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Be the Miracle

October 2016
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there_are_only-quote-einsteinI love bookstores. In fact, if I could find an apartment to rent that is attached to a bookstore, it would be like finding a little slice of heaven here on earth. This afternoon while I was in a Barnes & Nobles bookstore I ran across a book on one of their bargain shelves titled, Be the Miracle: 50 Lessons for Making the Impossible Possible (2012) by Regina Brett, newspaper columnist, popular speaker, and Pulitzer Prize finalist who hosts a radio show and is a New York Times best-selling author of God Never Blinks” (2010).

The title of the book obviously piqued my interest, so I grabbed a copy and sprinted to the Starbucks coffee shop inside B&N to take a look. Here’s a few paragraphs from the Introduction (pp. 1-3):

We all pass by miracle workers every day.

Most of the time they’re disguised as ordinary folks, teachers, hairdressers, nurses, secretaries, cashiers, cabdrivers, and the like.

I’ve never forgotten the day I was a ball of stress and stopped to pay for parking at an outdoor lot. In most parking lots, you pull up, the person sticks his or her hand out of a little booth, takes your money, gives you change, and you pull away. Your eyes never meet and neither of you remembers the encounter.

This time the attendant stood tall, popped his head out, and gave me the biggest smile. He looked me in the eye, greeted me, shook my hand, and gave me a blessing before I left.

He told me he loved his job and saw it as his ministry to bless people as they passed through his parking lot into the rest of their day. Where I saw a mere money collector, he saw a mission in life. He left me feeling renewed and calm.

We’ve all had moments like that. They happen when you are with people who know that everyone matters, that you don’t have to make a lot of money to make a big difference, that you can simply start where you are and magnify the good.

It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed by all the problems in the world. How many times have you heard someone say, “Why doesn’t someone do something about that?” Or the words come out of your own mouth, as they have mine. We hear about bad news and whisper, “It’ll take a miracle to fix that,” And we wait and wait and wait for someone else to be the miracle.

We want someone else to act. But miracles aren’t what other people do. They’re what each of us does. They’re what happens when ordinary people take extraordinary action. To be a miracle doesn’t mean you have to tackle problems across the globe. It means making a difference in your own living room, cubicle, neighborhood, community. . . . 

We can’t do everything, and what we can do, we can’t do perfectly, but that’s okay. All we need to do is make a beginning, right here, right now. If we just do that, it will make all the difference in the world. (Quote source: “Be the Miracle,” pp. 1-3).

This book contains Brett’s second set of 50 lessons; the first set of 50 lessons came from her first book, God Never Blinks.” Brett states:

For the past 26 years, I’ve had the privilege to be a columnist at the Plain Dealer in Cleveland, and before that, at the Beacon Journal in Akron. I’ve had a front-row seat on life. Ordinary people from all walks of life have opened their hearts and shared with me how they’ve made the impossible possible. You’ll meet some of them in this book, since some of these essays originally appeared in those newspapers.

My cancer journey inspired my first book, “God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life’s Little Detours.” My readers inspired my second book, “Be the Miracle: 50 Lessons for Making the Impossible Possible.”

I hope this book will challenge you to be your best self, to go make something possible, to be the miracle. (Quote source here.)

The personal stories in these 50 lessons are very inspiring. I thought about typing the titles to all 50 lessons as they are inspiring quotes in and of themselves, like Lesson 12 that is titled, “Speak up for others, especially when they aren’t present to speak up for themselves,” and Lesson 35 titled, “No matter what happens, don’t take it personally. Take it spiritually.” Or Lesson 5 titled, “Do your best and forget the rest. It could simply be too soon to tell,” or Lesson 50 titled, “If you woke up today, God isn’t through with you yet.” (Click here to read the titles of all 50 Lessons.) However, I settled on Lesson 24 to share. It is titled, “God doesn’t always call the strong. Sometimes you have to be weak enough to serve” (pp. 123-126):

Lesson 24: God doesn’t always call the strong. Sometimes you have to be weak enough to serve.

2-cor-12v9We’ve all heard the stories.

Elvis Presley once got an F in music and was told to keep his day job driving trucks. Michael Jordan was cut from the high school basketball team. “Gone with the Wind” was rejected 38 times before it was published. J.K. Rowling lived on welfare before Harry Potter made her a billionaire.

Beethoven’s music teacher said he was hopeless at composing. Winston Churchill flunked the Royal Military Academy entrance exam twice and finished last in his class. Lucille Ball got sent home from acting school for being too shy. Julia Roberts failed to get a part in the soap opera “All My Children.”

Thomas Edison was fired twice for not being productive enough. Babe Ruth held the record for the most strikeouts. Walt Disney lost his job at a newspaper after he was told he lacked imagination. Van Gogh sold just one painting his whole life. Abraham Lincoln suffered from depression, failed in two business ventures, and lost eight elections. Tell that to the Lincoln Memorial.

The failures of those great successes convince me that our weakness is often the flip side of our strength. I used to be terrified of speaking up. My career? Writing an opinion column for the largest newspaper in Ohio.

