Joshua Tree Counseling

The Miracle of the Pipes

Katrina’s pipes were frozen!

The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book, “God Is in the Crazy (with astounding miracles and reflections on the peaceful life)”:

Katrina Ward has seen Heaven burst into her ordinary life on several occasions. Katrina is a licensed clinical social worker who I’ve known for more than thirty years. She has many stories to tell of God’s faithfulness. Here she tells one of them—about frozen pipes … and the breath of God:

“I recall one miracle that happened to me in 1983 when I was living in a small farming town in Oklahoma. My family lived in a mobile unit that didn’t have insulated pipes and we didn’t have the money to insulate them.

“The winter brought many snowstorms and then freezing ice blizzards. That’s when our water pipes froze. We didn’t have water to bathe, cook, or clean with. For two weeks, my mother, two older sisters, and I drove several times a day to a nearby gas station and filled up a five-gallon cooler with water.

“One day, my mother rushed out of her room to tell us God told her He was going to breathe life into our water pipes. We were commissioned to turn on every faucet in the house. So that’s what we did. Still no water, of course. That evening, we attended our mid-week church service and the pastor preached on “the breath of God.” That’s exactly what we would need for the pipes to provide water, and I remembered what my mother had said. Our family gleamed with joy and amazement. We suddenly had the faith to believe that God was about to do a miracle. Although the temperature hadn’t changed, when we arrived home, we heard water flowing. I know now more than ever that His grace is sufficient!”

My wife and I recently had lunch with Katrina and her mother, Martha. They shared more of the story. When they returned from church, the house was completely flooded, and it took them a long time to scoop the water out—but they sang praises all the while. They never did insulate their mobile home’s plumbing, but for the next six winters, before they moved somewhere warmer, the pipes never froze.

Photo from Wikipedia Commons; the Free Media Repository.

Bullet Ridden Sgt. Carney said, “Boys, the old flag never touched the ground.”

Sergeant Carney
The First Black American to Win the Congressional Medal of Honor: A True Hero

A friend of mine handed me an internet article on Sgt. William Carney.  I’d never heard of Sgt. Carney and my friend didn’t know that I’m working on an inspirational book.  Once a slave, his father escaped slavery through the Underground Railroad and then helped relatives settle in New Bedford.[1]  Carney had lofty plans for his life, but when the Civil War came along, he believed his best way to serve God was to join the military in order to free the oppressed.[2]

He gave up his pursuit of the ministry . . . to join the Army. In an 1863 edition of the Abolitionist newspaper The Liberator, Carney stated: ‘Previous to the formation of colored troops, I had a strong inclination to prepare myself for the ministry; but when the country called for all persons, I could best serve my God serving my country and my oppressed brothers. The sequel in short—I enlisted for the war.’[3]

In May, 1900, Carney became the first African-American to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.  We can see his brave deed sculptured in the Saint-Gaudens Monument in Boston Common.  What was his brave deed, one of the most heroic of the Civil War?

As a member of the first African-American regiment in Massachusetts, his Company C of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment stormed Fort Wagner in Charleston, South Carolina.  This was on July 18, 1863.  Charging the fort, many of his men were mowed down by musketry and grape shot (small round balls fired from cannons).

When the bearer of our American flag became disabled, Sgt. Carney threw away his gun and took up the colors.  He was soon alone while the dead and wounded were all around him, lying on top of each other.  He knelt down, bullets and grape shot whizzing all around him, sand flying in his face.  Now wounded he raised the flag high and looked to find the remainder of his regiment, sheltered in the rear of the fighting.

