Passion

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of passion recently. Passion is an intense desire, something that almost cannot be controlled. It’s something that drives you, moves you, and causes you to fight for it daily. Events in my life have made me evaluate what I am truly passionate about; it has caused to me look at the why behind who I am. As a Christ follower, I am called to something greater. Passion and calling go hand in hand. Each of us have a calling, each of us have been created with a powerful purpose. There is no one like you, you are an original, a masterpiece created in the image of a savior. Take a moment and think about what drives you. What makes you excited during the day, what do you cling to in the midst of hardship, what could you never go another day without pursuing? I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of passion recently.

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Dreamer

“The message I give you waits for the time I have appointed. It speaks about what is going to happen. And all of it will come true. It might take a while. But wait for it. You can be sure it will come. It will happen when I want it to.”

Habakkuk 2:3 

I dream a lot. My mind often wanders about things I want to achieve in life, things that I feel a burning in my soul to accomplish. As a kid, I loved going outside to play. I would create vast worlds in my mind a live out a series of stories and adventures. Sometimes it was being a superhero or Jedi having to face great odds, a villain bent on destroying all of existence. Other times I would be a knight or samurai, a part of an army keeping the land safe. I dreamed awake, creating ideas and solving issue of the world. As I grew up, I continued to dream, talking about the future and the things that I was going to accomplish and save the world from. One of the best compliments I’ve ever received, was from a girl named Ellen in high school. She told me she wanted to join my group project in science because I was always dreaming and creating things. As I’ve grown in my walk with Christ, my dreams have shifted. I used to want to be a screenwriter making movies with beautiful stories, I wanted to create stories that spoke to the core of others and impacted them, but the Holy Spirit had more in store. The Holy Spirit shifted my mind, it was hard and my flesh didn’t know how to handle it, but my eyes were opened. God made me this way, not to be a screen writer, but a pastor. A mentor, someone who empowers others; a dreamer for a kingdom minded world. God made me a dreamer, and the truth is, he wants us all to dream bigger.

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Empowering Someone Else’s Dream

One of the most impactful things that has happened in my life, was when my middle school youth pastor, Marshall, brought me into his office and told me I was a unique kid that was going to do great things. After that he brought me with him to a low-income school on the south side of Greensboro. The school was filled with kids who came from broken homes, newly immigrated to America, and were in a rough side of town. We set up a mini carnival for them, playing games and handing out candy. The smiles from the kids gave me a hope for the future. I was an awkward middle schooler who loved comic books and had anger issues. I was given a chance to reach out to young kids who needed help, they needed the love of Christ. I was able to give that to them in the form of fun childish games. I felt like I wasn’t going to amount to anything, but Marshall empowered my dream to be a hero to others like I read in those comic books. Marshall spoke life into me.

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Misfit Culture

“But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”

1 Corinthians 12:24-26

I’ve been thinking a lot about people recently. Not in a sense of, oh yeah there are other people around me, but more of the fact that there are so many different people all around me. We live in a world where we can have many hobbies, come from different walks of life, and lived through all kinds of events. We are different people that crave community. No one likes to be alone, and no one likes to feel pushed away, yet recently in the climate of our culture we grow secluded and push others based on stupid differences. I have been wanting to write about misfits in community since I did the Misfit series a couple months back, but I couldn’t quite figure out how to say it. Then this past week, a couple of events sparked the words and God spoke to me about some things that are vital in the upcoming season for all of us.

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Meaningful Memories

The past few weeks this idea of making memories has been a heavy thing on my heart. It’s an idea I’ve never really thought much about before, but I think it is not only important, but vital to our lives. This past year has been crazy, crazy for my own life, crazy in the life of the world all around us; there has just been a feeling of uncertainty that seems to have clouded the year. For me, the future is always a big mystery, one that I can get so caught up in. So, when the moments of chaos happen, I tend to immediately look ahead, I start to plan on my own strength. I think this is true for all of us, each of us wants to have control over our life and what happens in it. No matter how much planning and stressing over what may or may not happen, we ultimately have no control over what happens tomorrow. This may sound bleak, but this is just the opposite of what God tells us. God doesn’t want us to stress over tomorrow because he will take care of tomorrow and the next day, we should live for what today will bring. James 4:14-15 says, “You do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, if it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” This verse really captured this feeling I have been having about making memories, living for the moments that today will bring you, because we are not promised tomorrow.

