Revival Town generally holds three conferences a year. They are always a highlight because people from our whole region come, expecting to receive a great deal from God, to experience a concentrated degree of His Glory, and to be flooded by His Presence. God never disappoints!
At one of these conferences I had a very unusual experience. It was in the evening service of the first day of a three day conference. Since our new transformation, Pat and I enjoy helping in any capacity that we can. We cannot help musically. We know our limitations, and that is definitely one of them. However, we are pretty good with the busy work. Pat and I assist with set up before the meetings begin and then greet people at the doors as they arrive. Then as the meeting proceeds, we assist with ushering and ministry needs, and after the meeting we help with clean up and eventually lock up and secure the building after everyone has left.
To be honest, being so busy with duties during a meeting tends to distract from the spiritual side of the meeting. But we learned early in our Christian lives that you can not out-give God. He will always more than repay our giving. Which brings us back to the meeting ... The service was nearly finished and we were heading into a time of closing worship and personal ministry time. I noticed that Pat had already gone forward, as had dozens of others, and I could tell there was a heavy Presence of the Lord settling on the altar area of the church. I decided to leave my post at the back of the church and go forward. As I entered the area I joined with the crowd and stood next to Pat, lifting my hands in praise to the Lord.
I had barely begun to worship when I felt a strange sensation on my arms. I was wearing a short sleeved shirt and I could feel an intense heat on my forearms. It was as if someone had turned on a heater right in front of me. I turned and asked Pat, "Can you feel that?" Then I turned back to worshiping without waiting for her response. At that very moment, I began to experience the most unusual thing that has ever happened to me....
Pat's Side of the Story
There was a large group of us who had gone forward for a little post-service worship following the end of the regular service. Tom came up and stood right beside me. The music was playing softly and there was a very sweet Presence of the Lord there. I was standing on one side of Tom and our friend Diane Rieger was on the other, to his right. The worship leader was singing "come up here."
At first, I didn't realize that anything unusual was happening because Tom was just standing there with his hands raised in praise. Except, there was one thing that did catch my attention. At one point, Diane began to shake and she looked like she was going to fall over, and sure enough, she did! She grabbed onto Tom's arm and, swoosh, down she went. The part that was extremely unusual was that Tom made no attempt whatsoever to catch her. He just stood there, not moving and not reacting to the fact that she had just fallen, not even seeming to notice.
That struck me as odd because Tom is always right there with the other catchers, "catching" as people fall over when the power of God touches them. It is one of the things he enjoys most, because he is closest to the action, the Spiritual action, where the Spirit of God is moving strongly. But this time, someone fell right beside him, even grasping onto his arm, and he just stood there.
But Diane was fine, I checked. It seems that God Himself had caught her, or had an angel do it. Either way, she landed as softly as a feather. I quickly dismissed the incident, not giving it a second thought. It wasn't until much later that I began to notice that things were not "as usual" with Tom. Long after I had returned to my seat, I noticed that his position had not changed, not even slightly. He was still standing motionless, with his eyes closed and hands slightly raised. The music was winding down. The meeting was drawing to a close and people were beginning to leave. The clean up crew was starting to spiff up the place.
One hour had passed.
At this point, I had the presence of mind to grab my camera and start taking pictures.
By now, a curious few had started to gather around Tom who remained motionless. He looked like manikin in a store, frozen in place, just standing there with his hands positioned in praise. I had been careful not to do anything that would distract him, such as talk to him or touch him, because I did not want to interfere with anything that the Lord was doing. But it was
becoming more and more obvious that something very strange was taking place. As time passed, more and more people were gathering around.
They were all talking and wondering what the Lord was doing with him. Eventually, someone touched his hand. No response. They began talking to him. No response. Some even began posing for pictures with him, and still ... no response.
We were all having a great time laughing and speculating about what was happening. The whole while Tom just stood there motionless. Two hours passed. Then two and a half, then three. By then, just a few people remained in the building. The question was now changing from, "What is going on with Tom," to, "What do we do with him?"
