The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Stories of Inspiration

Angels Came To My Rescue

My name is Bruce Van Natta, and I love to work on trucks.

I’m a self-employed diesel mechanic; also a Christian family man living out my power truck dreams and providing for my wife and four children. I never gave a second thought to the danger of working on engines that weigh thousands of pounds, until November 16, 2006.

I was working on a Peterbilt logging truck about an hour from our home. The guy I was working with, who drives the truck, asked me if I would look at one more leak before I left.

So, if you could picture one of these great big Peterbilt trucks, I slid under the front big bumper feet first. The front axle was jacked up and the right front wheel removed.

I said to him, “You jump up inside and see what the temperature of the engine is.” The axle is right across my chest at this point, maybe an inch or two above me.

The 20-ton capacity jack holding up the truck, shot out from its position. This 10,000 to 12,000 pounds of weight that’s on this axle, came down across my mid-section like a blunt guillotine, and nearly crushed me in half.

I tasted the blood in my throat when it fell on me. I looked down and could see there was less than three inches of space between the bottom of the axle and the cement.

I knew the thickest part of my body was maybe two inches thick.

I begged the man that jacked up the truck to get me out from under it. He didn’t want to because he could tell that I might have a broken back and I did.

The vertebrae in my spine were cracked the width of the axle.

I tried to pull myself out from under the truck. It was the most incredible pain you can think of. I got myself to where my head was sticking out from under the front bumper.

The next thing I did was to call out, “Lord, help me.”

I called it out again. “Lord, please help me!”

I felt strange and the pain left my body.

At that point, I was unconscious. My spirit left my body and floated to the ceiling, and was looking down at the accident scene. The man I had been working with was on his knees next to my body. I could faintly hear him saying, ‘I’m sorry. I’m sorry.’

But on each side of him, also on their knees were angels. They might have been about eight feet tall. They didn’t have wings, just very broad shoulders.

There was a bright light shining around each one of them. They didn’t move, and I never heard them say anything. They just had their arms under the truck, not holding the truck up; but had their arms angled in toward my body. There was no pain, just peace. I can’t describe the peace I felt in the garage.

I knew I had a serious choice to make.

I was definitely on the edge of life and death. There were two thoughts in my head. One was, ‘Shut your eyes and give up and die. You are just going to go to heaven anyway.’ The other voice in my head was much quieter and not much more than a whisper, ‘If you want to live, you’re going to have to fight, and you are going to have to fight hard.’

The next thing I knew, my spirit went back down into my body.

I was conscious while I was flown on a life flight to the hospital. Doctors there doubted I would survive the next few hours. My ribs were broken, my pancreas and spleen crushed, and several major arteries had been severed.

We found out from doctors later, I had five places that major arteries were completely severed. I found out from the doctors there was a medical study done in 2001. According to that study, by the University of South California, they used my case and compared it against that study. They can’t find anyone else in the world that has lived with five major arteries being severed.

I should have bled to death in a few minutes. So my thought is, the angels were there to somehow hold me together. I stayed in the hospital for over two months and survived five major surgeries. I still had overwhelming obstacles to overcome. Almost 75 percent of my small intestine was crushed in the accident and had to be removed. An adult has 18-20 feet of small intestine. I was down to less than 100 cm of small intestine.

Someone came in and told us that he didn’t expect me to live much more than a year, that I was going to starve to death.

I was losing weight very rapidly: and they were feeding me intravenously. My once 180 lb. frame dropped to 126 lbs. My family was praying and my community rallied around me. I also received an unexpected visitor in my hospital room one day.

The Lord woke up a man in New York two days in a row. This was someone that I met one time on vacation. He came and prayed for me in the hospital. He put his palm on my forehead, and he prayed the way Jesus taught us to pray. He spoke to the mountain, in this case my small intestine, ‘I command you to grow back in the name of Jesus Christ.’ I felt like 220 volts come out of his palm and into my forehead. I could feel my intestines moving around and up and down.

After nine long months of surgeries and hospital stays, I was finally able to feed myself and gained weight, back up to 170 lbs.

When I returned for testing, radiology reports and doctors confirmed that I had almost nine feet of small intestine. They said the small intestines the Lord gave back to me were twice as good as normal. They work just as if I had all of it; absorb the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients I take into my body.

Over and over, the Lord kept confounding the doctors from the point of saying I shouldn’t live. I should have bled to death. My intestines miraculously were growing back. God was showing us that miracles were happening. My pancreas rejuvenated by itself. My spleen rejuvenated by itself.

Miracle after miracle, God was just showing up. He is a miracle worker.

-Bruce Van Natta -

Overcoming Obstacles: How Abraham Lincoln Defeated Depression

Recognized as one of our country’s greatest presidents, Abraham Lincoln is well known for his impressive accomplishments, including preserving the union during the Civil War and signing The Emancipation Proclamation into law to end slavery. But he is less known for his ability to overcome a significant and ever-present obstacle in his life—clinical depression.

