Moving Beyond Religion

017This last Sunday, worship was incredible. Why? Because of the young man preaching. I could not stop thinking during the sermon about how proud his dad must be. It was very fitting because it was Father’s Day. The message was filled with testimony, challenge, scripture and humor. What was so inspiring though was seeing the transformation of a man right in front of your eyes. One who has obediently followed his faith and his love for God. One who has figured out who he is and what his purpose is. The man is Jonathan Hunter, also known as J-Dog over in England, where he is living and serving full-time in college ministry and church planting.

I first met Jon over four years ago and I am very grateful to him. Because of Jon, over 2 years ago we launched SEND North America. Jon went through a similar discipleship process in England called FORM and the transformation was so great, he keeps growing and growing. We have adopted a similar process here in North America and have been blown away with what happens when you search for God’s plan in your life. We are blown away by Jon and all of the students that dedicate themselves to this training because you see the fruit: transformation and growth.

JDog Cover

If you are looking for inspiration or a great summer read, please check out the free E-book: The J-Dog Journey. This is Jonathan’s story. A story of one young man’s journey to find his calling, passion, and direction in life. This story will inspire you to discover God’s plan and path for your life, wherever it might take you!

Enjoy the read and pass it along! We pray that you will be blessed and encouraged to find young adults to live a journey like this. How powerful it is to see someone be transformed and grow through discipleship training. How powerful it is to see a young adult move beyond religion to transformation and then to exponential kingdom multiplication.

Thanks J-Dog. Keep climbing brother!

Josh Humberger – joshua@churchdoctor.org
Servant Leader
SEND North America

 

 

Meet J-Dog, get immersed in revival culture!

Each year Church Doctor Ministries travels to Sheffield, England for a special mission immersion experience. This year we are super excited to offer this opportunity to those who are interested in learning more about Servants Equipping New Disciples (SEND). This is a special trip!

You will be traveling with a team of people from all over North America. You’ll get to experience what it is like to be a part of a movement that is spreading across England, Europe, North America and other parts of the world.

Why should you go all the way to England? You will get to experience the movement right from the grassroots level. You’ll have a chance to better understand the culture and context of the movement and experience a complete missional immersion trip that is not like anything in North America.

This trip is for young adults, pastors, ministry leaders, church members, and Christians who want to learn first hand about revival and discipleship development within the context of the missional movement. You’ll learn more than just how to start a missional community. Your travel team leaders will spend time with you talking through the things you are learning and seeing to help you better understand how the missional movement can impact your personal and professional ministry.

Consider joining Church Doctor Ministries and SEND for a trip of a lifetime!

PS – You’ll also get to meet missional movement specialist, Jon Hunter, also known as J-Dog, from The J-Dog Journey.

Here’s more information:

Trip Application

Trip Brochure

The Sheffield Report

Traveler Testimonies

A Word Is Planted

There I was, a few weeks before I reported to football camp, on my way to England for…God-only-knows-what. I figured, I get to quit work a couple of weeks early, take a trip to a part of England I’ve never seen – all at the expense of Dr. Bill, who I spent a total of 45 minutes with at lunch. Why not?

We arrived in Manchester, England, and took the train across to Sheffield. There I met Mick, and his wife and daughter. Alicia and I stayed at the house of a young couple from the church. Pastor Bob stayed with someone else and my dad stayed, again, with Mick and his family. The young couple took Alicia and me all over Sheffield. It’s a good sized city, with several universities, typical narrow British streets, a large number of clubs that attract university students, and, of course, thousands of pubs!

I really liked the people we met. I’ve never seen people my age so excited to be Christians. They seemed genuine, too. They were not religious fanatics, or weird. They seemed like normal people, but there was something very different about them. They had it together, you know what I mean? They have challenges in life like everybody, but they seem to have purpose, direction. They actually like going to church – it didn’t even seem like a duty.

I met some university students who were from around England. They had found summer jobs in Sheffield. Even though their parents were far away, they were involved in this church – and wanted to be. That seemed strange to me, for some reason.

My dad is always trying to help churches reach out to people who aren’t Christians. But, these people seem to do it because they actually like to. It seems part of their life. They also have a good time doing it.

My youth pastor, Eric, was a bit like that. I thought he was enthusiastic because it was his job – you know, he had to put on a good act in front of the kids like me at the church. Yet, he seemed genuine enough. I never met anyone else like that. The last thing I expected was to find others like him in England.

