Posted tagged ‘Gregory Jones’

Signing Off: Greg Jones Bids Farewell

July 8, 2013

Friends and Colleagues:

After three years of service as the grad rep for the Conference on Faith and History, today marks my final work in the position.  I’m passing the torch to Mary Sanders, an Oklahoma State University PhD student and enthusiastic member of the CFH.  I’m certain Mary will do a great job for us.

Just by way of update, I am still finishing my doctoral work at Kent State University.  This fall I’ll be teaching via a temporary appointment at Geneva College, my alma mater.  I’ve been working as a part time instructor there for a few years and love it.  God is very good in His provision.

I thought I’d finish off my work at the CFH with a few personal reflections.  It is not an easy position to be both a Christian and a scholar.  I’ve learned that I need to spend a lot of time focusing more on Christ and less on my career.  Here are a few points of perspective for your consideration.

First, I learned that God provides.  I knew from an early age that I wanted to be a college professor.  In fact, I started talking about it in middle school.  My parents smartly reminded me that I might consider actually attending college before I thought about teaching it.  God opened the doors for my MA and PhD programs in ways that are hard to describe. When I faced the ending of my adjunct work at Kent State, God provided the opportunity at Geneva. I’ve learned a lot lately about the foolishness of cutting pieces of scripture out of context to suit our own needs, but I have to say the “seek ye first” passage [Matt. 6:33] seems true in any context.  Seek first God’s wisdom and righteousness, before personal career, and He will bless your work (albeit not always how you envisioned).

Second, I learned that no matter the work, my family matters most.  Without getting too autobiographical, I’d just like to say that time spent with family is never lost time.  For those of us with small children bouncing around our rooms, it may be difficult to focus on that book review or last minute edit, but time spent with family is never lost.  Don’t use family as a crutch to miss out on responsibilities, but remember that family is the root of life.  When you put them in the acknowledgements of your book one day, you want to mean what you say about their support.  Don’t cut yourself off from that which brings real blessing.

Third, I learned that nothing is promised.  Not a day is promised to us.  We have to live for the moment not in a hedonistic sense, but to do our best.  I may never teach another class.  The higher education bubble may burst any day, closing our access to ever teaching or researching again.  So enjoy today.  Read what you must, but also read what drives  you.  Tomorrow is not promised so work and play as hard as you can today.  When I hear colleagues whining and complaining about how much work they have to do, I can’t help but feel for them.  This “job” is such a blessing to me.  Do I always love grading?  Of course not.  Do I always love meetings?  No way.  But do I count it a blessing to work in the conditions I do with people that I love, reading and discussing the things that matter most?  Of course.

Wherever you are in your program, or even if you’re a non-academic that surfed your way to this entry, keep working.  Keep your hand to the plow.  Keep your nose to the stone.  Work, love, play, and embrace the world that we have.  God is good and His bounty is not complete.  Seek Him.  Listen to His guidance in career, in research, in writing, and in teaching.  Faith is more than a nice set of moral standards for conducting our lives.  Faith is the lived evidence of a Living God.  Testify with your life, with your work, and with all that you are.

Thank you, again, to the CFH for inviting me to this position.  Thank  you to my fellow graduate students who have shared in CFH panel discussions or corresponded with me.  Thank you to the grad students who will carry on after me.  It is my prayer that the organization continues to grow, beaming the Light of Christ in the midst of an ever-darkening Academy.  Let us be a beacon of hope for the Kingdom of God.

Greg Jones


The Archives

March 25, 2011

I just spent the last few days at the National Archives digging up documents that have not been touched in decades… some perhaps not since they were placed in their boxes a century ago. There’s something thrilling about the archives.

There’s also something quite bothersome about the monotony of research. Though we have moments of clarity and discovery, we have many more moments of drudgery, flipping page after page hoping for something “good,” only to find more minutiae.

As I worked, I kept thinking of the social responsibility of the historian, as expressed by several authors in the *Confessing History* book. Namely, I kept thinking “these soldiers were people… I cannot reduce them to numbers” as I compiled empirical evidence for my dissertation. I hope I do them justice. I hope I represent them honestly. I hope they, though not alive to defend their honor, would appreciate the way in which I express the complexity of their lives.

Another observation that I made while researching was the temporality of “generalizations.” No matter what conclusion I came to, I could think of a way around it. In other words, if I thought “all soldiers…” I could always think of an exception. If I thought “no soldiers…” I still yet thought of exceptions. So I decided to make qualified assessments, hoping that my ultimate conclusions in my larger argument hold water, yet are not over-reaching in their claims. When I say that a piece of information “complicates our understanding” my advisors always comment that I need to be more specific. Sometimes, though, that’s what I mean… it complicates it… in millions of different non-specific ways.

I guess there’s no neat moral to my story. There’s no easy conclusion to wrestling with history, I’ve learned. There’s no check A, B, or C. The answers are complicated and murky. The sources don’t answer exactly what I want. They are a bit like putting together a jigsaw with no reference picture and no certainty that all the pieces were in the box. Is it still worth assembling?

I think so.

Anyone else want to share their experiences from the archives? How are your classes this semester? Please submit ideas for book reviews or thinkpieces. Together we can make this organization exciting, but we all need to read, contribute, and engage.

