Coincidence or Miracle?

How can you plan for this?

A man watching his students playing outside on the last day of the school, suddenly feels tense and irritable.  His fellow 7th-grade teacher, who happens to be an EMT, recognizes the signs of a possible heart attack.  He’s rushed to the hospital where the doctors save the day—not to mention, his life.

A man begins to feel tired and out of breath.  After several weeks he visits his cardiologists, who believes that he needs a cardiac catheterization.  While on the surgical table for the procedure, one of his main arteries dissects.  The doctors were able to repair it immediately—staving off what could have been a fatal problem

A man who has been feeling off for a while, visits his cardiologist and has several tests done.  While returning home, he receives a call from his doctor, who tells him that the tests show he is having a heart attack.  Just minutes away, the man immediately returns to be taken by ambulance to the hospital where doctors again save the day ( and his life).

So, did the doctors save the day all three times?  But how was it that this man always had the needed medical personnel on hand exactly when he needed them?  Three different times!  Not much of a chance.  How much of a chance?  “No chance at all”, Jesus said, “if you think you can pull it off by yourself.  Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it.”  (Luke 18:27).

Poster the man had in his classroom while still teaching:  “Coincidence is when God decides to work a miracle and decides to remain anonymous.”

Music Memories

I was just working around the house earlier today with one of the cable music channels on, when, suddenly, I heard a song that instantly brought to mind a very vivid memory.  I was transported to the mid-90’s when the Girl’s Cross-Country team I was coaching was having a team-building meal at my house the night before an important race.  In that memory, they were all singing along with “The Rose” by Bette Midler.  And, yes, I was singing right along with them.  I don’t know why that song had become our team song (nor did I know why I ever started singing along with them), but it did.  And I don’t know why a 1979 song was still popular in the mid-‘90’s, but to the girls it was.  Hearing it today brought back that, and many other, happy memories of coaching and running with the girls.

This was not the only time this kind of experience has happened to me.  I like listening to “oldies” music—and, for me, that means the ‘50’s to the ‘80’s—not like what kids today consider “oldies “music.  But that’s a topic for another day.  Anyway, I had an “oldies” station on in my car when “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor came on.  Once again, an image instantly came to mind.  This time, instead of the sweet sound of Bette Midler’s voice, it was the hard-driving guitar blasts of Survivor that caught my attention.  Maybe it was because it was written as the theme song for Rocky III.  The song was released the day after the movie opening-1982 and later used for Rocky IV (1986).  But for whatever reason, it became the theme song for my Cross-Country teams of the early to mid-‘80’s.  The specific memory is of being in the school weight room doing a workout designed by one of the runners.  “Paul’s Tour of the Weight Room” became legendary for all the running teams ( male or female) for years after.  I can still feel the sweat, the strain, and the pain of that workout.  Worse yet, I can hear Paul’s voice in my head “encouraging” me by telling me what a wimp I was if I couldn’t finish.

Music has always been important and has had some amazing results when directed by God.  At one point, the Israelites were trying to capture the city of Jericho.  God gave them some specific instructions which involved marching around Jericho’s walls while playing trumpets.  Sounds like a silly way to conquer a city, doesn’t it?  This is what happened:  “So, the priests blew the trumpets. As soon as the people heard it, they gave a loud shout, and the walls collapsed. Then all the army went straight up the hill into the city and captured it.” (Joshua 6:20)

Got any walls to bring down?  Any battles you need to win?  Find the song God wants you to sing, sing it with all your heart and might, and you’ll live to fight another day.  And every time you hear or think of that song, you’ll have the memory of what it meant to you.  And, if you can’t sing,

3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, 
4 praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, 
5 praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. (Psalm 150:3-6)

“Why me, Lord?” (Kris Kristofferson, 1972)

Not too long ago, I posted how our extended family has been going through some difficult times–extending roughly over the past 10 years.  There were deaths too numerous to mention and health issues that none of us ever expected.  I know we’re no different from other families who probably have gone through similar situations.  But that doesn’t make them any easier to deal with.  People say that whatever doesn’t kill them makes them stronger.  Then we must be one incredibly powerful family.  It just doesn’t always feel that way.

So, here we were planning and looking forward to starting the new year with a fresh and positive outlook.  Well, so much for that idea.  Our nephew passed away unexpectedly on New Year’s day, leaving 4 sons (including an infant), his partner, and all of us.  Following that, there were unexpected issues with custody of his baby.  Then there’s an unexpected health issue that will require surgery.  Some of the non-family responsibilities we have are now requiring a lot of our time dealing with very stressful issues.  And January isn’t even over yet.

I said (wrote) all of that to say this:  In the midst of all that (and whatever else may be coming down the road), I need to remind myself:

Psalm 147:3   He heals the broken-hearted and bandages those wounds.

Matthew 5:4   Those people who are grieving will find comfort from God

And, it’s true.  He does and they will.

Fish or cut bait!

 

 

Decisions, decisions…sometimes the decision to do nothing is wise.  But you can’t make a career of doing nothing.  The New York Times explained it this way: ” Freddie Fulcrum weighed everything too carefully.  He would say, ‘On the one hand…but on the other.’  And his arguments weighed out so evenly, he never did anything.  When Freddie died, they carved a big zero on his tombstone.”  Not much of a legacy there.

To set yourself free from the worry and anxiety of making choices, you have to first accept personal responsiblity.  Don’t pass the buck when it’s time to make those decisions.  Tough decisions.  Lonely decisions.  Unpleasant decisions.  Misunderstood decisions.  Courageous decisions.  Decide and don’t leave it to someone else to make the decisions for you.

In other words, if you decide to fish–fine.  Or if you decide to cut bait–fine.  But if you decide to do nothing, you’re not going to have fish for dinner.

