Part 1: The Fruit

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

You know those coloring pages from Sunday school that had a big bowl of fruit and the fruit had smiley faces and the grapes were goodness and the apples were joy and the peaches were peace? I think that’s where I developed my understanding of the fruit of the Spirit, because I have always thought of those fruits as being handed to me fully mature.

Recently, I have been thinking about the seeds of the fruit of the Spirit.

It started at the beginning of the year when I asked the Lord about what type of things we were gonna be doing together this year. He does not always indulge this information, but I still like to ask.

I did have a deep sense that I was to let the ground rest. The past few years have been non-stop tilling the soil of the soul for me. I’ve been good at digging deep and being thorough in the process of turning over the hard ground. But you know what happened before the Great Depression, right? They didn’t let the ground rest, and they killed the land.

So this is my year to let the ground rest. I felt like the command to let the ground rest came attached to the promise: the fruit of the Spirit will flourish. That’s when I started to realize that the fruit of the Spirit doesn’t necessarily come to us in a cornucopia of maturity. Maybe we are handed a seed catalog?

What if tiny seeds of love and joy and peace are put in our hands and we get to cultivate the ground they will be planted in? What if we get to watch those seeds die in the dark soil, then water and watch them sprout? What if we get to see tiny apple seeds grow into a trembling sapling and then get sturdier and stronger with wind and rain and finally, little blossoms that turn into fruit? What if that is the fruit of the Spirit: the fruit of our planting and cultivating and weeding and yet, the fruit of a supernatural germination process that has nothing to do with us?

I have been waking early every morning and pondering how I am to make the fruit of the Spirit flourish in my life. As a very religious person, I like the process of tilling the soil and getting rid of the weeds in my heart. I prefer the constant toiling and watering and weeding. But I think my fruit trees are saplings now, and they need the wind and the rain and the sun and I am not in charge of the Wind and the Rain and the Light. This is my time to surrender, and let it all flourish. I have done my tilling with diligence and now I can watch the miracle of new growth; my hands are off. The little buds are pushing out, and I’m not even trying!

On a blanket under the trees, I see myself looking up into the sky. The trees are there, the fruit is budding, but I am lost in wonder at the brilliance of a Creator and Sustainer who works so perfectly with us, and yet without us.

Middle-aged and loving it

(I wrote this mid-2018 and apparently forgot to post it.  It’s fine, because it’s truer now.)

I’m not on Facebook and I don’t read many blogs so I’m not sure what the hot topics of discussion are nowadays on the world wide web.

In real life, I’ve been in a lot of conversations about dreams and their interpretations because I have a friend who is really into that.  Plus I just completed a Bible study on the book of Daniel so we dove into some weird dreams.

On our campus, we have been in an ongoing discussion about sexual identity.  It’s been hard and sad and really good.  Surely other churches and organizations are having these hard and good conversations too.  If you’re not, now is a good time to start.

Hj and I have been talking about money a good bit.  Friendly chit chat, you know.

This morning I went to IHOP with a friend who is 69 years old and we talked about the vision and mission statement of her life, which she’s been working on writing down.  We talked about the new Supreme Court justice too.  She told me she remembers when coffee was 20 cents a cup.

One thing I haven’t been talking about out loud lately is what it’s like to be middle aged.  Being young was very exciting to me.  I loved the feeling of having my whole life ahead of me, lots of discoveries and changes to look forward to.  I’ve always been pretty eager to be old and wise, but never looked forward to the boring part in the middle, appropriately known as “middle-aged.”

Now that I am in the beginning stages, I have found it much more interesting than I expected.  I feel like it might be the best of both worlds: young people respect me and old people take me seriously.  It’s perfect!  (I don’t know if young people actually respect me because they tend to hide those feelings so I’m basing that one on some assumptions/hopes haha.)

Some days I laugh because I feel so unprepared for the middle-aged temptations.  I just want to settle down with a big house and a beautiful backyard and have a pristine bathroom.  I want to have the same friends for the rest of my life, and never move again.  I want my kids to go to the same school for 18 years and never have to deal with change.  The American Dream seems pretty appealing, and that’s coming from someone who has scoffed at the very notion for 31 years.  These are my temptations! I just want to be comfortable and never have to think about money.

