“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
Galatians 5:22-23 ESV
So if we want these qualities in our lives, how do we get them? Is it by trying harder? By putting reminders on our mirror or fridge to say “be kind today.” “Be patient with the crazy driver in front of (or behind) you.” “When you get angry, hold your tongue.”
We so often try to produce these ‘fruit’ by working harder. And yet, God says that doesn’t work…and how well I know it. Just before these verses Paul describes the works of the flesh, i.e. those qualities and behaviors that come naturally to us, as “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (verses 19-21).
I can think of a time when I exhibited four of these in one incident when my temper got the best of me. So first of all, I’m grateful, deeply grateful, for the forgiveness of God that wipes out my sin.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
I John 1:9 ESV
Second, I was reminded by our pastor today that these fruit of the Spirit i.e. love, joy, peace … are HIS work in me, not mine in myself. My challenge is to spend time with Him, focusing on Jesus, loving and worshipping Him, allowing His Holy Spirit to produce these characteristics in me.
What a joy. It’s not my job to make me like Jesus. It’s my job to rest in Him, trust in Him, and allow Him to change me. That’s His job! And He can do what I cannot do myself!
Thank you Lord, for producing more of your likeness, for growing a good harvest in me as I focus on, spend time with you. I love you.
Thirty-eight years! It’s that long since I’ve seen some of the colleagues with whom I worked in the Los Angeles ghetto for ten years.
After a painful breakup/firing/split, I left not only the ministry but the city, eventually returning to my roots in Northern California.
This breakup impacted me in ways I imagined divorce felt like. It hurt! Misunderstandings and controlling leadership prevented my former friends from communicating with me. I felt isolated, cast off, forgotten.
When I first moved to Los Angeles, I knew nothing about setting up a corporation. But I worked with a man who had the vision for an inner city ministry, and I handled the details. With many calls to City and State, we were established as a nonprofit organization. I worked closely with the President on the corporation’s implementation, guidelines, fundraising, and communication. I coached foreign workers on applying for the appropriate work visas and, on one occasion, spoke directly with the immigration official at the Vancouver airport who was not going to allow a young woman to board her flight to LA. But after my lengthy conversation with the officer, Nancy arrived to minister with us later that day.
I taught children and teens and lived with other staff women in the LA ghetto. We lived and ministered together and chose to be part of the community we served. We suffered together when someone we loved was hurt, killed, or when our own lives were threatened. This was my second family. And now we were separated for many reasons.
Over the years it took me to heal from the impact of a controlling leader and unrealistic expectations, I prayed that God would somehow bring back some of those friendships. He has done that with some of the most significant peer relationships I had, and I am deeply grateful for the ability to clarify, question, and grow together as we talked in depth about how God used the ministry, and even the control, to teach and build us.
Unfortunately I’m not alone in my experience of burnout.
Others have gone through similar experiences. Controlling leadership that steps into the place God rightly inhabits, and its resulting burnout, can cause someone to lose faith, not only in a specific ministry or leader, but in God himself.
So how do we heal?
We cry. We rest. We look for those areas of personality or conflict that we own, and learn to release those we do not. Some of us write. With time, we learn to forgive.
We seek out people who are ‘safe’; those with whom we can be real who will love without judgment, listen without trying to “fix,” help us laugh and cry with us and accept us where we are at that moment.
We may seek help from friends, pastors, or professional counselors. We breathe out the pain and breathe in, increased understanding.
We look for ways we can encourage others with the strength and comfort God has given us, knowing He wastes nothing, including our hurt.
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.
II Corinthians 1:3-5, NLT
And sometimes we reach out at some point and there is a positive response that allows bridges to be built and relationships to jump-start, wobbly at first, then growing stronger as the cords deepen.
So next weekend I’m flying to Los Angeles for a reunion with some of the women with whom I worked on staff, most of whom I haven’t seen in 38 years! Will I laugh? Cry? Probably both, as we remember the good times and the ways God used the ministry, and perhaps grieve over some of the boulders and stones along the way.
Knowing this reunion is happening 38 years after I left Los Angeles gives me great hope that God is still in the business of reconciliation.
Can’t wait to tell you more about our time together!
Have you ever wondered how best to help a loved one or friend in a way that retains his dignity? While my brother and sister-in-law, Arnold and Carol, were here last week, we talked a good deal about the concept of “agency”.
Arnold’s definition of agency is “power and ability to do what you want to do.” He says “People with disabilities have lost some agency. People without power have lost some agency. Women have less agency in general than men because of cultural stereotypes and limitations. Prisoners have had agency removed from them by the courts.”
My brother has given a lot of thought to this topic because his wife, Carol, suffered a life-altering stroke six and a half years ago. There are things she can’t do herself any more; and activities with which she needs help.
Our mother has also lost some ability to do things she wishes to do, and therefore, some power. Mom’s mind is still quite clear; however, her legs are getting weaker. She’s fallen twice in the last two months. She has thought for awhile about possibly moving into the Assisted Living section of the senior manor where she lives.
