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Unless you live under a rock, you know that Alex Trebek, long-time host of “Jeopardy” has pancreatic cancer. This is a devastating diagnosis. However, Mr. Trebek recently announced that he is in near remission, and credits this miraculous turn-about to the power of prayer.

Which is wonderful. I was one of the many people who prayed for him, after all. The only problem with stories like this is that they cause us to question the nature of miracles. In my lifetime, I’ve also prayed for many other people with cancer, including some who had the very same diagnosis as Mr. Trebek. They died anyway. Why didn’t my prayers elicit a miracle for them? Did I not pray enough? Or maybe it comes down to numbers: A celebrity like Alex Trebek is bound to get more prayers than someone like my father, a quiet Korean War vet and former farm boy from Wisconsin. But since when does God favor the popular crowd? It’s a conundrum.

It is not grace withheld,
nor grace deferred.
It is only this: The miracle
you held in your heart
changed shape, became
a color beyond the spectrum your
eye can see. It came as you bid.
That is an assurity. But:
it did not look familiar,
dressed as it was in the stuff
of your fears. Still.
It was perfect.
And you will know it —
or not — one day.

Do you know how much one round of chemotherapy costs? Well, I’m sure it varies somewhat, but in small-town Georgia it costs $14,000. For one round. My sister has had two rounds so far, and she’s going to continue to receive treatments for six to eight months on a weekly to bi-weekly basis. Sure, her insurance covers some of that — $9,000 dollars, to be exact. So, three weeks into her diagnosis, she’s already $10,000 in the hole. And it’s only gonna get worse.

My sister is a teacher, and I don’t need to tell you just how underpaid that makes her, especially since teachers (at least in her state) are obligated to continue their studies…which means she’s still in debt for the cost of her Master’s degree. She’s also divorced, not an uncommon state in this country. Her husband is living with a younger woman now, and is uninterested in defraying the cost of their three sons’ health and welfare, let alone my sister’s.

I wish I could say she was in an unusual or rare situation, but I fear she’s not. She can’t be the only one out there staggering under this sort of burden. Which makes me even more livid when I think about the strong tide of resistance to Obama’s health care plan.

People are livid about it. And I just don’t understand why. How could helping those most in need be a bad idea…ever? I don’t care about political rhetoric. I’m sick of hearing excuses, reasons, arguments. A nationwide healthcare plan will help those most vulnerable, most likely to drown in the morass that is our current health care system. People like my sister.

So I don’t care why you oppose it. It is the kindest, most Christian thing we can do as a country to provide health care to everyone — not just those with the money and power to choose. Anyone who stands against it, for whatever reason, I am telling you that you are wrong. You are killing people.

Granted, I am not exactly the most reasonable person on this subject. Just thinking of my sister’s plight makes me crazy. But I know right from wrong. And affordable health care for everybody is right. It’s a truth I feel in my bones, as Ruth might say. If we want to call ourselves a nation of believers, it’s time to start walking the walk. Politics be damned.

Yesterday was Transfiguration Sunday, the Sunday before Lent. Pastor Helen preceded her sermon with this reading from Mark. Then she asked us to consider what it is that veils our sight and keeps us from seeing the Divine. Sure, we get a glimpse every now and again but how is it that we consistently fail to see and recognize God at work around us?

For my part, sometimes I as simply to busy doing. I’m not looking. I’m not seeing. I’m caught up in the minutia. I’m worrying about what has to be done now, tomorrow and the next day.

But even in my busy life, sometimes something happens that lifts this veil. Often it is an event that is simply to awe-inspiring to ignore.

I’ve blogged  before about my friend who was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. Just last week she got the results of yet another round of tests. Last time, the good news was that the cancer hadn’t advanced. This time? They couldn’t even find it on the x-rays. She’ll have a CAT scan to be sure but she won’t have it until her next scheduled appointment. How can she stand to wait? Because she knows Who is responsible for this amazing absence.

At moments like this, how can you not help but see God’s loving presence at work in the world?


Have a Mary Little Christmas

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