No one talks about the son who stayed at home

I sat and talked with a friend the other day. We were talking about life, faith, and stories. As I shared about another friend of mine who has majorly turned his life around, he said “Joel, I’ve grown up my whole life in church, I’ve never partied, I never even touched alcohol until I was 21, I never did drugs, I’m not married, so I’ve never had sex, I’ve never majorly screwed up. I’ve always done exactly what the church has taught me to do. And I feel like that’s not good enough. Like I don’t have a story to tell.”

He paused for a moment and drew a breath as his eyes moistened. Then, with his voice quivering, continued,

“I hear people talk about all these people who are turning their life around, who used to be really bad, and everyone celebrates them. But here I am, and no one even mentions how well I’ve done at keeping all the things that Jesus commands and the church tells us. I feel like I’m not good enough, that I don’t have a story to tell, that I have nothing to say that is worth listening to.” Continue reading

Dangerous Business

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Well, by the time most of you read this, I’ll be on the road. I’m taking a much-needed vacation, and my best friend and I are going to visit Ryan & Janae Dagen!!! I am really excited to see them.

For those of you who don’t know, quick back story on the relationship between Ryan and I. Ryan used to be the youth pastor at Gap Community Church. During that time, I pretty much functioned as his assistant youth pastor, in addition to the other duty’s of my job, since I was employed by GCC at the time. Continue reading

Preparing

Well, today I am speaking at Amplify Youth Group. I have been working on my sermon for like 3 weeks now, and I’m really excited to share, but I’m also really nervous. I’m going to be sharing some stuff from my life, and the number of people in the area who know about this time in my life will literally double, if not triple, so it’s a little scary…

If you could be sure to say a prayer for me tonight, that I would be able to speak with boldness, compassion, and that God would move through me, I would greatly appreciate it. I’ll resume my more “normal” style posts on thursday, I promise.

The Promptings of God

 

Have you ever had one of those moments? For some inexplicable reason, you see someone whom you’ve never met or even seen before across the room and God just whispers, “that one”. And you know that He wants you to connect with that person?

I’m ashamed to admit that this happens to me more than I’d like to admit, because I don’t follow through most of the time. I find some excuse to not. This happened to me fairly recently…
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re: The Fire That Burns In Your Heart

As some of you know, I was away at a camp this week. And it was an awesome week. But before I went, one of the other counselors (we’ll call him Steve) was feeling his fire for it burning out, and he was not looking forward to it. Then the first day of camp, 2 of the campers (who have been with us since the 2nd year) came to myself and another counselor  (we’ll call him Bob) and said that they wanted to make a video for Steve, saying how much they appreciated him and all his hard work over the past 7 years. We called this project “Cake: The One Time It’s Not A Lie”. Sneaking around behind Steve’s back, these 2 campers went and filmed other campers, staff, and counselors (and even some alumni) describing Steve, how they met Steve, and how Steve inspired them. Then on the last night of camp, we showed Steve “Cake”. That Cake renewed the fire that burned in Steve’s heart.
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Fairytales & Dragons

“Fairytales don’t tell kids that dragons exist, kids already know dragons exist. Fairytales tell kids that dragons can be killed.”
~ G. K. Chesterton

Now I like dragons, I think they are pretty cool creatures. That being said, I understand what this quote is talking about.

We all know that monsters exist. We see them in our dreams. We hear them in our dreams. In the dark of the night they haunt us.

They exist.
Without a doubt.
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There Was A Dream That Was Rome…

“Marcus Aurelius had a dream that was Rome, Proximo. That is not it. That is not it!” ~ Maximus Decimus Meridius

My second favorite movie of all time is Gladiator (my favorite is Braveheart). And while it is a story of the little guy overcoming all odds and all that, to me it is also a story of dreams, and how one mans dream can become the driving force for another. Of how a dream can spur a man to accomplish great things.

Maximus never had a dream for Rome to be a republic. All he wanted was to go home. So what was it about Marcus Aurelius’ dream that made him so passionate about it?  You could argue that it had to do with his family being killed, but I don’t think so. Because while he did want revenge for that, it was not all about his revenge. It was because this dream was a calling into something greater than himself.

We all have these dreams in our lives. And many of us look at where were are realize that this is not it. And so we spur on, in an attempt to live out our dreams. We get called into this grand story, this bigger thing.

But first, we must know our dream.

Senator Gracchus is to be reinstated.  There was a dream that was Rome. It shall be realized.

It took me a bit to realize this, but Maximus’ role in the dream for Rome to be a republic wasn’t to make it happen, but to make it possible for others to make Rome a republic again.

Gracchus: So, after Rome’s all yours, you just give it back to the people. Tell me why.

Maximus: Because that was a dying man’s last wish. I will kill Commodus. The fate of Rome, I leave to you.

This has been the hardest thing for me to learn. Sometimes these big dreams we have, these things we want to see happen, are not ours to make happen. Instead our role is to make it possible for others to make it happen. This can be difficult at first, but know that without you, it would never possible for the dream to come to life. Without Maximus, Gracchus could have never made Rome a republic again.

What about you? What is the dream you are fighting for? What is your role in it? Will you make it happen? or will you make it possible for others to make it happen?

Living A Meaningful Life

Why Write A Better Story?

This is part 3 of 3 in a series about your life.

Check out Part 1 HERE

Check out Part 2 HERE

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I’m finally going to answer the question I probably should have answered first. Why write a better story for your life? If you are unhappy with your life, you already have a reason. But what if you are content with your life? Do you still need to write a better story? That depends on 3 things. 1) Is your story the best it can be? 2) Is your story part of God’s Story? 3) Are you sharing your story with other people?

