How “acting as if” makes way for a miracle?

The formerly paralyzed man walks!

The crowd inside the house was packed tight. And now four hard-working, faith-filled, determined men had created a hole in the roof so as to lower their paralyzed friend into Jesus’ presence. These friends were certain that Jesus would heal their buddy.

They chose to act as if it were already true.

I have read this story countless times. (It’s what I do when I am writing Rotation lessons.) I even will find myself returning to the story, reading it again, after the lesson is complete. Why?

Because usually I discover a new insight.

And sure enough I did. Something occurred to me that I hadn’t previously considered.

When Jesus says to the lame man:

'
Get up, take your mat and go home.

What would have happened if the lame man hadn’t gotten up?

What if he was too afraid?
(He could fall flat on his face, and make a spectacle of himself!)

I had discovered another miracle in this story! The story that already contained several miracles — the industrious nature of the four friends, who overcame hardships to take a friend to Jesus, and the miracle of sins being forgiven and of course, the miracle of a previously paralyzed man able to walk! And now this miracle:

The lame man had to get up. He had to act as if the miracle were true.

'Immediately the paralyzed man stood up. He took his mat and walked out. (Mark 2:12)

Acting on a truth is what is needed for it to actually become your truth.

What is stopping you? Can your faith be an instrument that helps someone “get to” Jesus?

What about your kids?

Act as if your child is a spiritual being. (Because we are all spiritual beings!)
Act as if your child is interested in talking about faith.
Act as if you will discover something new.

You need to be brave — to “act as if” — to take part in miracles – however big or small they may be.

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Photo credits:
The lame man walks is a screenshot from a video posted by Bible Society Australia, who licensed their work under a Creative Commons (BY-NC 2.0) License.

What happened to me on a night full of beautiful miracles

ambulance in action

When the kids were little whenever we heard the siren of an ambulance or a fire truck, I would always say, “Make way for the helpers!”

One Saturday night, eleven years ago this night, I needed those helpers.

I don’t remember much about the eve of November 19, 2005 but I found out later that there were miracles happening left and right – even before the ambulance and the fire truck got there. (I was told later that the fire truck arrived first.)

I was home alone and I sustained a burst aneurysm in my brain; usually a fatal event.

When an aneurysm — a bulging, weakening in the wall of an artery — ruptures, it leaks blood into the space around the brain. Things did not look good.

The first miracle: At the moment it hit, I was on the phone. I was talking to my husband, Greg, who was over in the western part of the state, for a hockey tournament with my son. Greg was just passing the phone to my son, when he heard a slight gasp — the aneurysm hit and I lost consciousness. Not hearing any response from my end of the conversation, they thought the connection had been lost. Redialing. Busy signal.

The second miracle: My high school daughter was out babysitting and came home early(!) I think the story was that the parents she was sitting for had decided (for some unexplained reason) to call it a short night.

The third miracle: She had left her phone on the floor by the garage door. (Hidden under stuff?) I guess in those days a phone was not as important? The timing of events was about to get unbelievable.

The fourth miracle: My daughter walked in at the instant my husband — continuing to get a busy signal when calling me — dialed her phone. The phone was ringing as she walked in and of course, she answered. I often think of what would have happened if a minute had passed between her entrance and his call. She (being a teenager) would not have looked for me (situated in the back office); she’d have headed straight upstairs. She would not have gotten the call.

The miracles continue… Needless to say, my daughter called 911 and the neighbor — a nurse. The rest is a blur of activity and more miracles. The best brain surgeon at the University of Michigan, the best nurses in intensive care, friends and family who believed in prayer…

I had a 5% chance of living. And it turns out that I kept defying those odds. Friends have told me that the surgeon came out and said, “We’ve done all we can.”

And yet I survived.

Then they would say, “Well, she may never walk again.”

And then, I would. (After much physical therapy!)

The next dreadful prediction was that I may never talk again… or have fine motor control or… and on and on. Each one gradually torpedoed.

You all prayed. And here I am.

praying peopleThis experience has taught me to believe in prayer!

The miracles continued to come. Released from hospital after 6 and a half weeks. Friends and neighbors who decorated the Christmas tree for our family, drove kids, and brought meals. A dear friends who drove an hour just to get me outside for a short (very short in those first days home) walk!

 
And the miracles continued. A friend who recognized my need for additional Physical Therapy and fought for me to get it! Another friend who took me with to one of his “stretching” sessions with Coach James Henry, and solved an aftereffect of surgery — deliberating pain in my toes!

