It’s pretty difficult to be authentic these days. Notice how I’m saying that it’s hard for each of us, not just putting that on the people around us. We are in a time where everything looks wonderful on social media. The celebrities we follow, the friends in our lives, and the churches we go to; all are in danger of authenticity. An image of perfection and we try are hardest to measure up. This isn’t me dogging on celebrities who do cool things, or your friends who love taking hipster pics, or your church with a solid branding strategy; I’m simply pointing out the thing that we as Christ followers need to make sure we don’t lose. The point of the Christian walk is that we have been saved by a loving God, so that we can have an authentic relationship with him, an authentic faith. We can’t let our relationship with Jesus become a Sunday morning walk, it has to be an authentic daily journey with Christ.
Life is a wild thing. I look at life like a story being unfolded one chapter at a time. I don’t know what the end will look like, or the people and experiences that will happen along the way; it is a beautiful mystery that keeps me pressing forward. I’m a storyteller at heart, it’s something I’m so passionate about. That’s why I love comics, books, movies, and an assortment of other creative outlets. It’s especially why I love the bible. It’s a book of stories that help us learn and grow. You can have a bunch of information, but unless you can capture that into a story, it will be hard to convince someone to follow you. I get funny looks when I tell people that apologetics are for people who are already believers, because I think your personal story blows away any questions of if your relationship with God is real. I love life because new chapters happen all the time and bless us with new opportunities to step into what God has for us.
Life has always been a funny thing for me, for everyone really. It’s a series of ever-changing, ever-shifting series of events and craziness. A little over a year ago I graduated from UNCG with a degree in communication studies. I thought after that moment that life was going to be great. More time to focus on my writing and ministry pursuits, without having to go to class and have essays and finals to do. For some reason I thought opportunities would just be throwing themselves at me. “Joshua we would love to give you a full-time ministry position, oh, and we would love it if you could write children’s books and poetry as well!” These are the things my head would think about. Sounds pretty nice, right? The reality is, life is a constant work in progress. There are days that are really hard. Days that are filled with stress. Days that are filled with frustration that the plan isn’t going as expected. Life is a constant work in progress, but that’s a good thing. The challenges that we face each day, the ones where we are pushed to the limit, these are important. Being a work in progress allows us to refocus our minds and realize the power of working on ourselves.
I serve as a small group leader for fifth grade boys Sunday mornings. It’s an absolute blast. One moment you are talking about movies and video games and the next you can have a breakthrough about the bible lesson from the day, then quickly jump back to talking about what random game and toy they currently love. I love being able to do this each week because their brains work similarly to mine, connecting real life to their current obsession; it quickly creates interesting dynamics and fun. Each month we have a life app that we work through, and this month we are talking about confidence: living like you believe what God says is true. I love this idea, not only is it great for elementary kids, but I think as believers we can have this same confidence. I think a lack of confidence in who we are causes us to live into fear and not live into our full potential. We were made with purpose, we are unique creations by a loving creator, so it’s time to be confident in who you are.
“He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.”
This past week I went to Asheville with a close friend of mine. It was a small excursion for a couple of days, a much-needed time away to recharge and get away for just a moment. We walked around downtown searching for a taco shop (I mean, it was taco Tuesday), poked around some comic shops and other art stores. It was awesome, I have a hard time simply relaxing and not working on something. I am always working, if not at my jobs, it’s my writing or some other project. The idea of rest is something difficult for me because I have always had to work in order to get where I need to be. It was a blast to have no agenda, to look at books, and find some Fantastic Four back issues I’ve been searching for (issues 347-349, yo!). We then decided to take a small drive on the Blue Ridge and see some mountains.
I’ve recently been in a fog. I’ve never really had writer’s block, which is something pretty amazing after the past four years of writing here. I was contemplating not doing a post this week, I missed my early Patreon post schedule and was about ready to just take a week off. Then I realized that there was a mix of circumstance and spiritual attack. Last week I ended one of my favorite series I’ve written, all about having spiritual victory. It seems only fitting to then the next week fight some spiritual attack. This season in life has also been super busy, each day seems to be filled with projects, planning, and small moments of rest in the evenings. Spending time with Danielle and my family has really been the biggest driver keeping me from not getting lost. In this season of busyness, my quiet times are often rushed and not as filling as I usually have. In times like this, I feel inadequate. That I’m not doing enough or feeling like I’m not good enough. I can start to internalize this, and then everything that happens around me just hits again and again, with the whispers of “I’m not good enough,” plague me. I want to be open because I think often we have days like this. We feel like we are overlooked, that we aren’t living up to our potential, or because one bad day will cause us to fail. The truth is, we aren’t made to work enough to be used by God, we are simply people made new through the love of God.
