“Just Enjoy This”

November 6, 2013

starwarskid

Early this morning I was sitting in a chair, holding my two-month-old son and trying to rock him back to sleep. It had been a long night and I felt as though I had no energy left to give. As I sat there I reached into my pocket for my phone, as I so often do when I’m holding him, to play a game or check email or whatever.

My fingertips just touched my phone and then God whispered, “Just enjoy this.”

“Just enjoy this.”

He won’t always want to be held. He won’t always be so small. He’ll grow and he’ll wander and he’ll run all around. He won’t always want to sit on Daddy’s lap. So just enjoy this.

I held my boy and thanked God for the blessing he is, thanked Him for allowing me to be his father. I asked that God would protect him and watch him as he grows, that He would hold my son when I couldn’t, that He would bless him and guide him.

I feel so deeply grateful that I get to be his dad. So grateful. He’s never done a thing for me, yet I cannot contain the vast love I feel for the little guy.

How much more must God love us?

Photo by Kristina Alexanderson. Used under Creative Commons License.

On Provision – Thoughts Before Parenthood

August 12, 2013

diapers

Soon after Sarah and I finished Isaac’s nursery, I sat on the floor of the room for a few minutes, looking around at everything we had put together. The dresser was full of clothes, the cabinet full of toys, the closet full of diapers. The walls were painted and decorated – every detail given careful attention. Everything we would need for the first several months of his life we had ready, prepared, collected. He would lack for nothing. He would have everything he needed, and more.

And he wasn’t even here yet.

As I sat there thinking on everything we had already done for this son we had not yet met, something occurred to me. We don’t know what he will be like, the color of his hair or the shade of his skin. We won’t for a while enjoy the sound of his voice or the delight of his laugh. Yet as loving parents we already have a room prepared just for him, and so many possessions that will be his – long before he is even capable of claiming ownership of them.

How much more does God, our good Father, always provide for our every need?

Before you were born He knew the life you would lead, the family you’d be part of, the friends you would meet along the way. He had a place in this world prepared just for you, and He watched in exultation as you found your way into it. If we truly understood the reaches of God’s provision for us, we would never worry, never fear, never question His capability.

Yesterday, God had provisions for your tomorrow. A year ago He was waiting to give you the things you need today. This very moment, He prepares to answer your most desperate requests.

He is so good to us, and He always provides for our needs.

If you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! – Matthew 7:11

So do not worry about your life! – Matthew 6:25

Related Posts:
“My Life is Over” – Thoughts Before Parenthood

Photo by Allan Foster. Used under Creative Commons License.

“My Life Is Over” – Thoughts Before Parenthood

August 5, 2013

sunset

“I feel like my life is over.”

I said this as Sarah sat on the bed next to me this past Saturday evening. I laid there feeling as though nothing in the world could make me happy, wanting to go to sleep – to get on with another day – yet not wanting this one to end, because then it would be gone.

I’m a fairly level-headed, laid-back person, but I had a bit of a breakdown, which is unusual. Sarah and I’s first child will be born any day now, and we’re very excited. I’ve been looking forward to being a father for a while. I’m excited to raise children and enter that stage of life. Hear me right – I’m thrilled about having kids. I’m ready to be a dad.

However, for the past few months I have become increasingly . . . anxious, is the only word I can think of. Not nervous about having kids, just more aware of the major change that’s about to take place. I’ve been analyzing my life and all the things I have and (mostly) have not accomplished. I worry that once we have a kid to take care of, the smaller amount of free time will strangle and kill any hope of fulfilling my life’s dreams. I worry that Sarah and I won’t have time to spend together, to be romantic, to enjoy each other’s company. In many ways, I feel like my life is about to end.

As I’ve been more aware of what I’m doing with my life, I’ve become hyper-protective of our free time, not wanting it to get eaten up by endless activities and tasks. So, Saturday evening came, and we had spent a good portion of the day getting things done around the house. We had a few hours left in the day, and finally, I thought, we’d have some time to sit down and relax, to spend some time together. Then something came up that we had to take care of – another task, a chore – and the rest of our evening was swept away before we realized it.

