Ministry Would Be Great If it Weren’t for the People

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Today’s guest post is by Vyrso’s author of the month, Josh Kelley. Josh has been a pastor for 15 years and is the author of Radically Normal: You Don’t Have to Live Crazy to Follow JesusJosh has graciously offered to give away Radically Normal for free when you sign up to receive Vyrso’s daily deal email alerts! With Vyrso’s daily deals, you can get a new 24-hour deal through November 27. There are only a few days left to get this freebie—enter your email address on the Radically Normal product page to receive your free ebook in an email!

I cringed as I saw Mabel walking by my house. At church she told me she lived in my neighborhood, and now she’d found my house. As she walked up to my door, I put on my best pastor face.

“Hi Mabel, so good to see you!” I lied.

“Hi neighbor, I mean Pastor! God bless you!” she said, the words interrupted by nervous laughter. As she spoke, she bobbed back and forth, like a Hasidic Jew praying at the Wailing Wall.

I allowed her to chatter and bob away, nodding and smiling at appropriate intervals. After giving her enough of my Saturday, I politely drew the one-way conversation to an end.

“Can you pray for my corns first?” asked Mabel. “They’re hurting from the walk.”

She plopped herself down in a chair, took off her shoe, pull off her sock, and propped her foot up on another chair. She believed prayer required direct contact. I gingerly put my hand on the top of the offending foot, but she said, “They’re under here,” and wrapped my fingers around her toes.

A couple of minutes later, as Mabel was walking down my driveway and I was washing my hands a second time, my wife asked me, “What was that about?!?”

“That’s nothing,” I said. “She once had Pastor Bruce pray for her hemorrhoids.”

The Real Problem

Looking back, the part of that story that makes me cringe is not the memory of Mabel’s sweaty foot, but the stench of my own attitude. Back in Bible college, we used to joke, “Ministry would be great . . . if it weren’t for the people.” I saw Mabel as one of those people—I ministered to her because I had to. Given a choice, I would’ve spent my time with the movers and shakers who matched my idea of spiritual greatness.

Because I’m writing this to Logos and Vyrso users, I suspect that many of you are pastors, students, and lay leaders and that you’ve heard that joke before. Even if you aren’t in formal ministry, God probably brings hurting people across your path on a regular basis, people that are a drain on your time and patience. In either case, think about what “if it weren’t for the people” communicates—“They are lucky to have me ministering to them.” Somehow that doesn’t feel very Christ-like, does it?

In truth, you and I are lucky to minister to them. Here’s how I now see it. I’m crazy about my two young daughters. They are the apple of my eye and I’m very protective of them. Were I ever to ever allow you to care for them, it would be very high praise indeed.

I finally realized that Mabel is one of God’s precious daughters. He had given me the high privilege of carrying for her and I treated it as a burden. I say that to my shame. My attitude reeked worse than any sweaty foot. I’m learning that until I see it as a privilege to lay hands on Mabel’s feet, I am not worthy to do so.

This hasn’t been an overnight change for me. I’m learning to come off my high horse and be less impressed with myself and my Biblical knowledge. I’m learning that God cares a lot more about his broken children than I did. He has also allowed me to be deeply hurt by the sort of people that used to impress me.

Becoming less impressed with myself (especially when I had to get a second job at Starbucks) is a key part of my story, which you can find in my book, Radically Normal. It’s free on Vyrso until November 27, so you may want to download it and read chapter 2, “It’s Okay to Be Normal.” In the meantime, I pray that God blesses you with many stinky feet to pray for and the perspective to know that it’s a privilege.

Get Radically Normal for free when you sign up for daily deal email alerts! Through November 27, you can get a new 24-hour deal each day. Once you enter your email address, you’ll receive your freebie in an email. Be the first to know what’s on sale—sign up for the daily deal!

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Keeping a Well-Oiled Life: Living in God’s Presence

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Today’s guest post is by “Mountain Man,” Tim Guraedy. He needs no introduction for the hardcore fans of  the television show, “Duck Dynasty.” For those who don’t follow the show, Tim Guraedy is an air-conditioning repairman and radio host who is a neighbor to the Robertsons, a family that owns the famous duck call company, Duck Commander. You can get his ebook Mountain Man: Keepin’ a Slow Profile on Vyrso today.

