miracles

Adventures in Faith

God is the Real Deal

I've found that in God's Kingdom things get whacky really fast. His "economy" looks nothing like ours, He doesn't play by our laws, there are no man made presumptions to contend with.

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
— Jesus in Matthew 19:26

I've come to realize that God actually turns things upside down like this so that, when one looks back at the circumstances, they are so clearly out of one's control that it had to be God. I find myself thinking, and increasingly saying, just that. God get's the credit--there's no way I could have done this. 

If you watched my recent Stanford talk, you heard about how when I was in need of money to "make ends meet" I got a call about a consulting job that more than made up for the 1/3 pay cut I had suddenly experienced. Clearly it would seem that I was the one who was blessed by that.

Think again.

Yes, I certainly was, but it turns out that the guy who gave me the job was probably equally blessed. First, as it all played out, he realized so clearly that God spoke to him in prayer--this alone is a wonderful sensation. Once you tune your ear to discern what is your own thoughts, and what are the thoughts God put there, its powerful.

Then, he stepped out in faith to hire me and then pay me out of his own pocket. A financial loss, but he quickly saw God used it for a bigger purpose. I remember sitting with him and his wife over dinner while on the job and I detailed how I had met with a CEO who had offered me a job on the spot. They looked at each other, then at me, and said, "that's why we were to bring you here."

When these kinds of things play out, no matter how seasoned a believer in God you may be, I think you are always elated and even a bit mystified at the realities of a practical living God who's working things out on Earth. It still blows me away when this stuff happens, but the more I see it and believe it the more it happens and I feel like I'm essentially living in a world with another dimension. 

When I spoke at Stanford, Mike, the guy that hired me, brought his wife and son along to hear the talk. We've rehashed it numerous times to really praise God about it. And, I just discovered, it all struck him so much that he decided to write about it on his popular blog, Biblical Viewpoint. Here's an except from his post titled, "Are You the Real Deal?"

Over this past year I had a young man’s name pop into my mind while I was praying. Not a vision, not audible words, but the simple, distinct thought of this person’s name. I did not even know him that well. The strong notion I received in prayer was that I should hire this young man as an assistant on one of my business consulting projects. By the way, this would cost me money out of my own pocket and I was confident that this junior person would add little value to the project. The available project had not even come up yet. I asked God to make it clear how, where, and when to involve this person.
— Mike Griego on BiblicalViewpoint.com

In the article, he talks about living a stereotypical Christian faith vs. one that he calls "all in." This is humbling to me that he considers me to be this kind of Christian, I know I fail often, and yet God keeps saying to me, "Ryan, I need laborers, people to be my hands and feet, brush yourself off and follow me." And for that, yes, I am all in. 

Adventures in Faith, Most Read

A Near Death Birth Redeemed by God

Just a heads-up this post contains some graphic details of the birth--if you get queasy around medical stuff, you might want to skip it. 

Look at the circumstances, the excruciating labor, emergency surgery, near death of the baby, scary hours after the birth, one might find it tough to understand how Whitney and I could say God redeemed the birth experience for us, and yet, that's exactly what happened.

For context, the birth of our 1st son Boden was rough. 30 hours of labor, head was stuck, wife's cervix swelled, heart rate dropped, an emergency cesarean delivery required. The baby ate every hour for weeks = serious sleep deprivation. The recovery for my wife was painful and in many ways robbed her of the joy of being a new mom. A month after we took him home our landlord went through a divorce, had to sell our condo, and we were evicted without any family around to help. 

So, for nine months leading up to the birth of baby boy #2, we prayed "Lord, please redeem this experience for us." Midway through I got an overwhelming sense in prayer that God was going to do just that. Not wanting to be wrong I was tepid to report this to my wife; but, I kept getting it so eventually I told her this time it's going to be different.

With every doctors visit, my wife Whitney and the baby were the picture of good health. And yet, the doctor had to tell us about the risks of a natural birth after a cesarean (known as a VBAC), the possibility of a ruptured uterus, and worse. 

