For the three and a half years since I’d been saved I had been against speaking in tongues. If anyone even mentioned the subject, my toenails would curl, my claws would come out and the least I would do was abruptly change the subject. Then the Lord took me by the arm on a trip through Corinthians and revealed His Word to me in such a way that I couldn’t avoid the issue.
Two weeks later, through a series of miracles, I was on my way to a Women’s Aglow retreat in Oakland. I had BUTTERFLIES and tried to figure out how to stay home. After the Lord reminded me of all He did to get me there, I resigned myself to His will and went.
Shortly after my sister-in-law and I arrived we met her friend, Florence. Soon I began badgering her with “20 questions”. It reminded me of the time right before I got saved when I wouldn’t go down without a good fight! Her method reminded me a lot of the way I tease, but really get down to business, with anyone who is defensively questioning things of God. She was a kick!
So far, all ladies that I had met seemed really friendly, smiling and genuinely warm. I am not sure what I expected, perhaps a lot of hyperemotional, flighty ladies. Celia (my sister-in-law) might have the gift of tongues but Celia was different, or so I thought. It was probably because she was a relative and I knew her as a person and not as “one of those”.
At our first worship session I really enjoyed the songs, prayers and praise. When someone started singing in tongues, the rest joined in briefly, it sounded just like a choir. I concentrated very hard on singing “hallelujah” and “thank you Jesus”. We sang more choruses and more prayers were offered.
All the ladies leading this time were attractive and spoke in soft, moderate voices. I had imagined something out of Halloween perhaps?
All of the sudden, some lady in the front row, just a little way down from us, let out a screech and fell on the floor. The nurse in me wanted to go over and see what the problem was, but not very much. That was it! I was going home! But wait a minute, the speaker was saying that confusion was not of the Lord and that we were going to have scriptural order. The song leader started a new song and things went on, in order.
The next morning the Lord used a guest minister to reassure me again. He stated very strongly that in any service things needed to be done in order. He wouldn’t even allow the gifts to be used without the strictest Biblical order.
Ok, Lord I guess there are some who speak in tongues who follow Your Word about order too….
The other major concern I had was about hyper emotionality. I was just sure that all of this “tongues business” was just a matter of getting worked up into an emotional frenzy. I observed people singing, very quietly in tongues with joy and happiness. Then, as if the Lord was trying to calm me, the speaker said we use the gifts to worship the Lord in the Spirit. She cautioned against getting into the flesh or the emotions saying we would only cheat God and ourselves. It sounded reasonable to me, but not what I had expected.
I must admit at this time that I was not too hot on a lot of singing, one or two songs and I was at my limit and started fidgeting….. At this meeting we could sit if we wanted to or stand, some clapped their hands, others folded them or raised them over their heads to the Lord, some even had tambourines, but in it all as a radiance of adoration for Jesus like I had never witnessed before. We were truly one in the Spirit and one in the Lord. We sang choruses, prayed little prayers, heard scripture and then a message which was super.
I thought about forty-five minutes had gone by. It was 10:00PM and we had started at 7:30PM! Praise the Lord! Everyone was so sincere. They really praised Jesus and loved Him, reaching out to each other. It was neat! Don’t tell me I was starting to like this in spite of myself!
Gradually the Lord started unraveling the big knot within me. It was scars left over from the church I was saved in three and a half years before, which eventually split right down the middle, destroying many individuals in the congregation also. Jesus was touching my fears of big, old hotels and fires, frustrations of not being able to cry and express my sad emotions. He touched feelings left over from childhood of being on the outside looking in.
I was sharing these areas with Celia and Florence for prayer, when we all heard the sound of rain outside. I praised the Lord, if it was raining and I didn’t have to worry about fire. The Lord could take care of and keep us! Intellectually, I knew this all the time, but try to convince my emotional “what if” part. I had already figured out a way to tie sheets together for a hasty escape out the window, only we were on the 8th floor and didn’t have enough sheets. Ever notice what the devil will get you obsessing about to keep you from paying attention? I had also spent too many years as a burn unit RN.
We three shared in prayer. When we looked out the streets were dry. It had not been raining even though all three of us heard it. I already had the faith that God could handle my fears and was able to sleep soundly that night.
At breakfast we all shared with ladies we’d never seen before. We were open and really shared our hearts. I was being a “critical fruit inspector”, really just waiting to see something negative. However, everyone seemed to sincerely love the Lord, there was just no way around that. Also, they seemed to be serving Him too. At this point the Lord began to take me out of denominationalism and doctrinism and into worship with the Body of Christ! How blind had I been, how stubborn and negative!
Before the retreat, the flier had mentioned special interest groups. Those groups included intercessory prayer, gifts of the Spirit, counseling etc. I knew from the outset which one I was NOT going to, you guessed it, the one on gifts of the Spirit. They had been pretty coy so far but I was not going to set myself up to get attacked and have someone insist I pray in tongues.
It was time to sign up and I had already narrowed it down to intercessory prayer vs counseling, then the leader threw in a clinker and suggested we pray about which one we were to attend. There went counseling, now it was between intercessory prayer and (gulp) gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Okay Lord, I really need a definite sign on this one. Let me open my eyes and have an “X” appear by the right one so I really know it is Your will.
