I try to withhold judgment until I know the facts. Some people hear a phrase or word that they like or dislike and immediately claim something is good or bad. This is, in my mind, no different than proof-texting - taking a single verse out of context and building a theology about it.
So I decided to wait and see on this ``Toronto Thang''. If God's in it, He'll make it plain. If not, it will be exposed.
In the spring of 95, some people from a couple of local churches, including our sister church, Hope Chapel, went to the Toronto Airport Vineyard to see and hear for themselves. Shortly thereafter, groups from both these churches came to share with us. I missed the first night, but made the second when the Hope Chapel people came.
They talked about their concerns, some of the unusual behavior they saw. They spoke of how God spoke to each of them, of how God led each of them to get prayed for, and of what God had done for them.
What had He done? He met their needs. I saw strength where there had been weakness. Boldness where there had been fear. Joy where there had been sorrow and pain. Love where there had been hurt or hatred. What more could you ask for? The ``unusual manifestations'' paled in comparison.
As one woman spoke, I knew I needed her to pray for me. When they were through sharing, they invited people up for prayer. Someone else got to her first, so I waited. When she was free, I went and asked her to pray. She seemed unsure of praying for me by herself, but no one else was available. I assured her God had showed me she was to pray. She finally started praying, and almost immediately, she was praying explicitly for the things I had been praying about or dealing with for years. I mean, stuff nobody in that room knew.
I can only describe it as if I'd been in a dark, gloomy castle dungeon, and suddenly the roof was ripped off, the walls fell down, and sunshine and spring winds laden with honeysuckle blew in. At some point, some guy came over and joined in the prayer, and eventually left. Maybe others, I'm not really sure. She prayed for me for 10 or 15 minutes, and then I laid down on the stage, and it was like I was laying outside on a beautiful day, as a kid, in soft grass on a hillside, with my Dad, and we just talked. I asked questions, and He answered. He asked, and I answered. we just talked for - I don't know - 15 minutes? An hour? And it was wonderful.
I left a lot of baggage on that hillside. A lot of things now made sense. I understood why I'd had some problems I'd had, and simply understanding them assured their defeat. Others were simply gone. Others would require a fight, but I knew what to fight and how.
A prime example was anger. I can get angry really easily and explode. I'd been trying to deal with that. But now I had more insight into why I behaved that way, and how to deal with it.
The biggest thing of all, though, was that I was back in a relationship with God as Dad, not just Father. I knew better, but somehow I'd lost that. And that relationship was the single biggest thing that I had been needing.
This has affected lots of things. Prayer time is no longer necessarily a time of thanks and questions and answers or any of the usual stuff. Sometimes it's just being with Him. Those are the best times possible.
It's also impacted how I view my relationship with my wife and kids, my church, work, neighbors, etc. They just need time with me sometimes, no agenda, just time. And unconditional love.
I didn't bark or growl, or anything like that. (I used to howl a lot in my heathen days, but God hasn't seen any need for me to do that now, I guess. 8^) I laugh or cry more easily now than before. I look more deeply at life than before. I take things more seriously (when they need to be taken seriously) than before, but still laugh a lot.
I've seen others at church changed by this experience as well. In every case, it was a deeper relationship with God, a deeper love and longing for Him. I have heard that a couple of people did make strange noises, but no stranger than some of the sounds our furnace and plumbing make, and nobody accuses them of being evil.
I can only judge by the fruit of a thing, not outward appearances. I have no desire to make animal noises in worship, but I figure there are a lot of people out there with a lot of problems, and God meets each need in the right way. If some tiny percentage of people need to sound like dogs or cats or lions or pigs or snails or whatever, why do I care? If God should decide we all need to do this, why should I care?
All I know is, I was a slave, and I got set free. I'm going to argue with the guy who set me free?