Galatians 5:22-23 names patience as one of the fruits of the spirit.  That means as we live a Christian life, we will develop more patience.  I’m looking forward to developing more patience, but I wish it would hurry up and happen.

I’ve found that it isn’t a good idea to pray for patience.  When I do, God sends me something to help me develop more patience.  I’m pretty sure I prayed that prayer in September, 1996 and again in September, 2000.  Both of my children were born in April.  Of course, I say that jokingly.  My kids may be my biggest test of patience, but I can’t imagine my life without them.  So, maybe it is a good idea to pray for patience.  God will give us just what we need to develop more.  However, if you pray for it, be prepared for God to answer your prayer!

What I find as the most ironic part is that I got up this morning, intending to study patience.  I got up early so I could have quiet time to myself.  Of course, both kids got up 5 minutes after me.  (Why is it that they never sleep when I want them to?)  Now, as I am trying to read scriptures and figure out what to write, the Goose is testing my patience to the very limit.  I’m pretty sure just thinking the word, “Patience,” caused these things to happen.  Maybe I should think, “Chocolate,” and see what happens.  Wait, watch this….”Clean house!”……  It didn’t work.

I am convinced that patience is one of the hardest, if not the hardest, fruits of the spirit to grow.  It is the sopadilla fruit of the spiritual world.  The sopadilla plant looks easy enough to grow.  It grows slowly and takes five to eight years to bear fruit.  Then, just when the farmer thinks his tree is producing fruit, something happens.  The plant is extremely sensitive to cold.  With just a small dip in temperature, it dies easily.  It also molds and mildews easily.  Isn’t that the same with our patience?  Just when we think we’re finally growing patience, a cold spell comes along and kills it out.  Then, our patience mildews, and we find ourselves snapping at our loved ones before we know it!

According to Wikipedia, patience is defined as, “The capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.”  It is suffering discomfort without complaint.  What kind of discomfort?  Any kind will do.

I don’t know about you, but there have been times in my life when I had to practice patience towards God.  That sounds terrible, I know, because how could I not be patient with God?  He created me.  He knows me.  He provides for me.  Unfortunately, I forget that.  I go to Him in prayer, and I give Him suggestions on how to fix the problems in my life.  Then, when it isn’t fixed my way and in my time, I get impatient.  I have found over and over that God rarely if ever fixes things my way.  Usually, my problems are solved in a way that I never even considered possible.  I’m pretty sure that’s God’s way of saying, “I’ve got this one.  Stop trying to be in control.”  Whatever it is, it’s awesome.  I love to see how God will work things out.  Isaiah 40:31 says, “Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.”  When I was young, I understood that verse.  I didn’t know why I would need to wait on the Lord.  Then, life happened, and I learned.

I struggle sometimes with having patience for God.  I’ve gotten better at that as I’ve learned to trust Him.  I know He will provide for me and take care of me, so when I find myself feeling anxious or impatient, I take a deep breath and repeat my mantra.  “God will provide.  He always does.”  And He does, even if I have to wait for it.

I struggle even more with patience towards others.  People really get on my nerves.  They move slowly in front of me.  They have annoying habits like crunching ice or chomping gum.  They do things I don’t want them to do and say things I don’t want them to say.  I am to be patient anyway.  That’s easier said than done.

James 1:19-20 says, “This you know, my beloved brethren. But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.”  When is the last time you practiced being quick to hear and slow to speak?  I know I don’t do that very often.  Usually, when I’m talking to someone, I am thinking about what I am going to say and waiting for them to finish talking so I can speak.  Instead, I should be listening to them.  Especially in an argument or a heated moment, I need to learn to hush and hear.  (Oh, I like that!  That may be my new phrase for my kids.  They’re going to hate it!  “Hush and hear, children.  Hush and hear!”)  Ephesians 4: 1-2 says, “Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.  Always be humble and gentle.  Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other's faults because of your love.”

