Category Archives: Fun Stuff

DIY Week

DIY Week

Sorry things went quiet here this month. I took a week off from church ministry and blogging to tackle a bunch of projects around the house.

Most of the time, I was covered with grime and disguised with safety goggles and a face mask — alternating between fence repair and drywall mud in two bedroom walls.

In ministry, there’s never time for a “weekend project,” so this DIY Week was a great way to catch up. We’ll probably make it an annual tradition. And praise the Lord, we enjoyed some beautiful warm weather (sorry to rub it in, East Coast friends).

Check back soon for more regular blog posts on church ministry and leadership development.

The Best Gift of All

ImageThe gift was big and heavy. It rattled and clanked, but I had no clue what was inside the box. I waited my turn, then made quick work of the wrapping paper to uncover a brand new REI camping tent. It was the deluxe kind with two sleeping rooms, aluminum poles, a tall frame even I could stand in, and a “garage” attachment for extra storage.

Our first tent was nearly a decade old. It had been fine during those early years of marriage, but as our family grew, so did our need for a bigger tent. My wife had picked out the perfect gift to spend family time together and enjoy the great outdoors.

After testing out the tent in the backyard and making sure we had all the pieces, we were ready for our first real adventure. We drove to the beach and found the site we would call “home” for several days. We made many memories exploring, swimming, building sand castles, cooking s’mores, and crossing paths with a skunk family. (Thankfully no one got sprayed!) Our time was special, but by the end of the week, we were all ready to sleep in a warm bed again, surrounded by four sturdy walls. Tents are a great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

That tent reminds me of a much greater Christmas gift. Two thousand years ago, God did the unthinkable. He pitched a tent and lived among us. John 1:14 says “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

When Jesus was born, the creator came to earth and set up camp. He preached the gospel, healed the sick, raised the dead, lived a perfect life, and invited twelve disciples to watch him up close and personal. He was tempted and suffered in every way like us, yet never sinned. Then he went to the cross, taking the punishment for our guilt, and rising again on the third day.

But where is Jesus now? He is no longer the lowly infant of Bethlehem. He is the sovereign king of heaven, building a permanent home for all who trust in him. “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3).

The king accepted a tent on earth so we can enjoy a mansion in heaven. That is the story of Christmas.

A Merry Christmas to you and your family. Many local churches will be holding a candlelight service tonight for Christmas Eve. Why not attend one? It’s a great way to gather with friends and celebrate the best gift of all – God’s own Son.

Question: What Christmas tradition helps your family celebrate the true meaning of Christmas? Share your thoughts by clicking here.

This article first appeared in our local newspaper, The Hi Desert Star.

Photo credit: Naito8

Grace Unplugged

Have you heard about the new movie Grace Unplugged? It opened last weekend in theaters nationwide and has garnered quite a bit of attention.

Grace Unplugged is an entertaining film with high production values and a strong Christian message. On opening weekend, it was the top-rated fan movie on Fandango.

The story goes like this (from the movie website). Having just turned 18, Grace Trey aspires to more than just singing at her church, where the worship leader is her father—a former pop star. So, with the help of Mossy, her dad’s former manager, Grace records a cover version of her dad’s old Top-10 hit, runs off to Los Angeles, and begins to taste the kind of stardom she’s always dreamed about. Yet with each rung of the ladder she climbs, Grace feels more and more pressure to compromise her values, further straining her relationship with her parents. Will everything she experiences lead her to reject her faith … or rediscover it?

The movie is a drama and the rating is PG, so its themes are for older children up through adults. I watched a prescreening at the SBC Convention last June, and really liked the parts I saw. This would be a great movie for a youth group or family night out.

You can watch the official trailer here:

Have you seen the movie? What did you think?

Free Music

For a limited time, the Christian band Page CXVI (pronounced ‘116’) is generously giving away every song they’ve produced in the last seven years. This includes seven hymns albums and four pop albums (through their alternate indie band name Autumn Film). Just click here to visit their site.

We had this band at our church a few years ago for an outreach concert, and were blessed by their musical talents and their willingness to perform in smaller venues.

