On the busIn understanding who you are, we often look for what we are not. I’m not an idiot. I’m not a liar. I’m not religious. I’m not tall. I’m not a millionaire.

But actually knowing who you are, I mean really understanding, takes definition. The week we spent with Timothy’s Gift got us closer.

From the jump, Melissa had us whipped into shape. I mean, she had a freaking app that had us learning music before we even showed up! Their whole operation was painless (thanks to Jacques Sirois and Ron Miller) from the airport to the hotel to the bus. But something was different than normal.

I couldn’t put my finger on it at first.

Their full SingOff group was there this time. Here’s the roll call: Melissa Greene, Lauren Wedertz, Abby “Lane”, Anna Register, Emily Angarole, and Beta Angarole, plus we were going to travel with Beta’s boyfriend Kyle Lampi who would play guitar. To round out the tour, our guy Paul Kaleka was coming to run sound and Ron’ nephew Trey Hawkins and his friend Kyle Troyer.

Everybody approached the tour with humility and a sense of responsibility. There was truly something powerful charged to everybody and the honor of joining the tour was felt. Our respect for the girls in Timothy’s Gift only grew as we started rehearsal in the empty church. They nailed their parts and we finally got to see them in their element. Pick your expletive. Mine was “damn!” I’ve never heard so much power and talent in one person, much less 6. Just…damn! It was gonna be a lot of singing on this tour, but I’d be happy to listen to them all day singing through the phone book.

We joined them at the end of their church’s service to sing for the congregation, then loaded the bus for our trip. Before we left, a former member, Melinda Doolittle (from American Idol) surprised us and joined the first half of the tour.

I could see the change in our boys. We started to act like men around TG. We saw them not as girls, but as women. It’s hard to qualify what that means. It’s not a sexist thing or something to do with gender roles…in fact their leadership, confidence, wisdom, and directness is what Western society expects of men. Perhaps that’s what being a woman or man means (instead of girl or boy)…embodying the values that come with age (not with gender).

We practiced on the bus and tried to build each other up. Our skills became complementary instead of competitive. We got better.

We psyched up Jamal and Chris based on the Christmas tour that Aaron, Fredo, and I joined. The reality was less heavy in the hot, humid Florida summer. It was still intense, shuffling through countless gates bypassing miles of razor wire. The guards were the kind of somber you see in an English teacher, though some were cockier than others, carrying themselves with a sort of bravado that you get in a position of extreme authority.

The shows changed even them.

We were merely participants in a life-changing experience. What Melissa and the rest of Timothy’s Gift do for people around them is like food to the starving. In your soul, you sometimes forget how hungry you are. Their message that “you are loved, you are good” carried tremendous weight. With each performance we gained confidence and clarity.

Photos credited to Ron Miller:

Now, Christopher and I have some common ground when it comes to belief in a creator…or lack thereof. Risking the stigma of a moniker, you could say we are agnostic. To have joined a Christian-based tour that relies heavily on scripture and dogma would have been strange if it wasn’t for TG’s unique approach. Their church just came out of the closet and welcomed the gay community (something very non-Christian in the Biblical sense). They acknowledge deficiencies and contradictions of the Bible and the Christian community. They take their beliefs and extract kernels of providential wisdom.

During the tour they chipped in to get us tickets to go to Disney World! Most of us spent the day riding rides in the heat and hanging with the awesome people we’d been singing with. It was the most fun I’ve had at a theme park, and I think we rode a total of 2.5 actual rides.

We finished the tour up having spent a few good nights at Ruby Tuesday’s, taking sleep selfies on the bus, and scarfing continental breakfasts before. I love these people. They made us better people. They turned us into men.

The group text has been blowing up for months since then. I hope we see them soon. Thank you TG.