Jason F. Wright: Helping Each Other Home

Wed Oct 23 10:00:39 EDT 2019
Episode 52

Best-selling author Jason F. Wright is a fan of people. It is apparent in the way his face lights up when he talks about those who have impacted his life, some of them strangers he met only briefly. On today’s episode, he explains how his passion for people and their stories began in his childhood home, thanks in large part to the example of his parents who taught him to believe in the goodness of others.

Trailer: Christmas Jars the Movie

Find a Christmas Jars movie showing near you

Book: Christmas Jars

Interview: Jason Wright on Glenn Beck

Video: Cameron Birch’s Story

Video: "On the Road" with Steve Hartman

Documentary: "Giving A Lift" Trailer

Book: The Christmas Doll

Elder Bednar’s Storytelling: "Watchful unto Prayer Continually" General Conference Talk

President Uchtdorf’s Storytelling: "Your Great Adventure" General Conference Talk

Gail Miller’s Book: “Courage to Be You”

Quote: “I’m like a little pencil in His hand. That’s all. He does the thinking. He does the writing. The pencil has nothing to do with it. The pencil has only to be allowed to be used.” - Mother Teresa

2:57- The Beginning of the "Christmas Jars" Tradition
11:08- Restoration
12:11- Stories of the Jars
16:27- Belief in Humanity
20:45- Help Getting Home
24:45- Giving a Lift
27:46- Fiction Vs. Non-Fiction
31:33- The Power of Stories
33:48- The Importance of Authenticity
38:39- What Does It Mean To Be "All In" the Gospel of Jesus Christ?


Morgan Jones: In 2005, Jason Wright released a book that started a tradition for families everywhere, including my very own family. Your family may have a Christmas jar of its own. The idea was simple: Throughout the year your family places spare change in a jar and then, the week of Christmas carefully selects a family who might be in need of a little extra money or a little extra love. The book became a New York Times bestseller and the idea of Christmas Jars? Well, it went viral, And this year, it becomes a movie. Jason Wright is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author and speaker. His work has appeared in over 100 newspapers, magazines and websites across the United States, including The Washington Times, The Chicago Tribune, Forbes, CNN.com and FoxNews.com. Jason and his wife, Cody, live in Virginia's beautiful Shenandoah Valley. They are the parents of two girls and two boys.

This is "All In," an LDS Living podcast where we ask the question, "What does it really mean to be 'all in' the Gospel of Jesus Christ?" I'm Morgan Jones, and I am so grateful to have Jason Wright with me today. Jason, welcome.

Jason Wright: Thank you, thank you. Thank you for having me.

Morgan Jones: Well, I am so excited about this, partially because it's in anticipation of the Christmas Jars movie, which is coming out. How cool to have a book that you wrote turned into a movie. Is this your first one that's been turned into a film?

Jason Wright: It is. Yeah, it was my first book. And it's been a 13-year journey from our very first meeting about what if, 13 years to release in November.

Morgan Jones: Holy cow, that's crazy. Well, I am excited, partially because of Christmas Jars, since your book came out, which was 2005? Since then, my family has done Christmas jars as a tradition in our home. And it was funny because yesterday as I knew that I was going to be interviewing you, I should have shown you this video before we started recording so that you can appreciate how funny it is, but I texted my family and I said I'm going to have Jason Wright on the podcast tomorrow, text me funny memories that you have from our doing the Christmas jars. And my sister sent this video of our drop-off last year and my little sister runs up to the door with my brothers-in-law who are like very intense about their drop-off. And so she runs up to the door and they start running back and of course, the boys are faster than she is and the person starts coming out the door and Natalie, my sister just hits the deck. Like on the front lawn. And then you hear voices in the video and they're like, "Where's Natalie?" Because my brothers-in-law are like, "We lost Natalie somehow in this transaction," and then all the sudden her little head just pops up. And then, game over. But it's been a tradition that we've loved and we look forward to it every year. And I feel like we have you to thank for that. So first of all, thank you.

