December 16, 2015

Who Is the Holy Spirit and What Does He Have to Do with Fruit (Part 7)

As Christians, we're supposed to be filled with the Spirit of God. But what, exactly, does that look like? Well, for one thing, it looks like faithfulness.

What in the Word: Galatians 5:22-25

Hang-Onto-It Verse: "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patiencekindnessgoodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." (Galatians 5:22-23a)

This is going to be a different kind of post, sweet friends. As we finish out this series on the qualities of the fruit of the Spirit, I've been sharing the wisdom and inspiration of other writers. I asked my 12-year-old, who loves to write, to share with you on faithfulness. Which she agreed to do...until school and dance and band and other life stuff got in the way. So you're back to me for this post, and because I'm doing this in the thick of the Christmas season, I'm just going to write in relatively unstructured fashion.

What other words come to mind when you think of faithfulness? My brain leaps pretty quickly toward loyalty, consistency, dependability. A few years ago, my uncle was talking about my dad, and he said, "Russ...he's steady." Yes. Steady. My dad is steady. My husband, bless his heart, is steady. And Abba is steady. Look up James 1:17. I love the beautiful word picture of faithfulness James paints in the last part of that verse.

Our pastor at church has been challenging members of our congregation to prepare their testimonies--and to be ready to share them, at any time, in four minutes. I've been working on mine, and I don't know of a better way to write on faithfulness than to share it here. Not because I have been faithful, but because God has.

This is my story. This is my song.

I grew up in the church. This is a truth I write with a heart full of gratitude, because I do not take it for granted, and as an adult, I know what a gift it is.

From the time I was a baby, I was in church every Sunday morning. When I was old enough, I went to Sunday School every week. I sang in the "cherub choir." I went to Vacation Bible School and summer church camp. And because of all this, truth about Who God is was woven into the fabric of my reality all along.

I learned that the Earth is round, that the sun comes up every morning, that 2 + 2 = 4, and that God loves me and wants me to belong to Him and that He sent His Son Jesus to deal with the sin that gets in the way of our relationship. 

The was my reality, and I accepted it with the childlike faith God says we all have to have to enter His kingdom. Out of this faith, I prayed a prayer in my bedroom of my parents' house when I was in about third grade. I told God I believed in Him and that I knew I was a sinner. I asked Jesus to wipe my sins away and to come live in my heart and to make it possible for me to go to heaven when my life on this earth was done.

I absolutely believe I received eternal salvation in that moment. I believe my status as a child of God was sealed that night. And I believe God wrote my name in His Lamb's Book of Life (see Revelation 21:27)--and there it remains to this day.

If you're waiting for a story of teenage rebellion against God, I don't have one to share. In junior high and high school, I kept wanting to be closer to God, but I didn't really know how to get there.

When I went off to college at a private Christian school where I knew no one, I suddenly got around people who loved God differently than I did. They loved Him more. They loved Him with a passion that was new to me. And I wanted what they had. 

Very quickly, God in His mercy and faithfulness, showed me a game-changing truth. He showed me that up to that point, He had been a piece of my life, but He had never been the whole deal. He had been a spoke on my life's wheel, but He had never been the center Hub. I had compartmentalized God: He was one part of my life, but He was not part of all the other parts. I heard Him say to my mind and heart, "Elizabeth. I don't want to be part of your life. I want to be your life."
One night, in the middle of a typical young-adult personal crisis, I sat in the dark on my bed in my dorm room and cried out to God like I never had before. I lifted up my soul to Him, using these words from Psalm 25: "To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in You I trust, O my God. Show me Your ways, O Lord, teach me Your paths; guide me in Your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in You all day long" (Psalm 25:1,2,4,5).

Since that night, God has been faithfully--steadfastly, consistently--drawing me to Himself and showing me what life with Him as the center spoke looks like. He has taught me to weave personal, in-depth Bible study, prayer, Christian music, worship, fellowship, and service into the fabric of my existence.

