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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Faith Not My Own, Conclusion

As the startlingly cold mountain breeze hit my face, I snuggled deeper into my sleeping bag. I was seconds away from returning to that deep REM sleep when I remembered why I was sleeping in the open air. You are the leader of this little group, Sojourner, get yourself up and stoke that fire back to life before your kids wake up from the cold. Groan, the sun was only beginning to rise. If I could get the fire flaming up a bit, I might get in a few more winks before the teenage girls sparked back into that energetic flurry of chatter. Lifting my head, I saw that my second-in-command still slept soundly in the bag just ahead of mine.

Okay, well, I’d just get up and try to get the job done, without waking myself up too much. I left my sleeping bag, my only focus on the pile of wood. I didn’t need the kindling; a few smaller branches should be enough. Perhaps, I could make it in one trip if I only took a couple of the smaller logs.

I reached the wood pile, retrieved the aforementioned pieces, and headed back towards the campfire. Once there, I squatted down and began to stoke up the embers with the longest of the branches. Soon, the flames were rising nicely. Cathy’s voice, sounding like the first attempts of a new day, startled me.

“Your crutches. Sojourner, you forgot your crutches.”

I glanced over to my sleeping spot. There lay the lifeless metal crutches aligned and waiting next to the sleeping bag. “Oh, I forgot.” My voice was a croaking whisper.

 “God healed you! God healed you! You forgot because you didn’t need the crutches! God healed you!”

Cathy’s words took awhile to register with me, but she was right. Leaving my stooping squat position, I sat down on the cold ground. I stretched out my injured leg and moved the ankle all around, easily and painlessly. It was completely normal again.

“I do believe you’re right, Cath. Look at this motion, will you? I have full range of motion in my ankle. Yesterday, the doctor tried with all his might to make that ankle move and never could. Huh, well, guess the surgeon will be disappointed Monday, eh? No cash in his pocket from me.”

“Let’s wake the girls and tell them the good news!”

“Hmm, better not. It’s still too early for them to be up and long before they’ll have breakfast ready at the lodge. Let’s just go lie down for a bit, until the girls begin to stir. It shouldn’t be long.”

Cath agreed but both of us knew the excitement and anticipation of the girls’ reaction over the miracle would make returning to sleep impossible for either of us. Since it was the girls’ faith and not mine, we decided to let the girls share the testimony with the group at the morning meeting. We had no idea, at that time, we would learn of another miracle before they had a chance to share.

I love the sounds of a campground waking up in the early morning hours. The rustling of branches as folks make their way around those still sleeping on the ground, whispers of fellow campers nearby, the barking of a dog in the distance; and, at last, groans and stretches from our own little gang of pillow-headed adolescents. So far, the campground was quiet.

I had just rolled up my sleeping bag and was carrying it over to the designated storage area, when one of the girls let out a shriek. “You’re walking; you’re walking! Your crutches are over there on the ground and you’re walking like anyone else!”

Needless to say, her remark caused the circle of adolescents to spring to attention inside their sleeping bags. Every eye in the rag-tag little assembly turned to look…first at me, then at the dormant crutches, and back at me. A second of stunned silence dissolved into shouts, riotous clapping, and proclamations of the obvious, “God healed you!”

“God answered our prayers!”

“You didn’t think He’d heal you, but we did, and we prayed, and He did!”

“Praise the Lord; He heard us!”

Soon every teen was out of their bag, and Cathy led us all in a prayer of thanksgiving, followed by the girls’ discussion of just who would share what at the meeting. In the midst of it all the “first call” bell rang out. Time to get the camp area cleaned up and the equipment stowed.

The second time the bell rang, we headed for the lodge. It seemed to me that the ground had a thicker layer of dew on it than usual for the hour. I’d never camped here, though, so maybe this was normal for July. Our group of campers had found their other friends, scattered amongst the crowd in the meeting room. Breakfast was a bit delayed, but I’d not heard the reason given. Instead, a time of sharing and singing began the day.

“Okay, folks, sorry for the breakfast time change, but I’m confident we can raise our voices above those growling stomachs, can’t we?” There followed some giggles but also some stern faces from men waiting for that first cup of coffee. “We are thankful that the cooks had the foresight to bring some wood in, away from the downpour, because the gas stove doesn’t seem to be working this morning.

“What downpour?” I whispered to Cathy, who also looked surprised.

“Is everyone here now?” The MC for this extemporaneous session glanced around at the small group leaders and waited for our nods. “Okay, take your seats. Let’s pray; then I’ll throw it open for anyone who might want to share a testimony.” It needed to be related to the conference and what God had done or shown the person already.

The man whose camp had been next to ours, stood and was recognized by the MC. “C’mon up here and share with us what’s on your heart.”

“Well, uh, I’m not one to talk in front of a group; you all know that.” Nods and murmurs of agreement rippled through the assembled conference-goers. “But, well, I told the Lord I just had to say something; ‘cuz I’ve never in my life seen anything like this before.”
Folks turned to look at each other, brows arched and eyes wide. “I wasn’t one to believe in just praying to keep a storm away. I know the prophet prayed and all, but we’re just a group of regular people here. No way was I gonna stay out and get soaked overnight. I made my group come inside before the rain started.” Agreement and me too’s echoed around the room. “Well, when I got up this mornin’ I didn’t see my girl. She was in that group of Sojourner’s, so I went lookin’ for her. When I saw them comin’ this mornin’, I didn’t say anything; I just pulled on my wet overshoes and lit out for their campsite. I know mine was a piece of flat mud, and so were a lot of the others I checked on the way up here to the lodge. To my complete surprise, I found theirs dry as a bone.” Gasps and exclamations filled the room.

The MC and all the church leaders turned to look straight at me. I held up my open palms, both eyebrows arching as high as they were able, with a smile the size of Texas on my face.

“Another miracle! God gave us another miracle!” My girls were ecstatic at the news and couldn’t contain themselves. Meanwhile, others wondered what the first miracle might be. Funnily enough, no one had even noticed I had come in without crutches.

The girls all rushed to the front and their story was told. As expected, the entire congregation cheered and gave God the praise. Naturally, the worship leader broke into song; everyone in the room stood to join in, arms raised to the God Who had heard our prayers.

God had healed me, the one who had not a lick of expectation/faith that He would, because of the prayers of the kids. In addition, God had, indeed, put His canopy of protection from the rain over our campsite. Everywhere around the camp, the ground was wet from the downpour that had delayed our breakfast…except over our campsite. None of the other campers had stayed outside.

I had promised the Infirmary doctor and nurse that I would keep my Monday appointment and keep it I did. Even if one is convinced that God has healed an injury or illness, a medical stamp of approval is a good thing to have for the nay-sayers, right?

It was a marvelously fun consultation as the personnel who had examined me Friday were on hand to give witness that the ankle simply did not move with even passive pressure. The dent where the nail had punctured my skin was still a fresh wound. I had so much fun putting my totally normal ankle through its paces.

At last, the room of experts declared it well, turning to leave the room. I held out the crutches. The doctor took them out of my hand, and signaled for the nurse. As he passed the crutches off to her, I heard him say, “Those Christians! You just never know and what a waste of the surgeon’s time to come all the way here for nothing.”

What a shame he wasn’t able to rejoice with us over the wonderful miracle our mighty God had done for a student. As it turned out, since I wasn’t registered for summer session, I should never have been allowed treatment at the infirmary. Had I needed the surgery, I would have had to pay the entire thing out of pocket…a student’s pocket. No way could I have done that! God knew and took care of it Himself; what a caring Heavenly Father, Who understands our need before we even know ourselves!

***Have a good weekend!

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