Jason Wright: Well, you're very kind. And I'm so glad to hear that. And I know there are people listening today who probably have had similar experiences giving jars away. And that means a lot more than a book and a movie and all the things that have happened over the last decade-plus, that's all great, but really what's most important to me is hearing that people have put the movement kind of to the test in their family and have given a jar away. I mean, what's better than that? For an author to know that I created something from my strange little noggin that has turned into a family tradition for someone like you and yours, so that's pretty cool.

Morgan Jones: Yeah, absolutely. So I'm curious how it did form in your noggin? How did you have that idea?

Jason Wright: Yeah, great question. So my noggin was a little down. I was struggling a little bit in October of 2004. And my father passed away when I was in high school when I was 16. So right before Christmas, the holidays have always been a little bit of a blue time and a lot of folks listening can relate to that. Depression and anxiety really go up through the roof during the holidays for many, many people. So I was just kind of struggling a little bit with missing my dad, the holidays and the rush, and the hustle-bustle. When you're in mid-October, it hasn't quite hit yet, but you know the storm is coming. Parties and commitments and cookies and all the things that you do during the holidays that can be a distraction from what Christmas ought to be. So I'm having a conversation with my wife, again, it's about the second week of October, late one night, kids are asleep. I'm walking her through some of these feelings I'm having and this kind of just meatloaf of like, "What is wrong with me, and why am I struggling to enjoy more fully the color of Christmas?" So we kind of, compressing a very long story, but the conversation ended that night with, What if we put a jar on the counter and we put our change in it? And what if every time we dropped change in that jar we committed, to one another and to the kids and the kids to us, that we would think about the needs of someone else? Even if it's just two or three or four or five seconds, every day between that night in mid-October and Christmas Eve? And what if we could generate $50, $60, $70, $80, in change over the course of about two months? And what if there were a family in our circle of influence from church or school or the neighborhood, for whom that amount of money would be just what they needed, the answer to a little prayer, a little miracle in their life? And thus it began, and we began to fill that jar. And me, in particular, as being the one in the family that most needed the lesson that Christmas didn't need to be treated as a 24-hour holiday that we open and close and put back on the shelf. But I could think about the needs of someone else and ultimately, about the great gift of Christ in my life and Christmas, every single day. And so on Christmas Eve, we sat down as a family, my wife and my two daughters were eight and five at the time, and then we had a baby boy. And we made a list, just like you might imagine in a movie, we sat down with a pad and wrote down half a dozen families that we thought could benefit from this. We selected a family that actually belong to our ward. And we knew that this wouldn't change their lives necessarily. It's not enough money—it was $88 that first year. No one's paying off their house or medical bills with 88 bucks, but we thought it might make a difference. And I won't take the time to tell you the whole story, but I will tell you that the experience of getting that jar away is one of the anchor memories of my entire life. And it changed me, it changed our family, it changed the way we think of Christmas in our home. And we woke up the very next morning and my kids were like, "Let's do that again. Like we want to fill another jar." And so we did. And now, we're filling a jar for a full year. And during that full year, we're in 2005 now, I began to kind of ask myself, like, "Our family was changed by this, could another family be changed by a similar experience?"

And so, back to the noggin, I started to think like, "Could I fictionalize this? Could I take just a little nugget of our experience and turn it into something a little bigger and a little better and a little brighter?" And so I began to imagine this story of a young reporter with no family to speak of and not a lot of hope, but whose name was hope. And, well what happened is she got a Christmas jar and became obsessed with uncovering the origin of the movement. Who gave the first jar away? Where did it all begin in her community? And it started, I never talk about this, truly, but it started as a five-page short story called "Christmas Jars and Restoration." And then it evolved over the course of a few weeks into a 25,000 word, 120-page little novel. And no one wanted to publish it. I had 20 agents tell me "No," "No," and "No." One agent said to me, this is a true story. I have an email, where this agent in New York said, "Thank you for your submission. I really liked the concept, I just wished someone else had written it."

Morgan Jones: Ouch.

