Cultivating solid souls

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The Rev. Arthur Jones, preaching pastor at St. Andrew UMC in Plano, Texas, is the author of a new book called Solid Souls. In this conversation, we talk about what the soul is and some common misconceptions. Arthur teaches that when we keep an eternal perspective, we make better choices for ourselves, the people around us, and our souls.

Arthur Jones

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Get Your Spirit in Shape features conversations to help us keep our souls as healthy as our bodies. Logo by Sara Schork, United Methodist Communications.

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This episode posted on July 30, 2021.

Transcript

Prologue

Joe Iovino, host: Welcome to Get Your Spirit in Shape, United Methodist Communications’ and UMC.org’s podcast to help us keep our souls as healthy as our bodies. I’m Joe Iovino.

Today I’m talking with the Reverend Arthur Jones, Preaching Pastor at St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Plano, Texas and author of a new book called Solid Souls. And in this conversation we talk about what a soul is, how souls exist in relationships, and how our understanding of the soul can help us make better choices today.

Conversation

Joe: Arthur Jones, welcome to Get Your Spirit in Shape.

Arthur Jones: Well, thank you so much for having me. It’s my privilege

Joe: As we enter into a conversation about the soul it would probably be a good idea to begin, as you do in your book Solid Souls by sharing what we mean by the soul. My guess is there’s a lot of misconceptions out there.

Arthur Jones: Well, there is. And the number of misconceptions actually made me question whether I ought to even talk about it. Like, is the idea of the soul redeemable to some extent because of just how many people have their own interpretation of what they think it is or isn’t. And I’ll tell you, I’ve been struggling with even how to talk about it, which is why partly I wrote the book because the soul is something that is all the way through Scripture.

And frankly it’s more in Scripture than we know because what’s happened is people have actually taken it out of our Bible. Like, the King James Version in Genesis, where God creates man. It says in Genesis 2 that God breathes into the clay figure his spirit and he became a living soul. In Hebrew it is the word soul. But in the New King James Version, NIV, NRSV, all the versions that we use in our churches, CEV, frankly they just take it out. They became a living person. I kind of wanted to reclaim the original Hebrew.

In Revelation 20 they describe souls at the footsteps of God, like at the throne. And I thought, maybe it’s a way better way to talk about everything because it’s more than just the body. It’s more than just your mind. It’s more than just your gut. The soul really actually encompasses everything.

Joe: Very good. Can you talk more about the integration of soul? Like, a lot of times when we think about soul we think of it as kind of the heart of who we are. Like, it’s this subset of who we are, this eternal part of who we are. You talk about it differently in the book.

Arthur Jones: I do. I talk about it very differently. I really imagine…and I think that the Bible is better understood when you think of the soul as the entire being of a person.

So I think about this in terms of like going to the doctor, right? You go to the doctor and you think, Okay, well I’ve got a brain doctor and I’ve got a heart doctor, and I’ve got a vein doctor and I’ve got a…you know, there are all kinds of doctors. There are posterior doctors that do the other parts of your body, right? Like, you’ve got all sorts of kinds. And we talk about that in the church. Well, is your body right? Is your mind right? And the truth is they’re all interconnected.

What I love about even modern science is they’re discovering how interconnected it all is. Right? Really, you ought to have a doctor or a series of doctors all talking together. Like, my favorite thing that scientists are discovering now is that the gut actually changes your brain chemistry so that what you eat and the biology within your gut actually changes your brain.

Well, I think the same thing’s true for your spirit, for, you know, the eternal portions of you Whatever you might imagine that, it’s all interconnected. And for those of us who follow Jesus…and we have this phrase in the Apostles Creed—I believe in the resurrection of the body—and we think about the eternal body of Jesus, that was actually everything. Right? He still had the wounds in his hands and the wounds in his side that Thomas was able to touch.

So I like the idea of thinking about the soul, but I think it’s a way better way to understand that all of our baggage in the past, all of our bruises, all of our sins and brokenness are actually redeemed in an eternal body.

