A Slow Process

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.” – Galatians 5:22

I want patience – now! Can you relate? We really would like to be kinder, less anxious, more self-controlled, but getting there is a slow process.

No wonder! When we look at spiritual characteristics we realize these are not gifts, but fruit. We don’t unwrap the package and try on love; instead, love develops over time and grows in seasons. Here’s how it’s been for me.

Love, joy, peace: It took the first 50-some years of my life to see these life-anchoring fruits take root. They happen only as we learn to abide in Him and, for some of us, that learning takes a long time.

Patience, kindness, goodness: Then for a decade, God gave me the job of caring for a good person with many needs – companionship, listening ear, errands, appointments, counsel. At some point in the middle of it all, I realized God, in His grace, was giving me a chance to practice patience, kindness, and goodness.  Apparently, I could learn these things in no other way. Maybe God has given you a person to practice on, too.

Gentleness, faithfulness, self-control: I am now in the mature phase of my life and the Spirit’s focus seems to be on my becoming more gentle; faithfully finishing well; and exercising self-control with my time, body, and speech.

God uses circumstances to grow us into fruitfulness. It’s OK if it’s slow – watching progress through the seasons is gift enough! He is cultivating something in you right now. Look for it!

“We need a new kind of relationship with the Father that drives out fear and mistrust and anxiety and guilt, that permits us to be hopeful and joyous, trusting and compassionate.” – Brennan Manning

 

Me, too.

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“I call on you, O God, for you will answer me; give ear to me and hear my prayer. Show the wonder of your great love”. – Psalm 17:6-7a

The bleeding woman was healed. She came to Jesus in desperation. She came secretly, pushing through the crowds, bending low to touch the edge of His robe, hoping beyond hope His power would flow through to her and stop the bleeding she had experienced for twelve long, expensive, lonely, and frightening years.

She was immediately and completely healed and, amazed, turned to leave. But Jesus did not let her go unnoticed. Instead He called her to face Him in front of the pressing crowd and He lovingly pronounced her clean saying, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

Does anyone else want that? Do you have something in your life from which you want to be released or healed? An old wound? A destructive habit? An illness or condition? A pain-filled relationship? A spiritual frustration?

Me, too, Lord.

Heal me of my past, my pain, all that causes me to bleed.

Free me from my suffering.

May I, too, go in peace.

Me, too, Lord. 

I want to be whole, usable, intimate with You.

“God’s gift was – and is – a visible reminder that He is interested in restoring the lives of those who have been broken, battered, and desperate.” – Jo Kadlecek

 

Still Under the Tree?

". . . they shall call him Immanuel - which means, 'God with us.'" - Matthew 1:23b

“. . . they shall call him Immanuel – which means, ‘God with us.'” – Matthew 1:23b

Imagine you want to buy a Christmas gift for a special little girl. You shop for the cutest, cuddliest baby doll you can find, put it in a box, wrap it in beautiful paper, tie it with a bow, and give it to her.

She might take the box, open it and hold the doll in her arms. But after a few minutes, she puts it back under the Christmas tree and runs off to play.

A better scenario? She opens the box, takes the doll in her arms and carries it everywhere. Months later her mom tells you that your gift is the girl’s constant companion. The doll goes to preschool, to church, and to the grocery store and when the little girl is tucked into bed, the doll is tucked in with her. As the giver of the gift, you smile – this is exactly as you had hoped it would be.

When God sent His Son to earth, it was His intention for Jesus to be with us. Many look into the manger at Christmas time, comment on the beauty of the scene, and go on about their business. Others actually embrace Him as Savior, but tend to leave Him under the tree as life draws them away.

What would make the Giver of the Jesus gift most happy? If we make Him the center of our lives, being aware of His presence with us wherever we go and in whatever we are doing.

Jesus came to redeem us so He could be with us. Look to see who He really is and how much He loves you. He came to be with us, but waits for our response. Let’s not turn our backs on the amazing gift of His presence.

“True holiness is so often swaddled in the simple.” – Ian Morgan Cron

 

Good Thinking!

