Thursday, June 27, 2013

Self Control and Self Worth

Well, I’ve been postponing writing about this last, but not least fruit of the Spirit because of many reasons…mainly because this is the one I lack the most.  Self control is highly underdeveloped in me.  Some would even say it suffers from stunted growth.
I know the Holy Spirit is hard at work on this one in me for He keeps giving me opportunities to grow it on a daily basis.  However, I fail almost every time.  I’ve been thinking about why I usually fail at my self-control tests, and I keep coming back to the thought that I just have a way too highly developed sense of self-importance.  Yes, an underdeveloped ability to exercise self-control stems from an overdeveloped sense of worth.   
I just think I’m WAY too important.  And because I believe I am so important, I cannot be bothered by life’s interruptions, distractions, detours, obstacles and tests.  I’ve set out a course for my life and I don’t want to deviate from it.  My plan and my agenda take precedent over the needs of those around me.  My issues are the priority in my list and they have to be dealt with first and foremost.  I don’t have time to tend to others when I am so busy taking care of my own stuff.  So when I am in the middle of dealing with my own stuff and somebody/something comes in and interrupts me, causing me to pause, I explode! 
“Can’t you see I’m busy?”  “I need to finish this!”  “Please go away so I can do this thing.”  “Can’t you just wait a moment?”  “This is NOT the right time for you to come asking me to do that…children, husband, friends…God…”
I don’t like being interrupted…unfortunately, life is a series of interruptions, or is it?  Are they really interruptions?  Or what we perceive as interruptions really are God’s ways to redirect our misguided paths back to where He needs us to be?  As I am in the middle of many of my own, I will continue to ponder this idea.  I’m sure not done thinking about my lack of self-control…as surely as He is not done with me yet. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Unforgettable Gentleness

To me, gentleness is a soft breeze that fills my lungs with fresh air. Gentleness is God holding us in the palm of his hand. It is Him whispering to us saying that He is near. And to me it also was my mother brushing my hair. I know it sounds odd, but the rare occasions that my late Mother brushed my unruly hair are treasured in my heart for they felt just like a soothing balm straight from God through her hands.

Extreme gentleness was the only way to describe the way she’d work the brush through my tangled curls. Grooming was not my specialty as a little girl. I’d rather let my massive hair fly freely in the tropical wind than spend hours of tedious sitting while someone tried to manage the unmanageable. Everyone who ever tried to get my hair under some sort of control ended up pulling it while jerking my head around. That’s why I used to run every time I saw anyone approaching me with a brush in her hands…specially my sister! Anyone, except my Mother, that is. I remember the sensation clearly even now. Sitting by my Mom’s feet, allowing her gentleness work in me through my hair…it is hard to explain…it was a God sent.

Today, years after her departure from this earth, God has sent me a replacement to enjoy such tenderness in the hands of my seven-year old Dylan. Once in a while, I’d be sitting at my desk working on the computer and he’ll come, armed with my brush and comb. Out of the blue, but always on cue at the moment when I need a tangible dose of gentleness, Dylan would show up behind me to brush my hair. He’d begin by softly pulling the “scrunchy” that holds my pony tail to then start working in my hair just as gently as my Mom used to do years ago. Of course I am immediately transported back to when I was a little girl and my son’s gentleness turns into that soothing balm, straight from above to calm my soul.

To me gentleness is the fruit of the Spirit that allows God’s children to communicate their love to others. It is the fruit that the Spirit grows in us to give a practical, tangible and sensory sample and an idea of what God’s loving nature may feel like. He grows gentleness in the hearts of His children so they can express His love to others in a way that has a lasting impact in the soul of the weary. It is a gift that God gives humanity through His children. I pray I remember the power of gentleness. I pray the Holy Spirit grows and matures this fruit in me for it is not for me, but for those around me to enjoy and be blessed by it. It is God’s unforgettable gift to humanity through us.

