You’d think, being a minister, I’d wake on Sunday morning wondering what miracle lay in store for me that day. Unfortunately, more often than not I’d have the Saturday night why-did-I say-I’d-preach-on-Sunday blues. My colleagues and I lead our parishioners in choruses like “Victory is Mine” or classic hymns like “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”, but many of us leave the ministry suffering from compassion fatigue or badly burned by well-intentioned dragons. I could have been one of those casualties but for a faith-reviving miracle.
From 2013-2015, I served as interim pastor to the United Presbyterian Church in Paterson, NJ, where I met an enthusiastic member named Diane Anderson. She wanted to hold an evangelistic service outdoors so members of the community could hear the message. For the benediction, we’d write prayers on index cards, tie them to helium balloons then release them. The Sunday of the service was warm and wonderful. We worshipped in the church parking lot and, at the end of the service, released our balloons as planned. They dotted a blue and cloudless sky.
The following Tuesday on our answering machine was a message from a woman who lived in Massachusetts just outside of Boston. She shared how one of our balloon blessings reached her backyard and was an answer to a prayer.
I called her back and had a wonderful conversation. It seems her father had recently died after a long bout with cancer. She’d gone that Sunday to his graveside and just talked to him, letting him know how much she missed him and didn’t know how she was going to go on without him. On Monday, as she was washing her dishes she glanced out her kitchen window and saw something stuck to a shed in her backyard. She went to retrieve it. It was a balloon with the following message attached: “Jesus, I am asking and believing in your name to continue to bless all those free of cancer and to those suffering that you will comfort them during this time.” She told me she wasn’t a religious person, but she felt sure our balloon was a sign from her dad that all was well with him and all would be well with her. Because our address was on the card she was able to track us down and thank us. She mailed the card back so I could share her thank you with the congregation the following Sunday.
I told Diane first. She had always wanted to do a service like this and thanked me for encouraging her to do it, despite the grumbling from the we’ve-never-done-it-that-way-before naysayers of the congregation. Diane now leads a ministry called Faithworks that feeds 500 people a month.
That balloon traveled 220 miles from our parking lot in Paterson to this woman’s Boston neighborhood. Ever since that call, I greet each morning with this prayer: “Thank you, God, for another day to be used by you for good.”
Coincidence or miracle? I believe the latter. What do you say?
One Breath Away
Sentenced to hang for a crime she didn’t commit, former slave Mary Hamilton was exonerated at literally the last gasp. She returns to Safe Haven, broken and resigned to live alone. She’s never been courted, cuddled or spooned, and now no man could want her, not when sexual satisfaction comes only with the thought of asphyxiation. But then the handsome stranger who saved her shows up, stealing her breath from across the room and promising so much more.
Wealthy, freeborn-Black, Eban Thurman followed Mary to Safe Haven, believing the mysteriously exotic woman was foretold by the stars. He must marry her to reclaim his family farm. But first he must help her heal, and to do that means revealing his own predilection for edgier sex. Hope ignites along with lust until the past threatens to keep them one breath away from love…
Excerpt from One Breath Away
She circled around him as if he were an open bear trap. “What if touching you in those ways doesn’t give me pleasure?”
Her words sliced across his throat. He pressed a fist against his heart then sucked air through his mouth to recapture his breath. “Then I’m wrong…but I honestly don’t believe I am.”
She frowned. “I told you I’ve no experience when it comes to relations between men and women.”
“You’re a fast learner, remember?”
She looked down. Interest burned in the gaze that traveled to his crotch. His cock twitched under her scrutiny. She returned her attention to his face, stared into his eyes, searched a minute.
Eban held his breath.
Come on stars. Be right.
She tilted her head. “You’ll show me what you want? Guide me? Instruct me?”
“If you’re willing.”
She pursed her lips thoughtfully. “Fine. Show me.”
He unbuttoned his fly, let his pants slip slowly down his legs, and blew out a breath as her gaze followed his movements. He discarded his underwear, swallowed hard as he exposed his member to her. Her eyes widened.
“Your first impression?”
Still clutching her shoe, she approached him, reached for his cock, let her hand hover indecisively.
“Touch it anyway you like.”
She knelt on the mattress, laid her shoe aside and took his genitalia in her hands. He closed his eyes, melted in the immediate warmth of her fingers cupping his balls. A drop of semen pearled from the head’s slit.
“What is this?”
He opened his eyes, observed then relaxed at the curiosity in her gaze.
She thumbed the substance onto her fingers, examined it, sniffed it.
“Planted in your womb it becomes a baby.”
She spread the precious seed along his cock slit. He stifled a moan as a delicious thrill tripped up his shaft. She stopped. He looked down into eyes filled with concern.
“Have I done something wrong?”
He shuddered, shook his head. “No. You’ve done something very right. Please, continue.”