There’s a Good Reason We’ve Been Give Two Ears and One Mouth

It’s Because Good Communication Takes Twice as Much Listening as Talking

Miscommunication happens too often but doesn’t have to if we weren’t so quick to jump to conclusions.

Our Pastor told a story about visiting a lady in the hospital who had had a stroke and was unable to speak. She kept pointing at something, but he was having trouble understanding. She was getting frustrated and kept pointing. He kept turning around and going to different things trying to figure out what she was pointing at.

This went on for a while until he realized that she was pointing at him…his zipper was down.

Then they both had a good laugh.

Even in the middle of this difficult situation they were able to share a good laugh.

There are more than 7000 different languages around the world. The one word that is most universally understood among all of those different languages is the word “huh?”.

This is what Pastor Lee kept asking the lady in the hospital.

Not asking enough questions and listening, really listening, to the answers is where communication begins to break down. We presume we know what the other person is going to say before they even open their mouth.

I believe this is why God gave us two ears and one mouth. We need to listen twice as much as we talk if we’re going to understand others.

In Acts 2:1-21, Jesus’ followers were all together when a noise like a mighty wind came from heaven. The Holy Spirit took control of everyone, and they began speaking in whatever language the Spirt led them.

There were many different people from different countries in Jerusalem at that time. When they heard this commotion, a crowd began to gather, and they were surprised because they were all hearing everything in their own language.

Communication can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be if we are just willing to listen.

The Holy Spirit can help us communicate better, but we must be open and accept the help. The Holy Spirit will help us to see clearer, understand better, and give us ideas for sharing God’s love (Acts 2:17).

13-year-old Abraham Olagbegi needed a bone marrow transplant due to a rare blood disorder. He decided to use the Make-A Wish gift he received to help others rather than getting a gaming console or taking a trip somewhere. He wanted to use it to help feed the homeless.

Abraham’s Table planned to provide meals once a month for a year to homeless people in Jackson, Mississippi. Abraham’s mom always says, “It’s a blessing to be a blessing.” This was a big undertaking for a 13-year-old but, the Holy Spirit gives us thoughts and ideas that God wants us to do. It’s up to us to do it.

When you come up against a big mountain, you need to remember you have a big God.

Listen to the Holy Spirit. Listen to others. Ask questions. Communicate clearly through your words and your actions.

We Are Left Sitting on the Edge of Our Seats with a Good Cliffhanger

We’re Eager to Know What’s Going to Happen Next

cliffhanger is a plot used in fiction which features a precarious or difficult dilemma or a shocking revelation at the end of an episode. A cliffhanger is hoped to incentivize the audience to return to see how the characters resolve the dilemma.

Cliffhangers became prominent with the serial publication of narrative fiction, pioneered by Charles Dickens. Printed episodically in magazines, Dickens’s cliffhangers triggered desperation in his readers. This was evident in the anticipation of those waiting for the next installment of Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop. A story about a thirteen-year-old orphan named Nell Trent, living with her grandfather.

In 1841, Dickens fans rioted on the dock of New York Harbor, as they waited for a British ship carrying the next installment, screaming, “Is little Nell dead?”

Dickens’ installment format and cliffhangers would typically culminate at a point in the plot that created reader anticipation and thus reader demand.

The popularity of Dickens’s serial publications saw the cliffhanger become a staple part of the “sensation serials” by the 1860s. The DNA of Dickens’s busy, episodic storytelling, delivered in installments and rife with cliffhangers and diversions, is traceable in everything.

The apostles were living out a cliffhanger in Act 1:6-14. They ask Jesus. “Are You now going to give Israel its own king again?”

He answered them, “You don’t need to know the time of those events that only the Father controls.” After Jesus had said this and while they were watching, He was taken up into a cloud.

Can you say cliffhanger?

They were wanting to know what was going to happen next, and Jesus left them standing there wondering. Then two men dressed in white clothes were suddenly standing there beside them. They asked, “Why are standing here looking up into the sky? Jesus has been taken to heaven. He will come back the same way.”

