Thinking Out Loud

January 30, 2018

If It’s True That You Use Broken Things; Then Here I am Lord, I’m All Yours

I’ve been really sick since last Thursday. It’s a nasty cough thing that’s going around in my part of the world. Some are calling it the “hundred day cough.” If that’s the case, I only have 95 days to go. So I really didn’t feel like posting anything today, though by noon I probably would have found something in the archives.

But I’ve had this song by Matthew West stuck in my head now for several days. Especially the chorus. I felt God rather clearly telling me that this was to be shared today.

Now I’m just a beggar in the presence of a king;
I wish I could bring so much more.
But if it’s true that you use broken things;
Then here I am, Lord, I’m all yours.

Maybe it’s my own brokenness with this illness but this song really resonates right now. Enjoy.

That’s the lyric video, you can also watch the original concept video at this link.

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit.  (Psalm 34:18 NASB)

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.  (Psalm 51:17 NASB)

“How blessed are those who are destitute in spirit, because the kingdom from heaven belongs to them!” (Matthew 5:3 ISV)


The post tags at the beginning of each article here help guide search engines to themes presented. Today when I typed in the word “broken” some of the ones used today appeared as things we’ve discussed before on the blog. I pray that if that’s what brought you here, that God will meet you in your brokenness today.

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November 20, 2017

We Have Met the Misfits and They is Us

I could probably give you a number of reasons why Brant Hansen shouldn’t have a book with W Publishing, an imprint of Thomas Nelson, let alone two books.1 He’s not a pastor. Not a professor. Not someone who’s made it in the field of sports or business or entertainment and coincidentally happens to be a Christian.

He’s a radio announcer.

That’s it. But Blessed are the Misfits, his second major book release confirms what listeners to The Brant Hansen Show2 and The Brant and Sherri Oddcast podcast3 have known all along: There’s a heck a lot of us out there who feel we just don’t fit in.

The subtitle of the book — which appears above the title, meaning it’s actually a surtitle4 — is Great News for Believers Who are Introverts, Spiritual Strugglers, or Just Feel Like They’re Missing Something.5 Insert deep breath here.

Brant not only sees himself as a misfit, but he’s even been diagnosed with a few things just to make it official. The radio show and podcast contain frequent announcements to new listeners that the show may take some time to figure out.6

Brant’s life story would make a book like this interesting enough; but the fact he also does the requisite research, includes Bible quotations and writes well simply adds to the appeal.

I see myself and others I know quite well in the pages of this book. People

• who are introverts
• who deal with social anxiety; mental health issues
• who are diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (or something similar)
• who feel they are failures
• who are lonely
• whose personality type is melancholy
• who feel they are just different; they don’t see the world like everyone else does

As I wrapped up the final pages of the book, I thought of a song recorded eons ago by The Altar Boys, a Christian band.

To all the hearts who have been broken;
To all the dreamers with abandoned dreams;
To everyone in need of a friend;
You are loved, You are loved.
To all the rebels wounded in battle;
To all the rockers that have lost that beat;
To all the users all used up now;
You are loved, You are loved.7

Henri Nouwen has called the capital-C Church “the community of the broken.”8 When you think of the misfits at your local church, take some time to also look in the mirror. I see myself repeatedly in these pages.9

Have you ever been to a concert only to find out that the performer is also an official representative of Compassion, Inc., or some other similar charity and you feel like you’ve been ambushed somehow?10 Brant is actually a spokesperson for CURE International; which means there are frequent references to CURE hospitals doing amazing things for kids whose situations looked hopeless.

Personally, I like my books to be books and my charity appeals to be charity appeals; but trust me, you wouldn’t want this book without the CURE stories.11 They are a part of who Brant is, and therefore they deserve the space they get to act as mind-stretching illustrations of the points made in various chapters.

The solution to the problem? This is important because Brant is not speaking to solutions here so much as he’s saying to his fellow-misfits, “You’re not alone.” His personal revelations of classic awkwardness aren’t enumerated here as self-deprecation, but rather I see Brant in the pages of this book as a positive role model for people who feel they just don’t fit. There is very wide swath of people covered in this book. He comes alongside people who are hurting.