Lincoln’s humble beginnings—famously born in a small log cabin—also included a history of depression. Both his parents, Thomas and Nancy Lincoln, are believed to have also suffered from it. Though there are many factors related to it, researchers say that a vulnerability to depression can be inherited, which may have been the case with Lincoln.

By studying Lincoln’s own letters and the observations of his friends and associates, historians have concluded that Lincoln battled with chronic depression for much of his life. In fact, it wasn’t something Lincoln hid from his friends or the public. Even amidst the enthusiasm and excitement of the 1860 Republican convention in Illinois, an observer called Lincoln “one of the most diffident and worst plagued men I ever saw.” He had spells that his friends described as “melancholy,” sometimes spoke of suicide and described the world as “hard and grim.”

The rest of the story

Because I Was Told I Can

About 6 months ago, I joined a gym. Every morning, there is one personal trainer there that works out at the same time that my little group does our workout. He does his “routine” with such a quiet determination that he makes it all look very easy; although I know all too well how hard he is working. When I am tempted to whine and quit, I watch him push himself to his own limits, and I find myself motivated to work as hard and without complaint.

A couple of weeks ago, I was watching him do chin ups. He made them look effortless. I broke away from my group and asked him if I could try a chin up. I had never tried before, but he just made it look so easy. He eagerly stepped aside and encouraged me to step up to the bar. I pulled myself up without thinking…once…then twice.

That was all I had in me, I had no strength left.

I told him that was all I had, so he stepped up behind me and pushed me up for a third and fourth “pull.” It felt so good. I felt strong and I smiled from ear to ear.

The next day when I was done my workout, I asked him to spot me again. Again, I did two. Again on day three and so on. I thought it was pathetic that I could only do two, but when I came to the gym at the end of the week, he was standing there just shaking his head. When I asked him what was up, he said he was impressed with my chin ups. He told me that when they are training firefighters, the men are required to do 5 chin ups, and women are required to do 1 or 2. He explained that most people can’t do them at all, and that he was impressed that I could.

He further told me that if I practiced every day, I would be doing 5 or 6 in no time. At this point I should probably add that I am 50 years old…and female.

The moral of this story…because I didn’t know any better, because he told me I could, I saw no reason to doubt. I just jumped in and gave it a try - and I did it! I didn’t see it as a great accomplishment, because I didn’t realize that it was difficult and it became my goal to get stronger. No one told me I couldn’t do it, in fact, I was encouraged to try. Had he told me initially how difficult it was, I more than likely would not have tried at all. Or I might have tried, but given it only half an effort, because failure would have been the expectation. I applaud him for letting me believe that for me, it was not only a possibility, but that success was a realistic expectation.

How many times have we decided not to try at all because we were told that we couldn’t, that we shouldn’t, that we had expectations that were too ambitious? How many times have we told our children, our friends and our co-workers that they couldn’t do something; that their ideas were impossible or beyond reach? How many times have we told ourselves that we would fail before we even started?

I started to ponder examples that I had witnessed and this came to mind…I recalled a conversation a friend of mine had with his daughter just prior to her heading off to university. He spoke to her (with good intentions) of how hard she would have to work in order to succeed. University wasn’t like High School - this was the real world and now she would have to grow up. This child quit after two years. Another friend spoke to her daughter of the adventure she was embarking on and how proud she was. I remember how we laughed because the mother already had her outfit picked out for convocation day! This child just graduated with her degree in physiology.

Looking back, neither daughter was more intelligent than the other. Was it the silent expectations (or lack thereof) that predicted the outcome?

I have a new approach now. I have experienced first hand how good it feels to rush in so innocently. To believe that we CAN do it and go on to accomplish exactly what we set out to do, because no one told us we couldn’t. I’ve learned how important it is to support others (and ourselves) in our endeavors and to let them know that we believe they can do it rather than telling them we think that they can’t.

I personally want to be like my trainer; standing there behind the people that I love, encouraging them, believing in them and being ready to catch them when they get tired. I will be the one that is there on the second and third day making sure they try again, because I know they CAN.

What a powerful lesson this has been for me. I’ll be doing “5” in no time at all. Because I was told I CAN.

-by Jan Graham-

Overcoming Obstacles: How Louis Zamperini Remained ‘Unbroken’

Initially, Louis Zamperini’s greatest obstacle was his own mortality. During World War II, his entire focus was on surviving, and the odds continued to be against him. He joined the Air Force in 1941 and was stationed on the Pacific as a bombardier on a B-24 Liberator bomber. At that time, flying into combat was only half the danger. Due to numerous technical problems and inadequate training, more than 50,000 airmen died in non-combat related accidents. So it was not unusual that Louis’ plane crashed into the ocean as he and his crewmates flew on a search and rescue mission for another plane that went down earlier.

What was unusual, however, was that Louis survived the crash and the subsequent 47 days on a raft.

