Getting it All Out There

I just concluded my first interview pertaining to my book just minutes ago. I am so grateful to have had this conversation that lasted over an hour with another EMS provider who “gets it.” I am blown away by the very encouraging things he had to say about the book itself. He remarked that there are “so many amazing quotes.” One of the things we discussed was about the fear of putting myself out there to anyone who might pick up the book, but when a fellow paramedic has that much positive feedback, I feel almost selfish for holding as much in as I have over the last 2 decades.

I have never met the host before, nor had the opportunity to work with him or alongside him. And yet over the course of the last hour plus, we just hit some really raw, deep topics that just always seem to linger and get swept under the rug. I cannot begin to express my gratitude for him having me on the show, and I am certainly humbled to be able to speak on the work that was accomplished.

It’s easy for us to operate as human beings with our own plans, our own motivations, and our own personal limits; but this really pulled me out of my comfort zone in such a profound way. This interview is my first of several this month, and I am so grateful that this was the first. I feel so much greater prepared for the others to come.

When we accept God into our lives and turn over our hearts to Him to clean out the debris, the heartache, the past, the false idols, He takes it, He breaks it, He blesses it, and He gives it back to you in a way that is going to open you up to His plan for you. Recently at church, our pastor was explaining this as it pertained to Jesus feeding the 5000. There were 5 loaves and 2 fish, and yet Jesus took it and fed them all, and there were plenty of leftovers.

It’s like He took the stuff that was inside of me weighing me down, He gave me the medium to get it out, He realized that somebody else needed to know what He is capable of, so He gave this book wings.

Rich, thanks for having me on tonight. I really enjoyed the conversation. To those of you who have purchased, read, reviewed, reached out, and shared the book, you all have a very special place in my heart, and I want you to know that. I want you to continue to reach out, continue the talks. Together, we’re going to get this message to the person who needs it at the moment they need it, and we’re going to change their life. We’re going to feed them the spiritual loaves and fish that is going to bless them for the rest of their life. God bless you all.

You’re Not Broken, You Are Chosen

I think the absolute most rewarding part of writing this book has been the ability to reach out to people on a personal level and put my ability to minister to the test (unintentional consequence of the book, but maybe God sees something that I need to explore). This one in particular has absolutely floored me. We have a very similar history in the locations that we worked, but our paths never crossed. She feels damaged, bullied, lost, and is looking for something greater. She has not been afraid to take a break when things got tough, but then what was the price of that? To be chastised and made uncomfortable by the employer? She has pulled so hard on my heart strings, and she has challenged me to reach deeper and minister to her in a way that connects to her, music. I told her she was not allowed to message me again until she heard the song “Truth be Told” by Matthew West. When she responded, this is what I received (used with permission, edited to remain anonymous):

“Thank you so much. I needed to hear that even though I cried. The message is so powerful. I wish I could find a church that embraces that. Every church I’ve ever been to has been about keeping appearances up and keeping up with the Jones. It’s why I’m so disenchanted by organized religion. I feel spiritually broken and have been for a long time. I believe in Jesus but I haven’t connected with him and God in a very long time. That’s the truth. I feel incomplete and often lonely. Over the years I’ve turned to men to try to fill that hole I thought was from being single. I’ve allowed men to use me for money and sex just to try to feel close to someone and feel accepted and loved, and it always leaves me feeling more empty inside. I’ve tried using my career to fill that emptiness and let my professional success and acceptance in the workplace fill that void for me. That works until things go wrong professionally and then I’m back to feeling empty and lost. Things going wrong at work and workplace bullying have preceded both of my residential psychiatric stays in the past two years. I don’t know what to do to feel whole again. Maybe going back and giving church another try would help. Perhaps finding a local celebrate recovery would help to find Christians that also struggle with chronic mental health issues.

