Sunday, June 28, 2015

Picking Fruit - Peace

Here we are, my friends.  The last Sunday of our series on the Fruits of the Spirit.  I thank you for letting me share my thoughts on this incredible passage.  It has certainly been good for my soul and the self-reflection has assisted in the way I want to live my life. 
Peace is one of those topics that I think of quite a bit.  I'm not sure why it means so much to me.  Maybe because there were times in my life when I didn't experience it and I understood what the weight of NOT having peace brought to me.  Maybe it is because since then I have experienced the wonder of peace and realize how much I need it.  I do know it is a topic I would truly love to research.  I went back and realized that the last time I wrote about peace was during Advent as it is one of the Advent candles.  Then, I shared about Peaceful Chaos, about finding peace during the chaotic life we lead. 
Today, it's time to share a different type of peace.  Have you ever experienced an "unpeaceful soul"?  I am sure my mother is sighing a huge sigh saying "unpeaceful" is not a word!  I know Mom, but I also know that when I say that, I'm sure there are others who will agree.  Let's look past the peace of our days, to the peace of our souls. 
It is very hard to find peace deep in our souls when we have something so pressing on our souls.  I know many, right now, who have difficult situations they are struggling with.  A health issue, a relationship issue, a career decision, a faith issue - these are the types of events in our lives that can move our souls from a peaceful state to an "unpeaceful" state.  How do we gain peace back in our lives during those moments of unrest?
We rely on our Lord.  I can hear many of you out there, "That's easier said than done."  Maybe.... maybe not.  Spend a few moments with me.  The Holy Spirit brings all of these wonderful fruits into us, into our lives.  Over the past few weeks, we have seen opportunities where he has brought joy, love, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control, faithfulness, and gentleness.  I have heard from many of you how you have seen and felt the power that the Holy Spirit can have on our lives.  Why should peace be any different?  Peace for our souls means we have to do one thing - just one thing - rely on Jesus.  Not just rely on Him a little, we need to rely on Him for everything.  When we cannot understand the "why" behind an issue, we have to believe God is the why.  When our explanations, or lack thereof are not enough, we have to believe that God has the only explanation.  When indecision brings indecisiveness, we have to believe that God will show us the way.
Then, and only then, will we have total peace.  I admire the women that are strong in faith during a time of illness.  When I had cancer, I relied on my Lord for many things - yet, the "peace factor" didn't seem to be there.  I wasn't sure why, but I wrestled in my soul as to the many situations that seemed to be happening around me when I had cancer.  The struggle was real and would keep me awake many nights.  When all the treatments were done, God guided me to a favorite place in Jackson, NH.  It is a beautiful, large, sitting rock in the middle of a stream.  There, I sat, by myself, with no hair, and my journal.  I wrote, and I wrote, and I wrote some more.  With each word, a sense of calmness came over me.  With each word, I gained a soul that was full of understanding.  With each word, I gained peace.  That was the time and the place God granted me peace, when I fully gave everything to Him.
We may not have a full understanding of why things are happening in our lives at every moment.  We won't always be able to find the reasons, the explanations.  We are fortunate that we don't have to find the reason - Jesus is our reason.  Jesus will bring clarity.  It may not be today, it may not be in this lifetime.  We need to trust that by asking God for peace, and then relying fully on Him, He will bring the peace we need.

For those that are struggling, and for those who know people who are struggling, let us share the prayer below:

"Heavenly Father, whether we are struggling with having peace in our own souls or know someone who is struggling, please be with us.  Bring peace to those who have an "unpeaceful" soul.  Let them know that relying on you and you alone can bring true peace.  Having peace in our lives lets us fully live in your glory.  Bless all who read this that the peace that passes all understanding will bring them joy, love, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control, gentleness, faithfulness."

Friday, June 19, 2015

Picking Fruit - Kindness

Happy Sunday!  It certainly seems as if this series on the Fruits of the Spirit has been impactful.  I know it has been on me.  I continue to find opportunities to not only THINK about these fruits, but also to practice them (or at least try).  I know that there are many more opportunities when I have missed the chance, and I ask God to reveal those times to me.
We are down to the last two, and this week, we are looking at Kindness.  If you remember a few weeks back, I shared that I would try to explain the difference between Goodness and Kindness, which almost seem like the same thing.  Goodness was discussed as DOING good, finding an actual act in which to do something - maybe out of the ordinary - that was good and right. 

This week, as we focus on Kindness, let us reflect on us, the people we are, the attitude of our hearts.  Kindness, in my viewpoint, is the attitude or the characteristic of our hearts.  Are we genuinely kind to people, do we welcome them with our smiles, with our words, with our voices?  Is the first reaction when we see people is to respond in a kind way (extend a hand - or in my case a hug - of welcome)?