You know the apostles were sitting on the edge of their seats wondering when, how, why.

Cliffhangers in fictional stories can be exciting and stressful, but ultimately, we know that they are just a story. The writer of the story can keep us guessing and anticipating what’s going to happen next. The author can take us where they want us to go.

In our real-life story, cliffhanger levels of excitement and stress are ramped up. There are real trials and consequences in this story. This unknown can be pretty scary. We just want to know what’s going to happen next and that everything is going to be alright.

Sure, our life stories have drama and cliffhangers, but the Author will write a good story if we just let Him. In verse 8 Jesus tells the apostles, “The Holy Spirt will come upon you and give you power.”

We have the power to choose who writes our story. Let God write your story.

If we will let God write our stories, then the cliffhangers become a driving force to move forward to the next episode of our lives.

Enjoy your cliffhanger!

Getting a Backhanded Compliment Can Be a Good Thing

It’s Important to Know Who You’re Talking to and Speak Their Language

This past Sunday was Mother’s Day. Too often we take our mothers for granted. We are used to them taking care of us and loving us even with all our flaws.

A mother was working late one day, and her husband and daughter decided they would clean the kitchen for her before she got home. They washed the dishes and put them away. They cleaned the table and the counter. They swept and mopped the floor. They had the kitchen looking great and were excited.

When the mom got home, she came in through the kitchen. She took off her coat and hung it over the back of a chair and sat her purse on the table. She went into the living room and sat down and turned on the TV. The husband and daughter stood there waiting for a compliment.

After a while they asked her what she thought about them cleaning the kitchen. She looked at them and said, “It’s a thankless job, isn’t it?”

Don’t forget to tell your mom thank you.

A backhanded compliment can be a little confusing.

A woman was greeted after singing a solo by a gentleman who said, “You sang that song well, and you didn’t sing too long.”

Or what about the man who was always getting reprimanded at work getting a comment from his supervisor, “You’re stinking less at this job all the time.”

We all speak such different languages. It’s hard to know how to take a backhanded compliment.

In Acts 17:16-31 Paul gave the Athenians a backhanded compliment. These people were searching for God but were trying to make Him fit their wants and desires, so Paul spoke to them in a language that they understood.

While Paul was waiting in Athens, he was upset to see all the idols in the city. 17 He went to the synagogue to speak to the Jews and to anyone who worshiped with them. Day after day he also spoke to everyone he met in the market. 18 Some of them were Epicureans and some were Stoics, and they started arguing with him.

People were asking, “What is this know-it-all trying to say?”

Some even said, “Paul must be preaching about foreign gods! That’s what he means when he talks about Jesus and about people rising from death.”

19 They brought Paul before a council called the Areopagus, and said, “Tell us what your new teaching is all about. 20 We have heard you say some strange things, and we want to know what you mean.”

21 More than anything else the people of Athens and the foreigners living there loved to hear and to talk about anything new. 22 So Paul stood up in front of the council and said:

People of Athens, I see that you are very religious.

 23 As I was going through your city and looking at the things you worship, I found an altar with the words, “To an Unknown God.” You worship this God, but you don’t really know him. So, I want to tell you about him. 24 This God made the world and everything in it. He is Lord of heaven and earth, and he doesn’t live in temples built by human hands. 25 He doesn’t need help from anyone. He gives life, breath, and everything else to all people. 26 From one person God made all nations who live on earth, and he decided when and where every nation would be.

Some of the people who heard Paul made changes and put their faith in God. Just like the people in Athens, if we listen to backhanded compliments, discern the good from them, make the right choices and apply those changes…we’ll be better for it.

Too often we try to make God what we want Him to be. This isn’t how it works. God is God and we were made in His image…not the other way around.

Remember that we all speak different languages, and it’s important to find out the language someone else is speaking before we start talking. We also need to be careful how we complement each other.

