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Ordinary Miracles
by Stephanie Tolan


p.34 "But for now, let us begin as we always do, with the Lord's Prayer. After that, we'll sing number two thirty-four in your hymnals, 'Washed in the Blood of the Lamb.'"

p.74 "Possess your soul in patience!"

p.82 On the walk home after school, as soon as Evan and Zach and Colby has split at Market Street and Matthew and I were gone, he started right in again about how genetic engineering was messing with what only God should do. I kept thinking that God didn't make oil spills and fertilizer runoff, and maybe since people made those things, it was people who ought to fix them.

p.98-100 "You want to hear the sermon I'm going to give when Dad lets me do the prayer service again? I've been working on it ever since I got home this afternoon."
     What I wanted to do was have the room to myself for awhile, but I didn't say that. I didn't say anything, and he took my silence to mean--as it always would have before--that I did want to hear it.
     "It's about science. I'm going to use the Book of Job, starting with chapter eleven, verse seven. 'Canst thou by searching find out God?' It's all there, Mark. Right here in the Bible. I'll say how science can be a good thing, when it helps us to know more about the world so we can take better care of it. But we can't expect science to teach us everything, because the universe is God's creation and we can't ever completely understand it. Only God can do that."
     He picked up a spiral notebook from the desk and started flipping through it. "It's kind of hard to understand the King James version, so I'm using Dad's paraphrased Bible. The best stuff is in chapter twenty-eight. It talks about the things men can do, like digging mines to find gold and jewels. Digging into mountains and damming up rivers. Growing crops on the top of the earth even though there's fire way down underneath."
     He found the page he was looking for. "Here, listen. 'But though men can do all these things, they don't know where to find wisdom and understanding.' Then it goes on to tell all the tings God can do. Like making the winds blow and putting the oceans in place. Making the patterns of the rain and the path of the lightning. It says that while people are searching and searching for wisdom and understanding, God knows where those things were along, and he tells us. God says that wisdom is to fear the Lord and that understanding is to forsake evil. Then I'm going to end with chapter forty-one, verse thirty-four. 'He is a king over all the children of pride.'"
     "You want to preach a sermon that says the stuff Colin Hendrick is doing is wrong?" I asked.
     Matthew nodded. "Don't you see? The Bible says Dad's right. I'm right. I'll say that even though it seems like a good idea to do something that will clean up oil spills, it's not really, because that's messing with the way life works, the stuff humans can never really understand. Scientists who think they should do that are 'children of pride.'"
     I found my hands clenched into fists, my fingernail biting into my palms. Just because he'd discovered something in the Bible that seemed to take his side didn't mean he had won the argument. "What about the mess we've made of the world? Go back to the stuff in Job about what human beings can do. When the Bible was written they didn't know how big a mess we could make doing that kind of stuff. Mining and damming up rivers and all the things--worse things--they never could have guessed back then that we would be able to do someday. But we do know now. We're supposed to take care of the earth. But there are bad things like oil spills that happen to the earth because of us. Things that are our fault. We have to do something about them!

p.110 Ever since we began domesticating animals, we've been in the genetic-engineering business. We breed them for whatever traits we want--color, size, temperament. We do it with plants, too. Corn, rice, beans, you name it. It's all different now from what it was when it grew in the wild. The only thing that's changed is the level at which we can tinker.

p.118 Somebody caught a couple of the water bugs that one of the kids called Jesus bugs. Matthew grumped about calling them that--he said it was taking the name of the Lord in vain--but the name made sense. Another name for it was water strider, because it really does walk on water. It eats insects that fall into the water, and sometimes mosquito larvae, too.

p.141-142 Unbelievers, Dad says, either don't listen or can't hear, which is what makes missionary work so hard. It isn't that they don't have beliefs; it's that they have different ones, and it's hard to get around them.

p.148 "My middle name is Thomas," I said.
     Colin sort of chuckled.
     "What's funny?" I asked.
     "Wasn't Thomas the doubter?"
     "Yeah, but he only doubted until Jesus showed him proof."
     "Oh, right," Colin said. "I remember."

p.167 "When two or more people are gathered in my name, there will I be also."
     --the Bible

p.168 I looked up at the cross. It was two pieces of wood, hanging from a wire. I don't believe you, I thought. I don't believe you anymore. But I didn't say it.

p.180-181 Once he told me he wanted to hear what it was like growing up a twin. He said with his interest in genetics, he ought to know more than he did about what it was like for two people to have identical genes. And so I tried to tell him. It was like thinking back to a book I'd read a long time ago. "Twin things" weren't happening anymore. Not since the morning he'd gone into the hospital. Nothing was happening in my life anymore except this waiting game. But he wanted to know about twins, so I did my best. I told him about the times when one of us would be sick and the other would feel the symptoms. About the dreams we dreamed together. And how we didn't always have to talk to have a conversation.
     "See?" he said when I was done. "What did I tell you? Science has barely made a beginning. We think that sort of thing ought to be impossible. We don't know anything yet!"

p.184-185 The snake in my stomach was gone now. Something bigger had taken its place. Something bigger than I was. Bigger than Matthew and me together. And it was eating everything in sight. I listened to Dad's prayers, to the one about Colin, using Colin's name now that there was no more secret. And then to all the other prayers Dad prayed every week. The other ones God didn't listen to--about peace and abundance and brotherly love. How could we have listened to those prayers week after week our whole lives and not wondered about it? Not wondered why they never came true. For two thousand years people have been asking in Jesus' name for peace on earth, and we weren't anywhere near it. "Possess your soul in patience," Mom said. Well, my soul was out of patience.

p.192 The porch light was on, and in spite of the chill, a couple of moths flew slowly around it, bumbling into the glass.

p.210 "Are you all right?" he whispered. He didn't have to whisper to keep from waking Luke up. Luke could sleep through bombs going off.
     "No, I'm not all right!" I said.
     "Okay. I know that."
     "Just do me a favor, will you? Don't tell me God's with me. Because he isn't! Maybe he's with you, but he's not with me."
     Matthew sat up in bed. "He isn't with me either. If he was, I'd know what to say."

p.219 What Dad said was, "We don't know all the answers." He meant it different from Colin, but I think he was saying the same thing. God's bigger than we are. 'My thoughts are not your thought, neither are my ways your way, saith the Lord.' I suppose it could be that Jesus didn't mean we had to accept him before we die. If he came to us on our way out, as it were, why couldn't we make the choice then?

p.220 The web of life doesn't work without death. Carolyn Dirkman was right he day Matthew and I preached our first sermon--the day I met Colin. If we could get what we want just by asking God for it, nobody would ever die. We're too scared of it. And losing people hurts too much.

NAMES: Rathburn, Soames