Kindness comes in many shapes and sizes, vocal and silent, etc.  These days, we hear a lot about Random Acts of Kindness (doing good!).  The start of the "act" or doing good comes from a kind heart.  Kindness is the genuine characteristic of one's heart.  I am sure we have met many people in our lifetime (and maybe we have BEEN those people), who seem to be cold-hearted.  They aren't happy, they tend to see the glass half empty, they are negative to those around them.  I'm sure you are getting the picture.  Kindness is the opposite of that - it's a person who puts on a smile, sees the positive in situations, welcomes ALL that they meet.  A kind heart will lead someone to an act of "doing good".

Okay, so now that we have defined it, what does that mean for us?  Yes, it's time to self-reflect.  Are we kind?  You might say a resounding YES (I did, at first)!  Yet, are we.  We tend to be kind to those around us - sometimes we are kinder to strangers and people outside of our home than we are to those that live with us.  Are you kind to your spouse?  I have to say, sometimes I fall short here.  I don't mean to, but we can take advantage of those closest to us and I certainly have been guilty of that at times.  I am sorry, Juan!!  Are you kind to your siblings?  This was much more difficult when I was younger (you don't know my brother - only kidding)!  Yet as we grew older, I know we appreciate each other more and there is a level of kindness.  Are you kind to your pets?  Do you take advantage of the fact that they will always be there or do you spend some time with them - showing affection?  Are you kind to those closest to you - friends, church members, co-workers, etc?  Yes, it is time to do a bit of self-reflection.  Typically, when we are in a state of "comfort" with others, we can let down our "kindness" heart.  I know I have been guilty of this and will certainly look to enhance this in the VERY near future - like TODAY!

There are many places that the word Kindness can take us.  Yes, I could right on forever about this topic, just like many of the others.  Yet, let us look forward.  Kindness is truly a gift of the Holy Spirit - as are the other fruits.  Kindness can take deep hold in our hearts - if we LET it.  There may be times and circumstances when we don't feel very kind - maybe don't even want to be kind.  Think of our beloved Jesus.  The many times He was mocked, chastised, ridiculed, etc., yet, He was kind to ALL - yes ALL!!  Even in His manner of correction, He was kind.

Let us learn from our Heavenly Father.  Let us be reminded that in all circumstances, may we come to them with a kind heart, a kind attitude, a kind character.  May we be what the Holy Spirit has led us to be - people of God.  I pray the week ahead brings you to moments of kindness - ones where you may NOT have been kind before.  May we look for these opportunities, embrace them, and show others the love that Jesus has shown us.  Blessings to all of you in the week ahead!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Picking Fruit - Self Control


Our patience week has passed.  I heard from many of you that the topic of patience certainly brought forth challenges for us to see things in a different light, to WAIT because it's okay to wait, and to ask for help from our Heavenly Father when our patience is wanning.

The fruit this week is also incredibly challenging for me - self control.   Those two words, in many of my situations, seem like oxymorons.  Self and Control??  There are many times in my life where I WANT the benefits of a little self control, but the "will power" seems to elude me.  

I should have more control on the good thoughts I think about.  I should have more control on the words that come out of my mouth.  I should have more control about my time with my Lord.  I should have more control on balancing work and life.  I should have more control on my "control" of situations and others.  Yes, all of those are very true statements that I work on every day of my life.  Yet, the one self control that seems to be my largest struggle is my control of food!!  Please, dear friends, tell me you share some of the same struggles with self control that I do - maybe you have self control issues all your own.  I believe this fruit - out of all of them - seems to be the one that is most difficult in my life.  I don't want it to be that way - and I am working hard to push past that.  I can hear some of you now, "Susan what are you talkin' about?"  Let me explain.

Love, joy, gentleness, patience, etc, many of them are the essence of having our heart, souls, and minds in control to align with God's precious characteristics.  All of these fruits are a direct example and reflection of how Jesus lived His life here on earth.  These are our many "takeaways" of what He taught us when He was here.  God left us with the Holy Spirit to bring these charateristics inside of us, to hold on to and to share.  It is our self-reflective duty to control ourselves in a manner that is pleasing to God.  

When I think of my weight struggle (and blessings to all of you who have had to put up with me and my weight journey), I think of the many times that I put something in my mouth that I knew wasn't healthy for me, or didn't get outside and walk or exercise like I should have done, or  . . . . yes, the list is long.  I know what to do - it's doing it that counts.  I could go on and on with this subject, but I know that I am not alone here and that whether it is food, or alcohol, or drugs, or a myriad of other things, we all are challenged with a level of self-control.  There is a verse that I have memorized, that means so much to me:  "I have the right to do anything, but not everything is beneficial."  (1 Corinthians 10:23)  I love this verse because it reminds me of the gift God gave us of free will.  Yes, we can and are able to do anything, but is it beneficial to us?  Yes, I have the ability to down that great donut, but is it beneficial to me?  Yes, I can enjoy an ice cream, but is it beneficial to me?  I can put anything into that sentence and realize that it is my ability to control THIS situation, this situation with ME, that will yield the best results.  Yet, if any of us think we can do this all on our own - we are sorely mistaken.  

