Evangelist

Yesterday, while chatting with the kitchen workers after everything was cleaned up and put away at the rescue mission, they asked Hannah and I to sing. They ask us every week to sing something and we came prepared this time by practicing, “How Great Thou Art”. Hannah has a incredible ear for harmony and she mesmerizes the group who gathers around to listen. We grabbed our new friends Lucy and Marlin to join in. It is such an enthusiastic way to end the lunch service, I am already looking forward to next week. Lucy invited us to visit her church this weekend. She explained that all their singing there is without instruments. I said, “A Capella?” And she said, ” Let me show you something.” Lucy got out her bible and we sat down to talk about Jesus. I admire people who are ‘at the ready’ for any moment to evangelize. I have never done that really. I can talk about God with a prepared lesson, I can talk about God to my family, I can talk about God in the churches; but I am not sure I ever took someone by the hand in an unexpected place to share the gospel. Could you see me standing on a street corner shouting a message of love? Anything is possible, but I have not felt that calling. So, we sat where the homeless were an hour ago, and she showed me scripture about God’s will for us in the way we worship. Never had I heard before that instruments are not appropriate in worship according to Scripture. I said, ” What about David, a man after God’s own heart? Don’t the Psalms tell us to sing and take up the harp and lyre?” Lucy had several verses of the New Testament highlighted to show that songs should be for teaching God’s word and we should worship with our voices only. WOW! I knew I would go right home to research this one. And I did. Context for any scripture is vitally important of course. How could instrumental music or using ones talents be offensive to God? Well, I have heard some, including my own voice, that slips from the pleasing melodious sounds that make for a pleasant worship. Nevertheless, it is what is in our hearts that is important. The lessons I learned from Lucy were many. Be ready to share the Gospel everywhere, be open to understanding the perceptions of others, and be careful in reading the bible with discernment instead of searching for words to support our own thinking. I know Lucy will have more for me in weeks to come. For next week there was a request for Whitney Houston songs- I think I will turn that over to Hannah.

You Rang?

Yesterday, my daughter Hannah was washing dishes and her IPhone fell in the sink while she was listening to a Podcast about Downton Abbey. She scooped it out of the water and attempted to quickly dry it off. It was not responding. She learned from middle daughter Bethany, the instructional technologist, that she should put the phone in a bag of rice. Normally, the next question would be, “Wild rice, basmati, jasmine, risotto; what kind of rice?” But yesterday we only had Wegman’s brown rice as a choice. I have seen that rice mixed with salt will keep the salt from sticking to the shaker, but phones in rice to absorb humidity was a new one. Yep, it worked- 24 hours later, or maybe the phone dried on its own. Can we now cook and eat this rice, or will it cause our ears to start ringing? I actually have suffered with that problem for ten years. Suffer may not be accurate, because I have grown used to the constant buzzing sound which blocks out all the mumbling and complaints of those who question my methods. Actually, the girls no longer question me because they are married and moved away. They now save all their inquiries for their husbands. I believe they have all had their phones in water from freak accidents like falling in a pool, dropping it in the toilet (number one phone malfunction reason according to the Apple Store), and I dropped mine in my teacup a couple years ago with no ill effects. Dropping the phone used to be a dramatic gesture when getting emotional news. The spiral bouncy cord was then invented to keep it from crashing to the floor. I would love to have that cord as a safe guard today. I would definitely yank it when ever someone is texting and driving, and snatch it right out of their hands. Is there anyone who is not tired of competing with a phone when we are having a face to face conversation? We might all start yanking a few cords when we are being rudely interrupted. Yet, it is so lovely to be able to ring someone anywhere, anytime; or track their every move. Honestly, we can’t live without our phones, tablets, and laptops, so hopefully the engineers are working on a model for underwater experiences. Staying connected through conversation with people is critical to our sense of well being. Staying connected to God in prayer is critical for our spiritual well being. Don’t be afraid to make that call when you need help. For those of us who drop the phone so often; perhaps the next model will have a feature to cook perfect rice every time.

