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Posts Tagged ‘fruit’

I love when I get hooked on a song. I will put it on repeat for days. There are also those annoying songs, or commercial jingles, that get stuck in my head as well. I would prefer not to have those on repeat. (On a side note, my brother and I have a funny tradition of texting random song lyrics to each other every day. I crack up over who texts the worst song.)

What about those things that are on repeat in our lives?

My life carries messages and thoughts that are on repeat in my soul. They manifest themselves into patterns consciously and subconsciously. I have fears that I constantly respond out of. These fears dictate my trust, doubts, risk, and insecurities.

We can also carry good patterns. I am a person who loves deeply. This is evident in the way I fight for those I love, protect them, and desire the best for them.

I care about my relationship with the Lord. This can be seen in the way I spend time with him, read the word, and live differently.

Embedded in the story of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talks about how our lives will bear fruit that illustrates our heart. Jesus talks about how “a good tree will bear good fruit, and a bad tree bears bad fruit.” Jesus also goes on to talk about how, “we will be recognized by our fruit.

This passage makes me do some serious inventory on my heart. I am aware that I have both bad and good fruit growing side by side, like weeds and crop.

I want to be recognized by the fruit of believing that God is enough, and in turn that makes me more than enough. I want to have fruit that resembles a deep lover of people. I desire to be a person that has fruit that speaks of faith in a God who is illogical in dreaming.

Right now I have fruit – fruit that speaks of fear and insecurities. Right now I have fruit that looks like self-sufficiency and independence. My divided tree needs some work.

How’s your fruit looking?

Any fruit need some pruning?

 

 

 

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Our culture thrives on results. We like to see tangible things that speak to progress. We are a people who like measurable goals and plans. We like to sit back and look at all of the fruit of our labor laid out around us.

But what if God is more about who we are more than the results we are making? What if character is the fruit God is looking for more than a tangible thing?

I have been talking about stories of characters who have definitive paths and dreams for their lives. Joseph was to be right hand man to the king, and David was on the road to becoming king.

What about someone with a life who had a path that was not so clear cut?

Ruth is an amazing person in the bible who exudes character. Ruth was not on a track to be the next king or even some famous warrior. Ruth set a high bar that illustrates commitment and character. Life for Ruth was hard and full of grief. She chose the hard and God blessed her for it.

Ruth was the daughter-in-law to Naomi. Naomi lost both her sons, which widowed both of her daughter-in-laws. This was a huge blow to Naomi, because her sons were supposed to care for her as their father had passed. Naomi was a widow who had no one to care for her. Her two-daughter-in-laws were in the same predicament. However, both women were younger with time to find new husbands. Naomi released the two women from her care and sent them on their way back to their home towns.

I don’t know what made Ruth want to stay. I don’t know what Ruth’s home situation was. I don’t know what she left behind, but she chose the harder road. Ruth left a life and friends she knew to stay with Naomi. Ruth committed to Naomi in a way that went against cultural values. Ruth sacrificed her option of security to return home and get remarried. Instead, Ruth chose to  travel to a place where she knew no one and life would be all unknown. She chose Naomi. Ruth chose commitment and faithfulness.

Cultivating character is not easy. It often does not look like the logical or even best thing to do. God taught Ruth to value responsibility more than results. Ruth treasured faithfulness more than fruitfulness. She chose a life that might have been mocked over what was easy.

I don’t know the thoughts of Ruth after arriving with Naomi to her new life in Bethlehem. I wonder if she just resigned herself to think that this was her life. She committed to Naomi and was going to take care of her. She stayed true to her commitment. God took Ruth’s choice of good character and showed an old town a new level of love and integrity.

God blessed Ruth so much for her choice of faithfulness and commitment. Ruth had no idea what doors would be opened for her, or even what life would bring, but she chose character.

God cultivated Ruth’s character and she was richly blessed. God blessed Ruth with protection and favor. She was given opportunities not usually afforded to women “like her.” Ruth was shown favor by many people. She was even given a husband who had amazing cultivated character as well.

Character calls to character like deep calls to deep.

Ruth could have chosen the easy way, or even the way that made sense to her culture. Ruth chose the hard. When Ruth “arrived” at a life that looked like “just caring” for Naomi, God showed her more.

God cares about our hearts and character above all else. Even in the glimpses of our dreams, we never “arrive” at them. God is always cultivating our character. In that process, we will know more life then thought possible.

Ruth committed to the one who was her path not the path itself. Life looks a little crazy that way.

How is God cultivating your character?

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When I think about what healthy relationships look like, I always think about David and Jonathan. These two guys are often in the spotlight for how well they loved each other, as well as, how they modeled friendship. When I read about their friendship, I see some serious fruit. Relationships have weeds that can threaten its growth, but it also has great fruit.

One characteristic about their friendship that I am constantly drawn to is their selflessness in regards to one another. Let me give a little back story on how they cultivated this friendship. At the time when David and Jonathan began their Bro-mance, Jonathan’s father, Saul was residing as king. David had been anointed by Samuel to be the next king due to Saul’s disobedience to the Lord. Naturally, Jonathan should have been in line for the throne. It was no secret to Jonathan that David was the one to take the throne.

Jonathan did not fight for the throne. He never tried to force himself on the throne or over turn what God had set in place. Jonathan loved and supported David as the one who would be taking over his birth right.
I don’t know about you, but my natural response would not have been love and respect. I would have gone down swinging. Dang weed!

Even if Jonathan felt jealous or envious of the throne, he did not respond that way. He celebrated his friend and brother. When David was moving more and more into the lime light as a great leader and warrior, Jonathan never responded in bitterness. He loved his friend and celebrated his victories. He also celebrated David as people praised him and cheered for his growing fame. I wonder if Jonathan wanted a taste of that lime light?

