One of the craziest things from high school that I remember was how heavy my backpack was. I know, very small detail to highlight, but it was the worst. Yeah, we had lockers, but when it came time for homework and studying, you needed all those hefty textbooks. Random musing, I know, but sometimes I feel like I can walk around like I’m carrying a weight on my back. If you ever had a heavy backpack or had to carry something heavy for an extended period of time, you know how hard it can become as time goes on. I want to take a look at something simple today, a basic truth about a relationship with God. Our God has died for us, we are bought and paid for by the blood of the lamb. So why do we continue to walk around with burdens on our backs? It’s time to take off our burdens and remember that we don’t have to earn our way to a relationship with out creator.
I love failure. Now I don’t love the feelings that come with it, the rejection, the pain, the heartache; but I love failure. It’s something that I’ve experienced a lot of throughout my life. In high school I failed Spanish class. It was a humiliating moment, I had to repeat the class and every day sat in with students who were younger than me. It was a humbling moment, I felt like a screw up, but God taught me perseverance. I applied to colleges, and every school I applied to declined or waitlisted me. I remember sitting on the floor screaming out until my voice went hoarse. Failure hurts, but failure is good. We don’t learn the oven is truly hot until we touch it by accident. Failure is the greatest tool, because failure allows us to re-think what was done. One of my favorite quotes is by writer, Grant Morrison:
“It’s good to mess up! Sometimes when you mess up, you find new things and new ways to work.”
I’ve been thinking a lot recently on this idea of joy. As someone who has dealt with depression and anxiety (and still do), this idea can be sticky. It can be hard when life throws curveballs and doesn’t go the way we wish it always would. For a long time, it was hard to go on, my head was telling me to just quit. I have been in a season that hasn’t gone the way I planned with regards to ministry. I was wanting to be in a full-time position and there was a moment that looked good, then it passed, I didn’t get chosen. It was tough. It was hard to have joy. The thing that really helped me was focusing not on the bad, or the disappointment, but the joy in the things in my life. I got engaged and its’ been such a fun season. I have a family support system that has been vital. I have people in ministry outside of my situation that have encouraged me and spurred me on. I just got back from a camp, leading fourth and fifth grade boys, being able to speak life into them and pray over them. I have unlocked strength because I have learned that joy in the lord is what gives strength.
“Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the sky. Those who lead many others to do what is right will be like the stars for ever and ever.”
We are influenced all the time. I’m not sure the actual data, but we see a ton of advertisements all day. We follow people we look up to on social media. We watch our friends for the latest “in” thing, whether it’s advice on the movie to see this weekend or the latest productivity app. The things we consume all send us messages, positive and negative. The point I’m making is that there are influences all around us, but which ones are taking root? That’s the thing with our sin, it all often comes back to a passing thought we let take root in our heart. This idea has been sticking out to me recently. It’s made me think about my life and caused me to ask two important questions that I think we all need to ask ourselves. Who is influencing me and who am I influencing? Today I want to unpack those two questions and tell you what God has been speaking to me as a way to be wise when I look at those questions.
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.