There did not seem to be a sense of panic. No one was asking "What is wrong with him?" They were just wondering how to handle the situation. After all, we needed to lock up the building and that was usually Tom's job, but clearly, he was in no condition to do it. Fortunately, the key to the building was on a lanyard around his neck. Someone removed it so they could do the locking up. But still the question remained, "What do we do with him?" Do we all just go home and leave him standing there?
No, that was not an option. Everyone else could if they wanted to, but not me. And not Mary either. She was in this thing for the long haul, if that is what it took. We had been calling Jason (Phillips) every few minutes to keep him posted. He had left just before all this began in order to get the visiting guest speakers to his house so they could get a good night's rest for tomorrow.
Finally, the topic of transporting Tom came up. I don't remember whose idea it was, but I liked it better than leaving him standing. We would take him to Jason's house, since he and the other guys there could help carry him in. However, our car, a VW Bug, was completely inadequate for carrying a "six-foot board". So, the decision was made to put him in the back of Mary's roomy Honda Pilot. I would follow in our Bug.
Two of our friends, Eddie and Eric, tipped Tom over backward, grabbed onto either end of him and carried him to the waiting car. He was so stiff that he didn't even bend in the middle. As they approached the car, Eric tripped over a big rock and nearly dropped his end of Tom, but Tom didn't flinch. They positioned him into the back of the car and scooted him in the rest of the way by pushing on his feet. Now he was flat on his back, with his hands still up as they had been while he was standing.
Honestly, it didn't look good. He looked ... well, you can guess. And for the first time, I was beginning to worry. No one who was there had ever witnessed anything like this before. Even still, everyone seemed quite confident that he was A-OK. One friend even said, "I wish it was me." Nevertheless, I couldn't help but wonder if he was going to be like this forever? My fears, for the time, I kept to myself.
Before we took off for Jason's house, Mary informed me that she needed fuel so she would have to stop at a gas station. "No! Absolutely not!" I said. "You'll just have to take your chances. You are not stopping for gas with a frozen body in the back seat of your car! Someone will call the police!"
She agreed and decided to just hope she had enough gas to get to Jason's. Fortunately, she did and when we arrived Jason and the ministry team came out to the car. They couldn't believe what they were seeing. There lay Tom, flat on his back with his hands in the air, arms bent at the elbow. Jason climbed into the back of the car to survey the situation.
After checking it out, he turned and looked at Mary, the ministry team, and me, and declared, "I think it's the Lord." Which, to me, meant he was as clueless as the rest of us. I had hoped he would say something like, 'Oh, nothing to worry about. I see this all the time. No big deal."
Although his statement did little to alleviate my fears, the way he said it came across in such a humorous manner that we all laughed. Once the laughter subsided, it was time to try to get Tom into Jason's house. As Jason and a couple of the other guys pulled on his feet, out he slid, still as stiff as a board. Jason took his feet and Mary took his right shoulder and one of the guest speakers took his left shoulder. They lifted him up and started the long trek across the yard toward the house.
And where was I during all this? Following behind with my camera, snapping pictures, vacillating between laughing at the spectacle, and fighting the nagging fear that something was terribly wrong with Tom. We were all quite grateful that it was dark outside because the scene surely would or could have caught the attention of a neighbor or two. The only light on the event was the occasional sudden, brief, flash of my camera.
About half way across the lawn the man at Tom's left shoulder lost his grip and completely dropped his side of Tom. Fortunately, he was able to catch him by the elbow on his way down and since his arms were absolutely frozen in place the man simply carried him the rest of the way into the house by his elbow.
Once inside they decided to lay him on the couch. As they approached the couch Jason was positioned at Tom's feet, between Tom and the couch. As they began to lay him down, Jason became trapped against the couch and was forced to sit down, with Tom landing on his lap. The others, now laughing at the situation, had to lift Tom's feet so that Jason could free himself.
Poor Tom ... there he was, lifted high into the air, head and neck on the couch as they lifted his body and legs. He was as stiff as a board - just hanging there while Jason made his escape. Finally, Jason was out and they laid Tom back down, but now there was a new problem. Somehow in all the commotion, Tom had managed to bend slightly at the waist. So as he lay there on the couch, both his head and feet were slightly elevated in the air. When we pushed his head down his feet raised higher and if we pushed his feet down his head came up higher. We tried pushing both his head and feet down at the same time but it only made him sink deeper into the couch.
