21 days in

I can remember vividly the sound of explosions, the sand and debris flying all around… it was day 21 of ABGD training at ft Dix New Jersey. We were at what was loosely called “the beach”, but there was no water or beautiful sunsets. We were learning to “low crawl” (a battlefield technique to keep yourself low so you don’t wake up dead) among other skills, and the night before our cadre had warned us that if we do not hydrate we will not make it through the arduous day to come. So as we awakened sometime in the morning or night who knew, we gathered in our “fire teams” (teams of 4 men) and began training. I had definitely underestimated the difficulty of the beach. At some point in the early afternoon temperatures had risen tremendously (it was well over 100 degrees with heat index) I began to experience leg cramps to the point I was dragging my left leg because of  dehydration, but quitting was not an option. If you couldn’t complete a task during ABGD you were sent back to week 1 to begin again or worse washed out completely. I began to have clouded vision and hyperventilating yet I continued with the motivation of two members from my fire team (Joseph Rind and Wayne Fox) that I actually was in charge of….I could feel myself near falling into complete heat exhaustion, but was powerless to do anything about it. I know some are thinking to yourself, I know you had water on your LBE, (load baring equipment) but I had gone through all my canteens and resources. As I came to the end of one part of the course headed to the next, I saw black and began to fall. The next thing I remember is the feeling of drowning as water being forced down my throat and Fox’s squeaky voice saying, “you will not wash out and leave us here today, drink Jonesey”… they had caught me as I fell (I had become very slow on the course but they wouldn’t leave me) they dragged me into the edge of the woods unseen by our cadre and FORCIBLY  hydrated me (all military members understand this term) they gave me all of their water at the risk of becoming dehydrated themselves. They helped me up and “motivated” me and we all finished day 21, together. I was completely at fault, because I had not prepared for the day and I messed up. My mistake could have not only cost me but my guys as well. They had choices that day: 1. let me fall 2. tell the instructor I wasn’t prepared, 3. pick me up without anyone knowing, and helping me back to my feet. Thankfully, I had friends… no brothers who despite my failure picked me up, tended to me (if they had been caught we would all be washed out) and it was never held against me. In fact, the conversation that night was, “I’m glad we were there Jonesey”… they didn’t even judge me, and didn’t inform anyone else of my failure that day; they just helped me make it through day 21. Someone from another fire team said, “dont think I didn’t see what happened” Fox immediately got in his face and let him know it ends here, not to be mentioned again.  You know in life, there are plenty of opportunities to let someone fall. There are plenty of opportunities to tell other people about someone else’s failure, but we need to realize it could be us next. If you see someone make a mistake get them recovered and show them mercy….and if need be defend them, even if they were the one to mess up. People deal with enough than to have a friend abandon them when they need them the most. 21 days in, the only easy day was yesterday! You can make it, just don’t quit!!

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Know His Voice

When I was in basic training, we were standing in formation waiting on everyone to finish their 60 second breakfast, and it was common for our drill instructor to come walking up about 100 yards away and yell, “flight, attention”…. even in the midst of several flights, we knew our instructor…we knew his voice and learned to respond to it. On this certain day we heard his voice from way off, flight, attention!! The only problem was it was not our drill instructors voice, but someone who could mimic him really well. We got in a lot of trouble and raised the sea level that day (push ups till we hurt) simply because we responded to the wrong voice. And likewise, I am afraid there are many people who think they are hearing “the Lord speak” to them but the voice isn’t Gods… be careful that you don’t step out of the will of God by listening to the wrong voice… remember when you say, “I’m hearing God” there are some absolutes:
1. It will always line up with His word (bible) if it doesn’t, it’s not HIS voice…
2. It will never lead you back into bondage..
3. It will never take you out of the place of His will!!
Sometimes as believers, I think we hide behind our desire to do something by saying, “I heard God”… this was just in my heart today… don’t get in a bad place by listening to your voice or your adversaries voice. I’ve learned we are most vulnerable to “hearing the wrong voice” just after a disheartening encounter or on the heals of a great victory… and lastly God’s will for your life doesn’t change simply because you had a falling out with someone or even you failed Him…He doesn’t change His mind. (Contrary to popular church folk opinion)
John 10:27 my sheep know my voice..

