Enjoy the Journey

I’m pretty sure all of you have heard the saying, “it’s about the journey, not the destination,” at some point in your life. It’s to help those of us like myself, who really hate waiting. For instance, anytime I go to the movies, even though I know I don’t need to get there a half hour early, I’ll find myself rushing to get to a theater and end up with forty-five minutes of early waiting. I love the destination. The destination is final, not a reference to those cheesy movies, it’s something that is certain and I don’t have to wait any longer. Texts that say, “I can’t wait to tell you something later,” consume my thoughts and make me want to find out what it is now. Cynical people would say it’s because I’m millennial or whatever, but I just like the present, not always the wait to open it. The hard part about me being wired this way, is that I lose sight of the journey. Yes, it’s all coming together, that’s how I like to write.

Another word for journey in the context of life would be, waiting.

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Claim Your Identity

I’ve been thinking a lot about identity recently. Who we are. What makes us the individuals that we are. I just took a long series about being a misfit and what that means, but during the time of writing that series, I’ve been struggling with my identity. Where do I belong and what is my place? These have been questions running through my head. It’s difficult to understand that you are different, yet wonder who you truly are. At the same time, I know who I am, we all do. God tells us that he has made us in his image, so our identity is that we are children of the king, why then is it so hard to accept our identity? I have breakfast with my dad each week, and one morning I was telling him that I felt this way. That I was struggling with who I truly am, and because of that, my mind was trying to convince me that I shouldn’t expect anything big from God. I think many of us feel that way. We don’t “feel” special, even when people say we are, we start to feel like we are worthless rather than worthy. The thing is, feelings can be wrong, God isn’t. My dad told me that I should look in scripture and write out verses that claim who I am in Christ. I honestly blew it off, but then decided to sit down and write. Ephesians 2:10, 1 Peter 2:9, 1 Timothy 1:7, and Galatians 3:26 were all verses I found and wrote down in my bullet journal because they tell me who I am (Look em up, and write em down). After all of these my cynical brain kicked in, and started giving me doubt, then I read 1 Corinthians 3:16 which is so perfect in the way it spoke to my doubt. “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s spirit dwells in you?”

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Chosen

There’s really nothing better than a good hero story. Well, maybe it’s not your favorite, you may like a good thriller or romance story, but for me, hero stories are the ones that speak to me on a deeper level. In all stories with a hero, there is a person who finds themselves with a calling over their life. They have a past which has prepared their heart for what is to come, and because of that past, they feel a need for something higher. Then there is a catalyst, the moment when our individual gains new power. The radioactive spider bites the hand, the farm boy gains the lightsaber, and the slave girl volunteers to enter the death games. For whatever reason, our heroes are chosen to live for something greater, they are chosen to stand for the world they live in. The same is true in our lives. The world we live in is filled with sin, we are a fallen people. There are things that are happening each day that aren’t right, we use our words to tear each other down and we belittle others if they are not up to the same imaginary standard that we try to achieve. We become so focused on self-image rather than looking at those who are hurting around us, but we have a choice. There is always a choice. We have all been chosen. We have been called to do something higher, we have a purpose and that purpose can change the world.

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You’ve Got What It Takes, Kid.

I love hero stories. I’ve always loved comic books and epic hero movies where one individual faces an incredible challenge, and they make it through the toughest fight. I look up to stories like that because I want to make a difference. I want to stand up for what is right, defend the weak, and repair what has been lost. I think the same is true for you, it’s the reason why we love movies and books where one individual, whom no one thinks is strong enough, has what it takes to save the day. Often we feel like we can’t make it through our situation, or that the mountains we face have no chance of being moved. This is simply not true, we have a God who is so much bigger than the trials we face. God picks us up off the ground, the moments when we feel defeated and all alone, and he looks at us and says, “You’ve got what it takes, kid.” Now this isn’t scripture and we may not hear God actually say this to us, but the point is, God created us for a reason. God created you to be more than what you think you are, God made you to be exactly who you are, and He made you with supernatural abilities that will change the world. Over and over in the bible we see stories of simple individuals, people that would normally be looked over in their daily lives, and God used them to do amazing things. They may not have been able to control minds, have spider-like abilities, or fly; but God gave them incredible power. God wants to give you the same power.