No, it is not MY will power that I need to rely on (we've already seen how that turns out).  It is GOD'S power that I need to rely on in ALL circumstances.  Before I put that donut in, why not say a reflective prayer to God to ask for help.  Before I "gorge" myself when I'm not even hungry, why not ask God to be with me and help me to make the RIGHT choice.  There are numerous times when I have made a poor choice and have asked God to "fix" it - yes, I ate that donut, but please help the scale to reflect something different?  HELLO - He was there all along.  I should have asked Him for the power not to eat the donut.

Do you think God is too large or too busy to listen to all of our small requests?  My friends, we have a wonderful and amazing God.  God is never too busy, never too far away to hear from you.  Yes, I could go on forever about the fruit of self control.  We have this one!!  We can do the things that GOD wants us to do and control not only the difficult things in our life, but also to have control over the good things - time with God, time with family, good deeds, patience, etc.  Yes, we can have control because we have God.  Spend some time with him in prayer, asking for the self control in whatever you are looking for.  He is there, waiting to hear from you.  May you have a blessed week!!

Heavenly and gracious father, please be with all of us as we struggle with different areas of self control. Provide each person reading this the ability to go to YOU in times of struggle and know that YOU are always with us.  May we reach out to others who may need our help, and keep the devil away from our poor choices.  Thanks and praises to you, God.  Amen

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Picking Fruit - Patience

How did we do this past week?  I have no doubt that everyone did something good!  It's amazing when we put our minds to it all of the goodness that can be accomplished!  This week, we are taking a view of patience.  Of all of the fruits of the spirit, I believe this one is the one I struggle with the most.  I could probably do an entire series on patience, but that will be a different year :)

I see patience in two different aspects.  The first way I see patience is a total reflection of myself having patience with others.  Although I continue to try to work on this fruit, I know I continually fail.  As we all know, I tend to be a bit controlling (I can hear Juan saying it now - a BIT controlling)?  Yet, it is an area where I realize I may not have patience with other people.  Sometimes, people don't move fast enough or think fast enough or do fast enough.  Really?  What is my issue!!  When I think back on those times, I frustrate myself believing that my time is any more precious than anyone else's time.  I'm learning and I continue to try to grow in this area.

Can you relate to me?  Are there times when our LACK of patience gets the best of us?  It's at those times that we need to pray - yes, right at that time.  I have learned that when I take the time to pray during times of lacking patience, God provides just the right amount of reflection to move me forward to a better place.  He gets me to the point where I see things from the other person's point of view, not mine.  Oh yes, I'm a definite work in progress, but my walk in faith continues to grow.  The more I seek God, the more I see God.

The other aspect of patience comes in my waiting on answers from God.  If you think some people don't respond quick enough for me, you can imagine my high expectations from God!!  Prayers where He tells me to wait, questions that I don't have answers for, hopes that don't seem to get responded to - all of God's wonderful plan.  See, those are the key words - GOD'S WONDERFUL PLAN.  Not my plan, not my journey.  No, if I truly believe in my God, then I need to believe in His plan.  Once again, when things don't work fast enough for me or answers aren't forthcoming, I find myself "taking control" and making this happen.  When I move in this fashion, I always come up with the short end of the stick.  Why?  Because it isn't the plan that is supposed to be happening - it's not from God.  I am sure we have all heard often, it's not in MY time, it's in GOD'S time.  When things aren't going right and I am losing my perspective, I know at that point, I need to pray - right at that moment.  Bottom line, it is having simple faith to know that God is in control.  Simple faith that he will answer my questions, respond to my prayers, ensure I have the hopes that HE desires for me.  To me, a great verse I constantly keep at hand is, "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." (NIV) Romans 12:12

Yes, the two aspects of patience is a fruit I will continually need help with.  I also know that I have all the help I need in the hands of God.  Trusting Him to help me be more patient with others.  Trusting Him to help me be more patient with Him.  What a loving and wonderful God we have that He is the true model of patience.  Imagine how much patience He has with us.

Heavenly Father, please continue to be with me when patience seems to be evading me.  Help me to show patience to all I encounter.  This includes you, God.  Help me have patience in all I say and do - knowing that patience in relation to you will always bring great rewards.

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Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope we can share how God's grace has been life changing and that SIMPLE FAITH, getting back to a life that is rooted in the basics, can truly set us free to achieve so much in our lives.