Tag Archives: growing spiritually

Commitment

The difference between involvement and commitment is like ham and eggs. The chicken is involved; the pig is committed. ~Martina Navratilova

I teach English to Chinese students online. That means I have to work on their time. Beijing Time is 12 hours ahead of Eastern Time, and when the time changes in a few months, it will be 13 hours different. I rise very early in the morning in order to teach my favorite students about my favorite thing: words.

One of my students is moving to western Canada. He will be 3 hours behind me. That poor boy is going to have class at 5:00 in the MORNING once the time changes! He is committed to learning the language and speaking it well.

Some people are committed to healthy living. They rise early to run or go to the gym. They eat low-carb, even on Thanksgiving, and they never drink soda.

Others are committed to their work. They email from their phone on vacation, stay late at the office, and make notes about a meeting when they wake in the middle of the night.

Some people are committed to family. They attend children’s concerts and competitions, have a family dinner once a week, and spend vacations together.

What makes you draw your every breath?

Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives, and all the people came early in the morning to hear him at the temple. Luke 21:37-38 NIV

When you’re committed to something, you do what it takes to be there. Jesus was teaching in the temple, but people had to be at work. They had houses and children to care for. They had gardens to tend and animals to feed. But they knew they were hearing a good thing, and they wanted more of it. So Jesus met them early in the morning before all of that began.

It’s no different now. I have work. I have a house and kids. I have responsibilities that require my time and attention.

But I also know when I am hearing a good thing, when I need to hear a good thing.

And I make a commitment to be there.

My commitment isn’t early in the morning. Jesus and I meet at lunchtime, after my early morning work is completed and I can sit with him and have a pleasant conversation.

Everyone’s schedule is different. Early morning may be the best for you. Perhaps you need to meet Jesus at twilight after the children are snuggled in their beds.

It isn’t the timing that is important.

It’s the time.


Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. Revelation 3:20 NIV

The Fig Tree

Everyone grows, but not everyone matures. ~Kemi Sogunle

Soon after we moved to North Carolina, I bought fruit trees. We were the owners of a small section of an old farm, and I was anxious to remind it of its purpose.

I planted several apple and pear trees, a peach, a plum, and a fig tree. The fig tree died.

My husband didn’t like weed eating around all of these trees. In a moment of Jesus- imitation, I think the preacher cursed the fig tree.

In Luke 13, the people are trying to establish their safety in God’s kingdom based on their ancestry. Jesus offers them little hope. He tells the story of a fig tree.

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’

“‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’” LK 13:6-9

The fig tree teaches us that we get a second chance, but nothing which only takes will survive, and there will be a limit to the second chances.

Is your trunk any stronger for the passing years? Do you open your Bible on Sundays but leave it resting on your bedside table every other day?

Maybe Spirit has been blowing spring zephyrs through your branches, but you’ve refused to bend in the breeze. Have you ignored the prodding to talk to the homeless man, invite your neighbor to dinner, or visit the nursing home?

Are your figs tough and pithy, unfit to eat? Has bitterness replaced your joy, hatred your love?

Take heart. There is hope. The gardener in Jesus’s story believes the fig tree can flourish with a little tender attention.

And Jesus believes it’s not too late for you.


See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. 1 John 3:1-3 NIV

Leaping and Listening

Why is it that when we talk to God we’re said to be praying but when God talks to us we’re schizophrenic? ~Lily Tomlin

I was about seven months pregnant with my first son, when my husband left for a weekend church retreat. Friday and Saturday passed with no movement from my active little fellow. I became concerned.

Sunday morning I sat in the pew, waiting. My husband walked to the podium and began to preach.

The baby inside me jumped and turned in a silent “Hallelujah dance.”

He had heard his father’s voice and responded.

Mary and Elizabeth are both stunned to find themselves pregnant. Elizabeth has tried to have a baby for so many years she has stopped counting. She has probably stopped praying.

Mary is not married, isn’t even sure how a baby is made, and yet here she is– pregnant.

In fear and confusion, Mary heads to her cousin Elizabeth’s house. She knocks on the door, raises her eyes to meet Elizabeth’s gaze, and offers a hesitant, “Shalom.”

The baby inside Elizabeth leaps when it hears the sound of Mary’s voice. . . Mary so recently touched by the Holy Spirit . . . Mary so longing to know everything is going to be alright.

