Surrounded by Wisdom

Yesterday I thought to myself, “I know just what the world needs: More self-pity and whining about petty things like the weather! On the internet!!” So I set about to do something about this problem. Just as I was about to send a tweet complaining about cold weather and questioning my allegiance to Northern Indiana, this showed up at the top of my Twitter feed:

“Are you kidding me?!” is all I could think. Don’t get me wrong—I’d much rather live in a place where going to the beach nine months out of the year is totally acceptable than in one where gray skies and cold weather seem to put people into hibernation for half the year. But in the middle of wondering what I could possibly be doing here I was smacked over the head with the reason I’ll happily stay here as long as God will allow me:

I am completely surrounded by a wealth of wisdom and insight.

If you happened to catch any of my posts from ReInnovate last week, you may have figured out that our church just hosted a conference where hundreds of pastors from around the country came to glean wisdom from the people I get to work with every day! I’ll admit—I often take for granted that every Wednesday I get to sit in an all-staff meeting where our leaders spend time just pouring wisdom into us. But as I sat in the conference, listening to people like Mark Beeson, Kem Meyer, Ted Bryant, Jason Miller, and others, I couldn’t help but be in awe of the place God has allowed me to be. Why do I get to be in the presence of so much wisdom, knowledge and insight?

I don’t know the answer, other than to say that God is so good.

But enough about my good fortune and blessing. This isn’t about me. I absolutely do not deserve this. I say all this to point out that really, anyone reading this can now get up close to some of the wisdom I’m around every day. Even if you’re all the way in sunny California, you no longer have to leave the beach to come to the treasure trove of knowledge we have in Indiana. (See what I did there? Any Californians jealous? Maybe??) Today you can get your own copy of Rob Wegner and Jack Magruder‘s book, Missional Moves.

I know from experience—these guys know what they’re talking about. And they’re not just speaking from some intellectual understanding of the subject of living on mission (though they definitely have that); they live it every day of their lives, leading Granger’s missional movement from downtown South Bend, to Tamil Nadu, India, right back to suburban Granger, Indiana. Last year I shared some of the experience of my trip to India and the work our church is doing there. And now, not only are thousands of people in India being changed by the message of the Gospel thanks to their work, but church leaders from all over the United States are starting to coalesce around these ideas and apply Jack and Rob’s tactics in communities around this country.

These two are definitely on to something huge, and are spearheading a new movement for the Kingdom of God, literally all over the world.

I’m so grateful to be living right where I live, getting to learn from these guys. And not just that, but getting a chance to join them on some of the work they do. It’s an incredible opportunity and experience, and if I ever leave here it won’t be (just) for nicer weather. I have it too good right where I’m at.

Understanding Winehouse

As I drove home Friday night, I believe I understood, for the first time in my life, why so many musicians are prone to alcoholism and are drug or sex addicts. But let me back up a bit.


After four and a half years of being disbanded, my former band, The Honour Recital, decided to get back together for one concert, on one night. We were all thrilled to share the stage with each other again—since the breakup, we had all gone separate ways and really hadn’t spent time all together as a group, so the prospect was exciting on many levels.

The Work

A lot of work must go in to a concert if the band wants to sound good, make a little money and have people show up. So for the next two months, that’s what we went about doing: individual practice, business meetings, writing a press release and contacting various media outlets, getting a poster designed and printed, buying merchandise to sell, writing and producing a set, band rehearsals, working with the promoter and our sound and lighting technicians, etc.

After two months of hard work (usually after getting home from our “real”, paying jobs), leaving our wives and families at night for rehearsals and meetings, and getting little precious sleep, the day finally arrived. We got to the venue at 2 p.m. for a sound check and full run-through and by the time we got through many complications with sound, lighting, stage setup, etc., it was time for people to start arriving. And arrive, they did. Some came from as far away as Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and even Iowa, some six hours away!

Three great bands opened for us and before we knew it, we were up! We took the stage and even before the first note, we could literally feel the energy and anticipation of the crowd. And when we started playing, it was as if we had never stopped four years ago—fans were clapping, dancing and singing and yelling along to every word. They loved our music, and they loved us.

The High

It’s incredibly difficult to explain to someone who’s never experienced it before, the incredible high that a person gets who is in that position. But suffice it to say that when hundreds of people are singing back to you the songs that you carefully crafted and when you’re causing them to have such a good time that they, in turn, cause you to have a great time, it’s just an incredible high, like nothing you’ve ever experienced.

Now it’s definitely not the most fulfilling high by any means. (Is any high truly fulfilling?) It doesn’t even touch the day I married my wife or the week I spent with the poor in India. Those things were more of a process and had greater rewards, over a longer period of time. But neither of those truly meaningful and fulfilling things come close to the very short and high peak of emotion and happiness in that moment on stage. And with every short, high peak of emotion comes a very long, steep fall back down to earth and “real life.”

