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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Miraculous God

A friend recently sent me a copy of an article that appeared originally in the Sept-Oct 2010 edition of The Journal: News of the Churches of God. The article recounted the story of a couple from Texas who claimed to have experienced a miracle that prevented them from having a serious motor vehicle accident. In fact, the article was part of a series of articles on supernatural occurences (angels and miracles).

Reading this account brought to my mind a theme that has been a common refrain from people outside of the Christian community. In short, many critics of the Christian Bible and religion have focused on rebutting or disproving any claims that God and/or "His" representatives have performed miracles. Indeed, Thomas Jefferson once penned his own version of the gospels in which he left out any references to miraculous events.

The fundamental complaint seems to be the absurdity of the notion that miracles are possible. In this view of the world, any phenomenon that we can observe or point to has some rational, scientific explanation for its occurence. Moreover, Christian claims that miracles have and/or do happen are seen as proof that Christians embrace an anti-intellectual, anti-scientific view of the world. They ask questions like: "Why does God intervene on some occasions and not others?" "Why would God use his powers in such a meaningless or silly fashion?" "If God performed all of those miracles recorded in Scripture, why doesn't he perform miracles today?"

First, I think that I have established my credentials as a critic of the anti-intellectual and anti-scientific mindset that exists within some corners of the Christian community. I do think that it's absurd to ignore our God-given ability to reason, and the things that scientific exploration and research can tell us about the world in which we live. I have likened this kind of thinking to a small child standing in a corner and shutting their eyes and covering their ears to avoid any input from the world around them. I've talked about the folks that will only listen to Fox News or MSNBC. That kind of reasoning is childish and silly (in fact, it's an affront to characterize it as reasoning).

Nevertheless, Christians aren't the only folks who practice the technique of burying their heads in the sand. Atheists, agnostics and practitioners of other religions can be equally stubborn and close-minded about some things. Just as some Christians automatically reject anything that doesn't derive from Scripture, some folks automatically reject anything that isn't rational or logical to them. Even if they don't have a scientific explanation available to them, there has to be one out there somewhere - it's just that no one has discovered it yet. For this crowd, the supernatural is impossible - only the world that they can absorb through their five senses and process through their own brains is possible. I don't know about you, but it seems to me that both viewpoints (anti-intellectual and strictly scientific) are narrow and limited.

Hence, although I certainly would not claim that all of the "miracles" recorded in the Bible are "real" or attributable to Divine action or influence, I think that it would also be a mistake to dismiss all of them out of hand. It is apparent to me that some folks believed that Christ performed (or was a part of) many miracles - some of them believed this so strongly that they were willing to die for him. Even so, if we accept that some of the "miracles" recorded in the Bible may have had some foundation in truth, how do we explain that miracles do not happen today?

I cannot vouch for the experiences of other folks, but I can certainly attest to what has happened in my own life. In short, this writer has experienced what he believes to have been a miraculous event. As I have said before, often these things are a matter of individual perspective. Some folks will look at the same set of events and see no miracle whatsoever - I'm not going to convince them that I have experienced a miracle, and they are not going to convince me that I haven't.

This is the official account of the events surrounding my miracle:
"At 4:59 a.m. on February 16, 1995, an F3 tornado touched down three miles west of Joppa in extreme northeast Cullman County. It traveled through the town of Joppa, crossed Alabama Highway 69 and moved into Marshall County, just southwest of Arab, at 5:06 a.m. The tornado moved across the southern side of Arab at 5:08 and crossed over U.S. Highway 231. It finally dissipated near Browns Creek on the western side of Lake Guntersville after being on the ground for 14 miles. Six people were killed and 130 were injured. One death occurred in a house and the other five occurred in mobile homes. Five of the deaths were in Marshall County and one was in Cullman County.
A total of 157 homes were destroyed (77 in Cullman and 80 in Marshall) and 12 businesses (6 in Cullman and 6 in Marshall) were destroyed. More than 40 commercial poultry houses were demolished and at least two small trailer parks were destroyed by the tornado. The roof was ripped off Amberwoods Garden Apartments and the tornado also tore through the Joppa Elementary School." --Mike Wilhelm's Alabama Weather Blog

This is my account of those events:
After being discharged from the United States Army, I had placed a sixteen by eighty foot mobile home on some land that we owned in Joppa, Alabama. My wife and two small daughters lived with me there. Also, at the time, my brother and his three small children were visiting from Ohio and staying with us.
It was still dark outside when the sound woke me. Yes, it was like a gigantic freight train bearing down on us - only louder. We didn't know it at the time, but the tornado had already demolished the Joppa Elementary School about two miles up the road from us.
Everything happened so fast. We barely had time to get the kids out of bed and kneel down in the hallway of the trailer to pray. In one of the most intense prayers that I have ever said in my life, I asked God to spare the little ones. At the "A-men," it hit.
The whole trailer lurched and shook. We heard metal being ripped off, windows breaking, trees snapping and electrical lines popping. Looking back, to say that we were terrified just doesn't seem adequate to describe what we were feeling that day.
Silence and darkness followed, and the air was filled with the scent of pine. When we emerged from the trailer, the first thing that we heard was "Help, help, please help us!"
The trailer immediately behind us was gone - the tornado had obliterated it. My neighbor was pinned under a car, and her daughter was standing in the wreckage crying. My brother and I helped some other neighbors to extract her from the debris. We used what had been her bathroom door a few minutes before as a stretcher to load her onto a pickup truck and carry her to the hospital.
As the sun came up, we could clearly see the path of the tornado. My neighbors' houses to the west and east of me were missing their roofs and one of them had been knocked off of its foundation. The house across the street from me was also missing its roof. A strip of mature pine trees (one and a half to two feet in diameter) immediately behind my trailer had been snapped off like toothpicks.
How had we escaped this cataclysm? There was devastation all around me. Twenty sheets of four by eight plywood that had just been delivered and stacked in my yard the day before was gone - no where to be seen. It was as if something or someone had placed their hand on top of my trailer and held it down and shielded it from the wind.
Two windows had been broken in the storm and a sheet of siding had been knocked off the back of the trailer. Two of the concrete block support pillars were knocked over underneath the trailer and most of the vynil underpinning was gone; but my trailer was intact, and we were unharmed!

From my perspective, I experienced a miracle that day. Although I have had other supernatural experiences in my lifetime, this one would be enough for me. I believe in a God of Miracles. What do you think?

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