Telling Ourselves the Truth

It is freeing.

George Washington Carver became one of his generation’s most honored and beloved scientists by focusing on a simple peanut. Carver eventually found some 300 uses for this common food item. Carver attributed all of his scientific discoveries to God.

Carver remarked he once asked God to explain the universe to him, but felt God saying that was too large of a task. When he asked for something he could handle, he believed God directed his focus to the peanut. Carver said he would be helpless if God did not pull back the curtain of truth.

Telling ourselves the truth and recognizing our place in God’s plans can be a freeing experience. The truth reminds us of our reliance on the Lord. The truth is fear and anxiety may be a part of our current circumstances, and God will be there with us.

The truth was freeing for David.

David may have understood the freeing experience of telling himself the truth. Some have suggested David wrote the Psalms as therapy for himself. In Psalm 57, we find David hiding in a cave as Saul is pursuing him. Everything seems grim for David, but he understands the Lord will take care of him.

David writes in Psalm 57, “I am surrounded by fierce lions, who greedily devour human prey, whose teeth pierce like spears and arrows, and whose tongues cut like swords.” There is no doubt he felt the fear and anxiety of the current moment.

We too may feel the fear and anxiety of the current moment. The fear of things getting worse. The anxiety of our bank account balance dropping. What happens when the emergency fund is depleted? The confusion of conflicting data and mixed messages. The truth is life has fearful and anxious moments.

Like David, we can look at the bigger picture in these moments.

A bigger picture gives a more confident viewpoint.

David writes, “My heart is confident in you. My heart is confident. No wonder I can sing your praises. Wake up my heart…I will wake the dawn with my song. I will thank you, Lord, among all the people. I will sing your praises among the nations. For your unfailing love is as high as the heavens. Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the highest heavens. May your glory shine over all the earth.”

David was in the cave, but he knew God was beside him. David was being chased, but he knew God was shielding him. Amid his fear and anxiety, David told himself the truth concerning God’s presence.

Amid our fears and anxieties, we can echo the truth of God’s presence. The truth is freeing.

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a mountain range under a beige sky

Faith Overcomes Barriers

They told the man, “It can’t be done.” Climbing the mountain would be difficult, and there were giant obstacles standing in the way. “It can’t be done,” they continually repeated. Sound familiar?

There are barriers in life that seem like mountains. The goal is huge, the dream is enormous, and the calling seems impossible. We believe we know our purpose, but fulfilling it is overwhelming. So, we become disheartened. If this is you, the Bible offers encouragement.

Caleb was able to overcome a mountain.

The Bible records the story of Caleb. He faced much adversity on his path to fulfilling his purpose. Caleb kept hearing the phrase “it can’t be done,” but he was able to overcome the barriers thought to be disabling.

They said, “It can’t be done.”

Caleb was among the 12 spies who explored the land promised to Israel. Most of the spies came back with an unfavorable report. They did not believe it was possible to take possession of the land. They said, “It can’t be done.”

This is a disheartening statement.

“It can’t be done” is a short statement but has the power to demoralize the recipient. It did in Israel’s day; they heard the words causing panic and a lack of faith. Unfortunately, the same happens today.

We take steps to fulfill our purpose, and we are met with resistance; “it can’t be done,” we are told. Odds are we won’t be successful because of our background, socioeconomic status, or we have a disability. Society creates a stereotype deeming you and me unsuccessful, so we are instantly told, “it can’t be done.”

Hearing this phrase is discouraging. Our desire is to overcome barriers and fulfill our purpose, yet attempts are cut short by a few words. In turn, placing another barrier on the path. Caleb shows us how to respond when this occurs. He responded to the statement with faith.

Caleb was able to overcome the statement.

Caleb responded to the “can’t” statement with faith.

“If the Lord is pleased with us, he will let us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us,” Caleb says in Numbers 14:8.

Caleb remembered the Lord had already helped Israel, and he knew the Lord would help them again. Caleb had faith, which is the most important key to be an overcomer.

Caleb had a proper understanding of his own abilities. He understood his own capabilities and limits. We too need to have a proper self-image. We have limits, and it’s in our weaknesses God does some amazing work.