All Weather Friends

I’m probably about to be way too transparent…but I just want to say thank you to everyone who calls me friend and who have stuck with me in this learning process we call life. To the ones who have stuck with me when I was far from perfect in my “performance” rather in daily life, being a pastor or in the pulpit, husband, dad or friend, because the truth is we all have good days and bad days, but a true friend doesn’t determine rather they will be your friend based on how well you perform, they love you for YOU, mistakes and all. If someone walks out because you didn’t do according to what they think you should do (even if you did make a mistake) let them walk you are probably not losing very much. In my time as a pastor I quite often meet people out of necessity (at all hours of the night and day) who have struggled in life or should I say their performance was at an all time low… what I have learned is just love them right where they are, mistakes and all…And then daily walk with them until they can begin to walk out of whatever it may have been that brought them to that low. There will be times they stumble, but I’m not going to write them off just because they didn’t act in a way I thought they should, and hopefully they will not write me off when I don’t act in the way they think that I should. I guess if we error, let it be on the side of mercy. When they get it right 8 times out of 10, love them the other 2 as well, because the truth is they probably need you more during the 2 than the 8…So to everyone who has been with me through my 8’s and stayed with me during my 2’s, thank you. It would be a great thing for you to find someone today who thinks that their mistake was final, you should tell them that God already equated their failure into the future, and your not giving up on them just because they didn’t meet your expectations. Love them through it and stick it out! People deal with enough every single day and they don’t need to have to deal with another unspoken goodbye… and I probably need to say I am not telling you to enable someone or to be abused by someone, but in most cases just show mercy and stick with them… thank you to my all weather friends, you have had a huge part in getting me to where I am.

It’s a learning process

After 16 years of being lead pastor with my 16th anniversary a few days ago and 1 year of being “gofor” pastor (go for this and go for that)  I have learned so much with each passing year…
1.) I am learning every single day and I am not even close to “having arrived”…
2.) I have learned, never submit your resignation on Monday:) Don’t make a permanent decision based on a temporary circumstance.
3.) Don’t criticize something you do not know anything (enough) about. Some get caught up in publicly criticizing other ministries that we have no idea why they actually do what they do. Because when you are looking from the outside in you can’t understand the direction or reasoning for decisions that they have made. I was a church member longer than I have been a pastor.
I have never left a church unless to move to a different state, and although I was close to my pastor (very close, at his house weekly) I still didn’t know enough to criticize him (although I would have never) I realized that if I did not hear it out of his mouth it didn’t weigh very much with me. I think this is a pretty good rule… Rumors always grow with every person. So if it starts off he makes $300 too much a week by the time it gets around to everyone he is making $160,000 a year:) (which he actually deserved having to put up with some he had to put up with…😳) most second hand information is from a position of being on the outside looking in… also don’t allow church members to beat up on your subordinate ministry leaders. Most of them are volunteers (for me anyway) and are doing their very best.  Always coach them up but never tear them down.  I know at the moment it’s hard to tell which is which for the person being coached..
4.) I have learned if someone tells me so and so said this… I Don’t take the word of the person that brought me the information, but go to the person who supposedly said it and ask them. Chances are they didn’t say that thing that was said, and if there was something said with negative connotation, try to work out the disagreement agreeably. The pastor is not always right and the member is not always wrong and  Vice a versa
5.) I have learned don’t take too much stock in a down Sunday or invest too much emotion in a big Sunday. A church breathes in and a church breathes out. There will always be some coming, and  there will always be some leaving.
6.) I have learned you can’t do the work that God called you to do by yourself. You have to find Jesus for yourself, but you shouldn’t serve him by yourself.
7.) I am learning don’t let a few people change your opinion of most people. There are amazing people in church, And there are mean people at church. And I have learned there are times a sweet person can be mean, and there are times that a mean person can be sweet:) I would also put pastors under the same category. After all we are all human with the same emotions and shortcomings.
8.) Lastly, I have learned when God has you at a certain place don’t ever leave out of frustration and get out of the will of God; also don’t overstay your season. If and when you do leave, do it the right way. And always remember it’s not a business that you are trying to build, it’s the kingdom of God…..Your Personal study, worship and prayer time will keep you in the right perspective.

 

I still consider myself a novice and I know every situation is different, but each year if I remain teachable I’ll learn more and more.
Oh yeah and you always need a mentor into your life that can rebuke you when your wrong… i’m sure there are tons of things that could be added to this, and probably some that could be removed… just my perspective..

