Thinking Out Loud

October 15, 2018

Joy is Available in All Circumstances: Book Review

by Gloria Matthies

John and Stasi Eldredge are two of my favourite authors, so I was excited when Stasi’s book Defiant Joy – Taking Hold of Hope, Beauty, and Life in a Hurting World (Thomas Nelson) became available. And it didn’t disappoint.

As in much of their other works, Stasi’s style is very readable – personal, authentic, real, relatable. I can see myself in many of her personal anecdotes. We’ve all been there – even accomplished authors!

It wasn’t the kind of book that keeps me reading long past the time I should be making dinner or going to bed. I actually couldn’t read it quickly because, even in its easy readability, there were parts that hit very close to home and I had to stop and mull it over, figure out how to apply it. Even after finishing the book, I find myself flipping back to the dog-eared pages and underlined passages again and again.

Stasi begins by laying the foundation: What is joy? How is it different from happiness? Why does she call it “Defiant”? She asserts – backed up with Scripture – that joy is always available to us in all circumstances, and especially in the really tough ones. She doesn’t shy away from “yes but, what about…” sadness, unmet longing, the waiting, loneliness, opposition, pain, suffering, comparison, resentment, misperceptions – all of which she addresses without judgement but rather with an invitation.

She invites us, dares us even, to step out in faith, to choose, hope, risk, trust, worship, remember God’s promises, in spite of our circumstances. And to be defiantly joyful people!


Gloria is co-coordinator of the Better Together Refugee Sponsorship project in Cobourg, Ontario and part time bookseller at the local Christian bookstore.

September 2, 2018

A “Charmed Life” in Ministry

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 12:34 pm

For us, many elements of our married life have involved struggle or challenge. While my basic thesis on this is that “everyone has something they’re dealing with;” every once in a while I run into people who seem to be enjoying “a charmed life” when it comes to their vocational ministry career or life in general.

The Free Dictionary notes:

To lead a life characterized or seemingly protected by marked good fortune or luck, without (or rarely) encountering trouble, danger, or misfortune. Celebrities seem to live a rather charmed life, with everything handed to them on a silver platter.

Merriam-Webster offers this definition:

life protected as if by magic charms : a life unusually unaffected by dangers and difficulties.

I write this because I encountered two of them so far this weekend. They weren’t totally flaunting it, but for them, life is good right now.

Perhaps for you it’s not ministry per se, but simply people in your sphere of influence — friends, neighbors, extended family, work colleagues, fellow students, etc. — for whom everything is going g-r-e-a-t.

Here are five things to remember:

▬ Some people have an advantage because of the struggle. The refinement they are experiencing and the learning they are gaining through the challenges makes them better people.

▬ Some people are just good at covering up. They’re the ones whose life on Facebook seems so ideal, and yet the truth of their situation is vastly different from the pictures and picture captions they post.

▬ The key in these moments is to not to succumb to envy or covetousness. It’s not about your life versus theirs but about how you respond to the perceived inequities. In fact, why are you comparing at all?

▬ Life is made up of seasons. Two-to-five years now could find that them and yourselves have actually trade places. Maybe longer. Maybe shorter.

▬ When it’s your turn to experience an outpouring of blessing, don’t allow it to let you become proud or arrogant. Approach the positive seasons of life with humility and thanksgiving.


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 .  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 22, 2012

Need a Safe Place to Run To?

Awhile back I did a piece called “How They Started” where I looked at some of the earliest blog posts of people I read regularly.  When you’ve got a few extra online minutes, I encourage you to do the same.   David Fisher had this item posted back in 2006 on his encouragement and devotional Barnabas Blog, though he would probably prefer that I linked you to more recent things at Pilgrim Scribblings.

Where is your safe place? A spot where you can find rest and peace in the midst of life’s storms? Perhaps you have a place that you retreat to where you can unwind and relax and clear your mind. Maybe it’s just a place you wish you had, a place that dreams are made of, a mountain cabin, a warm beach in the Caribbean or, if those are impossible, just an empty booth at the back of a smoky restaurant.

I’m so glad we can look to our loving Father when the storms of life surround us and troubles rush in like a flood. God is a REFUGE we can run to when life’s circumstances seem overwhelming. I know, I’ve been there many times. During these discouraging moments, GOD certainly is our:

R – Rock of Strength
E – Energizing God
F – Faithful Friend
U – Unchanging One
G – Gracious Father
E – Eternal King

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” – Psalm 46:1

R – Recognize the problem and admit it
E – Escape (or pull back) from the situation to get a better perspective on it
F – Find someone to confide in who can help us in the situation
U – Unburden our hearts to that person
G – Grow through the circumstance
E – Equip ourselves to help others when they face the same struggles

“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” – Deuteronomy 33:27

My prayer is that you would look to God in “every” circumstance of life and find that He is everything you ever needed and more. He loves you and cares for you! He will be your safe place!

