The Value of Community

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Taken from Josh’s journal, 7.17.2016

Community. I see a pattern running through my life lately, a thread that binds the pieces together, and it all comes down to community. Kim and I just had a good talk where we really examined this core desire in our heart and how it has manifested itself especially over the last couple years. Very interesting. Let me try to explain.

I think this idea of community, or team, or partnership has become very important to us. I realize just how deep this is when I see all the many ways we have tried to create this in our life in various ways. But before I get into that I think it’s helpful and interesting to chart how this all got started- and now why we are the way we are.

I don’t want to over analyze this, but just off the top of my head I see Indonesia having a lot to do with our  desire for community. Ever since we left the mission field we’ve been striving to re-create that sense of community- that sense of team that we used to have. We were very close to our local team over there- Joshua, Natalie, Beth, Marie, Jeremy and Lindsay were like family to us. We developed a very tight bond with them because we were so like-minded and in it together. We struggled through so many of the same things with them, and were working towards a common goal.

Raising support to go overseas we also had a team of prayer partners and supporters who “came with us” in a sense. We shared newsletters with them, prayer requests and updates, and came home and spoke at their churches. It was so encouraging to go through this experience with these people back home knowing that they cared and were praying for us. We really learned the value of community through all our partners back home. We couldn’t have done it without them- our local team and our “home” (back in the States) team.

We also experienced the depth and richness of community with our Lembak friends and neighbors in our house in Bengkulu. The idea of “community” is wired into the DNA of the culture over there, and we experienced this and lived it first hand. Living in community isn’t a choice over there- it happens whether you want to or not. I suppose you could be really rude and hide out in your house all the time. But aside from taking extraordinary steps to avoid it, if you live over there in a village-like setting you’re in community. And even this was a really cool thing. Yes it was hard at times but it was really special too. We were a part of something. We were accepted and adopted by the people. They loved us and we reciprocated it. The mutual sharing, mutual responsibility and trust was really cool. People didn’t hold fast to their stuff but many things were open and shared, especially if there was a need. But anyway this idea of community and sharing openly really got a chance to be lived out and practiced while we were there. We saw it, participated in it, and were really blessed by it.

I could name other communities too (Wycliffe, Campus Crusade, etc.) but you get the point. And ever since we left Indonesia to a large degree we’ve been trying to replace or re-create that community that we lost. I think that was one of the most abrupt transitions for us on returning to the States. One day we were on a team with people we loved, engaged in similar work- and then we weren’t. One day we were in the culture, in community with our neighbors- and then we weren’t. And for about seven years we had a worldwide network of prayer partners and supporters- people we kept in touch with, shared prayer requests, and letters- and then one day they were gone. Just like that, virtually overnight all of our communities vanished, and for the first time ever in our marriage we were on our own. We were still a part of Wycliffe when we first got back, so at least we still had that. And our prayer partners didn’t dry up that quickly. Maybe I over-exaggerate a little, but certainly in one years time we did lose all that. It was rather abrupt and I see now just how important these things were and are to us in the way we’ve tried to re-create it.

To put it bluntly, we long for this fellowship again. I see this in many of the things we’ve struggled with over the last couple years. We’ve tried to get this with my family, my brothers, and sisters-in-law. We’ve tried and failed to get this through our church (and then they went and had that terrible church split). We’ve tried with our apartment neighbors. I feel like a large part of why we’re adopting is so we can be in community with other people again. Indeed [adoption] has given us an opportunity to reach out and engage with a large number of people again. We are in a sense forming a team again around ourselves by sending out adoption updates, email campaigns, fundraisers, etc. We are inviting people to join us in something big. Of course we do have other reasons for wanting to adopt but it is so nice and so refreshing to be in touch with everybody again.

But we want even more than that. We want a local team. We want to be in a local community, not just far flung partners all over the world. We’ve been talking about moving lately to Deforest and Sun Prairie and the primary motivation for this is to find a good church, and get involved, and maybe do ministry again. It has a little bit to do with my job, and it’s closer, and we like Madison and don’t really want to be in Portage- but really it’s again mostly about community. Finding a good one and getting involved, and we think we have a good chance, or a better chance, of doing that in the Madison area.

