Where Does Freedom Come From?

Veterans-Day-QuotesI did a DNA test, and it confirmed what I already knew—I’m a Mayflower descendant.

My eighth great-grandfather was Edward Doty. He sailed on the Mayflower from England as a servant to a man named Stephen Hopkins. Edward’s story isn’t the most positive of the Mayflower passengers. He was a rebel. He stood up for what he believed, and sometimes that got him into trouble.

Edward was the first of my family’s long line of freedom fighters. My relatives served in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War, the Spanish American War, World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam . . . They proudly served America and protected its citizens’ rights and freedom. I’m proud of them, each and every one!

November 11, Veteran’s Day, is a day set aside for honoring all who served in our armed forces. But it’s more than that. It is a day to reflect on the idea of freedom.

From the beginning, God allowed humans the right to choose. The first example is when He let Adam choose names for all the species of Earth’s animals (Genesis 2:20). Then God gave Adam and Eve a perfect garden in which to live and just one rule—not a dictatorial command that must be obeyed, but a rule carrying the flexibility of choice.

. . .the Lord told him, “You may eat fruit from any tree in the garden, except the one that has the power to let you know the difference between right and wrong . . .”
(Genesis 2:16–17)

freedom_July4th13-1024x837-300x245Given the freedom to choose, Eve and Adam chose wrong. They disobeyed and unleashed evil into the world. Still, God didn’t take freedom away from His humans. He continued to allow people to choose how they want to live. He wanted (and wants) us to willfully desire Him and to choose right over wrong.

Thank God we live in a country where the idea of freedom is honored! Today and throughout America’s history, men and women have fought to keep our citizens free. It’s a God-given right. Precious and worth defending.

On Veteran’s Day and every day thank those who have served. But remember also to thank God, not only for women and men who stand against those who want to take away our freedom, but also for allowing us the freedom to choose.

My friends, you were chosen to be free. So don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do anything you want. Use it as an opportunity to serve each other with love.
(Galatians 5:13 CEV)

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How God Wove a Tragedy Into Something Good.

michalski_1532631089390_93420735_ver1.0_900_675Officer Michael Michalski’s funeral happened exactly one week after he was shot and killed while trying to make an arrest. The details of his murder aren’t important. What is important is what God did next.

Officer Michalski, a born-again Christian,  was saved only five years before he died. Salvation changed him. He stopped hating the criminals he arrested, and he decided that just like them he was a sinner. When he made an arrest, he prayed for that person.

“Every person, every person that I am involved in arresting, I pray for them, I pray that while they’re sitting in that jail cell that they seek the Lord,” —Officer Michael Michalski

In 2016, Officer Michalski shared his testimony at a southside Milwaukee church. No one knew then that his video-recorded speech would one day “go viral” . . .
No One except God.

Soon after the officer’s death on July 25, 2018, stories of his faith emerged. Michalski’s testimony video started trending on social media, and secular news channels shared stories about his faith.

“Salvation is the most important thing in the world, both now and hereafter. If you are not saved, nothing really matters.”—Officer Michael Michalski

Only God knows how many were saved, or will be saved, from personal encounters with Michalski and also through his legacy.

funeral

At the beginning of Officer Michalski’s funeral, the sun shone brightly on Grace Community Church in West Allis, WI. But, afterward, while his casket was wheeled outside to the awaiting hearse, a passing shower became a passing storm. Rain poured hard from the deep, purple sky and so did a quick burst of pea-sized hail. As the hearse, followed by countless law enforcement vehicles, started toward the cemetery, the rain stopped. God set a rainbow in the sky, the angry, gray clouds broke into the shape of angel wings,
[Click here for photos.] . . .

And as a saluting officer stood at attention honoring his fallen comrade, a blue butterfly landed on the holster holding that officer’s gun.

God doesn’t make mistakes.
While we might think the messy details of life are worthy only of the compost pile, God sees them as something beautiful—and recycles them into His plan.

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When God Is Silent, Look for Yellow Butterflies.

I’ve received many messages about this essay since I posted it almost a decade ago. It seems I’m not the only one who has experienced God’s gift of yellow butterflies. God is all around us . . .how has He reached out to you?