I grew up with an emotionally abusive alcoholic father and co-dependent mother and I don’t know if I even know what a normal relationship looks like. I was molested as a child and I’ve been sexually assaulted as an adult. I’ve always felt like damaged goods. I was abused by other kids and bullied all throughout school and told I was ugly and fat. The boys in school used to bark at me like a dog. I had a teacher in elementary school that would make the boys sit with me as punishment if they misbehaved. I was in a constant state of worry and panic as a child due to undiagnosed OCD from age 4-14. I can’t begin to describe the mental anguish of always feeling like you or a loved one will die if you don’t perform compulsive tasks over and over again. Then the depression hit at age 14 and in college my dad’s drinking escalated. My first EMS chief was my only stable father figure through most of college. In EMS I’ve always felt like part of a family and part of something greater. The adrenaline has been the only thing I can feel at times when I can’t feel my emotions. This bullying in the EMS workplace I’ve experienced at two different organizations now hurts really badly. When you aren’t accepted as part of that team, where else do you belong? When your family is so frustrated by your chronic depression that they distance from you, who is left?

Seeing a local school teacher and coach my age, struggling with the same depression I was, hang herself on a call preceded the 2nd inpatient psych stay. Back then, I had nightmares that I was the one hanging in her basement. I couldn’t tell my employer because they found out about the 1st psych stay and were already shunning me. How could I tell them I was having nightmares after a call.”

How can a provider struggling with the emotions of this line of work be left out to dry? Chiefs, take care of your people. Here is a provider whose life could be changed with just some simple kindness. Instead, she is completely ostracized by her coworkers through her employer. I’ve met a lot of managers in my life and it was made clear to me how important they are, but I’ve also met more leaders who have made it clear how important I am.

Somebody else I know suffered a whole lot of persecution. No matter how hard he loved and no matter how many lives he reached out to change, the only thing he got in return was hate. Imagine what that must be like to love until it physically hurts and not receive that kind of love back. It’s hard to imagine until you look at the cross. Jesus saved us from worldly death. If you want His love, all you have to do is ask and accept Him. It’s that easy. His plan for us isn’t always easy. He chooses very interesting people to do his work. If you don’t think you are worthy of a relationship with God, just remember. Noah’s Ark was built by a faithful amateur. The Titanic was built by professionals.

I Struck Gold Today

This is not going to be a very long, drawn out post this afternoon, but I wanted to share what I found. I was scrolling through LinkedIn and came across a video that I could’ve swore read “Time With The Chaplain”, so I clicked on it. If I would’ve read this accurately I might’ve missed this opportunity. This material belongs to Captain Shain Vick, an EMS captain in Colorado who has started a Bible study for those of us in EMS. This is huge. It’s so hard sometimes to remember that God is with you at work, especially some of the scenes we end up on, but these videos marry the job with scripture. I put the link in the videos section of the links and resources page.

The strange thing is I was just preparing for an upcoming podcast interview earlier today where one of the questions was pertaining to essentially whether this job promotes or deters spirituality. I will have more information about this interview later, but for now go to my links page and find “Time With The Captain–EMS Bible Study” and like and subscribe. He is great!!!!

The things you don’t know

My best friend is always my first phone call when something in my life is changing. I’m her first phone call when she needs to talk. This friend has been through so much, and I always worry about her. But it wasn’t until this text that I knew how much I missed:

“So I came home tonight from work and read the entire book. I am stunned. I cried through most of it, got to the paragraph that you talked about your best friend, balled and cried some more. I am beyond proud of you for sharing your story, for being so transparent and for being so courageous and brave. There was a time in my life I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to make it and I didn’t tell anyone. I had lost my dad, I was in those accidents and I couldn’t handle the guilt that I felt. Someone’s family was about to have Christmas without their loved one because he hit us and I was almost positive my family was going to have their first Christmas without me because I couldn’t handle it. But I made it. I survived. I survived a lot of EMTs worst nightmares on duty on November 9th and I survived a struggle a lot of people wouldn’t… and ya know what? I’m so thankful. I’m so thankful I survived that accident and I’m so thankful that I battled back from the depths of hell. Without that I wouldn’t have been able to see you achieve such a huge accomplishment. Cheers to you Chris Turnbull. Congratulations. I love you guys and I’m so so so excited for you.”