“The odds of being rescued if you ended up on a life raft were terrible,” Laura Hillenbrand, author of Zamperini’s biography Unbroken, told NPR in 2010. “The rafts were very poorly equipped.” Louis and his crewmate survived at sea longer than any other known survivors, drinking rainwater and eating the fish they managed to catch.

But his ordeal and struggle to survive had only just begun.

Emaciated and weak from sitting in the lifeboat, Louis was discovered and captured by the Japanese and eventually sent to a brutal POW camp where he was beaten, starved and overworked. Due to his fame—he had competed in the 1936 Olympics and was one of the fastest distance runners in the world—a jealous and sadistic prison guard, Mutsuhiro Watanabe, whom the prisoners nicknamed “the Bird,” singled Louis out for particularly cruel treatment. These events are dramatized in the movie Unbroken, based on Hillenbrand’s best-selling book. Amazingly, he survived two years in the POW camps before being released when the war ended. -Elizabeth Street-

Continued below

It’s Little Things that Make a Big Difference.

There was a man taking a morning walk at or the beach. He saw that along with the morning tide came hundreds of starfish and when the tide receded, they were left behind and with the morning sun rays, they would die. The tide was fresh and the starfish were alive. The man took a few steps, picked one and threw it into the water. He did that repeatedly. Right behind him there was another person who couldn’t understand what this man was doing. He caught up with him and asked, “What are you doing? There are hundreds of starfish. How many can you help? What difference does it make?” This man did not reply, took two more steps, picked up another one, threw it into the water, and said, “It makes a difference to this one.”

What difference are we making? Big or small, it does not matter. If everyone made a small difference, we’d end up with a big difference, wouldn’t we?

After a few of the usual Sunday evening hymns, the church’s pastor slowly stood up, walked over to the pulpit and, before he gave his sermon for the evening, briefly introduced a guest minister who was in the service that evening. In the introduction, the pastor told the congregation that the guest minister was one of his dearest childhood friends and that he wanted him to have a few moments to greet the church and share whatever he felt would be appropriate for the service.

With that, an elderly man stepped up to the pulpit and began to speak. “A father, his son, and a friend of his son were sailing off the Pacific Coast,” he began, “when a fast approaching storm blocked any attempt to get back to shore. The waves were so high that, even though the father was an experienced sailor, he could not keep the boat upright, and the three were swept into the ocean as the boat capsized.”

The old man hesitated for a moment, making eye contact with two teenagers who were, for the first time since the service began, looking somewhat interested in the story. The aged minister continued with his story. “Grabbing a rescue line, the father had to make the most excruciating decision of his life: to which boy he would throw the other end of the life line. He only had seconds to make the decision. The father knew that his son was a Christian, and he also knew that his son’s friend was not. The agony of his decision could not be matched by the torrent of the waves. As the father yelled out, ‘I love you, son!’, he threw out the life line to the son’s friend. By the time the father had pulled the friend back to the capsized boat, his son had disappeared beneath the raging swells into the black of night. His body was never recovered.”

By this time, the two teenagers were sitting up straight in the pew, anxiously waiting for the next words to come out of the old minister’s mouth. “The father,” he continued, “knew his son would step into eternity with Jesus, and he could not bear the thought of his son’s friend stepping into an eternity without Jesus. Therefore, he sacrificed his son to save the son’s friend. How great is the love of God that He could do the same for us. Our heavenly Father sacrificed His only begotten Son that we could be saved. I urge you to accept His offer to rescue you and take hold of the life line.”

With that, the old man turned and sat back down in his chair as silence filled the room. The pastor again walked slowly to the pulpit and delivered a brief sermon with an invitation at the end. However, no one responded to the appeal. Within minutes after the service, the two teenagers were at the old man’s side. “That was a nice story,” politely said one of the boys, “but I don’t think it was very realistic for a father to give up his only son’s life in hopes that the other boy would become a Christian.”

“Well, you’ve got a point there,” the old man replied, glancing down at his worn Bible. Sorrow began to overtake the old man’s smiling face as he once again looked up at the boys and said, “It sure isn’t very realistic, is it? But I’m here today to tell you that I understand more than most the pain God must have felt to give up His only Son. For you see, I’m the man who lost his son to the ocean that day, and my son’s friend that I chose to save is your pastor.”

God Created the Dog

On the first day, God created the dog and said: “Sit all day by the door of your house and bark at anyone who comes in or walks past. For this, I will give you a life span of twenty years.”

The dog said: “That’s a long time to be barking. How about only ten years and I’ll give you back the other ten?”

So God agreed with the dog.

On the second day, God created the monkey and said: “Entertain people, Do tricks, and make them laugh. For this, I’ll give you a twenty-year life span.”

The monkey said: “Monkey tricks for twenty years? That’s a pretty long time to perform. How about I give you back ten like the dog did?”

And God agreed with the monkey.

On the third day, God created the cow and said: “You must go into the field with the farmer all day long and suffer under the sun, have calves, and give milk to support the farmer’s family. For this, I will give you a life span of sixty years.”

