Thank You! We completed the Art Barn!

We did it!  With your help we raised all the funds needed to finish our stunning new building just in time for our 2017 school! This building has been one of the biggest gifts and upgrades our school has ever received, and we are astonished by how huge of a help it’s been to our students and staff.

This building has revolutionized our school. It has given us the space we need to facilitate our teaching sessions and worship nights.  It’s taken the strain off the Farmhouse and made space for it to exclusively serve as our dining hall.  It’s given us another meeting place for small groups and collectives, provided counseling rooms for one on ones, and perhaps the biggest area it’s served us is in giving our students the space they need to engage visual creativity in Art Class.

The Art Barn has become the hub of the land. It’s where we’ve gone to the depths of worship and come back up for air with swing dancing parties and movie nights.  This space has marked our students’ lives as they’ve learned to pursue sustainability and build friendship with Jesus.  When they think back to their 18 Inch Journey, they’ll remember the Art Barn and the endless ways they encountered the Father there. You have changed their stories by your generosity, and you continue to change ours. Thank you for partnering with us and sowing into the dream of the 18 Inch Journey!

As we close our discipleship season, we are looking ahead and are so excited about the ways the Art Barn will serve our staff in the creative season that’s coming.  This building will give our creative teams space to meet and dream into the books, videos and creative projects we’re releasing.  It will relieve our cramped studios and give our teams space to facilitate meetings.  It will make way for our design, photography and videography teams to work simultaneously while staying inspired.  Already, we can anticipate the gift that the Art Barn will be to our staff and we can’t wait to share the creative products and projects that overflow from it with you!  

Embracing Vulnerability in Creativity

Written by Allie Sampson
Photography by Sydnee Mela
Painting by Alexander Arbuthnot


A little over two months ago, we welcomed twelve 18 Inch Journey alumni back onto the land for a six month season of creativity, discipleship and servant leadership.  Since then, the Phase Two students have been led by our staff in weekly rhythms of art, music, book club and collectives.  They have been challenged by creative avenues that are new to them and have been given the opportunity to both fail and succeed in the safety of family.

This year, our Phase Two students had the opportunity to choose between five different collectives: Darkroom Photography, Print-making, Pottery, Digital Storytelling and Musicianship.  Each of these collectives are designed to inspire the students and give them an opportunity to learn, discover, and ultimately, be seen by family.  They are set up to make space for students to get vulnerable and take creative risks as they are being closely led by our staff in much smaller groups.  After two months of setting their hands to various art-forms, our entire community gathered together last week to celebrate them as they showcased their final projects.

Our community has a high value for being seen and celebrated by one another.  We believe that creating and sharing what you create are equally important for your heart.  Creating gives us an opportunity to step into wholeness, because creating requires our hearts, minds and hands.  However, creating alone is not enough.  When the Father created the world, He created someone to share it with.  If our vision is to become like our Creator, we must take a step beyond creating and embrace vulnerability by sharing our work.  Inviting others to see and celebrate our creativity is a vital step in our hearts coming alive.

We encourage you to ask the Father how you can invite others to celebrate the creative things you’ve been setting your hands to.  Whether it’s a song you’ve finished, a painting you’ve completed or a story you’ve resolved, make space this week to let someone see you.  Take the risk of vulnerability and let yourself be seen.  Ask the Father to highlight someone you can share your work with that will answer you with encouragement and support.  You are meant for creativity.  You are meant for celebration.


The Discipleship Season

Written by Allie Sampson
Photography by Morgan Campbell & Chris Miller


Every year, our community swells with excitement as we approach the Phase II school.  The Phase II opening dinner marks the beginning of our Discipleship Season and as a community we transition into daily laying down our lives for the students who come.  We believe that there is no greater honor than stewarding hearts.  To be entrusted with a human heart, to be invited to speak into someone’s life, is a weighty privilege and it is one that we do not take lightly.  In the Discipleship Season, we feel the fruit of saying yes year-round and submitting our own hearts to discipleship.  As a staff, we are being led throughout the year by Jonathan and Melissa, and their leadership has led us to believe in the power of correction, love and help.  Our own testimonies of being changed by discipleship empower us to go the distance for the students.  We have all been marked by leadership and correction and are deeply grateful for it!