Galatians 6:9 says, “And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.”  There are times when we feel like we are doing good for all those around us and they do not appreciate us or reciprocate the kindness.  We should do it anyway.  That’s a form of patience.  Instead of being rewarded here on earth for our good deeds, we can patiently wait for God to reward us in heaven.  His reward will be better than what other people could give us or do for us anyway.

Perseverance is a word that is often used synonymously with patience.  I think I like that word better.  Perseverance sounds more difficult to me, so it reflects just how hard patience can be.  It’s easy to just throw out the statement, “Just be patient!” but following through with patience is more difficult.  It is endurance.  It is perseverance.

The burning question is, “How do I develop patience?”  I don’t know about you, but I want an answer to this, and I want it now!  The Bible tells us in Romans 5:3, “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance.”

The bad news is that, to develop patience, we are going to have to face troubles.  The good news is, if your life is anything like mine, you will have plenty of opportunities to grow!  So, when someone is testing your patience, thank them for helping you become a little fruitier.  When something difficult is happening in your life, protect your spiritual sopadilla and make sure it doesn’t die from the change in temperature.  Take one moment at a time and count each moment you manage to be patient as a victory.  An when your patience wanes, as I know it will, nourish your fruit tree with prayer and some scriptures, and move on to life’s next challenge.  If you face today with a little more patience than yesterday, you have succeeded.  Just imagine what you will be able to do tomorrow!  -Al

I’ve been pondering what to write about peace for a while now.  I think this is a difficult one for me, because I feel like my life is the anti-peace, if there is such a thing.  My life is so hectic that there is typically no time for peace.

I quote the scripture, “Be still and know that I am God” to myself quite often, but it doesn’t help.  I run in and run out and run up and run down.  Half my life is spent in the car, and the other half is spent on the computer.

I think quiet living is a blessing, and I think most of us need to work on simplifying.  We tend to let the noise and the hustle and bustle of life crowd out God.  We don’t stop and listen and learn about Him through every day life and through the beauty of nature.  That’s definitely something I need to work on.

Fortunately for me, when the Bible mentions peace as a fruit of the spirit, I don’t think it is talking about quiet living.  While I think we are to have time to be quiet and be still and listen for God, I don’t think that’s the fruit that we develop through Christian living.  You’ll notice I said, “I don’t think,” because I am certainly no expert.  However, I’m pretty sure the peace that we begin to grow through living a Christian life is the peace referred to in Philippians 4:7.  It says, “Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”  (I love the New Living Translation because it’s easy for me to understand.)

I must say, I may be no expert, and I am certainly not perfect at this, but this fruit of the spirit is one that I have at least begun to develop.  During the many rough times that my family has had in the last several years, I have felt peace.  That was a direct blessing from God to help me through tough times.  I had numerous people make comments like, “You seem awfully calm about this.  How are handling this so well?”  The answer that I gave to everyone who asked was in two parts.  First, I always said, “It is what it is,” and second, I said, “God will provide.  He always does.”

The peace of “It is what it is,” is a beautiful thing.  (That was a very complicated sentence.)  In times of trial or anger or strife, I say this phrase to myself and to those around me quite often.  In fact, I’m pretty sure my family is sick of hearing me say it, but it is fitting for many situations.  What I mean by the phrase is that I am not in control.  No matter what “It” is, I can’t control “It” so there is no reason for me to get upset about “It.”  God is in control.  He’ll handle “It” so I don’t have to worry about "It."

A few years ago, the Goose came home from Spanish class one day all excited, and she said, “Mama, I learned something today!”  I asked her what, and what I heard her say was, “S. O. C. K. S.”  I just looked at her and said, “Great.  You can spell socks.”  She said, “No!  S. O. C. K. S!”  Again, I just looked at her.  Then, she said, “It is what it is!  Eso si que es!  It is what it is!”  Then, I got it.  She learned how to say my favorite phrase in Spanish.  From that, my family has developed a different saying.  On bad days, we can say, “It’s just socks,” meaning, “Eso si que es.”  I hope you will develop “socks.”  Just remember, it is what it is.  Luke 12:25 says, “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?”  Stop worrying.  God’s got it under control.  It’s all just socks.

