jmonen

daily blog

Category: God (page 1 of 3)

Beware of Shortcuts: Getting Lost on Mt. Hood

We got to the bottom of the run right after the lift stopped running.

I looked over at my brother Ben through my goggles and then looked up at the mountain we just rode down.

I did not want to unstrap and hike all the way up there. So I looked around and saw an “out of bounds” rope to our left in front of a forested area.

I “knew” the lodge was in that direction, so I said, “Hey Ben, let’s take a shortcut through the woods. If we ride down that way we should pop out right by the lodge.”

So we ducked under the rope and headed out.

After about 10 minutes of riding through the woods I started to get a little concerned we may be off track. But we just kept going. We crossed a couple frozen creeks and it started snowing hard.

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God Calls Some People to Be Entrepreneurs

I became a born again Christian in 2004 after almost dying from cocaine addiction.

It was the day after my second relapse. I was at my parent’s house in Battle Ground, WA trying to sleep as long as possible because I didn’t want to face what I’d done the night before.

I remember getting out of bed and walking into the bathroom feeling completely hopeless.

9 months before that I had went through the nation’s best rehab program (it cost about $28,000). 

I was attending AA meetings faithfully. I was seeing a psychiatrist to treat my mental disorders. And I was seeking “God” and trying to be spiritual.

In other words, I was trying to stay clean and sober. But I couldn’t. And that sucked.

So I walked into the bathroom, locked the door and tried to cry but I couldn’t even do that. I couldn’t do anything!

That’s when I prayed one of the most honest prayers of my life. I don’t know why but I just said, “Jesus, if you’re real save me.”

I’ve never used drugs since that day.

In fact, I’ve never even had another craving for drugs since then, which is nothing short of miraculous. Before that I would get physical sensations whenever I talked about cocaine or heard the word coke.

It was like something in my body was responding to something it felt it had to have. I don’t really know how to explain it.

But I know I would start to feel crazy, even if I was just sharing my story about what my life used to be like when I was using. But after that day I never had one of those physical sensations, even when giving detailed accounts of my past using history.

This was the first of many miracles I experienced. Shortly after that I was healed of bi-polar and ADHD. 

Up until that point I was on three medications, trying to find the right mix to make me normal. But I still wrestled with suicidal thoughts and there were many days I’d sleep ’til noon, just trying to sleep my life away.

After my spiritual experience the first thing I noticed was that I had a new feeling, that I later realized was called “hope.” 

All I knew was that instead of feelings of impending doom about the future I had a feeling things could actually be good.

It was new. And I liked it. So I gave in to it. I started going down a new path.

It was one month before my 21st birthday when I prayed that prayer on the bathroom floor. I’ll be 33 next month. A lot has happened in the last 12 years.

After I got saved I thought I would devote my life to “full-time ministry.”

I went through a training at my church called Pastors in Progress and started checking out Bible Colleges to attend. I visited Portland Bible College and sat in on a day’s worth of classes to see if it was the right place for me.

During this time my pastor started talking to me about planting a church of my own. I remember attending a “church planting dinner” in Portland and started to get excited about starting a new church.

I was 21 years old. Ha! I’m so glad I didn’t start that church.

I can’t even fathom how crazy and dysfunctional it would have been under my “leadership” at the mature age of 21, fresh out of a life of drug dealing and addiction.

Instead I went down a different path. I became an entrepreneur.

I started my professional career in sales and spent about 5 years selling insurance. 

I quit that job 6 years ago (2011) to start my own freelance copywriting business, which I’ve owned since. And over the last 2 years I’ve been working on making the transition from being self-employed to being a real business owner.

One of the things I’m most grateful for is that by God’s grace I was able to understand that just because I feel like I have a “calling” on my life doesn’t mean I have to be a pastor.

When I was 21 I thought if I wanted to make my life count and do something worthwhile I had to serve in church full-time.

