Dena McKnight was old school Pentecostal. She only read the King James Bible, “not because it is the best translation”, she would say to me, “but because it’s what I grew up with and It’s the language of my faith.” She liked coffee as much as me and was in her second marriage with Ron McKnight, a jovial guy with big smiling eyes. She hired me in May to stock books, help customers, and keep the music in order at the Good News Bible and Book Store. Her ulterior motive was to give me a boost and help me grow in my new found faith. Dena is a saint.
In the mornings before the shop opened up, sitting on the musty floor with a book in one hand, munching poppy seed muffins and drinking stiff black coffee with the other. I read my way through the store over the next 5 months.
No two days were the same. People would wander in looking heavy or discouraged, and Dena reached out to them, often ending with prayer for their marriage, their job, or their struggles with drugs and alcohol. It is fair to say that Dena ran her own little church there on Gaffney Street.
I learned a lot about Christian culture that year. All sorts of characters came in to buy books. The middle aged guys in their suits buying Kenneth Hagin and Copeland books; the mothers who home schooled buying Jeannette Oak novels or Mary Pride books, and the pastors after commentaries and reference books. The most intriguing people to me were the 30-40 year old men who would come in hunting for Francis Schaeffer and CS Lewis, and the 50 year old women who were looking for Thomas Merton and the Catholic mystics. Every day was interesting because the characters that came to the store were so diverse.
I fasted a lot. One time, preparing for a visit to Israel with a team of men known in town as the Spiritual Task Force, I fasted for 7 days. I cheated with juice and coffee, but didn’t eat anything solid and spent a lot of time praying and reading my bible.
At the end of this fast I was with the Task Force (with a new name for the trip, Strike Force) praying at Robert Taylor’s house. Bob walked over to me halfway into the night, speaking in tongues and looked down where I was praying on my knees. “What do you want from Jesus?” he asked. I said “Nothing special, just more of his love.” So Bob went off into prayerful affirmations and glossalolia. My hands went numb. My whole body felt electric. I started speaking words and sounds express myself to God while my eyes were tightly shut, my body prostate. I just melted into the arms of pure love. It was January 22nd, 1987 and the Holy Spirit paid me a very special visit.
A generous man named Dave paid for my ticket to Israel. He was sure the Lord would return that year during the Feast of Trumpets, on September 22. I was Bob’s disciple those months, and Bob was close to Dave so I was in with the heavy hitters on my way to the Holy Land.