The second phrase I use quiet often is, “God will provide.  He always does.” 

Matthew 6: 28-33 says, “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?  So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”  God will provide for your needs, so you can be at peace about them.

Stop worrying!  Don’t let the everyday cares of this world rob you of your peace!  Life is too precious to be spent in worry.  When you hear yourself worrying, make it stop.  I know that sounds strange, but you are the only one who can control your worry.  More accurately, you, with God’s help, can control your worry.  If you find yourself wondering how you will pay the bills or if your child will get well or whether someone will break into your house while you are sleeping, turn it over to God.  Ask Him to help you stop worrying.  He will, and He will give you a peace that passes understanding.

A few verses that I quote to myself when I am worrying are:

2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”  I will not be a slave to my fear, but I will be powerful and self disciplined through Christ.  This verse has empowered me in times of extreme fear.  I remembered who made me, and I knew I'd be okay.

The other verse I quote to myself is the ending to the scripture I listed from Matthew 6.  It is Matthew 6:33, and it says, “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”  Isn’t that the truth?  There is plenty to do today, so stop wasting your time wondering, “What if?”  Instead, trust God and know that He is in control, and you will be filled with the peace “which exceeds anything we can understand.”  God bless you as you strive for peace.  Don’t forget your socks.  -Al

The second fruit of the spirit in the list of Galatians 5:22-23 is joy.  What is joy, really?  

The Bible tells us to rejoice.  Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”  We are also told that Jesus came to give us life more abundantly. (John 10:10)  God wants us to be joyful.  He wants us to be happy.  He did not put us on this earth to live a miserable life.

Webster defines joy as, “The emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.”  So, how can that be a fruit of the spirit?  How do we find joy in Christ?  We find joy through Christ because we have all we want through Him.

A logical answer is found in Matthew 6:33.  I have to quote it in the King James Version, because that’s how it sounds best to me.  “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added until you.”  If we walk around looking for joy, we may not find it.  However, if we are busy seeking God’s will and doing His work, we will find joy (along with the other fruits of the spirit).

We can find joy through helping others find Christ.  John 3:29 says, “It is the bridegroom who marries the bride, and the best man is simply glad to stand with him and hear his vows. Therefore, I am filled with joy at his success.”  Christ is the bridegroom and the church is the bride.  In a way, if we are teaching others about Christ, we are the “best man” as we stand by and watch them become joined to Christ.  That is true joy!

We can find joy through suffering.  That sounds weird, but it’s true.  James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  We only grow when we are tested.  We are tested through trials and tribulations.  If we are never challenged in our faith, we can never prove our faith.  True joy comes through persevering even when it’s hard. If you never have to go uphill, you don’t appreciate the downhill coast.

I saw a saying Facebook that said, “Regrets?  I have no regrets.  Even if I could, I would not change anything in my past.  Rather, I look back with gratitude because if it weren’t for my past, I would not be who I am today.”

Your past has formed you.  Through struggles, you have grown and become more faithful, more patient, more caring, more compassionate and more human.  Praise God for the speed bumps in your road of life, because those bumps formed who you are today.  (Okay, I guess if I had tried, I could have come up with a better word picture there, but I didn’t.  Just go with it.)

Joy is a choice. You can learn to be joyful and content.  Paul said in Philippians 4:11, “Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.”  He chose to be content.  In times when he was hungry or tired or rejected, he chose joy, and we can too.