I was watching an interview from the band that was playing at the Bataclan, during the Paris attacks recently. The “Eagles of Death Metal,” gave an interview to Vice about what happened during the attacks, what they experienced and how terrifying it was. It is a great interview. (Note: there is explicit language used, not gratuitously, but it is evoking their feelings. Viewer discretion advised.) The main theme that kept coming up was how scary it was and how they were not sure if they would make it through the rest of the night. I reference this because it is a sentiment that we all share, we are not promised tomorrow, but that does not mean that we should live in fear. In thinking and praying about what it means to live in Christ day by day, and how we can take hold of every opportunity and moment we are presented with, I have three simple sentiments that I think God wants us to make memories in our lives.

Life is short, don’t miss out.

This may seem like a cheesy statement, but it is one to be taken seriously. We are not going to live forever, sorry to crush your dreams if you thought otherwise, but we are so fragile. So what is holding us back from making the most of everyday? Each day we are given multiple opportunities, opportunities to speak life over people, opportunities to show the love of God, and opportunities to lead others into the kingdom. I think about the ministry of Jesus, he spent his time with the people who were outcasts and those who were hated, because he had the opportunity to show them the truth and to save them. Each day we come in contact with people from all over, all walks of life, and we have no idea what they might be dealing with. Now this isn’t meaning that life is short, so go cliff jumping or act foolish, this is a call to make memories of impacting others. We are not promised tomorrow, but we can make a memory today that can be carried by others for the rest of their lives. Just like the verse in James talks about, press into what the Lord is leading you to each day, and make memories that impact others.

Live with compassion.

One of the biggest mistakes we can make is holding onto grudges. You know, not letting go of something that really doesn’t matter in the big picture. Learning to forgive is a challenge, but it is one that will only help you in the end. This is something I have had to learn to really do, to show forgiveness to those who have hurt me, even if they never apologize for the hurt caused to me. When we hold onto grudges, we feel the hurt that was caused over and over again, and our entire life is affected by it. Our attitude is filled with anger, we lash out at people who only want to help us, and we lose sight of our relationship with God. I’ve never met an angry person who has an intimate relationship with God. You may want to argue with me about that fact, but I think our relationship with God reflects our outward attitude towards others. I can say this, because I am a victim to the power anger can have in our lives. Many people in my early schooling life treated me poorly, bullying me for the person God made me. I still know their names, faces, and what they said; but I forgive them. I choose to not live with chains binding me down, I choose to live with joy and in freedom. When we choose to have compassion and to forgive those that hurt us, our chains fall off and we can continue to walk towards our vision. When we do this, we make new memories, ones with love and joy, memories that have the faces and names of people we deeply care about, and we hold onto the good memories we make. When we live in anger, we miss out on the opportunity to make memories that will impact us, and we lose the wisdom that comes from those opportunities.

Meaningful memories take a chance.

Some of the best memories I have made have been spur of the moment chances. This past summer my dad and I went on a road trip to New York, and all along the way we would stop at random diners, local antique shops, and comic shops from TV. These were simple, not planned weeks in advance, just simple fun moments that we took a chance on. As a family, my parents would do something fun with my sister and I each Friday. We would do goofy things like have ice-cream and waffles for dinner, or eat under the table. Simple moments, but I will never forget them. Or recently when I was last minute able to see my girlfriends Christmas choir concert, simple moments that mean so much. All of these memories take a chance, they may require you to use some gas, to possibly make a mess, or to lose a little bit of sleep. We can make excuses, but these excuses will make us miss out on some truly joyful moments, moments that God has presented us with. Everything we have can vanish in an instant, so take hold of each day, and take the chance on making a meaningful memory.

