Monthly Archives: February 2013

Fruit of the Spirit

Oh Joy-A Trial! (Said no one ever)

 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.  But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

James 1:2-8

Does this passage of scripture challenge you?

Joy in trials and problems?

What is James thinking?  He needs to get real!

Yet here the command is given very clearly, with some explanation as to why.

It is still hard to take.

This is why we will spend about the next week unpacking it.

Because to develop the fruit of spiritual joy we need deep roots to dig into every problem and complication and trust God through it.  This will produce in us spiritual joy.

We should begin with thinking about the definition of a trial.

Many of us associate a trial with a legal proceeding where two parties are disagreeing over something bring it before a tribunal for resolution.  Both parties present their evidence and a decision is made by either a judge or jury. It may be a criminal matter, where someone is declared guilty or not guilty or it may be a civil matter where someone is seeking damages from another for an injury or loss of some kind.  If you’ve ever been involved in a trial like this, you know that the basis for it is a problem that can’t be solved outside the legal process.  The people involved in it are not happy!  They are upset, harmed or injured.  Perhaps they have lost a loved one.  So we know that joy is not something that comes to mind when we think of this kind of trial. Even when someone wins or loses the trial, often there is still an absence of joy because all we receive at the end is imperfect human justice.  We may still have a hole in our hears!

A trial can also be defined as physical, mental or spiritual suffering that we endure.  Again, not something we associate with joy!  It’s a problem!

Where is the joy in that?

The joy comes in the resolution of the problem, the exacting of a penalty, the payment of our damages, the relief of our pain, the soothing of our spirits!

If we didn’t have the pain, we would not appreciate the relief!

Have you ever gone through a circumstance that was painful at the time but when you reflect upon it now, you are glad at having endured it?  Or maybe you anticipate the resolution and know it is coming soon.  A ready example can be an uncomfortable or difficult pregnancy.  As the pregnancy goes on, the more the mother wants it to be over and to hold the child.  This gets her through the discomfort and ultimately makes her joy even greater when the child is born.

I hope you’ll stay with me as we dig deep into this aspect of spiritual joy that is only obtained through trials.

All the Best in 2013!

Julie

Peace Fruit

Transformative Joy in Nature-Get Outside


Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy

1 Peter 1:8

 If you are feeling hard-pressed in the cultivation of your joy-fruit, ask yourself if you are spending too much time cooped up inside.

Nature testifies to us of the majesty and power of God and reminds us of His presence in the world and His identity as the creative force of the universe.  Finding joy in nature builds lasting joy into our spirit.

Our “indoor lives” may represent a controlled environment but they also represents being closed off to all the blessings God has to offer us outside in the world He made.

The sun, moon and stars were place in their orbit by God and remind us of His enormity in creating the universe we marvel at.

If we are feeling too self-important or are doing things in our own strength, stepping into nature can help us to regain perspective on where we fit in His grand design.

No, the world does not revolve around us.

God also designed the world, through nature, to bring us spiritual joy when we take the time to connect with it and be thankful for it.

The changing of seasons bring refreshment and renewal as we see landscapes change with the weather.  We see nourishing rain and sometimes destruction through weather as well.

Nature demonstrates to us various aspects of God’s character.  He sends punishing rain, but ultimately set a rainbow in the clouds to be a sign of the covenant that He’d never again destroy the earth with a flood. (Genesis 9:13). It is a life-giving and life-affirming thing to spend time in God’s creation.

The pastures are clothed with flocks: the valleys also are covered over with corn; they shout for joy, they also sing.  Psalm 65: 13

All the Best in 2013,

Julie

Patience

Transformative Joy Is Transcendent & Trusting Joy

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy

1 Peter 1:8

Enemies attack, circumstances attack, the world attacks.

Where to go for transcendent joy?

When we don’t feel our joy is firmly rooted, how can we tap into it?

It’s a frequent quandary, right?

Sometimes we do feel attacked from every angle.

I remember finding out years ago that I have an autoimmune disorder.  This means that my own BODY attacks itself, which causes inflammation and other difficulties.

Imagine finding out that even my own body is attacking me!  I am not even safe there.

Not to mention that my own MIND attacks me if I think too much about my challenges and adversities.