What are you doing to choose joy?  Are you struggling with finding joy in your life?  Do you feel bleak or hopeless?  Are you battling depression?  Follow these steps to help your joy increase:

Pray for joy.  If you are depressed, tell it to God.  If you are sad, tell Him.  If you feel like you never laugh or smile, let Him know.  Ask Him to increase the joy in your life.  Ask Him to show you reasons to be joyful.  God will provide.  He always does.

Go outside.  Studies have proven that sunshine helps your body in many ways.  It improves your health and your mood.  It helps you combat depression and even speeds up your metabolism.  Sunshine helps you stay health and happy.  Your mom was right.  Fresh air really does do you good!

Take time to laugh.  Read a good book or talk to a friend or watch a funny movie.  Do whatever it takes to get the job done, but laugh!  Laughter relaxes you and stimulates your immune system.  It causes your body to release endorphins, the “feel good” chemicals.  It even can help your heart.  Laughter really is the best medicine.

Help someone else.  Many times, we just need to get out of our own troubles.  We get bogged down with our own lives.  By helping someone else, it helps you put your own life in perspective.  It also lets you think about something else besides yourself.

Replace negative statements in your mind.  I’ve played this game before when I was feeling negative about a situation.  Anytime I caught myself thinking a negative thought, I would force myself to replace it with a positive.  If I looked at someone I was mad at and thought, “I don’t like her,” I would force myself to follow up with, “But her hair looks great!”  It sounds silly, but you really can train your brain to think more positive thoughts.

There are many other things you can do to seek joy in your life.  These are just a start to get you moving in the right direction.  Above all, put God first and obey His will to the best of your ability, and the rest will follow.  -Al

Thinking about the fruit of the spirit made me realize that studying each fruit might be a really good way to grow more fruit. (How many times can I use the word “fruit” in one sentence?)  We can’t be perfect, but we can strive to be more like Christ day by day.  The fruit of the spirit can be found in Galatians 5:22-23.  The Bible says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

The first fruit we hope to grow as Christians is love.  What exactly is love?

There are four types of love in the Greek language.

First is eros.  This is a passionate love.  It means “intimate love,” but it does not necessarily have a sexual connotation.  Along with between man and woman, it can be applied to friendship as good friends know each other intimately.  Just ask my BFF…she knows a lot of dirt on me.  (But she’s not talking, because I’ve got dirt on her too!)

Next is storge.  This is a natural affection, like parents have for children.  Even when my kids are being beasts, I feel storge for them because they are my little beasties.

Third is philia.  This is brotherly love. (That’s why Philadelphia is the “City of Brotherly Love.”)  It can be translated as loyalty.  This could be loyalty to friends, family and the neighborhood around you.

The last one is agape.  This means unconditional love.  This is the one that the Bible refers to most often.  God has agape for us.

Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

This means that Christ showed us the ultimate form of love when we did not even love him!  That is agape if I’ve ever seen it.

According to the New Testament, we are supposed to have unconditional love for others.  1 John 4:7 says, “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.”

Now, that’s easy to agree to when you’re sitting in church.  It’s easy to love those around you when you are all singing songs and worshiping together.  However, in the real world, it’s not so easy!  There are some real jerks out there (and there are some real jerks in the church too)!  The sad truth is, those jerks need our love more than anyone else.  The most difficult people among us need agape the most.

I heard a suggestion one time to read 1 Corinthians 13 but to plug in your own name in the verses.  For example:

Al is patient.

Al is kind.

Al does not envy.

Al does not boast.

Al is not proud.

Al is not rude.

Al is not self-seeking.

Al is not easily angered.

Al keeps no record of wrongs.

Al does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

Al always protects, always trust, always hopes, always perseveres.

Can you read that with your name in it and say that you are living up to those verses?  I certainly can’t!  I have a lot of work to do!

Most of us are not going to be offered the opportunity to die for those around us.  So, what are some practical ways we can show agape to others?  There are ways big and small to show love to others.  You can cook meals for mothers with new babies, or you can visit people in the hospital.  You can send cards.  You can give gifts.  You can do something as simple as let someone in front of you in traffic or in front of you in the line at the grocery store.  These are easy ways to show agape to others.

