Book Review: I’ll Push You

Great friends are hard to find.  It’s easy to make friends in good “seasons” – but finding one who will weather the difficult storms of life is rare.  Why is it so hard to find good friends?

Patrick Gray and Justin Skeesuck take friendship to a whole new level.  Their new book, I’ll Push you: A Journey of 500 Miles, Two Best Friends, and One Wheelchair addresses what true friendship looks like.  Actually, “friendship” is too soft of a word.  Their commitment to each other is extraordinary.

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Why are these guys special?  Justin was diagnosed with a progressive neuromuscular disease where he is unable to use his arms or legs.  Patrick never abandons his friend… in fact, he agrees to a crazy plan to push his friend 500 miles through rough terrain in Spain.

To get a really good feel about their journey, check out this video on YouTube: http://woobox.com/965dan/j4h92q… you’ll be inspired just by the trailer!

I’ll Push You is one of the best stories I have read in a long time.  It’s about authentic relationships, deep faith and a willingness to push the boundaries of what humans think is possible.  It was so good, I finished on a cross country flight… and I think it’s best read in one or two sittings to keep up on the details of their journey (they travel the Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain).

Get this book!  Your perspective on life will change.  These guys will challenge you to be a better person.

 

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Heaven is Not What You Think It Is

Aside

Not many things in life get me sentimental. Maybe more things should move me to tears, but that’s not who I am. So, when something does stir up my emotions, it’s a pretty big deal. At the risk of losing my “street cred” (not that I have any… but I’ve always wanted to us that phrase) with this post, I have to share an experience my family had last week end.

We were invited to a performance by a group called “RATco,” or random acts of theater company. My wife made the arrangements with a friend to attend, so I was prepared to endure what I imagined would be a Disney musical (complete with platitudes, plastic smiles, and poorly recorded music). In case you were wondering, Disney movies don’t move me much (Pixar movies on the other hand…).

My preconceived ideas were shattered in opening moments of the show. Kids of all ages, sizes and abilities started to slowly walk onto the stage and share their life stories. Some of them were abandoned by their parents, others were bullied at school, some of them looked down on for a disability, and others discredited because of their race.

One by one, those same kids talked about the hope they had found. They didn’t make any excuses for their circumstances. The leaders of RATco instilled a “new” idea in them. It’s the idea that they are created in God’s image and He sees them as valuable — worthy of love. Instead of letting their past define them, those kids shared stories of hope and acceptance. They are writing a new story… and it was really moving to me.

No harp music or phoniness happened. Some of the kids read their own poetry — and it was hard hitting and current — others created their own lyrics to contemporary rap beats — and everyone on stage danced with a lot of energy. It wasn’t perfect choreography… It was real though… and it was inspiring. The message was clear to me: you don’t have to be perfect to be valuable and useful.

The closing number broke me down. A young girl shared with us that she endured 12 surgeries as a child and was only given a 20% chance to survive. And then, she took out her hearing aids and started to communicate in sign language about her appreciation of life (she’s bilingual… she signed and voiced at the same time).

Everyone was weeping… even me. It was the triumph and not the tragedy. I was so thankful for that moment.

The thought I came away with that night was this (and this will be a stretch to some people): this is exactly what heaven will be like. We will be free to celebrate our uniqueness, and other people will support us in our dreams to overcome the lies of our peers (who say we don’t measure up); the lies of our parents (who either leave us or hold us back); the lies of our bosses (who don’t support our work); the lies of our teachers (who said we couldn’t be more than our grades) or the lies of (you fill in the blank)…

I think heaven is more than harps, halos, and happy people who live in big houses… way more. You may not believe in heaven… that’s ok… people like me (who have been Christians forever) haven’t given you a good enough picture of it yet. The RATco performance gave me a renewed vision of heaven… heaven is a place of community, hope, love, and freedom.

I wish I could describe that evening better… maybe you should go check out a RATco performance for yourself (unless you are afraid to cry). And just so you know, they do more than put on performances. RATco works with people with disabilities, the elderly, and a wide variety of other people who are considered “unworthy” by our society.

What are you doing to bring hope to someone else? Are helping people live out their dreams? Who inspires you (send me an email jshanselman@gmail.com, or leave a comment on this post).

Retire?

Do you know who invented retirement?

This may surprise you like it did me… Chancellor Otto Van Bismarck announced his plan to help people retire in 1883.  His plan was to have non-working Germans over the age of 65 receive pay.  Sounds generous right?  The good chancellor might have won a few votes with the move… but most people in those days didn’t make it past 50 to collect!

I attended a great seminar last week put on by the Crankset Group (go and check out their site… it will be worth your time (www.cranksetgroup.com).  We learned a lot about Otto and retirement.  The thought floating around the room (and it’s a widely circulated idea) was this: “I don’t ever want to retire.. I want to keep working my whole life.”

I wondered how many of those people ACTUALLY believed that… or for that matter, how many people really practice the belief of never retiring.

It wasn’t long before I was re-introduced to a man who embodies the anti-retirement sentiment.  Bob is the pastor of an urban church in Denver.  For 37 years strong, Bob and his wife have labored in the inner city.  He operates a holistic ministry that provides education, food, clothing, and spiritual help to anyone who needs it… but they primarily focus on the poorest of the poor.