United we Stand

The United States of America is to me…the greatest nation in this world, even with it’s woes and problems. Our flag should be a uniting symbol  of Americans!! A moment that we can as Americans say, I know we have disagreements and problems that have to be fixed, but we are ALL, rather black, white, red, yellow or blue, we are all “One Nation under God…..” I understand the need some feel to protest equality or injustice, but let’s not during a moment that all of our disagreements should cease, while we are unified and united as brothers and sisters around the flag. If our flag wasn’t an important statement or symbol, it wouldn’t be draped over the coffin of a soldier who comes home after sacrificing their life for this great country. I know some say they are not disrespecting our military when they do not respect the flag, but I can tell you as a veteran, nearly all that have served and are serving take it as a poke in the heart. Until you have stood at attention while saluting a flag covering your friend that just gave up his life for this great nation, it’s hard to explain how it truly makes you feel. I can’t make everyone honor and respect our flag, but I can certainly tell you that my family and my children are honored to stop when our national anthem plays, face the Flag and place our hand upon our heart. I know my voice isn’t large enough to reach everyone, but I can reach someone. We need unity!! And yes, we can still have disagreements yet be in unity. Ray Goodson (a WWII veteran and hero) taught me that you can disagree but do it agreeably. The truth is, I know America cannot be healed by holding hands around a raised flag, but we can certainly respect the flag while standing UNITED as Americans and still our voices can be heard, AND we can listen to the voices that are speaking, without drawing a rigid line of division… honestly the only thing that’s going to heal our nation is #2c714 I ask that you please do not put any dividing or argumentative statements on this post. This isn’t necessarily about the protest that are taking place before #NFL games; it’s about anytime we have the opportunity to stand united as a nation, around our flag, we should do so with pride in our heart knowing that our nation is not perfect but it is the best nation in this old world… to all of my friends from Canada, Africa, Mexico, India, Uruguay and England… Don’t be mad at me you know I bleed red, white and blue!  The last thing I will say is a quote from one of our great Presidents, united we stand divided we fall…

WW2 hero

I remember when I was about 12 years old, I was spending a couple of weeks with my grandparents at their home in the country (Hebert, La) One specific morning we got up and had a huge breakfast as usual, but on this morning my granddad (JD Parker) kept looking out the front door as though he was expecting company (which we didn’t often happen so far out on the Boeuf River) . It wasn’t very long that I realized he was Looking for and expecting company. As I looked out the door I saw an elderly gentleman getting out of a very nice vehicle and began almost jogging towards my granddad, and when they met face-to-face, I will never forget seeing this man hug my granddad for what seemed like a solid minute. He kept saying “thank you, thank you, thank you…After all of these years I finally found you….. I just wanted to come say thank you….” My granddad very casually says you’re welcome. As I sat in the dining room just off of the living room and eased dropped on the private conversation, I soon found out why he was thanking my granddad. They were both serving in World War II and my granddad’s unit, along with the gentleman that came to see him, was pinned down by enemy fire, and they had to have someone that would go for help because their radio had been destroyed. My granddad volunteered and went through enemy lines (rather sneaking or fighting I do not know) that day to get help and save his #brothersinarms from certain death, and this gentleman had been searching for my granddad ever since just to thank him. I also learned at that moment that my granddad received the medal of valor and a Purple Heart. I will never forget that moment. Well today my aunt (Judy Evans) gave me the flag that was given at my Grandads funeral, and my sweet wife @tiffanyjones73 placed it in a shadowbox for me. I must admit I was a bit overwhelmed with emotion. As a #veteran myself it seems to mean a little more!! #mycountry #myflag #ww2veterans52366468113__A89CC0E0-A425-40A8-B3F7-CF7C76EB2C44.JPG

Broken crayons still write

broken crayons still color… when my daughter was about 3-4 years old, she was coloring in the floor when all of a sudden she began sobbing uncontrollably. I asked her, what’s wrong baby girl? Her response was barely understandable…it’s broke it’s broke. She had pressed too hard and broke her (pink) crayon in half, and with tears running down her face she was holding one half in each hand and looking at me only the way a daughter with hurt feelings can look at a father. I got down on the floor with her and said baby just because it’s broken doesn’t mean it’s no good. I grabbed a fresh piece of paper (so I would not ruin her masterpiece) and wrote her name and then colored in the vowels…. I then said to her, see baby broken crayons still color, now you have one and I have one.
You know much like this experience, life can put so much pressure on you that it can break you, but I want you to know that broken crayons still write. You still have value and usefulness. Don’t let your brokenness keep you in the box. Color through your brokenness because much like when my daughter thought her broken crayon was a tragedy, it provided double the usefulness, one for her one for me… broken crayons still write…