We can perform random good deeds.  I am still doing good deeds in honor of my birthday.  (It is taking me a while to do 40 of them!  40 is a lot of years, but I wanted to do one good deed for each year I’ve lived.)  I think I am enjoying doing good deeds for others more than the recipients are enjoying my deeds.  (Of course, my kids are horrified most of the time when they are with me and I do a deed, but I know deep down they are watching and learning.)

There are websites that list random good deeds that you can do.  Check out http://voices.yahoo.com/random-acts-kindness-list-20-good-deeds-can-8594645.html or http://www.daretobeanangel.com/tasklist.php  These websites list good deeds that you could do.  Of course, you can think of your own, but these might just get you started.

Have you ever had a random good deed done for you?  I have.  It feels so good, and no matter how small it is, it brightens your day!  Why not give that gift to others?

Of course, good deeds aren’t the only ways to show love to others, but it’s a start.  If we start small, God will grow it into something big.  What can you grow?  I want to grow more love!    -Al

Yesterday, I started thinking about the change that one person or a small group of people can make in the world.  This change can be good, or it can be bad.

Adam Lanza walked into a school and killed innocent children.  His change was bad, and his actions changed many lives.  In fact, through his decisions, not only did he change the lives of the people he killed, he changed their families, their community and even their country.  We will forever remember those actions, though we will soon forget his name.  (Actually, I had to look up his name, because I didn’t even know what it was.  I just knew him as “The Shooter.”)  Did he realize what changes he would be the catalyst for?  I don’t know, but I doubt it.

On the other hand, Taylor Marie Crabtree didn’t know what kind of changes she would cause either.  At age 7, she decided to start her own business called “Taybear Company” and to paint and sell hair clips to local stores.  She wanted to use the proceeds to buy teddy bears for children with cancer.  Her goal was to give away 50 bears.  She started out just selling a few clips, and then the media got word of it.  People started donating supplies and money, and she began selling more and more clips and ended up with other children and some adults helping her.  She is now 20 and has given over 30,000 bears away.  This was all because a little girl decided to do something.  (You can read more about her business at http://taybearhugs.org/.)  Do you think that little girl knew the changes she could start?  I doubt it.

I guess what made me start thinking about this was our church service yesterday.  It was our congregation’s 40th anniversary.  (That church is old enough to have birthed and raised….well, me!)  One of the founding members spoke about how the congregation started.

Our church started with 36 people who decided to worship together.  They had been travelling about 30 to 45 minutes one way to go to church.  There was not a church of Christ in our town, so the families started meeting and decided to make it happen.  Their first church service was held on January 7, 1973, and they had 54 attendees, including members and visitors.

The small congregation met in a school cafeteria for 3 years.  They had no air conditioning.  They held all the Bible classes in one big room, and they got to smell spoiled milk the entire time they were there.  Yet, the persevered because they wanted to worship in their own community instead of having to drive a long distance.

Fast forward 40 years, and the results are amazing.  The congregation now has a large, nice facility.  Our church membership is about 400 to 450.  While that is impressive, I’m not all that interested in the numbers.  Instead, I am thrilled by the impact that the congregation makes in our community and even in the world.

The church visits the sick.  They have a benevolence program that feeds and clothes needy people every Thursday night.  They have a card ministry who sends cards to sick and hurting people all over the country.  They have a teddy bear ministry that makes bears for children who have to go to the ER at our community hospital.  The congregation has a quilting ministry that makes and gives away blankets.  They have several small groups of women who do good deeds in secret for others.  The church has established and supports a congregation in Honduras.  They support missionaries around the world.  They have a counseling program that offers free or low cost counseling to people from the community.  The list just goes on and on.

All of these good things came from those 36 people who wanted to worship in their own community.  Do you think they knew what would come of their actions?  Probably not.