Someone offered to carry the colors for him, but Sgt. Carney refused and was promptly wounded in the head. Wounded other times, he did not relent until he finally reached his regiment.  Soldiers cheered for the sergeant and the flag.  Sgt. Carney spoke these words: “Boys, the old flag never touched the ground.”  At that point, he fainted and fell to the ground.  Having risked his life to protect one of America’s greatest symbols of liberty and our way of life, St. William Carney died in 1908, having received the honor that was due.[4]


In 1866 William Carney was appointed superintendent of streetlights for the city of New Bedford. He then went to California to seek his fortune but returned to New Bedford in 1869 and took a job as a letter carrier for the Postal Service. He worked at that job for 32 years before retiring. After retirement he was employed as a messenger at the Massachusetts State House, where in 1908 he would be fatally injured in an accident that trapped his leg in an elevator.

As with all of us, greatness can emerge from humble circumstances and can be followed by humble circumstances.  We can even die in ways that seem unbecoming to persons highly esteemed by God.  Although Elijah was taken directly to heaven by chariots of fire, his successor, Elisha who performed twice as many miracles as Elijah, died from a sickness.

Whether we are janitors, garbage collectors, politicians, lawyers, professors, or whatever perceived “rank” we occupy in society, we are known by our acts of goodness, especially in difficult circumstances. Or we are not known at all.  Either way, God sees and we can hold our heads high, carrying dignity with us everywhere we go.

[1] (11/23/2017)

[2] (11/23/2017)

[3] Ibid.; see link

[4] (11/23/2017)

High Flight

This poem, “High Flight,” was written by a WWII Spitfire pilot for the Royal Canadian Air Force who was dog fighting along with the British over the North Sea. Because of battle fatigue against the Nazi invaders, he had contemplated aiming his plane straight toward the North Sea to put himself out of his misery. His parents were missionaries, and he himself must have received a reservoir of faith to draw on in order to write this inspiring poem, which has become world famous:

High Flight

“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air….

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
– Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.”
By John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Magee died in a mid-air collision in 1941 at the age of 19. He had a full scholarship to Yale, but chose to fight, instead.

John Gillespie Magee, Jr.Spitfire-14

The Butterfly Effect


Could a butterfly flap its wings and start a hurricane on the other side of the earth?  Preposterous!  But this is exactly what Edward Lorenz proposed in 1963 to the New York Academy of Science: “A butterfly could flap its wings and set molecules of air in motion, which would move other molecules of air, in turn moving more molecules of air – eventually capable of starting a hurricane on the other side of the planet” (Andrews). Laughed out of the science conference, 30 years later Lorenz was vindicated by physics professors from around the world who agreed with his theory.  Now accorded the status of a “law,” the “butterfly effect” is called “The Law of Sensitive Dependence upon Initial Conditions.”

Here’s a great real-world example of this effect.  The act of one man affected every one of us.  On July 2, 1863, a 34 year-old schoolteacher saved the Union in a battle at a small town named Gettysburg.

Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, the school teacher, guarded the far left edge of a line of 80,000 Union soldiers.  If Chamberlain allowed the Confederate soldiers through, they would gain the high ground and be able to overrun the 80,000.  After five charges by the Confederates, involving hand to hand combat, only half of Chamberlain’s soldiers remained. With almost no ammunition left for the Union soldiers, the Confederates prepared to mount their sixth charge.  Chamberlain stood exposed on the top of a hill, turned to his men and shouted, “Fix bayonets!”  His next command was “Charge!”

Shocked by the boldness of the Union men, many Confederates threw down their loaded weapons.  The rebels were certain that these soldiers were reinforcements and not the same men.  In less than five minutes Chamberlain declared to a Confederates captain, “You are my prisoner.”  Within five more minutes, 400 Confederate soldiers had surrendered.

Historians tell us that if Chamberlain hadn’t charged on that day, the rebels would have won at Gettysburg and the South would have won the war by the end of the summer.

Here’s a quote from Chamberlain (who took a bullet in his belt buckle): “I knew I may die, but I also knew that I would not die with a bullet in my back.  I would not die in retreat.  I am, at least, like the Apostle Paul who wrote, ‘This one thing I do, I press toward the mark.’”