But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. 1 Thessalonians 2: 7

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


“Are you serious?! You don’t remember your Mom ever being harsh to you?” My older son Grant said to me a while ago with a puzzled face filled with incredulity after I was reminiscing with him about my late Mom’s gentle ways. My heart sank when I heard him say that. The fact that my son was so reluctant to believe that his Grandma, my Mother, had actually been a kind person who was never harsh, said a lot about…me.

Grant never met my Mom, which is a REAL shame. That’s why I try to talk to him about her as much as possible. As he now realizes, his Mom is NOTHING like his Grandma…unfortunately. The Holy Spirit is certainly taking His time growing the fruit of gentleness in my soul. As I think about what the reason might be, I realize it has to do with my lack of patience. Of course all the Fruits are interrelated and they are interdependent. However, as we saw with kindness and goodness, some of them relate to each other in a rather special way.

Gentleness, in my personal case, is hindered by my underdeveloped patience. In my desire to get things my way and in my own time, my actions towards others suffer as I don’t get what I want when I want it. It is selfishness, again.

My rebellious spirit demands control. God’s loving nature offers opportunities to repent, learn and change. That’s why He often puts people or circumstances in our lives to develop the lacking traits in us and polish our character. Our children, for instance, become God’s handy tools for this purpose very regularly. Regardless of their age, they tend to do exactly the opposite that we tell them to do when they sense we are nagging them (the same goes for husbands, boyfriends, students and the like : ) In turn, impatient-harsh-short-fused Mom becomes infuriated at the smallest sign of perceived disobedience. It is a crazy cycle that can only be broken by matured fruits of the Spirit.

Acceptance is a key word here. It is important to accept the fact that we are all individuals with individual brains which function individually and usually not in complete and perfect sync with ours. Accepting that being firm doesn't mean being harsh and that God is working in all of us at the same time is a sign of Christian maturity. The same way He is working in me, He is working in those around me in a very specific way, and as we interact with each other, the fruits growing in me, will promote the growing of the fruits of those next to me. As my boys see gentleness developing in my actions, they will witness the power of the Holy Spirit in a restless and willful soul, which will bring hope to all.

“That’s right, Grandma was a gentle soul, and I’m not like her much at all; but God is working in me and there is nothing impossible for Him!” I tell Grant as he pauses to consider the implications of my words. I pray he gets to witness the work of His hands in me, and that someday he could talk to his own kids about how God mended my ways.

I'm linking with:  Whole Hearted Helping Him

Friday, June 7, 2013

He's Been Faithful Before, He'll Be Faithful Again, and Again...

The other day, on my way to a sonogram test I was really NOT looking forward to having done, I felt the urgency to experience the assurance of the Emmanuel, God with us, in a mighty way. So, I prayed for God to give me a supernatural awareness of His presence.

As it often happens, in the midst of the nervous daze that one experiences when going through a scary test, my mind was not working right. And in my concern with the technician not giving me any information after she was done with the test, I walked out of there with my brain fixed on the unknown. I went to the grocery store, and when I was walking back to my car, it hit me! I did not have my little cross on me! My husband had given me this tiny cross in a delicate platinum chain  so many years ago, I can’t even remember when it was. I always wear it. I love that cross! So when I realized I didn't have it on, I panicked.

I sat in my car paralyzed with fear and sadness. Then I remembered I had to take the necklace off for the test per the technician’s request. In my dazed-state, I took it off and just plainly laid it on top of my purse rather than putting it inside in a safe place. Well, of course, when the test was done, I was more concerned with trying to make the technician give me some info than anything else, so I just picked up my purse and forgot all about the tiny cross! 

I quickly put the keys into the ignition, started my faithful 11-year-old Honda Civic and off I went back to the Imaging Center.

I told the receptionist what had happened and a nurse who had been listening to the story asked me what kind of a necklace it was. I described my dear piece of jewelry and saw her running off to the ultrasound room. I sat down to wait by the reception window… my soul down cast. I didn't want to go there, but from the back of my mind, the nagging thought kept peeking through…if I lose that cross here, that might mean only one thing…I tried to push the thoughts aside, but I was in panic mode.