The cow said: “That’s kind of a tough life you want me to live for sixty years. How about twenty and I’ll give back the other forty?”

And God agreed again.

On the fourth day, God created man and said: “Eat, sleep, play, marry and enjoy your life. For this, I’ll give you twenty years.” But man said: “Only twenty years? Could you possibly give me my twenty, the forty the cow gave back, the ten the monkey gave back, and the ten the dog gave back; that makes eighty, okay?”

“Okay,” said God, “You asked for it.”

So that is why the first twenty years we eat, sleep, play and enjoy ourselves. For the next forty years we slave in the sun to support our family. For the next ten years, we do monkey tricks to entertain the grandchildren. And for the last ten years, we sit on the front porch and bark at everyone.


When life gets tough… Which one are you?

Once upon a time a daughter complained to her father that her life was miserable and that she didn’t know how she was going to make it.

She was tired of fighting and struggling all the time. It seemed just as one problem was solved, another one soon followed.

Her father, a chef, took her to the kitchen. He filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Once the three pots began to boil, he placed potatoes in one pot, eggs in the second pot, and ground coffee beans in the third pot.

He then let them sit and boil, without saying a word to his daughter. The daughter, moaned and impatiently waited, wondering what he was doing.

After twenty minutes he turned off the burners. He took the potatoes out of the pot and placed them in a bowl. He pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl.

He then ladled the coffee out and placed it in a cup. Turning to her he asked. “Daughter, what do you see?”

“Potatoes, eggs, and coffee,” she hastily replied.

“Look closer,” he said, “and touch the potatoes.” She did and noted that they were soft. He then asked her to take an egg and break it.

After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, he asked her to sip the coffee. Its rich aroma brought a smile to her face.

“Father, what does this mean?” she asked.

He then explained that the potatoes, the eggs and coffee beans had each faced the same adversity– the boiling water.

However, each one reacted differently.

The potato went in strong, hard, and unrelenting, but in boiling water, it became soft and weak.

The egg was fragile, with the thin outer shell protecting its liquid interior until it was put in the boiling water. Then the inside of the egg became hard.

However, the ground coffee beans were unique. After they were exposed to the boiling water, they changed the water and created something new.

“Which are you,” he asked his daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a potato, an egg, or a coffee bean? “

Moral:In life, things happen around us, things happen to us, but the only thing that truly matters is what happens within us.

The Story of Richard Wurmbrand

“God, I know surely that You do not exist. But if perchance You exist, which I contest, it is not my duty to believe in You; it is Your duty to reveal Yourself to me.”

The young Jewish atheist who uttered that flippant prayer was Richard Wurmbrand, born in 1909 in Bucharest, Romania. Little did he know how completely God would answer him, call him to a life of service to Christ, and use him to raise up one of the strongest ministries in the world today that helps the persecuted church.

Salvation and Service

In 1938, in a remote Romanian village, an old German carpenter named Christian Wolfkes lay sick. The only person by his side giving aid and comfort was a Jewish follower of Christ. When Wolfkes recovered, he was so grateful to God that he prayed earnestly for the opportunity to share the gospel with a Jewish person. Although none lived in his village, still he prayed.

One day a young, newly married Jewish couple arrived on vacation. They were Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand. The carpenter enthusiastically gave Richard a Bible. Richard had read the Scriptures once but had gotten nothing from them. However, this time, his heart was stirred. He didn’t know why, until he learned the secret. The carpenter and his wife had spent many long hours every day praying for his salvation. “The Bible he gave me was written not so much in words, but in flames of love fired by his prayers,” Richard would write later.

The carpenter spoke about God’s unconditional love for the Jewish people (Dt. 7:6–7; Jer. 31:3), the Messianic fulfillments in Jesus, and Jesus’ purpose in coming to Earth: “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (Jn. 3:17). The Spirit of God freed Richard’s heart, and he believed. Sabina also came to faith and was so deeply changed she soon brought others to the Messiah. >>>>…ard-wurmbrand/

Tell Them

Some 14 years ago, I stood watching my university students file into the classroom for our opening session in the theology of faith.

That was the day I first saw Tommy. He was combing his hair, which hung six inches below his shoulders. My quick judgment wrote him off as strange – very strange.

Tommy turned out to be my biggest challenge.

He constantly objected to or smirked at the possibility of an unconditionally loving God.

When he turned in his final exam at the end of the course, he asked in a slightly cynical tone, “Do you think I’ll ever find God?”

“No,” I said emphatically.

“Oh,” he responded. “I thought that was the product you were pushing.”

I let him get five steps from the door and then called out.

“I don’t think you’ll ever find Him, but I am certain He will find you.”

Tommy shrugged and left. I felt slightly disappointed that he had missed my clever line.