From the miraculous birth of George Washington Carver to biblical characters such as Gideon and King David to even you and me (!), MANY stories can be told of how single acts, and often SMALL acts, changed the course of lives and nations.

2 Peter 3:8 says that to God, “a day is like a thousand years.”  To God each moment of time, no matter how infinitely small, can open the door to huge life changing power – even to the glory of God.  Each moment can be the time that the butterfly might flap its wings and create a hurricane on the other side of the planet!  Each flap of our wings matters all the way into eternity!

A related word of advice: Concentrate your efforts on what you can influence, NOT on what you’re concerned about.  By so doing, you will expand your circle of influence.  If you concentrate your efforts on what you’re concerned about, your circle on influence will shrink.  Nevertheless, PRAY about all things!

Much information taken from “The Butterfly Effect” by Andy Andrews, which can be ordered from 



“Sometimes your only available transportation is a leap of faith.”  To get from where we are to where God wants us usually involves leaps of faith.  As a counselor, I often try to find out what process God has allowed in peoples’ lives, hoping to help speed them to their goals.  Assuming their goals are in line with God’s good plans, I know that God will usually use either challenges or trials to make the personal changes in them that will enable them to receive blessings that He has been storing up.

This is how God has always worked in my life.  I’ve noticed that when we shy from God’s challenges (such as reaching out to others or accepting a speaking invitation), God seems to allow more trials in order to accomplish His purposes in us (more “trips around the mountain,” as with the Israelites in the desert).  May we be ever alert to His promptings in order to take the quickest route to God’s blessings: Leaps of faith.  Jump!

Quote by author, Margaret Shepard, from the October issues of “Guideposts” magazine.

“How great is your goodness which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you” (Psalm 31:19).

Jet Pilot’s Miraculous Landing on Aircraft Carrier

Jet Landing on Aircraft Carrier

Many of you know that I have a few hobbies: Music; neuroscience; scripture memorization; reading novels and almost all of Louis L’Amour’s books; and reading accounts of miracles, answers to prayer, and angel appearances.

I just read about a fighter pilot who needed to land on an aircraft carrier.  This incident occurred in 1958 east of the Sea of Japan, and the account I read was written by the pilot.

A nearby typhoon churned the waters so that his first six attempts to land on the carrier were unsuccessful.  Each landing consumed 150-200 lbs. of fuel.  The pilot had only enough fuel for one more try.  If he were unsuccessful, he would end up cruising into the waves where planes often break apart.  This would be certain death.

The pilot’s other option was to climb to a higher altitude and eject.  With the coming storm and the mountains of waves, he thought that he would not be found in the sea.  He believed that this second option also spelled certain death for him.

He decided to try to land the plane one more time, saying a passionate prayer to God for his safety.  He states, “I prayed out loud into my oxygen mask but not over the radio: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, I need your help now or I will die.  This is beyond my ability to control.”  He also prayed that he wanted to see his family, but he added, “I accept your will.  I will fly this plane to the best of my abilities until the end.”  Someone said, “It’s important to live well, and it’s important to die well.”  The pilot was prepared to do either.

Suddenly, the pilot felt great peace.  As he approached the ship, he was amazed by what he saw: The ship “appeared to be floating on top of a huge upwelling of water.  The waves were not penetrating the upwelling and the ship was floating level as in a calm sea.  “This lasted for some 20-25 seconds.  Just as the tail hook engaged the arresting wire, the divine assistance ceased and the ship heeled sharply to starboard.  But I was safely aboard.”  Apparently, no one else saw the calmness that surrounded the ship for the short time of the landing.

With thousands of miracle stories being written about by credible folks such as fighter pilots, firemen, children, high school and college students, and people from all walks of life and from around the world (and many such accounts that are equally incredible have been told to me personally), it’s hard to imagine how God seems to be hidden from some people.  His ways may often be inscrutable, as “Clouds and thick darkness surround him” (Psalm 97:2), but those who seek Him find Him.

