Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
Where there is sadness, joy
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console
To be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
All But Normal: Life on the Victory Road, a Memoir Reviewed by Denise DePuy
All But Normal by Shawn Thornton is an incredible book. He tells of his life growing up with a mother who had a traumatic brain injury. What truly stands out is his response to his mother. He credits her with showing him how to live and respond to others like Jesus would. She had her problems and violent mood swings but she showed incredible compassion to those who most people would overlook. She was an inspiring example of treating everybody the same and pointing them toward Jesus. Both of her sons grew up to be pastors, and Shawn’s church has a far reaching ministry to people with special needs.
Growing up, Shawn Thornton’s life was anything but normal—but then, so was his mother. After waking from a coma following a car crash, Beverly Thornton’s once sweet and gentle disposition had been replaced by violent mood swings, profanity-laced tirades, and uncontrollable fits of rage. Inside the Thornton house, floors and countertops were piled high with dirty laundry and garbage because Bev was unable to move well enough to clean. Dinners were a Russian roulette of half-cooked meat, spoiled milk, and foods well past their expiration dates. A moment of frustration might prompt her to hurl a knife at Shawn, his brother Troy, or their dad, or to vehemently cuss them out, only to shower them with love and affection moments later as though nothing had happened. And God help the family cat!
On several occasions, Bev even tried to jump out of the car on the highway while Shawn and his brother struggled to keep her inside. Yet this same woman was also a devoted Bible reader, Sunday school teacher, and friend to the elderly, poor, and marginalized wherever she went. How the same woman could be a saint one minute and a nightmare the next was a constant source of frustration for the family. Then one day, after decades of embarrassing outbursts, a surprise discovery finally helped the Thornton family come to grips with Bev’s mysterious condition and brought Shawn to a startling realization that changed the course of his life forever.
A heartwarming coming-of-age story, All But Normal is a powerful reminder that sometimes the broken people in our lives are the ones who need fixing the least.
Pray about joining Lesli and me. We can walk together where Jesus walked!
While I will update this page on my blog in the days and weeks ahead, the link below will connect you to the tour overview and information page for those who are part of the Calvary family, All Things New Radio Listeners, and other friends.
CLICK HERE to go to the tour overview page. Make your deposit and save yourself a place on this trip today.
Choosing an Inflection Point:
-Join a small group
-Join a ministry team
-Read your Bible each day
-Attend worship services weekly
-Take a discipleship class
-Go on a short-term missions trip
-Start giving to the offering weekly
-Share the Gospel with someone
-Begin to use the Take5 devotional
-Become a member of Calvary
-Join Pastor’s Prayer Partners
-Serve someone you meet in need
-Find an accountability partner
-Post verses on your social media
-Visit the Holy Land
These are my notes for the men’s breakfast at Calvary on January 17th, 2016.
8 Keys to Pouring Yourself into Others
2 Timothy 2:2
All of us are called to both be and make disciples of Christ.
Intentionally pouring ourselves into others to help them live and love like Jesus is what disciple-making is all about.
#1 Don’t just assume you’re not ready,
start with what you’ve got
#2 Don’t just pour yourself into anybody,
focus on a few who seem teachable
#3 Don’t just complete a program,
build a relationship
#4 Don’t just have some meetings,
share your life
#5 Don’t just rely on what you’ve got,
guide them to other resources
#6 Don’t just be the one who is right,
give them room to grow
#7 Don’t just be the teacher,
be a learner too
#8 Don’t just keep them for yourself,
encourage them to pour into others
Are you intentionally pouring yourself into others for Christ?
Right now Tyndale Publishers is offering the E-Book version of my memoir, All But Normal: Life on Victory Road, for $2.99. So if you enjoy reading books via Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, Google Play, etc, you can get All But Normal for less than $3. Yep, from now till November 16th, you can get All But Normal for $2.99. Here are the links for the various E-Book formats. Please share this with others so they can take advantage of this great offer!
Amazon Kindle ($2.99)
Apple iBooks ($2.99)
Barnes & Noble Nook ($2.99)
Google Play ($2.99)
Dealing with life at its darkest and most difficult times
If People Magazine had been around in ancient Israel, for months the cover would have featured the face of David, the giant-slayer. Young women sang about the handsome, national hero. David was the man women adored and men admired.
God had already chosen David to follow Saul as the next King of Israel. David must have thought this fame and notoriety was all part of the plan. It all looked so perfect. God was doing something incredible!
But a few spears aimed at David by a jealous King Saul seemed to change everything! Saul’s jealous rage caused him to become obsessed with destroying David. We learn in 1 Samuel 21 that David even fled to his enemies for help. He turned up in Goliath’s hometown of Gath – the capital of the Philistines.
After asking to see Achish, the Philistine King, David realized this was a bad idea. So, he presented himself to Achish and he pretended to be insane, even drooling in his beard. Achish sent the supposed madman packing.
According to the opening sentence of 1 Samuel 22, “David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam.” Scholars believe David spent three to six months living in the muddy, dark, lonely cave. We pick up the story there with David sitting defeated — his own drool dried up in his beard. What a low point!
Most of us come to a cold, dark cave experience. We find ourselves alone, facing the shattered dreams, inexplicable pain, and desperate grief that life sometimes deals. Cold, dark, difficult caves, indeed!
David’s experience in the cave teaches us about handling life at its darkest and most difficult times. David wrote several Psalms during his months alone in the cave. Let’s look at three keys to handling a cold, dark cave experience.
#1: Tell God How You Feel (Psalm 142)
Read Psalm 142 and you will sense the overwhelming emotions David experienced after he arrived in the Cave of Adullam. While there are hints of determination and even worship of God, the predominant mood is one of deep discouragement.