Over the next six months, our twelve students will explore creativity, sit under teaching and discover what sustainability looks like.  They will live with us, eat meals with us, celebrate birthdays and tend the land.  In September, the Phase II will serve our Phase I school alongside our staff in and encourage the students coming behind them.  In all of these things, our heart is that our Phase II students would be empowered to thrive in every season of their lives. 

This week we encourage you to open up a conversation with the Lord about His vision for discipleship over your life.  Maybe you are currently being discipled or discipling someone else.  Maybe you are recognizing places where your heart is hungry for someone to speak into your life.  Wherever you are, begin asking the Father what your heart needs and start dreaming with Him.  Let Him inspire you with ideas for how to go deeper into His heart for you.  He is faithful to answer you.


Bethel Midwest USA Tour

Written by Jonathan Helser
Photography by Bethel Music


     For the last week we have been with our Bethel music family traveling across the Midwest.  We’ve had the honor of leading worship in five beautiful cities and will be in three more over the next few days.  I’ve been astonished at the way the presence of God has invaded each night.  We have been co-leading these nights with five different leaders, and there has been such a seamless unity on and off the stage.  

     As we have been sharing the privilege of leading, I have been learning there's no competition around the throne, because no one wants to be seen—everyone is consumed with the desire to see more of God's face.  The hunger and thirst for the presence of the Lord has been incredible.  Every night, there are moments when the sound of the voices singing in the room is louder than the sound system.  

     As a worship leader, my favorite moments of leading are when we transcend the songs written on a page and everyone in the room begins to sing the song written on their hearts.  Heaven is coming to Earth and the sound of worship will keep getting louder till the whole earth looks just like Heaven. 

From the Road, somewhere between Pittsburg and Chicago 

Jonathan Helser


An Invitation to Worship

Written by Allie Sampson
Photography by Bethel Music


1 worship noun wor·ship \ˈwər-shəp also ˈwȯr-\
:  extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem(Merriam-Webster)

“Worship is giving back to God what He first gave to us.”  
- Jonathan David Helser

Worship is the simple, but profound act of honoring the Father by giving Him everything He gave to us as an offering of love and adoration.  

The love He first gave to us, we give to Him.  
The song He first sang over us, we sing back to Him.  
The joy and delight He first lavished us with, we joyfully pour out on Him.  

Worship is where we collide with our deep gratitude and connect with the Father.  It is the moment we lay aside our agenda and say, “You are worth my time, Papa.  You are worth all of my attention and affection.  Nothing tops your incredible love.”  

Today, some of the Cageless Birds will be taking off to participate in Bethel Music’s Midwest Tour.  We could not be more excited to be a part of this family, and our hearts are full of anticipation as we set out on this adventure.  Ten days, eight incredible cities, all for the purpose of celebrating one loving Father.  These worship nights are so special to us because we love coming into agreement with God’s heart over each city and blessing the hearts of the people who live in each city.  We love getting to come to you and declaring God’s goodness over the place you live and love and work everyday. 

As we embark on this tour, we feel a fresh wave of inspiration in how we approach the Father in worship.   We encourage you to ask the Holy Spirit what He is inviting you into in your worship.  Take some time to ask Him, “Father, what can I give back to you in my worship this week?”  Enjoy opening up a conversation with Him and take time to journal what He speaks to you.  Then make a point to implement what He is speaking into your rhythms of worship this week.  Jesus loves your worship.  He loves the way you communicate your love to Him.  

We would love to worship with you.  Come join us in the following cities:

April 15 - Cincinnati, OH
April 16 - Columbus, OH
April 18 - Detroit, MI
April 19 - Indianapolis, IN
April 20 - Pittsburgh, PA
April 22 - Chicago, IL
April 23 - Green Bay, WI
April 24 - Minneapolis, MN

Check out for tickets and more information.


