We often stand in front of vending machines, pondering a very hard decision. We put our money in and push the button. Usually, we get what we just paid for, but not always. Sometimes nothing comes. We push the button again and again. Not only do we not get our selection, but the coin return isn't working either. Those most frustrating times of all are when you're desperate enough to try again, and maybe again, putting in your money - getting nothing in return.

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      Bill was used to handling heavy equipment, but he wasn't used to what happened that particular day. He had his trailer hitched to his dump truck and he was driving his backhoe onto the trailer, but there was one small problem. As the weight of Bill and his backhoe pressed on the back of the trailer, the rear wheels of the dump truck were suddenly lifted up into the air - which means no brakes on a downhill slope. He was riding on a backhoe which was riding on a trailer, which was hitched to a truck that was heading straight downhill out-of-control. He had absolutely no control. He lived to tell about it because he threw that backhoe in reverse and backed off as fast as he could. Balance was restored and the truck and trailer jackknifed.

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        You are either a thermometer or you're a thermostat. Thermometer people tend to reflect the temperature of the people around them. "If you're hot, I'm hot. If you're cool, I'm cool. If you're nice, I'm nice. If you yell, I will yell." What most of us would like to be is a thermostat - someone who controls the temperature in our situation.

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          Has your controlled life suddenly become out of control? Maybe you were going through life's journey with things looking pretty good, and all of the sudden a major storm has come your way.

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              Along the journey of parenting, there's the tendency to unconsciously revert to the way Mom or Dad did things - even if it was something that hurt us, that aggravated us, or something we really disliked. Suddenly you're hearing the echo of a parent, you're saying things you thought you would never say, and you're doing things you said you would never do.

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                The first words that children learn can reflect what's going on around them. If they see Mama all the time, you can expect them to say her name early on. Sometimes, those first words aren't very happy words. There was a couple who were dedicated missionaries in a war-torn part of the Middle East for years. Not long after their daughter was born, their area became a place where frequent bombardments and violence erupted all around them. A couple of their daughter's first words were "bomb" and "gun."

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                  It was World War I, and it was Christmas Eve. The German and British soldiers were dug in just hundreds of yards apart, but it turned out to be much more than just another tense and violent night on the battlefield. It began when one German soldier began singing "Silent Night" from his trench. Pretty soon he was joined in German by many more of his fellow soldiers. Amazingly, the voices of hundreds of British soldiers began to join in the carol from their trenches. Now that has to have been a moment those soldiers never forgot - opposing armies singing "Sleep in heavenly peace" in the middle of a battlefield.

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                      You're alone out in the storm, feeling unnecessary loneliness because you're living outside of a safe place. Maybe there is unnecessary stress, pain, and emptiness in your life. You're trying to make sense of life without the One who gave you your life.

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                        It's a familiar scenario. A man is driving his family on vacation; let's say they're going from Chicago to California. His wife gently points out to him that she just saw a sign saying, "Welcome to Kentucky." Kentucky is definitely not between Chicago and California. Repeatedly, the Mrs. suggests that the Mr. stop and ask directions. Then she says, "I think we're lost." Will he stop and ask for directions? No! Maybe it's something in the male chromosome. Like most men, he's too proud to admit he's lost, and he's probably not going to end up where he hoped.

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                          Missing the Way OutOnly four people survived above the 78th floor on that awful September 11 when a hijacked jetliner struck the south tower of the World Trade Center. Two of those were in a group of six that were on the 84th floor, right in the middle of where the plane crashed into the building. The six men ran to the stairwell and started that long trip down. At the 81st floor, they met a woman who said, "You can't go down. The floors below are in flames. We have to get above the smoke and fire." The six coworkers debated whether to go up or down. Four decided to climb up, hoping for a helicopter to rescue them from the roof. They could not have known that the rooftop doors were locked, and the roof was smothered in smoke. Their other two colleagues continued down, heading right into the dense smoke that had made others turn back. They struggled to breathe, but thankfully that smoke lasted only a floor or two. They were the last people who got out of the south tower alive. Their friends didn't make it.

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                              Are you consumed with all kinds of earth stuff and blinded from what matters most? Many times we are blinded by the lights of making money, having fun, important relationships, busy schedules, even religious activity.

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                                There are good things that hurricanes can do. In Florida, there were Australian pine trees that somehow had taken root in a place that hosted attractive plants which, in turn, attracted many beautiful birds and small animals. As those pines grew and got tall, they literally created a canopy over those plants, and blocked out the sun. What had once been an area thriving with plant and animal life became a stretch of sterile underbrush - until a hurricane hit. The storm literally snapped those trees in two, and the sun was back. The area is now a beautiful park with pools, greenery, flowers, herons, and lots of interesting wildlife - but it took a hurricane.

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                                    UnloseableDo you feel like your world is torn apart, with every person who ever loved you gone? Maybe you're looking for someone who could never leave you. There is one unloseable relationship that will change your life forever.

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                                      Nice Ways to Miss GodIf you can see a musician in person or if you have a chance to meet that person, why would you just settle for something they've made like a recording? Sadly, many people in their search for spiritual answers have made a tragic mistake like that. They've gotten all involved with something God made or a religion that represents Him, but they have missed meeting Him in person!

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                                        If you work in an office, chances are they make sure they can have access to the company computer that you use. Your personal computer and your company's computer are probably protected from any funny business by something called a password. Even if someone would like to know what it is, they can't. It's a secret.

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