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Posts Tagged ‘God’s Miracles’

The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes

James Tissot, Brooklyn Museum

 

It’s a familiar story:

Crowds of people teemed the hillside—thousands of them. They had gathered hours before so Jesus could heal the sick and infirm. But soon the sun would set, and hunger gnawed at everyone’s belly.

One young boy offered his meager lunch, and with its contents Jesus provided an ample supper for the entire throng.

I can only imagine, Jesus breaking the pickled fish and barley rolls into pieces over and over, his hands hiding the actual multiplication. He must have worked fast too.

Let’s see…if 5,000 men were in attendance, and perhaps an additional 5,000 women and children, the total count may have approached 10,000 people.

And if each bread-and-fish meal required one second of Jesus’ time to create, he would have been producing food for two hours and forty-six minutes. (Math whizzes: please check my figuring.) In actuality, the process must have been much more rapid.

But even when everyone had eaten all they wanted, Jesus wasn’t finished yet.

“Gather all the leftovers,” he told his disciples. And they filled twelve baskets with broken pieces (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-13).

 

 

Now why would Jesus create an overabundance? Such excessiveness seems without purpose. And why did he instruct the disciples to collect all those leftovers? The birds would have swooped in and quickly devoured the remains.

But Jesus had his reason. Like all the other miracles he performed, his objective was to make plain certain truths about himself and his Father.

Consider:

  • The sheer number of wonders proved he was the Messiah. No one before or since has achieved such a record number of miracles.
  • Jesus’ supernatural deeds for people of all walks of life demonstrated his love and compassion for everyone; a person’s nationality or social status didn’t matter.
  • The breadth of his power became clear as he turned water into wine, healed numerous kinds of diseases and infirmities, quieted the wind, caused nets to fill with fish, walked on water, and even raised the dead.

 

The Raising of Lazarus by Rembrandt

 

The miracle of multiplied bread and fish highlights God’s benevolence. And the leftovers in particular provide a memorable picture of God’s inexhaustible resources and overflowing grace, available to us through Jesus.

I wonder if the disciples were reminded of Psalm 31:19 as their baskets began to fill with roll fragments:

 

 

Such abundance none of them had ever seen before.  The fact that it was an abundance of bread is significant too, because the very next day Jesus called himself the Bread of Life (John 6:35).

 

 

Just as he had supernaturally provided an abundance of bread for a huge crowd, so he would supernaturally provide an abundance of life (John 10:10)a God-enhanced, satisfying, joy-filled life—to those who believe in him (John 11:25-26).

And what about those twelve baskets? Where might a band of wandering disciples find a dozen baskets on a Galilean hillside?

Historians can explain. Each man would have been carrying his own kophinos—a knapsack-type basket. It would have held food and necessary items for a journey, and also provided a place for acquired objects or supplies along the way.

The baskets might symbolize our hearts where the Bread of Life dwells. But unlike the disciples’ grapevine backpacks, our hearts are elastic, capable of stretching to hold more and more of the fullness of God.

And there is a wondrous and glorious abundance to be gathered.

 

 

 

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I praise you, Father,

“We need not fear that we shall ever come to the end of your goodness or any experience for which you will have no blessing ready” (J. R. Miller).

You are our Almighty God, able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think. With you, amazing things are always ahead.  Hallelujah!  

(Luke 12:29-31; 2 Corinthians 9:8; Ephesians 3:20)

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.org ( U.S. work public domain in the U.S. for unspecified reason but presumably because it was published in the U.S. before 1924.); http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.heartlight.org.

 

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The call came at 5:34 a.m., waking Steve and me from sound sleep. Immediately he thought, This is it. My brain hardly registered a phone ringing.

Within moments, however, my body was in high gear, preparing to leave for the hospital. This day—December 19, 2018—Steve would receive a new liver, the only long-term solution for his liver cancer, caused by non-alcoholic cirrhosis. He had been on the transplant wait list for six months.

That predawn phone call became Miracle #1 out of at least twelve over the next two weeks. Steve’s name had only been moved to the top-tier twelve days prior.  (Some patients must wait a year or more.)

Upon arriving at the hospital, Steve underwent two-hours of surgery prep. And then we waited, and waited some more, until the orderlies finally came and wheeled him away.

Miracle #2: Much of the day I waited alone, although Hilja (our daughter-in-law and a physician at the same hospital) sat with me as she could, especially in the evening. But God’s peace that transcends all understanding absolutely guarded my heart and mind the entire time.  I knew all would be well.

 

 

Miracle #3: The first hours in ICU are critical for any patient. God chose a special nurse to care for Steve, one that a colleague had highly praised to Hilja. In addition, Steve was her only patient for about six hours.

