Thinking Out Loud

January 29, 2016

Learn to Fly Again

Filed under: Christianity, personal — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:10 am

img 012816Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of the day the space shuttle exploded. It paralleled how my life was going at the end of January 1986.

Just shortly after New Year’s Day, I had left for Southern California hoping to enter into a career in the management side of what was becoming known as Contemporary Christian Music. It was also the name of the magazine most associated with the genre, and I was being interviewed by a man I greatly respected for the job of Assistant Editor of that publication. While I didn’t have the proverbial “green card,” my knowledge of the business and experience as a music journalist were certainly in my favor. Besides, I had no moving costs, so what they were budgeting there could easily be switched over to the some relatively minor costs of getting my immigration status established.

But I didn’t get the job.

Undaunted, I went for an interview with a small independent record label. The guy running it could surely use my expertise and we’d worked together before.

But then I got a call that another record company executive wanted to speak with me. Three interviews in ten days, or so I thought. It turned out he wanted to tell me why I shouldn’t give up what I was doing in Toronto on the basis of the other company’s offer.

Wait, what? What was I doing in Toronto?

I was gigging from speaking engagements to youth group presentations of something called The Searchlight Video Roadshow. Me, some sound equipment, a by-today’s-standards primitive video projection system, and a bunch of Christian music videos. Part of the reason I flew back from Los Angeles on the 25th was to do a particularly important presentation of the show at the end of the month.

We had a contact at MuchMusic, which was the Canadian equivalent of MTV, and with its Latin, mass-inspired lyrics, the song “Kyrie” by Mister Mister was getting some crossover airplay on some edgier Christian radio stations. We asked our friend if he could dub us a “clean” copy of the song, as this would be a large group that had seen the show twice before, and we needed some new tunes.

At the last minute I asked him to include another Mister Mister song.

And then the Challenger blew up, 73 seconds into the flight.

While this affected everyone differently, the explosion seemed a metaphor for my life at that point. Three interviews in So. Cal. and no job. But it wasn’t about me.

As a peripatetic youth minister, I probably could have done more the night of the show to capture what the kids were thinking that night. It was a news cycle from which there was no escape; and that one of the astronauts was a teacher only added to the event’s proximity. Some youth pastors probably played to the emotion of the moment.

But we did one thing right that night, we played the other Mister Mister song. Take your broken wings, and learn to fly again. Not a Christian song exactly, but the right song for the right moment.

I spent the next weeks and months in a bit of a slump. My body was back in Toronto doing what I had been doing before, but my heart was in the editorial offices of CCM Magazine, or the management offices of the record company…

…Later that year I learned to fly again. In June, my own little music business made the largest individual sale we’ve ever made in 30 years. The same month I got invited to be the Staff Training Week speaker at a Christian summer camp, where I met the girl who just weeks later at Thanksgiving (plus one day) I would ask to marry me. The year ended quite differently than it had begun…

If you’re reading this in the middle of your own explosion, your own brokenness, take those broken wings and learn to fly again.


2 Corinthians 4:8 NIV We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

 

 

 

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August 3, 2012

Illustrated Ray Comfort Text is a Labor of Love

2016 update: Sadly the website referenced here no longer exists.

So despite everything I wrote here yesterday about posting cartoons and comics on the blog, I’m forging ahead with this one, largely because illustrator Richard Gunther seems to actually want his material to be viewed by as many people as possible.

What you see above is actually page 16 (the middle page) of Why Trials written by Ray Comfort at the blog MightyMag.org .  You can see the panels in the correct order by following this link, or if you’d rather browse the whole blog click the first link and then scroll down to the posts for July 30thTake a few minutes to do this, you might find you want to send this to someone you know. (You can also click the image.) Or perhaps you yourself are facing trials, spiritual attacks, anxiety or simply find yourself in a ‘desert’ season in life. Click the image to read Why Trials.

Note: If a keyword search online brought you here and you’re not sure why, the post tags for today are all taken from the 32 cartoon pages. Click here to see it in its entirety.

About the artist: New Zealand writer and illustrator Richard Gunther is the author of dozens of children’s books.  He is perhaps best known for his provocative cartoons about God, the Bible and the Christian life. He provides daily cartoons for the blog site of evangelist Ray Comfort. Over the years Richard has produced a mountain of free Christian material for people to use. He has the desire to make Jesus Christ known in all the world because Jesus is the source of life.

January 20, 2011

Before You Take Your Life

You know who you are.

I don’t know what combination of events over days, months or even years has brought you to this place right now, right this minute, of reading these words; but if the five words at the top of this article arrested you in your tracks somehow, then this is for you.

As I type this, some friends of ours are dealing with a situation for which we had hoped there would be a very different outcome.  There is great sadness, all because someone was going through a tough time, and perhaps, as we do in tough times, was looking for an exit sign.

Not finding one, they created their own exit.

I believe in a lot of things.  I am a person of many strong convictions.  And yes, some of those are spiritual convictions; the kinds of things I am going to wager that you’ve already heard about many times.

But I’m also a believer in legacy.  And I’m not sure that this is the legacy you want to leave.  They might find kind words to say in eulogy and remember good times upon reflection, but anytime your name is mentioned, it would be indelibly marked with the mental notation, “That’s the person who took their own life.”

Don’t do it.

