Wonderful | Smile

Many things in life are a matter of perspective. Ronald Regan famously quipped, “Recession is when your neighbor loses his job. Depression is when you lose yours. And recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his.” Perspective truly makes a difference.

Miracles are also a matter of perspective and understanding the core of the word helps to explain its use over time. Miracles as matter of perspective are not always the actions of brightly singing heavenly messengers. Sometimes they are as simple as a smile or a friendly visit. In our lowest points in life who doesn’t benefit from knowing they have a friend who cares?

An outside observer, or even the friend, might not see their kind action as performing God’s work, but nonetheless it very well could be.


Miracle as a word has an interesting connected history. It comes from Old French, miracle, which can be traced back to Latin, mīrāculum (object of wonder). Then it can be traced back to mīrus (“wonderful”) and then in Pro Indo European (PIE) smeiros which means to smile with astonishment.

I find the PIE version particularly child like. As humans we love to smile when something surprises us in a positive way. Kids playing peek-a-boo comes to mind.

As adults we’re often less appreciative of surprises. We’ve traded wonder for predictability. What the word origin above shows though is that wonder, miracles, and smiling are all interconnected. As I was reading the scripture/chorus from Handel’s Messiah was in my head.

Isaiah 9

5 For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire.

6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

PTSD could easily be described using the description of a warrior surrounded by confused noise in verse 5. I have seen the impact of PTSD several times and know of its caustic depths. If verse 5 is the problem, verse 6 is the cure. And look! There in the verse we see the word wonderful here capitalized, but true to the full depth of its meaning. It’s the amazement of pleasant surprise that causes one to smile.

We see it’s use again when Christ is born in Luke 2:

8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

Thus the scripture in Isaiah was fulfilled describing the birth of the Lamb of God and the story of that great event is one that should cause us to smile with astonishment.

Revelations and miracles are like playing peek-a-boo with heaven.

Recognizing Miracles

The first Saturday of December 2016 my kids and wife went to visit an older couple who had recently returned from serving a mission in Germany where we met them at the beginning of their service.  I was left behind to finish a final exam for a college course.  The interlude between their leaving and this reunion was a challenging one for the couple.  The husband had returned home and had become quite ill.  At his age it is not uncommon for an illness to quickly become life threatening.
    It was a very tenuous time for the family and they shared the news on social media.  Because of their service they had impacted many people’s lives, including ours, and many families, including ours, began including the couple in our prayers.
    The husband recovered though it didn’t happen overnight, it did happen.
    When my family returned I had finished the exam and cleaned up the house in a thinly veiled attempt to woo my wife.  My boys and I had a few brief words as we were getting ready for bed.
    “How did Elder Johnson look” I asked.
    “Fine” he responded.
    “Do you remember when we prayed for him because he was sick?”
    “Well, is he better?”
    “Son, that’s what miracles look like.”
    All too often around the holiday season we see neatly prepackaged miracles that fit into a 90 minute story line and often ignore that some miracles are built upon the most minor things that aren’t so minor from an eternal perspective.  We need to make sure we pace our lives so we can recognize the miracles we see and help create through our prayers.