Grace, Love of my Savior, Uncategorized

Why You Cannot Skip The Fruit of Peace and Still Hope to Survive Life

It’s been exactly one whole year. One year ago I remember laying on my stomach, arms stretched above my head, my forehead pressed into a padded ring. I was told I would have to hold very still while the MRI hummed and snapped pictures of the inside of my chest. I remember, just before she slid me into the machine, the technician gently draping my body with a warm blanket. Eased into the metal machine, I closed my eyes. I had been so cold, chemotherapy will do that to you, but that blanket captured my chill and I felt ribbons of warmth wrap around my skin. An IV pulsed dye into my veins and I finally opened my eyes. I don’t know what I expected to see, but it wasn’t what I saw. Under my face was a mirror. And the mirror reflected a mural painted on a wall somewhere. The scene was a beautiful lake with a break-wall leading out to a lighthouse. I decided to settle in, after all, this test was going to take awhile.

This may sound strange, but I was sick, cold, and tired, so I allowed myself the simple pleasure of imagining myself walking along that pier with a very hot breeze penetrating my body. The idea of not being cold for even a moment, or worrying that the weather might change and drop the temperature, was freeing. It was also that moment that I began to pray. I prayed for a lot of things, but the quick answer, the rapid assurance, caught me in a powerful moment of peace. What I saw on that pier wasn’t real. And yet, it was. What I saw was a powerful truth. As I stood there, alone, in the hot winds near a lighthouse that doesn’t actually exist, I looked back towards shore. Three figures came towards me. Two walking. One in a wheelchair. My three mothers. We did not embrace. We spoke no words. I stood a few feet from them, but I felt their voices mix with the winds and their hands smooth out my wintry skin. I knew God had sent them. I knew, when their arms caressed my knotted hair, the hair rapidly falling out, that God had sent them to remind me to be at peace. I was not alone. I knew at any given moment, when I wanted to crumble, I would think of them, and I would stand tall and finish this journey because of who they had helped shape me to be. I would do this, not FOR them, but BECAUSE of them.

I felt, more than heard, the whispers of the Holy Spirit. And I let my salty tears fall onto the small mirror with the imaginary seashore in it.

The fruit of peace is not an easy one to write about. In fact, it’s a hard one to narrow down. What kind of peace is Paul talking about? How do we wrap our minds around something we can’t actually produce ourselves? But I had felt it inside that MRI machine, and now I wanted to understand it. Paul says, “when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in it”. Peace. Paul also writes in Ephesians 5:9, “For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.” The right kind of fruit. The fruit of peace.

Good. Right. True. Peace.

One of the definitions for peace is “of Christianity, the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is.”

Whatsoever sort of an earthly lot you get, that should be where you find peace.

What if I told you, and quoted, “God loves you dearly, and he has called you to be his very own people. May grace and peace be yours from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 1:7

Again, “…you who have been called by God to be his own holy people. He made you holy by means of Christ Jesus, just as he did all Christians everywhere – whoever calls upon the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and theirs. May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you his grace and peace.”. 1 Corinthians 1:2,3.

Does it sort of feel like Paul is out gifting grace and peace? But Paul, who had the perfect upbringing, the perfect education, three square meals a day and was the teen with the latest fashion? Why does he need to know anything about peace? Friend, he was also the Paul who, as Saul, persecuted Jesus’ followers. And, once he accepted Christ as Lord, he became the Paul who was put in jail more times than I can count, whipped, stoned, and faced death again and again. He was shipwrecked three times. He faced dangers from cities, deserts, and the stormy seas. Jews and Gentiles both shook their fists at him. He went days not knowing where his next food or drink would come from. But time after time he entered into a meeting with a group of believers greeting them with grace and peace from God the Father and Jesus Christ.

Could it be, always, in the tunnel of fear and uncertainties, that what IS good and right and true is the perfect gift of grace and peace? Could it be, that Paul had settled into a life of knowing and understanding how that light, the one lit within, was able to glow bright even in storms? Paul knew his earthly lot was to spread the gospel of Christ Jesus. Nothing more, nothing less. But he was human too, and perhaps the need to complain raised it’s unconscious hand once in a while. Maybe the raspy voice of hunger or the latest exhaustive trial seared his ability to hide criticism. I don’t know. But maybe the greeting was simply his ability to pause before preaching. Maybe it was his way of being a gracious host to his own soul.

It’s a powerful lesson for me. My own personal lot of late has darkened my interior. But he reminds us that there is light within us. The good and true kind. We are God’s chosen people. We also read, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16. Could it be, this is where we find peace? The lining of our souls might be the protective barrier for the candle burning deep within. What if we learned to pause before judgement and criticism could escape our lips? What if we actually allowed God’s grace and peace to steady our tongue or still our anguished heart?