In my book Mountain Man: Keepin’ a Slow Profile, I share the story when I shot an eight-point buck with a friend after climbing up into a tree with a broken arm. He scared the buck into an opening, and I shot the deer with my 12-gage single shot Ithaca shotgun.

Deer often try to get up and run away, so I went to reload my shotgun. But the barrel had gotten rusty and I couldn’t get the shell out. I grabbed my knife and tried to pry the shell out of the barrel, but just broke the tip off the end my knife.

So I snapped a limb off the tree and used it as a ramrod to push the shell out the other end. If I had oiled my gun, I would have easily been able to slide in another shell quickly. Thankfully my shot was on the money, or I would have lost my deer. I eventually got the shell out.

A good hunter knows you need to keep your guns oiled or they’re not going to perform properly. I think the Christian life is like that too. If you don’t take care of yourself and remain “well oiled,” you won’t function the way God designed you to and you’ll find yourself getting stuck far too often.

Going to church, reading the Word, hanging out with godly people, and being in the presence of the Holy Spirit is like oiling your gun. These things add to your faith and keep you in a better place.

It’s easy to get caught up in your business, running from one place to another and forgetting about what’s important. You set your Bible aside, you’re too tired to go to church, or find excuses that keep you from doing the right thing. Before you know it, you’re not yourself and things start going wrong.

You have to recognize what’s happening. Ask yourself, “Why am I getting stressed? Why is my job not going right?” Slow down and take a minute to think, “What’s going on? Have I been reading my Bible? Have I had one-on-one interaction with another godly person lately?”

It’s easy to get caught living by the flesh instead of the Holy Spirit. When things start going wrong, it can be a reminder to get oiled up with God’s word and his presence, or things are going to get jammed up.

When I’m out talking to people, I tell them not to let stuff pile up on top of their Bibles. I always make sure no dust is collecting on top of my Bible. The Word of God has been important to me in my life.

Try to find a little time in your day to interact with someone who will encourage you, and you can encourage them too. I find that meeting with two and three people during the week helps me stay oiled. If you’re at work, find a quiet place or go sit in your car and have a little time with the Lord. Don’t think that you have enough of the Holy Spirit and you’re good to go. It’s impossible to stay well-oiled with the Lord if the only time you want to interact with Him is once a week during church.

Part of keeping your heart well-oiled is interacting with the Lord each day. If you’re not doing that, you’re likely to be stressed. When you’re stressed, you tend to take longer on your work because you’re not thinking clearly and you’re trying to take on the task by yourself. When you interact with the Holy Spirit, he takes the stress off and you can get the job done right the first time.

I can’t live this life alone and neither can you. Just admit it. Life is full of things we can worry about, but Jesus told his followers, “Don’t worry about your life” (Matthew 6:25). He told us that our heavenly father takes care of the birds and the flowers, so he’ll take care of you. Seek first the kingdom of God today and you’ll stay well-oiled for all that God has for you each day.

Emm Hmmm!

To learn more about my new book, check out it on Vyrso today. Find out what’s going on with Mountain Man through my Facebook page, which also has information about my weekly radio show.

 

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Five Ebooks Picks From the David C. Cook Bundle

David C. Cook Bundle

We handpicked the 30 ebooks in the brand-new David C. Cook bundle with the intention of building a bundle that would help you grow and seek God’s calling in your personal, professional, and spiritual life. We’ve included ebooks that will help you expand and revitalize your church or organization, titles by some of the top leadership mentors in the United States (John C. Maxwell and Ken Blanchard), and ebooks that will inspire you to connect with God each day. Here are my top five picks from the David C. Cook bundle:

Getting to No: How to Break a Stubborn Habit by Erwin Lutzer

Few spiritual concepts have fascinated and confused people more than understanding God’s calling for their life. Is it primarily about a job or a role? It is precise or general? Is a calling only reserved for those who work in professional ministry? The truth is actually amazingly profound: what we are supposed to do is what we most want to do. This is a guide for discovering God’s design and destiny for your life.

