Who Reads This Blog and What Do They Think?

Ronin s Journey   Seeking First the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness And Making An Impact In LifeA few weeks ago, I did a survey to get the pulse of my readers. You can still participate here. I wanted to know who you are, what you like and don’t like, what changes would help, and what challenges you face. This was to help me to serve you better. The results were surprising. Ready?

Who Reads This Stuff?

Gender

  • 60% are women
  • 40% are men

Age

  • 35% are 35-44 years old
  • 25% are 25-34
  • 25% are 45-54
  • 10% are 18-24
  • 5% are 55-64

General Belief in God?

  • 55% believe God is real and interactive in the world.
  • 25% marked other, specifying apatheistic, spiritual, and Wiccan
  • 10% believe there is nothing supernatural or outside our physical universe
  • 5% are not sure or believe God’s set it all in motion and left the universe alone afterwards

Specific Religious Beliefs? (Could mark multiple answers)

  • 55% are Christians
  • 25% identify with no religion
  • 25%  marked other, specifying heathen, spiritual, Wiccan, and identifying with many religions
  • 15% are Protestants
  • 10% identify with Buddhism or Native American
  • 5% identify with Inter-denominational, Judaism, and Catholicism

Favorite Subjects on the Blog

  • 45% like the mentorship/leadership posts (which are kind of rare)
  • 30% like the Christian Living posts on how to better follow Jesus
  • 15% like when I break down a Bible passage
  • 10% like the apologetics posts

No one likes the evangelism posts according to the survey. However, I weave both evangelism and apologetics into most posts.

The Best Part of the Blog

  • 55% like the depth of the posts
  • 35% like the practical information
  • 5% like the ease of use
  • 5% clicked other, writing in that it makes them think. If I can make you think, then I consider that post a success.

How Can I Improve (3 people skipped it)

  • 41% want a FAQ page. I don’t get any questions so if you have any, ask and I’ll see if I can answer them.
  • 29% would like shorter posts. I’ll try to keep it under a 1000 words unless it takes from the depth of the post.
  • 29% clicked other, and wrote in the following: not a thing, follow your muse, keep your editor (Hi Nay!), keep doing what I’m doing (I will but with more focus), and adding a categories page. I have a search bar on the right-hand side under the heading TOPICS where you can search by categories.

Read Any of my Books (multiple choice)

Your Biggest Challenge

  • 70% say it’s Life
  • 30% got specific: trust issues, forgiveness, health, self-hatred, anger, being judgmental, a life of nothing but work.

The last section was really important. I’ve walked or am currently walking all of those paths. Overall, you guys gave me a target to focus on and I thank you for that. Remember, if you have a question you want me to answer about myself or a topic, post it in the comments. The interesting and recurring I’ll start looking into answering and adding to the FAQ page you requested. Some may become a blog post.

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2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog. I looked at the previous two years and my top 3 posts haven’t changed. Those posts on the Founding Documents have endurance for sure.

I like numbers so if you get giddy about them too then enjoy.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 8,900 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Year of Renewal

Last year, I looked at 2014 in hindsight to see if I’d grown and how. I titled it The Year of the Prodigal. I decided to do it again this year to see how I moved forward. 2014 closed with me returning to God like the prodigal son.

Love2015 started with me trying to understand the depth and definition of love. I was lonely and didn’t understand the concept of love. I worked or went to church on Sunday mornings and evenings; the rest of the time I spent in a depressing home with too many memories for me.

I didn’t easily get the warm fuzzies around people, so I began stepping out of my comfort zone. I revisited a book titled The Secret Blend and used what I learned from that to make friends close to home.

Then I set five goals: Seeking first the Kingdom of God, moving to a new home, supporting my wife’s dreams, getting stronger and healthier, and making Wicked Jester profitable. Nothing that took away from those five was even considered. I also began to notice a disturbing trend of fatalism in me. I had to admit I needed help, so I started going to GriefShare.

Soon we moved into a home with an ease that I attributed to God’s grace. One thing I did have to sacrifice was my JKD class due to higher cost of living. Temporarily I hoped, though later, it turned out not to be the case. While we moved into a new house, I noticed ‘my house’ was being renovated.

The Holy Spirit was really working in the process to make me more like Jesus. I noticed if I skipped my quiet time in the Bible much, the work kardinya-park-fill-the-gapwould falter and my negative personality traits would resurface. Outside, I started to get more involved in many activities at church, five ministries at one point, and special outreaches. They were so diverse, I quipped that I was a Gap-Filler.

