Understanding God’s odd ones


By Betty Slade

A path has been chosen for each one of us to follow. I have known people whose lives were too hard to live, but they lived them anyway. I felt sorry for them when perhaps they had been given the greater life and I had missed the importance of who they were.

When I received a call from Jeannie’s daughter, I was mixed with sadness but relieved for her. Over 35 years I watched my friend go through trials, illnesses, drugs and abuse. She didn’t deserve what was given to her. Her life was an enigma to everyone and many misjudged her.

They held Jeannie’s funeral in Bayfield. Few knew her and I expected only a handful to attend. She was one of those people who didn’t seem to fit into this society or didn’t belong in this world.

I met Jeannie when a friend brought her to one of my Christian Artists and Writers’ Retreats. During one of the services, she came to the front of the group and whispered to David, the pastor. He began to cry. David left the podium and they walked out of the building.

We waited and wondered what she had said to him. When they returned, David asked if she would tell the group what she had told him.

She agreed. She reached out her arms and showed 50 or 60 scars made by cigarette burns. Who would do such a thing to her? She did. “My family ignored me. I didn’t know if I existed. I burned my arms to feel the pain to know I was alive.”

That was my first encounter with Jeannie. Every year I’d reach out to her and invite her to the retreat. She didn’t own a car. I made sure she’d have a ride. She’d come and pray. She’d walk quietly around the balcony at Snow Wolf Lodge and pray. Others in attendance would say they were bothered by her. I told them, “She’s praying. I personally invited her.” I wanted her there. She was touching heaven on our behalf.

Over the years, I witnessed her faith. She’d call saying she hadn’t slept for days. She was worn out praying for our country. She’d asked to come to Pagosa to our house so she could sleep. She lived in a busy apartment complex.

While here, early every morning, she walked our property and prayed, or I’d find her sitting, holding a cup of tea. She said she was having her morning tea with Jesus. He was there in the chair next to her. I believed her. She stretched my faith to see beyond the natural.

She planned to go to Europe. She didn’t have money, didn’t know how she’d get there, but she knew she needed to go. When I talked to her months later, she told me about the miracles that happened in Europe. I always wondered how she got there without any money.

She prayed all the time and everywhere. She walked the streets of Durango praying over the city. They called her weird. She had three daughters who had a hard time being her daughters. Her life was totally unorthodox.

That Sunday I knew I must go to her funeral and honor her. I went early and entered the church. The spirit was strong, but more than that, her spirit was so alive I knew I was touching and experiencing her resurrected life. If she had sat down and ate boiled fish with us, I would’ve believed it.

The attendees were all talking, enjoying themselves, even dancing around. The pastor had joined into the fun. The funeral service started late. I sat there quietly and thought, “They need to honor Jeannie and start on time. Do they know why they’re here? Jeannie is here, don’t make her wait.” 

I had made up my mind; if we were asked to speak, I would say what was on my heart. Otherwise, I would be quiet. The pastor’s message was spot on. The pastor said, “Jeannie was misunderstood. Out of 300 members, maybe only a couple knew her.” Then he said, she was like many of the prophets from the Bible.

When the audience was asked to speak, I asked for the microphone and stood. I began, “Beware when time meets eternity. It’s our moment. If we’re not aware, we will miss our moment. In Romans 10, Paul spoke about the Israelites, ‘I perceived you are deeply devoted to God, but you are unenlightened.’ Jeannie’s life counted for eternity. This was our moment to be enlightened to see God’s glory on Jeannie’s life.”

I continued, “I’ve thought about what the pastor said about Jeannie. She was misunderstood like those prophets of old. It’s true, there was Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, who followed Israel into Babylon with a box of tissues. They wouldn’t listen to him. Noah built an ark but had never seen rain. They jeered him. Isaiah ran through the streets of Jerusalem with his backside showing, preaching a message no one wanted to hear. John the Baptist was an oddity. He ate locusts, wore animal skins and died with his head served on a platter to King Herod for what he said. They were all misunderstood, an odd bunch that didn’t fit into the society of that day. God has used some crooked sticks to strike some mighty big blows.”

I wasn’t sure exactly what Jeannie’s assignment was in the kingdom, I just knew she prayed. Without a doubt, she was one of the giants in God’s kingdom. We can be deeply devoted to God and not be enlightened. Few were enlightened to know Jeannie or her role. Many condemned her.” I had spoken my mind and sat down. I was not going to let that moment pass without honoring Jeannie.

Final brushstroke: Many times we stand between time and eternity and miss our moment. We are given a window where light shines into our soul and we are allowed to see with God’s eyes. I saw Jeannie in her resurrected being. She was beautiful.

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