Angel from Omaha
by Tina Hoffman
When something truly miraculous happens in your life, it’s just not possible to walk away from it and ever be the same again. This is how it happened for me.
About four months after giving my life to Christ, (thank you 700 Club) I was invited by my grandma Mary to help feed the homeless one afternoon. She had been attending St. John’s Catholic Church for as long as I can remember. I’d been baptized there as a baby. On occasion she’d mention the homeless thing and I’d think to myself, “Someday I really will go with her. Maybe I’ll take my famous baked beans.”
I got up that Saturday morning remarkably early with an urgent need to accomplish something. I didn’t know what but, something. My wandering mind focused again when the phone rang. ”Sure grandma. The girls and I will come help.”
There it was. I’d made the commitment to do something for someone else. It was obviously going to be one of those good deed kind of days. For just a moment I noticed the sun shining perfectly through the kitchen window and thought of all the real estate calls I might miss on this gorgeous spring day.
Trying very hard to remain on task, I picked up the house, baked the beans and we headed out. The phone began to ring as I quickly shut the door, locked up and left. The plan was to follow them in my car. Well, grandpa, who doesn’t usually move at a very quick pace, ran a yellow light and left us sitting at a red with no idea where to go.
We stopped a police officer for directions and he guided us manually with one arm to the Catholic diocese. I made every attempt to retrieve the beans, now spilled all over the trunk of my Saab and went racing quickly to the door. Covered in bean splatter, I threw it open to see that I had stumbled into someone’s lovely wedding ceremony.
Before they could say, “I do,” I snuck backwards out the side altar doors.
This is really not what I had in mind for my do-good weekend.
I returned to the car embarrassed and frustrated, not quite ready for the waiting interrogation by my five and seven year old daughters.
“Is grandma here? Where are all the poor people?”
“ I have to go to the bathroom.”
After much backseat bantering, I found the same officer as before and he escorted us to the shelter. I went in to such great lengths about the process of getting there because I understand now that we do not battle with flesh and blood. There is an enemy out there and his purpose is to destroy the awesome works of the Lord and those who faithfully serve Him.
As I stood at the serving line with the remaining beans, I looked up to see a man open the back door. The sun was shining behind him in such a glorious way that I could hardly make out more than a shadow at first.
He was wearing an old green army jacket and a leathery face. His hair and beard were kind of a salt and pepper color. But perhaps the most noticeable thing about this man were his steel blue eyes. They looked like pure light. The return stare sent to me put chills down my spine.
As he moved forward in the line, I could feel his eyes on me. Passing by he said, “Hi. Good to see you.”
The stress from the day was taking a toll and I had a sincere need to satisfy my nicotine desires. I stepped outside, sat on a picnic table and lit one up. The man followed me outside and said, “ Can I bum one of those from you?”
“Sure.” I gave him three. (He never did smoke them.)
“Where you from?” I ask.
“Omaha. My name is Paul. I’m from Omaha.”
“ I’ve been there, once, when I was 15.”
“Can I ask you something ,Tina?”
“Do you believe in angels?”
As I ponder the question, I remember that I’d never told him my name.
“Well..I believe in God and miracles........ I haven’t really thought much about angels.”
“My name is Paul, Tina. I am an angel. I have been sent by God to tell you that he heard your prayer in the bedroom that night. He forgives you. And he loves you.”
An angel named Paul, from Omaha of all places. Okay. Right.
Still, I was a little freaked out.
I did say a very powerful prayer in my bedroom one night several months ago. It’s a whole other story but I said the prayer of salvation with Pat Robertson one night while lying at the bottom of a miry, bottomless pit and flipping through channels.
“How did you know about that?”
“I know about it all.”
He went on to tell me things that only myself and few others knew. He told me what I’d done, where’d I’d been, what I’d seen and what I really wanted to do with my life.
He told me that Jesus loves me. He told me that all of the things I’d been through would work out for good and to the glory of God. He said I had a call on my life and I was chosen for a purpose.
Honestly, I didn’t know what to do. I was a successful real estate agent. I was a mother. I could not believe that I was standing there listening as a total stranger pulled every skeleton I had out of the closet.
Fear came over me immediately. I felt it. I told “Paul” that I needed to check on the girls and I’d be right back. As I hurried into the kitchen to get the girls, I knew I had to leave.
“Girls, it’s time to go, ” fell on deaf ears.
“Time to go,” I repeated.
“Girls, it’s time to go. ”
“Get in the car this minute!”
I was quickly losing my cool as I thought of the homeless man with the see-through blue eyes and warm smile. He knew it all. Just as Pat Robertson did that night on television. He had a ‘word’ for a woman watching. Then he laid it out. It was me. I knew with all my heart that He was speaking to me.
My mind shifted from fear to hope. Chosen? For what purpose? My life had definitely changed since praying that prayer. Miraculous things had been happening. My business began to thrive. I won an essay contest based on the spiritual awakening that seemed to be happening with pop music. Joan Osborne had come out with, One of Us,” Jewel and “Save your Soul,” Jars of Clay and “Flood”, etc...I was very interested in crossover type music and began writing some of my own songs finally after years of not touching my guitar. It was all kind of turning around.