A lot of people think about the soul like they think about their appendix. They don’t know what it does, but they have one and Johnny talking to the Devil in Charlie Daniels’ band, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” right? What would be willing to trade your appendix for is really the way we imagine that question. But whether you go back in, like, German literature and you think of Faust trading his soul to Mephistopheles or Johnny and the devil for a fiddle of gold, that’s not really what it is.

The soul is the whole of a person. And you wouldn’t trade all of yourself for a few more years or a little bit of power. But that’s actually the trade in. When we think about our soul it’s actually our whole being. It’s our personality. It’s our past. It’s our baggage. It’s our life. It’s who we are, the best parts and the worst parts. It’s the entire eternal portion, which is everything.

Joe: So one of the things that you’re doing there is that it’s not about some time down the road that our soul becomes important. The way you’re describing it the soul matters right here, right now.

Arthur Jones: That’s right. C. S. Lewis says “in the end earth will not seem to be a distinct thing” because heaven and hell are retroactive, meaning that when you end up in heaven, like, looking back at everything that is right now, what we’re doing now is actually part of God’s redemptive plan. Actually the earth is not meant to be destroyed and then recreated. But actually in Revelation 21, earth is actually part of heaven. Revelation 21: “And then I saw a new heaven and new earth. The first heaven and the first earth had fallen away.”

What God is trying to do is actually make heaven available to us now, that this distinction of hell and heaven as options when we die is not quite how we talk about it. When Jesus starts his ministry he says “the kingdom of heaven in near.” Not the kingdom of heaven is far; the kingdom of heaven is near. It’s made available to you.

Part of my story which I tell in my book Solid Souls is that I was divorced. I got divorced from my college sweetheart in my 20s. And I started off my ministry as a divorcing pastor. That’s not the way most people start.

Joe: Not the way you planned it, right?

Arthur Jones: Not the way anyone planned it. And so one of the things that I tell people is you can have hell on earth. I know it. I’ve lived it. The truth is, you can also have heaven on earth, and that life done right with Jesus heaven can begin now. And I know hell can begin now. We can make choices that bring hell to earth. I know that’s true. But also, Jesus says the kingdom of heaven in near, which means heaven can be now, too.

Joe: Your book is called Solid Souls and you appose that with what you call a shriveled soul. So what makes a soul solid?

Arthur Jones: The Solid Soul concept is how do you define the souls that are in heaven worshipping with God? Right? When you think about the end of time when all of our baggage and past and brokenness have been healed and redeemed and we are standing at the throne of God in eternity with him, how do you define that? Right? I really like looking in the future and then looking back and going, well what happened to get you there? And so that’s really how I got there was to think, when you’re in heaven looking back, what decisions make you choose heaven.

So, a solid soul is one that chooses heaven over hell, chooses God over our own selfishness and weakness because Jesus provides us a lot of moments and choices where we have to choose. Jesus says you can choose the narrow way or the broad way. You can choose to lust over your neighbor or not. Right? Those are all choices that we get to make at every moment.

And most times when people talk about choosing heaven or hell it’s just a binary option of do I pray the prayer for Jesus? And that’s really not all of it. James says, “Even the demons believe in God and they shutter.” What Jesus is offering us is the choice to choose heaven, to choose a better self, to choose God over ourselves.

Ashriveled soul is the opposite. It’s one that choses…. Frankly, it’s where we choose our own way. It’s where we choose our own pettiness, our own grief, our own brokenness, our own struggles, our own whatever. And we choose our way as opposed to God’s way. And that’s never actually what makes us full.

I’ve met people who have solid souls. You meet people that aren’t about themselves but about God. And you want to go, “How do I become one of those people?” How do I live a better life where actually unlike one of those people that made me who I am? Like, there are people who slept on ground in Juarez, Mexico building houses with me all through high school. They had solid souls. I mean, you’ve got to have a solid soul to take a week off of vacation from work to go and hang out with high school kids in the Mexican desert building houses. How do you get to be that kind of person? Really, that’s the kind of question that I explore in Solid Souls is I want to be like them. How do I do that?