We got to visit the countryside, what they call the Peak District. It’s beautiful. Large rolling hills, reservoirs, forests, and English villages with old churches and little shops. We even got to see Little John’s grave – you know, the guy who hung out with Robin Hood? We also got into some pubs and had some great meals. Pubs are not like bars in the U.S. They’re more family-friendly. They’re places where you watch sports, talk to your neighbors, and strangers become friends. It’s all about relationships. I like that. Pubs are neighborhood gathering places – community halls with food and beer. They don’t feel like commercial destinations. They’re more a part of life.

Somewhere in this whirlwind introduction to Sheffield and St. Thomas’ Church, I met a few young adults who are involved in what they call FORM. I had no idea what this would mean for my life four years later.

It’s funny. Sometimes you do something, or meet someone, and it just seems like another everyday occurrence – nothing special. I mean no bells or whistles go off, the earth doesn’t shake, no lightning. It’s just like another day of life, another person you meet, another place you visit. Something you’ll maybe forget. You might take some pictures, and look at them once or twice, maybe post them on Facebook. Someday you throw them away. They are just more clutter in your journey.

Then there are these…I don’t know…“God moments.”  They seem just so ordinary, nothing special. You have no clue then – and maybe for a long time in the future. At the time, you’re not even aware. You’re not ready. The dots are not connected. You don’t even see the dots. That’s because you’re not looking. I wasn’t looking.

My eyes were on football, criminal justice, a fraternity. It was just days from my university adventure. I had no idea that the embryo of my greatest journey was birthed as I met these students in FORM. No idea at all.

FORM is a 10-month training program for young adults. At Mick’s church, it’s for those just out of university – a year off before the job market. My first thought, when I met Ben and Andy, was why, after four years of university, would anyone want to go through another year of school – especially a religious school?

“It’s not like that,” said Ben, “…not at all. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had.”

Andy added, “You go to the university as an investment in your career. But you take ten months of FORM to let God invest in you, as a person. That changes everything.”

“Yeah,” continued Ben, “It’s a discipleship year. You learn more about who God really is. You also learn who He has made you to uniquely be. You learn about yourself.”

“Don’t you think everyone already gets that?” I asked politely.

“Not at all!” said Ben. “Most people only think they know who they are. They learn all this stuff at university, but they never asked God to teach them about themselves. Besides, we do hands-on ministry. We get involved in helping the poor, working with children, interacting with other cultures, connecting with university students. Most people go through life and never get those experiences. Yeah, and we have a lot of fun along the way. We live together in community: guys are in two houses and the girls share a couple of houses. We become family. We go on mission excursions around the country and take a trip outside of the country together. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do FORM.”

I have to admit, I was momentarily intrigued. When Alicia and I saw my dad and Pastor Bob at Mick’s house a couple of days later, I made an announcement: “I know we’re supposed to go back home tomorrow, but I have a few days before football camp. Alicia and I have decided to stay here in England and hang out with these people. We’ll come home later, okay?”

I saw my dad look at Pastor Bob, who looked at him. Then they looked at Mick, who looked at each of them, and then they looked at each other again. It was a long silence, like everybody just discovered a pink elephant in the room. I think the pink elephant was me and it just took a dump! I could tell the idea wasn’t going to fly.

My dad broke the silence, “That won’t work. It would cost a fortune to change your tickets. Besides, you might not get on another plane. Planes are really booked going overseas. Besides, you need to finish the work on the farm, pack, and move to school.”

The comment broke the dream into pieces of reality. I knew he was right. I felt a little foolish. Mick added, “You’ll be back someday.”

As we said goodbye, Mick prayed over us. He paused, put his hands on my shoulders, and said, “I have a word from God for you, Jon. I sense God is saying that you are a mighty warrior for God.”

I was speechless.

 


The J-Dog Journey, an E-book by Kent R. Hunter

 
The J-Dog Journey:
Where Is Life?

by Kent R. Hunter

Download

 

 

 

 

 

A Short Window

My dad arrived at the Fort Wayne Airport about 9:30 p.m. I spotted him coming down the escalator. He looked tired, but he had a smile of enthusiasm. “It must have been a good trip,” I thought. I had no idea!