Hebrews 11:1 describes faith as "being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Faithfulness, then, looks to me like acting and living and thinking based on what we hope for but do not yet see fully. Because hope in I AM is never misplaced. Because His love is faithful. Because His redemption is abundant.
Sweet girl, I'm going to wrap this up with a song. When I hear or read the word "faithfulness," I automatically think of the hymn "Great Is Thy Faithfulness." If you're not a hymn fan, take a moment to listen to this version from Page incredible group whose passion is to introduce this present generation to hymns of the past. (Curious about the back story on this group's name? You'll find it at #8 on this list.)
"Great is Thy faithfulness, O God, my Father. There is no shadow of turning with Thee. Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not. As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be. Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning, new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand hath provided. Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!"

"When your words came, I ate them; 
they were my joy and my heart's delight." (Jeremiah 15:16)

(Looking for Part 6 of this series? Find it here.)

November 20, 2015

(in)courage: Surprised by Good

“Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; 
His love endures forever.” {Psalm 107:1 NIV}

Three years ago, our family hosted Thanksgiving dinner for the first time.

I’d waited a while to do it. We had lived in our 100-year-old farmhouse for more than a decade. We had a formal dining room. I knew how to cook a turkey.

But established traditions called for us to spend Thanksgiving Day with my husband’s side of the family one year and with my parents at their house the next.

That year, we were supposed to be at my parents’, but my mom graciously agreed that my little family could host at our house instead. She and my dad would be our guests, along with my brother and sister-in-law and their two children.

I dreamed of how the day would go. It would be cold and gray and dreary…perfect for a fire in the fireplace and cozy indoor games. We would linger over dinner, taking time to savor each dish and share our thanksgivings around the table.

I would set the stage in the dining room ahead of time and then close the double sliding pocket doors. When our company arrived, I would slide the doors open with a flourish to reveal a Norman Rockwell-esque scene.

“Happy Thanksgiving!” I would declare. Probably, there would be applause. Probably, it would be like a Hallmark movie. 

Except, of course, it wasn’t.

Join me over on (in)courage for the rest of this story that I love so much...

November 10, 2015

Who is the Holy Spirit and What Does He Have to Do with Fruit? (Part 6)

As Christians, we're supposed to be filled with the Spirit of God. But what, exactly, does that look like? Well, for one thing, it looks like goodness.

What in the Word: Galatians 5:22-25

Hang-Onto-It Verse: "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patiencekindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." (Galatians 5:22-23a)

I have such a treat for you, sweet friends. To finish out this series on the qualities of the fruit of the Spirit, I'll be sharing the wisdom and inspiration of other writers. I'm so honored to introduce to you the writer of this post on goodness. Kathleen E. Harris says that she is "the blessed 3rd-grade teacher of Lydia and twice-blessed 3rd and 4th-grade teacher of Anna," but I would say that the greater blessing was my daughters'--that they were Mrs. Harris' students. A 35-year veteran teacher (from pre-K to 4th grade), Kathleen Harris is now retired and enjoying it. Raised by parents who were teachers and evangelists, she has enjoyed traveling to 19 countries and 48 states. Washington and Oregon are on her bucket list. She enjoys golfing, writing, watercolor painting, reading, and singing. She and her husband will celebrate their 40th anniversary in May, and they have one daughter who interprets for the deaf.

Aren’t Goodness and Kindness the Same Thing?
When I was asked if I would take on one of the qualities of the fruit of the Spirit, I waffled between goodness and kindness. I settled on “goodness.” For a little background research, I let my "fingers do the walking" through the Holy Pages...well, in this day and age, through Bible Hub. Right away, I found that many verses used the words “goodness” and “kindness” interchangeably. I wondered, "Is there really any difference between goodness and kindness? Was Paul being redundant?" I didn’t think so. There had to be a difference. Otherwise, why would both terms be listed in Galatians 5:22?  When I Googled for an answer, I found contrary responses, and being one who likes to figure things out for herself anyway, I decided to meditate on Scripture, along with my own experiences with the quality of goodness. So I pondered on a life example with which many of us are familiar.

Parental Advice, For Example
“Be good!” Every mom among us has probably said this while sending children off to school or to some social function like a friend’s birthday party. But what did we mean exactly? Behave yourself, remember your manners, don’t embarrass your parents, follow instructions, do your work, treat others the way you want to be treated. Though we may not have necessarily said “be kind,” certainly kind actions would fall under this category. Therefore, “goodness” seems to be a term encompassing a broader scope of desired behavior.

