Wisdom and Innocence

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16 ESV).

I once came across a recipe for Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake and said to myself, “That can’t be right!” The recipe claimed it was an “adventurous” cake — moist, containing the texture of coconut but without the flavor of sauerkraut. “How is that possible?” I thought. 

That’s how I felt when I first read about Jesus sending His disciples out with the counsel to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” How is that possible? Can snakes and doves get along? Can wisdom and innocence reside in the same person at the same time? If wisdom is primarily obtained through life’s hard-knock experiences, then one would think innocence would be lost in the process. If a parent wanted to maintain a child’s innocence throughout his or her life, that parent would need to shelter the child from any harsh experiences but thereby, inadvertently, inhibit any growth in wisdom. Yet, Jesus was clear in his admonition, “Go. Be wise. And be innocent at the same time.” I was intrigued and wanted to seek this matter out.

I started my research by looking into the definitions of wise and innocent. “Wise” in this Scripture is the Greek word φρόνιμοι (phronimoi) which means prudent, sensible, or practically wise in relationships with others. It’s how we size things up. In place of “wise,” other translations use the words shrewd, cunning, prudent, sagacious, or wary.  That is why He compared this kind of wisdom to being snakelike. “Be shrewd. Be discerning,” Jesus warned. After all, He was sending His disciples out as “sheep among wolves.”

How are serpents wise? They are pros at escaping. Their most common form of self-protection isn’t biting but avoidance. A snake’s first line of defense is to escape to safety among rocks or vegetation. Most snakes are not aggressive; they bite humans only in self-defense. They would rather not confront us. Snakes detect and avoid danger, while giving no provocation or offense. 

Therefore, it seems to me that Jesus was saying we can be wise as serpents by perceiving and avoiding danger and escaping from it. That doesn’t sound very bold, does it? But it is wise. Proverbs 27:12 says, “The prudent (shrewd, sensible) see danger and take refuge, but the simple (naive, foolish) keep going and suffer for it.” How often have we sensed God’s voice saying, “Don’t go any further,” but we keep going and suffer for it? Especially, in our interactions with others in these volatile times, we must be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.” (James 1:19b) 

Now let’s add the doves into our recipe for wisdom and innocence. What does it mean to be as innocent as doves? The Greek word for innocent is ἀκέραιοι (akeraioi). It literally means unmixed. It’s interpreted as simple, unsophisticated, sincere, and blameless. Used of wine without water and of metal without alloy, it means without any mixture of deceit. Other translations use the words pure, simple, and harmless.  To be harmless is to lack the capacity to injure or hurt. 

But how are doves innocent? The innocence of the dove is seen in two ways.

  • Doves have no gallbladder. As the dove is without a gallbladder, so we are to be without any place to store gall, which represents bitterness. That said, the dove’s liver still produces bile or gall, but it is diverted into sinuses, and then passed directly into the gut, skipping the storage step for which we use our gallbladders. Isn’t it interesting that humans store their bile (gall) while doves quickly process it and do not store it? How often do we “store up” our bile of bitterness and our gall of deceit, fraud, and desire to hurt? 
  • Doves are harmless. In contrast with powerful birds of prey, doves have a meek and gentle quality. They are beautiful, swift-flying birds that are entirely nonthreatening. 

Romans 16:19 ISV instructs us to “be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.” 

Philippines 2:15 NASB says, “so that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.” 

“Being wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove means that you know how the enemy is operating, and you are choosing not to operate in that way.” ~ Lance Wallnau 

Summary:  As Jesus sends us out to be messengers to this generation, He does not want our wisdom to be malicious nor our simplicity to be taken advantage of. Rather, He would have us be an exquisite, lovely union of the shrewdness of a snake with the purity of a dove as demonstrated in Christ. The end result will be like the Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake – an adventurous mixture where one ingredient doesn’t contradict the other but enhances and elevates it.  We can be both savvy and simple, insightful and innocent.   