Joe: What are some of the conclusions that you came to? How do you get like that?

Arthur Jones: My primary conclusion is it’s not big moments. Like, when you ask people, ‘Why do you come on this trip?’ When you ask people, ‘Why do you spend your time caring for the least and the lost?’ Like, my church has a food pantry. We’re the largest distributor of food in our county for the Food Bank of North Texas. And when you ask people, ‘Well, why do you spend 2 days a week sorting food and feeding others?’ it doesn’t feel like a momentous decision. Right? They don’t sit there and say, ‘Well, I prayed all night and Pastor, I’m just here to tell you I prayed all night and Jesus came and told me…’ Frankly, the message is very simple. Why would I not do that? It’s just who I am.

Actually the soul is not comprised of these massive decisions. It’s made of these micro moments where you choose. Am I gonna choose someone else or choose myself? Am I gonna choose to serve them or serve me? And if you keep changing it…each of those decisions makes you.

So like, in my divorce part of the reason why this whole philosophy came is I wanted to get remarried. I wanted to have kids. I was a 28-year-old divorced preacher on Match.com. And I wanted never to go through the hell of divorce again. So, I had to figure out. What did I choose? I wasn’t aware that I was choosing divorce when I was choosing it. Not that I chose it in the end, necessarily. It just happened, I said. Well, nothing just happens. The truth is that marriages are not won and lost on affairs or the big things you talk about. They’re won and lost in micro moments of whether or not you are nurturing that moment.

So your podcast of Get Your Spirit in Shape, I love that title because it’s not just one grand moment. Like, getting your spirit in shape is a daily habit of choosing what’s good and not choosing what’s bad. That’s what this book is about. It’s about micro moments.

Joe: And you do a really good in the book, too, of talking about making it every day, because you talk about things like, well, you’re bringing it up now. You talk about marriage and choosing your soul in marriage or choosing your soul in raising your children and in your relationships with friends. There’s a whole section in the book on the soul in relationship. Can you talk more about that?

Arthur Jones: Sure. I believe that nothing is static. If you even look at the created world. God makes a world that is beautiful. But it’s also a little bit nuts. I mean, it has earthquakes and even the tectonic plates that you think are the most stable things on the planet, shift. There is nothing that’s actually stable. Even the rocks on which our feet stand aren’t stable. And that’s absolutely true for relationships.

A lot of times I ask people, So how’s your relationship with your parents? Oh, it’s fine; about the same as it was. I don’t believe that. If you say, Hey, how’s your marriage? About the same as it’s always been. I don’t believe that. You’re either moving towards perfection, to quote, John Wesley, or you’re moving away. Those are really the two choices, which is why I use the phrase of heaven in hell. One, I believe that’s biblical. But two, it’s also true in a marriage. You’re either moving towards a better marriage or a worse marriage.

So, when you talk about relationships you need to look at not just a snapshot: Do I love my wife today? Or, do I love my husband today? Or maybe your kids. Do I love them today? The answer is not always yes. The question is, am I working towards loving them better tomorrow than I am today? And so that’s why the micro moments and the relationships really make a massive difference is we can actually change this moment right now. Having a better marriage is a very big concept. Caring for them a little bit better today than yesterday, way easier. A little better tomorrow than the day before, way easier than that.

Joe: In one of your chapters, you talk about your brother-in-law who’s an FBI agent, and talking about the truth. You write this. Let me just quote you to you. I always enjoy doing that from time to time. This is an excerpt from a paragraph. You say, “During my divorce I discovered something. I had no control over other people in my life. I could only control me.”

I think that’s a key to a lot of things that people struggle with. Tell me how you came to that conclusion and what does that mean to you that you could only control yourself.