Oh…Thank you Mom for all you’ve done and the love you’ve given me throughout my life.

Why It’s Always Important to Have an Empty Chair Available

Because It’s a Good Way to Prevent Loneliness

It’s been said that the church is like a football huddle. Church likes to stay in the huddle, we like the safety, we like to look good in our uniforms, we don’t like to get dirty. Football is not the huddle though, if you never break the huddle, if you never run the plays, you can never win the game.

Too often as a church, what we bring to the world is judgement rather than service, love, and the message of Christ.

We get a good example of what the church is supposed to be like in Act 2:42-47. The apostles of Christ would meet regularly and share their gifts and talent with each other. They would fellowship together, invite others and grow.

According to the Surgeon General we are currently experiencing an epidemic of loneliness. Isn’t this an understatement?

This trend has been happening for a while and was amped up with the separation that many people experienced during COVID. In this morning’s Briefing, Dr. Albert Mohler shared the importance of community and how and why it’s deteriorating.

Dr. Mohler shares many of the factors that have led to this crisis of loneliness. Christians need to understand this is predictable. What we’re looking at here is something that the government can’t solve.

As Christians we should be heartbroken about this problem.

Loneliness tells us about the human cost of disconnectedness from other human beings.

We have been made to be a part of a community. As Christians, we should be committed to seek the welfare of other human beings. We should care about people. The Surgeon General’s report should have the nation saying, “Oh, that’s not a good thing, that there’s so much loneliness.”

Christians should look at this and recognize this is a matter of concern. We would understand that as God made us as relational creatures, we cannot be healthy without some level of sustainable relationships.

Scripture tells us that man was not meant to live alone.

We know that social media and the internet have only amped up this separation and loneliness. It’s much easier to be disrespectful and say hurtful things to people when you aren’t looking them in the face.

As the church we should be opening our doors and arms to those who are lonely.

God invites everyone to the party.

Daniel Gill, a teacher in Montclair, New Jersey, shared a story of the importance of inviting everyone to the party during a lesson for Martin Luther King Dr. Day.

At 9 years old, he and his friend Archie went to a birthday party. The mother of the birthday boy opened the door and said, “I could go in, but that Archie couldn’t because there were no more chairs.” Gill said, no problem, I’ll sit on the floor. And she said to me, no, I didn’t understand. There are no more chairs,”

It was the 1950’s, and Archie was black.

Stunned, they left the party.

That’s why in his classroom Gill always keeps an empty chair, as a reminder that anyone who comes to his class filled with anticipation and eager to learn is welcome and invited to the party.

We need community and connection and that’s why we should always have an empty chair in our churches, our businesses, our homes, and our lives.

Everyone should be invited to God’s party.

It Can Really Hurt to be Confronted with Our Areas of Weakness

Growing Can be a Painful Thing, Both Physically and Spiritually

We all know that becoming physically healthier starts with the realization that it is something we want. Then it requires that we make some lifestyle changes. We don’t like change. Change is scary, but we’re willing to make them, to get what we want. The results are worth the pain.

The same is true of our spiritual health.

A lady was speaking with a pastor about his sermon after church one Sunday morning. She said, “Your sermon today reminded me of the peace and love of God.” The pastor was feeling good about this and asked her to expound. She replied, “Peace…because it passed all understanding and love of God…because it endured forever.” Ouch.

Another similar after church sermon story is of a man greeting the pastor and telling him that he preached powerful sermons. They were thoughtful and well researched. He said, “I can see myself in them. And I want you to knock it off because they’re hitting too close to home.”

Pastor Lee shared that Alene Miller used to tell him that she felt that he had stepped on her toes, and it hurt. It’s a good thing to have our toes stepped on. It helps us see those places that we need to work on.

In Hebrews 4:12 we’re told that God’s Word is “sharper than any double-edged sword. His word can cut through our spirits and souls and through our joints and marrow, until it discovers the desires and thoughts of our hearts.”

