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FRUIT OF THE MONTH: PATIENCE

FRUIT OF THE MONTH: PATIENCE . . . the virtue we wish everybody else had, but which we hope nobody expects out of us    

By Sharon Sheppard

“Lord, give me with patience,” we might mutter in a trying situation. But I don’t think I’ve ever 

heard anyone pray “Lord, give me lots of opportunities to be patient.” 

We’d rather God gave us a quick, painless, lifetime injection of patience with the hope that we would never actually have to use it. Unfortunately, we all regularly have an abundance of opportunities to exercise patience–more occasions than we ever wanted.

Sitting in traffic, for example, waiting for the kid in the car ahead of us to quit texting and realize that the light has turned green. Waiting for someone to show up who promised to be here 20 minutes ago. (Especially if that someone is habitually late.) Discovering we’re out of toilet paper and the person who does the household shopping is out of town.

If you’re a parent, I don’t need to cite examples, because you’ve had plenty of opportunities to exercise patience. But in all honesty, more often than not, irritation bubbles to the surface because we feel entitled to something we aren’t getting. We believe we have a right to expect courtesy, alertness, and a willingness on the part of other drivers to yield the right-of-way to us in traffic. We believe we have the right to expect that the volume of their listening devices should not cause our windows to vibrate.

What would happen if we decided to thank God whenever annoyance rears its angry head?

If another drive cuts in ahead of us, we might say, “Thanks, God, for protecting me from an accident.”

When traffic seems impossible, “God, thanks that I have a job to go to, and a car that runs.”

If a spouse doesn’t get everything done that she or he had intended, we might say, “Lord, thank you for the gift of a partner who is loving and faithful and who cares for me in so many ways.” 

The book of Proverbs has some wise things to say about patience:

A soft answer turns away wrath, but harsh words cause quarrels. (Prov. 15:1)

A short-tempered man (or woman) is a fool. (Prov. 14:17)

A wise man (or woman) restrains anger and overlooks insults. (Prov. 19:11)

A Conversation about Fruit: The Spirit Kind

A Conversation about Fruit: The Spirit Kind . . .  by Mary Zigan

Since we are going to be talking about the Fruit of the Spirit during the upcoming months, let’s consider what it is, and what purpose it plays in our lives.

The good news is that the seed of Jesus Christ actually impregnates believers with His Holy Spirit. Christ makes His home in us by nurturing what He calls His fruit: 9 character traits (listed in Galatians 5:22-23): love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, and when we invite Him to come into our heart to live within us, He reproduces Himself by putting this fruit–His characteristics–into the core of our being.

In August we talked about the character trait of goodness, and how trying to be the “goodest” person we can possibly be doesn’t work very well, because on our own, there is no way we can measure up. Bearing these kinds of good fruit in our life is not something we can do on our own. Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me and I in them will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). It is the Holy Spirit working in our lives that allows us to bear good fruit that germinates and ripens and 

makes us beautiful.

  • What if I told you that by staying close to the vine (Jesus Christ), He enables us to do things we never thought possible?
  •  What if I told you that we can weather the storms of life with an inner strength and confidence we’ve imagined, but never felt?
  • What if I told you that we can experience the kind of joy and patience that will change the world around us, and the kind of peace that brings serenity and calmness sweeter than we’ve ever known?
  • What if I told you the cost of achieving all of this is free, available to all, and that this special offer never expires?

God has one eternal purpose for His children: that we be conformed to the image of His Son. Fortunately, He will supply the strength and power for us to bear luscious fruit as we believe in Him.

Stay tuned . . . there is so much more!

For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey Him and the power to do what pleases Him. (Philippians 2:13)

Mary Zigan

mzigan2442@gmail.com

Meditating on Goodness

Meditating on Goodness . . . God’s, and what He imparts to us

A Jewish prophet from several centuries ago was asked what God expects of us.

His response: “What does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy 

and to walk humbly with your God.”    Micah 6:8

“Live in such a way that if people should see you, they could see God’s goodness in you.” (Anon.)

“Do all the good you can and make as little fuss about it as possible.”  Charles Dickens

“People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.” Anon.

We have no goodness of our own to impart, but the 23rd Psalm says, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want . . .Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life . . .”

“Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”  (Lam. 3:22-23)

Fruit Pizza

Fruit Pizza

This is kind of “fruity”…but I had to do! We are talking about the Fruit of the Spirit this month. I know, I know it’s not the same kind of fruit, and next month we will share more about that. But, is there anything tastier than fruit on a hot summer day? Well, add a crust and it’s really a winner! You may not care for all varieties of fruit, but you get to choose which fruit you want to work together in this dessert pie. It is not only colorful but is delicious! I believe you will be hooked once you try this easy-peasy recipe. 

