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Is Martin Luther Getting His Own Video Game?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in children, culture, Uncategorized | Posted on 25-10-2011

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Probably not.

But check out my new article at Provoketive Magazine, “Video Games, Batman, and Martin Luther.”

It’s about helping our kids engage today’s culture in a healthy way and introducing them to new heroes.

The Christ Who Overshadows Failure

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in children, Christ, church, comfort, death, fallenness, gospel, jesus, ministry | Posted on 24-10-2011

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I’ve always had a nagging question in my mind after my fall. “Will the people of my former church remember any of the good I did for eight years or will it be overshadowed by my sin?”

Last weekend, we heard of a former church member whose father died. The family no longer attends the church and we’ve run into them recently. They were very gracious to us, especially their oldest daughter who has been taking the death of her grandfather particularly hard.

Allison, the girls and I decided to stop by visitation. That always makes me nervous. My motivation is right. I want to comfort. But I’m always aware that others there might see me as being less than sincere. I went anyway.

When we arrived, the mom welcomed us with hugs and so did her daughter. We talked for a bit about grief and loss. Then, the mom told me a story.

“When my dad was in the last week of his life, my daughter (she’s about 12) asked if grandpa was going to heaven. I told her I wasn’t sure but that it might be a good question to ask him while he was in ICU.

“When we got to the hospital, she asked if she could be alone with him for a bit. I watched her talk to him for a while, then next thing I knew, she was lying on top of him and they were both crying. She came out and said he had accepted Christ.”

The daughter spoke next: “Bro. Ray, all I did was tell him the same things you told me when I got saved and baptized.”

I was a broken man at that moment. The tears were flowing.

I said, “I’m so proud of you!”

Allison said, “Most adults can’t even lead someone to Jesus, I’m proud of you.”

I shared with them how sad I was about their loss, but because of Christ, we have the knowledge we will all be reunited. We prayed and left.

I thought for a while about that beautiful moment. I had been anxious about whether people had remembered any good I had done. I was making the same mistake I had made over and over in ministry.

It’s not about me. All my righteousness is as filthy rags. That little girl remembered the most important treasure of my time there – the gospel. And she passed it on. And any good that will be remembered will be because Christ was there.

His light casts a much longer shadow than any of our darkness.

Mmmmm…Bacon. I Mean, Peanut Butter

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in writing | Posted on 23-10-2011

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Wrote a new article for Provoketive Magazine.

Yeah, it’s about bacon and peanut butter. Heavy stuff.

Excerpt:

“Let’s face it, bacon makes just about everything taste better. I agree.

But the bacon lovers need to slow their roll for a second. I believe there might be a contender for the title.”

Check out the full text at Provoketive.

New Online Mag, New Opportunities

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in writing | Posted on 22-10-2011

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My friend Jonathan Brink has started a new online magazine, Provoketive, and it looks great. I’m honored to be able to contribute material from time to time.

I’ve written something for it and would love for you to check it out and take a look at the online community of Provoketive.

My article is called, “Consuming God.”

Unworthy, Unequipped, Just Perfect

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 18-10-2011

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Allison and I have been attending a church that has absolutely wrapped their arms around us and loved and accepted us unconditionally. Since my fall, we’ve had two churches love us like this and it has restored my faith.

The pastor has let me preach and each time, the people have been so encouraging. I preached last week while the pastor was on vacation and received so many kind words. I told him, “They either really love me or I was awful and they don’t want me to feel bad.” Kind of like the kid who brings home the awful art project and the mom gushes over it even though it looks like vomit. Either way, I’ll take it. But, I think they really love me. But I think they really, really love Allison and the girls more.

Anyway, something neat happened. I was named youth director last week.

Yeah. But it didn’t happen overnight. It took a loooooong time. The pastor told me a while ago he thought I could do it, but I was the one who wasn’t sure.

So many nights I lay awake telling myself I would never enter the ministry again. I wasn’t worthy. Seven months ago, I offered up my ordination certificate to the church that ordained me and they took it. They were very nice about it and restorative, but to me, it signified the end.

Allison and I were talking one night about it. I said, “Sweetie, I just don’t know. I feel so unqualified now. I’m a wretch. I’ve got nothing to offer those kids. I’m just a broken man with a mess.”

She just stared at me in silence. She’s good at that sometimes. Knowing when to talk and when not to.

A light went off. I said, “Jesus called a bunch of unqualified fishermen. I’m definitely no disciple. But Jesus went out of His way to get people who weren’t worth a dang. Ten years ago, straight out of seminary, I thought I was awesome. I thought I was overqualified for every position I saw. Now, I don’t feel worthy to even talk to youth at a rural church.”