A few minutes later (needless to say it didn't feel like just a few…), I hear someone say: “Ma’am, is this is?” and as I looked to my right toward the reception area I see my beautiful and tiny cross peeking out the window, hanging off the nurse’s hand. If the nurse had not been on the other side of the glass window, I would have hugged her tightly. I expressed my immense gratitude and I left quickly before my tears began to show.

I sat in my car, the witness of so many special moments, and I let the gates open up for the river of tears I've been holding back to freely flow. But they were finally tears of joy…the joy of knowing I am in God’s hands and He is Faithful. I put my dear necklace back on, where it belongs, and these thoughts came to me, “He is never too far!” “He is never lost.” “I am His, and He is mine!”

I know that a silly necklace doesn't mean anything, really…but I also know that God can use anything for His purpose. He can communicate with us through anything/anybody. That day, He chose to show me His presence in a “supernatural” way, just as I had prayed for earlier, by using an object that means something to me, but it is not the object what made the moment sacred. It was His Hand upon me what makes me proclaim His Faithfulness. Praise the Lord, for He is Good All the time!  

Great is Thy Faithfulness, Lord onto me...

Thursday, June 6, 2013

God IS Faithful!

As for God, his way is perfect: The LORD's word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. 
Psalm 18: 30

As I was driving back home yesterday after a doctor’s appointment that I was really dreading, I had Dr. Swindoll’s show “Insight for Living” on the radio. I was really not paying much attention to it, but he said a phrase that caught my ear immediately. He said: “the Holy Spirit meets you…” That’s when I realized that he had been talking about the Holy Spirit and how He is our Counselor and our ever-present Helper in times of trouble and trial.

I began fighting back the tears that started to burn in my eyes as I contemplated the perfection of the timing of that statement. The very fact that I listened to that phrase at that precise moment in time was a hugely significant illustration of God’s magnificently perfect sense of timing. Not before, nor after…just at the exact time, that’s when The Holy Spirit meets you…and the statement came to me right on time, as usual.

It was a reminder of God’s hand in my life. He had taken care of me in my scary appointment. He had given me exactly what I'd needed to put my soul at ease, and me hearing these words on the radio was just God’s way to make me acknowledge His wonderful ways. He wanted me to look back at Him and see His glorious faithfulness. It would not have worked out better any other way. He did it in a manner that made a lasting impression in me and for that I am grateful…regardless the scariness of the situation.

The Most High God, who had been Faithful before, was Faithful again in my life…He cannot help it…that is who He is. And as we witness His Faithfulness, our faith in Him grows. The trick is, not to miss it. We need to remain intentionally aware of His Hand upon us so we catch as many instances of His Faithfulness as possible.

The Holy Spirit meets us wherever we are. He brings us everything we need. And He is always on time! Praise the Lord!

O LORD God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O LORD, and your faithfulness surrounds you. 
Psalm 89: 8

I'm linking with The Character Corner

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Faithfulness: The Assurance of the Unseen

Lord, hear my prayer,

listen to my cry for mercy;
in your faithfulness and righteousness
come to my relief. Psalm 143: 1

As I take a look at the fruit of Faithfulness, I feel the twinge of fear caused by my weak faith creeping up into my soul. The worries of life entangle me, and today I quake in my metaphorical boots as I wait for health issues to be resolved. It is ironic, then, that I am to write about faith today. It is not ironic…it is God’s perfect timing what brings me to this topic this morning. And as part of His carefully designed plan for me, I embrace it.

Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5: 7 that, “we live by faith, not by sight.” Faith is, therefore, our “north,” our guide, our directive. But what is faith? In Hebrews 11: 1 we see a marvelous definition of this elusive concept: “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” How wonderful! Faith allows us to be confident in the fact that He, whom we do not see with our physical eyes, is real and able to do what He said He would do, but which we have not experienced yet.

