One Miracle

Clouds Miracle Beautiful - Free photo on Pixabay

What if, in our lifetimes, we had the ability to perform one miracle?

That thought came to mind as I was walking the dog the other morning, when I often get my best thoughts. We were walking by my neighbors’ house, and I was wishing I could make his cancer disappear. That would be a miracle, because it’s the kind of cancer that cannot be cured.

What if we all got one miracle?

Years ago, a parishioner who was very dear to me experienced a cataclysmic medical event, went into a coma on life support for two weeks, and then, after the family decision to remove the life support, died. She was fifty years old, good, kind, funny, healthy, and beloved. When I went to see her in the hospital, unresponsive, machines helping her breathe, feeding her, helping her eliminate – that sound of those machines has never left me. I prayed so hard for a miracle. “Save her,” I prayed, again and again, knowing in my soul that only God could save her, that her recovering would be a miracle.

But it didn’t happen.

As I walked the dog, I entertained the idea. If I had one miracle, would I use it at the first opportunity and then be done? And if I did that, would I regret it later on? Or would I save it, thinking that if my child ever needed it, it would be there for her? And if she never needed it and I never used it, would it become a wasted miracle? Or would I save it for myself? Or would I use it for peace in places of war, or water in places of drought, or a contraption that would prevent catalytic converter theft?

By the time I was home and taking the dog’s leash off, I decided I would not want the responsibility and burden of having a miracle at my disposal. Too hard to make that decision, too much of a temptation to be selfish or selfless, to have that sort of power.

We don’t get miracles, but we do get other things, like patience and prayer, like hope and grace. We get doctors and scientists and pharmacists. We get casseroles and Postmates gift cards. We get friends who drop everything at moment’s notice. We get hospital chaplains and Kleenex and gallows humor. In the end, maybe all those are better than a miracle.

But if I did have a miracle….

The Multiplication of the Papers and Woo-Woo Presbyterians

papersOne of the benefits of being an Art History major is that I know all sorts of obscure titles for religious paintings.  The Assumption of the Virgin (in which Mary does NOT make an ass of you and me but rather flies up to Heaven); the Harrowing of Hell (in which Jesus, after the cross but before Easter, goes to Hell and rescues all the souls who died before he could save them, like Adam and Eve, etc.) and the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes, in which Jesus feeds a mess of people with five loaves of bread and two fish.  If you don’t believe me, type one of those titles into Google images and see the multiplication of Roman Catholic Great Masters’ paintings.

Of late, our household has experienced the multiplication of the morning papers.  It all began when for four days we didn’t receive our daily Oregonian, and then after one complaint call, we started getting three a day.  For ten days.  In spite of two more phone calls.

But today was special.  This morning when I walked the puppy at 6:00, I noticed our usual three papers on the porch.  My husband called and spoke to someone at the paper.  When I came home at lunch, there was a new paper – today’s paper – a fourth paper –  by the front door.  Maybe the earlier papers had a little Periodical Fun, and Fourth Paper in the Yellow Bag is their offspring.

Let’s detour for a moment to Woo Woo Presbyterians.  They call themselves this – I did not make it up.  I call them our Buddhist Presbyterians.  Whatever you want to call them, they are folks committed to our Presbyterian congregation who nonetheless see things on a different spiritual plain.  One of them once saw a delightful aura of white bouncing balls over my head while I preached.  (How AWESOME is that?)  Another can quote Buddhist masters, and pronounce their names correctly, at the drop of a hat.  I love them, because they are so generous in spirit, and let me be my usual frozen chosen self, not seeing auras and mispronouncing all sorts of names.

But because these Woo Woo Presbyterians are in my life, I’ve started to wonder if The Universe is trying to tell me something by sending me three or four morning papers.  I confess that my husband is the paper reader.  If I get to the Sudoku, I’m good.  If I finish the Sudoku and read the obituaries, it’s a banner day.  But is The Universe, by multiplying my Oregonian, suggesting that I actually read the paper?  That I know what’s happening in my community and in the world?  And that number three – that is WAY significant in Christianity: the Trinity, on the third day he arose, John 3:16.  But then what about the number four?

I don’t know.  And if tomorrow morning there is only one paper on the porch, or no paper, does that mean I should stop doing the Sudoku?  What would my Woo Woo Presbyterians say?

Maybe they would tell me it’s just The Universe pranking me.  Ha ha.  Funny.

Praying for a miracle

candleOnce a month our congregation offers an evening service of healing and wholeness in the Taize style of worship.  I attended the service for the first time last night – for the first time, not because I don’t have those to pray for who are seeking healing and wholeness, but because, really, my colleague is beautifully suited to lead that service and usually at 5:30 on a Saturday night I don’t want to be in church.

But I went last night, in part so that I could experience it but also because a few of us were staying afterwards to decorate for the Pentecost service today.  It was a lovely service and I’m glad I was there as it feels that there is a lot to pray about right now .

So the choir is leading some of the Taize songs, and my mind wanders in a good way.  I start thinking about a friend of mine who has been diagnosed with cancer, and the prognosis is so-so.  I start thinking that I would like a miracle for this friend, which gets me thinking about miracles in general.

Once in my life I prayed for a miracle.  A very dear parishioner in the first congregation I served was in a coma.  It was a cardiac thing, an utter surprise for this healthy, relatively young, fabulous, beautiful, kind woman. She lay in a coma and I stood by her bedside and prayed for a miracle, that she would come out of the coma, that they would shrink her enlarged heart, that her husband and sons would enjoy decades more with her.  But the miracle didn’t happen, and eventually she died and it was awful.

I haven’t prayed for a miracle since, but last night as I was thinking about my cancer-diagnosed friend, I thought about miracles again. What if there was some rule that you could only get one miracle granted in the course of your lifetime?  Would I hoard it for myself or my child or my husband, save it for a rainy day? Or would I be burdened by the miracle and offer it up the first ripe opportunity, and not be weighed down by the decision of when to use it?  Would I not pray for the miracle and then regret it the rest of my life?

I know people who have experienced miracles.  I know people who have experienced answers to prayer that they would call miraculous.  I’ve only prayed for a miracle once, and it didn’t happen.  And I know that should not be proof that God doesn’t grant miracles (or perform them?  I’m not sure what verb to use.)  But it’s hard to ask for something and get a ‘no’ and then be willing to ask again; harder to do that again and again and again.  It leads to a world of disappointment and not a little bit of doubt about the good intentions of the Divine Creator.

Meanwhile the choir finished their Taize song and we had moved on to other prayers.  I didn’t pray for a miracle last night.  Instead, I went to light a candle, for my friend, and for a few others.    I added a little light in the darkness, and in that moment, that felt better than a miracle.