Squeeze Me

Yesterday, I went shopping at the corner grocery store. Nojaim (I am not sure how it is pronounced) does in fact have jam and jelly, and most items needed for a balanced diet. What is most interesting to me is they have an entire aisle of products that are all Goya brand. These packages and cans are labeled in Spanish and English. Near the end of that aisle was a unit that was all beans. Every kind of bean I had ever heard of and then some. This excites me because I limit my meat intake to wild fresh caught fish, so I have increased my consumption of beans and I love them. For some reason I could find no refried beans. I finally asked for help from a store clerk, which I often have to do when looking for exotic items that come in small packages, like tahini or capers. She also struggled to find them and then came across something I had not seen before. Refried beans in a squeeze pouch. It was right next to the dulce de leche of course, so I bought some of that too. “Sweet Milk” takes me right back to our family life in Argentina forty years ago. That was the beginning of our journey away from meat, potatoes, and canned vegetables. Our family now enjoys food from around the world. Hannah and Brian love Turkish Kebabs and Thai restaurants, Elise and Matt rave about chef’s choice five course dinners with wine, Lewis has expanded Bethany’s desire to eat only Italian pizza every day to now trying many of his specialties and experiments. Whether we dine in or out, the weekly trip to the grocery store is always an experience. Never can we run in and out quickly to get necessaries. It is always strolling up and down every aisle to check things out. And now I take the time to read labels and look for local produce and items that do not add sugar and preservatives. Since it is Valentine’s weekend, a little sugar will be allowed for celebrating. I baked cookies with dark chocolate chips but substituted coconut oil in place of the butter. My taste tester (Hannah) says they are pretty good. The dulce de leche will be a great treat with fresh fruit- I might try it on my oatmeal too. The refried beans oddly have sugar added. I must learn to make my own in the future. In any case, healthy food choices are easy to find no matter what store we shop and we should not be dazzled by the fancy packaging. There is great merit in knowing the local grocer and merchants at the farmers market, so we can be assured the quality and source of our food. Most of all, the relationships we form when shopping locally are enjoyable and enriching. The ultimate test of freshness is to give your foods a squeeze. Of course this works for people too. Have a Happy Hugging Valentine’s Day.

Unbelievable (short story rewrite)

Today is not the day that Phillip will discover his gift. He was a chronic multitasker and invariably got in the car only to go back in the house for one more thing he needed. Now he was running a little late for his part time job at the Polo Ralph Lauren Store at the Outlet Mall. When he arrived every shirt on the shelf was in upheaval and the racks were a mess of items in the wrong color and size. It looked like a Pollack painting with a disarray of colors splashing the room. Only a week before, fifty new employees were hired and helped to prepare for the opening of the store. ” Box down”, yelled the manager after each of a thousand boxes of clothes had been ticketed and tagged for security. All the sales people had been given instructions on how to fold a polo shirt with the tiny pony ( made of sixty-two stitches) in the exact spot every time, and the size stickers all lining up when stacked. They were guided in the fine art of merchandising, with every hanging shirt having the left cuff rolled. All the spit and polish was now gone as the Christmas rush was in full swing and the customers literally dug through the once perfect stacks to find their desired size. Phillip would be spending his next five hours refolding shirts, refilling sizes and straightening the stacks. It felt a little robotic when what he wanted was to put together ensembles for displays and for customers.

