“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.
On every page of the Bible there are words of God that give us reason to hope…In the promises of God, I find inspiration and new hope. Charles A. Allen
II Peter 1:4 NLT “Because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.”
If you’ve read my posts for awhile now, you probably know that I come from parents who were fully committed to Jesus Christ, and who raised us to love and honor God and them. No entitlement mentality was tolerated. If we sinned, or disobeyed Mom or Dad, if we were disrespectful, we felt the brunt of discipline. Neither we nor our parents took that lightly!
But we were loved. I still have pictures of Dad playing “farm” on the floor with my two older brothers, Mel and Arn, and me as we laid out the fences, cows, horses and chickens …
And when I accidentally spilled my glass of milk, Mom got a rag, cleaned it up, gave me more milk, and said something like “Oh well, we can clean that up.” No recriminations. Although I expected punishment, she knew the spilled milk was an accident.
We were taught obedience. No, we didn’t always obey; and we didn’t always like each other as kids. And yet, we stuck together. Once, at my first boyfriend’s house (I was five), my leg went to sleep. Mr.Wageman was a tall, distinguished German man with a strong accent, intimidating to my little self.
It was time to go home. Somehow I managed to tell Mel that my leg was asleep and I couldn’t walk. And my big brother got down in front of the couch so I could wrap my legs around him and ride piggyback home. My dignity was saved!
I don’t remember specific words about how Mel, Arn and I treated each other; but somehow we learned to be kind to each other. I recall getting into trouble for some misdeed when my brothers both spoke up for me. They had my back.
And when younger brother Bob joined the family when I was eleven, we extended the love to him. As I grew I took him places with me and loved it when I was 16 (Bob was 5) and others asked if I was his mother. Mel and Arn turned Bob’s stroller into a hot rod and pushed him all around the neighborhood.
My siblings and I have had some major disagreements as adults. But we have managed to communicate about and resolve those issues, sometimes through tears, other times through respectful, honest discussion.
So what did Mom and Dad do to foster this kind of love and mutual respect?
“Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6, ESV) They taught us about God’s love and taught us scripture from earliest childhood.
They modeled respect, affirmation and forgiveness in how they treated us.
They had, and expressed, high expectations of us and didn’t tolerate lying, cheating, laziness, nasty language, or meanness.*
I am not a parent, but I see some of my nephews and nieces who are wonderful parents – patient, exacting, understanding, accepting, loving, giving and forgiving. I admire the ways they lead and teach their children in example and word. So, if you are a parent of young children, my hat’s off to you! God bless you and guide you and give you every bit of strength, courage, resilience, and love you need to wisely guide those little ones into love for Jesus Christ, and to productive adulthood. And may God give you times of rest in the process!
What are ways your parents trained you that helped you grow and mature? What are you doing with your own children to raise them wisely and with love?
*NOTE: this is my experience with my parents. My brothers may have different perspectives as each relationship is different.
“I wanted to meet you because we’ve driven here side by side several times,” she smiled.
I smiled back. “We have?”
“Yes, a week or so ago we were next to each other at Silver Creek Boulevard. I waved, but you didn’t see me.”
“Well, hi. I’m Carol, and now I’ll watch for you!”
As Susan and I chatted about where we live, I thought, here’s a woman who’s seen me in my car, on the road, and I was oblivious. If I had noticed her I think I would have recognized her from our weekly meetings, although it may have taken me a minute to remember where I knew her from!
We never know, do we … anyone could be watching. Was I picking my teeth? Singing along with the radio or a CD? Looking angry about some traffic impingement?
There’s a cross sticker on my car. Did I reflect the Christ I love, or did someone say “Ooh, if that’s a Christian …”
I know I sin and make mistakes and get angry inappropriately at times. But my heart wants to walk the talk, wants my actions to support my words and my professions of faith.
So next time I’m in my car, I’m going to watch for who’s around me; I’m also going to try to ensure I’m not doing anything for which I would be embarrassed if someone said “I saw you when you were …”
Most important, the Father sees me at all times. He knows, not just the embarrassing stuff that comes out at times, but my heart. He knows when my thoughts and the intent of my heart would embarrass me no end if I were standing face to face with him. And yet, I am in his presence–always. He is never far from me and knows me completely.
But he gives his grace. His love is so great that his grace covers me, whether I’m making a small, embarrassing mistake or a larger one that impacts many. A bigger mistake may cause great pain to self and others, and to the Lord, who grieves over our sin. But grace is available once I agree with God that I have sinned.
“But 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
Confession results, not only in forgiveness, but also in cleansing, making me like new in God’s eyes. Cleansed, forgiven, whole, accepted in the beloved! Joy!
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!
Ephesians 3:20-21, NIV
I was on a Southwest Airlines flight to Los Angeles to meet women I hadn’t seen for 38 years. My anticipation was high, but I wasn’t sure what to expect.
We worked together in the Los Angeles ghetto. Some of the women coming to the reunion accepted Christ through the ministry and went on to become staff members.
During my ten and a half years of service there, we worshipped, sang, taught children and adults the Bible. Our African American teens taught us white Mennonite girls, not known for dancing, the “hustle”. Our girls laughed at us, but I won the dance competition. That’s about as much dancing as I’ve done in my life, and it was fun! We taught children’s and adults’ Bible studies. We cried together when someone we loved was hurt or killed. We took in women who were abused, threatened, hurt. We watched an SLA house burn to the ground directly across from our home. When our lives were threatened we sat up late, talking and praying until we were fatigued enough to sleep.
We were close, both because of a common purpose and because we needed each other. We built tight-knit relationships within staff and in the inner city communities where we lived. We rejoiced together when another precious child, woman or man began a walk with Jesus that changed their lives and gave new hope.
Thirty-eight years later, I wondered how the women I would be with had changed. How had I changed? Would we have to work our way past years of separation and misinformation or could we pick up where we left off?
As I wrote last week, my departure was under less than optimal circumstances. Would there be questions, rehashing, resentment? Or forgiveness and love and acceptance for each person where she is now?
Were there residual areas of healing that needed to occur? I have forgiven those who hurt me. But were there still areas I needed to address?
After taking my first ever Uber ride from LAX, I knocked on Katie’s door. Entering, I was greeted with a lingering hug, which I gladly returned.
As twelve other women joined us, the extended hugs continued. Without words, we seemed to say “I’ve missed you. So very good to be with you again.”
I felt at home.
After a potluck lunch the 14 of us sat around the family room. We took turns updating each other on our lives. None of us are still with the organization we left, although one or two still volunteer with it. For four and a half hours we shared nonstop.
Patsy asked why I left. She had felt abandoned, another person walking away from her life. For 38 years some of these women had no idea why I left. I shared that I had lost trust in our President, with whom I’d worked very closely for 10 1/2 years. When he realized I no longer trusted him, he told me to leave town … that night. I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye. My sharing answered a long-held question for Pat, and I think brought some closure.
But I had not walked away from the Lord we all loved.
The ability to ask and answer questions, the vulnerability we shared with each other, reestablished a foundation of trust among us. And I realized that I was the first, but certainly not the only one who experienced rejection and hurt in leaving that ministry.
We had prayed for a time of healing, of restoration. My text to Don said it all. “Ohhhhh. Myyyyyy.”
Have you had a difficult challenge with a ministry from which you needed healing? That changed your faith? That caused you to question God or service?
You’re not alone. Let’s talk about it.
Next week I’ll share more of what I learned and experienced this weekend. Still processing!
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!