The other day we went to a friend’s really nice house and on the way home Hj confessed he had lusted after their big plastic storage bench under the deck.  It was right next to the pool, and it held all their swimming paraphernalia.  It seemed an absurd and funny thing to covet, but I understood, especially since we keep all our swimming paraphernalia in a canvas bag that really doesn’t have a final resting place.

You couldn’t have convinced Hj and I when we got married that we would ever dream of living an easy life.  We wanted to give our lives for Jesus in missions, be martyrs, live in huts, whatever He asked.  We moved every year or so, selling pretty much everything we had each time.  We had a fast turnover of friends.

Having two babies and turning 30 did the trick for us.  All of a sudden we wanted old things that felt familiar.  We didn’t want to travel or go on exciting adventures anymore.  We wanted to have a stable, small life full of routines and predictability.  We wanted old friendships that had been weathered and strengthened by lots of time, adversities and birthday parties.

I’m embracing some settling.  I’m grateful for at least a few deep roots.  I had to confess to my friend last week that I had semi-lied, and even though I felt silly, I didn’t care so much about what she thought of me.  I’ve learned to value and cultivate healthy friendships and I’m learning how to confront people about their issues instead of gossip, thanks to a friend who is really good at this and even takes the time to teach me how.  That takes a kind of self forgetfulness that I think we middle agers should be keen to embrace.  By now surely we can stop obsessing about our own successes  and failures and give it all away, live with an open hand and an open heart.

We can be humble enough by now to freely ask for advice, and listen to older people. We’ve discovered that we don’t know everything after all, but we can count as precious what we do know!  We can take what wisdom we have in our bucket and pour it liberally on the next generation, on the children and young people in our lives.

Sometimes I find myself telling people in the checkout line stories about myself, when I was younger!  This is the real sign that I am getting old and embracing it.

Fire tunnel Sunday

I was at a Trump rally once and the first thing Mr. POTUS said was: what better place to be than at a Trump rally!? Since we weren’t inside the venue yet, we could think of a few places, so we turned around and went to eat a burger. All that to say: what better place to be right now than in your own happy place reading this blog.

My wife and I recently left our church of 4 years and went to visit some other churches.
Joy said, “All I want is a good sermon.” So we went and visited our friend’s church. It happened to be fire tunnel Sunday. The sermon was skipped and the leaders of the church stood in a line praying for you while you went through the “tunnel”. It was very different. We now consider ourselves part of a church downtown and it has been good connecting with the people there. (the sermons are great)

trying to rub his tummy and pat his head at the same time while looking super cool

The coronavirus is affecting everyone and so also our campus. We had 3 different schools running at our campus the last 3 months. All of these schools were going to send out teams to do ministry in Southeast Asia. At first they changed the locations of the outreaches and now they canceled them all together. In our state we are not allowed to have gathering with more then 250 people, so our schools and churches are all canceled. We are going to hunker down and pray this storm out!

It’s been a bit hard at work (Kairos Traders) because we had a bunch of events canceled because of the virus. We were going to our first new age conference in combination with one of our schools. The school would preach the gospel and interpret dreams and we would tell stories and sell Kairos Traders products. But it got canceled.

At the doctors to have a perler bead removed from his ear!

Speaking of work. I have been hard at work designing a leather journal! This is something I thought I would never do but here I am. I had the idea for the journal and when I started talking to one of our manufacturers in Nepal through e-mail he basically started the process for me right then and there. I was hoping to take it easy and maybe next Christmas we would have the journals ready. Now they are going to be ready next month. Our friends from Purnaa in Nepal had a slow season coming up in their production schedule and making the leather journal covers fitted perfectly in the gap they had. The process is long especially when you think you are done and then they run out of the leather you want and you have to spend even more hours staring at a picture of a tiny piece of leather and decide if you want to turn it into a journal. Hopefully the journals will go into production soon and we would have our second Kairos Traders brand product!

Ellie and Adam learned how to ride the bike both in one weekend and that wraps it up!
stay safe!