Holy Pneuma – The Holy Spirit, An Introduction

I  have a friend at church, let’s call her L.A.  L.A. and I were talking about a pothole, an adversity, she’d hit recently in life.  In the middle of her description, I heard her say something like this:

Holy Pneuma was telling me to do it a certain way.  . .  So you know,  I did it the way Holy Pneuma said.  . . Because when Holy Pneuma tells you something, you have to listen. . . ”

You have to understand, L.A is a long-time follower of Jesus.  She was raised in a very different church background than I, and as a result, has some turns of phrase that sound a bit foreign to me.   She used the two-word combination sprinkled several times throughout our conversation, and it took me a couple of utterances to catch on to what she was actually saying.

She was speaking of Holy Pneuma, the Holy Spirit.  The Third Person of the Trinity, including God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son.  As most of you know, “pneuma” is actually part of the Greek root word for “wind” or “spirit.”

In the midst of my own “potholes” in the past couple of years, I’ve had to turn to God’s Word for some answers to hard questions.  I wanted to know why most of our churches (and this includes me, as part of the Christ’s body, the Church) were many times ineffective for Him.  Why, after all the sweat, and programs, and evangelism, and things that churches do to try to bring people into the Kingdom, was it not working?  Why are fewer and fewer people coming to Christ now than a generation ago, in this uber age of technology that should afford us endless inroads to people’s hearts with the gospel?

Looking for answers led me to begin, very slowly, a personal study of the Holy Spirit.  I had to know more about Him.  I wanted to understand His attributes, His special Works in the life of a believer.  I wanted to grasp the believer’s responsiblity in the ministry of the Spirit, to learn what was separating us so far from God’s ideal of going out in His power, as salt and light in a dying world.

I found as I continued that the Holy Spirit is the part of the Trinity about Whom we know the least.  He is the most neglected of the Three in study and in clear biblical teaching. His place is not nearly as clear in our hearts or minds as the Father God or Jesus.  So why the inequality?  He is equal in power and Personhood; yet Frances Chan calls Him “Forgotten God” in his excellent book.

What do you think?  Leave a comment below on why the Holy Spirit has gotten short shrift in our churches and understanding.  I’ll post reasons why in a future blog.

Lookin’ up,

Sislyn

Ps. 19:1

Beginnings

I’m posting a short story/vignette of mine today.  This story is the first installment in a series about a ladies’ Bible study group called the Titus 2 Ladies.  The main character, Lindy Mitchell,  is a pastor’s wife (shocker!).

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She’s newly arrived with her music-minister husband Mace Mitchell to serve in a vibrant growing church, Beal Street Church, in the fictitious town of Hope Springs, NC.  The senior pastor’s wife, Julia Peters, is starting a ladies’ Bible study based on Titus 2 and wishes young Lindy to participate.  It’s the beginning of an adventure for everyone involved!

Enjoy!  I’ll be posting more shorts from time to time in-between regular blogs.  They’ll be archived under the tab “Vignettes,” as some are complete short stories and some are just “slices of life” from the church house.  Thanks for reading–

Lookin’ up,

Sislyn

“Beginnings”

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”                                                                                     Isaiah 43:19

“Make yourself at home,” called Julia from the kitchen.  “I’ll finish in here, then bring the tea things out so we can talk.”

“All right,” Lindy Mitchell replied, choosing a club chair next to a wall of windows in the Peters’s great room.  I’ll bring the tea things out, Julia did say.  Lindy sighed, sinking deep into the upholstery.  Julia’s lunch had been a real treat, so much more creative and delicious than her usual grab-a-slice of baloney-from-the-fridge at home.

She scanned her surroundings. Wow—she wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Julia’s great room had high-ceilinged walls, painted a muted sage.  A damask couch flanked by several armchairs, all done in the same tiny gold-and-green print.  Framed floral prints on walls, and candid family photos scattered across cherry tabletops.  Gleaming hardwood floors and a thick oriental rug underfoot.  Oh, and the mammoth flat-screen TV well-hidden behind cabinetry above the marble fireplace.  Lindy smiled.  Obviously Brother Bill’s one and only, sports-nut contribution to the room.

Restful.  Elegant.  Lindy’s mind searched back through the article she’d written a month ago about home decorating styles:  Traditional, that was it.  A reflection of the unflappable Julia, who was married to Beal Street’s popular senior pastor, Dr. Bill Peters.

Hers and Mace’s style?  Just call it Early-Married-Thrift-Store.  It wasn’t the Ritz, but it was paid for.

