This is a blog that I didn’t intend to write. In fact, my entire Saturday was an attempt to explore something for my mom and my aunt. It ended up being a situation where I have no choice but to say I experienced a pure miracle of God.
Yes. I, a journalist, a seeker of truth, a debunker of lies, have to admit that I have experienced something of God that I cannot explain in any other way than to say it hits the dictionary definition of a miracle.
Let me start at the beginning.
Last Thursday my mother sent me a few links to a story that she had been told about by her sister, my aunt. The story was about a Bible that belonged to man in Georgia that in January began to drip oil. The Bible was connected with a group of believers who have a prayer room in the back of a Christian gift shop…and that prayer room was supposed to have oil running down the walls. My mother and my aunt are both believers in God, so they were open to the idea that something like this could happen was not something they would immediately deny. However, they also have seen over the years many different charlatans that try to take advantage of people of faith with scams…like a Bible that drips with oil.
My mom immediately says to her sister…you know, my son the Christian and journalist lives in Nashville which is less than four hours from the church where the Bible is located for revival and healing services. He likes to spend his Saturdays in his Prius driving hundreds of miles to take pictures. He would probably be more than happy to go check this out.
Yes, I am a Christian, as long time readers of this blog know. However, as both a journalist and a Christian, I’m highly bothered by those who try to manipulate the faithful for their personal gain. Those who go out of their way to con people who are seeking God only to find someone taking them for their life’s savings. When I get the chance to expose those people, I leap at it. I’ve had complaints over the years from people who say that I shouldn’t publicly expose frauds because it’s not the Christian thing to do; I counter God put me into the job that He placed me in and gave me the mind that I have for seeing through fakes.
So, with the faith and hope it was real but the knowledge that I could be walking into a con game, I took off Saturday morning (after a very bizarre dream the night before that I will share later) for Douglasville, Georgia to see this Bible that apparently flows with oil.
While I was driving down Interstate 24, music blasting at a notch or two below full volume, I realized that my GPS’s path was going to take me through Dalton, Georgia. Dalton is the home of Grace 251, the gift shop where the healing oil is alleged to flow down the walls of their prayer room. I thought that I might as well stop there and check out the prayer room if they were open on Saturday.
According to Facebook, they were open 10am to 2pm on Saturday.
I arrived at the shop to find it dark. I could see the prayer room in the back of the shop but obviously I can’t see within from outside to see if there is oil seeping from the walls.
Disappointed, I thought I’d punch “vinyl records” into my Yelp app to see if there were any stores in Dalton that sell records. (If you aren’t a regular reader, I collect vinyl records.) After a quick glance at the records showed they were horrendously over-priced, I fled back to the parking lot with the intent of heading further south.
Then that little quiet voice in my head. “Call and see if they’re open.”
I called. Susan, the owner, had just opened up the store for a repairman who is fixing their floor. She told me to “come on over.”
I’ll say this: you can feel a peaceful air inside that shop when you walk in. I realized that involuntarily took a huge, deep breath when I walked in. It’s not that it smelled like perfume or candles…but I had that feeling you get when you can finally relax and you take that deep breath to rid yourself of stress. It felt nice.
The shop itself is very interesting. They have a wide variety of hand-made Christian subject paintings and crafts. Plenty of paintings of scriptures with what appears to be reclaimed barnwood used as the frames. More than a few items caught my end and if I actually had that elusive thing called “discretionary income” I would have snatched up a few pieces for my apartment.
In the back of the shop was the prayer room that was the main reason why I stopped at the shop.
Susan (the owner) went in and turned on the lights and invited me to spend as much time in the room as I wished to spend. After a visit to the restroom (hey, I’d been on the road for a few hours, OK?) I examined the walls where I could see oil residue but no actively flowing oil. I squished into the couch in the room (very comfy) and spent some time in prayer.
I’d been praying for about 20 minutes when Susan came in with the man who had been working on the floor of the shop. He had brought his wife into the shop and Susan wanted to share some “God stories.”
She finished over two hours later of stories connected to the shop, the prayer room, the Bible and the oil.
I kept waiting for something that I knew was a crutch for folks who are trying to pull a fast one on believers.
Those things never appeared.
Susan never once tried to sell us something that she had in the store. She said they never charge for the oil and shared stories of times people tried to buy it from her or trade items for it and they refused everything because they felt led to give it away.
She had no personal profit at all for sitting there for two hours telling me stories.
After the repairman and his wife left, Susan and I spent another 45 minutes talking back and forth about me, what I do and what I was doing that day. She was surprised to find out I was a journalist and working for a national radio network, saying that she wouldn’t have wasted hours of my time with all those stories. I laughed and told her those stories were the very reason I had stopped at her shop and that I couldn’t have asked for more from my time at her shop.
Now, as I was preparing to leave and after prayer, she examined the walls for flowing oil. None.
Now, for the sake of full disclosure, Susan did give me a little gift for myself and my two sons as I was leaving the shop. Little knick knacks she said should remind us every time we see them that God is with us and always on our side. These gifts didn’t change my mind about my experience at Grace 251.
