Upset your fruit basket

Did you ever play that old crazy game Fruit Basket Upset? We played it in youth group when I was young. I remember it vividly because it was back when skirts were the order of the day at church, and you haven’t lived until you had to run around the room in an ankle-length denim skirt.

Always Peachy Fruit BasketIt was a pretty awesome game, sort of a cross between musical chairs and Duck Duck Goose. The rules were easy. Each player was assigned a category of fruit (apple, orange, banana, etc.). The leader would announce the category of fruit, and everyone with that category had to get up and find another seat. While they were up, a chair (or chairs) would be pulled out, and whoever was left standing was disqualified. But sometimes the leader could yell, “Fruit basket upset!” and everyone had to find another seat. It was always wild and fun, and you could play with 30+ people.

What’s in your basket?

Every Christ-follower has a fruit basket of sorts. Did you realize that? At the moment you chose to trust Jesus for your salvation, God filled you with His Holy Spirit. That means within you is all the power of the Holy Spirit, free for you to access at any time.

No, not like superpowers. You can’t fly or see through walls or shoot laser beams out of your eyes. But you can love people who don’t deserve it. You can forgive people who hurt you. You can walk away from addictions that have enslaved you. Maybe those aren’t comic-book superpowers, but those are real-life superpowers.

Galatians 5:22-23 Always PeachyA Christ-follower’s superpowers are the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—these are the nine specific character qualities that every Christian has. Just not every Christian chooses to use them.

Which fruit do you need?

Well, sometimes I need more of one than another. Do you know the feeling? Like when I wake up in the morning and all the extroverts I know are talking my ear off, I need patience. Or when I’m having a horribly stressful day and chocolate bars are on sale at the store, I need self-control.

So when I’m facing these difficult situations, I pray and ask for more patience or more self-control or more meekness. I ask God to help me with those individual qualities, but is that the right way to handle it? I mean, I’m not sure it hurts anything, but I’m not convinced that’s the right perspective to take with the Fruit of the Spirit.

Because they aren’t Fruits of the Spirit. They are Fruit. Singular. They act as a unit. One whole instead of nine pieces. You don’t get one without the others, and I’m not sure you can display one without displaying the others too.

And in the end, is it better to ask for just patience or just self-control? Shouldn’t we ask for the Holy Spirit to fill us up instead? Shouldn’t we be focused on becoming more like Jesus? After all, I’m dead (Galatians 2:20). When I chose to follow Jesus, I chose to die to myself, my own selfish desires, my own flawed perspective. (Colossians 3:3)

So the next time life throws you a curve ball and you’re tempted to lose your cool, don’t just ask for one of the Fruits to help you get through it. Instead, upset your fruit basket. You don’t have to ask for them. You already have them. So use them.

You don’t need more patience or more self-control. You need more Jesus.

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To make the road obvious

I have no sense of direction on road trips or in buildings or anywhere. Even if the sun is visible and someone tells me which direction I’m going, I can’t tell you which way I’m heading without careful contemplation. So as you can imagine, Google Maps is my friend, and that has special meaning this morning.

As you’re reading this, I’m driving by myself to Estes Park. My best friend got married this past weekend, and now I’m heading out on a week-long sabbatical of sorts. I’ve been this way before, though, so there’s not much chance that I’ll get lost.

I’m stepping back from normal life for a little while, taking a road trip with Jesus, because it’s time for me to take a good, long look at life, the universe, and everything.

At some points in our lives, I think it’s a good idea to reevaluate the decisions we’ve made, to make sure that we’re still heading in the direction God wants. It’s the same reason you carry a compass when you go hiking.

God asks us to follow Him, but if we don’t stop sometimes to make sure we’re still on the right path, we run the risk of wandering off.

My life verse has always been Proverbs 3:5-6, and I’ve always found it to be true. I can make my own plans as much as I want, but ultimately God is the one in control of my life. How foolish would I be if I tried to do things my own way?

But I do. Often.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5-6That’s why I have my compass, Proverbs 3:5-6 — Trust God, even when life doesn’t make sense, and He’ll make your path obvious.

A few other versions of the Bible translate verse 6 to be: “he will make your paths straight.”

But I think I love the Amplified version the best:

In all your ways know and acknowledge and recognize Him, and He will make your paths straight and smooth [removing obstacles that block your way].

How awesome is that?

That’s the kind of awesome I need in my crazy, confused, stressful life, to know for sure that the direction I’m walking is the one God wants for me. That’s the sweet spot, where I want to live.

So that’s what this week is about. Refocusing. Getting centered on God’s Word again. Making sure that I’m following Jesus’ road the way I’m supposed to, not trusting my own interpretation of life, but instead trusting His.

That’s the hard part, because I like to make sense of life. I like to fit the scattered pieces of life into a neat portrait, like a jigsaw puzzle coming together. But life can’t make sense without Jesus. It’s hard enough to make sense of it with Him, I wouldn’t even want to try without Him.

Life can't make sense without Jesus. - A.C. WilliamsSo in those moments where you need to check your directions, remember your compass. Remember that trusting your own understanding won’t help you conquer the trouble life throws at you. Instead, trust what God says. Do what God says. And keep your eyes peeled for the road God wants you on, because as long as you’re relying on His directions, the road you’re supposed to be walking will become obvious.

That’s a promise.

Inadequacy

What do you struggle with? What is your weakness? I’ve mentioned before that Satan is a student of us, knows us inside and out, sees our weaknesses and exploits them like any capable enemy would. So I’ve always thought it was a good idea to recognize my weaknesses so that I can better respond to his attacks.  It makes it easier to see when he’s coming after you (easier . . . not easy). It gives you a foundation to start defending yourself using truth from God’s Word to point out to Satan that he’s a liar.

