Brooks: Sensing the Holy Spirit
Purple Sweaters and Penny Loafers
Justin Brooks (email)
I remember it like it was yesterday. Then again, who could forget being a chubby 4th grader wearing a giant puffy, purple sweater, black pleated slacks and hair spiked on the part and combed down on the other side with penny loafers? (Yes, with actual pennies in the loafers, folks.)
My mother so dressed me for the occasion because of a huge event that came to my small Texas town. One of the biggest names in Christian music was putting on a free concert in the biggest venue we had, a college basketball arena that sat about 10,000 people. The Christian radio stations were doing ticket giveaways and it seemed the whole town was abuzz. His name … was Carman.
I was excited because this was my first time to see a concert that didn’t involve a southern gospel quartet in our church sanctuary. So my parents loaded their puffy-sweatered children into the maroon Chevy 20 van and away we went. I had never seen anything like it. The atmosphere was electric. The lights, the sound system, Carman and his what appeared to be DJ leading us in singing the anthems that made him popular at the top of our lungs. But there was something else that happened at this concert. As a looked around, and I can’t tell you why, but it hit me like lightening … God is here.
Talking to my dad about it after the concert, he helped me identify what I had felt. It was the first time I had felt what I was told all of my young life was the Holy Spirit. I could feel him. I had been in church since I was born, so I had heard all about the Holy Spirit and him moving and how we can rely on him and his presence, and at long last, it made sense. I don’t know if it was the thousands of people with their eyes closed singing to God with lifted hands, the decibel level of the music churning my emotions, but whatever it was, I knew I was in the presence of God and it was the first time my heart and eyes were opened.
The only response I felt was appropriate to that revelation, even though it felt silly at first, was to raise my hands like I saw many others do, in a gesture of receiving. This was the first time I had done anything like that but certainly hasn’t been the last. Listening to Carman’s music now makes most of my peers and I chuckle at how corny it was, but that night, it was powerful.
Our sermon series, Activate, came to a conclusion this past Pentecost Sunday. It has been a wonderfully rich series, inviting us to know the Holy Spirit in a deeper way and open our eyes and hearts to him in our daily lives. But if I am honest, in living my day to day it can be difficult to recognize when the Spirit is moving in that same powerful way I experienced at that concert all those years ago. Maybe therein lies the problem; I am looking for the wrong experience.
Our times like that are the “mountain-top”, places to which we ascend, drinking in every moment of the power that feels extremely life-changing, and often times, it is. However, I tend to forget Elijah in 1 Kings 19. He did not hear the voice of God in the winds, quakes and fire, but in the still small voice. Recognizing that the Holy Spirit is ever present in the “valley”, comforting us, guiding us in all we do is by listening to that still voice. It is asking our eyes to be open to see when the Holy Spirit is moving in the small ways, which are just as powerful.
We can ask him to allow us and our families to feel his presence throughout the day, to give us wisdom as we plan, to guide our path into the way of righteousness. The simple prayer of, “Come, Holy Spirit”, can be a powerful and simple reminder throughout that he is indeed with us. I pray he will feel near to all of us in the still small voice moments, as well as the big ones of life-giving power.