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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I Had a Brother . . . But, He Died.

jhk_11“Today would have been your brother’s (fill in the blank) birthday.”

I resented hearing Mom’s words every January 17th. Stillborn? Died at birth? I wasn’t sure. But there had been an older brother who died eight years before I was born. When he died, he left me an only child. A part of me went missing forever.

I remember when my parents told me at a restaurant, dinner-time dark. “You had a brother, but he died.” My five-year-old eyes gazed out the window past the red-white-and blue neon sign. They fixed on the Interstate, counting cars, blinking back hot tears.

In the first grade, my teacher asked, “How many brothers and sisters do you have?” “I have one brother,” a classmate offered. “Two sisters.” “Three.” She wrote the numbers on the chalkboard. When my turn came, I answered, “I had a brother, but he died.” I recognized then that this dead brother validated me. He lifted me up from that “only” category that I despised. I wasn’t an only, and I wasn’t alone.

I knew little about him. His name would have been Dennis. My mother had almost died in childbirth. Dad’s mother, so full of grief, smashed his oak cradle into a million pieces. They buried him in the grave with my dad’s infant sister with a simple marker: Infant Son of Betty and Charles Fischer. Still, this brother existed in my heart in the present, and he grew older every January 17th.

Other than the annual birth announcement, my parents never mentioned him. There was much that I wanted to ask, but I never did. As an adult, I could imagine the stinging pain of losing a child. I stopped resenting when they counted the years.

Three months after what would have been his 55th birthday, my mother spoke of him as she lay dying in her hospital bed.

“I’m going to see your brother.”

I held her hand. “You’ve been the best mom to me. Now, go. Take care of your little boy.” I gave her to him, and she went willingly.

January 17th comes and goes without the words, “Today your brother would have been . . .” Still, every day, he lives in my heart. I feel him growing old with me, always present, my guardian angel.

1 Corinthians 13:12 says: “Now we see as if we are looking into a dark mirror. But at that time, in the future, we shall see clearly. Now I know only a part. But at that time I will know fully.”

il_340x270.1072332969_8atsSome day, my brother, Dennis, and I will be together in heaven. But until then, I go on doing what I always have—living for him and with him, enjoying every minute of my life here on earth, never feeling like an “only”. My brother is and always has been a part of me, a treasured gift from God.

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Are You Still Waiting?

004-shepherds-angels.jpgMy favorite part of Jesus’ birth story is the shepherds. I imagine them under a starlit sky. Some guard their sheep from predators. Others nap until their watch shift, the only sound the occasional bleating of a lamb. And then comes a blinding white light! An angel of the Lord appears.

    The bible says the shepherds were terrified. Who wouldn’t be?

Do not be afraid,” the angel says. “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly, the sky opens up. A host of angels praise God:

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Wow! Wouldn’t you want to be there?

static1.squarespace.jpgThe shepherds never questioned the angel. They knew exactly what it meant. The Messiah had come. In that age before newspapers, radio, television, social media, it took more than a thousand years for the news of the Messiah to spread until everyone heard. The bible says the news spread through many generations: fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah. The news trickled down from prophets who passed it to the people. Then, finally, God chose the lowly shepherds in the dead of night as the first to know that the prophesy was fulfilled—the Messiah had come. The long wait was over.

The lesson here is that God makes His people wait until His time is precisely right. What to humans was generations of waiting, to God was a blink of His eye, an appointed time in His master plan. We forget this. We want God to act instantly. We forget that part of His character is making people wait. His timing and ours is not the same.

jesus-second-comingWe count the days to Christmas, the day when we celebrate Christ’s birth, but we also wait for the day when He returns. Maybe our generation will be like the shepherds that night. Maybe we will be blessed to see Him come. If not, then surely our ancestors will be surprised like the shepherds. When they least expect it they will see Jesus coming in the sky to take them home—forever. And how glorious that will be!

Please remember this Christmas that the miracle of Christ is not over. We wait for our Messiah to come again–in God’s time–in His perfect time.

Glory! Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those whom his favor rests.

God bless all of you, my readers,
At Christmastime
And always!

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