Thinking Out Loud

April 30, 2012

God Meets a Family in the Midst of Crippling Loss

After my time serving on staff at a local church came to an end, we took a two-year break from that church and attended another in town, somewhat renown for its children’s ministry and Bible teaching. The pastor at the time was an excellent speaker, and his oldest son, Benjamin, was in a Sunday School class with our oldest.

Flash forward more than a decade and we learned that Ben had been diagnosed with a form of leukemia. To say this seemed to hit close to home was more than an understatement. It seemed to me like only yesterday the kids were saving seats for their dads at a Sunday School Father’s Day party by crossing their legs over the empty chairs next to theirs. My wife heard about a Facebook group, Pray for Benjamin Elliott, and as new feeds came in, she would forward them to me by email. Praying for Ben became part of our nightly prayer routine as a family.

After it looked like Ben had triumphed over the disease, sadly he relapsed; and not longer after, the Facebook group was renamed, The Ben Ripple; mostly because it appeared that the stories which rippled out from Ben’s life and death were impacting so many lives both near and far. Ben’s mom, Lisa Elliott carefully crafted each post, and the thought did occur to me that someday, this material might benefit a greater readership, and sure enough, much of the material from those Facebook posts have been gathered together into a book of the same name, The Ben Ripple.  (I suspect this will not be her last book.)

I asked my wife to take another look at those Facebook entries through the book, and share a few thoughts from a mother’s perspective.

The Ben Ripple is a challenging read.  Walking through another person’s pain and loss, even in retrospect, takes some doing, especially having been one of the followers of the ‘real time’ Facebook updates, which comprised an honest, hopeful and wounded journaling from a woman of faith and intelligence whose life was suddenly shaken loose.

In this book, Elliott brings back those first raw outpourings, ties them together with some more objective reflections on what was happening in the family’s lives at the time and closes each chapter with practical suggestions for those dealing immediately with cancer, and for those on the periphery who just want to not say or do the wrong thing.

Her writing is both skilled and passionate, drawing the reader closer to understanding and empathy with a situation that most of us will never experience –  the loss of a child –  and one that more and more of us live through – fighting cancer.  She takes time to explain the treatments, with their setbacks and successes, and to appreciate the medical professionals who were involved in her family’s lives.

All in all, it is important for us to know stories like Ben’s.  The places where God meets us face to face, and the places where he stands quietly behind us.  What the family next door might be going through and what they may deal with from one day to the next.  It’s been said that we live in a world that has forgotten how to lament — to cry out to God our pain and fear and loss.  This book is just such a thing, but like so many of the laments in Scripture, it ends on a note of “nevertheless…”  The possibility of healing, the value of trusting, the necessity of faith in one who loves us.

The Ben Ripple is a remembered and continuing journey well worth walking.

~Ruth Wilkinson

The Ben Ripple is published in paperback by Word Alive Press and available through them in Canada and through Ingram and Spring Arbor in the U.S.   A copy was provided to Thinking Out Loud by Graf-Martin, a Kitchener, Ontario based promotion and publicity agency which comes alongside Christian publishers to provide key titles with enhanced visibility.

November 26, 2010

The Story is Fiction, The Pain is Real

Yesterday, while every other television in North America was tuned to football, I decided to watch Letters to God, a Christian movie about a young boy with cancer.    Not the kind of movie I usually watch.   I tend to watch films that will entertain, and by entertain, I usually mean, films that will make me laugh, as in LOL and ROTF LOL.    And once in awhile, a good mystery, but not if the tension level is too high.

Letters… just isn’t my usual choice.   But there has been a lot of interest in the movie at Christian retail, and who doesn’t have someone in their wider sphere of influence who is dealing with cancer in their immediate family.

I’ve never been one to confront pain willingly.   I have an aversion to all things medical.   I don’t read sad books.   I didn’t go into church ministry because I really suck at hospital visits, and try equally hard to avoid funerals.   But life isn’t a bed of roses.

Watching a movie like Letters… is a reminder of the medical challenges some families are dealing with in general, and pediatric cancer in particular.  Similarly, Pete Wilson’s book Plan B was an eye-opener into the world of pain some people face, but I was especially made aware of the issue of childless couples, whether through miscarriages or infertility, something Pete has had to face many times in both his pastoral career and his personal life.  Bottom line is, lots of people are dealing with many different issues.

I guess that somewhat summarizes my feelings after watching the movie, except for one thing.   This is very definitely a “Christian” movie, but it is so in the sense of Facing the Giants and Fireproof; that is to say, it’s part of the “new,” higher quality generation of Christian productions.   While I thought the first 30 minutes of the 114-minute film were paced a little slower, I found the plot and the dialog moved forward considerably as the story progressed.

Letters to God may not be for everybody, but it is worthy of receiving my full endorsement for both Christian and general audiences.

For more information go to LettersToGodTheMovie.com

For info about the book, Plan B, mentioned above, click this link.

Do you like to watch “happy” movies, or are you okay with films that tug at your emotions, and find the “entertaining” movies not all that interesting?

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