~ Janet Mueller

Loading the Dishwasher For Lovers

Load the dishes in the dishwasher 
Stack them one by one
Put the glasses on the top shelf
Do it this way, Sweetums!  

Place the silverware in the small slots
Arrange them handle side up
They shouldn’t touch each other
Please listen, Buttercup!

You must rinse the plates off first
Or they never will come clean.
Pots and pans and skillets, too
Are you listening, Prince Charming?

We are loading up the dishwasher
And learning as we go
Chores can be fun and lively
If we use pet names just so.  

Christmas Is Just Getting Started

Here we are in that funky week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. A time when many of us feel let down, confused as to what day it is, overfed and overweight, cluttered in mind and home, and relieved to some degree that it’s all over. We may feel an overwhelming urge to clean the house, dejunk, eat salads, and set goals for the new year.

When I was a child, there was a certain sadness that would sweep over me late on December 25 because I knew that come morning, it was all over. So I would listen to the last refrains of Christmas carols on the radio as I drifted off to sleep knowing that in the morning, it would be back to the usual pop and hit songs. Sure, we would leave the tree and decorations up until New Year’s Day, but really, for all practical purposes, Christmas was over for another year. Except in church. There I was reminded it was still the Christmas season officially until January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany. During Mass, we would still sing Christmas carols and read Christmas Scripture passages. And my little girl’s heart was satisfied with what I thought was an extended Christmas while all the rest of the world had moved on.

On the church calendar, I like that the true celebration of Christmas comes AFTER Christmas Day because that speaks of the magnificent change that occurred when we went from B.C. to A.D. The birth of our son’s second baby, Ezekiel, changed everything for him and Adrienne and turned their world upside down once again! But nothing like the birth of THAT Baby Boy, which changed even our calendar, because He was no ordinary baby. He was God in the flesh, and He came on mission.

The 12 Days of Christmas are not just the words of a cryptic traditional carol. They are a time of celebration of the grandest kind, but most people are simply too tired after Christmas Day to do any more celebrating. Probably because we spent ourselves so completely on all the preparations during Advent, prior to the Day.

I propose we turn things around. Let’s start really celebrating Christmas on December 26 by remembering we are part of this strange society of people, Christ followers, whose world has been turned “right side up” by this Baby, who was God in the flesh, born for us, died for us, raised for us, and lives in us! Merry Christmas Season!

Photo of “Cathedral in Winter”
by Ernst Ferdinand Oehme
( German watercolorist and landscape painter 1797-1855)

Why I Am Not a Globalist…But Will Be One Day

Someday, I will be a globalist…but that day has not yet come. As a Christian, my first and foremost loyalty is to another kingdom – the Kingdom of God. For now, this kingdom is primarily invisible and resides in the hearts of Christians. It is manifested now to some degree wherever Christians abide and are “salt and light.” However, it is not here fully and will not be until Christ returns. On that day, there will be a “one world government,” and we will be a “globalist” society with a benevolent King. But in the meantime, we have nations. Individual nations each with a unique identity, purpose, and destiny. 

I am a nationalist. By this, I mean I support the concept of individual nations, not a global society where borders and boundaries are erased supposedly for the common good. By being a nationalist, I am NOT saying that I believe our nation is intrinsically superior, should suppress weaker nations, or have no regard for other nations’ concerns. However, nations cannot be nations if they do not have boundaries and borders, unique cultures, governments, histories, and destinies. That is what makes them distinct, definable, and defendable.  

If you know my husband and me, you know of our great love for the people of all nations. You know we have supported the work of the church in many places around the globe. We ourselves were foreigners in another country for the first year of our marriage. In no way is the love for our nation exclusive, but our first national loyalty is to the one that has given us so many freedoms and privileges as citizens. 

