Tag Archives: Spiritual Journey

Practicing Simplicity

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In my book Girls with Gusto, I explore the eight major steps of the spiritual journey as seen through Proverbs 31. In Step Five, we come to the following verse:

“She stretches out her hands to the distaff, and her hands grasp the spindle. She extends her hand to the poor, and she stretches out her hands to the needy” (Proverbs 31:19-20 NAS).

I’ve always thought this step was about becoming a generous person, and that by extending our hands to others we experience anew the trust and faith we have in God. While I still believe that to be true, I’ve come to realize that generosity is the by-product of this step, not the primary goal or lesson.

 

The More of Less

Like the rest of America, I have a lot of stuff: nostalgic mementos, old paperwork, clothes I’ll never wear again, pots I’ve never cooked in, materials for projects long-forgotten, and books that never held my attention. You know, stuff.

Thankfully, the Lord led me to a book called The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own by Joshua Becker. This little gem has challenged me to put my stuff into perspective. It added the term “minimalism” to my vocabulary, and it gave me the freedom to dig myself out from all the junk.

But what really struck me was the author’s perspective. As a Christian, Becker’s focus isn’t on minimalism for its own sake but for what it can give him and his family—and a big part of that is being able to “meet the needs of others.” He states, “When we spend too much money on ourselves, we miss the opportunity to find greater joy by being generous to others.”

So, living simply can lead to more generosity.

 

The Generous Life

The Lord then led to me another gem, Secrets of the Generous Life by Gordon MacDonald. This devotion-style book gives practical tips on how to live a generous life, stating that giving generously is a “kind of divine work”:

“The generous life is not about doling out extra amounts of money. It is about reorienting the human heart in the direction of Christ so that we become transmitters of the same affection and care that Christ modeled in his time.”

Generosity, then, comes from focusing on God and heeding His call—which may involve the sacrifice of our money, time, or other resources for the betterment of others.

 

[Click to Tweet: Generosity comes from focusing on God and heeding His call. #generouslife #bigsisterknows]

 

The Discipline of Simplicity

God still wasn’t done schooling me on this topic. He led me to one more book, a modern-day classic: Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster. In this book, Foster highlights the thirteen major spiritual disciplines as recorded in the Bible and understood by the leading church fathers since the first century church. Imagine my surprise when I learned that simplicity—not generosity—is one of those disciplines!

As Foster explains, “the central point for the Discipline of simplicity is to seek the kingdom of God and the righteousness of His kingdom first—and then everything necessary will come in to its proper order.”

To experience this “inward reality liberates us outwardly….Our goods become available to others.” In other words, when we put God first in our lives, we find ourselves capable, willing, and even delighted to be generous to others.

However, if we focus on being generous, on getting rid of the stuff, on living simply, then we will miss the point. For to focus on anything but God is to make it an idol.

 

The Practice of Simplicity

I now realize the true value of Proverbs 31:19-20: the woman is generous to those around her because she’s learned to live simply, her eyes focused on God. If we follow her example, we’ll begin to live generous lives, too.

In future posts, I’ll dig more into this concept of the simple (and generous) life and how minimalism can be a useful strategy. But for now, remember that whatever it is you’re seeking in life—whether it’s to be more generous, to understand God’s will, or to have God’s favor—that focusing on God and His Kingdom is always the answer. Only then can everything else fall into its rightful place.

 

What about you? Are you seeking to live a generous life? What techniques do you find helpful?

 

 

Bearing Fruit: The Evidence and Opportunities of Faith

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Photo and design by Ashley L. Jones.

 

If you’ve been going to church for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard of the phrase “bearing fruit.” People who use this phrase are usually referencing Galatians 5:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23 NAS).

I used to think that bearing fruit was something only the most spiritually-minded people could do. That’s because it seemed like only the grandmas and grandpas of the church could adequately display these fruits, such as kindness in traffic jams, patience in line at the store, and peace when everything seems to be falling apart.

And yet, as I study the concept of bearing fruit for my book Girls with Gusto, I realize that I’ve been mistaken.