Her belly grew ever larger and the idea of birth pains gave Whitney anxiety. I knew that this pain could not be avoided, so I asked God to draw her close and grow her through it. In the week or two before the delivery my wife told me that God had given her a song, she even began to refer to it as her birth song--here it is:

The day after her due date, Whitney began to have contractions. Excitement--the time had come! We prayed as a family in the living room--thank you God for the medical care, for my mom who flew out to help with our toddler, for giving this son a name, and so much more.

Whitney labored at home as long as she could; we expected her to get to a few centimeters dilation and when she could take the pain no more, we went to the hospital. In the five miles between our house and the hospital she had a few more contractions--they picked up in frequency and ferocity fast--she writhed in pain with each one.

Upon arrival she asked for an epidural--the nurses scurried around in preparation. They reported she was 8cm dilated, very close to birth. The heart rate monitor put on her belly revealed a baby inside with a low heart rate. This coupled with her more complicated VBAC delivery led the nurses to move her to the operating room (OR) for delivery. As they wheeled her away, the doula (a birth coach we had join us) told me that this was all normal, that as the baby enters the birth canal and is squeezed the heart rate often drops.

I was told to "suit up" so I could enter the OR for the birth, which I did quickly since I was an old pro having done this once before. I ensured my phone camera was handy to capture those precious first moments of life.

Nurses entered and left the operating room in a flurry, then one came out and said that a c-section was going to be required. I could hear my wife groaning in the room and the news hit me with a wave of concern. What happened? I thought she was ready to push the baby out? Our doula looked upset. 

Then I stopped hearing Whitney's groans and instead I heard another nurse request a "crash cart." What was that, I asked the doula? Again, her look said it all, then her words confirmed, it wasn't good--it's used to resuscitate a baby. I became confused, it didn't make sense, God told me everything would be okay, He even gave me a name for this baby. If the baby died, I would be left with so many questions, it wouldn't make sense.

I was numb with emotions. Still holding onto the hope that God had given me, yet now also fearful with the reality of what was happening, feeling foolish for having already documented the story about God naming the baby, terribly concerned for my wife--was she okay, was she in pain, was she hearing all of this and afraid? I couldn't even pray in that moment, thankfully our doula began to pray and I listened to her and agreed with every word she said.

Then we heard a crying baby--the doula broke out in praise to God. She told me this was the best possible sound--I praised God too. They brought him to me and congratulated me. I walked with him to the nursery, and the details about what the doctor had found began to emerge.

I learned that the baby's heart rate dropped again and did not rebound. For six minutes it was under 50 beats per minute, a grave concern. The epidural Whitney received did not take effect quickly enough for surgery so she was put under general anesthesia. When she was opened up, they discovered that her uterus was in really bad shape, stretched as thin as a sheet of paper, so much so it was translucent and the doctor could see her instruments through it. Even worse, the baby had the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck and there was what's called a "true knot" in his cord. The doctor later described this as a "triple whammy." 

I learned that a true knot is rare and often deadly. They're formed early in the pregnancy when the baby is small enough to swim around to tie a knot. They are one of the leading causes of still born babies. In our case, as the baby was being born and pulled down the birth canal the knot tightened cutting off his blood and oxygen. One of the nurses later fetched the cord and showed it to us, several standing around remarked that they'd seen only a few of them in their long careers. Then the nurse who was holding it in her hand had me put a glove on to feel it and she said that even with the knot the cord has a spongy covering over a smaller life delivering tube inside, which serves to protect against these kinds of things. She concluded by saying, "Isn't it amazing how God designed all of this?" 