I think Bob rejects the teachings of Otto Van Bismarck!

The key is understanding a few of the ingredients that keep Bob from retirement…

First, he told me that he tries to diversify his life and ministry… he helps a lot of people in a variety of ways and works with dozens of other ministries.  In other words, he isn’t primarily concerned about his own “little empire.”  He sees a need and tries to meet it.  Bob was “missional” before “missional” was cool (that’s a reference for my ministry buddies out there).

Second, he does important work.  While I was with Bob, a variety of people were in and out of the office… not all of them were in a good mood either.  His work is tough, but he handles it was grace and strength.  I think he knows that if he remains committed, the “issues” have a way of working themselves out… he is very patient with some tough customers.  Eventually, they are helped and Bob witnesses real life transformation flow out of his work.

My career with QuietWaters Ministries involves helping people like Bob find rest and encouragement — it would be a HUGE honor for me to connect Bob with the resources of people who believe in his work.

  1. If you have never been to Agape Christian Church in Denver… stop by and visit Bob.  Check out his website too (www.agapechristianchurch.org).  Even though he is an influential guy in the community, he always has time for people… always.  He will let you know how you can help.  You might even consider giving to their ministry.
  2. If you believe in helping Christian leaders stay refreshed and in their calling, visit my non-profit site (www.qwaters.org).  Learn how you can give and help other people like Bob

Let me know if you visit either of the sites and if you have questions.  And, send me your thoughts about retirement.  Where do you land… are you pushing for 65 and the golf course… are you never going to retire?  Post your comments or send me an email: jshanselman@gmail.com

Torn: A Book Review

“Sometimes in the midst of it all we are tempted to doubt God’s goodness — or at least his goodness to us… but obviously we’re receiving some sort of payback for the wrongs we’ve done… We search for a reason.  If God really loves me and cares for me, why is this happening (Wilhite, 2011. Torn.  Multnomah Books.)?”

If you live long enough (like more than 10 years) something “bad” is bound to happen in your life.  Most of us want to have one questioned answered when things don’t go our way: WHY?!

Wilhite’s new book, Torn is a good read for anyone who has ever wondered WHY?  The author’s answer is good: “Why” is the wrong question.  A better question to ask in uncertainty is “WHO?”  Who can we turn to when our life falls to pieces?  Who in the universe big enough to help us through the darkness… who can help us make sense of our suffering?  Who knows how we fell, because no one wants to suffer in vain.

Torn is an easy and compelling read.  The book focuses on real people and stories, and avoids trite and simple answers.

I’ll wrap up this review with one of my favorite quotes from the book (because it sums up the direction the author takes), — it’s a valid way to view the world and think about the difficulties in life we all have to face:

Take some time to consider your expectations of God and faith.  You may realize that you need to adjust them, as I did.  It’s okay to face this and accept it.  Adjusting your expectations will help you acknowledge that there is a new now.  Life may not look the way you pictured it.

If you need some hope… and a new way to think about the realities of life… you need to grab a copy of the book Torn by Jud Wilhite.

Tebowing

I can’t wait any long to write this and share my discovery…  Tim Tebow is a miracle worker!

First, the victories he’s posted this season defy explanation.  Many of the games he won were DOA by the middle of the fourth quarter… no way the Broncos should have won.  What’s more… I don’t care how he pulled it off.  As far as sports go, I’m a Broncos “homer.”  So, I am enjoying the roller coaster ride and pausing to enjoy each win (we’ve had some many losses in the recent past… it just feels to good to root for a winner).

Tebow brings the one thing people need the most: HOPE.  He’s an unlikely hero too.  Every analyst who watches Tebow footage makes one pronouncement, “He’s a terrible quarterback!”  Maybe he isn’t what we expect at his position on the football field.  The expectation is a traditional passer… someone who acts like an NFL quarterback… someone who… someone who isn’t… Tebow.

Two thousand years ago, a small nation in the Middle East expected a deliverer.  They wanted a mighty King who could vanquish their enemies, and establish prosperity for their nation.  Israel was expecting a Messiah who looked and acted the part of a conquering warrior.  Instead, God sent a baby.  Jesus was no prototypical Messiah.  His arrival on earth brings HOPE.

Even when things looked like a certain defeat — Jesus arrived as a sign that God had not forgotten us, and we were not destined to live broken lives and with despair… we have HOPE!

Before you jump to any conclusions… Tim Tebow is NOT the Messiah (or the Mile High Messiah as he is not affectionately referred to).  Tebow is (in my opinion), a very good example of someone who has done well to follow Christ for most of his life.  Whether or not you buy into the whole Christian thing, or ever want to hear Tebow say the name of Jesus in a press conference ever again… the fact remains… Tim brings hope.

Hope that, even though you have an amazing platform (as the QB of an NFL franchise), even though you have loads of money (not sure what Tebow makes, but I know it’s in the millions), and even though you are the talk of the nation… I have hope that our heroes are able to remain authentic and genuine.  Tebow is legit!  By the way, the same analysts who hate Tebow’s “game”… all of them praise him for being an amazing person… that doesn’t happen very often.

Are you on the Tebow bandwagon?  What do you think about his remarkable run?  Post your comments… or pictures of you “Tebowing.”