Thursday, April 9, 2009

Weird Miracles

When approaching the topic of miracles

in a Christian context you are bombarded with stories of miraculous healings.

Aside from that you also get a fair share of miraculous intervention stories where angelic beings rescue an unfortunate soul from one dread fate or the other.

Once in a while you hear a very oddball story of the miraculous that the sheer oddness of it makes you stand up, take notice and wonder what type of medication the person has been taking. Yet the stories are delivered with such sincerity that you have to believe the teller, if not the tale itself.

This Easter season I thought I’d relay to you a few of the oddest I have heard.

Ben was a typical teenage farm boy of 1950s America. Corn fed, hard working and loyal to a fault. While school was on he dutifully did his chores before and after his classes and when summer rolled around he devoted himself whole heartedly to laboring hard all day on the family farm. He had a knack for mechanics and when others gave up on a broken down piece of machinery and designated it to the rust yard to be turned into salvage metal, Ben would inevitably spend some extra time with the malfunctioning unit and within a short time it seemed like he would breath back life into a forsaken piece of equipment. By the time he reached driving age neighboring farms would ask Ben’s father if they could borrow their son for a few evenings so he could work his mechanical magic on a few of their own broken down equipment. The neighbors were grateful for a few extra years on an old piece of equipment instead of spending a small fortune on a new model and rewarded Ben handsomely for his talents.

And of course as a family centered young lad of the times he gave his money to the family so that the cash flow between seasons was adequate enough to help the farm stay afloat.

It was on one of these nights that Ben was away working on a neighboring farm that a very odd experience happened to his mother.

Elsie was making pies out of self canned rhubarb and strawberries when the house dog became restless. Thinking it needed to go outside to relieve itself she wiped her hands off on her apron and opened the back door for the dog to go outside.

But the dog just stood there and whimpered.

Disturbed the mother closed the door and looked at the dogs food and water dish, and since both were full she shook her head and mumbling to the creature she went back to folding the dough for the pie crust.

But the dog’s anxiety grew stronger and stronger. It would rub against her legs, whimpering and when she shooed it away with a bump it would bark loudly, demanding her attention. After a few moments of this Elsie had enough and grabbing the dog by its collar she shoved it out the screen door to the backyard and was about to close the wooden inner door when the dog pressed its face hard against the screen and Elsie heard something that she swore to until her dying day.

“Ma, it’s Ben. He’s hurt and nobody knows. If we don’t get him to a doctor he will die”

She was the only one on the farm at the time. He husband was off with some friends and the other children were in town. But she heard the voice clear as day, a voice that was deep and gravely that she had never heard before.

And it seemed to have come from the dog.

It was not like she had seen the dogs lips form the human words, in fact she wasn’t even looking at the dog’s face when she heard the words. But to her there was no mistake no matter how incredible.

She slowly pulled the wooden door wide open and squatted down to look at the dog as the nervous animal continuted to press against the steel screen.

“Did you just say that?” She asked. The dog barked. Confused and thinking she was losing her mind she once again talked to the Old Joe the Golden Retriever that Ben had raised from a puppy, “Ben. Ben is hurt?” she asked. With that the dog barked frantically and popped a hole in the lower part of the screen door.

Standing dizzily up, Elsie opened the door and with a whimper the faithful dog loosed its head and ran inside the house. It ran to the wall that held the phone and stood on its hind legs as if it were trying to use the human device.

Then for Elsie everything was clear. She called to the neighboring farm where Ben was to work on an old harvesting device and asked if they could check on her son for she felt like something was wrong.

Within a few minutes the frantic voice of her neighbor’s daughter came back on the line. Ben had mangled his hand in the equipment and had lost a lot of blood. Her father and mother were rushing him to the hospital.

They made it to the hospital just in time; the doctors told Elsie and her husband when they arrived a short time later. Ben had lost a few fingers and his had was irreversibly mangled, but thanks to her curious call Ben was found before he had bled to death alone in the barn.

I know what you are thinking.

