The world around us is full of mysterious things and mysterious experiences. Miracles in every sense of the world - not merely things that happen and confuse attempts at explanation. Miracles are things that happen when the only other explanation is so complex that it's unreasonable.
I've witnessed very few miracles in my life, but each is precious to me.
I wrote before about the miraculous experience we had at the Portland Rescue Mission one night while serving pizza. We knew only 12 pizzas were delivered - not nearly enough to feed our 200+ guests. The guys in the kitchen started making some macaroni and cheese, but none of us were confident we'd have enough food to feed everyone.
Worse still, the weather brought in more guests than usual - we were looking at a crowd upwards of 300 people.
Somewhat miraculously, though, the pizzas kept coming. We quickly polished off the 12 boxes of pizza we'd seen delivered. Then we found another box of pizza warming in the oven. Then another box. Then another.
We fed every guest. We covered seconds. We fed the residents. We fed the volunteers. We still had leftovers.
No one knew where the extra food came from, but we were all gracious for having it. Truly an amazing night.
The Dream Job
Unlike most of my friends, I never had a part-time job while I was in high school. My "job" was school itself. To that end, I challenged myself my senior year by taking 6 advanced placement courses and adding a 7th period for band.
I studied hard, but as graduation grew closer - and it became more apparent just how much college (and books) was going to cost me - I realized I was at a disadvantage. My friends all had summer jobs lined up. I didn't.
I started filling out applications everywhere I could. I applied to every store at the mall, the movie theater, every fast-food chain in the area, the grocery store, the video rental store, everywhere. I even applied to work with my dad for the summer, something that should have been a given; I didn't even get an interview.
After the third time even McDonalds refused to hire me, I realized I was in a bad spot. I sat down at the family computer and filled out a form on Monster.com, desperate for anything at this point. Then I stopped, closed my eyes, and prayed for a job.
The phone rang.
"Can I please speak to Eric Mann?"
"This is Eric."
"Hi, this is Scott from Camp Cooper. Your younger brother's working with us this summer, and it came to me that you might be interested in joining us, too. Basically, we need people. Do you want a job?"
I accepted over the phone and started as the Archery Instructor at Camp Cooper two days later. It began four seasons of what has been the most challenging, enriching, and fulfilling job I've had in my entire life.
My introduction to college wasn't the smoothest of rides. I started in the marching band, hoping to hold on to at least one hobby/sport/activity from high school to ease the transition.
Unfortunately, the first day of band camp was set up specifically to humiliate former section leaders and drum majors to put us in our "rightful place" as obedient underclassmen. No matter what we did or how willingly we followed even the most insane of directions, we were forced to run extra miles, do extra pushups, and rehearse late into the night.
It was so stressful I couldn't eat or sleep at all. I quit before the end of the week.
This left me living on campus, alone, a full week before other students would arrive. I was a bit stressed out. Luckily, the university was holding an info day for student groups that Saturday. I pinned the flyer to my mini fridge and looked forward to finding a way to meet other people on campus.
Saturday came and I trekked to the student union, hoping to avoid my former bandmates and their judging looks. Eerily, the union was empty. None of the clubs seemed to be there - save one.
Two people were sitting at a table arguing about whether or not they'd missed the event. I walked up and introduced myself, learning for the first time about Chi Alpha and making my first friends on campus.
It turned out, the event was really on Sunday but somehow both Chia Alpha and I received misprinted flyers that said it was on Saturday. I helped them pack their brochures and signs back into the van, then we all went out to lunch to laugh at the confusion.
I was an active member of Chi Alpha for the next two years. We had weekly Bible studies and worship services. I went on retreats with the group. I got to know a lot of people through the organization, and it's one of the primary forces I credit with helping me get through college.
Had we not both received misprinted flyers, there's no chance I would have ever found Chi Alpha, let alone become involved with the group for so long.
All Around Us
There is much about the world that is unexplained - not all of it is miraculous, often the unexplained is just a lack in our understanding of this place we call home. But sometimes, events conspire in such a way as to present seemingly impossible circumstances and coincidences.
Like more than enough food to feed a crowd of hungry people.
Or an unsolicited job offer from an unexpected source at a moment of need.
Or a friend and mentor when one is so desperately needed.
You don't have to look too far to find answered prayers and miracles all around. You just have to be willing to look.