I remember thinking, this is what I should do.But I wanted to go into business.

For a while I assumed this was one of those inner conflicts between God’s will and mine 

Of course God would want me to start a church. A business on the other hand was something I wanted. It sounded fun and exciting. But it felt selfish.

So I created a False Dilemma for myself.

Thankfully I finally got delivered from this way of thinking.

I started to learn about people who were making a difference without being in full-time ministry. 

I read books like 48 Days To the Work You Love by Dan Miller. Dan talked about work being something God created and how important it was to find or create work you love.

I prayed and journaled about it and finally felt like I had permission to pursue business instead of full-time ministry.

Once I felt like I had a green light I was off to the races! 

I’ve crashed and burned more than I like to admit but I’m so happy I went down this path. And I feel like it’s just the beginning.

I still think a lot about church and where my place is in God’s family. I honestly still struggle a lot with church culture and the dead religious mindsets that prevail in so many churches.

One thing that really bothers me is how so many churches approach the subject of money, business and work.

Most the time those things are considered “worldly” and looked down upon. And there’s a subtle, if not outright, message that says: If you want to live a meaningful life for God then you will forsake these things and go into full-time ministry.

If you decide to sell all your possessions and move to Africa to become a full-time missionary (where other people, those less spiritual ones who still work “secular jobs,”will support you) then you’re doing it right.

But if you throw yourself into building a business or pursuing excellence in your career then you are only “sort of” doing it right.

I hate that. It’s a bunch of crap. And it’s this way of thinking that keeps so many Christians from pursuing their dreams.

When this happens the church abdicates it’s place in the world and instead of being a force that influences culture it settles for creating it’s own “church world” where it makes up it’s own rules and definitions for success.

When churches do this they become no different then colleges that create a false sense of reality for their students, “equipping and preparing” students for a world that doesn’t exist!

They graduate with a piece of paper, enter the real world and realize they don’t possess the most basic skills needed to succeed. 

And by succeed I don’t mean becoming a millionaire, I mean success as in “getting a job!”

It’s easy for us Christians to see how irrelevant and ineffective colleges are at training and empowering people. But we fail to see our own faults in the “church world.”

Instead of doing the hard thing and confronting these issues we sweep them under the rug. And as soon as someone starts to lift up the rug and say, “Hey, what’s that? What about money and work and stuff?”

As soon as that happens the religious spirit flexes it’s muscles and “inspires” more sermons, books and teachings on how “the world is going to burn!” sS no sense being part of it or trying to improve it.

When this doesn’t work there’s always the option of demonizing anything to do with wealth, money and business as being part of the dreaded “Prosperity Gospel.”

…if we’re not “careful” about who we listen to we may inadvertently invite mammon monsters to sneak into our closets at night and suck out our souls while we sleep!

In other words, one of the primary strategies the religious elite uses to keep people enslaved is to control the agenda.

Instead of listening to people who say, “Hey, you know what, that sermon last week about when the rapture may happen was interesting. But what would really be helpful would be some teachings on how to pay our bills each month so we’re not as stressed out.”

Or…

“You know I spend 2 hours a week at church, which I love, but I spend 45 hours a week at my job, which I hate. I feel like it’s sucking the life from me. And when I get home I have no energy left to be the husband and father I want to be.”

Can you help me with this?

No, sorry, I feel like you’re trying to pull things out of the rug and we prefer to just leave them there. 

Last time we tried to mess with that it created so much dust it made everybody start coughing and irritated our eyes.

But I’ll pray for you.

Ok, thanks.

You’re welcome. God bless you.

The Fear of Wasting Your Life

One of my biggest fears is that I will waste my life.

I think about it way too much, to the point where it borders on obsession. 

And for the longest time I’ve allowed that fear to have free reign in my mind and heart because on the surface it appeared to be positive.

So instead of resisting it, I embraced it with open arms.