The “Good” Samaritan…or is it the “Kind” Samaritan?
The obvious Biblical example of goodness would be the parable of the “Good Samaritan.” But does it demonstrate “goodness” or “kindness?” As I read the parable Jesus told, it seems to be a better example of "kindness" or, at the very least, demonstrates the interchangeability of these two words. 

You're probably familiar with this illustration from Luke 10 25-37: a Jewish man, while traveling, is attacked by thieves, stripped of his valuables, beaten, and left for dead. Two different religious leaders pass by him on the opposite side of the road. 

When the Samaritan comes along he does a number of things. Without worrying about the risk to himself, he suspends his travels to attend to the stranger’s wounds. He uses oil and wine, which I suspect was of some value, to disinfect and soothe the man’s injuries. The Samaritan bandages his sores, most likely having to rip up some of his own clothing to make them since Band-aid brand was not available at that time. He puts the man on his own "ride," which was pretty much a one-seater, and walked the remaining miles to the next town leading his donkey carrying the wounded man.       

Once he gets the victim to a town, he does not dump him at the nearest police station or hospital, releasing himself of further responsibility for the man. No, he checks him into an inn, paying for his stay and care. Then the “good” Samaritan promises to come back and make good on any extra costs of the victim’s recovery. 

Let’s look at the list of “good” or “kind” things the Samaritan did…
          1)  stop to aide the victim                                                         
          2)  cleanse, soothe, bandage wounds                              
          3)  give him a ride to town                                              
          4)  put him in an inn to recover, all expenses paid  

I think we would agree that each of his actions could easily be called “kind.”  So, why is he called the “Good” Samaritan?

I believe Jesus is pointing out something about the Samaritan that goes beyond kind.

Why Was the Parable Named the “Good” Samaritan?
I think the Lord included the religious leaders in this parable to draw a contrast between the character of those who display goodness and those who do not. Both the priest and the Levite, upon seeing the man, took a wide path around him (I can imagine them picking up their pace to a jog), and left the victim in their respective dust. Some assumptions can be made about these men. Both of them thought more of themselves than the victim. Not only did they pass him by, they actually crossed to the other side of the road. They wanted absolutely nothing to do with the wounded man. Their only concern was for their own safety and welfare. They were absorbed with their own self-importance, pride, and selfishness. These characteristics are the antithesis of goodness. 

The Essence of Goodness
Humility and compassion are the characteristics of the “Good” Samaritan. The Samaritan did what was “right” even though it was inconvenient and expensive. These traits, then, must be the essence of goodness. The same characteristics are advised in Philippians 2:3-4: "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others."

In 1 Peter 2:9, God calls us priests of a different kind than we see in the parable. "But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God's very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light" (New Living Translation).

We are to be examples of God’s goodness, like the Good Samaritan.

The New Living Translation of 2 Peter 1:5 translates the word “goodness” as “moral excellence.” Looking at the example of the Good Samaritan, and what we mean when we say "be good,” we find that “goodness” is more than an expectation to be kind. We expect a “good” person to display “moral excellence”--to do what is right, to be reliable, responsible, trustworthy, and yes, to show kindness. 

How do we acquire goodness?
If you’re like me, you're saying, “Okay, so goodness is a term defined as ‘right’ behavior. Now what? How do I acquire that trait?” I’m certainly no expert, and I’m still working toward obtaining the fruit of the Spirit in my own life. But, I feel a great place to start is in getting your "thinking right." "For as [a person] thinks within himself, so he is" (Proverbs 23:7, New American Standard Bible ).

Romans 12 is a good place to begin. Since goodness requires humility and compassion, as seen in the contrast between the Samaritan and the religious leaders, we need to change our thinking about ourselves and others. Verses 1- 3 urge, “Don’t be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.Then you will know God’s “good, pleasing and perfect will.”  Renewal of the mind, I have found, takes study and saturation in God’s Word and in His Presence. 
In this process (and it is a process) of gaining a new way of thinking, I often use to search a topic, such as God’s goodness. I have listed some scriptures I found on this subject below. The next step in renewing my mind is meditating on, or pondering, the verses and what they tell me about goodness. I sometimes use the site features of cross references and commentaries to further my understanding.
Ephesians 5:8-10 New International Version
"For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)
and find out what pleases the Lord."