We long for community. We long to link arms with others and do great things for the Lord. We have seen that our family really is the body of Christ, and those who are like us in mission and purpose. These are the people we really want to be in community with.

It was sort of interesting to see the larger picture and to connect many of these dots together. I think community is biblical (God is in community with Himself, the trinity) and it’s a noble pursuit. We do really hope to perhaps do missions work again one day and we’re praying that God would lead us and help us find community again before we do that. We so desperately need it!

What is Normal? From Sumatra Villages to Corporate America.

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When I look back over my life over the last two years I am just amazed at God’s provision. I’m amazed at how quickly Kim and I can jump from one thing to another. How one day we’re living full on in another culture, immersed in the heat and language barriers, bugs, weddings, and customs entirely different from what is ‘normal’. And then I open my eyes again, and this time God has me working in an office, in Madison, Wisconsin, surrounded by caucasian white collar tech workers. I sit in my cubicle, coffee in hand, and chat with coworkers over video conferencing. I live a double life, and nobody here seems to notice.

The experiences I have taken from my other life are like a secret now. Not to me, necessarily, but hidden and unknown to all the people around me. I must look perfectly normal to my coworkers when I go into the office. Oh how I blend in. But I confess that I don’t recognize myself in this setting. I think about the person I was just a couple years ago, and I look at the person who I am now, and it seems quite illogical to me. These two pictures don’t resolve in my head in a way that makes sense. I can’t draw a straight line between these two points and say, “Ah, that’s how that happened.” The course of my life has taken many unexpected twists and turns. Something dramatic and noteworthy has happened here.

The only explanation I have for this is this. Many years ago I gave my life over into the hands of a God who is trustworthy; into the strong hands of a God who works miracles. I told God that my life wasn’t my own anymore but His, and He could do with me what He wanted. So maybe I shouldn’t be surprised when my life is illogical, and it doesn’t follow a normal straight line, predictable, kind of path. It’s evidence of a life surrendered to a God how does crazy illogical things. God doesn’t follow a predictable pattern. He has a unique plan for all of us. May we all have the strength and courage to follow Him in and out of what is “normal”.

The most important things. Dec. 2015

The most important things right now:

  • Being here for my family. I’m committed to being a work at home dad and spending time with my children.
  • Earning a sustainable living. I’m committed to our business and making it profitable.
  • Adding to our family through adoption. I’m committed to bringing our child home and becoming a family that loves internationally.

Remember: It’s important to keep the right things in front of you.

Why I don’t post photos on Facebook.

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A few days ago I was at my parent’s house for a family photo shoot. We had a lot of fun and got a lot of great photos out of the deal. The photographer said he got over 800 photos. Sheesh! Out of those I’d say about twenty were pretty good.

Later on Kim got in a random discussion with my brother about posting photos to Facebook. She made the offhand comment that we, Josh and Kim, don’t (or rarely) post family photos to Facebook and that we’re trying to figure out some other way to share photos with friends and family. And of course my brother was incredulous and confused as to why we would do this. What’s the big deal anyway?

It got me thinking. What IS the big deal? Why don’t I post things like photos on Facebook? Why am I cautious? For me it really comes down to two things- value and control. Here are my reasons.

For me, I like control. I like to retain ownership of my photos, especially photos of loved ones and my children. Yes, I post photos online. I post photos on this website and a few other places. But the big difference is that I can CONTROL these places. I can remove these photos anytime I want. And I have better control over how they’re displayed and shared. In that sense they are still mine.

With Facebook you lose this control. Facebook makes it SO easy for people to share your photos all over the place. With just the simple click of a Like button powerful things happen, stuff we probably don’t even realize. And before you know it your photo is no longer yours. It becomes everybody’s. And that to me is an unnerving thing. I don’t trust Facebook to preserve my grip on things I post. It quickly becomes everybody’s. That is the beauty and power of Facebook. Social sharing at it’s finest. But I shy away from this. I think it’s worth maintaining some control over the things that are precious to me. Which leads me to my next point.