I now realize it’s a trojan horse designed to gain entry into the most guarded part of my heart. I’ve opened the doors and received this beautiful “gift” given to me by the “Divine.”

Ah, what lies! What trickery!

As night fell the demons of fear lowered themselves out of it’s belly and started to terrorize my peaceful castle. They came, not to help, but to steal, kill and destroy!

Now as day breaks I see these enemies running amok down in the courtyard, terrorizing all the innocent citizens.

Tradesmen simply going about their workday are attacked with fiery darts of doubt surrounding their occupation. “Life is too short to be a bricklayer!” And down another man goes.

Sent into the despair of reaching for a more meaningful life. Always grasping for a greater calling, a greater purpose, and for a more perfect life. All the while time being snatched away from them!

What a waste! This was supposed to offer protection against wasting life but it did exactly the opposite.

At the end of the day fear is fear. It’s not something to partner with.

So I decided to rid my castle of this evil horse and all it’s occupants. From now on the “fear of not wasting my life” will no longer be tolerated or welcomed!

Instead I choose to partner with the Spirit of Life and live a full life today. Not in 10 years when I finally achieve my goals. Not in 20 years when I’m more wise and experienced.

But today I will make the most out of every opportunity given to me. 

I will focus on the positive and the good. I will be thankful. And no longer will  I entertain thoughts of fear disguised to “help” me out.

What about you? Have you been offered this trojan horse too? If so, burn it to the ground!

Breaking Free from Sacred vs Secular Writing

About 9 years ago I was wrestling with the idea of writing. 

“Is God really calling me to write?” I thought. 
I wrote a lot but I didn’t know if it was something I was just interested in or if it was something I was called to.

During this time I bought a book called Writing for the Soul by Jerry B. Jenkins. I stuck it in my red Jansport backpack and took it with me to a special meeting my church was having.

We had a couple ladies from Weaverville, CA to speak. After they spoke they invited people to come up to get prayer so I went up.

When it was my turn one of the women took my hands and looked me in the eyes and said, “I see you writing…”

I don’t pretend to remember exactly what else she said after that so I’m not going to make it up. But I remember she specifically said she “saw me writing” and something about God calling me to the ministry of writing.

My jaw probably dropped because this question was on the forefront of my mind and the Writing for the Soul book was literally in my bag 20 feet away while she said this.

I still don’t know what “being called to write” means. But I’ve tried hard to cultivate this gift since then. 

I’ve even managed to make a living as a freelance copywriter. It doesn’t always feel like I’m walking in my calling, especially when I’m doing things like writing ads for insurance agents, but I suppose I am.

I’m still trying to separate the artificial walls of separation of sacred vs secular but it’s not easy for me. 

Over the years I’ve compartmentalized my writing and made sure the lines didn’t blur too much. 

For example, I would write about spiritual things on BeyondCliches.com and copywriting/marketing on Joshuamonen.com. And TheMonens.com was of course for family writing.

But now I have this personal blog where I want to start building an audience who will stick with me for 10 years or more. 

I want to get in touch with that sense of calling I had almost 10 years ago when that woman gave me that prophetic word.

And to do that I feel I need to stop compartmentalizing my writing so much.

Therefore, I’ve decided that I’m going to be more open about my faith on this blog and not shy away from sharing supernatural stories like the one I shared earlier.

This doesn’t mean I want to exclude agnostics or people from other faiths from my writing. I still plan to talk a lot about business, money, freelancing, etc. but it’ll just be from an openly Christian perspective.

When I thought about keeping God and my faith out of this blog I felt like I would be hiding a part of my life that has a great influence on everything I do. And I want to have a place where I’m free to write without any restraints. 

My goal in doing this is not to “convert the unbelievers.” I just want to be free to be myself and to help others who can relate to me and my situation. 

So there you go. Thanks for reading and for going on this journey with me!

