Posted by: jonespt | July 23, 2008

I’m reading some interesting books

I’ve started to do what I’m coming to call as “dangerous” reading.  I say dangerous, b/c I’m reading some books that are really challenging to my way of Christian living and are making me do some deep thinking about my walk with God.  This comes in the form of challenging my beliefs, bringing some needed rebuke to my lazy-arse way of following God, exposing some assumptions I’ve always had about my faith that may not be correct, exposing some of my predjudices that I unknowingly live with, etc.  All of these are “dangerous” to my current way of living now (all in a good way).

The two books that I’m reading right now are “The Barbarian Way” by Erwin McManus and “A New Kind of Christian” by Brian McLaren.  One was referred to me by my best friend, sir George Thomas Moore, and the other by my wife and a few close friends of mine in my small group at church.  For those who are familiar with these 2 books, you’ll know that some of the content is much debated, especially McLaren’s book, but I’m not here to address that or what’s right and wrong, I’m just reflecting on how the books are challenging me.  I could write a whole lot, but here’s just a few snippets from my thoughts.

In regards to “The Barbarian Way”, I really like this book and I subscribe to a lot of what he has to say.  I like how he is challenging my laziness and my excuses that I have and pushing me to really being a follower of Christ, and not just a Christian who is religious.  One of my favorite quotes is when he says on pg 65 when he says, “How is it possible that, for many of us, being a good Christian is really nothing more than being a good person?  Then entire focus of our faith has been the elimination of sin, which is important but inadequate, rather than the unleashing of a unique, original, extraordinary, wonderfully untamed faith.”

However, as a side note, I do not jive with the view that true christianity is all about living on the edge, forging rapids, base jumping and rescuing a damsel in distress.  That is not to say that God is not an adventurous God and a christian life characterized by boredom (like mine) is probably not a dedicated life.  I’m just saying let’s not take it too far.  Example, McManus describes his daughter as knowing what it means to be a barbarian and the story he tells to prove it is about her ATVing in a crazy way that is full speed and ends up in a crazy awesome wreck.  Ok, whatever.

In regards for “A new kind of Christian”, I’m enjoying this book much more b/c in some ways I find myself really relating to the character in the story who is a pastor but is finding himself questioning a lot of things about his current way of “doing” the Christian walk.  As I read his introduction, I realized that I was feeling some of the same things and therefore became immediately intrigued about the journey of this character in the book whom I assume mirrors his life in some way.  Now I could probably write for hours about some of my thoughts but I can’t do that now b/c I have my little girl is about to wake up from her nap.  But, I definitely hope to blog about it soon b/c this is just a good way for me to process what God is teaching me.  Suffice it to say, the book is really challenging me to think and I can tell God is using it to draw me closer to Himself, and not to a religion.  It’s helping me seek out Christ, and not just find a new way to abdicate sin in my life and live more morally.  Does that make sense?  Plust, it poses some great questions and thoughts that we as followers of Jesus really need to wrestle with.  So, here’s to continuing the process of joining God in working out my faith with fear and trembling as I seek Him out.

Posted by: jonespt | July 23, 2008

Pure worship

I was at a disciple now (it’s a Baptist thing for those who don’t know; I didn’t know what what it was until I went to a Baptist college) in college when God blessed me with the experiencing of watching pure worship.  It was the last night and the high school youth group was having a talent show where the kids could sing songs, play a musical instrument, etc.  Everyone who participated was doing a great job and I was just sitting their with my crazy and hyped-up 9th grade boys when this girl walked onto the stage as the next performer.  Now I recognized this girl immediately b/c she had stood out to me throughout the weekend as being someone with hardly any friends who looked a little awkward, acted a little strangely, and just didn’t really “fit” into the “in” crowd.  So of course my first thoughts (being the idiot that I am) were, “oh no girl, don’t do it, you’re going to commit social suicide and just give more ammo to these teenagers to make fun of you.”

And well, she then started signing and it only confirmed my first thoughts even more.  She didn’t have a good voice at all, and she just looked awkward up there.  However, as this young girl continued to sing, I began to notice something amazing.  This girl was worshiping!  She wasn’t up there to look cool (like the 11th grade boy rock band full of the “cool” guys who were on before her).  She wasn’t up there to impress us with her voice or try to earn some cool points, she was up there b/c she had a performance to offer to the only member of the audience who was worthy of it, God.  As the song picked up, she began raising her voice, closing her eyes, and swaying back and forth as she sung her heart out before God.  I wish I could remember the words to the song b/c they were along the theme of “God is bigger than.”  And the more she sang, the more embarrassed I felt b/c I was suppose to be the “leader” and the mature one who knows God more deeply than the kids, but I realized that her God was bigger than mine.  The God she was worshiping was awesome and cared about her heart but the God I was trying to impress was more concerned about the external appearance and if it was cool.  I soon realized that “her” God was the real one and that He must be loving it.  I just imagined Him up there in Heaven, closing His eyes, swaying back and forth to His child’s voice, and just soaking up every awesome minute of this pure expression of worship taking place.