(Pilot’s account taken from “Angel Letters,” by Sophy Burnham)

Seabiscuit: Life’s “Losers” Are Often the Real Winners


Life’s losers are often the real winners.  A horse named “Seabiscuit” was considered to be a loser.  Here are some of the loser facts about the loser horse: The owner of “Seabiscuit” lost his son in an accident and was then divorced.  Seabiscuit’s trainer was old and considered “over the hill.”  The rider of Seabiscuit was too tall and seemed to do nothing but lose boxing matches.  And Seabiscuit?

Well, Seabiscuit was beaten and abused by his original owner.  Seabiscuit was also trained to be a runner-up in order to help other horses be trained to win.  After completing his training in never winning a race, Seabiscuit was sold for a cheap price.  He was sold to the divorced “loser.”  So that adds up to four counts of “loser” against Seabiscuit: the loser owner, the loser trainer, the loser rider, and the loser horse.  No gambler would touch such a horse with a ten foot pole!  In fact, Seabiscuit reminds me of an old saying about the man who taught his horse not to eat or drink.  When the horse was fully trained, it died.  Not so, Seabiscuit, however!

With the “new management,” Seabiscuit pulled some big surprises.  He won several races!  Then in 1938, Seabiscuit and the rest of his crew made history.  In what was dubbed the “race of the century,” 40 million people listened to their radios – and stores around the nation closed – while Seabiscuit raced War Admiral, the standing Triple Crown winner.  This was a race between only Seabiscuit and the revered War Admiral – a “match race.”  What happened in this race?  Seabiscuit won the race by three lengths!

Wow, what a lesson!  I’ll take being the unlikely, against-all-odds winner over the more famous “winner” any day!

I think that any honest person can relate to the following scripture.  The Apostle Paul was speaking of those whom God chose to be followers of Christ:

“Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things — and the things that are not — to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him…Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.'”

Paul also said that when he was weak, he was strong.  God seems to take great pleasure in picking “losers” to be “winners.”  Christ even said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick; I have not come to call the righteous [those who think they are righteous], but sinners” (Mark 2:17).

Better to focus on the reality of our needs and God’s promises of strength & victory before believing the negativity that people often throw at us.  There’s just something about Seabiscuit that calls out the winner in all of us!

Could You Hear a Cricket Near an Elevated Subway?

Early Elevated New York Subway

During the turn of the 19th century, a pioneering husband and wife were driving their wagon over the prairie.  In the back of the wagon lay their baby boy.  As the wagon lurched over the trackless prairie, the baby rolled onto the thick grass.  An hour later the mother and father discovered their loss and turned back across the prairie, but they did not find their child.  An Indian tribe found the boy and adopted him.  As the boy grew, he learned the secrets of the woods and became able to distinguish the noises of the forest such as those made by birds and insects.

Years passed and eventually the boy was allowed to leave the tribe.  He ventured into New York City to be educated there.  But the young man never lost his keenness of eye and ear.  Once he was standing with a friend at a busy intersection where the elevated railway roared overhead and taxis honked their horns.  Grabbing the arm of his friend, the young man said, “Listen, I hear a cricket.”  His friend said, “Ridiculous, no cricket could live here, and if it did, you couldn’t possibly hear it.”  “Wait,” said the youth again, “and listen.”

Dragging his friend after him, he crossed the street to the opposite corner.  There on a window sill were some flower pots.  Searching through the plants, the young man found a cricket.  “Amazing,” cried his comrade, “Incredible!”  “Not at all,” said the other, taking a silver coin from his pocket and flipping it into the air.  As it dropped on the pavement, a score of New York citizens instantly searched to see where the coin had fallen.

“You see,” said the young man, “Everyone hears what he is listening for.”

