Before I dive into a post about the power of listening, allow me a disclaimer. If you had seen me this week answering what felt like dozens of ringing door bells, you would understand that I am not an expert at this. In fact, the cold hand of cynicism beckons to me as I sit and listen to a repetition of how horrible this or that person is, or to a third request for Mountain Dew. At one point this week my entire kitchen smelled like cat pee, and I didn’t exactly feel angelic.
The bottom line is, listening to battered people, especially those with mental illnesses, challenges me and shows me how much I lack Calvary love. So maybe it is my need for this love that has led me to emphasize the power of listening in the life of a Christian.
Although I didn’t intend it, the last two books I’ve written have remarkable similarities. While the men’s lives are separated by two centuries, their paths in life are much the same.
Both Nicholas Garrison and Tom Kirkman Grew Up in Religious Homes
In the early 1700’s, Nicholas went to St. Andrew’s Church, which was a part of the church of England. In his own writing, Nicholas says that his parents taught him right from wrong.
In the 1940’s, Tom went to a Baptist church and sang hymns with his family. His parents also followed God and encouraged their children to do the same.
Both Nicholas Garrison and Tom Kirkman Turned Angrily Away From God
Nicholas’ writings about his own life mention that he delved into all the sinful things he could, with no regard for his childhood teaching. In my interpretation of his story, I added the grief of his brother’s death as a young boy, the grief of his mother’s death, and his anger for Captain Parker as catalysts to his wild life and rejection of his parent’s teaching.
Tom Kirkman tried to sneak out of the house to go party and drink, because he knew his mother would be displeased if she knew where he was going. But his biggest rejection of God was after he made a deal with Him, asking for ten years more for his mother. When his mother died anyway, Tom utterly rejected God for ten years.
Both Nicholas Garrison and Tom Kirkman Made an Attempt to Improve Their Spiritual Condition Independent of A Church Body
After his first years at sea, Nicholas got married and determined to improve and live a better life. After a few years however, he returned to the sea and grew even more desperate in his pursuit of sensual pleasures.
Tom heard God’s voice speaking to him on the tenth year anniversary of his mother’s death. He made a distinct change at that time, and turned his life toward God. However, he did not have a body of believers to associate with for several years.
Both Nicholas Garrison and Tom Kirkman Encountered a Man Who Listened to Him and Demonstrated What A Life of Discipleship Looks Like
Nicholas, as captain of a ship, picked up a Moravian missionary in the Caribbean Sea. Brother Josef talked to him, listened to him, and asked probing questions. (The details are my own. As far as I know there is no record of their words to each other.) Nicholas found himself deeply impacted by this man and his words about the blood of Jesus. Later, as Nicholas lay close to death on another voyage, he remembered Brother Josef’s words, and cried out to Jesus to save him. He was saved, both spiritually and physically, and his life changed from this time forward.
Tom Kirkman went to a local jail to visit Simon Gingerich, an Amish man who was doing time for refusing to use a slow-moving vehicle symbol. Tom wanted to see what made this man tick. Simon astounded Nicholas with his insight, wisdom, and listening ear. Later in life, Tom recalls this man as the man who made a permanent impact on his life and changed his life. He contrasted this with meeting the Queen Mother of England. He said he barely remembered what she looked like. But he would never forget Simon Gingerich because he had impacted his life.
Both Nicholas Garrison and Tom Kirkman Joined Unique Church Groups Different from their Upbringing Based on Their Relationship With The Christian They Met
Nicholas joined the Moravian church group. The Moravians mostly lived in community and sent missionaries all over the known world. Nicholas became their sea captain, taking the boat the Irene on repeated trips over the Atlantic without casualty. Nicholas died among the Moravians and was buried in the Moravian cemetery in Bethlehem, PA.
Tom joined the Amish church, got rid of his car, and farmed with horses. Although he did not remain with the Amish until his death, he remained good friends with many of the Amish and Mennonite people in southern Indiana. An Amish minister preached the graveside service at his funeral.
Both of Their Stories Illustrate the Power of a Listening Ear
I don’t think either Nicholas or Tom would have made such radical changes in living out their faith had it not been for Brother Josef Spangenberg and Simon Gingerich. I wonder how Josef or Simon would have dealt with my neighbors on Brady Street? It’s hard to say. But I feel confident that both men learned their own skills as a listener by modeling their lives after the Perfect Listener, Jesus Christ.
Whether in 1743 or 1968 or 2020, a listening ear and a sincere Christian walk of life may make all the difference for someone you meet!
We are offering Captain Garrison and From the White House to the Amish as a set. Instead of paying $29.98 (two books at 14.99), you can get the both books for $27. A nice deal! However, unless you would like one ASAP, I would suggest waiting a week. On the day after Thanksgiving (I don’t even want to say Black Friday because I’m tired of that term), we are posting the best sale of the year in our little shop. (I wasn’t going to do it until Monday, but Marnell thought people might like browsing for deals on Friday.)
During the Black Friday Sale, everything will be 20% off, including this two-book set. With the additional 20% off, the 2-book set will sell for $21.60, just under $11 each! This is a perfect chance to snatch up some Christmas gifts for readers who want to curl up on the couch with a book through the long winter days. The sale ends on Monday, so don’t miss it! Note: orders will ship on Tuesday, whether they are placed on Black Friday or on Monday. We are hoping to have a few days off!
Also, the audio version of From the White House to the Amish is almost done! We hope to release several audio options on Sale Day too.
I will post a brief update on Friday morning, with details about the sale. I am not planning to post a blog Saturday morning, unless I get a wildly urgent inspiration. I allow myself the liberty to skip a post over holidays.