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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Charismaniac Attack

My ideal church would meet in a gym, allow bagels and jeans during the sermon, and make skeptics feel right at home. It would not allow the kind of person who attacked Gail Tipton* one Sunday in the early 1980's.

Gail is a fiery Baltimorean preacher with a college education and a distaste for nonprofessionalism. So when her pastor invited a cornfed woman from Kentucky as the guest speaker for morning worship, Gail folded her arms. This hick had runs in her stockings, coffee stains on her blouse, and very unbrushed teeth. But that wasn't all. At the end of a butchered sermon, the dear woman pointed to Gail and called her forward for prayer!

Gail wanted to run and hide, but instead lurched toward the front of the church and her worst fear was realized--she was about to be attacked by a charismaniac. Holy Roller Hillbilly yelled, spitting out every "s" in Jesus' mighty name, pushed and shoved unkempt fingers on Janet's head, from the top of her head to the soles of her feet, in her belly, in her belly, and in her belly! She shundalah-ed, roared, bound and finally loosed poor Gail to her seat. Janet went home and took a bath, half ready to throw in the Pentecostal towel and become a Methodist.

I relate to Gail. The left side of my brain frequently complains to God about the wackos in His family--the dreaming, angel-chasing, sign-seeking, shaking, quaking folks that clutter my would-be tidy Sunday service and logic-loving mind.

Three months after the quack attack Gail was rushed to the emergency room with unexplained internal bleeding. Her abdomen was swollen and she was close to death. Lying on the hospital bed in desperation, Gail silently cried out to God for help. Wanting to not make a spectacle before her roommate (polished as she was, you know), the frail woman grabbed two IV poles connected to bags of blood, and inched her way into the bathroom. She shut the door, leaned over the sink, and bargained with God:

"Do you remember that dear, sweet (very dear, very sweet) woman from Kentucky that laid hands on my stomach a few months ago, and prayed for healing before I knew I needed it? Well if you answer her prayer, I promise I'll never make fun of one of your servants again."

The next day Gail went home, healthy, leaving the doctors befuddled as to what had caused her hemorraging. She's been healthy ever since.

Gail spoke in our church--our little charismatic church--last Sunday. The night before I had talked late into the night with my dad about my disillusionment with the "containters" in which God stores His presence--people like the little lady from Kentucky. I had no idea that the next morning's topic would be Treasures and Containers. As Gail spoke so passionately and eloquently about the need to value the container (God's people) for the treasure (God) that they hold, I wept.

How many times had I reacted like leperous Naaman when Elijah told him to dip in the muddy Jordan seven times (II Kings 5)? It took the same humility for Captain Naaman to receive his healing that it will for me to receive what God might say and do through the sometimes muddled waters of "spirit-filled" church. Containers aren't perfect, but the treasure within, is.

(Note: I happen to attend a charismatic church, but consider myself interdenominational, or  nondenominational. I feel at home in any church where the Bible is preached and Jesus is our common ground.)

*name has been changed

3 comments:

cacia said...

You know it Lady!I know exactly what you mean!

Rebekah Trittipoe said...

Hey...you just described my church in your first paragraph!

Jayce said...

Hmm. [Comments]