Category Archives: Knowing God

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. Easter is the perfect time to share it again. May you be blessed and find everlasting life with Jesus, our Savior.

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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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Filed under Desiring God, Easter, God sightings, Knowing God, Listening to God, Salvation, Uncategorized, Yellow Butterflies

A Septillion Snowflakes

A Septillion SnowflakesDid you know that about one septillion snowflakes fall during an average winter? To put it in perspective, a septillion is equal to a trillion trillion! That’s a lot of snowflakes.

Now consider that no two snowflakes are alike. How do we know? Because, according to crystallographers (scientists who study the structure of crystals), not all water molecules are exactly the same, and snowflakes are made up of water molecules. Add to that winter’s unstable atmospheric conditions. Snowflakes react to temperature changes as they pass through the atmosphere, and that causes them to change their shape and design. To find any two exactly alike is virtually impossible.

A septillion snowflakes, no two alike, each brilliantly designed by our Creator.

Like snowflakes, we humans are unique and complex. Each of us is shaped for God’s purpose. He not only gives us one-of-a-kind DNA, but also unique creative gifts (1 Corinthians 7:7), reasons for existence (Ephesians 1:11), abilities (2 Corinthians 3:5), personalities (1 Samuel 16:7) and experiences (Romans 8:28).

So, if you look out your window and see snowflakes spilling from the sky, remember that you are not all that different from these matchless, tiny masses of ice. In God’s eyes you are small, and yet you are a perfect and indispensable part of His great and mighty plan.

I will give thanks to You,
for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
—Psalm 139:14 (NASB)

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A Septillion SnowflakesHave a little fun today.
Barkley Interactive offers a virtual snowflake maker.
Click HERE, but be warned it’s addictive.

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Filed under God's greatness, God's Love, Knowing God, Uncategorized, Winter

Confessions of an Oleo Smuggler

oleo-margarineIt’s a well-kept secret (until now): my parents and my grandma were smugglers. Worse, they took me along to get the goods. I sat in the back seat of a getaway car, and I even helped deliver an illegal substance to family members, neighbors and friends.
I guess that made me a smuggler, too.

The illegal substance was yellow-dyed oleomargarine. In the Dairy State, buying it, which cost less than butter, was like stealing a farmer’s dairy cows and holding them for ransom.

In 1895, the Wisconsin State Legislature passed a law forbidding the manufacture or sale of butter-colored margarine. (One guy was even sentenced to 18 months in prison for selling the stuff!) Oleomargarine  remained illegal in Wisconsin well into the 1960s.

The ban on oleomargarine led good people to do bad things.

MJS OLEO_1On Saturdays, we traveled across the state line to Illinois where oleo was legal, and we bought it at a little mom and pop store called Packy’s.

Dad drove the getaway car, mom rode shotgun, I carried a blanket to cover up the goods, and we sent Grandma in to do the deed. A few minutes later, she slipped into the back seat beside me with a case of oleomargarine in her olive-green, shopping bag. I put the contraband on my lap, covered it up with the blanket, and off we went looking like a typical 1950’s family out for a drive.

Smuggling margarine wasn’t THAT bad. We didn’t feel guilty for doing it. In fact, most adults got a pleasurable little rush when they put those fake butter sticks into their refrigerators. They had gotten away with it—and it felt good.

Sometimes Christians feel a rush when they get away with little things that they know are wrong, things that they think don’t matter.

But God sees, and it matters to Him.

In his book, Faith Like Potatoes: The Story of a Farmer Who Risked Everything for God, Angus Buchan writes: “If you allow one little sin to creep into your life, and think it doesn’t matter, it will grow and grow until it affects your whole spiritual life, deflecting you from your primary aim of serving God.”

He’s right. Even little sins affect our relationship with God.

So, today I offer this prayer:

“Dear God, I’m guilty of smuggling oleo,
and a lot of other sins, too.
Please forgive me.
And every morning when I butter my toast
remind me to watch out for all those little things
that separate me from You.”
Amen.

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Filed under Humor, Knowing God, Random Ramblings, Sin