Arthur Jones: So, I keep some of my divorce story private because it involves someone else. But I stayed longer in that marriage than I necessarily had to. It was a very difficult thing, trying to choose the marriage and recognizing that I had no control over what my wife chose. Every day I had to wake up and choose what was I going to do.

I had this mantra that my only job during that period of time was to wake up and go to bed every day being able to look myself in the mirror—look myself in the eyes and say, You didn’t do anything foolish or stupid today, which….

When I’m doing pastoral counseling and I counsel a lot of people going through divorce, my number one message is, Don’t be an idiot. Just period. Today, don’t be an idiot. Don’t do something you’re gonna regret. And I had to tell myself that message. I had to come to this just basic conclusion that my control over the world is way more limited than I imagine.

Funny enough, and it actually comes into parenting, too. I’ve got a son and a daughter. And so I’m in the habit now of saying, Okay. Sam, who are you in charge of? And the answer isn’t me. I think actually for all of us, we have this desire to control the world around us. And we have none.

I feel like alcoholics understand this better than most people. People who’ve been through AA or Narcotics Anonymous or all the rest of it, and have come to the worst part of their life, they go, Huh, I can’t control anything else. I can only control me for this one moment. Not even tomorrow me, or 2 days from now me. Just in this moment can I stay sober? Or, in this moment can I not be a fool? Or, in this moment can I control myself? And it allows us frankly to be more honest with ourselves.

A lot of the times that we struggle in the world are when we lie to ourselves. And frankly, most of the times that I’ve come to that reality, when I’ve come to the conclusion about what I’ve done, I’m the last person to know. Right? The people I work with, they know my flaws better than I do. Like, there have been times where I come out and I say, All right, guys, I’ve really been manic and I’ve just realized it, and I know that’s a surprise to you. And everyone goes, Yeah, man. No one’s surprised. We’re glad you finally understand what everyone else does. And so really the place of truth is to begin with the place of ourselves going, Who am I, what do I want, and what ought I to do today?

Joe: And oftentimes I find in relationships that we can get caught up in this, if only the other person would do X, that would solve it. Right? But you’re taking that out of the equation.

Arthur Jones: It’s the only way forward. Even when I look back at my divorce or at places where I have messed up…. Because, you know, I started on staff in an emotionally fragile place at my church 11 years ago when I was divorcing, brand new pastor, humiliated and desiring to be successful.

Joe: I mean, that’s two major life events at the same time.

Arthur Jones: Two major life events. I can give myself all kinds of grace. And I think I ought to. We all ought to offer ourselves and our own past a lot of grace. But I look at all that I think, Huh, I wasn’t who God made me to be fully. And that’s actually true for me today even.

We’re all works in progress, and at every moment of every day I can offer myself in the past. So past-Arthur, hey, there’s a lot of grace for you. You have a lot going on right then. And you weren’t the best co-worker and you didn’t share credit as well as you should have, etc., etc. There’s all sorts of things. I can’t control any of that. What I can control is, am I gonna do different today?

My wife likes to say that she got Arthur 2.0, and she married me because I’d already made so many mistakes in my first marriage. Recently in a conversation with her I said, Well, Becky, I just realized Arthur 2.0 isn’t sufficient. And she goes, I can’t wait for Arthur 3.0. Like, it’s just the next version of who God made us to be, which is why I love Methodism and Wesley and our theology, is the question that we are asked is: Are we moving on to perfection and love in this lifetime? And the answer ought to be yes because the other answer is hell. And I don’t want to do that anymore.

Joe: Talk more about that Methodist connection and about the Wesleyan connection of perfection.

Arthur Jones: Wesley asks a lot of demanding questions of both his clergy and of people who are a part of the people called Methodists. One of those questions is, Are you moving on to perfection? And it’s a very intimidating standard. It’s this ridiculous question of, you mean you expect me to actually be perfect in this lifetime? Of course, you know, we’re asked in Scripture to be perfect as God…as the heavenly Father is perfect. So I would submit that John Wesley was just channeling Jesus most of the time. But there’s this exacting standard.