Having my spirit, soul, joints, and marrow cut through sounds pretty painful to me.

We are a pretty soft bunch, aren’t we? We don’t want anything to be hard.

Pastor Zach Zehnder in Mount Dora, Florida preached the longest sermon ever (53 hours and 18 minutes). His goal was to share “God’s ridiculous commitment to His people, even though we give up on Him that He never gave up on us.” This love is evident in having Christ die for us, even though we are sinful. Romans 5:8

It is easy to think we have it all figured out. We get a picture of what we expect and get comfortable going through the motions.

This is what happened to the people following Jesus. One minute they believe He was going to save them, and the next they’re shouting for Him to be crucified.

Even his disciples became disillusioned and disappointed. In Luke 24:13-35, three days after Jesus’ crucifixion, two of His disciples were going to Emmaus when Jesus started walking with them, but they didn’t recognize Him.

They were sad, and Jesus asked them what they were talking about. Cleopas asked if He was the only person from Jerusalem that didn’t know what had happened. The disciples shared how they expected Jesus to be the one to set Israel free.

Their idea of being set free was different than God’s.

They were expecting Jesus to come in and take over the country and by following Him they would have an easy life. Surprise…

When they got to where they were going, they asked Jesus to stay with them. Then as He blessed the bread, broke it, and gave it to them…immediately they recognized Him, and He was gone.

God is not dead; He is alive, and He shows Himself to those who believe.

We know that Jesus’ followers did not have an easy life. They had to work and work hard. It was painful. They could have chosen to give up and just sit around, but they didn’t. They took the pain of loss and uncertainty and got stronger. They decided to follow Jesus. 

We don’t like facing our weaknesses. We would rather just stick to the status quo. The problem is that this results in the status quo. I don’t know about you, but I want more than that.

Doubt Can Be Important to Finding the Truth If We Don’t Stop There

It’s a Building Block for Greatness Not an Obstacle to Overcome

Earlier this month was April Fool’s Day, and there have been some pretty elaborate pranks pulled over the years. Like the big spaghetti harvest of 1957, or the flying penguins in 2008, or the baseball pitcher in 1995 that could throw a 168-mph fastball.

Some of us are more gullible than others. We can be too trusting and be taken advantage of by others. Some are more skeptical and untrusting, believing that everyone is out to get them. Both of these come from a combination of who we are naturally and from experiences.

Somewhere in the middle is the balance where we should be.

April Fool’s Day reminds me of a story that my brother once told me. He was taking classes at the community college in the neighboring town. He had gone shopping and his way back home stopped at McDonalds to have lunch with some of his friends from school.

Of course, he had to take his bag full of shopping treasures in to show off to the guys he was meeting.

As they were finishing their lunch, he saw somebody out in the parking lot that was leaving, who he needed to talk to So, he jumped up and ran out to catch them.

While he was still out in the parking lot, his buddies came outside and were leaving. They all said goodbye and went their separate ways.

On his way home he realized he had left his bag in the booth at McDonalds. So, he turned around and went back. When he got there someone was sitting where he had been, and they had his bag. He asked them for it, but they said it was theirs.

Then I asked my brother, “What was in the bag?”

Crap…like I’m feeding you.

A story that could turn believers into doubters.

Maybe Doubting Thomas, John 20:19-31, was told stories like the one my brother told. Because we know that if he couldn’t see and touch Jesus’s wounds, he wasn’t going to believe. He thought his friends were feeding him a bunch of “crap”.

It’s not like the other disciples hadn’t seen the wounds before they told Thomas. It’s not that Thomas didn’t believe after he saw. Thomas was having trouble wrapping his head around Jesus really being alive.

A week later the disciples were together again. This time, Thomas was with them. Jesus came in while the doors were still locked and stood in the middle of the group. He greeted his disciples and said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and look at my hands! Put your hand into my side. Stop doubting and have faith!”

Thomas replied, “You are my Lord and my God!”

