Friday, March 15, 2013

Life is Supposed to be Fruity

A fruity gift from a sister friend in Ohio

I love fruit, and I especially love apple orchards! We have a really good one about 20 minutes from home, and I look forward to our annual trip to harvest our own apples. My favorites are the tart, crisp Haralson apples. Well, maybe that's my second-favorite. I flip for Opal apples, but we don't have those in Minnesota orchards, so Haralsons have to stand in.

Sometimes there are trees that look like they're not doing too well. The fruit is deformed, and there are bugs covering these infected-looking trees. In fact, I thought I had found one good piece of fruit on one of these bad trees, only to turn it around and find a dark, black crater with a great big spider living in it! He looked chubby. Too many fruit-covered bugs in his diet. 

We are here to glorify God with fruitful lives, but sometimes we get bugs, infections, and other assorted things to keep us from being as bountiful as we could be. Just like we're not happy with an orchard full of barren trees during harvest, God is not magnified when we're fruitless. "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples." (John 15:8)

Notice that the verse doesn't just say "that ye bear fruit." It says "that ye bear much fruit." We're supposed to be like those trees that are so heavy with fruit that the branches hang down to the ground, which makes the picking easy! 

Are you mistaking hyper-busyness for bearing much fruit? Would God need a magnifying glass to even find the fruit in your life? Let's look at the bare minimum of what should be growing: 
  • Love: God started here for a reason. I think it's partly because He knew that we would try to substitute hard work for loving people. Working hard is one thing; loving people is another. Mixing up the two is like mistaking artificial sweetener for sugar. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)
  • Joy: Not to be confused with happiness, as happiness is circumstantial, while joy abides. There is no true joy apart from the God, so if you're missing this fruit, ask God to show you where you got off course. "Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore." (Psa. 16:11)
  • Peace: Never settle for a lack of peace. If your peace is absent, check your lifestyle for peace-robbing habits like worry, unconfessed sin, bitterness, etc. "Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace." (Psa. 37:37)
  • Longsuffering: Impatient people know very little about being longsuffering. Do you lack patience? Learn how to wait for people, for things, and for situations to change. "Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering..." (Col. 3:12)
  • Gentleness: You can't be harsh and gentle at the same time. While it is widely accepted to be sarcastic and snappy, these tendencies are like buggy fruit. Every Christian should work at cultivating an agreeable manner. If people are sorry that they have to live with you, something is wrong."Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous..." (I Pet. 3:8)
  • Goodness: Many people think that they are putting others ahead of themselves, but there is often a great lack here. When there is nothing in it for us but the joy of being a blessing, we are beneficially good. None of us are as good as we could be, so cultivating this fruit requires effort. "Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find?" (Prov. 20:6)
  • Faith: When we believe God, obeying Him is a spiritual byproduct of this faith and trust. We're not just singing "Where He Leads I'll Follow," but actually living it. No sight is required to walk by faith. "For we walk by faith, not by sight..." (II Cor. 5:7)
  • Meekness: If you've ever had the temptation to blow up but chose not to, you have experienced strength under control. Meekness is not weakness; it's the opposite of prideful arrogance. "To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men." (Titus 3:2)
  • Temperance: Ruling over our own spirits even when we don't feel like it is a sign that we are developing the fruit of temperance. Moderation brings a calmness to life, while a lack of this fruit leaves us exposed and vulnerable. "He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls." (Prov. 25:28)
Thanks for the fruity shirt, Kim Kline!

One day, we're going to stand before God and give an account for how we've tended our fruit trees. The choice is yours: an orchard full of buggy, deformed trees, or bountiful, fruit-covered trees.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." (Gal. 5:22-23)

Friday, March 1, 2013

Just Pick Up the Socks

I have a continuous goal in life among many: The goal of being easy to live with. It's not as uncomplicated as it sounds, because being irritating comes naturally to most of us.

In fact, both people in a marriage relationship have irritating habits. Does your husband pitch his socks at the hamper, leaving them on the floor overnight? Don't even tell me. But do you routinely repeat yourself, as if your husband needs a refresher course in English?

Everybody has something that makes them, well, annoying in some small way.

The goal of being "good company" is important for any relationship, but especially the relationship between a husband and wife. Here are a few ways that we can be hard on the nerves:

1. We're tuned to the "History Channel." 
This is the place where we bring up things that he did wrong from any time in the past decade (or more)! This is an irritating habit, but we can only feel the irritation when it's being done to us. "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." (Matt. 7:12) Would you like your husband to recite your transgressions from the day you said "I Do"? I didn't think so.

2. We're tuned to the "Nitpick Channel."
Ah, the channel of major itchy-scratchiness. "Don't leave your cellphone there. Please take off your shoes when you come in the house (guilty, even if I say "pretty please"). Can't you find the clothes hamper?" After a while, we stop sounding like "wife" and start sounding like "Crabby Momma." Where is the reverence in this misbehavior? Nowhere. "Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband." (Eph. 5:33) "Aha!" you may say. "The Bible talks to the husband in this verse before instructing the wife! If my husband would love me like he's supposed to, then I could reverence him!" I've heard variations of this argument before, but I've never seen it produce anything other than a standoff. Here's something to try: Reverence your husband because it's right, and leave the rest to God.

3. We're tuned to the "Cold Shoulder Channel."
He offended you, and you're hurt, so you're icing him out. You are so cold, you make Minnesota look tropical. He knows he's in trouble, but can't find the button marked "reset" because you've hidden it. Most of us have at least one appliance that has a reset button, which is there to push when you want to get things working again. When you hide the reset button, you're trying to keep things broken. Get out of the "me first" position and look at things from his point of view. This requires effort, but an impartial judge of your situation could easily do it. Before you chill your marriage into trouble, forgive and press reset. "He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him." (Prov. 18:17) Have you ever noticed how poorly the cold-shoulder works anyway? Your husband gets to snore and smack his lips as he eats an imaginary steak in his sleep, while you lay there wide-awake and fuming!

Don't allow little things to become big irritations. Communicate, and if the little things are still happening (like socks in front of the hamper), purpose in your heart not to be cantankerous about such small stuff. How much will those little things matter tomorrow? Pick up the socks and carry on.

"Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands." (Prov. 14:1)

Do You Know What You Have?

Someone out there may be struggling with this holiday called Valentine's Day, and I can relate.  This is my third Valentine's...