The Importance of Gratitude

Written by Allie Sampson
Photography by Sydnee Mela


“Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!” Psalm 100:4, ESV

Can you recall an instance when you gave someone a gift and you were met by a sincere thank you?  Maybe it was an extravagant Christmas gift you gave to your kids that left them squealing and releasing thank you’s through peals of laughter.  Perhaps it was a surprise you had been waiting to bless your friend with and you caught their thanks in the midst of misty eyes and a heartfelt smile.  How did this moment make you feel?  How did their thanks mark your heart?  Isn’t it amazing how simple gratitude can leave you feeling so gratified?  Nothing completes a gift given like a thankful receiver.  Gratitude acknowledges the giver’s thoughtfulness, intentionality and sacrifice.  It communicates that their time, effort, generosity and love are valuable. 

Gratitude is an easy step to skip.  In the hurry of life or the emotion of a holiday, saying thank you often slips through the cracks.  Sometimes we become so fascinated by a gift that we forget to pause to acknowledge the one who gave it to us.  This may seem like a simple oversight, but saying thank you makes all the difference—it pulls us out of the culture of entitlement and aligns our hearts with the Father.  In Luke 17, saying thank you is what gave the Samaritan leper a full healing.  While the other nine were set free from their physical ailment, they missed out on the total healing: the healing of the heart.  But the Samaritan’s gratitude sparked his faith, and his faith made him well.

We believe that thankfulness is essential to a life lived with the Holy Spirit.  When we say thank you, it not only acknowledges what the Father is doing in our lives, but seals it on our hearts.  Thankfulness locks us into remembrance and feeds our faith—it sets us up to remember that He is a good Father that comes through for us.  As a community, we have made it a point to exercise thanksgiving in our daily lives.  By consistently thanking the Lord, we are calling our hearts to attention and reminding ourselves of His constant presence and goodness.  This simple rhythm has changed how we see and ultimately shifted how we approach the Father.  This is the cultivation of a life of entering into His gates with thanksgiving in our hearts. 

This week, we encourage you to ask the Father to highlight someone that has made an impact on your life and to flood your heart with thanksgiving.  Let your gratitude fan the flame of faith in your heart.  Then ask the Father for an idea of how you can communicate your gratitude.  Maybe it’s as simple as carving out time to call them on the phone.  Perhaps He’s inviting you to write a card of encouragement.  Or maybe He’s inviting you to go all out with a thoughtful gift or beautiful meal!  Make space for the Holy Spirit to inspire your heart with thankfulness and engage in the fruit of following through with the Father. 


Thank you! We reached our goal!

Writing by Molly Kate Skaggs
Photography by Sydnee Mela


Hello Family and Friends!

I am still in crazy awe over how this fundraiser has been so incredibly blessed.  Wednesday, March 2nd at 9:25am marked the end of our incredible 30 day journey together.  My phone was buzzing and flashing with the notification of new donations even till the very end that morning.  It was unreal.  I will never grow tired of saying this because a blessing like this deserves a million, trillion more:  THANK YOU SO MUCH!!  

With a support team of 318 people who have sown in to this fundraiser, we not only have all the money we need to pay for the album, but we also met our first tier stretch goal as well!  Our entire community is undone and overwhelmed by the kindness and goodness of the Lord through the love, support, and generosity on such gorgeous display through all of you.  I say again: we could not have done any of this without Him or all of you.  Partnership is a precious thing; help is a tremendous gift.  You have communicated such joyful support to not only me but our entire community.  Thank you for believing in us and to the Dream in which we are giving our whole lives.  

I fully believe in the ancient principle of sowing and reaping, and I want to say to you all that you have sown beautiful seeds into really good ground.  And I believe with all of my heart that all of you -- whether it was through your seeds of money, seeds of messages and texts with love and encouragement, seeds of helping me spread the word and rally others to partner with us -- YOU WILL see a beautiful return and bountiful harvest of good fruit from what you joyfully sacrificed and gave.  And just like it has been for me and our whole community, I believe that it will shock, amaze and astound you...because that is how unbelievably good our Father is!

