Bernie turns 60!

'With Families at Heart and a Heart for the World'

Dear Friends,

Earlier this year, to celebrate Bernie’s 60th birthday, we took all our children and grandchildren (seventeen of us!) to the U.S. Capitol to hear stories of faith seen in America’s remarkable spiritual heritage. In fact, our two oldest granddaughters also earlier this year did school reports on two girls who are prominently displayed in the Capitol: Pocahontas and Helen Keller. Linda even made period costume dresses for them each to wear when they gave their presentations.

Over the years I have accumulated about 60 spiritual lessons that flow from the historical quotes and stories behind the many statues and paintings in the Capitol. I never share them all in any single ministry outing, though I did come pretty close when Josh McDowell brought about 150 people for a Capitol visit in the evening when it is mostly empty and quiet. Here are four of those spiritual lessons from four of the main parts of the U.S. Capitol.

1. Capitol Visitor Center (CVC) - Helen Keller: Alabama

Opened in 2008, the CVC is where most people begin their visit to the U.S. Capitol. Of the nearly 20 statues that greet you, my first stop is typically the only statue in the Capitol depicting a child. Six year old Helen, who could not see, hear or speak, is shown with her hand at a water pump at the moment she discovers that language exists. On that dramatic day, her teacher, Anne Sullivan, wrote this in her journal: 

“My heart is singing for joy this morning! A miracle has happened! The light of understanding has shone upon my little pupil's mind, and behold, all things are changed!” 

Can you imagine not knowing that language exists, and then suddenly discovering it does?! As I often say, “That reminds me of a Bible verse!” 

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” ~ I Cor. 2:9 MEV 

By analogy, this statue makes me think of what for a believer your first breath in heaven will be like. Again, we can only imagine!

Up to the day depicted in this statue, they had thought Helen Keller was of such low intelligence that she was incapable of being educated. It turned out that she had a brilliant mind, even ultimately learning five languages and writing a dozen books. Here are two excerpts:

“Four things to learn in life: To think clearly without hurry. To love everybody sincerely. To act in everything with the highest motives. And to trust God unhesitatingly.” “I thank God for my handicaps, for through them, I have found myself, my work, and my God.”

Which reminds me of a Bible verse: 

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” ~ Isaiah 40:31 KJV

We hope you enjoy this picture of Rachel in her Heller Keller costume that Linda made for her to wear when she gave her school report on Heller Keller.

2. Capitol Crypt - Peter Muhlenberg: Pennsylvania

Though there are no dead bodies in the Crypt, there are 13 statues representing each of the original 13 states. One of my favorite statues in all of Washington, DC is this one for Pennsylvania. It depicts Pastor John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg at the moment in his sermon when he threw off his black clerical robes to reveal a Continental Army officer’s uniform. His text that day was: 

Ecclesiastes 3:1, 8 ~ “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the sun. A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”

Then he declared that he was now an officer in General Washington’s army and it was a time of war. With the sound of drums outside the church door, he asked who would go with him! Nearly 200 men responded. Another 100-plus from other parts of their town joined them and together they formed the 8th Virginia Regiment. They fought together for five years, including at the Victory at Yorktown in 1781. Muhlenberg is seen in the famous painting of that victory in the Capitol Rotunda directly one floor above where his statue stands today. 

Peter’s younger brother Frederick was also a Lutheran pastor, but in New York. When  Frederick heard what his brother had done, including taking a sword into the pulpit, he wrote his brother telling him that as a minister of the gospel of peace, what he had done was wrong. Peter wrote back: 

“I am a Clergyman it is true, but I am a member of the Society as well as the poorest Layman, and my Liberty is as dear to me as any man, shall I then sit still and enjoy myself at Home when the best Blood of the Continent is spilling? So far am I from thinking that I act wrong, I am convinced it is my duty to do so and duty I owe to God and my country.” 

Within a year, the British burned Frederick’s church, so he wrote a reply to Peter basically saying, “I think you’re right.” After the war and the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, both brothers were elected to the first Congress, and the younger brother, Frederick, was elected the first Speaker of the House. His portrait hangs front & center in the lobby outside the House Chamber.

