Thursday, June 26, 2008

Loving Living in Salem

Many of my friends are Witches and Pagans of various types. Tonight some of them gathered for a Pagan Pub Crawl here in Salem.

There were a few new faces, and a few people I have met before but have not gotten to know well. I spent time talking with a Witch who for years practiced being both a Witch and a Christian (first Fundamentalist Baptist, then Greek Orthodox), but gave up trying to be Christian, because "it didn't work." Another woman told of receiving a letter from her sister in law filled with clippings from Chick Tracts. Then I met the owner of the new tattoo parlor here in Salem. The parlor owner was not a Pagan, but perhaps a Buddhist, or maybe a Thelemite. There were discussions of life and death rituals in ancient religious cultures, and discussions about the variety of experiences which Pagans have had with other Christians.

All in all it was a good night with friends who are far different than myself, and who walk in a world not my own. At one point someone mentioned Amsterdam, and suggested that although he loved the city, it probably would not be a city I would feel comfortable living in. I suggested that might be the very reason I would like it all the more. I do believe it is true that I would be quite bored in an environment in which everyone was just like me. After all - I do live in Salem, and I love it.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Glossalalia (Tongues) My Tiny Miracle in Spanish

Tonight I had a weird, but wonderful experience. I spoke Spanish. Okay, I know that millions of people speak Spanish, but I do not. Well, I know a few words like "Mas leche por favor," "taco," and "via con Dios." Perhaps a hundred words of Spanish might be found in my vocabulary if I thought about it hard and long, but that's what happens when you've been to Mexico, and lived near the Mexican border most of your life.

Yet my experience speaking Spanish was unknown to me until after it happened, and it occurred in a spontaneous moment of worship during our Sunday evening service. As a group we spent sometime singing improvisationally to a worship song, simply creating words of praise from our hearts. I sang in tongues during this time, and when the song ended Carlos asked if I knew that I was worshiping in Spanish.

Cool. I have been praying each morning this week about receiving the gift of interpretation of tongues, and then added that I would also like to speak in languages of this earth which I have never learned. Is this the beginning to answering that prayer? I dunno.

Skepticism can be had on this issue, but all I know is that it was weird and cool, all at once, and I am thinking that God was doing something unique among the small group at church tonight.

For more on the experience see the post at our church blog.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Lakeland 2.0 - Testimonials and Comments from Salem Outpouring

The Salem Outpouring is a small version of Lakeland. I guess that would be Lakeland 2.0 in mini version at the moment.

People responded to my last post about the Salem Outpouring, and I thought it might be nice to post their experiences here. So here it goes, unedited, but perhaps with a comment or two from the peanut gallery (me).

"I was there from 7 to about 9:45, when the message was underway, so I didn't see any of what you describe. However, I do think I ought to say that the previous 2+ hours of worship, in particular a very tender and powerful sharing of the Eucharist early on, were amazing. I more or less see the narrative motivating events like these, and the "This Is It" hype, as a discardable part of that religious culture.... but I'm sure that would be harder to do for people who've been inside it." (the commenter is an episcopal priest and comfortable all types of religious settings)

This next person visited on the same night as well.

"Thank you, Pastor Phil, for your thoughtful story -- and, wow, what an incredible photo of the surfer and the wave.

Most of the people at revivals and outpourings are not there to receive physical healings or to witness them. They are there because they are radically in love with Jesus Christ, their Lord and Savior, the God who became a human being and walked among us, took the hit for us by dying on the Crsss. Why? He is radically in love with us. We want more of Him. We love because He loved us first.

Pastor Phil, you are an observant and articulate person. You must have noticed, for example, how much the ushers extend themselves to help with the needs of any visitors. I attended on Friday night, too, the same as you. I asked my companion, "Are you thirsty? I'll go get us some water."

An usher overheard us and came back with two bottles of water. No charge.

Jesus bless you."

This next post came from someone from our church who visited two nights after my own visit.

"I went to this event tonight because a friend of mine called me, someone I used to sit side by side in church and haven't now for a year and a half, I've missed her and others that I love. It was wonderful to be there again and see a few familiar faces enjoying the vibrant crowd praising God. For me, worshiping God among those I have relationship with is powerful. Praying for healing for those I know, or recieiving prayer from those that know me personally make it real.

There are things that make it hard for me to worship in the setting tonight...but I just kept praying that God would increase his truth, his word, and his glory, and decrease anything else in the way. I don't want to cut into the worship or what God might do with my critical judgmental thoughts.

Seeing people seeking out healing from God so passionately is great. My prayer is that the Lord will not only bring healing tonight (as a lot of the emphasis was on the event and the timing of receiving blessing right then and there) but also that people will walk away and carry with them the knowledge that the living spirit of God restored them and will continue to do so if only they look to him.

We sometimes need to appeal to our emotions to get carried to a place where our hearts are freer, but it's important that we know the limitations and the distractions of our emotions as well.

God also brought to my heart, when I was feeling awkward or uncomfortable given the different style of expression of faith and when my heart was full of doubt or skeptism, that I need to pray for other churches communities in addition to my own. May Jesus continue to be the focus. May Jesus bring healing to broken hearts, bodies and relationships in all of God's churches, and between them as well.