Three hours into his shift he went into the stock room to look for a size at a customer’s request. Thrilled to have a chance to work with someone and take a break from folding, he hustled around the corner and slid on the concrete floor crashing to the ground. “These darn dress shoes have no traction,” he groused. His right knee slammed on the hard floor and he twisted his left ankle trying to catch himself. Philip was completely embarrassed by this slap stick move and felt certain someone would start laughing and make references to Steve Urkel, but apparently he was alone. He sat for a moments rubbing his ankle until the wincing pain subsided and wondered if he walked on water or something that would cause him to slide. Then, with a surge of adrenaline he got up and tried not to limp back out to the floor having forgotten what he went into the back to find. “Did you have and extra large in the big blue and white pony design”, the rotund young woman asked? ” No ma’am, I’m sorry”, Phillip said. “Well, how can a brand new store be out of the size I need already?” she snapped. He hoped that was rhetorical, because he didn’t have an answer and apologized to her again as she bounded away with a pile of polos spilling from her arms. The next two hours on his feet were tiring and uncomfortable but he made it through. When Phillip got into his Jeep to head home, his left foot started to throb and swell. Luckily, he could drive without difficulty with his right foot and It was only fifteen minutes back to Daniel Island. By the time he reached the Condo on Pierce Street he was in excruciating pain and could not walk on his left foot. It took great effort to get up the stairs and he finally resorted to doing a crab walk backwards. His parents were in Greenville, South Carolina for a few days of retirement bliss, so there was no one to coddle or fuss over him, which they never did anyway. He took off his shoe and tried to peel down his sock where he could see that bruising had started and swelling erased all the bone definition around his ankle. He pulled the sock back up and hobbled to the kitchen looking for tape in the junk drawer. “No ace bandages, not enough scotch tape to wrap a Barbie Doll ankle, packing tape- hmmm maybe this will work” he said and hopped over to the couch. He did his best version of first aid bandaging over his sock with some zebra stripped duck tape. This helped the pulsating pain a little. Then he got back up, grabbed a Baggie and filled it with ice, zipped it shut, and laid down again to put it on his ankle. ” Yeow! ” That was too cold so he snatched a dish towel to wrap around it and then just lay on the couch moaning. Phillip tried to close his eyes to pray or to sleep, but could only think about losing his job now that he was unable to walk. He groaned out loud, “Aaaaooh, aaoooh”, until he was finally overtaken by sleep.

In the morning Phillip was not feeling pain and was grateful but hesitant to get up. He would most likely be called into work on a Saturday and then have to explain that he was injured. He probably should have reported it to the manager, but really didn’t think at the he time that there was a problem and it would be embarrassing to be written up. He finally got up when the need to pee exceeded the desire to go back to his dream of being Ralph Lauren the suave tycoon designer. He hopped to the bathroom afraid to put pressure on his foot, and still felt no pain while he stood over the toilet with one hand on the wall. “Whew, this is a little too much like grandpa”. He said. When he got back to the couch, Phillip was curious to have a look and decided to cut away the tape and see if he needed to go to the Emergicare. He cut off the sock with the tape and he was shocked to see the swelling was gone and there was no bruising. He could not see or feel any evidence of the injury. None. How could this be? What a delightful surprise.

Somewhere last night in his groaning was a subconscious prayer, “Heal me Lord, please heal me”. Was this a miracle; his own personal answer to prayer? Phillip prayed all his life. He prayed at family meals as his mother taught him and sometimes irreverently like the camp counsellors taught. “Rub a dub dub, thanks for the grub- yea God!” His father prayed the Lord’s Prayer every night and then would tuck him into bed- that hasn’t happened in a while. He prayed the corporate prayers at Trinity Lutheran Church every Sunday that were laden with confessions, but rarely any personal requests except, “Please help me ace the test tomorrow”. So what happened last and who will believe it? It can’t be that duct tape has magical powers. If he tells anyone about this miraculous healing they may think “Cool, but you were just lucky, dude”.

Phillip had a hard enough time trying to explain another physical phenomenon that no one else has heard of. It was like an adrenalin rush, he had it every time he woke up from sleeping; whether it was day or night, a light nap or deep sleep. It felt like a shiver that started from his heart and went down to his finger tips- sometimes down his spine to his toes. It started happening after a three week “boot camp” training to prepare for track season almost a year ago. It wasn’t quite like a case of butterflies when a person has the fight or flight feeling. It was more like something magical; warm and tingly but unlike the excitement he felt when he was with his girlfriend Cara. ” Oh No! I forgot to call Cara last night!” How was he going to explain all this to her? She was very religious, or “Spiritual” as she would say. Maybe she could explain how all this could be related to what he was sure was a supernatural healing of his ankle last night. Phillip pressed one on his speed dial for Cara, “Hi Babe, listen, I had a rough night after an accident at work, yea, I’m okay now, but I want to talk to you about it. You have to work all weekend? Dang. What? I didn’t say damn. Okay, Monday after class is good for me. Great, see you then. Love you too babe. Bye”.