Ingredients

  1. 16 oz. refrigerated sugar cookie dough – for the crust layer
  1. 0z. cream cheese – it makes the best frosting

(1/4) cup granulated sugar – to sweeten the frosting

(1/2) tsp. vanilla extract – for flavor. 

(4) cups fresh fruit – the highlight of the recipe. It adds so much flavor and color!

   (1/4) cup apricot preserves – for a nice sheen 

How to Make Fruit Pizza

  • Heat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a rimmed 12-inch pizza pan, line with parchment and butter.
  • Crumble cookie dough over prepared pizza pan and spread into an even layer to completely cover bottom of pan.
  • Bake 13 – 14 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely on a wire rack.
  • In a mixing bowl using an electric hand mixer whip cream cheese with sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Spread evenly over cooled crust.
  • Cut up fruit and top in a pretty design on the cream cheese mixture.
  • Whisk together apricot preserves with enough water (1 TBSP) to easily brush over the fruit mixture. You can serve right away or chill awhile for later, however use the same day prepared.

Enjoy! ~ submitted by Mary Zigan

For Goodness Sake! Whatever Does It Mean?

For Goodness Sake! Whatever Does It Mean?  By Sharon Sheppard

On Friday nights when my teenage son and daughter would walk out the door, I’d usually call out to them, “Have fun! Be good!” And often I would add the words, “Not necessarily in that order!”  (Meaning, of course, that if they had to choose between being good or having fun, I hoped and prayed they would opt for being good.)

Since goodness is listed in the Bible as one of the nine traits listed as a “Fruit of the Spirit,” that is, it is one of the traits the Holy Spirit plants in the hearts of those who belong to Him, how should that be lived out?

The immediate image of being a “Goody-Goody” comes to mind.  (Dictionary definition: “A smug or obtrusively virtuous person.”) Ugh. Quietly doing the right things? Yes. 

So is there something you could do today–maybe give a word of encouragement or a helping hand to someone who needs it? Ask God to help you become more aware of ways He may want to use you.

If I do enough “good” deeds, will I get to Heaven? 

No. None of us could ever be good enough to earn our way there.

Does goodness mean that a true Christian is perfect and never does anything wrong? (If that’s the case, I don’t think I have ever met a Christian in my life.)  Like it or not, we are all sinful people, and we all disappoint God.  

Fortunately, Jesus went to the cross on our behalf to work out a sacrificial arrangement with His Father.  Jesus would pay for our sins, and the Father would forgive us if we ask: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins . . .” 1 John 1:9

And one more thing: He wants to be our Savior, yes. But—and here’s the hard part—He also wants to be first in our life. Letting go and saying, “God, I give up. I want You to be the Lord of my life . . . “

Check it out and see what happens.

Who Is the “Goodest” Person You Know?

Who Is the “Goodest” Person You Know?  By Sharon Sheppard 

Would you like to be thought of as one of the “Good Guys?” Do you long to be known as a good person or parent or friend?”

Or to be really good at something?

What does it mean to be good?

Depends on whom you’re asking, I suppose.

When you think about people you know, who is the best (the “goodest”) person you’ve ever known? 

During the next few months, thewisejourney.com will be exploring that topic and other related questions.

Biblically, goodness is a quality identified as one of nine in a cluster called the “Fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:22-23. 
Stay tuned for next week’s discussion of What it means to be GOOD.

This Is a Test

GUEST BLOGGER Joyce K. Ellis puts a delightful contemporary spin on the ancient biblical story of Queen Esther . . .

THIS IS A TEST… By Joyce K. Ellis 

A Hebrew beauty queen in ancient Persia models how to ace the tests we’re facing in today’s world. 

Tests in school used to set my stomach on fire. And when I began college at age 39, my synapses weren’t firing as quickly as they once had. So I feared exams even more. But in time I came to view tests as gauges of whether I had learned what I was supposed to know or not, rather than as sadistic inventions of deranged educators. 

In our personal lives we may sometimes view tests and trials as ordeals to be endured by gritting our teeth and calling the prayer chain, rather than as opportunities to measure our spiritual growth and our understanding of who God is. 

Reality: Tests are painful! We don’t like pain.

