The next whisper, also in November, came via a sermon Greg and I listened to online while driving to Galveston for Thanksgiving week. Greg and I don't always make it to "live" church on Sundays, depending on Rowan's naps and/or if we are trekking anywhere to see family and friends. So, when we have some time together, like driving or making weekend breakfast, we like to listen to sermons we miss online. We listened to a sermon on the holy spirit on the way to Galveston, and the message just stuck with me and felt right and helpful. The message was basically how do you tell if you are "full" of the holy spirit, and how do you get that way. For anyone with a Pentecostal or extreme "spirit-filled" evangelical background, I'm NOT referring their use of the term "filled with the holy spirit...". I'm NOT talking about laying on hands, speaking in tongues, "falling out in the spirit," creepily telling everyone you meet that God is giving you a message for them, or behaving like you just dropped ecstasy. I'm NOT talking about any of those things, which are central parts of those specific denominations and traditions, but which I have personally found to be lacking genuineness, and often influenced by peer pressure, conformity and status seeking within
those churches. So, I don't mean THAT. I am often wary of ever using the term Holy Spirit for fear of being associated with THAT, despite my best efforts to disassociate myself and my meaning from it.
In other Christian denominations and traditions (outside of the Pentecostal and "spirit-filled" evangelicals), the holy spirit is rightly seen as part of the trinity, as God, and as part of a Christian's life, but it is not taught about and manifested in the same ways as those other traditions. The Holy Spirit is a spiritual guide, a comforter, and a pray-er (an intercessor) for us as Christians. It's our piece (and peace) of God that can go with us everywhere, as opposed to the Old Testament ways, when interactions with God were supposed to happen at the temple where God's presence was physically. I personally believe this is what Jesus meant in John 4 when talking with the woman at the well when he said people will no longer worship in a temple, but will worship in spirit and truth. It's like, the Holy Spirit: God's mobile app. (I know that's *totally* cheesy and it completely came from me, not the sermon or the church.)
Anyway, this sermon was about the Holy Spirit, and four areas that can be practical indicators of its work. It's difficult to summarize the sermon here because the message was well constructed, and each part built on the previous idea. I can send the message link to anyone who is interested. But the part that spoke to me wasn't even the best part or main part of the message. The best part was that many Christians feel like 'the Christian life' is a heavy car that doesn't run and they have to push it around; they think they have to put forth exhausting effort to carry the burden of trying to be loving and generous and peaceful and everything else a Christian "should" be and do, and it's a hopelessly difficult task. But the Holy Spirit is the gas that goes in the car- you were never meant to push the car around on your own strength. I love that analogy, but that wasn't what spoke to me. I gladly gave up the notion of pushing my own car for appearance's sake, at the expense of a true internal foundation, LONG ago.
What spoke to me was looking at practical areas that the famous fruits of the spirit (love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control) can impact. And conversely, making these areas priorities can also offer the spirit new avenues to work in you. I found it to be a great practical guide for discovering the fingerprints of the spirit in my life. The four areas he mentioned were categorized as "horizontal," or relating to your relationships with others, which included one- your fellowship with others and, two- your submission in your relationships, and "vertical," or relating to your relationship with God as seen in, three- your worship, and four- your thankfulness.
What I liked so much was that despite feeling that my long-time prayers for comfort and understanding were not being answered satisfactorily, I could see God's work very clearly when I looked in those four areas of my life. I felt reassured that he was working, pretty closely, with me, and I was on the right track. And it gave me something practical to do, in being purposeful about those four areas and seeing their significance. And conveniently, the "thankfulness" area was an echo of a previous November whisper from Phillipians.