This touched my heart so much that as the song was coming to a close, I started to cry a little b/c it was so beautiful and so unfettered and completely untainted with wrong motives and selfish intent; I just was moved so much that I was able to witness this worship and this experience has never left me since.  And for those who’ve read an earlier blog entry of mine about being a safe christian, this is an example to me of that – not holding back and worrying about the christians in the room who may be judging her or worrying about fitting in to the mold, she just knew God and responded with pure worship.  Oh how I long to sing to and experience the God that this young teenage, awkward looking girl knows and then be able to worship Him in the same way.

Posted by: jonespt | July 23, 2008

serving on my terms

So I was talking with a wise friend the other day who made the comment “I’m finding that when we serve someone, even if we have the best intentions, we still do it on our own terms.”  Wow, I mean that’s insightful.  He kept talking in our conversation but I got stuck on that phrase for a little bit and had to ask him to go back and flush that out a little more for me.  Maybe I’ve heard that before, but what we were talking about was a personal issue that I connected with and when I realized that what he said pretty much summed up my attitude toward service, it just stopped me.  I was “cut to the quick.”

It showed me that if I like to serve, I still like to do it on my own terms and when it’s convenient and not based on what the needs of the person I’m serving.  I mean, I like to dictate the when and what and how of my service and not really ask the person what they really need b/c I guess I’m afraid they’ll ask something too inconvenencing (is that a word?) for me.  I guess I’m afraid to get a little “messy” with my service.  And the thing is, when I do it, I don’t realize it, but instead I pat myself on the back b/c I just “served.”  I never examine the fact that maybe what I did was ok, but it isn’t really placing their needs ahead of my own, b/c it’s still serving MY way.

As I was thinking about this more in the bathroom (hey, I said I would be honest when I write), I had another “duh” moment when I realized that Christ was our example for serving in a Christ-like way (I know, obvious isn’t it).  I mean, when God wanted a relationship with us human-folk and wanted to draw us to Himself, He could’ve just sat up there in heaven and said “Hm, I wish I could connect to them somehow, but oh well.”  Instead He, through Christ, decided He’d get a little “messy” and humbled Himself to be made in the form of a man and joined us here on earth (Philippians 2) and then proceded to bring us salvation.  So, I guess we should take our cue from Him and really challenge ourselves when we approach a service opportunity for a friend or a ministry, and ask how I can serve this person on their terms in such a way to where I’m putting them ahead of myself.  I bet I’ll be and you’ll be surprised with how it changes our service.

Posted by: jonespt | July 7, 2008

Update on our move (with pics of our house)

For those of you wondering, our plans to move to Seattle are coming along smoothly due to God’s provision.  We are in the final weeks before the move and are getting the last things settled for our big transition.  Here are the highlights:

1.  We just moved out of the apartment, moved our belongings into temporary storage, and moved our persons into my in-laws house.  We’ll be staying here for 4 weeks until we leave for Seattle.  Our move couldn’t have gone better thanks to the best group of guys from church who helped us out tremendously.  We moved out in record time and it just took such a load of my shoulders.

2.  I found a professional moving company to move all of our stuff out to Seattle.  Next to passing my licensure exam, this is what I was most stressed about.  Originally, my dad and I were going to load up a Penske truck and drive it across country (while towing my car).  But, after some serious consideration of that, we decided against it, and once again God has come through for us in another aspect of this transition, and provided a company that is trustworthy (I hope), and helpful, and comes at an amazing cost.  This also means that my dad and I can now enjoy our drive across country and do a little more sight-seeing along the way.  Our tentative plans include going to Mt. Rushmore and possibly Yellowstone.  We also hope to camp out a night or two, especially under that good ole Montana sky!  I’ll try to take pictures and post them on here in the near future.  Our leave date is July 28th.

3.  I finally took my PT licensure exam last week and that is a huge load off b/c that was really waying me down.  I studied for 3 solid weeks for hours each day and I’m just so thankful I’m done.  Hopefully, I passed that dang test and can finally put this whole school thing passed me once and for all.  If not, well… I don’t want to think about that.  I should find out soon if I passed and if so, I’ll let the whole world know!

