Today, July 13, was my Dad's birthday before he changed his address to heaven. So I thought I'd share a poignant memory of him that I'll always treasure.
I was 35, and because of a divorce, I came to live briefly with my folks in Miami Beach. I immediately found and began attending a charismatic denominational church in North Miami.
Dad had occasionally attended a local Community Church in Bal Harbor composed mostly of elderly folk, but now he accompanied me to my church on Wednesday and Sunday nights. Mostly just to make sure I was safe traveling at night.
Dad wasn't really a church guy, and did most of his talking with God during his long, solitary beach walks each evening just before sunset.
I had received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit a few years prior, and I was very anxious that Dad should also receive the Holy Spirit.
I wanted him to enjoy the spiritual gifts promised in 1 Corinthians 12, and feel closer to God.
I had received this Baptism by the laying on hands by my prior pastor, but also knew this "second blessing," as John Wesley called it, could be received sovereignly, or through prayer, as well as by the laying on of hands.
I had witnessed many people receiving this Baptism and hesitantly speak their first words in another tongue. I was obnoxiously insistent that Dad should receive this gift too. He was resistant, as I had initially been.
We came from a long line of hard-headed, stubborn, independent-thinking Scottish-Irish folk.
Each Sunday evening service concluded at the spacious candlelit altar area, where we would kneel in turn to receive communion. Those who needed prayer remained kneeling, while the rest sang praises to the Lord. Occasionally gentle, quiet prophecies were spoken aloud. The elders and pastor ministered quietly to those presenting themselves for prayer. It was really quite beautiful and anointed.
This particular Sunday evening, when my Dad knelt for communion, I stood behind him touching his shoulders, praying quietly but intensely for him to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
To all appearances, nothing was happening to him. But boy was I wrong. After the service, Dad and I stopped at a Howard Johnson's for an ice cream treat, and my precious 76-year-old father looked at me with his conspirator "I've got a secret" look and said:
"When we were at the altar tonight, I saw the Lord. He was walking down the center aisle, wearing long, beautiful robes. He was kind of glowing. Then He walked right up to where we were at the altar and said to us, 'My people, I love to hear you praise Me.'"
My spoon of ice cream paused midway to my mouth. Wow! I looked across the table in amazement. My Dad's face was kind of glowing. His eyes had that certain deep expression that crept into them when he talked of spiritual things.
Here, the whole time I was at the altar worrying about Dad's spirituality, he was seeing this glorious vision! What a lesson for me!
So often church members are far more interested in others' spirituality, problems and lifestyles, than in pursuing and focusing on their own paths to enlightenment. Criticism and judgment are one inevitable downside of having some spiritual knowledge and discernment.
I determined to check myself then and there, before I became one of those off-putting, know-it-all Christians. My Dad still had much to teach me.
The Rev. Anne Barber, is pastor of My Father's House, 7215 U.S. 301 N, Ellenton. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.