As we sat there and I explained how I felt to Sarah, it all sounded so silly, spoken out loud. I am excited about this new chapter of life, but I think it’s the unknown factor that makes it overwhelming. All I know is my life up to this point. I know that I’ll still have free time with kids. I know that in a way, my life is only just beginning. I know in my head that the joy they bring will trump all these things I’m thinking, but experience is what brings understanding.

I hesitated to post this at first, because I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea and think I don’t want kids or something. I decided to post it because I know I’m not the only new parent who’s found himself suddenly struggling with similar thoughts. I know it’s normal, and in my better moments, I know I have nothing to worry about.

I look forward to coming back and reading this a month from now, when my world is completely different, my perspective much greater, my purpose more defined.

I look forward to reading whatever it is I write once he’s here.

I can’t wait to meet him.

Related posts:
On Provision – Thoughts Before Parenthood

It’s Always Today

July 16, 2013

time

No one means to let their life slip by.

No one wants to wake up and wonder where the last ten years went.

Yet we live our lives in such a way that day by day, week by week we just try to survive, not really taking action to plan for the future. Sure, we think about it a lot, but one look at our lives will show a sole interest in getting through that treacherous beast we call “today.” We think on our future – the great things we will do and become – thinking for sure we will get started “tomorrow,” but there is one fatal flaw in that plan:

Tomorrow is always one step ahead of us. It is always, and ever will be, today.

I’m writing this “today” and you’re reading it “today,” because no matter who you are or where you find yourself in this world, it’s today right now. You’re smack in the middle of it. And only the things you do today, can you be sure will have been done tomorrow.

So what are you waiting for? It won’t be today forever.

Or will it?

Photo by Brian Duffy. Used under Creative Commons License.

Blessing Is Not Money

July 9, 2013

money

Many years ago God spoke to Sarah and I through a traveling minister (in the way of a prophetic word) and said, “I am going to use you as an example to be blessed and prosper.” At the time I assumed, as so many mistakingly do, that “blessing” just meant “money,” and until recently I have held that assumption.

Money is so one-dimensional, and when considering it in the light of blessing, God is somewhat limited (if God can be such a thing) in the ways in which He can bless us with it. He can only give us more, or give us less, and that is all. Though money is a powerful tool and can be used for a great many things, it is not all-encompassing. There are many things which money simply cannot buy, cannot fix, cannot do. It cannot buy joy, it cannot purchase friends, it cannot keep loneliness at bay. Money is good for obtaining distractions, but its companions are short-lived and temporary. They do not last forever.

Why would I be so concerned with obtaining more of that which cannot bring me satisfaction, joy and peace? Something so ordinary and plain, so perishable.

Blessing is so much greater than money, so much deeper and much more valuable. The worth of its returns are beyond all the money the world can hold.

Blessing is a healthy pregnancy, a good marriage, reliable cars and a peaceful home. Blessing is loyal friends, a loving family, and jobs you enjoy. Blessing is joy and happiness and laughter. When you add up those things, we cannot help but see that we live a truly blessed life.

How God Speaks (To Me) – The Prophetic Word

June 24, 2013

ticketBe sure to read parts 1-3 of this series:
How God Speaks (To Me) – The “Feeling”
How God Speaks (To Me) – The Mental Image
How God Speaks (To Me) – The Voice

On my computer I have a document called “What God Has Said.” In it are many, many pages of things God has spoken directly to me over the past five years or so, word for word, line by line. He has spoken encouragement, direction, wisdom, and correction. He has given me a glimpse of the man He wants me to become, and insight into the things that hinder me from becoming that man.

Each of these things were spoken through other people in the form of prophetic words. Prophetic words are probably the most misunderstood and least known of all the ways God speaks to His children in today’s world. Before I begin to explain what they are, what they are not, and how they work, let me tell you this:

Out of all the ways that God has spoken to me in life, some of the most encouraging, the most directing, the most absolutely impactful have been those which He spoke through others as prophetic words. Using other people to audibly speak into your life, He removes the possibility for doubt, the wondering whether or not you heard what you heard.

There is no evidence like experience. Let me share some with you now.

I doubt myself a lot. I hesitate. I see a chance to say something, do something, and I hold back, I ponder, question, think, analyze. I am content in most situations to sit back and enjoy the conversation, rather than pitching in. I don’t jump into uncomfortable situations quickly. In many ways I lack confidence in myself.

