Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 06/25/24

_MGL2458_websize copy.jpgNeighbor, Love Yourself by Bryan Crum

Life lessons. Sought-after inspirational speaker and storyteller Bryan Crum began his ministry as a hospice chaplain working in Southeast Ohio. It was in those years helping others reflect on life, confront their mortality and embrace the love of God that he too had his own eyes opened to such things as the power of words and the foundational value of self-love. He details those lessons in his first book Neighbor, Love Yourself.

JWK: What did you learn from being a hospice chaplain and how did it lead to your book?

Bryan Crum: I tell you it’s still shaping my life. I think it’s shaping (the lives of) people around me now too. I had the opportunity to sit with people who were near the end of their life story and hear this advice and this wisdom (as they told) me about things that they learned in their lives. What’s it’s given me is an opportunity to then give some of that wisdom and some of those stories back to people that are not yet to the end of their story. They’re still working on their story. It’s been a great, just life-changing, experience for sure.

JWK: Can you share a bit of that wisdom that has really stuck with you?

BC: You know I think the biggest thing that we all share is regrets. We carry those through our lives and we don’t have to. I just met with so many folks that got to the end of their story and they didn’t love the story. They didn’t love their life. Just hearing hearing them talk about their regrets I realized we all have those – things that we wish we had done and didn’t do or wish we would have said and didn’t say. So, it’s a big motivating thing to start doing some of those things now before we get to the end of our stories.

JWK: I guess those things would include telling people we love that we love them and things of that nature.

BC: Absolutely.

JWK: The title of your book is kind of a play on the biblical advice to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” While I guess it’s possible to overdo loving yourself, you say it is, in fact, important to focus on the “as yourself” portion of that line.

BC: Yeah, that’s the interesting thing, John. Jesus tells us one of the best things we can do is “love others” – but it’s kind of a side note (that) He assumes that the standard we’ll use for loving the people around us is how much we love ourselves. I saw these two worlds collide. Here I’m meeting with folks that are having these regrets (about) their story. They’re not loving themselves – and I’m hearing the words of Jesus where He’s (basically) saying “You know, you’re really supposed to love yourself and if you’re not you’re almost living at half capacity.”

So, I just discovered that to our earthly ears loving yourself sounds almost egotistical. It almost sounds like a prideful thing but that’s not what Jesus meant for us. He meant for us to fall in love with His creation, this wonderful thing that God made. As we discover all the value and all the intricacies of our design, we start to realize He’s given us a lot of tools to do the things that we dream about doing and to live a life where we do all the things we desire that are for God’s Kingdom. I think as we do those, then those regrets just fade. You know, we do the things that we’re intended to do and then we don’t have these regrets in our story.

JWK: Is it that people are fearful of pursuing their talents and their passions – that they feel like they’re somehow not worthy of them.

BC: Yeah, definitely. I guess I’d put it this way. I’ve heard someone say that the graveyard is a wealthy place because it holds all the dreams and all the desires that a lot of people took to the grave instead of sharing them with the world. I’ve heard firsthand the truth in that. I’ve heard people talk about books that they wish they had written but never did and songs they wish they had composed and never did. I think there are inventions that were taken to the cemetery instead of shared with the world. Kind of one of my missions right now is just to help folks, to give them that nudge to say “Write the book!” “Write the song!” “Go out and invent the thing that you’re thinking of that is just haunting you all the time! Don’t take it with you when you leave this world! Share it with us now!” I’m finding that as we do more of those things, as we get that little nudge to go after our dreams, we have less regret too.

JWK: It’s like the late Dwayne Dyer said “Don’t die with your music still in you.”

BC: Yeah, absolutely!

JWK: Why do you think it is that people don’t do these things?

BC: We feel like there’s not enough time or we’re consumed with the everyday things and our bigger dreams often take a backseat to doing the day job or taking care of our families – then I think a lot of us are afraid in a lot of ways to take that leap of faith, to take a risk that maybe puts us out of our comfort zone and to just do more of things that we have on our hearts to do.

JWK: And I guess to have that faith that God is really with you when you’re doing it.

BC: It’s so strange because we’re made with a purpose. We have these desires that are hinting at – That’s your purpose! The things that you really wish you would do or want to do but never do, those are hints at your purpose – but a lot of us get further down in our life story and kind of wonder “What is my purpose?” We seem lost when all along God’s kinda giving us these hints. I think when we don’t follow the hints we have those regrets.

JWK: And a lack of faith in your purpose leads to self-doubt and inaction.

BC: I’ve been saying doubt is kinda this goat. You know, a goat will eat everything. I think our self-doubt does the same. It eats our dreams and our plans. A lot of times we keep just serving these meals up to doubt. Part of the goal of this book is to help folks put doubt on a diet and to stop feeding that goat in our lives…so we don’t doubt ourselves anymore.

