Beyond The Height’s of Half Dome
If you have hiked around the panorama of Yosemite’s celebrated feature, Half Dome, you could easily assume there was no greater experience on earth. There is, however, something pouring from beyond the distant galaxies into the most important parts of the earth that will bring majesty to the entire planet.
Ode to Half Dome
“I came to see the place where God contempteth all the
And Heaven’s hosts go climbing there concealed within the cloud.
While little men get photographed in suits beneath this
And tourists talk in other tongues ‘bout just the moment’s thrill.
I saw you there in forest green. You peered from grey
And Heaven’s hosts go climbing there concealed within the cloud.”
This is my shortest poem, but a favorite first copyrighted and written in 1990 by David C. W. Prather. It may not be reproduced or used without full credit given to the author.
I want to dedicate this article on other tongues to my precious daughter and accomplished photo journalist: Selah. I love you!
I get a little high just recalling dinner with loved ones at Yosemite’s amazing Ahwahnee Hotel. John Muir, minister, environmentalist, and writer raised public awareness and saved what may be America’s greatest natural treasure: Yosemite National Park. To me, the hotel which has views of Upper Yosemite Falls, Half Dome and Glacier Point is magical and it doesn’t hurt to have wild deer that want to eat out of your hand, however, feeding them is not advised. Psalms tells us that God fills our mouths with good things to eat and I found the restaurant staff very willing to accommodate my vegetarian needs with sprinkles of wonderment. The restaurant will also most graciously prepare great vegan food if you desire.
Half Dome is awe inspiring, but there is something higher than even the towering ethers of that great rock, and that is knowing Jesus Christ and His Baptism experientially. His Baptism, if you have never had it is called, not water baptism but Spirit Baptism: The Baptism of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 3:11)
Let me back up and spin you a story that fills my heart with great joy just to tell it again. It is about one of my modern day miracles that can happen to you just as easily and simply as it did me. That extraordinary thing is called the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and speaking in other tongues. As I honor the Miwok Indians who once protected the Yosemite, walk with me while I tell you about my conversion and an ongoing transformational experience that has changed my life from hell to heaven right here in a time called the present. And this present, the gift of the Holy Spirit, is nothing less than God, living in you. Perhaps, you may have, on some level thought it would be nice to know God personally and God wants to facilitate that intimacy more than you can imagine. Your Creator’s own word says He will give the Holy Spirit to all who ask for it. God goes so far as to say, if His anointing and anointed One does not come alive in us, we cannot be manifested as His offspring.
Prior to puberty, Art Nellis, who called himself a lay minister with the Wesleyan Methodist Church began preaching at a one room country school house my grandfather John paid to have built. Nellis loved Dwight L. Moody, and was very basic in his Bible teaching. One day he asked if any of us young people wanted to receive Jesus Christ as their personal savior. I did and it temporarily changed my life. I felt very privileged to know that God was really “there,” and accessible. Not more than a few months after receiving Christ, I unknowingly had an encounter with the devil. Like I did then, are you now saying, “I suppose there must be a God but it is absurd to believe there is a literal devil?” Well that is just what I believed! And Satan took full advantage of my ignorance. (If there was no devil, Jesus would possibly remain unknown to us, for the scripture records, “Christ was manifested to destroy the works of the devil.” 1stJohn 3:8)
At the time I encountered the most camouflaged one, I only thought I was having a conversation with myself. It went like this. “David, you are so blessed because you are the only kid in your neighborhood who genuinely knows that there is a God. That is the cake! Now all you need is the sexiest girl you can find on your arm and lots of money, and to really be somebody!” He said, “Wouldn’t this just be the icing on the cake?” Immediately, I bought my first Playboy magazine so I could discover what the sexiest girls looked like, left town as soon as I graduated and quickly jumped into the rat race to grab the biggest piece of cheese I could make my way to. The moment I listened to that little devil, God disappeared from my consciousness and my life. By the time I was 25, I was in a living hell and reproducing that in the world, in spite of my best intentions! But all of that was about to change with one heart beat and the response of my tongue.
My girlfriend and I had been traveling around America until we got to Eureka, California. There we discovered the amazing Coast Redwoods: God-made cathedrals like Rome and Paris can only dream about! Eureka was scheduled to be a few days layover for my girlfriend to visit a cousin. What I did not know is that about 500 believers in another state had just begun praying for me, contrary to my wishes. Suddenly, I encountered being funneled at midnight into this small little Christian Commune of about ten people which was part of a larger and rapidly growing ministry led by Jim Durkin Sr. Jesus “was just alright,” in my book, but I hated so-called Christians and circumstances alone had caused me to deviate from my chosen course for one night…or so I thought.
Sharon and I were not the only ones who came to the Clark and B store front church as we had that late rainy night. We discovered that college students and gypsies were being mysteriously drawn there to that obscure building. Many claimed they saw a light in the sky attracting them off the hitchhike heaven running up the coast and tying into all those other arteries pumping the new blood of a new generation which was running to and fro through the earth.
We spent the night and I awakened to glorious singing at 6am. From my perspective, the world, environmentally, militarily, sexually, politically, and many other ways was going to hell in a hand basket. I was ready to give whoever put that loud record on at 6am a piece of my mind! Walking into the main common room, I was surprised to encounter a dozen or so smiling faces, praising God for all his blessing He had bestowed upon them. Back then, I don’t know if the word “vegan” had been invented, but these people invited me to eat with them: lumpy powdered milk and lumpier white rice! Not my favorite and coupled with their enthusiasm and smiles, enough to conclude they were both nuts and some kind of holy people.