Eleven years in and I am still recovering and still receiving miracles. Praise be to God!

a blue line


Photo credits:
Moving ambulance by Clker-Free-Vector-Images, from Pixabay, and praying people,adapted from clipart by algotruneman. Both of these images are licensed under a Creative Commons Public Domain License.

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How to persist and hold the story in the limelight?

Our parenting-speak often sounds like a broken record. The phrase I’d say to my kids over and over (that always evoked a groan) was, “Make a different choice.” Either that, or it was when I’d break into song — à la Mr. Rogers: ♫ Let’s think of something to do while we’re waiting… ♫ (Can I get an encore?)

But that’s the way it should be.

Repeating keeps your story in the forefront.

You place a high value in reminding them that what they do/say is important in the world. (After all, they are a child of God!) You want them to be loving, kind, and to remember a few table manners.

One way to grow disciples of Christ is by keeping a Bible story front and center. It’s why we use the Workshop Rotation Model for Sunday Cool — persistent recurrence! You can use a similar reiterative scheme at home. Here are ideas to use with our just completed Rotation on the miracle of Jesus feeding over 5,000 people.

fish symbolThe next time you have food remaining after a meal, ask about the 12 baskets of leftovers collected after everyone had eaten their fill. What do you suppose people thought about all the leftovers? What about the disciples, what would they have been talking about? What do the leftovers tell us about Jesus?

fish symbolHear the story. Over and over. Read it at the dinner table or as a bedtime “book.” Each time you read, ask a couple questions.

  • Let’s put ourselves into the cast of characters that were there: Philip… Would you be annoyed with Jesus when he asked you about where to get food? (I mean, Duh. They were in the middle of nowhere.) Andrew… Would you feel almost silly announcing that fives loaves and two fish were available? The small boy… Would you feel scared? Curious?
  • How would you report this story if you were there and you had modern-day internet capabilities? What sort of Twitter post or text message would you write? What emoticons would you use? What sort of hashtag would you assign to this event?
  • When is it hard for you to share? (Include your own example, adults!)
  • In the beginning of the story it doesn’t seem like Philip and Andrew have much faith in Jesus to handle the problem of so many hungry people. When is a time when you forgot about your faith in Jesus?
  • Jesus could have created bread and fish in the basket of every person there, but he didn’t do it that way. Why do you suppose Jesus deliberately used a method that brought the disciples into the work?

fish symbolCreate a snack for a neighbor, or a meal for a family in need. Teach your kids to ask: What do they need?

Feeding the 5000 - cooking workshop

 
fish symbolput the fish in orderMake a game to put the story in order. Print out some storytelling fish shapes and challenge your household to work together to arrange them in the correct order.

If you have non-readers in your household, provide them with a sheet of paper divided into sections. Encourage them to draw each part of the story. Cut apart the sections. Can they put them back into story order?

 
fish symbolWatch together the various renditions of dramas presented on our story. As you view each one, what pops out as a new factoid about this story? What part of the dialogue did the disciples likely not say??

If reading this in an email, you can watch the 4th & 5th grade video on YouTube.

 

You can watch the 3rd grade (with few 5th graders) in this video on YouTube.

 

Or watch the 2nd grade video on YouTube.

 

(Or watch the 1st grade video on YouTube.)

 

How will your household grow disciples of Christ?

a blue line


Photo credits:
Photos by Beth Pascoe.

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4 practical ways to help your family grow faith

Faith is caught, not taughtNo amount of teaching will do it. Faith is primarily caught, not taught.

Your kids are watching.

They will do as you do.

 
Here are ways for your family to hook a little faith…

A check-boxRedbud blossomsAsk: Where did you see God today?
Take notice of God at work and call out his wonderful miracles in creation. If you don’t spend lots of time with your kids, make a point to share a group time of recalling and naming God as a part of your life. When you notice, they will pay attention.

A check-box Tie life to a Bible story.
For example, our latest story is teaching us about the miracle of sharing. When more than 5,000 people were fed with just a little bit of lunch, perhaps Jesus encouraged a bestowing behavior? For preschoolers this means labeling sharing as it happens. (“You and I are sharing some grapes.” Or, “Let’s share our stories about our day.”) Intangibles — taking turns and working together on a project — are also a form of sharing. Use Bible stories to remind your child of the greater story: Living as Jesus taught.

