Thinking Out Loud

March 18, 2019

One Part of the Mind Had Failed; Another Part Was Very Aware

Guest post by JD Van Allen

Last week I went into nearly every business downtown to put posters up for the fundraising campaign my business is doing. I had finished the south side of the main street and had crossed up to the north side. I stopped in a few shops and was approaching the drug store when I approached a man from behind who was standing still with a cane in one hand, a walking cast on the opposite leg, and a definite look of discomfort on his face.

We spoke for about five minutes, well he spoke mostly, I prayed for him in my head and wondered if my whole day would be spent standing on that sidewalk with him. He paused mid sentence — the pause wasn’t the strange part, he struggled to get every word out — the strange part was the change of expression on his face. He wasn’t fighting to find a word, this was from a different battle. He looked at me a while longer, I was about to speak when he said “I’m sorry” then paused again, this time looking for the words that used to come to his mind so freely. “No, I’m not sorry” he continued, with something almost like a smile on his lips and a twinkle in his eye. “You have talked to me for a long time, no one has done that” he was fighting through this sentence, it took nearly a minute.

He went on to express that no one had talked to him for his long since his mind started to go. but it was only five minutes, maybe less. Had no one actually listened to him for such a small amount of time?

I was shocked, my heart ached for this man. He finished by expressing his gratitude for letting him vent. He wasn’t someone who just complained all the time, he is someone who had a lot on his shoulders and who felt free for once.

He thanked me for listening and for helping him to feel free from that burden. We walked into the shop together and he was excited to tell the employees that I listened to him but of course they were not interested in waiting for him to share his story. I engaged in conversation with him before he really had a chance to notice. I didn’t want his lonely reality to sink in quite so quickly.

I had prayed for peace for him the moment we started talking on that sidewalk, he found peace, even if only for a little while…

…Please don’t ignore people like him. He was hurting physically and he was aware of his failing mind; something I can only imagine as terrifying. He doesn’t need the extra burden of feeling alone and rejected. Listen to the people who are hard to listen to because no one else will.

That was about 20 minutes of my day that were well spent; better than any other part of my day. Thank you for reading this, I hope that it helps challenge your perspective.

Spread love


Still in his early 20s, JD Van Allen is an adventurer whose travels have included a summer in Africa and a full year backpacking and working in Australia. He composes songs and plays guitar, piano and mandolin. He currently lives in Eastern Ontario, Canada, where he is rebuilding a house from the inside out.

December 28, 2018

“20 Years Ago A Book Changed My Life”

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:55 am

“20 years ago my boss gave me a book which totally changed my life.”

You’ve possibly heard stories which began with this narrative. The person is describing where their life is at presently, but the story’s genesis is that time someone in their life gave them a particular book to read.

The problem with these stories is that we hear them from the perspective of the recipient, but don’t always know about the intentionality of the giver, or the circumstances where the two peoples’ lives intersected which motivated them to make the gift.

I am convinced that more lives would be changed if we all could cultivate that intentionality and follow through on that motivation.

Sadly, many of the gifts given this Christmas are already forgotten, discarded or even broken. I believe there are products which can make an impact beyond this life, and that hearts can be changed by the words in a book, the lyrics of a song, a scene in a Christian film, and of course, by the message of the Bible itself.

But this isn’t a blanket promotion for the Christian giftware or Christian publishing industry. The item given has to be selected based on an informed choice and it must be personal to the situation the recipient is facing and any particular needs they have expressed.

It also has to have substance. Giving a friend a mug which simply says, “Believe:” may work in a small percentage of situations, but it’s not the same as giving something more substantial; something that has a message beyond a vague platitude.

This may take effort. This may take research. This may take prayerful consideration.

This may also take a willingness to be there for the person involved; a follow-up that is committed to the long term. The potential outcome — a person’s salvation story — has to be in view from before the gift is selected.

Done right, it can lead to stories as expressed in today’s headline. Then it’s a win-win for both giver and recipient.


Today’s key words:

  • intentional
  • motivation
  • informed
  • personal
  • substance
  • follow-up

October 19, 2017

Hospitality

Most Christians would affirm the Bible teaches that we should “practice hospitality.” A look at various translations of 1 Peter 4:9 shows that only the NLT suggests that this be directed at “those who need a meal or a place to stay;” though it’s unclear why this one version adds those extra words.