"Or is it that you think slightingly of His infinite goodness, forbearance and patience, unaware that the goodness of God is gently drawing you to repentance?"

Romans 14:17 New Living Translation
"For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit."

"His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness."

"Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever."

I love the thought that God woos and pursues us to repentance, that He gives us life in the Light while on earth, and in the future, He gives us eternal life in heaven with Him.

Romans 12:3 helps us understand how we should view ourselves. Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given you. We are not to be proud like the religious leaders were. But we are not to think too lowly of ourselves either. We are to make an "honest evaluation of [ourselves]" using the "faith God has given us" as the measurement tool. (See the New Living Translation for reference.) By faith in God, we are His beloved children.

"Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God."

We are daughters of the Most High King. We are not worthless; we have great value in His sight. He died for us, and lives to intercede for us. But as His children, we are responsible to walk as children of the light just as the Samaritan did, seeking to help those who need it (as stated in verses 9-11 of Romans 12): "Cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord." (For more insights on Romans 12, go to

As God’s child, a recipient of His goodness, I am compelled to ask, as the psalmist did, “What shall I return to the Lord for all His goodness to me?” (Psalm 116:12). My answer is to follow the command in 2 Peter 1:5: “Make every effort to add to your faith goodness…”

"When your words came, I ate them; 
they were my joy and my heart's delight." (Jeremiah 15:16)

(Looking for Part 5 of this series? Find it here.)

October 26, 2015

Who is the Holy Spirit and What Does He Have to Do with Fruit? (Part 5)

As Christians, we're supposed to be filled with the Spirit of God. But what, exactly, does that look like? Well, for one thing, it looks like kindness.

What in the Word: Galatians 5:22-25

Hang-Onto-It Verse: "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." (Galatians 5:22-23a)

I have such a treat for you, sweet friends. To finish out this series on the qualities of the fruit of the Spirit, I'll be sharing the wisdom and inspiration of other writers. First up is my friend Mary from SonRise Insights. I'm honored to be able to reshare Mary's beautiful post on kindness from her blog. Drink in God's truth as communicated by her lovely words, then head over to her blog to check out more from Mary.

More Friends of Joy: Kindness

by Mary Dolan Flaherty, SonRise Insights
Sometimes I start a post and it takes a whole different direction.

The last few days have been like that. Somehow, I personified joy and turned it into Joy. Gratitude, Peace, and Patience followed.

What's really exciting is that an entire story is evolving in my head, and I've been furiously writing (well, as time allows). There is so much in my head and I want to get it all out before I forget!

At any rate, I thought that I'd keep going with this personification of traits thing, so I'd like to introduce you today to Kindness.

Kindness has one of those common names. Everywhere she goes, people say, "Oh, I've met you before," or "I know you." 

Kindness, of course, being kind in nature, smiles genuinely--not at all in a condescending way--and says, "I have many relatives, so I'm not sure if the one you met before was me."

She explains:

There are a lot of people who are kind. And a lot of reasons behind their being kind. Some are kind for personal gain. Some are kind out of a sense of guilt or feelings that if they're kind, they'll restore relationship.

Then there are those who are kind for the sake of being kind. Because they truly care. Because that's just the way they are. Whatever the reasons, when kindness is spread, people are changed. Acts of kindness make people feel good-on the receiving AND the giving end.

But I am the Kindness that comes from God. It's hard to explain. There is no word in your English language to adequately describe me. The best way I can describe who I am is to tell you that that I meet real needs in God's way and in His timing. I am useful, usable, and serviceable.

I know that might sound a bit sterile, but it's really not. Think of that single mother you know who is struggling to make ends meet. She works two jobs and then her daughter gets sick and she misses a week of work. She doesn't get paid for that missed work, and because of that, she doesn't have enough to pay her rent that month.

Kindness sees that need. While prayer for this tired mom is needed, what is useful, useable, and serviceable is you and others like you buying her groceries, delivering them to her door, cleaning her house, and handing her an envelope with just the right amount of money needed to pay the rent.

That's the difference between just being kind and me--the fruit of God's spirit--Kindness.

