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Prophets, or seers, as they have been called sometimes over the ages, are gifted in a way that is not much recognized these days. They see into another dimension, and experience things that seem foreign to most everyone else, if not downright weird. This gift of seeing, though dismissed as just imagination by some and as fraud by others, is not uncommon, just not commonly recognized.

Transcendent experiences open our eyes to all that is around us. We begin to see with what is called our “third eye” or “sixth sense.” It allows us a view of the unseen world, unseen by most of us most of the time, and just as real as the one we can see, touch, taste, and hear. It becomes visible in fleeting moments of grace, often for no apparent reason.

I woke at 3:00 a.m. a few years ago to answer nature’s call, got out of bed and was just about to walk toward the bathroom when I noticed a figure, a spirit which had the form of my wife, Jo. The spirit was moving toward the bed where I could see Jo’s head on her pillow and her body clearly under the covers. Jo’s spirit was outside of her body. It blew my mind and I still don’t fully understand it, nor did Jo have an explanation or memory of it when I told her what I had seen later that morning. I do know I have always had a good grasp of reality and I know I wasn’t dreaming. I have read that we have a silver cord that connects the spiritual body to the physical body — and that sometimes we leave our physical bodies while sleeping and wander about in our spiritual bodies. I never would have believed it if I hadn’t seen it for myself.

According to family lore, my great-great grandmother, Catherine Isbell, was once unconscious and near death with pneumonia at a time when doctors were few and far between. When the doctor finally arrived at her homestead out on the prairie in Oklahoma, he took one look at her and gave her an injection in the arm. When she regained consciousness she was angry, “Oh! I was almost in heaven. I could see over there and it was beautiful, and then the devil came along and poked his spear in my arm, and here I am back in the world!”

Once you have an experience like this you are never the same. You have looked over the edge of the world as we know it and there is no going back, not completely anyway; the other world and its incomparable wonders is etched forever in memory. Tony Compalo wrote, “Once one has experienced the transcendent... one can never again be content with the world the way it is.” The apostle Paul, who clearly had a gift for seeing, was very likely describing such a near-death experience when he wrote:

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“And I know that such a person — whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows — was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat” (2 Cor. 12).

In December of 2005 a young mother wrote to me in response to a vision survey I sent out. She wrote about some powerful life-changing experiences that she had shared with only three trusted people in her life. She said she wanted to tell her pastor but was afraid he wouldn’t understand:

“I have had three experiences that have been unexplainable by scientific standards... I (have) such a hard time describing them... It’s like trying to describe color that doesn’t exist. It’s like going 90 mph on roller skates when you have never skated before, or like slipping off the world and into another dimension where none of our rules (gravity, time, etc.) apply. It’s confusing, and it’s terrifying... I feel a sense of isolation, because I cannot share them with others. I fear they will think I’m making them up, or that I’m crazy. I assure you, neither is true.”

After reading an account of her visions, which were indeed among the most remarkable I have known, I wrote to her that her visions were similar to others I had heard and to some visions found in the Bible. She replied: “It is a giddy sort of relief to find that this sort of thing does in fact happen to ‘everyday people.’

John Sumwalt is a retired pastor and the author of “Shining Moments: Visions of the Holy in Ordinary Lives.” He can be reached at johnsumwalt@gmail.com.

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