I cannot tell you the tears of laughter that were being shed as we playfully jostled him back and forth. Finally, we decided to forget it and just leave him bent. Someone commented, "He looks so uncomfortable." So someone else grabbed a pillow and pushed it under his head and neck and we left his feet be. We just didn't worry about his comfort.
Three and a half hours passed ... It was very late now. Since Tom was showing no sign of coming out of whatever he was in, everyone decided to go to bed. I encouraged Mary to go home and get some rest since she had to work early the next morning, actually, in just a few hours, since it was already the wee hours of the morning. She reluctantly agreed saying, "Promise you will call me when anything changes." I promised and she left.
Jason was the last one to leave the room, so before he could get away, I pulled him aside. Not knowing if Tom was able to hear everything that was going on, and having to assume that he possibly could, I whispered, "Jason, I'm starting to freak out here ... "
I didn't want Tom to know how worried I was. Jason was very kind and reassuring, saying, "Everything is going to be fine." But there was a hint of uneasiness to his voice. He took one last glance at Tom, and nodded his head as if trying to reassure himself before he left for his bedroom. He walked down the long hallway toward his bedroom, his slippers softly padding as he disappeared into the darkness.
Now it was just Tom and me. The house was calm and quiet but there was no way that I was going to be able to sleep. I made a make-shift bed from chair cushions on the floor next to him, but I never even laid down. I just sat on the cushions talking to him, gently stroking his head and saying, "Tom Caaaaalkins, where aaaare you?" There was no response. Not even the flutter of an eyelid.
Four hours had now passed. Jason reappeared with his laptop computer in hand. Apparently he hadn't gone to sleep after all He had been searching the internet for some explanation for what was going on.
"You don't need to worry, look here," he said as he showed me what he had pulled up on his computer. There were several accounts of people who had had similar experiences. It was called a "trance". It was actually very comforting to know. It gave me something to cling to, some shred of explanation, some reason for hope. I was grateful that he had made the effort. After our talk, Jason went to bed.
I continued talking to Tom. They say that people in a coma can hear what is going on around them. So, in case he could hear, I wanted him to hear my voice and to know that I was right there beside him.
Five hours passed ... Tom began to move. His feet were twitching, then his legs began to move abruptly from side to side in a jerking motion, his upper body responding in the exact opposite thrashing motion. I flew down the hallway and knocked on Jason's bedroom door. "Jason! Jason! He's moving!" We both ran back to the living room and just observed as Tom seemed to be wrestling with an unseen opponent. "What an encounter!" Jason whispered. Soon the movement stopped and he was back to being perfectly still, his arms still lifted. Nothing more was happening. I had hoped that the movement was signaling that he was waking up, but apparently not. Jason went back to bed. I knelt back down beside Tom and continued talking to him.
Five and a half hours passed ... I suddenly had a thought. I hadn't prayed over him in tongues. It hadn't even occurred to me. So I began to very softly pray in tongues over him. The reason I prayed softly was not because I didn't want to awaken the others in the house. They were far enough away that it would have been nearly impossible for them to hear me. No. It was because I was video taping it and I didn't want anyone, ever, to be able to hear me praying "in tongues."
So what's the big deal with that, you may wonder? Because, ever since I became a Spirit-Filled Christian, I had been very unsure of my own prayer language. I had heard so many people describe their experience of being filled with the Spirit as an overwhelming event, with a new language flowing out of their mouths like a mighty, rushing, gushing river, without effort or thought.
My experience, on the other hand, had been a very quiet, gentle one. When my prayer- language slipped over my lips, it was with great effort and thought. Was I making it all up? Or was it for real? I never really knew for sure. And this uncertainty had been going on for more than 30 years. So, the only One I ever really let hear me pray in tongues was....Jesus.
This night was no different. Since I was video taping, I was going to be ever so whisper-quiet. But...the instant, and I mean the instant, I began to pray in tongues, Tom responded.
