RoP2: First Trailer

Joe Stapp gave me the pleasure of cutting the first trailer for RoP 2: Men Do Hard Things. It’s been a great experience going through the footage they shot in the desert of Nevada, from talented guys like Geno DiMaria, Jon McCallum, and Frank Cheslock. They did a fantastic job capturing the story of a boy becoming a man.

Rite of Passage 2 – Trailer One from Chad Stembridge on Vimeo.

Check out the RoP website or Facebook page.


The Roaring Masses

This era is the most well-documented in history. With so many free and convenient means of publishing available, even the most obscure, bizarre, and weak voices have no trouble at least being recorded. It’d be a historian’s dream: access to every heartbeat of a civilization.

But oh, the poor historians who will attempt making sense of it all in a hundred years. How will they know what was important to a culture, when it had millions of worthless bits of data spreading throughout it everyday?

Contrived Memories

Our society is more concerned with contriving and broadcasting memories, rather than creating, enjoying, and remembering them. This is something I touched on in 35 Musings, in an entry called Nostalgia Culture:

A parent can’t simply enjoy a child’s piano recital; he must also take video of it or pictures. A person won’t simply go out on an adventure or retreat to a quiet place for thinking; he will also share it via social networking. We’re consumers. Instead of doing something because it is good and right and beautiful, we engineer something because we have this faint tracing in our mind of those things which, a few generations back, used to be commonplace (but profound) happenings. Everything’s so very plastic-y nowadays. Actually, to my mind — plastic is a very good example of what I speak of. Things used to be made out of quality materials because that was the best thing to do. Now, in an effort to chase after maximum profit, we make imitations from cheap plastic. And plastic cannot truly replace something built of quality and principle; and so it is in life as well. Manufactured memories — are they truly memories at all?

What’s the reason for this manufacturing epidemic?

Waving Our Own Flags

We’ve abused the potentially useful powers of media and social networking because we all want to wave our own flags — and for as many people as possible to “like,” “RT,” or “+1″ them. We could create meaningful connections, but instead we vie for attention.

As a result, we’ve lost the ability to give and experience both simple and profound moments by seeking to manufacture them. By trying to be heard by the masses, we’ve sacrificed truth, aesthetics, authenticity, and deep relationship on the altars of the popularity gods. By immersing ourselves in the ocean of voices, we’ve isolated ourselves from reality.

Three Responses

There are three attitudes we can take towards the dilemma of media use and abuse surrounding us:

1) Run With It: it’s available to use and not going away. Might as well participate in and consume it rather than be left out to dry — besides, it’s fun, lets you have a voice, and can connect you to hundreds of people.

This is the worst option of the three, and the attitude of the majority.

2) Withdraw or Greatly Limit Participation; there are too many voices already, most of them irrelevant and worthless.

This response is appropriate for some people — many more than actually take this approach. (This has been my attitude sometimes — plus the feeling that since someone else will say it if I don’t, anyway, I might as well crawl into a hole and die unnoticed.)

3) Participate Intentionally. Because of the sea of voices, limit those you pay attention to so connections and relationships remain meaningful. When participating in the culture, focus on contributing things that really matter.

This is the best option for most, but only a small number of people hold this attitude in its pure form.

Instead of waffling between the first two attitudes (easy to do), how more impactful could it be to have a balanced and purposeful attitude toward the modernities that surround us? Certainly that balance would be difficult, but not impossible.


Ultimately, eternity is in mind. Is your voice going to matter in the end? Will you stand before God having nothing to show but a life of self-promotion? Or will your life be well-spent, consumed with bringing a little it of His Kingdom to this world, a little bit of light in the darkness, a small voice of worth in a deafening roar of vanity?

The apostles often engaged culture in the places they were: the Jews in the Synagogues; Greeks in their forums; common people in the streets; travelers on the road. (Ironically, modern popular Christianity has flipped this by trying to bring unbelievers into the Church.) They went to people where they were — but didn’t try to be everywhere at once, reach a certain quantity of people (though they cared about all), or gain followings of adoring fans. They brought light, healing, and truth to their audiences, and received no popularity in return. Instead, the masses taunted, tortured, and killed them.

Our attitude should be the same. Our culture has many meeting places, both real and digital. Not all of us are to embrace going to people in every place, but in the places we do go, we must bring ideas that matter. We need to serve, help, impact — not focusing on the quantity of people we touch, but on the quality of interactions with those in our circles. For some, that means reaching millions. For most, it means reaching only a few.

And that’s okay.

Don’t add your voice to the screaming, flag-waving crowds. Every person in that crowd is waving his own flag and screaming louder than you are. To leave a legacy and deeply impact people, you must do good work that matters and give it to people who care. And to have the time, energy, and mental clarity for this, you must limit the voices in your life to those which are meaningful and deep.