Sadly, between the era of individual nations and the return of Christ, there will be another “globalist” society. One that is ruled by a man. This is prophesied in Scripture so we know it is coming. We may lose our national identity and sovereignty, as many nations will. It will appear as if peace and world harmony have come, but it will be a false peace. Does that mean we just accept it and go along with it? No, of course not. It will be a time of great wickedness unlike we have ever seen.  

For many years, our nation has been making a beeline in the direction of globalism. It has been purposefully driven, mostly unchallenged, and in many ways ignored. Its ultimate destination would have been deadly in regard to our identity and sovereignty as a nation. But for now, we have a window of opportunity to turn our crash course around. Whether you realize it or not, we are on a battleship fighting for the heart and soul of who we are as a nation. It is a spiritual war primarily but with many earthly ramifications. Are you aware of it?

The national course correction we have embarked upon, and need to continue, is severe. It seems extreme. But if you look behind us, for several years we had been on another extreme path, one that I believe would have led to the destruction of our freedoms and sovereignty. We have mercifully been extended an opportunity to turn it around. Will we fight for it?  

Having said all this, no amount of extensive or broad-based reading and listening to news will give you a complete picture of the true state of the affairs of our nation.  Every one of us has partial and incomplete knowledge at best. Likewise, no amount of Scripture study and knowledge will give you all the answers. In fact, you can probably find a Scriptural reference for just about any stance and opinion you have. What is needed most is discernment, an understanding of the times and seasons in which we live. There are ways to grow in discernment, but that is for another blog post. 

You’ll See a Man

It was a dark time during the Christmas season after my second son was born 30 years ago. I was sleep deprived, in pain, and probably suffering from postpartum depression. There was a popular Christian song at that time called, “You’ll See a Man,” sung by the group, Harvest. Over and over, the words to the chorus rang through my tired head.

You’ll see a man

Acquainted with your sorrows

You’ll see His eyes

Sharing in your tears.

You’ll see His arms

Never lost their hold on you.

Lift your eyes, you’ll see the Lord

I wondered, “Why did the songwriter pen it that way — you’ll see a MAN?” I concluded he was emphasizing the humanity of Jesus so we would know He can and does relate to us on all levels. I needed to hear that and wanted to know more so I broke open my Bible and began to study for myself the humanity of Jesus. What I discovered stunned me and remains with me to this day. There are so many rich aspects to Jesus’ humanity; let me share just a couple of the things I learned.

Jesus identified with us in our humanity by calling Himself the Son of Man. In the gospels, that title was used 81 times, but only by Jesus, and only referring to Himself. He used that phrase when talking about His work, His suffering, His future glorification, and His second coming. In all these things, He identified as a human being. That is why “He is not ashamed or embarrassed to introduce us as his brothers and sisters!” (Hebrews 2:11 TPT). He is one of us. 

Especially since I had just given birth, it was interesting for me to discover that a baby will only possess the mitochondria inherited from the woman’s egg at conception. In other words, the genetic pathway of mitochondrial DNA can only be traced through the woman and not through the man, a well-known fact in forensic science. Like all humans born, Jesus inherited the mitochondrial DNA of his mother. This explains how Jesus was truly a human; He wasn’t just identifying as human in a notional way. He had inherited all the DNA of his mother, making him a human being. 100% human and 100% God.  

When we are in physical or emotional pain, extreme exhaustion, or at our wits’ end and tempted to despair, it helps to know that Jesus was completely human; and therefore, He is sympathetic and compassionate towards us. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15 HCSB). 

Jesus is fully God and fully man, united in one person forever! He didn’t become a man for just 33 years and then go back to the way things were before His incarnation. Although He was always God, He took on a body permanently and forever became the God-Man when He was conceived in Mary’s womb. However, since His resurrection, He has a glorified body, like ours will be someday, but it’s a body nonetheless. Even right now, as you are reading this, He is at the right hand of the Father, as the God-Man, interceding for you. When this understanding broke upon me, I cried out, “Now that’s a God I can love!”    