Miracle #4: Hilja insisted on spending the night in ICU. As Steve’s blood pressure and some bleeding became an issue, she was there as an extra set of eyes and ears, ready to advocate on his behalf. (Her expertise and support have been invaluable for the entire nine months since Steve’s diagnosis. She’s even attended some appointments with us.)

Miracle #5: The next day, the breathing tube was removed, and Steve was able to sit up in bed. His voice sounded raspy, but he wasn’t groggy, and soon Steve was joking with the nurses, Scot and Mac (What delightful, attentive young men!). By afternoon, they had Steve walking around the nurse’s station. His progress toward healing amazed us all.

 

 

On Day 3, Steve was transferred to the step-down unit where Laura and Katie took over his care. Again, such kind, helpful nurses. In fact, we’ve been highly impressed by the expertise and compassion of the staff at University of Cincinnati Hospital.

Steve continued to make rapid progress, sitting up in a chair for longer stretches of time, circling more laps around the unit each time he walked.

An added blessing those first few days: a young mom from our church babysat for our granddaughters so our son Eric could run errands and visit Steve.

Pastor Michael came to see Steve that day, stopping short upon entering the room. “This is not what I was expecting!” he cried. Although Steve was in bed, he was sitting up, looking perfectly healthy and alert.

 

 

 

On Saturday, Hilja, Elena (our five-year old granddaughter), and I were supposed to attend The Nutcracker. I expected to miss the performance, with Steve only three days post-op.

But because he was recuperating so well, because Laura and Katie were taking such good care of him, and because Eric could keep Steve company for part of the time, I felt confident all would be well in my absence.

Eric was even allowed to bring Maarit, our almost two-year old granddaughter, with the understanding that hugging, kissing, and sitting on Papa’s lap would be forbidden. That was okay by Maarit. Papa’s walker provided great fun.

Meanwhile, we three girls enjoyed the ballet performance—glorious moments of respite.  (God knew I’d be ready to lose myself in the Land of Sweets!)

 

 

Miracle #6: Steve was released the afternoon of the 24th, just five days after surgery.   Christmas Day we reveled in the granddaughters’ gift-opening at our home—not at the hospital.

Miracle #7: Our younger son and his wife arrived the 26th, our daughter and older granddaughter flew in on the 27th. They had all planned to visit anyway, but what perfect timing God supplied! For ten days they provided gracious help.

Miracle #8: Insurance is covering a visiting nurse on Thursday, so we only have to go to the hospital for post-op check-ups once a week.

Miracle #9: Steve has experienced very little pain. Within twelve days he was taking only Tylenol at bedtime. Now he’s not even taking that.

Miracle #10: The discomfort of acute swelling caused the most trouble after returning home. The doctor told us the edema could take up to three weeks to resolve, but within one week it was much improved.

 

 

Miracle #11: Transplant patients almost always require insulin until the medications that raise blood sugar can be reduced. Steve’s insulin dosage has already been lowered, and only several times has he needed extra insulin beyond the once-daily dose.

Miracle#12: The huge outpouring of love, support, and prayer throughout this entire process have contributed greatly to Steve’s healing.  Many of you reading this post are part of this miracle.

At Tuesday’s post-op check-up we were told his platelet and white blood cell counts are continuing to rise. “Your new liver is happy!” exclaimed the physician’s assistant.

Needless to say, so are we.

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Just these past three weeks, O God, You have done such great things for us! “Our hearts brim with joy.” Now may your unfailing love rest upon us, even as we put our hope for the future in you.

 (Psalm 126:3; 33:21a MSG; 33:22)

 

(Nutcracker image from http://www.flickr.com.)

 

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“I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity…I have seen with joy how willingly your people…have given to you. O Lord, God of our father Abraham, Isaac and Israel,…keep their hearts loyal to you” (from King David’s last recorded prayer, 1 Chronicles 29:17-18).

On Monday I asked why the Israelites would speak of or pray to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Perhaps their focus on the patriarchs brought to mind all the ways God had protected, guided, and cared for their forefathers. Just the mention of their names conjured up stronger faith for what God could do in the here and now.

I, too, come from a heritage of faith, my grandparents. I believe in the God of Rachel, Henry, and Clara.

On Monday I gave evidence of the God of Rachel bringing her through very difficult circumstances. You can read her story by clicking on the link above to Monday’s post. Today’s story: The Miracle of Henry and Clara.

Roller skates | Hammonton, NJ

Henry met Clara at a roller rink in Chicago, in 1922, and just nine months later the two were married. She was eighteen; he was twenty.

On Henry’s good salary from the Santa Fe Railroad, Clara settled down to make a home for them. Henry did everything but settle down. He was on the rise through the minor leagues of baseball. In fact, people said Henry had a good shot at playing catcher in the majors. These were the best years of his life, and he wasn’t about to spend them sitting at home every night.