Paul also writes in Philippians 4:6 & 7 (NLT), “ Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

Paul knew that his heart was guarded and in Colossians 3:15 he points out that peace ruled his heart as well. Peace is the culmination of good, right, and true gifts, and this is what stills storms. So there IS balance in this out-of-balance world? I think so.  

Grace and Peace.  

From God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.  

Guardian and Ruler over….

our hearts and our minds. 

Balance.

And there, in the dark tunnel….

PEACE

In pure peace,

~kathy b

Joy, Uncategorized

The Fruit of Joy

It was just he and I in the elevator. He must have been more than twice my age. A navy blue hat rested atop his head with the words, “Korean War Veteran” stitched in gold across his brow. He was going up and I was going down and I’m not sure which of us got on the wrong elevator, but it only took me a second, when his voice carpeted the metal space around us, that I knew it didn’t matter, because what he said next would have velcroed me to the spot anyway. He told me, in as few words as could fit into a 2 floor ascent, that his wife of over 60 years was here in the hospital because her heart had stopped. Twice. But how she was doing good. How she was too spunky to go down for long. And then he reached into his pocket at the same time the elevator jolted to a stop and pulled out something small. The doors hummed their slow open yawn and he reached across our safe stranger space and pressed the thing in my hand and as his foot propelled his small, age-framed shape forward, he said, “God is taking care of us.”

At that moment, I did not have enough breath in me to respond. Later, I think I remember nodding? Maybe I gave him a half smile in agreement? I chastised myself for not at least thanking him for his service. And yet, when the second hand of life’s moments ticked three or four more times while that elevator closed and my shoulder bones hiccuped upward because of the downward pull, I opened my gifted hand. There, pressed in, was a black leather keychain with the words, “Jesus Cares” 1 Peter 5:6,7. A yellow cross painted in the middle.

“He touched me,

Oh, He touched me,

And oh the joy that floods my soul.

Something happened and now I know,

He touched me and made me whole.”

I was flooded. They were the Gaither’s words, but it was the Lord’s joy that flooded me then as I shimmied my own diseased body up onto the radiation table. Was he just a stranger, or was there something more holy going on than I knew about right then? I don’t know the answer to that, but here’s what I do know. Joy. I know what joy feels like even in the drudgery of this sin filled world. Friend, I can tell you, my heart beat hard against my chest wall for the next half hour at least! First of all, I thought of all the ways this man had loved his wife for all those many years and through all the changing of their experiences and circumstances. Was it always joy? He went through a WAR! I can almost certainly say, no. But when her heart stopped it’s rhythmic pulsing, he had called for help. He had watched staff in scrubs hustle to restart her life. Twice. And in all that crazy, he had kept his perspective. “God is taking care of us”.

The Greek word for joy is ‘CHARA’. It is defined as, ‘the joy received from you’, or ‘the cause or occasion of joy. Of person’s who are ones joy’. Nothing ties joy to love like Jesus does in John 15:9-17. “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey me, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father and remain in his love. I have told you this so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” And then He goes on commanding us to love each other the way He loves us. Read those lines again, because the flooding of joy comes from how much the Father loves us when we obey him, and we are to do the same for others. One another. Our husbands, our kids, our parents, in-laws, church members, even the stranger in the elevator. I wonder if broken hearts would even be a thing if we loved one another and spread that kind of joy around us? Even on our hard days? Because that is the obedience that God cares about.

It isn’t as if you needed one more story of joy lost, not after the recent news feed, but remember Kind David? The story is different than our modern day war cries, but it’s the same story of disobedience. You know the story, of a handsome king with everything he could want, including God’s blessing, and the beautiful wife of Uriah, one of his commanders, listed as one of his mightiest men. 1 Kings chronicles it as David’s one great sin. It WAS David’s disobedience. And the result? Everything that is obvious to us…death, heartbreak, deceit, loss, grief. But there’s one more thing, David’s loss of JOY! He writes about it in Psalm 51:8, after Nathan the prophet came to him, “Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me – now let me rejoice.”

It’s true, isn’t it? A broken soul cannot feel joy overflowing until the heart reaches towards the love only a Savior can give. And the only reason to look back is to remember the cause of our joy, defined by the person who brings us joy.

So let me leave you with this, “So we don’t look at the troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever.” 2 Corinthians 4:18. That’s another act of obedience, friend. Choosing to see what will come! And when you see it, it will flow from YOU! This is the fruit you are capable of. This is the fruit of working together so that you will be full of joy. Standing in a faith that says, “God is taking care of me.”

Purely seeking joy,

~kathy b