The Holy Spirit as Fire: Gifts of the Spirit Part 1

Today is Pentecost Sunday and we recognize it as the birthday of our church.  Pentecost commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles after Jesus' Ascension into Heaven.  

Acts 2:1-4
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.  And suddenly a noise like a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.  And tongues of fire appeared to them, distributing themselves, and a tongue rested on each one of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with different tongues, as the Spirit was giving them the ability to speak out.

Did you catch how the Holy Spirit decided to manifest himself?  He could have shown up as anything, but he chose to manifest himself as fire and they were transformed.  

Fire has the ability to transform things.  What was cold becomes hot.  What was hard becomes soft.  When the Holy Spirit entered the Apostles as fire, he transformed them and they were given the ability to go out to preach the Gospel.

Pentecost is the perfect time for us to sit and ask the Holy Spirit to activate his gifts within us. When we were Baptized we received the Holy Spirit and he brought his gifts along with him.  We know from Scripture that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are given as he chooses and they are all activated by him.  

My challenge for you on this Pentecost Sunday is to pray to the Holy Spirit and ask him to reveal a gift he'd like to manifest in you this year.  He wants to lavish you with gifts.  It's hard to wrap our minds around this if we are picturing him as fire or a dove.  The Holy Spirit is not a thing.  He is a person and he desires relationship with you.  He has many titles in Scripture.  He is known as the Advocate, Counselor, Comforter, Consoler, Healer, and Paraclete (one who is called to your side).

Do any of these names resonate with you?  Do you need comfort?  Do you need healing deep within your soul?  

Address him with that title and allow him to show up when you need him to.   Ask him to stir up the gift within you that needs to be rekindled.  Ask him to reveal how he is working in your life.   

It's important to know that a gift is a gift.  If we want to grow in the gift of knowledge, it's tempting to take matters into our own hands by buying every book about God we can find or by listening to as many podcasts as we can during our free time.  Although spiritual reading and listening are excellent for our formation, the gift of knowledge is actually revealed to us when we sit with a posture of receptivity and allow the Spirit to lavish it upon us as he wills.  

What are the Gifts of the Holy Spirit?

Isaiah 11:2  
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him,
The spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The spirit of counsel and strength,
The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

Knowledge: The gift of knowledge helps us to know God more and more each day.  The word know in Scripture isn't referring to intellectual knowledge.  It implies intimacy.  (Example:  Adam knew his wife Eve and they conceived and bore a son).

Understanding: The gift of understanding  allows us to understand the meaning of God’s words.

Wisdom:  The gift of wisdom helps us to know what to do with our knowledge and understanding of God.  Wisdom makes us wise in the ways of God and helps us recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd.

Fortitude: The gift of fortitude gives us power and strength.  A fort is a strong place.  The gift of fortitude helps us to be strong for God and helps us to use God’s strength to do what is right.

Counsel:  The gift of counsel is also known as right judgement.  Counsel helps us with decision making.  Counsel is knowing what God is saying to us and using that knowledge to make decisions.

Piety: The gift of piety is also known as reverence. Piety is loving God more than anything with our whole mind, heart, and soul.

Fear of the Lord: The gift of fear of the Lord does not mean being afraid of God.  Fear of the Lord is having wonder and awe.  This gift helps us to know that even though God is great and we are small, He loves us intimately.

Has the Holy Spirit revealed which gift he'd like to manifest in you this year?

To further explore the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, I highly recommend The Spiritual Gifts Handbook 
by Randy Clark and Mary Healy.

Word of the Year

When I was first introduced the idea of a word of the year, it felt overwhelming and it made me nervous.   I thought I’d be picking a word to guide my path for the upcoming year on my own terms and was afraid I’d create some sort of prophecy I’d have to fulfill.  Doubt started to creep in and I worried about getting it wrong.

Then I learned that the Word of the Year is a word given to us by God that is meant to transform our heart and give us direction for the upcoming year.  I actually had very little to do with the selection process.   I found comfort in knowing that my only job was to listen to the prompting of God on my heart.  He already had a word in place for me for the upcoming year.  

2019 was the first year I received a word of the year.  At the end of December I sat down and prayed for clarity about the upcoming year.  The word Ponder popped into my head.  I thought it sounded strange.  But then I sat back and really thought about it.  

I was BUSY in 2018.  I was moving fast.  Ponder was a call for me to slow down.  It was a call to really think before I spoke.  It called me to soak up the words I was reading before moving on to the next page.  Ponder called me to schedule quiet time in my week without an agenda.  It was a prompting to live in the moment and seek the Lord in the rhythms of my life.  Developing the habit of pondering was a welcome retreat from the busy state of life I was in with four people ages 5 and under.  

Last New Year’s Eve I sat down and prayed for a word for 2020.  When the word Renew jumped out at me, I knew it was perfect.  I had written notes all over my Bible about being renewed but had never made the connection that maybe it was a word I should focus on.  I found scribbles all over the pages that said things like:

You say, “I’m exhausted.”   God says, “Wait on me.  I’ll renew your strength.”

They who wait for the Lord will renew their strength.  Don’t stop asking Him for help.  

I will turn the dry ground into springs of fresh water.

I am the Lord Your God, who grasp your right hand; it is I who say to you, Do not fear I will help you.

To renew something is to resume an activity after taking a break, to re-establish a relationship, and to restore something that is worn out.  

2020 was a hot mess, but I was in my cozy chair with a cup of tea feeling refreshed and renewed.   The world was chaotic, but I felt peace.   