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

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?

November 9, 2010

Rob Bell — Drops Like Stars — The Video

It’s been over a year since I reviewed the over-sized coffee table book, Drops Like Stars by Rob Bell; a review of a book where the format left me somewhat puzzled and where I eventually retreated to quoting other bloggers‘ treatment rather than forge ahead with my own.

Fourteen months later, I am delighted to report that the video is a much more focused product and a much more satisfying experience.   We sat through a non-stop viewing of all 2 hours and 5 minutes of this electrifying lecturesermonperformancemessage, presentation.   Whatever you call what he does, this is Rob Bell at his best.

And did you note the length?   The video Everything is Spiritual was 70 minutes, while The Gods Aren’t Angry was 90 minutes; but this time around Bell pulls out all the stops and passes the two hour mark — sans notes — in a way that keeps the audience riveted to their seats.

The subject matter crystallizes here as well.    While everyone else is writing as to the “why” God allows suffering; Bell starts farther down the road and takes our crisis situations as a given, and then asks the question, “So what do we do next?”    He proposes five areas where there are “gifts” which may be imparted to us for that part of the journey.

I know there are people reading this who find the prospect of a two hour sermon rather daunting, but I would suggest you simply don’t know Rob Bell.   For those who find him somewhat controversial, I looked, and found this presentation more palatable to those kept awake by fears of doctrinal contamination.

I think that the video presentation also will connect strongly with people who have a bent for fine art or sculpture or literature or music; as the arts play heavily into Bell’s illustrations, analogies and quotations.

But the supreme connection here will be made with people who find themselves in crisis, or in a valley; or are slowly emerging from one.

The Drops Like Stars Tour Film is now available from Zondervan on DVD at $19.99 U.S.   The large coffee table book has now been released in paperback, also at $19.99 U.S.   His next book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell and Every Person Who Has Ever Lived releases on April 1st, 2011.

June 3, 2010

The Difference Between Religion and Christ

At least once a week, I have the opportunity to share a simple overview of the difference between religion and Christianity with someone.   I wrote about it in September, 2008, but the essence of it is:

Q. How do you spell religion?

A. D-O — Do this, do that, do the other thing. Your standing before God is/will be based on what you do.

Q. How do you spell Christianity?

A. D-O-N-E — It’s all been done for us. There is nothing we can do to earn it, it is the gift of God.

The response I’ve had to this over the years has always been positive — it shatters many false perceptions — and I’m grateful to the former YFC staff worker who introduced it to me over a decade ago.

Justin Buzzard, who blogs from California, has taken a look at Tim Keller‘s The Gospel in Life curriculum, and has extracted more detail on the contrast between religion and the Good News, and has put it in chart form on Buzzard Blog.  (Check out the whole blog!)   Here it is for your consideration:

February 25, 2010

Classic Reading: Damaged Emotions

from Healing for Damaged Emotions by David Seamands

If you visit the far west, you will see those beautiful giant sequoia and redwood trees. In most of the parks, the naturalists can show you a cross-section of a great tree they have cut and point out that the rings of the tree reveal the development history year-by-year. Here’s a ring that represents a year when there was terrible drought. Here a couple of rings from years when there was too much rain. Here’s where the tree was struck by lightning. Here are some normal years of growth. This ring shows a forest fire that almost destroyed the tree. Here’s another of savage blight and disease. All of this lies embedded in the heart of the tree representing the autobiography of its growth.

And that’s the way it is with us. Just a few minutes beneath the protective bark, the concealing protective mask, are recorded the rings of our lives.

There are scars of ancient, painful hurts… the discoloration of a tragic stain that muddied all of life… the pressure of a painful, repressed memory. Such scars have been buried in pain for so long that they are causing hurt and rage that are inexplicable. In the rings of our thoughts and emotions the record is there; the memories are recorded and all are alive. And they directly and deeply affect our concepts, our feelings, our relationships. They affect the way we look at life, and God, at others and ourselves.

This book was published in 1991 by Chariot Victor (div. of David C. Cook) and is still recommended by counselors today. The book is now available in 15 different languages.

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