And if I remember correctly, Jesus often had fish for dinner.  Hmmm….

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  (Philippians 4:6)

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. ( Proverbs 3:5)

Step out the boat.

Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!  ”Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?” Matthew 14:29-31)

Ever notice how the Christmas season seems to amplify the hassles and complexities of our lives?  Health issues seem more debilitating.  Finances seem to overcome our wallets.  Relationships seem more fragile.  In my own family, we suddenly needed a hole in the roof patched (probably needs to be replaced in the spring), our refrigerator died ( just after the warranty expired), our front brakes needed to be replaced (where we discovered that we needed four new tires) and our alternator light went on (we hit a deer on the way to the repair shop).  Add in a cardiac catheterization and things were looking pretty bleak.

Remember the expression, “up the creek without a paddle,”? (Some of you may remember a slightly different version.)  Well, our boat seemed to be taking on water fast.  At similar points in our lives we all have a choice to make.  Do we go down with the boat, or do we step out in faith, believing that God will help us to walk on the water?  Those remaining in the boat will try to convince us to stay and not take the chance.  After all, who can walk on water?  Since I was going to get wet anyway, I decided I might as well step out.  Since I have, we have managed to keep up with our finances, the heart procedure showed no major problems, the car is still running, the roof isn’t leaking anymore and we’re learning how to direct our grief over losses into helpful ways with our family.

Life is never easy, but it’s far better when you step out of the boat.

The Master’s Hand

Now may the God of peace….equip you with every good thing to do His will. (Hebrews 13:20-21) 

Wishing to encourage her young son’s progress on the piano, a mother took the small boy to a Paderewski concert. After they were seated, the mother spotted a friend in the audience and walked down the aisle to greet her. Seizing the opportunity to explore the wonders of the concert hall, the little boy rose and eventually explored his way through a door marked “NO ADMITTANCE.”

When the house lights dimmed and the concert was about to begin, the mother returned to her seat and discovered that her son was missing. Suddenly, the curtains parted and spotlights focused on the impressive Steinway on stage. In horror, the mother saw her little boy sitting at the keyboard, innocently picking out “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” At that moment, the great piano master made his entrance, quickly moved to the piano, and whispered in the boy’s ear, “Don’t quit, keep playing.”

Then leaning over, Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part. Soon his right arm reached around to the other side of the child and he added a running obligato. Together, the old master and the young novice transformed a frightening situation into a wonderfully creative experience. The audience was mesmerized.

That’s the way it is with God. What we can accomplish on our own is hardly noteworthy. We try our best, but the results aren’t exactly graceful flowing music. But with the hand of the Master, our life’s work truly can be beautiful. Next time you set out to accomplish great feats, listen carefully. You can hear the voice of the Master, whispering in your ear, “Don’t quit, keep playing.” Feel His loving arms around you. Know that His strong hands are playing the concerto of your life. Remember, God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.

– Author Unknown –

What would you do?

 

After a few of the usual Sunday evening hymns, the church’s pastor slowly stood up, walked over to the pulpit and, before he gave his sermon for the evening, briefly introduced a guest minister who was in the service that evening. In the introduction, the pastor told the congregation that the guest minister was one of his dearest childhood friends and that he wanted him to have a few moments to greet the church and share whatever he felt would be appropriate for the service.

With that, an elderly man stepped up to the pulpit and began to speak. “A father, his son, and a friend of his son were sailing off the Pacific Coast,” he began, “when a fast approaching storm blocked any attempt to get back to shore. The waves were so high that, even though the father was an experienced sailor, he could not keep the boat upright, and the three were swept into the ocean as the boat capsized.”

The old man hesitated for a moment, making eye contact with two teenagers who were, for the first time since the service began, looking somewhat interested in the story. The aged minister continued with his story. “Grabbing a rescue line, the father had to make the most excruciating decision of his life: to which boy he would throw the other end of the life line. He only had seconds to make the decision. The father knew that his son was a Christian, and he also knew that his son’s friend was not. The agony of his decision could not be matched by the torrent of the waves. As the father yelled out, ‘I love you, son!’, he threw out the life line to the son’s friend. By the time the father had pulled the friend back to the capsized boat, his son had disappeared beneath the raging swells into the black of night. His body was never recovered.”

By this time, the two teenagers were sitting up straight in the pew, anxiously waiting for the next words to come out of the old minister’s mouth. “The father,” he continued, “knew his son would step into eternity with Jesus, and he could not bear the thought of his son’s friend stepping into an eternity without Jesus. Therefore, he sacrificed his son to save the son’s friend. How great is the love of God that He could do the same for us. Our heavenly Father sacrificed His only begotten Son that we could be saved. I urge you to accept His offer to rescue you and take hold of the life line.”

With that, the old man turned and sat back down in his chair as silence filled the room. The pastor again walked slowly to the pulpit and delivered a brief sermon with an invitation at the end. However, no one responded to the appeal. Within minutes after the service, the two teenagers were at the old man’s side. “That was a nice story,” politely said one of the boys, “but I don’t think it was very realistic for a father to give up his only son’s life in hopes that the other boy would become a Christian.”

“Well, you’ve got a point there,” the old man replied, glancing down at his worn Bible. Sorrow began to overtake the old man’s smiling face as he once again looked up at the boys and said, “It sure isn’t very realistic, is it? But I’m here today to tell you that I understand more than most the pain God must have felt to give up His only Son. For you see, I’m the man who lost his son to the ocean that day, and my son’s friend that I chose to save is your pastor.”

– Author Unknown –

Read on Air by Phil Foley, Host of Tabernacle Presbyterian Church’s Good News From Tab Program on 12/6/2000