Value. To me it seems that the more numerous and plentiful something is the less valuable it becomes. And things that are less plentiful are more valuable. Think about gold. Think about silver and diamonds. They are worth so much because they are in limited supply. To me, photos of my personal life, my kids and my family are gold. They are worth something to me. This is why I don’t post them to Facebook. To me they lose their value when thrown up on Facebook, ready to be consumed and discarded along with the million other things that show up on your Facebook wall. It’s called a ‘Feed’ for good reason. You look at it, digest it, and move on to the next. Things on Facebook have fleeting value. It doesn’t matter what it is, be it a comment or photo, it becomes lost in a sea of info. To me this is not a good medium for precious photos of my family. There has to be better way.

I take my photography seriously. I take pride in the pictures I shoot. And while it’s tempting to post in all on Facebook and get all kinds of recognition and comments, I hold back. I hold things that are precious to me close to my body. Some things are sacred. So because I value my photos and want to control how and when they are viewed I don’t put them on Facebook. Most of the world doesn’t see it this way. And maybe I run the risk of becoming ‘irrelevant’ by not joining the masses. But I hold my ground and for good reasons. Maybe if things change I will reconsider. But for now I stick to my principles.

Longevity Chart, Adam to Joseph

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This is a really interesting chart if you’ve never seen this before. If you look at the ages in the Bible from Genesis 5 and 11 you can construct a genealogy chart from Adam all the way to Joseph. The Bible tells us how long each person lived and at what age they had children.

This is an interesting chart for many reasons. It tells us roughly how old the earth is (6,000 years). It shows how long people lived before the flood (900 years) and the sudden decline afterwards. And the most interesting point on this chart to me is #10 which says:

The first 2,157 years of history were covered by three men whose lives overlap (Adam, Methuselah, and Shem).

Shem (Noah’s son) lived 500 years after the flood and could have told the creation story to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Pretty amazing if you think about it.

Feel free to download and use this chart in your personal devotionals, or print and share it with friends.

2014 Year in Review

Let’s look at some stats for my blog for the year 2014. I did this last year so it might be fun to compare between this year and last year. Here we go:

Total visits to my blog: 844 (about 391 people). Half of these people (55%) were returning visitors and the other half (45%) were new. The returning visitors spent on average 5 minutes longer on my website than the new people (6 minutes compared to 1). That’s not surprising really. It makes sense that repeat visitors would want to read more pages and posts and spend more time here.

So what about content? The most popular posts (by unique pageviews) for 2014 were:

  1. Starting Our Own Business (159)
  2. The Biggest Transition Yet (45)
  3. Pressing On (37)
  4. The Results Are Coming In (32)

I guess the post about our new business created a lot of buzz. I have to give Facebook a lot of credit for this. When I post things to Facebook it creates a lot of traffic to my site. I think that’s the case here. Things can go viral quickly via FB.

Here are my most popular pages by unique pageviews:

  1. My homepage of course, jcjunkie.com. (294)
  2. Family photo gallery (70)
  3. Audio downloads (25)
  4. Quotes (22)

I added 24 new posts this year bringing the total to 141 posts.

Best Gift Christmas

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I’ve been meaning to write a post about Christmas for a while. I’ve hesitated because a) we’ve been busy moving into a new apartment, and b) I just haven’t known how to encapsulate my thoughts. I have to really guard myself against cynicism, during the holidays more than ever. I know my experiences overseas really shape my perspective. And it’s been a while since I’ve experienced a ‘normal’ American Christmas. I’m sure this influences how I feel about it now. But now that we’re settling back into American life (for the first time in about seven years) we have an opportunity to start new traditions, and let old ones end.

I have to admit that Christmas in America is a bit of a struggle for me. I’m not really into the whole Santa thing. It’s so sad how Santa has become such a distraction from the true meaning of the holiday. Santa has hijacked Christmas away from Christ. Yes, this sounds harsh. And I bet that most people don’t see it this way. But it really is true. I know this because while overseas I got a very different view of Christmas, one that didn’t involve Santa.. In Indonesia Christmas is strictly a religious holidays. You see, in Indonesia Christmas was the holiday for Christians. Every religion got a holiday. The Muslims got Ramadan, Buddhists got Waisak (Buddha’s birthday), etc. Everybody got their fair share. Christmas was for the Christians. There really was no Santa Claus, no reindeer, no presents under the tree. Everybody knew it was for the Christians because it was Jesus’ birthday, and naturally Christians would want to celebrate that. And due to this simplicity and national nod of the head, we were able to celebrate Christmas as Christians, without any of the distractions you find in the west. It was a simple and surprisingly meaningful Christmas, and an experience I’ll never forget.

