I’m buying a house. Seriously, this is happening.

Today I realized it’s been almost two weeks since I last posted here.  What can I say?  Life is busy sometimes.

I know that’s not a good excuse for giving in to resistance, but when I look back at these two weeks I feel accomplishment and an excitement looking forward.  Because in the past two weeks a lot has happened in this twentysomething’s life.  And, I feel like it’s time to share with the world what’s going on.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a post on intentional spirituality.  Of coming to a point of realization.  That wisdom, virtue, and prosperity are wholly dependent not on anything I do beyond my devotion to Christ.

Well, as if He hasn’t already done enough, the past two weeks have raised the bar.  Again.

Last Monday, I made an offer on a house.
On Tuesday, the offer was accepted.

Now, we’re just waiting on the seller’s bank to approve our short sale.

All this means, I could potentially be a homeowner.  Before July 1.  For those of you who own homes and have gone through the “first time homebuyer” experience, you know the feeling: anxiety, excitement, fear, anticipation, shock, the “I can’t believe this is really happening… Yes, this is happening” sensation.

In a sense: it is amazing.

And, once again, all of the credit goes to Him.

How Exactly this Happened

Last Saturday, I did a random search for properties for sale, just to see what the older bungalows in my parents’ neighborhood were going for.  Lo, and behold, a house I have driven by since I was 14 was listed for sale.  I was in shock!  A house I had imagined having was on the market.  I called the realtor about getting in to take a look.  She was unavailable, but referred me to one of her colleagues who was assisting with the sale.  This is where the “God” part becomes that much more evident.

A week ago after church, my parents and I go over to take a look and see the house.  We get there (did I mention I was a little nervous), and the realtor comes out and apologizes to us for being dressed in her “Sunday casual.”  You see, her son and daughter-in-law own the house, and the three of them were doing some chores around it that afternoon.  So, I got to meet the current owners, hear their story and what the house meant for them, and share a little bit of my story.

In a nutshell, the current owner bought the house when he was single and starting his career.  Now, he is married, and he and his wife have moved to a new home and are selling the property.  Even better–his mom (one of the realtors) lives down the street!  She’s a neighbor!  And, how exciting was it for me to share with them how my story parallels his–young, new to my career, and looking to live in the neighborhood I’ve grown up in and grown to love.

It seemed like a match made in Heaven (literally).  On Monday I met with a mortgage banker at lunch, and that night I signed the contract.  Now, we’re in limbo waiting for the seller’s bank to approve the short sale.  Once that happens, we go into escrow, and I’m 45 days away from owning my first home.

A lot can happen between now and then, and I would greatly appreciate your prayers.

For what?  Wisdom, continued devotion, and God to provide and work with the bank to get the sale approved.

I’m learning my life is seriously a story of God’s provision, over and exceedingly beyond anything I could ever think to ask for (Eph 3:20).  Honestly, my life is a story of letting go and getting more.

When I stopped worrying about a job and career, God blessed me with one beyond anything I thought possible.

When I stopped trying to make DC happen, He didn’t just provide an opportunity, but gave me one that cost nothing.

Now, when I just let go of the housing situation, He brought something to me that was far better than anything I dreamt of at this point in my life.  (By the way- 11 people saw the house in the 2 days it was listed, but they accepted my offer.)

Who knows that other great things He has in store for me as I let go and allow Him to direct me.

His plans are always better than our dreams, and I’m learning to let the former become the latter.

When have you seen God’s provision rock your world?  Is there an area of your life where you struggle releasing control?  How might letting go change your perspective, and your life?

Leading where you are.

I realized something this morning.

The company I work for only has one CEO. 

Chances are the store you work for just has one General Manager.  The church you go to has one Lead Pastor.  The team you play on has one head coach.

In life, we seem to arrange ourselves in relationships that give institutional leadership to a single individual at the “top” of the pyramid.

I think a lot of us use this arrangement to avoid responsibility.

I know I sometimes do.

“I can’t make that decision.  I’m not a team lead on this project.”
“We’ll be fine doing what we’ve always done.”
“That’s above my pay grade.”

Don’t get me wrong: humility and deference to authority have their place.

It’s just.

Humility can easily become a cover for resistance.

I am an entry-level professional.
I have passion, but I don’t have experience.
I have responsibilities, but I don’t have direct reports.

To some, it might seem like I don’t have much reason to lead.

But, I reject that.

I may not have a cushioned resume, but I still have influence.
And influence is where leadership comes from.

My voice may not be simulcasted around the world, but my life speaks.
It speaks to my teammates.  It speaks to my colleagues.  It speaks to those who see my behavior, and it shows what I’m working for.

Leadership is intentional influence.
I may have to be more intentional, but I can be a leader.