About three years ago God really started working on me in the area of self-doubt and confidence. He spoke the following words to me through two friends, one who knew me well, and one who did not.

January 16, 2010

I cut and break this self doubt that comes against Josh. It’s like he just starts to doubt himself and doubt whether he hears You. Lord, I just thank You that You are rising him up out of this place where he sees himself spiritually. You’ve given him wisdom beyond his years. He has so much to offer to so many people. And it’s like sometimes he feels like he has something on his heart to say, and he’s like, “Is that God, is it really God?” Lord I just cut and break this. He has so much to offer, and we just command this inside of him to come up out of hiding. This is a season of rising up. You’re a man of authority and strength.

The Lord is saying it’s time to quit playing it so safe, you’ve played everything so safe. It’s time to start taking risks. It’s time to jump knowing that I’m going to catch you. It’s time to start taking risks. You’re not going to realize who you are until you start stepping into who you are, and having the confidence and the faith to know what God’s placed inside of you. It’s time to stop playing it safe, no more of that. You’ve got goodness inside of you, you’re a good man, you’re a really good man. And you’ve got wonderful things to offer. Don’t fear falling. Don’t think if you fall off your bike you’re not gonna want to get back on cause your knees are gonna be all scraped up. It’s time to start taking risks.

Though only the second friend knew this was an area of struggle for me, God was able to speak through both to cut right to the heart of the issue, even revealing what was in my own mind.

This is part of another word I was given from a traveling preacher who visited our church later that same year, who did not know me at all.

November 7, 2010

The Lord said you are precious, and my son, I want you to really get that deep down in your spirit today. You are precious. You are a vessel of gold. There’s treasure inside of you. You underestimate yourself, sometimes, and don’t allow yourself to come to grips with the fact that there’s a man inside of you that is really able to do exceedingly abundantly above all things!

Over the past few years God has given me more confidence in the abilities He has given me and who He has made me, and though He is working on it still, I have grown. Even this blog is evidence of that. To open up, to share, to believe that maybe there’s someone out there who can learn something from what I have to say.

Prophecy is not a weird trance, it’s not doom-and-gloom, it’s not picking lottery tickets. It’s not always about the future, though it is sometimes. It’s nothing like psychic foolishness. It’s not something that only existed in Bible times.

Prophecy is a child of God, with His Spirit inside of them, simply asking God what He wants to say to you, and then saying it. Some are very gifted in it, while some God has given other areas of His work to focus on. It is usually encouraging, though it can be correctional. It can provide guidance and direction. It can give you insight into what God is up to – now, or in the future.

No matter what it is, it is always beneficial for becoming more of the person God has for you to become. And that is exciting.

This wraps up the series on how God speaks to me. No matter who you are, you can hear Him too. Just go someplace quiet, be still, and listen. He’s already waiting.

It’s time to start taking risks.

Photo by Patrick Talbert. Used under Creative Commons License.

How God Speaks (To Me) – The Voice

June 17, 2013

Coke Bottle

Be sure to read parts 1 & 2 of this series:
How God Speaks (To Me) – The “Feeling”
How God Speaks (To Me) – The Mental Image

Some of my favorite moments have been when I’ve heard God speak to me directly, in my mind, as if someone were speaking to me face-to-face. This happens less often than the others I’ve already mentioned, but when it does it is much more powerful, impactful. Typically it’s just a sentence or two, maybe only a few words, but they strike to the heart more than a thousand words spoken by anyone else. Sometimes with the previously mentioned “feeling” or mental imagery I could doubt whether it was really Him, especially after some time had passed, but when I hear Him speak in this way, there is no room for doubt.

A few years ago, I drank caffeinated drinks regularly. Daily. Multiple times a day, sometimes. It got to the point where if I didn’t have a Coke with lunch, I’d have a headache in the afternoon, consistently. My energy level would fluctuate throughout the day, dependent on that surge of caffeine, and I didn’t think much of it.

One day I had just picked up lunch at Chick-fil-A. I ordered my meal with a Coke, and they told me something was wrong with the fountain machines and they couldn’t serve Coke at that point. I asked for Sprite instead (a non-caffeinated drink), a bit disappointed and already thinking about the Advil I’d have to take later for the headache that would surely follow. I took my lunch and headed out to my car to leave. As I opened the door and slipped inside, I distinctly heard: “No caffeine,” and nothing more. The voice was stern, but not angry. A command, but gentle. A bit of instruction from a loving Father. Along with the statement came a form of understanding that this meant I was to abstain from all caffeinated drinks, which were essentially my only source of caffeine intake.