That we are also Christians makes the struggle all the more complex in one way, but our identification with Jesus also means that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses.”12

We need to remember that Jesus was a misfit, too.


1 Click here for my review of Unoffendable, click here for a sample segment.
2 Link to Brant’s website. The show may have a different music mix in different markets.
3 Specific link to the podcast. Warning: Sherri’s laughter is infectious.
4 This is the type of distraction Brant lives for.
5 Spellcheck wants to change Strugglers to Stragglers which might work as well.
6 As true as this is, the part about “listener uniforms” should be taken with a grain of salt.
7 Listen to the song at this link.
8 I can’t prove this is an actual quotation, but Nouwen did say that we are all “wounded healers.”
9 The title of this review, We Have Met the Misfits and They is Us is a reference to the Pogo comic strip.
10 Like that time you’re friend invited you over for the evening, and it was actually an Amway meeting.
11 Learn more at cure.org
12 Hebrews 4:15 NIV
13 There is no corresponding sentence to this footnote. Brant actually only uses one footnote in the book and then in typical ADD fashion, abandons the form.

Thanks to Kimberley at HarperCollins Christian Publishing for an advance copy of Brant Hansen’s book.


Review bonus: The Misfits Tour! (They should pay us for including this.)

Date City Info
11/27/17 West Palm Beach, FL Journey Church
11/28/17 Vero Beach, FL Christian FM
12/2/17 Hagerstown, MD Word FM
1/4/18 Lynchburg, VA The Journey
1/5/18 Louisville, KY WAY FM
1/6/18 Cincinnati, OH Star 93.3
1/11/18 Hazel Green, AL WAY FM
1/12/18 Tallahassee, FL WAY FM
1/13/18 Panama City, FL WAY FM
1/18/18 Indianapolis, IN Shine FM
1/19/18 Chicago, IL Shine FM
1/20/18 Ft. Wayne, IN Star
1/25/18 Riverside, CA KSGN
1/26/18 Bakersfield, CA KDUV
1/27/18 Visalia, CA KDUV

By the way, does anyone else think it strange that an introvert wants to go on tour where everybody will be looking at him?

January 7, 2017

Counseling the Counselor

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:58 am

This first appeared in January, 2008 at Internet Monk and was re-posted yesterday. It would be great if you read it at source by clicking the title below.

Fridays with Michael Spencer: Jan 6, 2017

by the late Michael Spencer

Note: The following incident is fictionalized from real experience.

I look at my watch. It’s time for a counseling appointment. I clear my desk, bring in the extra chairs and wait.

My appointment arrives and the conversation begins. This is a first time conversation, with someone I don’t know. I spend a lot of time listening. Then questions. More listening. I try to put what I’m hearing into some kind of order; to make some kind of helpful response.

michael spencerI’m not a quick thinker. My feelings are always way out in front of my thoughts. So I have to be cautious in counseling to be sure I’m doing what’s needed and helpful.

My counselee says the conversation has been helpful. He leaves. It’s been an hour and fifteen minutes. Longer than I like, but not unusual for a first conversation.

What did I hear? I heard what it means to do the best with what you have, as God brings all things into himself through Jesus Christ.

I hear about a broken marriage. Silence. Distance. Public pretense. I hear about broken children. The fear of what’s next and the impact of what has already been. I hear about ministry; a ministry that goes on under stress that’s unimaginable to me.

I hear about faith and its stumbling steps to do what is right. I hear of guilt, the certain knowledge that one has fallen short. I hear the cry for restoration of broken relationships; the longing for Christian community and the church to be what family and friends have failed to be.

I hear about secrets and the reluctance to speak of them. I hear of the learned response of looking away; the habit of staying busy; of attending to “real life” and never looking at the inner world. I hear of the pain of sin’s lingering work, its blindness creating deception and its deep roots that drive us away from God, others and even ourselves.

I hear of persistent belief in God, prayer, the Bible, the work of the Spirit. I hear the ache for a pronouncement of forgiveness.