However, the NLT rendering raises an interesting consideration; namely the relative socioeconomic status of hosts and guests in each situation.

Peer Hospitality

This is probably what we do most often. Our guests are often people just like us. We invite them, and a few weeks later we’re invited to their place. Perhaps we’re frequent guests in each others’ homes. Maybe their names is Jones and they are the ones others are trying to keep up with. Or maybe you are the Jones family and you want to show off the widescreen TV you just obtained.

But relatively speaking, it’s an even playing field.

Charitable Hospitality

This is what the NLT was getting at, I guess. Where that single mom and her kids could use a break from leftovers. Where you feel like taking a risk and crossing a line and inviting the guy from the soup kitchen over for Thanksgiving.

Jesus has this in mind when he says, “…When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”  (Luke 14: 12-14 NIV)

He’s contrasting the first type of hospitality with the second.

A Third Case

But what if the above situation is reversed? This is a situation that struck me a couple of days ago, and was the reason for writing this.

Several years ago I heard a story about a very wealthy Christian man who along with his wife was invited to the home of the part-time Assistant Pastor and his family. The house was very sparse and not well-heated. There was water on the table, and the meal was somewhat basic.

Was there some other motivation? The wealthy man’s wife told me that she really didn’t know what to make of the invitation; the experience was simply unusual for them. (Yes, I’ll bet it was!)

I know there were times in our life when money was tight but we still tried to entertain. (Now our biggest problem is that the house is a mess!) However, it would have been unusual — that word again — for us to invite a couple from a much higher economic station, although in the very early years of our marriage, I can think of two times we did this more out of naïveté than anything else.

It is very much the opposite of the case Jesus described above, to know that money is tight and bills are due next week and yet someone of means is sitting at your table enjoying a roast beef dinner that represents a great sacrifice on your part.

Truly this is the hardest form of hospitality…

…And yet, this is what people do. Not here. Not in Western Europe or Australia or North America. But in third world countries. When guests comes to a village, a Christian family will invite them into their home (or hut or tent) and share their very last bit of food with them; and they will consider themselves honored to be able to do this.

They would agree with the verse in 1 Peter; we do need to “practice hospitality.”

Yet they are probably reading it completely differently than we do.

 

 

March 5, 2015

Bicycles, Mental Health, and Life at Our House

The secret algorithm of repeated articles on this blog is that every new month I give myself permission to re-post items that appeared in the same month. Usually I go back several years, but if I feel something was important it might get reused as soon as 12 months later. This particular article represented some major stuff we were dealing with at this time a year ago… Today I’m happy to report that for the most part, things resolved and we’ve moved on.


More than a dozen years ago, we woke up one morning to discover a pair of children’s bicycles had been left at the foot of our driveway. After giving the kids 24-hours to retrieve them, we realized they were probably stolen, and since the municipal police here deal with stolen bikes — and twice-yearly auction off unclaimed ones — we told them to come and get them.

When the officer arrived, he started asking questions; a lot of questions as it turned out. I know that in a criminal investigation, everyone should be considered a possible suspect, but the absurdity of proposing that a community leader with no previous record should suddenly steal children’s bicycles and call the police about it was more than I could bear.

“You think I stole the bikes?” I asked him.

“Well, we don’t know;” he replied.

To the best of my knowledge, this is a cold case. For all I know my name is in a file somewhere under “suspected bike thieves.”

=O=O=

Two weeks ago my son found himself in a very difficult situation. He was trying to help someone who clearly was experiencing some behavioral, psychological issues. That’s really all I need to say about it. At the same time however, he realized how little he could do to help, which was draining him physically and emotionally, and as parents, we decided to step in and help him escalate awareness of the situation to a point where there would be some resolution.

sometimes helping hurtsBut in the days that followed, the issue became less about the other student at the university, and more about my son and his response to it. I think that, not realizing the severity of the toll it was taking on my son, they felt he should have just ‘rolled with the punches’ or ‘risen above the circumstances’ or in some other way not be defeated by what has taking place.

While there’s some universal truth to that principle, I realized, in the course of a 40-minute phone call from the university administration that they felt that he stole the bicycles, so to speak, and today, their perception of the true problem probably has less to do with the problems the other student faces, and more about my son’s reaction.

