Making Pie with the Holy Spirit

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Today I made a pie. A most delicious pie, laden with the freshest fruits of the season, piled high in a flaky crust, and jelled into place with a delectable glaze.

This is my favorite pie. I’ve eaten it every summer for a long time. My mom made it for dessert when I was a kid. It tasted so good after a long hard day of make-believe, bike riding, and kick-the-can.

Today’s fruit pie, however, differs somewhat from the ones in the past. Because, while I was making it a well-known piece of Scripture came to mind. Do you know the one about the “fruit of the Spirit”?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 English Standard Version (ESV)

I paused to look this Scripture up and then tried memorizing the nine character traits as I worked. Yea, definitely a good mental exercise considering my hands were busy slicing fruit and not available for counting.

I started wondering if I really understood the meaning behind the words. So, when my hands were clean, I did some research on the Scripture and the Biblical definitions of these traits.

It was Paul the Apostle who highlighted these nine traits or attributes of Christian life in his letter to the Galatians. The Galatians were people living in Early Christian communities in a region called Galatia.

Paul’s teachings sought to convince people to follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit rather than selfish desires. The Holy Spirit, he explained, produces these nine traits or fruit within us. When the Holy Spirit leads us, we become more Christ-like and our faith grows.

Becoming more like Christ, with the help of the Holy Spirit, means we do not seek just one or a few of these traits, but all of them. The nine attributes together, as a sum, are the “fruit of the Spirit”. The following Biblical definitions of each trait help us understand why they belong together and how they work in tandem.

Love: Agape is the Greek word used to describe God’s love in the Bible. This love is not the warm, fuzzy, romantic love we normally think of. It is loving as Christ loved – freely and unconditionally, without expecting anything in return. Loving this way means our attitudes convey goodwill, and we seek the best for others despite their actions.

Joy: Happiness hinges upon the good and bad things happening in our lives, but joy is different. Joy wells up from a reservoir deep within and offers us a settled feeling of well-being. It comes from knowing that we are cared for. Sadness still impacts us, but we feel an awareness of strength, protection, and stable love because of joy.

Peace: Knowing God controls the events of our day creates an equilibrium or inner stability known as peace. Worldly pressures and conflict still exist, but peace keeps us calm. Even in the midst of conditions that are normally upsetting and traumatic, we trust that God will work all circumstances together for our good.

Patience: Perseverance, steadfastness, long-suffering, and endurance are other Biblical text translations for patience. We demonstrate patience by maintaining a steady pace in the midst of life’s ups and downs. It allows us to find hope in difficult times, and endure poor treatment from others without retaliating.

Kindness: Kindness is looking for ways to serve and praise others without expecting anything back. Seeing things from the perspective of others develops compassion and helps us identify what we can do to serve their needs. Kindness is sympathetic, considerate, and diligently works to encourage others.

Goodness: Displaying Christ’s character in your life and helping others experience God in their life is goodness. We work towards goodness by identifying and using our gifts to love others. Sometimes, goodness requires frankness and honesty with ourselves and others.

Faithfulness: Faithfulness is a resolve to serve God and a commitment to praise others for the good work they have done. Others look to faithful people for examples of integrity. When we are faithful, we surmount feelings of doubt and help others find hope in belief as well.

Gentleness: A tranquil disposition that forgives, kindly corrects, and remains even-tempered is known as gentleness. When we display the trait of gentleness we let others make decisions on their terms; we respect their relationship with God. We also weigh our own decisions carefully and strive to stay humble in our accomplishments.

Self-control: Releasing the desire to be in charge and allowing guidance by the Holy Spirit is known as self-control. Showing self-control means we trust that God has a plan and his ways are better than our own. When we practice self-control we continually consult the Holy Spirit regarding our thoughts, actions, and reactions.

Nine character traits is a lot to work on, wouldn’t you agree? The good news is we don’t have to do it alone. In fact, the Bible says we cannot do it alone.

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5 New Living Translation (NLT)

This Scripture tells us the fruit of the Spirit grows within us when we have a relationship with Christ – knowing, loving, and imitating him. Joining our life to Christ ignites the Holy Spirit which leads to a fruitful life. A fruitful life, displaying the sum of these nine characteristics, in turn helps fulfill our two most important commandments – loving God and our neighbors.

This pie I made, it’s chock-full of fruit! Wouldn’t it be great if our lives, and all the lives around us were just as chock-full…overflowing with the fruit of the Holy Spirit?

Hmmm…the recipe for a fruitful life – we know it’s not an easy one to follow. And, we know with certainty, it won’t turn out perfectly.

But, the Holy Spirit will help us. It’s worth a shot, right? Yea, it’s so worth it. Have a bite…

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Inspiring Resources:

Fruit Pie Recipe

Ingredients:

1 C sugar

2 Tbls cornstarch

1 C water

3 Tbls peach jello

4-5 C fresh fruit (I used nectarines, strawberries, and blueberries)

1 frozen pie crust (I use Wholly Wholesome wheat pie crust)

Directions:

Bake pie crust according to directions and cool.

