Turn It Around

A Different Direction for a New Life

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About The Book

Pastor and motivational speaker Frank Santora shares seven powerful solutions that promise to transform what appear to be life’s road blocks into victories that will turn your life around.

With clarity and vision, Frank Santora presents the message that God can still bring meaning and purpose out of your life, even when insurmountable circumstances and difficult situations seem to be making your life spiral out of control. Santora reveals seven pathways for turning your life around with chapters such as, “Changing Direction When You’re Headed Down the Wrong Road, “ ”Making Things Right When You’ve Totally Blown it,” “Regaining Confidence When No One Believes in You,” Finding Your Way Back When You’ve Walked Away From God,” “Regaining Life’s Composure When Things are Out of Your Control,” and “Finding a Way Out When You Feel Trapped.” Affirming the importance and worth of each reader, Santora shows readers how to turn around even the must difficult life situations.

Excerpt

1
LOOK ING FOR THE GOOD IN LIFE


HAS LIFE EVER HANDED you a double whammy? In 2007 life clobbered me with a classic one-two punch, hitting me with a blow to my church ministry for starters and then following with a jab to my personal finances. It all started when the school the church operates saw it’s budget reduced by $350,000. When you have teachers’ salaries to pay, that’s not a loss you can shrug off. The second blow came when a bank loan my wife and I were relying on for a business venture fell through. Based on the bank’s commitment letter, we had signed a land lease and hired contractors. Then the bank dropped out right before closing, and suddenly we had a several thousand dollar monthly lease, contractors wanting payment, and no loan to cover any of it.

I didn’t know where our church was going to get the money to keep the school going. And I didn’t know where I was going to get the money to keep our business going.

I began having sleepless nights. Often I would lie awake, with either the church needs or our family finances, or both, running through my mind. In the middle of the night I would get up and grab my journal and write prayers to God, feebly pleading for help. Then I would wait for God to give me wisdom. I’d sit for three or four hours, waiting for God to do something, to answer me, to give me something—anything—but nothing would come. I wouldn’t feel any better; I would feel worse. Soon I was thinking, Why do I even bother praying? I feel worse now! Or, Why isn’t God giving me an answer to any of this? This went on night after night.

I suspect you’ve had times in your life like that. Maybe you’re going through that time right now—not in the details, of course, but sometimes it’s not the details that matter; it’s what you’re feeling.

  • Feeling that you’re headed down the wrong road

  • Feeling that you’ve blown it

  • Feeling that no one believes in you

  • Feeling that you’ve walked away from God and can’t ever get back

  • Feeling that things are out of your control

  • Feeling that you’re trapped and have nowhere to go

  • Feeling that in a world of billions of people, there couldn’t possibly be anything special about you

It doesn’t matter if you feel all of these things or just one. You desperately want a way to turn life around.

I felt that desperation in 2007. My sleepless nights had me questioning everything, from the real to the absurd. I was trapped in what Max Lucado calls the “Whaddiffs and Howells.”1 What if I had waited to sign that lease? How will we keep the school open? What if what I’m hoping for doesn’t happen? How will we pay for our children’s education? My mind was in turmoil, and my body and soul joined in.

One morning, after another sleepless night, I spent some time—as I do every morning—with God. At first I just shared my hurt with him as I always did, telling him how overwhelmed I was and how hopeless things seemed to me—as if he didn’t already know that. All of a sudden, in the midst of my pitiful complaints, the Holy Spirit took over. Instead of sharing my hurts with God, I began to share my heart with him. I went from telling God how overwhelmed I was to saying how much I loved him and needed him.

That’s when God spoke directly to my heart. And this is what he said: “Don’t worry. I work all things together for the good for those who love me and are called according to my purpose.”

That promise is also found in Romans 8:28. Now, I realize there’s probably a strict theological meaning to that verse, but sometimes we can destroy a verse of Scripture by getting so theological with it that we miss what God is saying to us directly in our moment of need. So when God said that to me, I simply heard, “Don’t worry, my son. I will turn it around.” And then, because pastors can be just as hardheaded as the next guy, God took everything I’d been thinking… and answered. Into all my feelings of doubt and despair, God inserted his promises:

  • I will turn your life around when you’re on the wrong road.

  • I will turn your life around when you’ve blown it.

  • I will turn your life around when no one believes in you.

  • I will turn your life around when you’ve walked away from me.

  • I will turn your life around when things are out of your control.

  • I will turn your life around when you’re trapped and have nowhere to go.

  • I will turn your life around because you’re special to me.