 Jesus said, “Thomas, do you have faith because you have seen me? The people who have faith in me without seeing me are the ones who are really blessed!”

We haven’t been able to see and touch those wounds or witness Jesus being killed and coming back to life. This is where we are called to faith.

Struggling with and overcoming things makes us stronger on the other side.

Seeing our doubts disproved makes us stronger.

Another story that is hard to believe is about giraffe mothers kicking their newborn babies. This has got to be a joke, right! Why would they do that?

As if the eight-foot fall of a baby giraffe’s birth isn’t traumatic enough, as the baby lays there, the mother kicks it, sending it flying. This process continues again and again. Then after a few more times, the mother is happy to see the baby standing and goes over to it and…gives it yet another kick.

This time the young giraffe gets up quickly. Mama Giraffe is delighted.

Why would a mother giraffe do this? She knows that lions and leopards love giraffe meat. So, unless the baby giraffe learns quickly to get up and stay up with the pack…its chance of survival is slim.

It’s up to us to get back up each and every time we’re knocked down.

The prodigal son thought he had it all figured out. He got his inheritance early and went out and blew it. After finding himself in a place he hadn’t expected, he decided to go back and ask for forgiveness rather than continuing to wallow with pigs.

Whether we don’t do something because of doubt…or we do something, and it ends up being the wrong decision, we need to remember…

As long as we are still breathing, it’s not too late.

In either case we will be stronger and smarter afterward.

Don’t let your doubts or fears hold you back from the great things you’ve been put here to accomplish.

What’s the Explosion That Can Still Be Felt 2000 Years After it Happened?

Life Changing “Explosions” Often Happen When We Least Expect Them

Life is full of unexpected things happening every day. Often our plans or expectations aren’t what actually happen. Some of these things can be pretty big.

Something that you can count on is big explosions in James Bond films. So big in fact that the James Bond movie, Spectre holds the Guinness world record for the largest film stunt explosion. The explosion took 2,224 gallons of fuel and 73 pounds of explosives. 

Granted this film stunt explosion was planned for and expected.

An unexpected explosion that would hold the Guinness record if they had been around when it happened, is Jesus coming back to life after being dead and buried for three days.

In Matthew 28:1-10 we’re told, …suddenly a strong earthquake struck, and the Lord’s angel came down from heaven. He rolled away the stone and sat on it. The angel looked as bright as lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards shook from fear and fell down, as though they were dead. The angel said to the women, “Don’t be afraid! I know you are looking for Jesus, who was nailed to a cross. He isn’t here! God has raised him to life, just as Jesus said he would.”

This unexpected explosion was so big and powerful that we can still feel it today.

Another unexpected life changing “explosion” happened in a prison in Burbank California.  

Casey Diaz grew up in a dysfunctional family as drugs and alcohol took control of his father. He was surrounded by abuse and violence. This was not only in his home but on the streets. “It was broad daylight and a guy in this alley parked his car, walked over to three guys … and gunned them down, all three of them,” Casey said.

Because of this environment, Casey’s view of life became ‘cheap, and harming or hurting someone wasn’t a big deal.’ At the age of 11, he joined a gang that led him to total ruin. According to Casey, it was the beginning of a rough road to violence.

At 16-years-old, Casey committed murder.

Being in prison did not stop Casey from participating in gang activities, he still continued his lifestyle as a savage gang member, and he ended up in solitary confinement.

A woman from a Baptist church started to visit the prison and asked if she could approach the cell where Casey was.

“She came in there and asked the guards to approach my cell,” Casey said. “She said, ‘I’m going to pray for you. I’m going to put you on my ‘hit list.’ I’m going to pray for you.  … and Jesus is going to use you.”

At the time, Casey never imagined he would have a life-altering experience with God that would radically transform his life.

“I had a moment where Christ made Himself very real in my cell,” he said. “I knew for a fact that I had sinned before God. That became the pivotal point of change for me.”