I have to say from experience that it’s a lot easier said than done. Because some “weaknesses” can become so ingrained in a person that they become an extension of your personality–or at least, you can perceive them yourself as part of who you are. We are so good at lying to ourselves. And once we lie to ourselves enough, we start to believe it–and that opens the door for Satan to attack full force with his own lies.

I have always struggled with feeling inadequate. I don’t know why. I’m sure there are a lot of theories as to why, but none of them explain my stubborn inability to recognize it as a lie other than my obvious acceptance of it. I think I’ve told myself for so long that I am totally inadequate that I have begun to believe it. So it’s no great accomplishment for Satan to get through to me, telling me that I’m worthless and useless and insufficient when I believe him already.

I’m inadequate at work. I’m inadequate in ministry. I’m inadequate as a friend. I’m inadequate as a daughter and a sister. I’m inadequate as a mentor. I’m inadequate. I’m insufficient. I’m not enough and I never will be enough because I don’t know what else I can do to make up for everything I lack. Maybe that’s being human. And maybe it’s okay for other people to be human but it’s not okay–and has never been okay–for me to be anything less than perfect. . . . . . because what reason would anyone have to care about me otherwise?

Yes. That’s a lie. I know it. I recognize it. But I still feel it. And I don’t want sympathy, though prayers would be nice, because I know it’s untrue. And I know it’s one of Satan’s manipulations. And I know–I know–I know all that. I do. But it’s hard to draw the line between what you know and what you feel. And I’m really tempted to not even post this because I don’t want people to get the wrong idea . . . . but what God gave me last night has so changed my entire perspective I may just let people think what they want to.

I was hanging out at home, getting ready for today and trying to think of ways to be obediant. At church, we’ve been learning about blessings. The whole message series has been so awesome . . . . I haven’t gotten this much out of a message series since Life Ink. I didn’t think it was possible to top that one, but Bless U has . . . completely.

The Bible says that God will bless you in the area you surrender to Him. I get that. So I had already decided to release those parts of my life that I’ve been holding onto.

What we learned this past weekend that God will bless you in the areas where you are obediant to Him. I totally get that too. Financially speaking? Holy cow. I can’t even tell you how true that is. Working for the State, I barely scraped by. There were weeks I didn’t know where my groceries were going to come from. There were some days the only thing I could do was just pray over my bank account because I didn’t know how I was going to survive. But the one thing I never faltered on was my tithe. It never even occurred to me to stop tithing. I fully believed (and still do) that the only reason I made it was because I never stopped giving my ten percent back to God. And now? Without going into details, let’s just say that finances aren’t an issue anymore. God was faithful to bless me in the areas where I was obediant to Him.

Now, there are still a few areas in my life where I would like to be blessed. So I was thinking last night how to be obediant in those areas. I’m a generally obediant person, I think. I’m not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but I usually don’t have a problem obeying. I give what God tells me to give. I go where He tells me to go. I do what He tells me to do. Period. No arguing. No challenging. No whining. I’ve seen Him work in so many ways in my life and in others’ lives that I know better than to second guess Him. It’s always better to do what He asks and be patient waiting for what He has in store.

But what came to me last night really, honestly took my breath away. And it’s going to sound so ridiculous because it’s something I already knew–but there is such a massive difference between believing something and truly, deeply, honestly knowing it.

All my life I have known that God is sufficient for me. Of course, He is. He’s God. He can do anything, be anything I need, be anywhere I need Him to be. He is enough for me. More than enough for me.  But what I realized last night is that I am sufficient for Him.

Isn’t that obvious, though? What can I do that will make Him love me more or love me less? What can I do to be perfect? Nothing. I mean, I can please Him with faith. But even if I don’t, He still loves me. Even when I fail, He’ll still accept me. Even when I screw up and forget everything He’s ever taught me, He’ll still welcome me home with open arms and tell me that He loves me unconditionally–which means no matter what. No matter what.

And then the only thing I could think about was that David Crowder Band song, “How He Loves.” There’s a line in there:

“He is our portion and we are His prize.”

He is sufficient for us. We are sufficient for Him.

We don’t don’t have to change. Or be perfect. Or achieve great and incredible things. Or do things for Him. Or be someone we’re not for Him. We can just be who we are and He loves us just the way we are. Granted, we’ll receive more blessings if we do seek to accomplish awesome things for Him . . . . but it doesn’t mean He loves us less if (when) we fail.

See why this is a ridiculous revelation? It’s something I’ve known all my life. Something I’ve sung about–written about–talked about all my life. But it’s so much easier to tell other people than it is to believe about yourself. I know all my flaws and failures and shortcomings . . . but so does He. And He loves me anyway. Beyond that, there’s nothing I can do (or fail to do) that will make Him love me less.

And that made me wonder if I’m not being obediant in the way I view myself. I’m not saying that’s it. I’m just saying I’m wondering. If God really does love me unconditionally–and if He really loves me because He wants to–and if there’s nothing I can do to change His mind about seeing me that way, why do I insist on viewing myself as inadequate? Why do I see failure every time I look at myself? Why do I believe the obvious lies Satan tells me?

Yes, we’re supposed to be humble. Yes, we’re not supposed to think more of ourselves than we ought to. Yes, we’re supposed to prefer our brothers and sisters above ourselves. But there has to be a balance between humility and understanding that God gave what was most precious to Him to save me.

So. This is Amy’s new leaf. Whenever I feel inadequate (which is just about every hour of every day on a good day), I’m going to tell Satan to go butt a stump and I’m going to remember that God loves me and that I am the person He made me and that He really honestly does have a plan for me that’s His plan and not mine.

And isn’t it so much better to have His plan instead of your own? Because as long as it’s His plan, nobody can screw it up–especially me.