While Joy and Gratitude are skipping, dancing, and laughing into the sunset, and Peace and Patience are quietly waiting for their friends at the still water by the sunset, Kindness, accompanied by Goodness, walks quietly, slowly, and purposefully toward the horizon. She is always looking, always searching, always aware of the needs around her.

Reference: Strong's --the word kindness comes from a root chrestos (sounds like Christ, right?)

"When your words came, I ate them; 
they were my joy and my heart's delight." (Jeremiah 15:16)

(Looking for Part 4 of this series? Find it here.)

September 17, 2015

Five Verses to Claim Today When You're Worried About Tomorrow

"As Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to Him. She had a sister, called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet, listening to what He said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him and asked, 'Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!' 'Martha, Martha,' the Lord answered, 'you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.' " (Luke 10:38-41)
I feel a deep affinity for Martha in this Biblical account.

I know she was a crazy mess, running around like a mad woman, trying to feed everyone, and muttering under her breath about how her sister wasn't pulling her weight. But I've been a guest in homes where there wasn't a Martha, and sometimes I felt like my hosts were not actually aware I was coming. Also, I felt hungry.

But that is a post for another time. (Working title: "This World Has Room for Both Mary and Martha" maybe?)
Today, I hear Jesus' tender, loving voice when He said, "Martha, Martha, you are worried about many things...but Mary has chosen what is better."

Today, as a worrier, I hear Him say to me, "Elizabeth, Elizabeth, you are worried about many things. But I want you to choose what is better."
What is the better way when we're worried? 

Mary showed the answer when she camped out at Jesus' feet, drawing close to Him, giving her attention and devotion. She focused on the Logos--the Word made flesh. Until we can do the same and camp out at Jesus' feet near His throne in heaven, we can focus on the Word.  

We can affirm the truth of it. We can claim it.

How do we "claim" God's Word and the truth it conveys? Here's one process to try out.

1. Read it silently to yourself.
2. Read it out loud. (This really gets the enemy, by the way. He can't read our minds, so he's not laid low by what we think. But the Word of God spoken out loud? That's slaying the dragon, sweet girl.)
3. Write it out.
4. Memorize it. (Need a way to do this? Click here for a printable plan.)
5. Repeat it.
6. Share it.
7. Act on it. Act like it. 

God's Word is rich with anti-worrying promises and precepts that lead us along the better way. Here are 5 to start with today if tomorrow is weighing heavily on your mind and soul.
Click here for a printable version of these cards.
1. Joshua 3:5 ~ "Then Joshua told the people, 'Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you.' " When we "consecrate" ourselves, we set ourselves apart for God's use. Other versions of the Bible translate the original Hebrew word qadash as "make holy" or "sanctify." When the Bible talks about something or someone being holy, it means it or they are reserved, apart from the ordinary, for a special purpose. I need to dedicate myself today to being ready for what God will do with me and for me tomorrow.

2. Psalm 16:7-9 ~ "I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I have set the LORD always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore, my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure." These were my favorite exam-anxiety defense verses in college. I loved the idea that God was working on me even while I slept. And many times, in my dorm room before the test, I'd be yelling, "God is at my right hand! I WILL NOT BE SHAKEN!" I also pictured Him sitting to my right during the exam, literally steadying me as I wrote. Okay, I was a total GPA-worshiping, neurotic freak. But this verse is powerful for any worry-worn situation. Seek God and His wisdom. Check His Word for guidance. Pray about "it." Ask faithful (and faith-full) friends for counsel. Do what you can. Then go to bed and "rest secure" and let God do His thing while you sleep. (He never does sleep, BTW...see Psalm 121:4.) You might also want to try, "declaring," "God is at my right hand! I WILL NOT BE SHAKEN." If nothing else, the enemy will hate it. (See #2 in the "how to claim God's Word" list above.)

3. Philippians 4:6,7 ~ "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." I look at this verse as a path from worry to peace. Click here to print a road map for this path.

