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
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, will.i.am 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: will.i.am 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
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.
“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
This week I’m sweating for Jesus with some fantastic rising 7th graders who’ve chosen to serve needy families by doing yardwork and hosting a VBS in a Houston-area park.
Translation? LOOOONG days of dirt, fire ants, and other creepy crawlies, not to mention stuffy church-van rides and lots of last minute changes to their VBS plans. But, hey, they’re middle-schoolers, and they figure out ways to make it fun! Each day they also debrief about the things they want to celebrate and the areas where they want to grow.
One growth area these kids chose for our team? Being joyful even when they’re tired, grumpy, and frankly, don’t want to lift one more shovelful of mulch.
Our site leaders loved that idea, and they also challenged us to make it stick: “Just how WILL you be joyful when things are hard?” They pointed us to the account of Paul and Silas in Acts 16 to look for answers, so what better place to continue our study of the fruit of the Spirit as we look at JOY? Read More
I love sweet, summer strawberries. I also love new shoes, puppies, vacations, and my family. Like everyone else, I throw that word “love” around a lot, but I also know the way I feel about my husband and kids is different than the way I feel about relaxing poolside in July. Something in that kind of love we have for family motivates us to overcome obstacles and make sacrifices we wouldn’t normally make.
Makes sense, then, that as we dive into part two of our summer series on spiritual fruit that we determine what kind of love Paul means when he says, “The fruit of the Spirit is love” (Galatians 5:22). The quick answer is that what we translate as “love” is the Greek term agape, usually defined as unconditional or selfless love and identified with the love God has for humanity. Christ-followers should be characterized by an ever-maturing love for others that looks like the love that motivated Jesus to lay down His life to save us.
That’s a powerful kind of love!
So, how do we recognize God’s agape growing in our lives and how do we make sure we don’t run out of it? Read More
Summer is smoldering away here in Houston, and it’s got me craving bowlfuls of berries. One of my favorite summertime treats is simply fresh or frozen blueberries with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of natural shredded coconut. My kids call it my pretend ice cream and look at me with pity while they eat their Bluebell, but I’m as happy as can be. Fruit just makes life sweeter, right?
So, I love that fruit pops up all throughout scripture and especially that it’s used as a metaphor for what our lives look like when the Holy Spirit is at work. This summer, I’ll be using one passage in particular as a framework for Bible study. Hope you’ll join me as we let Galatians 5:22-23 send us on a fruitful journey.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Read More