Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain

The Miraculous


* Edited to add mike00000000001’s question and my response to him.

I was inspired to write this by a commenter on Got 10 Cents?, mike00000000001.  I’m not sure what I make of “miracles”.  There are some pretty amazing things that happen in this world that seemingly have no explanation.  Or do they?  The fact is if you don’t work in a field that is in the business of explaining them or if you’re not skeptical, but instead want to believe in the miraculous, you’re probably pretty susceptible to such fantastic stories.

mike00000000001:  “What about odd events that don’t fit the norm? …..I mean odd events like those “miracles” you hear about. Or things that just seem to be against the odds….But if it is all chance . . . and the same will happen with or without our prayer . . AND Jesus already prayed for our salvation . . . then why pray at all?”

me: “Beating the odds implies that it does happen. In other words, let’s say you have cancer. Let’s say the doctor gives you a 20% survival rate. That means that on average 20% of the people who have your kind of cancer survive. It’s not unheard of. What about the other 80%? Does that mean “God” loves them less? They are undeserving of a miracle? Throw in the fact that of both the 20% who survive and the 80% who don’t there are both believers and unbelievers. Arbitrary outcomes. Does that sound indicative of miracles?”

My dear friends, “Miracle Man” and his wife, recently went through a year of serious turmoil.  He’s self-employed in a field that required excellent vision.  Without it he’s essentially out of a job.  This is their story:

Miracle Man developed high blood pressure and pre-diabetes.  He was on medication for such and in addition began taking fish oil supplements.  Somewhere in the process of all of that it was determined he needed a stress test.  They found what looked to be a blockage and scheduled a hearth catheterization. During the procedure they did indeed find a blockage and placed a stent.  When he woke up he had extremely double vision and his eyes operated independently of one another.  He had little to no control over his left eye.  The hospital ran an MRI and a CT scan and determined that either during or sometime after the procedure a relatively rare phenomenon known as an ischemic stroke had occurred.  They prescribed him various drugs and sent him home with an eye patch and an appointment to see an Opthamologist.  The Opthamologist didn’t offer much hope of recovery and said that if he hadn’t already seen significant improvement that he would likely remain in that state.  Not satisfied with that answer they scheduled an appointment with a Neurologist, which is what should have been done in the beginning.  He offered them much more hope and told him he was looking at a recovery time of six months to a year.  Much praying happened during this time. He has recovered to 95% vision and, of course, it was nothing short of a miracle.

That isn’t the end of the story, though.  These are his words from his facebook posting:

“Well here goes. I have overcome the eyesight problem back to about 85% where I was before the stroke.HOWEVER, I have found a tumor in my left kidney. most likely cancer of the malignant type. Will be seeking treatment at MAYO in JAX. Doing scans and MRI’s now. Probably gonna lose a kidney. Will post more later.”  May 25, 2010

 “WAITING for Blue Cross Blue Shield to approve another MRI. Doctor is suggesting that we skip the biopsy, and just deal with the problem. Plan now to take the entire left kidney out.”  May 26, 2010

“MRI scheduled at MAYO in Jacksonville on Wednesday for a detailed look at the kidney to determine just exactly what I have. Not good odds but I am taking the positive side.” May 31, 2010

Ok, had the detailed MRI done last Wednesday at MAYO. Talked to Dr. Wehle yesterday. He said he and 2 radiologist had been looking at it. They are studying it and wanted to relook at the CT scan as well. I expect to get a phone call from him today to lay out a plan of action. I live in a great place. I have had so much outpouring of love and concern.”  June 9, 2010

“OK Listen up people! Just got a call from Dr. Kahle at MAYO.. He said that comparing the CT scan from Valdosta to the MRI at Mayo, the “tumor” is smaller!. With no treatment at all. He said that he believes that it is NOT cancer. NOt out of the woods just yet, He thinks now it could be a cyst or a swellling of the internal filters of the kidney. We have gone from 95% cancer to 85% chance not. POWER of prayer.”  June 16, 2010
“I am grateful for all the calls and conversations that I have had these last couple of days. I live in a truly great place. I have been covered with care and prayer from all of you. Prayer for healing and faith. Praise the Lord. Not out of the woods yet but we sure turned a big corner.”  June 17, 2010
“I went to MAYO yesterday for the 3 month followup on the tumor in my left kidney. Blood work at 8, CT scan at 12, Doctor visit at 4. The doctor walked in and said” I need a seat at your church. Whatever was in your kidney is now gone, 100%. Your kidneys are normal, you do not even need to come back to see me.”.  September 16, 2010
“Call it what you want, I am calling it a miracle healing from God thanks to prayers and faith. This is the second time this year that I have beaten overwhelming odds. Two miracles. Power of prayer.  I have gone from 95% malignant cancer to 100% cleared up and gone. With no medicine or treatment of any kind. Prayer and a laying on of hands, along with steady doses of peach ice cream.”  September 16, 2010

All of this, mind you, without the aid or benefit of a biopsy – just doctor’s experience and observation.  Does that mean that he definitely had cancer?  Probably not.  He most likely did have an infection of some sort or a cyst.  The body is an amazing machine, capable of healing itself from a myriad of ailments with no treatment whatsoever. Was this a miracle?  Most likely not, but you could never convince him of that.  I wouldn’t dare try.  He’s given testimony at various churches about the power of prayer and the healing power of Jesus.  He’s convinced of that fact.  He doesn’t know how he was healed so it must be a miracle; a direct result of all the prayers and the laying on of hands.

