Friday, October 05, 2007
Catchin' the Holy Ghost
Since Sandals has begun a new series called "The Mystery" about the Holy Spirit, Pastor Matt has been sharing stories of interesting experiences he has had in the church. This is a touchy subject for many people...for others it's just plain confusing. I'm looking forward to hearing what Matt has to say about it. We've all had experiences in the church, and I am no exception.
I converted to Christianity from Catholicism back in 1984, when I was twelve years old. I was so relieved. No more sitting in a Spanish-speaking mass where I entertained myself by looking at what everyone was wearing as they went up for communion. I was bored out of my mind. Never mind that most of the time I didn't know what was being said because I didn't fully understand Spanish. I was fascinated by all the artwork of the saints high up on the walls, so I spent alot of my time studying them. But it wasn't exactly like I looked forward to church every Sunday, and even at that young age, I felt like I should. Sometimes my mom and my aunts and uncles would dump us kids (my little brother and all my cousins) off at mass. I guess they thought they were doing their part as parents to share their beliefs. All it taught me was my mom didn't want to be there either. What kept me going was the promise of a donut. At my Nana Juana's church, Our Lady of Guadalupe in East L.A, they handed out donuts after mass. Yes. It's a wonder what a little incentive of food does for me.
So it was a big shift when my Nana "got saved" and we started going to a Pentecostal Christian church. It was completely different and it took a long time to get used to it. First of all, it was really lively. Everyone addressed one another as "brother" or "sister". The pastor didn't recite anything in Latin or Spanish so I could understand what was going on. He also spoke with alot of passion and conviction. And instead of everyone replying in unison, and also with you and those other phrases which I don't quite remember, people were randomly shouting out, "Amen, brother!" or "Hallelujah!" and my favorite, "Praaaaaise the Lawd!". We sang these loud songs and there was a guitar player, a drummer, a keyboard player and of course, tambourines jingling everywhere.
I didn't have to stand up, sit down or kneel at all so that was a plus. It left me free to study what was going on around me.
Someone would begin to pray and there would be this crescendo of "thaaaaank ya Jesus!" and "Ooooooooh yessssss, Jesus!" "Halleluuuuuuujah!" and then pandemonium would start. People would start clapping, shouting, crying, speaking in tongues. To a young child, and shoot who am I kidding, to an adult too...it sounded just like gibberish. All I knew was it took a long time for everyone to settle down. So my cousins and I would sit on the floor between the pews and color, play tic tac toe, giggle and whisper. At least I wasn't bored.
And then everyone started up again at the end of the service. That was when the Pastor invited people up to the altar, to receive Jesus into their hearts. If it wasn't that type of altar call, then people were lining up to receive the Holy Spirit, or the Holy Ghost to some people. Do people still call it being slain in the spirit? Anyway, people would be falling on the floor, as the ushers would cover them with white blankets. I was baptized in a long flowing white gown, yo! It was all very Benny Hinn.
Shamma-lamma-ding-dong, and all that good stuff.
My Nana Honey (her nickname because she was so sweet) attended every prayer meeting and tent revival she could find. One night when I was about fifteen years old, she dragged me, my mom and my cousin Liz with her to this revival at a convention center. The only reason why I wanted to go because one of the speakers used to be in Black Sabbath. And you know how much I loved me some devil music.
So at the end of the evening we found ourselves in a small huddle with this woman who was going to pray for us. But apparently she had something else on her mind. She was this old school veterana with big hair. She told us that we were going to speak in tongues. Excuse me? I looked at my mom and she looked as clueless as I did. I was under the impression that speaking in tongues was not something you did on command, but then, what did I know? She said we were going to close our eyes and pray and when she put her hand on our forehead, we were going to utter and the Spirit would "enter us" and we would speak in tongues.
So we form this little circle and I grab Liz's hand and my mom's in the other, I bow my head and instead of praying for the Holy Ghost, I am praaaaaying that she doesn't put her hand on my head first. I peek. She put her hand on my mom's head. At first my mom is silent. So homegirl starts barking at my mom.
Nope, nothing. My mom is struggling to make some sounds come out of her mouth.
"Utter! Utter and the Spirit will come!"
Uh. No. Don't think so. Ain't happening.
And my mom lets out this ridiculously funny sound, completely lacking in any conviction, "U-u-u-u-u-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h..."
OMG. I get the giggles. I mean, I really fight it. I know this is not the appropriate time to laugh, so I am willing my body to stop giggling. But I start shaking, trying to hold in my laughter. It was so surreal because I knew it was wrong to laugh but my body was saying you're crazy sister--we are laughing and that is that! Then I feel my cousin start shaking. Then my mom. When I open my eyes I discover they are shaking with laughter, tear pouring from their eyes.
Then we all just start laughing hysterically!
Except for the old veterana. She is not pleased. She goes on about how this wasn't funny...how the Devil was distracting us, trying to rob us of the gift of tongues, etc. etc. She was so frustrated with us that she had to call someone else over to our group to talk some sense into us. Thankfully, that woman was very understanding, and assured us there was nothing wrong with laughter because that is the joy of the Lord in our lives. She also assured us that the Holy Spirit would come into our lives when we welcomed Jesus. So it was comforting to realize that I already had the Holy Spirit in me, because I had Jesus, too.
Meanwhile, my Nana Honey is still sitting in her chair, watching us from afar. She is all teary-eyed, thanking Jesus, very obviously blessed that her heathen daughter and granddaughters we were being filled with the Holy Ghost. My poor Nana!
I have since recovered from that experience and I haven't had anyone ask me to utter in a very long time. But it will always bring a smile on my face.