Honestly, it’d been a little unnerving for Lindy to receive a call from Julia to come for lunch.  She mentioned she wanted to talk over a brand-new ministry opportunity with Lindy, and Lindy had no idea what it could be. It’d only been a few weeks earlier that she and husband Mace began their own ministry at Beal Street Church. Upon meeting the self-assured and classy fifty-something pastor’s wife, Lindy was floored.  Being next to Julia, she decided, made her feel, well. . .  a bit out-of-sync. . . sort of like a McDonald’s plastic super-sipper shelved next to a dainty porcelain cup.

You better get used to it—her practical side said.  You and she are the pastors’ wives, after all.  From this time on, you’ll be lumped together, held to the same rigid standards, by a congregation who’ll scrutinize your every move.

Was it any wonder that her stomach was hurting?

And speaking of teacups—“Lindy,” Julia interrupted her jumbled thoughts from the kitchen, “do you like Darjeeling?  Or I can make a pot of Jasmine Dragon, if you’d rather.”

Darjeeling? Jasmine Dragon?  Lindy winced.  “Either is fine.” Good grief, with enough sugar stirred in, maybe it’d pass for good old Lipton’sIt wasn’t that she didn’t like hot tea, exactly; she just never had a compelling reason to drink it on a regular basis.

Lindy’s gaze went to the tabletop next to her chair. Beside a crystal lamp and small African violet, a worn burgundy Bible took up most of the surface. Its gilded edging was mottled, and whole sections of text jutted out of the leather cover in different directions. Lindy stroked the imprint midway down on the cover, its gold letters long ago faded:  HOLY BIBLE.

Hmmmm, somebody ought to help themselves to a brand-new Bible, since the binding on this one was clearly shot.  Try as she might, Lindy didn’t recall Julia or Brother Bill turning the pages of such a Bible in church. Perhaps it was a keepsake, one useful only to adorn a table. A souvenir of family history and bygone days, that kind of thing.

Lindy halted speculations as Julia Peters entered the room, carrying a tray. She rested it on a coffee table catty-cornered from Lindy’s chair and the end of the couch where she took a seat.

“So, Lindy,” Julia said after she’d poured them each a cup and added the requested cream and sugar. “The ministry I wanted to talk to you about is the new ladies’ Bible study. It would be a weekday, mid-morning study for anyone who’s free to attend.”  Julia’s brown eyes sparkled, the gold flecks in them becoming more pronounced.  “I’ve come up so many ideas for this thing, the Lord’s had to slow me down to show me what He wants to do with it.”  She laughed.  “I certainly don’t want to get ahead of the Lord, because we both know where that would end up—in the ditch.”

As Lindy sipped her not-so-terrible tea, her mind closed around Julia’s words. Her pulse quickened.  A women’s Bible study? Holy moly, Lord, why did Julia really ask me here?

Lindy’s teacup clinked into its saucer.

Sure, she’d been through the requisite seminars that all seminary student wives had to take, ones with stuffy names like Women’s Work in the Church and even Teaching Methods for the Minister’s Wife, true, but in no way did she feel she equipped to teach adults, no way Jose.

Hey, plop a group of kids, even a gaggle of teenagers down in front of her—no problem!  But a women’s study— including in that category ladies much older and more knowledgeable in the Bible than her—and she felt her heart pounding in her ears.

Lindy trembled, pasty white hands setting the teacup down. “Julia,” she croaked, “I don’t know about this. . . I mean. . . I’m not ready for what you’re suggesting.”  She sandwiched her sweaty palms together, interlocking her fingers tightly.  She took a deep breath and laid it out.  “I can’t teach adults. Doing that is way out of my league. Sorry.”

Julia’s cup paused mid-air, eyes wide.  She set down her cup; the shell-pink manicure gently enfolded Lindy’s. “Lindy, you’re thinking—?  No, honey, I wasn’t asking you to teach the study.  I wanted you to pray with me about it, and specifically for the women God wants there.  If you feel led, Lindy, I hope you’ll be able to come.”

Julia tilted her head, narrowing her eyes.  “I know you’ve got certain hours when you do your writing job at home.  But if you make a commitment to be there, I think we’d have more younger ladies at the study as well.”

Lindy let her breath, which she’d been holding captive, escape.  Yowza, she’d certainly dodged that bullet.  Lindy glanced at Julia’s perfect ten cradling her raggedy ones.  “You’re sure that’s all?  You just want me to come?  And to pray about it?”