Another friend and her husband have a daughter who was diagnosed with scoliosis.  At first they thought she’d have to have surgery or wear what looked like an ancient torture device for a back brace.  They called the deacons together and had a laying on of hands.  When she went back to the doctor her scoliosis wasn’t nearly as pronounced as they had first thought and she wouldn’t need either of those treatments.  Wow, it’s a miracle!  She still has scoliosis. 

What about you?  Have you received a miracle?  Have you seen a miracle?  If you don’t believe in miracles what do you believe about the seemingly inexplicable? 

13 thoughts on “The Miraculous

  1. D'Ma:I have been a physician for over 40 years now. I have seen dozens of "miracles", almost always with stories similar to the one you have posted here. With rare exception, this is usually related to a presumed (but not proven) diagnosis of something potentially life-threatening, quite often some type of malignancy, which "responds" to prayer. It doesn't seem to matter that myriads of other people, who "pray" just as hard, don't get the same results. Since religion (of any stripe) is an attempt to somehow "control" the often dangerous and harshly unfriendly world we live in, while hoping to somehow avoid the universal outcome of death, it should be no surprise that many of us clutch at straws of hope when faced with a life-threatening diagnosis. When on two occasions I needed to go through open heart surgery and, knowing first hand how dangerous it can be, I fully expected to wake up in a cold sweat and that I would begin to pray for Godly intercession (in spite of my Atheism). It simply never happened. It has occurred to me that I am at peace with the reality that when I inevitably die I will simply revert to whatever state of existence or non-existence I may have enjoyed before before my parents' sperm and ovum got together.


  2. I've never received or seen a miracle.I don't know if I believe in them or not – it would depend on how we're defining the word. In the past I've seen people use it to describe events that had a 50/50 chance of happening. That to me is a roll of the dice, _not_ a miracle.


  3. I believe, "seemingly inexplicable" things happen. I believe they happen to all people regardless of their belief and non-belief systems. I use to think any time a person was "saved" that, that was a miracle. We had a surgeon tell us that our son's post-op success was a miracle. I've heard a good friend tell me her dad's doctors said the disappearance of a baseball sized brain tumour was a miracle. As a health professional, the term "miracle" gets thrown around a lot, but I think it's just an easy term to use to replace the term "we don't know." I mean, what else are you going to say? What often is missing from the discussions about "miracles" especially those involving the human body is the capacity for "natural" healing that our bodies have. Our bodies are healing and regenerating round the clock, even as we are dying. We are designed for homeostatsis and that's the occupation of our bodies. People sometimes forget that all kinds of healing is very natural. Not all people with cancer heal. But our bodies are constantly taking care of rogue cells 24/7. If there's a miracle, it might be that…though of course, I don't mean supernaturally so. πŸ™‚


  4. *oops* I didn't proof-read … was on the phone with my mom while writing this comment. *blush*homeostasis


  5. I guess it depends on how you define miracle. πŸ™‚ As you've pointed out, beating the odds is not really a miracle, because you already have a chance of doing so. The body's self-healing is really cool, but (as others have pointed out) it is all natural and should not really be considered a miracle.I would up the stakes a bit with the question and ask this: Has something miraculous ever happened to anyone which could not have otherwise happened without divine intervention? For example, has an amputee ever instantaneously had a missing appendage reappear? Has the earth stood still for several hours, causing the sun to appear to stand still in the sky? Has somebody awakened from a coffin at their funeral? These would be real, incontrovertible miracles.


  6. I believe "I don't know" is not a very good place to posit "God did it." Sometimes we later fill in those knowledge gaps. Personally, I'm a naturalist and believe everything goes along according to the fixed laws of physics, just as appears to be the case.


  7. Exrelayman said …"He's given testimony at various churches about the power of prayer and the healing power of Jesus."Why is his testimony valued? God heals say 1 out of 5. If God worked powerfully through prayer, every person prayed for by the elders would be healed. This would truly be remarkable. We could then recognize which religion was the correct one by this sign. If God healed in this scriptrally promised fashion, this man's story would be ho-hum. The celebration of this man's story is a testament to cognitive incompetence.@zoe" We are designed for homeostatsis and that's the occupation of our bodies."Dear friend! 50 lashes with one of the FSM's noodley appendages! All life forms exhibit organization, homeostasis, etc. Else there would only be disorder and chaos. This fact of 'well orderedness' doesn't mean we were 'designed' with these characteristics as a goal. The 4 fundamental forces have played out and here we are. No design or designer needed. It's kind of hard avoiding theistic language traps though, isn't it?@thewisefool"For example, has an amputee ever instantaneously had a missing appendage reappear?"Yet some spiders, lizards, octupi, etc can regenerate severed limbs. Nonetheless we who lack this power are deemed by theists as the apex of God's creation. Really, the stupid it burns (thanks BB).Just a bit of pleasure here kicking ideas around with fellow rationalists.