Preparation, Not Cramming

Esther, that Old-Testament paragon of beauty, on the other hand, seems to have sailed through her tests like a Bermuda sloop, designed for upwind sailing. But did this young woman in fifth-century-B.C. Persia score an A+ easily?  

Orphaned at an early age, Esther grew up under the tutelage of her uncle* Mordecai—no indication of any Mrs. Mordecai nor any other female influence. Esther and her uncle lived in captivity—first to Babylon, then Persia (present-day Iran). 

Apparently, by God’s grace, Mordecai taught Esther well, and she developed a beautiful spirit, enhancing her pretty face and great figure. But Esther’s looming tests would measure what she had learned about how far she could trust God and what she was willing to risk in order to stand up for what’s right.  (Though God’s name is never mentioned, Esther’s faith in Him shines through.) 

King of Showoffs

Here’s the setup: In the lush palace gardens in Susa, Persia’s King Xerxes throws lavish “marathon banquets” to show off his incredible opulence and power. Queen Vashti invites all area women to a girls-night-out-with-the-queen banquet of their own inside the elegant palace.                     

Xerxes—more than a little tipsy—decides to show off his trophy-wife queen and demands that she leave her banquet to “walk a catwalk” before the guests at his.   

Fast forward: Vashti refuses. He’s furious. Advisors say, “You can’t let Vashti get away with this! We’ll all lose control of our women.” Vashti loses her crown. Xerxes gets depressed without his queen. His young male attendants’ solution? Let’s get some girls in here. Have a beauty pageant. Get a new queen. 

So the call goes out for the most beautiful virgins in the land to participate in a beauty contest. And Esther gets carted off to the king’s winter palace in Susa.

SPAcation?

Most of us would gladly suffer through this test of Esther’s: a one-year all-expense-paid SPAcation, complete with fragrant oil massages and makeup makeover. But imagine her apprehension as time ticked down to her queen audition—sleeping with the wine-loving, anger-prone, demanding, superpowerful, King Xerxes! What kind of faith in God did it take for Esther to cross the threshold of his bedchamber that night? 

Most of us would also gladly endure another test of Esther’s: watching Xerxes place the queen’s crown on her head because she pleased him the most. But had she recognized God’s hand in the preferential treatment she received in the harem and in the king’s losing his heart to her?  

And most of us would gladly tolerate this other test of Esther’s: the luxurious palace lifestyle with a plethora of servants to peel our grapes and polish our toenails. But then she learned that Xerxes’ right-hand man, Haman, planned to kill her people, all the Jews, because Uncle Mordecai refused to bow before him (a la Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego). Would God give her the strength to give up all this lavish treatment to do what was right? Remember, she had seen what happened when Vashti defied the king!

Esther knew that initiating an audience with the king could mean death. She knew that admitting her heritage—in the light of Haman’s planned holocaust—would certainly invite her own assassination. But Mordecai told her, “If you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family [including her beloved Mordecai] will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (4:14 NIV, bracketed addition mine). 

She may have thought of that, too.

Esther needed wisdom and courage beyond herself. So she asked Mordecai to gather together all her people in Susa for a three-day fast before she approached the king. 

Final Exam

Since the Persians loved banquets so much, with fear and trembling, she takes that tack: Feed the king—and his sidekick, Haman—and when they’re happily full, plead for the lives of her people. 

Fear is a natural emotion, and we either fight or run when we face fear-inducing tests: Relationships fall apart. We get frightening lab results. Our financial situation gets scary. Depression grips us in its vice. Or we find ourselves squirming under tests of character—challenges to stand up for what’s right and confront what’s wrong—in our families, jobs, churches, government, and world. “Speak up…,” God says, “defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Prov. 31:9).

So we can relate to Esther— her passion to do what’s right, her fears, her need for God’s wisdom, and her cry for others to stand with her. After much wrestling within herself and God, she could say, essentially, “I will do what needs to be done—stand up for what’s right—regardless of the consequences.”

Esther courageously risked her life and saved her people. She had learned what she needed to know. And Haman hung from the gallows he’d built for Mordecai—an irony bearing the fingerprints of our Invisible God. 

Esther passed her tests. Will we?

First appeared in Kyria.com

Joyce K. Ellis, award-winning author of more than a dozen books, including The 500 Hats of a Modern-Day Woman and the picture book, The Fabulous World That God Made, writes from her home in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and speaks for women’s groups across the country and internationally. Contact her through her website: www.joycekellis.com.