If you answered “NO” to either one of those questions, then I would challenge you to look at the story of your life, and to write a better one…

If your story is not the best it can be, then I would wonder what is your story right now? Is it sitting on the couch, watching TV, letting life go by you? Think about a movie. You don’t want to watch a movie about a guy who wakes up, goes to a job, comes home, watches TV, goes to bed, and repeats. It’s boring. It’s meaningless. Make your story better, bigger, make it count for something. And this leads me to number 2.

Does your life ever feel meaningless? Do you feel like, that while you do awesome things, and in that sense your life is amazing because you hike, or cliff jump, or do other things like that, it has no purpose? No meaning? Has it ever felt meaningful? Think back to the moments when it felt like it had meaning. I would bet those were the moments when you did something that was larger than yourself. It was those moments when you realized that your story was not about you, but rather it was a part of a larger story. Part of God’s story.

I believe that both elements are necessary to a meaningful life. If you do awesome things, that makes your life fun, but have no purpose behind it, then you won’t (or shouldn’t) be satisfied with it. If you do boring things/things you don’t enjoy, even if you do it for your church or something like that, then you aren’t really doing it for God, and your life is not the best, nor really part of God’s story. Don’t get me wrong, the fun, crazy, things like cliff jumping, or swimming in a river with your clothes on, or hiking, or biking across the country don’t HAVE to be part of something larger, they can be “practice adventures”. But we must also have adventures that are part of God’s story.

What about other people? Are you inviting them into your story? In A Million Miles In A Thousand Years, Donald Miller tells about a family who thought that New Years Day was the most boring day of the year, and so they decided to hold a parade in their neighborhood. But they realized, that nobody really likes to watch a parade, it’s actually pretty boring. But it’s a lot of fun to be IN a parade. So they made a rule that you cannot watch, you have to participate. This parade has grown to thousands (i think) now, and if Donald Miller said that if you look at the pictures, you don’t see one person sitting on the side…

How about you? do you have an exciting life? Is it part of God’s story? Are you inviting others into it? Write a better story.

Agree? Disagree? Other thoughts? Leave them below in the comments!

How Do I Get There?

This is a continuation of Wednesday’s post. If you haven’t read it yet, go here and read it.

To know that we have to change our path is very different from successfully changing our path. So how do we do this? How do I take what I want to do and make it stick? I mean, I’ve tried so many times to change, but end up in the same spot.

We are living a story. The question is, is your story one that is interesting, and that others want to be a part of, or is it boring. Do you like where your story will have you end up?

In storytelling/writing/film, there is a term known as the “Inciting Incident”. An inciting incident is a doorway that you are forced through and through which there is no return. Usually the main character in a story is living a fairly boring life, until their inciting incident. Then they were faced with a choice. Let it move them into a better story, one that is beyond themselves, or let it pass by, clean up the mess, and go back to their boring. meaningless. life.

Think of all of your favorite stories. Lord of the Rings. Star Wars. Braveheart. Gladiator. All of these have an inciting incident.

– In Lord of the Rings, Frodo was given a ring. He didn’t ask for it, He didn’t want to take it to Rivendell, but the only other option was to be the cause for the end of the world. Not really much of a choice there. Inciting Incident.

– In Star Wars, the only family Luke had ever known was killed. Inciting Incident.

– Braveheart & Gladiator. William Wallace lost his wife. Maximus lost his wife and kid. Causing them to fight against the evil ruling powers.

Now probably none of us will have our families murdered by evil, oppressive governments, or be given a magical ring that we have to take to an evil land or risk the destruction of the world. But maybe your inciting incident is the loss of a job, an introduction to a beautiful woman (or man, for the ladies). We are living a story. Don’t let your inciting incidents pass you by. Let them take you into a wild, exciting, story that is far better than you could have ever imagined!

Feel free to leave a comment about your inciting incident(s) in your life, or click the contact link at the top of the page, I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Click HERE for Part 3: Living A Meaningful Life

Where Am I Going?

I started writing this in a Word document a while ago, but never finished it. Then I started reading “A Million Miles In A Thousand Years” by Donald Miller, and so many of the things I had started to write, he talked about in his book, and that inspired me to finish it. So most of this will be a combo of his ideas, and mine.

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Have you ever just sat and wondered about the path of your life? Where you’ve been, where you are, where you are going, who was major in your life then, who is now, and who might be in the future? I don’t do this often, but when I do, I often find myself then thinking about “what if I had taken a different path?” or “what if I hadn’t let that person get so close to me and influence me in such a big way?”.

This thought process then brings me to “what path am I on now?” and “Who is a big influence in my life now?”. And that leads to “Where am I going?”, “Who will still be around in my life later?”.

The question that I usually end up spending the most time with is “What if I let so-and-so know me better? What if I let them know every little part of me? How would my life change from here on out?” It is at that point I begin to realize who my best friends are.  They are the ones I WANT to let into my life more. The ones I want to share my struggles with. The ones I want to talk to when I feel like crying. It is important to take stock of those in your life, and look at where you are going. I once heard it said, “Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future.”

I’ve had a lot of conversations with a few different people over the past few weeks about where they are going. There is a time for sitting and waiting for God’s direction, and there is a time for acting and trusting that God will close the door if it’s not right. I think most of the time, God is either saying “Pick one, and I’ll bless it” or “pick one and I’ll tell you if it’s wrong. But do something!” Think of it as moving a rock. It’s easier to change the direction that rock is moving in once you have that rock moving.

What do you think? Have you stopped and thought about your life’s path, and the people on that path recently? Do you just need to start making plans and trust that God will bless it or give you direction if it’s wrong?

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Click HERE for Part 2: How Do I Get There

Click HERE for Part 3: Living A Meaningful Life