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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April 24, 2016

A Movie for All the Ragamuffins

Ragamuffin Rich Mullins Movie

Last night we finally got to watch the DVD of Ragamuffin, the story of Christian singer Rich Mullins. For two-hours and 15-minutes, we sat through the ups and downs of his life. The movie was, from beginning to end, saturated in the unique Rich Mullins sound. I said to my wife, “I’ve probably never listened to the sound of the hammered dulcimer this much ever.”

Her reaction to the music was to be totally impressed that the actor playing Rich did his own vocals for the movie, which added some authenticity.

Rather than replay the story line, let me say this instead: This is a movie for

  • Anyone who has ever felt like a misfit; that their history or their calling is simply different from everyone else; that there’s nobody to talk to about what they do because nobody does it, or talk to about how they see the world because nobody else sees the world the same way.
  • Someone who has struggled with their relationship, or lack of relationship with their father; with or without perhaps the added burden of thereby trying to comprehend a loving heavenly Father.
  • A person who is constantly wrestling their own inner demons; be it some particular pain, or addictive behavior.
  • Those who have been let down, disappointed, abandoned, or somehow severed from relationships due to circumstances or even death; whose history seems to be one of people constantly leaving.
  • People who feel the core essence of Christ’s teachings isn’t so much about outward conformity to religious standards, but rather a security in the knowledge that God loves us.
  • Fans of Christian music who want to see the realities of the industry, warts and all, and how God uses people in spite of their brokenness. 
  • Thinkers who want to press further into the idea of grace and how sinners can and do experience the grace of God.

And that is just to name a few things this movie touches.

Rich Mullins’ life intersected with other people you know, from Amy Grant to author Brennan Manning. His music, from “Sing Your Praise to the Lord” to “Awesome God” impacted a generation of Christians.

This is a tough movie to watch. Rich’s life is not an ideal; not really a role model we can hold up to today’s Christian youth. It’s a very dark story; not your typical Christian movie. There were also some continuity issues — the conflicting hair length of the actor has confused many reviewers — which interrupted the flow of what was otherwise a beautifully crafted piece of cinema.

But for us, last night, it was must-watching. Knowing a little about Rich Mullins’ life ahead of time, the movie did not disappoint.

You can read more about the movie, and watch a trailer, at an article I wrote in 2014 when Rich was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.

March 8, 2016

Steven Furtick: Unabashedly Unqualified

Un(Qualified) - Steven Furtick - Waterbrook PressThe title of Steven Furtick’s 4th major book release (Un)Qualified is taken from a YouTube clip he watched where the person being interviewed was tersely dismissive of Steven’s ministry. One word. Unqualified. I would have been hurt. Insulted. Devastated. But instead, he decided to own it. Apart from Christ’s help, none of us is qualified. The book is an invitation to embrace our weaknesses instead of denying them.

In 2010 I reviewed his first bookSun Stand Still and in 2012 I reviewed his second book, Greater. Those two form a set, dealing with Elijah and Elisha respectively. In the intervening years, I had forgotten how engaging Furtick can be when he confronts such narratives. I was only planning on reading a couple of chapters — I hadn’t specifically requested the book — but his unique take and quirky sense of humor soon won me over. Consider:

The Bible takes time to point out that, despite being twins Esau and Jacob were polar opposites. When Esau was born, he was red and hairy. I’ll withhold my comments about how his parents must have felt when one of their long-awaited sons came out looking like a baby Chewbacca.  Esau grew up to be an outdoorsman and a hunter. He was tough. He was rough.  He could skin a buck and run a trotline. The star of the original Duck Dynasty.

But Jacob?  The Bible says he was a smooth-skinned, quiet man who liked to stay among the tents. Translated, he may have been a mama’s boy. He may have been more into HGTV than ESPN.  (p. 140)

The book — full title (Un)Qualified: How God Uses Broken People To Do Big Things — is so much more than Steven Furtick’s quirky sense of humor. This is a voyage into self discovery. How God uses broken people.