=O=O=

I haven’t read it, but there’s a book out called When Helping Hurts. Putting yourself in the middle of a situation — or having no choice — is always difficult, and sometimes the other person experiences complete recovery but you now bear the battle scars. I can’t promise you that nobody is going to leave bicycles on your lawn or cross your path with psychological problems, but I can almost guarantee that someday you’ll find yourself caught up in a issue not of your own making, and have to reap the consequences of your involvement. It happens

=O=O=

There’s a rule in writing this kind of essay that you don’t suddenly introduce another analogy at the end, but I couldn’t help but add that my wife likened my son’s experience to a man who goes out into the river to save his dog, only to drown himself.

Sometimes the weight of personal or social or corporate responsibility pulls you under.

August 18, 2014

From the Diary of Isaac Wotts, Church Janitor

Filed under: charity, Church, writing — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:47 am

Isaac writes:

One of the things I hate is when someone comes up to me on Sunday morning and says, “There’s something in the men’s room you need to see.” I try to dress up a little for Sunday, but there’s a great deal of wisdom in actually attending a different church than the one which employs you, especially if you’re the church custodian. (But if you’re the pastor; then it doesn’t work out too well.)

Short StoriesIn the handicapped stall, someone had carried in a chair from an adjacent Sunday school room, propped it up underneath the ventilation grate and then apparently knocked the grate down, bending it somewhat.

“Would you like to know what happened here?” I asked the man who had located me. He nodded so I continued. “This happens every two years. A bunch of middle school boys are in here and hear the sound of the toilet flushing in the adjacent women’s restroom. They realize the rooms are not totally soundproof and then they recognize the voices of middle school girls they know talking loudly. They are determined to either hear more or see more and so they climb up here only to discover the vents point away from the floor and the whole exercise is pointless.”

I thanked him for letting me know about the problem, and then, since the chair was already in place, I climbed up to see if the grate could be fitted back on and when I determined it wasn’t too badly bent, I opted to go get a soft mallet so I could deal with it right away. Just before I climbed down, I discovered firsthand how clear the sound is when you are close to the ventilation system…

“…I don’t know how she manages with all those children.”

“I know, and she wears that same blue and white outfit to church week after week after week. Like, doesn’t she have anything else in her closet.”

“Well at least when those brats are acting up they don’t have to put her number on the screen; the ushers can always find her in that same white shirt and blue vest thing…”

At that moment someone came into the restroom and I thought it better to climb down lest I be accused of the very thing the middle school boys were up to.

About three minutes later I was back standing on the chair, ready to hammer the grate in place, and just as I was about to strike the first blow I realized there were different people in the rest room next door…

“Hi, Wendy how is it going?”

“Well, my brother Tom is being released from the hospital on Thursday, so then he says he’s ready to take the kids back over the next month; so we’re going to very slowly work our way down from six kids to just my three.”

“It must cost you a fortune to feed them.”

“Yeah, and they’ve all grown over the summer and need back-to-school clothes, and the hand-me-down thing doesn’t work because of the girl/boy distribution. I’ve got $75 to spend on all six of them. And that leaves me with nothing. I’ve got three changes of clothes to wear to work, and I don’t know how many times I’ve worn this one to church.”

“Why don’t you come by the thrift shop?”

“Oh I practically live there, Olivia; but not the one you work at, we go uptown because there’s free parking.”

“No, I want you to come to mine, downtown. I’ll use my manager key in the cash register and authorize the cashier to give you 50% off everything; I’ll explain it in the log somehow. Come next week, and park in the Jefferson Street lot, and bring the parking receipt into the store and I’ll get it authorized.”

“That would be awesome. I’m not gonna turn you down. I really appreciate…”

…And then they must have walked out the door.

Church CustodianI banged the ventilation grate into place, picked up the chair and emerged from the men’s room, noticing the two Grade Seven boys on the opposite hallway looking at me and laughing. Suspicions confirmed.

Inside the maintenance room, I replaced the mallet, and then grabbed a roll of masking tape from a nearby shelf. I reached in my wallet and pullet out a gift card from Sears that I knew had about $48 left on it. Not much, but still…

I placed two strips of tape on the card, and on the first I wrote, “$48 — Treat yourself;” and on the second “Use this for YOU.”

