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WHO SAVED ME?
During a terrible storm at sea that threatened every moment to carry the ship to the bottom, one of the ship’s crew was doing something on the deck when a great sea struck the ship and went fairly over the deck, striking this man with great force, disabling him and carrying him into the mad waters.
Although he was a good swimmer, he was so disabled that he could only keep above water. They saw him lifting up his imploring hands through the white foam, signifying his desire for help. But the Captain said, "Don’t lower a boat, for no small boat can live in this sea, in this terrific storm. We cannot save the man. The most we can do is to save the ship."
The vessel was bearing farther and farther from the helpless man. Once more they saw his imploring hands come up among the white caps further off, which moved all hearts that witnessed it. Still the Captain said a small boat must not be lowered, as it could not live a moment among these wild billows.
But one man who was an expert swimmer, was so moved by the imploring signals of the drowning man, that he threw off his loose garments, saying: "I will save that man, or die with him."
So plunging into the surging deep, he struggled so bravely with the mad waters, that he reached the poor man just as his strength had gone; he had given up and was filling with water, and sinking down unconscious. He grasped him, and strange to tell, he brought him so near the ship that a small boat was lowered, and both men were taken up and laid down upon the deck. The one that had been swept overboard, entirely unconscious and his deliverer nearly so. Appliances were used and both were brought to consciousness.
As soon as the rescued man opened his eyes and found he was not in the ocean, his first words were: "Who saved me?"
He was pointed to his deliverer still lying on the deck in his wet clothes. He crept to his deliverer, and putting his arms around his feet, and in the most tender and heart moving tone of voice cried out: "I’m your servant, I’m your servant." He felt that he could never do enough for him.
Let me ask all who read this incident, would you not put your arms about the bleeding feet of your great Deliverer and say from a full heart: "Jesus, I’m your servant, I’m your servant. Ask anything of me, Jesus, and I will do it the best I can."
(From a sermon by Jimmy Haile, My Father’s Business, 9/29/2011)
A wonderful, imaginative short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne illustrates the necessity of having the right focus. It is entitled “The Great Stone Face.” The tale centers around a man named Ernest who grew up in a village renowned for a natural wonder that rested just outside its boundaries. Nature had majestically carved in the side of a mountain the features of a human countenance so realistic that from a distance the Great Stone Face seemed positively alive.
All the features were noble and the expression was grand and sweet. Ernest, like all children of the nearby village, was told of an ancient prophecy that at some future day a child would be born in the vicinity who was destined to become the greatest personage of his time and whose countenance, in manhood, would bear an exact resemblance to the Great Stone Face. Upon learning that the promised prophet had not yet appeared, the young Ernest clapped his hands above his head and exclaimed, “I do hope that I shall live to see him!”
Ernest, growing older, never forgot that prophecy learned at his mother’s knee. It was always on his mind. And a s he grew into manhood, Ernest allowed the Great Stone Face to become his teacher – meditating upon the countenance, looking to it for comfort, reading stories about it, speaking of it to those who would hear.
Years passed. Many came into the village claiming to be the promised one. But each time Ernest went out to meet the pretenders, he came away disappointed and sometimes almost despondent. For although these imposters claimed the honor, Ernest knew better. As a result of his devotion to the Face, he had become an expert on it. Surely Ernest, of all people, would know the one when he came. After each disappointment Ernest would return to the Face, peer into it and ask, “How long?” The granite features seemed to reassure him, “Fear not, Ernest, the man will come!”
Ernest was an old man now, his hair gray and the movement of his body slow. The one great sadness of his life was that he had never seen the prophet long foretold. One day a poet famous for his ode celebrating the Stone Face came to visit Ernest. They enjoyed each other’s company and yet each spoke sadly – for they longed to see the Face enfleshed.
The two talked long and, as the day drew to a close, it came time for Ernest’s daily discourse on the Great Stone Face. Each evening inhabitants of the neighboring village assembled in the open air for his stirring oration. There Ernest stood and spoke to the people, giving them what thoughts were in his heart and mind. Delivered with eloquence, the words were powerful because they accorded with his thoughts, and his thoughts had reality and depth because they harmonized with the devoted life he had always lived.