Would I have been her last phone call? What if I couldn’t get to the phone? You never know until you ask. Watch out for each other. Be the person somebody can count on when they need that extra boost.

I laughed in her face

When I took English 101, my professor told me at the end of the semester that I will be published one day. I laughed in her face. I did not like reading. I definitely did not like writing. I explained to her it was just for a grade.

Now, several years later, I am sitting here reflecting on my book. I vented so many thoughts onto my laptop that night. I had 60 pages of thoughts after 7 hours. Part of me was impressed with the speed at which the thoughts flowed through my fingers onto the Word document. I had this thing. It was a very long journal entry. Part of me wanted to delete it. I got all my thoughts out, so nothing left to do. I played around for a few days adding stories and elaborating on some of the thoughts. Before I knew it, I had a lot of content. I sent it off to an editor to help me organize. She told me that she read the whole thing and needs to know what virtual bookshelf I want to see my book on. She listed off so many genres that my book covers.

When I finally released The Double-Edged Sword, I was not expecting anything. Perhaps if a reader picked it up and told somebody else about it, I could prevent one suicide. I was overwhelmed when I saw how many people were buying my book, mostly people I knew at first. They sent me screenshots of their Amazon order. But there were other people buying it as well. The response has been phenomenal.

The book is written in a tone to speak to colleagues in EMS, but the message seems to have transcended genres. I have heard from a lot of people telling me how a particular piece spoke to them. I have made a lot of people cry. My original goal still stands, prevent another suicide. After some of the people who have reached out to me, I have decided that I want to speak about my book whenever the opportunity arises. I have never despised public speaking when it’s something that interests me. Imagine how amazing it would be to connect personally with my readers. I could listen to their stories, share more of mine, pray over them, cry with them, laugh with them.

If I ever get the chance, I want to seek out my English 101 professor and give her the opportunity to have the last laugh… right in my face as deserved. And then with all the humility I possess, I want to come to you. I want to present my story to you and share with you that while it is my story, there is something so much bigger at play in all of this.

Impact Beyond Belief

I received an email last night with a follow up this morning. I’m going to share this with you all. The thing is, I wrote a book to connect to others in EMS, but the connections beyond the job have been both moving and surprising. Here is what my reader wrote:

“Wanted to tell you that I got your book from Amazon and read the whole thing sitting down by the Bay this afternoon. It is well written and easy to read!  It gives great insight to what EMT and Paramedic work really entails. 
We’re always glad when you arrive to help  but don’t fully appreciate all that you’re doing to keep our loved ones alive to get to the hospital for more extensive treatment, and that it also has an impact on the life of the individual providing the aid.
They once did an intubation on my Dad in the back of an ambulance to get him to hospital. He died on table in ER but they brought him back as he had no formal DNR in place. He lived on respirator for a week, but he was gone. We finally had to turn it off when all tests concluded that he would never recover.  But it gave time for all his family to come and say their good byes to him. It wasn’t miraculous like the gentleman in your story, but it was a mercy that God showed to us in being able to say our good byes before it was over.
I also enjoyed reading your honest account of your journey to the place where Jesus met you and lifted your burden. It always makes me smile when someone tells that story!!  I had to laugh when you told about Joel and his Mountain Dew. lol. I’m sure it will help many find themselves in your story, and show them they’re not alone in their struggle.  I’m trying to decide who to give mine to next.😊

This morning I found a follow up email:

