I came of age in faith when the charismatic movement was gaining its momentum even though “our” brand of the Christian faith made us doubly dubious of its claims of the Holy Spirit, but I had a semi-charismatic experience (no tongues) in high school and from that time I was on board — but only over time did I come to terms with the charismatic movement as not made up of a bunch of kooks. Behind all of this was a grandmother and grandfather who were apostolic and holiness and pentecostal, and for my grandmother “holy” with “ghost” was a single term: “theholyghost.” As a youngster, in the heat of some August Sunday evening, my mom and dad and my two sisters were hauled off to my grandmother’s church where they commenced to do things beyond my 9 year old religious experience, which though thin was firm. The most dramatic oddity of the service was when they all began to pray aloud all at once, and I heard moans and sighs and ordinary words mixed in… and I don’t recall anyone was speaking in tongues but now that I think of it surely someone was.
I tell this story because many Christians today think “weird” when they hear “Holy Spirit.” Or they ask “What’s that like?” Or they wonder if they are missing something. And if any of that applies to you I want to mention a book that is coming next summer. It’s a wonderful book on the Holy Spirit by one of my favorite South Africans, Trevor Hudson, called Holy Spirit Here and Now (published in South Africa but coming our way). I read (for a foreword) Trevor’s book alongside Jack Levison’s fine book, Fresh Air (Paraclete) and got to wondering why more aren’t writing about the Holy Spirit these days. Probably because so many still think the Spirit is weird.
Trevor’s book will disabuse us of that sense. This is a gentle, wise, pastoral approach to life in the Spirit. But it will perhaps stretch you.
“If there is one thing that I want to convey about the Holy Spirit, it is this: The Holy Spirit is continuously at work in all of our lives, from our very beginnings, in every encounter, in our daily work, in our communities, indeed throughout the whole universe” (3; I added emphasis). If that is the case, even those who think this is weird are being formed by the Spirit. I believe what Trevor says here: always, at all times, the Spirit is at work in us and with us and around us.
The Spirit is God’s gift to us. And Trevor develops three beautiful themes about this gift:
1. The Holy Spirit is more than an “it” — the Spirit is a Person, God himself, with us and in us. God’s gift of the Spirit is God’s gift of God’s very self. Think about that.
2. The Holy Spirit is God’s gift of love to us — better yet, the Spirit is God’s love directed at us and in us and with us. God is love; God’s Spirit is God’s love in presence.
3. The Holy Spirit is God’s gift of grace to us — Trevor suggests taking every reference to “grace” in the NT and saying “Spirit” there; and everytime we see Spirit use the word “grace” — and we will see how easily this connection can be made. “God’s grace is the Holy Spirit acting in our lives helping us to accomplish those things that we cannot accomplish in our own strength” (17).
Trevor suggests that to develop the habit of sensing God’s presence in the Spirit that we invoke God’s Spirit to be with us in all we do … rising, showering, eating, working, living, loving, walking, running, sleeping, sitting. This is the discipline of “noticing.” Over time we will become more sensitive the ever-present Spirit. (Weird or not!)
“Through the Holy Spirit, God is lovingly present and always active in our lives” (20).
More next June!