Feeding the 5000 - games - fishing   Feeding the 5000 - games - put the fish in order

Note: Please don’t bring up this story as an impetus for sharing, as in: “Let’s be like the boy who shared his lunch.” That’s a forced event — a connection that may not be remembered as good!

an adult Bible readingA check-box Nurture your own relationship to God.
Allow your child to “catch you” at prayer and/or reading the Bible. I have a strong memory of the response of a peer, whom I’d interrupted while praying: “Just a minute. I’m talking to God.” Her reply has stayed with me for 45 years! Model the importance of conversation with, and continued learning about God.

A check-box Engage in rituals.
At home your rituals probably already include a bedtime routine. Add bestowing a blessing on your child. Rituals within your spiritual community may include regularly serving at L.O.V.E. Thy Neighbor. Worshiping together as a family is a biggie. Making time for rituals connect us to God.

kid at youth worship

a blue line


Photo credits:
Faith is caught rendition (cropped and words added) is based on a photo by Virginia State Parks. Woman reading a Bible by Ariel Waldman. Both on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.
Games Workshop photos by Beth Pascoe.
Rest of photos from my archives.

When you discover who Jesus is, what will you do?

Wherever Jesus went, crowds generally formed and miracles turned up. He healed the sick, cured the lame, calmed a storm, turned water into wine, and brought the dead back to life — to name just a few.

A collage of miracle stories

Why did Jesus do miracles?

The last thing Jesus would have wanted was his miracles to be seen as some sort of “magic.” His ambition was not to have people follow him around just to see him do miracles. Perhaps this is why he often told those cured to, “see that no one knows about this” (Matthew 9:30.)

Jesus had compassion for those who congregated before him. He saw their needs and helped them. But on the hillside that day, with over 5,000 people gathered… many of them could have been hungry, yet…

No one would have starved.

Why did Jesus choose to feed them all so miraculously?

He wanted everyone to discover who he was.

Jesus had said that he was the Son of God. He showed people that he came from God by doing many wonderful works. On this particular day people seemed to get the message. Afterwards (perhaps spurred by what Moses had told them) a long time ago, they all said:

Open quote markSurely this is the Prophet who was to come into the world! (John 6:14)

Jesus’ miracle had made people think: Could this be the one? The Messiah? The one we’ve been waiting for?

It appears that Jesus had accomplished what he’d set out to do: to teach who he was.

So these days, how does Jesus show you who he is?

And this stimulates more questions…

  • Are we ready to see more?
  • Do we have the same sort of “is this the one?” reaction when we encounter daily miracles?
  • Are we prompted to want to follow Jesus?
  • Do we seek to desire to know more about Jesus, to live like he did, to perform miracles in our own way, by bringing God’s love to others?
What result will this miracle produce in our hearts and minds?

a thin blue line


Photo credits:
Various miracles of Jesus, depicted in stained glass. I created this collage from images shared under various CC licenses. Images on either end by H. Zell. Windows in Iglesia de El Salvador, Santa Cruz de La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0).
2nd image from left by: Nheyob. Windows in Chapel of the Immaculate Conception (University of Dayton), via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).
3rd from the left by: Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P. Window in Leicester Cathedral, UK, via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

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What can happen if we share? A beautiful miracle?

Look! Have you seen? Our earthly surroundings are awakening in miraculous re-birth! Point out these miracles to your family — and your friends — with awe in your voice…

Look at those tiny flowers! God has told the earth to wake up.
What other spring miracles can you find?

Make a daily habit to put God’s name with the miracles you see.

A Bleeding Heart prepares to bloom

Use instances of God at work in spring miracles as an opening to talking about the miracle we are studying – Jesus feeding over 5,000 people. Again, with awe in your voice…

God planned for plants to wake up in the spring. What a miracle God has given us!

Miracles point out a powerful God at work. What sort of power do you see happening in the miracle of Jesus feeding over 5,000 people?

A painting of the Feeding of the 5,000+

The obvious answer is that with a simple act of thanks to God (John 6:11a), Jesus unpacks a young boy’s lunch of five small loaves of bread and two fish, into a meal for more than 5,000. (There were even leftovers from this meal! 12 baskets of uneaten food.)

But could this multiplying have happened in a surprising but equally powerful way? Scholars have debated about what is the real miracle in this story. Is it that Jesus multiplied the bread and fish, or that the people really did bring along a little lunch and ended up sharing it?