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” . . . whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8

“Grant, Lord, that I may not for one moment admit willingly into my soul any thought contrary to Your love.” (Edward Pusey d. 1882)

What if God answered that prayer? It would mean that certain kinds of thoughts would be eliminated from my mind: complaining, bitterness, anger, envy, self-condemnation, and unnecessary criticism, to be specific.

Getting rid of those thoughts would, of course, would make room for thinking about things that build faith, confidence, and joy – like thankfulness, encouragement, optimism, hopefulness, and contentment.

I’m joining this 19th Century man in his prayer as I ask God to use my will and His to change me so every thought I allow to remain in my mind is consistent with His love. So simple. So hard. I need you here, Holy Spirit.

“Divine love is perfect peace and joy, it is a freedom from all disquiet, it is all content and happiness; and makes everything to rejoice in itself.” – William Law

Love in His Eyes

Do you know what Jesus feels when He looks at you? Love. Pure, simple, unconditional, unchanging love. Maybe it’s the kind of love a mother feels for her baby.

"I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness." - Jeremiah 31:3

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” – Jeremiah 31:3

Maybe the kind we feel when we’ve met “the one” we later determine to spend our lives with. It’s the kind of love that draws us toward Him. When someone loves us that way, it’s hard to turn away.

And yet people do. When the rich young ruler came to Jesus to ask about eternal life, Mark says, “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” Even though the guy had a bit of attitude Jesus looked into his eyes and loved him. At that point, though, the young man turned away and decided not to respond to Jesus’ love (Mark 10:17-25).

We have a choice. We can look at our flaws, faults, and sins, declare ourselves unworthy and walk away. We can look at our good intentions, deeds, and self-righteousness, declare ourselves good enough and walk away.

But let’s not do either of those. Jesus is looking at you. Imagine the love in His eyes as He sees you. Look back at Him and allow yourself to move closer and closer into His presence, into His arms. He will never turn away. His love is forever.

“We should be astonished at the goodness of God, stunned that He should bother to call us by name, our mouths wide open at His love, bewildered that at this very moment we are standing on holy ground.” – Brennan Manning

Just What I Needed to Hear

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“Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord.” – Psalm 31:24

God is always ready to talk to us. Sometimes He just has to wait until we slow down enough to listen. Then He whispers to our hearts words especially suited for whatever situation we face. I have found that, most often, His messages are variations of one of these:

• I love you.
• I will never leave you.
• Don’t be afraid.

Which do you need today? To know how much He loves you? To be secure in His faithfulness? Or to experience the peace that comes by trusting Him?

You can start the conversation by praying with honesty and sincerity about your need. You could even ask Him to awaken your heart to be ready to hear what He wants to say in response. Then just wait in quietness. His message will be perfect to meet what the ancients called your “pressing necessity”. He always knows just what we need to hear. Sh-h-h. Listen.

“He hath never failed thee yet.
Never will His love forget.
O fret not thyself nor let
Thy heart be troubled,
Neither let it be afraid.” 

 – Amy Carmichael

 

 

 

“Go to” Prayers

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“How blessed all those in whom You live, whose lives become roads You travel . . . God-traveled, these roads curve up the mountain, and at the last turn—Zion! God in full view!”–  from Psalm 84:5-7 (MSG)

We fall far short of God’s command to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We want to love Him more, but don’t know how. The truth is only God can grow that kind of love in our hearts. We just have to invite Him in.

Christians through the ages have given God that invitation by adopting a “go to” prayer to open their hearts to Him. For example, when I find my mind wrapped up in something distracting or disturbing, I mentally or quietly pray what is known as the Jesus Prayer: “Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”  Others use the first sentence of The Lord’s Prayer, a short verse or phrase, or sometimes just Jesus’ name.

Over time, we will find ourselves saying our chosen words many times each day. These “go to” prayers become sincere invitations to God to walk with us along life’s path even if our minds are not fully engaged at the time.

It is a simple practice, but profound in its power to change us. How?

  • God is thrilled to hear from His children, so whenever we turn to Him, He responds.
  • We begin to realize that His response is always loving.
  • His love feels so good, we can’t help loving Him in return.

Being loved and loving. It’s ours when we turn toward Him – always.

“Give me only a love for You, and the gift of Your grace; then I am rich enough, and ask for nothing more.” – St. Ignatius of Loyola