The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners; To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To grant those who mourn [in] Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.
Isaiah 61:1-3 (NASB)
Webster’s Dictionary says a miracle is an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs. Bruce Wilkinson (author The Prayer of Jabez, The Vine, You Were Born for This, etc.) explains a miracle as when you hear someone say things like I don’t know why, but I feel I have to (tell you, give you, share…).
I’m working on a book of 31 of those God-sightings or miracles, out of of hundreds that I’ve been blessed to deliver or receive. Some of these happenings involved life, death, reconciliation, and physical or spiritual needs. Other stories led to increased faith, and all of them show God’s care in the “smallest” details of our lives. Below is a sample of a recent “delivery” story and, just for fun, one of my early memories of realizing God’s accepting love. and willingness to deliver miracles to His children in the most unexpected ways.
The Wrong Store
Mic. 7:7 But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me.
I was going to spend the day helping a friend to move a recent widower from a home to an apartment, and had a small clothing item to return so I tossed the bag in the car in case I had time between journeys across town. I prayed that God would lead me to bless someone on His behalf, expecting it would be answered through helping with the move. Little did I know what God was planning.
During the day, the widower understandably needed a break and her friend offered to rest with her for an hour and I could go do my errand. As I got in the car the thought came to me “Go to the Kenosha Kohl’s.” I was on the south side of Racine so that made sense, though I usually don’t shop there, and would normally have gone to the Racine location. I parked at Kohl’s and, on “automatic pilot” grabbed the bag with the item to return and headed for the service counter. Imagine my surprise when the clerk said, “This is from Penny’s – you are at the wrong store.” She held up the bag for the chuckles of other harried customers. Sure enough the bag was white with the red JCP logo. How could I have missed that, forgotten that. Her words, “the wrong store” reverberated in my mind as I moved out of line.
Hmmm. I thought back to that clear thought/direction to go to the Kenosha Kohl’s and realized I must be there for a reason. I walked down an aisle, stopped and looked around, and then saw a woman looking longingly at a dress. Don’t think I’m crazy, but I knew I was there for her, I just didn’t know why. I went up to her and asked her, “Can I help you?” She asked if I worked at the store and I said no… when she quickly replied well that’s just as well because I’m not going to buy this anyway. I was just, um, thinking… how I can’t wear a dress like this anymore because of the scar tissue swelling in my tummy.
I’d just been to a new doctor the week prior and learned of a few things that could alleviate the identical symptoms she began to describe, and said something like, “Well, isn’t the Lord good – I just learned that last week – here’s what you do.
“The Lord?” she interrupted. For a second I thought I’d be in trouble, you know, but she said, so – you’re a Christian. As she opened her purse, she shyly admitted she wasn’t “thinking”, she was “praying” as she looked at that dress. She was asking God if there wasn’t a doctor who could help her. Then she pulled out a Bible study book and asked me to write the information and the doctor’s name inside, as she didn’t have other paper with her, and besides she wanted proof that God had really led me there for her.
There we were two strangers in the junior department at the Kenosha Kohl’s, hugging, teary-eyed, and thanking God for leading us to meet.
As I headed to my car I realized several things. One was that God used my hyperactive personality to not look at the shopping bag in the car, or I wouldn’t have gone in. I would have missed a blessing as the other woman was at that moment praying expectantly. God had trained me for this moment, to recognize His direction from my own self-talk, and to follow His leading with anticipation, for I’d felt the loss the times I had not. Lastly, I couldn’t help a smile creeping across my face when it dawned on me…we hadn’t remembered to share names because we knew we were amazingly connected in the Lord and were so awed at God’s care for the details of our lives.
Guess it wasn’t the wrong store after all.
A Riddle and a Miracle
It was kind of handy for my parents to have the only grocery store in our little town – and to have the store be in what used to be the living room. I guess dad started the store right before I was born in 1943, so Mom would have some money in case Dad got sent to war. But Dad didn’t get sent and now I’m 11 and we have the first TV in town right in our living-room store.
