All posts by jimazing

Earliest Memory

What better way to start telling my story than to tell you my earliest memory.  My family lived in Charleston, SC very close to where the I-526 Mark Clark Expressway is now.  My mom and dad had purchased a little house that had a screened porch on the back, a fenced in backyard and a huge oak tree that I liked to play around.

There were several children on the street that played together.  We probably did this a lot, but one day we were in the front yard of my home running and playing ring-around-a-rosie and I wondered if I would remember that.  I must have overheard some adults talking about their early memories and I wondered if I would be old enough to remember that.  I decided that I was old enough and that this would be my first memory.  That probably says a lot about the way I think.

What was your earliest memory?


Recently, I asked myself the question that guys my age ask themselves so often. What am I here for? What is my calling? What bothers me so much that I could give the rest of my life to making it better? And you know what? I had an answer. It was so clear. It wasn’t a new idea, which made it feel even more real. But it was the first time that this was the answer that came to me when I asked the question:


Hearing peoples stories, Helping people tell their stories, telling my story.

Continue reading Stories


Happy New Year to friends and family. Please take a moment to read our 2006 annual family newsletter click here. I haven’t yet finished the collage, but I did start it. I’ll post a message when I am done. All done. It’s on the menu to your left, or you can click here.The new year is off to a bang in my life. Already I feel emotionally and spiritually stirred. The one emotion that I choose to focus on is hope. I am hopeful that by the end of 2007 I will have become more of myself and more Christlike. Does that sound contradictory? When I say that, I mean that Christ is in me and yet I carry so much baggage that is not part of what He wants for me. As I allow Jesus to reveal himself to me, he transforms me into more of who he made me to be. At the same time, He works in me to drop off the baggage in my life. I believe the end product is Christ in me, my hope of glory. It is not about me. it is about CHRIST IN me. I imagine a day when I can confidently be myself using the talents, strengths and gifts that God built into me, not in a narcissistic way, but where Christ lives in me.
I pray for physical, emotional and spiritual breakthroughs in the coming year to make me more like Jesus. That is like praying for pain and discomfort because God speaks to me when I am uncomfortable (Please see my post on The Jar). I want to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Not because I am a masochist, but because I know that it is through discomfort that change, real change happens… and I want to change more than anything.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)

I wish for you a blessed 2007.

Christian–The Noun

The word, “Christian” is a noun. You remember nouns from high school English class, right? A person, place or thing. The proper use of the word is something like, “I am a Christian.” The problem is that we have created an adjective from it. Rob Bell points out in his book, Velvet Elvis, that when we use Christian to describe, books and music, at best we blur the meaning and at worst, we say things that are untrue.
For example, what is “Christian” music? Is it music that is performed by Christians? Is it music with words about God from a Christian world view? (Whoops, I’m already in trouble. What is a Christian world view?) I am a Christian and I am a musician. When I play music, is it Christian music? What if it has words that don’t talk about God? What if it has no words at all? Is it still Christian music?

Is Christian music, music with a Christian theme? Is it worship music? Is Christian music the same thing as gospel music? What if it is performed by musicians who do not consider themselves to be Christians? I once knew a guitar player who was not a follower of Jesus and yet he loved to listen to (and perform) country-gospel music. Was it Christian music when he played it?

Do you see how quickly things get ugly when Christian is used as an adjective? Many of us Christians like to join together to find a consensus towards a goal or against something or someone else. For instance, the religious right want to make a Christian world view equivalent to republican world view. I think we do that sort of thing because it feels good to have our beliefs validated by others who believe the same thing we do. While validation and consensus sounds like a great thing, it is counterproductive to our becoming more like Jesus. “Christian” does not work as an adjective.
According to the Bible, God has given each of us unique spiritual gifts. I like to think of these gifts as talents and strengths given to us by God and blessed by Him to help us be the Body of Christ. Just like a body with many members, we all have unique functions. (Functions is not really the right word. It implies something I don’t mean. I am talking about “being” the Body, not “doing something”). I am at my best in the Body of Christ when I am being who I am in a Godly way. When I begin to change because I am concerned with what someone will think, I am moving the body towards conformity and away from being Christlike. A body was never intended to be an eye or a hand or a toe or a spleen or a liver. We need all the parts functioning the way they were created to function.
The best thing we can do as Christians is agree on the basics that make us Christians. After that, we should be able to hold our different beliefs and views. We should discuss them, learn from one another and most of all respect one another when we disagree. Agreeing to disagree is not a bad thing, but we cannot truly agree to disagree until we know that we disagree. We can only know that we disagree by listening to one another. Can we listen without agreeing? Of course we can.

