by Pratt Davis
If we ask modern people if they believe in miracles, the answers will probably range from "Of course not, everything has a logical explanation," to "Miracles happened in Bible times, but not so much today."
Then we hear the story of the rescue of an infant last week. A fisherman spotted a wrecked car turned upside down in water under a bridge over the Spanish Fork River in Utah and called 911. The wrecked car was not visible from the roadway above. Police and firemen arrived and made their way toward the almost submerged car. As they approached the car, the rescuers reported that they clearly heard an adult female voice calling, "Help me! Help me!" When they reached the car, they were unable to lift the car at first, but another cry, "Help me!" caused them to get a surge of adrenalin and lift the car.
They discovered an infant suspended upside down in her car seat just barely above the water that filled the car. The infant's mother was in the driver's seat and submerged in water. She apparently had died at the time of the crash. A person living nearby who heard a crash 13 hours earlier had looked outside and seen nothing. No one noticed the vehicle until the fisherman came down river the next morning.
Rescuers arrived in time to save the infant who was unconscious and unresponsive when they first pulled her from the car. I heard one of the firemen interviewed on the TV news. This man was a no-nonsense, get it done, type of man. He said the fire fighters clearly heard a female voice calling for help. Was it Imagination? Hype for the press? A recording from somewhere nearby? Maybe it is best left a mystery for us to ponder. Even if there is a "logical" explanation, the cry was certainly meaningful to the men who were struggling to rescue the child.
This meaningful coincidence, or synchronicity, reminds us to pay attention to the details of our lives.
I believe that we live surrounded by mysteries and miracles. Indeed we live our lives walking around in a miracle - we just don't stop, look closely, and appreciate it.
A really good spiritual practice that we seldom remember to do is simply to stop our busy activity and just look closely. Before I squash the bug that is crawling on the window, I remind myself to look closely at it. It took 14 million years for this bug to be in this form on my window. A miracle.
My nephew recently showed me pictures he took as he drove to work in the dark during one of the snows that hit the Piedmont in February. Snow flakes were hitting his windshield with only enough light from his headlights to illuminate each flake against the black background of the surrounding dark. Those flakes were sparking, silver gems and each one was sharp, crystal clear, and distinctive in its unique shape. A miracle.
On one of those cold, snowy days in February when I am housebound and not happy with the cold and snow, I decide I need an attitude adjustment. I sit down in my chair in the den and swivel around so I can look out the sliding door and just enjoy the snow. I will act like the children who love to see it snow. To my surprise I find myself enjoying the scene. It is beautiful. Everything is snow covered, a little sun is peeping through. I notice how green are the needles of a pine tree. But most amazing are the two male Cardinals on the limbs of the maple. Those bright spots of red against the white landscape are gorgeous. Later one of the Cardinals comes to the deck outside the den door to eat from a tray of seed that Duane has placed on the deck. I can see him really well. The little black mask around his beak looks painted on. A miracle.
Not only does the beauty and unique detail of the world around us proclaim the miracle of life, I just received a dramatic demonstration of the healing and restorative force of life from my African Violets.
About six months ago my two African Violets were bloomed out and looking a little droopy. My husband, who should have known better, thought he would help the poor things. He took them outside and left them in bright sun for an afternoon. The first I knew of it was when he brought the violets in that evening saying, "I might not should have taken these outside."
No, he should not have - they were cooked. Worse than that, he should have known better - his mother was the master of African Violet growers. She loved violets and kept them in her kitchen and porch room for years, starting new plants from leaf cuttings and growing exquisite colors of blooms.
My response to these poor cooked plants was to set them back in my sun room out of the direct light and keep them fed and watered. I am not gifted as a plant grower as I have said before. I am definitely a minimalist when it comes to plant care. Which is why I say I received a dramatic demonstration of the energy of life when, a few months later, I see new dark green leaves emerging. Slowly the burned leaves are dying off and I remove them when they dry out. Next thing I know, buds appear, and for the last month dark purple blooms atop a crown of dark green leaves has been amazing to watch. A miracle.
Now these stories are not to say that life on planet Earth is all rosy and perfect. The mother of the rescued infant died. But, it is to say that while life is difficult and uncertain on the one hand, there is a force of healing, and beauty, and transformation running through it that we can trust. Even out of burned up violets, new leaves and blooms come forth. My job is to pay attention, to look deeply. I can slow down and notice my steps on planet Earth.
I don't have to walk on water to experience a miracle. Every step I make on the earth is a miracle.
Pratt Davis is a member of Sparta UMC and an avid UM Woman. Pratt practices Insight Meditation, is a student of night-time dreams, and writes articles for her church’s monthly newsletter.
Resources for Vital Congregations
Lewis Center for Church Leadership
Lewis Center for Church Leadership: Books
Lewis Center for Church Leadership: Serve Your Neighbor
GBHEM Leadership Resources
Living Faithfully: Human Sexuality and the United Methodist Church
Englewood Book Review
Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations
Ted Talks: The Golden Circle
Ted Talks: The Power of Vulnerability
Ted Talks: The Price of Invulnerability
Meditations on the Ministry of All Christians
Be A Disciple
A Disciple’s Path; A Guide for United Methodist
Lewis Center for Church Leadership: Adult Christian Studies from the Wesley Ministry Network
Traveling Together: A Guide for Disciple Forming Congregations
Living As United Methodist Christians
Methodist Doctrine: The Essentials
Reclaiming our Wesleyan Tradition: John Wesley’s Sermons for Today
John Wesley Sermons: Anthology
Get Their Name
Evangelism & Theology in the Wesleyan Spirit
Canoeing the Mountains
Fresh Expressions: Dinner Church
Lewis Center for Church Leadership: Reach New Disciples
Lewis Center for Church Leadership: 50 Ways to Reach People
Community: The Structure of Belonging
RESOURCES TO CONNECT WITH THE COMMUNITY:
Institute for Emerging Issues
Congregations 4 Children
The Royce and Jane Reynolds Ministry Fund Grants
The Duke Endowment
The Appalachian District Church Vitality Team has been prayerfully seeking ways to help support you and the ministries of your local congregation during this COVID-19 pandemic. Together they have diligently researched and connected with others throughout the conference and our denomination to identify resources and offer them to you. We hope they will be helpful to you and bless you greatly in leading your churches and communities through this unprecedented time. We are very grateful to the District Vitality Team and other contributors for their great work on this resource.
This faithful team has created three documents, two of which you are receiving today. They include:
- Family Home Worship – designed to help families establish a regular worship space within their homes as well as a time where they can worship together.
- Tech Strategies – to help guide you in selecting effective tools and resources within your budget to best communicate in the digital world.
We believe these resources will be of great benefit to you. Also know that the District Vitality Team is available to answer any questions you might have in regards to the documents attached. If you have questions, you may email Rev. Howard Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org.