To My Sons by Bear Grylls

Mountain climber, world-record holder, and internationally-known television personality Bear Grylls knows a thing or two about adventure. The greatest adventure he’s experienced, though, is raising his three boys. In To My Sons, Grylls shares the quotes, Scripture verses, and spiritual wisdom he has learned through the literal ups and downs of an exciting life. Featuring cartoons from well-known sketch artist Charlie Mackesy, this book is a poignant primer for boys and men of all ages.

Seeing through the Fog by Edward G. Dobson

Seeing Through the Fog is about living well when you realize you can’t live forever. It is about having gratitude for each sunrise, birthday, and moment of knowing God more. It is about holding hope when circumstances hold pain. With stories and wisdom, Seeing Through the Fog will encourage readers in their own difficulties and give them hope for their future.

The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make by Hans Finzel

Whether you are leading a company, a ministry, a Girl Scout troop, or your family, The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make is a must-read for anyone who wants to lead others effectively. With additional and newly updated material, this leadership classic reveals the most common errors that leaders consistently make—regardless of training or age—and the way to stop these bad habits from undermining their positive talents and accomplishments.

Billy Graham by David Frost

With a chronology of Graham’s life, a preface from Frost, and a foreword from Graham’s grandson, Tullian Tchividjian, this weaving of stories, interviews, and reflections will inspire you to respond to God’s call with no reserve. For thirty years, Billy Graham and David Frost fascinated television audiences with their conversations about God, the Bible, and Graham’s decades-long ministry. Frost asked the questions that thousands of viewers wanted to ask. Graham answered them with authenticity and grace.

 

You’ll find 25 additional ebooks in this bundle from authors like Britt Merrick, Leonard Sweet, Stephen W. Smith, and John C. Maxwell. This bundle is only available through December 1—get the David C. Cook Bundle today!

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Enter to Win Catalyst 2015 Tickets and the David C. Cook Bundle!

Through December 1, you can enter to win two tickets to any Catalyst event of your choosing in 2015 and our David C. Cook bundle. Make sure to share this giveaway with your friends—every time you get a friend to click on your link to the giveaway you’ll gain more entries!

You can enter to win at vyrso.com/dailydeals (at the bottom of the page) or in the giveaway widget here:

Learn more about the prizes:

We’ve partnered with Catalyst to give away two tickets to any 2015 Catalyst event of your choosing. That means you could attend one of their leadership events in Atlanta, San Diego, Dallas, or any other Catalyst event around the United States in 2015. Catalyst is planning on having over nine events in 2015, so you’ll have plenty of options to choose from if you win. You could select a place close to home or even attend an event on the other side of the country! 

The winner will also receive our 30-volume David C. Cook bundle for free! This is a brand-new, exclusive bundle from Vyrso and David C. Cook with titles from John C. Maxwell, David Frost, Glenn Packiam, Britt Merrick, Don Cousins, Ken Blanchard, and many others. 

The David C. Cook bundle is also available to purchase on Vyrso.com. When you download this bundle you’ll save over $350 on these 30 ebooks! This bundle is only available until December 1.

Enter win the Catalyst Prize Pack and start reading today with the David C. Cook bundle!

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Forever Faithful

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Today’s guest post is by Debora M. Coty a popular speaker, humorist, and award-winning author of over 130 articles and 14 books, including Too Blessed to be Stressed and Too Loved to be Lost.  Coty can be found online at www.DeboraCoty.com.

Our bus arrived in Edinburgh on Sunday around noon on a breezy, sunny, altogether gorgeous autumn day and I was up for adventure. Scotland was the third country on the long-awaited UK tour Chuck and I had been enjoying in honor of our 33rd wedding anniversary, and we were thrilled to be presented with a few free afternoon hours before a scheduled Scottish castle dinner at 6 o’clock. (Yep, I said castle! Woohoo!)

Chuck wanted to hit the sack for a catch-up nap after seven days of non-stop activity with our tour bus companions, but I was keen on exploring the ancient city. After all, our Scottish guide had said our hotel was only “a brisk walk” from bustling downtown Edinburgh.