Those words may not sound like much to you now, but they meant everything to me when I needed help. I immediately stopped what I was doing and ran to my nightstand drawer, pulled out a notepad and the stubbiest little pencil you ever saw, and began to write down God’s promises. At first I was writing just for myself; but then I realized that God wasn’t speaking only to me. He sends that same message to all of us. Every moment of our lives, God offers these promises to us. He reminds us of these promises again and again through our own lives and the lives of others. We just have to stop and notice.

That’s the first step—realizing that God can be doing good things for us in the midst of all that is happening to us, even when we can’t see any good. We must look for and focus on those good things. If we don’t—if we persist in focusing only on the negative things that are troubling us—we’ll be trapped in the very rut from which we want to escape.

Let’s look at that verse that God spoke to my heart: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Notice that God didn’t say he causes bad things; neither did he say that everything that happens is good. But he did say that, for those who love him, he will bring good out of all the bad things that happen. That verse tells us—promises us—that even in the midst of bad, God is causing good to take place. Even though we think our lives are falling apart, we need to look for the good. It may feel to us like we’re in a whirlwind, but if we trust in God, if we look with the eyes of faith, we’ll see in the end that God was at work. Even though God isn’t pulling the strings on the bad events, his divine hand of providence is on everything; he is causing those stressful, painful, horrible circumstances to turn around for our good. When we look for the good, we find so many incredible things that we never would have seen if we hadn’t looked for them in the midst of our troubles.

Looking for good isn’t usually our first inclination when we experience trouble. It’s not always easy, but we can get better at it with a little awareness and practice. One way we can learn to look for the good God is doing in our lives is by observing the good God has accomplished in others through their difficulties. Numerous stories tell of good emerging from the midst of troubling or even disastrous circumstances. For example, in 1883 a devastating tornado tore through Rochester, Minnesota, killing and injuring many in the small city. A local surgeon named William Worrall Mayo and his two sons—also skilled physicians—labored day and night to care for the tornado victims. They asked for no reward, responding only out of concern for others. Moved by their efforts, Mother Alfred Moes of the local Sisters of Saint Francis approached Dr. Mayo and his sons about establishing a hospital. When the three physicians agreed, Mother Alfred and her fellow nuns raised the money for a state-of-the-art facility, which opened in 1889. From the midst of tragedy came events that led to the founding of the Mayo Clinic, one of the most celebrated medical treatment and research centers in the world.2

God doesn’t cause tragedy, but he excels at turning it around for good—and God’s good is bigger than anything we can imagine. If he can bring healing for millions out of the devastation of a tornado, he can certainly bring about good from our smaller struggles.

We don’t have to look far to discover how God can take personal tragedies and turn them around. For example, I can’t think of a more painful and faith-challenging trial than the loss of physical senses. We relate to the world through sight and sound in order to live our everyday lives. What would your life be like if you lost one of the senses you rely on most? Now try to imagine what a brilliant and dedicated musician would suffer should he lose his hearing. Surely the ability to hear would be essential to a musician’s success. At the age of thirty-one, Ludwig van Beethoven began to go deaf.3 He had developed a reputation as a skilled composer and performer, yet he had accomplished so little of what he felt capable. As his condition worsened, depression overwhelmed him. “O how harshly was I pushed back by the double sad experience of my bad hearing,” he wrote of his loss. “A little more and I would have ended my life.”4

Any one of us might understand these feelings—we, too, might be tempted to give up after such a blow to our life plans. But Beethoven refused to give in. Though he could no longer hear the notes, he continued to write music. He composed many of his greatest works, including his masterpiece, the Ninth Symphony—and its majestic “Ode to Joy”—after becoming completely deaf. God brought good to Beethoven even in his tragedy, filling his imagination with sounds and rhythms even more glorious than those he had once actually been able to hear.

God made good triumph over misfortune for another musician, Fanny Crosby, composer of many of America’s most beloved hymns. As an infant, Fanny was deprived of one of the senses that most of us deem essential to daily living: sight. Fanny’s potentially tragic story began when she developed an eye infection only weeks after her birth. In the absence of her regular physician, her parents foolishly consulted a man claiming to be a doctor who insisted on treating the condition with hot poultices.

Fanny’s mother, Mercy, was horrified by the child’s screams, which increased in volume and became more and more anguished as the “doctor” persisted in his treatment. She protested that her baby was so tiny and in such obvious pain that perhaps they ought to wait for their regular doctor to return. But the charlatan prevailed, insisting that putting off treatment could lead to terrible consequences, and Fanny’s distressed mother reluctantly accepted the treatment.

