The first time I heard the term “religious nut” was in the 1950’s when my mom spit those words out of her mouth. It happened when we shopped at Meiners’ Grocery Store in Forreston, Illinois. Mom picked a few items off the shelves and carried them up to the checkout. Lillian Meiners, the cashier, attempted to talk about the Lord to Mom while totaling the purchases on the cash register. It was a one-sided conversation with Mom saying nothing.
“She’s a religious nut!” Mom proclaimed as we walked to our 1955 Pontiac, parked outside the door.
From that day forward, Lillian Meiners personified a religious nut to me. I would often see her and when I did, Mom’s words popped into my mind. Lillian never knew my true feelings about her. It was one of those inner character assassinations I never spoke aloud to anyone.
Lillian’s name was filed on a forgotten corner shelf of my mind until late 1985. It would still be there covered with layers of dust and cobwebs except for the question I asked the Lord one morning during prayer.
“Jesus, why did you save me?”
A clear voice whispered to my heart.
“Because of Lillian Meiners’ prayers for you.”
His words shocked me, but a few years later, I talked with her pastor, Rev. Orin Graff. He told me Lillian was a faithful prayer warrior for kids who attended Bible Camp.
Thus, the first saint I am going to hug upon my arrival in heaven will be Lillian Meiners. I want to thank her for faithfully praying for an agnostic who always thought she was a religious nut. We can have a good laugh about my ignorance and how Jesus set me straight.
(An excerpt from my memoir, The Hunt for Larry Who.)
Lillian Meiners died over thirty years ago. So, she would have been in her 60s when she spent time praying for me.
Lillian reminds me of what Wesley said of Whitefield:
John Wesley and George Whitefield certainly had their theological differences which at times caused great problems. With this in mind, a timid lady asked Wesley after Whitefield’s death, “Do you expect to see Whitefield in heaven?”
“No, madam,” replied Wesley.
“Ah, I was afraid you would say that,” said the lady.
“Do not misunderstand me, madam! George Whitefield was so bright a star in the firmament of God’s glory, and will stand so near the throne, that one like me, who am less than the least, will never catch a glimpse of him,” said John Wesley.
I also will need strong field glasses to see the likes of religious nuts like Lillian Meiners and other senior citizens who have faithfully prayed for the generations that followed them.
(Continued in Part 4)