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A prayer for two tragedies

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

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The first thing I heard Wednesday morning was news of the tragic helicopter crash in Iraq. Apparently it had gotten disoriented in a desert sandstorm. Thirty marines and one sailor went down.

Before I'd even begun to absorb that news, a second story started coming in. The details were sketchy at first - some mishap involving a commuter train. The first story was half a world away; the second story, just a few miles from where I stood. As news of this second incident pieced together, the new picture looked every bit as tragic as the first. Police say a deranged young man had parked his Jeep on the tracks, intent on suicide. Prior to impact he'd changed his mind and removed himself, though not his Jeep. Later reports indicated multiple fatalities and around 200 injured in the two-train wreck that resulted.

I couldn't help thinking, Hasn't the world had too many multiple-tragedy days lately? Days where it seems a first and second and maybe even third set of terrible happenings pile up? It might be easy, after a run of too many such days, to edge toward despair, or cynicism, or maybe just toward a kind of emotionless hardness. Easy, but definitely not productive.

In an effort to get my bearings, I turned to a Bible story - a disaster in the making with a last-minute swerve for the better. It ended in a healing outcome. It's the New Testament account where Paul, then a prisoner, is caught at sea in a fierce storm that proves to be too much for the vessel and her crew.

In a way, this single episode might have produced a double-tragedy day all by itself. The soldiers on board had orders to kill Paul and the other prisoners if events turned dire. Paul's prayers had a double healing impact, saving the prisoners and their keepers. The Bible chapter concludes, "The centurion, willing to save Paul, kept them from their purpose; and commanded that they which could swim should cast themselves first into the sea, and get to land: And the rest, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land" (Acts 27:43, 44).

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