Jason Wright: Yeah, that stung just a little bit. And so at the edge of giving up, my wife kind of encouraged me to just bypass the traditional agent-publisher kind of route, and to just fire it off to some publishers. So I did. And a miracle of miracles, the right people at Shadow Mountain, which is a part of this beautiful Desert Book, LDS Living family said, "There might be something here." And that was April of 2005. And by September, the little book was appearing in stores around the country and families like yours were saying, "Gosh, I want to do something with this." And here we are.

Morgan Jones: Amazing. That like makes me want to cry for some reason. I think it's like remembering, like our little Christmas jar moments over the years. But, I want to go back to something you said. You mentioned that it started out as a short story, what was the "and restoration" piece?

Jason Wright: Oh, gosh, you are really diving deep. So the name of the company that the family owns in the novel, the family that Hope becomes intertwined with—and ultimately they play a big role in the climax of the book—their furniture restoration businesses is called "Restoration." And they restore old furniture and dressers and beds and antiques and make them new again. And I just loved the idea that that's what was happening to Hope in the book. She was being kind of restored to her original, beautiful, wonderful, make better choices, self. And in terms of the gospel, we know what that beautiful word "Restored" and "Restoration" means. So it was an opportunity to play a little bit with that word.

Morgan Jones: Yeah. I love that. So over the years, I've watched an interview that you did with Glenn Beck in 2006. And I loved one thing that you said. He mentioned that his family was doing this tradition and you said, "You'll talk to them," referring to his kids, "in 15 to 20 years and they'll remember that for the rest of their lives." And I think that's, for me, how I feel about Christmas jars is that it is something that people remember. I'm sure that over the years you've heard a lot of stories from people. One that I watched a video about was, Cameron Birch who was a boy suffering from cancer, ended up passing away shortly thereafter, but received a Christmas jar and decided to use it to buy toys for the floor at the hospital. What are some of the other stories that stand out in your mind over the years of Christmas jars?

Jason Wright: Oh, man, there are so many thousands and thousands of stories that have come in. I love that one about the Birch family. I hope they're listening. I love them dearly and just admire so much how they turned that heartbreaking experience of losing their five-year-old, into a tradition for them that has really sealed our families together in a really cool way. We're very close and it's because of this boy who's not even a part of this mortal world anymore, but whose spirit lives on in their jar every year. So I love that one. I'm a big fan of a woman named Sherry, in Texas. She was one of the very first stories that came in the very first year. A single mom, living on a base, a military base, and struggling with three kids, got called into work on Christmas Eve, nothing for Christmas. No tree, no gifts, just a hard conversation with her kids about why they wouldn't be experiencing any magic that year. She gets called into work, she finds someone that can come and babysit the kids, which is another little side miracle to her story. And while the babysitter and the three children are inside this little home at the edge of this military base in Texas, they get knock at the door. And the mother describes later, that coming home from work and seeing the babysitter and three kids with their faces up against the glass, looking at a brown bag on the doorstep. And she said, "Well, why, why didn't you open the door." And the babysitter said, "Because you told me to never open the door." So they saw someone they didn't recognize knock on the door, leave a brown bag and take off. No idea who it was. So the mom brought the bag in and set it on the table and they opened it up and there was a copy of the book and about $400 in change and a couple of $100 bills shoved in the middle of this jar. And it was enough money that she could leave the kids again, go into town, by a few small things and create just a little bit of Christmas magic for her kids the next morning. And then, my favorite part of her story, which you can find at christmasjars.com, is she says, "I could have spent it all, but I knew that a good mom would use most of that money to pay some bills and to keep my family afloat for another month." It's one of my all-time favorites. I've had stories from people that didn't need the money, they just needed to be seen. I love those. People in nice homes with nice cars and good jobs, but have been through hard things emotionally and spiritually, divorces and illness and depression. And they get on their knees and they pray for a miracle and someone knocks at the door. And they pull the door open and sometimes they see a car racing away and sometimes they see someone hiding in the bushes and they pretend they don't see them. And they bring it inside and they realize, "Yeah, the money is nice," and it's you know, $100 or $200 or $300 is always nice at Christmas time. But much, much more than that is the message that someone was aware of them and saw them through their peripheral vision and said they need a little bit of love.