Our strengths and weaknesses are usually directly related. For the longest time I resisted embracing my strengths because to do so would make me confront my weaknesses. It was a long time before I learned that God can use both. It took me even longer to learn that sometimes God chooses us for our weaknesses, not for our strengths.

I find it a great comfort that, all through the Bible, God doesn’t always choose the strong. He picks the flawed and the weak and transforms them. A person like Moses, who killed a man, is chosen to lead people from bondage to freedom. David, who ordered a man to be killed, is picked to be king. Then there’s Jesus, who included among His 12 closest followers a man who lied to Him, a man who doubted Him, and a man who betrayed Him.

My favorite Christmas passage starts with “Fear not.” Those two words mean God is going to do something powerful with someone weak. I love that moment in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” when Linus offers to explain the meaning of Christmas to his friend by quoting the Gospel of Luke:

Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

I’ve heard it said that we should read the Bible as if we are each of the characters in it. One year the priest at my church, Father Tom Fanta, gave a sermon as if he were the innkeeper who closed the door to the holy family on that first Christmas Eve. He acted the part from beginning to end, from his smug refusal to his shameful remorse.

He said that we are the innkeeper who shut the door and made no room for others. We’re too busy to talk to that friend who is in the middle of a messy divorce. Our lives are too filled to make room for volunteering at the women’s shelter or babysitting for a friend.

We are those shepherds, busy tending our sheep–our jobs, hobbies, families–and afraid when God comes to us, whether in the form of heavenly angels or earthly ones–friends, family, and strangers, or in the shape of problems and crises. We balk when called to go somewhere unfamiliar or somewhere undesired, some detour from our carefully constructed career paths or highly scheduled calendars.

We are like Joseph, who could have quietly left Mary instead of getting into a relationship that might demand more of him than he wanted to give. We prefer the normal, the steady, the predictable–something we can control. We plan our lives and in the planning are careful not to leave any room for God to come in and screw it all up.

We are like Mary, who, when first greeted by the angel, was scared. Would we really want God that close? “Fear not,” the angel proclaimed.

What would happen if God called us to something higher? It sounds good–for a second. Until we count the cost. What if it means moving? Earning less money? Going back to school?

When God called Jeremiah, he wanted to decline; he claimed he was too young for the job. Moses wasn’t so hot on being hired to corral the Israelites through the desert to the Promised Land.

A priest once told me he was unsure before his ordination whether he was strong enough to become a priest. Then someone asked him, “Are you weak enough?” Saying yes to God isn’t about being strong, but about being weak and saying yes anyway.

Mother Teresa once said that she wasn’t called to be successful; she was called to be faithful.

If your answer to the question “Are you strong enough to serve?” is no, maybe you’re asking the wrong question.

Are you weak enough to serve? (Quote source, “Be the Miracle,” Lesson 24, pp. 123-126).

I’d like to end this post with the opening paragraphs of the last lesson–Lesson 50: “If you woke up today, God isn’t through with you yet” on p. 262:

How many people does it take to change the world?

One.

It doesn’t matter how much money you have or how much time you have left or how much energy you have. You’re never too old or too sick or too broke or too broken to be of use to God. It’s been said that man’s finish is God’s beginning. When I was feeling my worst after chemotherapy and daily radiation treatments, every morning these words inspired me to get out of bed and climb into life:

If you woke up today, God isn’t finished with you yet.

I glued those words to my morning meditation book after seeing them in a newspaper article. You aren’t finished until God says you are. If you’re still here, there’s a reason.

Maybe more than one. . . . (Quote source: “Be the Miracle,” Lesson 50, p. 262.)

So if you’re reading this today God isn’t finished with us yet, and here’s a song to remind us of that very fact. Back in 2006 Mark Lowry sang a song titled, Be the Miracle (YouTube Video below). Here are the lyrics:

Be the Miracle

I used to pray hard for a miracle
To end all the suffering I see
In this sacred moment
My eye have been opened
Maybe it starts here with me

Let’s bring down the walls of complacency
Start moving with mercy and faith

Be the hands of God touching the hurting
With loving arms wide as the sky
Be the heart of grace bleeding forgiveness

With tender compassionate eyes
When a wounded soul
Needs a little hope
Be the miracle

We don’t have to feed the five thousand
To care for the hungry we see
We don’t have to walk on the water
To get to somebody in need

There’s no good excuse
Not to let heaven give
The miracle of you and me 

Be the hands of God touching the hurting
With loving arms wide as the sky
Be the heart of grace bleeding forgiveness

With tender compassionate eyes

When a wounded soul . . .

Needs a little hope . . .

Be the miracle . . . .

YouTube Video: “Be the Miracle” by Mark Lowry:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

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2 Comments

  1. nhiemstra says:

    Me, too. I love the feel, the scent, of books. The older, the better. Yes, I sometimes buy books online, but my greatest joy is visiting old books stores. In fact, when we are on vacation and we somehow become separated, my wife knows the first place to look is a bookstore.

    And, I also love Regina Brett’s books. They are tremendous inspiration and a great joy to read. Thanks for sharing this one.

    Like

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