More important than a proper self-image, Caleb believed in the limitless power of the Lord. If the Lord was with Israel, Caleb knew they would be victorious. The same is true for us. If the Lord is with us, we will be victorious.

Caleb’s faith propelled him past doubt to knowing the Lord would help Israel accomplish the purpose.

His faith allowed him to take a mountain.

Caleb remained faithful as life continued. Israel had to stay in the desert 40 years because of their disbelief. Caleb continued living the life of an overcomer, and when he was 85 years old, Israel had taken possession of the land, and there was a mountain needing conquered.

This was no ordinary mountain. Its inhabitants were giants. Caleb faced some barriers in taking this portion of land, but he believed he could. Again, Caleb’s faith propelled him past doubt to knowing the Lord would help him.

Caleb was not someone satisfied with the average or commonplace. His goals and dreams were big. His purpose was important, and his faith was strong. There were barriers standing between Caleb and fulfilling his purpose, but Caleb’s faith helped him overcome the barriers.

Our faith needs to propel us past doubting to knowing.

Our goals and dreams are big. Our purpose is important, so we need our faith to be strong. There will be barriers standing in our way. Some may seem as large as a mountain occupied by giants, but we can overcome them. The Lord will be with us as we accomplish the purpose, he has given us. Like Caleb, our faith needs to propel us past doubting to knowing the Lord will help us.

Acting

Faith is like muscle. The more it is used, the more it builds. Build up your faith by taking steps to accomplish your purpose. Identify one or two steps you can take in the next week, and in faith, take them. See what happens.

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God uses Messy People to do Amazing Work

No one is perfect. We are messy people, and sometimes our lives can be a little messy. We make mistakes. We have regrets, and we have many struggles. All of this can make life dirty at times, and we may wonder how the Lord can have a purpose for a life as messed up as ours. He does; the Lord uses messy people.

The Bible says liars, cheats, and prostitutes were all used by the Lord. Their lives were anything but clean; they were not perfect. They seemed to be the least likely to be used by God, yet he used them to do some amazing work. They were messy people with messed up lives, but the Lord still had a purpose for them.

As we read the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1, we find a messy cast of characters.

David

David makes the list. David lusted after Bathsheba, had her husband Uriah killed to cover up an affair, and had a family life filled with turbulence. Yet, the Lord used him. Scripture even says David was a man after God’s own heart.

Ruth

Ruth was poor, and it seemed she had few opportunities. She was humble and dedicated to her mother-in-law. Life was hard as Ruth was forced to walk behind the harvesters hoping enough food was left to provide for her and her mother-in-law. Ruth developed a relationship with Boaz, and they had a son. Ruth’ life took her from rags to riches, from impoverished to having plenty, from unknown to finding a place in the Lord’s lineage.

Jacob

Jacob is used by the Lord to spite being a liar and cheater. Jacob wanted his father’s blessing, but since he was younger than his brother, he had to lie and cheat to get it. One day while his brother was hunting, Jacob pretended to be Esau so Isaac would bless him. Jacob was dishonest. He lied to his father and cheated his brother, yet Jacob had a grand purpose for his life.

Judah

Judah is listed in the family lineage though he hated Joseph. Judah and his brothers sold Joseph as a slave hoping to never see him again, yet God used them in his plan.

Tamar

Tamar is listed. Tamar’s life was filled with heartbreak. She was widowed twice and promised a third husband, but the man and Tamar were never married. Trying to fix things herself, Tamar disguises herself as a prostitute and tricks Judah. Judah has intercourse with Tamar, and she gives birth to a son placing her in this genealogy. Tamar’s life was messy, but she is in the genealogy of the messiah.

These are dirty stories of messy lives, and it might even be shocking to think the Lord used such messy people, but he does. The Lord did not sanction the messiness, but he overcame it to do some amazing work.

The Lord can use us in the same way. Our lives may be smeared with many mistakes, regrets, and struggles, but the Lord can overcome all of them. To spite being messy, you and I have a purpose to fulfill. The Lord will help us even though we are not perfect.