To the world, the concept of faith seems like a big joke. They laugh at us and call us naïve. They concoct all sorts of arguments to counter our statements of faith to the point of becoming belligerent. Their anger against our faith is rooted in their inability to understand it. Those who belong to the world are not capable of getting the concept of faith because it is not a worldly concept. Faith is part of the Spiritual realm and as such it is misunderstood if the Spirit who grows faith in us is not present in one’s soul.

We need He who is Faithful to inhabit our heart in order for us to begin to develop a measure of faith ourselves. It is precisely because God is Faithful that we are able to experience faithfulness as well, because He calls us to Him, like 1 Corinthians 1: 9 says: “God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.”

Because He calls us, we are part of His fellowship and enjoy His faithfulness, which in turn begins to grow in us as we mature in Him. And it doesn’t matter how weak our faith still is, for the source of our faithfulness is His own, and His faithfulness is endlessly strong for all of us.

What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God's faithfulness? 4 Not at all! Romans 3: 3-4

He remains Faithful regardless of our lack of faith. He remains All Powerful and He remains our Strong Tower and our Fortress of Refuge and Strength in our times of trouble and concern. Because of our faith, our conviction and assurance in the things hoped for and not yet seen, we can confidently say that as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil, for you are with us; your rod and your staff, they comfort us. Psalm 23: 4

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Kindness and Goodness: The Twin Fruits

Kindness vs goodness…what’s the difference? The way I see it from the point of view of our contemporary, every-day terminology, kindness has to do more with actions and goodness more with our nature, our inner essence. They go hand in hand, however, since our actions should reflect the goodness of our hearts. Without goodness, our actions are selfish and self-serving. And in turn, they both depend on love and on the presence of God/Love in us in the person of the Holy Spirit who grows these fruits in our souls. Without God in us, any notion of goodness fizzles for as Romans 3: 10-12 says:

“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

As humans in a fallen world, where the prince of darkness, Satan, roams and prowls around like a beast waiting to devour us (1 Peter 5: 8), our willingness to choose goodness and righteousness has been corrupted and only by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit our ability to freely choose goodness could be restored. That is why goodness is in the list of fruits that must be grown by the Holy Gardener. Without Him in us we choose darkness…just think about this: have you ever had to tell your or any kid to be bad?

It is the LOVE in us, God in us, what/who makes us good. Without Him…well, you get the point.

Therefore, kindness and goodness are considered often as the “twin fruits.” It is not as if all 9 fruits don’t go together and exist in a sort of vacuum. No! They are all interrelated in the fact that they all depend on Love, God’s presence in us to be developed. But kindness and goodness have a special relationship of interdependence between the two of them. I can’t imagine being really, truly kind without having goodness in your heart nor the other way around. They also have to do with the way we relate to others. They speak of the way we are to treat our neighbors.

Do you see the difference? Are our actions reflecting the kindness and goodness that indwell our soul?

Today I'm linking with:  Simply Better

Monday, June 3, 2013

Patience = Waiting

The fruit of the Spirit concerning us today is Patience. I anticipate this meditation to be very short since I am the world’s least patient person…Oh the irony of it all!

Well, since I do not know the first thing about being patient, I approached this topic very carefully : ) In case you didn’t get it…that was a sarcastic remark : ) I don’t have patience to take anything “very carefully”! I do things, most things, on the fly. The rest, I do on impulse. I have no problem making decisions or changing my mind. I am too impatient to stick to a decision that is not yielding results quickly enough, so I go ahead and make a new one! If something I start doing is not working out the way I want it to, I change it and start a new thing. I guess I could say I have “Teflon perseverance.” Patience, however, requires stainless steel.

Patience is the result of learning how to wait. And the only way to wait is to wait in the Lord. Like Psalm 27: 14 tells us, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Waiting requires a level of strength that will give us the endurance we need in order to stay put and see God’s plan unfold. Waiting requires the ability to stick when we need to and let loose when it’s time. Waiting also requires us accepting that God’s timing is NOT usually our timing, nor His ways are ours (Isaiah 55: 8-9). Therefore, for the fruit of patience to grow in our Spirit we need to have the ability to stick and wait while at the same time we need to let go and accept that He is the one in control, not us. 