Morgan Jones: That's beautiful. I love something that you said at the beginning when you started to answer that question, you said, "I'm a really big fan of a woman named Sherry in Texas." And I think that that's one thing that I admire about you and the work that you've done, is I think you're a fan of people. And I also am a big fan of people. And so I love this idea of seeing people's worth and believing in them. I'm curious for you, Jason, why do you believe in people?

Jason Wright: This is really unfair what you're doing to me today, Morgan [laughter]. Oh, my gosh, oh boy. First of all, you're a great writer. And I have read many of your own pieces about people. And so I can see why you connect there a little bit. My father had a gift for seeing people. He understood that you can't be the hands of the Lord, which is something that we talked about in Christianity a lot, right? Be Jesus's hands to do good. That's true. But you can't be his hands to do good if your eyes are closed, or if your eyes are looking at your device. You have to be seeing people, looking, living with your eyes open every day to the needs of other people. Who's around you that needs just a few seconds of donated time? Which is what we just talked about. It's not always money that people need, It's not always even a hug people need, or a text or a phone call, sometimes it's just a few seconds stopped on the street to just see someone and to help them know that they're loved by Heaven and by someone on Earth. Even if it's a stranger. And my dad had that gift. He just knew that he couldn't help change a tire on the side of the road if he hadn't seen the person on the side of the road. He couldn't help the new family that had just moved in down the street unless he'd first noticed there's a moving truck that's been coming back and forth for a few days. He couldn't befriend the new person at work that just started a few days ago if he hadn't first noticed that that person was sitting alone at lunch, or that person wasn't leaving the office at lunch. So he knew that that was a really important first step. Open your eyes. When you walk out your front door every morning, open your eyes as wide as you can. Look left, look right, look in front of you and make sure you're seeing the people that the Lord is putting in your path. Because if you see them, you can serve them. And I think that is the most important lesson that I learned from my father: was to see people and to help them know that they have eternal worth. Because there are people around us, maybe people listening right now, who don't believe that they matter at all, to anyone. We have a divine responsibility, every day, to see someone. What if everyone listening right now just said, "I'm going to see one person every day who might feel invisible." And maybe that person has been praying to just be seen. I'll give you a 30-second example. Someone from a ward, once in my life, and I want to be careful here but a good sister had been through a lot said to me in a private setting once, "Too many Sundays I walk in, I walk out without so much as a 'hello.'" She said, "I just need a 'hello' To feel like I matter to the ward and to the Lord." I've never forgotten that.

Morgan Jones: That's so powerful. And I think, going back, I want to come back to this statement. But going back to what you said about your father, you said earlier that your father passed away when you were in high school. And so I think that it's so neat that, even as a high school-age boy or earlier, you recognized these qualities in your father and they were things that you wanted to model. I think sometimes we think, "Oh, nobody's watching these things that I'm doing," when they're little things, but so many times I think we look back and realize those little things are what make the big things. And that's made a tremendous influence in your life. So first, thank you for sharing that. Second, I love that statement by the woman in the ward. And I was watching a video, you can tell that I scoured your YouTube channel to prep for this. Okay, so going back actually, I'm going to tell a little bit of this story. This is a video, you were on a national news channel because a woman was in a gas station and was trying to figure out directions to Cleveland, Ohio. And she yelled in the gas station and said, "Can someone help me get to Cleveland?" And you walked up to her and helped her, gave directions, and then she still didn't believe you. So then you got in your car and lead her to get in the right direction to head to Cleveland. And at the end of this video, you said it just doesn't matter, the skin color, the zip code, we're brothers and sisters, and we really do have a responsibility to help one another get home. And I think that's such a powerful concept. That, in that situation, obviously, it's very easy to see she just wanted to get home to her physical home, but we all do have a responsibility to help each other get back to our heavenly home. Why do you think that is so important to you?