Fanny’s screams eventually diminished to a pitiful whimper, but they lingered in Mercy’s memory. The infection in Fanny’s eyes went away on its own, but her corneas had been burned by the bogus treatment, and white scars began to form over her eyes. In the weeks that followed, John and Mercy Crosby realized that Fanny was not responding to visual stimuli. Their worst fears were confirmed when they learned that little Fanny was now totally blind.

When the tragedy became known, the practitioner fled in fear for his life. Fanny never recovered her sight, and to add to the family’s misery, her father died of illness that same year.5

Despite everything, young Fanny, with the help of her mother and grandmother, maintained a positive attitude, never allowing her blindness to diminish her faith in God and his ability to do great things through her. Fanny prevailed over her disability and used her phonographic memory to her advantage, learning several books of the Bible by heart. In adulthood she became one of the nation’s most celebrated popular poets and hymn writers, penning more than nine thousand hymns and poems, perhaps the best known of which is “Blessed Assurance”—Fanny’s personal testimony to the world.

But in view of her lifelong blindness, the message of her hymn “My Savior First of All” and a subsequent comment she made are especially touching and inspiring.

When my lifework is ended, and I cross the swelling tide,

When the bright and glorious morning I shall see;

I shall know my Redeemer when I reach the other side,

And His smile will be the first to welcome me.

I shall know Him, I shall know Him,

And redeemed by His side I shall stand,

I shall know Him, I shall know Him,

By the print of the nails in His hand.

Oh, the soul-thrilling rapture when I view His blessed face,

And the luster of His kindly beaming eye;

How my full heart will praise Him for the mercy, love and grace,

That prepare for me a mansion in the sky.

A pastor once sympathetically said to Fanny, “I think it is a great pity that the Master did not give you sight when he showered so many other gifts upon you.” Fanny quickly replied, “Do you know that if at birth I had been able to make one petition, it would have been that I was born blind?” Stunned by her response, the minister asked her why she would wish such a thing. Fanny replied, “Be-cause, when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior!”6

Fanny often spoke of being blind as a blessing. She credited her blindness for opening a door into education, gaining her admission to the New York Institute for the Blind—an opportunity her poor family otherwise could not have afforded. She said blindness left her free to concentrate, led her to develop her remarkable memory, and helped her create an emotional connection with audiences that made her widely acclaimed as a speaker. Indeed, every good thing Fanny experienced in life she would directly link to her “tragic” loss of sight—so much so that she once said she didn’t blame the doctor at all—in fact, she said, “He unwittingly did me the greatest favor in the world.”7

Fanny’s songs and poetry ultimately brought her before Congress and at least eight presidents. God took all the things that happened in Fanny’s life and wove them together into something wondrously good.

One more story.

Perhaps you’ve heard of Vice Admiral James Stockdale, who was captured during the Vietnam War and frequently tortured during his seven-year imprisonment. Although he was not given the rights due him as a prisoner under the Geneva Conventions—no set release date or even any assurance that he would survive to see his family again—he shouldered the burden of command, doing everything he could to create conditions that would increase the number of prisoners who would survive with their spirits and honor unbroken. At one point, then Commander Stockdale learned that as the highest-ranking prisoner, he would be paraded in front of a group of foreign journalists and used as a propaganda tool. Knowing that his captors were not treating his men well, as they claimed, but were torturing and mistreating them, Stockdale beat himself with a stool and cut his scalp with a razor, deliberately dis figuring himself so his captors could not show him off as an example of a “well-treated prisoner.” When told that some of his men had died under torture, Stockdale slashed his own wrists, declaring that he would die rather than assist his captors. Afraid of the backlash if the highest-ranking officer died under their care, and convinced Stockdale would die before he’d cooperate with them, the Vietnamese abandoned their attempts at coercion through torture. Stockdale’s refusal to give in—and that same attitude he inspired in his fellow prisoners—eventually led to better treatment for the POWs as the war drew to a close.8

Stockdale survived the cruelty of the “Hanoi Hilton” and returned home to eventually rise to the rank of Vice Admiral. “I never lost faith in the end of the story,” Stockdale said, reflecting on his experiences. “I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”9 He never lost faith in a positive outcome—faith in the end of the story!

That surely must remind you of the scripture we’ve been considering. Let’s take it from a different translation this time: “We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28 NLT). And what does that mean? It means that we must never lose faith in the end of the story. Remember that it’s God who is writing your story. No matter how many bad things may come up in the course of your life, if you do your part by keeping faith and focusing on the good, God will work everything together for good and surprise and amaze you with a happy ending.

So come along with me in the pages that follow to see how God can turn your life around…

… when you’re on the wrong road.

… when you’ve blown it.