  8. I don't accept that miracles happen. Strange coincidences and people beating impossible odds will always happen, that's just the way things are. A miracle requires supernatural intervention and that typically boils down to a matter of interpretation.To be convinced of a miracle I would need to see it performed in a testable environment. Though quite how that could happen I don't know.I have heard many testimonies of seemingly miraculous enounters, some there is an obvious alternative explanation, others not so. For the latter I often sit back and wonder what facts are being left out or what else may have been happening.I have several thoughts on medical miracles, first I think that with nasty diseases the prognosis tends to the more negative rather than the more positive, so that when the full facts are known its more likely to be good news in the sense that its not quite so bad. Also, medical situations normally get us very emotional and in that heightened emotional state we don't register things properly and are more likely to attribute to the supernatural something that is actually quite mundane.This is very true of an experience I had, where I was convinced I saw an angel.Sometimes events morph into miracles over time as the story is embellished, as I found out when I stumbled upon what is known as the Miracle of Hiroshima (http://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/05/31/an-adventure-in-miracles-and-blogger-integrity/).


  9. Holy Crap! I've got a friend. *giggle*Dear Exrelayman,I love spaghetti and all things pasta but, I don't believe in the FSM. *grin*


  10. I once thought my son was the recipient of a miracle. He had a strange PDA(Patent Ductus Ateriosus) that was closed at times and opened at others. He was scheduled for a procedure to have it closed. We got there and the doctor could not find the murmur. He even called it a miracle. A few weeks later it was back and he ended up having the procedure. I now understand what happened but at the time I was still a believer, but I was having doubts. Also I've noticed no matter your religion or where you are in the world they experience what they call miracles as well. Christians,at least the ones I've mentioned this to, don't seem to want to hear that. I believe there is usually a very valid reason why stuff happens, even if I don't actually know what it is. When you assume God did it because you don't understand or know what really happened it's called God of the gaps.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_of_the_gapsI did this a lot when I was still a christian.


  11. @Harvey,That's the thing with this and so many other so called miracles. They happen when the variables are uncertain. He had never been definitively diagnosed with cancer. The doctors told him they were 95% sure he had cancer from a CT scan and an MRI. So, sure, these miracles are going to happen all the time because if you say the "C" word or any other life threatening illness in the same sentence with my name and scare the living daylights out of me when whatever it is just "goes away" shazzam – it's a miracle!==============================================@Lydia,I was researching a bit for this article and came across one of those Yahoo! answer boards. The question was posed as to whether or not there were any credibly documented undeniable supernatural miracles that could be proven. The first answer the person got: "When you have your first baby you'll know". First of all that was presuming an awful lot. Maybe that person had 6 children. Maybe that person can't have children at all. They didn't give any details of their personal life. Second of all, child birth happens every day. It's pretty common and usually goes off without a hitch. There are rare instances when it doesn't, but for the number of childbirths those incidents are pretty small. That's not to downplay the fear and the heartache in those instances, just to say that child birth isn't really the definition most people think of when they're thinking of miracles.=============================================@Zoe,I used to think the same thing about people getting "saved". And I also believe "seemingly inexplicable" things happen. Just because it's inexplicable by me or seems inexplicable by anyone doesn't mean there isn't a natural explanation. ===============================================@TWF,I agree with your assessment and your questions. That's what I was looking for and I actually googled it. I got nowhere. Either the events that were described as miracles were very easily explained naturally or they were unsubstantiated. I didn't find anything credible to go on. Maybe that's just my skepticism coming out because these were likely stories I would have latched onto before. It's just that so many of those stories got passed around in emails and from pulpits only to turn out to be lies.


  12. @DougB,At the beginning of civilization man put God anywhere he didn't know the answer. As time passed by and science provides more and more answers those spaces get fewer and smaller. Yet there are those who are still willing to stuff God in those "I don't know" voids simply because they don't know. Evidently they don't think "I don't know" is an answer.==============================================@Exrelayman,The reason his testimony is valued is the same reason Colton Burpo Goes to Heaven is a popular book. People want to believe so badly that their faith isn't in vain, that miracles really do happen, that they buy into and believe because they need to. Cognitive incompetence? I don't know. Cognitive dissonance? Definitely! I'm pretty sure most of us here have suffered from that at some point.Good point about the critters who regenerate limbs and even chopped off tails! ===============================================@limey,I agree with you. Like I said earlier, people (namely me) get the bejeezes scared out of them with some awful potential or definitive diagnoses and when it turns out not to be so bad it's a miracle.To what do you attribute your vision of an angel now?===============================================@Zoe,Miracles never cease! LOL πŸ™‚ (sorry I just couldn't resist given the topic..hehe)==============================================@theagnosticswife,I've stuck God in the gaps plenty of times. πŸ™‚ I'm glad your son is much better now. That had to have been terrifying and, no doubt, one of those gaps you'd want to stick God.


  13. I do not believe in miracles, except for that time I got lucky with Teri.


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