Living independently at 97 is quite a feat, but we wondered if it was still wise for Mom. Of course we children want her to be safe. Arnold put it well when he said he sees his role with Carol, his wife, to be that of providing agency–or power, ability and environment for her to decide and to act as she wishes, rather than by simply doing things for her.
So this Christmas we, along with brothers Bob and Melvyn and their wives, talked with each other, and with Mom, asking questions like what situations would cause her to say “It’s time,” “I’m ready,” “I need to move.” She also asked whether we would be disappointed in either decision–to move or to stay. We set her mind at ease regarding that, and told her our desire is to help her achieve her goals, not to impose ours on her.
And she’s decided she’s not yet ready to leave the cottage which she loves and has decorated with precious mementos from the family home she shared with Dad. So our role is to support her, to help identify ways she can get additional help i.e. with taking care of her patio and plants, and to fill in some of the gaps for her on a more regular basis.
I appreciated Arn’s explanation of agency. When we help someone achieve their dreams, meet their own needs or make decisions that we then help facilitate, the person retains his dignity. He or she is acting rather than being acted upon, as it would be if we told that individual what to do.
There are certainly situations where safety or protection are so critical, or abilities so limited, that decisions must be made for another. But when there are still decision-making capabilities, how much better to help in that process.
Isn’t this what Jesus did for us? He took the penalty for my sins and yours, something we are incapable of doing for ourselves, and freed us, gave us the power and ability to walk with God through faith in Him.
Do you have someone in your life who lacks agency, or the capacity or power to act on his or her own behalf? If so, how can you help that individual identify or communicate their choices and then facilitate those choices to become a reality?
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19 (NIV)
It’s a new year–new hopes, dreams, goals. Here are a few of mine.
New understandings in my walk with God. I’ve rejoined a women’s Bible study that I dropped out of for health reasons over a year ago. I’m thrilled to be back with these lovely women as we seek God together.
Complete at least the first draft of a novel I’ve been writing for a looong time …
Increased depth in my relationships with God, Don, family and friends.
New vistas. We’ve had the Canadian Rockies on our bucket list for awhile and just reserved our place on a train and bus tour through those in Fall of 2019 (I almost typed 1919–whoa!).
Finding and getting involved in a church home in our new community.
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'” Psalm 91:1-2 (NIV)
HE is the reason for my hope as we enter this new year.
He knows all the troubles in the world–riots in Paris, persecution, especially of Christians in other parts of the world, turmoil.
He knows the discord and infighting in our own country.
He knows the tremendous losses that have occurred corporately and personally in floods and fires and because of the active presence of evil in our world.
He knows my days and has promised to lead me through each one.
He loves me, oh amazing truth! And because of that love, I have great hope.
What are you anticipating this year? Are you hopeful or disheartened, or both? I’d love to know.
Yard work – check. The large, ribbed periwinkle pot we took over to our new house has been replaced with a terracotta and green pot which looks inviting. Redwood chips were put down today, giving the new flowers a finishing touch. “Coming Soon” signs are up at the bottom of the hill and at our driveway, indicating our house will soon be on the market.
Packing – check. We have about 120 boxes packed so far. Today Don packed up his CD collection, players and sound, as well as technology items from inside the house. Yesterday Grace and I packed about 16 boxes, a new record!
I’ve emptied the credenza and most of our armoire; and will load wardrobe boxes from the moving company on Wednesday.
And I found a buried treasure yesterday!In going through shoe-boxes, one of which was filled with paperwork of Don’s, I found his wedding vows to me. I’ve been looking for those for about eight years, the length of our marriage. What he committed to me that day (and has lived out since) was so meaningful that I was sad I couldn’t find the written copy to have it in full. And there it was! I think this whole move may have been worth it just to find that gem! And finding it reminded me where our real treasure lies…in the love of God, family and friends, and the memories of those precious, irreplaceable moments in our lives.
Saturday we worshipped in our much-loved church, Twin Lakes in Aptos; we enjoyed pizza afterward with a group of friends whom we’ll miss!
But we’re beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel. Through this long summer of packing and prepping, through a remodel and sale prep, God has been with us as he promised. While at times we’ve both been exhausted and a bit short, for the most part Don and I have supported and upheld and encouraged each other in our various responsibilities.
So another new season is about to begin. A new home, new neighborhood, finding a new church and fellowship and shopping and doctors and dentists…being nearer my mother and several other family members…having less property to care for and hopefully more time to write and also to take off together (and with Paigey) for the day, or to sit and watch the local wildlife from our back patio (bobcats, wild turkeys, deer…). More time to be still and enjoy our God, the beauty of his creation, and each other. The REAL treasures!
We look forward to what this new season will bring!
How about you? Finding, or reveling in, any treasures lately?
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21 ESV