What’s in 15 minutes…

The start of a new day.  Work projects are on the docket and are calling for attention.  The temptation is to throw back some coffee and dive right on in.

This is my morning routine and struggle.  Has been ever since I was a teenager.  The distractions have changed, but the pull is that same. It’s that temptation to totally forego any time alone with God and dive right into work…or even Facebook or Twitter.  Don’t hate.  You know you’re there to. Continue reading

Don’t Forget

It’s that thing that you’ve been praying about for weeks, maybe months or years, that you REALLY want.  If God would answer this prayer in a “Yes!”, life would be just that much better.  Ever been there?  I have.  In fact, I’m there right now.  I’m asking for something that I really hope the Lord will answer in the affirmative, but I’m trying my best to stay at the place of “God, I’m asking You to do this, but not my will, Your will.”  Maybe you can relate.  I think we all have been there on a regular, sometimes daily, basis.  Some things small, some things life critical.

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When It’s Time To Leave

Back in August I shared the news here on the blog about a big transition that we were making in our lives as I was stepping out of “vocational ministry”.  It was this time last year that we began to actively pray and plan towards our transition, and now, being on the flip side of it a year later, I’ve been thinking some back through that period of time.

If you do a search on “leaving vocational ministry”, you won’t find a whole lot of helpful insights and articles online.  There are some, but I guess for one reason or another the topic is just not widely blogged about.  One of the gems I did find was written by Ron Edmondson.  You can read the full blog post on his blog, but I wanted to share his thoughts on when it is time to leave a ministry position, an organization, a job, etc.  Not all of these were applicable to my own situation, but several of them were really helpful to me. Continue reading

A little update on us

I’m having to dust the cob webs off of this puppy as it has been so long since I posted anything.  That’s what happens when things happen really fast, and you’re doing good just to hang on 🙂

Much has happened in the life of my family since my last blog post.  Here’s the latest on the world of Jones and some commentary on it:

  • In November we finally got a contract on our house in Aiken.  We feel very blessed in that so many home sales fall through for one reason for another, but the sale of our home made it through.  It ended up taking right at 6 months or so to sell which isn’t too bad at all.
  • With a contract on our home, we started looking for a new house in North Augusta.  We were wanting to move to North Augusta for a number of reasons including we love the place, wanted to get more central to the rest of the CSRA (for those outside of this area, that stands for the Central Savannah River Area and includes areas in both Georgia and SC), and wanted to be closer to our new church community at True North.  So, we started looking around and didn’t find anything.  We had pretty much began to think we would end up renting until the spring.  We had two homes on a Sunday that we were scheduled to look at.  The second house we went to look at was the one we ended up purchasing.  We love the space and the location in North Augusta and are working right now on a number of remodeling projects.
  • We ended up closing on both homes December 20th which as you can imagine had a number of challenges.  Moving is hard enough.  Moving during the Christmas season is borderline insanity.  Yet, that’s the way it worked out, and we ended up making it through.  We’re still wading through the boxes, but it’s getting less and less.
  • Business is going well overall right now as we’re working with a number of previous and new clients.  Excited for the coming months for both Alive Media and 4Thought.
  • It’s been right at a year since we began praying and planning where we thought we were headed.  This time last year, we began to put down on paper where we wanted to be in life a year from now.  We were specific as we could be in some areas of that plan and general in others.  The order in which things happened changed a bit, but it’s amazing to me to look back and see that almost every single one of those goals has been achieved.  That’s a testament to the grace of God.
  • My encouragement to you would be to not just have a goal in mind but to actually put it down on paper.  Type it out, be specific as specific as you can, set out a plan of action and move forward in taking steps to accomplish it.  Spend some time in prayer as you do that and ask God to give you wisdom and direction.  Then, share your plan with a trusted friend or two that will 1. Keep it in confidence and 2. Be real with you and give you honest feedback both positive and negative.
  • That’s it for now.  Gotta go….there’s a box of stuff calling my name to be unpacked still. l8r

Pursuing Christ, Creating Art – A Review

I was thrilled when I heard the news that my friend Gary Molander was writing a book.  I’ve had the opportunity to speak with Gary a number of times on the phone as well as admire his work for several years now.  From those experiences I’ve learned that Gary has so much insight and wisdom for creatives that are on church staffs and/or are involved in creative media production and design.  His book Pursuing Christ, Creating Art is one of those books that I find hard to put down.  Honestly, I think for any church staffing a new creative position, they should be given a mac pro, Final Cut, Adobe Creative Suite and a copy of Gary’s book.

