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What makes someone ordinary anyway? Well, by modern standards, I suppose, celebrity is the only way to prove oneself extra–ordinary – such that this has become an aspirational end in itself for countless schoolchildren, regardless of the grounds for that celebrity. Don Carson’s father, Tom, was the antithesis of a celebrity – humble almost to the point of self–effacingly insecure, unambitious but committed, sacrificial not grasping. Those of us in the English–speaking world would most likely never have heard of him (because his ministry was entirely focused in French–speaking Quebec and because he would have had no interest whatsoever in self–publicity) – were it not for his son. Both because Don has written some crucial books in the past, but also because of this wonderful memoir.
Carson has talked with other family members and friends to get their reflections. But because he read through his father’s private journals (which were never intended for publication, nor necessarily warrant it) we get a sense of the man in his own heart. This is what makes this particular book so precious. Tom battled with deep insecurities and a lack of confidence – and faced various challenges and crises. Not the sort to hit the headlines necessarily, but ones which would have derailed (and did) all but the most faithful and determined. But he persevered – and lived and loved, faithful to the end. He wasn’t perfect – he wasn’t a great admin person, he in the end worked better as a No 2, he was a solid preacher who knew his bible inside out but wasn’t necessarily the greatest by all accounts. But who cares?! He loved his Lord and his people. I’ll never forget Don speaking once and saying that a congregation would forgive their pastor anything if they were sure he loved them. Well, having read this book, he must have had his own father in mind. For he went the 3rd and 4th mile to show his practical love for people.
Particularly moving is the chapter about living and caring for his wife Marg during her decline into Alzheimer’s. He was of course deeply affected by it, but was able to avoid bitterness or resentment.
The challenge to me with this has been immense – and the testimony of this extraordinarily ordinary life is invaluable. When i grow up, i want to be like Tom Carson.
Mark Meynell – All Souls
Pastors, get a copy of this book, read it and be challenged, convicted and encouraged. Those thinking about training to become pastors, get a copy of this book for a realistic picture of what you might face in your ministry. Church members, if you want to encourage your pastor why not buy them this book (and if they've already got a copy read it yourself and then pray for your pastor).
Thank you Don Carson for writing this book and the encouragement it gives about faithfully serving God.
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