… when no one believes in you.

… when you’ve walked away from him.

… when things seem out of your control.

… when you feel trapped and seemingly have nowhere to go.

God wants to help you… because you’re special to him!

© 2010 Frank Santora

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Turn it Around includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Frank Santora. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Introduction
 

In Turn It Around, author Frank Santora offers solutions on how to transform life’s road blocks into victories by opening your heart to God. He presents his message that even the direst of circumstances can be converted into positive moments. In each chapter, Santora outlines different pathways to find identity and reach your goals, and ultimately lead your life in the right direction.

 

Discussion Questions

1.      The author uses the movies Hoosiers and Bruce Almighty, as well as Lucy from Peanuts, to illustrate his points. What are other examples from pop culture that may exemplify God’s constant presence in our lives?

2.      Do you find yourself prone to DUMB talk? How can you use the author’s suggestions to start practicing SMART talk and incorporate positive thinking into your life?

3.      The main theme of the book is that God has a “built in, unerring GPS” system and he helps keep us on the right path. What are your thoughts on the idea that your “destination” has already been mapped out for you?

4.      The author quotes Isaac Newton’s Law of Inertia: “Every body continues in its state of rest, or of uniform motion in a straight line, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it.” What is your reaction to the notion that pain is a tool God uses to compel us to change?

5.      What “storms” have you faced recently in your life? What techniques outlined in the book could you use to weather these storms?

6.      What does the story of the Prodigal Son and his father’s unconditional forgiveness teach you about the importance of forgiveness in your own life?

7.      The author shares examples of people that God puts in our lives to help us. Do you have an Ananias or Barnabas in your life? Do you play that role for someone else?

8.      Do you agree with the author’s statement that “nothing is merely coincidence”? Explain.

9.      Do you feel trapped in a situation? What suggestions could you follow from the book to change your “world”?

10.   Blind musician Fanny Crosby says that if she could have asked God for one thing at birth it would be to be born blind. She claims her lack of sight is a blessing. Are there any hardships you have faced in your own life that you wouldn’t erase because the lessons learned impacted your life in a positive way?

11.  The author discusses how the past can often cloud the way we look at the future. Are there moments in your life when you refused to try something because you kept looking backwards instead of forward?

12.   The author says that “compromise kills confidence.” Do you agree with this statement? If not, when is compromise the better option?

 

Enhance Your Bookclub

1.      Think back through moments of conflict in your life and see if you can identify possible road signs God put in front of you.

2.      The author discusses the power of positivity when trying to accomplish any task. Pick a goal and spend a bit of time each day telling yourself that you will reach that goal . . . then go out and do it!

3.      Identify a “storm” in your life and map out a plan using the book’s suggestions on how to weather it.

 

 

A Conversation with Frank Santora

1.      What inspired you to write this book? Why now?

The short answer is my own experience. The year I wrote the book was one of the worst years I had ever had. Our church finances and the school I oversee were hit hard by the economic downturn, a business I own was failing, and my best friend had betrayed me. My life was in need of a turn around. In prayer, God spoke the following words to me, “Don’t worry, my son, I can turn it around.”  He then led me to Romans 8:28 which says, “God works all things together for the good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose.”  It was at that moment that I knew God would bring good out of all of my awful experiences. One of the ways God has done that is through this book. A book that I believe is extremely timely in light of the many challenging times people are experiencing right now. As they read through the pages of the book, my prayer is that people will be inspired and infused with hope as they see how God can turn their lives around, no matter what they have or are experiencing.

 

2.      Was there a defining moment that made you realize you were destined to be a pastor?

Absolutely. When I was nineteen years old, my pastor gave me the privilege of preaching my first sermon. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was called, “Grace and Gullibility, Perfect Together.”  Yes, I know the title needs work, but when I preached that sermon I literally felt like I could walk off the elevated platform and float on air. The sense of purpose and joy that flooded my heart was so overwhelming that I knew I would teach God’s word for the rest of my life. Matter of fact, in the book, one of the keys I share with people about how to discover their purpose is to pay attention to the things they absolutely love to do. What we love is an indication of what God has created us to accomplish.

 

3.       In the book you call yourself a “hip pastor.” Do you feel that it is important to incorporate pop culture and technology into your sermons?

Without question. Jesus was hip. He communicated with his generation in ways that were absolutely relevant. He used fishing and farming stories and illustrations, not because there is anything holy about fishing or farming, but because that’s what connected with the culture of his day. I believe when we used pop culture and technology to communicate the timeless truths of the Bible we too are connecting with the culture of our day, just like Jesus.