Soon, I wondered how I could explain the change in me. I started to dig deep into apologetics after reading Cold-Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace. It became a hunger, learning and understanding the depth of it all. It made me sad when people were hurt by their idols. People and relationships can be mercurial so it is not a great foundation.

Then I had my foundation tested when a friend hurt me. Do I give into impulse? I really wanted to. Instead, I embraced FirstNLR’s core value: the Bible is our guidebook for living. Doing that, the situation worked out and some more renovation was done inside me.

image23Then I went into a depressive spiral as healing scabs were picked off. Collecting food for hungry kids, all I could think of was ‘why am I even alive’. I reached out to a new friend for help, and a timely sermon helped me climb out of a two-week funk. I was not my past.

It is probably providence that I got a sermon on not condemning and revisiting the idea of not retaliating after a reader asked a question. In the situation that sent me into a spiral, as I learned about not retaliating, walking away is an option. It was one that I took at the advice of friends.

I started looking into how Christians should act. We represent Christ after Nemesisall. The ‘saved you’ should look less like the ‘unsaved you’ every day. At this time, I was reading a book called The Me I Want to Be that pointed me to another personality test. The enneagram shows levels of growth and disintegration. It showed me the twisted, dark version of me, and at one point, I was that version.

I looked at the past; I also looked forward at what I could be. I looked at the odds of any of us existing. They are so small, it is a miracle in and of itself. I think we all have a purpose. I started to look for my purpose.

Going through several books like The Me I Want to Be, S.H.A.P.E, and Unfinished Business, I started to find it. Being torn down again helped build me back up. I help where needed. I lead when needed. I teach when it is required. I listen and counsel when someone needs an ear. A multilevel gap-filler.

I also sat down and thought through my worldview after reading Think Christianly. Was it coherent? The author challenged everyone to do that. I have to admit it took a while. Thinking through things should take some time, especially your reality map.

Condemnation still followed me, this time from within myself. I looked at the evidence, were the critical voices right? No. I started to work through that, too, to quiet the voices.

Soon, my focus shifted to evangelism after a powerful Sunday night. I had to learn how to be a novice evangelist to go with being a novice apologist. I looked at how God looks at people through the prism of John 3:16 personalized. From there, I looked at what discipleship meant and how to learn from Jesus in the Gospels. I started going through them chronologically. As I type this towards the end of November, I am only 34% of the way through them.

Tea_bowl_fixed_in_the_Kintsugi_methodI realized that humanity was broken, yet capable of good, too. I came to grips with the fact that I was broken beyond my ability to repair. I needed help, but I was not alone. Broken people have done great things despite of being broken. Like the kintsugi artisans of Japan, when Christ works on us it can be beautiful, scars and all.

During this time, I was becoming uneasy about the contrast between my business and personal lives. What I was promoting wasn’t me anymore. For one I had changed, and it involved a level of commitment I couldn’t put forward. I walked away from Wicked Jester on good terms and doubled my focus on promoting the Kingdom of God.

I retooled the site and jumped so far into it I wondered if I was losing sight of why I was doing it. I had to get back to the foundation again. I looked at what made someone a Christian and what did not.

We were helping a friend at the time and I was starting to lose patience, until I was reminded that the Golden Rule did apply at all times. Even early in the morning, integrity mattered. That fact helped me through a few things as I learned where character could carry you.

I overheard a conversation about a teenager questioning Christianity. To sherlock-holmes-glass_550help others in a similar situation, I used my apologetics mentor J. Warner Wallace to work to teach others to research it like a detective and the evidence for it. Even had a fangirl moment when he retweeted it and sent many people to my blog.

Then I got to put into practice witnessing at work. Then analyzing it, I wrote a post to help others. It was nice to put all the studying into practice. The effectiveness skyrocketed the book Becoming a Contagious Christian to one of my favorites.

CNyyCLVUsAASVvHI was hired as a supervisor, so my focus shifted towards servant-leadership. Being present, giving people your time, and knowing someone is always watching you. It was in this time it started to sink in how much I was looked up to. Not much makes me want to cry, but that brought a lump to my throat as I listed them. I couldn’t be a stumbling block to anyone.

A conversation with a coworker had me looking at the value of people. Then my Grandmother died, I kept it mostly to myself. Pride kept me from asking for help. All those bad memories, could any good come from them? I looked for the positive aspect.