I didn’t want to waste a single minute. So after a brief check in, I tossed my things into the hotel room and without more than a “See ya, honey!” I set off in the general direction in which the hotel clerk pointed.

Ah, the wonder of it all! I walked many miles, enjoying the sights and sounds of the enchanting, romantic place, marveling at the intriguing architecture, lovely Scottish accents, the cozy little coffee shop where J. K. Rowling painstakingly birthed the Harry Potter series, and the charming, heart-warming statue of Greyfriar’s Bobby, the loyal little dog from the 1800s who’d sat on the grave of his beloved master in Greyfriar’s Abbey cemetery every single day for 14 years until his own death.

The congregation of Greyfriar’s fed Bobby and tried to lure him to shelter during the frigid winters, but he’d steadfastly refused to leave his master’s side.

Up to that point in my self-made tour, I had been keeping careful tabs of where I was in relation to where I’d been. But I had been so deep in thought about dear Bobby, I’d turned a corner or two unknowingly.

Uh oh. Where was I? It was then I realized that I’d left my cell phone back at the hotel. I had come away completely unprepared: no phone, no hotel name or address (we’d had a last minute hotel substitution which I hadn’t written down), and a lousy sense of direction. The emergency number for our tour guide (whose first name was all I knew) was safe in Chuck’s phone back at the hotel, which he’d turned off because of killer overseas roaming charges.

I didn’t know what to do. I was embarrassed at my air-headedness. I couldn’t even ask a policeman for help; I didn’t know where I was staying or whom to look for.

So I just kept walking. Walking and praying that at any moment I’d see something familiar that would give me a clue which direction to go. I hoofed it for nearly three hours, alone and lost in a bustling city, growing more frantic by the moment. I knew if I didn’t find my way soon, I’d be kissing my dreamy castle dinner farewell. It seemed as though I was walking in gigantic circles. Sure enough, by the third time I encountered wee Bobby’s statue, I knew I was in trouble.

As I stood there staring at Bobby, internally wailing to God in desperation and about to collapse to the curb in tears, I heard a woman’s voice call out on the crowded street, “Hat girl! Oh, hat girl!”

Me? Could she mean me?

I touched the brim of my tweed newsman’s cap and turned to find the smiling faces of a couple from our tour group who just happened to be passing by. With a map. And the name of our hotel.

In the midst of thousands of tourists traipsing the busy streets of the sprawling city, they’d somehow spotted me. They didn’t know my name, but recognized me because of the hats I’d worn every day on the bus.

Despite my fatigue and blistered feet, I had to laugh. My heavenly Papa had used my hat fetish—a weird personal habit of mine which he knew as well as he knows all your silly personal quirks—to bail me out of a disaster of my own making. And it happened right in front of the statue of Bobby, a tribute to faithfulness.

Luck? Nah. Coincidence? No way.

My Savior might as well have written across the sky with a giant black Sharpie, “I love you even when you botch it up, dear child. You are precious to me, quirks and all. Just like the extraordinary loyalty displayed by little Bobby here, I will always be faithful to you, even beyond death.”

And in a nutshell that’s what God’s unconditional love is: forever faithful. Even when we’re a wee bit air-headed, he’ll never, ever leave our sides. I’ll bet my hat on it.

This guest post has been adapted from Too Loved to be Lost, the latest release in Coty’s “Take On Life” series. You can get it on Vyrso today for just $7.49!

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America’s Black Children are Hurting: A Call to Action

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Today’s guest post is by John Turnipseed, the vice president of the Center for Fathering, Urban Ventures, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is also the author of Bloodline, his autobiography of going from a lost and frightened little boy to a gang leader, drug dealer and pimp, and finally to one of the nation’s most respected pioneers of community restoration. You can get Bloodline for just $2.99—today only—as a part of our daily deals promotion. 

Earlier this year, President Obama launched the My Brother’s Keeper initiative to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color. I was invited by Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges to be part of this initiative for our city.

