Saturday, August 31, 2013

Stinky Rotten Fruit

I don't know what happened to summer.  Even though the start to a new school year means an end to summer vacation, I am not nostalgically talking about sweet days gone by today.  I mean, yes, we got off to a good start, and we did make some awesome memories.  I am thankful for the memories.  We were all fired up about less routine, staying up a little later, sleeping in a little longer, and playing outside more.  We dove into beach days, pool days, and a few family trips, but somewhere along the way we took a wrong turn.  We landed ourselves in a huge, ugly rut.  It's embarrassing, but I am willing to own our family's dysfunction junction.  Fun in the sun turned into mad in the pad at our house, if you know what I am saying.  Sweet summertime was more like mean time.  I have been a full-time referee and mediator, and I am exhausted from working overtime.  Instead of soaking up some rays, I am burned out.  Time off from school for the kids has me feeling like I've been run over by a mack truck.  I am sitting here wondering if my kids spent more time in time-out this summer than they actually managed to play outside.  Does anyone out there in blog land know what I am talking about or are we the only ones whose lives frantically turned into a crazy nut farm?  What happened here people?  Somehow the summer wasn't all that it could be.  Why?

We had absolutely nothing to complain about as a family; and yet, I woke up one day realizing all of us were complaining about everything and nothing.  That's sad.  As many of you know from reading my blog, we have a different scripture up in our house each month.  It, for sure, is no coincidence that the one we have up for the last month of summer is about the "fruit of the Spirit" from Galatians.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who [a]belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also [b]walk by the Spirit.

God is trying to tell us something we all needed to hear in Paul's words, I know, because this verse kept screaming for my attention, but what?  Is it the painfully obvious?  I know, God.  I know.  I broke the rules, your rules.  I am guilty.  I have sinned.  I need to be less of an impatient, hot-tempered, selfish, argumentative mess and more loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled like your perfect son, Jesus.  Whew.  I am in trouble, and I get overwhelmed just thinking about how many times a day I catch myself not being these things.  And the thing is, it doesn't matter the season.  Summer, spring, winter or fall, I am vulnerable all the same.  

That's it.  My fruit, my family's fruit, has a tendency to go bad.  Sometimes it stinks.  Yucky stuff grows all over it with fruit flies galore.  The more I let it go the worse it gets and the harder it is to handle.  Yep, that's the gross image that came to mind reading this passage recently.  So what do I do?  Naturally, I stop what I'm doing and apologize to God.  I admit my wrong-doing and make a conscious effort to do better.  I am thankful for God's forgiveness.  Then, I eagerly look forward to the next thing for us.  Right now, that's the start of a new school year.  But wait a minute!  Just three short months ago, I couldn't wait for summer vacation. 

And so like I said, sometimes I find myself, stuck in a rut with rotten, smelly, disgusting fruit.  Even one bad apple can eventually ruin the entire fruit basket.  We, as a family, took a wrong turn somewhere, folks.  I feel like a child who keeps misbehaving, needs some time-out, owes God an apology, tries a little harder, and despite my best intentions, lands myself back in time-out again and again, rotten fruit and all.  Paul puts it this way, 

You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the 
truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.

In other words, as time flies by at the speed of life, we get stuck on our to-do lists, our things, our crazy busy schedules, our drama, and our routines (or lack there-of).  We get turned around.  And, we are quick to blame the rut we find ourselves in on our distractions.  We end up walking in the wrong direction, lost, on a one way street.  The truth is, I don't think the fruit of the Spirit is God's way of pointing His mighty finger at us for all the things we are doing wrong.  Paul is not giving us a guilt trip, and the "fruit of the Spirit" is not another thing to add to our to-do list.  It's not produce we can buy in the grocery store, manufacture with enough effort, or attain with good works.  When I read these verses though, I admit, that's where my brain went at first.

My misunderstanding is a common one (or maybe I really am crazy).  We say we "have faith" but we have to learn what that means day to day.  When our home is a crazy nut farm, because sometimes it just is, we get confused, and we feel guilty.  As Christians, we desperately want to fix it, whatever it is that doesn't match what we think a Christian family 
and a faith-filled life, should be.  Learning to be faithful is a never-ending journey, especially when it comes to accepting God's grace in my life.  Faith is not about following rules, laws, and religion.  It's not about never messing up or being as perfect as possible.  Jesus shows us that over and over again in the gospel.  

Believing in God, accepting Christ, and having an everyday faith is about our relationship with God and with others.  Yes, we do have to recognize our mess-ups and ask for His forgiveness.  But at the end of the day, there's more to God's grace.   Christianity isn't  about what it looks like or feels like.  Our experiences as believers will be as unique as we are.  Contrary to our common sense, at least for me, the the fruit of the Spirit, "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" are gifts, blessings from God we receive when we nurture and depend on our personal relationship with His Holy Spirit to guide our steps.   

25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also [b]walk by the Spirit.

It seems counter intuitive, but the more we let go and pray, the more God can do through us. Time flies at the speed of life and we take wrong turns before we even know it.  We can't help ourselves.  But guess what?  God knows that about each of us, and He doesn't want us to help ourselves to the point of complete self-sufficiency.  He wants us to recognize our constant need for Him so we are totally dependent on Him.  God made us imperfectly perfect for His glory.  He loves us.  In fact, He loves us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to save us.  Jesus died and His living, everyday presence is here to help.  That's the good news.  We are already forgiven.

So, back to this smelly rut with rotten fruit in which I find myself.  I am here with my impatient, hot-tempered, selfish, argumentative mess of a self.  I let myself be turned around and bogged down by the noise of worldly norms, my to-do lists, my things, and my plans because I think they really matter in the heat of the moment.  The problem is, all that noise keeps me from being able to hear the quiet, still voice of the Holy Spirit and my relationship with Him takes a back seat.  God is more interested in the state of my relationship with Him and my ability to let that direct my steps, though.  It's time get out of this bad place with bad fruit.  How am I going to do it?

I am letting go of this crazy nut farm I am living in and handing the whole, entire mess to God.  I am rallying my kids and my husband, and we are having what my mother-in-law calls a "come to Jesus meeting."  We are going to give God our rotten, stinky fruit, everyday, and flush it!  We sure have a lot of it, and we need a lot of help.  That's okay, though, because God has us right where He wants us, in the palms of His hands.  Thank God that by His mercy and grace, Jesus died for us so that we are made perfect in our weakness.  Thank goodness we are never stuck with this yucky stuff.  Instead of focusing on what is wrong, we are going to give thanks for our blessings.   We are praying, looking, and listening to the Mighty Counselor so He can direct our steps.  The more we walk with Him, the more He can bless us with the fruit of His Spirit we so desperately need.

A prayer for today-

Dear Heavenly Father, my Mighty Counselor,
Thank you for your living presence and help in my life.  Thank you for Your forgiveness, Your mercy, and Your saving grace when I fail to let You be the help I so desperately need.  Please, Lord, help me hear Your Holy Spirit over the noise in my life.  Guide my steps and renew my focus on the things that matter the most to You.  Thank you, Lord, for all the blessings you so freely give.  I pray for Your will to be my way.  

In the name of Jesus I pray,

In Christ's love,

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