How Can Self-Control Become Your Game-Changer? Summer Devotional 10

All ten weeks of our summer study, I’ve been humming that silly kid’s song, “The Fruit of the Spirit’s Not a Coconut,” but lately, I’ve been thinking that IF one such spiritual attribute WAS a coconut, it would have to be self-control.

All the others from love right through to gentleness evoked sweetness that sent me bounding into clip-art-apalooza for all things berries and blossoms. But then, there’s self-control, a.k.a. self-discipline.

That’s one hairy beast of a spiritual fruit, a tough nut to crack.

I’m convinced, though, that Paul concluded the Galatians 5 list with it because self-control is what gives us the structure and determination to carry out Christ’s command to love. Read More

Is Gentleness #GOALS at Your House? Summer Devotional 9

Bible teacher Kristin Bonin can straight-up preach a word on unity and integrity in the body of Christ! Last fall this author and founder of Dwell Project spoke to several hundred women at my church, and since then, I’ve gotten to linger over coffee with her to talk all things scripture, raising kids, and reaching our communities for Jesus. I’ve asked her to share her heart on the topic of gentleness for our summer Fruit of the Spirit devotionals, and I know you’ll find it a sweet treat for your soul.

Ask my girls what scripture I quote on the regular at our house and they’ll tell you: “A gentle answer turns away wrath.” Proverbs 15:1 (NIV)

I wish I could say it’s because I’m a loving mother who walks around reminding my children of the wonderful news of the Gospel, but that’s not the reason I’m always going back to God’s wisdom on gentleness.

It’s because we’re not very good at being gentle.

In fact, I’ll never forget the day we were all discussing where we wanted to go eat. None of us had the same thing in mind, yet we held some pretty passionate opinions on hamburgers vs fajitas. I’m not sure how us Bonin girls managed to turn the blessing of dinner into a brawl, but apparently, we have that gift.

My husband very matter-of-factly asked, “Are you listening to the way you’re speaking to each other? You all sound barky.”

Woah. Dude! Barky? Read More

How Will You Stay Faithful When Your Faith Is Rocked? Summer Devotional 8

Reverse puberty. Fun phrase, and no, I’m not wishing kids would morph into their younger selves. Where would the adventure be in that?

No, “reverse puberty” is how doctors explain the “profound amount of [biological] stress that causes physical, mental, and emotional strain” during a woman’s perimenopausal years.

Well, thank you, doctor. I’ll just have a side of denial with that.

Hormonal shift or not, though, I’ve found life in the forties marked by new stressors, and as I’ve talked to others, we’ve noticed a tendency toward restlessness and soul-searching, too.

It’s not just women, either. Hello to the guys out there facing their own midlife crises re-evaluations. Maybe it’s an ebb in guy hormones for you? Or it’s family/career stress or disappointment with how life’s panned out. Regardless, we need to start talking about this because you are not quite ok, either. In fact, within the last few days two 40-something male church leaders publicly disclosed they were walking away from their faith, and the internet is losing its mind as if this is something new.

Fellow-Gen-Xers, midlife is here whether we like it or not, and we need something strong to carry us through a vulnerable, storm-tossed season.

Here’s why: never has that term “Gen-X” been so applicable than as we stand at a crossroads of influence. Our successes and failures ripple to affect those younger than us as well as our Boomer parents. We need the Holy Spirit growing our faithfulness so we can fulfill our callings and point to God’s power and faithfulness.  Read More

When evil looms, will you pray this prayer? Summer Devotional 7

Darkness. Brokenness. Evil.

I’m not going to recount the news cycles of the last few weeks, but if you’ve scrolled the headlines, you’ve seen enough to make your heart break or anger spark, more so if events hit close to home.

Or maybe you’re becoming numb to tales of violence, bigotry, and hatred, and that scares you because you’re one of those who truly cares about others. Now, you wonder, What do I do? How do I even pray in a world that seems bent on destruction?