July Is the Month for…

July is the month we dust off the grill, wave the flag, and give a perfunctory nod to Freedom and Independence . . .   ~ By Sharon Sheppard

Ask an American third-grader (or maybe even a high-schooler) to define freedom, and she might say, “Freedom is the right to do whatever I want.”

The definition of Independence? “That’s when I’m on my own and don’t have to be under the thumb of my parents anymore,” a cocky sophomore might reply.

But neither Freedom nor Independence was a given in the early days of our country. They were to die for, you might say.

 Thomas Jefferson’s profound document that finally severed ties with Britain, the mother country, included some radical ideas about rights: “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” he confidently proclaimed, “that all men are created equal (an amazing admission!); that they are endowed by their Creator (Separation of Church and State, you might be thinking, Call the ACLU!) with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

This elegantly written document listed some 28 offenses against the British Crown and declared the rebel nation to be independent from the mother country.

Writers and statesmen have weighed in on the brashness of the fledgling union and the topic of freedom over the years. Essayist Henry David Thoreau, of Walden Pond fame, said, “The English did not come to America from a mere love of adventure, nor to truck with or convert the savages, nor to hold offices under the Crown, as the French to a great extent did, but to live in earnest and with freedom.”

Many have justifiably raised cautions against taking our freedoms for granted, as we Americans are inclined to do, fearing that we might become careless and neglect to preserve this remarkable democracy that separates us from most of the nations of the earth. Novelist Somerset Maugham said, “If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.”

President Ronald Reagan expressed a similar concern: “The price of freedom is high, but never so costly as the loss of freedom. One day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”   

Many gave their lives in the deadly American Revolutionary War that eventually sealed our freedom and independence. Patrick Henry, one of the country’s Founding Fathers, famously said, “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

Hugh Downs aptly summed it up this way: “The price of freedom is high, but never so costly as the loss of freedom.” So let’s savor our freedoms. They were purchased at great cost. 

THIS IS A TEST

GUEST BLOGGER Joyce K. Ellis puts a delightful contemporary spin on the ancient biblical story of Queen Esther . . .

THIS IS A TEST… By Joyce K. Ellis

A Hebrew beauty queen in ancient Persia models how to ace the tests we’re facing in today’s world.

Tests in school used to set my stomach on fire. And when I began college at age 39, my synapses weren’t firing as quickly as they once had. So I feared exams even more. But in time I came to view tests as gauges of whether I had learned what I was supposed to know or not, rather than as sadistic inventions of deranged educators.

In our personal lives we may sometimes view tests and trials as ordeals to be endured by gritting our teeth and calling the prayer chain, rather than as opportunities to measure our spiritual growth and our understanding of who God is.

Reality: Tests are painful! We don’t like pain.

Preparation, Not Cramming

Esther, that Old-Testament paragon of beauty, on the other hand, seems to have sailed through her tests like a Bermuda sloop, designed for upwind sailing. But did this young woman in fifth-century-B.C. Persia score an A+ easily?

Orphaned at an early age, Esther grew up under the tutelage of her uncle* Mordecai—no indication of any Mrs. Mordecai nor any other female influence. Esther and her uncle lived in captivity—first to Babylon, then Persia (present-day Iran).

Apparently, by God’s grace, Mordecai taught Esther well, and she developed a beautiful spirit, enhancing her pretty face and great figure. But Esther’s looming tests would measure what she had learned about how far she could trust God and what she was willing to risk in order to stand up for what’s right.  (Though God’s name is never mentioned, Esther’s faith in Him shines through.)

King of Showoffs

Here’s the setup: In the lush palace gardens in Susa, Persia’s King Xerxes throws lavish “marathon banquets” to show off his incredible opulence and power. Queen Vashti invites all area women to a girls-night-out-with-the-queen banquet of their own inside the elegant palace.                     

Xerxes—more than a little tipsy—decides to show off his trophy-wife queen and demands that she leave her banquet to “walk a catwalk” before the guests at his.   

Fast forward: Vashti refuses. He’s furious. Advisors say, “You can’t let Vashti get away with this! We’ll all lose control of our women.” Vashti loses her crown. Xerxes gets depressed without his queen. His young male attendants’ solution? Let’s get some girls in here. Have a beauty pageant. Get a new queen.

So the call goes out for the most beautiful virgins in the land to participate in a beauty contest. And Esther gets carted off to the king’s winter palace in Susa.

SPAcation?