I thought it as well when I first heard the story over twenty years ago.

I just nodded with interest and listened in the narthex of the church where the story was told to me. The teller of the tale was Ben’s nephew, then a church Elder. I chocked it up as a tall tale until a few days after I met Ben. He was in his late forties at the time and he did have a mangled right hand. With curiosity and obviously no sensitivity whatsoever on my part I asked him about his crippled hand. It had been a farm accident. So with more cocky arrogance than inquisitiveness I told him with a chuckle the story his nephew had told me. He just said a simple folksy, “Yep.” Still not believing I asked him directly if he was pulling my leg. He told me with all sincerity, “It’s what Ma held to as truth till her deathbed. But old Joe never did talk to me none. Guess I never needed to listen.”

In reflection all I can think is if God can talk to a prophet through a donkey according to scripture, it seems more than right a boy’s dog could talk to his mother and save a life.

Personally, if my animals ever talk to me, I am sure they will be condescending.

Another odd ‘miracle’ story was also relayed to me by a Pastoral mentor of mine when I had just left Seminary and took my first church position.

The Denomination that I belonged to at the time, The Christian and Missionary Alliance to this day holds the old fashioned ‘tent revivals’ every summer in the form of camp meetings. Depending on the speaker and the music they can get quite lively, although at the time seeing even an acoustic guitar at one of these worship services was not only unique some of the older revivalists would have even considered it mildly heretical.

But if the music came from any other stringed instrument, piano or organ, then of course it could be used in all holiness.

After a ‘rousing’ period of praise and worship with century old hymns coming from an out of tune piano at the camp meeting, I bemoaned the archaic worship style to my mentor. He patiently listened and then encouraged me to appreciate the old fashioned music. For in the past God had worked miracles with this type of service.

At the turn of the 19th century during the charismatic outbreak within evangelical Christianity there were day long revivals where people would prostate themselves before God, pour out there hearts and souls and God would work miracles. Along with the common signs of the movement such as speaking in tongues and being ‘slain in the spirit’ there were numerous other miraculous instances as well.

People were healed of terminal illness, there were many prophecies spoken that inevitably came true, the deaf began to hear and the blind began to see. Oh, and there was a couple of instances of people floating around the altar in mid air.

Did you ever have a seminal experience in your life where you thought for an instant that the people you have looked up to and admired most in your life are absolutely bonkers?

For a few fleeting moments back then in 1992 that was me. I was a little dazed. Now I had experienced a multitude of unexplained and miraculous things first hand in a variety of churches. Sometimes people do get healing-dynamic and miraculous. But most of the time there are no dynamic interventions from God. People get sick and die. Miracles do not happen all the time, or else they would cease to be miraculous, they would be common place. I have met people who have claimed to have been once deaf or blind and God restored their sight or hearing. And I have heard some strange portents of the future exclaimed to only see it creepily come true with stunning exactness.

People floating in air? I had to have him repeat himself.

“Yes they were so filled with the Holy Spirit that there were actually documented instances in California of some people actually lifting off the ground.” He told me in a quiet hushed voice that warm July night. “The denomination does not like to talk about it anymore. Many of the leadership today believe that because of all the fasting and prayer people became delusional, but there are many folks today who swear this took place.”

And he later in the day introduced me to some others who had heard the same stories.

I still do not know what to make of it, but of course I’ve seen and heard of a lot more stranger things. And truly I do believe that nothing is impossible with God. But I never really did get why God would make his people float in the first place. And nobody could every tell me what the purpose was as well. It was just a strange experience of the unexplained.

So this Easter Sunday if you are the type that does go to church on this holiday, when the off tune organ or piano drones on and the choir crackles you out of your unconscious stupor that was induced by the ministers meandering message, just be reflect on the talking dog and the floating revivalists.

If it was not for the everyday mundane, such dramatic oddities would not be as so…well…weird!

Until Next Time,

Pastor Swope

From my Examiner Report:
Click to see Easter's Dark Secret


Jeff said...