Frankly, even the idea of a solid soul is a very hard concept. But if you break it down to this moment…right? You take it off of the, how do I live to that exacting standard? And you ask, Okay, in this moment can I love God and my neighbor better than I did yesterday? If you ask that question every day, you’re going to move more towards perfection. You’re choosing literally heaven over hell that day and the next day. And then you keep making those choices heaven…it comes to earth. It becomes a very real thing. And I think paying attention to our whole day, mind, body, spirit, whatever, the soul as I like to call it—everything—you have a chance of living the life God intended you to live.

Joe: And am I hearing you correctly that it’s not from here to perfection in the blink of an eye; it’s a journey. It’s a process. It’s steps along the way.

Arthur Jones: Absolutely. I think about it in terms of when you’re in heaven and you look back you will see how God has used it. So the missteps, the failures, the difficulties, that heaven is (to quote C. S. Lewis) “Heaven is retroactive.” When you’re in heaven even your hell becomes glorified. Right? Even the cross becomes something that we hang from our ceilings and put on the top of our buildings. Even the death of our Lord and Savior becomes glorified. Even the wounds on his hands becomes holy and sacred and special.

I’ve even seen this in my own lifetime of…I’ve been divorced…. I know I’ve talked about that a lot on this podcast. But it was a defining moment for me. And frankly, defining moment for a lot of people, a lot more people than we like to give credit for. But I think about my current wife and my kids and the heaven that I get to experience now with them, and I think, Man, God redeemed my divorce. It’s not just that it was this bad thing that happened in the past. But God has gone and in my own past has redeemed it so that I have a wife and a son and a daughter. And I am loved and cared for in a way that makes even my own baggage sacred. Not to say that God wants divorce, but that God can redeem divorce. Not that God likes our sin. But God can redeem it. And that changes the whole conversation.

Joe: Well, in a sense, Arthur 2.0 doesn’t happen without Arthur 1.0. Right?

Arthur Jones: Sure. And I’m hoping for Arthur 50.0. I’m just hoping that there’s this continual upgrade process of my soul so that I am such a better father, pastor, friend, brother, leader, whatever kind of word or descriptor you want to put to me, I’m a better person than I was 10 years ago. I hope I can say that 10 years from now.

Joe: You mentioned several times C. S. Lewis. And in the book you talk about this work of his called The Great Divorce. How influential has C. S. Lewis been on you and how do you think about this work?

Arthur Jones: C. S. Lewis is, outside of Jesus, probably the most influential writer in my life…

Joe: I had that sense, yeah.

Arthur Jones: Oh, Jesus didn’t write. So maybe the most influential writer. You know. The second influential thinker I suppose.

I remember reading Mere Christianity when I was 14 or 15. And I’ve read a lot of his works.

Just a quick shout out: The Space Trilogy is the most unknown of those. Just….

I like to read all of his works. So they’re just some that most of ever written. They’re a little weird. The weirdest of them all, which has the highest view in Christianity… Like if you ask people, like, Well, oh, what’s his best work? I think The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis is his best work. It’s also the weirdest and the most bizarre. And a lot of people hate it, until they read it with me or with other people who know it and love it.

The Great Divorce is a story, actually, about heaven and hell, and like convincing people to choose heaven over hell, to choose joy over their own selfishness. And so in that story it’s kind of a parable, a bonkers fantasy tale about a spiritual-ish being, ghosts, functionally shriveled souls, who take an excursion to heaven and people who have solid souls are talking to them trying to choose something better. So the conversation with a guy who lusts about getting rid of his lust. There’s a conversation with a mom who wants to control her son, a wife who wants to control her husband, a boss who is like nursing his anger and his greed and all the rest of it. And they go, Give it up. Heaven is literally right before you. Choose heaven.

Joe: Yeah.

Arthur Jones: Most times in that book they don’t. We talk about Jesus offering us the way towards heaven is the narrow path. And there are few that take it. And the way that leads to destruction is the broad path. And I think that’s the choice is that each of us have in every moment the choice to choose heaven or hell. And we get to choose that or not.