JWK: You also talk about the power of words – for good or bad – to influence how we approach life.

BC: It’s funny. I just had this happen a couple of nights ago. We’re teaching my daughter to drive. She’s fifteen. She’s doing pretty well but one of the main things that she’s doing is she’s mixing up the pedals.

JWK: Well, that sounds pretty serious!

BC: (laughs) It’s a bad one!…We’re pulling in the garage the other night. There was a bike in the way so I said “Hold on. Stop for a second.” I got out and moved the bike and got back in the car because I didn’t want her to be by herself in the car as a new driver. I didn’t put my seatbelt back on when I got back in and she stomped the gas. I thought for a second she was gonna park in our kitchen – like drive though the garage! I think that’s the way it is for us. We’re mixing up the pedals. We keep not doing the things that we think will move us forward and we keep doing things that are like stomping the brakes in our lives. I’ve discovered that a big part of that is our words. There are good words that move us forward and bad words that take all of our momentum and stop it.

I’ve seen it with a lot of folks as I sat with them and talked with them in their final days…A lady (may) have trouble believing that her Heavenly Father would love her because her earthly father said so many bad words to her. She’s still hung up on all these bad things that he said years ago. Those bad words have that potential to hold us back for a long time if we let them.

So, a lot of what I do is helping folks realize here’s truth and here’s lies. The things your dad said about you years ago, those aren’t true. The things that our Heavenly Father says, they are true! And then finding those good words that move us forward is a big deal too. We definitely talk a lot about that in this book as well because you can see the effects of good words! You know, somebody says “It’s a boy!” or “She said ‘yes’!” or “State Champions!” You know, our faces light up! We get a compliment, our cheeks blush red! In some cases our pulse quickens. You know, when the girl you ask on a date says “yes” our pulse gets faster. These are good words. You can see them affect us physically. It’s even more so psychologically and mentally. We’ve got to surround ourselves with these good words to help ourselves move forward.

JWK: Along the same lines, I guess, it seems to me – and tell me if you would agree – that believing that God wants you to succeed and is on your side is really just as important – if not even more so – than believing in God’s existence. If you believe that God is against you that will really hold you back.

BC: Yeah, for sure. You know, it’s so crazy, John, I don’t know how we forget this but if you could just look at our price tag it would just say one name. It would says “Jesus” because to God we are worth Jesus. We’re worth His life and death. That’s a value that we just take for granted every day. We kinda kick ourselves and list all the things that we’re not good at. You know, “I’m not talented.” “I’m not smart enough.” “I’m not good enough.” All of that is just noise because God says “No, you’ve been designed to be the most pristine creation!…You’re worth so much that I’m willing to give up My Son for you.” We have this incredible value and, for some reason, we talk ourselves out of that.

JWK: How did you become a hospice chaplain?

BC: I think it’s divine intervention, for sure. God does big things with simple tools so often. For me it was a newspaper ad…My mother-in-law ran across a job ad in the paper. That’s how long ago it was. These jobs were still posted in the newspaper. She clipped it out, handed it to me and said “I think this is something you’d be great at.” I had gone through seminary. I tried youth ministry. I tried a pulpit job. I was doing okay at those things but never really found my passion for them. Something happened when I responded to this job and I sat with some people who didn’t love themselves for the first time. I began to talk about how valuable they are and watched the effects of them discovering that value inside themselves. I realized this is my purpose. I was made to do this. I think God does that sometimes through simplest things – like newspaper ads.

JWK: What’s your ministry now?

BC: Now, I’m kind of walking this double vocation life where by day I work at a hospital. I’ve been promoted through the ranks so now I’m in the evil world of spreadsheets and budgets with the hospital – but I’m still very much retelling all of these stories. I’m a writer by night (and) a deacon by weekend. That side of my occupational world seems to be growing really quickly. So, I just continue to write and tell these stories. I’m actually now going out and speaking about these to different churches and different audiences.

JWK: Do you find that the perspective you’ve learned from speaking with people near the end of their lives really resonates with people who are in the midst of their lives?

BC: I really do. What’s so great about this book is I can call it “words of wisdom” because a lot of the words are not mine. They’re these people telling their advice and stories. So, we took that and I just braided it together. I wove it with a lot of personal stories of my own that are just really funny. They’re humorous. There’s something about combining that serious advice and that humor and then weaving in some stories that Jesus tells too. This is a collection of stories that will make you cry, will make you laugh and make you think. I’m finding that people are so receptive to that kind of approach.

John W. Kennedy is a writer, producer and media development consultant specializing in television and movie projects that uphold positive timeless values, including trust in God.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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