#tbt – Vizualize whirled peas…

(Originally written 7/31/06)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, against such there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22-23 KJV)

Okay, so it’s been a while since I last blogged about the fruit of the Spirit, but it seems every time I’m about to write on one, I get challenges in my life that test the fruit which I’m studying. It was no different with peace. The last week has been anything but peaceful. My mind has been a jumble of thoughts and emotions, and peace has been the furthest thing from my mind.
Continue reading #tbt – Vizualize whirled peas…

Gentle Pen

There’s nothing like taking a good long look in the mirror to really see the areas you might be lacking in. These last few weeks, I’ve been doing just that in revisiting Galatians 5:22-23. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” So far, I’ve examined how much love, joy, peace and long-suffering there is in my life and, I hate to admit it, but it’s not as much as I would have hoped. Of course, that should go without saying. Until the day I die, I will always be trying to be more loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, gentle, good, faithful, meek and temperate. And I will succeed on some days better than others. I found, though, that gentleness may be one of the traits I most need to work on. I discovered that, when put to the test, my first response to most people is to be sarcastic and cutting – a far cry from gentleness. I know that I developed my sarcasm as a defense mechanism when I was younger, but the question put before me is, does sarcasm have any place in my life now that I’m an adult? I looked up the definition of sarcasm and found it is defined as “harsh or bitter derision or irony” and a “sneering or cutting remark.” It is derived from the Greek word “sarcasmos”, meaning “to tear flesh, gnash the teeth, speak bitterly.” Harsh, bitter, sneering? Tearing flesh? Those are not words that should be used to describe my Christian walk. And yet, I find myself constantly opening my mouth and “tearing flesh”. Some would say, me included before this past week, that sarcasm is harmless fun and a form of humor. In some cases, it can be. Saying “lovely weather” when it’s storming out is sarcasm, and it is harmless sarcasm. The sarcasm I’m referring to is the comment that comes at the expense of another person, even if the person being poked fun at is the speaker of the sarcastic comment. And that leads me to my second revelation this week.

I tend to use sarcasm to put myself down. That has also become a habit that grew out of self-defense in my younger years. I was made fun of, a lot, as a kid, so I learned that if I made fun of myself first, it could lessen the blow and, more importantly, take the fun away from those making fun of me by showing that I wasn’t bothered by the taunts, even if I really had been bothered by them. That has become the way I deal with a lot of things about myself, and I was reminded this week of a speech I heard from someone about the way we internally talk to ourselves. I wish I could remember where I heard the speech and who gave it, so I could give credit where credit is due, but all I can remember is what was said. We are kinder and gentler to strangers than we are to ourselves. We would be hard-pressed to go up to someone and call them fat, or ugly, or stupid. And yet, we would have no problem internally saying that about ourselves. I find that, even though I feel I’m not as gentle to others as I should be, I’m much less gentle to myself. The speaker asked his audience, “If you were standing before yourself as a child, would you say half the things to him or her that you say to yourself as an adult?” The answer for most people would be, of course not. Then he asked why should it be any different for us as adults?

Before people get the wrong idea and think I’m saying that we should ignore our faults, that’s not what I’m saying at all. What I’m saying is that we need to deal with our shortcomings with the same gentleness we would – or should – use towards others. What would you say to a friend who’s struggling with weight issues? (Hopefully, something encouraging!) Then, if you’re struggling with weight issues, why would you be so much harder on yourself? What would you say to a child who’s having a hard time grasping concepts at school? Then, if you’re having trouble learning something, why would you think less of yourself than you would that child?

While they may seem unrelated, these two revelations are inextricably linked. Being gentle to others is easier when I’m gentle to myself, and vice versa. Will it be easy changing habits that have developed over many years? The cliché “old habits die hard” is a cliché for a reason. But is it possible? Of course it is, especially with God’s help, with whom all things are possible. (Mat. 19:26) Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think it’s time for a nice, encouraging chat with my inner child…

The Missing Peace Meets the Big G-O-D

After a long week’s absence, I have finally returned. It seems I needed the week to recuperate from everything that has happened in the last couple of months. When I started my out of the box experiment, I would never have imagined how far it would take me. And it’s only been two months! Anyway, I have recovered and I am ready to jump back out of that box. And now, we can return to our regularly scheduled programming. Here is my blog on peace:

That song has been running through my head almost non-stop since I went back to New York. It’s not the lyrics in particular that I’ve been focusing on as much as the chorus. I’m not who I was. That’s what this trip has really proven to me.

One of the tasks I had set myself for my week in New York was to revisit my old haunts and try to see how much of my past I can recall. Unlike some people who can remember every moment from the moment they popped out of the womb, my memories of my past are hazy at best, nonexistent at worst. I figured maybe a trip through the neighborhoods might trigger something and send memories flooding back.