That’s what I struggled with after the lights went out and the music stopped and all the fans went home. The long period of work was done, but so was the very short moment of reward. I felt really empty and life felt meaningless. Even though I absolutely love my life: I have a beautiful wife who loves me for who I am, I have a relationship with the God who created the universe (including music) and yet loves me, I have a baby girl on the way and a great job that I love going to every morning. But in that moment, none of these lasting, fulfilling, meaningful things could touch the sharp, high peak of happiness that I had just reached. And in that moment, and into the next day, I just wanted to find something else to go to to make me happy. I understood—fully I think—for the first time, why “rock stars” (along with some professional athletes and celebrities) run to drugs, sex and alcohol to keep them happy. If I didn’t have the aforementioned meaningful things in my life, that fall back to the real world would have been much longer and even steeper and I would probably be like the rest of them.

The way I see it, we as musicians (performers, entertainers, etc.) have to find our true happiness outside of the stage; we have to have real relationships with people who love us even when we haven’t recorded a single song in five years. We have to know that this life matters, whether or not we ever produce a single hit. If we don’t, and if all our hope is in the music and our fans, we are doomed. Even if we live, we’re doomed to live lives of destruction, to ourselves and everyone around us (See Nikki Sixx’s story in The Dirt by Neil Strauss and Motley Crue, or Michael Jackson’s life for more evidence of that).

The Understanding

Later that day, Amy Winehouse was found dead. A beautiful girl with a great voice, her death is certainly a huge loss. At this point, we still aren’t sure what the cause of this 27-year-old’s tragic death was. Whatever the cause turns out to be, one thing no one disputes is that her life was full of imbalance and she battled many addictions. As sad and tragic as her death is, it couldn’t have been timed more perfectly for my understanding. Because of my very short experience with a very small-scale level of fame, my heart was a lot more sensitive than it normally would have been. I think at any other time, I would have said things like, “What a waste. She was so talented and had it all and she ruined it.” Now, I understand, more than ever before, that it in fact, ruined her. If all her life centered on her music career and if that is what she counted on to make her happy, she didn’t have a chance. Because music (and fans and concerts and adulation) will bring a short-term happiness that nothing else can bring, but it is extremely temporary.

I Want to be More Like This Guy

I want to be more like Thomas. No, not Thomas Jefferson (though I am grateful for his work, especially the Declaration of Independence—but that’s another post entirely.) I’m talking about Thomas, the disciple, the follower of Jesus. We usually refer to him as “Doubting” Thomas. He’s the guy who wanted to see the holes in Jesus’ hands, feet and side, in order to be convinced that Jesus had indeed resurrected from the dead. Because of that, Thomas is known not for his faith, but for his doubt.

There’s a lot more to “Doubting” Thomas though that isn’t as well-taught or -known. I only learned last year that he was one of the first to bring the gospel of Christ to India. “Saint” Thomas, as he is known there now, even has a mountain named after him. Check out this video on Thomas’ impact in India, shot from the top of St. Thomas Mount:

I’d like to think I have a lot in common with Thomas. I think he was a guy who wanted to make sure he had his facts straight and that everything made sense—before he believed. But once he knew the truth, he dove in and gave 100%. There was no stopping a believing Thomas. Check out this passage, from John 11, well before the whole little doubting incident:

6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days,7 and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

8 “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”

9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light.10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”

11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.”13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.

14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead,15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

That little line in the middle of a story of resurrection says a lot. Thomas wasn’t necessarily sure Jesus would come out of there alive (perhaps he was doubting?) but he had seen enough evidence, and believed in this Jesus so fully, that he was ready to give his life at a moment’s notice for Him.

That’s what I want. I know I won’t always have the answers, and at times my human mind—not capable of fully grasping a life other than the fallen-nature of this present world—won’t be able to comprehend a way out. But I want to be a person who doesn’t believe blindly, but with the passion that only asking questions and finding the Truth can bring.

My Trip to India: One Year Later

Chennai Airport

Exactly one year ago, I was traveling home to the US as part of a team from Granger Community Church (GCC) after our mission trip to India. Now if you’re asking yourself, as I have often been asked, why would you willingly use your vacation time to go to India?, watch this:

I’m filled with all kinds of thoughts and emotions as I read through my journal, look at pictures and watch videos from that week. The time we spent with the Irula colony in Kalavai, Tamil Nadu was easily one of the best weeks of my entire life. It was there that I learned how much I have, how great the country I live in is, and how truly happy and generous people can be, regardless of their lot in life.

Here are some quick videos that more or less summarize my entire week:

A couple more pictures:

There are more pictures and video where that came from; just head to my Tim Burkey to India Facebook Group.

Also, if you want a more detailed description of my trip to India, you can read the letter I sent to my supporters after I had been home for about a month.

Finally, there’s an amazing book about the work our church is doing in southern India and the movement to grow the Kingdom of God that is spreading like wildfire. It contains stunning pictures (taken, like most of the pictures in this post, by Dustin Maust) from the trip I was a part of, as well as lots of stories from people in the village and local pastors. The book is called Share the Well; it was written by Rob and Michelle Wegner, and it is easily worth the $20 it costs to buy it because, along with the beautiful pictures and the heart-warming and inspiring stories, all of the money from the proceeds of this book go back into the work being done on the ground in India.

You can get your copy from the book’s website or on Amazon.

Thanks for letting me share a piece of my incredible trip with you!  This certainly isn’t the end…

Thanks to Dustin and J for the amazing pictures and videos!