My Spiritual Grandfather

I was spiritually formed at a small Bible School near the Adirondacks called Pinecrest. Its founder was Wade Taylor. I regarded him as a spiritual father. His greatest gift to me was the hope and the truth that God could be personally known. One of his spiritual fathers was John Wright Follette.

Follette was articulate and poetic. I have heard him pray in tongues on an old reel-to-reel tape—even there he sounded articulate! He was one of the great Pentecostal mystics of the twentieth century. In an era when priorities were shifting from the spiritual (knowing God) to sociological pragmatism in many denominations, Follette shone as a beacon of light, standing for the priority of the believer’s personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. He had great wisdom and insight into the Scriptures and into the ways in which God worked in the soul of the believer.

Follette had a salutary influence on Eugene Peterson, the translator of The Message Bible, and author of many books dealing with pastoral theology, the Psalms, and spiritual formation. Peterson was a great help to me when I was working on my doctorate. So I trace my spiritual lineage to Follette both through Wade Taylor and Eugene Peterson.

Follette’s greatest gift to me was that he set me free to be myself. From the beginning of my walk with the Lord, I had this peculiar inclination to write Christmas poetry. I was in a milieu where this kind of thing was not nearly as prized as, say, the spontaneous expressions we witnessed in Pentecostal meetings. And then I stumbled across Follette’s A Christmas Wreath, a collection of his yearly Christmas poems which he wrote for his students and friends throughout his adult life. I thought to myself: “Here is a highly regarded Pentecostal father who writes Christmas poetry! Maybe I’m on the right track after all. Here is another soul who has been captivated by the Incarnation.” Listen to Follette describe the dynamic here:

Every year, I think, “What could I write more,” but when the year comes around, He just drops one into my heart. You see, you are dealing with the Incarnation and that is inexhaustible. I approach it from every angle. I believe if I lived a hundred more years, I would still have a fresh one still dealing with that Mystery—God come down in flesh (J. W. Follette, A Christmas Wreath, ix).

Like Follette, the more I deal with the Incarnation, the more I realize the ways in which I have not written about it yet:

“The winds still whisper in the ancient tree.
A feast is spread where once the heart was bare” (Ibid., 6)

Posted by Thomas Worth

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