I was in England quite a few years earlier, when I was 12. It was after the mission trip in Africa and the wildebeest hunt. We flew to London from Johannesburg. My mom and Laura met us at Heathrow Airport in London. They used my dad’s gazillion frequent flier miles. We spent a week in England before traveling throughout the continent of Europe. We visited Bath and Stonehenge while we were in England, too. I remember, at Stonehenge, my dad just sat on a bench forever trying to contemplate what it could be all about. It must be his consultant’s curiosity. I thought we would never leave!

My favorite part of England was the original Hard Rock Café. Some man served us, wearing a dress. My sister and I had done some homework about England. Well, most of it was Laura. She found out that London is where they built the very first Hard Rock Café. She also found out, somehow, that kids can drink one beer, when they are with their parents, at a restaurant or pub. So when we got to the Hard Rock Café, we ordered burgers and Laura and I ordered a beer. My parents were shocked! They said, “You can’t do that.” Then they looked at the man in the dress, “They can’t do that…can they?” Yeah, we got the beers. We found out neither of us liked beer – at least at that age.

“How was England?” I asked my dad.

“It was unbelievable,” he said.

I thought he was in London, but he wasn’t. He was in the north. A place called Sheffield. “I never heard of it,” I said.

“Neither had I,” he explained. “My friend, Walt, was the one who insisted that, with my work helping churches, I had to see what was going on there.”

“So, what was it like?” my mom asked, as we got in the car to leave the airport.

“You wouldn’t believe it,” Dad said, with more excitement than any person should have after a long trip. “You know, I’ve been all over the world – Asia, South America, Africa, Europe, India, Philippines, and the former Soviet Union. I’ve seen some exciting places where God is really changing lives. But I have never seen anything like this. It blew me away, the way God is impacting the lives of the people through this movement.”

“What’s the name of the church?” my mom asked. She can’t keep track of all the places he goes, either.

“It’s St. Thomas’ Anglican/Baptist Church,” he said. “I know it’s kind of weird. It’s a combination of an Anglican church – as in the Church of England – and a Baptist church. And, they gather in two different locations, in two different parts of the city. But both are Anglican/Baptist churches.”

“What makes it so special?” my mom asked. She’d heard my dad’s excitement about churches before.

He tried to explain. “It’s the culture. They have the closest thing to the culture of the New Testament Church I’ve ever seen anywhere. It’s part of their DNA. They behave like the people of the Bible, in the early church – more than I have ever seen.”

I joked, “I knew you were old, Dad! You knew people in Bible?”

“Funny, Jon,” he said. “No. But if you look at how the church grew – changed the world, impacted the Roman Empire. The way these early Christians lived. Their behavior was driven by their culture: their values, beliefs, priorities, attitudes, and worldviews. That culture is what we help churches get back to. It’s what really changes churches for good. The modern church has drifted so far….”

My attention span ran out at that point. My dad is the master of TMI – too much information! He had moved to lecture mode. He gets too excited about God stuff. But then he got my attention in a way that had never, ever, happened before.

“Something else happened while I was there. I stayed with Mick, one of the pastors, and his wife. One day Mick and I were having breakfast at his house and we were talking about…I don’t even know what!” My dad paused trying to find the words. “I heard God speak to me. It was clear, and audible.”

I’d never heard my dad talk like that before!

He continued, “The voice…God said, ‘You should bring groups from North America here. This is a movement. It is as much caught as taught. They are like vessels. They can carry this movement back to North America.’”

I thought, “That’s cool, now my dad’s hearing voices. I wonder what he had for breakfast.” I was skeptical and totally unprepared for what he said next.

“Simultaneous to that,” he said, “I got another, totally unexpected message. God said, ‘You are supposed to bring your son here – soon, and Pastor Bob.’”

At this point, I was thinking my dad totally lost it. It is one thing if God wants to talk to him, or if he thinks God is talking to him. But what does that have to do with me? And what’s the deal with Pastor Bob from our church? What’s up with that?

I just thought to myself, this is a long way from normal. People don’t just “hear from God.” My dad then said he had never had that happen before. It seemed so strange, even to him.

Before I could ask, my dad explained, “I didn’t know what to think. So I told Mick: ‘I think God just spoke to me.’”

Dad said he was uncomfortable sharing that with Mick, since they did not know each other very well.

“So, what did Mick say?” my mom asked.

“He said, ‘If God told you, then you better do it,’” my dad said. “But, I said, ‘Why? Why would God want me to do that?’ Mick just said, ‘You don’t always know why. Sometimes that’s not your job. Just be faithful to what God says.’ So, I’m telling you. And tomorrow I’ll talk with Pastor Bob.”