4.  Emily and I once again have been take care of by God in that He has miraculously provided for us a house to rent.  This is a dream house for us b/c it’s 1 mile from my clinic, in an awesome neighborhood, it’s 3 freaking bedrooms, has a 2-door freaking garage, and it comes at a wicked awesome price.  Can you tell I’m excited?  I mean, I’ve lived in dorm or an apartment for the last 8 years of my life so I don’t know what I’m gonna do with a home.  To say the least, Emily and I can’t wait to get there.  We’re just so thankful that God provided it.  Here are a few pictures of it (with the current resident’s furniture):

living room

living room

kitchen

kitchen

front of house

front of house

Posted by: jonespt | July 7, 2008

Safe christianity

Well I’m tired of my conservative, safe, comfortable Christian life.  I’m tired of never taking God’s Word literally but instead talking myself out of following Jesus in the way He prescribes b/c I don’t want to step out of my comfortable and safe life that I’ve constructed and entrenched myself in too much to find a way out.  I’m tired of listening to a teaching from God’s Word, believe the Truth in it, think of ways of how I might could apply it in a literal way, and then forget about it hours later.  I’m tired of thinking of a neat, possibly even radical way to serve God with my life or time or money, and then just let it fall by the wayside.

Now before I go further, I need to confess that I’m choosing my words carefully here, and I’m referring to “tired of”.  Notice I didn’t say “I’m ready to do it diffrently.”  Oh no, that would actually entail changes in my life, and since I’ve become so accustomed to ignoring radical christianity or actualy tangible expressions of living out my faith, then I’m sure I’ll just mull over this feeling for a short while and forget about like I forget about a Sunday sermon.  Yeah, that’s my predictable pattern and I don’t know why this will be any different.

I’m thinking about this now b/c I just heard Gib, my teaching pastor, teach on money (from 2 Cor. 8:1-15) this morning and parts of really spoke to me and revealed areas in my life where I want to apply the Truth from these verses.  Mainly the Truth that God owns everything and that God asks everything from me, not just part of me (i.e. not just my 100%).  And though I’ve known this, it’s never really taken root in my life in a practical way.  And since I’m on the brink of starting my career and actually earning a real pay check for the first time in my life, I really need to deal with this now before it’s a few years down the road and I’ve set up for myself and my family a way of living that is comfortable and safe and I won’t want to change b/c I’m too use to living it in that way.  I don’t want to slip into a decision-making mode whose filter is one that doesn’t have the foundation of considering God’s desires and the fact that He asks everything from me.  In short, I don’t want to use my new paycheck to continue a “safe” Christian life b/c I’m scared I’ll never get out of it.

I mean, I can kind of envision a life where I don’t use my religion to hold me back and sit in the stands but actually take God up on His promises and His proclamations and live a life that leans on Him in such a way that if He doesn’t come through for me, I’m screwed.  I want to give abundantly and in return see God provide abundantly.  I want to actually verbalize the Gospel to co-workers and neighbors and not just “live it out” in front of them which is what I’ve always done b/c I think just “living out” the Gospel without telling it is lacking.  I mean, I’ve always subscribed to the method of just being a good example in front of my peers in hopes that one day, maybe someday, they’ll ask me about why I’m “different” and that will spur us on to good conversation.  Really, it’s just the scaredy-cat way of going about it b/c I’m too sissy of a Christian to just come right out with it.  And yeah yeah yeah, I know that building a relationship with someone is important and a good first step (I guess), but still, I’ve done that and I’ve found myself getting so use to our relationship where Christ doesn’t come up that by the time we’ve gotten to know each other well enough for me to talk about Christ, I’m so use to not doing it that I find it even harder to get into it.  All that to say, I just wonder what it’s like to actually being an ambassador for Christ as 2 Cor. talks about.  Again, I envision it being pretty cool where I’ll actually see God working miraculously in my relationships, but oh well, that’s not for safe-ole me…

Well, I hope I can use this new move of mine to try and learn to live out my Christian life-style in new and possibly even radical ways that I’m too scared too try now or too used to my comfortable ways of doing things that it’s too big of a leap to do.  And hopefully, if I do, even if it’s just in a few small ways, I’ll get such an incredible taste of God and His character and see how He actually moves in my life in tangible ways that I’ll become addicted to it and never want to turn back.

Posted by: jonespt | March 20, 2008

Why Seattle

I have friends and family ask me all the time, “why Seattle?”  So I go through the story for them and all our reasons for moving, and inevitably, I’m asked the same question by the same person a short while later.  And the thing is, I don’t blame them b/c such a big move in my current state of living (no money, new baby with hopefully more to follow soon, great church, surrounded by great family, etc.) doesn’t make complete sense and I too keep asking myself that “why” question.  So, I’m just gonna provide a little explanation for those who wanna know as well as to once again convince myself this is the right decision.