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aj mind dump

Here’s an update on things from the world of Jones:

  • I’m about to enter my 4th full week of being on my own in my businesses.  I’ve had several people ask me “how’s it going?”  It’s going well as we’re still adapting to the new setup.  I’ve been spending the first several weeks beginning to network more and do a lot of laying the ground work for business down the road.  Still a ways to go on that, but I think that it will pay off.  Not huge on the cash flow end of things but a necessity in building for the future.
  • The rest of the time has been spent on finishing up on some existing projects that got put on the backburner because of the time demands in transitioning out of Cedar Creek.  In other words, I’ve been playing catchup on those items.  We’ve wrapped several projects this week so I see a light at the end of the tunnel.  I’ll be posting about those here and on my facebook/twitter accounts.
  • We’re also starting to piece together our video production equipment for shoots.  The next step after that is to develop some script ideas and begin to move them from ideas to execution.
  • I know it’s early on and there will be times where it will be difficult, but as I’ve been working for myself over the past month, I have no doubt that we made the right decision.  I’ve been putting in a lot of hours (some late), trying to network more, dreaming a lot, working to meet deadlines….. and I’m really loving what I’m doing.  It’s been a long time since I could honestly say that.  I’m very thankful for that.
  • The housing market in Aiken, like most places I believe, is REALLY slow right now so not a whole lot of action on our home selling.  October offers a little more promise so we’ll see how things go.  Really looking forward to selling our home and moving into that next phase of our ongoing transition 🙂
  • Totally random: we’ve been doing the song below at church for the last month or so.  Has really spoken to me and where we are.  Good stuff.
  • Excited for the days ahead.


the fear of failure

As I’ve been thinking, praying and living through the last 9 or so months of making the jump to be full time self employed, probably the biggest hurdle in my mind is fear of failure.  It’s the mental exercise you and I do where you go through in your mind all of the “what if” scenarios.  What if we can’t pay the mortgage?  What if we don’t have food?  What if nobody likes this post I’m typing? What if, what if, WHAT IF?!  As I look at my two kids’ faces, this reality of “What if” gets real.  This fear can become paralyzing, but it’s not isolated to those wanting to make career moves.

We face this fear in all areas of our lives.  There have been times as a creative that I’ve been afraid to try a new design or to bring an idea to fruition.  What if others don’t like it?  Fear.  It fleshes itself out in all areas of our lives.  What if I get honest with people about some things I’ve been dealing with? Fear.  What if put myself out there for someone and am rejected? Fear. What if no one notices what I do and it seems to matter to no one? Fear.

So how do you move past that fear barrier?  How do you deal with the reality of fear of failure? Continue reading

AJ Wired Mind Dump

Here’s the latest in the world of Jones:

  • So, it’s been a little over a week since we made our Big News public (see below).  It really was a weight off to make that public.
  • We told the staff last Tuesday afternoon at staff lunch.  That was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  I told them I would have to read the letter to them or I wouldn’t get through it.  I was doing okay until I hit the the thank you’s….then it went straight to ugly crying LOL.  When you’ve invested so much of your life in a place and had some incredible people invest in yours, it’s incredibly emotional making the break.  It was a hard day but a good day.
  • The reaction we’ve gotten from most people has been very positive.  In fact, no one has been negative…to our faces anyway 😉
  • Since I met with Phillip in May, I’ve had a few “What have we done moments”.  Most of those are times when I briefly forget that God’s got this.  The fact of the matter is that if our security is in anything other than Christ, it is misplaced…even for those that work for a church full time.
  • Found out in my research for getting ready to make the jump to being self employed that more businesses are started during economic downturns than any other time.  For us, we’re not starting from scratch but rather building on what we’ve been developing over the last decade.
  • Wow, is this is a bad housing market or what?  For sellers anyway.  I’ve been surprised that we haven’t had an offer yet on our home, although in this economy it’s not a total shock.  The only thing that concerns me is taking advantage of the low interest rates right now.  Just hope we don’t go to buy a home and the rates have jumped up.
  • I think as I look ahead, one of the biggest challenges is which projects to begin with, other than the current and ongoing work we have with our clients.  I’ve also been thinking a lot about what my work week will look like.
  • My hope is to establish an office presence in Aiken (which that’s looking good right now) and then also in the Augusta/North Augusta area.  We’ll see what happens with that.
  • I’m looking forward to football and fall weather but that has been on my mind a lot less than in previous years.  September 1st is approaching fast.
  • That’s all for now. l8r