Jason Wright: Oh, again, I think it's in part because I witnessed my dad and my mother, by the way, who's probably listening, and who sometimes has fallen into the shadows of my dad's legacy. And really unfairly so. And she's rolling her eyes right now because she doesn't want the attention, but my wife reminds me often, "Thank your mom," because she's had a huge significance in my life. So I've seen my parents reach out to people who have lost their way. And I'm not talking necessarily about members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I'm talking about people. In that interview, you're referring to, which I would invite people to go watch. It's so great, her name is Anita and she's just a ball of love and energy. And Steve Hartman, the reporter, does such a brilliant job of telling the story. He's very, very talented. She's not a member of the Church. She's just a person who's trying to get home and sometimes I think when we use that phrase, "help someone get home," we mean, "well, we need to introduce them to the gospel, we need them to get on the covenant path and we need them to find their way back to exaltation with the Father and the Son." Of course, that's what we hope for. But it's much more real than that every single day for people to just get home to a place of love where they can lay in bed at night and know that God loves them. And baptism, and the temple, and all the things that we know are so important to eventually live and to be like Them, those are discussions for another day, or perhaps for another lifetime. Much more importantly than that, is just helping people feel at home with God in their life. And I know that we pass people every single day on the streets who just simply don't know that. They don't know how homesick Father in Heaven is for us. They want us home, don't they? They want us home and we have a responsibility to point them in the right direction. That might mean inviting them to sacrament meeting and it might just mean looking them in the eye and saying, "Don't you dare ever forget that you're a divine son and daughter of God. And Heavenly Father loves you and knows you and knows the sound of your voice. And by the way, he'd like to hear from you more."

Morgan Jones: Yeah, thank you for that. I watched some of the videos that you did for the, is it "Give a Lift?" For those that aren't familiar—and we'll link all of this in our show notes—but for those that aren't familiar, Jason did a series of videos for a good period of time where he would pick up someone on the street who was homeless, or just needed a ride and would talk to them about their lives and video it. And the thing that impressed me the most about these videos is that you listen more than you talk. And I was kind of expecting it to be like, I don't know if I was expecting like "Cash Cab" or something. You know, like where you're like asking questions the whole time, but I was amazed by how little you talked in the videos and how much those people wanted to be seen and heard. What was the most valuable thing you learned from that project?

Jason Wright: We are so much more alike than we want to admit. And I mean, you and I, and I mean the homeless person on the street holding the cardboard sign who hasn't eaten in three days, or who has eaten and isn't even going to use the money the way they promise you when you give them the two bucks on the corner in front of Walmart. Boy, I have met some of the most wonderful people and I never intended for that to turn into what it did. We actually did a little 90-minute documentary last year that compiled some of the best interviews. And I had a really hard time cutting that and watching that and premiering that without just tears flowing. In part, because I wonder where my friends are because some of them I have been able to keep in touch with and others I haven't seen since they said goodbye and stepped out of my vehicle. But I think the most important thing that I've learned is that so many of those people were praying every single day for someone to listen. Some of them are homeless by choice. Some of them are homeless by just hard circumstances of life. Some are homeless because of addictions and bad habits. I'm so glad that you mentioned that, that's such a keen observation on your part because I tried so hard to just be the ears for them, to just unload and to just talk about what was hard and what was good. And I hoped by the end of each conversation in the vehicle, and again, in the videos, you're only seeing a few minutes of sometimes as much as an hour and a half together. But I hope by the time we hug goodbye at the end of our adventure, that they felt like the Lord had put someone in their path who actually cared and that knew that they had worth. I genuinely fell in love with those people and what they represent in their struggles.

Morgan Jones: I think it's interesting, whether it's these people that are in your car that you have the chance to talk to and share a video of your conversation with them, or whether it's Gail Miller that you've written two books with now. I love the children's book, by the way, I just read it yesterday for the first time and I was like, "This is such a great story." But you've had this chance to tell people stories, whether it be real people or fiction. And I think this is interesting because a lot of people I don't think kind of straddle that line between fiction and nonfiction. It seems most authors stick to one or the other. And so I'm curious about, as you have kind of approach these stories, how do you approach a fiction story differently than you would approach a nonfiction story?

