miracles


onboardplaneWhile traveling on a plane recently, I found myself seated next to a young woman who was attractive, prime, proper and aloof.  I don’t mind people who don’t want to talk on a plane because I like that alone time also.

However, she was clearly impressed with herself. Because I admire that in younger women, she caught my attention  Therefore, even though she wasn’t interested in speaking to me, questions flooded my mind.  I wanted to know her.  I quietly and silently prayed that somehow I could be a blessing to her.

I felt that she was a person who had newly acquired her positive self-image because there was still a bit of uncomfortable awkwardness about the way she sat straight and tall.  It was impossible to notice that she took out pictures of cosmetic sample and flipped through them several times.  I felt that perhaps she recently took a job that helped her to see how valuable she really is.

We waltzed a bit in our seats, shifting and maneuvering our computers, phones and purses to avoid contact.  She was the one who was leading each dance, while never allowing my eyes to meet hers.  My interest grew.

boarding passThen she lost her boarding pass and all the defenses and reserve melted.  Panic slipped into the space that had been occupied by self-assurance.

“I lost my ticket,” she said in broken but clear English.  I knew that she meant “boarding pass” for her next flight; but I didn’t see the need to correct her.

“Oh, I found one in the front pocket of my seat.  Perhaps, it was yours.”   No.  We searched together but we couldn’t find the missing boarding pass.

“Don’t worry.” I said, as her black and delightfully expressive eyes filled with tears.  Her look questioned me.  I explained the procedure to get another boarding pass.  But she didn’t understand.  I clarified several times.  Finally, she seemed satisfied.  She sat back in her seat and grasped her Gucci handbag.

“I don’t need to worry,” she reassured herself out loud.  “I can get another ticket.”  She smiled at me and I felt such love for her.  In that moment, it was as though God had given me another daughter.

I touched the sleeve of her elegant leather coat and prayed soft enough that only she, the Lord and I could hear,  “Father, help her find her ticket.  She needs to have it in her hands.”  Again, she smiled shyly.

Then she reached down on the floor, moving her hand between her seat and the wall of the plane.  “It is here!” she exclaimed, smiling from ear to ear. “I found my ticket.”

I settled down to resume our previous positions; but the barriers were broken for her and a flood of questions followed.  We spent the next 20 minutes getting to know each other as only two women who are strangers can do.  As we parted from the plane, we smiled and walked away.

There are times in our lives that God can reach out and touch us in such a powerful way that there is almost heavenly music in the air.  Others times, there is only a smile and word of reassurance needed to reach the heart of a person.  Yet, how important it is to grasp the moment, knowing that God alone can make hearts confident.  I’ve prayed all this week for this wonderful, young woman.  I hope we meet again in heaven.

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prisoner

Some of the greatest miracles and healings have come into my life through forgiveness.  It is an interesting phenomenon–forgiveness.  When I forgive, it is not the person that I forgive who receives the miracle.  It was me.

I cannot say that I’ve had more to forgive than most because life is hard for all of us.  No matter what your circumstances or generational history, life has a way of taking each of us and wringing all the marrow from our bones.  Without Divine intervention, we eventually collapse from the weight of our own empty carcass and die.

moldForgiveness is one of the miraculous life-giving principles that the Lord has given to us to renew our minds and bodies.  At times, unforgiveness can be a tricky business.  Like damaging mold, it can hide behind walls we build to protect ourselves from harm.  We prance glibly along not understanding that a damaging parasite is growing in our bodies that will eventually kill us if it isn’t fumigated from our systems.

For years, I carried a hidden resentment toward my parents that seemed to remain under the surface. Because no one was hurt by the things I’d observed, I had no concern about dealing with this festering little pimple.  Nevertheless, I slowly realized that I had fallen into the same habit that had been abhorrent to me all during my childhood.

I could not seem to break the pattern until I discovered the miracle of forgiveness.  The scripture that set me free is Matthew 6:14 and 15.  “Yes, if you forgive others for their sins, your Father in heaven will also forgive you for your sins. But if you don’t forgive others, your Father in heaven will not forgive your sins” (NCV).

Even though I knew this familiar verse that follows the Lord’s example prayer, I had not applied it to this situation.  As soon as I told the Lord I forgave my parents and asked him to forgive me of my petty resentment,  I experienced a miracle in my spirit that still lingers in my memory decades later.

The sad part was that when I explained to my mother about the annoyance I held, she laughed.  “Oh, Honey.  I didn’t do that for your dad.  I did that for me!  It was only for my sake I did it.  At times, your father even resented my actions.”