I rushed home to find my estranged husband sitting on the back steps. He had just moved back to from Philadelphia recently and had stopped over to talk before heading back to his new apartment. I told him about “Paul” and everything he said.
“Good God! You didn’t give him your phone number did you?”
Now in his defense, I had just battled for two years with harassing and obscene phone calls.
“No. I didn’t. I’m just saying that the guy was really strange. Not in a perverted kind of way. It’s hard to explain. It’s like when he spoke to me, he was speaking into my soul.”
“Only you, Tina.”
“What’s that suppose to mean?”
“ Only you can go to feed the homeless and receive a divine visitation while standing in the soup kitchen. That’s all I’m saying.” Funny.
Annoyed by his intellectual superiority and serious lack of faith, I turned on CBS’s new series “Touched
by an Angel.” Not that I expected to see ‘Paul’, but I just thought I might check in case there were any references made to Omaha.
Discouraged by the lack of signs, I made it through the evening and finally went to bed.
That night I tossed and turned and dreamt about Paul and the things he had spoken.
When I woke up the next morning, I knew I had to go to church. I’d grown up Catholic and did the whole communion, confirmation and catechism thing. It just never quite seemed to take. For the most part, it was something we did on occasion when my grandparents came to town. We’d fake through the hour as if we had our names engraved on the pews. Are we up or are we down here people? Make up your minds. I’d enjoy a Hallelujah chorus, the beautiful candles and the sweet smell of incense.
Though I hadn’t been attending regularly, I got up and decided to take the girls to St. John’s. I prayed in my head as I drove and asked God to reveal something to me today. I went in, took my seat, and got down on my knees.
“Lord, please speak to me. I think that guy really might have been an angel yesterday, but I want to know for sure. Do you really forgive me? Could you really have sent an angel to someone like me? I need to hear from you today! What am I suppose to be doing with my life?”
Something was different this time. I hadn’t been to church since I was a teenager. There was something very special about that day. Much like that night in my room, I could feel His presence.
Returning to my car after service, I noticed a white jeep parked next to mine. It was the same kind my dad had when I was little. Awarded two purple hearts in Vietnam, he returned home to die in a house fire when I was only five. I don’t remember much about him except the jeep. In seventh grade, grandma offered to keep it for me. But being twelve..... and stupid, I said, “No thanks, I really wanted a red one.”
I spoke out loud and looked up to the sky, “That kind of gave me the warm fuzzies Lord, but, it’s not quite the kind of miracle I was looking for.” I pulled out of the parking lot, and turned to head home.
For some strange reason, I felt like driving down University Avenue instead of taking Martin Luther King Parkway, my usual route. I didn’t like to go past my old college much, too many painful memories and a constant reminder of where it all started to go wrong years before.
Today was different. As I drove down University and got a few blocks from the school, I looked out the right passenger window to see the shops. Out of nowhere, there he was! It was Paul! He was just standing on the street corner in the same worn army jacket waving in slow motion as we pass by. Surreal comes to my mind, as he looks right at us!
“Hey, isn’t that the guy you were talking to yesterday,” the girls ask simultaneously.
“Yeah, mom! Isn’t that the guy who thinks he’s an angel.”
I slammed on the brakes, turned the car around and pulled onto a side street. “ I believe that man IS an angel!”
I pushed the electric window opener on the other side as Paul stuck his head in.
“Do you need a ride somewhere?”I asked.
Those eyes went right through me. “I wasn’t done talking with you yesterday.”
(At this point, people who don’t really get it say, “You let a stranger in your car? With your children?”)
Paul said, “I have two newspapers here. One is for me. One is for you. Take it home and pray. Your answers are here. He will give you the desires of your heart. He has created you for His purpose. You already know the dreams He has given you. Fear not, for He is with you.”
I drove Paul downtown and dropped him at a coffee shop just off Grand Avenue. As he got out of the car and said goodbye to the girls, he offered one last word of wisdom. “I almost forgot. I’m suppose to tell you that you have a blue Cadillac coming. It’s real shiny blue ,and there are two. Just like the papers. One is for me, and one is for you,” he closed the door and walked away.
Obviously annoyed, I pulled away from the curve as my oldest says, “What’s the matter mom? I thought you said you believed that man really was an angel?”
“I did. Then he said I’ve got a shiny blue Cadillac coming. I don’t want a Cadillac. If he was really an angel sent by God then he would know I want a red Jeep. I’m not a Cadillac kind of person.”
To summarize, I finally read the paper and most definitely heard from the Lord in a life changing way. Things just kept on happening. One thing would lead to another and so on.
Hebrews 13:2 tells us, "Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so, some people have entertained angels without even knowing it."
I know that’s right!
About a year after the visit from Paul, I did receive a shiny blue Cadillac. There were two. It’s a story about two broken down cars, two believers and a homeless man with steel blue eyes on a Texas interstate highway.
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