Hebrews chapter eleven is a perfect example of what I’m trying to convey to each of you. This chapter is the “By faith” chapter, it records how different individuals in the bible were able to do super natural things by faith in the one true God. People like Noah, who built an ark to save humanity, Abraham, whose descendants grew mightily when his wife was barren, and Moses, who stood up to tyranny and led people into freedom. Each one of these people chose to live in faith, they chose to trust God even when it seemed impossible. God had a purpose and vision for each of these individuals and called out to them saying that they had what it took. You see, God has a purpose and vision for our lives to. He calls to us, telling us that we have what it takes, that you have a power within you that is awe-inspiring, and one that cannot be stopped. All we have to do is live by faith, trusting that God will guide and protect you, and you can do great things. I want to spend the next few paragraphs describing how we can awaken this power within us and become more than who we are.

We have to accept the calling.

In every epic tale, the hero is reluctant to take on the responsibility. Luke is reluctant to train as a Jedi because his family needs his help on the farm, Peter Parker has amazing abilities that he doesn’t know how to use effectively, and Katniss is tied to protecting her family from an oppressive regime. All three of these characters were created by different people, all have different settings and worlds, but each has one big thing in common. Each has the strength to do so much more, and each has to accept the calling on their life. This happens through a catalyst, an event that requires them to stand up and face the fight. Luke’s family is killed and the universe is threatened, Peter Parker watches as his uncle is murdered by a criminal, and Katniss takes the place of her sister that is placed in certain peril. Each one has a choice. We all have that same choice. Do we accept the calling on our lives, or do we stand back and let the world go down in flames around us? God gives us a choice, and he lets us live with the consequences of whatever we choose. Our God loves us, but he lets us make the choice all on our own. This is the first step. If you choose to not accept the calling, well, you will continue to live and not make an impact. Your legacy will blow away like dust in the wind. However, when you choose to accept the calling, choosing to make a decision and have that real relationship with a God who loves you deeply, your journey begins. You’ve listened to God’s voice, and you believe that you can make an impact. You will live a life of meaning, one that will shape the world forever. You must make a choice to accept the calling God has placed on your heart.

We must surrender your selfish desire.

As people, we want to do what we want to. It’s what makes us selfish, we think about what we want, with no thought about others. Great leaders think about everyone. They think about the people who are always with you, and they care about the quiet and shy ones who hide in the background. When we look at the people who lived by faith in the bible, we see people who thought about the future. Thought about the people they were impacting, the lives that would go on to make a difference. This sometimes means not getting all the credit, not being in the spotlight, and not having adoring fans. Sure that can be nice, but the purpose is not to glorify yourself, it is to impact the lives around you for the better. To look at those around you and help heal the broken, lead the lost into freedom. Every great hero we see in literature and films defends the people, they sacrifice their own safety and comfort, in order to save others. We must take on the calling for our lives, and we must live serving others. This will give us the power to change lives and make that lasting impact on everyone around you. We have been designed with purpose, and God wants us to lead others into his kingdom. We need to lay down our own selfish wants and comforts, in order to step into the power that God has given you, because when you do, you will impact everyone.

We must trust with everything.

This is the final step into your journey of taking on what God is calling you towards. Each person in the bible fully trusted God, it wasn’t always easy, but they trusted him with everything. One of the guys in the by faith chapter is Elijah, and he lived trusting God with everything, even with food as he had to hide away in the desert. God sent birds to feed him, and if God can do that for Elijah, he can do that for you. It probably won’t entail trusting that God will send you a bird with food, but maybe it means living with a trust that can will bring you out of this pain. Maybe it means trusting God with your finances, with your relationships, or with your struggles. We need to live with Jesus every day, we have to trust that he will guide us with every aspect of life and any struggle we may face. You have been given talents and abilities that are unique, but we need God to accomplish what we have been called to do. Every hero has a mentor, someone who has walked the path before and can guide us. Luke had Ben Kenobi, Peter Parker had Uncle Ben, and Katniss had Hamish. The same needs to be true in your life, we need a sensei because you are a warrior. We need to trust God with everything, so that we can accomplish anything.