The current alarm in the African American community—which again centers on school failure, black male achievement and economic survival—has raised its eerie, ugly tragic sound again.

This will last for about two years and then disappear again after the money is disbursed. The children and conditions will be blamed for the failure because the cavalry came and did all it could, until another time when someone again rings the alarm of injustice and doom.

The best of the cavalry, the most connected ones with the most credentials, and the most charming presenters will be the commissioned army assigned to fight the good fight to yield the sword of salvation, to rescue the young men of lost hope and promise. To once again free the slaves of a failed system, and to rescue the poor, unfortunate children of a failed race.

The current situation needs an old approach to solve this old problem. The problem is the breakdown of the core family in the African American community. This breakdown was at the root of my problems, as I share in my book Bloodline.

If you send a broken child to school, a broken child will return home. If you ask a broken community to raise a child, a broken child will be conceived out of this broken unholy alliance. If you ask a broken culture to solve the problem, a stronger broken community and culture will be produced.

But there is hope. God would not be so cruel as to desert his children. There was a blueprint left for us to find our way home and to mend the shattered lives of the children and community that are seemingly lost.

I say let’s do something different, but not foreign to us—something that has been stored in the creases of our hearts and the folds of our minds.

I am talking about getting back to the values that brought us to our greatest heights. I am talking about getting back to family for real. I am talking about going to get our children and teach them character, reading, and writing skills. I am talking about black businesses in our communities again and supporting them by buying from them. I am talking about directing the drug dealer to leave now, as his services are no longer needed. Yes, I am talking about upholding the beliefs and values of the God that has sustained us.

I am in my own city putting the call out for black men to come home and to stop waiting for the world to push us to the solutions that we already have. All we are missing is the will and the unity to move in one direction and to have restoration and revitalization of our family the common goal.

It is time to draw upon our spiritual roots and sit at our rightful place as parents, leaders, and decision makers in America. The schools can continue to be schools, but we will send unbroken children to them. The school system was not set up to be a parent—that is our commission. When black men recognize the sheer velocity of our voice and power used in a moral and cultural standard, the world will be begging for our inclusion and not begging for a solution to us.

This is a problem for all people with a moral compass to help with, but the ultimate responsibility lies on the shoulders of the capable African American men that must lead the charge.

We must reclaim our faith, family, and pride in being the great lineage that we are and get back on track so that our legacy will not fail our children. God makes us capable. He is just waiting for us to answer the call

Let’s get it done.

You can get Bloodline for just $2.99, today only. Hurry, the price will only last until 11:59 p.m. (PST).

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A Better Understanding of God’s Blessings

Today’s guest post is by John Eckhardt, author of numerous ebooks on Vyrso about prayer, blessing, and spiritual warfare. You can get his latest ebook, Prayers that Activate Blessings, on Vyrso today!

The subject of blessing and prosperity has become very controversial among those in the church. We want to be blessed and live the abundant life Christ died to give us, yet we don’t want to approach God as if he is a lottery or a slot machine—if you put in the right amount of prayer, praise, worship, faith, and good works, out comes your blessing. But for some, that is all they see God as, and they get beside themselves when he doesn’t come through for them the way they wanted him to.

Blessing and prosperity are more than money. According to Strong’s Complete Concordance of the Bible, one Hebrew word for prosperity is shalom. We often associate the word shalom with peace, but the peace that Christ went to war for on the cross is a complete, whole kind of peace.

Shalom is “completeness, soundness, welfare, and peace.” It represents completeness in number and safety and soundness in your physical body. Shalom also covers relationships with God and with people. God’s thoughts concerning your peace and prosperity are much higher than you could imagine.

It is his desire to bless and prosper you, to give you his grace, favor, and protection. Favor means “grace,” “that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness,” and “good will, benefit, bounty, reward.” If you look up the Hebrew and Greek definitions of prosperity, many of these words carry over into favor as well.

Favor is goodwill. This is God’s kindness and benevolence given to those who love him. Favor will release great blessings, including prosperity, health, opportunity, and advancement. The Bible records numerous examples of God’s favor upon his people causing them to experience many breakthroughs. Favor is God’s loving-kindness. Joseph experienced God’s favor and went from prison to palace. God will do the same for you. He can change your circumstances in one day no matter where you are in life. This is when the favor of God is on your life.