Saturday night Jim and Shirley got home from Greenville and Phillip was bouncing with excitement. “Let’s go to the early service tomorrow”, he almost squealed. “You want to go to church”, Shirley inquired, “That’s new. Your dad has knee surgery on Monday, so we are planning to lay low tomorrow”. “Right, I just had something I really want to share with the youth group”, Phillip confessed. His parents listened intently as He told the story of his ankle. His dad took a look and palpated around the bone. It was sensitive but not sore. “Wow, it would be great to have this result after knee surgery”, Jim mused. “Well dad, let’s pray for healing power”, Phillip said as he put both his hands on his dad’s knee. He wasn’t sure what to say, but just let the words flow, “Dear God, please start the healing in this busted knee so my dad will be able to walk without pain. Guide the surgeon’s hand. Strengthen our faith in you and your power to work miracles through us. Give me the courage to help others in need, and to trust you. May your will be done. In your holy name we pray. Amen”. ” Thank you Phil”, his dad said with a softness he had not heard before, while his mom’s eyes were tearing and she got the Kleenex out of her sleeve to wipe her nose.

Sunday was a reverent day as Phillip contemplated what began on Friday. Can people heal through prayer and faith? Do I have a gift for healing? He decided to wait and see how things went with his father before he started claiming to have a Supernatural power.

The knee surgery went well on Monday and the doctor came into the waiting room to report that the damage was much less than he expected from what he originally saw on the X-ray results. Just a little scraping of the calcium build up on the medulla should remove the pain his dad was feeling. Phil now was convinced that healing was beyond physical science alone. He suddenly had an urgent desire to touch everyone and pray for their recovery, but knew that would freak out even his Christian friends. The truth is most of his friends thought he was a little strange already. None of them ever talked about faith or church. None of them were interested in shopping or coordinating clothes. They thought football was where life began and ended. They all were hot and heavy with their girlfriends and never talked about marriage and family. Phillip had been dating Cara for two years and would never pressure her in any way. The guys weren’t trouble makers, but Philip was a bit of a nerd compared to them. He adored Cara and decided to share his thoughts with her first.

They met at their favorite coffee house in Mt Pleasant. “Cara, do you believe in miracles, do you think people can heal with just laying hands on others?” Cara replied,” I think so, but I don’t give much credence to the ones who make a big show of it on TV”. He told her about the incident at the Polo store and apologized for not calling her that night.  He went on to tell her that he woke up the next day with no trace of injury. One top of that he prayed over his dad before surgery and the doctor was surprised by the minimal knee damage that looked worse in the x-Ray. “Cara, I think God has given me the gift of healing, but why me? I have not been searching for a spiritual calling or working toward being righteous or anything. It’s not like I aspire to be a pastor. I have a thing for fashion merchandising and business for God sake.” Cara took his hands. She was not expecting to feel anything unusual. His hands were warm and soft, his cuticles perfectly trimmed and his nails clean and filed. They were gentle hands and they always gave her a sense of calm when she held them. “Phil, I don’t think God ever picks a likely person to do marvelous things. If you do have the gift, how will you use it?” Phil replied, “I don’t know. I might start by going see gramps at Summit Place and heal everyone in wheelchairs so they can all dance. Or go to MUSC Children’ s Hospital and heal all the kids with cancer and send them home. Truthfully, I don’t even want to tell people and have to prove myself everyday and eventually become a laughing stock.” Phillip and Cara walked hand in hand around the shopping center and stopped to watch the ducks swim around on the pond. “Why is it that people seem to complicate their lives unlike the animals that all appear to live as God intended?” Phil decided to just wait and pray. Hopefully he would get divine guidance on how to proceed. He doubted there was a support group for miracle workers, but a spiritualgifts.com would be helpful. That’s it! He could research the topic and learn more about what others have experienced, maybe even try to connect with someone who has been healed or who thinks they have the gift. “If I really do have power to heal supernaturally it would be very wrong to ignore it”, he declared.

Later, as he was jotting down notes from his internet search, Phillip’s mind Was full of conflict.  He knew the best way to get first hand knowledge was to visit a church service where healing is said to take place. He wanted a look at what was really happening in those televised extravaganzas. It did not look authentic. Some people reported that the noise and excitement level cause physical manifestations that appear to be healing. The cripple walk, the deaf hear, the tormented become calm- but for how long? He text Cara and she insisted on going with him to the Great Gospel Charismatic Church of Christ.