Mix sugar and cornstarch well. Add water and mix well. Cook on medium-high heat until boiling thick and clear. Boil 1 minute, stirring. Remove from heat and stir in the jello. Set aside to cool.

Cut the fresh fruit, removing skin if using nectarines. Pile fruit into the baked pie shell. Pour the cooled jello glaze over the top of the fruit. Chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Share with family, friends, and neighbors!

Living like a Superhero

Have No Fear… Unless You Make Me Mad

The automatic doors hummed open, and our eyes smiled with connection – a young boy, of about 5 years, and myself. His mom, nearby, leaned on their cart, fishing for keys and handling life’s latest on her cell phone.

Waiting beside her, I know he saw me coming. He saw me with my cart full of groceries and my mind busy with thought. So, he thought of a plan he could initiate quick.

His expression turned stern as he methodically focused on my approach. My distracted gaze turned into curious wonder. He planted his feet wide and placed his little hands straight together, as if to say a prayer over his heart.

There was a pause. A wait, if you will, for my exact “exit” moment.  As the doors buzzed open, he flung his arms out wide with power, and a “whoosh” sound sailed from his lips. In his marvelous imagination, his superhero capabilities had opened those automated doors for me.

Together in the moment, our grins escaped us.

This small superhero brightened my ordinary day. My own kids, now in college, were also once young, versatile characters – routinely becoming ninjas, magicians, pirates, or superheroes at the drop of a hat. This little boy reminded me of them and of all the adventures we shared as they were growing up.

My tense, busy thoughts slipped away as memories of lighter moments took their place. Suddenly, the importance of my to-do list paled in comparison to enjoying the moments of my day. I hope, maybe, by playing along, I improved my young hero’s day as well.

Can you remember a recent encounter with a superhero? Most likely, your encounter was not with someone possessing door opening powers (sorry, maybe next time). More likely, it was witnessing someone taking a stand for something they believe in, providing a helping hand, or sharing knowledge they possess.

Have you ever thought about how you use your superhero power?

Some people have jobs which are heroic in nature like firefighters, the military, health care workers, shelter administrators, teachers, and pastors. Their superhero identities and powers are public knowledge – as with Ironman or Captain America.

But, the rest of us, like the majority of superheroes, have hidden identities and powers – more like Superman, Batman, or Spiderman. The fact that our powers are not readily apparent does not make them any less valuable. They lie beneath the surface and emerge in many roles such as: parent, friend, child, artist, volunteer, advocate, patient, customer, employer, or team member.

Our powers are actions we are gifted in like: truly listening, showing encouragement, offering guidance, providing resources, demonstrating strength, inspiring change, or recognizing the good in others. Those around us have a true need for these elements of our character, and they thrive because of our efforts.

We can be superheroes in whatever we do, wherever we are. 

My encounter at the grocery store reminded me that each of us is born with motivation to live like a superhero. Have you ever met a child who did not pretend to save the planet from something evil? I have not.

Human beings have an innate drive to save.

Somewhere along the way, for many of us though, that drive gets buried. It gets buried under the responsibilities and insecurities this world dumps on us. That’s life. But, you know, like any fantastic superhero story, we can rise out of the rubble and reclaim our strength.

How do we live like superheroes?

I like to learn by example. And, some of the greatest historical examples of people becoming superheroes are found in the Bible. Each of them offers lessons to help refine our character, but the ultimate example of a superhero found in the Bible – Christians believe that to be Jesus.

Throughout Jesus’ life, he modeled many heroic qualities, and he left us with a mission to live our lives more like his. After searching Scripture for instructions on how to live like Jesus, I zeroed in on three of his main heroic traits we can apply to our lives:

  • Courage

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 New International Version (NIV)

Whether we are doing a big thing or a small thing, being a superhero requires courage in action and in belief.

Courageous actions show we trust in outcomes beyond our control. We keep moving forward through uncertainty, knowing God works in every situation for our eventual good.

Courageous beliefs instinctively guide us to step out of our comfort zones, and serve others in ways we could never imagine. Amazing things can happen when we let go of worldly constraints and see where our hearts can take us.

Following Jesus means we bravely surrender our own plans, and dare to dream about his.

  • Self-sacrifice

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24 (NIV)

This piece of Scripture tends to make people squirm. The word “deny” does not fit well into our culture of achievement, excess, and conformity.

It is much more comfortable to follow Jesus from afar. Jumping in the trenches with him brings inconvenience, judgement, and discomfort.

But, all superheroes readily give up their own interests and agendas for the common good, don’t they? Jesus never promised an easy path. In fact, he informed us that “in this world, you will have trouble” (John 16:33).

Following Jesus means we move selflessly, without hesitancy, to do God’s work and to show appreciation for God’s work being done.

  • Love

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:34-35 (NIV)

Becoming a superhero or following Jesus like a disciple, means we wholeheartedly seek to live as he did by loving others.

Unlike other heroes, our mission instructions will never self-destruct. Jesus sends daily instructions by way of the Holy Spirit, which lives in all believers. If we pay attention, we will notice the Holy Spirit continually pointing out opportunities to love.

With practice, we get better at loving others and tuning out protests from our human nature. We adapt to hearing the Lord’s quiet praise instead of the world’s noisy recognition.

