I was scared of the Holy Spirit for a large portion of my life.

Scared.

Fearful.

Even terrified.

It couldn’t have helped that the name for the Spirit I heard was “The Holy Ghost.” As a child, I had this vision of a ghost, not nearly as friendly as Casper, who could come and go through the walls of my house, checking on me. For a time, I was sure that it was the Holy Ghost who reported to Santa about who had been naughty and nice.

Ghosts, holy or not, were not to be trusted and should be avoided.

As a high school and college student, I was taught that the Holy Spirit played a part in the early church and in the work of the writers of the New Testament, but that the Holy Spirit did not work in the miraculous ways we saw in Scripture anymore. That was something that “died out” with the first apostles. As the concept was presented, the Holy Spirit’s place was on the pages of Scripture, and since I thought the Holy Spirit was dead, the ghost thing sort of fit with the dead part.

The problem was that when I read the Bible, I kept running across passages about the Spirit that didn’t jive with these explanations. I read about the fruits of the Spirit. I read about the gifts of the Spirit. I read about the Spirit’s work in the body of believers. There were significant clues that the Spirit might not be dead.

And when I looked around at God’s people, I learned to recognize the work of the Spirit in flesh and blood people.  I learned to see the miraculous work of the Spirit to create community, to bring healing, to transform lives, to produce fruit in my friends and family –

The love for the church God has given Josh Graves.

The joy that oozes out of Nola Cucheran, who chooses joy despite the daily challenges of Multiple Sclerosis.

The peace that filled Patrick Muto, as he suffered and died as a victim of AIDS.

The patience in Mike and Diane Cope as they nurtured their mentally-disabled daughter, Megan.

The kindness shown to my family by my neighbor, Beth Fuhrman, who is a better neighbor than I’ll ever be.

The goodness in my husband, John.  He’s a truly good person, even when no one’s looking.

The faithfulness of Ida Bazonoona, who is steadfast and faithful to God whether in faith’s valleys or on the mountaintops.

The gentleness in Jimmy Cone, whose heart is bigger than the outdoors he loves so much.

The selfcontrol in both my brothers, Troy and David Gaston, who have overcome alcoholism and chosen God and family instead of self.

God’s people live by the Spirit.

They are guided by the Spirit.

The fruit of the Spirit is tangible in them.

That’s how I know the Holy Spirit is alive and well– when I see the work of the Spirit in God’s people.

I am not so sure the Holy Spirit can even be discussed apart from the communal stories of Holy-Spirit-filled human beings. Saint Patrick helped us consider the Trinity with his shamrock. My Sunday school teacher once explained the Holy Spirit to us with an apple: the skin, the flesh, and the seeds, each distinct but a part of the whole.

But, those descriptions fail to acknowledge the human element. The Holy Spirit dwells in people!

God has given us a mysterious gift.  It’s understandable that we may experience some confusion about how to explain or teach about this mysterious presence.  The most harmful teachings about the Holy Spirit, some I described above, are those that attempt to reduce the Spirit to manageable explanations, to put the Spirit in a box, or we might even say a coffin.

The Holy Spirit is

alive

active

transforming

empowering

dwelling

enabling

gifting

leading

acting

healing . . . the page cannot hold all the verbs or all the possibilities.

I hope to spend a lifetime trying to keep in step.