I hear the mystery of God’s call to be a servant and a minister when life is broken. I hear the mystery of God’s presence in the midst of brokenness that is not healed and darkness that does not lift. Yet, I hear of love for others and a simple, loyal, persistent love for Jesus and for the people Jesus loved.

I hear about doing the best you can with what you have, even when what you have is broken, wounded and bleeding from our human frailties and cruelties.

The world loves to point out hypocrisy among Christians. I want to point out the inexplicable, amazing absurdity of people who continue on with Jesus when any rational, reasonable person would abandon all hope. Of course, love is not reasonable or rational. Love suffers long, all the while rejoicing in the truth.

If you are a person who believes that all ministers and their families are picture postcards, let me break this to you gently: many ministers and their families are living in hell, and you don’t know it. Perhaps right in front of you. For them, the ride to church to face you may have filled them with fear that somehow you might see past their facade and into the failure and hurt.

The tendency these days is to project the image of the minister as young, absurdly happy, socially perfect and free from care and hang-ups. In fact, many ministers are living lives of pain and facing situations that would make you wince, if not curse. The price of being the shepherd of Christ is often high; so high ordinary persons could seldom stand to see it.

Perhaps some Christians are masochists. Or truly warped from being around so much need and paying too little attention to their own lives. I cannot say what is motivating an individual person to carry burdens that would break others, and do to it for the sake of Christ, his gospel and his church.

Part of me wants to say “Go fix your marriage. Be 100% available to your kids. Let the ministry go for a while.” That’s probably very good advice.

But another part of me senses that brokenness is part of ministry, and it is not for me to say to God or another person what forms of brokenness should stop the show, and what others can be carried on and through.

I do know that my eyes are opened, again and again, to the immense pain that surrounds me in the Christian family. So many of God’s servants are hurting in their body, families, marriages and in ways I cannot label or identify.

Yet these are some of God’s best servants and most Christ-filled saints. Some of his most useful, loving people. The crucible does not need to be approved by me or you to be effective. God chooses his own instruments, preparing, sharpening and equipping them as He chooses. His agenda is Jesus. Mine would be comfort, wholeness, happiness and so forth, with Jesus as the end result. God is only interested in making us like Jesus.

So the cross, and the instruments of crucified glory, are his doing. I am a listener; an observer.

I bow my head and pray for what I’ve heard and seen. I will do so many times in the future as I realize I am watching, in the midst of pain, a kind of holiness that is only a rumor for me.

We do the best with what we have given to us, or what we have left over or with what still works after the latest wreck. And God forms Christ in us, brings Christ through us, glorifies Christ in us and all in all.

In such colors, the Spirit paints the Incarnation every day, and presents the painting to the Father. And each picture looks more and more like the Jesus we have never seen with our eyes.

Or have we?

 

December 10, 2015

When You Start Seeing Ghosts

She walked into my workplace and made very direct eye contact. There was a sign of recognition from her to me, and I did believe she looked familiar. But no name or context appeared as my brain scanned all available memory trying to place her.

She had a wisp of hair in the front that had recently been streaked blonde, contrasting with the light brown tint of the rest of her hair. “Do I know you with a different hair color?” I asked her. It was what I felt was a disarming way of saying, “Do I know you from somewhere?” But isn’t that an overworked pickup line?

I can’t remember with what words she brushed the question aside. She didn’t offer her name, and I didn’t press any further.

The question was a little creepy, I’ll admit. Fortunately, she didn’t bolt for the door, but kept shopping, eventually making a rather large purchase. She looked so familiar, though.

I don’t think I had ever seen her before. Well, not her. I have reached an age where I am seeing ghosts, not in the sense of the spirits of departed people, but the visual twins to people I knew a generation or more ago.

There is a saying that, “When you get older, everything reminds you of something else.” Have I reached that age? That’s scary. Certainly it does seem lately that everybody reminds me of someone I was acquainted with when.

I keep seeing people who are Xerox copies of people from another time and place. The real people in question have aged, but unfortunately, my brain has not been online to receive any updates. The update would consist of seeing the same people as they are now, but that’s not likely to happen.

