“I am the vine. You are the branches. If you remain joined to me, and I to you, you will bear a lot of fruit. You can’t do anything without me…When you bear a lot of fruit, it brings glory to my Father. It shows that you are my disciples.”
John 15:5-8, NIRV
A couple of weeks ago, I got to share with my pre-teen students about how to continually keep learning. This is something that I have learned over the years, I always want to be a learner no matter what season I find myself in. I want to grow in wisdom and maturity, because God calls me to follow Him and not become satisfied by being stationary. I think we can all look back at past versions of ourselves and be thankful that we are not the same person. I know for me, I’m thankful I’m not still middle school Joshua, high school Joshua, or even early twenties Joshua (turning the bog 27 in October, what what!). When we look at our younger selves, we weren’t as mature as we are now, and we should never stop learning and growing.
Over the weekend, dear Danielle and I went to the store and decided to do a little springtime shopping. We picked up some herbs and plants, a bird feeder for the robins and cardinals around our place, and some new soil for plants we already have. A couple of those plants have not been thriving, so we figured some new soil and an upgraded pot would help. It was so much fun being able to spend a day breathing fresh air and giving life to new plants. As we got our hands dirty, we re-potted our snake plant, as I pulled out the plant, we immediately noticed some root rot, due to it having too much water. On the surface the plant looked fine, but when actually dealing with the root, we saw it needed to get rid of the old before a new thing could thrive.
It’s now almost been two full months into this new year, how are your goals doing? It’s easy to be excited about growing and changing at the start of the year, but typically this is right about the time that those goals and pursuits begin to slow. So, how are you doing? Checking in on yourself is important because growth is important. I’ve found for me, I want to do all kinds of things and push myself into this person I think I should be, but often those standards are unattainable, so when I fail to hit that mark, I choose to stay complacent. There is a myriad of reasons why goals fail and a myriad of books to help with that, but I think the important part is understanding the “why” behind the goals.
We want to grow into better people, but we need to make sure we are growing in a healthy way.
“Now we see only a dim likeness of things. It is as if we were seeing them in a foggy mirror. But someday we will see clearly. We will see face to face. What I know now is not complete. But someday I will know completely, just as God knows me completely.”
1 Corinthians 13:12
Two things keep sticking in my mind over the past year; reflection and growth. The start of the year, dear Danielle and I chose the word, “lover,” to be the word we would focus on and attribute to our mindset. Little did we know that this would be tested as everything changed in a crazy way. I am so thankful that we chose this mindset, because this year dealt with a lot, and there was a lack of love all around. I was ready for a year of busyness and wanted to focus on how to love better, but what happened was a year of resetting rhythms. I am thankful for that reset, I’m thankful for the time or reflection over the past and a growth towards what may be next.
This past week, dear Danielle and I celebrated being married for two years. It’s been such a wild journey so far. From job changes to moving a long way from home, it feels like it’s been so much longer than two years. I’m thankful to be on this journey, and reflecting on everything, it’s put a new perspective on life. We’re all facing different seasons right now, for some of us, this pandemic has tested us in some tough ways. At the same time, it feels like many distractions were cut away, revealing to each of us what we truly value. It’s an important question to ask ourselves.
What do I value?
What do I need to rearrange to form a new rhythm?
We are officially in a new year. It’s a great time; we all are thinking about the past and now thinking about what we want the future to be. I know for my dear Danielle and I, we have been looking at what we want this year. Habits we want to begin, things we need to cut out, vision casting for the future. I love looking to the future, but often, I get caught up in the future and end up missing right now. There have been many moments where I want to do something, but ended up getting held back because I was not “experienced” enough. So, I strived in the past to get to the next level, do whatever it takes to gain influence. Now, for me, this never meant being a bully to get ahead, but it did mean I would get so focused on who I needed to impress and which boxes to check to move up. I was trying to speed through a game, without taking time to have fun.
What I’ve been learning is that I need to stop rushing into what’s next and enjoy where I am. I need to be present.
This past year has been one of the busiest and chaotic years to date. As you might know, my monthly posting schedule has been completely thrown out during December. Working a theme park is fun, but working during the holidays and as a new ride opens, it started to become more like hell for a few weeks. Kind of a fitting way to end a chaotic year with a bit more chaos on top. I’ve learned to adapt very quick over this year. It began with me not having my main youth pastor job, and my dearest Danielle and I searching for what was next. With an open door and a need to push ourselves out of our comfort zone, we made the move down to Orlando for Danielle’s Disney College Program. While job searching, I found myself processing a lot of hurts, my pastoring position wasn’t just a job; I had invested in the lives of a ton of students, so when I was let go, I didn’t really know what to do.
I didn’t belong, and I felt like I was letting those students down or abandoning them.
It felt like my purpose was pulled away, I had gotten wrapped up in a place and lost sight that no matter where God had me, I had purpose.
I’ll never forget the creepiest class I took at UNCG. I was in a “history of horror films” class that met for three hours every Thursday night. It was a blast, scared me to death, but it was such a blast. Sure, some parts of the class teetered on the “this is too much that I want in my mind,” but with an understanding professor, it ended up being a fantastic experience. The only bad part was, by the time the class had ended at nine, the campus was empty. It was dark and eerie, and after talking about horror, it made for a bad combination. I learned that walking to the bus pickup spot was really creepy alone, but luckily, I made a friend in the class who also went to the bus stop. After Jamal and I decided to go together, the creepy night wasn’t so bad.
It’s funny how much of a difference that made, and the same can be true with many different things as well. It helps to have a workout partner to keep you motivated. Going to the movies is a lot more fun when you can talk about what you just saw over milkshakes (Now I want milkshakes). Playing board games with a group leads to lots of laughter. While these are pretty surface level things, when it comes to more serious matters, we choose to walk alone.
I recently have started adding podcasts to my morning runs. I normally have been listening to music to help me get hyped, so the heavy rotation was the Frozen soundtrack or Czarface, ‘cause you know, my fav Disney movie and a rap group with members from Wu-Tang Clan go together. Instead of listening to music, I started listening to podcasts to help me deepen my relationship with God and grow as a leader. I recently listened to a podcast called, “Leadership Lean in with Chad Veach.” Chad Veach is the lead pastor of Zoe Church in LA, and I really love his perspective and attitude when it comes to leadership. In the course of the podcast, he said that there is something he has learned when it comes to discerning decisions and other areas we find ourselves in. He said that God often times will block it, or bless it.
That idea hit me, because it’s so true, and it’s often the biggest hang-up we can find ourselves in.
I want to share something that has made a huge impact on my life today. This has been something that empowers me and gives me a strong community. Today I want to talk about small groups. Often times we can feel disconnected or alone, and this is a dangerous place to be. Satan loves to prey on the lonely people. I know this because for a long time, I felt lonely. In middle and high school, I didn’t fit in and hadn’t found my tribe. Spiritual attack was more difficult and temptation grew stronger. Then I entered into a small group, a group of brothers my age that loved me and held me accountable for what I was choosing to do. I entered into a circle. See for a long time, the church has just been about rows; listen to the pastor and try to remember what he said two weeks from the message that spoke to your heart. We’re human, we don’t always remember messages, but when we enter a circle, we enter a dialogue. We become an active participant to God’s greater plan for our lives.