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Tag: fruit of the spirit

tire ruts

Get Out of That Rut!

Ever felt stuck in a rut? The idiom comes from the early pioneer days when covered wagon wheels would get stuck in the grooves or channels of a dirt road where prior wagons had passed. The wheels would get bogged down by the deeper holes or forced along a specific track.

Ruts can be an emotional state. As much as I look forward to summer relaxation and fun, there’s a part of me that has been on the go, driving kids to sports events, youth groups, and attending end-of-the-year school functions. My life has been what’s next, next, next for so long that when I can’t list off a few things that need to be done immediately, I start to feel edgy. I have to force myself not to create busy work. It takes a couple of weeks before I can relax and be okay without running around at Mach two with my hair on fire (to quote from Top Gun).

In his book, MaxOut, entrepreneur and business personality, Ed Mylett, talks about how we move to what is familiar to us – specifically with emotional states. The question is, what state is our status quo? Is it angered, stressed, fearful, anxious, worried, or depressed? Are we returning to harmful emotions because they’re familiar, like how dogs return to their vomit? How do we move toward the good emotions, like those derived from the fruit of the spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?

youn girl thinking

God, in His goodness, gave us the answer in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” I know what you’re probably thinking (or at least I was). Easier said than done. True, but when we also look at how God made our brains, the genius of our creator is awe-inspiring.

We have a Reticular Activating System or RAS, where our brains focus on what is deemed essential and filter out most other stimuli. The RAS is why when you get a particular hairstyle or specific fingernail color, it pops up everywhere. Ring tones are a famous example; once you choose one, it sounds like everyone has the same one. This is because we’ve told our brains to look for this information and not let it slide by us.

If we concentrate on what is worrisome or stressful, our brains will filter for anxious stimuli. If we focus on what is excellent or praiseworthy, our brains will reward us with positive and encouraging stimuli. When we ruminate on our dreams and God’s purpose for our lives, opportunities, connections, and learning lessons will pop up on our radar.

Over time, by merely redirecting our thoughts, we can jump the rails of our negative rut and get on a life-giving path.

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Red ripe apple on limb

Are We the Sum of Our Experiences?

There’s nothing like being around young kids to make you learn anew the infinite reserves of energy that they hold. I watched my niece (8) and nephew (5) over the weekend. It was fun to hang out with them and good bonding time, but I have to admit on Sunday night I was wiped and in bed by 8:30 pm.

I would love to harness even a small portion of their youthful vigor, but if asked if I could go back to a certain age—any age—I would have to say no. Youth may have more energy, a fresh perspective, and enthusiasm, but age gives a solid base to cling to when the world goes crazy. My foundation cannot be shaken because of the experiences I have to draw upon, both good and bad.

Picasso said, “We don’t grow older, we grow riper.”

I prefer to view aging from Pablo’s perspective. The faith and wisdom we gain ripe red apple on a limbthrough living ripens us into tender and sweet fruit. And, as we grow in the fruit of the spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control), we are better equipped to handle anything life throws our way.

Where I believe some young adults get stuck is in thinking that they are the conglomerate of their experiences. Don’t fall into the categorization trap. Mistakes and successes don’t define a person. They teach us, it’s the best hands-on skills training you can get, but there is no grade. You can’t take it pass/fail. It’s simply for you to grow and reach the next level. Just because I have failed doesn’t make me a failure. Because I have had some success doesn’t make me inherently successful. And, because I have disappointed, it doesn’t make me a disappointment. My experiences shaped me, but they don’t define me.

I am a beloved child of God. Created by his hands. Nothing can change that. And so are you. If you’ve made unwise choices you’re ashamed of, leave them at the feet of Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter" book coverJesus. I remember reading Nathaniel Hawthorn’s The Scarlett Letter in school. Hester Prynne was forced to wear the mark of her shame on her shirt. Society tried to define her by her mistake. The Bible conveys a different story about a woman caught in the act of adultery. When the woman was dragged naked before Jesus, He told the Pharisees, “Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone.” The Pharisees all dropped their stones and left. Jesus, then, looked the woman in the eye and said “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

Experiences help us better understand right from wrong. They offer hope because God saw us through, and He is faithful to do so again. They give perspective so that we’re not overwhelmed by the small obstacles anymore. They teach us consequences and show us that God’s plan is better than anything we could have come up especially when it’s not the way we might have gone about it.

When we submit our past to God, it gives us hope for the future, because He is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, the past and the future.

The already “ripened” must also be careful not to lord our wisdom over the younger generations as if we know best. Instead, we need to use the knowledge that we’ve gained from trial and error and hard work as a ladder for the next generations. Help them to climb higher than we did. Teach them to avoid the pitfalls from which we’ve clawed our way out. We also need to glean from their enthusiasm and vigor.

With God’s power behind us, we are an unstoppable force.

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Dandelion meadow

How to Get Rid of Spiritual Weeds

It’s what everyone hates to return home to face—weeds. After being away on Dandelion meadowvacation, weeds had popped up everywhere. When I stay on top of them, the weeding process isn’t too tedious, but when I neglect the garden for as little as a week, they spread and strengthen, taking root deep into the soil. Eventually, the weeds will choke out the good plants, causing them to wither and die.

Even though we had a great vacation, it felt good to get back. While away, I got away from my routine. I wasn’t consistent in my devotionals or prayer time. By the end of the week, I not only was missing God, but I was missing myself. Without a daily reminder of who I serve, there was a slow dwindling of the fruits of the spirit in my life, love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self-control. I didn’t like how quickly the weeds of selfishness, impatience, anger, and lack of self-control (because calories don’t count on vacation) popped up in the cracks of my spiritual armor.

Francis Chan in his book Crazy Love made what I thought was a strange suggestion. He said to try to go a week without praying or talking to God. My first reaction was, “How can a pastor be telling people not to pray?” But, then I thought about it. Could I go a week without praying? Sure.

I only made it a few days. I felt restless. I grew impatient with people and was on edge. It didn’t take long for old bad habits to crop back up. I lost a sense of purpose and direction. Loneliness swept over me because I couldn’t turn to God and say, “Look at that gorgeous sunset. No artist on earth can capture color the way your hand does God.” Or, “My heart isn’t right with this person. I need You to remind me of your grace because I want to strangle them right now.” Or, “Please be with my friend who’s hurting right now. Comfort them and help them to absorb some of your strength.”

thistleI felt empty and ugly.

I missed Him.


Not only do our flower beds need tending and weeding, but we also need spiritual tending and weeding. A daily watering of our faith and feeding of our spiritual muscle. If we don’t constantly press into Jesus, seeds of anger, busyness, and unforgiveness will take hold. Those bitter roots will strengthen and dig deep into the cracks of our hearts. 2 Corinthian 10:5 says, “Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” By subjecting every thought to a God filter, it’s like pulling the weeds when they are still tender little shoots. When those negative thoughts first pop into your head, cut them off at the root. Remind yourself of God’s plans for you and who He says you are.

Fertilize the fruits of the spirit until they crowd out the weeds.

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