The next Sunday arrived with anticipation heightened by a joyful and expectant spirit on Phillip’s part and a healthy skepticism on Cara’s. “I will be watching the lead pastor, and you check around for any halos Cara”, “Oh Phil, quit being silly; let’s just observe and take notes in the program”. They entered the auditorium together being welcomed by smiling greeters and found seats in the back by the aisle, but changed their mind and moved forward to have a better view. The music started with singers across a raised stage and a musicians behind them on guitars, keyboard and drums. It was loud and rhythmic. The lights dimmed while the words to the songs appeared on screens, then a few people raised their hands in the air as though they were at a rock concert. Phil and Cara were not accustomed to this because their pastor encouraged silent prayer with heads bowed while kneeling, as in the story of the publican and the sinner. After four songs the audience was welcomed and a video came on screens for announcements. The pastor came out of a corner of the stage and said, “Welcome to all seekers and believers, doubters and downtrodden; my name is Joshua and I am the senior pastor of this church. He immediately engaged the crowd by cracking jokes about football and his family. Then he captured the audience with a quiet story that had some people wiping tears from their eyes. He brought the excitement level back up by presenting a challenge to get involved and become servant people. He spoke about ways to get connected with others in the church. The final invitation was a call to come to the front if you were “sick and tired of being sick and tired” so the elders could lay hands on them and pray. Some people lined up to go on stage and have the pastor pray for healing. Phillip noticed a man with a cane trying to get by him. Everyone attempted to move out of his way, but he tripped and lost his cane and then his balance, so Phil helped him back up and said, ” I would like to pray with you. I think I was brought here today to do so”. The man agreed. He was a wounded warrior from two tours in Afghanistan. Phillip, right there in the aisle, held the soldier’s free hand and put his other hand on the man’s shoulder.

“Heavenly Father please look down on your servant today and heal his weary heart and take away his pain, both emotional and physical. Mend his broken and strained body so he can stand upright and walk again. Give him the patience and strength to go through daily therapy and to trust you and your word for a full recovery. Jesus said, “Your faith has made you well, get up and walk”, he also told us that we can do all things through him if we believe. I believe Jesus wants you to be restored and forgiven. In His name walk and be free once more”.

They both smiled and hugged each other. The man gave Phillip his cane determined that he would need it no more. He took a step and then two while the people around them started to cheer and shout “Hallelujah!” Cara had tears streaming down her face and Phillip felt light as air. Did this really happen? He had never seen this man before, but he felt led by a Spirit of confidence and compassion. It could not be a set up. The soldier made it back to his seat and was hugging his wife and they did a little polka step.

It did not escape the pastor that there was a commotion just beyond the crowd at the front. People often fell limp after prayers were said over them and went back to their seats slowly with the help of others. You could see in so many faces that they believed they were touched by the Holy Spirit. Phillip believed it too. He felt certain now that he had been endowed with a gift and that he must use it but never be proud or boastful. Pastor Joshua made sure to catch Phillip at the door when the service ended and people were filing out. He greeted him with a big hand shake and asked his name and invited him to stop by and talk during the week. Phillip said he would. Cara and Phil noticed people smiling as they worked their way through a crowd that seemed reluctant to leave. Cara asked Phil, “What do you plan to do with this unbelievable gift?” “I guess I just have to let the Lord lead me, I really have no plan because right now I feel overwhelmed.” Phillip relented. Why this was happening to him was unfathomable.

They left the church both walking on clouds. Phillip would never again dispute miracles and blessings. They turned the radio in the car up and found a Christian station. Not something that Phil ever listened to. They sang aloud together to an old time song ” I Saw the Light” and looked at each other in surprise. They couldn’t believe they both knew the words, so they sang with gusto and without feeling dorky or embarrassed. It is often by unexpected means that people discover their hidden talents, and today that was certainly true for Phillip.