Let’s pull our eyes away from the masses — but not shun them — and focus on the things that really matter, the stuff life’s made of.


Vision: A Definition, and 5 Ways to Develop It

A person can have sight, yet be practically blind.

Vision extends beyond sight. It’s not daydreaming. It’s not an emotional hallucination. Vision is the ability to see beyond: to have a grasp on the future through a command of the present.

Let’s unpack that definition and take a look at some ways vision can be built in your life.

“Command of the Present”

I don’t mean “control.” Sure, there are plenty of things you can control right now. But there are a whole lot more things outside your realm of personal control. To contrast, take government, for example. You can’t control what decisions our nation’s leaders make — but you can control the principles you invest in the lives of others around you, and that can lead to better government from the bottom up. You may not be able to stop human trafficking by sheer will-power, but you can choose to protect the vulnerable from it.

So by “command,” I’m talking more about discipline. You might call them “habits,” or “self control.” It’s mastery over self. The person who masters his Self is free from slavery to self, and is able to better direct the choices he makes. The choices you make in this moment affect those you make in the next, leading to either the fulfillment or failure of your vision.

On self-mastery’s flip side is being mastered by God, rightful King over the physical universe. Much of the time He works powerfully without (or in spite of) our help. But in His sovereignty, He gave freedom. Will we give prominence to His voice, or ours?

He’s the One Who said, “Without divine vision, people are unrestrained.” (literal reading of Proverbs 29:18a) It’s easy to see two aspects of vision from this verse: first, it needs to come from God, and second, the opposite of having it is being without discipline or mastery (restraint).

Part of commanding the present is choosing to allow what will and won’t have importance and influence in your life. It’s the process of eliminating distractions: saying “yes” to relationships and ideas and actions that matter, and saying “no” to those which pull you off course even a tiny bit.

“Grasp on the Future”

Is it really possible to have a grip on the future? It’s a valid question.

You can touch the future simply by living, consuming, and leaving a couple children to continue the human race. This is floating.

You can mar the future by pursuing self, being consumed with evil purposes, and seeking to leave a scar on the world. This is infamy.

You can grasp the future by standing for principle, creating, and leaving a legacy through affecting the mindset with which your children live life. This is vision.

Your great-great-uncle who nobody remembers touched the future.

Hitler marred it.

William Booth grasped it.

To walk through life with a Spirit-led vision is to truly grasp the future in a way that says, “This is a principle I stand on; I will live by it so that my ancestors may also stand on it.” It’s being a gatekeeper for future generations.

If you choose to follow Jesus Christ in the radically different way of Life in the Spirit — really live it, in truth and power — how will that change the people you touch, the legacy you leave?

If you have the chance to prevent one child from being enslaved, who knows what might happen?

If you buckle down and discipline yourself to be serious about thinking deep thoughts, then let them change your path, who will your grandchildren know you as?

“Ability to See Beyond”

It’s really easy to get caught up in what you can see right now. There are a million voices clamoring for your attention, as many ways you can amuse yourself, and myriads more you can worry yourself with. Most of those voices don’t matter. The majority of amusements are distractions from real life. And worrying about the future cripples you from being able to do anything about it.

Having the ability to see beyond means that, even while living Now, you’ve got a destination in mind. You’ve chosen your course and go purposefully in that direction.

One example my dad always used was that of plowing fields. Early on in his hobby farming, he learned that as long as he focused on plowing straight lines by watching where his tractor was, the lines were never straight. But when he chose a point at the end of the field and drove towards it, more times than not the line would be straight.

Translated to character, if your goal is to have humility, it never works to try being humble. That’s focusing on the here, the now, the obvious, the supposedly easy. To have humility, you have to learn to esteem others as more important than the all-consuming Me. That’s hard, and requires thinking ahead and self-discipline.

Vision is knowing where you need to be — having an end in mind — and intentionally going for it.

Developing Vision

A deep, far-reaching, mature vision isn’t crafted in a week. My vision is still under construction, but it gets clearer as the years go on.

Here are some ways a vision can be developed:


By developing the skill of thinking, you’ll discover a whole world outside your Self. Stop to consider the commonplace. Examine the world views around you. Renew your mind in the Spirit of Holiness. Take time to consider the actions and paths you’re taking as a person.

Walking in the Spirit

If you’re not walking in the Spirit of God, you can still have vision — but it’s not going to extend into the ultimate future: eternity. The goal of a relationship with God isn’t to further your own vision, but that’ll be a natural result of walking with Him. God’s will isn’t found hidden in a fog you have to stumble around in. By spending more time understanding the depths of His eternal will, you’ll better understand how to respond to it with choices to spread His Kingdom.

Part of mastering yourself is being mastered by God.