Thirty years have passed since that long, cold winter with a newborn and a toddler and a heart that implored, “God, do you see me?” But the revelation of the permanent, remarkable change that Jesus undertook for us in His incarnation remains with me forever. 

Scripture for Meditation: “This is why he had to be a Man and take hold of our humanity in every way. He made us his brothers and sisters and became our merciful and faithful King-Priest* before God; as the One who removed our sins to make us one with him. He suffered and endured every test and temptation, so that he can help us every time we pass through the ordeals of life” (Hebrews 2:17,18 TPT).

* The Aramaic can be translated “so that he would be the nurturing Lord of the king-priests.”

~ Janet Mueller

Parable of the Good Patriot

A great nation was going through a presidential election when it fell among thieves. They stripped her of legitimate votes, beat her up through false media reports, and fled, leaving her half dead. An elected Democrat official happened to be going down that road. When he saw what happened, he passed by on the other side. In the same way, an elected Republican official, when he arrived at the same place and saw her, passed by on the other side. 

But a citizen on his journey came up to her, and when he saw the nation in a state of distress, he had compassion. He went over to her and bandaged her wounds, pouring on oil and wine.  Then he spoke the truth of what happened during the election, encouraged her that in the final say, truth would prevail, and spoke up on her behalf in every sphere of influence. He called his legislators and put their feet to the fire to take action. He gathered with others in rallies to call for the stopping of the thieves. He prayed for the recovery of this great Republic and for free and fair elections now and in the future. He put his money where his mouth was and donated to the cause and said, “Take care of her.”  

Which of these three do you think proved to be a patriot to the nation who fell into the hands of the robbers? 

A Tribute to My Father

Dad, as I think back on my childhood, I am aware there are many attributes and values instilled in me, for which I have you to thank.  As I have pondered these things, I realize these qualities are so dear to me I would want to emulate them in my life and pass them onto my children as I have already begun to do. 

The first characteristic that comes to mind as I think of you is your strong work ethic.  The principle of working hard to attain one’s goals, instead of thinking the world owes you something just for being here, is not an attribute to be taken for granted, especially in these “something for nothing” days.

An axiom you taught me brings a smile to my face even now as I contemplate it…“Many hands make light work.”  This was not just a proverb at our house; it was a practical necessity.  The most vivid memory I have that exemplifies this is the assembly line style of canning and freezing we “endured” every harvest.  All 20 hands were involved from the oldest to the youngest.

One of the traits I want to train my children in is responsibility.  That dreaded paper route probably taught me more about trustworthiness and reliability than anything else!  You taught me to follow through and do things even when I didn’t feel like it. 

One of the primary cornerstones of our family was devotion to God and His church.  Where would I be today without that foundation?  Indeed, it is what I have built my life upon.

Some of my fondest memories surround the celebration of holidays.  Recollections of Easter, the Fourth of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas swirl through my mind as these holidays rhythmically march through each year bringing a rich tradition and heritage to our family.  How we need to take time out of our hectic and sometimes burdensome lives to celebrate, make merry, and savor the memories! 

Dad, you taught me the value of ingenuity and resourcefulness.  There is strong merit in the words “making do.”  I knew the meaning of recycling long before it became popular.  We live in a throw-away society that knows little of the clever, creative, inventive ways of reusing and making do. 

Many people today long for the ability to draw pleasure from the simple things of life.  This disposition is not easily attained unless one has been exposed to it in childhood.  Indeed, it tenaciously and elusively remains out of the grasp of most Americans because there is a prevailing attitude of placing entertainment in an isolated position of our lives.  Growing up in our home, I learned entertainment was part and parcel of the everydayness of our lives.  It was built into our days and was not just relegated to the Almighty Weekend.  Because of this, I can find enjoyment and a quiet sense of wellbeing in a rosy sunrise; a chirping bird; the silky softness of a baby’s cheek; my feet squishing through warm sand; a tall, frosty glass of lemonade; or the rich aroma of coffee brewing.  (And it is a heck of a lot cheaper than a trip to Disney World!) 