By retaining our own views, beliefs, talents and strengths, the body becomes much more healthy. In The Wisdom of Crowds, James Surowiecki says that groups are smarter when the individuals can think and act independently of one another. I believe that the Body of Christ is smarter and more effective when everyone is able to bring their own perspective to the table… not to convince everyone that they are right and the others are wrong… but to share their perspective.

If everyone has a different perspective, how can there be a single “Christian” world view? There cannot be. “Christian” does not work as an adjective.
When we discuss a particular topic in my small group and we start moving towards a consensus, I frequently find myself asking if our consensus view is true of the universal Church. If it is not, I push back. The reason is that when we reach consensus in our little community, we shut off our brains and our hearts. That is counterproductive to our being the Body of Christ. Consensus implies that we are all the same. It feels good, but in my experience it is usually unhealthy. It feels good in the same way that having an advantage over my opponent feels good. This is not a game that we win or lose. The Body of Christ is not about being against non-Christians, it is about being Christ to them.
Being a Christian is about following Jesus. There’s so much more to following Jesus than having a cute Christian bumper sticker or Christian key chain fob.

I suggest that we stop using Christian as an adjective. It is too confusing and when it is not confusing, it is comforting for all the wrong reasons. Will you join me in reinstating “Christian” the noun?


alarmclock.JPGAbout 6 weeks ago, I read this blog about getting up early in the morning. I want to be more disciplined about my wakeup time. Reading this raised my awareness that I had slipped back into a pattern of fighting the pillow every morning (and the pillow was winning too often). I was getting up at the last possible moment and rushing out the door almost every day. I decided to do something about it. I would get up at a specific time every morning 7 days a week for one month and then evaluate whether or not it was working for me. I did it and this is my evaluation…

I quickly realized how untrustworthy my will is at 5:15 in the morning. As soon as the alarm goes off, I start whining (on the inside) about needing five more minutes. In the moment, I truly believe that five minutes will make all the difference in the world. Just a little more rest and I will be ready to get up. Of course five minutes really makes no difference at all and if I give in, I’ll be whining for five more. The key for me is that I put my feet on the floor immediately when the alarm sounds. I can sit for about a minute before my backup alarm goes off. Yes, I have a backup alarm. I am sneaky and untrustworthy at 5 AM and I love to sleep. Here’s the wakeup alarm algorithm. I have a fancy radio/CD/alarm clock that my family gave me for Father’s Day a few years ago (Thanks ladies, I still like it). It has two independent alarm settings. I set the first one to go off at 5:00 AM softly playing NPR news. It gets gradually louder until I reach up and turn it down. I am still mostly asleep. At 5:15, my phone alarm sounds. This is the “real” alarm. When this one goes off, it is time to put the feet on the floor. No excuses. I mechanically sit up and put my feet on the floor. After about another minute, I get the backup alarm. My Father’s day alarm clock changes from news to an annoying buzz (just to make sure I didn’t talk myself into sleeping in again).

Even then I am still not really awake. I could easily lay back down and snooze away. So, I go brush my teeth, shave and either shower, or get ready for my morning run with the guys (depending on the day). Only then can I trust myself to stay up. So that’s the routine. Boring, eh? Some of the toughest things for me in life are the boring, repetitive tasks that have to be done.

Each morning, the goal was to get up. that’s it. Not to have a quiet time or to read my bible or anything else. Just get up. I’m a simple man with simple needs. I know how easy it is to take on too much and fall flat on my face. At 48 years old, I know that there have been times in my life that I have been good about waking up early, but they didn’t last. I wanted to evaluate getting up alone, so I limited my focus to the getting up part.
So what did I do? Some mornings I read the web, books, read my bible, meditated, reflected on stuff, prayed. I wrote in my journal and I wrote a blog or two. There were a few mornings that I was still very tired and sleepy even after my wakeup routine… so I took a nap. If that sounds like cheating, I didn’t see it that way at all. I made the decision using my rational, awake mind. The cool thing was that I could be up for an hour, take a 30 minute nap, feel refreshed and still not have to rush out the door.