We do our part and leave the rest to Him, like a high quality stainless steel skillet where you can make the yummiest, stickiest and most consistent of dishes but when it’s time to clean up, the gunk comes off with a swift swipe of a sponge...and without the toxic residue.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Peace = Trust

Today I feel called to talk about the next fruit of the Spirit, peace...big SIGH...

Once again we are confronted with another challenging concept. Discerning peace from a Biblical perspective takes a great deal of time and fine tuning into the Holy Spirit's divine wavelength. How do we achieve such fine tuning? We tune into the Holy Spirit's station by communication through prayer. Paul tells us in Philippians 4: 6-7:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

As we communicate with God in prayer we present all the anxiety-producing situations we are currently dealing with and surrender them to Him. The implication of such transference is that we trust He is able and willing to take care of it all. As we trust in His loving nature toward us, we experience that peace which transcends human understanding. 

The element of trust, therefore, is the crucial aspect in this transaction. Anxiety becomes stubborn when our trust is weak. As trust develops in our heart, the fruit of peace begins to grow. The only way for trust to unfold and become stronger, however, is to experience situations that require us to trust in Him. If nothing ever happens to us, we would never really and truly figure out what trusting in the Lord is. If we have everything under control in our lives, and we can solve every problem on our own, how would we ever know what having nothing else but Him really means?

I did not grow up singing hymns. There are, however, a few which I absolutely love. Today at church we sang my favorite, It Is Well with My Soul, by Horatio Spafford. The lyrics are a testimony of trust, the kind of trust that is certain to help peace grow in leaps and bounds. If you have a minute, read the words slowly and carefully, internalizing each statement...and allow that peace that surpasses all understanding to cover you with every inspired word.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Joy Comes in the Mourning

Surprisingly, this time, it is not a spelling mistake, though I have my BIG share of those in my posts.  At this stage of my life when many different versions of loss have become a huge part of my daily walk, mourning is my constant companion.  Therefore, when I read in Scripture that we are to be joyful and rejoice, and that we are to exhibit joy as a fruit of the Spirit living and working in us...I let out a big sigh...

Paul tells us in Philippians 4: 4 to rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS, and he even says it again, rejoice!  It is a command, and the word "always" implies just that, ALWAYS!  Not just when things are going well and we naturally rejoice, no, we are to exercise joy regardless of the situation.  Once again, it is humanly impossible...sigh...  

The impossibility of it is mainly because, again, as in with love, we tend to confuse joy with happiness.  As I see it, there is a core difference between the two terms.  In one word, circumstances:  happiness is circumstance-driven while joy is Spirit-driven.  

Christ knows what human emotions feel like.  For example, He knows how it is impossible for a person to be happy when someone dear dies.  Remember, Jesus is fully man and fully God.  Remember He wept the loss of his good friend Lazarus and wept as His heart filled with compassion for His friends' sisters' distress.  Asking anyone to be happy during life's heart-breaking circumstances is like asking a palm tree to produce apples.  

Joy, however, goes beyond happiness.  The way I see it, joy doesn't even traverse around the same path as happiness.  Joy takes a completely different route.  That's how the circumstances are irrelevant, because the road of joy is the road of the Holy Spirit and the only circumstance it depends on is the Holy presence of Christ in us.

In the midst of my season of loss, when each day seems as if I lose one more thing, and the snare of worry entangles my soul, I call in joy.  I call in His promise, 

Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30: 5b

And who comes in the morning? Christ does! Jesus IS the Bright Morning Star! (Revelations 22:16b) Joy depends on His presence, so I call on Him and as He reveals Himself to me, the fruit of joy grows, regardless of the circumstance, regarding of the loss, for after all, I must consider it all loss.

I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ. Philippians 3: 8