At the time when David and Saul’s relationship grew more volatile, Jonathan stuck by his friend. Jonathan was a man of integrity. David trusted him with his life and the intimacy of his friendship. They modeled an honest relationship that I’m sure came with much forgiveness.

A great relationship allows/enables each person to be their total self. A healthy relationship allows the other person to rest in acceptance and unconditional love. Good relationships allows for grace and forgiveness. As a result of grace and forgiveness, a sense of safety takes root. This is when the sound of exhale starts to be heard within the relationships.

So how did David and Jonathan have a healthy friendship?

In my speculation, I think they both understood God’s love and forgiveness for themselves. David had such an intimate relationship with God. I know that had to have made a difference in their friendship. The characteristics of their great friendship are the characteristics that make up the character of God. God is loving, forgiving, grace filled, and patient. He is slow to anger and abounding in love. God is the God of integrity. He is trustworthy. He celebrates his children and never settles for anything less than the best.

I have to believe that our understanding of who God is can set the tone of our weed filled or fruit filled relationships. How we know who God is directly affects our relationships. All good things come from above.

This is my desire for all my relationships.

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Relationship is the place where we can most learn about ourselves. Relationships are the biggest tool for those wanted, and definitely not wanted, insights into your own issues. Relationships are the things that can bring out the best and worst side of who you are, as well as the the other person. They are definitely the most daring and risky thing you can be a part of.

I talked yesterday about how the trouble areas we have in our relationships mirror the same trouble areas we have in our relationship with the Lord. I am going to label these trouble areas as “relational weeds.” Relational weeds serve as red flags that warn you that something is stirring inside.

So what are these “relational weeds?”

Weeds are those things that hinder your relationship from looking healthy. Weeds can also suffocate the growth of your relationship. Weeds can be blatant as well as subtle things. Weeds can look like distrust of the other person or the expectation that they will fail you. Weeds can be expecting, as well as demanding, someone else to meet all of your needs. When they fall short of meeting your needs, there is some sort of punishment involved. The reality is that no one will ever meet all our needs.

Weeds can also look like jealousy and envy over some aspect about the other person. This can look like success, favor, other friendships, something you want that they have, opportunities, etc.

(Allow me to sidebar for a second and say that jealousy and envy are not all together bad. They are great emotions that let you know something is stirring in you. The line, for these emotions, are crossed when we choose to respond and act out of our jealousy and envy.)

My weeds are hard on my heart when I realize them. I know I bring baggage into my relationships, but who doesn’t. I struggle in the area of trust. That stems from a mixture of past wounds and pain, but is definitely present in my current relationships. I also struggle with the fear of being replaced in my closer relationships. That fear takes on the life of a weed more than I would like to admit. Out of that fear I have treated some of my relationships like possessions that need to be protected at all costs. When my fear is threatened, I have a tendency to shut down or manipulate out of self-protection. I really don’t like manipulation. Ironic?

In other relationships that have looked more co-dependent, I have stepped up too much and played the role as the “fixer” in the relationships. As the dependent person, I have placed unnecessary demands on the other person to be my all in all. That is a recipe for disaster. No one can fulfill that role. That is a guaranteed fail.

Relationships that operate on weeds will inevitably die. These relationships are almost always conflict oriented. Conflict oriented relationships are constantly working out a problem or operate out of fight mode.

The most important part for me to realize, is that my recognized weeds are also present in my relationship with the Lord. Again, if I have distrust in my relationships, it’s because I have trouble areas of not trusting the Lord. If I place the demand on other people to meet my needs, it’s because I do not believe, or understand, that God is enough to meet my needs.

Weeds are hard and can be discouraging. Working on your weeds is so worth it. This post may feel like a downer, but stay tuned because tomorrow I’m going to talk about the flip side of what healthy, fruit producing relationships look like.

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The other day I was sitting in my normal pew at my church of St. Arbucks looking around. I watched as friends were hanging out in good conversation. I watched as kids, and their mobile homes of strollers, came rushing through. I easedropped on laughs and stories with the false advertising of listening to my Ipod. I really love watching people. I love getting glimpses of people’s hearts and life.

This scene started me thinking about my relationships. I spent the next hour or so thinking through my friendships, especially my closer friendships. I took a litmus test to all the different areas in my friendships, and I realized just how much the trouble areas of my relationships mirror the same trouble areas in my relationship with the Lord. This mirror is true for the rich areas in my relationships as well. It’s amazing how identical the two are. You can describe the mirror either way. The trouble areas in my relationship with the Lord will carry over, if not dictate, my trouble areas in all my other relationships.

I heard a pastor once say that the problems in your relationships don’t change because the person does. The only thing that is different in your next relationship is the person’s name. So true.

For example, if you are a person who struggles with trust in your relationships, chances are you probably struggle trusting God. If you are not sure what unconditional love looks like or feels like, chances are you lack understanding of God’s level of love for you.

I personally struggle with both. I struggle with condemning myself because of my lack of understanding of God’s truth of forgivneness. My understanding of forgiveness is having to endure a lot of pain and punishment. Out of this life long pattern of thinking, it is so hard to transition to thinking/believing that God doesn’t treat me as my sins deserve. To be honest, my heart doesn’t know what to do with that a lot of the time. This carries over into my relationships, especially the closer more intimate ones.

God is gentle and patient. I am learning to believe that. I can see that as understanding of right forgiveness takes root in me, my relationships are experiencing more richness.

Over the next couple of days, I want to talk about what can be described as the fruit and weeds in our relationships. I would love to know your thoughts along the way.

What would the results be in your relational litmus test?

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