The poet, as he listened, grew teary-eyed. The being and character of Ernest were a nobler strain of poetry than he had ever written. The face of Ernest assumed a grandeur of expression, so imbued with benevolence, and with the Great Stone Face looming in the background, the poet suddenly realized what should have been obvious all along. For Ernest, he noticed, had a mild, sweet, beautiful countenance that looked like the Stone Face itself!
Moved by an irresistible impulse, the poet threw his arms aloft and began to shout to all who would hear – “Behold, behold! Ernest is himself the likeness of the Great Stone Face!” And with that all the people sitting about looked at Ernest and noticed that what the poet said was true. The prophecy was fulfilled! Ernest had become like his ideal.
Hawthorne’s story reverberates with a salient truth, “What get our attention gets us.”
Michael G. Moriarty, The Perfect 10: The Blessings of Following God’s Commandments in a Post Modern World (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Pub. House, 1999), 210-212
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As I was growing up with a younger brother and sister, one of our favorite games to play was baseball. We had a plastic bat and ball, and we would team up with some of the neighborhood kids and play ball in the back yard.
On one particular occasion my mom took our bat away from us because we were arguing, like all brothers and sisters tend to do. But this did not deter us from playing our favorite game. Mom took the bat, but not the ball. So we took the metal brace from the swing set (the metal bar that is used to brace two legs together on each end) and started using it as a bat.
I was at bat when I swung at a pitch and felt two distinct points of contact; one was with the ball, and the second was with my sister’s head. I didn’t realize that she had walked up behind me, and on my follow through I clobbered her on the forehead with the end of the brace.
I turned around only to discover that my sister was screaming and bleeding profusely. In fact, not much of her face was really visible because she was covered in blood. I knew I was in trouble, so while my sister bled and cried, I pleaded with her not to tell momma. I figured that washing her down with the water hose to get rid of the blood would be enough to take care of the situation. Once the bleeding stopped, I would be in the clear. But in my panic to discover a way to keep from getting a good whipping, I couldn’t see that the greater need was for my sister to receive medical attention. She had to be taken to the emergency room where she received several stitches to bind up her wound.
The point of this story is this. When my mom came out to find out what was going on, she didn’t stop to dwell on how guilty I was for disobeying her, or to find out every detail about what had happened. As soon as she saw the blood, she swept my sister up in her arms, carried her into the house to put a bandage on her head, and drove her to the hospital so that she could get the medical attention she desperately needed. As a matter of fact, the whipping I deserved never came. My mom’s actions showed that her concern for my sister’s health and well-being was more important than trying to blame somebody for the accident that had caused her injuries, or for punishing the one who was responsible.
Pastors need to learn that lesson.
So many times we have been guilty of preaching on sin just so we can point a finger of blame at someone who has stumbled under the load of temptation that Satan brings to bear upon us. God forgive us for our arrogance and our shortsightedness. Forgive us for falling short of our God-given responsibility to preach the gospel to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised (Luke 4:18). Our obligation as pastors is not only to warn people of sin and the consequences it brings, but also to bind the wounds of our brothers and sisters in Christ who have been victimized by the enemy, and to tell those who have never known the washing of regeneration that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay their sin debt, that His blood can wash away all of your sins, and that He rose from the dead to prove that He has power over death, hell and the grave.
Christians need to learn that lesson.
How many of us have been guilty of shooting our wounded? How many have kicked a brother or sister when they were down, rather than bearing their burden, and helping to restore them back into the sweetness of full fellowship with our Lord? We ought to be ashamed, for the Church is to be our refuge, our safe haven, and our place of restoration. But all too often it becomes a place of torment and ridicule because of those who have forgotten to “consider themselves, lest they also be tempted.”
Some of you this morning have been through the ringer in your battle with sin this week. You’re battered and bloodied from the near lethal blows that Satan has inflicted upon you, and you desperately need medical attention, the kind of medical attention that only Jesus Christ can give. So I stand before you today, not with a pointed finger, but with outstretched hands, pleading with you to come this morning and be washed in the pure refreshing waters of God’s abundant grace and mercy. You need to be washed, to clean your feet. You’ve already been bathed in His loving grace and mercy. But you need to come to Jesus, confessing your sins and you will experience complete and total forgiveness and cleansing. Your fellowship will be restored, and your hope will be renewed. You’ve struggled with sin long enough. Now is the time to come back into the grace and mercy of the Lord.
