Sunday, October 30, 2011

Heart Without Words

The four of us sat with our arms folded and our eyes closed, waiting.  . . .   We were in the home of Dolores, a beautiful, eighty-year-old woman.  She had invited my two companions and me to come teach her about the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we had just taught her how to pray.
We had prayed with her many times, but this time we invited her to offer the prayer.  We taught her to pray to Heavenly Father.  We taught her to thank Him for her blessings.  We taught her to ask Him for the blessings she sought. And we taught her to close in the name of Jesus Christ.  She agreed to offer the prayer, and so we all sat expectantly in a prayerful attitude.
A long, warm silence followed.
One by one, each of us peeked at Dolores, and what we saw taught us more about prayer than we had learned in a lifetime.  She sat, radiant, with tears streaming down her face.  She was moved beyond words.  Her unspoken expression of gratitude to Heavenly Father didn’t need the cumbrance of words.  Her love spoke directly to our souls.
Dolores wept because this was the first time in her long life that she felt empowered to speak the words of her heart to her Heavenly Father.  She was overwhelmed by the intimacy this created with her Creator.  Her love for Him was expressed eloquently in silence.

Prayer is not asking. 
It is a longing of the soul.
It is daily admission of one’s weakness.
 It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.
Mahatma Gandhi

I’m Coming Home
The United States had just entered World War II and Gil McLean received a letter that made his heart sink.  His wife brought in the mail and silently passed an official-looking envelope to him.  They sat down at the table and opened the letter.  Their worst fear was confirmed; Gil was called up to go to war.  His wife was filled with dread.  Gil comforted her, “Don’t you worry yet.  I’m going to take this up with God.”
So Gil closeted himself in his bedroom, asking his wife not to disturb him.  He knelt down and prayed. For hours.  He pleaded with God to grant him a promise that he would return home.  His wife noted the great passage of time and prayed in her heart, too.
After a long while, Gil emerged from his room, saying, “It’s gonna be alright.  I’m coming home.  I got my promise from the Lord.  I’ll be in dangerous places, but the Lord will warn me.”  From that moment on, Gil’s faith never waivered.  He knew he was coming home.
At boot camp, the soldiers gave Gil a bad time about his habit of praying.  He always answered good-naturedly, “You can tease me all you want, but prayers are going to save my life.  God has promised me that he’ll warn me when I’m in danger, so I know I’m coming home.”
His sincerity persuaded even the cynical soldiers.  He began to have a following.   Several men began to say, “If Gil’s God has promised to send him back home to his sweetheart, we’re sticking by his side.”
Gil and his regiment were shipped overseas and entered into combat.  There he met new soldiers who took delight in teasing him about his religious ways.  By now he didn’t need to say a word in his own defense.  His team answered for him, “Sure, razz him—but it won’t change a thing.  Gil will stick to his prayers and if you’re smart, you’ll stick to him.  You see, God’s promised to send him home.” 
Well into the war, Gil’s company had fought a day under heavy shelling.  They sought refuge for the night inside an abandoned barn.  Bone-weary, they fell into an uneasy sleep.   It seemed like Gil had barely dozed off when he got the idea that he should grab his buddies and his gear and get out of the barn.  Gil wanted to ignore this prompting because he was hungry for rest.  Again the warning came but with greater urgency, “Get out of the barn, NOW!” 
In that moment, Gil remembered his promise from the Lord and realized this was the answer to his prayer.  Gil immediately shouted a warning to his companions to haul out of the barn.  Some of them joined him, diving outside without taking time to gather their supplies.  They were less than 50 feet from the barn when it received a direct hit by a bomb.  The force of the blast blew Gil and his friends into the air; some of them were caught in the branches of nearby trees.  No one in the barn survived.  Sobered but grateful for their lives, Gil and his friends reported to a nearby division. 
At the war’s end, Gil made it safely home.  Some forty years later, he sat in my friend’s home, rocking her baby daughter.  He felt a connection to the baby because he sensed her life mission would be to fight for freedom just as he had done in the war.  So through this story, he shared the secret of his success:  join ranks with the Lord.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Valiant Young Heroes

I have a niece who inspires me with her courage to stand up for what is right in difficult circumstances.  I asked her permission to share one of her experiences.  She graciously not only gave me permission, but also wrote up her account.  So here, in her own words, is one of her stories:

I stared at the yellow hardwood floor, my back pressed against the brick.  I forget why I wasn’t exercising, usually I made an effort to at least walk around the gym, I didn’t like playing sports.  Lauren was sitting nearby; her glasses perched upon her nose, her curly hair scrunched up in a ponytail.  I didn’t know how to make friends with her, wasn’t even sure that I wanted to.  I think everyone knew she was different, mentally handicapped.  I sighed, feeling guilty that I felt that way; it wasn’t like I had anything to lose by being her friend. 
            I glanced up as a group of kids I didn’t know very well came over and sat by Lauren.  I went back to gazing around the court.  Then, they started asking Lauren questions, I tried not to listen and my ears burned as she gave an indelicate response to a question that was itself inappropriate.  She probably doesn’t know what she’s saying, I thought, angry that they had even asked such a question.  I hoped she didn’t know what she was saying, I only half understood it myself. 
            It got worse, they started saying things like “Lauren, make a sound like an elephant, make a sound like a dog…”  She happily obliged, thinking it all a fun game.  I started thinking of what I should say to them and my body shook with the injustice of it all.  Tears leaked out of my eyes as I wondered if I would have the courage to speak up, even if one of them didn’t notice me. I wondered if they would notice me, I wondered… One of the girls noticed, “Hey, what’s wrong?”  She asked.  I felt awful, here was this girl, who at the same time was being nice by asking me what was wrong, was about to be reprimanded by me.  I couldn’t stop myself.
            “How dare you?  How dare you use her for your own entertainment?  Just because she’s different from you and maybe doesn’t even realize what you’re doing doesn’t mean you should treat her like she’s some pet you can just play with.  She’s another human being who doesn’t deserve to be used for your entertainment.” 
 My niece, Lauren and the group of kids all learned something very valuable in that moment.

Two Rooms in Berlin
Had the man been out in public, rather than sitting at his heavy oak desk, he would have been surrounded by cheering crowds.  He brought hope to a people burdened under the Treaty of Versailles.  He had a superb gift of oral persuasion.  As he used it, his circle of influence expanded to the tens of millions. 

He had a file in his desk that he pulled out whenever he had a chance to ponder his dream. Germania was the civilization he envisioned.  It would last for a thousand years, populated by the Aryan race.  Such a civilization deserved a glorious infrastructure.  He pulled out the folder and thumbed through his plans to build structures that would rival those of the ancient pharaohs.  It pleased him to think that, being the founder of this great nation, monuments to him would be scattered across his homeland. 
You can imagine that a man of his importance wouldn’t have much time to sit and dream about his utopia.  He was far too busy pushing his plans through to make them reality. And if the challenge of world conquest wasn’t enough, he had to deal with the occasional detractors among his own people that needed to be rooted out.
Speaking of which, a request for clemency had sifted its way to the top of his stack.  Ah, yes.  This was the boy whose anti-Nazi tracts were so professionally done that no one could believe they weren’t written by a team of adults.  The Gestapo had spent hours torturing people acquainted with this youth to find out who was responsible.  Finally they concluded their mastermind was a mere 16-year-old.  And this was the young man who was requesting his mercy.  Hitler would not need much time to deliberate over this request.  If the boy was going to play in the political arena of the adults, he could be punished as an adult.
“DENIED” he scrawled in angry letters across the clemency request and handed it to his clerk, activating the countdown of a young man’s final hours of mortal life. 
In another room, Helmuth Huebener was handed the three sheets of paper he was granted as his final wish.  His swollen fingers awkwardly gripped the pen. It was good, though, to see his thoughts once again flow onto paper.   So greatly did he value the freedom to communicate that he had risked his life to print the words which had landed him in this cell. 
He had seen through Hitler’s propaganda and endeavored tirelessly to let his fellow Germans know the truth.  He had listened nightly to the BBC and then printed and distributed flyers carrying the real news.   His only remorse was imperiling his two loyal friends, Rudi and Karl-Heinz, who had helped him distribute the flyers.
 For months since he’d been sentenced by the Nazi Blood Tribunal, he hadn’t known if his execution would be carried out in a day, a week or another month.  The suspense was almost worse than the sentence itself.  But evidently the request for clemency had been denied (as he had expected) and he was now near the end. 
Helmuth remembered the moment he was sentenced.  He stood before his accusers and boldly stated, “You kill me for no reason at all.  I haven’t committed any crime.  All I’ve done is tell the truth.  Now it’s my turn—but your turn will come!”  The stunned assembly was too shocked to silence him.  His words turned out to be prophetic.
Helmuth wrote three letters, only one of which survives.  (His letter home was destroyed in the bombing raid that killed his family nine months later.)  He wrote to his close friends:
“Dear Sister Sommerfeldt and Family,
When you receive this letter I will be dead.  . . .
I am very thankful to my Heavenly Father . . . I know that God lives and He will be the proper judge of this matter. 
Until our happy reunion in that better world I remain,
Your friend and brother in the Gospel,
There are no monuments to Hitler in Germany.  You will not find one street nor park that carries his name.  But if you travel to Hamburg, you will find a park, a street and a monument to young Helmuth Huebener. 
Helmuth’s two friends, Rudi Wobbe and Karl-Heinz Schnibbe were sentenced to years of hard labor, but they lived and moved to the USA after WW II.  One day not long ago, Karl-Heinz was visiting Helmuth’s memorial in Hamburg where a group of students were learning about “the Heubener Group.”  A traveling companion pointed out Karl-Heinz and told them he was part of the group.  He was quickly surrounded by the youth, eager to hear the story of how, when he was their age, he had the pleasure to work with a valiant young hero.

Helmuth Hubener

Truth & Conviction [DVD] by Matt Whitaker
The Price by Karl-Heinz Schnibbe
Three Against Hitler by Rudi Wobbe
Hubener vs. Hitler by Richard Lloyd Dewey