The problem with The Great Divorce is it’s…because it’s bonkers fantasy, allegorical stuff, it takes you half the book to understand what’s even happening in it. So few people read it. And it’s not practical and it’s not a guideline and so this book is really the culmination of 11 years of reading The Great Divorce and teaching it. And I believe that if we begin to understand, as I think Lewis was trying to get us to do with his book, The Great Divorce. If we were to understand our choices with eternal lenses we make better choices. And that’s really the core of this for me.

I think if I was able to look at my co-workers with eternal lenses and say they are eternal beings that are created in the image of God, I make better choices as a senior pastor, as a leader. I’ll make better choices with my children and my wife and my friends. And so it’s that kind of framework, to say how do I look at the world the way God does with eternal lenses, knowing that we were made for eternal joy, and yet often choose something less.

Joe: At the end of the book, you offer 3 stories of people who have done this. Or at least they’re on the journey to doing this. And without giving away too much, I was going to ask you to pick your favorite one of those three and give us a sense of how you see them as a solid soul.

Arthur Jones: I guess the one I’ll choose is…the ministry I used to work with before I came to St. Andrew. I came to St. Andrew 11 years ago, and I worked for the year before that with Zoe Ministry.

I started out in the United Methodist Church in the North Carolina Annual Conference. And they started off doing a feeding program. A long time ago Zoe Ministry was a feeding program in Zimbabwe. And they went and they just fed kids. It was great. There was a starvation problem, and they said, Great, let’s go work on it. And then they said, Maybe there’s a way to change lives and not just feed kids because it feels like you’re always…like, there just like vast gulf of need. Is there a better way to do ministry? Is there a better way to change lives?

There are a lot of cool books about how to do better caring, you know, Lighten His Burden is one. There are a lot of them that are really interesting. But Zoe ended up doing a search process. And they found a Rwandan genocide survivor named Epiphanie Mujawimana.

If you remember in ’94 and ’95 there was a slaughter of the Tutsis by the Hutus. She was a Tutsi who barely survived. A remarkable story. In the aftermath, she started working with African orphans and she realized that actually most of these kids have more possibility than most people. Most people say, Well, you’ve just got to feed them, you’ve got to house them, you’ve got to do everything for them. And she said, aren’t they children of God? Aren’t they capable themselves of dreaming of their own futures?

So, she created a ministry because she saw them as souls, as like these full-size souls. Not just like pathetic children that you see and you have Sarah McLachlaln like a poor puppy dog. Singing, ‘in the arms of the angel,’ like that’s how I imagine this. Right? Like, everyone sits there and pity falls out of their heart, and they think, those poor kids can’t do anything. And Epiphanie looked at it and goes, Why can’t they do something? How do we help them actually help themselves? How do we actually understand them as beings made in the image of God who have their own agency and own dreams?

So she created this entire ministry that was designed to help kids create small businesses, create Christian community. And you ought to see the creativity and the imagination of these amazing full-size souls. And so Epiphanie saw the world through eternal lenses and said they’re made in the image of God just like me. And how does that change what you do? So really, she created a whole brand-new model of ministry based on the concept that these kids have agency and are made in the image of God and are capable beings.

That’s what I like about a solid souls is a solid soul ought to engage in the world in such a way that they help create more solid souls, that they actually engage in the world and they see the possibility around them and they choose something amazing and optimistic.

Joe: Yeah. There’s this sense of empowerment. It’s kind of like understanding that not only do you have the power to make these good choices, but so do other people.

Arthur Jones: I believe that God gave us the choice to choose him or to choose something else. And then you have to offer your past to Christ because there might be people listening to you right now that are in the throes of their own divorce or in the throes of their own bad choices, or in the throes of whatever.

My message is peace be on you. Offer yourself forgiveness and choose something better today. Choose a different path. Choose a different trajectory. You are not the victim of your own past choices. Now there are consequences to it that you may not be able to change. However, you get to choose how you engage in it.