4. Psalm 27:13,14 ~ "I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD." I always thought "the land of the living" referred to heaven--the place of eternal life. I looked at this as a promise that no matter how bad now gets, I WILL see God's goodness then in my eternal home. But recently, I learned that "the land of the living" in the original Hebrew refers to life on this earth. In spite of the sin and destruction and evil and heartbreak we experience ourselves and see around us, God is still here. He has not abandoned us. And if we wait for Him, if we are strong and "take heart," we can confidently expect to see His goodness here and now, not just then.

5. Isaiah 43:2 ~ "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze." Whatever is worrying you is possibly--probably?--very real. I LOVE that this verse doesn't pretend we're never in deep waters or hot fires. When you pass and walk, God says, not if. The Great I AM knows about the floods and the flames. But He declares a couple truths here: 1)He's with us IN them; 2)they will not consume us. They will not destroy us. With God's help, we can and will come out on the other side. 

My mom's favorite quote about worrying is from Corrie ten Boom: "Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength." Claim the strength God offers you in His love letter today, sweet one! Then, expect His amazing things, His security, His peace, His goodness, and His protection tomorrow.

September 14, 2015

Who is the Holy Spirit and What Does He Have to Do with Fruit? (Part 4)

As Christians, we're supposed to be filled with the Spirit of God. But what, exactly, does that look like? Well, for one thing, it looks like patience.
What in the Word: Galatians 5:22-25

Hang-Onto-It Verse: "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." (Galatians 5:22-23a)

The Backstory: 
Alright, precious girl, let's get right to it. Reread the Hang-Onto-It Verse, above. Which of the "varieties" of the fruit of the Spirit would you say is your biggest area of challenge? 

I hope I'm not alone when I say that patience is IT for me. 

I want to act now. I want to do something now. I want to figure this out now. I want resolution now. I want an answer now. I want "it" to happen now.

And while this is clearly MY issue before God, the split-second speed of our modern society doesn't support patience. If a webpage takes two seconds to load, we get irritated. We (okay, I) get annoyed if we (okay, I) have to wait a beat before the car ahead of us moves when the light turns green. We've got drive-thru dining and call-ahead seating and same-day delivery and instant-everything.

I also feel like patience carries with it a stereotype of passivity. Picture a patient person in your mind. What mental image are you painting? 

I've got a vision of someone who's sitting still, not doing much of anything, and not wanting to do much of anything. I'm thinking of someone who is not bothered by waiting. I'm picturing disinterest and "oh, well, whatever" approach.

Of course (you knew this was coming, didn't you?), this is not what patience is about at all.

Make your way to these verses and soak up the details surrounding the presentation of patience you find in each one.
  • Ephesians 4:2
  • Colossians 3:12
  • 1 Timothy 1:16
  • 2 Peter 3:15 
The Greek word for patience as it is used in these verses and in connection with the fruit of the spirit is makrothumia (mack-roth-oo-MEE-ah). Try saying it out loud a couple times. (Bonus points if you work it into conversation at the dinner table some night. Work it in and tell me about it, and I'll send you cookies!)

According to The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testamentmakrothumia means "forbearance...self-restraint before proceeding to action." And here's my favorite part: "the quality of a person who is able to avenge [herself] yet refrains from doing so." 
photo credit:

Forbearance means "to put up with." "Self-restraint" very often involves choosing not to say one thing and saying something else...or nothing at all. And being able to avenge yourself but refraining from doing it means that you have the way--and often the understandable why--to get back at someone, but you choose not to do it.

My family shows patience to me all the time by putting up with me. They show patience by (and if your mom taught you never to say "shut up," you might want to skip this part) shutting up and not yelling at me, even when I deserve it. They show patience to me by giving up their right to treat me like I treat them and by treating me with God's love instead. And they do all this because they have mercy on me: they do not give me what I deserve.

Patience puts up, shuts up, and gives up.

Patience puts up with others.
Patience shuts up what it could say and says something else...or nothing.
Patience gives up its right to do what it "deserves" to do and shows mercy instead.

I cannot write this post on patience without at some point going back to my own best
schooling on the subject to date: Beth Moore's Living Beyond Yourself: Exploring the Fruit of the Spirit Bible study. My personal workbook from this journey is underlined, starred, exclamation-pointed, and bracketed! In the video session on patience, Beth says, "Patience is not only about what we do but about what we don't...patience waits when it wants to wack."

