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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Holy Ghost Bumps

You do know what Holy Ghost bumps are, right? My dear friend, mentor, and sweet spiritual sister, Diane Durham (owner of Backpack Mission Ministries, introduced me to this term a few months ago. It is that moment when you know without a doubt that God has done something, and the knowledge or the experience is so overwhelming that your whole body is instantly covered in goose bumps.

Are you familiar with the term "numinous." C. S. Lewis does a great job of explaining "numinous" in his book, The Problem of Pain.

  • "Now suppose you were told simply, 'There is a mighty spirit in the room,' and believed it... You would feel wonder and a certain shrinking -- a sense of inadequacy to cope with such a visitant and of prostration before it -- an emotion which might be expressed in Shakespeare's words, 'Under it my genius is rebuked.' This feeling may be described as awe and the object which excites it as the Numinous."
It's that moment when you realize God has done something so tangible in your life that His presence is undeniable. You are dwarfed by the awesomeness of the experience - you are a flea being carried on the shoulders of a mastiff hound. Faith is belief without the existence of proof. Hebrews 11:1 tells us, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." And once you have experienced the numinous, faith becomes absolute.

In early January of 2008, I experienced the numinous. I was researching the Appalachian Mountains. I had pulled out a map and stationed my finger at the northernmost point of the mountain range in Canada and traced a line all the way down to the southernmost point along Alabama and Georgia. As my finger traveled down the page, I stopped it at Summersville WV, continued down the page to Alabama, and then traveled back up the page to Summersville. Over the next two weeks, I became ferociously consumed with this tiny town. God was telling me to go there and I had no idea why.

Midway through the first week, I broke the news to my husband. "I think God wants us to move to Summersville, West Virginia," I said.

"Why?" he asked

"I don't know yet. Maybe start a bed a breakfast and host missionaries and white water tourists. I'm not sure. I just know at this point He's telling me to go there."

"Hmmm, I could have Bible studies there and probably keep my job with Boson and just work from home. We could make it work if you're sure that's what God wants us to do."

If I'm sure. That was a loaded statement. Was I sure? I'd always wanted to move back to my home state. Was God really sending me there, or was my flesh creeping up -- controlling me with a desire I was falsely attributing to God's call on my life? Suddenly I wasn't so sure and this consumed me even further. Having no prior knowledge of Summersville, I began researching -- homes, land, schools, newspapers. Finally, by Wednesday into my second week I was so confused, but I couldn't stop thinking about Summersville. I knelt down in front of my couch and prayed. I asked God to give me something concrete if this truly was from Him and if not to release its grip on me so I could function.

For four more days, God let me squirm and cry and be excited, and be dissapointed, and be scared, and be happy, and scream, and dream -- all over Summersville. Finally, in church that next Sunday morning He answered my prayer.

I had not told my mom of my struggles over those two weeks. I didn't want her worrying about her family possibly moving away, so I decided I'd keep it quiet until I was sure. I had mentioned to her in a pretend dreamy kind of way, "wouldn't it be wonderful to have a bed and breakfast on this piece of land on the river in Summersville WV," as I e-mailed her a land-for-sale picture earlier that week. It was my way of warming her up for what may be coming.

So, moving a tiny booklet out of my church seat, I sat down next to my mom that morning. I took a minute to catch my breath, and my mom began to read the booklet.

"Look," she said holding out the booklet, "there's a mission trip to Summersville WV this year."

I wasn't sure if I should laugh or cry at God's answer, but a wave of Holy Ghost bumps traveled over every square inch of my skin, and that numinous presence of God's spirit was heavy around me. Summersville was one of around twenty trips unveiled to the church that morning. Most of the trips were international. Only about three were in the US. Of all the towns in all of the US to send mission teams to - Summersville. Of all the towns in the Appalachia region my finger could have stopped on - Summersville. There are no coincidences with God. I was not a mission-minded person before this and quite honestly had no desire to be. God knew how to change my mind and get my attention. He knew how to give me a missions heart. I never would have given that trip, or any other mission opportunity, a second thought had He not put me through those two weeks.

After church I was talking with my Sunday school teacher about what God did. He said, "at least now you know you don't have to move to WV."

"Yeah," I said, in response, not in agreement. Now I don't HAVE to move to WV played in my head as sadness washed over me, but I'll be happy to move there, God, if you change your mind.

I probably don't need to tell you that I signed up for the mission trip that night. It was a family mission trip sponsored by Families on Mission. My mother, son, and I went. At some point I will blog some highlights of the trip. I probably also don't need to tell you that God didn't change His mind. He assured me that I was where He needed me.

"But if there is a WV in Heaven, God," I asked Him, "could you possibly give me my eternity there when you are done with me here on Earth?"


  1. Kim Parrish said...

    Love this!! Are you doing any mission trips this summer? Do you and the boys regularly go to Ky with the backpack organization? I know God is calling me to missions but I can't figure out where and how? I really wanted to to South East Asia but Ben and I in one year is too much. He leaves for Nicg on saturday. Maybe He is calling me closer. Who knows - He does.
    I really enjoy your writing.

  2. Sue said...

    I love those moments when God does stuff like that! What a great story - thanks for sharing!