When I looked in the side-view mirror of our Chevy Luv pick-up and saw the man walking toward us, I thought Charles Manson had escaped from prison and come for a visit. The approaching man had a touch of wild dishevelment about him and that same shock of long, brown, unbrushed hair. The closer he drew, the more I wondered--especially when I honed in on a pair of piercing, see-to-your-soul eyes.
"Hey, folks," he said through Dave's lowered window. "Need some help?"
We'd been stuck on the freeway for a good half hour (back in those pre-cell phone days) when the man pulled up behind us in his psychedelic, flower-splattered VW van. Only a person truly comfortable with their persona could comfortably maneuver the road in a van that hippified.
Dave got out first. "Don't know what the problem is," he said. "I've looked at the blah, blah, blah and there's no problem there. Wiggled the blah, blah, blah and that seems to have a good connection."
(That's what I heard, so that's what you get.)
"How 'bout the blah, blah, blah?" the man asked.
They kept up the car talk for a few long moments. I studied the man through the windshield. He did have a bit of a half-crazed look, but he seemed familiar in a not-Charles-Manson way. Every once in awhile, he'd look up from his poking and prodding and I'd catch a glimpse of something I knew in those eyes--something friendly and inviting.
I decided to get out and get closer. Scooting over to Dave's side of the truck, I slipped out and shut the door.
"Howdy," the man said.
"Hi," I said in return.
"This is my wife, Shannon," Dave said. "I'm Dave."
The man stopped poking long enough to extend a hand. "Name's Charlie," he said.
We took turns shaking his hand. I studied him some more. I hadn't been near a real hippie in years. I liked hippies. Spent quite a bit of my childhood with them. I was ten in 1971 and we'd just returned home after living in Oklahoma and Arkansas for several years. My mother was newly divorced and took to wearing mini skirts and go-go boots. To top off her new look, she bought a big motorcycle. Before long, each of us girls had our own helmets and would take turns riding to the grocery store with her.
We moved to an apartment complex where all our neighbors had love beads hanging in their doorways and a perpetual haze of pot smoke hanging in their apartments. A handful of these new neighbors, upon meeting and befriending my mother, thought it would be groovy if she built a coffee table for our living room. At their suggestion and with a little help, she built a table using landscape timbers for the top and a black, fake-fur-covered box for the base. To further distress the look of the top, these new friends helped her haul the piece out our patio doors where they took to beating the top with various sharp objects to make it all the more groovy.
One of the table-beating hippies took a liking to me, made me a macrame purse, and taught me to play "Stairway to Heaven" on my guitar.
I liked hippies back then. Still do.
While Charlie and Dave honed in on our truck's problem, I turned and looked again at the psychedelic van. It was then that I realized why Charlie had seemed so familiar and why I'd recognized something in his eyes. Just above his grill, in wild, swirly, multi-colored letters, someone had painted, "Jesus loves you!"
Charlie was a Jesus Hippie.
I'd heard of such people but before that moment, I'd never had the pleasure of meeting one up close. And what a meeting we had. Charlie spent five hours with us that day. I don't know what other appointments he'd scheduled in his daytimer, but it all went out the window when he happened upon the needy we.
He drove us to a parts store and helped Dave get what we needed. Figuring it was going to take awhile to make the repair, he then drove me to his home, where I met his beautiful, gracious, earth-motherish wife, Ginger. Charlie and Ginger lived in a converted school bus with their three children. They'd converted a second school bus into a traveling school room where they spent their mornings homeschooling the kids. Not only were these the first Jesus-loving hippies I'd ever met, they were the first school-bus dwellers and the first homeschoolers.
Ginger could not have been more hospitable. She treated me as though my coming had been a long-anticipated event. Offered me cookies, gave me a tour of both buses, and told me how much she loved Jesus. She actually didn't need to tell me that--it was written all over her life--but I liked hearing it anyway.
By the time Charlie and Dave drove up in the van and newly-fixed truck, Ginger had dinner waiting on the table. Before we ate, Charlie thanked Jesus for our new friendship.
That was nineteen years ago. We don't see Charlie and Ginger Ransom-Lippke nearly as often as we'd like, but every once in awhile, God sees fit to make our paths cross again. And each time I see again those wild, Jesus-loving eyes, I'm reminded of a few things: Love shows itself in action ... God's children are all one-of-a-kind ... and the next person you meet might just be a brother.
Click here to read Charlie--Part 2"
Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God--children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. John 1:12-13 (NIV)