Most everyone from town stops in our house every week to get something from the store (while they check out the TV and watch it awhile), and catch up on the news. My older sister Marlene gets to help after school. She gets cookies out of the bins and puts them in bags. And Junior – well, he likes to lean on the glass counter looking important until Dad sends him to deliver something on the bike, but I mostly watch the babies while Mom takes care of the customers. I don’t think my parents know that many times I am on the other side of the swinging kitchen door listening to all the adults talking. I learned a lot, like how they have been saving to get our little town its first firehouse. Ever since the Larsen’s house mysteriously burned down because it took so long for the volunteer firemen to get there, people started making plans. Most everyone is willing to help and pay some money except for two mean families – the Bolingers and the Nettlers.
At first I thought they were like the feuding McCoys from the movies where they taught their children to hate someone because of their last name. But the Bolingers and Nettlers were nasty to everyone – not just each other. I tried asking Mom about it once but she said it wasn’t smart to stick your finger in a hornet’s nest, whatever that means. I guessed I’d have to figure it out myself. The Nettlers I don’t see much of as they live in one of the big fancy houses on the other side of town, but the Bolingers I know allright. They lived right next door before we’d moved to this house. One time I took an apple from a branch that was hanging over into our yard and I thought the old man’s face was going to explode, it got so red and purply from yelling.
He screamed, calling me a thief over and over till he lost his voice. All the kids are scared of him, and one Halloween the big boys put a bucket of water over his door and knocked and ran when he came out and got dunked.
One time I took an apple from a branch that was hanging over into our yard and I thought old man Bollinger’s face was going to explode, it got so red and purply when he was yelling. When my aunt Nancy asked about it the next day I heard Mom’s voice saying “Hurting people hurt others.” I heard Mom coming toward the kitchen then and ran outside, but all afternoon I wondered how the Bolingers got hurt, and how it helped for them to hurt others. It was a riddle that kept me up that night.
That was about a month ago, and I still go over and over in my mind what might have happened if that riddle hadn’t kept my imagination going and I was tossing and turning in my sleep. It was the middle of the night when I woke up all of a sudden. I just sat up straight like a shot. It was pitch dark and I thought I heard something in the house. Sure enough as I sat there, I heard a soft thud and then another one. I got out of bed and tiptoed over the cold floor to my big sister’s bed, but Marlene was fast asleep and I wondered if what she had said was true – that my imagination was always running away with me. Maybe I had only dreamed it – and I turned to go back to bed, but no – there it was again – out toward the hall. I kind of edged out of our room into the hallway to see where the sound was coming from and it seemed to be coming from above me – by the big square of wood that Dad sometimes pushed open to put stuff in the attic.
I stood in the hallway a minute looking up at that square in the ceiling and listened really hard. I heard some crackly sounds and just about flew downstairs to my parents room to tell them, but the door was closed and that meant privacy. I stood in the moonlight from the big living room window mom just got and was so proud of. My feet were cold on the floor but I was worried – what if I woke my parents up and it was just my imagination like Marlene said – would they get mad at me? But what if SOMETHING was in the attic? I shivered and this time my imagination did get the better of me and I BANGED on Dad and Mom’s bedroom door. I was scared when the door opened so quick and Dad was suddenly right in front of me wearing his white long johns, his hair all messy and, what scared me the most, was that Dad looked scared.
“What’s wrong?” he asked me kinda loud. For a second I couldn’t talk, and then my voice croaked – “Upstairs – there’s something upstairs. I heard noise”. “What kind of noise?” Dad asked. Thumping and snapping sounds, I told him, by the attic door, and Dad just RAN. He went to the back hall and grabbed the ladder and ran up the stairs with it. He put it under the big wood square trap door in the hall ceiling and pushed it up. The whole attic was full of huge orange flames! Dad shut the trap door and yelled – get your sisters – grab some clothes and get outside. I’ll get your brothers. I ran to my room and woke my sister up yelling, FIRE! Boy, you never saw her move so fast. We each grabbed an armful of stuff, not even looking to see what we grabbed. She picked up little Marvel and we ran out to the front yard. That’s when I saw something I will never forget – it did something even bigger to my heart than seeing the fire.