I felt a little burned out again. One night reading a comic led to a thought

on how to live up to an ideal. About that time, an article appeared in my news feed. One thing the author wrote was that it’s not about you. It started to feel like I was punching a clock when I was encouraged by those around me. Over the course of the year, I had gotten two to open up, normally as shy as I am, another became a close friend. She often shares what I write to help others. The ripple effect of interacting lives.

I got a book I saw online about leaning on the Holy Spirit’s power. I had been going the right direction inside as God worked on me. Outwardly, I needed to operate in the power of the Spirit there, too. Meet (we do it every day), pray (ask God to work through you), and help (do it in faith and power).

The same book helped me with understanding how to disciple new believers and three levels of Christians. Not everyone is in the same place and honestly, I am not as far along as I would like. That’s why sanctification is a lifetime process. We have a long way to go.

I started to get into a mix of lifestyle evangelism/apologetic by contrasting Jesus’s actions as opposed to us as his followers. I wrote an in-depth post matthew5.13-15.scripturePhoto_lgon what it is like to be salt and light after a month long study of the Sermon on the Mount. All this intellectual study and the pace of it led me to feel disconnected from God.

I started to set aside Mondays just to focus on God. No internet, once I fasted from food, and felt much closer to Him. Sometimes it is a rambling communion as I go here and there through the Bible. Other times are more focused when I have a question I need answered. I felt close again.

Then a door closed—my JKD instructor passed away. Any plans I had since the start of the year to return were gone. It felt like death was following me around. I had to reverse the perspective from loss to what I had gained in knowing all these people. I saw at the funeral all the lives he touched.

I was reminded of the ripples of our interactions and how they shape us. Even a five-minute conversation with a greeter that asked the question, ‘have I ever thought of how Jesus looked at you?’ I spent weeks on that question. I had another lump in my throat as I wrote that one. It seems that seeing people make a difference does that to me.

PreviewOver the course of the year, I worked through what love is and what it means. From loner to accepted, torn down from outside and in yet still found that I had value and a purpose. I would jump all in, get disconnected, find my mark, and jump all in again; a pattern through the year. While I typed this, I was reminded of a blacksmith working metal, heating it up, beating it into shape, and then plunging it into water, tempering it. Forging something. I will say this year has been much better than the previous two.   

Ronin’s Journey Is Being Renovated

I noticed that this blog’s reach wasn’t expanding very far. On top of that it was getting a bit convoluted. The only purpose it seems to have is to collect  my scattered thoughts. At the suggestion to read a book titled “Platform” I decided to start making some changes.

It did begin as a collection place for my thoughts. Occasionally also as a place to vent so my sanity remains. A ‘quiet place’ to introspect and to soul search. Since the loosely titled “Got Purpose” series earlier this year I have been less scattered. It’s time for the blog to reflect that. You may have already noticed some changes:

  • The titles are better (I hope)
  • More applicable posts
  • Updated information
  • First Samuel 12:24 will go dormant

These will continue to improve. What isn’t going to change:

  • The Content: the archives will stay in place
  • The Source of the Content: will still come from dissecting my journal entries, explaining how and why it works and how it can work for you. There is a reason I was called the ‘self-analysis guy’.
  • The Ronin’s Journey book project is still in progress

The future changes will show an overall theme of showing what following Jesus looks like. I want you too see the real world living out of Jesus’s example on more than just Sundays. This will show my personal ups and downs and the lessons we can takeaway from it. Haven’t you ever wondered what it meant to follow Christ?

Also, I want you to be able to take something away from my posts. I’ll need your opinion to help me with that. Let me know about the good, bad, and ugly. I’ll address any questions that I can, within reason.

Ready? Set? GO!

I Have No Idea If I’m Doing This Right

I do not see why people jockey to be a leader, making their sole ambition, even taking tests online to see if they are a leader or not. The acid test of leadership is if anyone is following you without being paid for it or for the perks. I manage a team within the church that picks up paper and coffee cups in the sanctuary and wipes the counters in the bathrooms after services to prepare for the guests coming next.

I try to be a leader, and have been working on how to be better at it by learning from my mistakes. The team started with me and Casey cleaning after the three Sunday morning services. We grew by another person, and I could rotate who had the trash detail so everyone could get a break from it. 

Later, we gained another team member on a different service. That enabled me to rotate days off so people can rest a little. The sanctuary team has two people except for Sunday nights where I work alone. Our newest team member is the one who challenges me.