Henry knew he was going to make it big, and started celebrating a little too soon and too much. Alcohol started to get the better of him.

He made promise after promise to Clara he’d stop drinking. Of course, he didn’t. He couldn’t. Over a period of ten years or so, dependency on alcohol became full-blown alcoholism.

He left Clara and his baby daughter, and began drinking his way from town to town, hitching rides on freight trains. An odd job here or there supplied his habit. One day he woke up in a gutter and had to admit to himself, “Henry, you’re nothing but a bum.”

Meanwhile, Clara had no way to support herself and her little girl, Geraldine. They lived with one relative, then another, as circumstances changed in those households.

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When Geraldine was five, Clara contracted tuberculosis and had to go to a sanitarium. Geraldine continued to live with relatives, mostly with Clara’s sister, Hester, who had six children of her own. But to Aunt Hester and Uncle Jimmy, six or seven really didn’t matter. Geraldine was welcomed and loved.

After some time, Clara began to regain her strength, and attended a worship service at the sanitarium. Never before had she gone to church or Sunday School. So the message about Jesus, who offered forgiveness and eternal life, gave her the hope she desperately needed. Clara accepted Jesus as her Savior that very night.

A Bible study, led by Mr. and Mrs. Moore, was held weekly at the sanitarium. Clara became an eager student, and Mr. and Mrs. Moore lovingly mentored her. All three started praying for Henry. In fact, due to the city-wide connections of the Moores, many people all over Chicago began to pray.

One evening, a Dr. Hunt, assistant superintendent of a local mission, came to share with the patients. He explained their outreach programs and mentioned the ministry to alcoholics. Afterward, Clara told him, “If a man by the name of Henry Mensinger should come to your mission, would you tell him his wife asked about him?”

Talk about the laws of improbability. Chicago was serviced by several missions in the 1930s. And most of the alcoholics who frequented the missions preferred to remain anonymous. In addition, how could Dr. Hunt possibly remember the name of one derelict out of hundreds?

But God loves to refute the improbable. He specializes in the impossible. Dr. Hunt replied, “A Henry Mensinger came into the mission just three days ago!”

You see, it was November, damp and chilly. Henry had decided to stop in a mission and get warm. Yes, he’d have to sit through some singing and a sermon, but then they’d serve hot soup and give the men warm beds for the night—if they went forward and accepted Jesus.

Rescue Mission

Henry had accepted Jesus many times, in order to get that soup and warm bed. But this night was different. Even though he’d been drinking just before the service, and was in his typical alcoholic stupor, when Dr. Hunt—yes, that Dr. Hunt—put his arm around Henry’s shoulder, Henry’s heart began to respond.

Dr. Hunt lovingly shared that when Jesus gave a man new life, he was a new creation. The old is gone; and new things happen (2 Corinthians 5:17). Suddenly, Henry decided he’d had enough of his old life on the streets. He accepted Jesus into his life–for real this time. To add to the wonder, it was November 5, Geradine’s birthday.

The story does not end there with a “happily ever after” as Clara and Henry reunited. Henry owed a debt to society for not supporting his family. He spent six months in jail. But during that time and afterward, Dr. Hunt and others mentored Henry. Just like Clara, he became involved in Bible study. And after his release from jail, Henry took a job at the Christian Industrial League, the mission where he had met Jesus.

Meanwhile, Clara still had the hard work of recuperation, even after release from the sanitarium. The Moores invited her to come live with them, and later, Geraldine moved in, too.

Finally the day arrived when the little family was able to live together once more. I can only imagine the joy on Clara’s face to see her handsome Henry, healthy in body and spirit. I try to imagine the joy on Henry’s face, to realize God had not only saved Clara’s soul, he had saved her physical life as well. And I imagine their overflowing gratitude to God, who had worked amazing miracles behind the scenes–before either one of them even knew he was there.

“Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24).

Even though their faith would be tested again and again, including a house fire that destroyed all their belongings, Henry and Clara remained true to their God.

House fire

The grandma and grandpa I knew were involved—heart and soul—in mission work for over twenty-years. Grandpa even became superintendent of a mission in Atlanta, then another in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He spent his days making a difference in this world—among the hungry, the thirsty, the strangers, and the ones needing clothes (Matthew 25:37-40).  Grandpa worked for the least among us, to share with them the hope of Jesus, and to express appreciation for what Jesus had done for him.

Hall House Homeless Shelter Renovation

God of Clara and Henry, I thank you for the miraculous transformation you performed in Grandma and Grandpa. Their story offers further proof that nothing is impossible with you! I thank you, too, for their powerful legacy of faith, characterized by loving kindness, service, and generosity. Unselfishly they gave to family, friend, and stranger alike.

You, God of Rachel, Henry, and Clara, have done great things for our family, and we are filled with joy (Psalm 126:3)!

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