Rev. Doug Norris shares this:

Open quote markPerhaps the little guy inspired others to share. Wouldn’t it be something if the miracle was a miracle of sharing, as people, one by one, pulled food out of their backpacks and shared with those around them? Perhaps Jesus walked through the crowd, encouraging, touching, blessing, visiting, and the stingy, the selfish, and the hoarders gradually warmed up, and realized their potential by not only sharing their food, but by experiencing the joy of doing something significant with and for Jesus.

A miracle made possible with sharing. We can participate in this!

But the sharing habit needs to be taught. Here are some possibilities for building sharing muscles:

  • Go grocery shopping together to bring a food item to the worship service on the first Sunday of every month. This month, the L.O.V.E. Thy Neighbor program, which makes lunches for the homeless and distributes them at Saturday morning breakfast at St. Andrews, will benefit from our food sharing.
  • Make a meal for a stressed family. Involve your kids in planning a meal, shopping and preparation and delivery. I still remember a church member who brought us a meal after I had been in the hospital. She very patiently unloaded our supper and her small children and brought them to the door to deliver the meal. What a great lesson her kids learned that day – service!
  • Set up birthday parties with gifts to designated for others. Have party participants bring a wish-list item for the Human Society.
  • Spring clean inside the house by selecting out-grown clothes or toys to donate. Include the kids in dropping off the delivery.
  • Spring clean outside by involving the family in tidying up an elderly neighbor’s yard.
In what way will you create a beautiful shared miracle?

a blue line


Photo credits:
Bleeding Hearts flower is from my archives.
The Feeding of over 5,000 people by Jim Padgett, from now-out-of-print Read’n Grow Picture Bible, via Wikimedia Commons, courtesy of Sweet Publishing, Ft. Worth, TX, and Gospel Light, Ventura, CA. Released under a Creative Commons License.

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What will it take to notice a powerful God at work?

Do miracles still happen these days, or did miracles only occur in Biblical times?

Like the story of Jesus turning the contents of a young boy’s lunch into plentiful food for more than 5,000 people. That sort of miracle.

I needed to know, because I was in need of a miracle.

I had driven nine hours east, not knowing exactly what I would be grappling with. My 89-year-old mother was to be discharged from the skilled nursing unit and could not return to her two-bedroom apartment. She needed down-sizing into an assisted living arrangement – NOW! An unscheduled, huge endeavor; a seemingly insurmountable task. How could I do this?

It will take a miracle to pull this off.

a collage of moving chores

Decisions, decisions… Donate, keep or toss? Lots of text messages flying to family members afar: “This mirror is up for grabs.” “Anyone need any kitchen stuff?” Yikes! How will it all fit into a much smaller space?!

I was operating under a time-crunch and not sleeping much… a situation which could be incredibly straining. Since I tend to be a glass-is-half-empty sort of person, I was surprised to find myself not excessively alarmed. Instead, I made it a point to daily set my intention…

Take notice; a powerful God is always at work.

It started the next morning with a nature-note from God. How did I miss seeing bright, red tulips outside her old apartment? A hopeful reminder springing-forth. God clearly saying, “I am about to do something new. It is beginning to happen even now. Don’t you see it coming?” (Isaiah 43:19)

The God-at-work memos continued… When the box supply dwindled, a thought just popping into my head: Load her luggage with no-longer-needed pots and pans. Storage here they come!

how it would go back togetherAnd, hey! Here’s another useful idea: I can snap a photo to later remember how furniture assembles.

I was hundreds of miles away from my usual cadre of companions. A chance to hire helpers… but would they require too much direction to be useful?

a helper packs boxesmoving day

Unfounded! A smooth, nothing broken, nothing lost move!

Because I was watchful for God at work…

  • I was attentive to precisely planted pansies — God throwing in plentiful gentle reminders of his presence. A reinforcing boost!
  • I was grateful for cousins who shared a Sunday afternoon of their spruce-up talents to make mom’s new place look homey.
  • I embraced chances to squeeze in visits with my mom, thankful that age had not diminished her brainpower as I listened to family stories.

Assisted living sign  

I began to see a miracle happening, both within me and around me.

A miracle can be described as a moment when, as a result of an unexpected and surprising occurrence, one becomes aware of the presence and power of God at work.

But first, I had to take notice.

What will it take for your family to recognize God at work?
I’m willing to bet that once you start looking, you will see!
Can you add the reporting of such instances to your family dinner table, or perhaps your bed time routine?

By choosing to notice glimpses of God, I saw him all over!
And there were many miracles.


Photo credits:
Photos from my archives.

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