The first Friday night after completing the month, I stayed up late and decided that I wanted to sleep in on Saturday. Again, this is my rational mind doing the decision making. So, off with the alarms. I slept in until about 8:30 and it felt great! I needed the rest and I didn’t feel like I violated any promises to myself by sleeping in. Later that day, I realized how much I missed that time. The day just flew by even faster than ever.

Sleeping in helped me come to make the decision to continue to get up early. I am making a few changes though. Fifteen minutes of radio is too long. It is just long enough for me to fall back asleep. So I am cutting the “gentle wakeup time” from fifteen minutes to five. The other change is that just getting up is not enough for me now. I am ready to kick the discipline heat up a notch. Now that I am sure that I can get up out of bed even when I don’t feel like it, I believe that I can add one little thing to that routine. I have decided to begin writing every morning for 20 minutes. I can write here, on my blog. I can write in my journal, I can write a letter… anything I want to do, the promise to myself (and anyone who’s reading) is to write for 20 minutes every day. I will try this for a month and evaluate it.


My posts are boring!

Why do you keep reading my blog? You say it is good. you say you like it, but you don’t… not really. If it were a great movie, you would have told your friends, “You have got to go see this!” If it were a funny video on YouTube, you would emailed it out or hosted it on your blog… if my blog entry had really been all that, you would have told your friends about it… at least once. Tell me what you really think. That’s what I need to hear.

Continue reading Boring!


Noise everywhere! I’m sitting in the library waiting for Jeanie who is in a meeting at work. I have an hour to read and write… Kids are running around making noise and their mom is letting them. Interestingly, she fusses at the older girl for making noise when it is the younger one who is making more noise. (What’s up with that? ) I thought the library was supposed to be the “quiet zone”.

Continue reading Noise

The Jar

 Have you ever felt like your emotions were out of control? Like the way you are feeling is incongruous with the situation. Something small happens and you get all bent out of shape about it. That happened to me in a huge way a few months ago. Something insignificant had happened, but I was really upset about it. I was feeling embarrassed about something I had done and I was beating myself up about it. At the same time that my emotional mind was out of control, my rational mind was engaged and asking why in the world, I was overreacting to the situation. The emotions I felt didn’t add up to the situation.

I know that when I am feeling something deeply, there’s more to it than just emotion. When I am feeling something irrational, I know there’s some real gold to be found in mining that. It is worth figuring out what is at the root of it all. The problem is that it is uncomfortable to even admit that I’m irrational. How can I be introspective when I feel stupid?

Russian Dolls

russian-dolls.gifAt a retreat I attended a few years ago, Gordon McDonald compared us to Russian dolls (you know the little dolls that you open up and there’s another one inside that looks just like the one you opened only smaller. He said that the outside doll is the one we show to people. So, when I meet you, the Jim that you see is my outside doll (Jim-1). If I get to know you better, I will show you (Jim-2), but I’m going to have to feel pretty darned safe in order to share Jim-3 with you. Jim-4 might have secrets about me that only my best friends will ever know. I expect to spend the rest of my life learning more about Jims-5, 6, 7… The key is that I don’t know everything there is to know about me. The reasons I behave irrationally is that on some level it isn’t irrational. Jim-13 may be crying out for attention. Maybe something happened to me when I was little that I don’t even remember… but it affects me. It is part of me. I want to find out and give Jim-13 what he needs.

Three Questions

I have begun asking myself a series of questions to find out what’s going on inside when I feel. The intensity of the feeling is more important than the feeling itself… at least at first. A feeling may be huge and debilitating, or it may be just a little flip in my gut. It can be a flush of embarrassment or a sudden defensiveness. When I recognize it, I am learning to ask these questions:

  1. What am I feeling?
  2. What do I believe that is causing this feeling?
  3. Is the belief true?

Feelings are caused by beliefs. I don’t mean something spiritual (necessarily). My beliefs are the way I truly see the world (like a map). For instance, I am feeling confident and comfortable sitting in my chair typing on this computer because I believe that the chair will hold me up and that the computer will work long enough to help me publish this blog. (I just felt a sense of mistrust in the computer which caused me to save my work.)

Once I know what the belief is, I need to know if it is true or not. Sometimes I believe things that just are not true. When that’s the case, the first step is to know the truth and allow it to replace the lie. Sometimes, my belief is true, and the feeling is valid. That is a good thing to know, when I feel confused.