Often our greatest influence is birthed in our deepest suffering and brokenness. Our education, our eloquence and our intelligence are helpful, but they aren’t nearly as relatable as our weaknesses. We touch people around us because of the pain and humanity we share.

I realize that not everyone can or should be trusted with the details of our weaknesses. The goal isn’t to parade our problems, wearing our weakness for the world to see. But as we learn to be vulnerable with God and the right, trusted people we discover that every weakness, properly processed, contains secret strength.

Think about the last time you broke down and cried in front of a friend. It might have felt uncomfortable. It might have embarrassed you. But I bet that moment of vulnerability did more to win the person’s heart and cement your friendship than any other experience you’ve shared.

There is something about weakness that opens hearts. It disarms the defensive.  It softens the suspicious. It endears the indifferent. (p. 112)

Another complication of brokenness is that we often create an alternative edition of ourselves; a false persona that we carry with us into the world that is totally fake. Among other cautions, Furtick offers: “God can’t bless who you pretend to be.”

In this his 4th book, Jacob, Moses, Gideon and others (and more of Jacob) come under the microscope. Bible narratives are brought to life as never before, and there is practical advice on every page. My recommendation is that Furtick’s readership probably skews young. This would be a great gift to someone in his under-40 demographic. But I enjoyed it, also.

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.

December 20, 2013

Social Media: Putting Your Best Keystroke Forward

Brokenness

In the forthcoming book Clout: Discover and Release Your God-Given Influence, Jennie Catron writes:

I’m generally a fan of social media. I actively use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. I enjoy meeting new people, sharing thoughts and ideas, and having a forum to chatter about the simple things. However, the dark side of social media may be the format to perpetuate the sins of envy and comparison. Social media by nature only give space for us to put our best foot forward. Our most aspirational self is portrayed while our fears, challenges, and unmet desires remain hidden. After all, who wants to follow a constant critic or an endless stream of depressing thoughts?

I think that partly explains the appeal of blogger Jamie Wright. Calling herself “The Very Worst Missionary,” she isn’t afraid to present herself as the anti-role model; the blog almost revels in her failures, until she writes a post like she did recently about her Christmas tree falling over, and it’s just broad enough to include all of us, to bear the weight of all our brokenness.

…I was fighting to find joy this year. I was struggling to make a place for the delight of Christmas because I was wrapped up tight in the pain of loss. When it fell, I was like, “Perfect. That is just effing perfect.” Because this Christmas was already well on its way to Sucksville and an unwilling Christmas tree was just the icing on the Birthday Cake For Baby Jesus. *rolling my eyes*

It’s been a rough one for me and for some of the people I love. Frankly, this is not the most wonderful time of the year for us, at least not this time around.

I’ve noticed this year (probably because I’m having a super lame horrible dumb stupid stupid stupid Christmas) that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of space in our lives for hurting people during the Holidays. But, man, there are a lot of hurting people. There are a lot of people for whom this time of year is sad or bitter, hollow or lonely, or just plain painful.

While some of us are celebrating, others are aching.

While some of us are toasting to long life, others are mourning life lost.

While some of us feast on family time, others are starving to be loved.

The bustle of activity and togetherness in December only serves to make some houses feel all the more empty.

Canadian author Sarah Tun recently posted:

I seem to be in mid-life crisis. At 54 I guess that means I’m running a little behind. I just recently woke up to the fact that I’m over 50, aging and I’ve not accomplished what I hoped to do and time is running out!

The clock seems to be running and I’m slowing down.

My joy is only in the LORD and it is complete in Him. I haven’t slipped from obedience, faith or love for Him. But reason is telling me I need to make a shift in my strategy for living. Not because I’m tired, because I’m not. But because I doubt my ability to achieve what’s in my heart to achieve and I’m not sure how to move forward.

Click the graphic at the top for more (in  different article) from Sarah.

Perhaps that was the appeal of the article I linked to earlier in the week; where an author shares a story she originally planned to keep hidden; one of checking herself into a hospital psych ward, a story which also reminded of a similar brokenness in Shelia Walsh‘s story.