“For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord,” in Jeremiah 29:11. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.”

Life may get a little dirty at times, but the Lord will help us overcome it. He will help you and me complete our calling and fulfill our purpose. The Lord uses messy people to do some amazing work.

Acting

Remind yourself the Lord uses people who are not perfect, and he will help you realize and fulfill your calling.

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Not Home

“This is my temporary home. It’s not where I belong.”

Music is a messenger for the Lord’s message, and the message is often absorbed by the listener without realizing it. The message is interwoven in lyrics which capture our attention and grab our hearts. Temporary Home, by Carrie Underwood, is a powerful deliverer of the Lord’s message.

The song reminds us where we are now is only a temporary home. It is not a permanent stop; we’re passing through on the way to our permanent home.

2 Corinthians 5:1 says, “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in Heaven not built by human hands.”

This verse helps you and I realize we are not home. Notice we are living in the temporary, a tent, now, and it will be replaced with the permanent, a building, in the future. What we experience now is only temporary.

2 Corinthians 5 continues, “For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened because we do not wish to be unclothed but clothed instead with our Heavenly dwelling. So that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.”

This is our temporary home. It’s not where we belong. Our permanent home, the one where we belong, will be in the future. We can look forward to it.

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Check out 4 Exciting Facts about Heaven.

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wall clock showing time as 5:50

Today Counts

The people were grumbling; they believed the lie the goal was too big. They did not understand how the Lord was going to help them. The obstacles standing in the way blocked their vision. Quickly forgetting how the Lord helped them previously, Israel did not believe they could move forward. They were stuck in the lie they were telling themselves, so they rebelled.
They grumbled against God and Moses. Their grumbling resulted in another 40 years wondering in the desert. Their grumbling also resulted in Moses pinning the words of Psalm 90.
This psalm reminds us today counts.
In verse 12, Moses requests, “Teach us to realize the brevity of life so that we may grow in wisdom.”
What you and I do today counts. The steps we take, decisions we make, and the direction we go counts. Time is fleeting, so we need to make the most of every moment.
What are we going to do today? Good stewards of time do not waste it. They execute in the moments they possess to fulfill their purpose. Each day counts in fulfilling our purpose, and when finished, Psalm 90 reminds us a difference for the Lord should be made.
“Let us, your servants, see you work again. Let our children see your glory. And may the Lord God show us his approval and make our efforts successful. Yes, make our efforts successful,” Moses requests in verses 16-17.
You and I should invest our time in things that will have a lasting impact. Be a friend or a mentor. Work on a project which will outlast us. Completing our calling will leave a legacy, so we must not fall into the trap of believing we cannot do it.
A generation of Israel fell into this trap and missed possessing the promised land. If they would have believed they could possess the land with the Lord’s help, they would have taken the land just as the Lord promised.
If you and I believe we can leave a legacy, we will with the Lord’s help. Every day counts, so be intentional. What are we going to do today?

Firm Foundation

“The house don’t fall when the bones are good.”

The Lord’s truth often shows up in song lyrics. Our ears are hearing and our hearts absorbing valuable truth that can help in life.

Maren Morris’ The Bones packs a valuable truth into a cool song. The story has love holding a romantic relationship together in adversity, but the idea of having a firm foundation can help all aspects of life.

The Bible tells a parable about two men who built houses. One man built his house on the sand, while the other dug through the sand to place his foundation on the rock. A storm came, and the plain flooded. The house sitting on the sand was wiped away, while the house resting on the rock remained standing. It stayed in place because of its foundation; its bones were good.

Life has its storms. They are unavoidable. The difficulties of life will strain our marriages, families, friendships, and business partnerships; however, those relationships will stay intact if they are built on a solid foundation.

The Bones reminds us to build on a solid foundation. Where are you building?

By the way, if you are like me and enjoy reading, you might be interested in Kindle Unlimited. You can read millions of eBooks plus listen to thousands of audio books for one low monthly price. It’s a great way to read.