I will continue to update you all on the progress and process of this wonderful album project in these coming weeks and months.  I can tell you this:  last week was the week I tracked all the core piano parts for each song, and boy howdy....WHAT AN AMAZING WEEK IT WAS: challenging, stretching, full of humility and growth and exultation of the heart.  All the things one can only hope to expect when making their first album (or any work of art, really).  I have often heard that making art is a gift from God so that the heart can process and become healed and made whole.  I have also heard that making art is less about the product we will produce and more about WHO we are becoming through the process.  And I am finding this to be true more with each day spent down in our studio with my brothers.  What a joy and gift to be so loved by God!

I have received so many personal messages and words of encouragement from so many of you, and feel covered and loved by the Lord through them all.  Thank you so much for continuing to partner and walk with me in this process.  I need it!  So much love and blessings to you all!

Love, Molly Kate


The Value of Encouragement

Written by Allie Sampson
Photographed by Sydnee Mela and JD Gravitt


So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind (Philippians 2:1-2, ESV).

Therefore encourage one another and build one other up, just as you are doing (1 Thessalonians 5:11, ESV). 

Have you ever been in a moment of frustration, difficulty or insecurity and suddenly found yourself met by unexpected words of kindness from a friend?  Whether it’s genuine, positive feedback on a project you feel stuck on or a simple compliment on your appearance, it’s astounding how quickly a word of encouragement can lift your head and shift your perspective.  Most of the time, an encouraging word has the power to pull you out of your own personal drama, and bring clarity to the reality of the moment.  Every person in our community can recall countless moments where a simple word of kindness from one of our friends or leaders has helped us overcome our false perception of a situation and called us into a true understanding.  Encouragement is essential to community living because it is the very nature of Heaven itself. 

As the Cageless Birds collective, we believe that encouragement is vital in everything we do—friendships, discipleship, creative projects, groundskeeping, office work and everything in between.  In order to learn, to grow and to develop, we must have both permission to fail and those who will champion us in the midst of failure, refusing to let us stay in a place of discouragement.  As our dear friend David Burbach says, “Encouragement is the table where community feasts.”  Encouragement is the place where we cultivate friendship and build trust.  It is the place where we are invited into a more authentic view of ourselves.  It is the place where we are formed in family and where we begin to believe that we are really supported by a loving Father.

Year-round, our community practices rhythms of encouragement.  Encouragement breathes on the land as we gather every month for our community birthday nights, making handmade cards and crafting words of love to champion the next year of our friends’ lives.  In our discipleship seasons it takes the shape of Open Mic Nights, making space for every student to share, be heard and celebrated.  In our creative seasons, it looks like exchanging ideas, projects and songs, opening ourselves up to be seen by family.  This month in particular, it has become tangible in the generosity and support shown for Molly’s Kickstarter campaign.  At every corner, encouragement is marking our family and moving our hearts, and it will continue to change us as long as our hearts are soft and willing to receive it. 

This week, we encourage you to ask the Father for eyes to see how you can support and encourage someone.  Open your heart up to the Father who longs to see His kids cheering each other on, motivating them in love and kindness.  Ask Him for an idea and be faithful to follow through with it.  Maybe He wants to make a card with you for a friend.  Perhaps He’s inviting you to rally around someone in your community.  Or maybe He wants to team up to speak hope into someone’s life.  Perhaps he’s inspiring you send encouragement to our community through Molly’s Kickstarter!  Whatever the case may be, open up a conversation with the Father and let your heart join in the excitement of what He can do through powerful, simple encouragement.