Personally, I wondered what planet this guy Mick was from. What kind of church was this? I figured it would never happen. The money had to be raised. As for me, it was just a few weeks before I was off to football camp. My dad understood the skepticism and used the old line, “If God is in it, it’ll happen.”

A week later, Dad had a luncheon appointment with his medical doctor friend. He was going to thank him for sponsoring his trip and report about it. It was a Tuesday, my day off at Home Depot. I was working on the farm and had just come in for lunch. We met in the kitchen. Seeing me, Dad got a last-minute idea and invited me to go along to lunch. I never turn down a free lunch.

At Applebee’s, Dad introduced me to Dr. Bill. My dad told the story of all he saw in Sheffield. He even told him the God-talking story. He told him he had a short window of time to take me to England. In addition, he told Dr. Bill that Pastor Bob would like to take his daughter, Alicia. I was surprised the doctor didn’t think my dad was a lunatic. Instead, he reached into his suit coat pocket, pulled out a checkbook and wrote a check for $5,000: for Dad, me, Pastor Bob, and Alicia to go to England! I couldn’t believe it.

 


The J-Dog Journey, an E-book by Kent R. Hunter

 
The J-Dog Journey:
Where Is Life?

by Kent R. Hunter

Download

 

 

 

 

 

A Short Summer

It was just after graduation from high school. I had an awesome senior year. I never did become a star at football. I like the “family feel” of the team. It’s like a community! Coach awarded me the mental attitude award. I remember my parents thinking it was a big deal. The coach said, in front of the whole auditorium, it was the best award, because there is “life after football.” Whatever.

I applied to Tri-State University and got accepted. My grades weren’t the best in high school – but good enough to get in. During my senior year, I met Mr. Milton. He was teaching a criminal justice class at the police station in Kendallville. It was only for seniors. We got “release time” for a whole afternoon, a couple of days each week, to go to this class. It counted for college credit, too. A girl in my class talked me into it. I liked getting out of school for “release time.” It’s the main reason I went.

Mr. Milton took a liking to me right away. It wasn’t like there was a lot of competition. Most of the kids who took that class weren’t bound for college. They were headed for the police academy. But not me. College was always my option.

My parents have a lot of education. My mom has a master’s degree. She’s a teacher in a preschool. My dad has two doctorates. He jokes about it – says he’s a slow learner. He does have ADD. That’s where both my sister, Laura, and I got it – from him. Laura has her master’s degree in special education. Yeah, college, from the beginning, has been on my family’s agenda.

I don’t know if Mr. Milton had some influence with my acceptance to Tri-State or not. When I met him, he was an attorney who taught high school kids on the side. Later, I learned, he had a job offer to teach criminal justice at Tri-State. Anyway, I got accepted.

I really wanted to go to Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. Some of my friends went there. I thought we could really party. My parents thought that, too. They figured I needed more structure. They met Mr. Milton and he told them he would be my advisor. Tri-State was more expensive, but they wanted to make sure I finished. They thought Mr. Milton would help me through.

The best part for me was that Tri-State had a football team. Being a smaller school, I had a chance to make the team. Ball State was huge. The competition would probably leave me behind. It seemed like a good choice. It was closer to home. I wasn’t sure how it would feel being further away. Besides, I knew the Tri-State campus. During my high school basketball days, I went to Tri-State basketball camp every summer. One year, I went to three camps in a row! I wonder where I picked up that over-achiever mentality?

It was great to graduate. I liked DeKalb High School in a lot of ways. It was a good school for me. I made a lot of really good friends there. Nick, Nate, Mackenzie, Tommy – dozens more, even a few girls. Yeah – these will be my best friends forever. Yeah, these relationships. That’s what life’s all about. But I’m ready to move on.

I got a job at Home Depot and I’m working on my parent’s farm. At Home Depot, I stock shelves and help customers. I’m learning about construction. I like being involved with people, and the variety of jobs. It doesn’t get boring. I go to the gym and lift weights every day. On the farm, I’m helping in a lot of ways, too. The farm is a great place. I shot my first deer when I was 9. I’ve gotten several since.

I’m a little nervous about going to college. But I’m excited about playing football. I’m reporting to football camp on August 1, so it’ll be a short, busy summer. I’ll earn as much money as I can. I’m ready for that.