I could barely contain my excitement. I prayed even faster. He responded more. His head began to move back and forth. His lips started to move, as if trying to speak while coming out of a deep coma. Then, for the first time since this whole experience started, he made a sound. It was unintelligible, but at least he was making an effort to talk.
You had better believe, I kept right on speaking in tongues. It was the only thing that he had responded to... at all. Now, his words were coming more easily, but they were still unintelligible. Then I realized what he was doing, he was responding to my tongues, in his own tongues!
So we had this little conversation back and forth-in tongues! Then, his eyes began to flutter, as if he were trying to open them. After a few seconds, sure enough, they opened, then quickly closed. I kept talking in tongues.
Then he made a second attempt to open his eyes. This time they opened and stayed open. But it was clearly not a happy moment for him. In fact, it was an all out, panic-stricken, what-on-earth-is-going-on moment.
For some reason, unknown to him, he now found himself in a quiet, dimly lit room, lying on a couch, with no one else around except me, when ... he had expected to be standing in the front of the brightly lit church, surrounded by music and dozens of other people, just as he had been when this whole experience began. His mind could not comprehend what was going on ... and it showed on his face! I had to drop my camera and race to reassure him. "Tom, Tom! It's OK" I said over and over.
Finally, he calmed down and fully came to his senses. "How did I get here?" were his first English words. I quickly related the whole story to him, then ended by saying, "All I know is that nothing anybody did to you or said to you made any difference. You didn't respond to anything whatsoever until I prayed over you in tongues." Now this is my favorite part of the whole story and the part that simply blows my mind...
He replied, "No, you didn't."
"Yes, I did!" I said.
"No, you didn't," he insisted. "I heard you praying. You said, 'God, is he OK? Lord, I love him. Is he going to be all right? Are we going to be all right?' Lord, where is he?' That's when I answered you. I said, 'I'm right here. Can't you see me? I'm OK. Why are you worried about me?'"
I just stood there with my mouth open wide as the realization began to sink in! Everything I had prayed in tongues, he had heard in English! And when he answered back in tongues, he thought he was answering in English! My prayer language, after doubting whether it was real or not all these years, was suddenly validated!
Since that time, I have loosed my tongue. If! am praying in my prayer language, I no longer hide it, feeling that mine is inferior to others. I pray with the best of them! Because, the Holy Spirit hears and understands. It doesn't make any difference what it sounds like, He knows the deep
things of our hearts! Even if we don't have a clue what we are praying, He does! Just as I didn't know what I was praying over Tom, but the Spirit knew, and related it to Tom's spirit.
Now I know, that I know, that I know, it is real! Here's how I know. I did not let Tom, in anyway, shape or form, "hear" me express any of my concerns, because I had mistakenly assumed that he was hearing what was going on around him. I kept any and all concerns hidden from him.
I quietly expressed them to others, but not to Tom. But what he heard in the Spirit, was nothing but my concerns. Wow!
To this day, and I'm sure, for the rest of my life, the thought of this experience will take my breath away. Thank you, Jesus!
Now, for Tom's amazing side of the story, read on....
Tom's Side Of The Story
Now that you know the natural side of the experience, I would like to share with you the experience from the spiritual side. It was near the end of the first day of our Revival Town conference. I had been busy most of the evening doing lots of the behind the scenes work which is necessary for a conference to run smoothly. But now the meeting was winding down and so I went forward to enter into praise and worship, at the front of the church. Pat was already up front so I worked into the crowd of people and stood right beside her, just to her right. As I stood there with people all around me I had my arms extended forward and slightly upward at the elbows when I felt a heat on my forearms. It was significant enough that I opened my eyes to see what could be causing it. I thought perhaps a furnace duct was blowing on me or a hot light had just come on or something.
I could see no logical reason for the heat on my arms, which was now increasing. I turned to Pat and asked, "Can you feel that?" I don't know if she responded to my question or not because the heat source was increasing enough that I turned back to face it. Still seeing no logical reason for the heat, I simply closed my eyes and whispered, "Lord, is this you?" At that moment everything went totally dark.
