My first exposure to religion was as a young child. At the age of 5, I was baptized into The First Congregational Church in Brewer, Maine. For all those not familiar with the Congregational Church, a quick history lesson should refresh your memory. Does the word Puritan mean anything to you? It was a quaint church overlooking the Penobscot River. The beautiful stain glass windows illuminated the interior as the morning sun rose in the sky. I went to church with my family on Sundays, sat quietly and very still on the pew mimicking what the others did when they did it, yet I can't remember a word of what was ever preached in that church. My only memory is the feeling that there was more to it than what I was being told. I wanted to be touched by the real hand of God, but somehow, I always eluded His omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent grasp.

By the time I was 11, often, I walked to church alone or with my best friend, Margie who I asked to accompany me after she'd spend the night at my house. Her mother was dying from Hodgkin's disease, so she sought comfort elsewhere during that time in her life. My door was always open and I welcomed her companionship (and still do after all these years). One Wednesday night she asked me to go to church with her. But it was Wednesday...who goes to church on Wednesday? I soon found out. The Baptist preacher bellowed from the pulpit condemning all sinners to burn eternally in the flames of Hell. As he spoke and thumped his fist on the pulpit to drive home his words, I was certain he was speaking to me personally. I was doomed to burn in Hell if I didn't seek out Salvation, so when my friend asked me to attend Bible camp with her during that summer, I eagerly accepted. Maybe God would reveal himself to me at Bible camp.

We met in old army style tents outside a host church on Eddington Pond for various daily religious classes and activities. Each day, we were expected to memorize a new Bible verse. When that feat wasn't accomplished, off the person went to see the preacher. They always would return subdued and extremely repentant. When they upped memorizing the verses from 1 to 2, I panicked. I had trouble focusing and remembering the words. So naturally, I froze when I was asked to stand and recite my verses. My mind went blank and the interior of the large tent seemed darker and filled with impending doom. I felt true shame as I walked to the preacher’s office inside the church. I remember my long, slender legs shaking and feeling weak as I entered his office after knocking. I stood before him looking down at the floor.

At first, he spoke softly, and I lifted my eyes to meet his. He peered into my soul and I shivered. He stood and walked around me, then laid his hand on the back of my head. I trembled as he prayed for me and it seemed my fear ignited something in him. His voice slowly became louder and louder until it filled the whole room. I was a sinner and without a doubt, I was going to burn in Hell for all eternity.

As the tears ran down my face, I was instructed to kneel. I felt almost relieved to stop standing. My legs were weak and trembling. I cried and prayed and asked God's forgiveness. My pleading was frantic. I asked God to enter me and fill me with His Spirit. I truly wanted His Grace, but the only grace I would receive that day was being bent over a desk and being told to bare myself. As the pastor spanked my bare bottom, his voice trembled as he prayed for me. Each time his hand met my flesh, it lingered for a moment. When he finally stopped, he stood behind me while I repeated the verses.

I could feel the intensity of his eyes gazing down upon me. Each time he said, "say them again," his voice trembled, and his breathing quickened. Suddenly, his voice changed and the words that came from him were ones I had never heard before. He was speaking in some foreign language I didn’t understand. And then silence. It was finally over! By the time I covered my bare bottom, my skin was so tender it hurt to have the fabric of my panties brush across my bottom.

As I walked back to the tent, the realization filled me that something had just happened, but I wasn’t quite sure what that something was. Did God finally “touch” me? Had I finally received His Grace? It wasn't until many years later when I awoke screaming from a nightmare that I realized what had happened that day and I wondered how many others like me had been filled with the good pastor’s Spirit of God.

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