My dad left after my graduation on another trip. He travels a lot, helping churches. He’s called the “Church Doctor.” He knows a lot about all kinds of churches, and goes all over the world. He’s written several books. I have them all, but I’ve never read any of them. I don’t like to read. I read just what I have to, to get by in school.

My dad’s in England right now. Some friend of his – a pastor named Walt from a huge church in Phoenix – suggested he go and check out what’s happening with Christianity there. It’s supposed to be a big deal. Attracting a lot of young adults. If it is, I’m guessing they don’t have much to do. Maybe they’re so bored they go to church. My dad took four pastors with him. A medical doctor friend of his helped pay his way. Imagine that! This doctor operated on my dad’s sinuses a few years ago. It turns out he’s a Christian who’s excited about missions – reaching new people. So he helps my dad, financially.

My dad raises his own salary. What’s up with that? He works way too hard, in my opinion. His Board of Directors sets his salary and then he has to find people who will support our family. He’s been doing this for years – before I was born. It’s weird. It seems like begging. I can’t believe people do it. Maybe they’re just rich and can’t figure out what to do with their spare money. I don’t have that problem. That’s why I’m working my butt off.

I am really liking my two jobs, though. I like seeing some money in my bank account. I need to buy some clothes. My mom’s off for the summer from teaching. She’s very supportive. She does all the shopping in our house – except for farm stuff. She’s a good cook and you can tell she loves me and my sister.

My sister’s in her last year of college, starting this fall. This summer she’s working at Bob Evans. She’s a hard worker,. We go there and eat. We take my grandparents. I’ve never eaten so often at Bob Evans before. My parents and grandparents give her huge tips – about as much as the meal costs. They’re generous people.

“What you doing, Jon?” my mom asked as she came into the kitchen.

“I’m making a sandwich. I’m taking a little break before I go out and mow the field across the pond.”

“Your dad’s coming home from England tomorrow night. Think you’d like to go along and pick him up at the airport?” she asked.

“Yeah, sure,” I said. “Maybe we could stop and get a burger after we pick him up?”

I’m always hungry. I could never guess what my dad would report about what happened in England. I couldn’t imagine how it would reorganize my whole life four years later.

 


The J-Dog Journey, an E-book by Kent R. Hunter

 
The J-Dog Journey:
Where Is Life?

by Kent R. Hunter

Download

 

 

 

 

 

Room For Me

My fraternity brothers were putting together a Saturday afternoon pickup volleyball game in the back yard. I love my third story, corner room. It’s the best one in our huge frat house. After my third year at school, I made sure I got back in time to get this room. It faces the east in one corner, so I get the morning sun. It faces the south on the other, which gives me extra warmth in the long, cold, Indiana winter.

In the spring and fall, I can look down on the back yard. This is the spill-over place for parties when the weather’s good. It’s the place for receptions for parents at the beginning and end of the year. Mr. Milton’s not only my faculty advisor, he’s also our fraternity advisor. He’s really a great guy. How do I tell him I am not sure about criminal justice?

Looking down from my room, I see a lot. No one notices I’m watching. Is that how God is? Does God snoop around and watch people, like ants, screw up their lives? Does God ever do anything, or just watch? The October sun is shining on the bright-colored maple leaves. Then they fall off. Life goes on.

Next year I won’t see these leaves, in this back yard, from this room. School will be finished. Another chapter of my life. This won’t be my room. Where will I be? What will I do? I’ve played football for four years in high school and four years in college. Is there life after football? I’m too old to live with my parents. It doesn’t feel like home – not to stay – not anymore. It feels like a place to visit. It’s not going that well with Sarah. My friends from high school are scattered. My fraternity brothers and friends from this university are going to move all over, following jobs. Some are engaged to get married. Some will go on to graduate school. I can’t imagine life after football.

“Here’s your deodorant.” Black Jack’s voice startled me as he came in the door. He could tell I was lost in thought. “You okay?” he asked.

“Yeah, sure,” I lied.

How do you tell your friends that, for the first time in your life you don’t have a plan? How do you get a plan? How do people find a direction? Is it just dumb luck? Fate? God?

If it’s God…? The question stalled in my mind. It seemed – for a moment – the whole world stood still. I looked out the window at the people in the back yard. A couple of my fraternity brothers were firing up the grill and popping a couple of Budweisers. Black Jack was walking out my bedroom door.

“Hey, Black Jack,” I said.

“Yeah,” he turned around.

“See you tonight at Skip’s?”