I had kept that festering indignation for years and it was not even justified.  Had I not experienced the Lord’s miracle of forgiveness, I could still be hurting and following the same pattern of behavior that caused my animosity.

I had to learn that forgiveness is not a feeling but an act of my will.  The word Jesus used in the Greek means “to send away from one’s self.”  Feelings can trick you into believing things that are not true.  True forgiveness may not result in goosey feeling.  However, it will result in a miracle in the spirit man.

calming story

In the fourth chapter, Mark records a miracle that astounds the followers of Jesus.  In fact, their perplex reaction makes this encounter noteworthy to many observers and critics.

The men were traveling by boat across the unpredictable and often tempestuous Sea of Galilee when a terrible storm blew over the waters.  The men were concerned for their lives; but Jesus slept in the front of the boat.  They woke Jesus and rebuked him, “Is it nothing to you that we are going to die?”

Once awake, Jesus spoke to the wind and waves and told them to be calm.  The weather obeyed his command immediately.  The wind stopped and the sea became as smooth as glass.

Recording their reaction, Mark writes the disciples were terrified by Jesus and asked each other, “Who is this?  Even the wind and waves obey him.”

When Jesus slept in the front of the boat, the men felt apprehension.  In fact, Jesus uses the word that means timid, cowardly  or fearful to describe their fear.

However, after Jesus calms the storm, Mark describes their emotions.  He says they were “greatly terrified.”  The two Greek words used in the manuscript could be translated “had a holy reverence to the point of terror.”

After seeing the strength of Jesus’ power to mold circumstances and events to his will, the Son of God’s companions were more afraid of their Master than of losing their lives.  There will be miracles in our lives that will demonstrate God’s awesome power in such a magnificent way that we will mutely stand more terrified of God than the circumstance that lead to the revelation of His might.

At that moment in time, we stand in amazed wonder acutely aware of our own finite existence contrasted with God’s magnificent ability to bend time, space and nature.

on kneesWhen was the last time, you knew of anyone who was terrified by the awesomeness and power of  God? Too often, we trivialize the work and omnipotence of God.  Yet, there is a transforming, supernatural authority which can throw us instantly to our knees in holy terror.

 

photo by michaelwalden.com

stormIn the life of a Christian, it is often at a time of crisis that God lifts his hand from the natural order he ordained to do a miracle.  As we remember, a miracle is when God intercedes to do something supernatural.

While riding from a prayer breakfast with a group of Christians yesterday, the conversation turned to a young mother who received many miracles during the birth of her child.  The baby’s head came quickly but the shoulder became stuck on the mother’s pelvis.  While shoulder dystocia is rare, the shoulder can usually be dislodged by repositioning the mother.  The child’s shoulder could not be dislodged.

However, miraculously, the baby suddenly was dislodged but he was stillborn.  The medical personnel worked feverishly to enable the baby to breathe.  Nothing worked.  After they declared the little one stillborn, the child suddenly breathed with no help from any medical staff.  The nurses and midwife believed that his revival was a miracle.

tornadoMost of us can point to a time in our history when a miracle occurred.  Messy times of emergencies, God breaks his own rules to bless his children.

Miners survive for weeks after a coal mine explosion.  There is a plane wreck and no one is killed.  An explosion occurs and everyone dies except one man.  There is no explanation except that God interrupts his laws and gave a miracle.

Each of us can point to a time when we experienced a miracle.  Nevertheless, can we expect God to do miracles in our lives as a matter of routine?  Perhaps that smacks of presumption.  However, the Lord has promised the believer that God works all things for our good.  Prayer is asking God to break his own rules and do miracles in our lives, families, our nation and the church.  It should not be assumed it is presumption but a matter of routine.

accidentSaturday afternoon, during choir practice, I got a phone call from a colleague, who said, “My wife and I have just been in at terrible accident. Can you cover for me tomorrow?” This is a person who downplays everything. Therefore, his admission regarding the  severity of the accident set me into caution mode.

Having him interrupt choir, when he knows my schedule was another cautionary note.  After seeing the pictures, it’s obvious that accident was terrible.  A truck rear-ended their auto.  After the accident, driver of the truck could not move his body.  In addition, the impact of the accident slammed my colleague’s vehicle into the car in front of them.  This person was also seriously injured.

All indications from the damage done to the cars and the injuries the others received, it is a miracle that my co-workers were not critically injured.  But they were not.

Earlier that day, the news media reported that an entire neighborhood was covered with mud in California.  However, no one was hurt.  People were saying this was truly a miracle.

prudenceThese are two incidences of God’s miraculous work in the world today. As wonderful as miracles are, there needs to be a word of prudence given.