Later I heard that Tommy had graduated, and I was grateful for that. Then came a sad report: Tommy had terminal cancer. Before I could search him out, he came to me. When he walked into my office, his body was badly wasted, and his long hair had fallen out because of chemotherapy. But his eyes were bright and his voice, for the first time, was firm.

“Tommy! I’ve thought about you so often. I heard you were very sick,” I blurted out.

“Oh, yes, very sick. I have cancer. It’s a matter of weeks.”

“Can you talk about it?”

“Sure. What would you like to know?”

“What’s it like to be only 24 and know that you’re dying?”

“It could be worse,” he told me, “like being 50 and thinking that drinking booze, seducing women and making money are the real ‘biggies’ in life.”

Then he told me why he had come.

“It was something you said to me on the last day of class. I asked if you thought I would ever find God, and you said no, which surprised me. Then you said, ‘But He will find you.’ I thought about that a lot, even though my search for God was hardly intense at that time. But when the doctors removed a lump from my groin and told me that it was malignant, I got serious about locating God. And when the malignancy spread into my vital organs, I really began banging against the bronze doors of heaven. But nothing happened.

Well, one day I woke up, and instead of my desperate attempts to get some kind of message, I just quit.

I decided I didn’t really care about God, an afterlife, or anything like that. I decided to spend what time I had left doing something more important. I thought about you and something else you had said: ‘The essential sadness is to go through life without loving. But it would be almost equally sad to leave this world without ever telling those you loved that you loved them.’ So I began with the hardest one: my dad.”

Tommy’s father had been reading the newspaper when his son approached him.

“Dad, I would like to talk with you.”

“Well, talk.”

“I mean, it’s really important.”

The newspaper came down three slow inches.

“What is it?”

“Dad, I love you. I just wanted you to know that.”

Tommy smiled at me as he recounted the moment. “The newspaper fluttered to the floor. Then my father did two things I couldn’t remember him doing before. He cried and he hugged me. And we talked all night, even though he had to go to work the next morning.

“It was easier with my mother and little brother,” Tommy continued. “They cried with me, and we hugged one another, and shared the things we had been keeping secret for so long. Here I was, in the shadow of death, and I was just beginning to open up to all the people I had actually been close to.

“Then one day I turned around and God was there.

He didn’t come to me when I pleaded with Him. Apparently He does things in His own way and at His own hour. The important thing is that you were right. He found me even after I stopped looking for Him.”

“Tommy,” I added, “could I ask you a favor? Would you come to my theology-of-faith course and tell my students what you told me?”

Though we scheduled a date, he never made it. Of course, his life was not really ended by his death, only changed. He made the great step from faith into vision. He found a life far more beautiful than the eye of humanity has ever seen or the mind ever imagined.

Before he died, we talked one last time. “I’m not going to make it to your class,” he said. “I know, Tommy.”

“Will you tell them for me? Will you . . . tell the whole world for me?”

“I will, Tommy. I’ll tell them.”

Martha Mason

Martha Mason graduated valedictorian of her high school and earned two college degrees at the top of the class—all while living her life in an iron lung.

Paralyzed by polio at age 11 in 1948 and confined 23 hours a day in an immobile, 800-pound horizontal tube, the voracious reader stayed “endlessly curious”—and amazingly adaptable.

Custom-built intercoms connected her to school and made her a “regular member” in her classes, with the technology helping her from high school through Wake Forest College (now University), where the English major arrived at her dorm room in a bakery truck.

By the time she died in 2009, Mason had been in the iron lung for a record-setting 60 years. “Something happens to all of us,” she said in a documentary about her, Martha in Lattimore.

“Mine is more visible than yours, but you have to deal with your things, too. None of us are exempt from things that would make us extraordinary people if the world knew the story.”

Personal Growth

There was a wise man Sviatozar. One day his nephew came to visit him. The young man was sad, gloomy and obviously upset with something. Sviatozar asked what happened to him. The nephew said that he suffered a serious setback and now he will never be able to achieve his goal.

The nephew asked an old man to give him advice what he should do next, but Sviatozar just asked to lead him to the hills. This road was difficult and long. But the nephew immediately agreed to help his uncle. When they reached the hills, Sviatozar said that he needed to go to the top of the highest hill. The young man was surprised, but decided to help his uncle, because the old man had never climbed there.

With great difficulty the nephew helped his uncle to climb to the hill, sometimes even dragged the old man on his back. On the top of the hill, sweating, he put his uncle on the ground and laughed happily.

Do you remember that when you were a little boy sometimes you returned home with tears in your eyes? – Sviatozar asked him.

The boys teased you. Do you remember why? — Exactly! — The young man looked around and nodded. He recalled that as a child he often played there with other boys. And they called this hill an Everest, because only few people could get to its top. At that time I was unable to get there. This hill seemed an impregnable rock to me.

And today you not only climbed there, but dragged up me, too, — an old man said and looked at his nephew. How could you do this? What do you think?

Perhaps I just grew up, — the young man shrugged. — I became stronger and fitter …

“And the formidable Everest suddenly turned into a harmless mound.” You got my advice.