Now describing himself as a born-again Christian, Diaz was nearly 24 when he emerged from prison with a story of how faith changed his life, and he has been sharing it with nationwide audiences ever since, while mentoring at-risk children. 

In a conversation with The Crime Report, Diaz discussed how law enforcement, parents, churches, and educators can work together to disrupt the violent gang culture plaguing communities in Central America and throughout major U.S. cities, the importance of positive male role models for youth, and why his story might help transform today’s youth.

Casey’s life changing experience was not something that he planned for or expected. It came about because one lady was willing to go to him and pray for him. Then the aftershock of God’s explosion that happened over 2000 years ago passed through Casey and is still spreading.

Embrace God’s explosions in your life and share the aftershock with others.

We Should Be Willing to Take a Risk Because it’s the Right Thing to Do

It’s All About Believing in the Right Thing and Having Faith

Do places have a memory?

Have you ever felt connected to a place through memories. These could be your memories or others.

I have this kind of connection at home. The house I live in was built in 1916 by my great grandfather. My grandmother on my mom’s side of the family grew up in this house. Then my mother and her sisters grew up here. Now I live there and have raised my family in this house.

To say that I have memories here is an understatement. I have childhood memories of Christmases, Sunday evening suppers, 4th of July fireworks, butchering chickens, putting hay in the barn and on and on. In discussions with my mom and aunts, I’ve heard stories of their memories, too.

All these memories, both heard and lived, have played a part in my feelings for this farm. It has been a part of making me who I am. It’s more than that…it is a part of who I am.

I can see my grandmother and mother running through the house in bare feet on the same floors that I walk on every day.

Last Sunday was Palm Sunday. This commemorates Jesus’s walking into Jerusalem and the people waving palm branches in greeting.

 On His way to Jerusalem, He walked over the Mount of Olives. Like my house holds memories for me, the Mount of Olives held memories for the Jews.

As Jesus walked over there, He would have seen King David as he was fleeing his son Absalom. He would have seen Zacharia as he prophesied. He would have seen all the faces of the people to be the first to be raised from the dead buried in the cemetery there on the Mount of Olives.

Memories are both good and bad. It’s up to us to decide which ones we are going to focus on.

Paul Veneto is a retired flight attendant who worked out of Logan International Airport. On Sept 10, he landed back home in Boston. The next day was off. That’s when United Flight 175, the flight he was an attendant on, flew into the World Trade Center.

He knew the people who were working on that flight. They were his friends and coworkers. This was hard for Paul, he could have been on that plane…he should have been on that plane. He felt guilty about it. Dealing with this Veneto fell into drug addiction.

After being off opioids for six years, in 2015 he decided he would walk the 220 miles from Boston to ground zero pushing a beverage cart to honor the memory of his coworkers and bring attention to them.

This is focusing on the good memories.

We need to remember that the things we do every day will be memories for us and others.

Sometimes this means making difficult and unpopular choices. It can be risky to do the right thing. As we approach Easter, we need to remember what Jesus did for us. He knew the price. He knew that it was risky, but He did it anyway…because it was the right thing to do.

When we are faced with scary situations, we need to remember Jesus and the sacrifice He made for us. Having faith in Him can give us the courage we need to do the scary things in life.

How We Deal with Suffering is a Decision That is Up to Us

It Helps a Lot When We Decide to NOT do it Alone

There is a lot of suffering out there, whether it’s illness, abusive relationships, someone taking advantage of someone else, or death. As hard as it is, these things are all a part of life.

It’s easy to get caught up in the struggle and pain of these situations. We wonder, why do these things happen. This is a question that we won’t be able to fully answer this side of eternity.

Even though there’s suffering, there are miracles happening around us every day.

It’s up to us to choose which we spend our energy focusing on.

A good example of this is the story of critical care surgeon Dr. Kathryn Butler.

She felt distant from God until she witnessed a medical miracle.

As she worked in the emergency room, she was treating a 22 year old man who had been bludgeoned with a baseball bat in his sleep. His wife, lying beside him, died during the assault and his four-year-old son witnessed everything.