Many times the belief that causes the feeling is unrelated to the situation at hand, which makes the puzzle that much harder to solve. That’s not fair though. If it wasn’t related, the situation would not have triggered it. Rather than say it is not related, it would be more accurate to say that the belief is related to the situation only in my heart. No one else would connect this belief from my past to this situation in the present, but I did. I know I did because I recognize the feeling and I recognize the belief. Just because it is only related in my heart does not make it false. Something is going on inside of me and it is worth the effort to get to the root.

An example of when I did it right… When I was a kid, I was a complete klutz when it came to sports. I didn’t like sports and sports didn’t like me. In PE class, when the team captains picked their team players I was always the one at the end that they both wanted to give to the other team. The one time I tryed out for little league I got taken out on the first cut (and I was glad). A few years ago, I started exercising regularly. One thing led to another and I began running. I started running with my friend, John fairly regularly about a year ago, but John was a much better runner than I. I apologized for slowing him down. John is the one who started my thinking around the three questions, and he asked what I was feeling and believing in the moment. I was feeling like the athletic failure from school because I thought I was impeding his goals. He assured me that the reason he was running with me was because he wanted just wanted to be with me. So the answer to question #3 was no. The belief was not true. After that, I felt better about running with him… and we are still running together… and I don’t slow him down (as much as I used to).

Back to the original story… I was embarrassed over what I had done, but it didn’t make sense. Why was my stomach all in knots when nothing was wrong? What was I feeling? What was I believing? Were my beliefs true?

Did I say that the questions were easy to answer? They are not. It is hard to work through the feelings in the moment when we are feeling such intense emotions. However, in the midst of it all, I had a vision of a jar…

The Vision of the Jar

I saw a large clear glass jar, like the ones you might see in a restaurant kitchen. The jar was full of clear water. You could see straight through the jar and the water. At a glance, I thought that the water was clean, but on second look I noticed that there was a layer of sediment on the bottom of the jar. The sediment was all settled so it didn’t cloud the water at all. Then the jar got bumped ever so slightly. The silt and mud in the bottom stirred up a little and caused the water to become cloudy. After a while, the cloudiness settled and the water was clear again. Another time, the jar got shaken a bit and the stuff was all stirred up in the water causing it to be so murky I could not see through it at all. As the jar remained still, the sediment began to settle once again to the bottom of the jar until it was clear again.

The jar of water is me. When the water is clear, things are going well. Nothing is bothering me and I am not bothering anyone else (as far as I know or care). To look at me, you might think I have it all together. You might say that Jim-1 is polished up for showing off. I am feeling good and looking good. The world is right because I feel right.

The problem is the sediment. The sediment is the junk in my life; the hurts I have received, the names I have been called, the times I have been disappointed the embarrassing moments, the times I tried and failed, the times I didn’t even try, the broken promises… It is also the hurts I have given, the names I have called others, the disappointments I caused, the promises I have broken. The sediment lays there just under the surface where neither of us can see it. Then something happens to stir it up. Maybe it is a small bump of the jar like a glaring look or being the butt of a joke. Rather than address it, I hold my chin up and try to be very still emotionally until eventually, the as the feeling goes away, the water becomes clear. Ahhh now I can continue with life. Everything is fine. Except it isn’t.

Life is full of bumps to mess up my jar by stirring things up. The key seems to be in understanding that the sediment is there and not ignoring it. The sediment is part of who I am. When I stop ignoring it, I can better understand who I am; where my feelings, thoughts and behaviors come from. When I understand me better, I can handle life much better. Not by ignoring the junk in my life, but by understanding it.

Here’s the rub… I can truly only examine my sediment while it is stirred up. Once it is settled, I cannot see it. I can talk about it abstractly, but it is on real in the moment. In the moment, I can feel it. It is ugly. Only when I believe that there is great value in understanding the sediment, will I welcome the shaking and stirring of the jar. Even then, it is a love-hate relationship. I don’t want to see the sediment. I don’t want to feel it, but I truly want to understand who I am, so I am learning to be comfortable with the discomfort.

Each time I have gone through the process of examining the sediment, I feel like I have grown more. The things that I do not know about me block me from being the person God wants me to be. Who does God want me to be? Me! The hurts, habits and hang-ups in my life prevent me from being me.

I was so glad to learn that I don’t have to go through the examination process alone. As I learn more about my sediment, I have discovered that God meets me there. In fact Psalm 139:23-24 addresses it this way:

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

I want to be searched and known. I want to be led in the way everlasting. Shake me, God. Stir my heart.