The annals of history are filled with stories of people who reached the point of despair at which you find yourself right now; but people who pushed past that point and now live to tell the story.  When you’ve reached bottom, they will tell you, then you’re at the point where you can only look up.

My friend Ray, a former body-builder once said to me, “Paul, I know exactly what you went through in gym class in high school.  You started running and then as you started huffing and puffing you realized you were tired and decided to just walk.  Everyone else pushed past their tiredness and finished the course.”

Pushed past.

Kept running.

Kept going.

Even when it hurt.

Even when it seemed impossible.

I believe that God specializes in the impossible.  He says, “Call me and I’ll show you an answer that you didn’t think of.” I truly and honestly believe that. There are answers, and solutions, and hope even in the deepest darkness in which you find yourself presently consumed.  Answers you simply haven’t seen yet. Jesus said, “Get away from it all with me and you’ll recover your life.”

God will make a way, where there seems to be no way.  Please watch this video. And then click back here.

I know there’s someone reading this right now, and you’ve never heard that God loves you.  Hear it now.  The God who created the universe loves you.

To all the hearts that 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;
You are loved!  You are loved!

God’s love is real and unconditional and available to you right this minute.  You prayer can be as simple as, “God, have mercy on me.”   Here’s a prayer that I’ve prayed many, many times myself:

God.
I’m broken
I don’t know what do.
Oh, God.
I’m broken
I’m broken before You.

Sometimes I’m thinkin’ that I’m never gonna see the light.
Fear what tomorrow may bring.
But then I remember what you said in your word;
‘There’s a time to laugh, a time to sing.’

God.
I’m aching.
It cannot be denied.
Oh, God.
I’m hurting.
I’m hurting deep inside.

It’s raw, it’s honest and it’s very transparent.  Just a scared person crying out to God.

And I believe he meets me every time I cry out to him.

And I believe he will do the same for you.

Push past.

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).

May 3, 2010

Pete Wilson: An “A” Quality Examination of Life’s Plan B Experiences

I believe that with this single book, Pete Wilson moves outside the circle of American pastors and bloggers and into the arena of people we consider major Christian voices for this generation.

I had a bit of an advantage here.   After years of being aware of Nashville pastor Pete Wilson through his blog, and listening to several of his sermons and video posts, I was able to hear his voice in my head as I read each page.   I’ve been impressed over the years with Pete’s complete honesty and transparency as someone walking the journey of life as we all do, albeit in the set-apart position of vocational ministry.

So I really, really wanted to be included among the 500+ people who are posting reviews of this book today as part of a blitz by the publisher, Thomas Nelson.    The book is Plan B – What Do You Do When God Doesn’t Show Up The Way You Thought He Would? Knowing this was his first time in print having to compete for the attention of North American Christians in a crowded publishing market, I was a little unsure how Pete would fare.

Here’s my review:

This is a landmark book.

Using a large number of examples from the lives of people Pete has pastored in Kentucky and Tennessee; combining in the Biblical examples of David, Joseph, Job, Ruth, and even Jesus; and finally mixing in quotations from some of today’s most popular contemporary Christian authors; Pete delivers a treatment of his subject that would be thorough enough to meet the most rigid academic requirements, but is delivered in a totally grassroots, down-to-earth, unpretentious style.

However…

This is not an easy book to digest.   Life is hard.   This is not a feel-good book with rhyming couplet sayings.   There are chapters that seem to ask more questions than provide answers.   In the end — spoiler alert! — there is no pastoral closing scene with a golden sunset or a rainbow against a blue sky.

If anything, I got the impression that as someone who has been pastoring for just a little over a decade, Pete has had more than his share of being with people at the deepest moments of personal crisis and tragedy.

When I was pastoring in Kentucky, I would often ride with law-enforcement officials after someone had been murdered or killed in a car accident.  The officers liked having me along when they went to inform the next of kin.   I still remember the sick feeling I would get when we pulled into a driveway to do that sad job.  I would think, Inside that house is a family just living their lives, going through the normal routine.  They have no idea how my next few words are going to turn their very life upside down forever.

Not a book for people — including myself at times — who would like to bury their heads and deny that life often presents us with seemingly impossible challenges.  But a book that finds there is hope to be found at the foot of the cross.

I found the overall pacing and writing of the book very similar to another title (from the same publisher) Fearless by Max Luacdo.   I think that fans of Lucado’s writing would find this a very comfortable fit for their library, if they’re open to trying a new author.   I won’t labor the similarities, but they are many.

But I also think there’s another application here:  I think that pastors and counselors should buy this book, read it, and then have an extra copy handy to give to people who suddenly find themselves in the valley.    This is an author who understands, who gets it.

Finally, I think there’s yet another direction for Plan B, which is hinted at in an eleven-page set of study questions at the back:  This would be an excellent group study.   We all experience unique trials and we all process these difficulties differently.   What better healing process than to get people sharing some of the darkest times in their lives with others who have had, are having, or will have similar times where God seems conspicuously absent?   Combining the first two chapters also yields a viable 13-week adult study curriculum.

Those of us who’ve enjoyed Pete’s blog, Without Wax, or listened to sermons at Cross Point already knew what Pete Wilson was all about.   I believe with this single book, Pete steps into the circle of people we consider significant Christian voices in North America and beyond.

Plan B – What Do You Do When God Doesn’t Show Up The Way You Thought He Would? by Pete Wilson (Thomas Nelson, 244 pages paperback, May, 2010)

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