Need some Traction?

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Ever since I heard the word “Paraclete” I have thought of the Holy Spirit as a “pair of Cleats.”

The Holy Spirit gives us traction in our walk with the Lord.

“Paraclete” is the Greek word that translated, is used to describe the Holy Spirit.  It comes from “para” meaning close or beside, and “kaleo” a legal advocate who makes a right judgment; an advisor, or helper.

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It comes to light in a picturesque way in the verse in James 1 where he says “each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.”

Pair that with 1 Cor 10:13 where Paul is speaking of temptation and says God will “provide a way of escape.”

Now we have a picture of a believer walking with the Holy Spirit, (their “pair of cleats”).  And when temptation comes along and tries to drag the believer away, God has provided these cleats so the believer can dig in and have the traction and power to resist and not be dragged away.  That’s the Holy Spirit!

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With our “pair of cleats” we can go farther, climb higher, get a better grip on the trail of life.  Our “Pair of Cleats” will take us places we wouldn’t be able to get to on our own.

adventure-1850912_640The Holy Spirit will stick by our side no matter the circumstances – through storms, harsh terrain, cold, heat – more literally challenges, temptations of every kind, hardships, even elections and pandemics.

All these things can make our way seem dark and slippery.  But we have a partner on the journey – teaching us, guiding, course correcting, encouraging, strengthening us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

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Praying for you, that you will make use of your Pair of Cleats in your daily walk.  That you will listen to the Holy Spirit and dig in when temptations and challenges come.

That as you walk through life, you will recognize your walking partner’s voice and knowing that you are never alone, you will be encouraged, instructed, equipped, advised, counseled, guided, strengthened and protected.

Do you need a rest?

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Do you find it hard to slow down or stop when you’re on a roll and being productive?

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I cut the rosebushes back today. The fence looks so plain without the 10-foot runners spreading out from the base and covering the pickets. And one of my oldest rosebushes, going on 40 years, wasn’t quite ready to give up.

In Colorado we’ve already had a couple of snows and we’ve had a hard freeze but this rosebush still had a bloom on it!

rose-1470263_640It’s hard when you’ve had a productive season to know when to stop to pause for a Rest.

We don’t think of it, but Rest is productive too.

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God gave us seasons so we could watch and learn.

The trees, the flowers and the animals all have their rhythmic behavior.  A season of birth and productivity, fruitfulness, then rest, hibernation and rebirth form a cycle that repeats.  We so often fail to learn the simple lessons God wants to teach us. We don’t want to have our productivity cut short. We don’t want to take time to rest, refuel.

Do the rosebushes understand that the splendor they showed this year was based largely on the rest and the nutrients they drank in over the winter?

Do we understand that we also have a rhythm of pouring out and then needing to be refilled before we pour out again?

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Wisdom is all around us. It’s in the beauty of God’s Creation – the skies, the mountains, animals, plants, the trees. Ask God to show you what your rhythms are.

Do you need a time of rest and refilling? Are you ready for rebirth? Is it your time of productivity?

In my backyard, I’m the gardener. I know what’s good for the plants and bushes, and for the most part I can provide fertilizer, water, and the right place for the right plant. They don’t fight me when I say it’s time for pruning, time for fertilizing, or for cutting back to rest for the winter.

hands-1838658_640In my life, God is the Gardener.

He knows what’s best for me. He places me in the right place at the right time. He provides me with the gifts I need to accomplish what he has planned for me.

He protects and shelters me. He guides me like the trellis provides structure for one of my rosebushes. Why is it then, when it’s time for pruning or cutting back I balk?

Lord help me trust You, my Gardener. When I don’t even know what season I’m in, help me accept Your leading, Your pruning and fertilizing, and even Your cutting back for a Rest.

Stay in the Boat!

I had been having a difficult time making a decision about an opportunity that came up.  Difficult because it involved something that I value highly and really want to do, but feel very inadequate and insecure about.

Are you ever faced with decisions like that?

choice-2692575_640I felt the Holy Spirit was leading me to move forward, in church and through the daily prayers I was working on.  But I also felt my fears holding me back.

Half awake and half asleep, a vision came to me that seemed to sum up my situation.

I am floating in a tube on a river. The water is choppy. I have come through dangerous Rapids and am feeling exhausted by the effort it took to stay afloat. I can hear the loud Rumblings of fast-moving water. Not one but two Mighty Rivers come together at a confluence up ahead of me. They feed into the river I’m on.

They could take me far very quickly but the ride would be dangerous and extremely rough with no guarantee that I would survive.

In this dream/vision I pondered what I should do:

tubing-3506869_6401 – I could get out of the river and camp on the side choosing not to move forward at all. And die there on the riverbank my Journey complete.

