I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
In some ways I have always been afraid of hiking in the mountains - of getting lost, of getting caught in a sudden, strong storm, or bears and other wildlife. My desire to hike has been fueled by my desire to take pictures of God’s beautiful world. So I started learning about hiking and the hiking trails of the Smokies. One thing that I haven’t mastered, though, is the ability to use a map and a compass to find your way. So I stay on the well-marked and well-traveled trails. I am grateful to the trail makers who carve steps out of rocks and make it possible to go to places that I would never have the ability to go by myself.
In our lives we also have a trail maker, the Holy Spirit. Jesus wanted his disciples and all those who follow him to know that he wasn’t leaving them without a trail to follow. Sometimes that trail can get a little hard to climb but Jesus promised his disciples and us that the Holy Spirit would guide us into truth, even when that truth is hard to understand.
Great Triune God
When we come to times when we no longer understand, give us the courage to accept your guidance. Open our ears to your words and keep us on the trail you have laid out for us.
And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?
Come and sit with me by the creek. Listen to the mountain stream. Feel the soft breeze through the trees and the coolness of the evening air. Come and see the mighty works of God. Each of us hears, sees, and experiences God in different ways. He made us that way. After we have walked with God alone, through valleys and mountains, then we need to sit with each other and share those times. When we take this time to step across boundaries of language and culture, then we learn new ways of experiencing God. And we hear him even stronger in our own language and stand amazed in his presence.
Come and sit with us today. Teach us to listen and to appreciate the many ways you speak to your children.
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
This week I was given a wonderful opportunity to see an amazing experience of nature, the synchronous fireflies of the Great Smoky Mountains. No one really knows exactly why this specific species of fireflies flash synchronously but it is related to mating ritual for these beetles that live for only 21 days once they reach adult stage.
(While I did try to take pictures, I don’t have enough knowledge or the equipment to actually take a good image. To really capture what we saw I think would take a very special cinematic camera and lens. A photographer would also need the ability to do something called light painting or take images on a full moon, both of which impact the fireflies. So this image is the best I could do. )
The occurrence of the fireflies in early summer has become so popular that the park has developed a lottery for parking tickets and then transports the lottery winners by trolley to Elkmont campground. My friend won one of the 1,800 spots out of the 28,000 entries and could take a carload. We arrived in Elkmont at dusk, found our spot by the little bridge just off the Little River Trail, put up our chairs, and just waited.
It wasn’t what we expected to see - it was much more amazing than I can describe. I guess I thought it was going to be kind of like a flashlight that someone would turn on and off to signal someone. It was more like a thousand twinkling lights followed by a period of deep darkness. Even though there were a lot of people there it was quiet, like a sacred moment when being still is more important than talking.
This experience comes to me during Pentecost and it has made me think much more about the Holy Spirit. Like the disciples and followers of Christ who were waiting in the house as Jesus had directed them, I waited in the woods with good friends for this special experience, none of us knowing exactly what to expect. This made the experience even more special. At first there was only a random light of a firefly here and there as I see each summer, but gradually the lights got closer together and the longer we waited the more the fireflies synchronized their lighting. There, in the darkness when we could no longer see each other, the fireflies were like sparkling jewels surrounding us. Each twinkling at their own pace but at the same time. The longer we live in community, each one using the diverse talents the Lord gives, and do the hard work of loving as Jesus loved, the more we see the Holy Spirit accomplishing his purpose in our lives. And as scientist can’t really explain the synchronous fireflies completely so we cannot explain the ways of the Holy Spirit. We only open our hearts to the experience knowing that in some ways we will never be able to explain it or prove it. It will be an experience that we will never forget, that will change us, and that will fill us with awe.
Bring the twinkling of your light into our midst. Teach us to love each other and to wait for you to lead us.
On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message.
The trail was littered with tulip popular petals on the nature trail known for its popular trees and wildflowers. I kept hoping that it wasn’t too late to see a full bloom on a tree, but as much as I looked I just didn’t see one. The hike was harder than expected because the trail was more like walking up a creek with the recent rains. So at the highest point of the trail there was bench and when I sat down to rest, there it was the most beautiful full tulip popular bloom floating in the water at the edge of the creek. Had I not sat down I would have never seen it. This was the picture that I had asked for that day. You see, each time I go hiking I pray that the Holy Spirit will prepare my eyes to see and open my heart to learn something new about his word. The bench, the water on the trail, and that tulip popular bloom were brought together for me to see this beautiful image.
The story of Lydia in Acts is a story of how the Holy Spirit brought things together to accomplish God's mission. Paul only went to Macedonia because of vision that he had. It wasn’t in his original plan. Lydia had been searching for God and went to a place known as a place to seek and pray. We know she was a very unusual woman for her time because she was a wealthy merchant on her own at a time when women were mostly seen as property. She had found material success but it wasn’t enough for her. She was still searching for God. Because she had been searching her heart was opened to hear Paul's message. She then became a missionary herself as her home became home base for Paul while in Philippi. I believe that God still brings things together for us to accomplish his plan for his kingdom, whether it be something small like the tulip popular bloom or some much bigger life decision.
Prepare our hearts and our eyes to see you. Bring together everything you need to accomplish your purpose through us today.
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