It was as if someone had instantly turned off all the lights, only darker. The only time I have ever experienced this kind of darkness was when we were on a family vacation and took a tour of an under ground cavern. At one point the tour guide explained that he was going to turn off the lights, and since we were now so far underground, there would be no light at all. That is the kind of darkness I was now seeing. There was no light anywhere. I turned from side to side and ... nothing. Total darkness.
This only lasted a moment or two and then I began to see, off in the distance, a very dim light. It was just a pin point at first, yet in the total darkness it caught my attention. As my eyes tried to focus on it, it began to broaden. Slowly it spread across my entire line of vision and it began to get brighter. As it intensified, I began to see very faint particles which were gold in color. The particles became brighter and as they intensified I could tell they were moving toward me. I watched in amazement as they approached until finally they were getting very close and very bright.
By now I could see thousands, maybe millions, of individual particles, each shining and shimmering in a brilliant gold color. In an instant, they were upon me and I felt my body tense in anticipation of the impact. Finally, I could see them hitting my body and swirling and curling around me as they passed. I could feel their pressure on my skin, much as it would feel to stand in the spray of a wave on an ocean beach.
Then they diminished and I watched with amazement as a new wave of particles began to form and approach, just like the first wave had done This time, I stretched my arms out to my sides and watched and waited. And just as before, the particles approached and impacted my body, then swirled and curled around me and then trailed off behind.
This harmonic wave motion continued over and over, with each new wave just a little stronger than the previous one. They became strong enough that when I stretched out my arms and leaned into them, I could feel them lift me into the air and I would actually float on the lift of the passing particles. As they would trail off behind me, I would put my feet down and wait for the next wave to approach. Each wave continued to increase in strength and brightness. Soon, I began to realize that there was more to the golden particles than what I was feeling on my skin.
As I played and floated, I realized there was an overwhelming feeling of love such as I had never experienced before in my life. It was the pure love of God. It was totally overwhelming and all consuming. Nothing can compare to it. All the cares and worries of the world were gone.
Nothing else mattered.
The love of God was all consuming and complete. I knew that I could stay right there in that perfect love for all of eternity and never lack or want for anything more. As I played and reveled in that euphoric state, I now became aware that there was something off to my right side, just past my arm's reach. As I looked more closely, I realized that it was a being. This being was much taller than me and I could only see the legs, waist and trunk of the body. The shoulders and head were not visible to me. As I watched I could tell that the being was playing in the particles just as I was. In fact, he was glowing, just as the particles were. When the gold colored particles became brighter and dimmer, so did he. He appeared to be with the wind, and yet, not the wind. I loved the feeling of having that being there with me.
I continued to be totally overwhelmed with the experience. I don't know how long this went on because a sense of time had no bearing on anything. But there did come a point when things began to change.
I started to notice that each new wave changed from increasing with each cycle to decreasing, both in intensity and brightness. I watched in disappointment for a while as it became clear that particles were actually getting weaker and weaker. I realized that the experience was reversing itself. And if it reversed all the way to where it had started, I would be left all alone in that total darkness. The euphoric feeling of God's love would be gone as well. At that realization I began to panic, and I have to admit, fear like I have never felt before began to grip my spirit. In desperation, I struggled for a solution to solve my dilemma. I decided that there was only one thing I could do, and that was to grab hold of the being next to me, So, I waited for the particles to die down and then just as they approached again, I planted my feet firmly and with all the strength within me I leapt toward the being and wrapped my arms around him.
From his shimmering appearance, I was not sure that I would find a solid form to hold on to. But I did, and as my arms encircled the being I locked my fingers and held tight with all my strength. Immediately, I felt motion. It was not like the being was struggling to get away from me, or even trying to free himself from my grasp, but still ... there was definite motion.
I just continued to hold on tightly, even though the effort was shaking my body wildly from side to side. After a few moments, the motion slowed, then stopped. I could see that the gold particles were still coming in waves and now, to my delight, they were once again increasing with each cycle. The fear was being replaced with God's love once again, and I began to relax a bit, but it
took several cycles of increase before I felt secure enough to release my grasp on the being.
