Luke, Oh The Places You’ll Go.

•June 17, 2013 • Leave a Comment

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Over the weekend I met a seven-year old named Luke. After the 5:30pm service, Luke’s mom came up to me and she proceeded to tell me that her son wanted to meet me, but was too shy to do it on his own, a childhood fear I remember quite well. But, after introducing me to her charismatic 2nd grader, together they proceeded to tell me how he was practicing a song on his violin that he was going to play at another church the following day. (video at the end!)

Now, I remember clearly the first time I played violin at my church. I was 10-years old, and I was scared out of mind! While I had never been afraid of making friends or making people laugh, playing music in front of people… well, let’s just say at that time it wasn’t going to be the highlight of my day. To recap my first time playing, I played ‘Jesus Loves Me.’ I messed up on one note, kept it together with my eyes welling up the rest of the song, finished the last note, ran off the stage, and about two rows before making it back to my parents, I broke down crying. Sobbing really, which of course made everyone in the church clap even louder because they wanted to make me feel better, they appreciated my courage, and they wanted to encourage me to move forward.

Well, move forward I did. I don’t ever remember breaking down again after that day, but it’s now nearly 19 years later, GULP, and I could have never dreamed that I would be where I am today, having recorded one album, with another one on the way (Lord willing), and playing my ridiculously awesome electric violin on a semi-regular basis. Getting to honor the Lord with a gift that no one saw coming, including myself, has been so rewarding.

So, back to Luke, he was six years old when he started playing, so he’s got a good 4 year start on me. I guess I better watch my back. I joked on Instagram when I posted that I found my replacement, but who knows what is in store for him. Even in my brief time with Luke, there was one quality that I saw in him that I remember having myself even at a young age. lukeMy love for the violin. I loved my instrument, and so does he. He was smiling from ear to ear when we were talking about how long he’s been playing, and then I showed him my Transformer version of a violin and had him hold it. Then after we said goodbye, and I wished him well with his solo at church, I couldn’t stop thinking; what would I say to myself at the beginning of my musical experiment? What would I say to Luke? Well, here we go.

Luke, God gives gifts for a reason. We don’t always understand the how or why, but if you will choose to stay close to Jesus and love him for all your days; he will take those squeaky shrilly notes, and make them something beautiful. The violin is a difficult instrument to learn, but you know that, and you most likely don’t care at all because you somehow have all the patience in the world for it, just as I once did. Playing the violin will be an asset to you, and a part of who you are, but it is just that, only a part. Regardless of how much others might want to define you with that; and even sometimes you yourself might try to wear your gift as a label, resist the desire to do so. While it is a very special gift, and you will understand that even more later on, it can be very hard to break out of that defining label, that is your gifting. You only want to feel important because of the God you serve and not because of the gift/gifts you have been given. He thinks you are so magnificent just the way you are, and the love He has for you knows no bounds or limits. The GIFT is for His enjoyment, your enjoyment, and created to impact those around you. Remember: the ability to play violin is a special thing, but the gift is NOT the thing that makes you special or valuable.

I don’t know what tomorrow holds for you Luke, but you’re a special boy to be given a desire to play the violin. It is the best instrument there is when it comes to conveying emotion. I never knew what it was that I held in my hand until God began to show me his heart, and then I’d begin to hear what His heart was saying, and then I would play it. That might seem like a complex idea at the moment, but then again, maybe you’ll understand it completely. You have parents who will encourage you but never force you to stay with it, and that’s a good thing. While there may be times you think about quitting, I pray that your love for music and for God; as long as it remains, will always help guide you back to loving it.

Last thing. Learn to love worship. Jesus loves you so much, and He really loves it when you show Him and give Him your love in return. You have such a sweet spirit, so I know that you’ll gravitate towards this, but it takes an uncharacteristic trait and determination to break through everything around you and just show Jesus that you love Him, whether through a song on your violin, or by breaking the mold and showing Him with extravagant worship.

Even though I don’t know you that well Luke, I love you, and I see so much potential in you. Keep running with passion and keep loving Jesus. You’re gonna be awesome at whatever it is that you put your hands to.

Nineteen years later,

Coty.

Here is Luke and his brother and sister practicing at home.

Trust & Obey

•January 21, 2013 • Leave a Comment

trust&obey

Well, it is January 21st, and after a somewhat less than flawless trip down from the tundra of Minnesota to the tropics of Texas, one small part of my transition is complete, but it is not over.

Transition, in anything, can be complex. It is something that is worked out day-by-day over a period of time, until finally, without warning, your season and subsequently your transition is complete. Until that moment arrives, you must continue to do two things and two things only; trust and obey.

