miracle

What Moves Mountains?

LOVE. THAT'S WHAT moves mountains. That’s what the inimitable Dr. Maya Angelou shared with Oprah Winfrey in an interview a  year before Angelou’s passing on May 28, 2014, at the age of 86.

In the days following her death, tributes blanketed the television and internet. Perhaps the greatest came on Sunday evening, June 1, as Oprah Winfrey aired a series of exclusive interviews with Dr. Angelou. Thus, the prophet spoke from the grave and this is what she said: “Love moves mountains.”

Jesus said faith moves mountains—faith the size of a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20). Did Dr. Maya Angelou dare to contradict Jesus? The poet/prophet says love. Jesus said faith. Which is it? Perhaps both.

People of faith know—they have witnessed it. Faith does move mountains. But they also know this: Faith’s power can lay dormant until it’s set ablaze by love. Perhaps only love has the power to fortify faith enough to make the earth quake.

Anger can shake earth, but it cannot move it. Rage can break earth, but it cannot move it. What if faith the size of a mustard seed requires the force of love to move the mountain? If that is the case, we are left with one haunting question: Why have we seen so few mountains move in our lifetime?

Perhaps the miracle has eluded us not because we lack faith, but rather because we live in a generation that can get by most of the time without really loving—I mean really loving—loving sacrificially—loving with vulnerability—loving with the force of a Mack truck. I mean the make-you-join-a-freedom-ride-even-though-you-may-be-lynched kind of love. I mean the kind of love that looks on the humanity of “the other” and is melted from the inside—the kind of love that lays down one’s life, one’s dreams, one’s health, and one’s well-being for the good of “the other.”

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A Reign of Terror

AMID WORRIES about a new Cold War, of standoffs with old enemies and confrontations with new ones, Harvard professor Elaine Scarry’s latest book is a chilling reminder of the doom our presidentially controlled nuclear arsenal can unleash upon the world. Early on, she reminds us that President Nixon told reporters, “I can get on the telephone and in 25 minutes 70 million people will be dead.”

This boast illustrates Scarry’s thesis: We live in a thermonuclear monarchy, where one person—the U.S. president—can destroy the world. Nuclear doom is an accident waiting to happen, and she reviews a number of barely publicized near misses.

But she sees a solution at hand—the U.S. Constitution, specifically both Article I, Section 8, which says that Congress alone can declare war, and the Second Amendment. The text of the latter reads: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” (Emphasis added.) Scarry argues that the amendment mandates a second level of citizen consent to war, a further brake to executive power, even after Congress has given its approval—that the writers of the Constitution intended that before the U.S. engaged in any war the people would have to consent to join a militia, a form of collective participation in the decision for war. According to Scarry, our out-of-ratio nuclear weapons stockpile, ready to launch at the command of a single person, has negated the Constitution-mandated chain of accountability and decision-making and is therefore illegal.

Scarry, a scholar of social theory, argues that the social contract on which the Constitution stands also outlaws nuclear weapons. Departing from some interpretations, she maintains that the social contract as developed through the centuries is actually a covenant for peace, giving us a blueprint on how to live without war.

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Waiting for a Miracle

JUANA TOBAR SAYS she is waiting for a miracle from God. She’s the mother of four wonderful children and a grandmother of two young girls. Her husband, Carlos, a U.S. citizen, calls her the “glue of their family” and his soul mate. Juana has lived in North Carolina for more than 20 years and serves as an usher in her church, but in the coming weeks the Obama administration will be deciding whether or not to deport her back to Guatemala.

Juana’s case is not unusual. According to its own statistics, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has deported approximately 400,000 immigrants per year since President Obama took office in 2009. In March, he’s set to reach the dubious marker of 2 million deportations, more than any other president. Many of us who work with immigrant communities are left asking: Why would a president—especially one who enthusiastically supports immigration reform that would give the undocumented a chance to stay in the country and earn citizenship—so aggressively deport the same immigrants who could be legalized through reform?

Our best guess is that when Obama entered office, his administration made a calculation that if they showed they were serious about enforcement, lawmakers would be more likely to come to the table and negotiate. That goodwill never materialized. Now, five years later, ICE is feeling increasing heat from immigrant advocates.

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New 'Miracle Machine' Turns Water to Wine (in Three Days)

Prototype of "The Miracle Machine," which claims to turn water to wine in three days. Courtesy themiraclemacine.net

By turning water into wine, Jesus used his first miracle to keep the wedding feast going. 

Jesus said to them, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” (John 2:7-10)

But maybe Jesus won't be the only one reigniting the party with homemade wine. A new device called The Miracle Machine promises to make pre-aged wine in about three days.

It’s called The Miracle Machine (of course) and it’s basically a Sodastream for wine. Like its under-21 counterpart, the Miracle Machine uses water, yeast, grape concentrate, and finishing powder packets to create decent DIY-quality vino, virtually out of thin air. Just connect the machine to its corresponding iOS or Android app, input all the ingredients, and, in true miracle fashion, wait three days for your wine to rise triumphantly from the ashes of discarded flavor packets and tap water.

Just to be clear, Jesus didn't have to wait three days for his wine. 