“Yeah, sure – some of the guys are going to hang out around 9:30?”

“That’s cool,” I said, as Black Jack disappeared down the hall.

I got to thinking…. The parties are getting a little old. Don’t get me wrong, I like hanging out with my friends. It is probably my favorite thing to do. And I like having a few beers – especially with chicken wings. I like the hot sauce…real hot…the best. That, and a cold beer – that’s awesome! Yeah, I drink too much. I get drunk…sometimes. Why? Who knows?

Partying, school, and football – that’s all we do. Last year, on spring break, I drove my car, full of guys, all the way from northern Indiana to South Padre Island, straight through. Man, that’s a long trip. We got a good deal on a place at the beach. It was really cool. That’s about all we did: lie out in the sun, party, and drink beer. I can’t do this the rest of my life. There must be more. And…football will soon be gone. There must be something for me. How do you find that?

I feel empty.

The Saturday afternoon sun feels so warm in my room. I’ve got homework to do. It can wait. Screw it. It’s only Saturday, I can do it tomorrow.

So here I am, lying on my bed, staring at the ceiling. I’ve never noticed all the cracks in the paint before. This old house has been around a long time. It used to be a hotel, they say. This is the last year for it. They’re going to tear it down and build a new one, next summer. Nothing lasts forever.

I won’t last forever. My grandpa died a few years ago. I cried my eyes out. I didn’t want to – not around anybody. But I did. I couldn’t help it. He was my first relative who died, that I was old enough to know what was going on. He was my mom’s dad. He was a gentle man and a strong Christian, too. He and my grandma were always at church. More than that, it was real to him. You could tell. He lived it…walked the talk. You know?. He didn’t just go through the motions.

My grandpa’s death hit me hard. I think sometimes my friends and I get the idea we’re going to live forever. We all know that’s bullshit. Everybody dies. Life’s short. It seems long – especially during exams. Or when you’re 21 points behind in the fourth quarter and the other team’s kicking your ass all over the field. But nothing lasts forever. I won’t last forever.

I haven’t prayed for a long time. I prayed only at church, sort of. I didn’t want to offend my parents. But I haven’t been to church in a while. And truth is, I don’t pray much. I don’t get it. I mean, I don’t know why people do. Do they think it makes any difference? Hell, I don’t even know if I believe God exists.

I stared at the ceiling for a long time. The voices from the back yard drifted from my consciousness. I don’t know how it happened. I just started talking to God…or at the ceiling. “God, I don’t know what to do with my life. I’m messed up. I don’t even know if you’re real. I mean, honestly, I don’t know if you even exist. If you exist, show me. And give me some kind of direction. I’ve got no clue.”

The sun was still warm. I must have fallen asleep. I like to sleep. You don’t have to think. I think I dreamed about high school…a less complicated time.

 


The J-Dog Journey, an E-book by Kent R. Hunter

 
The J-Dog Journey:
Where Is Life?

by Kent R. Hunter

Download

 

 

 

 

 

Awake Is A Bad Dream

“Jon, you awake?”

The pounding on the door was a sledge hammer on my head. The autumn sun was streaming in my window. It felt like a warm washcloth on my face. It seemed to say, “Stay right where you are, go back to sleep.”

“Jon… you in there?”

I recognized the voice. “Black Jack, is that you?”

“Yeah. Hey, Jon, can I borrow your deodorant?”

Black Jack’s always borrowing something. You’ve got to love him. I could see him before I opened my door. He’s standing there in his underwear, just out of the shower. He’s a guy who should never wander around in his underwear. The guy’s 100% muscle, flab, and hair – all over. Yeah – 350 pounds! He’s a lineman everyone would want on his team. I can’t imagine playing four quarters against him. You’ve got to go home bruised.

I’m a defensive end. Second or third string, depending on the coach’s mood. I don’t play much, but I love the game. I wasn’t great in high school, either. I’m not going to be a star, you know what I mean? I probably should have stayed with basketball. But the coach was a jerk. Tried to motivate me by yelling. Pissed me off, and I quit.

My dad cried when I quit basketball. He saw how hard I worked. It was a tense time. He thought I was quitting for the wrong reason. I figured it was none of his business. I still think so.

You shouldn’t just quit in a quick decision. That’s why I am so stressed. The more I get into criminal justice, the more I don’t think it’s for me. Problem is, I have no clue what’s for me. Why am I on this earth?