Before I got married, I drafted an elaborate theory on how there were only 17 facial types, only 17 available sets of eyes, 17 mouth shapes, 17 noses and 17 hair types. I’m not sure how I came up with the number seventeen, but I believe the number of facial types was meant to take into account ethnic variances as well. There was some rather lame comment at the time about most of the seventeen being white Caucasian because the others “all looked alike anyway.” I would not get away with that today, but those were different times. Apologies all round.

Combine this with two available sexes, and you are left with 2,839,714 people; so even within the United States and Canada, you’d be dealing with at least ten identical people. So you don’t have a twin, you have at least nine just within North America if that’s your home.

But the twin thing multiplies when you factor in time. If you have nine look-a-likes now, it’s possible that you also have ten people who are ten years younger than you are right now, who match what you looked like ten years ago. But also that you yourself look exactly ten people did who are — survival assumed — ten years older.

Ghosts. Everywhere. Walking past each other at the beach, at the mall, at church, at the airport…

The worst case is the summer camp we do volunteer work at. The generation of people we knew now has kids of their own, who show up at the same camp. When I look at Sam (real name) I see Tim (real name). He/they is/are not the only example. The generations start to blend in a brain that is reeling as though caught in some grand time travel experiment.

Other adult volunteers at the camp tell me our two boys look like me. I don’t see it. Not at all. I don’t say, “You must be crazy;” but I’m thinking they’re probably stretching the point, or maybe it is just that bad hair days (or weeks; years) run in the family.

Or maybe they’re seeing ghosts.

September 16, 2014

“I’m Fine — Not”

Filed under: writing — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:49 am

Guest Post

Today I want to introduce you to Diane Lindstrom who blogs at Nice One Nana!  To read this at source, click the title below.


The Fog of a Broken Heart

Apparently, the two most common lies are “I’m fine” and “It’s OK.”

Casual conversation seems to trap us into a practiced script that alienates us from exposing the truth about who and how we really are.

It’s difficult to be honest with others because to do so, we need to believe that others care and that it will be safe to expose the restlessness in our spirits, without fear of rejection.

image 0916A young woman walked into the store last week and I greeted her with a friendly, “Hi – how ya’ doin’ today?”

She walked up to the counter, took my hand,  looked me straight in the eye and asked,“Do you REALLY want to know because if you genuinely care, I’ll tell you about the sh–ty day I’ve had so far.”  

It was quiet in the store — no customers around — and because I had engaged in conversations with this woman before, I decided to pursue the dialogue.

“I care, Susan. I care” was my response. I put down the pricing machine and postured myself in a way that said, “Talk to me. I’m listening.”

The young woman began to speak.

“So, here’s the story. My mouth says ‘I”m OK.’ My fingers text, ‘I’m fine’ but my heart says, ‘I’m broken.’ There’s a good chance I’m going to lose custody of my two kids because of my drinkin’ and my mother is giving up on me. I’m not fine. I’m not OK. I feel like I’m gonna’ die.”

With those words, the woman began to weep.

Oh, how humanity is groaning all around us. (Romans 8. 22,23)

The Holy Spirit breathed Jesus’ familiar words into my conscience.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me . . . I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me. ~ Matthew 25:35-36,40

I have learned that it’s a costly choice to care.

Consciously allowing our hearts to break goes against not only our natural tendencies, but also against the grain of our culture. Myriad distractions lure us from embracing pain. There are so many places to hide so that we need not heed God’s beckoning to share in the suffering of impoverished people.

But the pain and empathy I felt moved me to action.

A person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. ~ James 2.24

I walked around the counter and held her in my arms. Thankfully, no other customers came into the store and I was resolved to be “all there” for this hurting woman. She didn’t need advise or exhortation. I couldn’t be the answer to her pain but I certainly could be “Jesus with skin on” for those precious minutes that she needed to be held.

The fog of a broken heart is a dark fog that slyly imprisons the soul.

If we can be a beacon of light that breaks through the fog, even for a short moment, it is good and honoring to God.