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Fishermen throwing a net while standing on a boat

Fishermen are Team Players

If you’ve played a team sport, you’ve probably heard a coach say, “There’s no I in team,” or “Nowhere in team does it say me.” Teamwork is essential for success. Teammates must work together for the greater good of the team. Ego and self-centeredness must be set aside, and when the team succeeds, everyone on the team looks good. Members benefit from the team’s success.
Jesus understood the importance of teamwork, which is why he called fishermen. Fishermen are team players; they know how to work together.
Fishing, in Jesus’ day, was hard work. It required much manual labor. Manually pulling in a net full of fish took hard work. Everyone on the boat worked together to pull in the net. The crew worked together to pull in the net; the team worked together to achieve their goal. They did not allow one person to do all the work. Here’s an example.
The disciples had fished all night, but they had caught nothing. Jesus instructed Simon to put down the nets once more, and the nets were filled with fish and began to tear. Simon and the others on his boat were working hard, but they needed more help.
“A shout for help,” according to Luke 5:7, “brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.”
A shout for help brought out the whole team. The fishermen on the shore didn’t stand at a distance watching the others struggle. They went to work helping pull in the nets. The moment was right to catch fish, and the fishermen had to work as a unit to get the abundant catch into the boats. The fishermen had to work together as a team, and teamwork is a characteristic Jesus desired.
Teamwork is still a characteristic the Lord desires today. As Christians, Scripture calls you and I to work together to achieve a common goal. Our Goal is extending the Lord’s invitation of grace to the world. Achieving this goal requires teamwork, and in his grace, the Lord has equipped you and me to play our part on the team.
“In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well, so if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is encouraging others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously, and if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.”
The Bible reminds us we have a part to play, and our part is different than everyone else’s. Our role on the team is unique like us, and our role matters. The Lord desires teamwork.
And remember, your role is vital to the Lord’s team achieving the goal.

Listening to the Coach

“My wife says I don’t listen,” a husband remarked, “or at least I think that’s what she said. I really wasn’t listening.”

Listening is a valuable, and sometimes, difficult skill.

We live in a noisy world. Many messages and ideas are clamoring for an audience, and it is difficult to tune in and listen. Distractions try to grab our attention while we’re listening, and it can be a struggle. Listening is vital to success though, so it is a skill you and I must continually sharpen.

No matter the goal, listening will be a part of achieving it. Colleagues must listen to one another to complete a project. A salesperson can only identify a customer’s needs if he or she listens. A husband can only understand his wife’s needs if he listens. A wife can only understand her husband’s dreams if she listens. In a deafening stadium, a team can only hear the play if they listen to the coach.

 

Teams must listen to the coach. Someone must call plays and send the team in the right direction, and success is found when the team listens. Listening is an essential skill for success.

Jesus understood the importance of listening, which is why he called fishermen. Fishermen know how to take orders. They know how to listen to the coach.

Fishermen know how to listen to the coach.

Jesus called fishermen to be his disciples because they knew how to listen. He would offer instruction or direction, and the disciples would go to work without questioning his authority. Here are 3 examples.

1. Simon and Andrew responded immediately to Jesus.

Mark 1:18 says, “When Jesus called Simon and Andrew, at once they left their nets and followed him.”

Simon and Andrew responded immediately to Jesus. Some situations require an immediate response to instructions.

2. The nets were put down after a fishless night.

Luke 5:4-6 records, “When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Now go out where it is deeper, and let down the nets to catch some fish.’ ‘Master,’ Simon replied, ‘we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing, but if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.’ And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear.”

The disciples performed an action because Jesus gave a direction. I’ve often wondered how this account would be different if the fishermen had delayed in lowering the nets. Simon and his team lowered the nets simply because Jesus said to put them down.

3. A fishless night ended when the disciples placed the net on the opposite side of the boat.

After his resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples at the end of a fruitless night of fishing.

“He called out to them, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish?’ ‘No,’ they answered. He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish,” according to John 21:5-6.

Listening yielded great results. Jesus called fishermen because they knew how to listen to the coach.

