Thinking Out Loud

September 17, 2010

Suppose I Were To Tell You…

I hesitated to write this.   Just three short weeks ago, I wrote about confession in general, and the website PostSecret in particular.    While it would have been more simple to devote that space to a discussion about why it is that we have this need to vent or get something off our chests, I wrote instead about the fact that this type of confession doesn’t really go anywhere beyond confession itself.   It lacks what we experience in a liturgical church service following the confession of sin:  The assurance of pardon.

Why am I returning to this subject?

Because this week blogger Mandy Thompson (who just this week, in the link list, we referred to as not that Mandy Thompson) offered her readers an opportunity to comment (in this case, confess)  anonymously beginning with the phrase, “What if I Told You…”

While this sort of thing may not be your preferred brand of reading — perhaps you consider it prurient or voyeuristic — I think that every once in awhile something of this nature bears reading; in this case for two very particular reasons.

First of all, these were Christian readers responding to the opportunity, not readers from among the general population.   In fact, a very noticeable percentage of them were pastors’ wives or pastors; something very reminiscent of Anne Jackson’s books, and her current Permission to Speak Freely book tie-in website.   Apparently, clergy families are in desperate need for an Ann Landers or Dear Abby page on which to bare their deepest hurts.

As we are all from time to time.

Secondly however, and this is why I’m linking to this today; at what I’m sure was  great personal emotional exhaustion, Mandy took the time to answer each and every response.   That’s with the number of comments closing in on 200.

What if I told you I’m impressed?

This is the blogosphere at its best.   When someone tells you that blogs are a waste of time, let them see what’s happening at, and then don’t miss some of her post-mail-avalanche comments that follow more recently.

If you’re a blogger, do you see what you do as a ministry?  Are there times someone left a comment that resulted in you taking on the role of counselor?  If you’re a reader, have you ever had a blog writer that you really connected with and received help from?    For either category, have you ever continued the dialog off-the-blog?

July 29, 2010

For Those Who Have Suffered a Loss

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:05 am

Lisa Elliott is a mother of four, closing in on the first anniversary of her son Ben’s passing away due to cancer.     Her writings on Facebook (group name: The Ben Ripple) would — and I believe someday will — fill a book.

Ode to Joy

This past few weeks and as we draw closer to August 19 when it will be one year since Ben changed addresses David and I have been incredibly sad. This past Sunday in particular, for no specific reason, was extremely sad and emotional for me. It wasn’t my typical “tidal wave” of emotion that hit me. Rather, it was more like a “tsunami” and it took me under for most of the day.

But for those of you who are worried that I’ve lost my joy – have no fear. I find her every Sunday at church! In fact, she saves me a seat in the back row and remains with me until the last person has evacuated. Joy has been a gift to me. Let me describe her to you:

Joy understands the pain of losing someone you love. (Joy lost her father 14 years ago this past Sunday.)

Joy told me on Sunday that some days it’s easier to just be numb because to feel is to be in pain. (I thought that was very profound.)

Joy also knows that God can only heal pain when we allow ourselves to feel it.

Joy is soft-spoken and a woman of few words, but her presence assures me that no words can reach into the deep places of my heart that are meant for God alone.

Joy gives me the time and space I need to meet God in my pain.

Joy stands aside and doesn’t interfere with what God is doing in the deep inner recesses of my heart.

Joy doesn’t try to fix me. Joy has no words of advice for me. Joy just listens.  She fully realizes that the kind of healing I need, God alone can give.

Joy is okay with my pain.

Joy knows full well that sometimes there are just no words to describe my pain.

Joy lets me be real about my raw feelings and doesn’t leave my side just because I’m having a bad day.

Joy reminds me that although the pain never fully goes away, it will get easier to deal with in time.

Joy assures me that eventually I will remember happy memories of Ben with a smile on my face and not just a tear in my eye.

Joy demonstrates to me that life can go on, making new memories and learning new things about God as I do.

Joy rejoices with me and my small baby-step victories.

Joy has told me that it’s okay to want to be alone to rest, recover and take the necessary time to heal.

Joy has warned me to be real about my pain and not try to conceal it.