So when I see Christmas in America it’s first shocking and then disheartening. When Santa and reindeer enter the picture I just shake my head and ask “why?” I can’t help but think how confusing we’ve made this holiday. How on earth are we supposed to teach our kids and family about Jesus’ birth, angels, and God’s miracles when we get so wrapped up with reindeer and Santa Claus? Perhaps it can be done, but again, why? It seems incredibly dangerous to allow children to believe a lie about Santa and then expect them to believe the truth about Jesus. This holiday is about Jesus, period. Not Santa. When we mix the two together we encourage belief in something that isn’t real while jeopardizing and minimizing something that is! I for one am not willing to confuse this important event. We don’t need Santa for Christmas.

We plan on doing Christmas a little different. It won’t be about Santa. It won’t be about being good or getting presents. We want to keep it simple, get to the heart of the matter, and throw away everything else that’s not. Instead of buying a million presents we plan on just buying ONE for each member of our family. God didn’t flood the world with a million presents. He gave His best and most special gift on Christmas. So our family celebrates Best Gift Christmas. And we will give one gift to each other to honor and remember what God did. This is our way of keeping Christmas about Christ.

We don’t want to be distracted this holiday season.  It takes some guts to go against the grain. But by taking little steps we can make this season religious again, a true celebration.

Here’s another good article about Santa Claus called What To Do About Santa. Check it out and pass it along.

Pressing On

It’s been an exciting last couple weeks as Kim and I have worked to setup and establish our new business. We came up with a name too. We’ll be calling our company Amalgam, which means “the blending together of two or more different things or ideas”. We like the idea of blending together our clients’ business with our creative and technical expertise to create something new and unique. We thought the name Amalgam captured that.

Once we picked out a name we had to register our company with the state of Wisconsin to form a LLC. We also got a PO Box, phone and phone number, and domain name. All basic things for a business I suppose. It’s been a fun process so far. This is new territory for me and I’m learning many new things.

One of the things I’m learning is that organization is going to be a HUGE part of running our new business. I can handle all the technical stuff- the nuts and bolts of putting nice looking websites together. No, the hard part right now is managing all the diverse projects, company’s and people we’re all of a sudden in touch with. Some people want brand new websites. Others just want updates. Others just want advice about search engines and web hosting. Everybody has slightly different needs. And because we were handed so many clients at once it’s a bit overwhelming. I’m not too terribly stressed out by all this. Really, this is a good problem to have. But I foresee that planning and organization will be paramount to the success of any web project. If I set a timeline I want to meet it. If the client has needs and expectations I want to surpass them. But knowing just how long a project will actually take is unknown to me. In the past I’ve worked with one client at a time with no real deadlines. Now I will need to work with several and set target launch dates. So I need to hone my estimation skills. If Client A comes to me and they need a WordPress site, with a design that matches their logo and color scheme, how long will that really take? What if they need e-commerce or a brand new design? I can sit down with pen and paper and sketch it out, and that’s what I’m doing. But it won’t be till I have several more projects completed that I can accurately predict scope and time.

I’m grateful for this opportunity. I look forward to working from home. I look forward to working with Kim. I look forward to more time with my family. Having a home based business has certain advantages. Things are still quite nebulous right now, but we’re taking it one week at a time. Things will become clearer the more we press on. Onward ho!

 

Starting Our Own Business

God has laid a new opportunity at our feet that both Kim and I are really excited about. It’s been a pretty fun past couple weeks.

Let me recap for a moment where we’ve been. We returned home from Indonesia last March. We spent about four months at headquarters debriefing with our organization, and starting to readjust to life in the States. In August we moved back in with our parents, bouncing between Indiana and Wisconsin. We put in our resignation at this time and I started looking for jobs.