The fishermen Jesus called were not dumb; they were not puppets reacting at the pull of a string. They understood when it was appropriate to ask questions and when it was necessary to just act. As fishermen, they understood sometimes the difference between failure and success is the width of the boat and the time it takes to get to the other side. Listening was a characteristic Jesus desired.

Take time to listen.

Listening is still a desired characteristic. It is okay to ask questions and try to understand methodology, but sometimes, it is vital to simply listen to the Lord.

  • Proverbs 1:5 advises, “Let the wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser. Let those with understanding receive guidance.”
  • In Psalm 46:10, the Lord says, “Be still and know that I am God.”

We live in a world filled with noise and chatter, which makes it hard to listen. However, victory can come through listening to the Lord.

One way to sharpen this skill is scheduling a noise and distraction free time each day. Use the time to read Scripture and pray. The quiet will provide an opportunity to hear what the Lord is saying.

Listening is also vital for successful relationships. Here are 10 steps to effective listening, which may help sharpen your skills.

Fishermen were good listeners, and listening is a valuable characteristic.

Acting

How good of a listener are you? Take a small step today to sharpen your listening skills. It may be turning off distractions while reading, putting down your phone when someone is talking with you, or slowing your pace to absorb what is being said. Share the steps you are taking to become a better listener in the comments below.

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Fishermen throwing a net while standing on a boat

Why Fishermen? They Can Relate.

“I don’t think I’m going to go to church any longer,” Beth told her mom from the passenger’s seat. The two were pulling out of the church’s parking lot after attending a Sunday morning service. Beth, a college Sophomore, was home for the weekend, and her mom, Vicki, thought it would be nice if the two attended a church service.

Beth went on to explain, “It’s not that I don’t believe in God. I do; I believe God exists. I’m just not sure God is in there with those people.”

Vicki replied, “Yeah, I see what you are saying. I wonder that too.”

Have you ever wondered why Jesus called fishermen? Jesus would have had his pick of people to call, and he chooses to call fishermen. He did not call scholars, individuals well versed in the Old Testament, or religious leaders; 7 of the first 12 disciples were fishermen. Jesus called them because they possessed characteristics, he found desirable. Jesus called fishermen because they were relatable.

Fishermen are relatable.

Jesus spent most of his time outside the synagogue, and the religious leaders would often become upset because of the class of people around him.

Luke 15:1-2 says, “Now the tax collectors and ‘sinners’ were all gathering around to hear Jesus, but the Pharisees and teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Jesus was relatable, and he called fishermen. They were also relatable. Fishermen were hard working, had families to support and bills to pay, and could easily relate to the stresses of everyday life. The fishermen Jesus called didn’t completely understand the Bible or everything taking place, but they could relate to the people who came.

As word concerning Jesus spread, people from all walks of life came to hear his message and accept his invitation of grace. Most people who came to hear Jesus were ordinary folks. They were fishermen, tax collectors, shop owners, government officials; they were moms and dads. They were individuals who had to work today to eat tomorrow. And the fishermen, turned disciples, could relate.

Christians need to be relatable.

Beth and Vicki were struggling because they did not feel they related to the people at church, and maybe the people at church did not feel like they could relate to Beth and Vicki; however, a relationship fostered outside the church walls might reveal lots of common ground. Christians, in many ways, are like the fishermen.

As word concerning Jesus still spreads, it is still ordinary folks who come to hear his message and accept his invitation of grace. Those coming are assembly line workers, customer service representatives, administrative professionals, salespeople; those coming are moms and dads and their families. They desire to find someone who relates to them; someone who has bills to pay and understands the stresses of life.

God called us because we are those people. We are the people who can relate. We are the ordinary folks. We are the friends and neighbors who can relate.

You may feel you have nothing to offer, but you do.

You may feel you have no insight to give, but you do.

You may feel like your story cannot encourage or inspire anyone, but it does.

You and I are relatable to the people around us, and we are how they see the Lord. Jesus didn’t call fishermen because they were experts; he called them because they could relate to people. You and I don’t have to be experts; you and I just need to be ourselves.

Acting

Be intentional with your relationships today. Allow someone to relate to the Lord through you today. It may be through a kind word, generous act, or simple and polite interaction.