Dr. Butler thrived on the urgency of the emergency room—the chaos, the opportunities to reach people in dire moments. Yet on this particular night she struggled to focus. She kept thinking of his four-year-old son in footed pajamas, and the images of brutality he might never forget.

While wrestling with these thoughts, paramedics rushed in with a 15-year-old boy dying from a gunshot wound. The bullet had torn open his aorta. He could not be saved.

While fighting back tears, her trauma pager went off again. Another 15-year-old boy. Another gunshot wound. This time, the bullet had struck the boy’s head.

The next morning, as she finished her shift, she wandered about as if lost. She despaired over how little life mattered to people. Each of her patients had suffered at the hand of someone who looked at him and saw no worth.

How could God allow such evil?

She had grown up as a nominal Christian. Her family observed certain Christian traditions, but never read the Bible or talked about the gospel together. She understood Christianity to be synonymous with good behavior.

After work, she drove for hours parking at a bridge that spanned the Connecticut River. She gripped the guardrail, tipping her face against the wind, breathed, and felt . . . nothing. She opened her mouth to pray, but no words came.

Doubt led to hopelessness, and hopelessness to despair. She dreamed of eternal sleep, of numbness, of annihilation. Thoughts of taking her own life troubled her daily. She fought the impulse to return to the bridge over the Connecticut River and jump over the railing. Only the love for her husband, Scottie, brought her home each evening.

Months later, Scottie lost his job. While she struggled with the problem of evil, he sought the church, understood the Word for the first time, and accepted Christ as his Savior. Scottie invited her to join him in worship, but she remained disillusioned. When she finally attended church to appease him, everything seemed awkward and foreign.

Later she transitioned to work in the ICU. Among her patients there was a middle-aged man who suffered cardiac arrest after a hip replacement. A lack of oxygen during the arrest had caused severe brain injury and neurologists predicted he would never recover.

The man’s wife and daughters would be at his bedside daily praying for a miracle.

One morning, the man’s wife was at his bedside, singing. As Dr. Butler approached his wife said, “I was praying and praying last night, and when I woke up, I knew everything would be fine. God told me he’s going to be just fine.”

Dr. Butler admired her conviction and her hope, especially since Dr. Butler had neither.

Yet her husband’s clinical data promised that everything would not be fine.

Over the next few weeks his wife continued to sing and pray. The medical staff struggled to conceal their worry. They would shake their heads and cast each other glances that said, “This is heartbreaking.”

One afternoon, he moved his toe. The doctor said, “I’m sorry, but it was probably just a reflex.

“No,” his wife insisted. “Watch.” She put a hand on his shoulder and shouted into his ear for him to wiggle his right big toe. He did.

The next day, he turned his head toward them. Then, he blinked on command. In two weeks, he was awake. In three, he sat in a chair.

At best, the neurologists had anticipated he might occasionally track moving objects. No one expected that his condition would so dramatically resolve.

Medical science could not explain his recovery.

Dr. Butler suspected she had witnessed a miracle. Yet, still wrestled with God. How could He bestow such blessings, yet allow suffering?

Dr. Butler’s husband continued to encourage her to read the Bible. So, she started with the Gospels, then Romans. As she read with a newly opened heart there was unveiled Christ’s love that she had never fathomed.

The agony He suffered for our sake. He had endured heartache and had confronted the face of evil. And He bore such affliction—our affliction—for us. Romans 5:1–8 revealed the awesome magnitude of God’s love for us.

He knows suffering.

The Lord took away Dr. Butler’s despair and fashioned a canvas for His perfect work in her. Just as Christ raised Lazarus so that others might believe, so he redeems suffering—the gunshot wounds, the mourning, the lost jobs, the despondency beside bridge railings—for his glory.

In his mercy, he descends to buoy us up, and to complete miracles we cannot comprehend. He pours blessings upon us every day, but also the hard nights, and every breath in between.