Don’t Hope>>>Decide!

While waiting to pick up a friend at the airport in Portland, Oregon, I had one of those life-changing experiences that you hear other people talk about — the kind that sneaks up on you unexpectedly. This one occurred a mere two feet away from me.

Straining to locate my friend among the passengers deplaning through the jet way, I noticed a man coming toward me carrying two light bags. He stopped right next to me to greet his family.

First he motioned to his youngest son (maybe six years old) as he laid down his bags. They gave each other a long, loving hug. As they separated enough to look in each other’s face, I heard the father say, “It’s so good to see you, son. I missed you so much!” His son smiled somewhat shyly, averted his eyes and replied softly, “Me, too, Dad!”

Then the man stood up, gazed in the eyes of his oldest son (maybe nine or ten) and while cupping his son’s face in his hands said, “You’re already quite the young man. I love you very much, Zach!” They too hugged a most loving, tender hug.

While this was happening, a baby girl (perhaps one or one-and-a-half) was squirming excitedly in her mother’s arms, never once taking her little eyes off the wonderful sight of her returning father. The man said, “Hi, baby girl!” as he gently took the child from her mother. He quickly kissed her face all over and then held her close to his chest while rocking her from side to side. The little girl instantly relaxed and simply laid her head on his shoulder, motionless in pure contentment.

After several moments, he handed his daughter to his oldest son and declared, “I’ve saved the best for last!” and proceeded to give his wife the longest, most passionate kiss I ever remember seeing. He gazed into her eyes for several seconds and then silently mouthed. “I love you so much!” They stared at each other’s eyes, beaming big smiles at one another, while holding both hands.

For an instant they reminded me of newlyweds, but I knew by the age of their kids that they couldn’t possibly be. I puzzled about it for a moment then realized how totally engrossed I was in the wonderful display of unconditional love not more than an arm’s length away from me. I suddenly felt uncomfortable, as if I was invading something sacred, but was amazed to hear my own voice nervously ask, “Wow! How long have you two been married?

“Been together fourteen years total, married twelve of those.” he replied, without breaking his gaze from his lovely wife’s face. “Well then, how long have you been away?” I asked. The man finally turned and looked at me, still beaming his joyous smile. “Two whole days!”

Two days? I was stunned. By the intensity of the greeting, I had assumed he’d been gone for at least several weeks – if not months. I know my expression betrayed me.

I said almost offhandedly, hoping to end my intrusion with some semblance of grace (and to get back to searching for my friend), “I hope my marriage is still that passionate after twelve years!”

The man suddenly stopped smiling.

He looked me straight in the eye, and with forcefulness that burned right into my soul, he told me something that left me a different person. He told me, “Don’t hope, friend… decide!” Then he flashed me his wonderful smile again, shook my hand and said, “God bless!” - Michael D. Hargrove-

Life Is A Gift

Today before you think of saying an unkind word– think of someone who can’t speak.

Before you complain about the taste of your food–think of someone who has nothing to eat.

Before you complain about your husband or wife–think of someone who is crying out to God for a companion.

Today before you complain about life–think of someone who went too early to heaven.

Before you complain about your children–think of someone who desires children but they’re barren.

Before you argue about your dirty house, someone didn’t clean or sweep–think of the people who are living in the streets.

Before whining about the distance you drive–think of someone who walks the same distance with their feet.

And when you are tired and complain about your job–think of the unemployed, the disabled and those who wished they had your job.

But before you think of pointing the finger or condemning another–remember that not one of us are without sin and we all answer to one maker.

And when depressing thoughts seem to get you down–put a smile on your face and thank God you’re alive and still around.

Life is a gift – Live it, Enjoy it, Celebrate it, and Fulfill it.

-Author Unknown-

1 Like

My mom only had one eye. I hated her… She was such an embarrassment. She cooked for students and teachers to support the family.

There was this one day during elementary school where my mom came to say hello to me. I was so embarrassed.

How could she do this to me? I ignored her, threw her a hateful look and ran out. The next day at school one of my classmates said, “EEEE, your mom only has one eye!”

I wanted to bury myself. I also wanted my mom to just disappear. I confronted her that day and said, “If you’re only gonna make me a laughing stock, why don’t you just die?”

My mom did not respond… I didn’t even stop to think for a second about what I had said, because I was full of anger. I was oblivious to her feelings.

I wanted out of that house, and have nothing to do with her. So I studied real hard, got a chance to go abroad to study.

Then, I got married.

I bought a house of my own. I had kids of my own. I was happy with my life, my kids and the comforts. Then one day, my Mother came to visit me. She hadn’t seen me in years and she didn’t even meet her grandchildren.

When she stood by the door, my children laughed at her, and I yelled at her for coming over uninvited. I screamed at her, “How dare you come to my house and scare my children! GET OUT OF HERE! NOW!!!”

