By Jayson Bronkhorst
It didn't click for me until I heard a couple well-known artists talk about their work and personal lives. The interviewer asked the first how she balanced all her work with her family life. Her response was that to work, to create, she had to be in a state of play. All too often, with design and art work especially, I realized I get caught up in deadlines. It becomes dreaded, stressful work rather than life-giving joy to create.
The interviewer asked a second artist a similar question, as he had a wife and three children. His answer was equally simple: his work and home life often naturally mixed. He didn't take time away from his family to work, but for example, he often began the early brainstorm processes by building small Lego models with his kids. He gained fame from beginning to post short, 5-minute doodles that he did as he woke up in the mornings.
I realized I had lost both of these things with Valued, both my state of play as well as my work flowing through my life, thoughts, and experiences. As a result, Valued began to lose passion. I had to think back to the inception and the growth of Valued as a brand. It started as a college project, but it was always more than that, because I do really care about people. But where had that vision gotten lost?
Was it in maximizing the profit margins?
Or the pressure of picking a good nonprofit to donate to next month?
Or the jealousy when I looked at all the other brands around me?
I had become engrossed in the business and forgotten the purpose.
About half a year ago, I made the decision that Valued Clothing would give proceeds from every purchase towards a different cause each month. As an American, I am much more fortunate that many people in the world, and I believe that a core element of sharing value is doing what I can to help.
However, as Valued began to take a back seat in my daily life, it ate away at me. January passed, and I hadn't picked a monthly cause. Then February. Then March 1st.
I realized something important when I heard those artists speak: for Valued to succeed, it needs to be not just a brand or company that I run, but it needs to be part of me.
It needs to be something where every design that I produce, I do so because I love it, I am proud of it, and I believe it will help spread the message that every person has value. It needs to be something where I don't force myself into all the other clothing line molds, because I am not them. It needs to be something that flows out of my daily life and who I am as a person.
In my very first post, I wrote about my convictions that led me to take the beginning steps in the creation of Valued. At the root of it all is the principle of Christ-like love, and how I want to share that: spreading the message that every single person has value. Throughout the various design processes, social media posts, and shirt productions, I stuck to a rule I made: don't make anything openly Christian.
I wanted Valued Clothing to be a brand that anyone could relate to and support without hesitation, and I thought it would help the brand get popular faster. In reality, all it did was suppress my true convictions and passions, and in the process, Valued began to lose its conviction and passion.
I had to decide to no longer worry about that stuff, because I know that the mission and vision of Valued will not change. My passions and beliefs likely will not change, but if they do, Valued will change with them. And that's okay. Valued Clothing Company always has an always will be a company that focuses on spreading the message that every single human being carries value.
I consider working with youth one of the most important things I can do as a human on this earth. As an AG youth pastor, I have the privilege of being part of the most amazing youth district in the country.
Valued giving from the beginning of 2017 through the foreseeable future will go to Speed The Light, as STL is an extension of myself, and gives me life. Speed The Light is not a means to an end, but simply a step in the journey. I believe that every human has inherent value, and Speed The Light truly embodies that cause. You can read more about STL here.
I truly love and adore the heart and mission of every single person and organization that I have had the privilege of partnering with. Now, Valued is moving into a season in which I hope it will be give life to people as I am restoring life to it. I hope Valued Clothing Company will no longer be in stark separation from me, but rather a fruitful extension of my own life.
Valued will support STL from now on, but this isn't to say that we won't work with anyone different in the future. Maybe we'll partner with local youth nonprofit Fighting Chance again (love y'all). Or maybe we'll make a shirt with 100% of the proceeds furthering foster homes and orphanages. Or maybe we'll make a collaboration shirt for Winona State Chi Alpha. ;)
Exciting things on the horizon. If you're reading this, I'm real glad you've stuck around this long. Let's share some value with the world this year.