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I’ve always loved hero stories. Heroes that stand up for what’s right, heroes that fight for the weak, heroes that are looked down upon even when they have done such great things. I think everyone has a desire to make a difference, to be someone with great power that changes the world. We all have a power inside of us, we have the ability to lift people off the ground and help them find freedom. We need to accept the calling, surrender our selfish desires, and trust in God completely. When we do this, we are unstoppable. Life will still get tough, things won’t always go by plan, but God will always be with you. We can live by faith, and accomplish so much. We just need to choose.

You’ve got what it takes, kid.

-Joshua Thomas

The New Year

This is always an exciting time for me. I get a chance to reflect on the good and the bad, but I get to move forward with a new vision of the year to come. A new year brings with it new chances to learn, new memories to make, and new adventures to undertake. This post may seem a bit different from my usual style, but I’m writing it this way to try and help you look at the year gone by and how you will take on the New Year that is to come. You see, this past year was filled with what seems like a roller coaster of emotions and experiences. It wasn’t easy, but then again, God never promised us easy lives. I saw friends pass away, friends that were like brothers to me, friends that showed me that I had value and loved me. I saw my brother-in-law (whom I call a brother) struggle with the dangers of addiction. I experienced the passing of my two grandmothers and the effect it had on my family. There was stress with college classes, responsibilities I have, feelings of doubt in my own talents, and watching other friends close to me suffer similar losses. But guess what? Even in all the hurt and pain, I found joy. I had a chance to remember the fun times I had with my two friends who had passed, I was able to reflect on how their lives shaped my own. My brother is now getting help for the addictions he battles, and God is truly working in and through him even in the midst of the pain. I saw my family grow close together in the loss and discover the value in time together. In the stress I learned so much in my classes on how to communicate, to make organizations function well, and present myself in a way that is respectful and wise. I learned that no one can take away what God has given me, because God designed me this way. My friends that were hurting, God let me be there for them, and I will always be there for them in the hurting. So much more happened as well, I met an incredible girl that I love spending time with; I’ve been able to see students in my small group step into their passions for poetry, music, and art; and I myself have discovered a desire to help others in their own walks of life. It was a hard year, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

Over the past three years or so, every New Year I decide to take a character trait and apply it for the New Year. This is something that is similar to the My One Word system, but because I like to be a rebel sometimes, I’ve morphed it into a trait I want to live into. It is a trait that I view life through, because I believe it will guide me and teach me to not only follow God in a deeper way, but to make myself better. In 2013, I chose to be a servant, one who looks at the needs of others and helps them in whatever way they can. In 2014, I chose to be a hero, one who sacrifices their own life and desires for that of a greater cause. And in 2015, I chose to be an adventurer, one who takes on new challenges and experiences, and thrives. Last year truly was filled with challenge and experiences that made me stronger, and in that I was able to gain the reward that God used to teach me. This year, I spent a while in my devotions and quiet times really praying over what I want to live into this year. The catch with claiming what trait you will live into in the year, is that most of the time, it becomes true. I experienced the way it feels to serve others, to sacrifice my own wants, and to be thrown into an adventure. I always love a challenge, because people will tell you it’s impossible to achieve, and then when you achieve it, those same people will look up to you. This year I chose something that encompasses what I want to do, something that I will use to help as many people as possible, and something that God wants of me.

This year, I choose to be a doctor.

Now before you jump to conclusions, I’m not going to start med school, nor do I plan on doing back alley creep surgeries. No need to worry about me becoming the guy from Re-Animator and making a zombie. What I mean by I choose to be a doctor, is I choose to encompass what a doctor does. A doctor is one who heals the sick, one who takes in the broken and brings them back from the brink of death. I don’t have the power to keep people from dying, or heal people from physical disease. What I can do is be there for the people who are hurting, the ones who face the chasm of despair, the ones who feel alone; I can be a doctor for them. This trait is a promise to myself. That no matter what happens, I will never be cruel or cowardly. I will never give up, nor will I ever give in. A doctor comforts those who are hurting, and seeks out the solutions for the ailment one faces. I want to be like a doctor, when I see my family hurt, when I experience the sting of death, or when those close to me feel alone; I want to be there for them, and I want to seek out the solution for their struggles. The best part is, I know the solution, and the solution is Jesus. Because Jesus is in me, I can do all things through him. I can be a voice of comfort, one that uses his words for life and never to tear anyone down, even in joking. I can use my gifts and abilities to reach people who are wandering and are lost. I can help those who are hurting, because I have experienced hurt. For a long time I felt like I was worthless, but with the voice of people speaking life around me, I was able to know my worth. I choose to be a doctor because I think more people need to know that they are worth it.