The Power of Remembrance

Written by Jonathan David Helser
Photographed by Sydnee Mela


     In our first staff meeting of 2016, we took time to look back at the last year and remember all that God had done.  We have an entire wall in our office that we have painted with chalk paint to use in meetings for planning and dreaming. We quickly filled up that wall with all the things we could recount.  As the list grew bigger and bigger, I could feel joy and faith brimming up inside my heart like a rising tide.  Honestly, I had come into the staff meeting feeling heavy because of some of the drama that had been going on in our lives over the last few months, but this simple act of remembering completely changed my countenance. There was so much joy and faith in the room from the simple exercise of remembering what God had done, that it launched us into an extraordinary time of prayer and thanksgiving before the Lord.  As we were wrapping up the meeting I began to count how many of the items on the list were complete surprises.  Almost half of the list were things that we never expected to happen last year. Ephesians 3:20 says that our God is“able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.”  As I stood looking back at what God had done, I realized that God’s goodness is so much bigger than my imagination.  I can try my best to dream big, but He will always exceed what I can ask for.  This caused me to wonder with excitement what that chalk wall is going to have written on it at the end of 2016.

   Have you ever played tennis or ping pong with someone whose talent is far superior to yours? I have been humbled on several occasions by someone whose skills were much better than mine. You can try your hardest to send them your best shot across the net, but they always return it with a shot far greater than what you sent to them. I believe this is what true prayer looks like. We can try our best to send up our biggest prayer to God, but He is so extremely good that He will always return them to us with a response much greater than we could have even asked for.

   We have had a beautiful rhythm with our children where we will stop in the middle of the busyness of life and all say five five things out loud we are thankful for. Every time we have done this, the atmosphere changes around us and hope overtakes us as a family.  Many times we have asked the kids to do this when they are in a situation that seems very overwhelming to them. On these occasions, they will usually try to resist doing this at first, but when they finally give in and remember what they have to be thankful for, there is a significant change that happens. Recently, I was having a really rough day and it seemed like everything was going wrong. I has huffing and puffing around the house as we were rushing out the door with the kids.  As I was anxiously backing out of the driveway, Cadence said from the back seat, “Dad, I think you should stop and say five things you are thankful for.” In that moment I was arrested with truth. The very principal I had taught my children, they were teaching to me. I stopped the car and seized the moment. As I began to speak out the things I was thankful for, I started to see clearly again. That moment of remembering changed everything. 


   Do you remember the Father and Son conversation in the movie The Lion King? The son of the King has forgotten who he is and he is wandering in the wilderness. But then he stops and looks into his reflection by the stream of water and this is what happens: 

Ripples form, distorting Simba's reflection; they resolve into the face of his Father. A deep rumbling noise is heard.  
Rafiki: You see, he lives in you.
Simba is awestruck. The wind picks up. In the air the huge image of Mufasa is forming from the clouds. He appears to be walking from the stars. The image is ghostly at first, but steadily gains color and coherence.
Mufasa: Simba . . .
Simba: Father?

Mufasa: Simba, you have forgotten me.
Simba: No. How could I?
Mufasa: You have forgotten who you are, and so have forgotten me. Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the Circle of Life.
Simba: How can I go back? I'm not who I used to be.
Mufasa: Remember who you are. You are my son, and the one true king.

 As you stand at the turning of another year, I challenge you to take a moment to look back on all that God has done in this last year. Our hearts can become hard when we don’t stop to remember all that He has done. One of the enemy’s chief schemes is to keep us focused on what God is not doing, instead of focusing on what God has done and is doing. There is something about stopping and recognizing what God has done that softens our hearts and causes us to become ready for the promises ahead. Just like Simba at the stream, take a moment today and see the reflection of your Father’s goodness. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you remember all that God has done. That is one of the Holy Spirit’s job descriptions: to help us remember. Then get a journal and write down what He has done. Write down the big and the small things. When you finish the list, take some time to thank God out loud for what He has done. Get vocal with your thanksgiving. Remember that thanksgiving is a weapon. Stand up on a chair if you need to and shout out your thanksgiving. Let His presence wash over you and let His faith and hope be the wind in your sails. 

   Now with fresh perspective, begin to pray for your next year and call on all the promises God has in store for this next season. From this place of knowing that you are His child, boldly declare the goodness of God over the next season of your life. Go ahead and give God your best shot in prayer. Proclaim the prayers of a fearless child that knows that nothing is impossible with their Father. But please be prepared, for Habakkuk 1:5 declares what the Lord is going to send over into the courts of our lives in the days ahead:  "Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.”  


