Today’s post is the featured article from the December 2007 issue of The Front Porch Newsletter. If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription.
Squire Rushnell, author of “When God Winks” puts a face on the concept of coincidences. In the speed of our lives, we only see what is happening on the surface of the many incidences that happen in any given day of our life. Most of these incidences don’t catch our attention. But then again, most of us have experienced the wonder of weird. A chance meeting. An unexplained connection. An incident occurring against all odds. We usually laugh it off, say something like… Wow, it’s a small world … and just keep on going. I remember a number of years ago, I developed a friendship with an individual through numerous “coincidences” in our relationship. After years of staying connected, we began to connect less frequently. In fact on this particular Sunday evening, it had been a couple of years since we had connected. I was in the middle of a little project of converting my handwritten personal phone directory into my computer. These were the days before electronic database programs were available to keep track of your contacts. In fact, I was on the cutting edge that evening as I was inputting all of my contacts into an EXCEL spreadsheet. It was taking me a while since there were over 250 addresses in my book. It was in the middle of my input that my friend called. I immediately told him that it was ironic that he had called because I had just been thinking about him. As I glanced up to my computer screen, I realized the reason I had been thinking of him was because I was literally in the middle of inputting his address when the phone rang. A small coincidence, but still weird! When I told him what I was looking at on the screen we both laughed — because there had been so many of these weird coincidences in our relationship.
But some coincidences are not so small. Some are nothing short of a miracle.
I had just arrived back in my office in the midst of a very busy day. I was wearing down, but decided to check my email. As I scrolled through the numerous new emails I noticed that the subject line of one of the emails simply read Jack Turner. I immediately recognized that as the name of the main character of my book, Silent Alarm. Of course, as a parable, all the names are fictional. Some more randomly named than others. Jack was the centerpiece of the story — a story of a very successful and busy professional who would experience a horrible accident and learn about life More Than a Coincidence throughout his recovery. Jack Turner’s name was particularly random since in the original manuscript this main character’s name was Bill. It was Bill until my first editor, knowing that the other main character was Monica, asked me if I was trying to make a subliminal political statement. Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky had never crossed my mind, but my editor was convinced that it would cross the mind of many readers — and would be distracting. I wanted to keep the name Monica, so we simply renamed Bill to Jack. Totally random — so I thought. On the day before going to press, my third editor suggested that Jack needed a last name — a good strong last name at that. By this point, I knew the editors were better with words than me, so I challenged them to come up with Jack’s last name. The next day they called with Turner. Not a creative windfall, but simply the last name of the second editor. But they thought Jack Turner was the perfect name for this main character. I agreed. Totally random — so I thought.
And the subject line of this email simply read: Jack Turner. I would later learn it was from a woman in Houston Texas. And when I opened the email here is what I began to read:
I wanted to share with you, briefly, about how I have been miraculously introduced to your book, Silent Alarm.
My Dad was in a critical accident on January 27th. He was mountain bike riding with my oldest brother Rone on some trails in Grapevine (outside Dallas). He was going down a hill and near the bottom, as he hit his brakes, he flipped over the bike and broke his neck and back. The fracture left him immediately paralyzed from the neck down, and also stopped his lung function. It’s a long and miraculous story of how my brother kept him alive (even, without any medical training, opening up a “trach” with an Allen wrench from his bike bag), until “Life Flight” arrived.
My Dad was a very active 63 year-old man who was very involved in his business life as a “semi-conductor engineer.” He had also been searching for happiness in “things” (more so in the last few years than ever, purchasing “things” I would never have imagined my “practical” Dad purchasing). He was getting caught up in the “race” of things, and I believe this has been a huge “wake up” call for him.
Anyway, a life coach, who sends a daily blog, started reading your book. He began using your Silent Alarm story within his blogs and sent me a note saying he couldn’t believe the “synchronicity” of this story and what’s going on with my Dad. It was incredible how similar the stories were, and it wasn’t until I received your book that I realized even the names were the same. You see my dad’s name is Jack Turner!! I read your book to my Dad on April 14th (his B-Day), and he was so thankful for this incredibly “direct” and “personal” message from God … including even his own name!
John, I wanted to thank you for writing this book. I don’t know why you chose the name “Jack Turner” but I’m glad that you did!
Ryn didn’t leave a phone number. But I had her email address. I waited to get over the shock and sort out, in my mind, the “coincidence” of all of this. About 30 minutes later I sent Ryn a reply email. I knew there was no question that she would understand, by my email, that I was pretty stunned by the chances of all of this — one that the names were the same and two that these two stories, in the universe, would ever collide. I mentioned to Ryn that I would really appreciate the opportunity to talk with her further and left her my phone number with an invitation to call, if she would be so inclined. I hit SEND and 15-minutes later my phone rang.
Ryn gave me a detailed picture of what her dad and their family had been experiencing over the last three months. It was paradoxically heart wrenching and inspiring all at the same time. And now, by “coincidence,” I was part of their story — and they a part of mine. It was at the moment Ryn was telling me her dad was at Baylor Rehab Center in Dallas, still paralyzed from the neck down, that I turned to my calendar and noticed my upcoming schedule. I said “Ryn, this is amazing. I have not been in Dallas to speak in almost a year, but I will be there next Monday. Do you think your Dad would accept a visitor?” After a moment of silence, Ryn responded, “First of all, nothing amazes me anymore — and so it doesn’t amaze me that you just happen to be in Dallas next week. And as for visiting my Dad — you have no idea what that would mean to him!” I knew timing would be tight, so I called my dear friend Roycee, who lives in Dallas, and asked her if she wanted to do a “God-thing” the following Monday. After telling her the whole story, she didn’t even hesitate with her resounding YES! And on the following Monday morning, Roycee picked me up at DFW and we both went to meet Jack at the Baylor Rehab Center.
It was truly an honor to stand by Jack’s bedside that morning. Our lives brought together in the midst of an unlikely chance. Jack’s tragedy sent a systemic ripple through the lives of family, friends and even former strangers. In the midst of his paralysis, Jack’s example stood tall. The paralysis would prove too strong for his frozen body and in September of this year Jack let go of this life. But not without a fight and not without making an imprint that would live long after him.
I didn’t really know why we had picked the name Jack Turner … at least until I read Ryn’s email! Having lived this story, I can promise you it was more than coincidence — it was nothing short of a miracle! I wonder how many miracles go unnoticed — simply written off as coincidence.
ACTION IDEA: In this upcoming New Year, ponder the coincidences you experience in 2008. Will they simply be by chance or are they your “silent alarms” screaming for you to wake-up to yet another miracle?