Others of you may just simply be lost. You’ve washed your feet many times. You’ve turned over a new leaf only to find the same old dirty sin on the other side. You’ve attended church, and maybe even been baptized and joined the church. But you’ve never trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ to save you from your sins. Friend, let me tell you, because I love you, that if you don’t come to know Jesus Christ in the full pardon of sin, your eternal destination is hell. But if you come, you must come trusting in nothing but the shed blood of Jesus Christ to cleanse you all of your sins. You can’t do anything to earn His favor, and you can’t bring anything with you but a broken heart and a contrite spirit. You can’t get better to come to Him. You can only plead with Him to forgive you as you are, a worthless sinner begging for mercy and pardon. You can only come to Jesus Christ in absolute unworthiness to ask Him for His free gift of salvation.
The Unbaptized Arm
Ivan the Great was the tsar of all of Russia during the Fifteenth Century. He brought together the warring tribes into one vast empire--the Soviet Union. As a fighting man he was courageous. As a general he was brilliant. He drove out the Tartars and established peace across the nation.
However, Ivan was so busy waging his campaigns that he did not have a family. His friends and advisers were quite concerned. They reminded him that there was no heir to the throne, and should anything happen to him the union would shatter into chaos. "You must take a wife who can bear you a son." The busy soldier statesman said to them that he did not have the time to search for a bride, but if they would find a suitable one, he would marry her.
The counselors and advisers searched the capitals of Europe to find an appropriate wife for the great tsar. And find her, they did. They reported to Ivan of the beautiful dark eyed daughter of the King of Greece. She was young, brilliant, and charming. He agreed to marry her sight unseen.
The King of Greece was delighted. It would align Greece in a favorable way with the emerging giant of the north. But there had to be one condition, "He cannot marry my daughter unless he becomes a member of the Greek Orthodox Church." Ivan’s response, "I will do it!"
So, a priest was dispatched to Moscow to instruct Ivan in Orthodox doctrine. Ivan was a quick student and learned the catechism in record time. Arrangements were concluded, and the tsar made his way to Athens accompanied by 500 of his crack troops--his personal palace guard.
He was to be baptized into the Orthodox church by immersion, as was the custom of the Eastern Church. His soldiers, ever loyal, asked to be baptized also. The Patriarch of the Church assigned 500 priests to give the soldiers a one-on-one catechism crash course. The soldiers, all 500 of them, were to be immersed in one mass baptism. Crowds gathered from all over Greece.
What a sight that must have been, 500 priests and 500 soldiers, a thousand people, walking into the blue Mediterranean. The priests were dressed in black robes and tall black hats, the official dress of the Orthodox Church. The soldiers wore their battle uniforms with of all their regalia--ribbons of valor, medals of courage. and their weapons of battle.
Suddenly, there was a problem. The Church prohibited professional soldiers from being members; they w...
“He led them up the steep slope out of the river valley and then slightly to the right apparently by the very same route which they had used that afternoon in coming from the hill of the stone table.
On and on he lead them into dark shadows out into pale moonlight. Getting their feet wet with the heavy dew he looked somehow different from the Aslan they knew. His tail and his head hung low and he walked slowly as if he were very, very tired. Then when they were crossing a wide open place where there were no shadows for them to hide in he stopped and looked around. It was no good trying to run away so they came towards him. When they were closer he said,
“Oh children, children why are you following me?” “We couldn’t sleep,” said Lucy. And then felt sure that she say no more and that Aslan knew all they had been thinking.
“Please may we come with you wherever you’re going,” asked Susan. “Well-” said Alsan and seemed to be thinking. Then he said, “I should be glad of company to-night. Yes, you may come, if you will promise to stop when I tell you, and after that leave me to go alone.”
“Oh thank you, thank you” and “We will,” said the two girls.
Forward they went again and one of the girls walked on each side of the Lion. But how slowly he walked! And his great, royal head drooped so that his nose nearly touched the grass. Presently he stumbled and gave a low moan.