I suppose if I stopped to count the number of “family members” in our childhood household, it would run well into the hundreds.  I am speaking of the large number of pets we acquired over the years…dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, and other assorted creatures.  Dad, you taught me to love, respect, and appreciate the animal kingdom.  These wonderfully winsome creatures of God were not just for our use but for our amusement and pleasure. 

Growing up, it seemed we spent a great deal of time outdoors, perhaps because it was a whole lot roomier outside!  Because of this, I cherish the seasonal changes displayed in the arrival of every season and never seem to tire of the fresh newness each one brings.  I embrace the first snowfall of winter (well, sort of) and thrill at the sound of a heavy, spring thunderstorm.  You instilled in me a fondness of the countryside, nature, and wildlife.  Perhaps that is why I favor and frequent the parks, zoos, farms, and other places where nature is preserved for our enjoyment. 

To summarize, you taught me that a family works, plays, and worships together.  Togetherness is a value I place a high priority on, and it seems I have to keep a constant vigil to maintain it, as much of society threatens to tear away at the very fabric of our efforts to be together…to be a family.

I only hope I can “pass the torch” to my children, the next generation, and they keep alive these cherished virtues.  Thank you, Dad.

Love,

Janet

Weird Emmett and the Red Poppy

He slouched rather motionless, sweat dripping off his brow. My friends and I giggled and approached him, spritely hopping around his chair. As long as I could remember in my ten-year-old life, our neighbor, Emmett Armstrong, had donned his woolen WW I uniform every Memorial Day, pulled up a rickety lawn chair to the quiet street, and sat there greeting anyone and everyone he encountered.

“Aren’t you hot?” one of my friends asked him. “Why are you wearing that?”

“It’s my uniform,” he gruffly replied, “from the Great War.”

“What’s that red flower on your jacket for,” I asked quizzically, cocking my head.

“It’s called a poppy,” he replied. “I wear it to remember all my friends who died in the war.” 

“Oh…,” I replied solemnly. “Why?” 

He sighed a deep breath and turned towards me. Somehow, I knew I was in for some “schooling.”

“The Great War, as it was then known, destroyed the landscape of Western Europe, where most of the fiercest fighting took place. But up from those battlefields, bright red flowers began peeking through. It was as if they were reminding everyone of the blood that was shed and the new life that always follows death. This red poppy became a symbol of remembrance. I vowed I would always wear one on this day,” his gravelly voice trailed off with his thoughts.   

I nodded knowingly, even though I didn’t understand.   

“Weird Emmett,” as he was known among my neighborhood friends, was a bit of a curmudgeon and quirky in his ways. But he was also emblematic of the patriotic holidays in our little town, as he proudly wore his uniform every Memorial Day and Independence Day. It seemed rather appropriate that Mr. Armstrong passed away on Memorial Day in 1976, the year of our nation’s bicentennial. 

Sadly, today’s pandemic has kept an entire generation of elderly in isolation, even tighter than the one they normally live in. Many sit in their rooms unable to leave or to socialize even with their families or friends. “It’s for your safety. It’s for your own good,” we reassure them. But social isolation and loneliness are hotbeds for the growth of depression and anxiety. It’s entirely probable that over time, the forced isolation that keeps the elderly from the virus will cause a deterioration in their overall health. This behooves us all the more to reach out the best we can with cards, calls, and FaceTime, but it’s not the same as face-to-face conversations like the one I had with Mr. Armstrong that Memorial Day.

When this pandemic has ended, let us make a new resolve to “rise in the presence of the aged and honor the elderly face-to-face. ” (Leviticus 19:32a ISV)

Mourning Dove

“He will cover you with His feathers; you will take refuge under His wings. His faithfulness will be a protective shield.” (Psalm 91:4 HCSB)

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4 NIV)

They were busy.  The pair were fluttering in and out of the evergreen bush just outside our front door.  More twigs, more grasses, and more mud were needed to line the nest, molded by the female to the shape of her breast.  Soon the mourning dove couple had completed their nest and were ready for their first clutch of eggs for the season.

