Hotdogs, Hippies, and the Holy Spirit

Years ago I met a clerk at a convenient store in Roseburg, Oregon I’ll never forget. It was a small little mini mart where you could get an amazing almond latte with those yummy little nutmeg sprinkles on top, or, if your heart so desired, a floating pickled pigs foot, smelling and looking like a human ear soaked in formaldehyde, ready for observation. The plethora of culinary delights at, Parkway Market, were astounding to say the least. If you visited the market while this guy was working, you were in for a show no doubt. To call him a radical Christian was an understatement. He was like a box of Pop Rocks, and every customer was a fresh can of 7-Up poured over him in an explosive demonstration of power and stupidity. Every encounter provided a priceless opportunity for America’s Funniest Home Video’s or the next tragic tag line, “Bi-polar Believer Gone Bonkers at Local Market,” for Entertainment Tonight.

On one occasion, I recall his, ‘Holy Spirit’ initiative to physically pray for every willing participant who walked in the door (‘willing participant’ used very loosely mind you). Being located directly off I-5, the market was often frequented by un-suspecting travelers seeking cold beverages on their arduous journeys to distant lands, such as,Eugene. On one particular Saturday morning, peering across the vacant parking lot, he saw revival walking across the street disguised as two hippies, smelling of armpits and reefer, with one on crutches. As only a good Christian nut job would do, he began to pray with earnest excitement and expectancy that the traveling tent revival with crutches would cross the street and visit his store. Like a giddy school girl, he chirped with delight as the woman approached, while her disabled boy friend sat on the curb.

“Excuse me,” the hippie girl said lightly, as a gust of wind carried her odor across the room and into his poor un-expecting nostrils, making his eye’s water, but not softening his resolve. “What can I do for you?” He coughed, trying to seem un-moved by the pungent odor orbiting her like Pig Pen, but infiltrating his sinus cavities all the same. “Do you have any food we can have?” she asked bluntly. Like a two year old learning to manipulate with exactness to get what he wants, the clerk quickly formulated a plan to get the crippled hippie over as well. “I’ll give you all the food in the warming case if you go get your friend?” He said. Confused, yet compliant, she went to get him. Halfway across the parking lot, the clerk met them both with a bible in one hand and a bag of corndogs in the other. The next couple of minutes, as the clerk shared Jesus was either the perfect portrayal of faith that could move mountains or the most idiotic display of fanaticism ever witnessed in the Western hemisphere (the jury’s still out, and only God knows). Spitting out bible versus like a machine gun, the clerk fired relentlessly into his glossy eyed friends without a pause or breathe. Only God knows what they could have been thinking as they took in the fire fight of scripture bashing in an open mouth jaw dropping fashion.

Without hesitation or explanation, he finished his mini sermon and proceeded to the next portion of the encounter, which as every good Christian knows in the order of a service, is prayer. Not the soft gentle prayers of, repeat after me, or, bow your head and raise your hand, but more like, rise up and walk kind of prayer. As the clerk informed them of the coming prayer, he bent down to grab hold of the cast, so that he could fulfill the scriptures by the laying on of hands. In this moment, every radical Christian author he had ever read came flooding back to mind. People like, Smith Wigglesworth, were at the forefront of his thoughts as he recalled accounts of Wigglesworth punching broken arms and slapping ailments, all in an eccentric display of faith which somehow seemed to work. Not wanting to be faithless, and for his poor stoned friends to go without, the clerk grabbed the cast with both arms, shook vehemently (recklessly casting off all reservation and reason to demonstrate his faith), all the while letting tongues of gibberish baptize their poor brains, in what was no doubt, the most confusing moment of their lives. After closing the prayer (if you could call if that), the clerk bounced to his feet, rushed to his car, where he had a box of New Testaments for moments just like this, and passed them to the bewildered hippies, whom were still frozen in awe. Giving them the corndogs, and a jolly, ‘God speed’ for the journey, he sent them on their way, but not before a response slipped off their tongues. “Dude, that was the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to me,” he slurred to his girl friend, as they made their way off into the sunset.

(I) wish I would have signed his cast or something. I know, big surprise, I was the clerk. It’s not one of my proudest moments, but as I look back, there’s part of me that really misses that eccentric, zeal without knowledge, bold as a lion, no sense, baby Christian. In so many senses of the word, I simply believed what the bible said, and acted on it. Now, with that said, many of the things I did in those early days were idiotic to know end, but even now they cause me to chuckle. I can’t help but think that God was looking down on his disheveled son, shaking his head in complete astonishment, saying, “That’s my boy.”  So, why I’m a divulging this completely embarrassing encounter from my past?  Well, as I think about the Holy Spirit, I can’t help but reminisce about those early day’s of when I first met him. I saw more miracles in those first two years of my Christian life than I have witnessed or been a part of in all the combined years since. There’s no doubt that in those infancy days of my faith, I was the poster child of zeal without knowledge. I laid hands and prayed for everyone who would let me, and many who wouldn’t (I don’t recommend this). I saw sicknesses healed, and salvation’s often. In that little market, I witnessed a Jehovah Witness fall to her knees, lift her hands, and boldly declare Jesus as God and Lord (Crazy stuff, especially for other customers). As idiotic as I was, I witnessed the power of the Holy Spirit almost daily.

Why do we need the Holy Spirit?

8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

I don’t know about you, but I want my life to make an impact for eternity. This can’t happen without the power of the Holy Spirit. I ran across a quote from Francis Chan in his book, “Forgotten God-Reversing Our Tragic Neglect Of The Holy Spirit,” that really struck a cord in me. He said, “It really is an astounding truth that the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you. He lives in me. I do not know what the Spirit will do or where He’ll lead me each time I invite Him to guide me. But I am tired of living in a way that looks exactly like people who do not have the Holy Spirit of God living in them. I want to consistently live with an awareness of His strength. I want to be different today from what I was yesterday as the fruit of the Spirit becomes more manifest in me.”

So, am I saying you have to be a zealous nut job in order to live under the power of the Holy Spirit? Let me just answer that for you with an emphatic (no). But, with that said, I do spend far too much time fearing what others will think of me in regards to acting and living out my faith. I need the power of the Holy Spirit in my life, but I know that I can’t be worried about what others will think of me. This was an extreme example, and hopefully comical, in regards to life in the Spirit, but as I look back at my own life, and examine the scriptures, I’m slapped in the face with the fact that God isn’t safe. When it comes to the Holy Spirit, I recognize letting Him have full reign totally disturbs my comfortable, predictable, safe world. Jesus promised that his disciples would perform greater works through the power of the Spirit (Jn. 14:12), but we have to overcome our fears. It’s counter intuitive, but the only way I’ve found is to invite the Holy Spirit to have His way.

A transformation took place in the lives of the disciples after the Holy Spirit came upon them. Before, they were hiding “for fear of the Jews” (Jn. 20:19), but after the Spirit came upon them, they couldn’t be silenced. This same group of once timid individuals became bold as lions in the face of Jewish authorities that were threatening imprisonment and death if they didn’t shut up. Something clearly transformed them and that transformation was the power of the Holy Spirit. I don’t know about you, but I could use a little of that boldness in my life. Can I promise that God won’t ask you to do something crazy? “No,” but I don’t want to miss out on all that God has for me and others because I’m more concerned about the opinions of others than I am the opinion of God. Jesus promises us power to be effective witnesses for him. We would be crazy to not take him up on it.

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