 

4.      What advice would you offer your children if they ever had a crisis of faith?

Don’t ever focus on the problem at hand; rather, focus on the problem solver—God. God is a master at taking all of the broken pieces and parts that don’t fit and weaving them into a something that will amaze us. I would tell them to look beyond the problem to the day when that problem will become a platform to empower them to help transform the lives of others.

 

5.      Your book references many historical figures, real life stories, and scriptures from the Bible. How much research went into this book? Was it important to you to have several examples for each point your made?

I think that information without any real life reference point is useless. People need to see how the information you are giving them has really worked in the lives of people with flesh and blood. When they see how God has worked in the lives of others, they become encouraged that God can do the same for them. Remember, God is no respecter of persons.

 

6.      You took a huge leap of faith by quitting your job as a CPA to take on a job as an assistant pastor. Was this a difficult decision for you to make?

It was an extremely difficult decision. Matter of fact, I went back and forth for six months. I said yes, then no, then yes, then no, then finally yes. I was scared. It’s not easy to leave what you know is going to be a promising career for something that has little promise. However, I’ve learned that faith is sometimes just doing it afraid. Stepping out and trusting God even when everything in you is terrified. I imagine many Bible personalities doing it afraid. Joshua when he stepped into the Jordan River when it was at flood stage. Moses when he stretched out his rod to part the Red Sea and Esther when she went in unannounced to the king. But in each case, God came through. Both the Jordan River and the Red Sea parted, and in Esther’s case, the king stretched out his golden scepter (which meant she had received his favor). God always comes through when we step out in faith. Matter of fact, to receive God’s best in life, sometimes that’s just what he requires of us. Looking back now, I’m glad I did what was difficult.

 

7.      Throughout the book you share moments when you heard God speaking to you. What do you tell people who have yet to hear God’s message or are still unconvinced that God is sending them a message?

I think the latter is a better question because God speaks to us all the time; we just need to learn how to listen and hear his voice. One simple way is to just trust your heart or inner nudging. That inner voice that says “don’t,” or “go,” or “wait,” or “run!” That’s God’s voice in many cases speaking to us and guiding us. I talk about this extensively in the book. God loves us too much to leave us hanging out to dry. He loves talking to us.

 

8.      What challenges did you encounter building up your church? And how did you overcome them?

Every challenge you can think of. From people challenges to financial challenges to zoning challenges to timing challenges, you name it. Persistence is probably the number one way I overcome those challenges. We’ve all heard it said before: quitters never win and winners never quit. That is one of the keys to overcoming anything. The Scripture says it like this, “a righteous man falls down seven times but gets up again.” Don’t quit, get up again, and you will be pleasantly surprised at how much you will overcome.

 

9.      Who have been your greatest influences in your life? How have they impacted the man, the pastor, and the father you are today?

The greatest influence in my life has been my parents. They taught me that I can; they believed relentlessly in me and instilled in me the importance of character. We all need someone to believe in us when no one else does (see chapter 4 in the book), and my parents were those people. Although they continue to be a tremendous influence in my life, my wife Lisa has picked up where they have left off. Her unconditional love and support continually reinforces my belief in a God who can turn our lives around no matter what.

 

10.   What role has music played in your life? How did you discover its importance? Do you believe that music can bring you closer to God?

Music plays an extremely important role in my life. First and foremost the Bible teaches us that God inhabits the praises of his people. So, if we want to feel closer to God and avail ourselves to his wisdom, music is one of the ways we do that. Recently, though, music has taken on a much larger role in my life. Matter of fact, it’s one of the ways God brought good out of the terrible year I had when I was writing this book. During the many sleepless nights, I would journal what was going on in my heart. As I was writing these inner thoughts down, I suddenly realized they sounded like songs. Shortly thereafter, I began to write worship songs using the musing directly from my journal that came to me during my time of difficulty. Today we sing many of those songs in church. Who would have thunk it!  I don’t have a musical bone in my body, but God is committed to turning our lives around and bringing good out of our times of struggle. If he can do it for me, he can do it for you.

 

11.  What projects are you working on now?

I am working on my next book, which is scheduled to be released in 2011. And, yes, a worship CD! As well as starting several satellite churches throughout our region. I can’t wait to see what God has in store next!

About The Author

Photograph by Robert Faubel

Frank Santora is pastor of Faith Church. He also serves as president of Faith Ministries and Faith Preparatory Schools, Inc., in New Milford, Connecticut. He has been a spiritual coach and motivational speaker, and his television show, Destined to Win, challenges people to discover the winner within themselves. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and two children.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Howard Books (November 2014)
  • Length: 224 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781501108112

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