The Take-Away:
We absolutely know what patiently waiting instead of justifiably wacking looks like: it looks like mercy. And we know what mercy looks like: it looks like God. The Creator of the universe--the Great I AM, the High King of Heaven--sees people declare that He does not exists every day. He sees governments and courts make laws that directly oppose His good and right ways. He sees evil and wrongdoing and sin and wickedness thrown in His face. Why does He not take the action that will cause every knee to bow and every tongue to confess that He is Lord? (Philppians 2:10,11)

2 Peter 3:9 puts the answer to that question so powerfully. Look up this verse and fill in these blanks: "The Lord is not slow in keeping His ___________________, as some understand slowness. He is _______________ with you, not wanting anyone to ________, but everyone to ___________ to ________________."

This is why God puts up with us! This is why He does not avenge Himself--yet--even though He has every right to do it. This is why He does not speak judgement--yet. 

Because of His love. Because of His mercy. Because of His patience. 

The Truth in Action:
What person or situation in your life do you need to apply some patience to? And what will that look like when you do it? 
  • What will you say--or not say? 
  • What will you do--or not do? 
Usually, for me, patience looks like closing my mouth. Also, not slamming doors. I'm not saying this is what I do--or don't do. I'm just saying this is what it would look like if I "did" patience better and more often.

Patience, like every other spiritual discipline, takes practice. And you know what they say: practice makes perfect." Well, actually, no. There is always somewhere further we can go with God. We are always striving to model the perfection of Christ, but we are not there. But, practice does make possible. I can get better at patience. I can practice it so that the next time I need it, it's possible for me to show it.

And remember, the most important part of The Truth in Action for every part of this Fruit of the Spirit (FOTS) series is going to be the same: ask the Holy Spirit (H.S.) to give you His fruit! Listen up, precious girl, you cannot come up with the FOTS on your own. You can't will yourself to be patient, especially when you feel like you have every right to take some action and you have every right to take it now! You can't just grit your teeth and make this FOTS thing happen. You have to ask the H.S. to fill you up with His power every day. 

The great news here is that God will always say "yes" when we ask for something He wants to give (on His own perfect schedule, of course). And we KNOW He wants to give us patience and all the rest of the parts of the FOTS. You can ask for a fresh fill-up of patience to get you through your day and feel confident God is going to be all over that request. So ask! 

Ask the H.S. to give you His supernatural power, because people can't literally see God's Spirit in you, but they can see patience. And remember, you're not doing this hard thing on your own. I'm not doing it on my own. That's why it's not called the Fruit of Elizabeth or the Fruit of (your name goes here). It's the Fruit of the Spirit

His Spirit.
His fruit. 
In you. 
"When your words came, I ate them; 
they were my joy and my heart's delight." (Jeremiah 15:16)

What does practicing patience look like for you? 
Share it in a comment, on Facebook, or in an email!

(Looking for Part 3 of this series? Find it here.)

August 12, 2015

What To Do When Your Spiritual "Low Battery" Light is Flashing

Hello, sweet girl! I promise we'll get back to bite-sized studies and our fruit of the Spirit series soon, but I wanted to share this post with you now. That's partly because I'm a little obsessed with spiritual object lessons, and partly because I'm still working on patience...both on having this quality of the fruit of the Spirit and on the post about it!

So a couple weeks ago we were "experiencing technical difficulties" in our GALs (Girls And Ladies) Sunday School class.

Which is to say that the DVD we were trying to watch was playing, but it was jerky. It kept starting and stopping in maddening fashion. It was working, but not well, and not effectively.

I tracked down our church's resident tech expert, who took one look at our set-up and said, "Oh, I see what the problem is." As it turned out, the laptop we were using to play the DVD wasn't plugged into an outlet. The computer was running off its own battery, which had just enough power to function, but not enough to function properly. 

My older daughter, whom we'd recruited to be in our-house tech girl, said, "Oh, I saw that light flashing, but I didn't know what to do about it." Once Mr. Tech Guy plugged the laptop into the main outlet, the DVD ran like it was supposed to.

All during the rest of our class session, I thought about how this is the way we are in our walk with God. We try to run off our internal spiritual battery, and everything plays just fine for awhile. We're charged up by past worship, past Bible study, past fellowship, past connections with God. But before too long, we get jerky. We can function, but not well, and not effectively. 