Job was another man who was blessed and who operated under the full favor and blessing of God. In Job 10:12 he confessed that his life and the favor he had were gifts from God: “Thou hast granted me life and favour, and thy visitation hath preserved my spirit.” Life and favor are gifts of God. We don’t need luck. We need blessing. We need favor. We need the blessing of God. God desires to release new favor on your life. When you have God’s favor and blessing, there is nothing in life that can hold you down. When you begin to walk in the favor and blessing of the Lord, others will recognize it. The favor and blessing of God on your life is one of the most powerful things that can be released to you.

Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you,” (emphasis added). Protection was also added to Job. Job 29:17 says, “I brake the jaws of the wicked, and plucked the spoil out of his teeth.” When the evil plans of the enemy set out to destroy Job, he had weapons to fight back; then he claimed the exponential spoils of the victory.

God says, “You don’t need money. You need My favor.” You need his shalom—the full measure of peace—to operate in your life. This is your gift from him if you are his child, if you are in covenant with him. God blesses his people and rescues them. Just as he did with the Israelites, God loved you and chose you in spite of who you are and what you have done. You are elected by God. You were chosen before the foundation of the world. He chose you. It wasn’t because of anything you’ve done. That is his favor!

God is ready to release new favor, blessing, prosperity, protection, and peace over you. It is his desire to give you good things. Now get ready to receive them.

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Bringing Hope to a Toxic Environment

Creating a Better Workplace

What do you do if your workplace environment  is toxic, rife with conflict, and there isn’t an easy way out? Most of us have experienced an unhealthy atmosphere whether it’s been a sports team, in the workplace, or even within the church. Maybe you’ve experienced a boss that has been a bully or had a desk next to the office complainer. When we encounter these situations what do we, as Christians, do?

In Tim Chester’s ebook, Gospel-Centered Work: Becoming the Worker God Wants You to Be, he says, “Conflict is an opportunity to repent of selfish desires or demonstrate grace.” We often want to blame other people within our organizations as the instigators of the conflict or toxicity, but we rarely want to acknowledge our contribution to the situation. James 4:1 says, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?”  One of the quickest ways to infuse change in unhealthy workplaces is to first change ourselves, our actions, and our reactions. By repenting and extending grace we’ll be able to help change the culture we’re in.

If you find your response to toxic situations is less than admirable and want to understand more deeply what is happening in you, Tim Chester suggests you ask yourself these four questions:

1. When do you respond badly in the workplace? Is there a specific trigger or pattern?

2. How do you respond badly? This is the perfect opportunity for you to refine your own reactions and repent.

3. What happens when you act badly? James 3: 13 says, “Who is wise and understanding among you? By His good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.” Was someone else hurt by your snarky comment? Did you throw someone else under the bus to protect yourself?

4. Why do you act badly? What do you really want? Pray for the wisdom to identify the desires and humble yourself before God.

By humbling ourselves before God and understanding how and why we respond negatively, we can begin to change not only our hearts, but our actions and responses. We can then bring hope and change to toxic environments by modeling uplifting, level-headed, and godly behavior for others.

Want to read more from Tim Chester on work environments? You can get his ebook, Gospel-Centered Work: Becoming the Worker God Wants You to Be, on Vyrso today. 

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Heroes Don’t Wear Capes

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Today’s guest post is by Ret. Staff Sergeant Shilo Harris, he shares his inspiring story in his memoir, Steel Will: My Journey Through Hell to Become the Man I Was Meant to Be

It was just a normal day. Or so I thought. Until halfway down a dusty trail called Metallica, in an area once known as Babylon, the Humvee I was riding in was blown up in a catastrophic IED explosion. My driver was heavily injured, my three crewmembers killed, and I was engulfed in flames that destroyed most of my face, torso, and arms. I was burned down to the bone. I spent 48 days in a coma that took me to hell and back, and three years in the burn recovery unit at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. Since that day the word hero has been used quite frequently in my presence. But therein lies the rub.