“Aslan! Dear Aslan! SaidLucy, “what is wrong? Can’t you tell us?
“Are you ill, dear Aslan?” asked Susan.
“No,” said Aslan. “I am sad and lonely. Lay your hands on my mane so I can feel you are there and let us walk like that.”
And so the girls did what they would never have dared to do without his permission, but hat they had longed to do ever since they first saw him- buried their cold hands in the beautiful sea of fir and stroked it and, in so doing, walked with him. And presently they saw that they were going with him up the slope of the hill on which the stone table stood. They went up at the side where the trees came furthest up, and when they got to the last tree (it was one that had some bushes about it) Alsan stopped and said,
“Oh children, children. Here you must stop. And whatever happens, do not let yourselves be seen. Fairwell.”
A great crowd of people where standing all around the stone table. And though the moon was shining many of them carried torches which burned with evil-looking red flames and black smoke. But such people! Ogres with monsterous teeth, and wolves, and bull-headed men; spirits of evil trees and poisonous plants; and other creatures who I won’t describe because if I did the grown-ups would probably not let your read this book- Cruels and Hags and Incubuses, and Wraiths, Horrors, Efreets, Sprites, Orknies, Wooses and Ettins. In fact here were all those who were on the witches side and whom the Wolf had summoned at her command. And right in the middle, standing by the table, was the Witch herself.
A howl and a gibber of dismay went up from the creatures when they first saw the great Lion pacing towards them, and for a moment even the Witch seemed to be struck with fear. Then she recovered herself and gave a wild fierce laugh.
“The fool, she cried. The fool has come. Bind him fast.”
Lucy and Susan held their breath waiting for Aslan’s roar and his spring upon his enemies. But it never came. Four hags, grinning at leering, yet also (at first) hanging back and half afraid of what they had to do, had approached him. “Bind him, I say!” repeated the White Witch. The hags made a dart at him and shrieked with triumph when they found that he made no resistance at all. Then others- evil dwarfs and apes- rushed in to help them and between them they rolled the huge Lion round on his back and tied all his four paws together. Shouting and cheering as if they had done something brave, though, had the Lion chosen, one of those paws could have been death of them all. But he made no noise, even when the enemies, straining and tugging, pulled the cords so tight that they cut into his flesh. Then they began to drag him towards the Stone Table.
“Stop,” said the witch, “Let him first be shaved.”
Another roar of mean laughter went up from her followers as an ogre with a pair of shears came forward and squatted down by Aslan’s head. Snip-snip-snip went the shears and masses of curling glod began to fall to the ground. Then the ogre stood back and the children watching from their hiding-place, could see the face of Aslan looking all small and different without his mane. The enemies saw the difference.
“Why he is only a great cat after all!” cried one.
Is that what we were afraid of?” said another
And they surged around him jeering at him. Saying things like “Puss Puss! Pour pussy,” and “How many mice have you caught today, Cat? And would you like a saucer of milk Pussums?”
“Oh how can they?” said Lucy, tears streaming down her cheeks. “The brutes, the brutes!” For now that the first shock was over, the shorn face of Aslan looked to her braver, and more beautiful, and more patient than ever.
“Muzzle him!” said the Witch. And even now, as they worked about his face putting on the muzzle, one bite from his jaws would have cost two of three of them their hands. But he never moved. And this seemed to enrage all that rabble. Everyone was at him now. Those who had been afraid to come near him even after he was bound began to find thire courage, and for a few minutes the two girls coud not even see him- so thickly was he surrounded by the whole crowd of creatures kicking him, hitting him, and spitting on him jeering at him.
At last the rabble had had enough of this. They began to drag the bound and muzzled Lion to the Stone Table, some pulling and some pushing. He was so huge that even when they got him there it took all their efforts to hoist him on to the surface of it. Then there was more tying and tightening of cords.
“The cowards! The cowards!” sobbed Susan. Are they still afraid of him even now?”
When once Aslan had been tied (and tied so that he was really a mass of cords) on the flat stone, a hush fell on the crowd. Four hags holding four torches, stood at the corners of Table. The Witch bared her arms as she had bared them the previous night when it had been Edmund instead of Aslan. The she began to whet her knife. It looked to the children, when the gleam of the torchlight fell on it, as if the knife were made of stone not steel and it was of a strange evil shape.