Eventually, I did release my grip, and the wind drifted me back to just-out-of-reach of the being and, just as before, we played together in God's overwhelming love.
It was at this point that something happened. I clearly heard Pat's voice. When I turned my focus to listen to what she was saying, the entire wind, being, and experience just vanished. I didn't feel fright or disappointment or anything, it was just that now my attention turned to hear what Pat was saying. I could tell she was just off to my left side, exactly where I knew she was standing in the front of the church. But she was obviously praying - and she was praying about me, and for me. I could hear her very clearly asking God, "Where is Tom? Is he alright? Is he going to be Ok? How long is he going to be like this?"
As she prayed I could hear the concern in her voice and feel the distress in her spirit. I quickly answered, "I'm okay. I am right here. Can't you see me? I am right here beside you." Then I realized I could not see her either. I remember thinking, "Lord, why can't I see her?" and instantly the thought followed, "Well silly, your eyes are closed." So I opened my eyes and there was Pat right where she should be, but instantly I knew something was very wrong. Where there should have been people and music and lights and church, there was nothing at all. It was all gone! I quickly closed my eyes again knowing that surely when I reopened them everything would be back to normal. I opened my eyes the second time, and to my shock things were still wrong. I was no longer standing in the front of the church, but was now lying flat on my back with my feet slightly elevated. As I looked at Pat everything else was dark and quiet. My eyes focused first on Pat and then on the wall behind her. I could not comprehend what I was seeing, and as I began to sit up and turn my head there was no denying that everything was wrong! Panic began to grip me. I could hear Pat's voice beside me saying "Tom! Tom! It's OK. I'm right here with you."
It took a few seconds for me to finally hear and believe her, and my spirit settled long enough for her to begin to explain where I was and how I had gotten here. Once I had my bearings, I realized that I wanted to share what had happened to me. We both tried to talk at the same time, trying to bring each other up to speed on the experience. We bounced thoughts off each other. Often, when Pat told me about things like people posing for pictures with me or like them carrying me like a plank, I would exclaim, "You are kidding me! I have absolutely no memory of that!" But, if proof of waking up in an entirely different location wasn't enough, she had pictures and videos to back it up!
I sat on the couch, looking at the pictures and watching the video clips, in utter amazement. It was like watching someone else, except that it was me! Talk about a strange feeling, watching yourself as if it were someone else. When we reached the point where our two stories began to merge together, we noticed a huge discrepancy. The discrepancy was concerning the part where she prayed for me in tongues ... I said she hadn't, she said she had, and she even had proof of it on video. Although I had heard every word in plain English, and even responded in English, it was clearly recorded, on video, in tongues.
She says that part blew her mind! Well, the whole thing blew mine. What an experience!
Pat and I have had the opportunity to share the testimony of my experience many places to many people and most of the time I end my story with this...
Have you ever heard an unsaved person make a statement like, "Oh, I don't want to go to heaven because I just can't see myself standing on a cloud somewhere strumming a harp for eternity." I have heard that, and now I can't wait to hear it again. When I do I will tell them this story and then end it with, Heaven will be so much more than that, but even if it were not, even if you ended up upside down with your head in a bucket of sand, it would not matter. Because, when you experience God's love the way I experienced it in the trance, nothing else matters. God's love is so great, so complete, so overwhelming, so all-consuming, that everything else pales in comparison. Heaven is going to be such an awesome place that I can barely imagine it.
I do, however, have a couple of regrets about my experience. The first is: that I could not photographically document what I saw from the spiritual side, like Pat was able to do from the natural side. I wish that somehow God had allowed me to take a camera along to capture pictures and video clips to share with others. The second is: the expression on my face. The whole time I was frozen in place, I had this sad looking frown on my face and since we have shared the pictures and videos with so many people and places, I have wished desperately that I had been smiling instead. I don't know if the Lord will ever repeat anything like this for me again, but I do know that now, when I begin to feel the Lord's overwhelming presence, I try to smile ... just in case.
In the next article, we'll take a look at what God revealed to Tom about this experience at a later date.