One Way

Yesterday, Hannah and I decided to rent a space in the parking deck across the street. We can get there from our building by going to the third floor and crossing over through a catwalk. We can actually see our car through our apartment window and it looks like it may be a little more protected from the elements. The trick is driving in and out of the garage because there are one way streets all around it. Invariably, we have to turn in the wrong direction and go around the block to get going in the right direction. Upon returning we often must go past our destination in order to get to the entrance. What is the purpose of all these one way streets? In life it would be nice to know there was only one way to go, and to take that direction. You guessed my next thought already: the one way, the best way, is God’s way. Oddly, so many of us go the opposite way down the one way street at the same time that we don’t realize it is the wrong way. I won’t bother with examples because most of those things have been written on our heart since we were children. We are given directions and we know the way to go. Sometimes I like the adventure of going against the flow, but certainly not in my car! Avoiding a crash or conflict is part of my personality. So, Hannah and I choose to walk to many of the places we need to go, and sometimes we walk just for the fresh air- the thirty degrees fresh air that tickles and tests my lungs. The SU campus, the grocery store, the restaurants, the museums, the pharmacy, a dozen churches, the Rescue Mission, the YMCA, the hospital, the post office, and the boutiques are all within a twenty minute walk. Sounds ideal really and it is. As you recall from my last post, the one draw back is the noise created by all the vehicles in the street. There are many instruments to help walking in the city among all the dangerous cars and trucks: sidewalks with ramps at every corner, lights to tell us when to cross and beeping that tells us when to stop crossing, overhangs on many buildings that allow dry passage in the rain, and plenty of smiling people who can give direction if we can’t find what we are looking for. Walking is great exercise of course and does not usually cause the air pollution that cars make. Research shows that we need ten thousand steps a day for optimum health, so try a walk today but be careful to check which way the traffic is flowing.

Unbelievable

It is often by unexpected means that people discover their hidden talents, and today that was certainly true for Phillip. He was running a little late for his part time job at the Polo Ralph Lauren Store at the Outlet Mall. When he arrived every shirt on the shelf was in upheaval and the racks were a mess of items in the wrong color and size. Only a week before fifty new employees were hired and helping to prepare for the opening of the store. ” Box down”, yelled the manager after each box of clothes had been ticketed and tagged for security. All the sales people had been given instructions on how to fold a polo shirt with the tiny pony ( made of sixty-two stitches) in the exact spot every time, and the size stickers all lining up when stacked. They were guided in the fine art of merchandising, with every hanging shirt rolled at the cuff. All the spit and polish was now gone as the Christmas rush was in full swing and the customers literally dug through the once perfect stacks to find their correct size. Phillip would be spending his five hours refilling sizes, refolding the shirts and straightening the stacks.

Three hours into his shift he went into the stock room to look for a customer request, and as he hustled around the corner he slid on the concrete floor and wiped out. “These darn dress shoes have no traction,” he thought. He banged his right knee and twisted his left ankle trying to catch himself. Philip was so completely embarrassed that he looked around hoping no one else noticed, and wondered if he walked on water or something that would cause him to slide. Since no one was around he sat for a moment and rubbed his ankle until the wincing pain let up. Now, with a surge of adrenaline he got up and tried not to limp back out to the floor having forgot what he went into the back to find. “Did you find and extra large in the big blue and white pony design”, the rotund young woman asked? ” No ma’am, I’m sorry”, Phillip said apologetically. “Well, how can a brand new store be out of the size I need already?” she snapped. He hoped that was rhetorical, because he didn’t have an answer and apologized to her again. The next two hours on his feet were tiring and uncomfortable but he made it through. When Phillip got into his Jeep to head home his left foot started to throb and swell. It was only fifteen minutes back to Daniel Island but by the time he reached the Condo on Pierce Street he was in excruciating pain. His parents were in Greenville, South Carolina for the weekend so there would be no one to coddle or fuss over him. He took off his shoe and tried to peel down his sock where he could see that bruising had started and swelling erased all the bone definition around his ankle. After pulling the sock back up he looked for tape in all the junk drawers of the kitchen and hopped over to the couch on his right foot. He did his best version of first aid bandaging over his sock with some zebra stripped duck tape. This helped the pulsating pain a little. Then he grabbed a Baggie and filled it with ice, zipped it shut, and laid down to put it on his ankle. Yeow! That was too cold so he snatched a dish towel to wrap around it and then just lay on the couch moaning. Phillip tried to close his eyes to pray or to sleep, but could only think about losing his job now that he was unable to walk. He moaned out loud, “Aaaaooh, aaoooh”, until he was finally overtaken by sleep.

In the morning Phillip was not feeling pain and was grateful but hesitant to get up. He would most likely be called into work and then have to explain that he was injured. He probably should have reported it to the manager, but really didn’t think there was a problem that needed to be written up. He finally got up when he needed to pee. Afraid to put pressure on the foot, he hopped to the bathroom and still felt no pain while he stood over the toilet.  He got back to the couch and out of curiosity, Phillip decided to cut away the tape to have a look to decide if he needed to go to the Emergicare. Cutting off the sock with the tape, he was shocked to see the swelling was gone and there was no bruising. He could not see or feel any evidence of the injury. None. How could this be, but how delightful a surprise.