I believe her.
I walked to my car thinking that despite my not seeing oil flowing down the walls, only seeing trails that were obviously an oil of some kind that had traveled down the walls, I believe Susan’s stories about what took place in that room.
I called my mom after I left to report what I had experienced and most of the stories that Susan had shared with me.
I noted to mom that perhaps God didn’t have the oil flow because I was there as a journalist examining the prayer room. If there was oil that started to flow, well, Mr. Journalist would say “case closed, it’s proven” and there would be no need for myself as Christian to have faith that God was really working inside that little room in Dalton, Georgia.
After a quick pit stop for the men’s room, a sandwich, a Mountain Dew Code Red and some gas for my best mechanical friend, I was off for the church where the flowing Bible was waiting for me.
The trip involved a long series of back roads. Again, to be completely transparent, I was a little bummed out I had to rush to get to the church for service time and wasn’t able to stop and take photos of some of the things I saw along the way. Perhaps a long weekend trip through that part of rural Georgia needs to be added to my To Do List.
I arrived at the church about 20 minutes before the scheduled service time.
I walked in and oddly not a single member of the church greeted me or even smiled in my direction. You would have thought I was invisible (which, given my current I-need-to-lose-100-pounds state, would have been a miracle in itself). I walked down to the front of the church and examined the container that was holding the bible. Thinking that something might happen during the service itself where oil could start flowing (thus the pastor claiming a miracle) I closely examined the container for hidden tubes or any kind of apparatus that could create a “miracle of flowing oil”.
Nothing. It was just your run of the mill Wal*Mart level plastic tub.
So I looked closely at the Bible itself. Remember, this is supposed to have been submerged in oil for the last 9+ months. The pages were not frayed. The cover was still intact and the binding was still obviously solid. It didn’t curl up like a lot of books do when you have them in a liquid for any significant amount of time. I couldn’t explain why the Bible was in such great condition, but as that I don’t have time to put a Bible in a vat of oil for 9 months to compare, I’ll just say it’s unexplainable but I couldn’t really say I debunked anything connected to it.
Again, for transparency, it bothered me that I sat at the church for 20 minutes before the service started without a single church member greeting me or even acknowledging they had a visitor in their midst. Right before service I shamed a guy into a half-hearted handshake by staring at him until he made eye contact and then sheepishly moved in my direction.
The service also disappointed me as it started. The worship team just appeared to be putting on a show and going through the motions. I wasn’t ready for what happened next.
The evangelist invited in for the special services climbed onto the stage and rebuked the band and the congregation for “going through the motions”. He said people weren’t really worshipping God and they need to get their heads on straight. I wanted to run up and high five the guy.
The band re-started with the worship leader not out front doing his “I’m a worship leader for Hillsong” act but just back with the other singers. While he was doing that, I could feel the Spirit moving strongly through the building. The best way to describe it is that I felt a feeling of electricity flowing as if I was in some kind of convection oven. A cyclical feeling of power moving throughout the room.
And when the worship leader stepped back out and started the stereotypical stage motions…the feeling ended and didn’t come back the rest of the worship.
The evangelist’s message was dead-on and I wished he had been preaching to 1,000 American churches instead of one. The lesson was basically that we need to get out in the world and make a difference rather than hiding inside church walls waiting for the world to come to us. In other words, my view on faith. See a hungry guy? Feed him. See a single mom who can’t pay her electric bill? Pay the bill. Don’t demand they attend your church if you do it. Just see a need, fill a need and reflect Jesus. The evangelist was right on the mark in my opinion.
Then prayer time started with people dipping their fingers in the Bible oil and praying for each other. I could see people who were “slain in the spirit” being slowly lowered to the floor and covered in a sheet. I saw this lovely girl who had Down’s Syndrome being prayed over who was “slain” that laid down on the floor and they covered her up. She laid there looking around at people, clearly aware of what was going on, but just laid there. I couldn’t help but think of my son Eli doing the same thing. I prayed for her and the innocence of her faith. Just her sweet presence touched my heart.
This is the moment where the dream I had the previously suddenly came into clear relief. The dream was me, in a church that looked a LOT like the one I was standing in (which I had never seen before) looking at the Bible in its container. I walked up, placed both hands into the oil and then rubbed it all over my head and neck and arms. Only one dip in the oil; the oil then completely rubbed in like a lotion. In my dream, the moment I finished I woke up. I then remember thinking “that’s weird…but I wonder if I should do that.”
I found myself standing only ten feet from the Bible and oil. No one between me and it. Also, no one doing more than dipping a finger or two into the oil.
It was at that moment the words of Johnny, the evangelist, rang into my head. “My audience is God, not man. I don’t care if you think I’m crazy.”
I said to myself, OK, if this dream was God telling me to do this, I’m going to do it.
So I walked up and I dipped my hands into the oil. Not deeply…I put them in flat, palms down, and just enough that it covered the back of my hands. I pulled them up and watched the excess oil dripping back off into the tub. Again, no one around me, which I kind of thought was weird in that you’d think security would be watching the Bible.