I do not understand the reason for this command. I enjoy the lack of frequent headaches and having more energy each day without being dependent on a beverage to give it to me. Perhaps there was some other reason, health or otherwise, that it came. But to this day no caffeine has touched my lips, and it’s been two and a half years as of this writing. I’m content without it, and do not know whether I will ever have any again. I await His voice, His command.

I’ll give one more example.

One autumn day during my college years, I was walking back from my last class of the day to my dorm, feeling a little depressed. I had just gotten back a test and was a bit disappointed with myself because I knew I could have done better. Also, financial stuff was kinda tight right then (though that holds true for most college students) and none of the jobs I had applied to at the time had worked out. Well, these things and several others were fresh on my mind and just weighing on me.

I was walking along a path, looking down at the sidewalk in front of me. I briefly raised my head and at that very moment a long, thin leaf fell right in front of my face, not a foot away. Just as the leaf crossed my vision I could hear the distinct voice of God speaking to me:

“See that leaf, Josh?”

Another single leaf of the same kind fell, close enough to snatch from the air.

“And that one?” He whispered.

A third leaf, same as the first two, fell just within arm’s reach.

“And that one, too? Do you see them, Josh?”

I nodded my head and the voice continued:

“Josh, I know exactly when those leaves fall and right where they land. Do you not think that I love you so much more?”

I lifted my face to the sky, laughing as a huge grin split across my face. I felt extremely encouraged.

Ever since then when I see leaves fall it reminds me of God’s endless love for me. When the wind blows hard and a million countless leaves dance all around, I can’t help but laugh from the joy of it. It’s as if for every single one of those leaves, the Father is saying it again and again: “I love you . . . I love you . . . I love you . . .”

Check out the rest of this series:
How God Speaks (To Me) – The Prophetic Word

Photo by Melanie Holtsman. Used under Creative Commons License.

How God Speaks (To Me) – The Mental Image

June 10, 2013

cabin

Be sure to read the intro to this series, How God Speaks (To Me) – The “Feeling”

Many times I’ll be praying about something specific, asking God for direction, and find my mind fixated on a particular thought or image. It is in this way that He has given me guidance in a great many areas of life.

As in the times when God has given me a “feeling” for direction, it has taken time to be able to discern between the thoughts that are mine and the ones that are from Him, and I still have quite a bit of learning to do. There are also times when I have to exercise my faith, and trust both that God gave me a particular thought, and that I am correct in my hearing.

Recently I was asking God what I should do during my times with Him in the morning. I am not a morning person and would feel myself drifting off to sleep if I just tried to pray, nor was I reading anything in particular in the Bible at that point. While I was praying, I kept imagining the cover of one certain book I have, but which I had not read. I own a few hundred books, but this one especially was fixed in my mind at that moment. After I was done praying, I went and got it off my bookshelf, and I’ve begun reading it. It is excellent and pertains directly to things I’m going through at this time.

Here’s another example. A little over a year ago I planned a retreat for a group of twenty-somethings in our church. We stayed in a few cabins for the weekend and had a great time together. Before the retreat I was asking God what He wanted the theme of the weekend to be, and the thought that came to my mind was “breaking things off.” The meaning that came along with it was that of a gardener pruning a vine so that it may grow further¹. This was the central idea we planned our worship and prayer around for the retreat.

Though a thought such as “breaking things off” came to my mind, it did not originate with me, it was not my own idea. This is a fine distinction that can be hard to understand without experiencing it yourself. God planted it in my mind, spoke it to me, and in that way directed me in response to my prayers.

(1) “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener… Every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” – John 15:1-2

Check out the rest of this series:
How God Speaks (To Me) – The Voice
How God Speaks (To Me) – The Prophetic Word

Photo by Dan Dickinson. Used under Creative Commons License.

How God Speaks (To Me) – The “Feeling”

June 4, 2013

cheesecake

There are many people, Christian and non-Christian alike, who are unfamiliar with the idea of God “speaking” to people. I know individuals who believe it is sheer nonsense, and I know some who have heard the voice of God audibly.