I sat down in the stairwell between services one morning with this thought in mind: what is servant-leadership? I think it may be a continuum. First, you have to serve, and serve well enough you set a standard. You hope that this inspires people to see what is going on and join with you. Then you get beside them and help them get to a level where they do not need you anymore.

What example can I look at? To put a spin on the old phrase “What Would Jesus Do”, I wonder, What Did Jesus Do? He modeled his instruction, living it every day he set the example. Nothing was beneath him, from hours of teaching without rest, interacting with everyone, touching lepers—which made him ritually unclean by Jewish law—to heal them, and even washing the disciples nasty feet at the last supper to set this example for them.

I still do not have much of an idea of what I am doing as far as leading; all I can figure is continue being an example. I still want the team to grow as people and in numbers so they can do more in other areas. Porscha, Casey, and I are in multiple ministries in different areas and that helps us grow. We all have to start somewhere, just as I started with the cleaning team and now that is just a part of it all.

It might be time to read a book or two about it…I have a couple in mind.

They Did What!?

I watched someone publicly fall from grace unsurprised at the emotional outpouring of the social media jury. Having been on the receiving end of it, I learned the wisdom of staying above the emotions and investigating the full story coolly. What surprised me was some of the responses from Christians in the lack of grace, and reconciliation. It is a common response to scandals so I will not have to detail which one.

You can come back from anything, that is the power of the Gospel’s message.

If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10: 9

Moses killed a person, ran, and was later called to lead a newborn nation. Peter, the Rock of the church, denied Jesus three times and weeks later preached a message that led over 3000 to the same Christ he had denied. Paul persecuted and murdered Christians and later became one of the greatest missionaries who reasoned on street corners, with philosophers, and Roman rulers. Some modern examples, like Ron Bronski who tried to murder a rival gang member and ran. Later, he found Jesus and turned himself in years later after the police stopped looking for him. The judge, shocked by the turnaround, did not send him to prison. Do you know an addict? Have you seen one turn their lives around? There is reconciliation and redemption.

The tendency to stone each other, disown them, and turn away is in all of us. Just because we are forgiven does not mean we can do whatever, something that Paul reminded the Galatians of in Galatians 5:13-15. He knew the inner war to get self-righteous and give in to his base nature, as a Pharisee that was one of the charges Jesus leveled at them often. I have detailed my tendency to do the same like when my wife tells me what is going on with this person or that one. I am usually checking off different things on a ‘checklist’, the deeds of the flesh are apparent and I am guilty of much of what is listed in Galatians 5: 19-21. When we behave with strife, angry outbursts, disputes, among other things; we look just like everyone else. The only difference others see between the Christian and everyone else is they ‘wear a cross and know some verses.’

We have to repeatedly kill that part of us, as detailed in Galatians 5:24 and Romans 12: 1-2. The good news is we do not have to do it in our own strength. In John 15, particularly verses 6-8, Jesus said those that remain in him would produce much fruit. It is evidenced by the attitude change that Paul called the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5: 22-23. Alone, we are like batteries, plugged in, and drained until it is recharged again until it cannot hold the charge anymore and then it is tossed out. The other option is hooking a power cord to a nuclear power plant and never running low. Paul closes Galatians 5 by admonishing us to walk in the Spirit, to not be boastful or jealous.

Now that we have pulled the planks from our eyes and passed around the Visine, the question remains. What about when a Christian sins? Paul also dealt with that in his letter to Galatia (modern day Turkey). Those who are mature and responsive to the Holy Spirit should set them right, restore, and reinstate them. Doing it without a sense of superiority, but with gentleness, being careful to not fall themselves. If our ego or pride in ourselves rises, then we are not the ones for the job; in fact, I would probably be the first one disqualified.

What I can do, what we are called to do in Galatians 6: 2-5, is to listen and encourage, because we are all broken deep down. We are all willfully messed up, and an open ear with encouraging words is what we would want instead of being stoned and left bleeding. When we do well, we can be happy and proud of it, butLove one another not by comparing ourselves to others. If you want to do that, compare yourself to Christ and see how boastful you can be in light of that. Verse 5 has this reminder, everyone has to bear the responsibility of their actions as they walk the earth; that person’s load does not make yours any lighter.

We are missing at times the very thing that made the early Christians stand out. That is the love they had for each other and everyone outside of the early church. A love that is more than a feeling; it was put into action to care for others. Where is that today in our lives?