I then rubbed the oil over my head, face, neck and arms like in the dream. Rubbed that stuff in. Rubbed a lot because it was really slick compared to other “prayer oil” I have experienced in my past.
So after I rubbed it in, so that while my skin was oily it wasn’t “wet” or running, I still had a nice glow like I was in some kind of TV commercials for a skin care product. My hair never looked so good. I wiped off my hands, wiped down my hair and head and kept rubbing my arms just out of habit.
It was then I noticed wetness running down my neck.
I reached back and the back of my neck was drenched in oil. I wiped it off, wiped my hands and then began to feel around my head because it seemed very weird to me that I would miss a spot big enough to make my neck that wet.
My hair…nope. My scalp really felt dry to the touch. Face, just oily. Cheeks? No. Rubbed my neck again…nothing new.
Then I touched my ears. The outside of my ears? Just a little oily.
Behind my ears? Sopping wet.
I mean, running down my neck again wet.
I put my fingers to the back of my ears and when I pulled them away they were sopping wet and dripping with oil.
I thought it odd…that I had to have missed my ears somehow when wiping off the oil.
So I wiped it off. Wiped off my hands. Wiped off my neck.
Seconds later…running down my neck again.
Put my hands to the back of my ears…dripping wet.
The space behind my earlobe, right at the bottom edge of my ear, was almost running like a fountain of oil. It was running out like an old lamp my grandparents owned in the 1970s/1980s where you would have oil running down little pieces of fishing line to make it look like it was raining.
At this point, I knew something was happening that wasn’t natural. The awe of God doing a miraculous thing to me started to fall on me hard.
Oddly, at the same time, I was hit with another thought: “you wanted a chance to try and debunk this for your mom, your aunt and everyone else. OK Mr. Journalist, debunk it.”
So I ran to the bathroom and grabbed handfuls of paper towels. I scrubbed my hair, my face, my arms, my neck, my ears. You name it, I scrubbed it. Hard. My skin was red. A few scabs came undone and bled a bit. There was absolutely no way that I had any excess oil on my skin in any way after that moment.
And what happened next was something like you see in movies and laugh at because it’s played for comedic effect by a Hollywood that dismisses faith.
The moment the last paper towel hit the trash can, I felt oil on my neck.
And I put my hands to the back of my ears and the oil was flowing again.
It. Just. Kept. Coming.
I walked around the church just stunned. I kept trying to try to think of ways to disprove what was happening to me because this isn’t logical.
Finally, it was getting close to an hour and I knew I had to get on the road to get home. I don’t mind a drive, but three and a half hours when I was already up for 16 hours was a bit of a daunting prospect for me.
Yet the oil kept on flowing. I stood laughing with a guy in the foyer of the church who said “yeah, that kind of stuff just seems to happen around here.”
I walked to my car, paper towels in hand, and started out for home.
The oil was still flowing when I called my mom and floored her and my dad with the story.
As I drove further away from the church and the Bible, the oil began to slow. Around 30 minutes after I left the church, it had stopped and my ears were just oily like the rest of my head, neck and arms.
Now, for disclosure, I did experience some other things spiritually that I want to keep to myself because they’re personal. If that makes you think less of me, so be it, but I will state they have nothing to do with what I’ve reported to you here in terms of the oil and how it flowed from the back of my ears.
I will add this…my hearing has significantly improved.
I like my loud music. I’m a child of the heavy metal 80s. I’m a drummer. I’ve been in rock bands. My car’s system has a digital output that maxes out at 62 on the volume dial. I usually keep it between 55-60 when I’m out cruising down the highway because as the band Kiss once said, “I love it loud.”
When I turned on my stereo after some phone calls, it HURT.
The volume hurt my ears to the point I had to turn it back off.
The entire way home…with the car window down so the sound of the highway, trucks passing, etc. was filtering in…my stereo couldn’t go above 40 without it beginning to hurt my ears.
That continued this morning on the way to church.
It continued tonight as I drove to a little park area to type up this blog since it was a beautiful fall day and I didn’t want to spend the afternoon/evening inside writing this blog.
So bottom line? I cannot explain what happened to me. All I know is that I experienced it. I tried everything I could think of to debunk what was happening to me. I couldn’t do it.
Why the back of my ears? I don’t know. Why not in the inside of my ears? I don’t know. Why is my hearing more sensitive than before this incident? I don’t know.
All I know is this journalist is still being blown away by what happened and the fact I cannot disprove an incident that the dictionary describes as a “miracle”.
In closing, I know that those of you who completely refuse the idea that God can do something like bring oil from a Bible or multiply healing oil on someone’s skin will likely dismiss this and/or try to impugn my credibility as a journalist. Those who hate God likely will just say I’m some kook pushing a conspiracy theory. That’s fine, I completely understand why you would feel that way. Just know I’m not here to convert you with this story. I’m just reporting what happened to be as honestly and completely as I possibly can do. I did this for my mom and my aunt to put their minds at ease one way or another over the Bible that flows with oil.
And I can say, as a journalist, I experienced the textbook definition of a miracle on Saturday, October 21, 2017, with the oil that flows out of a Bible.