I hadn’t planned on only quoting or mentioning women today, but if this is helpful to someone today; I guess that was God’s plan. However, know that because there are more of them online, men who blog are equally guilty of a lack of transparency, and equally broken, but probably a lot less likely to express it.

December 22, 2012

Where is God When Trouble Strikes?

In February, 2011, I ran a piece at Christianity 201 by David MacGregor, a pastor in Brisbane, Australia; the area which had been hit by record flooding over the preceding months. The same day, I also linked to another of his articles where he is most honest about the trials of dealing with the flood’s aftermath. The unsettled feeling he gets looking toward the future makes it hard to sing certain songs, like “It Is Well With My Soul.” I recommend reading it again today, as well, in light of more recent events here in North America.

After stumbling on his blog, I decided to scroll back and read more of his writing, and uncovered this post and poem, written more closely after the catastrophic weather events there. I think that both articles combine to show that we can be broken, and yet still see the presence of God even in the middle of it all. He called this piece, Christ Shows His Face: A Flood Reflection.


Long time since I last posted. Combination of post-Holy Land acclimatization, everything Christmas, helping out at NCYC 2011, beginning a holiday at Hervey Bay, coming home prematurely because of Brisbane River floodwaters entering our house, moving back into our home just two days ago and finally getting power restored just two hours ago.

This has been an incredibly draining time – and that’s without the massive hardship and loss experienced by so many. It was SO hard being stranded for those days at Hervey Bay, yet unable to get back to Brisbane due to flooded rounds between there and Brisbane. I reckon it’s been some of the hardest few weeks of my life.

We had no option – from afar – to leave the evacuation of our home (either to the top story OR the church OR friends’ places) to an incredible armada of folk from our church, longtime friends and of course Joel and Jeremy back at the ranch. Like so many others, I find myself not starting the year anywhere near refresh. I feel totally drained.

I was taken by a Facebook posting by radio station 96.5 FM’s Billy Diehm last weekend. Billy was asked basically, “Where was God in all this?”. His marvelous answer was loosely along the lines of: God was there in every volunteer, every emergency services worker… So true.

So – the song that had been ‘coming’ for weeks finally poured out yesterday – Christ shows his face… This song is dedicated to all of those “face of Jesus” folk these past weeks, and especially those who ministered to us…

Christ shows his face

 

Christ shows his face
when lives are pained
weary hearts are breaking.
shows God’s grace
while troubles rise,
past foundations shaking

Every smile
Every hand
Every soft embracing
Christ shows his face
when lives are pained,
hope is hard, displacing

Christ shows his face
in thirsting souls
When hunger’s met with feeding
When nakedness for all to see
is met with love, with clothing

Offered rest
Offered home
Offered hope’s new morning
Christ shows his face
when all seems dark, the
light of Christ keeps shining.

Christ shows his face
in community
extending past their comfort
Sharing steadfastly as one
Self-giving for another

Every smile
Every tear
Every soft embracing
Christ is found
when all seems lost, when
When love’s true heart
When love’s true hope
When love’s true light keeps shining.

© David MacGregor 2011
Willow Publishing

click the article link in the introduction to locate a link to a lead sheet for the music for this poem

the link to 96.5 was added because way up here in frozen Canada, I’m actually a regular listener

February 9, 2011

Wednesday Link List

So here’s the question:  If something is being posted and linked all over the blogosphere, should I include it here, or do I assume you’ve read it elsewhere?  Sometimes I exclude items that are ubiquitous in Christian Blogland, but then I always wonder if that means someone misses something I assumed everyone knew.  Leave your opinion in the comments.  And now, on to this week’s list:

  • David MacGregor’s blog introduces the Hillsongs recording of It is Well With My Soul, recorded as a benefit for Queensland flood relief.   But as a minister in Brisbane, he finds the song hard to sing at this early stage of the rebuilding effort.
  • “Many scholars believe, and I am persuaded, that the biblical Gospel of Matthew was designed to be used by the church as a catechism, or handbook for training disciples.”  This is theme of an article by Chaplain Mike at Internet Monk which kicks of a series.
  • Okay this one was overdue.  Fox KTLA’s report begins: “Crystal Cathedral’s chief financial officer –- who received a six-figure housing allowance from the now-bankrupt church –- has retired after 33 years with the organization. Fred Southard, 75, said he believed it was time to let someone else have a chance at his job, and that he wanted to help the ministry reduce expenses.”  Yes.  Definitely.  Give that six-figure job to someone else now that there’s probably not enough money to support a four-figure job.  Of course, Southward justifies himself as the job was once “a ministerial function” albeit in “the early days.”
  • It’s weird, but as I was reading Pete Wilson’s post Everyone Needs Healing, it reminded me of the first part of the worship chorus Mighty to Save.  We are all broken people for whom the cross of Christ is sufficient.
  • How does a guy from Alabama end up spending most of the past decade doing campus ministry in The Philippines?  That was the question we asked here exactly a year ago in a profile of Kuya Kevin.   BTW, his blog is still going strong.
  • Andy Pierson at SoulJournaler discovers that denominational differences make the Christian blogosphere a cruel place sometimes.  Here’s a sentence I wish I’d written: ” Because I do not come forward with a specific denominational statement I am in this nebulous no-man’s land. I have on the other hand made very clear “statements of faith” through blog posts.”  There’s more stuff here some bloggers might identify with.
  • It appears the Fred Phelps gang’s annual picketing at San Diego’s Comic-Con met their match when a much larger group decided to drown out their message with one of their own.
  • Their restaurants are closed on Sunday so you know that Chick-Fil-A is a very pro Christian establishment.  But these days, pro-Christian is assumed to mean anti-gay.  Especially when you donate food to one group and not another.   Read the article at CNN’s Eatocracy blog.
  • Yet another article on the church’s approach to the LGBT community?  Yes, I included this one because Julie Clawson nicely summarizes the various categories that a church’s approach to this issue might fall into.  Not including the extremes, of course.
  • Erik Raymond calls his article Prioritize Priorities: Things I Wish I Knew Before Planting a Church, but in fact, this young pastor from Omaha, Nebraska offers some basic advice that can never be repeated enough.  HT: DD
  • Wil Mancini has Eleven Trends for 2011 at Out of Ur.  One of those trends that is emerging in various quarters:  Small is the new big.
  • Something a little different now:  Bruce Reyes-Chow, a Presbyterian, suggests 10 Ways Liberal Christianity Loses Credibility.  Sample: “Gate-Keeping Social Justice — Just because someone disagrees with us theologically, that does not mean that any actions of social justice that they take on is invalid.”
  • A longer article at Reboot Christianity contrasts the way we understand what it means to “do ministry” with the way the early church would have understood it.  “Most evangelical churches would be scandalized if a pastor taught such things! Imagine…shutting down all those programs and ministries, and instead teaching the Bible every day, fellowshiping with other believers constantly, and giving generously to your community (with no strings attached). Pastors would lose their jobs left and right.”
  • Challies notes that Bart Ehrman has heated up his rhetoric to the point of calling New Testament writings “forgeries.”  Here’s a sample of this article: “Ehrman’s beef is not so much with ancient forgers but with present-day believers who uncritically accept Biblical writings as genuine and consider it a sacrilege to question the Bible’s authenticity. “Forged” is just the latest bombshell Ehrman has lobbed at his former co-religionists.”
  • Here’s the 411 on the graphic below.  [cue the extra reverb]  It’s CAPTAIN SALVATION. Christian Comic International is reporting that “North Carolina USA based Salvation Comics is publishing a new, full-color super-hero comic book entitled “Captain Salvation,” written by Curt Hawn and illustrated by former Marvel and DC artist Greg Waller (“Stargate SG-1,” “Night of the Living Dead,” “Lady Death”). The Christian character-based company was founded by Hawn and Joshua Carpenter who met in 2002 as youth leaders at a church summer camp. Hawn sold a company he started in Atlanta to finance the project. Carpenter is an alumni from Christ For The Nations Institute and is operating as National Sales Director for the company. The first series, “The Kingdom Strikes Back,” will be a 5-issues in length.   Read more at The Spectral Realm.

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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