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.”
I’ve been feeling angry recently. Not at a person or a certain event, just a general anger that has been bubbling underneath the surface. I’ve been frustrated with my plan, and that’s the root of it, my plan. It might be easy to miss what I mean, but it’s the truth. I sometimes fall back onto my plan, what I think is best for the current state of my life and my life moving forward. Things aren’t unfolding the way I would want it to, and that’s frustrating, but I need to redirect my focus. I’ve been focusing on the things that have or have not yet happened to me, and how that doesn’t fit in with the way I wanted my story to play out. The truth is, there is a mad titan messing with my head, telling me it’s all about me, I need to know the battle plan of the enemy, and I need to remember that there is a God bigger than my faults who knows my name. What I just referenced was what I have been writing on for the past month. I’ve been writing it because I believed it’s what you, dear reader, needed to hear. What I have come to realize is that it wasn’t simply just for you, but for me as well.
The title of this blog comes from a song by one of my favorite artists, Julien Baker. My close friend Daniel turned me onto her music, and it came just at the right time of my life. You see, this past year has been a season of unknowns. Lots of questions and self-doubt keep creeping in, causing me to grow more and more anxious. I ask myself, where do I fit in this world? What’s my place? What’s my purpose? I have these questions swirl because one moment, I feel like God is calling me to a certain area, and the next it feels like I can’t win. It’s hard being a graduate, everyone wants young fresh ideas, but want someone with years of experience under their belt. Not to mention the stereotypes that are perpetrated about millennials, things like we don’t work hard (except for the fact that many of us have two or three part time jobs to survive…*sips tea*). It’s easy to then translate these unwinnable odds as marks against myself, that I’m not good enough, but the truth is; we are called and we are gifted.
I love old 80’s and 90’s cartoons. I love the over-the-top action, the color (oh man that color pallet!), and the laser guns. Like for real, every bad guy was armed with a laser gun (Fun fact from Joshua’s film knowledge, it was a law that you could not have real guns on children TV shows. Oh, how far we’ve gone). The best part of these cartoons were the public service announcements. G.I. Joe, Transformers, and X-men would all warn children of the dangers of not wearing seatbelts or talking with strangers; always ending with the phrase, “knowing is half the battle.” I love these commercials, not only because it’s good to not go anywhere near that spooky stranger, but it tells us a lot about how we should prepare in a spiritual battle we face. I’ve been talking each week this month about having spiritual victory, which means, knowing our enemy is half the battle. Satan is the king of lies, which we talked about last week, and often in our lives when we are caught off our guard, we can take challenges and lies as being things of God. We ask God why you would do this, the truth is, he didn’t. God created our world to be perfect and everything in it to be good, but we rebelled because off the trickery from Satan.
May is Mental Health Month. This is something near and dear to my heart, both as I have suffered from anxiety and depression, as well as countless people in my life that have dealt with similar mental health struggles. It’s important to shine a light on mental health, because for far too long people have been scared to open up and get the help that they need. I think as Christ followers, we need to realize that often mental health is tied into spiritual health. I’m not saying that if you struggle with mental health issues that your spiritual walk with Christ is lacking, I would be foolish to insinuate that. For the most part though, I do believe that mental health can be used against us as we try to grow closer in our walks with Christ. We often feel the most pressure and mental attack when we are on the path God has set out for us. As we walk in the giftedness that God has equipped us with and fight towards reaching the world, that same mad titan that we talked about last week (check it out here), begins to switch up his tactic. If he can’t bring us down by a storm, he’ll try his best with a whisper. “You’re not good enough.” “That test defines who you are.” “What they say about you is true.” The father of lies (John 8:44), these thoughts, they can so easily take root and begin to choke out all life, but they have no power over our great God. These thoughts that are whispered in our minds can disrupt our progress, and the truth is, we need to realize that it’s not about us.