Tears welled up in my eyes.

I looked at her again, then looked down.

“You know what Allison? I think I may not be ready for this. But God may be.”

Empathy and Compassion: Of Black Olives and Yellow Cards

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in Allison, Christ, compassion, work | Posted on 04-10-2011

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I was just reviewing my day with my lovely wife, Allison, when I realized that I might have grown up a little in the past four years. But just a little. I was telling her about two events that were seemingly insignificant to anyone else in my regular day of sports medicine, but she said, “You showed compassion today, I’m proud of you.”

Funny, that. Solomon may have been granted discernment and wisdom by God, but I would never be confused as being gifted with the gift of compassion.

I’ve always had a level of empathy. I’m not going to pull out the cliche of copying a Webster’s definition of empathy for you. If I remember right, empathy is trying to put yourself in someone else’s place. It’s seeing life from their viewpoint and gaining appreciation. That’s all good and well. But Christ called us to something greater than empathy. He called us to compassion. To show love-oriented action toward people once we gained perspective on their life.

Maybe I’m giving myself too much credit (probably) but I’ll just tell you two stories.

I walked into Subway today (I am not a paid sponsor), wanting to take them up on the $5 for any footlong for the month of October. I was salivating at the prospect of a BMT. I was already running late for a soccer game I had to cover, but I figured I would get in, get my sandwich, and get out. The only problem was that everyone else in town was aware of the promotion. I waited, of course.

While I was in line, I noticed the middle-aged woman who was stuck putting everyone’s vegetables on their sandwich. She didn’t look happy. Her haggard face told me she had been standing there for an entire shift and listening to people repeat the words, “lettuce, tomato, pickle, no cucumber” for at least eight hours. I realized that she was more than a “sandwich artist.” She was probably a mom who had kids at home dependent on her. She wanted to be anywhere but work, but she had to work to pay the bills.

When my sandwich got to her, her weary eyes just rolled up to me. She didn’t even ask what I wanted, but assumed I would tell her. I smiled at her and was as pleasant as I could be, “Everything but black olives and cucumbers, please.”

I was half-watching but looked up when she put a mountain of black olives on my sandwich. I hate black olives. They make me vomit. Profusely. In terror.

Four years ago, I would’ve scolded her probably. But at that moment as her weary hands continued to act in service for me, I said nothing. I thought, “If me having to pick black olives off my sandwich is the worst thing that happens to me today, then I’m a blessed man.” I smiled at her and said, “Thank you so much.” She actually smiled as she topped it off and said, “Oh, you said no black olives.” I said, “Doesn’t matter. Thanks.”

I paid and left for the soccer game. It was a rough one. It was between two high school girls teams and it was close until the end. Each team was physical and a couple of yellow cards had been given by the refs for too much aggressive play. I try not to get into the games too much and stay impartial. I’m there as a medical expert and to give care to anyone who needs it.

Late in the game, a girl from the other team went down after a physical play. The ref stopped the game, turned his back on the girl and proceeded to give a yellow card to the girl from our team. I ran to the other team’s sideline and said, “Hey, there’s a girl down! She’s hurt and needs attention!”

The other team’s coach was surprised by me being there and the ref turned around and stopped what he was doing to see that the girl needed assistance. He finally let her up and to the sideline. I said to the other team’s coach, “I suppose people just forget what the most important thing is out here.” She thanked me. I heard one of their players say, “Who was that?” Another said, “That was the other team’s trainer. That is great sportsmanship.”

“Sportsmanship?” I thought. I was just trying to ensure someone’s safety. All I could think about at the time was, “That is someone’s daughter out there and she needs attention.” I didn’t care what color jersey she wore or about the score of the game. I just wanted to help her.

I told Allison these things and she said I showed “compassion.” I suppose. I’ve gotten better in the past four years. But I’ll be honest. I still have days where I want to throw people through walls because I think I’m the center of the universe.

But how often do we think of other people? The check out lady at McDonalds who has been on her feet for six hours when we get mad about our order being wrong. She probably has a family she’s caring for. Our burger is not that important. The referee at your kid’s YMCA game who missed an out of bounds call. He’s making $5 a game and he’s 15. He might just be at an emotional crossroads in his life and he might take every unkind word a bit too far. What about the single mother who shows up to visit your church on Sunday? Will anyone speak to her? She needs compassion, understanding and love.

It’s not enough to view other people’s lives from where they are. We have to go a step further and act out in love and kindness. That’s what Christ did. And thank God He did.