Signs of the Holy Spirit

We have lost touch with the Holy Spirit in many churches. Many people don’t know how to recognize when the Holy Spirit is present and active. We hear about the Pentecostal idea of speaking in tongues, of handling serpents, and of drinking poison. These are scary things. Most people think these are otherworldly actions, and they shy away from even wanting the Holy Spirit to come into their lives.

But we need the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the force that makes the whole thing go. The Spirit is the gas in the car, the fuel in the rocket. Without the Spirit, the Body will not get anywhere.

Here are the verses in question – Mark 16:17-18 “And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues. They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” And Luke 10:19 – “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.”

Handling serpents and drinking poison sound freaky, and they are. I honestly don’t think that those actions are meant to be intentionally done. I think that scripture means that if we are filled with the Spirit, nothing can harm us. That snakes and poison will not affect us. I don’t think you are supposed to test God by taking these things up. I think that what this means is that if you are filled with the Spirit, you won’t be harmed if these things were to cross your path.

I do wonder why these churches seem to focus on the less useful signs like handling snakes and drinking poison rather than the more helpful sign like healing. Wouldn’t it be amazing if their worship services were all about healing people? And I don’t mean the TV evangelist who puts on a big carnival show of bopping someone on the head and they fall to the floor. I mean real healing, deep to the core. Healing that comes from a person letting go of their fears and their doubts and their pain and their loss. Healing that comes from letting go, and letting God.

Who is to say that “speaking in tongues” isn’t the same as being fluent in another language? It seems like being able to speak to people in their own language would be helpful. It would let the other person know that they aren’t alone and they are understood. We have so much miscommunication going on right now even with people who do speak the same language. It would be great if we could access the ability to really connect with other people. We can, through the Holy Spirit. We just have to remember how to reconnect.

Now, understand that the Holy Spirit isn’t really mentioned in most churches. It is mentioned in Bible readings as a historical thing, but not as a real, right now kind of thing. We certainly aren’t taught how to call it down or how to recognize it or use it. God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit are seen as kind of real, but not really accessible or present right now, to us.

So I’m going to try to muddle through and tell you what I’ve figured out. It isn’t expert at all. It is feeling things through, step by step. But it feels right. I don’t know how to call it down, but I’m starting to recognize when it is present, so I’ll start with that.

How do you know that the Holy Spirit is present? We can’t experience it directly with our senses, but the Spirit affects things around us in unusual ways and we can notice those changes.

One of the ways the Spirit reveals itself is in unusual weather, especially water. God is within water, and a pervasive mist is a beautiful sign of the Spirit. It reveals to us that we are totally within the presence of God. We can walk through mist, and it gets in our hair and on our skin. We breathe it in. This is exactly the way that God is here on this earth. God is everything. Everything is from God. From the smallest fish in the ocean to the largest tree in the forest, all is from God. We are all condensed light from the source. If the mist is icy, it is all the more a sign. It calls attention to itself. It is unusual. It almost creates a feeling of electricity on your skin.

The Spirit also lets us know that it is present through wind and sound. Strong winds can be a sign. Bells, whistles, chirps that are unusual are of note. Odd, pleasant high-pitched sounds. Windchimes. These are all to be noted if they are sounds that are pleasant yet call attention to themselves. They aren’t background noise, but they aren’t annoying.

The Spirit also lets us know it is present through smell. The smell of incense or roses, when there are none around, is a very good indicator of the presence of the Spirit.

People who have been touched by the Holy Spirit often have a feeling of more energy. They often don’t need as much sleep as they normally do, but they still feel rested. You might not get as much sleep as you wanted, but you’ll get as much as you need. This gives you more time to do the work of the Spirit. You’ll have more time to pray for others or to volunteer.

When you notice the signs of the Holy Spirit, give thanks for it. It likes to be noticed. If you notice it, it will come more often. If you ignore it, it may pass you by and seek out someone else who can benefit from the immense power that it has to offer.

Jesus tells us in John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” We must get reconnected to the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit, otherwise the Body will die.

Sestina – gate

Across the green expanse I see the sheep.
They have spent so many seasons here, young and old.
Their home is this valley,
their world is the sky, the grass, the dung.
They share their home with a lone pale horse
who only wants to go back east.

One day he’ll remember what East
he meant. There is no use in asking the sheep,
for this pale riderless horse.
He can’t even recall his home, he’s so old,
and all he remembers now is the dung
that covers the valley.

The animals spend most of their lives in this valley,
or at least all of it up to now, before they head east.
If they noticed how much dung
they had created they’d realize that sheep
don’t ever get this old
and their only companion is this horse.

Why is there only one horse
living in this valley,
growing old,
never making it back east?
He is starting to think he’s a sheep,
and he notices there is now less grass and more dung.

Every day there is more dung.
Every day the horse forgets more and more how to be a horse
and starts to become a sheep
mindlessly wandering this no-name valley
never making it back east.
Every day they just get old.

It is starting to feel like they have always been old
and their world has always been covered with dung.
Thinking this way, they will never get back east
and the horse
will die in this valley
along with these sheep.

They will get very old before they ever know the true nature of this horse.
Filled with dung, this valley
points towards the East but now there are only mindless sheep.

(I chose the sestina words from the names for various gates in Jerusalem.)