My first stop early in the week was a neighborhood that brought back bad memories. I suffered one of my most humiliating moments as a kid there. Mind you, I’ve had plenty of humiliating moments as an adult, but an adult can laugh it off. For a child, humiliation can cause deep wounds. As I walked through the neighborhood, I realized that I could not remember the details of my humiliation. All I remembered was really liking a girl but being too shy to tell her. The rest of the neighborhood kids got wind of my attraction and set up a prank, leading me to believe she was into me too. The worst part, the most humiliating part, was when I found out she was in on the prank.

I walked down that street and I felt nothing. It was so long ago, and I had come so far that, while I remembered the terrible event, the scars had all healed.

Later in the week, I revisited another old neighborhood and, even though things felt vaguely familiar, I had no feelings towards anything I saw. Ditto for revisiting my old junior high school and high school. It was then that I realized that none of that was me any longer. I’m not who I was. There was pain and loneliness growing up, but I managed to grow in spite of, or maybe because of, that pain. There was never a steady, stable place I could call home, but I have since learned what home really is. I was shy, awkward and withdrawn – those of you who know me are shaking your heads in disbelief right now, but it’s true! – but I have since learned how to open up and let people in.

I have now spent more time away from New York than in it. Can I still call myself a New Yorker? I don’t think I can. I was born and raised there, true, but I don’t think I really started discovering who I was until I moved away. And, honestly, I’m still working on figuring out who I am. But I know this. I’m not who I was.

What does all this have to do with peace? To put it simply, revisiting my past made me realize how little peace I had in my early life. Constant moving, no friends to rely on, pressure at school. I tried to find peace by moving, but no matter where I moved to, my problems came with me. I tried to find peace in relationships, but, if anything, they provided more stress. I tried to find peace in many things, but any peace they may have provided was temporary. It wasn’t until I found my way to the Prince of Peace that this hole within me, this missing piece, was finally filled. And now, no matter what life throws at me, no matter what upheavals may come, I can be at peace. Not the temporary, worldly peace, but the eternal peace, knowing that my God is in control.

Peace of the Past

Week three of studying the fruits of the Spirit, and we’re on peace. As usual, I’ll try to have my present take on it by this weekend. In the meantime, what follows is my blog on peace from five years ago.

Vizualize whirled peas…
7/31/06

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, against such there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22-23 KJV)

Okay, so it’s been a while since I last blogged about the fruit of the Spirit, but it seems every time I’m about to write on one, I get challenges in my life that test the fruit which I’m studying. It was no different with peace. The last week has been anything but peaceful. My mind has been a jumble of thoughts and emotions, and peace has been the furthest thing from my mind.

So, what is peace? In the verse above, the Greek word for peace is eirene, which is defined as harmony, tranquility, safety. Sounds beautiful, but how is it possible to achieve that in the world today? There are wars everywhere, unrest in all aspects of life, a breakneck pace to our day-to-day routine that doesn’t allow room for peace. How can you be tranquil when you have to shove 40 hours of stuff to do into a 24 hour day? How can there be safety when your hours at work are cut, and your bills increase? How can there be harmony when we live in a world where there’s a very real possibility of a terrorist attack anywhere, including the US? What is this eirene that the Bible talks about, and how is it possible to achieve that in this day and age? In John 14:27, Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” He makes it perfectly clear that there are two kinds of peace; the peace of the world, and the peace of God. It’s amazing how it seems that every one of the aspects of the fruit of the Spirit I’ve studied so far has an earthly counterpart, a shadow of the spiritual at best, and a cheap counterfeit at worst. Agape, self-sacrificing love, has its counterpart, which is self-serving love. At times, it can look like agape, as long as both parties stand to benefit, and at worst, it results in physically or emotionally abusive relationships. Joy also has its earthly shadow, better known as happiness. And the Peace of God is copied by the peace of the world. But there is one major difference between the original and the copies – the copies fade, they’re only temporary. The originals are eternal. Self-serving love, happiness and world peace are on shifting sand. Agape, joy, and the peace of God are on the Rock.

The peace of the world consists of the moments in between crises where we get to catch our breaths and brace ourselves for the next one. We’re thankful for a moment’s peace, when the kids are in bed, when our workload is caught up, when the tests from the doctor come back negative, (which, in doctor-speak, is a good thing), or any time when it seems like life manages to stand still long enough for us to look around. The peace of the world is like a roller coaster ride, but not as fun. Lots of twists and turns, breathlessness and anticipation throughout the entire trip, and the rare moments when you reach the top of a climb and everything stands still, just before you’re rocketed back downward. That’s the peace of the world. Depending on your situation, you’re at peace or you’re not.

