And so the journey begins!

Every journey has a beginning. And so here we are. At the beginning. My name is Joe and I’ve been on a journey to discover more about Jesus, walk closer with Him and learn what it means to lead a Christ centered life. If you are new to your faith, or have been a Christian your entire life and want to develop a deeper relationship, I’m hoping that my journey can help you. I am by no means and expert on faith living, a theologian or a pastor. I’m just your average Joe.

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I grew up in the church and lost my way around 18 years old. I never decided that God wasn’t real or the Bible is just a bunch of mythology. I just wandered away and figured that if I tried my best to be a good person, then that’s what really mattered in the end. I met my wife when I was 25 and began attending church with her regularly. I still believed that if I was a good person, then that’s what mattered. I always enjoyed the sermons, but never quite connected. It was just church on Sunday and that was it. With my work schedule, most other church activities would have to be for other people.

We had some issues in our marriage and at the same time, a few men went up in front of the church to tell some of their stories. There had been a men’s group for a little while and it just sounded like exactly what I needed and it would work with my schedule! So, I began attending and it really lit a fire in me that I hadn’t felt since I was in youth group. I had men around me who had strong faith and were good examples of what a christian man should be. They were real. They had marriage issues. They had parenting issues. They had work issues. They were just like me. Not the facade that many seem to put on for Sunday mornings, but genuine men who struggled like I did.

It was life changing for me. Unfortunately, it only lasted a while. After about a year or so, the group just kind of fizzled out. And then it was back to going to church on Sunday mornings and that was it. I tried to be good about doing devotions, but it was hard to get myself to do it every day. I tried to make sure that I read a chapter or 2 out of the Bible each day, but my motivation waned after a month or so. I never really got into praying, because I thought that I wasn’t good enough at it and that God wouldn’t really want to hear from me anyway. Unless there was an emergency, and then I prayed like the strongest prayer warrior out there. And then stopped once the emergency was over.

Eventually, we kind of stopped going to church faithfully each week. It was a bit of a drive from our home and out in the country, so when winter hit it was easy to say the roads are too bad and we should just stay home. One day at a church event, someone said “You must be new” and I was pretty shocked. I had been attending that church for over a decade. Not long after, we realized that it just wasn’t our church “home”. We weren’t really connected. We just attended, most of the time anyway.

We stopped attending church altogether for a couple of months. One evening, we discussed that we both felt we needed to find a new church! We chatted a bit and I had the one I wanted to go check out first in mind almost immediately. We went the next Sunday, and between the genuine kindness of everyone and the sermon from a young (under 30) pastor, we knew we had to go back the next week. And the next. And the next. We have been attending for close to 3 years now and I don’t think that I have ever felt so at home at a church.

Shortly after we started attending, the church began community groups, which are small groups who get together weekly and discuss the previous Sunday’s sermon in more depth, among other things. I am probably the most introverted person I know, and my wife (who was out of town during the week we were signing up for groups) assigned me the task of finding a community group to join. I found someone who had always said hello and been friendly, and he was hosting a group on my day off, so it was perfect. This was another life changer for me. I was nervous going into it, thinking I would have to speak or pray out loud. I would have to know scriptures to quote and put on the facade of the perfect christian. Our first evening, I learned that there were 2 church elders and a deacon in the group. My nerves were on high alert now. It didn’t take long to realize that this group, like the previous men’s group, were real people with real problems. Everybody had issues. It was SUCH a relief!!

Not long after, my wife had to have surgery. And our new group of friends all rallied and made sure to make meals, check on us, pray for us and take care of us the best that they could. Four months later and I had another HUGE life changing moment. While making dinner, I kept on feeling worse and worse. I was weak, hot, exhausted and just drained. I knew that I had blood pressure issues and had been taking meds for years. It got to the point that I told my wife that after dinner, we were going to the hospital. During the meal I must have really started to look bad, because she said that we were going NOW. A few days later (and way too many people poking me with needles, medical tests, fasting for tests and general crankiness on my part) I was on the operating table for a quadruple bypass, at 36 years old! There were some complications and a short coma. After waking up, I remembered a horrific nightmare of being in hell and a voice telling me “Don’t worry, I’ll see you soon”. And that begins the PTSD. I got out of the hospital a couple of days before the COVID pandemic really started to lock things down.

A couple of months later, I was baptized, but in the COVID era, that meant that I was fortunate to have my wife baptize me. And our son was baptized the same day. It’s amazing how on fire you are after something like a baptism. But of course, a raging fire needs a whole lot of fuel or it just fizzles out. For the first couple of months, I was able to feed that fire but it eventually kind of died down quite a bit. Especially with life happening. I believed things would be easier after being baptized, but life became harder. More and more issues with not sleeping because of my nightmares, freaking out when I had to wear a mask (part of the PTSD from waking up from a coma with a mask on and breathing issues after my lungs had partially collapsed), and the enemy targeting me hard after my commitment to Christ. I started counseling which helped quite a bit with some of the hard to deal with issues.

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I also joined the worship team at church. I hadn’t played guitar in over a decade, but my time off from work got me playing again. It was a couple of months before I actually got to take the stage and rock out on Sunday, but it was something that I looked forward to the entire time. I just hit my 1 year of playing with the band a couple of times per month and I feel truly blessed that God gave me a talent that I could use to actually help serve others. And I have learned a lot about my faith through the experience. It’s great getting to worship several days a week while I practice and get myself ready to play the next service I’m scheduled for.

On the 1 year anniversary of my surgery, marital problems really hit the fan. We were in a situation where things had really declined. Our relationship was almost nonexistent. It was discussed that we should separate for a bit and see if that helped. In desperation, I reached out to my counselor who was willing to change my personal counseling time to to couples counseling. I also reached out to a couple in our community group who we both really looked up to, both from a relationship standpoint and a faith standpoint. They were willing to sit with us and talk about what it would look like to mentor us. It took a while for things to start to improve, but the big thing that we took away was being intentional. In our relationship. In our family. In our faith. We spoke a decent bit on what it looked like to live a Christ centered life and really kind of started using what we learned and we have been reshaping our lives as individuals, a married couple and family.

We have a very long way to go, but have come a long way in the year that we have been being intentional in what we do. We have consistently been doing devotions each evening and have begun family devotions. We have been doing our best to be intentional about our marriage and faith and it’s been quite the journey. And that brings us to today….

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This blog will be a collection of my experiences on my journey to get closer to Jesus and build my faith on THE rock. It will include my experiences and insights, my troubles, my take on theology and scripture and random thoughts and ideas as I work through my faith. I pray that my journey can help you with your own. Each person will be different, but iron sharpens iron and I believe that there will be things here to help you find your path and grow in your own faith.

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