What Fruit is Your Tree Producing?

“A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭12:33‬ ‭NLT‬‬

For the past few months I have been obsessively craving oranges. I can eat six of them or more in a day sometimes. Definitely can eat several over the span of a week. But I’m a bit weird with how I eat them. I can’t peel just one and then eat it. I have to peel several at a time and store them in a dish so they’re readily available whenever my belly craves them. If I don’t peel them all at once, they tend to sit, rot and get wasted.

Tasting the juicy sweetness of a ripe orange and throwing away one that’s mushy and covered in a fuzzy green substance reminds me of God’s calling on all of us to be fruit bearers. In Galatians (Chapter 5 verse 22 and 23) we read about the fruits of the Spirit being love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, kindness, perseverance and self-control. These are all characteristics God requires of us to display in our day to day lives. Reading the list sounds easy and I am confident there are many times practicing all of these have come natural to all of us. But what about the times when it doesn’t? Let’s look at some scenarios.

When a person cuts us off on the road it’s human nature to react in a harsh manner (not practice gentleness.) when someone wounds us deeply or continues to disappoint us, it’s human nature to stop loving them, maybe even feel hatred toward them. When we’re grief stricken if feels impossible to experience joy. Addictions make it incredibly challenging to practice self-control. When life feels out of control it’s easy to worry and be anxious instead of choosing to be at peace fully trusting Abba. If you’re a parent dealing with a toddler meltdown or a disrespectful know-it-all teenager it’s super easy to lose patience. On days when we’re just feeling grumpy it’s easier to lash out at others rather than practice goodness and kindness.

Then there’s the concept of being known by our fruit. If we are a person bearing good fruit we should be identified as such. But what about those who constantly bear bad fruit? What about the people who cross our paths who appear to be mean-spirited, toxic, hard-hearted or down right evil? What about those people who seem so hard hearted that no amount of prayer covering seems ever possible that they will ever change?

First and foremost if you’re a Christian who’s known for bearing bad fruit (maybe you hold grudges, is unwelcoming, always arguing, gossips, harbors hatred toward others, loses your temper easily, over spends/over eats or even over works) it’s time to take a long hard look in the mirror, confess these attitudes and behaviors and ask God to cut off the branches that aren’t bearing good fruit. Until you refuse to repent, you will be a tree that produces bad fruit and bears a false witness as to what being Christ like is all about. If you repent, God promises to prune you in a way that will make your tree overflowing with His fruit once again (John 15:2.)

Dealing with nonbelievers who bear bad fruit is a bit more challenging. None of us hold the power in our human strength to change a human heart, including our own. Part of bearing good fruit is being a seed planter for those who bear bad fruit. If you have any knowledge of botany (which mine is very limited) you know that some plants actually populate from having their seeds spread elsewhere. This happens in both plants and weeds which means Christians can plant both good and bad seeds in the lives of those whom we cross paths with. If we want to be good fruit bearers, we have to be good seed planters also (read Mark 4 regarding Jesus’ parable on seed planting.)

How do we do that? We practice the fruits of the Spirit at all times. Think about being a comedian performing on stage for the first time. Your audience boos you and throws rotten tomatoes at you. This is the epitome of being exposed to bad fruit bearers and toxic people. It’s also human nature to want to defend ourselves and to pick up those rotted tomatoes and throw them back. Instead, God calls us to give them good fruit. Sticking with this analogy let’s say when someone throws rotten tomatoes at you, you pull out fresh ripe ones and ask them to join you for a salad. If someone steals from your apple tree, bake them a pie with what’s left. By doing so, you will be planting seeds of the Spirit that God can use to grow your enemies into good fruit bearers also.

This is definitely easier said than done. Trust me-I struggle daily with practicing any of this. I tend to live out my feelings instead of practicing self-control. I lose my temper and throw gentleness, kindness and goodness right out the window replacing them with anger, harsh words and unforgiveness. I wallow in my sorrows and give the enemy my joy. When I try problem solving in my own human wisdom, I get engulfed in worry and anxiety which suffocates any ounce of His peace within me. There are days I make a conscious effort to choose His fruit instead though. Just like choosing healthy food gives your body more energy, choosing His fruit gives my spirit a supernatural energy boost that produces more fruit within me. The more we pour out into others, the more He pours back into us. To keep using a scientific analogy, this would be a spiritual osmosis!

Whether you’re in a season of seed planting or fruit bearing remember three things-one, just like growing a garden or planting trees takes a length of time before the plant is fully matured and fruit is produced, so it may take years before you see changes in those you are discipling to, including even your own children. That’s where consistency, perseverance and the power of prayer play their biggest roles. Just because you can’t see anything growing, doesn’t mean there aren’t roots forming beneath the surface. So don’t give up.