Our Big News

“In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

I was in my early 20’s when someone first asked me “Are you planning on being a youth pastor forever?” My response was typically “Well, I think before it’s all said and done, I’ll end up doing a little bit of everything.”  I always thought that was an odd question to ask.  Not because  people don’t stay in student ministry for life, but because following Jesus and belonging to Him means that I didn’t just surrender to an area of ministry, I surrendered to Jesus Christ.  At some point He may call us to something that doesn’t look like student ministry.  I didn’t realize in my early 20’s how true that would be.  I’ve had the privilege of serving in student ministry, church media and a whole lot of different experiences that run the whole gamut of ministry.  And now, we’re about to take another turn in the road.

In May of this year, I sat down with Phillip, my pastor, and told him that our season of ministry at Cedar Creek has come to an end.  I asked him if he would be willing to work with us through a transition period, and he very graciously agreed.  So, that transition period is almost up as my last day as Creative Director at Cedar Creek Church will be August 31st.  This wasn’t an easy decision for us, and it came after much prayer, counsel and A LOT of soul searching.

Now, let me just say a few things: Jesus and I are good.  My wife and I are good.  Cedar Creek and I are good.  This has been a process in me that has been developing over the last several years.  So, if you’re looking for some juicy details, I got nothing for ya 🙂  While the last several years have been really difficult at times, I think that is the process that God often uses to move us on.  If we were always comfortable and content, none of us would change or move.

Here’s what’s up next for us:
Over the last decade plus, I’ve developed 2 businesses that I have operated in addition to my work at Cedar Creek.  Alive Media is my web, graphic and video production company that caters to businesses, churches and non profits.  4Thought Media is my company where i develop media (sermon illustrations, video countdowns, motion backgrounds, powerpoint games, and still images) for churches to use in varying ministry settings. I will be launching these businesses into a full time capacity.  We will also begin expanding our video production for businesses as well as partnering with churches to serve as a “Creative Team” for churches that may not have that or even to be a creative resource for those that do.

Also, as I’ve been praying over our next steps, the words “leave margin” keep coming to mind.  I believe that there is another piece to the puzzle that isn’t fully in focus yet, but as we go along, we are trusting that the Lord will make that clear.  I do plan on doing some fill in speaking for pastors and churches that need a break or need a fill in guy, maybe some speaking at student ministry events if that opens up. I’m not sure exactly what that looks like, either, but it sounds fun to me.

I did want to publicly say thanks to some people at Cedar Creek that have been a part of my 13 years of ministry there and have made an impact in my life:

  • Richard Swift – I want to thank you for taking a chance on this really young student pastor way back in the day.  Thank you for stepping out in faith in starting Cedar Creek and for being a leader that others would want to imitate.  You are a giant in my book.
  • Phillip Lee – Thank you for your friendship through the years and for working with me as God worked IN me.  I’m excited for you as God continues to lead Cedar Creek through you.
  • Wes Holbrook – You were a brother to me in some very dark days.  In the desert, you were God’s mouthpiece saying, “Don’t setup camp…Keep walking.”  Love you bro.
  • Danny Neu – You were the first Student Ministry staff that we had in addition to me.  Multi-talented and a servant’s heart.  I’m so thankful to have you as my friend.  Many adventures we’ve had, many more to come I’m sure.
  • Kay Stanley aka K-Bird – Still remember those days in the “Old Post Office” downtown where it was Richard, you, Travis and me.  I think you will end up outlasting all of us 😉  Thank you for going above and beyond and being the face of Jesus to so many.
  • Susan Reck – I’ll never look at a green piece of paper the same way again.  Thank you for going to bat for my family and for keeping the church’s books on target all of these years.
  • Walter Ray – I leave the creative department at CCC in very capable hands.  While I love seeing how God is using you in ministry, the real joy to me is watching you follow Jesus and grow into the man of God you are becoming.
  • Kidz Creek and Centerpoint – Thank you for investing in my kids for all of these years.  Thank you that you not only shared with my kids the Gospel, but also “your very lives as well”. (1 Thess. 2:8)
  • Samantha Thames, Tiffany Stewart, Terry Lee and the GRACE Kidz Staff and Volunteers – I have no evidence of this from Scripture, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if in Heaven there is a place of honor for those that minister to and care for children and people with special needs.  Thank you that you saw a need, that your heart was broken for that need, that you listened to Jesus and made it possible for my son and other children with special needs to know and experience Christ. I don’t have enough words to thank you.

