Filed under: Bible, Christianity, Death, God, Grace, Jesus, Religion, resurrection, Spirituality, Uncategorized
When I was only beginning in my ministry in Louisiana I would drive my Pontiac Station wagon down the winding, Spanish moss filled lanes between New Iberia and a small sugar cane processing town called Jeanerette. As I snaked along the Bayou Teche to visit members from my church I watched as barges slowly carried their hauls to the Port of Iberia. On the left was my favorite juke joint. Rumor was that it had been closed immediately after it had opened because of a stabbing. On both sides of the door were crude paintings of Jesse Jackson and Martin Luther King Jr. At about the halfway point I would encounter two cemeteries. All of their tombs above ground because of the high water table. When I would pass a similar cemetery on All Saints Day they would be filled with descendents of these tombs carrying candles, white paint and paint brushes. On my final few turns I passed 18th century plantation homes that had whispered histories.
It was on one of these early drives that I heard something that startled me. I was listening to my new favorite radio station 101.3 The Sound of the South. The reason that this had become such a favorite was that it played obscure delta R & B songs and they still had live DJ’s. This meant that all of the commercials were done by the staff of the radio station and local actors. I loved hearing a variety of amateur attempts at dialogue. The sound mixing was spotty at best and I often turned my radio up to full blast to merely hear the product being sold. One such ad startled me. A woman confidently read:
“Do you need prayer? Do you need healing? Then you need to visit Prophetess Geraldine. Do you want to succeed? Is there something that you desire? Then you need to visit Prophetess Geraldine. Have you been crossed? Has someone put a hex on you? Then you need to visit Prophetess Geraldine. She will uncross you and take away any hex. Prophetess Geraldine can be reached at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Crowley, Louisiana.”
Being crossed, a hex cast? It was another indication that I was in a very different place than I grew up. South Louisiana is a superstitious place. I think that half of all the scary stories originate in this spooky land. It seems that everyone has a story or two of a haunting and everyone believes fervently in the existence of apparitions, ghosts and ghouls. Very few of the people that I met during my time there had any doubt that the supernatural existed, that the dead walked the earth or that there was some weird and unexplainable things that happen after the sun goes down.
I have always said that I do not believe in ghosts because that will make them much spookier when I encounter them. Yet, I encountered plenty of unexplained experiences during my time there. One such incident was inside my small church in New Iberia. In the first few months of ministry Carol and I would go to the church and practice our sermons. I would sit in the pew while she preached and she would do the same in turn.
That is when we started noticing the strange noises that surrounded us. Music, footsteps and conversations could all be faintly heard when we started to preach. Ever so often one of us would check to make sure that no one was in the church. There was never anyone around, but still we heard those bewildering sounds. It got to the point were we decided that we would no longer preach to each other in my church on Saturday nights.
Working alone at the church during the evenings I was interrupted with more strange sounds. These were a particularly clear noise. There would be the slamming of the heavy front door to the church and the sound of footsteps on the asbestos tiles in the hallway. What followed was always predictable. I would leave my office to investigate yelling “Hello! Is anyone out there?” There was never a reply. When I had reached that heavy door it was always latched tightly and locked. Very Strange! Thinking that I was just hearing the wind or the church settling I would return to my office to work.
One day I finally asked my Cajun secretary if she ever heard strange noises at the church.
“You know I have never really thought about it, but I usually get up once or twice a morning thinking that someone is in the building and there is never anyone there.”
We realized that we were hearing the same sounds. Once she even had someone on the phone hear the door and footsteps. It was getting kind of creepy. When my secretary began gossiping with the members of the church their own strange stories emerged. Candles lit in the kitchen, previous ministers who refused to enter the church at night, and sliding glass door mysteriously being opened. Everyone was convinced the church was haunted, while I still checked the vents, looked for branches rubbing against the building and making sure there wasn’t a loose screw in the ancient boiler. My friends pleaded to be able to spend the night in a recreation of their favorite Scooby Doo episode, but no one could determine the origin of the strange sounds and occurrences.
We finally decided to blame it on the ghost of Margaret. She was a long dead matriarch whose stern portrait stared down from the library wall near that heavy front door. The rest of the members so feared her when she was alive that everyone avoided her. Ranting and raving in the kitchen, she would run every dinner with military precision and counted every piece of silverware and towels to make sure that there wasn’t a thief amongst us. We were sure that if anyone was haunting the church it would be her.
I guess that it will always remain a mystery, although blaming it on someone long dead certainly made me feel better. When I felt uneasy at night and thought I heard footsteps instead of asking if there was anyone there I would say instead, “Its okay Margaret, no one took any of the silverware home.” Then I would feel much better.
Bizarre and odd experiences. They are part of the unexplainable and that is sort of the point of mystery. It appears that some things will not be revealed until the end. We may see luminous apparitions, and hear booming voices yet their purpose will not be completely revealed to us. Surrounding us we know that something important has transpired, yet we are only given a fraction of its meaning.
All that I know about resurrection is what I experience when an unexplained change comes into my life and transforms me. Christ’s message is revealed and I am told to listen. Somehow this gives me a strange and eerie comfort. Though troubles and trials may confront me on every step, though my life may be filled with odd occurrences, and I may be haunted by the ghosts of my past I am told not to stay there building monuments to those days. In these times I am reminded to listen and know that life is confusing and unexplainable. I should not believe that everything is out of someone’s control; it just means that it is not me.
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