It all started with a late night conversation between me and wife where I was explaining to her my desires to try something new and different, something that is out of the status quo for my life, and it mainly revolved around wanting to live somewhere new and exciting.  I felt this way (and still do) because as much as I love being here in Memphis and love all the family and friends that I have here, it’s the only thing I’ve known.  I did move to Mississippi to go to a small private college for 4 years, but my environment there was more or less similar to what I had always known in regards to types of friends, type of weather, type of churches, type of Christian education, etc. and so that didn’t really count for me as living in a different place that brings new experiences, challenges, mindsets, landscapes, and opportunities; and that is what I want.  Also, I just want to be somewhere where I can look out my frontdoor and see a mountain or picturesque lake or the ocean or something other than the nothing I have to look at here in Memphis (and the Seattle area offers ALL of that, plus snow skiing!!)

So of course you’re reading this, and are probably thinking to yourself, “man, that’s kinda selfish to move your wife and child away from all they know and love just for a new experience.”  And on the surface, I agree with that conclusion, and as me and Emily chatted that night, I thought that was all we were really doing.  My point in voicing my thoughts was not to really seek a change, but just to tell Emily what I was pondering over.  But my wife, being the wonderful woman that she is, listened and understood where I was coming from and suggested that we just keep our future open towards moving and that we “look into it” in a kind of nonchalant way.  I was thrilled that she said that b/c she didn’t just write off my desire as some wild, never-gonna-happen idea and leave me hanging.  So major props to her.

So from there (and this is the short version), we started off with “findyourspot.com” (I have a link on this blog) where it asks several questions about your likes and dislikes in regards to your ideal place to live (preferences towards weather, culture, job market, family-friendly, etc) and then it matches up your answers with your top 25 places to live.  It was a lot of fun and I recommend doing it to see what the survey says.  So, my number one place was Tacoma, WA (just south of Seattle) and Emily’s was Spokane, WA (few hours east of Seattle) with Tacoma coming in 3rd.  So, that’s how we first landed on the Seattle area.  I then started researching the physical therapy scene in Seattle just to look for fun, but as I did, I found that it is a hotspot for the exact kind of PT that I want to practice in (orthopedics with a focus in manual therapy).  Plus, I found in the clinics I was hoping to work for opportunities for me to receive the best kind of post-graduate education and mentorship in my profession (mainly through an Orthopedic Manual Therapy Fellowship).  Then, through a myriad of steps, God opened so many doors and lead us to so many people that just clarified that this is where God was leading us.  I mean, it was just random things that happened (that truly were providential) that convinced me and Emily that God was opening this door for us.  I analyzed every aspect of this and kept praying for God to open or close doors according to what He wanted, and every step lead us to Seattle.  I then flew up there in January to interview with several clinics and get a feel for the area.  I received a job offer from my #1 choice (and dream clinic), and we made the final decision a few weeks ago that we’re gonna do this thing.

So I know that God has prepared a place for us there and that this will be an incredibly transforming experience for us, and not just because I will get the chance to grow so much professionally, but also because we’ll be in a whole new environment that is different from the Bible-belt South that I have always known and away from our safety net where God is going to challenge us so much and in that, show us that He is faithful to take care of us, and that is what my family needs.  When we look back on it years from now, I know we’re going to see this was just what our family needed and just where God wanted us to take us into a deeper relationship with Him.

Posted by: jonespt | March 19, 2008

Attempting the impossible

Ok, my last blog was a little serious, so I need to lighten the mood with some lighter reflections.

I was changing my baby girl’s diaper and preparing to but her sunday clothes on when I realized how crazy-difficult this task before me was.  I mean, this has to be harder than pretty much anything else.  I think I’d rather attempt brain surgery b/c at least the brain would at least stay still for me.  Changing a “lively” (and that’s putting it mildly) baby’s diaper and have the baby look somewhat decent and up to the mother’s standards by the end of this marathon is near impossible.  You have to deal with curious little hands searching for anything and everything within reach, and I hate to say, these hands usually stumble upon some form of excrement in which you hope it doesn’t end up on the wall.  You also have to make several life-saving dives as the baby attempts to roll or crawl or jump off the changing table to escape the current restrains they find themselves in.  And then after you have successfully overcome these trials, there is sweat beading on your forehead, your pulse is 137, the baby is frantically crying, and you have still have to fit 8 baby-sized buttons into 8 baby-sized holes.  Of course this takes several trials b/c inevitably button 3 is in hole 6 and the shirt/onesy/dress outfit isn’t fitting right.  Finally, when you realize the baby needs socks and you reach to grab the lacey stocky things your wife set aside, you find that it’s actually a tights-type thing that should’ve gone on first, so a curse word comes out, which the baby then repeats the entire time your undressing and then redressing her.  And you think to yourself, “Wow, fatherhood is filled with the most precious moments ever, just like this one!”
Posted by: jonespt | March 19, 2008