“Wooo-oo-ooo-oo-oo-oo,” they cried their haunting, sad song over and over evoking the feeling of grief for which they were named.  This spring as I have heard them, I am reminded of the sense of national and worldwide grief, sorrow, and lament over the coronavirus and the multiple lives it has disrupted and taken.  Repetitively, my heart joined in with the doves’ soulful sounds.  “Oh, God, oh, God, oh God!” my spirit moaned searching for words but coming up empty. 

Shortly, two white eggs appeared in the doves’ nest.  Momma bird didn’t leave the nest often but brooded softly and silently, her tiny, black eyes watching me as I walked past the bush on my daily rendezvous with the mailbox. 

One day during my dove observations, I became aware that the Holy Spirit is our national Mourning Dove brooding over us in expectation of birthing something new.  Just as the momma bird cannot force the eggs to hatch but can only patiently wait, so we, too, cannot hasten this season too quickly.  We must wait, under the wings of the emblematic Mourning Dove, for the full work of incubation to take place. 

My prayers matched this awareness as I prayed for a spirit of godly sorrow and repentance to come to our nation.  Repentance for how we have forsaken God, gone our own way, and lived independently of Him.  I was reminded of this Scripture from Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, “For My people have committed a double evil: They have abandoned Me, the fountain of living water, and dug cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that cannot hold water.” (Jeremiah 2:12 HCSB)   

Day after day, I became increasingly aware how God was faithfully covering our nation under His wings.  He had not abandoned us but was carefully brooding over us in this season of abrupt cessation of activity and “sheltering in place.”  Will our eyes open?  Will there be a new birth from this time?  Will there be a Third Great Awakening for our nation?

Key Thought:  As we grieve our losses, may we stay under the wings of the Holy Spirit, our Mourning Dove, as we turn our lament into trust and our waywardness into surrender.   

A Living Letter

“Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you.  Christ himself wrote it – not with ink, but with God’s living Spirit; not chiseled into stone, but carved into human lives – and we publish it.”  II Corinthians 3:2,3 The Message

 

Small town U.S.A.

Once upon a time, there was a little girl born to Iowa farmers.  I was number five of eight children and lived on the farm until the age of seven when we moved into a small town of about 900 people called Wall Lake, even though there was neither lake nor wall.  We had two claims to fame.  One, we were the hometown of the crooner of “Moon River,” Andy Williams.  Two, we had the largest popcorn processing plant in the world where both my parents worked.  Popcorn was as plentiful as the sands of the sea, and in my childish consternation, I often wished it was in a cookie factory instead! 

We were a God-fearing, Catholic family, who attended church regularly, and my siblings and I received religious instruction called catechism throughout our school years.  There in Wall Lake, I attended the same school from second grade through my high school graduation.  I lived in a Norman Rockwell painting from the 50s and 60s – small town, large family, hard-working parents, moral values, a closed society that was left somewhat untouched by outside forces until the late 60s and 70s. 

Loneliness

In the elementary years, I had many friends to play with as we lived catty-corner from a Catholic family of 13.  It was the kind of era where a kid could play outside from daylight to dusk, coming home only to eat and sleep, and parents would not be concerned.  We also had many relatives – aunts, uncles, and cousins – in our town and surrounding communities. 

However, I was a shy, quiet, insecure little girl…a brainy bookworm, who in spite of being from a large family, was plagued with loneliness in the junior and high school years.  The cliques in the upper grades were well established in my little school, and I, for some reason, never fit into any of them.  There were a handful of us, maybe three or four, who did not have a clique to belong to.  As such, I always felt like an outsider.  When a pretty or popular girl had a birthday party, I was left uninvited.  In high school I walked home alone from school and games.  It wasn’t that I was disliked…just ignored.  I felt there were tight circles drawn that shut me out, leaving me lonely, rejected, and even more insecure.  I longed to have the elusive “Best Friend” with whom I could share thoughts and dreams…someone who would know me and like me for who I was. However, I really did not know how to let myself be known either so I continued on in painful isolation and silence. 