It’s all the more reason to long for the day when I inhabit a body and mind in perfect health and to lean towards that promise when I feel low.

Joy is found in looking up and OVER the slings and arrows.  It’s deflecting hurtful words with GRACE which can take the form of SILENCE or retreat.  It’s seeing the trap before we fall in it.  It’s being unafraid of tomorrow.    It’s meeting a scowl with a smile

Transcendent and transformative joy transcends and transforms our earthly circumstances because we TRUST God.

Reflect that attack up to God and ask Him to take it as the shield and defender that He is.  Ask Him to send  joy to your spirit in return for the attack.

Make it as natural as a breath.

All the Best in 2013,

Julie

The righteous shall be glad in the Lord, and shall trust in him, and all the upright in heart shall glory.

Psalm 65: 10

Fruit of the Spirit

Transformative Joy Today

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy

1 Peter 1:8

Inertia Robs Us of Joy

Have you ever felt stuck in life?  This is a feeling that is less than joyful.

Time Management Can Produce Joy

Take a moment at the end of each day (even if it’s just five minutes) to thank God for all you accomplished (even if it is less than you’d planned).  Then ask God to show you what you need to do the next day and ask Him to bless and facilitate those activities, but to also keep you flexible if something unanticipated happens.

Advance planning is something vital to success in life.  Knowing where we want to go is the first step in getting there.  Ordered and step-wise progress makes long journeys more manageable.

However, for me, a source of anxiety can arise when I think too far down the road, especially if I am uncertain how I will accomplish certain things.  Likewise, if I spend too much time dealing with the past, I might become discouraged and lose momentum.  Being too preoccupied with either the past or future can immobilize us.

We have less spiritual joy when we are immobilized.

So orienting ourselves to day-by-day living yields more joy because we take time to be thankful for little accomplishments and blessing that we would have otherwise missed.

Tomorrow is an uncertain commodity and the past is over and done. Extract the lessons you need from it and ask God to help you gain proper perspective from it.

Focus on God’s direction in your life today, in this moment and you’ll be nourishing your joy fruit!

All the Best in 2013,

Julie


Transformative Joy Through Expectation in God Alone

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy

1 Peter 1:8

Maybe you have heard the saying that “expectations are premeditated resentments.”

Unpack that one a bit…

Has someone ever let you down and that made you resentful?

Was the source of your disappointment based on a standard you’d established in your own mind without ever communicating the standard to the other person?

This is why in most jobs, performance measures are established during the first days of employment so everyone gets on the same page.

Yet, we have expectations of others that we never communicate and then we become angry, distant or depressed when we’re disappointed.

Even if we clearly state our expectations, that’s no guarantee the other person will be able to live up to them.

I often communicate expectations to my daughter when we go into a store…that I expect her to look with her eyes and not her hands, not to whine for things and to stay close.

She doesn’t always get it right.  And that’s OK because I have GRACE built into my expectations for her and she’s not perfect.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t consequences for misbehavior, it just means that her misbehavior doesn’t have to impact my joy.

If my daughter is constantly unable to meet my expected and stated standard, maybe it means that MY standard needs re-evaluating.  Maybe I set the bar too high.

Similarly, if I’m a manger who experiences a near constant turnover of burnt-out employees, it’s probably my fault because I’ve failed to appropriate sufficient resources to get the job done.  Maybe I’ve failed to give the employees the tools necessary to do the job.  Maybe I just set them up to fail by devaluing them as individuals.

Many of us expect marriage to produce joy in our lives as we stand and make vows.  How often has our partner not lived out his or her vows?  How often have you similarly failed?

Exercise cautious balance in use of expectations.  Many are reasonable and necessary for safety, orderly living and healthy relationships.  But no expectation is appropriate if we don’t communicate it and hold it over someone’s head like an anvil ready to drop when they fail to meet it.

We cultivate our joy fruit when we realize how often we disappoint others and recognize that all human beings will fail at meeting both spoken and unspoken expectations.

Only One never disappoints.  As we wrap our lives in the expectancy of the JOY of eternity and depend less upon others to make us happy we cultivate our joy fruit!

“Wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him.”  Psalm 62:5

All The Best in 2013,

Julie

Peace Fruit

Transformative Joy-Can’t Be Taken Away

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy

1 Peter 1:8

George and Ira Gershwin wrote a song many years ago that many of us know, called “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.”  One lyric says,

 The way you wear your hat
The way you sip your tea
The memory of all that
No, no they can’t take that away from me

Our human memories can hold on to how good times felt.  We remember images associated with happy times.  Maybe you have souvenirs of meaningful times in your life that help you to remember. If there is a possession you value a great deal, think of it and hold it in your mind.  Maybe it is a treasured heirloom, a drawing or craft made by your child.  It doesn’t have to be your most valuable possession in terms of monetary worth.  Now imagine that you must sit by and watch powerless as it burns up.

This is painful to imagine.

Maybe you have had financial trouble in your life and had items repossessed.  Maybe you’ve lost a home you love due to foreclosure.  Maybe through those or similar circumstances, we’ve come to  understand the transitory nature of all the things in our lives that money can buy and maybe we realize we now have more room to understand the nature of true joy.  In Proverbs it says:

Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone,
for they will surely sprout wings
and fly off to the sky like an eagle.

Proverbs 23:8

Have you lost a loved one and felt as if your heart would break?  Our loved ones are fragile and vulnerable even if they are young and in robust health.

Imagine being able to find joy in the midst of that situations.

Yet this is what we are promised in eternity-and in this life during times of trouble.

If the source of our joy is anything in the human realm, it can be gone in a split second.

The joy fruit that we cultivate as believers is all-sustaining and carries us through times of loss.  We anticipate a time when we will see the source of our joy face-to-face.  This joy can’t burn up, be wrenched away from us, or decay over time.  It can’t die.  It’s unending because its’ source is eternal!

“You have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”

John 16:22

All the best in 2013!

Julie

Peace Fruit

Transformative Joy-No Fly-by-Night-Joy

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy

1 Peter 1:8

When we think about the “joy fruit” of the spirit, we should think of it as something distinct from, say, a “happy-go-lucky” personality.

Nor is the “joy fruit” a volitional act.

We don’t have the power to decide to be joyful.  The “joy fruit” isn’t communicated through a beauty-pageant-standard-issue smile.

Just as you cannot tell someone suffering from clinical depression to “snap-out-of-it,” you can’t tell a grumpy Christian to just “decide” to adopt a joyful countenance or fake a joyful attitude.

It is not something that can be manifested by anything we as humans can do.

It’s also not like an antidepressant.

You can be a Christian cultivating fruit and still need medication.

The “joy fruit” is not a product of our brain chemistry but of our hearts when Christ comes in.

We can choose to cultivate the “joy fruit” through immersion in God’s word, fellowship with other Christians, prayer, meditation and living a healthy life.  These are things (dare I say disciplines) that we can undertake to move along the path of regeneration.

However, the root of the “joy fruit” is fully appropriating the love God showed for us by sending Christ to die for us.  Appropriating that truth of the gospel into our lives will breathe an air of expectant joy into our lives.

As we breathe in that air, this will bring about change in our lives and motivate to tell others about the source of our joy and confidence.

We do not have cheap “fly by night joy.” that depends on other humans or money or circumstances.  We have a deep, rich, inner joy that moves us forward each day.  It’s a joy that’s made a reality in our lives through God’s supernatural power!

Cultivate yours today!

All the Best in 2013!

Julie

Peace Fruit

Transformative Joy In New Perception

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy

1 Peter 1:8

Do you have perfect vision without glasses or contacts?

You are blessed!

But you may not be able to fully appreciate my illustration today.

I do not have such vision.

The world changes considerably for me when I put on my glasses.

I am nearsighted.  So without them I might miss a cloud formation, a sign telling me where to go or a bird in my garden. So many things I see that I would otherwise miss!

I am always grateful for the gift of enhanced eyesight.

What if we could put on a pair of glasses that would enable us to see tomorrow in a more positive light?  The facts and circumstances in our lives might remain the same, but we’d view them from a different and enhanced perspective.  Would you immediately put those glasses on or would you hesitate?

When the Holy Spirit plants the fruit of the spirit in us, we are able  to visualize a better reality that we have not seen yet.  Not just the reality of eternity with God, but of walking in joy in our lives here on earth today, tomorrow and every day.