The founding pastor of this church just got diagnosed with terminal cancer a few months ago. It’s been an excruciating battle. Even this week as he and I were discussing it, he goes, Arthur, you get to choose how you engage with cancer. You don’t get to choose all the consequences of your life. You do get to choose the attitude with which you deal with it, and the hope with which you deal with it. So he wrote a book last fall entitled Everything is Gonna Be All Right. And I think it’s pretty unbelievable that here is this guy…. He actually writes a weekly devotional. And when he got diagnosed with terminal cancer he changed the title. And so his every week e-votional right now is entitled, Everything is All Right.

You get to choose it. I didn’t get to choose what my ex-wife did. I don’t get to choose what other people do. I don’t get to choose…since a lot of Methodists are doing this…you don’t get to choose what the denomination does or what your church does or what your bishop does. You don’t get to choose any of that. Forget the idea that anyone has any control over these larger forces. What you do have is you’ve gotta choose heaven today. That’s what you have. And that’s the whole ballgame.

Joe: All right. I’m gonna leave it there.

Before I let you go, I’m going to ask you the question I ask every guest on Get Your Spirit in Shape. What’s one way that you keep your spirit in shape?

Arthur Jones: So, my wife and I, we failed during Covid…. But for the last few years have taken a yearly family retreat where we talked about values. We set family values. It was a prayer time…where we go, we pray, we worship as a family. Then we write, What is God calling us to do? Who is God calling us to be? And so we take a family retreat and we pray and we talk about who we are and who we’re called to be. And then the next year…. Here’s the important part. The next year you go back and you go, how’d we do? It’s not always great. But we get to re-start and get to choose a new reality and a new future. And we get to choose heaven that week, or a new year and a new framework. And I’ll tell you….

Here’s the amazing thing. Because we opened ourselves up that way, God has used my wife…has allowed me ways of understanding how to bring my wife into my ministry. Because it’s hard being a preacher’s spouse. It’s hard being married to a preacher. When they’ve got their dreams and church members they’re dealing with and all the rest of that, it offered my bride a way to be involved in my own spiritual journey in a way that offered space for that.

I’m better when she’s better and she’s better when I’m better. It’s a virtuous cycle. While we failed during Covid…we actually had a weekend planned and then Covid hit. That’s really a practice that I would highly recommend, is creating family values at a time specified—a spiritual time away to pray to God and ask who are you calling us to be? And so that’s a huge piece of advice that I’d like to give.

Joe: That’s wonderful. Are your kids involved in that? Or are they still too young?

Arthur Jones: Well, I have a three and a half year old and a one and a half year old.

Joe: Okay. I couldn’t remember.

Arthur Jones: So, I’ll tell you. The goal is to get them involved. Part of the idea came from…when I was growing up my parents brought us involved in our giving. So we did the tithe. And my parents blocked out that number and said, This is the amount we give. This is our tithe. Above and beyond that we’re gonna let you help us who we’re charitable to. I remember being 9 years old and getting to choose what charities we gave money to. And I am convinced that that’s a crucial part of growing up as a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ, is learning those habits and being a part of it. So they will be a part of it. But at three and a half it’s…. Well, you know, when Covid hit he was 2. At three and a half he’s just now beginning to speak into it. And so we will be involving him in it as he grows older.

Joe: Awesome. Arthur, thank you so much for your time today. Thank you for your book. And thanks for being a guest for this conversation.

Arthur Jones: My privilege, Joe. Glad to be here.

Epilogue

Joe: That was the Reverend Arthur Jones, Preaching Pastor at St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Plano, Texas and the author of Solid Souls.

On the notes page for this episode at UMC.org/podcasts we put some links to help you learn more about Arthur and to order his book. There’s also a transcript of our conversation and a link to my email address.

Thank you so much for listening. I’ll be back soon with another conversation that will help us keep our souls as healthy as our bodies. I’m Joe Iovino. Peace.