In my high school yearbook, the saying under my picture read, “A rare book of which only one copy is made.”  I never knew if that meant I was rare as in weird or rare as in valuable!  I so longed to be a person of significance and value.  Much later, as a Christian, I discovered that loneliness was a key to intimacy with God.  God did not “do away” with loneliness in order to bring me into intimacy with Him.  He used it as a predecessor, a teacher, a key to open the door to intimacy with Him.  Later, this became one of the themes of my life, a life lesson as it were, which I developed into a study and shared with many women.

Home Life

In my home growing up, I fared somewhat better.  I had a wonderful mom and a good relationship with her.  Raising eight children, her world consisted of cooking, housekeeping, laundry, working part-time at the popcorn plant, and keeping peace in a small, crowded house of kids and pets.  She did not leave me outside to observe her world but drew me in and alongside her.  Her love for reading, writing, and beauty in nature and the arts was also passed onto me from her. 

My father, on the other hand, was stern, aloof, and distant.  Hugs and kisses were unknown to me from my dad, let alone affirming, encouraging words.  He himself experienced rejection from his father and was passing it right along to us.  It wasn’t until later in life that I forgave him and began to develop an honoring, loving attitude towards him.  Several years before he passed away in 2000, I wrote him a tribute and out of doing that, I discovered my legacy from him even though he was never able to articulate it to me.  This, too, became a life lesson, the power of honoring loved ones by writing them a tribute, which I developed into a teaching and shared with many.

1967 ~ The Summer of Love

I was 11 years old in August of 1967 when something of profound significance happened to me that changed me forever.  On a hot, dusty Sunday afternoon in late August, I was playing with some friends and my sister in a huge sand pile not far from our house.  We had carefully constructed elaborate edifices resembling castles, and suddenly one of my friends in a fit of anger knocked mine down.  I was furious and decided I had had enough and started stomping home.  My sister was not far behind me. 

I walked past the tennis court, which the town converted into a skating rink in the winter, and a small building next to it that was a “renovated chicken coop” used as a skate-changing house.  I turned my head and glanced in that direction while hot, angry tears were racing down my dust-covered face.  To my utter shock and amazement, inside the little, doorless chicken coop stood an angel!  I stopped dead in my tracks and brushed away the tears.  Could this be possible? 

She was beautiful with fair skin, curly brown hair, and was dressed in a long, pink robe.  I noted instantly that she was barefoot and had no wings.  She was a stranger to me, and besides, no one dressed like that in our little town, not even in the ’60s!  She looked right at me and was smiling as if she knew me!  My first inclination was to walk up to her (she was only about 30 feet away) and ask her, “What are you doing here?”  Somehow, I knew that I shouldn’t approach her.  I stood there for a few seconds longer just staring at her.  She held my gaze and continued to smile.  My sister walked by me, but she didn’t stop or ask me what I was looking at. 

Later at home, I pondered the meaning of this.  Was this my guardian angel?  Did she have a message for me from God?  I wish I would have talked to her!  I knew that angels appeared to people in the Bible but never dreamed I would see one in my little hometown.  I felt special and thought maybe God had a plan for my life. 

Many years later, I would discover that much was happening on the world scene in the year 1967.  It was in June of that year that the Six Day War occurred where Israel recaptured Jerusalem and the Temple Mount after being in Gentile hands for over 1,870 years (since AD 70).  The war’s swift outcome was truly a miracle as shown by unexplained enemy blunders.  There were many testimonies of angels being seen in Israel during the Six Day War. 