Thoughts on the Church

    I started reading a new book today at the advice of my wife and a few friends, and it got me thinking a little. So, I decided that I should write them down and since journaling in a cool, pensive looking notebook is outdated and for my parents, I figured I’d give this blog-thing a try. So, I’m fresh meat to this and really don’t understand what this is for and all the things that you can do with a blog and add to it so I apologize if my blog is dumb and not up to par to what the others are.   I just think I need an outlet in my life that allows me to catalog my thoughts and hopefully grow from them as I do. And then I hope that if anyone reads it, mabye my thoughts will stir them and lead to growth for them as well.
    So, the book I’m reading called “A New Kind of Christian” is what got my thoughts going this morning.  I was reading a section that talked about the author’s experience of challenging all his old thoughts and way of doing life (i.e. his worldview) and at first I was skeptical of a pastor challenging his faith and ministry because I automatically revert to judgement (because I’m real bad about judging other Christians) and think he just doesn’t get it or he must not be a pastor of a strong biblical church.  I think this because I come from a very rooted Christian experience full of a lot of teaching and instruction from my parents and church leaders concerning into the Christian life and God and the church, and I am very defensive about new ideas that suggest my background was lacking or had inconsistencies.  And though I appreciate my background and my childhood church and youth group for the foundation that I do believe it provided and for my parents who are the Godliest of people who I look up to so much, I realized as I read his list of reasons for why he started to question his faith that I saw a lot of the same things in my experience as a Christian and the same inconsistencies in the churches that I have attended.  Therefore, that leaves me thinking that maybe I need to investigate this a little and not be so afraid to question the church for what it does.
    Now I am not saying that I am going to question the Bible because I still believe that to be absolutely true and the source of Truth.  In fact, God’s Word is what I want to use as my anchor as I question the church and its inconsistencies.  One of the points the author stated was that as he read the Bible and what Jesus taught, it didn’t match up with the way the church was acting and I say I must agree.  For example, I see a lot of wealth in the southern churches that surround me and I also see so much poverty in the cities that surround me as well, and I only see the gap between these growing.  I don’t see the churches addressing this but only building bigger buildings and moving further and further from making a point of going into the city to minister.  I mean sure, they each have their events once or twice a year where they do something for those less fortunate in their neighborhoods or they have a some people who volunteer to serve regularly, but as a whole, there is no way that the churches can argue that they truly care about the city and the poor because their actions suggest they really don’t.  And what’s worse, as they build these buildings, they say they’re for the purpose of allowing more people to hear the gospel and helps them minister to more people when in fact it just makes more room for other church “country-club” members to retreat to instead of actually going to the places that need it.  That’s one of the things that I see as a major inconsistency with what Christ did and taught and what the church does now.  Christ’s first act toward this world was that he left heaven and came to earth to meet us where we lived.  Then, he didn’t build a building and invite people to listen to him talk, he went out where they were: parties, houses, local markets, country-sides, the streets, etc.  And, he didn’t waste his time ministering to the hypocrites of the day but he engaged the sinners and the poor and the sick; all those whom the religious hypocrites of the time cast to the side. (the same kind of people that the current church disregards).  
    So, all that to say, there are definitely things that the kind of church that I grew up in is doing wrong and missing the boat on.  Now I don’t want to be ignorant and label every single church as doing this because that’s not true.  Some do a great job at some of these things, but as a whole, the church that I have grown up with in the south does have a lot of problems that needs to be addressed/changed.  And, I’m tired of being a part of that kind of church because I’m missing out on doing what Christ wanted us to do, and I’m missing out on living a life that truly follows Jesus.  Instead, I’m replacing it with a life that is comfortable and safe.  At the root of that, though, is selfishness because I’m afraid that living a life that Christ has called me to involves giving more than taking and letting go of my worldly securities and comfortable lifestyle for a life that trusts God in ways that I’m scared to.
    Well, those are my thoughts and really are the theme of what most of my meaningful thoughts are about so I’m sure I’ll be writing more about that in the future.  If you read this and had any reflections of your own such as agreements, disagreements, questions, etc; please give me your comments and hopefully we can learn from each other.
    Cheers 

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