The Celts called the Holy Spirit “Ah Geadh-Glas,” The Wild Goose.
And if you wanted to encounter this wild goose? Well, you absolutely could stay in your living room, leave the windows open, and hope he’ll fly in. The world (and Scripture) is full of miracles.
Or you could weed your garden, and hope he’ll land beside you. Strange things do happen. It’s an amazing world!
But if you’re desperate to see this wild goose, you’ll go where he is rumoured to be found, as we drove around the South Island of New Zealand to see Little Blue Penguins, Yellow-eyed Penguins, and Crested Penguins, and unforgettable albatrosses, soaring on the wings of the wind.
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God is everywhere, omnipresent. And there is water everywhere, in the earth, in the air. But waterfalls—we don’t find them everywhere. To see them requires a long, generally arduous trek.
Yet, on our travels, I’ve gone out of my way to get to the Niagara Falls, the Rhine Falls in Switzerland, or the Voss Waterfall in Norway. As I have gone out of my way to see the paintings at the Louvre, the Prado, the Uffizi, and the Vatican.
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And if I hear rumours of God manifesting himself in spots of earth, (the Greek word emphanisō ἐμφανίσω is also used of a peacock unfurling its feathers, essentially showing off) should I not travel like the Magi, bringing my gifts of worship, hope and humility? And love. Always love.
The Holy Spirit, a divine contagion, is often transmitted by the laying on of hands. Why he works in this way, I do not know. He’s like the wind: you don’t know where it’s going to blow. It does what it pleases.
I have been to Cwmbran twice and am delighted I went. I received healing from the mild adrenal fatigue which had plagued me (the consequence of overwork) and am reading rapidly again. And the issue of emotional or comfort eating, which has plagued me for decades—all gone. My weight has begun to drop off, relatively easily (though there are stones more to go )
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I had arranged to meet up with a journalist my second time at Cwmbran, and found myself thinking like a journalist. Asking myself, “Is this the real thing?”
I watched people swaying in ecstasy, arms in the air. People slain in the spirit (passing out!) as they were prayed for. People lost to the world amid whiffs of nicotine and well, sweet, heady scents reminiscent of the trains around Amsterdam. Drug addicts and former guests of Her Majesty’s Prisons are entering the Kingdom every day.
Yeah, it’s the real thing. And standing in line for prayer, I feel tearful about my stupidity, my supposition that religious experience familiar to me from experience, reading and church is “real,” and the way I wondered if what is wild, weird and from spiritual realms I know not of is not “real,”—a bit like those disciples from Ephesus who told Paul, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
One can often find apt metaphors for spiritual experience from another private and secret realm: sexual experience. When Roy and I married, both old-fashionedly virginal, we bought Joy of Sex and More Joy of Sex. Yeah, that’s the kind of people we are: “Want to learn anything, buy a book.” Looking at some images we were: “Can’t imagine anyone being turned on by that!” And some images, well, turned either or both of us on!
It’s the same with spiritual experience—there’s the Book of Common Prayer; liturgy; sermons dripping with research, stupefying us beneath the weight of the word, and crazy charismatics, dancing in the spirit, slain in the spirit, prophesying in other tongues, or prophesying so wildly in your own that you might as well be speaking in other tongues, or producing wild manifestations of diamonds and angel feathers. Hey, it’s different strokes for different folks. God made us all different, and just as no two couples share the same varieties of sexual experience, no two individuals share the same varieties of religious experience.
It is true that people eat lions and kangaroos and worms and frogs and dogs and snails, whether I have enjoy them or not. People enjoy God in ways we cannot fathom. Never judge someone else’s spiritual experience.
It’s all real; it’s all good. Come, join the feast. All dietary preferences will be catered for.
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A revival is an amazing thing, God manifesting himself with such power that people come in every evening, as they have been doing at Cwmbran, to praise and worship and hear the word preached, the pleasures of worship and the word trumping television, and the internet.
Revivals die out, because who can sustain going to church six days a week? Pastors cannot; people cannot.
But while it lasts, it’s a beautiful thing.
So what Richard Taylor, Clyde Thomas, Kenny Brandie and all the earnest young pastors at Cwmbran will need to do to keep the glory down as long as possible will be two-fold.
Eat the word; keep close to God in humble repentance. Do not neglect private prayer for public worship.
And the second is counter-intuitive. Learning from the lessons of the past, keep grounded. Sleep well. Go on long walks. Keep physically fit. Take your days off. Don’t neglect family life. Beware of coveteousness.
Wild geese like sedge, aquatic roots, succulents and sprouts. However, if you provide them food they particularly enjoy: corn, rice, wheat and barley, you may tempt them to stay around longer. They may even make their home with you.
The Toronto Blessing began in 1994, the year my daughter Zoe was born; the presence of God is still strong there, 18 years later, and Zoe will be interning at Catch the Fire, Toronto, later this year.
I pray that the Wild Goose of the Holy Spirit may linger long in Cwmbran. Especially because it is so much closer than Toronto!
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