We hope you enjoy the photo of Bernie walking with our grandson who is also named Peter (the rock) - it is exciting to think about what his future might look like some day - may he be blessed with Peter Muhlenberg's brilliance, versatility, and bravery! - (he already seems to have all three of these traits) Not only was Peter Muhlenburg a pastor who then formed and led the 8th Virginia Regiment, but he also served as a statesman.

3. Statuary Hall - Sam Houston: Texas

Sam Houston is the only person elected governor of two states. He was born in Virginia and came of age in Tennessee where he was elected governor in 1827. Known as a brawling frontiersman, he left Tennessee to join an Indian tribe after a public and embarrassing divorce. In 1832, he went to Texas when he heard they were going for independence from Mexico. Later asked if he was from Texas, he famously replied, “No, but I got here as fast as I could!” The first President of the Republic of Texas, then a first Senator of the State of Texas, he became the 7th Governor of Texas in 1859. Remarkably, in 1840 he had married young Margaret Lea, 26 years his junior, several years after she told her friends the she would not only marry Houston, but also convert him to Christianity. Eventually, in 1854, 61-year-old Senator Sam Houston, after fighting the British (War of 1812), Mexicans, opposing politicians, and his own sin, he had a genuine conversion and was baptized while a couple thousand people looked on. Before going under the water, Rev. Burleson (president of Baylor University) said, 

“Sam, you better take your wallet out.” To which Sam replied, “No, pastor. My wallet needs baptizing, too!” Then coming up out of the water, one of his friends said, “Sam, now all your sins are washed away!” Sam quipped, “If that be the case, God help the fish that are downstream!” 

Which reminds me of a Bible verse!

“Seeing their faith, He said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven you!'"

~ Luke 5:20 NASB

4. Capitol Rotunda - Baptism of Pocahontas (Rebekah!)

Her Powhatan name was “Matoaka,” which means ‘Bright stream among the hills’ (a mildly common place name in the area). This energetic young lady adopted the nickname, “Pocahontas,” which means ‘Foreward, Outgoing,’ or even ‘One Who Argues/Complains a Lot!’ When she asked to be baptized, Rev. Alexander Whitaker told her she needed to understand more of what that meant. He had her study the Bible for a year, and upon demonstrating faith with knowledge to him, Rev. Whitaker consented to baptize her. Specifically desiring to bring symbolic unity between the English and Powhatan peoples, Pocahontas chose the biblical name Rebekah, who was the mother of two sons (Jacob & Esau) and of two nations (Israel & Edom). This 1614 scene depicts her soon-to-be husband John Rolfe standing behind her, as Gov. Thomas Dale looks on. The Rolfes traveled to England and met King James I, but the queen disapproved of the marriage, because Pocahontas was royalty, and John Rolfe was a mere commoner. Since Pocahontas ever after her baptism went by Rebekah, it brings this Bible verse to mind:

 “For this reason I bow me knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.” 

~ Eph. 3:14-15

Again we hope you enjoy this picture of the Pocahontas costume Linda made for Abbi to wear at her school presentation about Pocohontas.

A final picture we thought you might enjoy is a picture of Josh and Kerin's family with the girls dressed in colonial dresses loaned to them from friends.  This was taken when Bernie, Dan and I joined their family for a few relaxing and enjoyable days of mini-vacation in Colonial Willamsburg in late May. :)

“He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.” ~ Psalm 78:5-7

Bonus photos below: (L) Columbus (painting), Reagan (statue), (R) Jack Sweigert, Apollo 13

Outside the Capitol, after the tour, Bernie is still talking, pointing things out, telling stories and directing the large group of us across the street on the way to share a celebratory meal at an authentic Mexican restaurant! It was a very special way for Bernie to celebrate his 60th birthday. If you are ever visiting Washington DC, give Bernie a call if you would like an individualized Spiritual Heritage Outing for you or your family!

All our Best to you and yours,

 ~ Bernie and Linda for the Bealls

Photo credit top headshot and bottom four pictures: Esther Katz

Photo credit individual statues: Architect of the US Capitol

Photo credit for the rest: Kerin Beall