Big things are coming.

Along with my trait of being a doctor, this year I want to be intentional with everything I do. Some of my goals (basically a better word for resolutions, because whoever keeps those?) for the coming year are big. They are big because I have a big God. My first goal is to continue to make this blog more effective. That means making it a place where you can come and be fed from the word and have resources to grow in your own walk. This means sharing it with people (it really does help me) not for my own sake, I don’t want that, I want people to come because God is guiding me as I write and I want more people to have that. I have created a new tab thingy that has some essential books that have helped me in my walk, as well as the books that I read throughout this year so you can have recommendations from me. My second goal, and this is the big one, is to write a book. Yup, a book. I have been praying and God has shown me that this is something I can do, so this year I will be writing what is tentatively titled, “Coffee Shop Thoughts.” It will be going through the fruits of the spirit, and how to live a life of freedom through them. I’ve never written a book before, so why not start now! I will most likely use an ebook format through Amazon, and I can’t wait to figure all that out! My intent is for the book to be a simple devotional as well as be material used in a small group format. My plan is to have it done and produced by summer, and in the fall, have a small group based on it at Daystar Church. My third and final goal is to never lose sight of Jesus. No matter what happens, I want to focus on the one who even made it possible for me to do anything at all. Jesus is the one that brought me out of the depths and saved me, so I want to run and never stop running towards him.

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So what does this year look like for you? You’ve been able to see my heart over the past few paragraphs, but what does this year look like for you. Think about what you truly want out of this New Year, what character trait do you want to have that will grow you and push you to be all that you can be? If you feel like no one is in your corner on this one, know that I’m with you. I may know you, or I may never know you. What I do know is that you were made by an amazing artist and one who built the universe. God made you. So this year, set goals, find a trait that you will latch onto, and choose to have joy in all of it. I’ve learned that we are not guaranteed anything, so make the most of every minute you have been given.

Make memories, take on new adventures, and love life.

-Joshua Thomas

The New Year

Well another year has passed, and what a great year it was. I have been so blessed over the past year, I have seen growth in my own life, the life of my church and the lives of those around me. It’s fun to look back at all the events that happened over the past year, some good some not so good, but all the events in my life allowed me to grow and discover more about myself and where I want to continue to go.

In 2013, I read an article that talked about instead of making a new year’s resolution, to focus on one word that you want to live out for that year. That year I chose the word of servant, a devoted or helpful follower or supporter. I tried to be a humble leader and one who listens to the wise council of those above myself. Then I continued the tradition into 2014, choosing the word of hero, defined as a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities. Keeping those qualities in mind helps me focus on the reasoning behind every action and being a better leader. And that brings me to this New Year, 2015, and the word I have chosen to focus on this year is, adventurer.

Adventurer is defined as someone who likes dangerous or exciting experiences: a person who looks for adventures. One of the focuses I want to have this year is to step out of my comfort zone more and take risks. Now these risks aren’t foolish things that I want to try, they are things like meeting more people, having a bigger influence to those I come into contact with, and to continue to practice my hobbies of drawing and writing. I want to be able to try new things and go to new places, do things that I might not otherwise think of doing. Pushing myself to new heights and always striving to get better.

That’s what I plan on doing for this New Year, push myself forward, always growing and trying to use what God has given me to make a difference. I think about my past and where I’ve come from and I know I will always want to keep striving for more. 2014 was filled with great experiences, from seeing my Vert guys grow into strong leader, being able to lead a small group of elementary kids, and being able to work in some amazing ministries. 2015 will continue these things and even more, I cannot wait to see what will come from this year and how I will grow and change!

It’s going to be another great year and I hope yours’ is pretty swell as well!

-Joshua Thomas