Early in his time in the cave, he learns the importance of simply telling God how he feels. Notice his dejected phrases:
- “Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need” (v. 6)
- “No one is concerned for me” (v. 4)
- “No one cares for my soul” (v. 4)
- “Set me free from prison.” (v. 7)
Ever been there? Have you ever been so low that you felt like no one cared and despair wrapped its tentacles around you?
Some think it is wrong to tell God how badly life stinks. They think that being grateful means you never express your pain and emotions to God. But, for David, telling God how bad he felt, with a raw honesty, was key to the process of experiencing God in a cold, lonely cave. Whatever you are going through today, no matter how dark and difficult, tell God how you feel.
#2: Praise God for Who He is (Psalm 57)
As you read through the second Psalm David wrote while in the cave of Adullam, you sense a subtle shift in tone. Many people discover the value of telling God how they feel when they are stuck in a cave experience. But too few turn the corner to praise God even in the cave.
David declares, “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth” (57:5). Boldly he commits to God, “I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples” (57:9).
Proactive praise does something transformative in us. When we choose to praise God based on Who He is, instead of what our circumstances are, good things happen. We see the eternal God in Whom we have put our trust.
True worship is not based on what our circumstances are but on Who our God is! Our circumstances will change, but our God never changes.
#3: Serve God by Helping others (Psalm 34)
God does a work in David’s heart at one of the lowest points in David’s entire life. God listens as David tells God how he feels. He refocuses David’s heart as David chooses to praise his God for Who He is. Back in 1 Samuel 22 we learn that some of David’s friends and relatives choose to join David in the cave. Samuel tells us that “all those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him there” (1 Samuel 22:2). Few of us want people with problems showing up while we are still dealing with our own issues. But God knew what David needed next.
The most practical way we serve God is by helping others. David did that.
God expects us to use our dark, difficult experiences to help others. We may not even be fully free from the cave when He brings a bunch of broken people to our doorstep. So, look around. Maybe God has planted some hurting people near your cave. You don’t have to have it all together for God to use you.
Maybe you are at one of the lowest points of your life… a dark cave with spit on your face. Learn from David.
Tell God how you feel, praise God for Who He is, and serve God by helping others. Watch what God does to transform you and use you to impact others!
All Things New Radio has been experiencing an outpouring of God’s blessing both in ministry outcomes and financial contributions. Friends who believe in the power of God’s Word, simply preached, have promised to help us stay on the air. They know the costs are challenging. We’ve had many first time donors already this month. I’m thankful to God and to all those who have responded to Him by giving.
We’ve had this great opportunity in August. Every contribution to All Things New this month is being matched, dollar for dollar, up to $150,000. The response has been gratifying but we still have a good ways to go.
I wanted you to know about it, so I recorded this brief video to tell you more. Please take just a couple minutes and watch. It would mean a lot to me and to our ministry.
Financial contributions to All Things New make a difference. Please consider a generous gift to help us continue making inroads in the lives of those who benefit so much from the simple, yet profound, teaching of God’s Word. CLICK HERE to make a gift online. Call 1.844.AllThingsNew to make a gift via credit card over the phone. Or you can send a check, made out to Calvary Community Church with “radio” in the memo, to the address below.
Thank you for your help.
All Things New Media
Westlake Village, CA 91359
Throughout the last month, I have been humbled by the messages folks are sending me after they read my memoir. I am still stunned that this story I have shared for the first time at nearly 50 years of age has made such an impact on others!
All But Normal: Life on Victory Road tells my story of growing up in a Christian home that was deeply affected by my mother’s traumatic brain injury. People are telling me in person, via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and email how much my story brought hope and healing to their lives. The details of their stories are not the same as mine. But, their emotional journey through their challenging circumstances echoes with mine!
Our stories do matter. They matter because our God is not only the redeemer of our souls for eternity, but he is redeeming our brokenness now! God redeems our stories for our good, the good of others, and His glory. Even our deepest wounds can be redeemed. Don’t get me wrong. It is not an easy process. Ask Joseph of the Old Testament. His brothers betrayed him by selling him into Egyptian slavery. Twenty-two years later and all kinds of deep, horrible wounds later, Joseph tells them God meant it for good.
I always knew that God used my challenging childhood to shape a caring (and even pastor’s) heart in me. But, I did not think my story itself mattered to anyone. Boy was I wrong. Thanks to all who have been used by God to make that clear to me. Thank you for sharing your stories with me. Thank you for relating to me how God has used my story to bring hope and healing to yours!
Since the launch of the book, I have done over a dozen interviews about All But Normal on radio stations across the country. I have been asked by most interviewers how my brother, Troy, and I survived all our childhood experiences without turning our backs on God. My answer: “Only God!”
Only God could point the attention of two boys to the trajectory of our parents’ lives. Most assume our attention was on the difficult moments or collection of moments in our home. They assume those moments and experiences would cause anyone to turn their backs on Christ. And maybe we should have from a purely human perspective. But, God helped us see that in their brokenness our Dad and Mom each pursued knowing, loving, and serving Christ! Within the chaos of our home, they each aimed their lives at living and loving like Jesus!
My brother, Troy, and I caught the trajectory of our parents’ lives. How? Only God!
May I encourage you to aim the trajectory of your life at knowing, loving, and serving Jesus! Don’t let the hurdles, barriers, and challenges of life convince you that your family and others will only see your brokenness. How will they see the trajectory of your heart in the middle of all the chaos and noise? Only God!
All But Normal: Life on Victory Road is available wherever books are sold. For links to book sellers, to view family photos, to download the All But Normal Reader’s Guide for personal or small group reflection, or to find other links and resources related to All But Normal, go to AllButNormal.com.