Somewhere in his groaning last night was a subconscious prayer, “Heal me Lord, please heal me”. Was this a miracle; his own personal answer to prayer? Phillip prayed all his life. He prayed at meals as his mother taught him, and he prayed the Lord’s Prayer every night when his father used to tuck him into bed. He prayed the corporate prayers at Trinity Lutheran Church every Sunday, but rarely any personal requests except, “Please help me ace this test”. So what happened and who will believe it? Anyone he tells may think “cool”, but that is no miracle. Phillip had a hard enough time trying to explain the adrenalin rush he had every time he woke up from a daytime snooze or a deep sleep. It was like a shiver that started from his heart and went down to his finger tips- sometimes down his spine to his toes. It started happening after a three week boot camp training to prepare for track season almost a year ago. It wasn’t quite like a case of butterflies when a person has the fight or flight feeling. It was more like something magical. Warm and tingly but unlike the excitement he felt when he was with his girlfriend Cara. Could this some how be related to what he was sure was a supernatural healing of his ankle last night?

Saturday night Jim and Shirley got home from Greenville and Phillip was bouncing with excitement. “Let’s go to the early service tomorrow”, he almost squealed. “You want to go to church”, Shirley inquired, “That’s new. Your dad has knee surgery on Monday, so we are planning to lay low tomorrow”. “Right, I just had something I really want to share with the youth group”, Phillip offered. His parents listened intently as He told the story of his ankle. His dad took a look and palpated around the bone. It was sensitive but not sore. “Wow, it would be great to have this result after knee surgery”, Jim mused. “Well dad, let’s pray for healing power”, Phillip said as he put both his hands on his dad’s knee. He wasn’t sure what to say, but just let the words flow, “Dear God, please start the healing in this busted knee so my dad will be able to walk without pain. Guide the surgeon’s hand. Strengthen our faith in you and your power to work miracles through us. Give me the courage to help others in need, and to trust you. May your will be done. In your holy name we pray. Amen”. ” Thank you Phil”, his dad said with a softness he had not heard before, while his mom’s eyes were tearing and she got the Kleenex out of her sleeve to wipe her nose.

Sunday was a reverent day as Phillip contemplated what began on Friday. Can people heal through prayer and faith? Do I have a gift for healing? He decided to wait and see how things went with his father before he started claiming to have a gift of healing.

The knee surgery went well on Monday and the doctor came in to report that the damage was much less than he expected from the X-ray results. Just a little scraping of the medulla should remove the pain his dad was feeling. Phil now was convinced that healing was beyond physical science alone. He had an urgent desire to touch everyone and pray for their recovery, but knew that would freak out even his Christian friends. The truth is most of his friends thought he was a little strange already. None of them ever talked about faith or church. None of them were interested in shopping or coordinating clothes. They thought football was where life began and ended. They had all experienced sexual intimacy with women and never talked about marriage and family. Phillip had a steady girlfriend and would never pressure her in any way. The guys weren’t trouble makers, but Philip was a bit of a nerd compared to them. He adored Cara and decided to share his thoughts with her first.

They met at their favorite coffee house in Mt Pleasant. “Cara, do you believe in miracles, do you think people can heal with just laying hands on others?” Cara thoughtfully replied,” I think so, but I don’t give much credence to the ones who make a big show of it on TV”. He told her about the incident at the Polo store and apologized for not calling her that night. “Cara, I think God has given me the gift of healing, but why me? I have not been searching for a spiritual calling or working toward being righteous or anything. It is not like I aspire to be a pastor. I like fashion merchandising and business for God sake.” Cara took his hands. She was not expecting to feel anything. His hands were warm and soft, his cuticles perfectly trimmed and his nails clean and filed. They were gentle hands and they always gave her a sense of calm when she held them. “Phil, I don’t think God ever picks a likely person to do marvelous things. If you do have the gift, how will you use it?” Phil sadly replied, “I don’t know. I don’t even want to tell people and become a laughing stock.” Phillip and Cara walked hand in hand around the shopping center and stopped to watch the ducks swim around on the pond. Why do people complicate their lives instead of living as God intended as all other animals do? Phil decided to just wait and pray. Hopefully he would get divine guidance on how to proceed. He doubted there was a support group, but a spiritualgifts.com would be helpful. That’s it! He will research the topic and learn more about what others have experienced, maybe even try to connect with someone who has been healed or who thinks they have the gift. “If I really do have power to heal supernaturally it would be very wrong to ignore it”, he thought.