Yesterday I sat down and asked the Lord about what is next for me.  Why did He bring peace to my heart?  Where will 2021 take me?

And I stopped in my tracks when I read Mark 14:3-9 which is the story about The Anointing at Bethany.   When he was in Bethany reclining at table in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of perfumed oil, costly genuine spikenard.  She broke it and poured it on his head.  There were some who were indignant, “Why has there been this waste of perfumed oil?  It could have been sold for more than three hundred days’ wages and the money given to the poor.”   They were infuriated with her.   Jesus said, “Let her alone.  Why do you make trouble for her?  She has done a good thing for me.  The poor you will always have with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them, but you will not always have me.  She has done what she could.  She has anticipated anointing my body for burial.  Amen, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed to the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”

She broke it.

Broken in this sense means to completely shatter without hope of repair.  In the act of breaking the jar, this woman gave up every possibility for holding back and keeping to herself.

She knew that being in the presence of Christ was the most important thing she could be doing.  She anointed Him because she recognized Him as the King and because she knew He wouldn’t have a proper anointing at his death because He would die as a criminal. 
How did she know these things?  She had eyes for Jesus, and for Jesus alone.  The others in the room criticized her, but she looked ahead.  At the end of the Gospel, Jesus says that her story will be proclaimed to the whole world.  And it isn’t because she is a Ministry leader or because she has an advantageous platform. It’s because she had eyes for Him alone.  
Although I know that last year was a time of renewal for me, I also know that I held little pieces of my heart back.

It’s scary to break the jar and let everything freely flow.  It’s easier to keep a little back in the form of self-protection. 

I also know that I haven’t always had laser focus with eyes straight ahead on Him alone.

Which brings me to my word for 2021: Abide

To abide is to live by a rule of life.  It is to dwell or remain.  To abide in Christ is to have eyes for Him and Him alone.

I don’t know what 2021 will bring, but I know that I abiding with Him where I’m supposed to be.  
Have you found your word for 2021? Please share in the comments!  I’d love to hear about what the Lord wants to do in your heart next year!

We Were Made to be Free

My grandma was a child when her mom died. My mom was 18 when her mom died. I was 24 when my mom died. I come from a family of strong women who have had to pave the way into adulthood without a mother's guidance. We started our marriages and had children without a mom there to offer advice.
If I live to be 50, I’ll be the first woman in four generations to do so.
And I am bound and determined to do this.  

I am a researcher by nature so I decided to figure out what causes physical health patterns in families.  In my quest to break cycles, I stumbled across research that shows how our emotions are linked to our physical body systems. 

Have you ever been so overwhelmed with grief that your throat hurts? Or have you ever been so worried that you feel it in the pit of your stomach? Maybe you’ve experienced diarrhea before a big presentation or job interview.
Our bodies run on measurable frequencies. Emotions can raise and lower our frequencies. If we are experiencing a particular emotion, our body will store it in an area that is running on the same frequency. (For example: Worry is stored in the stomach).
I became curious about all of this, so I took a peek inside of the book Feelings Buried Alive Never Die by Karol K. Truman. I wasn’t surprised when I learned that the inability to cope with traumatic loss, feelings of helplessness, and holding on to deep hurt are all linked to buried emotions stored in the female organs.
By putting on my brave face for so many years and pretending like everything was ok, I was suppressing some major feelings and I was on the road to storing them in a place in my body that is exactly the same place that generations before me had experienced cancer. 

In an effort to learn more about emotional responses, I learned that trauma and emotional responses can be passed in our DNA from generation to generation.

Neuroscientists at Emory University found that genetic markers can transmit a traumatic experience from generation to generation. They did an experiment where they taught male mice to associate fear with the scent of cherry blossoms. They exposed the mice to the scent as they shocked their feet. Then they removed the shock and the mice continued to express fear when they smelled cherry blossoms. They bred the mice with female mice. When the pups were born they had never smelled cherry blossoms. As soon as they smelled the blossoms the first time, they showed fear. This emotional response had been passed from the father to the pups and was triggered in the limbic system by their sense of smell.

The way we respond to the world around us can be from emotional responses in our DNA and our learned coping mechanisms. Is it so farfetched to wonder if constant hip pain might actually be due to suppressed emotions? Or that anger issues might actually be stemming from a liver crying for help?

Dr. Andrew Weil says, “No matter how far a resilient person is stretched or pulled by negative emotions, he or she has the ability to bounce back to his or her original state.”   

This gave me hope.

My passion for health and wellness started when I realized that I wasn't loving my body well. I was on a path of self-destruction. I thought taking care of the physical side of things would be enough, so I ate wholesome foods and exercised regularly.

But it wasn't until I started seeking spiritual healing through prayer and emotional healing through forgiveness that everything came together. 

Healing begins where the wound was made. We cannot heal if we don’t deal. We cannot deal if we don’t feel. I needed to be the one to heal so I didn't inadvertently pass my woundedness on to my daughter.

I had years of suppression waiting to spill out and I didn't want to become vulnerable.  Wearing a tough mask had been my coping mechanism for so long that I was afraid of what it would be like to admit that I did have fears and that I had been hurt in the past.  So I dipped my toes in slowly and when something offensive came my way I started dealing with it head on instead of using avoidance.   Once I started allowing myself to feel the ugly things I had been burying, the floodgates opened and an overwhelming sense of peace has filled my body. 

In the process of learning about my emotional well-being, my physical body started to transform as well. I have more energy. I’ve lost a few pounds. But the best part about digging deep is the freedom that comes with healing. 

We were made to be free.