I’m beginning to understand, the world will be a better place when we realize

It’s not about leading at the front of the pack.  It’s about leading where you are.

Cultural gluttony.

Every waking moment we face a dilemma: consume or create.

We choose whether we are going to contribute and affect culture or consume and be influenced by the creations of others.

Just like in our physical lives, there has to be a balance between consumption and creation.  Between use and contribution.  Between input and output.

Eventually, the fuel tanks in our cars and motorcycles run empty.  Our stomach begins to let us know it’s time for feeding.  The creative takes in the art of another and finds a new angle.

The important thing is that the purpose of input, of consuming, of resting is to get out and go do something else.

Imagine if I spent 4 hours filling my car’s tank for every 1 hour on the road.  That would be ridiculous.

However, many of us live our creative lives just like that.

We spend hours upon hours in front of the television.  At the theater.  Engrossed in a good book.  Reading the latest blog posts.  Keeping up with our Twitter feeds.

And we leave it there.

We eagerly anticipate the fruit of others’ creativity but fail to capture it as fuel for our own.

It’s time we face the reality.
Many of us are cultural gluttons.

I can easily find myself in this mode; enjoying the works of others, amazed by the genius of others.

Then the mirror of life appears and I’m not exactly thrilled with my creative figure.  Somehow, I was going for something a little more fit and svelte.

That takes activity.  That takes discipline.  It takes will-power, and the ability to say “NO” to another hour on Google reader when I haven’t written anything myself in days.

It’s not easy, but it can be done.

Cultural gluttony can be beaten.

This is me getting up from the table and walking to the easel.

Labels lie. Even some of the good ones.

This post is part of People of the Second Chance’s Labels Lie campaign. POTSC is a tenacious tribe of individuals committed to radical grace in life and leadership. Our Labels Lie campaign seeks to expose and tear down labels and their damaging effects. For more information, search #labelslie on Twitter or visit POTSC.com.

“You’ll always be a worthless junkie.”
“You are a corrupt ex-con.”
“You’re a horrible mother.”
“You are a homo-loving fag.”

I doubt there’s anyone who can’t see the damaging effect these negative labels have on us. Both as individuals and a society, we commit crimes against our neighbors when we attempt to reduce the entirety of one’s being to a single, hurtful label.

Why?
Because labels lie.

But, what about the not-so-negative labels?

“You are such a success.”
“You are in great shape.”
“You are a Type-A leader.”
“You are the Uber-Mom.”

There’s a part of each of us that enjoys the praise and admiration we receive when people label us based on our achievements.

The problem is, achievements are fleeting.
The problem is, we still become enslaved to those labels.

Success on today’s project doesn’t mean tomorrow’s will go as well. Somedays, even the most Type-A of people need to rest. One day, Uber-Mom is going to show up late to the soccer game and miss her daughter’s game-winning goal. And, as anyone who has gone to college will tell you, the freshmen 15 (or, 40 in my case) will test anyone’s midsection.

When your identity is based on achievement and the praise of others, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.

For me personally, I have had to resist the temptation and allure of resting in my achievements. I learned this the hard way when I graduated in the top of my high school graduating class. And then found myself attending a community college. It’s easier to get drunk on the praise of our peers than it is shots of Bacardi 151, and I found myself with a horrible hangover when classes started and I was the only one of my friend still in town.

So, how can we–how can I–make sure that I am not allowing my achievements, though they be good, to be the defining element in my life?

For me, it means focusing on others.

Justin loves others.
Justin gives others.
Justin cares for others.
Justin cheers for others.
Justin lives for others.

At the end of the day, my goal isn’t to be known for my degrees, my job title, the clothes I wear, or how much money is in my checking account.

At the end of the day, I want to be known as someone who worked to see others succeed.

That is a label I will wear with pride.

What has your personal experience with labels been? Have you ever found yourself buying into the achievement labels? How are you working to tear down labels in your sphere of influence?

Failing at Intentional

It’s officially been one week since I embarked on my year of Intentional.

It’s officially been one week that I’ve had time to think about whether or not I’m achieving intentional.

And this week, there were times I just wanted to give up.

I didn’t read my Bible enough.  I only went to the gym three times.  I didn’t read as much as I wanted.  I was too friendly with my snooze button.  I didn’t write as much as I wanted.  My attempts at world-change reached their pinnacle when I attended a fundraiser.

I felt like I had failed.

And I was constantly aware I wasn’t measuring up to the bar of intentional I had set for myself.

Then I realized: the only reason I felt I was failing was because I was being intentional.  I had set lofty goals and ambitions for myself, and I was distressed to find myself not meeting them.

