Archives For living

Recently, I’ve had some successes here, which I take as a measure of validation to the work I’m doing. The impact I’ve perhaps had in your lives. Yet I can’t believe it’s just me, but God working through me, and my words, to touch your lives.

I often write to simply know that I’m not alone, and your kind words, tweets, comments, emails are a treasure to me. They let me know that not only am I not alone, but that you are going through many of the same things.

We have entered into a story together, you and I, and that is a beautiful thing. Through sharing my life, I’ve entered into yours.

If I’ve learned anything this week, it’s that we do indeed have a community here, together, at Randomly Chad.

You proved it to me, when in humility I laid bare a need–like exposing a raw nerve–and you responded so resoundingly to it. You humble me, and I feel a great weight of responsibility.

I’m honored by your kindness, but have no way to repay it.

All I can do is pay it forward.

That you believe in my dream of becoming a better man enough to send financial aid to see it come to fruition speaks volumes, but not about me–it speaks to the kind of person you are.

Because you have made a sacrifice for me.

And that means the world–more, really–to me. In fact, as I sat down to write today, I wasn’t sure of what to say. Your generosity has me tongue-tied on the inside. I am staggered, and reeling, weaving from side-to-side like a punch drunk boxer.

You have blown me away!

And all I can say is:


Thank-you for digging deep, diving down, giving up something dear to you to sacrifice for me. This will be something that I will carry with me the rest of my life. Really.

I am quietly in awe of you.

That said, however, we’re not quite there yet. Of the $475 needed to pay Randomed Heart for the retreat, I’ve received $340 $395 $405. Thus we’re $135 $120 $80 $70 away from the minimum needed to cover tuition. I know times are tough, but I wouldn’t even ask if it wasn’t something I strongly believe in…

That I so urgently need to do (my wife thinks so, too). If you agree, would you consider helping me? Even if you can’t give financially, your prayers mean the world to me.

My PayPal is gandalf239 [at] gmail [dot] com.

Thank-you for your support,


PS There is still time to enter the giveaways I’m doing this week. You may enter one, or both, by clicking here, or here.

Recently, while I was supposed to be reading Susan Cain’s great book, Quiet, I got sidetracked. And by that I mean at bedtime, I’d been reading through Blue Like Jazz with my wife. As she finds my voice soothing, this helped her sleep.

20120502-230204.jpgBut it perked my mind right up. So much so that I finished my (re)read of BLJ, and moved onto A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Which I’ve read twice before.

On the surface, there are things I can identify with: I’m estranged from my dad, I enjoy cycling (not that I’ve done much–but when I did, I enjoyed it), and I like to tell stories.

This blog exists for that reason: because I enjoy writing words, crafting sentences, and then sharing them. I may be decent at this–heck, I may even be good (I’ll leave that for you, the reader, to judge), but as much as I love sharing stories, re-reading Million Miles has me questioning the quality of the story I’m telling with my life.

Is it a compelling one? Do I spend as much time “crafting” my life as I do my words?

Or is life something that just happens to me?

Seeing the power of social media in action has me thinking: can I use this blog to tell a better story? I think so. As such, I’ve put out in invitation for you to share your stories with me.

Stories of how you’ve felt marginalized in the church.

But the lack of response thus far has been frankly discouraging. I’ve tried to set the tone here, create an atmosphere of honesty, give you a safe place to share.

But I can’t make you care. It’s hard, you know? I felt like this was something I was supposed to do. I even had one of the big name bloggers lined up to guest post, but that fell through (I understand–this person is busy. But it still hurt).

Maybe that’s the problem: I needed this whole “God of the Gaps” thing to convince myself I was living a better story.

To be perfectly candid: maybe that’s why you won’t come onboard–you know something I’m only just becoming aware of:

I’m not living a compelling story.

Admitting that hurts, but it’s true. When it comes down it, I may (or may not) be able to make some of my sentences sing. But what is that to children who want my time, to a wife who needs a listening ear?

I’m almost forty-three, and so much of life happens at the speed of rote: get up, get the kids to school, get to work. Lather, rinse, repeat.

The most alive I feel during the day is the span of time I spend structuring sentences for this blog. (C.S. Lewis wrote, in As the Ruin Falls, “all this is flashy rhetoric about loving You… a scholar’s parrot may talk Greek…”).

I’ve spilled a lot of (digital) ink here…

But what is that compared to living? And am I really, you know, doing it? Am I living?

How about you? Are you merely surviving, or thriving?

PS I would still love for the “God of the Gaps”/”God in the Margins” thing to happen. I want to change the world one story at a time. If you’re with me, my email is Chad Jones Thanks for sharing!


Building A Life Out Of Words, by Shawn Smucker, isn’t Henry James, but it is indeed gripping. (And probably far more accessible to the modern reader than Mr. James. Truth be told, I’ve never read any James; I heard that line in a movie, and just like the way it sounds. Shawn’s prose is both lush and lyrical). It is the story off how how one man, with a wonderful woman at his back, left a life that was robbing him of joy to pursue his God-given purpose: being a writer. More than that is a story of faith, of staying true to the course even when things looked bleak, and trusting God to provide. Shawn’s story is the closest thing to a real life “Rocky Balboa” that I know: this little guy showed that he wasn’t just a contender, but a champion.

What his story isn’t is (yet another) “how-to” book: you’ll find no advice here–ala Jon Acuff–on how to be a “quitter.” This is how Shawn became that quitter in his way, on his terms. Or rather on God’s terms. It seems to me that if we as Christians buy into notion of the sovereignty of God, then that God had a hand in getting Mr. Smucker to a place where giving it all up was the best decision for both him and his family. (None of which to say that there is no value in this book for the non-believer; far from it).

And the world is a better place for it. Those of you who have read Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (or have seen the films based on those excellent books) will understand what I mean when I say that Shawn has the faith, and tenacity, of Sam Gamgee. For Sam is the only one who both stayed true to Frodo, and indeed just plain true, to the end. Even when Frodo himself was overcome by temptation, Sam was not. To my mind, Mr. Smucker is a man of that kind of faith. And the world is a better place for it.

Would that I had these gifts: his faith, and his facility with words.


Interspersed throughout the text of Building a Life Out of Words, you will find practical advice, and life experiences, from other folks who are either themselves building lives out of words, or trying to. While I appreciated their inclusion, and see the value they add to the book, in a way I resented the intrusion: I wanted more of Shawn’s story. (And indeed that I could meet him; alas, his journey is not bringing him to the Phoenix area).

I’m given to understand that Building a Life Out of Words is available for Kindle, Nook, and in PDF format; links to purchase it can be found here.


Shawn blogs (almost) daily at He is currently traveling the country for four months with his wife and four children in a big, blue bus named Willie, looking for service opportunities as well as other writers to meet up with. You can find him on Facebook (Shawn Smucker, Writer) and Twitter (@shawnsmucker).

'The Equal Rights Amendment' photo (c) 2008, dbking - license:

In Western society, we are altogether too familiar with the words of Ephesians 5:22-24 (ESV), and how this passage has been abused, which says:

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.”

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In case you didn’t know, I’m contributing author in the Not Alone book, which was edited by the incomparable Alise Wright, and published by Civitas Press.

I’ve said before that I’m proud to have contributed, and humbled to included in such a great group of writers.

Continue Reading…