Bearing fruit isn’t just for spiritual giants! Learn how at BigSisterKnows. [Click to Tweet]

 

The Image of the Vine

In John 15:1-5, Jesus used the image of the grape vine to describe our relationship to Him and the Father:

  • Jesus is the True Vine
  • God the Father is the Vinedresser (or vine gardener)
  • God’s people are the branches of the Vine

He then says, “He who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5b NAS).

This makes more sense when you understand the structure of grape vines. The grape bunches that you buy at the grocery store are cut from branches, which are connected to a vine. Although the branches produce the grapes, they cannot live on their own. Instead, they are dependent on the vine, which is the life source of the entire plant structure.

We rely on Jesus just as the branches rely on the vine to survive and produce grapes. As we tap into Jesus, we begin to access His essence of pure love. As we experience more of God’s love, we begin to overflow with it and all the fruits of the Spirit that derive from it.

This means that all believers—each and every one of us—can display the fruits of the Spirit.

 

A Fruitful Expectation

Jesus also explained, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, [the Father] takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:1-2 NAS).

This shows that, not only are we able to bear fruit, we are expected to do so. If we don’t, it is a sign that we are not actually connected to the Vine of Jesus. However, when we do bear fruit, we give evidence of that God’s holy nature is alive within us. He then refines us so that we can bear even more fruit. Perhaps this is why we prove ourselves to be disciples of Jesus, and we glorify God the Father, when we “bear much fruit” (John 15:8 NAS).

 

Evidence and Opportunities

On one hand, “bearing fruit” is the evidence of our relationship with God; on the other, it is the opportunity to receive and share in the love of God.

A great example of this is the story of Joseph in Genesis chapters 37-50. After his brothers sold him into slavery, Joseph was accused of a crime he didn’t commit, and he ended up in an Egyptian dungeon. Even so, Joseph remembered his God. Perhaps that’s why God used Joseph to warn the pharaoh of a pending famine. Joseph heeded the opportunity, and his leadership and good stewardship saved countless lives, including those of his own family. Then, when he could have turned his back on the brothers that did him wrong, Joseph chose a better path. He took the opportunity to display mercy, forgiveness, and love.

Throughout his entire story, Joseph took every opportunity to do God’s will, and his character was filled with the fruits of the Spirit. Although we think of Joseph as a spiritual giant, we are expected to display these very same fruits of the Spirit in our own lives. Likewise, our opportunities to serve God may seem less important than Joseph’s mission to save the kingdom, but we should treat them with the same respect and gusto that Joseph exemplified.

 

Encouragement

I encourage you to examine your own life. Does your character and your actions give evidence that God is alive in your heart? Are you seizing the opportunities God sets before you?  If not, take a moment to get back on track by saying a simple prayer like this one:

“Lord, I’m sorry. I’ve missed the opportunities you’ve given me, and I don’t really see the fruits of the Spirit in my life. Please clean my heart and help me to focus on you. In your grace, give me more opportunities to serve you. Help me to hear your guiding voice, and give me the strength and courage to act accordingly. Thank you in the name of Jesus. Amen.”

 


Has someone affected your life by bearing the fruits of the Spirit? If so, I’d love to hear about it! Please leave a comment below or on my Facebook page.

 

 

Classes, Manuscripts, and Radio Interviews, Oh My!

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Navigating_Meme

 

This month, I’ll begin teaching a 5-week course called Navigating Your Spiritual Journey at my alma mater, the Tallahassee Christian College and Training Center. I developed this class based on 13 years of research on the topic of the spiritual journey, which is the topic of my non-fiction manuscript, Girls with Gusto. In the class, students will learn the eight major steps of the spiritual journey and will be able to identify where they are on the map and what they need to do to advance forward.

Every semester, our local Christian radio station, Wave94.1, interviews a faculty member about his or her class. This semester, they picked me! So, for more information on this class, my manuscript, and the college, check out my radio interview. (I added photos and memes I’ve shared on this site or posted on social media to make it more fun.)

 

I hope to see you later this month at TCCTC. If you’re not in the area, or you can’t commit to the 5-week class, don’t worry—I’ll continue to share encouraging posts with you right here at BigSisterKnows. As always, your prayers (as well as your Likes and Shares) are sincerely appreciated!