What’s important to remember is that we don’t have to go through these difficulties alone. There is God, family and friends to help us through.

It’s up to us to believe.

Starting a Conversation with Someone Can Be a Scary Thing

Why Do We Find This Simple Act to be So Terrifying?

Most of us are uncomfortable in situations when we are surrounded by people that we don’t know. It can be hard to start a conversation with people in these kinds of circumstances.

I know that I find this hard. For me, I often feel like what I have to say isn’t important. My initial feelings are those of inadequacy. This discomfort then becomes my focus, and I’m not fully engaged. Then, afterwards I can’t remember much…including people’s names.

It’s easy to get caught up in what we think others think, but ultimately, it comes down to being comfortable with who we are.

In the story of the woman at the well, John 4:4-42, Jesus is traveling through Samaria, a country of people that the Jews did not get along with. This issue was serious enough that many times when going from Galilee to Judea, Jews would go around the country of Samaria rather than go through it.

Jesus was resting by a well in Samaria, when a Samaritan women came to draw some water. Jesus asked her if she would give him a drink. This surprised the women because…He was a Jew.

Their willingness to have this conversation and talk with each other led to her being saved, which led to many more Samaritans being saved…

Their willingness to have an open and honest conversation was life changing.

Some conversations are harder than others, especially when we’ve done something that causes damage or harm to others.

This is the story of Joe and Amy. In 1992, Joe Avila was driving drunk and hit and killed Amy Wall, a teenage girl. Joe fled the scene of the accident and was later arrested for second-degree murder. While in jail in the days that followed Joe was afraid, sad, and angry…he was looking for a way to kill himself.

Two lives were destroyed the night Joe Avila killed Amy Wall, but God wouldn’t let their story end there.

While preparing for his murder trial, Joe checked into a six-month sobriety program with the Salvation Army. It was there that, as Joe explains, God “put some people in my life who made me understand what reconciliation was and forgiveness was. “A few months into the program, he came to the decision that would impact him, his family, and the Wall family, too.

Although Joe expressed remorse and went to rehab, the judge still had little faith that Joe was saved from his alcoholism and sentenced him to 12 years.

For the next seven and a half years, Joe was incarcerated at California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo, California. Choosing to make the most of his life behind bars, Joe spent his time serving the prison’s hospice patients. Through Prison Fellowship Angel Tree, Joe was able to remain a presence in his daughters’ lives. And he served in the chapel, sharing the Gospel with his fellow prisoners—the highlight of his incarceration.

Not long after Joe’s release, his mentor called to say that Amy’s brother, Derek, wanted to meet with him. For years Joe had prayed that God would help him reconcile with Amy’s family. Even so, Joe was nervous about the meeting.

That first meeting with Derek was several hours long. Derek told Joe about all the things he and Amy used to do together, how much he loved her, and that he had thought Joe was a monster who should get the electric chair for what he had done.

But then Derek explained that his family had been following Joe’s progress behind bars. They knew he was trying to make his life better.

Joe told Derek something he had long wanted to say: “I’m really sorry for what I’ve done, and I hope that someday you can forgive me.”

Later, Joe’s mentor called again. This time, Rick Wall, Amy’s father, wanted to see Joe. During that meeting, something miraculous occurred.

Rick told Joe about the two days a year when he visits Amy’s grave—on her birthday and the anniversary of her death. And then Rick said, “Joe, I know what you’ve been doing for a long time now, even when you were in prison, and I approve of it.”

Joe’s prayers for reconciliation were being answered. “Rick Wall, Amy’s father, forgave me before I even asked him to forgive me,” Joe says.

You want to talk about a hard conversation. Most of us will never experience these kinds of hard conversations. In both situations there was open honesty and forgiveness.

We need to remember that God made us in His image, and God doesn’t make mistakes. It’s up to us to believe in ourselves.

If the Samaritan woman at the well and Joe Avila can have hard conversations like this…we can too.