Expect a Miracle: The Miraculous Things That Happen to Ordinary People

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9780061013270: Expect a Miracle: The Miraculous Things That Happen to Ordinary People
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Tells the true stories of people from all walks of life who have experienced incredible healings, encounters, gifts, and loves, and shows how readers can lead more fulfilling lives by learning to recognize and accept the miraculous. Reprint.

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Miracles do happen, and they happen every day. Here, renowned author Dan Wakefield's illuminating tour of the miraculous shows that what is possible far transcends our conventional modern expectations.

In Expect a Miracle, Wakefield starts with miracles in his own life -- an improbable recovery from a near-fatal car accident during college and his middle-age recovery from desperate alcoholism -- and then weaves a remarkable tapestry of true miracle stories from people he met in his workshops and in travels to Lourdes, Ireland, and throughout the United States. representing all walks of life and faith -- a factory worker in Denver, a Buddhist in Berkeley, and a prisoner at Sing-Sing -- these miracles range from amazing physical healing to startling bursts of artistic creativity, the abrupt liberation from a long imprisonment of addiction and despair to the unexpected presence of God and deceased loved ones.

Along the way, readers also encounter extraordinary miracle stories of many well-known people, including singer Judy Collins, former Oakland Athletics pitcher Ron Darling, Senator Richard Lugar, theologian Harvey Cox, and bestselling author Michael Crichton, as well as dozens of other people who have had far from ordinary experiences.

The book closes by showing how eyes open to life's miraculous possibilities can see the everyday miracles we all encounter -- the birth of a child, the gift of friendship, the blessing of good food shared with others, the wondrous delights of our senses, the bounties of nature, and the beauty of silence.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter OneMiraclesThen and Now

We are living in a new "Age of Miracles." When I was a college student at Columbia in the 1950s, I never thought I would live to see such a time, or in fact that such a time would come again. Miracles were part of the dark, dead past, part of childhood-my own and that of the human race. Freud and science had replaced God and spirit as the way of finding answers to the mysteries of life.

In a literature course at Columbia in 1953, the legendary professor Mark Van Doren, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and mentor of students from the Trappist monk Thomas Merton to Beat writers Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, said that in most great literature until the modern era the source of power and change was God, or the Gods, from the Bible and the Greek epics and plays to Dante's Divine Comedy. Van Doren cited a newly published story called "A Change of Air" by one of the students in our class, Ivan Gold, in which a formerly promiscuous young woman in a tough neighborhood on Manhattan's Lower East Sidegoes off to a mental hospital and returns "a differentperson' " one who no longer wants random, meaninglessSex. The off-stage power that transforms her, Van Dorenpointed out, was psychiatry, not God, which reflectedour society's new understanding of the way the worldworks. It wasn't a "miracle" but the application of newscientific" principles.

There were to be no more miracles, because everything that happened could be "explained" by one or another branch of science, from psychology to physics. The atom was unlocked, and so was the unconscious; we believed ourselves to be masters of our own fate, even "Masters of the Universe," as Tom Wolfe later described the wheeler-dealers of Wall Street who thought of themselves with the grandiose title of the children's comic book and TV heroes.

As a boy in Indianapolis in the 1940s I had thrilled to a Baptist Bible study class when the minister and his wife told us miracle stories they dramatized with homemade artifacts, such as a brown paper bag made to look like a rock placed over a fountain to reenact Moses striking water from a stone. A decade later, fresh out of Columbia, I thrilled to a hard-drinking, chainsmoking Sarah Lawrence graduate who said she had gone to an ethical culture Sunday school, where miracles were explained by scientific reason. I asked her to give me an example, and she said, "Parting the waters of the Red Sea! What's the explanation? I asked. The girl tilted her chin up, exhaled a thin stream of smoke, and said with throaty authority, "Low tide."

In the turbulent sixties, Time magazine ran a cover story announcing that "God Is Dead," and Harvey Cox's The Secular City, which told how religion might still remain relevant, became the surprise theological bestseller of the decade.

A quarter of a century later Professor Cox, a popular and distinguished teacher at Harvard Divinity School, was putting the finishing touches on Fire from Heaven, his new book about the phenomenon of the mirade-conscious Pentecostal movement, the fastestgrowing Christian denomination in the world.

Discussing the shift from the death of God to the current acceptance of miracles, Cox told me at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, "The modern world was not satisfied when meaning and mystery was taken awar--the churches have been unable to respond to this. People are finding a way to reach back to the source or reservoir of meaning. Nobody buys the whole package-it's 'I love the mass, but not the rest of it'--or some variation on the theme. It has to connect with personal experience. It's like the AA slogan 'Take what you need and leave the rest'

"The Pentecostal church is popular and growing because it's not creedal-the liturgy is spontaneous, egalitarian, and experience-based. Space is created for the experience of healing to take place-for miracles to take place"

Vivien Cordiner, a Belfast woman who left the Church of Ireland to join a Pentecostal church told me, "Now I see miracles in my life, but I never had them before when I went to the Church of Ireland. In the Pentecostal church they tell you to 'expect a miracle.'"

Despite declining church attendance on the Continent, religious shrines and pilgrimage sites have become the most popular tourist attractions in Europe, from Fatima in Portugal to the tomb of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. The great religious shrines of the East continue to draw millions of the faithful, to Varanasi in India, the Hindu "city of Shiva" on the Ganges, to Mecca and Medina, the holy cities of Islam, and of course to Jerusalem, which is holy to Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike. Lourdes, in France, the most famous Christian shrine for healing, was welcoming five and a half million visitors a year in the early 1990s, a million and a half more than came a decade before.

"Perhaps people find religious life too monotonous and want something more intense, more festive, more emotional," Father Michel de Roton, rector of the Lourdes shrine, explained in a front-page article in the New York Times in October 1993. "Perhaps the form our religion has taken today does not respond to peoples' needs."

Today new kinds of pilgrimages indicate that "Americans have become especially efficient in spiritual questing," according to an article in the "Ideas and Trends" section of the New York Times on August 21, 1994. Under the headline "For Today's Pilgrims There Is No End of Holy Grails," Douglas Martin cites pop culture shrines such as Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley, where 40,000 assembled to mourn at the seventeenth anniversary of "The King's" death, and gatherings like the motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, where bikers on Harley Davidsons roar each year in numbers that have reached 170,000...

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