Their press release says, “Between re-arranging the classic hymns, to creating beautiful emotive indie pop music, the band has recorded 11 albums together. Please join them in celebrating this jubilee by catching up on the records you’ve missed or download the entire catalog.”

Don’t miss out on this great opportunity.

Now it’s your turn: What are some of your favorite Christian artists today?

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2012 Jones Family Newsletter

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Dear friends,

It’s a joy to look through our calendar at the end of each year and see how God has been at work. This newsletter is intended to be a blessing to you, but it’s also a type of “memorial stone” for us. It is a time to reflect on the faithfulness of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Will you rejoice with us again this year?
Ministry. God has been so gracious to us and the ministry in Yucca Valley. Our church has grown to 80 regular attendees. Stephen is preaching through the Book of Isaiah on Sunday mornings and is developing a basic discipleship program called “Growing in Christ” on Wednesday nights. He conducted 3 weddings, 3 baptisms, a marriage class, and a membership class this year. Exciting!
We’ve also been blessed by our first college intern who began in January. Ryan is a BAT (Bachelor of Applied Theology) student at Cal Baptist University and hopes to go into full-time ministry. What a privilege to help train up future leaders! And what a blessing he is to us!
At the beginning of the year we began hosting a young adults/singles lunch once a month in our home. Our singles have ranged from college students to widowers in their 80s. We love the diversity in our congregation.
It’s also been encouraging to see a growing evangelistic spirit at the church. We hosted summer VBS, fair booths on Memorial Day weekend and July 4th, a one-day missions trip to Pomona, and a Halloween outreach to over 600 trick or treaters.
Travel. We traveled a lot this year. Stephen was able to return to Together for the Gospel in Louisville and attended a Nine Marks “Weekender” conference in Washington D.C. While in the capital, he got to visit the Smithsonian and see the actual B-26 bomber Flakbait that his Grandpa was crew chief on during WWII!
In May we took our summer vacation. We tent camped off the Santa Barbara coast for four days,  spent two days visiting the Monterey Bay aquarium, then joined Grandpa and Grandma in their cabin (our first visit) in some gorgeous mountains. Just look at our van! Tent camping, hotel life, long drives and food meant taking a lot of stuff. And yes, the door did close — barely!
Some of our other excursions included a field trip to the Natural History Museum of L.A., an Angles baseball game, and an anniversary getaway to watch The Screwtape  Letters brilliantly performed by Max McLean.
Family. After some serious health problems in the spring, Natalie has been feeling much better and her blood pressure is much more under control. Thank you so much for all your prayers.
Dylan (2nd grade) and Heidi (Kindergarten) are learning lots of fun new things. We just finished studying inventions like the cotton gin, and concluded by designing our own dams using dirt, popsicle sticks, and pebbles. We’re not sure who enjoys the experiments more – the kids or us parents! Dylan really enjoyed learning more about the Civil War and even meeting “President Lincoln” at a Civil War reenactment in October. Heidi is starting to read and got so excited the other day when she spelled the word “rat” in a game all by herself!
Abigail is nearly two now and talking in her cute little toddler voice. One of her favorite phrases is to playfully say, “Mommy? Mommy? Umm!” She’s finally able to play with her big brother and sister and loves it! From playing with Duplo blocks to sitting on   people, to discovering her alphabet, there’s rarely a dull moment with Abby around! And she loves Christmas lights. As we drive around, she’s constantly on the lookout. 
We were able to visit with Natalie’s parents and Stephen’s mom several times this year (and with Stephen’s dad through Skype). We traveled to San Diego for Cousin Cara’s wedding (welcome to the family, Alex!) and to San Clemente to remember the life of Stephen’s Uncle Dave. In the spring Natalie’s Grandpa Parker also passed away. We dearly miss them.
The Lord blessed us with some extra time, funds, and energy to tackle several projects around the house. We painted and organized our family room, bought solar panels, tiled the living room, and installed a wood burning stove. We’re thankful for these improvements that will make our home more energy-efficient and comfortable for visitors.
So those are some of our highlights from 2012. We’ve seen God’s faithfulness in new ways and old, and are one year closer to heaven.
We love you and pray for you. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Stephen, Natalie, Dylan, Heidi, & Abigail Jones

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