I was right. There was Black Jack, standing there all hairy, dressed in his underwear, picking his wedgie. Doesn’t matter – we’ll be friends forever.

“Hey man, that was an awesome party last night, don’t you think?”

“Yeah, I thought it was pretty cool,” I said, as my mind wandered to the girls in the corner. “Hey, do you know who those girls were with that redhead? She is really hot.”

Black Jack shook his head, “No. I think they were friends of girls from the sorority across the street. Hey, man, thanks for the deodorant. I’ll get it back to you later.”

“Yeah, that’s cool. I’ll see you later. You going to Skip’s tonight?”

“You want to go?” Black Jack asked as he went down the hall in his underwear.

“Yeah, a bunch of us are meeting over there for a few beers, around nine.”

I closed the door, went over to my bed and sat on the edge, looking out the window.  The lady in the house next door was taking out the trash. Matt was talking to some guy by his car. My mind wandered to a couple of months back, when I was home for the summer.

“Jon, you all right?” my dad asked. We were in the kitchen. I had just come in for lunch, from the field. We live on a tree farm. I told you my folks were over-achievers. They bought this land just before I was born. It was an old, neglected farm in northeast Indiana. My dad grew up in Michigan. My grandparents had some friends, so the story goes, who had a cabin in the north. They planted trees. My dad got the idea that someday he’d plant some trees.

My parents moved to Indiana because that’s the last place my dad was a pastor, before he went full-time into consulting churches. That’s when they bought the farm. It was a rundown piece of land, not good for crops. My parents bought it with the idea of planting trees. They got into a government program and ended up planting trees every spring for twenty years, by hand.

I grew up on this farm. When I was in grade school, my dad put me on the big John Deere tractor. I could hardly reach the pedals. My mom was petrified. I didn’t really like the work my dad tried to get me to do. I liked spending time with my friends a lot more.

As I got older, my dad introduced me to fishing in our lake and deer hunting in our woods. The trees they planted grew larger. As I grew up, a young forest grew up – all around our house. As I got older, the farm grew on me – it got into my blood. You know what I mean?

On our farm, there were always projects to do. There was always work. As I got older and started lifting weights for football, I could do more. I learned more, too. I learned to service our tractors. I learned how to mow with the big tractor. I learned all about chainsaws. I learned how to prune trees.

During my college years, I had several jobs during the short season between the last day of school in the spring and football camp, which always started the 1st of August. I worked several jobs – Home Depot, Carter Lumber. But, I always worked a second job at the farm. It helped to have spending money.

I had been cleaning a field where they were going to plant 10,000 trees the following spring. That’s when I ran into my dad in the kitchen.

“What?” I asked.

 

“Are you all right?” He asked again. “You’re not yourself. You’re short to your mother and you just don’t seem happy. What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” I snapped. It was my usual answer to anything…..and he knew it.

“I think you are not sure about your chosen career,” he said.

I was stunned! “How do you know?” I said as I looked him in the eye.

He smiled, even laughed a little. “Well, first of all, I’m your father. Second, I guessed.” He continued, “Jon, lots of people study for one thing and end up doing something else. Cut yourself some slack.”

I responded, “I’m just not sure about my degree in criminal justice.”

His smile disappeared. “Jon, a degree is a degree. You’ve worked hard for three years. Finish. Finish well. And then, do whatever. Most people never ask what your degree was. But they all want to know if you’ve got a college degree.”

It made sense. What bothered me – and what would haunt me – were those words: “and then, do whatever.”

In the weeks that followed, I felt lost in the woods with no compass.

 


The J-Dog Journey, an E-book by Kent R. Hunter

 
The J-Dog Journey:
Where Is Life?

by Kent R. Hunter

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Sleeping

You know what I like about sleeping? You don’t have to think about anything. I don’t have to wonder about our next football game – and whether the coach will let me play. I don’t have to think about Sarah. I am not sure what attracts me to her, anyway. She’s okay. I guess. Maybe…for now. I don’t even have to think about school. After three years and two months, I am ready for…I don’t know what. I can’t figure out why I’m on this earth. What’s my purpose? I don’t have to think about that.

I’ll miss football. I like the challenge. I like lifting weights. I know, I’m a little crazy. I really like my fraternity brothers. These guys are family. Nobody judges anybody. I know I like the parties. The girls. The beer. I guess I just really like hanging out with my friends. And…I like sleeping.