God speaks to me frequently throughout my life, in various ways at different times of need. I have never heard Him speak audibly to me, but I know it is possible. How can He speak without “speaking”? The same way a friend can “speak” through a postcard, or share a thought with merely a glance. Communication is much more than just words.

In this short series, I’ll talk about ways that God has spoken to me, personally.

The “Feeling”

Most frequently, God will give me a hunch, a nudge in the right direction, through a “feeling” I’ll have. This is a strong impression to do or not do a certain thing. Just the other day Sarah and I were heading home from a meeting and I had a sudden urge to stop at a local cafe for dessert. Now, I am a fan of all things sweet, so for a moment I questioned whether this was God or simply a strong desire for peanut butter cheesecake. But the feeling was not hunger, or a physical desire for dessert, but rather a prompting inside myself to stop at this cafe. It would not subside, so we stopped by and ended up running into someone we know, and being a blessing to them. Obviously God wanted me to go there to encourage this person, but had He not prompted me to do so, it would not have happened.

Of course, it is much easier to follow an “urge” you think may be from God if you are getting cheesecake out of it, but there have been other times when the impression involved sacrifice on my part.

When I was in college I owned an Xbox gaming console, and during one particular Bible study I felt God prompting me to give it away to a certain friend. I loved playing games on my Xbox and did not want to part with it, battling with the idea for weeks. In the end I knew that if this was what God wanted me to do, it was for the best. Maybe I was spending too much time playing games. Maybe He knew this other person would get more enjoyment from it than I did. Maybe He just wanted to see if I would be obedient. It is not my responsibility to determine His reasoning. It is my responsibility to obey.

Sometimes there is sacrifice required. Sometimes there’s risk. Sometimes the path He points out goes far beyond the edges of your comfort zone. In these more challenging times, my experience has taught me an important lesson. If I want to continue hearing from God, I can’t repeatedly ignore Him when He does speak to me. If I do this too often or for too long, He stops “bothering me” with these impressions. After all, why would He keep asking you to do something if you’re just going to ignore it?

It takes time to become adept at knowing when a feeling is from God, and when it’s just the cheesecake talking.

Check out the rest of this series:
How God Speaks (To Me) – The Mental Image
How God Speaks (To Me) – The Voice
How God Speaks (To Me) – The Prophetic Word

The Encore

May 25, 2013

stage

Hello? Is this thing on?

After two silent years on the blog, I’m happy to say that I’m back.

A lot has happened in two years. Sarah and I bought our first house and we’re expecting a baby in August. I have two nieces now, my business is growing and moved into a new office, and speaking of offices, just last week the television series by the same name came to an end after nine wonderful seasons. Watching the finale was like saying goodbye to an old friend.

I’ve been writing in one fashion or another since I was very young. In elementary school I wrote a poem about my grandma watching Larry King Live, and Santa visiting our home only to send my brother screaming down the hallway in terror (he hated costumed figures). I never stop writing, but for some reason over the past few years my writing slowed to a crawl, and I never posted publicly. It was only recently that I discovered why.

I’m an introvert by nature, and it’s difficult sometimes for me to express my thoughts and feelings to people, especially those who I’m not very close to. I had this realization initially almost ten years ago, recognizing that it was difficult for me to let people know me for who I really was, and resolving to make an effort to put myself out there. I did for a while, writing like crazy throughout college, and then many things all happened that led to a bit of a backslide in the “sharing your heart” department.

After college I started my business, got married, and had much more responsibility, much more on my mind. I did not quit writing because I got busy, but because I got busy I forgot the importance of keeping my heart open, of making an effort to share myself with others. Over time this became less and less of a priority, until it began to feel odd to make myself vulnerable like that. In turn, my writing felt more dry, less passionate, and became less enjoyable to pursue.

Slowly, little by little, I locked my heart away again, where it would be safe, where I wouldn’t have to worry what people thought.

No more.

To write is good for me – it forces me to continually be willing to put myself out there, to be discontent with just observing the life happening around me. To see the world through the eyes of a writer again, where every occasion is an adventure, every conversation noteworthy, every day full of the potential for great and wonderful things.

And so, here we are, at the beginning of something exciting and new. Life is too short to spend any of it living as something other than yourself.

I’m back.