(This is a story told by my father on March 21, 1937 in a sermon in “The Hull Village Church”  when he was in graduate school.  Yes, we all hear what we’re listening for.  But my father found another lesson in the story.  He likened hearing the cricket to hearing Christ’s “crystal clear voice across the centuries and amidst the clanging confusion of the world.”  When I lived in New York City, I lived about two blocks from where the subway surfaces and continues above ground.  I can well imagine this intersection.  I don’t know if the story is true or not.  But it’s a good story!)


Bird and Rainbow

by Langston Hughes

Hold onto dreams
For if dreams die
Life is like a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

Sometimes Langston Hughes only wrote one word per day.  He took great care to craft each poem.  I know that I’m on year number seven in trying to write the last line of a song.  I took one year to wait on the Lord to find a melody for the verses of another song that would perfectly match the melody of the chorus.  Finally, inspiration provided that melody.

Similarly, God takes equal care in fashioning His image inside of us.  If you knew that you had a car that would last forever, you’d replace every worn part with something made of a metal that isn’t likely to perish for seemingly endless years.  God works like that with us.  Every detail of our lives is worth God’s careful inspection and perfection.  No matter how long it takes.  Even with the smallest of details, e.g., taking sarcasm out of our communications, learning to slow down, or learning to accept the imperfections of ourself and others.

The next time we wonder where God is, it may be best to NOT trust our emotions to tell us if God is with us.  God promises to never leave us or forsake us.  Christ didn’t die on the cross for “dear occupant.”  He died for each of us and He’s intimately involved with every detail of our personal growth.

I think that dreaming is for folks who are brave enough to endure those times when there seems to be no hope that the dreams will be fulfilled.  Better to know God and to know His joy and peace than to have any dream fulfilled.  He knows our hearts and He promises that “no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11).  No wonder the bible says four times that we “walk by faith and not by sight.”

Ideas taken from: “Marriage Forecasting: Changing the Climate of Your Relationship One Conversation at a Time,” by Muehlhoff & Allender. 

Broken Winged Bird 

The Lake Wobegon Effect

Lake Wobegon

Do you suffer from the Lake Wobegon effect?  Most of us do!

Many of you have heard of the fictional Lake Wobegon, Minnesota.  Humorist Garrison Keillor reports the news from Lake Wobegon on his traveling show “A Prairie Home Companion.”  In Lake Wobegon, “all the women are strong, the men are good looking, and the children are above average.”

Apparently, medical doctors suffer from the “Lake Wobegon effect.”  In a study from the University of Wisconsin, “the vast majority of surgeons believed the mortality rate for their own patients to be lower than the average” (“Complications,” by Atul Gawande).  Another study concluded that there’s no connection between accuracy and the confidence of physicians’ judgments.

Rather than indict physicians (to whom I actually owe my life), the larger picture is that “human judgment, like memory and hearing, is prone to systematic mistakes.  The mind overestimates vivid dangers, falls into ruts, and manages multiple pieces of data poorly.  It is swayed unduly by desire and emotion and even the time of day.  It is affected by the order in which information is presented and how problems are framed” (Gawande).  Basically, the point of Gawande’s book is the reality of human uncertainty and fallibility.  He also makes the point that there is no escape for physicians from trusting their judgment – in the absence of data or, at times, even in the face of data that would dictate an opposite course of action.

Gawande took a microscope to the medical profession.  I think that God takes a microscope to all of our lives, and I’m grateful for His grace.

We all do well to heed the words of Romans 12:3-4: “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”  Part of our “human predicament” in this life is that we “see through a glass darkly” or “but a poor reflection as in a mirror” (1 Corinthians 13:12).  Fortunately, there is benefit from imitating another surgeon, Dr. Ben Carson, who prays over all medical decisions and throughout every surgery (see “Gifted Hands,” by Ben Carson).

I highly recommend both “Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science,” by Atul Gawande and Ben Carson’s “Gifted Hands.”

A Glass DarklyBeautiful Sun