“Another thing I didn’t mention, but now think I should, and it actually made me cry a little, was when you told what the Chaplain said to the girl who’s Mother had shot herself. “That if she’d known the date, the time and place, she would have tried to move mountains to stop it.”  It really touched me today, and I’ll tell you why…My precious and beautiful boy, Michael has been gone for 10 years. He was 26 years old.  He texted me on a Wednesday night asking me to pray for him, that all he wanted to do was get his life right with God and we would be together on the weekend to talk as it was Mother’s Day. I agreed as I had been running back and forth from work to rehab for my Dad who just lost his leg and Mike worked shift work. That Friday evening, less than 2 days later, after arriving home from work at 7 PM, I received a call from my daughter Karen telling me that my daughter Ashley, who shared a place with Mike, had found him dead on his bedroom floor, he had been dead for about 10 hours. The coroners report said drug intoxication. I had absolutely no idea he was even struggling with substances. 
Instead of meeting him for dinner, I spent Mother’s Day laying in his bed, at his apartment, in a broken sobbing heap, trying desperately to breathe  in the last scent of him still lingering in his pillow. I know that he knew the Lord, and that helped me to keep breathing, but that’s about all. I kept saying if only this or only that and hating myself for still being alive.  Hating myself for helping my Dad while my son was having the greatest struggle of his life.  It was the worst time I ever faced, and I’d faced some hard times already. I can’t tell you how much I loved that beautiful boy. He was a musician and a writer and had the biggest, kindest heart, He had understanding for everyone but himself, he didn’t have an enemy anywhere.   But I had 3 daughters who were still alive and hurting just as much, so I took all the strength God would give me and dragged on. 
It’s been 10 years, but every year at Mother’s Day that old survivor guilt rises up and tears me down a little. Today, as I read those lines in your book, God comforted me with those words once again, assuring me that He knows if I had known, I would have tried to moved mountains…and that  He did know, that He CAN move mountains, and Michael was in Heaven with Him until I meet him there again one day.”

Live Book Signing in Camp Hill, PA

Well, I finally got it official. I will be in Camp Hill, PA for a book signing event at the Cornerstone Coffeehouse on Market St from 10 am to 2 pm on June 19, 2021. I am excited to see so many of my colleagues and I hope many new faces. Join me live, in-person for some coffee and just a good time of fellowship. I am looking for this to be a very personal experience for everybody. We all have a story to tell, so join me, let’s talk about your story, and let me sign your book with a personal message of encouragement. I look forward to seeing you there. Click the link below for more information. https://www.linkedin.com/events/livebooksigning6798587069619806208/

I can show you better than I can tell you

It’s funny the things that will stick with you for your whole life. The title of this post is a quote from Army basic training. One of our drill sergeants used this line at least hourly when he was warning us that some corrective action was to come. Until now, this has held a negative connotation with me. Now, this is my testimony.

Yesterday, in Church, the pastor preaching was commenting on our Easter service almost a month ago. He stated his favorite part of the service was a video that I shared with everyone in attendance at any of our 3 campuses and watching online. He said that I challenged him. I’m sorry, but I am not in a position to challenge a pastor. He said when I stated my wife and I pray together out loud every night, that it spoke to him. Of course he prays over meals and when he’s alone and when he’s about to crush waves on a good surf day. But I guess he and his wife haven’t had this end of the day intimacy. My story has touched one of my pastors, actually both.

After the service, everyone was funneling outside. The lead pastor came up to me and told me that he keeps hearing my name come up. A woman in our Thursday night small group, who we regard as the resident Bible expert, approached him before first service. She told him that there is this Chris in her small group whose faith has touched her. She said that the newness and excitement towards catching up on Christianity that I exhibit has called her to be less complacent in her faith and power on excited to learn more, just as I do.

God is using me to reach people. I haven’t targeted anybody to say “follow me” or to corner into a coffee shop and hear my story. Instead people I am contacting passively are actively engaged by me. How is God speaking to you or through you? Even if you aren’t in church every Sunday, do you recognize His presence in your life?

I’m New at This

Initially when I released “The Double-Edged Sword,” I was nervous that I was putting myself out in the open for anybody to view. The thing that gave me the confidence to do this was that I was not just writing my story. I was telling people about the difference God has made in my life just by me opening the channels of communication with Him. Having released the book, I am caught off guard when a colleague or somebody I haven’t met congratulates me on the book. It’s easy for me to forget that I did this, but the mission is not forgotten. God did a work in me that I pray He does in so many more people. I understand that God is not a priority for many people. I pray for them, but I also hope that in lieu of God, they have some strong support backing they can turn to in a time of crisis. The job we do is not easy, and we are only one phone call away from the worst call of our career.