One thing that struck me was, as the member was speaking and was telling about people who had gone to church there but had since passed on, I never heard him tell how much money they made.  He talked about the good things they had done.  When he spoke of the first preacher there (who is now deceased), he got tears in his eyes.  He didn’t announce that the man had left him $1000 in his will or bought him a new car.  He talked about the joy that the man brought to others through his teaching and preaching.  No one remembered the financial status of any of those people.  They remembered their deeds.

I realized that as I sat there that my legacy to my kids is my deeds.  I can leave them money, though, at this point, chances are not very good!  If I do, the money will be spent on bills or cars or silly things.  I can leave them belongings that will rot away, or I can leave them my deeds.  My actions toward them and in front of them will affect who they become.  My example has shaped and will continue shape their lives.  If I am good and as righteous as I can be, that is the best gift I can give them.  But, if I am evil and selfish and greedy, that will be something I give them as well.  I really have no idea how much my actions will affect my children and the world around them.  I could make big changes in the world just by raising my kids!

This leads me to ask if you know what will come of your actions.  Since you can’t tell the future, you probably don’t know.  You can do good or you can do bad, but either way, you’re going to do something!  Have you thought about that?  You are going to change the world around you, so what changes will you make?  Let’s see what we can start.  We can change the world! 

You may give a kind smile to a stranger who is contemplating suicide.  You might stop that action just through your smile.  You may allow someone to get in front of you in traffic.  That may keep the person from being in the right place at the wrong time for an accident.  You may give a meal to a homeless person who is just minutes away from dehydration.  You just don’t know.  You may give an extra $10 tip to a server who needed exactly $10 more dollars to pay her electric bill this month.  You may teach a child in Sunday school who will grow up to be a great preacher who affects the lives of tens of thousands of people.  

Since we can’t tell how our actions will affect the world, we’d better be sure our actions are good.  Do good deeds.  Say nice things.  Be kind and friendly.  You’ll be glad you did, and so will the world around you.   –Al

The fruit of the spirit’s not an apple.
The fruit of the spirit’s not an apple.
If you want to be an apple,
You might as well hear it.
You can’t be a fruit of the spirit,
Because there’s love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self contro-O-ol.
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self contro-O-ol.

Okay, in case you think I’m crazy (er), that’s a song that we sing with the kids in Bible class.  It’s also a great way to remember the fruits of the spirit.  In fact, the only way I can name them is to sing the song.  (The same is true for the books of the Bible.  I have to sing them.)

Galatians 5:22 -23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”  It is easy to just glaze over this list, but we can learn a lot from these two little Bible verses.

I used to feel guilty for not having the fruit of the spirit.  I wasn’t faithful.  I wasn’t gentle.  I certainly wasn’t self-controlled.  I lacked in all of the nine fruits.  I wondered how I would ever live up to that list.  I still don’t have all the fruits, but I realized something that eased my guilt.  This list wasn’t meant to be a checklist of things we need in order to go to heaven.  Instead, this list is meant to give us something to look forward to.  The fruits are what we will develop as we live our daily lives as Christians.

New Christians are babies in Christ. They aren’t expected to know everything or do everything or be everything.  1 Peter 2:2 says, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.”  As we study and learn, it only makes sense that we will grow.  As we grow, we will improve, and before we know it, we'll be bearing fruit!  We will never be perfect, but we can continue to improve through the grace of God.