And that small, still voice inside me said I should ask Celia to go to the one on the gifts with me.
Right about then the leader said “don’t ask your neighbor to go to the one you just signed up for just because you are going”.
Rats! I opened my eyes and my thumb was on top of the box marked “gifts of the Spirit”, big deal, I was looking at that box before I started praying.
Bet if my thumb had been over the box marked intercessory prayer I would have leaped at the chance to go to that workshop, ahem….
The lady came by to collect the papers and I hadn’t signed up for a workshop yet. I was reprieved for awhile.
When we got to the room Celia piped up and said, “Jo, I really felt the Holy Spirit telling me to go to the class on the gifts of the Spirit and take you with me but I wasn’t sure how to tell you…..”
I ran over and hugged Celia, then got nervous as all get out. We signed up for that class together.
OK, Lord, that was the definite sign I asked for, now, You protect me and don’t let anyone attack me!”
All too soon it was the next day and time for the class. I was ready to fight until death the “tongues brainwashing” I just knew was about to begin. We got into the group, second from the last row, you know, the one by the door. There was a soft spoken, ageless lady who introduced herself and gave her testimony.
I tuned in to hear “raised Methodist then Nazarene, saved at age 9 and filled with the Holy Spirit 22 years later…..”
Quick calculations told me she must have been filled with the Spirit at age 31. I was 31 sitting there that day. I had been raised Methodist, then was a professing atheist for 9 years, then got saved and became a Nazarene. She was fluent in Spanish and so was I right on down the line her testimony went SO similar to mine.
Now what, Lord, I know You want me here, at this retreat and in this particular interest group.
Then someone asked her a question about speaking in tongues. She had been lecturing for about a half an hour on the gifts of the Spirit and hadn’t even mentioned tongues. This was hardly the brainwashing I had expected.
Later, we broke up into groups of three to pray. My request was that the Lord would refuel me, have His way in my life and give me anything He wanted me to have. I knew I was filled with His Spirit prior to this time; a distinct, one point in time infilling.
That day I wanted to rededicate and yield myself to whatever plan the Lord had for me. I prayed that I wanted any gift that He wanted me to have and then felt that nudge to pray more specifically. I did. I poured out my heart to Him while holding Celia and Linda by the hand. Then we stopped and they were both grinning at me, like cats who swallowed canaries, I thought.
“What are your grins about?”
“Jo, you’ve been baptized, Jo, you’ve got it!”
I knew I had Him and He had me, that happened over three years ago and I didn’t speak in tongues then either. In fact, the only time I even came close to speaking in tongues was two weeks ago, the night after I had been taken through Corinthians by the Lord. I really prayed and while asleep that night I dreamed I spoke in tongues. Also, just the night before the class I was saying my nighttime prayers. Then I sang a chorus to the tune “Thank You Jesus, Thank You Lord”, only the words were ones I didn’t understand except it ended in Rabboni, which I knew was teacher, so I decided I made the whole thing up.
Besides, since I understand Spanish and a very little French, German, Hawaiian and Italian what if I made words up, that would be ridiculous.
But little sounds kept floating through my head that I wasn’t making up, in fact, I would just as soon they weren’t there! I didn’t feel electric, ecstatic, or even excited, which isn’t my usual style, not feeling excited I mean. I felt rather soberly peaceful and calm, subdued but not down. I certainly wasn’t tingling from head to toe, or giggling, nor jabbering non-stop.
Lord, there are so few words in the English language with which to praise You and my love is so much bigger than that! Lord, I want only what You want for me, I don’t want anything that isn’t of You….
And when Celia and I prayed that night, in English, all kinds of little sounds kept coming into my head and they weren’t Spanish, English, German or anything else that I knew. I wasn’t conjuring them up, more like choking them down.
I Cor 14:2 “For one who speaks in tongues speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit…”
A language the Holy Spirit prays through me and Satan will not be able to understand or intercept? A hotline to heaven, hum….
I still had a thousand questions, but I knew one thing, the Lord was delivering me from my prejudices, negativism and my SELF, that large chunk of me which said “if you don’t do it my way, you aren’t right!” Did I really think that way? Something like that, because I used to avoid everyone who spoke in tongues like they had leprosy.
I was running the water in the hotel bath tub and accidently hit the shower button. I got my hair and night gown soaked and just couldn’t resist the urge to run down the hall and tell Florence I got “baptized”
And the Lord kept blessing and liberating. I started getting a picture of just how BIG He was and how very small and limited I had Him in my mind. Wow! I went from negative to positive. The Lord has delivered me from my SELF. There were still no fireworks, but a sober “feet on the rock” peace; deep and calm within me.
I am praising Him in every language I know and a new one that I don’t know. But, after all, who am I to refuse a gift from the Lord? Even though He had to almost kill me to give it to me. I actually thought I was doing to die several times in the process and hopefully a part of me did!
(C) Marijo Phelps all rights reserved. Use with with proper credits.
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