“We do not win our strength and stability by mastering ideas, but by being mastered by them — held in their grasp…” – Charles Henry Parkhurst

That mastery by someone or something else helps shape your vision. If you understand that God has made life sacred, you’ll have a stronger vision to see an end come to ideas like abortion and depopulation.

Skills and Interests

God has equipped each of us with particular skills and interests. Many of these you gained through associations and environments growing up, but for most you can choose to invest time and effort. Sometimes God moves people to do something completely opposite of their natural bent, but often He uses people as He’s called them.


Similarly to thinking, a study of the world around you yields analogies and insights to help you gain or focus vision in life. Study of the Word of God brings clarity to your worldview. Study of people’s behavior helps you understand how we work. To examine details of things takes time, effort, and often much self-discipline.

For some people, picking up a skill comes naturally at first. But it’s often harder to stick with something. I’m that kind of person; if I can’t naturally do something well after a while, I tend to discourage myself from continuing to try. It’s helpful to find mentors or other ways of learning: books, classes, people who can answer questions.

Take Risk

Vision is inherently risky. I can’t see the future, so why try to grasp it through mastery over the way I choose to live? Plus, having vision to stick to may (and probably will) mean missing out on personal comfort or gain. Small risks are stepping stones to large risks. If you overcome the fear of small risks, you’re prepared to overcome large risks — and make lasting change.

Focusing Your Vision

All of the above ways can fit together to focus your vision; the way you think about and interact with the world will affect your actions. It’s been said that if we say we believe something, but it doesn’t change how we live, we don’t really believe it.

It’s easy to lose focus on what’s important, letting your attention be sidetracked to what’s flashy and excitingly unimportant in the world. Honestly, I’d rather sit around on computer games all day than have a meaningful, risky, and (probably) uncomfortable life. That’s why I don’t allow myself to play them.

When I lose my vision is when I am most prone to discouragement, paralyzation, rotten attitudes, and sin. Both my wife and I know this too well. In a way, I perish a little. And when God renews vision, it’s a fresh breath of life.

Vision is far too important to pass up. It’s scary, absolutely, and that’s why we don’t see much of it in our culture and times today. That’s also why we don’t see many modern day Wilberforces, Muellers, Nees, Alywards, Pauls…

“We shall have all eternity in which to celebrate our victories, but we have only one swift hour before the sunset in which to win them.” – Robert Moffat

“The trouble with people, nine out of ten of them, is that they stand on insulators and watch the play of lightning through drawn shutters, and never stand out and let the electric storm play in their own bosoms.” – Charles Henry Parkhurst

Fellow disciples: let’s become a body with vision again. I need it as much as you do.

35 Musings

35 Musings for Young Adults

New Book!

Last summer I began pondering the idea of compiling a bunch of blog posts, essays, and stories into a printed volume. After pulling content from my a variety of places in my archives, it was clear that there was enough material.

Two weeks after beginning to gather things together, 35 Musings for Young Adults was published and is now available in paperback and for Kindle!


35 Musings includes blog posts from the archives, such as:

  • Controlled Burning
  • Pulling Focus
  • O King, Live Forever
  • Throwing Gutterballs
  • Wise or Foolish?

Never-published musings, including:

  • The Power of God Mocked
  • Practice vs. Thought
  • Nostalgia Culture
  • On Life, Sociality, and Singleness

Essays by both myself and Samantha, like:

  • Arbeit Macht Frei
  • A New Journey
  • Separate But Equal

Also included is The Continuing Journey, which gives some glimpses into Samantha and my engagement. We talk about some of the things God led us to do, how they wound up working out, and their effects on our just-begun marriage. It’s not intended to be a guide of any kind, simply a look into one way God has worked.

My hope is that 35 Musings can be a help to young people navigating the waters of becoming adults. Sometimes all we need are examples and provoking things to think about; perhaps this collection of writings can be of use.

For parents: please note that in this book, I’m very transparent about some issues I struggled with in the past. There’s nothing explicit, but I do mention porn addiction a couple times and masturbation.

Where to Buy   |   Kindle   |   CreateSpace

Book Information

218 pages, paperback.

Growing into adulthood can be confusing.

It’s easy to feel like giving up & giving in — but is that what we’re called to do?

35 Musings is a collection of essays and stories written by two young adults. They present glimpses into their own experiences, questions to ponder, and ideas to mull over.

Topics include:

  • Wisdom
  • Music
  • Patience in Life
  • Truth
  • Priorities
  • Dating & Courtship
  • Modern Culture
  • Navigating Life

35 Musings for Young Adults

Rite of Passage 2

Rite of Passage 2: Kickstarting

Rite of Passage 2 – Help Kickstart It! from Chad Stembridge on Vimeo.