Matthew 12:35 says, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”  How do we store up good?  Read Matthew 6:20.  “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”  As we put value in heavenly things and as we fill our lives with heavenly things, we will begin to reflect heavenly things.  We can’t help it.  We are like little mirrors.  We will either reflect good or bad, depending on what we’re looking at.  As Christ fills our souls and we look to Him, we will reflect Him.  With Christ, comes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

So don’t feel bad about not bearing enough good fruit.  Instead, keep looking at Christ.  Look at His life.  Look at His works.  Look at His words.  Talk to Him.  Listen to Him.  Live your life for Him.  Before you know it, you will be reflecting Him just like a little mirror!  And through reflecting Christ, you will grow more fruit.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to be more fruity!  -Al

There is a song we sing at church that starts off, “I am resolved no longer to linger, charmed by the world’s delights.  Things that are higher, things that are nobler, these have allured my sight.” The chorus says, “I will hasten to Him, hasten so glad and free.  Jesus, greatest, highest, I will come to thee.”  I think that is going to be my theme song for 2013.  It’s stuck in my head, so I’m just going to sing it!  (Plug your ears.  This might be painful.)

For this new year, I am resolved.  I am resolved to change.  I am resolved to make a difference.  I am resolved to seek God.

I am resolved to change.  That’s a tough one.  On the surface, I’m not doing too badly.  I go to church three times a week.  I don’t cuss or spit in public.  I don’t steal things.  I’m not looking too bad.  However, inside, I’m not doing quite as well.  I feel like I pray about the same issues over and over.  I ask God to help me change, but I don’t take the time to make the changes.  I commit the same sins over and over and over.  I don’t do things I know I should, so I pray that God will help me to do them.  Then, I don’t do them again.

How about you?  Are you in the same boat?  Although God loves us anyway, it’s not okay for us to just keep on with things we know are wrong or omitting things we know are right.

Romans 6:1-2 says, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?  By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”  If we are going to truly follow Christ, we have to put away our old sins and follow Him.  That’s a big task, and God doesn’t expect perfection.  That’s why, if we are baptized believers, Christ’s blood continually washes us.  1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  God forgives us over and over and over.  Praise Him!

The verse that really gets me is James 4:17.  It says, “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”  Ouch.  That really hurts.  Don’t get me wrong.  I sin.  I get angry.  I say things that I shouldn’t.  I do things that I shouldn’t.  However, on a daily basis, it’s the sins of omission that hit me the hardest.  There are so many things I know I should be doing that I’m not.  For 2013, I am resolved to fix that.

I am resolved to make a difference.  There is a story that my preacher tells about a little girl on the beach. (Okay, it’s usually a little boy, but I wanted it to be a girl.)  She discovers a shoreline filled with starfish that are on the sand, dying.  She quickly starts throwing them back in the ocean, but there are thousands of them.  She works and works and works, throwing them back in, but she doesn’t even put a dent in the number of dying starfish.  Never-the-less, she keeps working.  An old man comes along and asks what she’s doing.  She says she is saving the starfish.  He says, “Child, don’t you know there are just too many?  You can’t make a difference!  This job is too big.”  The little girl looks at him and thinks for a minute.  Then, she picks up a starfish and throws it back in the ocean.  She says, “I just made a difference for that one.”

That has to be our attitude.  We can’t change this whole wide world, but we can make a difference for one person.  A simple smile, a kind action or a good deed can go much further then we can even imagine. You never know how your actions might affect someone else, and you don’t know what effect that person will have on the world.

Matthew 10:42 says, “And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded."  How are you giving water to others?  Are your words and actions refreshing them or drying them up?  I am resolved to make a change, even if it’s just giving water to one little starfish.

I am resolved to seek God.  I spend my days on the computer.  Between editing (my real job) and blogging (my hobby/obsession), I look at my laptop a lot.  I rarely stop and look around me, and I’m missing out.  I am resolved to look up at the sky and see the stars at night and the clouds during the day.  I will listen to the birds chirping and feel the warm sunshine on my face.  I will experience God’s majesty in my everyday life.

Romans 1:20 says, “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.”

God gave us the world around us so we could know him better.  When is the last time you watched an ant at work?  Have you ever found pictures in the clouds?  Did you ever look at the bark of a tree up close?  It’s fascinating, and it’s God.  This year, I am resolved to seek God around me.   -Al



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