A friend on Facebook surprised me one day. She told me I was a huge inspiration to her and thanked me for my service. She said, “I never knew what a hero was until 2010.”  So I asked her, “What happened?” I was ready to say thank you and to reiterate what had become a pretty common refrain for me:  I was just doing my job.

But then she told me her story. Her parents were attacked by a stray pit-bull, and in the violent struggle that ensued, she had to use every ounce of her strength to save their lives. This was clearly not the story I was expecting. Her actions were of bravery, certainly of courage, and of valor. Then she got to the kicker. She told me, “I have cerebral palsy.”

This girl doesn’t wear a cape. She doesn’t have a movie named after her, or a line of toys. She didn’t enlist in the military; she didn’t get deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. For her, that day in 2010 was also just an ordinary day. She woke up, ate normal food, put on normal clothes. Mild-mannered and soft-spoken, she had no idea what would be required of her in the few hours that followed. She had no idea that despite her limitations, she’d be placed in a situation that required her to divest herself of every ounce of self-protection in order to overcome mortal danger.

My friend was not comfortable with her title, but said that was the word that people used to describe her that day. Hero.  I understand her discomfort. It’s not a word heroes use to describe themselves. Like the girl with the pit-bull, the soldiers in my vehicle on February 19, 2007, the veterans you cross paths with on any given day—these are not folks who use the word “hero” to describe themselves. They’ll tell you it’s all part of the job, the call of duty. They’ll balk when you characterize their behavior as “heroic.” They’ll tell you they simply did what had to be done.

John 15:13 tells us: “Greater love hath no man than this; that a man lay down his life for his friends.” I didn’t have this verse on my lips on that day in 2007, yet it’s part of who I am, and I believe it is what we are called to do for one another.

Serving in the Armed Forces doesn’t make you a hero. For most soldiers, service is not an act of heroism, it’s an act of obedience. There’s no discounting the fact that some terrible things can happen to you in the course of that service—you can lose a limb, a life, a dream. And there’s nothing wrong with identifying heroes in our midst. But the soldiers around me, as well as my Facebook friend, won’t ask for that recognition, and they probably won’t accept the label. If you want to show gratitude or respect for a hero, give him or her a hearty welcome home, a hand shake, and if they’re out of the service, give them a hand up that includes a job or opportunity that puts them well on the road to recovery.

Which leads me to the book I just finished writing, Steel WillThere are certain things I want to accomplish in telling my story. First, I want God in it. I want to bring glory to His name and to let everyone know that I am blessed to be alive because of God’s grace. Next, I want to reach “the one.” I believe that if telling my story means I can help one soul choose to surrender his life to Christ, then the explosion was worth it. We lose veterans everyday to suicide. I want my story to inspire them, to encourage them to get help if they reach the point of no return. And finally I want to recognize veterans’ family members who serve silently, invisibly, and for way too long. They’re all around us. In every city, town, or village. They pray long and hard for their fathers, brothers, mothers, sisters, cousins, friends. They go to work day after day, not knowing if their loved ones will return or not, not knowing when or if the injuries suffered will devastate their lives. They’re the ones that don’t get medals. They don’t wear capes. And they don’t get ticker tape parades. Find those heroes. Find those heroes, and say thanks.

You can get Shilo Harris’s memoir, Steel Will on Vyrso. This ebook is encouraging, uplifting, and inspirational; especially for those who have been touched by tragedy, loss, PTSD, and other realities of wartime service. 

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Being Faithful with a Multitude of Small Things: An Interview with Josh Kelley

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Today we have the pleasure of interviewing our author of the month, Josh Kelley. Josh is the author of Radically Normal: You Don’t Have to Live Crazy to Follow Jesus and has been a pastor for 15 years. Originally from northwest Washington, he is currently on a year-long, cross country speaking tour, joined by his wife, Marilyn, and their two daughters.

Josh has graciously offered to give away Radically Normal for free when you sign up to receive Vyrso’s daily deal email alerts! With Vyrso’s daily deals, you can get a new 24-hour deal through November 27. Enter your email address on the Radically Normal product page and you’ll receive your free ebook in an email and daily deal alerts through November 27.

