The End of an Era (or So Long and Thanks for all the Fish)

The past three and a half years have been among the most challenging & rewarding times for me. There were days where as a staff, we would sit around and wonder “why are we doing this?”. I would sit there and think “I can’t go on, I can’t do this anymore.” It was in those moments, that my favorite quote from Lord of the Rings comes to mind (here’s the YouTube version, if you prefer it)

Sam: It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the ending, because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened. But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come and when the sun shines it’ll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr Frodo, I do understand… I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only the didn’t. They kept going, because they were holding onto something…

Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?

Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr Frodo… And it’s worth fighting for.

But now that struggle has come to the end, and I find myself again wondering if it was worth it. If the time we spent mattered, or if it was all for naught. And again I find myself finding comfort and solace in the words of Samwise Gamgee. Continue reading

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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

When you give hope to others, you find hope for yourself.

closeup-tear

This was written over the course of the past few days. I would just jot down my disjointed thoughts, and then I tried to piece them together in a way that would make sense, without losing the overall feel of what I was trying to say, and I didn’t really expand or elaborate on any of my thoughts, so please keep that in mind as you read. If you would like me to elaborate, leaves comment with what you’d like me to elaborate on, and I will.

The phone rings. I take a deep breath, and pick up the phone and smile as I say “Hello, this is Joel. How can I serve you today?”

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Working is the hardest thing. I find myself at the front desk a lot these days. A place I need to be cheery, a place I need to smile, answer questions, and give hope. Hope I don’t feel. But behind the perfectly plastered smile on my face, my mind swirls with questions. Why? How? Somehow reaching out for understanding that doesn’t seem to come.

Then I read what others say. What the news says. The picture they paint. And I don’t see it. Instead I see someone broken, hurting, and in need of redemption. I don’t feel what society tells me to feel. Instead of anger, hate, rage, disgust, I feel sad, heartbroken, like someone died. And in a way, someone has.

In a way, a lot of people have.

So many people will never be the same. So many lives have had something ripped away from them. Peace, security, trust.

Trust.

And when trust is betrayed, we get angry. But when people are hurt, anger will never heal. Healing will only come when we replace anger with love. Redemption can only come from love. So many people are hurting right now. Spreading anger isn’t going to bring a single one of those people healing. We need to instead let our words be of love and support for everyone. And this love needs to come double from those of us who call ourselves the church. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” ~ John 13:34-35

Maybe, if we can inject love into the situation, we can see healing come to each of people involved in and surrounding the situation. Maybe we can stop the cycle. Maybe, just maybe, we can actually change people.

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As my mind still swirls, as I find it hard to focus, I find myself asking questions. The worst kind of questions: questions that really have no answer. Questions that can’t be explained. And then the phone starts to ring. Someone comes in needing hope. And so I take all those swirling, twirling, questions and push them down, plaster a smile on my face that I don’t really feel, and answer the phone. And I give hope. Because when you give hope to others, you find hope for yourself.

Dear Mr. President

Well, this morning before I went into work, I wrote an email to our President Barack Obama. I wanted to be respectful, but also address some concerns I had with his administration and what direction it was headed in. I’m not posting this to open this up for a big political debate, so if you are looking for that, go somewhere else, but I wanted you all to know what I wrote, and maybe if more people write messages, he will begin to realize what it is the people actually want. (I included my email address and phone number in the original that I took out, and I had the URLs in the message, but for cleanliness on here, I hyperlinked them) Continue reading

The Disciple Jesus Loved?

When you read through the book of John, you’ll see a specific individual referenced, but never by name…

“The disciple whom Jesus loved”.

Now, we know that this references the Apostle John, one of Jesus’ closest/best friends, but John never actually names himself… I wonder why that is? And we’ll get to that at the end, but think about it for a minute…

What a pretentious title to give yourself.

Imagine if I walked around calling myself “The citizen whom the president loved”. And not because he ever specifically said, “I love you most”, but because I believed that I was really loved by him.

You would think I was crazy, arrogant, and stuck up!

But that is not what John intended at all. Continue reading

25 Years of Wisdom…

Well, today is my birthday. The big 25. A quarter of a century…

Now that I’ve been alive for 25 years, I guess I’ve learned a bit of wisdom I’d like to pass on…

If I could go back in time and tell myself something, I’d probably tell myself like to learn to like exercising and being active while young… But other than that, probably nothing else.