Following Jesus means we examine all of our actions and beliefs to see if they resonate with love. 

Superheroes work better together, when their powers are combined.  

Familiar superheroes almost always enlist a sidekick or join forces with other superheroes to take down a villain mastermind, right? In a similar way, Jesus formed a team of disciples to spread his teachings, instilled the Holy Spirit in his believers, and called them to spread a message of love.

We do not have to look very far to find superheroes ready to team up. They are out there – making sales calls, coaching baseball teams, sitting in hospital rooms, making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and pretending to open automated doors.

Just like any combined force of characters, we feel more powerful together, and the good we do multiplies.

An army of mere mortals we will be, confidently placed on the front lines and backed by the ultimate power, the mighty hero, our awesome God. Surely, our grins escape us. And then…

The Lord will march forth like a mighty hero. Isaiah 42:13 (NLT)

Prayer for the Week

Dear God,

Thank you for placing others in my path who remind me of my mission to love as courageously and selflessly as Jesus did.

Help me find the courage to act when faced with the unknown. Guide me to bravely believe in the coming good.

Save a spot for me next to you in the trenches. Give me the strength to make sacrifices and readily accept hard assignments.

Teach me to quickly recognize opportunities to model your love and to praise others for the work they have done.

Encourage me to humbly join forces with the companions you send my way. Guard our backs as we work hard to bring glory to your name.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Inspiring Resources:   

  • This: Idleman, Kyle. Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011. Print. Available on Amazon right here.
  • And this:
My two superheroes in their younger years.
My two superheroes in their younger years.

Kick Materialism to the Curb

1931, 135th St

Storing away the Christmas decorations so eagerly placed around the house such a short time ago makes me sigh for two reasons. One, the season comes and goes so fast each year that I wonder if I did all I could to enjoy it. And two, repacking the decor with a caring, organized attitude is almost always a challenge.

After placing the items back in their designated corner of storage, I stand back and take a visual inventory of the stuff in my life. This leads to another sigh. How can one family’s life lead to so much accumulation? After some serious reflection, a firm mindset for change overcomes me.

I start digging through storage containers, and making piles for donation, sale, and trash. Toys, exercise equipment, furniture, dishes, clothes, craft supplies, sport trophies, house decor, technology – YUCK! I pause, considering the mess in front of me. Maybe, too much material desire is churning in my life? Do you see it in your life too?

How smoothly we slip into thinking that some “thing” will help us live better, look better, feel better. But, our satisfaction with these material things never lasts. There is always something different, something better, and it’s surely “coming soon”! Without deliberate care, we easily fall into the traps of materialism, experiencing emotions like greed, anxiety, and envy.

Wouldn’t it be great to cram all that materialism in a box, tape it shut, and kick it to the curb? I think so. Looking for answers this week in Scripture, I have learned a few things. Here are the highlights:

  • “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.” 1 Timothy 6:7 New International Version (NIV)

This Scripture reminds us that we come into this life empty-handed and we leave the same way. Any satisfaction gained from earthly possessions is temporary. Teachings in the Bible point to faith, however, as being something eternal. A strong relationship with God is something we can build to last. Although, we cannot see it or touch it, we can do the work to know it exists, just as we are certain hope and love exist.

  • “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7 (NIV)

All the busyness created by our quest for things may cause us to overlook the heart’s desire to serve others. Sometimes we quickly write a check or toss a service project in here and there, and call that doing our part. Being a cheerful giver, however, requires more thought and emotion. If we are always dutifully consuming, when do we have time to donate belongings, think about what service activities we enjoy, or how much money we feel good about giving? How much greater might our gifts be if we blessed others wholeheartedly, instead of simply as an afterthought?

  • “Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.'” Luke 12:15 (NIV)

Jesus tells us in this Scripture that a good, successful life is not a result of how much we own. Every day society pressures us to believe differently. The advertising which floods our psyche promises greater happiness with each new purchase.

Not buying into these promises requires us to think about earthly possessions from a Godly point of view. Certainly, God cares about comfort and wants us to prosper. But, he also requests us to make wise, gracious decisions with our resources. Guarding against greed requires us to keep resetting our minds on his ways, not the world’s ways.

When we set our minds on God’s ways, purchasing becomes less spontaneous. We are not so easily swayed into buying when the next “greatest thing” comes along. We evaluate needs versus wants more carefully. The needs of others also become more apparent, and we offer help in ways that did not occur to us before.

Putting all that materialism in a box (or boxes!) requires a long, hard look around the storage rooms in your house, and maybe even in your heart. What are you hanging onto and why? Could it be, that sometimes you buy things in an effort to fill your heart, rather than your house?

God wants to fill your heart with his wisdom, love, and unending grace. Make room for him to move in. Give him space to store his things – good, everlasting things.

Press down hard when you place materialism in that box, then seal it shut, and kick it to the curb.

Prayer for the Week:

Dear God,

Blessed be your name above all earthly things. Grant me honest perspective on the things I store in my life. Help me accumulate more faith and fewer possessions. Guide me to best serve you in areas where I enjoy giving. Journey beside me as I continue to box up materialism, and make more room for you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen