It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Today's Wild Card author is:
and the book:
Passio (September 18, 2012)
***Special thanks to Althea Thompson for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
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SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:
Grammy-nominated, Dove Award–winning recording artist shares the story of his family’s personal tragedy to tell readers, “It’s not over.”
Have you ever noticed life has a way of beating you down? Whether it’s the day-to-day hustle or a tragic incident, it sometimes seems as if there’s a force that wants to take you out of the game. Worship leader Ricardo Sanchez has been there. After writing the song “It’s Not Over,” he came face-to-face with one of those moments when a tragic accident left his son’s life hanging in the balance.
List Price: $15.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Passio (September 18, 2012)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
“I need Thee, O I need Thee. Every hour I need Thee . . . ”
Please put all tray tables and seat backs in their full and upright position.” The flight attendants were preparing the cabin for landing. As a traveling
minister and musician, I’ve done the flying routine countless times. Making our final descent into Jacksonville, Florida, was the beginning stop on a several-weeks-long ministry trip. Florida was a short flight from Atlanta, and I had just kissed my boys good-bye and enjoyed a nice drive to the airport with my wife. Jennette enjoys occasionally driving me to the airport, and I enjoy having her drive with me. It often provides a few minutes together in the midst of our busy life.
As my plane touched down in Jacksonville, I began to gather my belongings and reach for my cell phone, as was my normal procedure upon approaching the runway. The pilot touched down, and I powered on my phone while the plane began to taxi toward the gate. What happened next was surreal and hit me like a ton of bricks. Immediately when my phone powered up, texts began to flash on my screen: “911— CALL HOME,” “URGENT—CALL ME,” “Josiah has been hurt—call ASAP.” My head began to spin as I was bombarded with desperate texts and phone messages. The voice mail from Jennette still rings in my head today: “Josiah is being life-flighted to Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital. The doctors are saying the worst. Please call.” Her message was calm but interrupted with weeping. I felt as though someone had punched me in the gut. “What? Why? How could this be happening to my son? This has to be a horrible nightmare. What possibly could have happened?”
Have you ever noticed life has a way of throwing you curve- balls when you least expect it? If you’ve lived long enough, I’m sure you’ve had a few experiences of your own where you weren’t sure how all the pieces were going to fit together and how the brokenness would all make sense. Paul refers to run- ning the “race of life” in 1 Corinthians 9:24. The Message Bible says the words “run to win.”
How do you run to win when you feel the very wind has been knocked out of you? How do you find the endurance to finish when the pain seems overbearing? Maybe you’ve watched a spouse walk out on you. Maybe you’ve lost your life savings in the faltering economy. Maybe you’ve received a tragic report from your doctor. Maybe you’re watching your children make decisions that are pushing them from the things of God. Whatever it is, if you’ve lived life, you’ve experienced pain. You’ve experienced what I call “the pressing”— those moments when you proclaim in faith, “It’s not over,” though everything in the natural may look and feel exactly the opposite. This was most certainly one of those moments for my family and me.
Though oftentimes could be confused as “de-pressing,” I believe this season I refer to as “the pressing” can be a strength and step of victory if you extract the life principles my wife and I recently had to walk through with our nine-year-old son, Josiah. You are called to be an overcomer and walk a victorious life, but sometimes the practicality of walking victoriously in the midst of pressure can feel overbearing.
My hope is, as you read this book, you will learn to harvest strength, build faith and confidence, and complete your journeys with joy, trust, and a strong testimony to share with the world around you. I believe the prophetic voice for this gen- eration is the message of “it’s not over,” the message that even though things might look dismal, God is still on the throne and wants to be involved in your situation. The Bible says in Isaiah 59:19, “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him” (kjv). Whatever your season may look like right now, remember it’s just a season and God can turn it around.
As a young boy growing up, my father was a command sergeant major in the United States Army. It was imperative that his uniform looked immaculate at all times. I’ll never forget watching my mother prepare his clothes for him. She would take a pass over his shirt with her hot iron. Again and again the hot iron would roll over and over the shirt until all the wrinkles were “pressed” out. I think life has a way of “pressing” on us. The Bible says, “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed” (2 Cor. 4:8, nlt). Oftentimes in the midst of the pressing, the heat and the pressures of life sometimes feel overbearing as if you can no longer take the weight of the burdens. But if you surrender to the process of being pressed, I believe you will come out at the end just like my father’s shirts—wrinkle-free! There’s a perfecting and an empowering that can occur during “the pressing.”
Walking off the plane that horrible day, I remember feeling as if something had just sucked all the life from me. I quickly returned the 911-calls I had received, and I came to learn that Josiah was at a friend’s house swimming in their pool with his older brother, Ricardo II, and several other children. The boys were playing, as boys do, and doing tricks into the shallow end of the friend’s pool.
Josiah is a lover of life. He enjoys laughing, but he really enjoys getting people to laugh. All the kids were doing stunts, each attempting to outdo the previous boy’s effort. In an attempt to get the biggest laugh, Josiah decided to dive, hands at his side, through an inflatable pool ring in the shallow end of a swimming pool. Underestimating the pool depth, Josiah dove and took direct impact to his head, causing a complete loss of feeling in his body. Josiah was pulled to the pool deck, crying out in pain and in fear. He knew something was seriously wrong.
Here I was sitting in an airport hundreds of miles away from my family . . . hundreds of miles away from Josiah, feeling completely inadequate and unable to help. Honestly I felt like
I wanted to punch something. I was upset and angry and confused all at once. As a man I wanted to cover and protect my family. It brings a sense of honor. But there was nothing I could do at that present time while sitting in the airport. I couldn’t be with my wife as she had to watch the helicopter fly off with our son. I couldn’t be with Josiah as he was alone with the paramedics hearing words such as, “He’ll never walk again.” I couldn’t touch and hug my baby or my other sons through the phone line. So many thoughts went through my head: “God, I’m here serving You, and this is what happens? Where are You, God? Why weren’t You there to protect Josiah?”
I’d like to tell you how heroic I was in my faith and how as a man of God I immediately took control of the situation, but it simply wasn’t the case. I had taken a blow right where it hurt the most. Something had happened to one of my babies. All of the natural signs and reports coming in were shouting that my son’s life was over. I’ve experienced some pressing in my life, but nothing compares to dealing with an injury or loss to one of your children. I was somehow wishing I could take the place of my son and bear the pain he was going through.
My family shared an experience several months prior to this event with Josiah that triggered a similar physical reaction for me as I was trying to process the reports I was receiving about my son. The past summer our family had spent some time off the central coast of California. We intentionally were trying to harvest every opportunity to make memories with our sons and find new adventures on every trip. With that spirit in mind we decided to take a canoeing trip off the coastline, hoping to find a much-talked-about infamous local’s spot with underwater caves that were known to have incredible sea life and beauty.
The only day we had to take the trip was a bit windy and a little choppy on the sea. Additionally, the water temperature was only in the low fifties. The ideal conditions would have been completely still, no waves and no wind. But we were determined to be adventurous and conquer our quest to find these caves. In order to get out into the ocean, we first had to vigorously row beyond the breaking waves, which appeared to grow in fierceness and height as we watched. I was partnered with my oldest son, Ricardo. Neither of us had ever canoed before, much less out in the ocean. We had to time our entry into the water perfectly in between each breaking wave. We had to be synchronized, focused, and quick. The canoe had to be pointed straight into the face of the oncoming ocean. Any angle would flip our boat.
The first wave came, and we successfully made it through. Victory! Wave after wave was crashing against our canoe. Now about fifty yards out into the ocean, we had tackled most of the boat-flipping waves. As my son began to notice how far offshore we had come and how close we were to sea otters and sea life swimming around us, the fear that we could easily be in the water began to overpower his strength to stay focused. The next wave that came took our boat over with it.
The fifty-three-degree water immediately hit my chest, sucking every breath out as a vapor. The icy chill made every movement more intense and more painful. A thousand things were going through my head. At six feet, five inches, I still couldn’t touch the bottom of the ocean. I was way beyond the kelp bed that served as the barrier for sharks. My son was stuck under the canoe. Waves were hitting us, and I literally couldn’t breath because the water was so cold. I felt like Leonardo DiCaprio in the closing scenes of the Titanic when he was stuck in the iceberg-laden water, struggling for every breath to communicate. The fact was, we had lost our bal- ance. A wave flipped our world upside down, and my ability to recover was limited by my conditions. That’s the exact picture the enemy wants to put in your head when you encounter
a “pressing” in life. But you can’t allow the pressing to be paralyzing.
Now here I am sitting in terminal A in the Jacksonville airport just waiting for a way to get to my son, feeling like I did when I tipped into the icy ocean, but this time I’m not in the water. Literally, I felt as if something were hindering my breathing, almost as if something heavy was sitting on my chest. So heavy, in fact, even speaking was laborious. Something had flipped my boat, but this time it wasn’t literal. This time I had no control. This time I couldn’t see the wave coming. This time there was no instruction course on how to get back into the canoe safely.
Medical science actually documents a physical reaction to sorrow. The body actually experiences a decrease in the pro- duction of white blood cells, which act as the body’s defenders, fighting off colds and infections. Ironically, isn’t that exactly what our enemy would like to see happen with us? When the pressure and struggles of life press against us, wouldn’t the enemy like us to quit on our purpose? Quit on our dreams?
Quit on our determination to finish life strong? Spiritually, sorrow weakens our defenses and attempts to take the hope out of our faith. Sorrow will try and steal your fight!
Here I was sitting in the airport trying to find the quickest way back to Josiah, feeling as though I couldn’t breath, hearing the words “They’re saying the worst” ring in my head and not knowing what the outcome was going to be. I didn’t have a choir with me to help me begin to worship. There wasn’t a pastor or a prayer line I could walk up to for support. All of the normal support systems were not available. All I had was the red carpet in terminal A of the airport, and I fell to my knees and began to cry out to God. I didn’t care who could hear me. I didn’t care who was watching. I didn’t care what I looked like or what other people thought of me. I was crying out for the life of my son. I was experiencing a pressing, and I knew I needed to press back! Though it felt like forty-five years, there were about forty-five minutes where I was sitting
in the airport, not knowing if my son would ever walk again, trying to find a chartered flight to the hospital and believing and praying for a miracle for my son.
I can only imagine how God felt as He watched Jesus suffer on the cross for you and me. No matter how many altar calls I have given, the words “His only begotten Son” had new meaning for me that day in the airport.
I love stories of fighters, people who overcome great odds and finish strong. That’s what life is all about—fighting through the seasons of pressing and coming out stronger on the other side. My desire is that you take this book and read it to build your faith through your season of pressing and that you find the courage to push through the pain and reach the victory on the other side. I think, as people, sometimes the biggest lie we can buy into is the one that says, “It’s over. This is it! My time is done. I’m too old. I don’t have the resources. Nobody’s looking for someone like me. I’ve lost someone I loved. How can I continue?” Just because you’re experiencing a pressing doesn’t mean your purpose has passed. Oftentimes your pressing is refining your purpose, and you must fight through the pressing to reach the prize. Philippians 3:14 says, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (kjv). The process is oftentimes painful, but God can take what seems to be a mess and make it beautiful. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.” We can’t always see the full picture or how God is going to work it out.
Although “the press” can be painful at times, sometimes the sweetest and best things are produced only after being pressed. Take, for a small example, the process of harvesting Mediterranean olive oil, one of the best and most flavorful oils around. The Mediterranean olive tree must first mature for several years before even producing olives worthy of this oil. Careful attention is paid to proper pruning in order to produce quality oil and the most abundant olives per branch. It requires ten pounds of olives to produce only four cups of oil! Once the olives are ripe, the harvesters must vigorously shake the trees to drop the fruit and begin the pressing quickly, so as to not lose any flavor or damage the quality in any way. The olives are then crushed, matted, pressed, and heated to squeeze any and all oil from the olive, and only then is it ready to be consumed. You know oil is symbolic of the Holy Spirit. If you’ve allowed yourself to mature, the pressing could be squeezing a sweet, flavorful anointing from your life!
I played some basketball growing up and continue to love the sport. I enjoy watching my sons play as well as following the NBA. You know your team is really determined to win when the coach calls for a full-court press. That means every guy is assigned to a player on the other team, and the ultimate goal is to defensively stick to your guy like glue. Wherever the player goes, the defense is right there with their hands in their face. Normally defense is played from half-court and back, but during a press, the defense extends the length of the entire court. Interestingly a full-court press is implemented only when the opposing team is behind or the game is seriously close. The other team knows you have a chance of winning and the goal of the press is to stop you from winning. The goal is to wear out the opposing team. The goal is to get in the other team’s head mentally. When life applies a full-court press, the goal is to wear you out! Don’t get confused and think the game is over. It’s just a press!
I’m reminded of two stories in 2 Kings 4 with the prophet Elisha and two different women who experienced two different types of pressing. The first woman found herself newly widowed with no life insurance money and a pile of bills to pay, and her husband’s creditor pursuing her sons to be his slaves to cover her debts. Listen to what the Bible says:
One day the wife of a man from the guild of prophets called out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead. You well know what a good man he was, devoted to God. And now the man to whom he was in debt is on his way to collect by taking my two children as slaves.”
—2 Kings 4:1, The Message
This lady was literally broke and, I’m sure, emotionally broken. She just lost her husband, which represented her present, and was about to lose her sons, which represented her future. Everything she knew to be her security was removed in a single day. She was pressed on all sides. I’m sure she thought life was over for her. As she approached Elisha, this is what he said to her:
“I wonder how I can be of help. Tell me, what do you have in your house?” “Nothing,” she said. “Well, I do have a little oil.”
—2 Kings 4:2, The Message
Here we are back to the oil! This lady has no real social status to speak of and is now in jeopardy of losing the only thing she has left, her sons. She is pressed on all sides only to find out when she was squeezed she has a little oil. She’s got a little anointing. She was squeezed and life was pressing her in every direction, but in the midst of the squeeze she discovered all she needed was the Holy Spirit!
Now fast-forward in 2 Kings to the story immediately following the widow’s story, and you come to 2 Kings 4:8 with a woman referred to as the Shunammite woman. Interestingly enough, the Shunammite is referred to as a rich and influential woman. She was obviously the opposite of the widow woman, and yet they both encountered a “pressing” in life that required the anointing.
The Bible says the Shunammite took notice that the prophet Elisha was a man of God. She and her husband designated a special “guest room” in their house for Elisha to stay as he
would often pass through town to minister. Obviously proac- tive, this lady was quite the community organizer, I’m sure. She was the type of individual who had answers before prob- lems even appeared. She was the lady who had dinner on the table every night, was involved in her community, volunteered at her church, always returned her Blockbuster movies on time, and never had a hair out of place! She probably had her life figured out, a solid IRA for retirement, and donated blood at the Red Cross at least two times a year. You get the picture. The Shunammite had her act together. Because of her kindness and generosity Elisha asks her one day what he can do in exchange for her hospitality. Listen to their conversation:
Then he said to his servant Gehazi, “Tell the Shunammite woman I want to see her.” He called her and she came to him. Through Gehazi Elisha said, “You’ve gone far beyond the call of duty in taking care of us; what can we do for you? Do you have a request we can bring to the king or to the commander of the army?” She replied, “Nothing. I’m secure and satisfied in my family.” Elisha conferred with Gehazi: “There’s got to be something we can do for her. But what?” Gehazi said, “Well, she has no son, and her husband is an old man.”
—2 Kings 4:13–14, The Message
Elisha prophesies that the woman would have a son within a year’s time, and, sure enough, she gives birth to a son. Now you must imagine what this boy meant to the Shunammite. She was never supposed to have children and thought it was impossible because her husband was too old to have babies, and yet miraculously she receives a son, who became her entire world. Her son was the manifestation of her promise—a visible sign of God’s favor and faithfulness in her life.
Several years later her son was working in the field with his father, and he gets a headache. The father sends his son back to his mother, and the Bible says the Shunammite’s son died in her arms at noon. Her promise, her gift, her legacy died in her arms. I find it interesting that the Bible mentions the time as being noon. Noon is the middle of the day—the break between morning and evening, a shift from the sun rising to the sun setting. Noon is symbolic of the change of time. The pressing always signifies a change in the time or season.
The Bible says the Shunammite took her son, went and laid him on the bed of the prophet, and asked her husband to get the car ready, metaphorically speaking. Listen:
She took him up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, shut him in alone, and left. She then called her husband, “Get me a servant and a donkey so I can go to the Holy Man; I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
—2 Kings 4:21, The Message
Just like the widow woman referenced earlier, the Shunammite knew she needed the anointing during her time of pressing. She may not have had it in her house, but she knew where to find it, and she knew she couldn’t waste time getting to it. You may have strayed from God. Maybe you’re not as close as you once were. Maybe you grew up in the church but you really haven’t pursued a relationship with Jesus. Maybe the business of life has gotten in the way and a pressing in your life has you looking for the anointing. Just like the Shunamite, you can always find the anointing. The pressing requires the anointing!
Once the Shunammite reached Elisha, I think her response is similar to our natural inclination as human beings. Listen to what the woman says as she reaches the prophet:
Then she spoke up: “Did I ask you for a son, master? Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t tease me with false hopes’?”
—2 Kings 4:28, The Message
I believe what she was saying was, “God, how could You let my dreams die? How could this make sense? A promise You made to me has ended in disaster.” Everything in front of the Shunammite indicated it was over. Finality. No hope. Gone. But here is what we have to understand about the pressing. The pressing, though we can’t determine the outcome, requires that we press back!
Look at how the Shunammite presses back when Elisha wants to send his servant Gehazi to pray for her son:
He ordered Gehazi, “Don’t lose a minute—grab my staff and run as fast as you can. If you meet anyone, don’t even take time to greet him, and if anyone greets you, don’t even answer. Lay my staff across the boy’s face.” The boy’s mother said, “As sure as God lives and you live, you’re not leaving me behind.” And so Gehazi let her take the lead, and followed behind.
—2 Kings 4:29–30, The Message
The Shunammite was basically saying, “Listen, I’m not letting go of my promise. I’m not letting go of my legacy and my dream. God spoke this to me, and I’m clinging onto it with every bit of fiber in my body.”
There are some people who get confused and quit on their purpose when life presses against them. You must under- stand that the pressing will purify the product! Those who quit in the midst of the process and misunderstand the season in which they stand have a tendency to allow bitterness to take root in their lives and hearts. Hold fast in the season of pressing and understand that God is faithful, despite what things look like in the natural!
Have you ever started a new workout routine? If you haven’t worked out in a while, it is a bit intimidating to walk into a facility such as Gold’s Gym or Family Fitness, especially if you are working out in the weight-lifting area. The bulging pectorals and oversized biceps could immediately discourage you, if you’re just beginning to work out and your muscles are less than developed. But I’ve learned it is much easier if you posture yourself toward the press.
As I mentioned earlier in the canoeing story with my son and me, in order to get out into the ocean past the breaking waves, we had to point our canoe straight into the oncoming waves. Any angle would have flipped our boat. So it is with life. It might be difficult and a bit intimidating, like starting a new workout, but you have to face the pressing head-on. You have to walk into the press with confidence knowing your goal is the other side.
I’ve been told life can be equated to a series of steps ranging from one to ten. Consider the fundamentals of life as steps you ascend as you learn and grow with each new step taking you higher. Oftentimes step ten is the pinnacle of your achieve- ments. But as you go through life, climbing the ladder looking to achieve number ten, something inevitable happens. Once you conquer the number ten, you start at one again. It might be twenty-one or thirty-one or eighty-one, but it’s the same principles of your original number one.
How frustrating, you might say. It’s still the same fundamentals of your very first one. Naturally you want growth and development and new levels. The principles for each step remain the same and the fundamentals remain the same, but on each new level you have a little more depth and a little more influence. As you grow, learn, and develop, you might reach a new level, but you are always cycling one through ten with the same fundamentals.
When you recognize and understand the cycle and seasons of your life, the press becomes nothing more than a workout and a time of training and conditioning. Press on with confidence. You have a race to finish!
Here my wife, Jennette, gives her account of when she walked into the hospital the day of the accident:
I came rushing into the hospital to find Josiah. The children’s hospital was about a forty-minute drive from my house, but I made it that day in about thirty minutes by the grace of God. A friend was driving me, and I remember just sitting in the passenger seat, crying and praying, “God, please don’t let my baby die. God, please let my baby walk and lead a normal life.” I had received a few phone calls from some dear pastor friends who prayed with me over the phone and spoke life over Josiah and his body. The feeling was surreal to run into the hospital and hear Josiah was checked in under the name “Trauma Juneau.” Whenever a severe patient is admitted or transported via life flight, the hospital assigns a trauma name to the patient for quick and easy admission. I was looking for Josiah, my baby, but the hospital staff knew him as “Trauma Juneau.”
I was quickly escorted into the emergency room and saw Josiah lying on the cold hospital table. His shirt had been cut from him, and several medical staff members were all around running tests and evaluating his condition. He was stabilized on a medical board and was supported with a neck brace. The first thing I wanted to do was touch him and look into his eyes and let him see I was there with him. It was heart wrenching to put him into the helicopter and hear him say, “Mommy, please don’t leave me,” but there were restrictions on the helicopter and there wasn’t enough room for another adult, so I had to release him to the flight crew. Time was of the essence. Josiah’s eyes were still. He wasn’t crying, but looking into them you could tell he understood the severity of the situation. Despite Josiah’s concern, there seemed to be a peace in his eyes.
The doctors hadn’t given us any indication as to Josiah’s evaluation yet. He was responding well and moving his extremities, but nothing was determined and no results had been released to us concerning his long-term condition. Family, friends, and pastors we knew from all across the country were praying for Josiah and believing for total restoration. We believed he was going to be OK, but we just wanted to hear something from the doctors. We just wanted to hear Josiah would lead a normal life.
Jennette and I were standing on the only thing we had, which was our faith, but waiting to hear a report from the doctor was one of the hardest things we’ve had to do.