The peace of God is the complete opposite of that. The peace of God remains with you in spite of your situation. No matter how bad things get or how good things get, our peace is in God and with God. It’s the peace of knowing we’re forgiven, the peace of knowing that we belong to God and He will never forsake us. It’s the peace of knowing that we will live with our Creator eternally, worshipping Him forever, living in a relationship of pure love. That’s a peace that cannot be shaken by an unexpected expense, by a sudden accident or death in the family, by a loss of a job, or by anything the world can throw at us. We know that all the cares and troubles of the world are but a passing vapor, here today and gone tomorrow.

Paul knew a secret about peace. He knew we had to understand grace before we could understand or receive the peace of God. In all his letters, he always said, “Grace to you, and peace.” Grace always came before peace because Paul knew that it’s only once we understand how incredible God’s grace is, we understand the price Jesus paid on the cross of taking all our sins – not some sins, not only past ones, but every single sin we have committed or ever will commit – it’s only then that we will realize that we have nothing to stress out over, nothing to worry about. We have the peace, the inner calm, the anchor that keeps us from being battered by life’s storms.

As I mentioned, my peace had been tested recently. I had myself quite a roller coaster ride, as some of you are aware. I let those things shift my focus from the peace I had in God, and, just as a pilot who tries to fly while blindfolded, I had trouble figuring out which direction I was supposed to be heading in. I forgot to use my instruments – prayer and the Bible. I forgot to check with my flight crew – friends and family. And I forgot to rely on the One who sustains me and carries me – Jesus, my Lord and Savior. Thankfully, some people in my life who I dearly love – and you all know who you are – helped me, and now I’m flying straight…mostly.

Nine in the Afternoon

Nine is an interesting number. We say we’re on cloud nine and we dress to the nines. A stitch in time saves nine. (Not sure what that one means.) A cat has nine lives. Our solar system has nine planets – I don’t care what the scientists say, I say Pluto still counts. There are nine Muses in mythology. And I just learned about the Nine Worthies, which is a subject I’ll be coming back to in my blogs at some point.

So, why is the number nine on my mind? It seems I’ve had a few events occurring at the same time revolving around nine. I have recently rediscovered my blog series on the fruits of the Spirit, of which nine are listed in Galatians 5:22-23. They are love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. Having done those blogs five years ago, I decided to revisit the series and see what has changed and what hasn’t. The last time I did this, I found I was challenged on every one of the fruits as I was studying it. I expect it will be no different this time. I will be posting the original blogs as well.

The other major nine that popped up recently was in an exercise regime which I just began. It is a nine week program, divided into three phases of three weeks each. It’s not going to be easy. As a matter of fact, I only made it halfway through the routine yesterday. But I know that, if I stick with it, it will help me lose weight. This morning, I weighed in at an even 300.

With both of these things coming in the form of nine, I figured, why not combine the two and work on my spiritual and physical health at the same time? To top it all off – all this just happens to fall during the ninth month of the year. Coincidence? Yeah, probably, but I’m willing to go along with it. Join me, if you will, for what will hopefully be an enlightening, and lighten-ing, nine weeks.

Goal fruit for the week – Love

Goal weight for the week – 295

 

Picking Fruit (originally written 7/14/06)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, against such there is no law.”(Gal. 5:22-23 KJV)

For some time now, I’ve been wanting to do an in-depth study of the fruit of the Spirit. The proof of a Christian life is in the fruit, just like the proof of a good tree is the good fruit it bears. If the Christian life doesn’t show good fruit, then one would be left to wonder if it truly is a Christian life.
The Bible says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, against such there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22-23 KJV) So that is the fruit by which the Christian life is measured. It’s my intention to talk about each of the nine aspects of the fruit of the Spirit, but before I do that, I want to spend some time on the verses right before those, which are not quoted as often. Galatians 5:19-21 tell the other side of the story – “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” That is a long list of bad fruit, fruit of the flesh versus fruit of the Spirit. And it covers a large range of issues, and most are covered by the Ten Commandments. Sex, both adulterous and premarital, Hatred, wrath and murder, which, according to Jesus, are the same. Bearing false witness, covered by sedition and heresy. Covetousness with the envying, and so on.
They which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But, aren’t we all guilty of doing these things even after we give our lives to Christ? Does that mean none of us will inherit the kingdom of God? Are we all doomed to hell?
The answer is in the Greek. The word “do” could better be translated as practice, perpetrate, exercise. All words which show a long-term disobedience to God. And that is the difference. I’ve heard a metaphor which paints a good picture. Imagine a pig and a sheep falling into a puddle of mud. The pig continues to wallow in the mud, while the sheep gets up and tries to clean itself off. That’s the difference. Those who practice, commit, exercise the fruit of the flesh are content to wallow in the mud. Those who try to live by the fruit of the Spirit will try to clean themselves off. Sure, there are times we Christians stumble. We are by no means perfect. It’s because we realize this that we have come to the One who is perfect.
So…ask yourself this question today – do you lay with the pigs or hang with the sheep?