A young woman named Kathy and her soon to be husband pleaded with me to join the breakfast, but I felt too unclean and unholy to do so, and would have to have ordered in some Chinese food. I gratefully refused their offer and sat on a couch like a mannequin. Before long Kathy the young devotee to Jesus Christ came over, got right in my face and asked, “Is Jesus Christ your Lord?” Suddenly I remembered the New Testament in my shirt pocket that I occasionally read if I was straight enough and bored enough. I did my best to look back into her focused eyes and replied with a hopefully convincing and loud, “Yes.”
Fifteen minutes had elapsed before she, can I say, confronted me again. This time she got down on one knee and looked a hole right through me asking again, “Is Jesus really your Lord?” This time I was clearly annoyed and convicted. I strongly declared, “Yes,” as I abruptly left her still kneeling and exited the several story high building. God speaks to all those who are following Him regularly in that internal “still small voice,” but I cannot say that I have ever heard an external voice of God speaking to me. But in this moment I am speaking about, the Almighty might as well have been sitting on the roof with a huge megaphone and He only shouted one word to me: “Liar!”
Recovering from the realization that my Testament in pocket and my confession wasn’t fooling Him and the effect of the power of His voice on my psyche, I pondered, almost paralyzed what my next thought or action should be. Instantly I received the revelation of that time long ago when satan had that little conversation with me that had totally deceived me and drawn me away from God for a decade or more. I understood all the hell I had both experienced and created for others was the direct result of that falling away and I whispered, “Lord Jesus, forgive me!” In the twinkling of an eye, the Holy Spirit, whom I knew close to nothing about, filled me. All words are inadequate here, but I might describe the experience this way. I felt like a lamp that wanted many times in the past to shine so badly, which now with no doing of my own was suddenly filled with the purest of oil and lighted. I went, in that moment from hating Christians to loving all those who are pure in heart, and desiring to read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, before lunch.
From that hour on, awareness began to seep onto the reflective waters of my mind until I saw clearly that an upcoming event in my life would be baptism. Being British, I recalled my mother telling me that I was sprinkled in the Anglican tradition as a baby, but now knowing from my devouring of the word of God that Christ’s adherents first believed and then were baptized, I joyfully anticipated being “dunked.”
The Lighthouse Ranch, on Table Bluff, was rapidly becoming the most populated part of the Lord’s ministry through Jim Durkin and the many members of that part of Christ’s one body. Whenever I had the opportunity I would join a van pool of brothers and sisters to go out there for fellowship and some exhilarating views of the ocean at its picturesque best. The resident believers there soon grew into hundreds of sold out followers of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. To meet the housing needs of the great influx of the newly reborn, a big lighthouse was honeycombed with scaffolding and miniature rooms big enough to accommodate a foam mattress, a sleeping bag, a couple of suit cases, several Bible translations and a Strong’s Concordance. The bottom of the tower was kept open for snacks and fellowship. I enjoyed so many of the young converts and leaders there and would spend hours conversing with and listening to them.
One Day, I was talking with my loud preaching voice to a friend as we entered the lighthouse. As we shut the door, several people whispered that we should hush. I retaliated with my whispered question, “What’s going on,” before I noticed a tiny group sitting cross-legged on the floor and a minister standing near them. Someone responded to my query with, a point towards the group and another whisper, “They are going to get baptized.” I tiptoed over to the young minister and asked, “Could I be baptized, too?” I had held this moment in my heart for the several prior months. I knew God had this on His agenda and it was just a matter of His timing. I doubted that Baptism would be more than some words and walking down the hundred stair steps to the thundering waves of the Pacific. I felt I must be baptized simply because it was a requirement for all God’s children and I wasn’t about to be left out! I knew the water might be cold and I hadn’t brought a change of clothing, but I was relentless.
A few minutes after I joined the small circle, the minister read half a dozen scriptures and asked us all to maintain an attitude of prayer. He read where John baptized with water, but Jesus had promised to baptize His followers with “the Holy Spirit and with fire.” I don’t know what the others sensed, but all I heard in the silence was a strong but gentle wind all around me. I don’t know if the others felt it, but they all got what God calls the “promise of the Father” in Acts 1:4, which is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
The leader had put his hands on each of us and said receive the Holy Ghost and begin to speak in other tongues in that heavenly language as the Spirit gives you utterance. One by one, we began speaking and I kept my eyes closed just savoring the moment because it was so rich. I forgot all about my preconception of heading down to the beach. I remember speaking some words that sounded like so much gibberish to me and thinking, this can’t be what they called a heavenly or prayer language. It was just some sounds. I decided to “hang in there,” for a little bit and see what would happen. It seems like I sat praying for about half an hour and I was amazed to listen to several distinct dialects coming forth as I spoke in a long, easy and comfortable flow. When I tried to stand, I realized I was so spiritually stoned that I felt like someone “too drunk to drive,” but while I hate to be drunk, I was loving the feeling that Heaven had just wrapped itself around me.
It would be months later before I would get water baptized, but God had already given me something far more valuable than mortal life itself. I’ll pick up here next time with some angelic encounters and very orthodox teaching on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit that will precisely explain “other tongues.” The understanding you gain from this critical exegesis of God’s word will clear up many questions and totally bless your life.
Peace and love: God with your spirit,
P.S. If you plan to go on one more trip to see God’s creation check out Yosemite and California’s coast redwoods. The giant Sequoia’s in Yosemite National Park and the coast redwoods are two things you should not fail to see before you leave this earth.