Wendy was easy to spot. She was wearing the aforementioned blue and white thing. “This is for you;” I said, “From someone who wishes to remain anonymous.”

She read it and said, “Oh I’ll bet this from Olivia.”

“No, I said;” It’s not from Olivia; when were you talking to her?”

“In the women’s room this morning.”

“No, Wendy, this totally predates that.”

I walked away. It predated it by about three minutes to be sure; it was part of the earlier conversation I overheard, so it wasn’t a lie, right?

 

 

 

February 15, 2014

On Bicycles and Mental Health

More than a dozen years ago, we woke up one morning to discover a pair of children’s bicycles had been left at the foot of our driveway. After giving the kids 24-hours to retrieve them, we realized they were probably stolen, and since the municipal police here deal with stolen bikes — and twice-yearly auction off unclaimed ones — we told them to come and get them.

When the officer arrived, he started asking questions; a lot of questions as it turned out. I know that in a criminal investigation, everyone should be considered a possible suspect, but the absurdity of proposing that a community leader with no previous record should suddenly steal children’s bicycles and call the police about it was more than I could bear.

“You think I stole the bikes?” I asked him.

“Well, we don’t know;” he replied.

To the best of my knowledge, this is a cold case. For all I know my name is in a file somewhere under “suspected bike thieves.”

=O=O=

Two weeks ago my son found himself in a very difficult situation. He was trying to help someone who clearly was experiencing some behavioral issues. That’s really all I need to say about it. At the same time however, he realized how little he could do to help, which was draining him physically and emotionally, and as parents, we decided to step in and help him escalate awareness of the situation to a point where there would be some resolution.

sometimes helping hurtsBut in the days that followed, the issue became less about the other student at the university, and more about my son and his response to it. I think that, not realizing the severity of the toll it was taking on my son, they felt he should have just ‘rolled with the punches’ or ‘risen above the circumstances’ or in some other way not be defeated by what has taking place.

While there’s some universal truth to that principle, I realized, in the course of a 40-minute phone call from the university administration that they felt that he stole the bicycles, so to speak, and today, their perception of the true problem probably has less to do with the problems the other student faces, and more about my son’s reaction.

=O=O=

I haven’t read it, but there’s a book out called When Helping Hurts. Putting yourself in the middle of a situation — or having no choice — is always difficult, and sometimes the other person experiences complete recovery but you now bear the battle scars. I can’t promise you that nobody is going to leave bicycles on your lawn or cross your path with psychological problems, but I can almost guarantee that someday you’ll find yourself caught up in a issue not of your own making, and have to reap the consequences of your involvement. It happens

=O=O=

There’s a rule in writing this kind of essay that you don’t suddenly introduce another analogy at the end, but I couldn’t help but add that my wife likened my son’s experience to a man who goes out into the river to save his dog, only to drown himself.

Sometimes the weight of personal or social or corporate responsibility pulls you under.

December 6, 2010

Be That Person!

I was in my early 20’s and really struggling with college and relationships and everything in between.   Then a couple from my church asked me over for lunch one day.   They were older than I was, with kids in junior high.   They could see that I was hurting and offered friendship and listened to my story, and then offered some good advice that only a fresh perspective could bring.   They also introduced me to one of the seniors in the church who was this incredible storehouse of the kind of wisdom I really needed.   I am so thankful that both the couple and the older person reached outside their social circle to help me at a point in life where I was feeling very lost.

So many times you hear stories of people coming along side and helping out someone they hardly know or don’t know.   That’s the appeal of books like So You Don’t Want To Go Church Anymore or The Noticer. Here’s the deal:  Each and every person reading this has the potential to be a mentor to someone else.   Not just “an encourager,” but someone who truly invests in someone else’s life.  I can guarantee that there’s somebody out there who you’re older than, who you’ve had more life experiences than.   Your story can intersect with their story.

Everyone reading this has the potential to be a life-changer to someone else, to be the person in the story who makes a difference in someone else’s life.

Someone — three people, actually — in the above story stepped up to meet the need.  Be that person!   Find someone about whom God strongly indicates that because of the nature of your personal story, you have something constructive to speak into that person’s life.

The next time you hear a story about someone who reached into someone else’s life to make a lasting contribution, be the person in the story.

Blog at WordPress.com.