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.    ~   2 Corinthians 4.7 NLT


Diane Lindstrom is a Canadian author who looks for Almighty God in the ordinariness of life. She has been blogging daily since 2010 and has recently published her first book, Sisters in the Son.  She thrives on bike rides, laughter and homemade chai tea with lots of froth.

October 21, 2010

Anne Jackson Redfines “Earning The Right To Be Heard”

I thought the service where we were guest worship leaders had gone rather well.   I had mixed some pieces this congregation knew with some extra verses that would be new to them, and had arranged the 20 minute worship set so that the songs would really flow from one to the other.   Frankly, I was looking to relocate to be able to continue leading worship in a church like this, where I felt the musical assistance would be truly needed.

Afterward, the pastor invited us out for lunch, but it seemed like an hour before we were finally eating a restaurant that seemed unnecessarily distant.   My oldest started wandering back and forth into the lobby which had chocolate bars and other confectionery items to tempt him.   I told him firmly, “no;” but my wife didn’t hear that and minutes later he came back enjoying a large sugar treat.   Furthermore, we were wanting to press on in our journey to visit my father, who was in hospital recovering from a heart attack.

So, it’s no surprise that we didn’t make a good impression.   A week later, our honorarium arrived with a multi-page letter, written in southern U.S. drawl, informing us, “Y’all shouldn’t be doing ministry; y’all are needing ministry.”

…I took several weeks to prayerfully consider everything he said in that letter, and finally I wrote back to say that life is not perfect and we’re not perfect; we’re a young couple with a couple of really young kids who were under a great deal of stress on the day we met; but that we felt the worship service had gone extremely well, and felt that once it ended, with just him and us in the restaurant, we could be completely transparent.   We felt at that point we were no longer “on the clock” in terms of public ministry.

# # #

There are going to be people who read Anne Jackson’s Permission to Speak Freely and say, “Anne, y’all shouldn’t be doing ministry; y’all should be getting ministry.”     There are ways in which they’d be right, but absent a book like this, the world would be a poorer place.   In fact, to make such a suggestion would be to miss the point of the book entirely.

This is a book about honestly and transparency and being willing to stick your neck out and say the things that nobody is willing to say in church.   It’s about being the one person in the small group who breaks the endless silence and is willing to be the first one to be totally vulnerable and thereby, in Anne’s words, give everyone else “permission to be second.”

After getting a very early copy of Anne’s first book, Mad Church Disease (Zondervan), I got a review copy of Permission to Speak Freely (Thomas Nelson) after most bloggers had finished covering this title.   In a way that’s rather appropriate, because this is a book that we need to be reminded of from time to time, that is going to be part of the help and healing of many who are broken.

I think it’s significant that Anne has found her writing to be a redemptive work for the things in her past.   It’s significant that she has been able to get two books (so far) out of those experiences.   It’s significant that two of our industry’s largest publishers have been willing to take a chance on her brutal honesty and openness.

Here’s what I mean (italics added):

I find it interesting that in our current culture we identify the church as a safe place for broken people to find refuge.  Church is a place for us to claim the right of a modern day sanctuary where we can name our sins and ask our questions and be protected and sheltered while we search for grace, forgiveness and answers.

Yet as history shows us, for hundreds of years churches have been sacrificing the beauty of confession and brokenness for religious trappings and the malady of perfectionism. In some cases if we don’t measure up to a man-made cocktail of moral codes and checklists — if we aren’t “good enough” — we no longer feel welcomed in a church or around other Christians.

The full title is: Permission to Speak Freely: Essays and Art on Fear, Confession and Grace (Thomas Nelson, paperback $16.99 U.S)   This isn’t about someone living an exemplary life and thereby earning the right to write a book about it.   It’s very much the opposite.

It’s a very messy story, which we so very desperately need to hear.

Related at this blog:   Here’s an early reference I made to the book last month in connection with a breaking news story.

Related elsewhere:   Here’s the link to Donald Miller’s blog, which is stop number one on a seven stop blog tour containing chapters from Anne’s book.   Each essay concludes with a link to the next sample chapter.

Here’s the link to Anne’s blog and also the link to the special Facebook page set up in connection of the book. (Must be logged in to Facebook; on arrival select “slideshows.”)

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