Not exactly a miracle, but when my wife was a teenager, her mother sent her and her sister up to the store with $20 to buy milk, bread and soft drinks. When they got to the register, they discovered that somewhere in the store they had lost the $20, so they started backtracking. $20 was a lot of money to their family, and they were quite worried.

As they walked down one of the aisles, a stranger approached them and said, excuse me did you lose a $20 bill? Yes, my wife said. He produced it for them, turned around and walked away. They never saw him again, in the store or anywhere else.

cryptidsrus said...

Nice story, Jeff. Made me smile, at the least.

As to the miracle stories, doesn't surprise me in the least. Hindu rishis and yogis supposedly can levitate, walk on water and even live hundreds of years through mind power alone. It all has to do with being in a higher state of consciousness.

Regarding the animal story---

Certain Native American end time prophecy tales say that one of the signs of the "Apocalypse" will be the ability of humans to suddenly understand animal speech. Animals will inexplicable start talking to humans and proceed to berate humanity for its selfishness and greed. So if one suddenly starts hearing dogs, cats, and other animals speak, one will know the end is near. Plus there is always the matter of the psychics who can communicate with animals. I, for one, am a believer.

And that animal tale is nothing. Read this one:
Yep, "Higher state of consciousness" indeed.
Some of those Paranormal.About website tales are better than any fiction. :)

Kent McManigal said...

I often get the feeling that something extraordinary is just about to happen, but nothing usually does. I could tell you a couple of tales though. One even happened in church... I still get goose bumps.

Hey, I'm an Examiner, too. Albuquerque Libertarian Examiner
I'll go check out your column now.

LLnL said...

Now that's a post. I didn't even notice how long it was until I finished reading it, I was literally on the edge of my seat. I love the show on animal planet that show miraculous moments with pets saving their family's life but never had I heard anything so remarkable before.

I've learned to just say to myself anything is possible but I chalked this one up to folklore until I read about your meeting with been. I don't know you so of course I have no clue how honest you are, still I have no doubt about you creditability or this story.

Instead of ending with anything is possible I think that I will just believe this one in light of how God has saved me and all of the things he's allowed me to see for myself. I was not there to see Christ willingly go to the cross, and I did not witness he rising form the dead, but I know that my redeemer lives so yes I believe in miracles.

Howard said...

There's nothing unprecedented with an animal talking as a miracle, of course.

Numbers 22:28 Then the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?”
29 And Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have abused me. I wish there were a sword in my hand, for now I would kill you!”
30 So the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden, ever since I became yours, to this day? Was I ever disposed to do this to you?”
And he said, “No.”

The real question is why such an extraordinary means might be used to save the boy's life, when less spectacular means could have been used. A sign is meant to signify something. Perhaps the mother's faith needed to be bolstered?

Howard said...

Oh, and regarding your Easter post, in particular the doubt about the date of Christmas.

The Jewish New Year is Rosh Hashanah, which in 2009 is September 18/19. Add 6 months: "Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth" (Luke 1:26, NKJV). This brings you to March 18/19. Then add 9 months for a normal pregnancy; you're up to December 18/19. But the Jewish calendar is lunar, so the date of Rosh Hashanah jumps around: it was Sept. 29/30 in 2008, and it will be Sept. 8/9 in 2010. I'm not sure what it would have been in the year of Christ's birth, but adding 15 months would bring you pretty close to Dec. 25, regardless.

brypie said...

i think i'd be a bit freaked if i saw someone floating. cool post though pastor :) thanks for sharing (as always)

NXavier said...

Ugh, Pastor. I feel like I've just been witnessed unto... again.

Respectfully, I'll have to categorize the floating people as part and parcel of the same religion-based mythos that mankind has comforted itself with over the years.

Blessed Be.

Pastor Swope said...

Sorry NXavier,

But methinks with this one it has to do more with the reception than the deliverance.

Anonymous said...

My Pastor's wife from Grand Prairie, Tx was one of those that levitated at a revival. She was just a child she said about 5yo and while many fell out she danced above them her feet never touching the ground.