Just Do It

Just Do It

I had gotten only a few hours of sleep two nights earlier. Last night I had been up all night writing a paper—procrastination, unfortunately, being my default mode for assignments. I had barely made it through the day and even through dinner, and had nearly crawled back to my room in Hanszen College, one of the residential colleges at Rice University in Houston. Finally a chance to collapse into oblivion!

Only an hour later, I was startled awake from a near-coma. Words came into my mind very clearly: “Go to the student center. Now.”


Brief background:  Two years earlier, the church I attended—Central Church of Christ in Houston—had graciously rented and furnished a former beauty parlor in the Hermann Building, just across the street from the Rice University campus, so that members of the church who attended Rice would have a quiet place not only to meet for Bible study and prayer but also for social gatherings and studying. Each of us had a key.


I ignored those words, turned over, and went back to sleep within about ten seconds. I was awakened a short time later by an extremely painful mosquito bite on my leg. I am fortunate in reacting mildly to mosquito bites. Yes, they itch, but I’m not particularly sensitive to them. This was the most painful bite I had experienced before or after that point. Once again: “GO TO THE STUDENT CENTER, NOW. JUST DO IT!” As is always the case, the words were inaudible. More often than not, such silent messages seem muddled. But on a handful of occasions—this was one of them—they have been distinct and unavoidable.

To my shame, I was then and remain to this day quite adept at ignoring the Holy Spirit when it suits me. But when he shouts, even I take notice. I grumbled in my spirit, pointing out to God that I had slept only about one hour out of the past 36, and I really needed sleep if I wanted to avoid flunking out. That elicited only silence. God’s like that—tending to speak up when we need to change course, but often remaining silent as long as we’re on a correct course. Go figure.

I stumbled over to the student center, carrying one of my reading assignments, planning to read a few pages before I flopped onto the couch to resume my sleep.

I had been there only about three minutes when Frank walked in. Frank was a freshman in Hanszen College, and a most lovely person. His upbringing had been different from what most people had experienced. He was extremely shy and socially awkward. He was a Baptist, and had no key to our student center, having been there as a guest only a handful of times. My friends and I had been talking to Frank about the present-day power of the Holy Spirit.


Brief background:  In common with nearly all “charismatics” in those days, we called what we had experienced the “baptism in the Holy Spirit.” I have no quarrel with that terminology, with the following proviso: I find no justification either in scripture or empirically to consider that new-found experience, even if it is a quantum jump in one’s relationship with God (as I found), as something separate from the gift of the Holy Spirit that God bestows on all who bow the knee to Jesus. It subjectively seemed to be a “second blessing,” to use nineteenth-century revivalist terminology, but in my understanding that’s not because God does something new for certain individuals that he hasn’t done for others—rather, those individuals suddenly realize that there’s so much more available to them, and they open themselves to the Holy Spirit in a new way, saying, as it were, “Give me all you’ve got.” And that’s a LOT! Please don’t be put off by any differences of opinion concerning terminology.


 As was common with Frank, he ran off at the mouth for awhile, talking tangentially about all sorts of things. But then he said he wanted to tell me the real reason he was there.

He had been thinking and praying about the Holy Spirit. He could find no compelling reason to doubt what I and others had been telling him. But (as I experienced, and nearly everyone else I knew had experienced), he couldn’t bring himself to believe that, even if our claims were true, it could ever be true for him.

So he had begun walking around campus, praying. Finally, he summoned the courage to ask God for a sign: “God, if what these people have been telling me about the Holy Spirit is true, if your power and gifts really are available for us today, have something fall onto my head.” (Hey—I’m not making this up. Don’t ask me to justify Frank’s strange request. I’m just reporting what he told me! Remember—he was weird in an adorable sort of way.)

Immediately a drop of water fell onto his head from one of the zillions of humongous live oak trees that populated the campus. (It had rained a day before, and the trees still retained a bit of water).

“Come on!” he said. “That easily could have been a coincidence—water drips from the trees all the time!”

Immediately an acorn fell directly onto his head.

“OK, God, that was sort of cool, but it’s still easily explained by coincidence. If all this Holy Spirit stuff is really true, please have a ‘one-eye’ come down the street toward me.” (That was Frank’s terminology, he told me, for a car with one burned-out headlight; it should be noted that it was midevening, and Rice’s campus was isolated from city traffic, so he would have seen very few vehicles of any description.)