And that's when we need to recharge by plugging back into The Power Source.

"I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5 TNIV) 
Here are some steps I know I need to take when my spirit's low-battery light starts flashing.(And before it starts blinking would be even better.)

Pause. Before we could fix our hit-and-miss DVD, we had to stop the playback. Before you fill up your car's gas tank, you have to turn off the engine. I'm not suggesting that recharging your soul requires you to quit all activity and sit still for an hour. But you need to hit pause on some of your activity, if only for 10 minutes. You can be moving (I recharge while I'm out walking every morning), but your mind needs to be free to go to God. Got a run you need to get in or a lawnmowing gig with your name on it? Either would be a great time to power up your eternal battery.
"Cease striving and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth." (Psalm 46:10 NAS)
Pray. If prayer is something you'd label one of your weaker spiritual disciplines, you're not alone. I felt the same way for a long time and still do to some extent. But like most things worth doing, prayer is something that gets better, stronger, and easier with practice. To borrow from Nike: just do it. Prayer is simply a conversation with a God Who is ready, willing, and extremely pleased to hear from you! You don't have to use certain words or a formula. But, if you're like me and your mind tends to wander when you pray, following this P.A.T.H. might help.
  • Praise ~ Tell God Who He is. (He knows; the affirmation and reminding are for us.) Say what He is--awesome, creative, loving, good, kind, compassionate, and on and on. Or say Who He is using His names. (You can find an alphabetical post-in-progress here to get you started.)
  • Admit ~ Confess your sins to God. (He knows; the admitting is for us.) Sin--anything that misses the mark of God's justly perfect standard--gets in between us and God. True confession and repentance (turning away from that sin) clear the path for communication and relationship.
  • Thank ~ Tell God what you're grateful for. Not only are thankful people happier people, but this step keeps your prayer from being just a list of requests and demands.
  • Help ~ Ask God for help, for yourself and for others.
The point of this P.A.T.H. is not (not!) to make prayer ritualistic. I'm not suggesting in any way that prayer has to follow a certain formula to "work." I use this P.A.T.H. to keep my mind and spirit on track. (And also because I am something of an organization freak.)
"You will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:12, 13)
Plant. Read God's Word. Download a daily Scripture app. Choose verses you want to come back to again and again. Write them out. Speak them aloud (which, BTW, the enemy hates). Memorize them so they'll be buried in your mind and heart for future reference. Need a method for memorizing Scripture that has worked for at least one other person? Here's one to try.
"I have stored up Your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against You." (Psalm 119:11 ESV)
Praise. Worship God. Sing to Him. Listen to Christian music in the car or when you're getting ready in the morning. (Current favorites in our house: anything from Hawk Nelson or Lauren Daigle.) Go to church and lift your voice or your hands in His honor, even when you don't feel like it...especially when you don't feel like it.Tell somebody else what God is doing in your life.
"I have seen You in the sanctuary and beheld Your power and Your glory. Because Your love is better than life, my lips will glorify You. I will praise You as long as I live, and in Your name I will lift up my hands." (Psalm 63:2-4)
Participate. Sign up to work in the church nursery. Serve lunch at a homeless shelter. Commit to a Bible study--and follow through to the end. Go to church instead of sleeping in on Sunday morning. Find a spiritual mentor. Spend time with other believers.
"My friends, what good is it for one of you to say that you have faith if your actions do not prove it? Can that faith save you? So then, as the body without the spirit is dead, also faith without actions is dead." (James 2:14,26 GNT)
Pursue. Keep looking for God. Notice His handiwork in creation. Listen for His voice in the words of other Christians and in song lyrics and in the still, small voice nudging your spirit. Run away from anything that pulls you from God, and run toward the Source of every good thing.
"O God, You are my God, earnestly I seek You; my soul thirst for You, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. Because You are my help, I sing in the shadow of Your wings. I stay close to you; Your right hand upholds me." (Psalm 63:1,7,8)
 How do you recharge spiritually? 
I'd love to have you share your step (it doesn't have to start with a "P"!).
Leave a comment, post on Facebook, or send an email!