Jason Wright: Great question. I think everyone has a story to tell. And I think that's true of those of us sitting around the table right now and listening that are living, breathing human beings with the name and an address. But I also think it's true for the people in our heads. For the characters that we imagined when we were young, and we would go to the playground and we would play cops and robbers or put on little skits. I bet you, Morgan you were one of those girls that would put on a little skit and gather family around, I could just see you doing your little thing, right? A lot of people listening can probably relate to those imaginary worlds that we create. I grew up, again, in a home where storytelling, there was a real premium on storytelling. My dad was a brilliant storyteller, both just telling a story at bedtime, and with the pen and paper. And so as I began to sort dive into the world of fiction, I decided that I wanted to tell stories that felt true. So, not to say that I won't someday dive into fantasy or sci-fi or some other world, but everything I've written, "Christmas Jars," for example, I wanted people to read that and go, "Wow, this feels like this could have happened in my neighborhood." Well, yeah, that's the idea. So all of the fiction, I hope people read and go, in fact, I often have people say to me, when they read "The Seventeen Second Miracle" or "The Cross Gardener", are two other novels that have—the families go through some really hard things, some rare and hard things. And people will come up to me and just hug me at signings or speaking engagements and say, "I'm so sorry that your family went through this, this and this," and I say, "Oh, you're so sweet, but that didn't really happen to me. It's just fiction." But they felt like it was real and it allowed them to feel some empathy and to learn to be compassionate a little bit more in the world, even though the story itself wasn't real. So I straddle it by trying to write, straddle it, meaning nonfiction and fiction, by trying to write stories that feel like they could be nonfiction. And then when someone approaches me for an article or a post or something about a real person or I meet a real person, like Anita trying to make her way to Cleveland, it's a really natural thing to tell that true story, because it feels like a novel I might have written.

Morgan Jones: Totally. That makes complete sense.

Jason Wright: And by the way, I've done a bazillion interviews over the last 14 or 15 years. No one has ever posed a question to me like that before. So thank you for making me think that through a little bit.

Morgan Jones: It's just something that I was genuinely curious about because I've never written any fiction. And so the idea of like, going into that different world is foreign to me. But I love that and another thing that I'm wondering about your telling of stories is I feel like stories are so important. And I think that's one reason that I've been passionate about this podcast—is I like the idea of people being able to tell their own stories. Like I like the idea of, here's Jason Wright, somebody that we have read a lot about, but to be able to hear it, in your own words, I think is so cool. But why do you think stories in general, are so powerful and have the opportunity to touch people or change people?

Jason Wright: Great question, because this is the pattern of God. This is a heavenly pattern. You go to the scriptures, and we learn through stories in the scriptures. Who was a better storyteller or teacher than Jesus Christ? There hasn't been one. There will never be another like him. If you think back to how you feel when you read the scriptures, think of your favorite scriptural story, no matter what book of scripture, it's in. You love it because the Holy Ghost says, "This matters. This lesson from this story in the New Testament or the Book of Mormon or whatever it is, i.t's true. And if you learn the lesson of this story, you'll be a better son or daughter of God." Well, that's the Holy Ghost that does that teaching. And I think that that pattern comes through in conference which we've just absolutely enjoyed. I hope people devoured every single little story. You heard of Elder Bednar talking about cheetahs, and topee's, in this story format with him and his wife. Who didn't feel the Holy Ghost saying, "Hey, guess what this matters." And it's not just because it's an ordained apostle of the Lord telling the story, but because the story has a value. It could have been anyone who had that experience. I think stories connect us to deity.

Morgan Jones: Beautiful, couldn't have said that any better. And I think you're so right. I think we look at President Uchtdorf, or Elder Uchtdorf I should say, his talk where he told the story of Bilbo Baggins. I think that's like a fictional story where we see so much value and so many good things being communicated. What have you learned as you've worked with, let's kind of shift to this idea of nonfiction, as you've worked with someone like Gail Miller in sharing her story, what have you learned about like doing someone's story justice?

Jason Wright: Oh, boy, you're killing me with these questions. killing me.