Rite of Passage 2 is an adventure/coming-of-age documentary on a boy becoming a man. The first documentary was shot in the wilderness of Florida on minimal budget and with little planning; RoP2 is happening in the desert of Nevada — and we're in a position to really make this good. We need your help!

Kickstart Rite of Passage 2

Shot this on BMCC in ProRes/FilmDR and Pentax 50mm f/1.7, and 60D with Cinestyle and EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II.

Chad & Samantha Stembridge

2013 In Review

A friend once told me that there’s an inverse relationship between life and blogging. At the time, I didn’t understand; now I do.

A lot’s happened since the last blog post!

Most importantly, this:

Chad & Samantha Stembridge

Samantha and I are wanting to write another blog post about some of the experiences of our engagement sometime, especially about how some things we did have helped make our marriage strong from the start. But that’ll be for another day when we have time…

Here’s a quick rundown of major events in 2013:

  • - Published Simply Enigma.
  • - Worked at the Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Nebraska homeschool conventions for Rainbow Resource.
  • - Began courting Samantha.
  • - Played in the pit for Fiddler on the Roof at Southeastern Illinois College.
  • - Tried beekeeping for a week. They flew away.
  • - Asked Samantha to marry me (when God says to move, there’s no use in dragging feet!)
  • - Began our engagement by not seeing Samantha for three weeks (gone on conventions).
  • - Worked as a Beginning Orchestra coach and an Advanced Chamber Group coach at Sforzando String Camp.
  • - Backpacked in the Shawnee National Forest with Tyler, John Briggs, and Kyle DePriest. Samantha had to bring us water.
  • - Began life in Southern Illinois.
  • - Married Samantha!!!
  • - Went South for Thanksgiving.

Books I Read

The goal for last year was to read 40 books. Life was busy, though, so I didn’t quite make it! Here’s what I did read:

  1. Victory in Christ (Charlest Trumball)
  2. The Dip (Seth Godin)
  3. Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello to Courtship (Josh Harris)
  4. Worldly Amusements (Wayne Wilson)
  5. Plate to Pixel (Helen Dujardin)
  6. Babylon Mystery Religion (Ralph Woodrow)
  7. Make the Bread, Buy the Butter (Jennifer Reese)
  8. The Complete Guide to Companion Planting (Dale Mayer)
  9. Natural Beekeeping (Ross Conrad)
  10. God’s Gift to Women (Eric Ludy)
  11. First Lessons in Beekeeping (Keith S. Delaplane)
  12. U.S. Marine Operations In Korea Volume II: The Inchon-Seoul Operation (Lynn & Montross)
  13. The Thinking Beekeeper (Christy Hemenway)
  14. Top-Bar Beekeeping (Crowder & Harrell)
  15. What Every Body is Saying (Joe Navarro)
  16. God’s Pursuit of Man (A. W. Tozer)
  17. To Train up a Child (Michael & Debbi Pearl)
  18. God’s Smuggler (Brother Andrew)
  19. The Little Red Book of Wisdom (Mark DeMoss)
  20. A Woman Rides the Beast (Dave Hunt)
  21. Created to Need a Help Meet (Michael Pearl)
  22. Don’t Make Me Count to Three (Ginger Plowman)
  23. Eats, Shoots & Leaves (Lynn Truss)
  24. No Greater Joy, Volume One (Michael & Debbi Peal)
  25. Tortured for Christ (Richard Wurmbrand)
  26. The Meaning of Marriage (Tim Keller)
  27. The Knowledge of the Holy (A. W. Tozer)

Demo Reel for 2013/2014:

That’s about it! We’re excited to be following our Lord in 2014 down the paths He has prepared for us!

A New Journey


Everyone, meet Samantha.

She’s a beautiful young woman who loves Jesus Christ, not content with living a typical life of striving for American comfort, and who deeply values family, natural food, and simplicity. And I have the incredible privilege of preparing to be her husband!

God works in absolutely wonderful and amazing ways — and it’s been really neat to watch Him at work in bringing us together this year. We first met about two and a half years ago, although…

Well, I’ll let you read the story for yourself. Samantha and I each wrote out our individual perspectives on our journey to and through courtship, to display the glory of God in what He’s done. The PDF (see below) is 18 pages long… But when going through to see what we could cut out for a “short” version, it was too hard to attempt figuring out what wasn’t important enough to include. So yeah, you get the “long” version.

This is a very new journey for both Samantha and I; we’ve been blessed to be surrounded by people of wisdom, and to have the Holy Spirit clearly leading. It can be a bit daunting to look and realize that we’re about to jump out into life together on our own, with a ton of responsibility and things to think about. But we’re not alone! And we’re excited to embrace those responsibilities of life as we walk this path with our Savior Jesus Christ.

Download A New Journey


Special thanks to Tyler for shooting fantastic photos for us!







Musings & Updates from Stembridge Mill