At last she drew near. She stood by Aslan’s head. Her face was working and twitching with passion, but looked up at the sky, still quiet, neither angry nor afraid, but a little sad. Then, just before she gave the blow, she stooped down and said in a quivering voice,
“And now, who has won? Fool, did you think that by all this you would save the human traitor? Now I will kill you and instead of him as our pact was and so the Deep Magic will be appeased. But when you are dead what will prevent me from killing him as well? And who will take him our of my hand then? Understand that you have given me Narnia forever, you have lost your own life and you have not saved his. In that knowledge, despair and die.”
The children did not see the actual moment of the killing. They couldn’t bear to look and had covered their eyes.
The story doesn’t end there just as the Christmas story is only the beginning of the Christ story.
(From chapter 15):
As soon as the wood was silent again Susan crept out into the open hill-top. The moon was getting low and the thin clouds were passing across it, but still they could see the shape of the lion laying dead in his bonds. And down they both knelt and kissed his cold face and stroked his beautiful fir, what was left of it and cried till the could cry no more. And then they looked at each other and held each others hands for lonliness and cried again. And then again were silent. At last Lucy said,
“I can’t bear to look at that horrible muzzle. I wonder if I could take it off?”
So they tried. And after a lot of working at it, (for their fingers were cold and it was now the darkest part of the night) they succeeded. And when they saw his face without it they burst out crying again and kissed it and fondled it and wiped away the blood and foam as well as they could. And it was all the more lonely and hopeless and horrid than I know how to describe.
“I wonder, could we untie him as well? Said Susan presently. But the enemies out pure spitefulness had drawn the cords so tight that the girls could make nothing of the knots.
I hope no one who reads this book has been quite as miserable as Susan and Lucy were that night; but if you have been- if you’ve been up all night, and cried til you have no more tears left in you- you will know that there comes in the end a sort of quietness. You feel as if nothing is ever going to happen again. At any rate that was how it felt to these two. Hours and hours seemed to go by in this dead clam, and they hardly noticed that they were getting colder and colder. But at last Lucy noticed two other things. One was that the sky on the East side of the hill was a little less dark than it had been an hour ago. The other was some tiny movement going on in the grass at her feet. At first she took no interest in this. What did it matter? Nothing mattered now! But at last she saw what whatever-it-was that had begun to move up the upright stones of the Stone Table. And now whatever-they-were were moving about on Aslan’s body. She peered closer. They were little grey things.
“Ugh!” said Susan from the other side of the table. “How beastly! They are horrid little mice crawling all over him. Go away you little beasts!” And she raised her hand to frighten them away. “Wait!” said Lucy who had been looking at them more closely still, can you see what they are doing?”
Both girls bent down and stared.
“I do believe!” said Susan. “But how queer! They ’re nibbling away at the cords.”
“That’s what I thought,” said Lucy. “I think they’re friendly mice. Poor little things- they don’t realize he’s dead. They think it’ll do some good untying him.”
It was quite definitely lighter by now. Each of the girls noticed for the first time the white face of the other. They could see the mice nibbling away; dozens and dozens, even hundreds of little field mice. And at last, one by one, the ropes were all gnawed through.
The sky in the East was whitish by now and the stars were getting fainter- all except the very big one low down on the eastern horizon. They felt colder than they had been all night. The mice crept away again.
The girls cleared away the remains of gnawed ropes. Aslan looked more like himself without them. Every moment his dead faced looked nobler, as the light grew and they could see it better.
In the wood behind them a bird gave a chuckling sound. It had been so still for hours and hours that it startled them. Then another bird answered it. Soon there were birds singing all over the place.
It was quite definitely early morning now, not late night.
“I am so cold,” said Lucy.
“So am I said Susan. Let’s walk about a bit.”
“What’s that? Said Lucy clutching Susan’s arm.
“I – I feel afraid to turn around,” said Susan something awful is happening.
“They’re doing something worse to him,” said Lucy. “Come on!” And she turned pulling Susan around with her.
The rising of the sun had made everything looked so different- all the colors and shadows were changed- that for a moment they didn’t see the important thing. Then they did. The Stone Table was broken into two pieces by a great crack that ran down it from end to end; and there was no Aslan.