Second, you may not be the person God uses to fully change their hearts. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 3:6 that he planted the seed but Apollo watered it and only God actually made it grow. This verse reminds us that some hearts may take more than one person to soften and that no matter who God uses, He ultimately gets the glory. It’s His power alone that truly changes hearts. We are just His tools.

Lastly, and this part is a sad reality, some hearts will never change. Choosing the fruits of the Spirit is a choice. There are people who choose to be hard hearted and no effort will ever change them. (Matthew 21:19) I believe God will show you when it’s time to walk away from such a person and surrender them fully to the Lord. We can still pray for a miracle in them but walking away means protecting ourselves emotionally and avoiding getting spiritually burned out. You may not agree with this last concept but just remember Judas was a prime example of such a heart. He walked right beside Jesus and betrayed him. Jesus never pursued Judas after the betrayal because He knew there was no changing him.

Jesus forgave Judas and He calls us to forgive our enemies also-even if they refuse to change. Forgiveness is definitely a seed that when planted can produce amazing fruit in ourselves and in those we choose to forgive. Jesus modeled this as He was hanging on a cross enduring excruciating pain, pushing himself up just to take a breath, and said “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” So what seeds are you planting? What fruit are you producing? What is your spiritual tree bearing? Strive to plant seeds that inevitably produce trees that bear His fruit.

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When It’s Hardest to Forgive

“Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭18:21-22‬ ‭NLT‬‬

If you were raised Christian, ever visited a Sunday School class or have been witnessed to, I am confident you’ve heard a message about forgiveness. The plan of salvation alone consists of confessing our sins and Jesus forgiving us. Christ’s death is the epitome of forgiveness both to those who crucified Him and for those He died for. As He was hanging on the cross already beaten and tortured, He cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

Throughout the Old and New Testament there are many passages on God and Christ forgiving sinners. We aren’t just forgiven. God calls us to forgive those who “trespass against us.” If you’re anything like me, being forgiven is easy. Forgiving others can be a very tough pill to swallow especially those who aren’t even sorry.

There are people in this world who may hate you, hurt you, and lie about you because of their own toxicity. Perhaps they’re jealous and insecure, sociopathic or narcissistic even. The stories of Jezebel, Joseph’s brothers and even Saul’s murderous behavior toward David are prime examples. The Pharisees even blasphemed against Jesus. Yet there are multiple scriptures that tell us to forgive. In fact a few verses even say love your enemies and pray for them/do good to them.

Here are a few more scriptures on God telling us to forgive:

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:14‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too. ””

‭‭Mark‬ ‭11:25‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”

‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3:13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭4:32‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Over and over God tells us to love our enemies, be kind to each other and to forgive each other. When someone we love hurts our feelings or disappoints us-it tends to be easy to forgive them because our love supersedes the offense. It’s hardest to forgive those who’s offenses supersede the ability to love that person. That’s where surrender to God and an obedient heart comes in to play. That’s where seventy times seven needs to be applied.

You may come across someone who will never be sorry for the wrong they did to you. You may want to just avoid them or ignore their existence. However, there may be circumstances where you cannot ignore or avoid them. You may have such a justifiable aversion to them that being kind to them makes your skin crawl. Our wounded hearts don’t want to forgive. Our defenses don’t want to be around them let alone offer them grace or kindness. But God says “Forgive them.” God says “Be kind to them.” God says “Love and pray for them.”

Seventy times seven means we forgive every offense, every time. I think it also means we may have to forgive the same offense over and over as a means to truly let go and fully forgive our offenders. Think about it. How many times a day do you dwell on the offense? Ever have arguments in your head between yourself and the offender? Ever think unkind thoughts or call them vicious names in your mind? Gossip about them maybe? Can you feel roots of bitterness growing and consuming you? Do you think any of that hurts your offender? Trust me-it does not. Your offender is most likely not even thinking about you. If their not sorry for their actions then they’re certainly not dwelling on them either. Our dwelling only keeps us wounded and keeps us from forgiving.

We combat this by choosing forgiveness. When a negative thought pops in your head-confess in your mind or aloud that you forgive the offender. Dwelling on specific actions they did against you? Name them aloud as you declare that you forgive these offenses. Confess each and every hateful thought you entertain and give it all to Jesus. When circumstances arise that you have to engage with that person, force yourself to be kind. You may have to fake it until you make it but if you do this, you will cut off all roots of bitterness and walk in the freedom of having a forgiving heart. You will make it to forgiving your offender(s).