In the nursery, Lukas went through his first weigh-in, bath, and warm up under a heater. A special doctor was called in to review his blood gas scores. For babies who face the kinds of challenges Lukas faced, time without adequate levels of blood and oxygen, they have to determine what the effects will be. She explained to me that Lukas was on the borderline in a couple of categories, but that they were hopeful he'd be 100%. Then she remarked that if we had come to the hospital even a few minutes later it could have been a very different outcome--you had a guardian angel she remarked. 

I hadn't heard an update on Whitney yet. When our first son was born I wasn't in the nursery near as long before we were ushered back to meet mom. I felt like my new son and I were missing the most important part of our family. I asked a nurse and she called for an update, then she passed on that Whitney was still in the OR. It seemed strange to me that over an hour after the birth she'd still be in that room.

I kept praying, "Lord, save Whitney...keep her in the palm of your hand." The thought crept into my mind that nothing is guaranteed, maybe she was in trouble, then again, wouldn't they tell me? There was nothing I could do except embrace this little miracle baby in my arms and pray and trust God.

Both Lukas and the reality of what happened settled into me. The news kept coming, I learned that our doctor didn't make it to the hospital in time, the procedure was so urgent the nearest doctor was called in. One nurse remarked to another something about good thing the small hospital started keeping a doctor round the clock just a year ago, had she not been there, who knows...

Just then the operating doctor came to see me--before we went to see Whitney she wanted to tell me that we would likely not be able to have children again. Whitney's uterus was too fragile, she'd never seen anything like it, a miracle it didn't rupture, and had she delivered the baby naturally it most likely would have had to be removed. I was just glad to hear she was alive--thank you Jesus, the rest would all be dealt with later. 

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
— Matthew 6:34

We walked to see Whitney and she was loopy from a concoction an epidural, spinal tap, and general anesthesia. The nurse reported that the first thing Whit said when she woke up was, "How is my baby?" When she saw Lukas she cried, moved slowly to put him on her chest, and he quickly burrowed in and began feeding. I was choked up. 

The nurses kept checking my wife. One tried to take her temperature and seemed frustrated. Then she asked another nurse to help because the thermometer wasn't registering. They realized her temperature was under 94 degrees--too low to register. They fetched heated blankets and switched her to a warm intravenous drip. Due to the drugs her body couldn't regulate itself--they said the baby on her chest would help to warm her too. 

Eventually Whitney warmed up, we moved to a room to recover just as the workday began. The full picture of what had happened over the past few hours sunk in, at least for me. I started to tell Whitney the details and I got choked up over it. I thought to myself, why can't we have a normal delivery without all of the trouble?

And yet, as Whitney recovered, amazingly she said to me later that she felt as though God had redeemed the birth experience for her. I listened carefully to what she had to say knowing that in this moment I would learn something from my wife about the deep things of God. As she was wheeled into the OR writhing in pain she prayed and God whispered to her, it will all be okay and He gave her great peace. Yes, she said, God had comforted her despite the pain and the turmoil around her and now she felt much better than she had last birth. She felt so bonded to the baby, she couldn't wait to hold him next. Then she told me that it was as if the baby saved her, his heart rate dipping to avoid the natural birth which would have most certainly caused many more problems. 

Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 4:7

I considered her words carefully. Here was this brave woman who had gone through so much, and while on paper it looked like this was a far worse experience than our first birth, God had changed the whole conversation. While I understood what she was saying and I was elated that God had drawn her close to himself all the way through, the drama of the night before stuck with me. I decided that, yes, God did redeem the birth experience because if that's what my wife felt then I would believe it too. I thanked God and adopted a celebratory attitude despite not feeling it 100%. 

In the day that followed we had sweet visitors who offered up prayer for us. One, a dear friend to Whitney, in her prayer she thanked God for having Mom and baby to work together, to preserve them both. Another, a dear friend to me, prayed a blessing over the family and asked for healing and thanked God for what he had done. Friends brought sushi and candy and a gift for big brother Boden. Another stayed for many hours and took beautiful photos some of which are included in this post. My mom extended her stay to help care for Bo so we wouldn't have to coordinate for his care. Whitney's regular doctor came to offer encouragement that it might be possible to have children again.