2 – I could get out of the water and hike up to the confluence watching the turbulent Waters come together. Maybe there would be a way to go around – there wasn’t.

3 – Or I could put my faith in God, the God who made the rivers and who sent me on this path and move forward into the ride of my life.

I do not think of myself as a risk-taker. Not with money. Not with emotional decisions.  And this involved both.

As God often does, I realized He had placed someone in my life who I could take to about this.  Miraculously,  in about an hour, we were speaking on the phone.

Eric listened to my situation.  And to my vision of floating down a river in a tube.  He loved the analogy since he’s a big white water rafting and adventure experience guy.  And he acknowledged that my fears were real and legitimate.  Then he turned my vision into a devotional for me, right then and there, and said “Now, I’m going to upgrade you!”

“You’re no longer sitting in an inner tube with a little penguin hat on, drifting at the whim of a river of life.”

God is the River. You’re already in Him!  And you will be all of your life.  You can trust The River!

life-raft-241789_640“And you are now in a White-Water Power Raft!  And you have a paddle.  And you have a Guide!” 

I said, “I get it, my guide is the Holy Spirit!” I was feeling more confident and excited about this River trip.

Eric said “Your job, Laura, is to: Stay in the boat, Paddle hard, and Listen to your Guide.”

He continued, “So there is no pulling the boat out of the River to sit on the side.  That is not an option.  Your Guide has a lot to show you downstream.  And He doesn’t want you to miss any of it.  He is there to make sure you make it down the River safely.”

“Plus you have a customer paddle, but your Guide has a much bigger paddle and can out-paddle you.  With that He will make sure you are headed where you need to be headed. You need only do what?” 

I answered, “Stay in the boat, Paddle hard, and Listen to my Guide!

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It feels good to have made a decision.  And to feel more confident that the Holy Spirit will continue to “course correct” if I can’t handle it all.

I am still both excited and scared. 

Odd how we can be afraid of failure and afraid of success at the same time.

Is there something you are feeling prompted to do?  Ask God to give you a dream or vision or some way of knowing you’re supposed to go forward.

Ask Him who He has put in your life to encourage you.

Your job, should you choose to accept it is:

Stay in the boat!

Paddle hard!

Listen to your Guide!! 

Go for it!

God Speaks Through a Tree

When was the last time you asked God to speak to you? To give you wisdom?  Direction? Encouragement? Or even correction?

He speaks to me a lot through His Creation. And often trees have played a big part.  This year, this Fall, I’m hearing that it’s time to let go of some things, just like the trees let go of their leaves when the time is right.

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Not that I intend to strip my house bare of items we need to live, but there are some things that we’ve been holding on to that we could do without.

Beyond the physical items, there are more important things I need to let go of:  negative emotions, unmet expectations, anger, regret, hurts, disappointments.  These take up even more space in my life and have a greater impact on it.

How do you let go of past hurts and unmet expectations?  Unproductive attitudes and unresolved anger?

It starts with identifying them. 

smiley-2979107_640Set aside time to think about and write down where your mind goes along those lines and how strong your emotional response is to those things.  Make up a scale 1 – 5 and give each item a number according to how much it bothers you.  These are your leaves.  If you want you can cut them apart so that each issue/leaf has its own slip of paper.

Thinking about it, put a YES or NO by each one indicating whether or not there is something you can realistically do about the issue. 

writing-1149962_640Next write down what action you can take that may lead towards resolving the issue for you.  Praying is sometimes the only thing that comes to mind and is always a good step especially if you’re unsure how to move forward. I realize knowing what you can do and wanting to do it are two different things.   

On a separate paper, start another list.  These will be your branches.  If you indicated a YES, write down any lesson you’ve learned about the issue – like what hasn’t worked in the past and what you’re willing to try or do about the issue now.

female-865110_640If you indicated NO, write down something you’ve learned – a lesson so you don’t make the same mistake again, something you can do that will help you move forward beyond it, a way you can change your perspective so that it’s no longer so emotionally charged or even some unexpected good that has come out of it.

Here’s an example of a Leaf.  My kids moved far away to take a job they needed and it was my expectation they would always live close and I am disappointed, heartbroken.  Because I love them and it affects my ability to be with them there is a very strong emotional cost.  5 out of 5.  No, I cannot change this.

And a Branch.  Lesson learned: always show my love and appreciation while loved ones are near.  And what can I do?  Learn new ways to show my love and stay connected now: FaceTime, Zoom calls, care packages of food or gifts or just small items that say “I care,” cards, actual letters they can read, reading the same book or watching the same movie and then talking about it together, praying for them or even with them over the phone.