Molly Kate Skaggs' Debut Album

Written by Allie Sampson
Photographed by Sydnee Mela


The Cageless Birds are excited to announce the upcoming debut album by our very own Molly Kate Skaggs!  Molly has been part of the Cageless Birds community for over five years and has been giving her life to community, discipleship and serving the sound of countless people on this land. In addition to playing piano with Jonathan and Melissa, Molly has been leading music collectives during the 18 Inch Journey Phase I and Phase II schools, as well as leading interns and teaching them to cultivate their sound.  She has supported so many songwriters and musicians by lending her ears, ideas and musical talent to their projects and we could not be more excited to announce that this is her season!  Molly’s sound is rich and warm, saturated with the sound of family and the tenderness of a life deeply imprinted with the mark of Love.  We feel so much of the delight and anticipation of the Father as He is dreaming into this sound of His heart permeating the earth!

It is Molly’s dream to craft this album with excellence and to steward the sound of her life well.  In order to make this project into a reality, we are joyfully asking for your help!  On February 1st we will launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for Molly’s first album.  Our goal is to raise $16,000 to cover production costs, paying guest musicians, mixing and mastering the project, travel expenses, and other miscellaneous costs.  Anything else raised above this amount will go toward any remaining production costs and will serve as seed money that will directly go toward other musical projects that our collective is dreaming into for the future.  

Many of you have been moved by the sound of Molly’s heart through the songs “Invitation” and “Love Come to Life” on the Live at Home record, as well as her accompaniment on many of Jonathan and Melissa’s albums and in person at worship events.   We are asking you to joyfully consider partnering with us to transform this dream into a reality and to release Molly’s sound into the world.  Please visit her Kickstarter Campaign and be sure to check out all of the amazing perks from our community!  Thank you for considering investing in the sound of our community and into Molly’s story!  We can't do this without you! 



Written by Allie Sampson
Photographed by Sydnee Mela


The Cageless Birds calendar year rotates between two different six-month seasons: the discipleship season and the creative season.  We have found that both of these are equally important and essential to our growth and wholeness.  During our six month creative season, our community scales back down from 65 people to 20, and we invite the Father to inspire new ideas and make space for fresh dreams in our hearts.  As children of God, we believe that it is part of our original design to be creative.  We believe that creativity is a key to wholeness; we create because He is the Creator and we are made in His image.  This season not only makes space for our hearts to encounter the inspiration and intimacy of the Father, but it breathes new hope and resets our hearts.  We open up to dreaming and set our hands to new creative ventures by taking risks and cultivating our dependency on the Holy Spirit.  This is the season that refreshes our hearts and calls to who we truly are. 

In the creative season, we feel the invitation to take on our greatest creative adventures.  Over the past few years, we have set our hands to everything from music to leather to books, all for the purpose of coming alive and supporting the ministry through creativity.  One creative adventure that’s come from the quiet season is the launch of our small batch coffee roasting business, Maker Coffee.  Coffee roasting involves a balance of art and science.  It brings value to both the need for a specific process and the importance of innovation and expression.  We have loved the challenge of pioneering this art form on the land this year we are honored to partner with the Father in something that we love so much!  He knew that in the process of roasting coffee, we would come alive. 

Maker Coffee is just one small window into the incredible things the Father is doing on the land in our off-season.  This is the season when we consistently find ourselves blown away by the brilliant ideas of the Father and saying over and over again, “We never knew He could be this good!”  As we approach the quiet and creative season of 2016, our hearts are flooded with expectancy.  Over the next six months, you’ll be hearing more from us about what the Father is doing with our creative season.  We encourage you to ask the Father where He is inviting you into creativity in your own life!  Creativity is not a talent, and it isn’t for the select few.  Because you were made in His image, you have a calling and a need to be creative.  It is our hope that you will be inspired to take a risk and sit with Him and explore His dream for creativity over your life! 

If you would like to purchase Maker Coffee click the image below.