It was also the Summer of Love, when as many as 100,000 people converged on the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco creating a phenomenon of cultural and political rebellion called The Hippie Movement.  Ironically, the summer of 1967 also saw some of the worst violence in U.S. cities in our country’s history because of the race riots/insurrections that occurred in places such as Detroit and Newark.  This aspect of the summer of ’67 is often called The Long, Hot Summer. 

In addition, 1967 is thought to be the beginning of the Catholic Charismatic Movement and the answer to the prayer of Pope John XXIII, who ushered in the Second Vatican Council in 1964, with the hope that the Holy Spirit would create a “New Pentecost” and a transformation in the Church.  A retreat was held in February 1967 with several faculty members and students from Duquesne University, a Catholic university in Pittsburgh, when the Holy Spirit came and filled several of the students.  The professors had previously been baptized in the Spirit a week or two before.  What happened quickly spread to graduate students and professors at the University of Notre Dame and others serving in campus ministry in Lansing, Michigan.  From there, it spread around the nation and the world, and the Catholic Charismatic Movement was born.

As an 11-year-old girl, isolated in a small town in Iowa, I was totally oblivious to all these events taking place in the world.  Today, I am in awe of a God, who saw me amidst all these happenings and wanted to let me know I was loved by Him and had a calling on my life.  I was part of a much, much bigger picture as I began to find out seven years later. 

1974 ~ Born Again

Our little town consisted predominantly of Catholics and Lutherans of German descent.  No one, it seemed, ever moved to Wall Lake.  However, in 1974 two families relocated to our town – one family were Southern Baptists from southern Illinois, the other Pentecostals from Northern Minnesota.  

The Baptists had a daughter, who happened to be my age and was starting her senior year, too.  The Pentecostals moved in just a block from us.  When I met Joyce, the Baptist, at school, I determined she would be that friend of whom I had always dreamed.  She didn’t know it yet, but she absolutely was going to be MY best friend whether she liked it or not!  Unbeknownst to me, Joyce had decided she was going to lead me to the Lord, whether I liked it or not!  She carried a big Bible on top of her stack of books, which she carried from class to class.  She had tracks in her pockets and the name of Jesus on her lips. 

I also met the Pentecostal family and babysat their children.  They shared with me that salvation was by grace alone and not by works.  This really flew in my face as a good Catholic girl, who was working hard and had probably earned at least a few decades out of Purgatory by then!  I didn’t think I was bad enough for hell but certainly not good enough for heaven, so Purgatory fit me just right.  My goal was to earn time out of Purgatory through good works and try to die with the least amount of sins on my soul.  The struggle in my mind between working for salvation and receiving it as a free gift was intense!  Which was true? 

One evening while pondering these matters, I took a piece of paper, drew a line down the middle, and on the left side, entered all the reasons why the Catholic teaching of salvation through works was true.  On the right side, I listed reasons why salvation by grace could be true.  This was an exercise in futility!  I was more confused afterwards than before.  Finally, out of frustration, I went outside and sat on the back steps, looked up at the stars, and said, “God, if you’re really there, show me the truth!” 

It wasn’t long afterwards that Joyce gave me a book of the testimony of a young, Catholic man, who had encountered Christ in a personal way.  I devoured the book, and as I read how he prayed to Jesus to receive Him as his personal savior, I prayed the same prayer.  The date was May 3, 1974.  Immediately, I felt light as if a load had been lifted from my shoulders. 

The following evening was the opening of a Christian coffeehouse for youth in the basement of the Methodist Church.  I went with Joyce and there heard all about being born again from a Baptist pastor!  Then I knew it was true.  I was born again! 

Later, when I discovered this Scripture about angels, I knew why I had seen one seven years prior: “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve those who are going to inherit salvation?” Hebrews 1:14.  And by the way, Joyce did become my very best friend, and we are still friends to this day.  

I have known and followed Jesus for nearly 46 years through many ups and downs.  I don’t believe just because I saw an angel with my own eyes.  I believe because I know Jesus Christ lives in me!

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.  The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” II Corinthians 5:17 New Living Translation