Julia squeezed, returned her hands to her lap.  “That’s it.  I’ll be the one leading the study, though I’ll be more of a facilitator than an actual teacher.”

Lindy thought about it. “Count me in; I’d be glad to come.”  Her pulse slowed, and her mind filled with questions. “So, what study are we doing?” She ticked off a couple of big-time Bible teachers, known for their pre-packaged videos and curricula.  “Any of those?”

“No, this study will be home-grown.” Passion stoked the glow in Julia’s eyes.  “And will be based on this principle:  That God wants us to find and fulfill our roles as godly women in the midst of an ungodly world, in whatever places of service He calls us to.”

“You mean roles like wife and mother. . .? ”

“Yes, those in the home, certainly, but those outside the home too. We’ll study God’s Word so we know what He says about it.  We’ll also tap into the wisdom He’s placed within the body of believers, to flesh out the particulars of those roles.”

Julia paused. “I’m sure you’ve noticed—we tend to segregate ourselves in God’s church today.  The old don’t mix with the young, the young women are more comfortable with their own.  You know, I’m guilty as everyone else.  Most of my relationships, close ones anyway, tend to be with those ladies who are the same age as I—it’s just been easier that way.” Her back straightened against the couch.  “It may be the easy way, but it’s not the best way, God’s truly shown me that.”

Did I just hear Julia Peters confess a sin?  She’s on a roll, Lindy observed, Julia’s fiery enthusiasm now igniting her own.  “So if I’m hearing right, this sounds more like a Bible study-slash-mentoring kind of thing?”

Julia nodded.  “It’s based on that verse in Titus Two, where it says ‘The older ones will teach the younger ones.’  And you know, I’m sure the younger ones will have a few tricks to share, too.”  She smiled.  “We need to be there for each other, supporting each other, because this will honor the Lord.”

Lindy measured her next words carefully against what Julia said.  “It sounds good to me!  I  really try to be the best wife I can for Mace.”  She felt heat rise in her cheeks. “And hopefully will be a great mom in the future, whenever God blesses us with children.  But to be honest, a lot of times I don’t know if I’m doing anything right.  A lot of times, I feel I’m winging it through uncharted territory, without a clue of what I’m doing. It sure would be nice to get advice from someone’s who’s been already there, done that.”

“Then it sounds as if we’re in agreement, Lindy.  I’m so glad.”  Julia edged forward, pulled the disheveled burgundy Bible from the side table onto her lap, and cracked it open.  “Let’s talk to the Lord about it now, shall we?”

World-Building

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The concept of world-building is a mind-boggling one.  I first heard it explained at a writer’s conference where a former sci-fi writer described her process of preparing to put words on paper.

In science fiction, one has to think about “layers” of setting, which in turn affects all other aspects of the story.  The heavy lifting comes in when you must determine what your base world/planet/galaxy/plane of existence is, however far outside the box this may be.  Then you must figure how distant your story place is from other suns/moons/stars in relation to the gravitational pull/light/ whatever, because this affects physical laws in your world.  Which in turn determines the physical environment your characters live in, what kind of creatures live there, how they actually do their basic activities of living.

Do they communicate by grunting through their appendages? Do they move place to place by morphing into a gas?  Do they gobble up meteor fragments like potato chips, or absorb compounds from the chemical-laden air in order to survive?  Whew!  Talk about a lot of cogitating!

Although it’s more detailed in sci-fi, world-building extends to other realms of creative writing too.  (Thank goodness, some things are a given here on planet earth.)  In my current spheres of  writing–secular murder mysteries and Christian contemporary women’s fiction–my overall setting affects the characters.  Characters and their myriad backgrounds affect the trajectory of the story.  The plotline itself, at least for me, comes from a marriage of character and setting.  A bunch of balls to juggle at once.  A lot of cogitating on my part, before one word makes it to the page.

And yet my heavenly Father juggles all the balls of all our lives, all the minute details, with dazzling brilliance.  He never drops a one! I stand in awe of a God Who maintains the universe effortlessly, without a single mistake, because He is perfect.

God says, “Who is My equal?. . . Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these?  He Who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name.  Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.” (Isaiah 40:25-16 NIV)

Surely if my Father keeps up with every celestial entity out there in space, vast and innumerable they be, then He can keep up with what’s going on from my window.  And if something perchance does happen–something frightening or unexpected–I can know he didn’t drop the ball.  He can’t.  I can rest on His promises that He allowed the event for my ultimate good and for His glory.

Lookin’ up,

Sislyn/Ps. 19:1