It’s easy to set goals, and it’s almost natural to expect to arrive at them overnight.  But, attempting to reorient my life around intentional living is hardly easy.  It’s an uphill battle every day; a fight to reclaim the meaning of life from a mundane existence.

I may feel like I’m failing at intentional, but I’m succeeding at trying.

And, that in itself is a success for intentionality.

I’ve realized choosing to pursue intentional this year doesn’t mean I am going to immediately have success at whatever I put my mind to.  It’s going to take discipline.  I will have to sacrifice.  I will have to be strategic.  But, it is possible, and I am choosing to not give up.  I know that in the end these momentary setbacks will be brief and fading.

I will persevere, and I will make it through.  2012 will be my year of intentional.

Do you ever find yourself biting off more than you can chew?  How do you get through times where defeat seems inevitable?  

Intentional Spirituality

Yesterday, I introduced and unveiled my ONE WORD for 2012 to the world.  The next 365 days are going to be intentional.  Over the next couple of days, I plan to unpack what intentionality is going to look like for me.

“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!

But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.

He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.”
Psalm 1:1-3 NASB

I love Psalm 1.  Of all the Psalms, it is probably the one I read the most.  You see, with many “Bible in One Year” plans, there is a daily Psalm reading.  And, for many years, January 1 has come and Psalm 1 has been read.  I’m sure I’d come to love all the Psalms, but the trouble is I haven’t managed to make it past Psalm 43.

But, there’s another reason I love Psalm 1: its promises.

How blessed is the man who delights in the law of the Lord, who meditates on it day and night.

In whatever he does, he prospers.

Did that hit you like it hit me?

The Psalmist has given us the key to prosperity: delight in the law of the Lord and meditate on it day and night.

Now, prosperity might not necessarily mean a million-dollar net worth, a girlfriend who looks like she stepped off the runway, or abs like Kellan Lutz.  In fact, I’m sure it looks quite different.  Whatever it is, though, I want it.  And, thanks to Psalm 1, I know how to get it.

The key to prosperity is intentional spirituality.

This year, I’m going to make it past Psalm 43.  This year, I am going to be intentional.  I am going to choose to put my delight in the law of the Lord and to meditate on it day and night.  It’s not going to be easy.  It might require sacrifice.  It will require discipline.

But, I am committed to establishing intentional spirituality as the foundation for everything else in my life this year.

I want to be like the tree planted by waters.  I want to have those fixed and immovable qualities.

To be honest, I want to be blessed.

And for those reasons, I choose the cost of intentional spirituality in pursuit of the reward of Christ.

What about you?  Have you considered how your spiritual discipline (or lack) is affecting your ability to enjoy God’s blessings?  What are ways you are being intentional in your spirituality?

My One Word 365: Intentional

This post is part of the One Word 365 campaign, a movement that encourages people to choose one word to focus on for the entire year as a sort of goal for the year. I participated last year with my word “discipline.” Become a part of the One Word 365 movement: Choose a word. Write on it. Live it out.

Have you ever found yourself driving, daydreaming, only to miss that turn you were supposed to make?  At 55 mph the scenery often becomes a blur, and we can easily forget where we’re going and miss important decisions.

The thing is this just doesn’t happen when we’re driving.

Life can become a blur.

Between work, volunteer commitments, parties and kickbacks, paychecks, classes, and sleep, it’s very easy for us to find ourselves speeding through life at 55 mph, missing the turns and stops we wanted to make.

Looking back, 2011 was a full-throttle year.  I started the year as a college student and part-time employee for my church’s denominational conference.  I ended the year a college graduate, fully employed as a public affairs professional for a Fortune 500 company.  In the in-between, I met great people, challenged myself to grow, and moved across the country to intern in Congress.  Suffice to say, 2011 was a year full to the brim with life experiences, lived at Formula 1 speeds.

2011 was also a year of discipline for me.  And it paid off.  I doubt I would be in the position I am today were it not for the sacrifice and discipline I developed last year.  But, discipline isn’t going to be enough for  2012.

For me, 2012 is the year of “intentional.”  Not only do I want to be disciplined, but I want to be intentional in how I apply my discipline.  I do not want to find myself on December 31, 2012, wondering where my time went.  This year, the discipline continues, but it becomes more focused, more intentional.

I am going to be more intentional in my spiritual life.
I will fight tenaciously for justice and world change.
I will take responsibility for my health and fitness.
I am going to pursue deeper relationships with my family, friends, and community.
I will quit making excuses and be intentional about my platform.
I will not be a slave to the dollar, but will be a wise steward with my finances.
I am not going to abandon the pursuit of knowledge as my college days are behind.
I am going to be intentional in all I do.
I will make the most of every breath I have.
I am going to live with no regrets.

Welcome to 2012, my year of intentional.