Trusting God in the moment with the frailty of the future, and obeying his voice in the quietest of moments, can be even harder and often more challenging than having made your initial decision to begin to move or make a transition in the first place. And while few understand the magnitude of your initial decision, even fewer may understand what will follow. In the days, weeks, and months ahead, the working out and preparation of every good thing your future seasons holds, will begin and often hinge on your willingness to trust and obey.

Trust the dream.

He spoke something to my heart and now I am responsible for it. God spoke and revealed works and wisdom concerning my future days, and those works have caused me to change the course of my life. Now, I stand in a place of trusting those futuristic things spoken within my heart, and believing the dreams now beating, alive within it’s walls. The dream is more tender and seemingly frail now, than ever before. Every ounce of doubt will have to be drawn out of me, like poison from a wound, lest the dream be threatened, choked out, and eventually fade away. I must trust Him with the dream, leaving my hands open. When all the tendons in my wrists strain to grip tightly around these things that have yet to come to pass, I must remain open. Wide open. I must trust Him.

Obeying the dreamer.

No one wants these dreams to come to pass more than Him. Regardless of how badly I want to see the fullness of my destiny come to the surface; He wants to see it more. So amongst the noise inside my head, I have to quiet myself and simply obey even the smallest of leadings. Remain yielded, that is the goal. When you feel the urge to run, slow down. When you want to start yelling, quiet yourself. Unless He says run, or He says shout, I must remain obedient, because now is not the time for missteps. All of this rides on Him, but still the responsibility now also rests with me, since the season and path that my feet now approach, have been lit a little bit further than before. I don’t yet know all that will be required of me, but I know that I am willing to remain obedient to the transition even when it doesn’t make perfect sense. He’s the ultimate dreamer and the way He works is perfect when I remain the mold-able and yielded vessel that moves at the sound and gentle leading of His voice.

There is a whole lot of uncertainty that comes with the decision to trust and obey God. The contents of this blog are certainly the weighty side of things; there are many joys that come with it as well, but this is where my thoughts are as of late. There are times where it is easier than this, and I’m sure there are complexities today that will reduce themselves to simplicities in the near future, but in the meantime, you make the choice daily to move forward. The easiest way I know how to walk that out, isn’t always easy, but if I can simply trust the dream and obey the dreamer I know that my season of transition will come to an end, and I will be ever closer to walking in the fullness of what God has for me than ever before; and as a result, my life will be richer because of the process.

Transition

•December 5, 2012 • Leave a Comment

transition

There is two paths we choose in this life. One is wide and one is narrow. One of them you can see far into the predicted future, the other you take one step at a time. One leads to fulfillment, and the other to emptiness  For me, it was over 9 years ago when I made a choice to take the road with which I had no idea where it would lead. I didn’t know at the time, how much would be required of me to stay near it, let alone on it. But, I said yes. I said yes to whatever God wanted to do in my life, wherever that would take me.

November and December have been pretty intense months for me. In November, I traveled down south to visit some family and have Thanksgiving with them. It was on this trip that Holy Spirit began to reveal a lot of things to me. Like a giant puzzle I didn’t know existed, pieces started coming together and a picture of what would become my very near future began to emerge.

After much prayer, thoughtful consideration, and council from people in my life that I love and respect; I made a choice to embrace the opportunity that God is affording me and to begin a transition to Texas. It’s strange how one moment you can be getting comfortable and used to your surroundings and then, you get seemingly broadsided. While I had the sense that change was coming, I did not know the scale of what was about to happen, or that it would cause me to physically move, but back in I 2003, I didn’t know the scale of the change that was going to happen when I first said yes. Still, I am choosing to say yes, yet again.

It feels like a gift, knowing some incredible things are about to unfold in my life, but it is a bittersweet experience, because having to leave people I love and care about is a difficult thing to do. These past 4 and 1/2 years I have lived in the small town of Ottertail, Minnesota, and the years spent here have been life changing because of the people that were a part of it. With Jesus as my guide, I continue to run this race, with endurance, in pursuit of His perfect will for my life. And although this path may take me away from Minnesota and down to Texas, I will keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, continue to be a part of seeing the Kingdom of God coming to earth, and to continue with my heart desire to play music, and to see the body of Christ strengthened for the journey ahead.

I share my experience that you might be encouraged. Even in the unknown you can not lose heart or become insecure. If you have made a choice to follow Christ, and if you have given Him your life, I guarantee you that it is anything but predictable; but I would follow no other, for Jesus as yet to fail me, and He never will. He is the only reason I am anything. My heart rejoices in following His lead. I thank you for your prayers and support in season ahead!

Here’s to new seasons!

Coty.