The job search has gone pretty well. I’ve had quite a lot of feedback from my inquiries and have been called in a few times for interviews. It’s been a positive and emotional experience. Job searching is a little bit like riding a roller coaster- you’re up, you’re down, you’re up, you’re down. Your confidence can swing from one week to the next.

But we’ve been praying, and our prayer has been simply that God would provide for our needs. But to pray that I have to first admit something very important. I have to admit that God knows better than me about what I need. This is sometimes hard to do, because in the back of my head I already have a picture of just what God’s answer might be. I have an expectation. God has a way of providing what we need, truly. And often what we need turns out to be very different than what we expect. That’s what trust in God is all about.

So what’s this new opportunity I’m talking about? God has opened a door for Kim and me to start our own business. Again, this is not what I expected, but it’s a clear answer to prayer. A lady from our church is retiring after fifteen years in the web business and has been looking for someone to take over her websites and clients. What timing! She’s offered to hand this over to us and we couldn’t be more excited.

In a way, starting our business isn’t terribly different from what we’re used to. We’ve been essentially self-employed for the last several years in Indonesia. We’re used to working by ourselves, motivating ourselves, being our own bosses. Kim and I have learned to work really well together as a team. And we have complementary skills- Kim is a designer, and I do web and tech. All this we see now, in hindsight. But it just makes so much sense. Of course, there is a huge learning curve when it comes to running a business. I’m thankful for this opportunity, this gift. The scriptures say we need to be good stewards of our gifts. Invest them, multiply them. Okay, Lord, I will.

We don’t have a name yet. We don’t have a location or an office. But I know this is from the Lord. I have full confidence that this is His answer to us, His direction. I’ve never heard God’s voice audibly before. But for me, this is as loud as it gets.

The Games We Used to Play

As I think about my past, my childhood, I can’t think of too many things that aren’t with me today. I’ve been fortunate to be able to carry with me into adulthood most of the things I enjoyed as a child.  The Daily Post challenged me to write about something or someone I’ve lost. But as I think about it, I haven’t lost much.

Of course some things change over time. People move away. I move away. Loved ones pass away and neighborhoods change. These things you can’t get back. But I’ve learned that a secret to happiness is trying to preserve or ‘recreate’ the things from your past that you once enjoyed. Loved ones are irreplaceable. But games, hobbies, passions, etc. can be enjoyed as an adult just as much as they were back then. You just have to use your imagination and allow it to take a different form.

Games are a good example. When I was a kid I loved to play outdoor games. I was fortunate enough to live in a neighborhood that had many kids my age. We used to play flash light tag, hide and seek, and cops and robbers. Sometimes this involved bikes. But usually just a large backyard (like my parent’s) would do. The fun part of these games, for me, was hiding. I loved to be sneaky, to be covert, and find the best places to hide. Behind the bushes, under the boat. There was skill and stealth involved. What fun! Today I don’t play hide and seek anymore. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to play outdoor games. But the desire to be covert and sneaky hasn’t changed. It might be diminished a bit but it’s still thrilling. It’s interesting to see how things from our childhood take a different form as an adult. Computer games are a form of play that adults use to experience those old feelings. Shooter games involve hiding, sneaking around, and finding people. Simulation games allow to to ‘stack blocks’ and build cities and theme parks. It’s a similar concept. While you can go overboard with computer games and play them too much, they do help us recreate some of those childhood experiences.

Something else that’s taken a different form over the years is my love of the outdoors. When I was a kid my family took trips every summer to our cabin in Canada. This place was a real outdoor adventure. There was boating, skiing, fishing, swimming, forts, wood carving, trails, rocks, woods. . . an endless amount of things for a ten year old to do. We went there every summer and at times sometimes I just wanted to go to Disney World. But I’m glad my parents chose that place for our vacations. It gave me opportunities to things I couldn’t do in the city. And to this day I still really enjoy the outdoors. I love pheasant hunting in the Fall, and deer hunting with my dad. I love just sitting in the woods. If you’re still enough you can actually ‘hear’ the silence. My love of the outdoors was planted in me when I was a kid and it’s something I continue to enjoy today.

I think it’s worthwhile to think about the things from our childhood, the games we used to play, and see how they’re still very much alive this many years later. It’s okay to relive them a little. Chances are they’re still alive and well, just in another form.