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mWyqLOUI’ve read about people who accepted the Lord and were instantly saved from catastrophic illness or from a life of sin or from debt. My Christian journey didn’t begin that way. It happened slowly. God led me through baby steps and taught me to listen patiently and with all of my senses.

The first time I heard God’s voice in my heart, on the day I was saved in 1984, I thought it would always be easy to know His will. I thought I could ask Him what I should do and He would immediately tell me. Instead, I found that often He is silent. In the weeks and months following my salvation, I cried out endlessly to Him—but He said nothing. I vowed that I wouldn’t give up hope. Having heard His voice once in my inner self was enough for me to believe that God was real. Surely it wasn’t coincidence that He made the sun shine, just as He said it would, as I stood on the bluff that dreary day when He saved me. These things alone were enough to keep me believing. I decided that if I searched hard enough, I would find the golden secret to hearing His voice whenever I wished.

I bought books about prayer, and I read them as quickly as I could. I read the bible, something I hadn’t done for years. I concentrated on what Jesus taught about prayer. I did everything I could think of to please God, and yet He remained silent. Finally, in desperation, I went back to the bluff. I sat there on the grass looking out at Lake Michigan waiting for something miraculous to happen. Then, completely frustrated and at the edge of doubt, I said, “Okay, God. If you’re not going to talk to me then maybe I was right—maybe I’m just not worth it.”

imgThat thought had only formed inside my head when a small, yellow butterfly landed on my knee. I whisked it away, got up, and walked. As I walked it flew alongside me. At first I thought it was a coincidence. Then it became strange. If I changed direction, so did the butterfly. If I walked faster, she stayed with me. Then, after a few minutes, the most incredible thing happened. A dozen yellow butterflies joined the first. They fluttered about, seemingly interested in nothing but me. At that moment God whispered five simple words in my heart,

“I am with you always.”

For the rest of that summer, yellow butterflies became a symbol of His love. I saw them everywhere: on stationery, greeting cards, posters, and in newspaper ads. They flew in front of my car, and they fluttered outside my windows. But the most remarkable butterfly sighting was yet to come.

I sensed God telling me that it was time to move on. The apartment building I lived in was going condo, and I could choose buying my unit or finding another place to live. God said, “Go.”

I worked with a realtor, but nothing I saw was right—too big, too small, too expensive, too far away. Then, one afternoon, she called to say that she found the perfect house in a neighborhood near my apartment building, one I was familiar with. I knew  I couldn’t afford a house there. “Just check it out,” she said. “It feels right.”

The house was in a subdivision of solid, brick homes with tidy yards and flower gardens on quiet, tree-lined streets. I found the address and parked out front. Everything about the house was perfect—the cream-colored brick, the landscaping, the quaint wooden shutters. I can’t afford this, I thought. But then I saw it—  a yellow butterfly! She was the centerpiece of a large stained-glass sun catcher hanging in the front window. She was big and bold with outstretched wings. “Okay, Lord,” I said. “Show me the way.”

The house was more than I could afford, but I placed a bid anyway. It was rejected. I placed a second bid, and that one was rejected, too. I was ready to give up until, on the very morning I’d planned to call my realtor to tell her to forget it, the Wisconsin State Government issued low-interest financing for first-time homebuyers. I qualified, and my third bid was accepted. That was thirty-three years ago, and I still live in the house God chose for me.

The butterfly sightings have decreased through the years, but once in a while God will send a yellow butterfly in an unlikely time or place as a gentle reminder that He is with me. The butterflies teach me that often our Lord speaks without words.

7c476ebe7f4314619729b20b0069b652Just as in Biblical times there are signs and wonders today, but in our hectic world with all of the noise and confusion, it’s difficult to recognize them. We must be quiet and look for them, and we have to trust God to help us see them. Often they are small and draw little attention. God doesn’t shout to us, “Look!” Instead, He remains silent wanting us to explore beyond His words. He might speak in the wind or in the autumn leaves or in the moonlight. He might speak through a rainbow or a gentle spring shower or through a sleeping kitten nestled in a lap. When God is silent, it doesn’t mean that He’s left us. He’s just asking us to be patient and quiet. He’s asking us to look deeper into His creation to discover the miracles that He sends us every day.

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