You see our house was at the bottom of town, and most of the houses were up on a big hill right in front of our street. I could hear the fire bell clang and lights were going on all over the hill. The Cornings, the Schmidts, Sheriff Renold’s house, and Oh! The Bollinger’s and the Nettler’s places had lit up too! As scared as we were as we stood there holding hands on the lawn with the fire behind us, we couldn’t take our eyes off the lights on the hill. Marvel was still asleep over my big sister’s shoulder and I could see Marlene was crying when she turned toward me and whispered, “They’re all coming – we’ll be OK”. I felt strange and warm inside to think that we were the hurting people now and all those people were coming to help us – even the Bolingers and the Nettlers.
It was then we heard our big brother Junior calling us from up in the tree house by the street. He had Baby Lee up there with him and we climbed up and watched Dad and our two closest neighbors, Mr. Miller and Mr. Jackson break Mom’s new picture window and throw stuff out on the lawn. Junior was almost 16, and I think he was kind of mad that Dad made him watch the baby, because he shoved the baby at my sister and yelled that it was real interesting how quick she got up there ‘cause yesterday when his friend Gary (that my sister likes) was up there, she acted so scared and got Gary to help her up. Then he ran down and disappeared into the house with other people who had come to help. I told my sister what Mom had said about hurting people hurting others and I told her then how scared Dad looked when I woke him up. I thought nobody’s Dad ever got scared, and if Dad was scared, Junior must be scared too. She said “Yeah, I guess you’re right”, and we got all quiet thinking about it.
We sat there in the dark and hugged with Baby Lee and Marvel between us until Lee began to cry. Then we looked down, and it seemed like practically all the men in town were there running in and out of our house. Finally, the fire was out and there was a big dark hole up where my bedroom had been. Pretty soon after that Junior came back all messy like he’d been playing in the dirt like a little kid. He told Marlene he was real sorry he yelled at her before and she looked right past him at the house and whispered, “Yeah, I know”.
We all got down from the tree house then, and Marlene carried Baby Lee on her hip while we all walked around the house and looked and looked. The men had nailed boards over the hole that used to be the big living room window and there were big stripes of black (from the smoke I guess) that ran down the front of the house. Mom and Dad came out with a bunch of other people and Mom told us we’d be sleeping at Aunt Angie’s tonight. Uncle Tony came over and hugged us, and said Auntie was getting the beds ready and we would go with him soon. I saw Mr. Nettler slip something in my Dad’s shirt pocket, and then everybody all over our front lawn was hugging and telling us how they could help and everything would be OK.
I must have had a hundred hugs that night and suddenly there was Mr. Bolinger in front of me. I didn’t think he’d ever hugged anyone in his life, and I kind of stepped back at first when he leaned down near me. He cleared his throat and said “Girlie, I’m sorry I been such a grouch. I’ll bring you all the apples from my trees you want, and Mrs. Bolinger will make some pies tomorrow and bring them to your Auntie’s house. You tell your Mom that, OK?” I felt all teary and couldn’t answer; so I just stood there and nodded, and then he hugged me real quick and walked off fast toward his house. I felt frozen there for a minute, kinda shocked, you know, and then I looked up at the stars all twinkly and peaceful like they knew something wonderful had just happened. I didn’t know Mom was there until her voice softly whispered, “Imagine that! It’s a miracle!” and her hand closed around mine as we walked in the moonlight to Auntie’s car.
(This story is true, but I changed the names and locations a bit for privacy-sake, and wrote the story in my voice at the age of the incidents – during the 1950s.)