It's also nice to go to this kind of event and be able to see the good, and have grace for the weird instead of only seeing the weird so I can't even see what God might show me.

It was a BEAUTIFUL thing to see diversity represented as well. How awesome was that!"

Here is another post from someone who was there on the night I visited, and recalled the exact story I told:

"Pastor Phil: I was there too. I feel that you misread the healing time that you mentioned. The woman they were praying for was hispanic and even though they had an interpreter, there was some miscommunication because of the language barrier. The important thing is that she was healed.
I was there Saturday night and they mentioned that GOD was healing many different things. I was healed for a shoulder ailment that I have had for several years. I know that I was healed.

God is the same today as he was 2000 years ago. He still heals. He still seeks unity amoung his churches. What is happening is Salem, aside from the healings, is a great deal of unity among the churches. This is a great testament to GOD. It is a great testament to the memory of Rev. Arthur Robinson and Rev. Rocco Rezza (who recently passed away). Unity among the churches and nationalities is paramount for the advancement of the Kingdom.

Come back this week, give us a chance. Let go of your hurts and let GOD heal you!"

This particular post warranted a response so here is what I said:

"I did not misread that situation. You will notice that I mention that she is Spanish speaking, and that there was an interpreter.

The fact is that she was asked to touch her toes before she was asked what was wrong with her. Herniated discs and touching toes are not a great combination. Now if she is still healed today, and a week from now that is good. If she still has pain, I am concerned that someone was asked to do something potentially harmful in the context of faith healing.

As far as your healing. May the Lord continue to keep you in health, and may the Lord be blessed for what He has done.

It seems that you are making an assumption that I must be harboring hurts and therefore have disagreement with the revival. I do not disagree with these meetings, but I do think that "the little foxes spoil the vine" as they used to say in Pentecostal circles years ago, and it is still true that small things can create big problems. These concerns have been consistent for 25 years - long prior experiencing deceit and false judgments at the hands of Pentecostal leaders. So "healing" doesn't change my concerns.

If the outpouring meetings continue I will visit as I am able.

Rev. Robinson I met years ago, before we moved here. He laid hands upon me when we came to visit him at home in his last few years, and he laid hands upon me and prophesied that I would wear his mantle. What that means I am not sure. That is just what happened in his kitchen on Franklin Street back in the early 90's." (my response)

That's all or now

Friday, June 13, 2008

Not Sure How to Think about Revival - Still

I admit readily that I have been jaundiced by my experiences with Pentecostal revivalist Christians who have been my bane in the last few years. They have proven themselves to be hypocritical, and judgmental, and I have been on the receiving end of this judgment.

Yet, I have been leery of revivalism even before the season of my struggle with my former fellow journeymen in the faith began.

Tonight I visited a meeting happening here in Salem for a half hour or so, and here is what I experienced:

"This woman says she has back back pain. We are going to pray for you. Is that okay?"

The Spanish speaking woman nods her head. The large screen projecting the service to the back of the room shows her face.

"Now as I pray touch your toes. Have you been able to touch your toes since you've had this problem? No?"

The woman shakes her head signifying no.

"Can you touch your toes now?"

Again she shakes her head negatively.

"Go ahead try to touch your toes as we pray."

The woman on the screen reaches down to touch her toes. She is a mother in her late twenties or early thirties.

"Did that hurt?"

She nods affirmatively, and mouths some words I can not hear.

"It hurts a little bit? Let's do it again. Reach down and touch your toes as we pray for you."

She does this again.

"Did it hurt this time?"

She shakes her head, and says, "No."

A brief conversation between the man praying, the young mother, and the interpreter ensues.

"A hernia? Oh a herniated disk. Folks, she has had 2 herniated disks for the last 2 years. No, 2 herniated disks for 6 years! She has had 2 herniated disks for 6 years and tonight she has no pain."

The crowd cheers.

"Oh excuse me. She has had 2 herniated disks for 6 months, and tonight the she has no pain."

The crowd cheers again. Less fervently this time.

I was standing in the back, and put my face in my hands. I thought to myself. Why didn't you ask about the specifics of her condition before you asked her to bend over?"

I am still not fond of the word revival. This particular revival meeting has a connection to the Lakeland, FL event, and I think that there were about 200 people in attendance when I popped in very late for a few minutes tonight.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Late Night with Jamiacan Special and Thinking About Stuff

So tonight was a generally good night at The Vault. I came home following our 6pm service, and decided I wanted to smoke a big ol' fatty Jamaican Special cigar. Not really being a smoker I have them for our guys cigar smoking group, which I jokingly refer to as "Padron Me." Stupid Christian humor I suppose, and maybe a pun most people won't get.

So I laid under the stars on this first 70ยบ night in Salem this year. I contemplated the peacefulness of God as I gazed on the stars through the branches of the silver maple tree in our yard, and periodically had to get up to take care of Forrest our three legged greyhound.

Tomorrow at 5am (only 5 hours from now) I will rise to go work at Starhouse. Within the next couple weeks I will transition from this morning job to a position as a liaison to DSS - I think.

I am hoping to get back to writing regularly again.