Why? Continue reading

The Greatest Love

13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends … 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” ~ John 15:13, 15

So it’s Easter morning, and I’m sitting here trying to find something to say that isn’t cliche, but is still powerful and relevant to the celebration of today.

Then it hit me. But I want to look a this backwards, verse 15, then 13.

Jesus was our Lord, but also our friend. He says that we are no longer His servants, because HE HAS MADE KNOWN TO US EVERYTHING HE LEARNED FROM GOD!!! When we enter into a personal relationship with Jesus, He makes God’s knowledge and wisdom available to us!

So with that understanding, that we are His friend, then now we see the greatest love that we could ever know: He gave up his life for us. He died for you. For me.

To save my life.

To save yours.

But the story doesn’t end there. It doesn’t end with his death.

It ends with his coming back to life. You see, Death could only be defeated if Death lost. If Jesus had stayed dead, Death would have won.

But oh the bliss of this glorious thought: that He didn’t stay dead! Instead he overcame death and by His resurrection, we have been washed clean and whole!

We don’t deserve it, we can’t earn it, we aren’t worthy if it. But that is why they call it GRACE!

So this morning, rest in the peace that passes understanding, knowing that there is no condemnation for you, for your sins, for your past.

Jesus died to take your sin upon himself.

And he rose from the dead to wash it away forever.

Amen.

This wild, crazy, beautiful roller coaster we call LIFE!

roller

Well, as you probably have noticed, I haven’t been blogging as much.

I’m sorry about that, but I have a very good reason for that.

Things are getting really busy.

When I said I was going to post on Tuesday and Thursday, I had nothing going on Monday or Wednesday night (when I would actually do my writing). Now monday I spend working on the documentary for Further Along The Road, and my time with that is going to increase in the next few weeks as we get out of clip watching and into writing, filming and editing interviews and putting it all together. And Wednesday is our men’s bible study group, which often goes late.

And on top of that, I have seen a huge increase in my role at work, and I have taken on a large leadership role at my church with our Sunday night service called “Deeper” as well as a leadership role in our Creative Arts Team at GCC.

roller coaster

On top of all that, I’ve started a business called FlyTraffic Media.

Needless to say, blogging is hard for me to find time to do while keeping my sanity.

But I do really enjoy it, and sometimes I need to do it to keep myself sane.

So I can’t say that I’m going to blog on a schedule anymore, because I don’t know that I can keep to a schedule. But I will blog as often as I can. If you would like to follow my postings, I would suggest subscribing using the RSS feed, or sign up to get the posts by email.

Thank you all for reading over the years, and for your support and understanding as I go through this season of change in my life. If you have any questions, or would like to leave a thought or encouragement or something, please feel free to do so in the comments!

On Being Immortal

“A man searches for something that will outlast his life. For immortality of a kind. For a way to change the world, to have his life matter” ~Orson Scott Card, Shadow Puppets

This morning, I just want to give you something to think about. What are you leaving behind that will outlast you?

Innocence

I read a great article by Andrew Byers, and I wish I had saved the link so I could direct you to it, but he was talking about purity as a Christian in today’s culture of so much violence, sex, and nudity, and what does that look like.

He starts off by talking about how as a Christian culture, we try so hard to be relevant, that we don’t want to be known as “prude”, because then we are afraid of becoming “out of touch”. But then he makes this point:

“Did Jesus say in Matthew 5:8, “Out-of-touch are the pure in heart,” or did He call them “Blessed”?

“Be wise as serpents, and as culture-savvy as the average viewer”? Or is it, “Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves”? (Matthew 10:16).”
~ Andrew Byers

“My point, rather, is that innocence is precious and preserving it is not a vice. It is OK for us to be offended by the offensive. We are not to be moralistic [one who teaches or promotes morality], but we are called to be moral. Scripture beckons us to purity (Matthew 5:8), to wholesome speech (Ephesians 4:29), to honoring the sanctity of the marriage bed (Hebrews 13:4), to discerning good and evil (Romans 12:2). Somehow, we need to learn how to be culture-savvy and yet also innocent as doves.” ~Andrew Byers

It’s ok for something we see on television to offend us, for us to want to turn away from watching something. We shouldn’t be ashamed of saying “I’m not going to watch this”. It’s scriptural. That isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it should be encouraged and we need to be ok with that.

But he acknowledges that everyone is different, and some people don’t have the same convictions as us… Continue reading