Life’s Unexpected Turns

•August 20, 2012 • 1 Comment

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Life is full of surprises. Little did I know that my journey would be marked with twists and turns leading me on what at times seems like a wild goose chase, yet, once revealed, shows a beautiful picture of what trust in God can and will produce.

Earlier this year, I began to outline the idea of doing a tour to Ireland with my great friends Brian & Ramey Whalen. After having successfully accomplished last year’s task of taking a small tour group to the Emerald Isle; seed was sown on a dream and my expanding imagination began to take over. In the past, this has produced many things, some successful, some not so much. A more recent failure was my note card business, (which I still dream about reviving from time to time.) But, with this travel business, it was different. This time around, there was the weight of destiny hovering over my business venture, so I began to dream a dream that had laid dormant in my heart, only to be awakened now in the year two thousand and twelve.

Pursuing a dream takes a lot of courage, something I realized over the past few years. It’s never an easy road, and it is often lined and shadowed with doubts. So, going into the design of this large tour, I soon discovered that I was well equipped for the task at hand, even though my better judgment would suggest that I was most certainly doomed to have areas of major lack. But when that cloud of suspicion was lifted, I found that His grace was made sufficient for me to excel in areas where I was weak.

Many who know me well consider me to be a rather organized person, (something not so typical for a creative, right-brained musician,) but organizing and executing a trip for upwards of forty people isn’t something I looked at and said, “chalk one in the strength column.” But, when the road took a turn, I met the challenge, and forged ahead finding grace waiting for me just around the bend. Then there was the dreaded budget. I will be honest and say, this has certainly been one of my biggest weaknesses. My mother was very good with finances but, that clearly did not rub off on me; and some people have no idea the stress that can come from dealing with a large budget. But, again, when the challenge was before me, not only did I handle it with ease; I found these things beginning to transpire and change my day to day life. And I know now more than ever, that this is His perfect design.

So many things in my life have been unexpected, and when it has taken every ounce of frail trust that I possessed to turn the corner, the very best things in my life were waiting there for me. With those turns come new chapters, new testimonies, and new chances to see His glory manifest in our lives. Trust and obey.

Coty.

ps. I am happy to report that our trip is nearly full, and you can see all that the Lord has done with my new business, Sloan Travel Co. Our group of 38 people traveling to Ireland, including my good friends Ray & Denise Hughes, leave for Ireland on September 1, 2012.

From Tragedy To Triumph

•January 21, 2012 • Leave a Comment

from-tragedy-to-triumphI can’t adequately explain how He does it, but for those who are willing to trust Him, God can make even the most hurtful times of our lives beautiful, and I speak from experience.

This year I have a goal of recording my first ever vocal album, but it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I received confirmation from the Lord and came to realize that He is most certainly with me. January 13th marked six years from a very traumatic and trying moment/year in my life. In one swift passing of a month, my world began to turn upside down and everything that was steady became unglued, proving once again that only Jesus is the unshakeable one.

So on this winter day of January 13th, I received a text message from a friend early that morning. In 3 texts, she said some very encouraging words, and it meant a lot coming from someone who had walked through that years set of unique circumstances along side me. Then moments later something special happened, a melody came. I’ve experienced it before, and of course my heart leapt knowing full well that I was about to write a song. Sure enough about an hour later, my melody took form, and lyric became verse as my mind processed and my fingers typed out the words to my first song of the year.

The song is called ‘Time Can Heal,’ and while the title would suggest one thing, the chorus says another. As the song describes in the chorus, time can heal things but God does it so much better. His ways are higher, and the only way to be made complete and whole is by submitting to the complete work that He wants to do in your heart. Yielding your heart to Him is the smartest and often most challenging thing to do in the midst of trial, but consider the alternative which so many people try and lean on, it’s called human understanding. Without Jesus in the equation, we end up with a sub-par patch job on a broken heart that will never quite heal right unless He’s allowed to come in and do what He does best.

I have faith that I will record an album and it will be created for the purpose of restoring hope to the hearts of people everywhere. An album designed to draw our gaze from our lives onto His life; the life that brings joy, peace, understanding, hope, redemption, and pure unrestrained love. I hope to get a quick demo of the song up for people on YouTube or something, but I’m so glad that God chose to use this January 13th to built a monument of testimony with which I will always remember it by; a day that was once ugly, only to be made beautiful again.

The Common Thread

•November 14, 2011 • 2 Comments

Yesterday I made my way back to Minnesota after having visited Texas. During the drive from Minneapolis through the farm lands of Minnesota back to Ottertail, I had great conversation with my friends Nate and Adam. We were talking about, life, ministry, family, and work, then Nate said something related to the people he works with, the result of which is this blog. During our talk he said something to the effect of, “I don’t want to casually or even jokingly talk down to people that are around me.” He followed by saying something about the people he works with being “piles,”  short for piles of crap, in the way that they behave, treat people, talk, and the way they live out their lives. That was the trigger. Piles.