Within a few seconds, he saw a single headlight coming toward him.

It was a motorcycle.

“That’s no fair! I meant a car with only one headlight!” And within a few seconds he saw a car heading toward him, one headlight missing.

“OK, God, I don’t want to get this wrong. I’m really scared here. All these things could have been coincidences. I’m going to walk over to the Church of Christ student office. And if all this stuff is true, and the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit are in fact available today, I want Brian to be there.”

So he came in the door, and I was (just barely) there in all my somnolence.

He admitted later that that really spooked him. It was beginning to look serious!

But he was still skeptical.

(Dear, sweet Frank! I am pretty sure that God would not have been so gentle and indulgent with most people. But Frank was horribly fearful and introverted in an extroverted kind of way—you’d just have to have known him! And his social experiences/predilections were off-the-charts different from those of anyone else I’ve known; he told me shortly after this incident, for example, that he had never held a kitten or a cat. He was fragile, innocent, and also dedicated to doing what was right. He had a pure heart.)

So there we were in the tiny Church of Christ student center. Just as Frank was completing the tale I reported above, the Holy Spirit spoke to me: “Ask Frank if you can pray with him to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit.”

Now it was my time to fret! I had become so turned off with typical charismatic/Pentecostal manipulative tactics that, in the half year or so since I had discovered the present-day power of the Holy Spirit, it never would have entered my mind to ask someone if they desired to surrender to the absolute Lordship of Jesus and the power of his Spirit. I firmly believed, and still believe, that God is quite capable of doing his work without my being manipulative. I had never asked anyone such a question up to that point; and although my memory is poor, I think I haven’t asked anyone since then. I had a rule about that: Make yourself completely available if someone asks you to pray with them, but in no way be pushy in asking them if you can pray with them. It was a firm rule.

And I reminded the Holy Spirit about that rule.

And he replied that he didn’t care about my rule, even though it was a nice rule. “Just do it!

So I gritted my teeth and managed to squeeze out some kind of awkward query about whether Frank might want to pray right now to open himself to the totality of whatever Jesus had for him. I even apologized for asking, explaining that I had a general policy against asking people that question. . .

Frank laughed! He said that, still remaining skeptical of this whole business, he had been silently praying in the previous minute or so: “All right, Lord, if this is all real and you do have a new level of life for me through the Holy Spirit, and if you want me to open myself to you for this gift right now, have Brian ask if he can pray with me.”

So I did. And Frank did. And the Holy Spirit did.

His life was totally transformed. I’ve never seen anyone blossom and shine more than Frank in the months following that night. God is faithful. And God is gentle. At least when he needs to be.



Frank was unique. There are a number of “Frank stories” worth sharing. They may appear in other documents on this website. But to his honor I want to share this one. (I don’t know—I wonder if Frank’s daughters were ever aware of this?)

Frank died of colon cancer in 1992. Between the story given above and the events of this final anecdote, he had gotten a Ph.D. in computational linguistics, had become a professor at the University of Campinas in Sao Paulo, had married an amazing woman who was also a scholar, fathered two wonderful daughters, and moved to Fort Worth, Texas. And been stricken with cancer.

My last encounter with Frank was in his Fort Worth home, where he was on his death bed and in a lot of pain. The illness had been quite a financial as well as a physical burden. At that time, my family was in financial straits. Our kids had even qualified for free lunches at school. We were at the nadir of our financial journey. Somehow that information leaked out during Frank’s and my wide-ranging conversation.

As I rose to take my leave, Frank told me to wait a couple of minutes. Then he wrote me a check for $500. I was touched as deeply as I’ve ever been by anyone’s act of kindness, but I explained that it was ludicrous of me to accept the check, that his own family was having financial difficulties, etc., etc. But Frank would have none of it. He insisted that it was a great source of joy for him to do this for us. God also whispered into my mind, “Accept it. It’s a greater blessing for him and his family than it is for you.” So, with tears falling down my cheeks, I put the check in my shirt pocket. And I hugged him and kissed his cheek and told him that I loved him and said good-bye.

But only for awhile.