Your enemy may never change. Our greatest enemy will never change so why do we expect our human enemies to change? We cannot control the behaviors and actions of others. We can only control how we respond, what we hold on to and what we let go of. We have a choice to forgive or to hold a grudge. Holding a grudge steals our joy and makes us more like our haters. Always choose to forgive. Even if you have to say it 490 times (which is 70 X 7 by the way) choosing forgiveness makes you more Christlike. That forgiveness may be the exact stepping stone Jesus uses to bring your enemy to salvation. After all-Joseph told his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” (Genesis 50:20) You never know how God will use your forgiveness to save the lives of others also.

Happy Birthday 🎂

“If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭12:8‬ ‭NLT‬‬
Today, Sept 29th, is my birthday. I tend to make this day all about me thinking it’s the one day a year I get to be celebrated. Most days I feel under appreciated, overlooked and insignificant to say the least. But God has been showing me that I was not created to live my life for me-I was created to live for Him and to serve others.
Thus I can’t imagine a better way to spend today than to bless others and I want to encourage anyone who reads this to do the same. Today be encouraged to be a blessing to someone in your life or even a total stranger. Buy someone coffee, pay for a person’s groceries, help someone carry something that is too heavy, call a long lost friend and reconnect, pray with someone, strike up a conversation with your cashier, call the person delivering your lunch by name, thank a veteran, hold open the door for someone and especially SMILE at others you encounter today. Our world is full of strife but small and simple acts of kindness can be the reason someone smiles today.

Please share in the comments  how you blessed others or paid it forward with a random act of kindness!  God bless! 🙏🏻💕🎂

Shine Bright Like a Diamond

I have a few favorite quotes/sayings in life.  My first would be Mother Teresa’s “Small acts of kindness, done with great love, change the world.”  My second would be Audrey Hepburn’s, “I believe in pink…”  My third would be “Never let anyone dull your sparkle.”  On a side bar- my favorite paraphrase would have to be, “When life hands you lemons, make margaritas.”  I call it a paraphrase because I think it’s actually supposed to say something about lemonade but seriously-if I’m drinking lemonade, it had better have some Patron mixed in it, and served on the rocks in a salted rim glass.  Am I right?  I’m digressing, my apologies.

“Never let anyone dull your sparkle” if taken literally, sounds like something you would say to a Vegas show girl or perhaps a cleaning lady-basically anyone that deals with shining things or wearing glitter.  In reality this quote is simply another way of saying, “Don’t let others steal your joy” or even “Do not let the words or deeds of others define who you are.”  A pretty deep meaning behind a very short quote, don’t ya think?

I gotta be honest with you-my life (as I’m sure some of yours’ also) has been full of “Sparkle Dullers”, “Joy Stealers” and outright pathological jerks.  For years-I defined who I was based on how I was treated, the harsh words spoken to me and on the opinions of my critics.  Basing your self-worth on what someone who doesn’t like you thinks of you is pretty reckless and gives that person too much power over you.  I can’t tell you how many texts and phones calls I’ve made to my friends and few close family members, full of tears and brokenness expressing how much I felt like a total loser and not worthy of anything all because the voices of my critics rang too loudly in my mind.

Thankfully, God has blessed me with friends and family who speak truth into me regularly and have worked diligently to fill me up with words of affirmation, reminders of who I am in Christ, and all around uplifting encouragement.  They never put me down for putting myself down (which by the way is not a helpful tactic.  Putting someone down when they’re already down on themselves only pushes them down lower.)  One friend in particular, calls me a diamond.  Every time I get down on myself, she says to me, “Friend you’re a diamond.  Shine like it.”  But all these words of affirmation and encouragement simply aren’t enough if I don’t choose to believe them over myself.  Believing in ourselves can be a very difficult thing-especially if we’ve spent most of our life believing in what our critics spoke about us.

The truth is-we are all diamonds, we should shine like it AND we should never let anyone dull our sparkle.  For anyone that’s ever owned diamond jewelry, whether it’s a diamond ring, a pair of diamond earrings, or tennis bracelet, they know most people treat diamonds like the beautiful and expensive treasure they are.  Some keep them in special cases, locked in safes, and purchase special insurance to ensure their diamonds are well protected.  They always make sure to clean these precious gems before adorning them to capture the eye (and envy) of every passerby.  Afterall, who doesn’t want to show off their diamonds?

Guess what that means for the diamond in you and me?  It means we need to take care of ourselves by cleaning out our minds.  We can do this utilizing positive self-talk, reminding ourselves who God made us to be in order to sparkle in a way that lights up a room as soon as we walk in.  That sparkle inside each of us is what attracts others to us.  The more we accept the words of affirmation and encouragement others speak into us and refute the naysayers mean words, the brighter our sparkle gets.  The more we speak words of affirmation over ourselves, the more attractive our sparkle gets. And the more we speak words of affirmation and encourage over others, the bigger our diamond grows.