 

Could you provide a little background for us on your story?

The backdrop for Radically Normal was the year and a half I spent as a bi-vocational pastor/Starbucks barista. As challenging as that time was, it really helped me see things through the eyes of my congregation. Pastors can easily forget what it’s like to be a Christian in the midst of everyday life, when you are not being paid to study the Bible and pray!

 

Tell us about the inspiration behind Radically Normal.

Radically Normal is basically the book I wish I had when I was younger. I worked very hard to be a good Christian (which is a good thing) but I never felt like I was going far enough. If giving 10% was good, was 20% better? Was 100% the gold standard? I also struggled to understand why the people who looked and sounded the most radical were the ones I couldn’t stand being with, and why the Christians I really enjoyed were pretty normal. Radically Normal is about 50% my stories and 50% guidebook to loving Jesus without being a religious nut.

 

What’s one of your favorite Scriptures that encourages people to live ordinary lives as they follow Jesus?

“Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him” (1 Corinthians 7:20 NIV).  C. S. Lewis put it this way:

“Before I became a Christian I do not think I fully realized that one’s life, after conversion, would inevitably consist in doing most of the same things one had been doing before, one hopes, in a new spirit, but still the same things.” (On Learning in Wartime)

While God does call some to go out and do spectacular things (Billy Graham and Mother Teresa come to mind), most of us are called to be faithful in a multitude of small ways. I think that the church needs to do a better job of honoring daily faithfulness instead of just focusing on the “great” Christians.

 

In the book you say, “Wholehearted devotion to God consists of radical obedience lived out in surprisingly normal, joy-filled ways. This is what I mean by being radically normal. It’s the biblical art of fully engaging this life while focusing on the next.” Can you give us an example of what that looks like in practice?

Imagine three Christians who all work as programmers at Microsoft. The first programmer does his job, but not much else. He isn’t interested in advancement. All he cares about is getting through his day so he can get to church. In his mind, that’s where he does stuff that really matters.

The second programmer works hard and is very ambitious. In fact, nothing will get in his way as he climbs the ladder. Taking credit for another person’s ideas or sabotaging their work, it’s all part of the game. At church, he sings just as loud as the next person and doesn’t even think about his questionable ethics. Work is work, church is church. Besides, he reasons, it just means more money to tithe on. Maybe.

The third programmer also works hard and is ambitious. He loves his job and feels God’s pleasure when he does well. He works hard to advance, but isn’t crushed if he gets passed over. He believes that his day job and his weekend at church are inextricable connected. He sees work as part of his worship and it’s obvious to his coworkers.

I want readers to think about which one of those three they are more like. Are they so heavenly-minded that they are of no earthly good? Or is it the other way around? Instead, the Bible calls us to be fully present in this life, while never forgetting that we are citizens of heaven. [Click to tweet!]

 

For someone that is conflicted with their Christian faith, what advice would you give them to live a satisfied life following Jesus?

I think Chapter 11, “Happy Holiness” might be very helpful to them. I can’t cover it all here, but the key point is that obeying God brings joy. The church frequently praises “obedience for obedience’s sake,” but the Bible consistently calls us to obedience for joy’s sake. (Speaking of joy, did you know that the Bible talks about joy more often than peace, grace, or even love? I share my research on joy in Chapter 8, “In Defense of Earthly Joys.”)

Just as my daughters have an easier time obeying me when they know it is for their benefit, it becomes easier to avoid sin and follow Jesus when we know “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

 

What is one takeaway you hope people embrace after reading Radically Normal?

I hope they walk away understanding that they can, by God’s grace, live fully pleasing to God right where they are—without becoming a missionary or going to Bible college. And furthermore, I want them to learn that they’ll have more (not less) joy in by doing so.

 

Get Radically Normal for free when you sign up for daily deal email alerts! Through November 27, you can get a new 24-hour deal each day. Once you enter your email address, you’ll receive your freebie in an email. Be the first to know what’s on sale—sign up for the daily deal!

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