Most of us would gladly suffer through this test of Esther’s: a one-year all-expense-paid SPAcation, complete with fragrant oil massages and makeup makeover. But imagine her apprehension as time ticked down to her queen audition—sleeping with the wine-loving, anger-prone, demanding, superpowerful, King Xerxes! What kind of faith in God did it take for Esther to cross the threshold of his bedchamber that night?

Most of us would also gladly endure another test of Esther’s: watching Xerxes place the queen’s crown on her head because she pleased him the most. But had she recognized God’s hand in the preferential treatment she received in the harem and in the king’s losing his heart to her?  

And most of us would gladly tolerate this other test of Esther’s: the luxurious palace lifestyle with a plethora of servants to peel our grapes and polish our toenails. But then she learned that Xerxes’ right-hand man, Haman, planned to kill her people, all the Jews, because Uncle Mordecai refused to bow before him (a la Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego). Would God give her the strength to give up all this lavish treatment to do what was right? Remember, she had seen what happened when Vashti defied the king!

Esther knew that initiating an audience with the king could mean death. She knew that admitting her heritage—in the light of Haman’s planned holocaust—would certainly invite her own assassination. But Mordecai told her, “If you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family [including her beloved Mordecai] will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (4:14 NIV, bracketed addition mine).

She may have thought of that, too.

Esther needed wisdom and courage beyond herself. So she asked Mordecai to gather together all her people in Susa for a three-day fast before she approached the king.

Final Exam

Since the Persians loved banquets so much, with fear and trembling, she takes that tack: Feed the king—and his sidekick, Haman—and when they’re happily full, plead for the lives of her people.

Fear is a natural emotion, and we either fight or run when we face fear-inducing tests: Relationships fall apart. We get frightening lab results. Our financial situation gets scary. Depression grips us in its vice. Or we find ourselves squirming under tests of character—challenges to stand up for what’s right and confront what’s wrong—in our families, jobs, churches, government, and world. “Speak up…,” God says, “defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Prov. 31:9).

So we can relate to Esther— her passion to do what’s right, her fears, her need for God’s wisdom, and her cry for others to stand with her. After much wrestling within herself and God, she could say, essentially, “I will do what needs to be done—stand up for what’s right—regardless of the consequences.”

Esther courageously risked her life and saved her people. She had learned what she needed to know. And Haman hung from the gallows he’d built for Mordecai—an irony bearing the fingerprints of our Invisible God.

Esther passed her tests. Will we?

First appeared in Kyria.com

Joyce K. Ellis, award-winning author of more than a dozen books, including The 500 Hats of a Modern-Day Woman and the picture book, The Fabulous World That God Made, writes from her home in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and speaks for women’s groups across the country and internationally. Contact her through her website: www.joycekellis.com.

How Emotionally Healthy Are You?

How Emotionally Healthy Are You?

By Sharon Sheppard

A family friend, Dr. Tom Lowry, who was both a reverend and a psychologist, once commented that my dad was one of the most emotionally healthy people he knew.

I’m not an authority in this field, but since we are emphasizing this aspect of health on thewisejourney (as well as Father’s Day) during the month of June, I’ve been pondering what that label might mean. What makes a person emotionally healthy? How do you know whether you are? Or how do you get that way if you aren’t?

I surveyed a few lists to see what the experts are saying.

Personality Buzz mentioned a few traits that are characteristic of people who are emotionally strong:

  1. Tough people don’t bog down feeling sorry for themselves.
  2. Strong people stay in the present.
  3. Mentally strong people have no trouble being themselves.
  4. Mentally and emotionally strong people have patience/persistence.
  5. Mentally strong people have a strong support network behind them.
  6. Strong-minded people welcome change.
  7. Tough people stop wasting energy on things that are out of their control.
  8. Tough people don’t repeat their mistakes.
  9. Strong-minded people have no time for jealousy or negativity.
  10. Tough people know that the world doesn’t owe them anything.

Except for number 6, I’d say my dad scored high on 9 out of these 10.

Familydoctor.org gave a few suggestions for keeping your emotional health:

  1. Think before you act.
  2. Manage stress.
  3. Strive for balance.
  4. Take care of your physical health.
  5. Find purpose and meaning.
  6. Stay positive.

Again, I think my dad scored well on all of these. How about you?

If you need some help, Psychology Today gave these tips for reenergizing your emotional wellbeing:

  1. Hang out with people who love you.
  2. Take a break.
  3. Try something different.
  4. Write down your worries.
  5. Write down what’s working for you in your life.

OR, as Garrison Keillor used to say, “Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.”

And if you would like to keep in touch with us here at thewisejourney, drop us an email at mzigan2442@gmail.com