How Buying a Home Inspired Me to Sell $23,780 in 36 Hours

I’m a little nervous sharing this online since it’s so private but it’s 10:41 p.m. and I must publish a post before midnight to keep my “daily blog” streak alive (I’m on Day 153!).

So here we go…

My wife and have been shopping for our first home. We’ve been married for 8 years and have always rented, but now we have 3 kids and we’re ready to buy.

We got approved for a USDA loan up to $275,000. And a FHA loan for up to $350,000. 

The USDA is one of those “Zero Down” loans so all we would have to pay would be closing costs. So that was appealing. The FHA requires 3.5% down ($12,250) plus closing costs (about $7,000).

So we first tried to find something for $275k or less. 

But it’s a crazy seller’s market right now and there’s not a lot to choose from. We made one offer on a $250k home which turned into a bidding war. It eventually went for over $275k I heard.

And then last week my wife found this house for sale on Craigslist. It wasn’t listed on Zillow yet and my wife said I should call the guy. So I did (emailed him actually).

I arranged for my wife to look at it first since she was in town that day. She loved it and then had me go look at it the next day. I went there and fell in love too!

I thought, This is the home I would want to live in! It’s on one acre and it’s only 10 minutes outside of Battle Ground. 

There’s a beautiful garden, a nice 10×20 outbuilding I could use for my office and it has a hot tub right outside the master bedroom. I could imagine my wife and I soaking in it looking at the stars after the kids went to bed (btw, in my dreams it doesn’t rain at night in Washington!).

The only problem? 

It was $349,900. The very top of our budget!

Basically it would be about $2,200/month which was about $400 more than some of the lower priced homes we were considering.

But we loved it! And I knew we could make it work.

Now let me stop right there. 

I realize it’s easy to let emotions get the best of you and to end up “over your head” sometimes. And that’s not what I wanted. I really did believe we could make it work because of the growth of our business.

As business owners we have a lot of control over our monthly income. It’s one of the advantages of owning a business vs. working for someone else. It’s good but also scary.

My wife was nervous. So I told her that if she didn’t want to do it then we won’t. But I also told her I was confident we’d be able to afford the higher monthly payment.

So on Saturday (3 nights ago) we signed the sales agreement with the sellers!

We put down $3,500 in earnest money and then we’ll pay the downpayment and closing costs at closing, which is 30–40 days from now.

We have some money in savings but I told my wife my goal is to come up with all the money before closing so we don’t have to touch any of our savings. 

That’s tough because that’s $14,350 (the sellers are covering $4,900 in closing costs) we would need to come up with in addition to the amount we pay ourselves every 2 weeks from the business.

It’s challenging but also exciting! I feel like I need goals that have a little bit of pressure associated with them to really get me going. 🙂

So yesterday morning during my quiet time before work I prayed that some sales would come in quickly this week so that my wife would feel relieved about the home purchase. I prayed and believed good thing would happen this week. And then I got to work! I doubled down and did the things I needed to do.

And guess what happened?

Later that day I closed a $2,900 retainer client (a deal I was working on for over 2 months). 

And then today I closed a $20,880 deal (a deal I was working on for over a month)! 

So $23,780 in sales came in within 36 hours of praying that prayer.

I think that’s noteworthy. It is for me anyway.

So again, I feel a little awkward being so transparent about money here but I think it’s important to pull back the curtain and share honest stories like this with you.

(By the way, I should point out that the $23,780 is revenue, not profit. I have a good profit margin and one day maybe I’ll get brave enough to share that too but just want to be real and let you know I don’t get to “keep” all that money.)

So anyway, it was just a great lesson for me to remember that it’s ok to stretch yourself a little and give yourself motivation to reach to the next level.

And I’m also reminded that in order to achieve your goals you need both faith and works. You need to practice diligence and you need to believe. 

It’s not one or the other, it’s both.

So there you go. I’m feeling good about the direction things are going. I want to keep it up because closing will be here before we know it and I would love it if we didn’t have to touch our savings! 🙂

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