The bigger our diamond grows-the harsher our critics may get because they will be jealous of our happiness and angry that they can no longer steal our joy.  Think about it-how many times have you watched two kids interacting (usually siblings)-one is doing their best to irritate the other.  If the one who is doing the irritated gets a reaction from the other one, they will keep it up because they are thriving on irritating the reactor.  But if the reactor instead chooses to not respond or chooses to respond in a positive manner, the irritator has lost their power.  Jealous mean people are usually power people.  Nothing frustrates a power person more than when they lose that power.  It infuriates them. At first they will try harder to steal your joy but the more we choose to shine-eventually, the critics stop.  They give up.  They learn that what you and I think about ourselves holds a greater weight that what they think of us.  They may still never like us, but those “Sparkle Dullers” will move on and find someone else to prey on, who thinks they’re nothing more than a cubic zirconia.

Here’s the kicker-thank God for the “Sparkle Dullers” and “Joy Stealers” in your life.  Praise Him for the critics.  Why?  Do you know how a diamond is made?  It’s starts as a piece of black coal and after years and years of hardcore pressure a beautiful, highly coveted, deeply admired, very precious gem is formed-a sparkling diamond.   You may have been nothing more than a lump of coal in your past but today-you are a diamond.  Speak life into yourself and into others.  Let your light so shine before others and watch how others become attracted to you.  Then see just how big your diamond is going to grow.

In an effort to show off my sparkle tonight-here’s a blended version of my three favorite quotes and one paraphrase, with my own twist.  “Do random acts of kindness, love greatly, believe in everything pink, drink magaritas and always, always, always, make sure to never let your sparkle go dull-when you do all this, you, my diamond girl, are going to change your world!”

Eye Spy

People tell me I have beautiful eyes.   I don’t say that with arrogance or as bragging rights.  Honestly, I don’t always believe it.  When I look in the mirror all I see is puffiness, wrinkles and dark circles.  But when others look at them, they see a sparkling blue that sometimes captivates them I guess.  Seriously-just last month, while shopping for sunglasses a female store clerk stopped and said, “I don’t want to sound weird but you have really pretty eyes.  I mean they really just pop.”  I laughed, thanked her and may have said it was ok if she meant it weird I’d still take it as a compliment.  I’ve had many male suitors drop the “you have gorgeous eyes” line on me a handful of times also.  In my younger naïve years I would fall for it but since hearing it so much I tend to just respond with “thank you” or “I’ve heard that before.”  But when asked what I think my best feature is, I will say my eyes simply because it’s what I get complimented on the most.

They say the eyes are the window to the soul.  I think I’d have to agree with that.  I’ve seen people with dark souls and their eyes tend to be shifty and beady.  I’ve seen mothers look at their children and watched joy dance through their eyes.  I’ve also seen mothers look at those same children and watched terror or sheer embarrassment displayed through their eyes depending on how their children are behaving.  I’ve seen tired eyes, tearful eyes, eyes that show deep despair.  And unfortunately, I’ve seen eyes glassed over from drugs and alcohol-those eyes can have a complete blankness to them implying the emptiness the person must be feeling inside.

Yesterday I noticed a set of eyes that spoke something else.  I’ve seen these eyes before.  In fact I’ve seen them many times for more than half my life time.  But yesterday I really noticed them.  These eyes displayed a genuine kindness and a humble heart. There was no judgment behind those eyes.  In fact, the person’s mouth didn’t just smile, they smiled with their eyes.  Have you have ever had the fortune of seeing that?  I’m sure I have in the past but those smiling eyes yesterday really got my attention.  There’s was an acceptance I’ve never noticed before but looking back, in all the years I’ve known this person, they have always looked at me with that same acceptance.

God really drew my attention to those eyes yesterday.  I believe He was showing me how He looks at us-with kindness, humility, unconditionally and without judgement.  And no matter what our pasts look like, how much we screw up the present or what the future holds, He always looks at us with acceptance.  Romans 8:38 tells us nothing can separate us from His love.  Jeremiah 31:3 tells us God loves us with an everlasting love-with unfailing love He draws Himself to each of us.  Even though in Revelation 1 it describes Christ’s eyes like flames of fire (vs 14) I believe those flames show the power, passion and unabandoned love He has for each of us.  When God looks upon each of us I believe He doesn’t just smile, His eyes dance with joy and smile too.

If the eyes really are the window to your soul, and my eyes are viewed as “beautiful”, I hope and pray that people see beauty in my soul as well.  But most importantly, I pray they see Christ’s love radiating from my soul through my eyes and that light penetrates their soul as well.