I have been guilty so many times of looking at people and thinking to myself, “What a bunch of idiots!” People living their lives for themselves, and their existence dependent upon the things of this world, but there is something powerfully humbling that happens when you say those things and you bring immediate correction to your mind. When did I stop having a need for a savior? Since when did I become clean, spotless, and blameless on our own doing? (humility alert… incoming!)

You see, there is something so very close to my heart and it is this fact; you and I share a common thread with all of humanity, as lost as some people are, our need for Jesus is and will always be equal. Yes, I have received salvation, but my need for the Grace of God in my life today is as strong as it was yesterday. My need for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, is as present today as it was yesterday. And my need for the pure love of the Father remains unchanged. When we come to that mind-bending/correcting realization that all “those people” are a clear reflection of our lives without God, then we being to see people differently and true compassion makes it’s way into our hearts.

I don’t know why it takes so long for some things to drop from our heads to our hearts, I know it’s lack of humility a lot of the times, but I’m so grateful for the Holy Spirit to bring insight when my heart isn’t equipped to do so. I want my life to reflect Jesus, and His reasoning for doing what He did was never laced with obligation or coercion, but it flowed from a heart that was filled with compassion. Romans 3:24 reminds us that, “[All] are justified and made upright and in right standing with God, freely and gratuitously BY HIS GRACE (His unmerited favor and mercy), through the redemption which is [provided] in Christ Jesus.”

This is our most powerful of testimonies, that the acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice has made us who we are. Walk in humility, reminded that saved or unsaved, we share the same consistent need with all the world, our need for the Savior.

Coty.

Without Love I Have Nothing

•October 21, 2011 • 3 Comments

After a wonderful breakfast yesterday with my friends Michael & Lillian Tyrrell, I found myself renewed yet again to the thought of what is it that we are saving people into when they receive Christ.

My salvation story is one of a young man trapped by religion. That relentless monster that feeds on stagnancy, ritual, and methods; nearly consumed me; and then God. In the clearest voice when I was 19 years old, God whispered in my ear “you’re going to go there,” while I was watching someones home video of a worship set from their bible school. He told me it was time to move, and my tentative heart that was very unfamiliar with hearing God’s voice, obeyed. With that move, I came into a place of beginning to discover the Lord for what felt like the first time.

Now while I know we are not saving people to an organization, it was God’s design that we come into a place of communion with fellow believers, as Jesus literally and effectively called us, “brothers and sisters.” In the first century, there are accounts of pagans being able to identify who Christian’s were, simply because of their “extraordinary love” for one another.

My heart is for evangelism and for seeing the lost come to know Jesus. However, “the lost” can refer to Christians as much as it can those who don’t yet know him. In a very real way my heart is concerned and bent on seeing the body of Christ become what we have been called to be, the light of the world. I don’t want to see people enslaved to a monster where they spend their lives feeding obligations and rituals, working to earn their approval from God and man, and never being “enough.” It is impossible for religion to satisfy the desires of the soul.

And it is also impossible to truly be a Christian without love.

Let’s start a revolution in our lives and in our churches, in our communities and in our families; where the principle and standard we begin to apply to ourselves earnestly seeks the true love of God to be in all that we say, all that we do, and all that we are. From the mundane things, to the butting heads, the caring for one another, the serving of people, the laying down of our lives for each other. How will we ever understand the Kingdom if we have not love?

The apostle John put it best when he wrote, “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1st John 4:8)

Let’s learn to love, and change the face and the stigma of what a Christian really looks like. Jesus is the standard, and no other.

I leave you with the lyrics to a new song by Sara Groves that has been inspiring and challenging my heart. It’s called ‘Without Love.’

You can rise in the halls of power
You can speak to the masses
You can heal their disease
You can stand as the man of the hour
You can bring them to their feet
You can bring them to their knees

Without love I have not
Without love, without love

You can fall on the blade of the martyr
You can give all your possessions to the poor
You can tell all you’ve seen of the future
Predict every famine every war

Without love I have not
Without love, without love

Love always protects, love always trusts,
Love always hopes the best for us
Love is slow to anger, love isn’t proud
Love never fails us, love will never fails us

Without love I am nothing
Without love I am nothing
Without love I am nothing at all

ps. I HIGHLY recommend getting Sara Groves new album, she is one of my favorite songwriters and love her ability to communicate and bring hope through her music. Click on the image above and it will direct you to iTunes where you can download it.