has lived brings tears of sadness to my eyes and tears of joy to my eyes. Her story reminded me that Jesus is still alive, still a miracle-worker, still desperately in love with his kids, still ever-pursuing us. He is still a healer, still a savior. He still loves her, and you, and me.
Touring is hard, though. It isn’t for everyone. There are times when I wonder if it isn’t for me, and then I think on these stories, and I am reminded that God has not called us to lives of comfort, but of obedience. There have been times, over the years, when people have asked me when I’m planning on getting a real job. Aside from how denigrating that sounds to someone who has worked at this real job for five years, I think it’s a fair question, because much of “tour life” does look like a hobby, or an extended, immature adolescence. Unfortunately, that’s a lot of what I see out on the road, too. I think there are a lot of people that would do better to call it quits. I think that there are a lot of men’s wives who would do better if they spent as much time with them as they do away on the road. Those aren’t my calls to make.
By the grace of God, my wife has been my biggest support and encouragement to pursue this life since four years before we got married. When we did get married, I told Brandi that it would have been an act of disobedience to the Lord for me to stop touring, and she agreed. She joined a band that we lived with for a year so that we could be together, and has gone out on every run with me since we were married (save this one). We both believe that this is where the Lord has called us, and we have seen the fruit of that labor in the lives of people that we love and love to serve. We want to be Christ’s hands and feet. I don’t know that life will look like this forever, or that we will always tour to this capacity. But I do know that were it all to end tomorrow, it will not have been a pipe-dream.
We’re not rich, but we’re not starving. The Lord’s provision has been amazing, and his provision comes through you, the listener, the believer, the participant, the audience, the fan, the miracle, the random stumbler who fell upon a video and felt compelled to support our efforts through a concert ticket, a store purchase, a donation. And beyond the material, even though everything in our culture attempts to veil it and Satan desperately tries (sometimes successfully) to blind me to it, I have to believe that there is a supernatural capital that we may never see, where Christ’s reach has extended farther and deeper than I’ll ever imagine through the mouth of this fool. The same mouth that utters both cursing and praise, and yet Jesus manifests his grace nonetheless.
So I’m missing home today, but I hope that in the scope of eternity it will have been worth it. Perhaps more of this is reminding myself of that as opposed to convincing you. Thank you for believing in us. Thank you for praying for us.
I don’t know what the future holds, for me, or for you. I don’t need to. God has given me grace that is sufficient for today, and tomorrow he’ll give me grace that is sufficient for tomorrow. May he be my comfort when the comfort of home is far away.
There’s still nowhere else that makes me feel like this city. I love Seattle. (at Glo’s)
We’re just over a week removed from the Awkward Blues Tour, and I thought, well, my lack of a conclusion was sure anticlimactic. Better finish it up…
It took us eighteen hours to get from Denver to Albuquerque. We had planned on driving through the night, but a snowstorm demanded our sleeping at a gas station north of Trinidad. A few hours later, we got down to the Raton Pass and weather signs necessitated our getting chains. Three hours later, when we’d finally found the chains and hooked them up, we drove back to the interstate, where the roads were effectively clear, and we didn’t need them at all.
Albuquerque was a great show. A lot of friends came out, and I appreciate that so much. Jacob Baggett even played a song at the end of Sean Michel’s set, and we all had Cricks In Our Necks after that. I’ve got to find a way to post the video of his song…
Jay Newman, the infamous @Big_Dread, was sick as a dog for the end of the run, but he and the band made their sixteen hours trek home the following afternoon, and marked the end of tour. Jay is still alive.
I think that the Sean Michel band is amazing at what they do. Their show is excellent, entertaining, and I appreciate their hearts for Kingdom work, wherever that work takes them. But my greatest joy on the tour came from simply building relationships with the guys in the band. I feel like I knew Jay and Sean better than I did Bradley and Seth, and I very much enjoyed getting to know them, and hear some of their stories. And Jacob, man… I like Jacob a lot, even though he kept popping my space bubble with way too many wet willies. I hope that the friendships that we built are friendships that will last.
Lastly, a lot of people deserve our sincerest “thanks” - there are too many to count or name without forgetting others equally due the appreciation owed them, but I’ve got to name a couple. Redding, CA, you guys are amazing for getting that house show together so quickly when it looked like another date was falling through. Hannah and Amy, you rule. Thanks for being awesome hosts. Kris and Christin, same goes to you guys. It was fun getting to hang. Anneliese, the fish tacos were great. Denton, I’ll always love playing with you most of all. Portland, Seattle… you’ll always be my favorite cities, and the people I meet there are consistently a blessing to my life. Thanks for extending that hospitality to us. Always look forward to Arvada and the Neill’s.
To everyone that came out and made our Awkward Blues Tour happen, thank you. I had so much fun doing this new set with the video and added production. I know it is ultimately in its adolescent stages, but I was very excited to bring something new to the west coast, and I hope you enjoyed the progression. I’m continually honored, humbled, and amazed at the fact that people care to come out and support what we’re doing.
I’ll end with Sean Michel’s words: “Thanks for coming out to the show. If you didn’t, this would’ve been called ‘practice.’”
Driving through the night to get home. Before we left, though, @craiggross took me to see @macklemore at Staples Center. Been a fan for years, and got that excited teary eyed thing going when he opened up the set with 10,000 Hours. First time at Staples Center, too. Thanks Craig and @jeanettegross for taking me, and thanks @breemacallister and Brandi for watching @nolangross and @elisegross while we went. #sharkfacegang
Picture my sister @breemacallister took at the Newbury Park show last night. Thanks for coming out. Thanks @contextcoffee for serving great brew. | #levithepoet #kaleidoscope (at Lighthouse Church)
If my dad were alive, he would have been sixty years old today. He never thought he was going to make it past twenty-five, but my mom sent me a text saying he never would have wanted to make it to sixty. I forgot that he used to say that. That’s probably a funny thing now, in one way or another.
We’re driving from Salt Lake City through to Denver today, and then overnight from Denver to Albuquerque tonight. Almost home. Almost home. Last night, we stayed with Colin Kimble, one of the As Cities Burn guys. I told a friend of mine back home that my fifteen year old self would have been ecstatic, but my twenty four year old self wanted to be home by a fire. Haha. Can’t say it wasn’t an honor to meet him, though. We had a good time talking about horror movies and how Cabin In The Woods kills all others. That new Evil Dead movie was on TV. Not my favorite. I’d pick the original any day.
Man I’ve got nothing to write about right now. Some days are like that.
Reunited with my loves. Adventure is out there!
New show announced Saturday, November 30 in Newbury Park, CA. Free. @contextcoffee is catering, the event, so come drink it and bring your moms and dads and cats if you’ve got them. (at Newbury Park, CA)
Rainier. (at Seattle)