Alternate Plans

Oh, how often do our plans change at the last minute?  The unexpected shift in our weather here in Atlanta forced us to cancel our Gifted retreat at the last minute.  Instead of coming together in one room to pray and learn more about the Holy Spirit, we have the opportunity to experience a Virtual Retreat.  So...gather your bible, your journal, a pen, and a cup of something hot and settle in. 

In order to open our hearts and our minds to whatever God wants to share with us, we need to begin by finding stillness in our mind and our body. So often, we approach Scripture with the same mindset we use when reading a story. While this is not bad, it may prevent the Holy Spirit from doing all that He is equipped to do. Today, allow the Holy Spirit to come alongside and inspire you as you pray with Scripture. He wants to give you a deeper understanding of the message that God has for you, right now.

Settle in. Breathe deeply. Exhale slowly. As you breathe, close your eyes and repeat the phrase, "Come, Holy Spirit," in rhythm with your breath. Do this until you can find a little bit of silence. 

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On a normal, average day-- the Angel Gabriel came to Mary, a not-so-average young girl.  In the obscure town of Nazareth, Gabriel came with news that would change Mary's plans for the rest of her life.  Whatever was going through her mind when she woke up that morning, I am certain it was not in any way related to the potential visit from an angel and news from God of her elderly cousin's pregnancy. I don't think she woke up thinking, "Today is the day that I am going to become pregnant with the Son of God." She did not wake up knowing that she was about to receive the most important of all Gifts. 

How often do we wake up and have our day shift rapidly from the plan and schedule that we had anticipated? Mary and Elizabeth show us how the Holy Spirit wants to step into our lives and give us gifts that will make the world a better place. 

Read Luke 1:26-38 and write your answers to the following questions in your journal.  Writing them out will help you to clarify what you are thinking. As you are reading, pay close attention to Mary's openness and flexibility.  

1. Mary and the Gabriel had a conversation. He spoke and she spoke in response to him. He delivered a message from God. Why is the conversation important? Why was it necessary for her to listen and then talk and ask a question of the angel? Think about this conversation in the same way as you think about prayer.

2. Did Mary get more information from the angel as a result of entering into the conversation?

3. Did Mary trust that the angel was from God? What part of this passage can you point to that helps you understand Mary's trust? Would her response have been different if she did not trust God?

4. What Gifts does Mary receive from the Angel? From the Holy Spirit/God?

Because of this short conversation, Mary's life turns upside down and all of her plans fly out the window as the angel departs. But, she is empowered by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit to remain flexible and take the next right step. Very soon after Gabriel leaves, Mary travels to Judah to see her cousin Elizabeth. This trip confirms the information that Mary received from the angel. 

Read Luke 1:39-55

The Holy Spirit, the love between the Father and the Son, is not only creative, but He is a great gift giver as well.  He helps each of us to know God more intimately. The Holy Spirit also allows us to connect with others in an authentic and wholehearted way. 

5. How do we know that the Holy Spirit was present in the conversation between Mary and Elizabeth? (Think about how the Holy Spirit affected Mary, Elizabeth, and the two babies.)

6. What emotion does Elizabeth associate with the movement of her baby?

7. The prayer that Mary speaks in response to Elizabeth's recognition is called the Magnificat. She is able to speak freely about her experience of God. Do you see a difference in this Holy Spirit filled conversation and the conversations you have with your friends?

8. Did Mary and Elizabeth need courage to face the shift in their plans? Did they need a commitment to God and trust in Him? Did they need community or friendship to support them in their new path?

Mary and Elizabeth were both open to God in a unique way that allowed them to recognize the source of their gifts and share their gifts with others. They had an intimate relationship with Him that was fueled by prayer. We see that they both trusted Him completely with their lives and their plans. 

Mary and Elizabeth were also open with each other. They encouraged each other and recognized each other's gifts. They had a relationship that was not based upon competition but on cooperation. Their souls were the fertile ground for the Holy Spirit to plant the seeds of faith and watch them grow and flourish. 

So, what are your takeaways today? What "one thing" is the Holy Spirit challenging you to do in the coming days to reconnect with God in prayer (pray) or reconnect with a Christ-centered friend in conversation (act)? What Gift does the Holy Spirit want for you to see in your change of plans (ponder)? How can your life magnify God to allow others to recognize Him?