I stared at a man in the booth across Arby’s, he was dressed in a leather coat with fringe, his sleeve had a stylized cross and he wore pointy toed cowboy boots. I wondered if he was from somewhere west, more radically cowboy than Illinois. I looked for manure on his boots to see if he worked cattle or horses. Every so often I heard the word God come up in his comments. I glanced at him until I caught his eye. As he got up to leave, I asked about his coat, thinking about my rancher Facebook friends. I’m a sucker for cowboys and farmers.
He said he had several other coats like that because he liked to help them remember who he was, a man preaching the good news of Jesus Christ. (I grew up hearing the gospel paired with the hellfire and damnation preaching, so I have wondered just what is this good news? The irony is that the earliest preachers, the ones in Acts, never mentioned hellfire. They emphasized Jesus being raised from the dead. We are guilty of his death. His forgiveness and presence and Spirit are offered to all. But we need to repent, which means turn toward God, not pull ourselves up and try to change ourselves, something that is nearly impossible. The apostle Paul wrote about how he couldn’t do the positive things he wanted to do but he seemed to do the opposite, the not good stuff.)
We just finished watching AD: Kingdom and Empire on Netflix, a series about what happened after Christ rose from the dead. The series imagines how Pilot and Herod responded to the empty tomb. It also imagines how afraid the disciples were in the beginning. I wonder sometimes why we Christians don’t lay hands on people, healing them, even raising them from the dead. There are rumors of this happening in third world countries where Christians’ faith is tested. There are rumors of Charismatics laying on hands and people being raised from the dead. But there are fakes who are all about deception but there are also the real deals—people whose hands itch with healing. Richard Rossi, a chaplain to Hollywood, is producing a movie about this question called Canaan Land.
Several times a pastor or lay person laid hands on me during a healing service, and I was healed. I asked for prayer for my novel and out of the blue a New York publisher asked me for a blurb on a book I’d taught. I submitted my novel to her, with it being thoughtfully considered, twice. Bruce’s and my relationship with his mother was so broken we stopped speaking. I asked for prayers for us. That relationship was healed, in a miracle as deep as the resurrection. So I have seen these quiet miracles born of quiet prayers.
But I was uneasy with this preacher started talking about how he healed and delivered people. He healed an athlete’s arm right then and there. He cast out so many demons that they had to take breaks so the person could breathe as he vomited them. I plastered a smile on my face and wondered if people like me would have considered Jesus’ healings with the same fearful smile plastered on their face. I breathed and asked Jesus to come between us like the air we were breathing.
He said he had to stand in the gap and pray for his property, repenting for the sins of the warriors of both sides of the massacre, where a whole tribe—men, women and children—were slaughtered. This was on his land. He put Bible verses on stakes at the four corners. He was knocked on his face in repentance for these people because without repentance there is no remission of sins. He cleansed the land. His neighbors later reported his property had a lightness to it. I’ve heard of this before, people praying to cleanse their land of dark spirits that have stick to the grass blades and ground.
I asked how do you cleanse the land? Sing hymns? A friend walks her land and sings hymns. Ugly things have happened on her ground too. I asked because our farm has felt stiff like it wanted to buck us off. It has a spirit of overwhelm. Both Bruce and I forget things and I wonder if the house is toxic, if it has mold or radon or entities that suck our energy.
We’ve been reading Morning Prayer together and our home’s stiffness has eased. Even my office feels like a good place to be in though cluttered. (Not too long ago I didn’t want to be there.) The only room that feels creepy is the basement. Bad thoughts fill my head when I carry buckets upstairs. I think about the stairs collapsing or my falling over backward. The early church fathers would say these are the bad thoughts to battle. Bruce hauls the buckets for me when it is too bitter to draw water from the side of the house.
The man with the fringed coat said you have to repent for the sins that happened there, and by the blood of Jesus cast out anything unclean, open the door and ask God to put a hedge. He said we need to dedicate the farm to God, give it to him for however he wants to use it.
“Should I do this?” I asked.
“Your husband needs to do it because he’s the head over you like Christ is the head over the church.”
I asked Bruce if he were taking notes.
“Have you been baptized in the Holy Spirit?”
“Not in the way you think.” But I remembered how some charismatic friends in college thought I was just as charismatic as they were because of how I knew the Bible and could share stuff from it. But no neither Bruce nor I have spoken in tongues. But we both walk with God as best we can.
“You’ll have so much more power,” he said. I know a guy who could throw the power of the Holy Spirit at people and they’d be knocked down on their faces.”
I didn’t say it but I thought it’s not about power, it’s about love, it’s about how I wish I could lay my hands on my suffering friends and heal them like Jesus did.
The man with the leather fringed jacket prayed for Bruce and I, holding our hands in a circle. He prayed that God would heal our bodies and bless us above and beyond all that we could ask or think. He prayed that the angel Michael would come and fight for us and there would be a hedge around us. That God would use us.
“There is a great harvest coming and He needs people out there to minister.”
“New Age writers have also talked about a change coming. I believe it.”
He gave us his card in case we ever wanted him to come pray with us. He said that he is open to ministering to where the Lord leads.
Later I asked Bruce what he thought. “I don’t know if he was crazy or truly filled with the Spirit,” he said.
“I hear you.” People during Jesus day thought Jesus was mad.
I am afraid of people like him because they might look into my soul and think they see something and then there’s a rat hole to run down to see if what they say is true. I have had this happen before where one woman said she saw me as a rainbow with chains wrapped around it, and another one saw a big black figure like a towering bear behind me. One asked out of the blue if I was afraid of people and another said her intuition said, well, I won’t go into that one, but she was accurate and loving, though Facebook Messenger wasn’t the place for that conversation.
These prophets can lie, can cause problems for God’s people. There is an odd story in 1 Kings where a prophet was told not to eat or drink on his way to and from delivering the king a message. He was so powerful he made the king’s hand wither and then healed it. But his friend persuaded him to come in for dinner. He said that God said it would be okay to stop. But when the prophet left he was attacked by a lion and killed. The lion and the donkey stood by his body until his friend gathered him up and buried him. (I Kings 13.)
But the man with the fringed coat said nothing of the kind. He simply offered to pray with us and gave us his card if we wanted him to come to the house. Do you know what a gift that is, to pray with us about our home and our mission in the world?
If you like, tell me your stories about chance meetings that taught you something and/or where prayer made a difference.