A day later Whitney posted on Facebook that she was so at peace, and I knew that behind that post was so much prayer, great trials, but an even greater move by God. He had done something amazing in our midst, even more than deliver a miracle, he had taken my wife through her greatest fear and he spoke to her and delivered her on the other end full of strength and peace and with a wonderful testimony about how great God is, something she and I both know full well she could not have done on her own. 

In conclusion, as I sat in the recovery room holding my precious newborn son in my arms and basked in the reality of a redeemed birth experience I prayed and had a revelation that brought this birth into the light for me. The Lord reminded me of one of the most telling prayers I've ever had for my wife, a prayer that lasted hours while at Bethel Church in Redding, CA. While there, the Lord showed me how he wraps my wife with love and gentleness like a soft warm blanket. That prayer has stuck with me and I've attempted to emulate the approach, which has proven effective and to speak deeply to my wife's soul. I saw that through this pregnancy, through the labor and delivery, God had done just that--he swaddled her tight and cozy and warm to insulate her from all that was happening around her. It was so clear now, from the peace of the worship music in her heart and the whisper going into the OR, the warmth of the baby on her chest, the rest and sweet visitation by family and friends, and an extraordinary bonding with baby Lukas, who Whitney in turn wrapped in a blanket of love herself, yes, it was clear that God's redemptive cover had fallen on my wife and in turn enveloped our family.  

Adventures in Faith, Most Read

God Comes Through During Unexpected Pay Cut

This is one of my favorite stories of all, even though it's still evolving.

Get this.... I found out on Wednesday October 29th that effective November 1st as part of a larger restructure my job was being change and a 30% pay cut was necessary. A 1/3rd lopping off in my salary as the sole breadwinner in the most expensive area of the country with a toddler at home and another one on the way, well, it presents a gloomy outlook.

Or does it? 

Since Whitney and I are getting used to the "wild ride" that is a living and active Christian faith, we quickly realized that maybe God was up to something here, and that we shouldn't grumble too much. I'm not going to tell you we weren't pissed off for a couple days, but we prayed hard, and I felt like we just had to find a way to be grateful for what we have each day.

Right away, we began to experience unexpected provision.

First, we had planned to take a trip to Mexico to spend time with the Derfler grandparents. Planned months in advance, we were now forced to cancel--spending any extra money on a vacation was not wise now that our salary wouldn't cover our monthly expenses. 

Yet, when we informed the grandparents about this, they quickly came back and insisted that we allow them to pay for the trip. And that's what ended up happening, we were blessed us with a fully paid vacation that we never expected, and cannot thank them enough for.

That was just the beginning.

Whitney had friends flying into town planning to do a "girls day out" at the spa and for dinner to celebrate a birthday. She woke up and on top of not having the cash to go out she wasn't feeling pretty (a common sensation among new moms, especially pregnant ones!). As I left for work, I knew there was nothing I could do to fix it, so I simply prayed over her, "Lord, shine down on your daughter today, who I know you love so much, she is the apple of your eye, would you show her that today as a reminder?" Then I left for a breakfast meeting a block away.

A colleague and I were meeting with a guy who had lost his wife of 40 years somewhat suddenly and he had come to mind so I asked him to meet with me. I specifically felt like we were supposed to pray together. After catching up a bit, and talking mostly about his wife and his Christmas without her, the three of us prayed and then got up to go. As we did, he reached for his wallet, and my colleague said we wanted to treat him to breakfast. He then replied that he wasn't going to pay, but that while we prayed God had told him to give all the money in his wallet to me for my wife. 

At this, I was immediately choked up, and I told him I couldn't accept it. He insisted, telling me again that God had told him to do this. As I took the money, I held back tears and told him how much it meant. I left the restaurant, walked home and into my home to find my wife. I shared with her what had happened and she was just astonished, and we both cried.  

A couple of weeks later, my wife was opening the mail when she found a letter stating she had unclaimed property. Of course, these are all assumed to be scams, but something looked different about this one. She asked me to look at it, and when I did I agreed that it looked legit. She called the next day to find out that an early employer of hers from over a decade ago had socked away $5,000 for her in a retirement account. This was literally a day after we had been discussing that with our pay cut we were now saving nothing for retirement.

Another tension was how to buy some extra supplies for baby #2. Fortunately, he was a boy so he had all of the hand-me-downs, but there were a few things to pick-up. Whitney entered a contest for one of the items and sure enough, she soon found out that out of hundreds of applicants, she had won! And, she didn't win just one contest, she soon won another contest too. An amazing windfall!

Texts from my wife about one of her contest wins.

Texts from my wife about one of her contest wins.

 

When I filed our taxes, I expected a return similar to what we had the year before, about $2,300. When I filed our taxes, I discovered that due to a change in our student loan interest payments we were to receive more than double the refund, $5,300. Praise God, we were on a roll now, making up for the lost income.

Still, we continued to dip out of our savings account with each month. Very simply, I needed to make more money. Instead of scrambling around in a panic over what to do, I prayed often and felt like God was telling me to keep doing what I was doing. I remembered the prophetic word I'd received a month earlier. Then, I received a call from a busy consultant in Silicon Valley who wanted to hire me to help him on a job and he was going to pay me a generous amount, nearly $8,000 over the course of a couple of months. This particular consultant works in an industry outside of my niche and, frankly, from the outside looking in it could be said he didn't need me. Alas, he had prayed and God put it on his heart several times to bring me into the job. 

All of these things are hard to imagine happening in single, in total, we just continue to realize how much God is providing for us during this time. We do not have an abundance, we're not able to move or add too many things or eat out. We've embraced a new frugality, shopping at discount stores and cutting corners where we can. And yet, we know that God is doing something here, He's leading us, giving us hope, showing us that He provides and often through amazing ways. 

People Getting It Done, Legends, Miracles

Shodankeh Johnson: Man of Prayer

Much could be written about Pastor Shodankeh Johnson. I'll stick to what I have personally experienced getting to know him as a colleague at Cityteam.

Shodankeh is a man of prayer. I'd heard that he wakes early in the morning to pray for an hour or more each day, and when I hosted him in my home I found that to be true. More than pray, he actually sings in a soft voice to God, I woke up to hear it. 

Another time, while attending the New Canaan Society San Francisco Weekend, I had arranged for Shodankeh to share a room with a dear brother and mentor to me named Ken Churchill (I wrote about Ken here). One evening, Ken received an email from a man in Africa who was reporting that another man who is Shodankeh's colleague was imprisoned. Ken informed Shodankeh of this terrible news, only to watch him fall to the ground in prayer where he began by praising God. 

Once, I had set up for Shodankeh to speak at a conference, literally planning most of the details of his visit, from the time he stepped off the plane. A colleague, Eric Venable, picked him up with the intent to bring Shodankeh to the office to brief the plan and get settled in. But Shodankeh asked to be taken to Stanford University. Eric asked him if he had an appointment, to which Shodankeh replied that he did not, but he had been praying on the flight and God had directed him to go there. Off they went, and when they arrived, they began to walk around the campus, and in so doing, ran into an old friend of Eric's. As they got to talking, they learned that this friend was the secretary for a director of the Hoover Institution, a prestigious international think tank. And, she revealed, there was a new program in the works to resource international leaders just like Shodankeh! The program wasn't publicized, but she offered to provide some information if they would come to her office. Of course, they went, and despite his schedule being completely booked for the day, it turned out that the Director was in his office and took over an hour to brief Shodankeh on the program and give him all of the necessary details to apply. These kinds of divine directives, interactions, and provision are commonplace with Shodankeh and his team from Africa.