Morgan Jones: Sorry! [Laughter]

Jason Wright: Holy cow. These are such great questions. I wish we had three hours. I learned more from writing Courage to Be You with her two years ago, than through any other writing experience of my life. And it's because she was willing to be so transparent and to let her authentic self be told to the world. And that’s what makes, whether it's a 300-page book on Gail's life or a 600-word article on LDSliving.com, they work best when the subject says, "It's okay that this is going to look a little unpolished. My life hasn't been perfect." In Gail's case, "I bribed the kids with McDonald's on the Sabbath, to get them to church." When she tells that story, people love it because it is so real and authentic to her. The trap sometimes is that writers and storytellers will polish things up because we think the lesson will have more value if we take away the rough edges of a subject’s life. But we learned so much from, for example, Gail Miller, because she says, "Here I am. I am a daughter of God. And I'm not perfect. That's what I'm working for. But I'm not perfect yet. So let me give you a peek into my real authentic self." And I've tried to do that with Gail and the and The Christmas Doll story, which I hope people will give a look. The art, by the way by Howard Lyon, is absolutely beautiful. Howard deserves all the credit for how gorgeous this book looks. But it's a true story. It's based on her childhood. And it works because she said, "Yeah, I want people to know that I really did kind of toss this doll to the side because it became old and later learned the lesson that we can all be made new through Christ again." So that's a very long answer to a very short and powerful question that we learn when we allow ourselves to be seen, to be authentic.

Morgan Jones: Yeah. It's interesting that you bring that up because my grandma, I gave her a copy of Courage to Be You, and my grandma read it. She is to the point in her life where she spends a lot of time at home, and she read it and she said that she felt like she had made a new friend. And I think that there's so much power in that, to allow an older woman who doesn't get out as much as she used to, she used to be so social, to feel like she's made a new friend through a book. And that's only possible because it was an authentic story. Jason, what have you learned about the power of your own story?

Jason Wright: I have learned that we all get a second chapter. If I were judged on the kind of life I lived for the first 10 or 15 or 20 or 30 years of my life, I don't think that's a great book. But the Atonement of Christ gives us an opportunity to keep editing our life story, and to write a new chapter that's better than the one before. My life's journey has been full of mistakes, and regret, and failures and successes and I wouldn't do it differently because I am who I am because of all those missteps. But I'm so thankful that my understanding of the life and Atonement of Christ has given me an opportunity to keep writing my story. Thankfully, I think I've got more pages to go.

Morgan Jones: Yeah. One of my favorite quotes ever is—maybe my favorite quote of all time—is a quote by Mother Teresa. I've probably quoted it on this podcast before but she says something to the effect of, "I am but a little pencil in God's hands. He does the writing, the pencil has only to allow itself to be used." And I love thinking about that concept of ourselves as a pencil in God's hands. And one of the things that I love about that is, like you said, this idea of editing. I always think about how a pencil can be erased and try again. And I think there's power in that concept. And so thank you so much for sharing that. As we wrap up, I just have one last question for you, and that is what does it mean to you to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Jason Wright: I adore that question so much. For me, it means asking yourself this follow up: "What am I willing to give up?" Christ has asked a lot of men and women who chose to follow Him. Men set their nets down and said, "We will go and we will do." In more recent days, families said, "We'll leave it all behind and will walk from one side of the country to the other knowing that we will bury our own on the way." Being all in the Gospel Jesus Christ means being willing to get on your knees and to say, "Father, I will give up this habit. This bit of social media. This toxic and dangerous relationship," and then walking. And walking away from your past, and being willing to let him make you new again and to walk with you. For me, that's what it means to be all in. What will you give up for him?

Morgan Jones: Thank you. That was beautiful. I really appreciate that so much, Jason. We appreciate your time. We know you're busy man, so thank you so much.

Jason Wright: My pleasure. Thank you so much for having me today.

Morgan Jones: We are so grateful to Jason Wright for joining us on this week's episode. The Christmas Jars movie is in theaters for one night only on November 4. Visit christmasjars.com to find a theater near you that is showing the film. As always, thank you for listening and a big thank you to Derek Campbell of Mix At Six Studios for his sound work on these episodes. We'll be with you next week.

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