By Jayson Bronkhorst
Foster care and adoption have been on my mind a ton recently. This may be partly due to the fact that just over a month ago, our family adopted two sisters that we had in foster care for a little over a year.
My mom especially had an excuse not to take on any more kids, as she's still parenting her boys (major shout-out all the moms; you make the world go round)! But my parents took the plunge. My mom quit her job to devote time to it, and we were along for the ride.
For the last month or so, I've thought about this stuff more than almost anything else. I saw this photo the other day, which had some statistics that fascinated me.
It's 2014 data and the numbers are estimated, but the point still comes across loud and clear; for the problem to be nearly eradicated, less than a third of the church needs to say YES to our kids. In no way am I trying to guilt anyone into fostering or adopting, because for one, it simply doesn't work that way. Two, the only reason I'm even writing this now is because I had no say in my parents doing it.
"Wow," people always say. "I can't believe you guys do this. It takes a special kind of person to take care of and love all these kids."
And that's true... to a point. But you mean to tell me that if a cop dropped off a two-year-old boy in your driveway and his birthday was the next day, you wouldn't make him a birthday cake? Here's the only "special" quality you need to be a foster parent:
In Matthew 19, Jesus insists the children be brought to him to pray for. He says the Kingdom of Heaven itself belongs to them. God speaks to Joseph, Samuel, David, and countless other youth throughout the Bible. Why did he pick them? I have no idea, and they didn't either. But they were willing to follow the call, and amazing, crazy, impossible things occurred because of it. Another thing these stories make clear to me is that young people matter to God. If young people matter to God, then no matter what, no matter who, I believe God will take care of those working for this (his) cause.
When people pray for God to 'break my heart for what breaks yours' I'm not sure they understand the full effect. I am reminded of Exodus 33 where Moses is meeting with God and God tells Moses that he is going to show Moses some of his glory, but he cannot look at the face of God, because nobody can do it and live. It's comical, really, that we ask for so many things with zero knowledge of their full meaning, and if God were to answer some of them we would already be dead.I also believe in God's purpose being accomplished through people and things other than devout Christians: from non-Christian humans to talking donkeys to a phantom hand writing on the wall, He shows no bounds.
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
You can do it. I strongly believe in, and believe I have seen, God adminster supernatural strength and hope when the situation has seemed impossible to bear (and all the moms said amen). But even if you don't believe in that, fostering for me very quickly became less of "I have to care for this kid" and more "what can I do to let this kid know that they are worth more than diamonds?" The hardest part for me was learning to set aside my me-focused lifestyle and move my focus to the family--and do my best to welcome any kids we got the best way that I could.
To all those who work with youth and kids:
Youth/kids pastors and leaders.
School bus drivers.
And SO many more...
Your job is hard. It is not easy. Thank you for every good impression that you make. These are our young people, and they matter.
~ If this has interested you ~
By Jayson Bronkhorst
Amongst all the political banter crowding our news feeds, something that has seriously bothered me is the myth that there is a "Christian" choice this election.
"If you're a Christian, I don't know how you can vote for _____."
This implies that as Christians, there is only one correct choice for us to vote for, which is simply not true.
Seeing as this is a lucrative topic, I want to clarify a few things before continuing:
There's no such thing as the "Christian candidate." There are a few reasons for this, per the clickbait title...
1. There are too many viewpoints
There are a million different perspectives for every political stance and candidate, each of which can be disproved by one or more of the million viewpoints in favor of an opposing candidate. Some candidates even agree on certain points despite identifying as opposite parties. A great example of an issue that is often make-or-break for many conservative people I know is the pro-life factor. Some stand next to the Republican Party solely voting on the issue of abortion (though there are usually other reasons as well). But this can be quickly broken down and turned around in favor of the opposition.