Later, when Shodankeh arrived to the office and I heard the story, I asked him how these things happen to him. He replied to me that when he travels abroad, he has a team of people, as many as 50, praying and fasting for him the entire time he is gone. I came to know that he is a man of prayer, and that his team in Africa often doesn't make a move until they have paid a high price in prayer and received direction from God. 

Because of Shodankeh's love for prayer, I have put myself in position to pray with him and bring him to pray with groups of people I am a part of. Two examples, are the Legends prayer group I attend and the New Canaan Society brothers at a weekend retreat. Shodankeh has come to bless the men of Legends a couple of times and when he does there is always a thick presence of the Holy Spirit. Another time, Shodankeh joined a group of men who left the NCS weekend retreat to go to a hospital to pray for a young man who had been shot in the head. That man went on to have a miraculous healing that I documented here

As I said, much more could be written about Shodankeh, in fact it has here and here. I also encourage you to read the book Miraculous Movements, many of the stories of which come from the work of Shodankeh and his team in Africa. Shodankeh is a man who seeks to know God and the fruits of the Holy Spirit are evident in his life, and for that he is definitely a Hands On Christian.

A short video with a powerful testimony from Pastor Shodankeh Johnson. 

Adventures in Faith, Most Read

God Gave Me A New Brother

While attending the New Canaan Society 2013 Washington Weekend, I had a thought to invite a guy to attend with me the following year. He kept coming to invite. 

I left awash in a sea of new ideas and yet the thought to invite this guy stuck with me. The conference was a year away, I wasn't even sure if I would go again, the cost is over $1,000 and I was not in a position to pay for this guy and I didn't want him to have to pay either. Finally, I wasn't so sure how he'd feel amongst 800 guys who raise their hands in worship of God while singing and tend to be very transparent in their conversations. All of these were not small details, and yet I decided to invite him anyway expecting God to work out the details if it was his will.

When I did invite him he said he was interested, so I told him not to worry about a thing, that I'd take care of it all. Knowing he was in the military I applied for him to get a scholarship. The conference planners said they'd know closer to the date if someone would pay for him. Months passed and as the conference came back around I learned that someone would pay his full fee to attend.Praise God!

So we were all set to attend together and share a room and it was going to be a great chance to get to know this guy better. The day before the conference I drove to meet him, and right away I could tell his family was beyond busy, organized chaos even. Not only did he and his wife have two young children, they both worked in high-level demanding jobs and were both getting a Masters degree at the same time. So it was understandable that they were often running at 100%.

As we drove to the conference together, I could sense that it would take time for this guy to wind down, with everything that was going on in his life. I wondered if we'd get a chance to really connect on a heart level. Even more, I could feel a sort of pull to keep him away from the conference altogether. 

We arrived, had dinner together, and settled in for the night well enough, but without "breaking the ice" to deeper conversation that I desired. Even more, I knew he was getting texts that were concerning him and had him contemplating leaving the conference. 

The next day something happened that changed our trajectory. We listened to Erwin McManus preach a great sermon.

When he was done, Dudley Hall stood up to transition to the next speaker. Before he did, he said he had a sense to stop and pause and give guys a chance to stand up and be ministered to if they needed it. With his invitation, the guy I was with stood up right next to me. I was caught off guard but I stood up next to him and put my arm around him. Soon a few other guys huddled around us and we prayed together. Several of us were choked up with tears.

From the moment we sat down, I could tell everything was different. Our conversation had a lighter quality to it. We snuck off to talk more personally. At a reception later that night, I saw this guy talking amongst a small group and when i walked over to listen in, I heard one former war veteran encouraging him to let go of some of what he had encountered at war. I knew that these were divine connections being made. 

That same night, as we laid down to bed rich conversation ensued, in fact, we stayed up until after 2 in the morning talking about our faith in Jesus, questions, things that don't always make sense, our perspectives. It was amazing and I was so blessed to see our relationship open up even more. 