Know someone who may benefit from this post? Please share it with him or her.

By the way, if you are like me and enjoy reading, you might be interested in Kindle Unlimited. You can read millions of eBooks plus listen to thousands of audio books for one low monthly price. It’s a great way to read.

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a stack of folded newspapers

Offering Grace

She’s on a journey to forgive her rapist.

She forgave the teenagers who mutilated her face.

They forgave the man who slaughtered their children.

These are certainly attention-grabbing headlines, and they start telling the stories of horrific pain and tremendous loss, but they do more. We are not only captivated by the heart wrenching tragedy but the victim’s response.

Each of these stories is an incredible illustration of grace. Each victim offers forgiveness to an individual who did the unthinkable. In turn, serving as an illustration to us.

As Christians, we are encouraged to offer forgiveness, and C. S. Lewis says, “Everyone believes forgiveness is a grand idea until he has something to forgive.” Forgiving can be one of the hardest things you and I are asked to do, but it can also be one of the most liberating.

I’m far from perfect, and I do not have this part of the Christian journey completely figured out. I was encouraged to explore it some more by these stories, and I hope you are as well.

She’s on a journey of forgiveness after rape.

Beverly had a supposed friend who worked for the state. He requested some of her time, and they scheduled an appointment. Entering Beverly’s home under the façade of needing her time, the man took much more than her time; he raped her.

He successfully denied and covered up the act, and he continued to move up the political ladder. Beverly would see him on the news, encounter him at parties, and would be upset.

Two years after the rape, Beverly met a friend who told her of Christ’s forgiveness and protection. Beverly decided to accept Christ’s invitation of grace and begin the journey of maximizing Christ in her life and healing from the hurt caused by the rapist. The Journey may not be completed, but it is started. Beverly’s story is told in Facing Your Giants.

She forgave the teenagers who mutilated her face.

Victoria Ruvolo was on her way home in November 2004. She was returning home after attending a family member’s recital, and it was late, and driving was a little difficult because of the freezing rain. The car she was about to pass may have caught her attention, but she doesn’t remember. The teenage boy hanging out the window may have caught her attention, but again, she does not remember. Nor does she remember seeing the 20-pound frozen turkey the boy was holding in his hand.

The boy launched the turkey at Victoria’s car, smashing her windshield, bending the steering wheel inward, and breaking every bone in her face. Victoria’s face suffered extensive damage and had to be completely restructured.

It took an 8-hour surgery and 3-week hospital stay to even begin the road to recovery. While Victoria was recovering, the wheels of justice were spinning, and the public was voicing outrage at the crime.

Fast forward to August 2005 and enter the court room. The young man who launched the turkey pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and received a sentence of 6 months behind bars, 5 years’ probation, community service, and counseling. The lenient sentence is given at the request of Victoria.

She too was in the court room, and after the hearing, Victoria and the young man came face to face. Both sobbing, Victoria said, I forgive you. I want your life to be all it can be.” The pain and agony caused to Victoria was met with grace and mercy. Victoria’s story is told in Captured by Grace.

They forgave the man who slaughtered their children.

In October 2006, a gunman entered a one-room Amish schoolhouse and ordered the teacher, teacher’s assistant, and boys to leave. The 10 girls in the class were left alone with the gunman. He covered the windows and was planning for a long siege, but as state police officers surrounded the schoolhouse, he shot the girls and killed himself. 5 girls died, and the other 5 were severely wounded. This was not the only part of the story which made headlines though.

The Amish community publicly forgave the gunman. They befriended the gunman’s wife and children. Marie Monville, the gunman’s wife, recalls to CNN the community showered her family with gifts. They waived at her on the way to the bus stop, and they even attended her husband’s funeral. The families, who were victims of a heinous and unthinkable act, offered grace. Monville tells her story in One Light Still Shines.

Acting

As I mentioned, I do not have forgiveness completely figured out. The individuals in these stories are true illustrations of offering grace to one another, and they encourage me to explore offering forgiveness. I hope they do you as well.

Join me in learning the act of forgiveness and experiencing the liberation it brings.

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