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We are never promised tomorrow. Life is chaotic, things can happen in an instant and take us off guard. So many tragedies have happened this year, and even in the recent months. We live in a world that has been separated from God, a world where we are so busy focused on what we want and not what God wants for us. No matter how many laws are passed, or safeguards we put up, we will never be at peace. Our trust needs to be placed in the creator of the universe. Each day we need to know that we have a chance, a chance to impact the people around us, a chance to make a memory that will direct our life. When we live each day listening to what God has for us, no matter what happens to us, we can know we have victory over the enemy. In times of tragedy like the recent attacks in Paris, or the daily struggles of not feeling worth it, or when it feels like the world is crashing down around us; we can use our words to speak life, we can comfort those in need, and we can rally around those who feel like they can’t do it alone. We can make memories that will last forever and impact what we do and how we live forever. So take hold of every opportunity, have compassion to everyone around you, and take a chance on the moments life presents you with.

Make meaningful memories.

-Joshua Thomas

Fearing our Dreams

As I was driving to a local coffee shop that I like to work at, I was thinking about what today’s post would be about. This idea popped in, because it is something that I have dealt with and continue to struggle with. Fear, more specifically fear of running after my dreams. One of the scariest questions I’ve ever been asked is, “what do you want to do in life.” I was asked this multiple times in high school and even moving into college. “What are you going to major in, what do you want to do for the rest of your life.” These terrified me, and to some extent still do. Why does is scare me, why does this question affect so many people. From what I’ve found is that when we are asked this question, we immediately think about our hopes and dreams for the future. We get nervous because we think about how difficult it may be to actually reach that dream.

We immediately question ourselves which in turn, makes us believe a lie that we can achieve nothing.

Our dream for our lives is what drives us, this vision that we feel we have been called to. As we think about what it will take to pull off, it becomes this giant mountain that we feel unequipped for. In that statement above, notice how I said it is a lie that we believe, meaning that it isn’t true. God doesn’t give us a vision for something that is impossible, no matter what the odds look like. Nehemiah had a vision from God to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, his dream was to rebuild the city and it became his passion. The road for Nehemiah was not easily laid out, or free from danger. The people that Nehemiah were tired and feared for their lives, and Nehemiah was concerned that his dream was going to fail, that he would never complete what he had set out to do.

Nehemiah came to a point where he could either turn away from his dream, or look to God for his strength and complete what he was called to do.

He chose the right thing to do, trust God and never give up. I think this is true in our lives, we all have dreams, these visions of what we are striving for guide us, drive us, move us towards a higher purpose. There’s nothing more heart wrenching than seeing someone have a vision that God has placed in their life, and walk away from it. We were made to face the fear and attack the lies head on, and learn from the work that it took to persevere.

Perseverance leads to wisdom and strength.

Will it be easy? Nope, as much as I would like to tell you that if you stick with it nothing will drag you down, I would be lying to you. Is it worth it? Absolutely. In my life I have been scared of my dreams, a dream to be in ministry, to prepare the next generation to do even greater things. A dream to do this through me speaking and writing to others, to empower those who feel like giving up. I want to do this because I have wanted to give up, many times I have wanted to take the easy road and walk away from my potential. I still do, but I’m ready to face the hard times. Nehemiah didn’t stand back and take it, he took steps to protect himself and the people he led, and we should do the same.

Protect yourself by living in the word and striving towards a better relationship with Christ.

I’m not perfect at this, but I will fight for the dream that God has given me with all that I’ve got. I encourage you to do the same, even if you feel like your time has passed, I assure you, God will use you no matter what your past is or how old or young you are. I know I won’t stop. I will impact the next generation, I will write books to empower others, and I will speak and teach leaders to be the best they can be.

What will you do?

-Joshua Thomas