Later, as he was jotting down notes from his internet search, Phillip got the idea to visit a church service where healing is said to take place. He wanted a look at what was really happening in those televised extravaganzas. It did not look authentic. Some people say that the noise and excitement level cause physical manifestations that appear to be healing. The cripple walk, the deaf hear, the tormented become calm- but for how long? Cara insisted on going with him to the Great Gospel Charismatic Church of Christ.

The next Sunday arrived with anticipation heightened by a joyful and expectant spirit on Phillip’s part and a healthy skepticism on Cara’s mind. They entered the auditorium being welcomed by smiling greeters and found seats in the back by the aisle, but changed their mind and moved forward to have a better view. The music started with singers across a raised stage and a musicians behind them on guitars, keyboard and drums. The lights dimmed while the words to the songs appeared on screens, then a few people raised their hands in the air as though they were at a rock concert. Phil and Cara were not accustomed to this because their pastor encouraged silent prayer with heads bowed while kneeling, as in the story of the publican and the sinner. After four songs they were welcomed and a video came on screens for announcements. The pastor came out of a corner of the stage and said, “Welcome to all seekers and believers, doubters and downtrodden; my name is Joshua and I am the senior pastor of this church. He immediately engaged the crowd by cracking jokes about football and his family. Then he captured the audience with a quiet story that had some people wiping tears. He brought the excitement level back up by presenting a challenge to get involved and become servant people. He gave ideas and ways to get connected with others in the church. The final call was to come to the front if you were sick and tired of being sick and tired and the elders would lay hands on you and pray. Some people lined up to go on stage and have the pastor pray for healing. Phillip noticed a man with a cane trying to get by him. Everyone attempted to move out of his way, but he tripped and lost his cane and then his balance, so Phil helped him back up and said, ” I would like to pray with you. I think I was brought here today to do so”. The man agreed. He was a wounded warrior from the war in Afghanistan. Phillip, right there in the aisle held the soldier’s free hand and put his other hand on the man’s shoulder.

“Heavenly Father please look down on your servant today and heal his weary heart       and his pain, both emotional and physical. Mend his broken and strained body so he can stand upright and walk again. Give him the patience to strengthen through daily therapy and to trust you and your word for a full recovery. Jesus said, “Your faith has made you well, get up and walk”, he also told us that we can do all things through him if we believe. I believe Jesus wants you to be restored and forgiven. In His name walk and be free once more”.

They both smiled and hugged. The man gave Phillip his cane determined that he would need it no more. He took a step and then two while the people around them started to cheer and shout “Hallelujah!” Cara had tears streaming down her face and Phillip felt light as air. Did this really happen? There is no way this man could have known he was going to be there. It could not be a set up. The soldier made it back to his seat and was hugging his wife and they did a little polka step. It did not escape the pastor that there was a commotion just beyond the crowd at the front. Several people fell limp after prayers were said over them and went back to their seats slowly. They believed they were touched by the Holy Spirit. Phillip believed it too. He felt certain now that he had been endowed with a gift and that he must use it but never be proud or boastful. Pastor Joshua made sure to catch Phillip at the door when the service ended and people were filing out. He greeted him with a big hand shake and asked his name and invited him to stop by and talk during the week. Phillip said he would.  They noticed people smiling as they worked their way through a crowd that seemed reluctant to leave. Cara asked, “What do you plan to do with this unbelievable gift?” “I guess I just have to let the Lord lead me, I really have no plan.” Phillip relented. Why this was happening to him was unfathomable.

They left the church both walking on clouds. Phillip would never again dispute miracles and blessings. On the car ride home they turned the radio up and found a Christian station. They sang aloud together to an old time song, ” I Saw the Light”. They looked at each other in surprise that they both knew the words, and sang with gusto and without feeling dorky or embarrassed.