And to this, my mother quietly answered, “Oh, I’m so sorry. I may have gotten the wrong address.” – and she disappeared out of sight.

One day, a letter regarding a school reunion came to my house. So I lied to my wife that I was going on a business trip. After the reunion, I went to the old shack just out of curiosity.

My neighbors said that she died. I did not shed a single tear. They handed me a letter that she had wanted me to have.

“My dearest son,

I think of you all the time. I’m sorry that I came to your house and scared your children.

I was so glad when I heard you were coming for the reunion. But I may not be able to even get out of bed to see you. I’m sorry that I was a constant embarrassment to you when you were growing up.

You see………when you were very little, you got into an accident, and lost your eye. As a mother, I couldn’t stand watching you having to grow up with one eye. So I gave you mine.

I was so proud of my son who was seeing a whole new world for me, in my place, with that eye.

With all my love to you,

Your mother.” -Author Unknown-

For today’s newsletter from

A Big Experiment
Friday, August 16, 2019

Rami Shapiro, a rabbi, teacher, and author on Judaism and spirituality reflects on the enriching, powerful experience of interspiritual dialogue initiated by Fr. Thomas Keating (1923–2018).
In 1984 Father Thomas Keating invited a small group of contemplatives from eight different religious traditions—Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Islamic, Native American, Russian Orthodox, Protestant, and Roman Catholic—to gather at St. Benedict’s Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado, to engage in what he called “a big experiment.” [1]
The experiment was to see what would happen when meditators from different traditions meditated together and shared the spiritual insights they gleaned from their meditation. Within a few days it became clear to the attendees that while their religious vocabularies were different, their experiences were not. As one attendee put it:
I enter into meditation as a slice of American cheese: thick and solid; my egoic self intact and feeling apart from both God and creation. I return from meditation as a slice of Swiss cheese: thin and filled with holes. I know myself and all others to be a part of God. Indeed, there is no other at all, only the One, the Whole, the Ultimate Reality I am calling God. And with this sense of wholeness comes a sense of holiness, a sense of love from and for all beings. . . .
During the first few years of the Snowmass Conference, a series of agreements arose among the attendees. Father Thomas compiled the first eight and brought them to the group for consideration. With lots of conversation and some editing, the Snowmass Conference Eight Points of Agreement came into being. We include them here as a way of sharing a contemporary expression of perennial wisdom arising not from ancient texts but from the lived experience of contemporary mystics—women and men who, while coming from specific traditions, dare to step beyond them to see what is on its own terms.
The Eight Points of Agreement

  1. The world religions bear witness to the experience of Ultimate Reality, to which they give various names.

  2. Ultimate Reality cannot be limited by any name or concept.

  3. Ultimate Reality is the ground of infinite potentiality and actualization.

  4. Faith is opening, accepting, and responding to Ultimate Reality. Faith in this sense precedes every belief system.

  5. The potential for human wholeness—or, in other frames of reference, enlightenment, salvation, transcendence, transformation, blessedness—is present in every human being.

  6. Ultimate Reality may be experienced not only through religious practices but also through nature, art, human relationships, and service to others.

  7. As long as the human condition is experienced as separate from Ultimate Reality, it is subject to ignorance and illusion, weakness and suffering.

  8. Disciplined practice is essential to the spiritual life; yet spiritual attainment is not the result of one’s own efforts, but the result of the experience of oneness with Ultimate Reality. [2]
    It took us until the late 20th century to say such things, and now we almost see them as obvious. There is indeed an evolution of consciousness and a convergence of consciousness that does not need to dismiss or dilute any one tradition.

Gateway to Presence:
If you want to go deeper with today’s meditation, take note of what word or phrase stands out to you. Come back to that word or phrase throughout the day, being present to its impact and invitation.

[1] The Common Heart: An Experience of Interreligious Dialogue, ed. Netanel Miles-Yepez (Lantern Books: 2006), 1.
[2] Thomas Keating, “The Points of Agreement,” Introduction to The Common Heart, xvii-xviii.
The World Wisdom Bible: A New Testament for a Global Spirituality, ed. Rami Shapiro (Skylight Paths Publishing: 2017), 150-151.
Image credit: A Moment of Prayer (detail), Frederick Arthur Bridgeman, 1877, Private Collection.

Steve Wilbur 4/10/37-6/14/19

Steve Wilbur walked a lonely road from an early age. His father died when he was only 4 years of age and his mother remarried when he was nine. Although Ray Condon was a good man, he was very shy and talked very little with Steve, so there was not the father/son interaction between them. He also did not adopt Steve as a son.

When he was 12, his mother contracted tuberculosis and spent nearly 3 years in a sanatorium. So Steve and his stepfather were left to their own devices, looking after themselves in that household while his mother was away in the sanatorium. On rare occasions she was allowed home on a weekend but spent that time in bed. Because of the contagious disease, Steve could not get near her and was not allowed in her bedroom, so he spoke to her from the doorway.

