Conversations while Fumbling Towards Eternity

To follow Jesus means that we can’t separate what Jesus is saying from what Jesus is doing and the way that he is doing it.” -Eugene Peterson

So I’ve finally given in to a temptation I’ve had for years. I’m taking a journal. See, I’ve always considered journals a professional’s need and an amateur’s luxury (at best) or way of putting on airs (at worst). And I never realized just how many journals actually exist until I became an inter-library loan specialist. Suffice it to say: there are goo-gobbles of them! Just about every profession has at least one; every organization affiliated with one of those professions has one; every subdivision and category has one; hobbies, avocations, denominations, etc. etc. has one; on and on and on!

When I was in food service management, I was tempted to subscribe to a culinary journal, a service industry journal, and a management journal. But I held strong and did not give in. Mostly I was too broke to buy in, but either way, I held out!

Now that I work in the Kentucky State Library, a division of the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, a department within the Kentucky Education Cabinet, I’ve been even more tempted to subscribe to journals that speak to any or all of those roles (especially librarianship). This time around, time management has been the major deterrent — I hardly have time to read the ever-growing queue of books and blogs I’ve got! How would I get around to that stuff before it piles up around me and I’m crushed under collapsing paper???

Now, though, I think I’ve found what I’ve been waiting for. Conversations bills itself as “a forum for authentic transformation,” and if I had to put my finger on one-and-only-one thing lacking in my life, it is authentic transformation into Christlikeness. I wish I could give credit to the blogger who recommended it to me (maybe they’ll come out of the woodwork in the comment section below?), but sadly I cannot remember who it was. I am, however, thrilled that I took them up on it.

They’ve recently redesigned the entire journal, and I believe the current issue (F/W 2009) is the debut of the new format. It is in every way superior to everything like it I’ve ever read. They honor the power of words, the importance of beauty, the necessity of durability, and the uselessness of pretense and passivity. To quote senior editor Tara M. Owens in the opening piece, “This isn’t just a journal full of God-talk. As we wrote and edited each article, we thought about how to make it personal, conversational, and life-giving.”

The theme of this issue is Following the Jesus Way, and Tara’s offering is a wry and illuminating glance at the word follow: its loss of potency in recent times due to the advent of “following” on Twitter and FB; the three ways they’ve chosen to use it as a metaphor:

  • “following” chronologically and theologically the recent The Jesus WayRenovare International Conference,
  • actually helping readers learn and practice the Jesus Way of living in concrete and practical ways, and
  • intentionally restructuring their journal and community to produce a journal in the Jesus Way.

She closes with a challenge to make the Jesus Way something we do, rather than just something we read about.

Along the way, they’ve made intentional decisions about advertising, typeface, placement of text and images, and paper quality, all to try and make the actual physical journal in my hand match the intent of the words and authors within, as well as the Living Word that inspires them. This makes a brilliant yet simple kind of sense because, as Eugene Peterson writes, “To follow Jesus means that we can’t separate what Jesus is saying from what Jesus is doing and the way that he is doing it.”

In my own life, I know I’ve paid far more attention to Jesus’ words than his mission, and mostly outright rejected his strategies. Why would a modern man like me waste time worrying about how a 1st century Jewish prophet went about getting things done? Surely we’ve far surpassed the crude methods of the ancients by now! I’m beginning, painfully, to grasp the foolishness, triteness, and self-destructiveness of the other ways I’ve walked. “Experience is a brutal teacher, but you learn. My God, do you learn.” -CS Lewis

So count this as an invitation: every couple of weeks, let’s get together and have a conversation on the Jesus Way of doing things. Because, to quote EP again, “When He calls himself ‘the way, the truth, and the life,’ He asks us to participate in making meaning, to become a speech partner with the Word made flesh.” And that invitation is too exciting to pass up!

  • What does “following” mean to you?
  • What about conversation is challenging for you? Life-giving? Painful?
  • Have you made anything lately that you’re proud of? Why?

About Nick Gill

orphan-poet-adoptee-soldier-prodigal-servant-husband- counselor-desperate seeker after my Father's face "I feel my body weakened by the years as people turn to gods of cruel design. Is it that they fear the pain of death, or is it that they fear the joy of life?" - Toad the Wet Sprocket

Posted on 24 January, 2010, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. So right–Thanks to Twitter, “follow” is getting some interesting new connotations that may or may note advance our understanding of what it means to follow Christ, but that certainly add an interesting element to the conversation.

    As far as what I’ve “made” that I’m proud of… The things I’m most proud of are a handful of people I’ve brought to Christ and discipled along the way–those lives and the transformation I’ve helped facilitate fill me with pride (in a humble, good kind of way), satisfaction, and deeper faith.

    You’ve got me intrigued–I may very well make Conversations my first journal as well!

  2. One WAY that I’m trying to learn how to live is ON a cross (Luke 9:23)

    For years I thought taking up my cross was about not staring at attractive gals or spending 30 minutes reading and praying at 6am. What I’m learning is that the real cross has to do with dying to myself in my efforts to be Jesus to others, whether a believer or unbeliever. It is costly to take the risks to care, to be redemptive rather than self-centered (self-centered even as it relates to “spiritual growth”)

    Jesus said, “For them I sanctify myself.” That’s who I want to be, someone who is HOLY for others benefit, not so I can feel like I’m “in” with God.

    I hope that makes sense.

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