I really like sleeping because I don’t have to think about what the hell I’m going to do with my life after I leave this university. After three years focused on criminal justice, I’m pretty sure it’s not for me. What is for me? I don’t have a frickin’ clue. Yeah – that’s what I like about sleeping.

My advisor, Mr. Milton, is a really cool guy. Man, I love that guy. He’s dropping hints I should get my master’s degree. He recruited me to this school. He wants me to go to some graduate school in Florida. That’d be cool. Palm trees, sunshine – no cold Indiana winter. I could do that. But then what? Be a cop? Work with the juvenile system? FBI? Guard the President?

My favorite thing about sleeping is that I don’t have to think about God. Yeah, that’s right. I’m tired of thinking about God. I grew up in a Christian home. My parents are over-achievers. My mom teaches in a Christian school and my dad used to be a pastor. Then he became a consultant to churches. He’s an insane over-achiever. You wouldn’t believe!

He took me on a trip to Africa when I was 12. He taught thousands of pastors. I just hung around. The best thing is that we went hunting in the bush before the conference. I shot a wildebeest. It was awesome. All the “God stuff” was okay – maybe a little over the edge.

Me? I liked youth group. We had a youth pastor – Eric – he was cool. He once caught me smoking a joint. My parents were away on vacation, overseas or somewhere. Some friends came over and brought some weed. I thought I’d try it. Just then, Eric shows up. I thought, “Holy shit! We’re busted!”

Eric was really pissed. That hurt. He told my parents when they got home – with me in the room. They were all serious until Eric left. They asked if I learned anything. Like – what are you going to say? I shook my head and looked at my feet. They laughed. They thought it was funny I got busted. My parents cared about me – I felt that. But word got out at youth group. A few people – and a couple of leaders – made fun of me. I felt betrayed – and judged. I thought church was supposed to be about forgiveness. And acceptance. I felt judged. My heart began to drift from church.

Then Eric encouraged me to lead our youth group. I liked that. A few months later, our church got low on money and they shit-canned Eric. I even talked at the meeting. He got screwed. I didn’t like church for a long time. I’m not sure I liked God, either.

I started college. I’d go home on weekends. Our family is pretty tight. We have fun. Joke. My parents aren’t stuffy-religious. I don’t get their commitment. Some things about church frustrate them. But, they’re loyal. A little over-the-top-loyal, I think.

In my second year at university, I got into Sig Ep – a fraternity. It’s awesome! I love living in community. Most of the guys are on the football team. And, did I mention the parties? We’re experts at parties. Our fraternity rocks! It’s a family. Total acceptance. No judging. Like church is supposed to be.

During my second year, I didn’t go home as much on weekends. The parties went late. I slept in most Saturday and Sunday mornings. I didn’t miss church that much, to be honest. When I was home, I just mostly went out of respect to my parents. Church was mostly boring. And the music sucked.

By the third year at school, I became a committed, party-hard fraternity guy, and loved it! I stopped going to church with my parents. I found a community who accepted me for who I was – my fraternity. It was liberating. My parents tolerated it. They encouraged me, but didn’t hassle me. I was striking out on my own.

My Sig Ep brothers became my new primary family. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family. Even my sister, Laura. She got married to Jason. He’s part geek, but he’s okay. My new home is with my friends at school. Why not?

My dad tried to weasel me back to church, or God, or…whatever. He tried to get me to go to the Christian Campus House here at Tri-State University. None of my fraternity brothers were part of that. I didn’t know anyone there. My parents came to visit and met me at this church near school. I showed up – last minute. Half hung-over. Two, maybe three hours of sleep. I can fake it! I knew what they were up to. I was surprised – one of our football coaches was there. He said, “Hi,” but never talked about it at practice.

And God? I don’t know. I guess I believe. Or maybe not. Who cares? I mean, besides my parents. Yeah, and probably my sister. But what difference does it make, anyway? I’m scared. I mean, if I was a real Christian, I couldn’t really have fun any more. Christians don’t have fun, do they? That’s what I like about sleeping the most. You don’t have to think about stuff. You don’t have to think about God. Or life.

I remember my pastor, Paul, always talks about life after death. I can’t relate. Hell, I don’t even like to think about life after college. You don’t have to think about anything when you are sleeping. And, after a few beers, I sleep real good.

 


The J-Dog Journey, an E-book by Kent R. Hunter

 
The J-Dog Journey:
Where Is Life?

by Kent R. Hunter

Download