“Oh, oh, oh!” cried the tow girls rushing back to the table.
“Oh, it’s too bad, sobbed Lucy; “they might have left the body alone.”
“Who has done it?” Susan cried. “What does it mean? Is it magic?”
“Yes!” said a great voice behind their backs. “It is more magic.” They looked around. There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had apparently grown again) stood Aslan himself.
“Oh Aslan!” cried both the children, staring up at him, almost as much frightened as they were glad.
“Aren’t you dead then,” said Lucy.
“Not now,” said Aslan.
“You not- not a-? asked Susan in a shaky voice. She couldn’t bring herself to say the word ghost.
Aslan stooped his golden head and licked her forhead. The warmth of his breath and a rich sort of smell that seemed to hang about his hair came over her.
“Do I look it?” he said.
“Oh you’re real, you’re real Oh Aslan!” cried Lucy, and both girls flung themselves upon him and covered him with kisses.
“But what does it all mean?” asked Susan when they were something calmer.
“It means,” said Aslan, “that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic there’s magic deeper still that she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back into stillness darkenss before time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who has committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.”
A person who doubts himself is like a man who would enlist in the ranks of his enemies and bear arms against himself. He makes his failure certain by himself being the first person to be convinced of it.
In the middle of a forest, there was a hunter who was suddenly confronted with a huge, mean bear. In all his fears, his attempt to shoot the bear was unsuccessful. He turned away and started to run as
fast as he could. Finally, he ended up at the edge of a very steep cliff. His hopes were dim. But, he got on his knees, opened his arms and said, "My God! Please give this bear some religion!"
Then, there was a lightning in the air and the bear stopped just a foot short of the hunter. The bear was puzzled and looked up in the air and said, "Thank you for the food I am about to receive...
AN ARM AROUND ME--COMMUNION MEDITATION
Jackie Robinson was the first black person to play major league baseball. Breaking baseball’s color barrier, he faced jeering crowds in every stadium. Players would stomp on his feet and kick him.
While playing one day in his home stadium in Brooklyn, he made an error. The fans began to ridicule him. He stood at second base, humiliated, while the fans jeered. Then, shortstop Pee Wee Reese came over and stood next to him. He put his arm around Jackie Robinson and faced the crowd. The fans grew quiet. Robinson later said that arm around his shoulder saved his career.
We are sometimes like Jackie Robinson, full of shame. Sometimes, like Jackie, our shame is from nothing we've done. Sometimes our shame is from our own sin and guilt. And like Pee Wee Reese, Jesus comes and slips his arm around us, and bears our shame for us. ...
The Impossible Dream -- Joe Darion
To dream the impossible dream,
To fight the unbeatable foe,
To bear with unbearable sorrow,
To run where the brave dare not go.
To reach the unreachable star!
This is my quest,
To follow that star,
No matter who hopeless,
No matter how far;
To fight for the right, the unrightable wrong
To love pure and chaste from afar,
To try when your arms are too weary,
To run where the brave dare not go.
To reach the unreachable star!
To dream the impossible dream!
A company by the name of Hetronics, makes remote controls for heavy equipment, like cranes and tractors. This company has a room, called the ‘Thumper Room.’ Here, several of their remotes are put in a mechanical device that simulates the action of a human hand moving the arm of the remote. Attached to this machine is a counter that accurately measures the number of time the remote control arm moves, before it breaks. The sound of this machine sounds like a thump, thus they call it the ‘Thumper Room’. A remote control box is left in the thumper room until there is no more ‘thump’ left in it. That is to say, until it breaks! By testing their products in the Hetronics can tell their customers how long one of their remote control boxes can be expected to last. God has a ‘Thumper Room’. It’s called ‘LIFE! Here, His children are ‘thumped’ by the world; thumped by the devil; thumped by friends; thumped by family; thumped by their own flesh; thumped by everyone and everything. Like Hetronics, God is keeping count of every ‘thump’ that happens. However, unlike Hetronics, God doesn’t left one more ‘thump’ happen to you, than you are able to bear. And with every ‘thump’ He makes a way of escape, that you may be able to bear them.