Guest Blog: “Coping with Comps: An Ordeal of Faith”

February 1, 2010

Part 2 of 2
(Read Part 1 here)

by Gregory Jones, Kent State University

The peace that God granted me that day lasted for quite a while.  Being human, however, I eventually began to doubt God’s voice yet again.  I thought maybe God will allow me to fail once, but then pass on the second attempt.  I, like Thomas, doubted the voice of God, desiring to feel with tactile certainty that I would pass.  My wife (a near saint in her own right) continued to assure me that she had a, “peace,” about it.  The only thing more powerful than women’s intuition is God-breathed women’s intuition.  I did not even trust her.  I continued to doubt.

This was an ordeal of faith, to me, wrestling with comps.  No matter how much I read or studied, I still feared the questions the examining professors might ask.  I became obsessive with my desire to “fill gaps” in my knowledge base.  I became convinced that I, a man, could do enough, work hard enough, and prevail on an individual basis.  This is a faulty, worldly perspective.  This process was never about me, yet I made it about me.

I eventually took and passed the written portion of my exam.  I failed one section on it, ironically my specialized area, the American Civil War.  This is what I began to call “divine irony.”  I do not believe, at least since Jesus’ brief visit to the Earth, that God takes revenge on our doubting.  However, I do believe that this was a moment where God laughed at me, yet like a good Father also comforted me in my trial and frustration.  Some combination of teaching me humility and trust in Him, ultimately this failure made me stronger.

After studying for a week, I walked in to my oral comprehensive exam relatively confident.  I had been assured by another good sermon that God would continue to be in control of my life and that I needed to make sure to thank Him for His work and blessings.  I did these things.  I was, as far as I could Earthly prepare, ready for my exam.  The first question was not difficult, yet it stunned me.  After about an hour of feeling completely confused and ill prepared, I (again) doubted God’s will and slumped my shoulders.  I assumed my performance was so terrible that I lost most semblance of decorum and began answering with nonchalance.  I gave up.  It was as if my giving up allowed God to fill the void.  When it was no longer about myself, I believe God took care of me.

Now skeptics will say that this was no ordeal of faith at all, but merely a man’s struggle with the nerves of comprehensive exams.  I disagree.  The days that I experienced peace and contentment were the days that I relied upon God’s plan for my life. The days that I experienced immense horror and fear of the unknown were the days that I “leaned on my own understanding.”  This blog is not meant to be a sermon that necessarily makes you live your life exponentially differently.  However, if you do not know your Calling, seek it.  If you do know your Calling, rest assured that God has His best planned for you.  Concentrate on the days of peace and blessing, not the days of doubt.

Guest Blog: “Coping with Comps: An Ordeal of Faith”

December 7, 2009

Part One of Two

by Gregory Jones, Kent State University

First let me say God is gracious.  Sometimes we over use the word “grace,” one of the most beautiful words in the English language.  However, having successfully passed doctoral candidacy exams this week, I can honestly say I feel God’s grace.  The point of this blog is to explore the comprehensive exam process as it relates to faith.  After all, perseverance is a Biblical mandate.

When the comps process began I was honestly very optimistic about the entire ordeal.  I thought it would be a time to become an expert, and then display that expertise in front of the professionals that I have grown to respect.  That perspective functioned well for several months of studying, meeting, and waxing eloquent about the classic works of history.  Then, unexpectedly, I experienced the doom and fear of failure.

The funny thing about “Calling,” is that it allows us to be certain that God’s plan will prevail in our lives.  For some, Calling is a radical career shift after twenty years of experience, for others it is a surety from grade school or high school.  I knew I wanted to be a professional historian sometime in high school, but it was solidified during my experiences at Geneva College.  After a few trips to hear colloquia and several good discussions with professors, I realized that God’s will for my life was to teach (my pure passion) and write about the past.

Despite that Calling, that certainty of God’s plan for my life and career, the fear of failure began to encompass me.  I had confident meetings with my examining professors, yet I still felt inadequate.  I could not get myself out of the way and let God do His work.  I pushed on in my studying, focusing almost entirely on the books, facts, and interpretations I could not remember instead of the wealth of information God helped me store in my brain.  Call it pessimism or broken human nature, but despite the Calling I felt, I still doubted my God.

Throughout this process, I experienced a refreshing and revitalizing new church.  In this new church I met people who were “Jesus” to me.  This may seem a bit out of place in a reflection of comps, but it is not.  From random hugs, handshakes, and conversations about sports, the weather, and missions, I experienced community in a real and meaningful way.  Also, God spoke through our pastor one Sunday.  God reached out and explained to me that there was no reason for me to doubt Him.  He had been faithful in getting me into two graduate programs, getting me through my Master’s degree, and finally through doctoral course work.  Why did I doubt Him now?

When God speaks to you (at least in my experience), it has never been a feeling of ominous presence or the fear the Old Testament prophets explained.  It was an overwhelming feeling of peace.  As I departed the service I told my pastor it was the best sermon I have heard at that church.  Looking startled (and humble), he simply said, “maybe it was just the sermon you needed to hear.”  He was right again.  I needed to hear that God’s Calling was there, but I needed to trust Him with it.  That Sunday, about a month from my comprehensive exam, I surrendered my exams to Jesus.  I told Him that I had given him my career, my marriage, my home, and my future so He could have my exams as well.