Why the numbers tell this story is an entirely different conversation, but if nothing else it shows that voting based on where a candidate stands on an issue is not just useless but sometimes also counter-productive. Not to mention the fact that candidates often change their minds on several issues throughout their political career. If our goal as Christians is to be like Jesus (it should be), then we cannot merely stand upon what candidates say they agree with or what they say they will do. More research needs to be done on causes and effects, environments, and people groups; just as Jesus' ministry was multi-faceted, inclusive of everyone and every issue, so Christians should be also.
The answer I came to for this one was nobody. In Deuteronomy 7 we get a glimpse of God's ideal nation, as he speaks sternly to Israel. He warns them several times not to get involved with other peoples, to obey all the laws and commandments, and to have complete faith in him. But then we get an idea of the love that he truly has for the nation:
"For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession" (Deut 7:6).
Israel was God's chosen nation, designed to center around worshiping and following God. They had prophets and leaders, but even then they were not obeying the prophet or leader; they were obeying God. All that changes in 1 Samuel 8.
"But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights" (1 Sam 8:7-9).
Samuel goes on to give in-depth details of what a king will entail: drafting for the army, taking some of their crops, enslaving some to work for him, taking a regular tithe for his staff, relinquishing cattle... Basically, Samuel is saying 'look guys, you really don't want to do this.'
"But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We wanta king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.” When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. The Lord answered, “Listen to them and give them a king” (1 Sam 8:19-22).
Israel didn't even HAVE an earthly king until they begged for one, at which point God finally relents, I imagine with a deep, knowing sigh: "Listen to them and give them a king." Now, by no means am I saying you should not vote. I strongly believe God gave us brains and logical thinking skills to make our own decisions. Whether or not you vote, and who you vote for, is completely your prerogative. It just can get complicated because the conversation here covers multiple dimensions; God is our Lord, not a human. Simply put, his intentions for Israel are the same as now: that our hope lies in him.
3. Nobody is perfect (or worthy)
This point feeds off of the previous, as we take a look at the first ever king of Israel, King Saul. When Saul was anointed, even though God did it reluctantly, 1 Samuel 10 says that "God changed Saul's heart." Saul was the dark horse, the underdog of his family and generation, that God decided to use in a mighty way. Such are the ways of God.
And God did use him in a mighty way... until Saul went off the deep end. It got to the point where God straight up told Samuel in 1 Samuel 15 "I regret that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions."
And it all started with Saul. Were there good kings after Saul? Absolutely. King David, arguably the greatest and most God-fearing king, the king "after God's own heart" (Acts 13:22), was anointed just after Saul. Part of the reason Saul went crazy is because Saul grew increasingly scared of David as he saw God's anointing on David's life instead of his own. In the midst of Saul, David, and these countless other kings listed throughout the Bible we have to remember something crucial:
Saul was God's anointed.
Acts 13:21, when remembering this time in biblical history, says that God "gave them Saul." That being said, there is a bold claim to be made:
We cannot judge a royal (read: presidential) candidate's leadership eligibility based on their character. There are many passages in the Bible in books such as Timothy and Titus where it mentions that Christians and leaders in the church specifically should live "above reproach," but there is never specific mention of royal character. Something crucial the Bible does mention, though, is to offer prayers and intercede "for kings and all those in authority" (1 Tim 2:2).
Now, obviously we should always use our heads and be mindful, especially of people around us. Proverbs warns of this several times: "Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm" (13:20). This is the same topic, but in a different light. This is the conversation of who can God use to accomplish his plan? What is God's plan?
Anybody can of course be used by God, as we see time and time again, but we don't know God's plan. The key here is that we do know that earthly kingship was never part of God's plan, just as America was never a "Christian nation." And whether or not our pledge of allegiance contains the words "under God" makes no difference on our peoples' eternal salvation. Nobody will ever be qualified enough to take the reins of a country.
Jesus made it so simple... didn't he? (Matthew 22). We can't let earthly kings get in the way. This November, no matter who you vote for or if you vote at all, you can make the choice to act towards everyone around you as you would want to be acted towards yourself.
And really, truly, stop and think about what that means.