Einstein's Compass

Photo: Georgios Kollidas / Shutterstock.com

Photo: Georgios Kollidas / Shutterstock.com

Editor's Note: Trevor Scott Barton wrote this poem after reading Subtle Is The Lord: The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein by Abraham Pais.

Einstein

experiencing a miracle

trembling with excitement

a compass

sparking genius

creating a world of thought

Euclidian Geometry in a small book

flying certainly away from the miraculous

finding the miraculous in clarity and certainty

gravity

Rydberg's Constant = 2π2em/h3c

landing uneasily in chaos

wandering and wondering in the quantum universe

God playing symphonies on strings

Is Alabama Shrine the Next Catholic Pilgrimage Site?

Alabama Virgin Mary shrine photo courtesy of Caritas of Alabama via RNS.

Alabama Virgin Mary shrine photo courtesy of Caritas of Alabama via RNS.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Could a Virgin Mary statue under a pine tree in the middle of a cow pasture in rural Alabama one day become an officially recognized international pilgrimage site of the Roman Catholic Church?

Yes, it could, said Michael D. Murphy, chairman of the anthropology department and a professor of anthropology at the University of Alabama who has specialized in studying the role of Virgin Mary apparitions in the Catholic Church.

“Without a doubt,” Murphy said. “Some very unusual places have ended up becoming pilgrimage sites.”

Marija Lunetti, the visionary who has been reporting daily visions of the Virgin Mary since she was a teenager in Medjugorje, Yugoslavia, had two outdoors apparitions in a field under a pine tree in Shelby County, Ala., during a highly publicized “five days of prayer” July 1-5 at Caritas of Birmingham.

Lunetti was one of six Medjugorje youths who began reporting apparitions of Mary in 1981. She was 16 at the time and known as Marija Pavlovic. Now 47, married with four children and living in Italy, Lunetti continues having daily visions.

She has been visiting Alabama since 1988, when she came to donate a kidney at UAB Hospital for her brother, Andrija Pavlovic. She had apparitions in the hospital and at the home of Caritas of Birmingham founder Terry Colafrancesco.

Boy with a Broken Heart is Born (Day Six)

I wrote a story a while back about a family in our church back in Pueblo whose baby was due just after we left town. Early in the pregnancy, doctors diagnosed little Avery with HLHS, Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. There was a good chance he’d need surgery in utero or immediately after being born, and there was a formidable chance that he wouldn’t survive the procedure. There was also, of course, a higher than normal risk to Lyndsay, the mother, too.

It was hopeful watching the church family rally around the Vigils, praying for them, bringing them meals, visiting and doing what they could to offer support in what I’m sure felt like a time of emotional free-fall. It was also weird to know that, when Avery actually came, we wouldn’t be there.

Avery's first day as an oxygen-breathing member of the human race.

That day was today.

Jesus Tortillas: Deconstruction, Preconceptions and God

Here I am, urging people to deconstruct their preconceptions about God, and this guy finds Jesus in a tortilla.

Russ, my father-in-law, lives outside of Espanola, New Mexico. He can tell you from years of living there that the area is jumping with religious mysticism. One of the most famous sites in the state is the church at Chimayo, where people visit to touch the holy dirt and be healed. There are photos of people who claim to have been restored all over the place, along with crutches and canes left behind.

I’m not one to affirm or challenge that what people experience there is real. But I did find it interesting that the priests who serve the church simply bring in new dirt to fill the hole when they get low. Perhaps they bless it; I have no idea. But it’s interesting to me the power we inhere to certain items, acts or places. Is God more or less there than somewhere else? Is there something about the experience that opens us up to the already-present God? Is it an example of the uncharted power of the human mind?

Hit the Hallelujah Button: With Clark W. Griswold et Famille

Clark and Ellen Griswold of "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation."

Clark and Ellen Griswold of "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation."

On this Christmas Eve, as you gather with "kith and kin" on the threshold of the Christ Child's birth, we give you a moment of familial rejoicing from the Clark W. Griswold family of Chicago's North Shore and the great Christmas light miracle of 1989.

JOY TO THE WORLD! (Drum roll, please...)

David Wilcox on Guidance, Religion and Miracles

David Wilcox via http://www.davidwilcox.com

David Wilcox via http://www.davidwilcox.com

It's that time of the year again, the joyful season when Jeff, my iTunes DJ, starts spinning holiday music when I choose "random" from the play options on my keyboard.

I almost always have headphones on with music playing as I work each day, and the surprise of what Jeff, as I call him, comes up with — especially when he reaches into the way-back machine for sonic fodder — is a daily delight.

First thing this morning, Jeff decided to play the tune "Miracle" by Ashville, N.C., singer-songwriter David Wilcox.

Oh joy! It's long been one of my favorite unconventional Christmas songs but I'd forgotten about its many charms until I was taking my first sip of coffee today.

The song, which appears on David's 2006 album Vista, is a take on the Natvity story seen through David's remarkably creative, often childlike sensibilities. Here's a taste of the lyrics:

Few will chose to follow
Out of all the star invites
Most will hide safe inside
With the lantern turned up bright

Waiting for a miracle

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