Discretion teaches to never use the word, “miracle” in a loose manner.  It seems that often when Christians are speaking to each other and to non-believers, we use the word miracles as frequently as possible.  We get a parking space after prayer; and we let everyone know that it’s a miracle.  We are able to safely cross a heavily traveled highway by foot; and it’s a miracle.

Understand, I’m not saying that these things are not miracles.  I am  saying that describing everything that happens in our lives as a miracle weakens our witness with the outside world.  It is important that we protect our witness regarding God’s intrigity and our relationship.

Years ago, I learned from a wise friend that many things are too sacred to be shared.  This has been hard for me because I like to tell everything.  When we throw out these sacred bits of information, we open ourselves and our witness to criticism.

We don’t fully understand the reason why the Lord often admonished people who had received great miracles in their lives. “Don’t tell anyone what has happened to you,”  Jesus advised. Perhaps one reason is that these things are too personal and too holy to be thrown out for critique and misunderstanding.

AA Allen 1The Lord has done amazing things in my life.  Working with youth for more than 25 years, I came to understand these young men and women were able to grasp the wonder of God’s love in spectacular ways.

One evening while carpooling a group of teenagers home from our weekly meetings, we had to pull over because the flashing lights of an ambulance signaled an emergency in the neighborhood.  “We need to pray,” one of the young men insisted as the ambulance speeded past us.  “Father, touch and heal the person in the ambulance” was the simple prayer.

Later that evening we were told by family members that the man in the ambulance was dead when they passed us.  The young people in the car steadfastly believed, however, that the man had been healed. The next day we heard that the dead-man had miraculously been revived during their trip to the hospital.

I can recount hundreds of such miracles in my life.  There is a divine purpose for miracles.  However, I’ve come to believe that miracles are greatly misunderstood.

AllenMiracles are not and never will be the be-all and end-all of the Christian life.  A. A. Allen who was known to have prayed for and received hundred’s and perhaps thousand’s of miracles died from liver failure caused by acute alcoholism.  Other men who have been hailed as God’s vessel for working miracles have fallen miserably or lived undercover reporbate lives.

This is not recorded to discount miracles but to underscore the fact that while miraclous happenings are valid in the Christian life, they are not the most important aspect of living a godly and holy life in Christ.

Working within the mentally challenged community, I dance comfortable with miracles every day.  Almost every member I face on a weekly basis is a miracle.  Their lives are filled with unaccountable healings and divine interventions.  Many of them have seen God work in ways that would curl toenails.  However, what impresses me more than the miracles is their faithful obedience to His commands.  I believe that is also what impresses God.

Stack of BooksI’ve just had a prayer answered.  I mean immediately my prayer was answered.  Years ago, I learned from reading the wonderful book, Practice of the Presence of the Lord, by Brother Lawrance, the importance of having constant communication with the Lord.

Therefore, much of my thought life has become prayer.  Monday is my day off.  As I sat on my couch about an hour ago, I thought/prayed, “Lord, I’d love to have a book to read.”  I especially love children’s books.

Within a few minutes, I got a text from my daughter.  “Did you get the gift book we sent to you?”  After a few texts, I downloaded my new book on my iPad.  Needless to say, I was thrilled–not only with my new book but also with the Lord’s immediate answer to my prayer.  In fact, He had set the answer into motion even before I had prayed.

formulaI wish there were a “supernatural formula” that I could pass on to you that would make these kinds of wonderful miracles happen every time we pray.  If there is such a formula, I don’t know it.  I believe there are simply times when God’s miraculous grace is poured out into our lives.

I had a discussion with a dear friend yesterday.  I said that all miracles are big because they are supernatural interventions into our lives orchestrated by God.  He laughed and said, “No!  It’s exactly the opposite.  All miracles are small because our God is much more mighty than mere miracles.  They are simply like breathing in and out to God.”

Both explanations could be absolutely true.   From the perspective of humankind, every miracle–no  matter  how small–is enormous because we are able to see the  intervention of God in our lives.  To imagine that God cares enough about us that he will break his own rules is a breath-taking concept.

Yet, viewed from the perspective of God–healing, deliverance, parting the sea, feeding 5,000 people–all miracles are child’s play.

Nevertheless, when I view into the looking-glass of the history of humankind regarding what price was paid by the Lord Jesus to give me total access to a loving and gracious God, I cannot but stand in awe of the salvation Jesus’ sacrifice provided for me.  I sit dumbfounded at the big miracles from an amazing, loving God who will answer a prayer desiring a new book to read.

Small or big miracles?  Small for God.  But a huge act of graciousness that demonstrates to me his love for me.  That’s a big miracle.

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