If you are the tree, the negative emotional issue is the leaf.  The branch that the leaf is attached to is either something you can do about it, or some lesson you’ve learned in dealing with the issue.

fall-foliage-1740841_640You can let go of the leaf – the hurt, the unmet expectation, the disappointment, the regret.  But you keep the branch – the lesson you learned, or the action you will take.  And the branch will continue to grow and bear fruit in the future.

autumn-212733_640To complete this Leaf exercise, gather your leaves, and taking one leaf at a time, read it out loud asking God to bless you as you name it and the negative response connected to this issue, and then let go of it, dropping it into a leaf bag to dispose of. 

As you drop the leaf, thank God for any lesson you’ve learned from the situation and ask for the strength to take the steps you’ve written on your branch for that leaf. 

Bag up your leaves and put them in the trash!

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Now take a walk. Ask God to speak to you through His Creation. Notice the trees, the wildlife, the sky whatever is around you that He’s made.

Ask him if there’s anything He wants to say to you personally about your life, your circumstances, your relationships, your attitude, or your behavior.

Ask Him to silence all other voices in your head that come from your own thoughts or from the world or from any source other than God.

And then open your eyes and your ears and your spirit to God alone.

When we listen…God speaks!

Fall – a time for Reflection

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

For several years I met with like-minded friends and we studied Torah.  As Christians we hungered to understand the Bible more deeply, especially gaining insight into the Old Testament from a Hebrew frame of reference.

Open_Torah_scrollWe began to read and study the Jewish weekly sections of scripture known as parshas.  Just as some Christians have discovered the One Year Bible where in daily scripture readings you read the entire Bible in a year, practicing Jews read the Torah in one year in weekly scripture readings.

We also found several teachers on line who contributed to our enlightenment as we dove into looking up Hebrew words and cultural references. One particular teacher who calls himself The Rabbi’s Son prepares 5 lessons plus an introduction to each week’s parsha.  His lessons became the framework for many of our weekly discussion sessions. 

In addition, my Precept Ministry Bible Studies had taken me through a deeper understanding of the Feasts of Israel.

Today ends the 10 days of the Jewish celebration of Rosh Hashanah – the New Year.  Rosh means head and hashana means year.  Instead of large parties and staying up till midnight, for practicing Jews it is a time of deep reflection.

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It begins with a trumpet sounding, a blast from the shofar to call us to examine our lives and see if there are broken relationships which need to be mended.  It also calls us to recognize and repent of any sin in our lives so we are right with God, to prepare for the 10th day, Yom Kippur.

In Hebrew yom means day and kippur means to cover or hide, to atone.  In English it is the Day of Atonement.  This is a most holy day in Judaism and Israel.  All business close.  It’s the one day when the High Priest could enter into the Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle and then later, the Temple in Jerusalem to make the offering to atone for the sin of the nation and all Israelites. 

All their sin is forgiven and they start the new year with a clean slate.

For Christians and Messianic Jews, who are Jews who believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah, there is a prophetic meaning in each of the Feasts or Holy Days.  The Feasts held in the Spring, we believe, have already been fulfilled by Jesus coming to earth.  He was the Passover Lamb sacrificed on the cross for the sin of the world.  He was the First Fruit, the first to be resurrected to eternal life. 

shofar-4518107_640The trumpet blown on Rosh Hashana is considered to be the “Last Trumpet.” Historically trumpets or blasts from the shofar, were used to announce that the people were to assemble into the presence of the Lord, or to sound the alarm for war or judgement.  In the New Testament, it is said Jesus will return with a trumpet blast to call believers to Himself and the earth will be gathered for judgement day. 

2020 has been quite a year.  Are you ready for a new start?  A clean slate?

Any time is a good time to come before the Lord in a time of reflection.  Ask Him to search you and know you and show you any sin that needs to be recognized, and ask for forgiveness.  For a guide in this area, click on my blog on confession called When Hearing is Blocked.

pomegranate-4611435_640During this time we eat apples and honey to signify our desire for a sweet new year.  We eat pomegranates as a way to say “may my good deeds multiply like the seeds of a pomegranate.” And round breads denoting the circular cycle of the year.

And speak a blessing: “May your name be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life for a good New Year.”

I also pray, Father, help us make time to be silent to hear Your voice.  Let us hear with open ears and open spirits all You would say to us about this past year.  As we confess any sin You bring to mind, forgive us and turn out hearts back to You.

Father, educate and direct us in this new year.  Empower and enable us to act on all You show us to do or be.  Where we are weak, make us strong.  Where we are fearful, lead us to act boldly in faith.  Cover us with Your protection and let us walk in the truth of Your entire Word, empowered by the Holy Spirit.  Amen

I highly recommend www.precep.org for Bible study and www.biblicallifestylecenter.org/the-rabbis-son to study Torah