It was during this lonely time that Steve began to read the Bible & seek the Lord all on his own. In the rural atmosphere of Pa. like John the Baptist, he grew up in the wilderness and was always nourished by time spent in the woods and fields.

School occupied some of the lonely time. Steve was very intelligent and at the top of his class in high school. He also played the clarinet in the high school band. But his heart was hungry for more of the Lord during these formative years.

When he was about 15, from the doorway of his mother’s bedroom, on a rare visit home from the sanatorium. he spoke of the possibility of being healed by God. He said “if God can make a world, He can heal a body.” So he and his mother made their way to Pittsburgh to one of Kathryn Kuhlman’s meetings. At the risk of hemorrhaging to death, his mother decided to lift her hands to the Lord as others were doing around her. As she lifted her hands in worship she felt as though oil was being poured on her head. She was miraculously healed from tuberculosis.

Undoubtedly, this miracle strengthened his faith. He began to listen to full gospel preachers of that era on the radio. He often spent eight to nine hours reading the Bible and praying on the mountain behind their home and would come down the mountain in the evening to eat. He walked 15 miles to attend a little country church. (He was not allowed to drive the family car).

Through these radio preachers he heard about being filled with God’s Spirit. So intense was his desire for God, he made his way to attend services where the Spirit of the Lord was moving. With only enough money for a bus ticket, but no food, he set out to attend meetings that changed his life. Steve was there from August 1957 to January 1958. He was 20 years old.

The Lord met Steve late one night at the end of a meeting. About eleven o’clock a ball of fire appeared at the top of the tent and went rolling through the air and hit Steve broadside and knocked him into the tent wall. There he lay in the sawdust trying to get up and could not. He said to himself, “This must be the Holy Ghost.” And there he wrestled with the Lord. Another man from California who attended that meeting told Steve later that he saw that ball of fire come down from the ceiling of the tent, hit Steve and knock him to the ground.

When he finally managed to get up off the sawdust he was transformed, having been translated to a dimension of beauty and eternal spring. He returned to Pennslvania a changed man filled with God’s Spirit. Steve said “You don’t know what I was like before that event, because I have been another man ever since.”

When he returned home, he walked the 15 miles to that little country church, expecting to join in worship with the believers there as he had in the past. But to his surprise, they announced that Steve would minister that day. What a shock! He had never addressed an audience before. Although he was at the top of every class in school, he was never asked to speak at the graduation because he was too shy and could not do it. But this day he rose to the occasion, and preached his first sermon on the spot. All heaven came down and God moved in a mighty way. That was the beginning of his ministry.

Word travelled about this young man who ministered with an unusual anointing, and for the next nine years his walk with God was filled with fasting, praying, reading God’s Word and preaching as doors opened to him. One of these invitations found him in McKeesport, PA. where a young woman, Roberta Boyd happened to be in the congregation. At the age of 28 he married Roberta Boyd in June of 1965. From December of 1965 to August of 1975, the Wilburs lived in Detroit, Michigan where he was employed by General Motors, an experience he expressed a “working in the land of Mordor” Their family life with three children, Stephen, Tanya Rose and Eric was happy and Steve ministered faithfully in his own house church.

In 1975 Wade Taylor, along with Joe Nieves, invited Steve to join the faculty at Pinecrest. After he and Roberta visited Pinecrest to investigate, they were convinced that this was the next step for them. While on the faculty at Pinecrest,Steve would travel to various churches, conventions and camp meetings preaching in the power of the Spirit the unsearchable riches of Christ. He was in high demand as a conference speaker and was a major reason why many attended Pinecrest in the 1980’s.

In August of 1992, the Wilbur family moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where Steve pastored at Hebron Christian Fellowship in Decatur, Georgia for nine years. Since that time he has continued to serve the Body of Christ as a prophetic pastor and preacher. The home of Steve and Roberta became an oasis for thirty souls; when Steve could not come to them, thirsty souls have come to him and found renewal and refreshing. He accepted us as we were, just as he had received grace to accept himself. We all knew he was eccentric and we loved him for it. He could launch into a discourse in almost any field of knowledge, or discuss his appetite for mushrooms which would surpass a hobbit’s or his love of languages and proper pronunciation, or the sense that he inhabited a world of superlatives, or that he knew the botanical names of all the exotic trees and shrub he had planted around his house. Did the Lord use Steve’s eccentricity as a cloak? What we saw was only the tip of the iceberg. But what we did not see was the nine tenths of integrity, honesty, goodness and prayer. Roberta’s testimony revealed the countless hours he spent in prayer, the unseen good deeds, the generous way he was with people his ability to treat the high and the low with the same dignity and respect.

Rick Joiner remarked that Steve was the last great orator of the charismatic movement. But the best way to measure Steve’s impact on people is how widely and deeply he is loved because of who he was, but primarily how he proclaimed the glory of the Lord he adored and worshipped and challenged God’s people to arise to the call of the Father to a higher dimension.