Here’s how you can help:
Pray – We really would appreciate your prayers for our family, especially over the next several months.  This is a HUGE transition, and we’re leaning in to Christ as much as we know how.  Here are some things that we’re praying about that we would invite you to join us in:

1. Clients and the right projects – Obviously we need clients on an ongoing basis (business, church and non profit) to pay the bills, so pray that we would make connections with clients that are a good fit.  Also, pray that the Lord would bring out the creativity in us as we develop new scripts, projects and ideas.
2. Partnership – I really see working with a group of people (2 or 3…maybe more) with Alive Media and 4Thought Media to move them both toward becoming a studio of sorts.  These people would have to be the right mix of talent, heart and we’d have to work well together.  Pray that God would help me make those connections and raise up the right people.
3. House to sell – Right now our house is for sale…a tall order in this market.  Pray that we would get a good offer, preferably from a pre-approved buyer.
4. Transition – Pray for each of us the next several months will be a lot of transition.  Pray that we will all transition well.

Help us get the word out – The most effective marketing in my opinion is word-of-mouth.  If you know someone that is looking for a new website, video production, graphics help, etc., pass my name on to them.

While this is a big step of faith for us, we’re definitely excited about the road ahead.  Here we go.

Called to Stray

Spiritual Dry Times and Desserts” I was called to full time ministry.” “I was called to go be a missionary.” “I was called to work with students.” You know how it goes right: sitting in a worship service of some sort and the speaker begins to tell their story of when they were called by God to some sort of specific ministry, maybe that first step to trust Jesus, to be a missionary perhaps or to enter full time vocational ministry.  Often these stories challenge and encourage me as I see where God has taken them from where they were to where they are now.

Now imagine this: Abraham steps up on the stage at your church and as he begins his story, you hear this: “God called me to wander, to go astray.”  Do what?  Now, I’ve gone astray in my life, I’ve wandered at times, too.  But I gotta admit, that was my own doing though.  Tonight I was reading in Genesis and this phrase grabbed me: “And when God had me wander from my father’s household…” (20:13)  The original Hebrew actually means to stray, stagger, reeling or lead me astray.

Earlier God did call him to leave his home, his father’s house and go to a place to that God would show him.  God didn’t tell him where his destination was, either.  In essence, God was saying to Abraham to “start wandering”, and I’ll let you know when you’re there.  Yeah, that would totally throw off any “must be in control” tendencies I have.  Think about it.  From the outside looking in when Abraham got his “Call To Wander” most people must have thought he was loopy, unwise, not using good judgement, etc.  How could he just do that when he had a family to provide for and all?  So what’s your point, Jonesy?

My point is this:

If you choose to follow Christ fully, there is a possibility, maybe even a certainty, that at some point God will call you to wander.

That’s not comfortable, that doesn’t go down easy, but I believe it to be true.  I’m not talking about God leading you to sin or leading you away from Him to pursue an idol.  What I mean is that there will be a time where God will call you to wander in pursuit of Him, along with Him, through some places that won’t be fun and at times will be downright hell. I’m not talking about “I’m just feeling kinda spiritually dry”.  I’m talking about “I’ve been at this for months, years…when will this season end?” kind of wander.

I don’t have “3 simple happy hops to a better you” to give you on how to deal with it either.  Here’s what I do know from experience and from others that have been there: Choose to keep walking and don’t setup camp there.  Do whatever it takes to keep feeding on the truth of God from His word, lean in to those that are trustworthy at times and keep walking until He leads you out.