My Purpose?

GriefShare ended last month, the lessons at time paralleling my experiences during introspective moments that I’ve shared on here. Two of the things that stuck out to me were the terms ‘new normal’ and ‘moving forward’ as opposed to moving on. When someone dies, it leaves a hole in our lives; our adapting to the loss is what sets the new normal as we grieve. We move forward from that, acknowledging what we lost and continuing our lives. It is not moving on as if they never lived; I could not forget even if I had wanted to.

What is my new normal, I wondered. During the last video, I made a list:

  • Encouraging others because others encouraged me when I needed it. I used to be reclusive, however, lately if someone is in my circle, I try to show them someone cares. They do not have to be close friends, but friends, acquaintances, the next generation, showing support, listening, and taking time for those that others may overlook.
  • Helping others, generally through one of the ministries, people that appear in my life, or projects that spring up.
  • Occasionally counseling others.

Summing it up, the new normal focuses on others now. What does moving forward look like overall? There is a quote in the workbook:

“If you don’t know your purpose, this is a great opportunity to discover it.” Sabrina D. Black

That resonated with me in light of my introspection as of late. When something happens, or people interact, it causes a ripple that we respond to negatively, neutrally, or positively. Circumstances help shape us by the experience, and we respond to it by internalizing it into the unique way we are designed. Our purpose we find within our design. Circumstances and consequences give us the experience to adapt it, showing us that we are capable. I will elaborate in light of the last post.

A Reformer + Peacemaker = Idealist who loves to learn. Due to the personality of the Reformer type, he has to justify his ideal and choices. He studies deeper than reasonable because of his learning drive and desire to be right and good. Done right and it produces someone who tries to walk his talk. Tempered with the Peacemaker wing/influence helps build bridges.

He is not actively pursuing, but interacting within the circles, he travels because he is also introverted. However, new people keep popping up at just the right time without his looking for them. Taking this design and adding the spiritual gift of service and he’s able to push his boundaries a little, helping behind the scenes. This puts him into contact with other people and relationships are built.

Cap SpeechMy purpose? Well I still fill the gaps, just on a deeper level than I realized. A multi-level gap filler who can give a hand, steward a cleaning team, answer questions, and give advice. Part of the legacy my godson unknowingly left is teaching me there is more to life than myself. He gave me a greater appreciation of life and the experiences of it being what is important. The others we lost, friends and family, taught me sympathy because I know what it is like to hurt. The trauma taught me my limits, the darker side of life, which gave me a greater appreciation of life. Tempered with humility, the realization that in spite of all that has happened throughout my life here, others have it worse.

My purpose…is to help to the best of my ability.

Walking, Talking Miracles

Reflecting after a conversation with my wife the other day, I realized something. We should not be here, yet we are. Is it an accident, are we accidents? A picture on Imgur that a science site linked to broke down the odds of a person being born. It’s nearly zero, however, you are still reading this.

The question remains…why are you here?

Several verses in the Bible speak of God knowing us before we are born, Him forming us in the womb, particularly in my favorite Psalm, the 139th. If He is doing all that, possessing knowledge of our lives since before creation, the answer is clear to me. You are not an accident; you are here for a reason.

That is well and good, so what is the reason.

That is something I am still working on myself, other than the ultimate reason of having a relationship with God through Jesus, and that depends on the choice we make. As to a purpose, I am finding my own inner workings in tandem with encounters are giving me both indicators and learning moments. I will delve deeper into that later, but I will give you two examples now.

I was asked by someone why they deserved to live during a down moment for them. I asked some clarifying questions (because of a book I read), said a quick prayer for wisdom, and gave the answer that has roots in many places. My inner workings demanding that I justify every decision I make sent me into Christian theology and apologetics, which I could tie together to help them. I have to understand who, what, why and how, and that knowledge can help others if they are in a situation I can help with.

The second was when a friend was helping me after my godson died. With his military and law enforcement background, he walked with me through the trauma, PTSD, and the legal system. To look at us, you would not think we had anything in common, yet he is my best friend. We intersected each other at just the right time.

Serendipity or was he placed there through circumstances?

What I will be doing a year or ten years from now, I have no idea. Will I still be in the same job, in the same ministries, and circle of friends? I cannot say, you cannot say; I can only say one thing – we will be making some difference in others’ lives and them in ours. You make a difference and may not realize it.

There is a reason you are here, do not forget that.