Joy celebrates the ways that God is using my pain to reach others and sees the potential of the “ripple effect” in and through my life.

Joy allows me to worship through my tears.

Joy sings alongside me and my pain in a beautiful harmony.

Joy lets me be sad when I’m with her and has shown me firsthand that joy and pain can truly co-exist.

Joy sounds an awful lot like another joy I know; the joy of the Lord. Yes, I have grown to love the person Joy but she would be the first one to remind me that the joy of the Lord that is my strength (Nehemiah 8:10)

“You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence” (Psalm 16:11).

This is my “Ode to Joy”

“I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy” (John 16:20).

September 14, 2009

The Shack Publisher Releases Third Fiction Title

Divorce Lawyer

You come home from work and your spouse says something — something possibly containing a minuscule, trace amount of irritation — and you react to it.   Then he/she reacts to your reaction.   Then it gets loud.   Then it crosses the line to where you’re saying things you instinctively know as you are saying them that you are going to have to apologize later. Or worse.

I sometimes have anger issues.   I admit that.  I think a lot of people do, and I think that we live in times that leave us vulnerable to stress factors that manifest themselves in different ways in different people.   Fortunately for me — and my wife — it’s nothing like Steven Kerner, however.   He’s the lead character in the book Bo’s Café, and he is given to what may only be described as serial rage.   Every discussion with his wife escalates into something it shouldn’t.   He can’t help but keep messing up, and then there’s no turning back.

Bo's CaféBo’s Café is the third fiction work from Windblown Media, publishers of The Shack and only the fourth book the upstart company has released.   (A second non-fiction book is due out in November.)   This time around there are three authors, Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol, John Lynch, and the setting is an area quite familiar to me, the environs of Los Angeles, California.

And yes, there is a Bo and there is a café but there’s also a bar and Steven’s life is greatly impacted by a guy who smokes, so the Shack-bashers who are now predisposed to despise anything from Windblown will have something to work with.  (see: Sarcasm)  The theme this time around however is marriage, family and our need as humans — including Christians — to come to terms with who we are and build in controls against the knee-jerk reactions we have when someone — especially a spouse — pushes our buttons.

Therefore, don’t look for a fictional treatment on the nature of God this time around.  Bo’s is so much about marriage, I suspect it will land on a lot of bookstore shelves next to Fireproof. In a way, the two form a perfect set.

Like Shack, this title uses what might be termed Socratic dialog (Br.: dialogue) named after the didactic writing in The Republic of Plato. Conversation that teaches.    Words that cut to the heart of issues; our issues.   There was one part, early on in reading, that I wondered if they had pushed that agenda too much to the forefront; if the book was too preachy.   But the moment passed, and I settled in to find out what was in store both for the quirkly characters and for Steven, who I truly believe represents you and I.

The book has another similarity to Shack inasmuch as I think it will attract more male readers than one normally expects with Christian fiction.   Steve is helped greatly by Andy, a guy who just turns up in his life, which will also remind readers of Dinner With A Perfect Stranger by David Gregory, The Noticer by Andy Andrews, and Windblown’s other fiction title, So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore by Jake Colsen (the pseudonym of Wayne Jacobsen and Dave Coleman).   Those books all scored high with male readers as well.

The book has several messages, and I’m sure other reviewers will have a different take on this; but my personal revelation in reading was that personal change takes place over time, not overnight.   Like Shack, this book is expected to score some sales in the general market, as well as the Christian market, and very appropriately Steven Kerner’s faith and belief in God is like a soundtrack running softly in the background, not something that’s in your face awkwardly on occasions the writers feel the need to ‘say something religious.’

This is a book that will save lives.   Marriages in particular.   This is a book that couples should read.   (We both finished within days of each other.)   Days later, I found myself on a website where the blogger was lamenting the lack of someone to talk with.   The book inspired me to suggest that a listening ear is not too far away.  You just have to be looking, to be open, or even to ask, “Do you know someone who is known to be a really good listener?”

This book shows the power of a good listening ear. We all need someone like that.

Comments:  This book review has been tagged ‘The Shack,’ but it’s not the forum for Shack-bashing and such comments will be deleted.   On the other hand if there’s something in this post you want to discuss, feel free.

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