I’m right there with you, fighting the urge to despair. Where is goodness in such a world? Frankly, finding that spiritual fruit seems like looking for blackberries but coming up with brambles.

Don’t give up, though. Not for one single moment. If we have the Holy Spirit gardening within our souls, the goodness you and I are searching for in the world is sprouting inside of us, and it’s waiting to break through with one simple prayer. Read More

Are You Serving Up “Rightness” or Kindness? Summer Devotional 6

Ever been caught between the choice to insist you’re right and the choice to extend kindness? This week, I’ve asked my friend and previous guest-poster Dena Hobbs to discuss why the spiritual fruit of kindness matters, especially in this climate of polarizing rhetoric and harsh criticism. Enjoy Dena’s wisdom and then check out some of her other work linked below.

A few weeks ago, my teenaged daughter and I were watching our summer obsession, Songland. Now, if you have not watched the TV show, the premise is popular singers come looking for songs that will capture the hearts of their audience. Aspiring songwriters pitch original creations, and the singers choose the one they think will be the next big hit.

In this episode, of the Black Eyed Peas was seeking material for his new album. The first two songwriters performed worthy songs, but the instant my daughter and I heard up-and-comer Adam Friedman sing the chorus of his pitch, “Be Nice,” we turned to each other and said, “That’s the one.”

We knew in our bones the song would be a hit because our world is craving kindness.

Rudeness, hatred, and fear abound. Even will.i.iam, who went on to release “Be Nice” in collaboration with Snoop Dog, knows a little bit of nice can be a life-changing balm in our broken world. (Fun fact: was raised Baptist and Snoop Dog is a born-again Christian who has recently recorded Gospel songs. Didn’t see that coming did you?)

I remember quite well a day when kindness was that sort of life-changing balm for me. It was my first week working as a barista. As it sometimes goes in food service, a disgruntled customer had been very unkind. Her belittling words made me feel small and incompetent to the point I planned to quit after that shift. But my day wasn’t over yet. As I stopped by a market on the way home, the woman checking me out looked me in the eye, handed me my bag, and said, “Here you go, sweet angel.” Read More

Where Do You Cultivate Patience in a Right-Now World? Summer Devotional 5

Four years of college and they’ve got me working the switchboard. Waste of time.

That was younger me at my first job in a high-tech firm’s marketing department. When they said I’d work with technology, I didn’t realize that meant operating the phones from the receptionist desk.

Surprise, surprise, when I shared such injustice with my parents, they thought it was hilarious. They rained on my self-pity parade, advising me to be thankful, humble, and patient while I worked my way up.

That early lesson on patience has served me well through harder seasons like chronic illness, career challenges, and marriage difficulties. I’ve learned that patience is not a “quick” fruit of the Spirit but that it does yield a great harvest. Like an olive tree that takes seven years to yield first fruit and 65 to 80 years to produce stable crops, the fruit of patience shows up only after we’ve persevered over time. That’s a challenge in our gotta-have-it-right-now society. In this week’s devotional, then, let’s look at three areas where the Holy Spirit can cultivate patience.

Read More

Will You Let Peace Put You Back Together? Summer Devotional 4

“Sarah, I need you to pray with me right now.”

That was how I ambushed a new friend at a writer’s conference just a few days ago. What had started as a joy-infused time of skill sharpening and networking had now ushered in my anxiety gremlins as I rehearsed a list of shortfalls.

Article ideas left unpitched.

Website updates still back-burnered.

A book idea living as a stack of sticky notes and nothing more.

Yes, the world won’t stop spinning on its axis over such things, but as a performance-oriented, people-pleasing gal, I scrabbled for a toehold of confidence against a rock-slide of insecurity. My peace threatened to go to pieces.

Have you been there lately? Whether your anxiety stems from a confidence crisis or something a lot bigger, you feel like peace is gone. If so, then we’re in this thing together. I can be a yellow-caution-taped disaster area when it comes to anxiety, and I never stop needing to be reminded of the spiritual fruit called peace. Read More

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