As the conference came to a conclusion, I was full of emotion over this dear new brother, not just a friend now but someone with whom we had discussed the depths of our hearts. We worshipped the King together, made new connections, and we left feeling as though we had a few new ideas to consider. Miraculously, this guy even shared with me that he felt as though he was healed in some way over the weekend.

And yet, having gone to these things before, I knew that it can be a challenge to go back into a busy home from a "mountaintop experience" to a spouse and kids who have missed Dad. Even more I believe these reconnections can be wrought with attack from the enemy to prevent unity and progress. So I prayed that this guy would find a way to get away from his busy schedule to spend intimate time with his wife, share some of his experience, and even bring her to the mountaintop too. I asked my wife to pray the same thing, and we were astonished when just a short time later, we saw that this couple had posted online that they had found a Christian retreat center to visit in the mountains where their pets and children would be cared for so they could connect one-on-one. My wife and I were so excited about this announcement.

Going into this conference, I thought in some way that I was maybe driving some kind of progress, that I would be responsible for getting us there, diving into the heart issues, cultivating the relationship. Looking back, I can see that yes, there was a role for me to make and follow-up on the invitation, but everything was out of my control and firmly in God's hands. After the conference, the things I thought I might do to keep us connected, this guy beat me to every one! He suggested that we talk regularly to pray, he's sent me notes, small gifts, he's inquired about life even though we live in opposite sides of the country. It reminded me that God draws people to himself, the Holy Spirit teaches, my role was just to be obedient to one little piece of the puzzle to make the invitation and follow through to get us there.

Adventures in Faith, Miracles, Most Read

Miracle Boy: Ben Pessah

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Through the Legends group in Menlo Park, I learned about a tragedy where a young man named Ben was shot in the head in San Francisco at a Halloween party. It turns out that Ben was friends with a colleague of one of the guys in the prayer group. Actually he was friends with a colleague of the host of the group, and that colleague, knowing that there was a group of men who came to pray in the office Tuesday mornings, asked the group to pray for Ben, who was in deep trouble.

I got a text while at the New Canaan Society weekend retreat in San Francisco, just a day or two after the shooting, that invited a group of guys to go to the hospital to pray for Ben. A car picked us up and off we went to pray for a young man none of us knew personally. On the way to the hospital we received a text from the colleague that Ben's condition had worsened, there was some kind of infection so that he was put into a unit we could not enter. The best we could do was pray in the hotel lobby.

And so we entered the hospital, got as close to Ben as we could in the Intensive Care Unit, and we began to pray. Pastor Shodankeh Johnson was with us--a powerful man of prayer I wrote about here--and he led us in prayer. We had prayed for five or ten minutes when a few young adults walked by us. I can't recall how the exchange happened, but we learned that among the group were the siblings and a close friend of Ben. We shared that we were praying for him, and they said they might be able to come back later to have us go in to see him. 

We prayed maybe ten minutes more, and then we left and went back to the retreat. Then the amazing reports began to trickle in...

First, an email from the colleague that said,

"Great report.  The initially diagnosed "highly contagious bacterial infection" somehow"came up negative" today."  

Then, a few days later, a note:

"a good report re Ben this afternoon. Fluid in the lungs receding. Doctors are optimistic on his prognosis!!!"

A week or so passed, and another note:

"Thank you so much for your prayers and support!"

I am so happy right now I am literally crying. Ben is now awake and is able to move around. His voice is faint (given all the tubes he has had for the last several weeks) but he is able to comprehend and keep conversation! The power of prayers.

I cannot express how thankful, happy, and relieved I am. I have so much to be thankful for this thanksgiving.

Please pass on my thanks to your prayer group and the priest that went to the hospital.

Then, we received an update that the press was beginning to cover this miracle: 

Check out the links below. It's not only us who are declaring this a miracle! Local news is also reporting on Ben's recovery.

Man's miraculous recovery from coma

Holiday Miracle as Man Awakes From Monthlong Coma