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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!
My husband took the older three kiddos out to run errands and the baby is napping so I have some quiet time to sit right now and think about our family vision for next year. I love the new year because it brings a fresh start.
Every year I try to evaluate our current family culture to see what needs to be tweaked and what we need to add in to create more of the family culture we desire.
A few years ago, I recognized my own need to get outside more without an agenda. I'd see my kiddos come in with rosy cheeks and their eyes sparkling as they told me about the fort they built in the woods or the deer tracks they found on the path, but I was too attached to my To-Do list and schedule to delight in nature. So I decided that for the next year we would have Thursday afternoon Nature Studies. It was hard for me to leave my messy house knowing that when we would walk back in the door it would be time to start making dinner, but I knew that I never regretted time spent outside. Fresh air is always good for the soul. Our family Nature Study wasn't born because I'm a cool teacher mom. It was born because I needed a lesson in letting go of control and knew the outdoors is a healing balm for a tired soul. I ALWAYS walk back into our house with a little pep in my step after we've explored a pond or the woods.
Last year I knew I wanted more time exploring fun books with my kids. Somehow I needed to give myself permission to sit and read without guilt. So afternoon tea time was born. My kiddos need a snack anyway. I used to hand them some food and send them outside to play, but as soon as we started drinking apple cider and reading together in the afternoons they wanted to savor that time every day. I didn't know it would be a family tradition, but now it's my favorite part of the day.
As I'm sitting here thinking about next year, I know that I want to be more intentional about one-on-one time with my less vocal kids. I have one child who shoves a board game in my face and demands that I play with him. It's easy to tell when he needs attention. But a few of my other kids are quiet and don't outwardly express that need for connection. It comes out in other ways. I don't have a plan in place yet, but none of our other traditions started from a predetermined plan. They just organically fell into place as we saw a need arise.
One year we switched to a whole foods diet due to behavior and health issues and we've never looked back. (If this is your goal for the new year, we have a Real Foods challenge in our FB group).
Another year I went through every item in our home and really purged until we were down to the necessities. It was the year that felt like chaos when everyone was fighting and screaming. Simplifying our possessions helped simplify our routines which helped with the feelings of being out of control. (If decluttering is your goal for next year, check out the New Year, New Home decluttering challenge in the FB group).
How are you feeling about your current family culture? How do you decide when it's time to make a small change to turn your home into a peaceful oasis? Do you have a family goal for next year?
We love to savor the quiet days of December. We put on some music, make cocoa, and spend the afternoons creating handmade ornaments to decorate our home. One of our favorite Chirstmas DIY projects is to make dried orange garlands. We string the oranges together and hang over doorways and windows. We also tie strings to individual dried orange slices to use as ornaments on our tree. The dried oranges add a pop of color and have a light citrus scent that makes our home smell like the Holidays!
How to Make a Dried Orange Garland
1. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees F.
2. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
3. Using a serrated knife, slice 4-5 Naval oranges so the slices are 1/4th to 1/8th of an inch thick.
4. Lay the orange slices in a single layer on the cookie sheet. Pat each orange slice with a paper towel to remove excess moisture and to speed up the drying process.
5. Bake for 4 hours or until the oranges are turning slightly brown and appear to be dry. (I flip mine over after 2 hours)
6. Allow the oranges to cool. Use a fishing line and a needle to string the oranges together. I like to string the oranges through the flesh part of the fruit, not the rind. Oranges can be placed right next to each other or with a space in-between. It's totally up to you!
We love to string fresh cranberries on another garland so we can weave the oranges and cranberries together. The orange and red combo adds such a pop of color to our Christmas tree!
Do you make homemade garlands? What do you add to yours?
"For a child is born to us, a son is given to us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:5
Scripture reveals so much to us about the nature of Our Savior. Sometimes I like to sit with the Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus and just skim the titles until one strikes me and I stop and let it speak to my heart. Who is this man? And if this is who He is, then who am I? If He is the God-Hero, what do I need to be saved from? If He is the Father-Forever, in what areas of my life do I need a consistent father figure?
Our Church, in its wisdom, has given us a beautiful tradition of meditating on the Names of Jesus through the recitation of the O Antiphons on the few days leading up to Christmas. Sometimes it is difficult for us to put into words the anticipation and hope we are feeling. The ancient prophets of Israel give us the language we need in the O Antiphons. The promises of the prophets are rich and reveal the nature of Jesus Christ to us.
With each O Antiphon, we meditate upon seven significant titles of the Messiah. We recall his faithfulness to the ancient people. The titles attributed to Jesus are: Wisdom, Ruler of the House of Israel (Adonai), Root of Jesse, Key of David, Radiant Dawn, King of the Gentiles, and Emmanuel.
If you take the first letter of each title beginning with the last one, and read them from last-to-first, it spells Ero Cras in Latin, which means, “Tomorrow I will be there.”
The O Antiphons are prayed from December 17-December 23. You will recognize them as verses to the song, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”
Sit with each title of Jesus and see who He is to you. What does this title say about His character? Who is this man who has set us free? You might find yourself pondering and having a fruitful prayer time with just the title. (Example: O Key of David What does it mean that He is a key? What do keys do? What is He unlocking? What do I need Him to unlock?)
Once you have pondered the title, read the verse below it and see which words strike you. How are these words a message of hope for you? The additional Scripture passages are optional and can bring more insight about the titles of Jesus.
December 17: O Wisdom
O Wisdom of our God Most High, guiding creation with power and love; come to teach us the path of knowledge.
1 Corinthians 1:26-31
December 18: O House of Israel
O Leader of the House of Israel, giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai; come to rescue us with your mighty power!
December 19: O Root of Jesse
O Root of Jesse’s stem, sign of God’s love for all his people: come to save us without delay!
December 20: O Key of David
O Key of David, opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom: come and free the prisoners of darkness!
Psalms 107:10, 14
December 21: O Radiant Dawn
O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.
December 22: O King of All Nations
O King of all nations and keystone of the Church: come and save man, whom you formed from the dust!
December 23: O Emmanuel
O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law: come to save us, Lord our God!
December 24: "Tomorrow I will be there"
My prayer for you is that the Prince of Peace reveals Himself to you and fills you with joy and hope over the next few days.
If you'd like to learn more about Biblical History and the significance of these titles, check out this podcast series by Sonja Corbitt.