We are able to find joy in one quiet solitary moment or in how the sunshine feels or in being able to reconnect with an old friend..

Joy comes from conscious gratitude for the little things every day that go “right” rather than preoccupation with everything that goes “wrong.”

What if you framed the end of each day as one day closer to being filled with inexpressible and glorious joy?  And when you wake up in the morning you are even closer still?

Will that perspective change the way you walk through your life?

I think that it can!

All the best in 2013,

Julie

Peace Fruit

Transformative Joy!

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy

1 Peter 1:8

Transformative Joy: The Ultimate Makeover

We’ve all seen makeover shows on TV.  Someone who is plain and unstylish gets a pick-me-up through hair, make up and wardrobe.  The “before” is bedraggled and drab.  The “after” is illuminated!  You even see the posture of the makeover recipient change.  “Before” they are slumped over and trying to fade into the background.  “After” and they have spring in their-step, are standing up straight and have new-found confidence,

I have always wondered if the makeover recipients are truly committed to maintaining their new “look” after the cameras and makeup artists leave.  You hope that the changes take hold because of how powerful they’ve been in the person’s life, at least temporarily.  But, once the person has to keep up that appearance and repeat the process themselves, how easy would it be for them to put back on the sweats, not style their hair and go out without makeup.

This type of pattern is repeated in other types of self improvement endeavors.  A person commits to weight-loss, loses 50 pounds and gains them back within a year.  Someone makes a good start being more financially responsible by paying off their credit cards, yet maxes them back out again on a lavish vacation.

When people fall back into old and unhealthy patterns, there is often a great deal of self-loathing that ensues.  They experienced success for a time, but it required significant work to continue down the path.

What is necessary for a transformation to truly occur?

Most transformations, to “stick” have to start in the heart and spirit.

Do you want to be transformed in your life?

Do you want to reach higher, accomplish more and experience all God has for you?

Transformative Joy Has the Power to Change Your Life

Then consider the power of the transformative joy of that is possible through all He has given you?

Let’s spend the next week focusing on this transformative joy and how we can be authentically “made-over” by it!

The human spirit is the lamp of the Lord
that sheds light on one’s inmost being

Proverbs 20:27

All the Best in 2013!

Julie

Peace Fruit

Joy Fruit Cultivated Through Plain and Simple FUN!

You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.  Psalm 16:11

Joy Fruit Through FUN

Hey, now, fun is a fruit I can get behind!  And God wants us to enjoy life!  In fact, he asks us to.  And who has more fun each day than children?

We can learn a lot from them.

When I was in second grade in a Christian school, I learned a song.  We would sing it as we were getting settled in the classroom to start instructional time.  I never forgot the song, since it was played daily for a year of my life.  But I love that it is a good, sound biblical principle that gives us a mandate for rejoicing every day.  You may already know the tune.

This is the day the Lord has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:24

The Video below is not of my Little Girl.  My daughter’s version is very robust.  I might take a video of her and post later.  In the meantime, this gives you an idea of what the car sound like on our short drive to school. We have fun!

This is the day

So as we drive to school (which only takes about 3-5 minutes) we sing the song and do a quick prayer thanking God for our blessings and asking for His favor and direction throughout the day.  My daughter prays for things that are on her mind. It’s a special time of the day for us.  I find that even if I wake up rather grouchy and perturbed, after I’ve dropped her off I have a boost.

God has given us a day like a gift.  Do we always treat it as such?  Does life seem like a perpetual Monday morning for you?

Make a framework for cultivating joy fruit early in your day, whether through prayer, devotions (thanks for being here), meditation, exercise or a good breakfast.  Get something positive and energizing into your day as soon as possible.  

Teaching my daughter the little song from my childhood has been a good reminder for me that we are to walk around weighted down by anxiety, stress and worry.  You can step into joy, for a while at least, by shifting your attention to God and asking Him to give you a boost of joy in your heart.

Share a laugh with someone, listen to your favorite music while you work, take a walk and stretch, sit down and color with your kids.

There are opportunities for little joys interspersed throughout our day.  Stay alert to the opportunities and take them when you catch them and reap more joy fruit!

All the Best in 2013!

Julie