And Elizabeth knows what her child has heard. She is filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaims, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! . . . Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Luke 1:42, 45)

Elizabeth was in tune with the Spirit. She was listening for its call, watching for its coming.

Did you give $10 to the homeless man at the Spirit’s urging? Did you call that friend you haven’t heard from in years? Did you stop to pray for the passenger in the passing ambulance? Did you carry groceries for the mother with three children pulling on her pants? Did you encourage the humming teen in the checkout line to keep singing praises?

Do you know when you hear the sound of God approaching?

Are you listening for his voice?


Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.  Proverbs 3:6 MSG

Starving the Spirit

I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught. ~Winston Churchill

Matt and I were on a self-imposed exercise and diet regimen. We both had lost a lot of weight and were feeling good about ourselves, especially our health. So seeing a health fair advertised in Sam’s Club, we decided to get a little check up.

That was when we were directed to the pharmacy at the back. The pharmacist then directed us to the doctor, “and don’t delay!” Matt was diabetic, in most cases, he would have been hospitalized his blood sugar was so high.

The doctor talked to us about how to eat and exercise, but we already were doing what he said. I was afraid and read everything I could about the evils of carbohydrates.

Matt was allowed two ounces of pasta. I cooked the noodles, weighed them out, and nearly cried. Matt looked at his rinky, dinky plate of pasta and slumped.

Not long after, we headed to the nutritionist to learn more. Silly me- I should have weighed the pasta BEFORE I cooked it. Yes, that made more sense. She talked to us about substitutions, additions, and celebrations. She took my recipes and broke them down into grams of carbs so he could still enjoy cookies.

We saw possibilities and knew he wouldn’t starve.

24 Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.

27 When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed.28 For he vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah. Acts 18: 24-28 NIV

Apollos was doing the best he could with what he knew. He was exercising and eating right, but he didn’t know about carbs and blood sugar. It wasn’t his fault; he was trying to stay healthy, but he didn’t have all the information. He needed a nutritionist- enter Priscilla and Aquila.

What about you? Are you on a partial spiritual regimen? Are you praying but not studying? Are you worshiping but not serving? Are you vacillating between working too hard and resting too much?

Why not find a spiritual nutritionist? Someone who is farther along on the road to spiritual health than you are. Ask for help. Ask for advice. Be open to learning more, like Apollos.

Stop starving your spirit and be fed. Don’t delay!


Light in a messenger’s eyes brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones. Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise. Those who disregard discipline despise themselves, but the one who heeds correction gains understanding. Proverbs 15: 30-32 NIV

Under Construction

There is a new apartment complex going in along a road I drive nearly every day. I watched intrigued this summer as dirt was pushed aside and a reservoir was dug. Large pipes were inserted into concrete foundations, walls began to rise, and men in hardhats wielded hammers big enough to see from the road. It was a very busy place.

Summer turned to autumn, and now winter’s cold winds blow across the flat coastal plains. The first of the apartments are completed. They look nice with colorful siding and brick false fronts. IMG_20150113_143528390_HDR

But some of the buildings are still in the process of being built. Insulation sheets disrupt the view, large mud flats mar the grassy scenery, and the reservoir is littered with construction materials.

As I drive by I imagine myself as the “still under construction building” facing the new building. I can see how beautiful and sturdy the new building is, and I can see all of the flaws of my own structure. How can I ever compare to the new building, I wonder. Look at my ugly insulation. Look at my covered windows. There’s no way I will ever match up to a building like that one. Who would ever want to live in me? 

IMG_20150113_143818446The new building  reassures me that it didn’t start out this way. “You weren’t around this past summer to see the ugly mud mounds, the hammering hardhats, the bare, rising walls of  my now finished building. Be patient: You, too, will one day be a finished building.”

“BUT,” the building goes on to say, “I am not yet perfect. You see that home there in front of us? It has been here for many, many years. People come and visit it, children play in its yard, and warm lights glow in it at night.”

Sometimes I am guilty of looking at more mature Christians and thinking, I will never be able to be like that. But I have to remember that I wasn’t there to see the days that they were just being built. Ground that they thought was sturdy was suddenly pushed aside and cleared. A foundation was laid and then bare wood and insulation showed. And even now, as they appear to be perfect to me, they look at another who has been in the subdivision longer than themselves, and they know they are not yet what they will one day be. We are all being built, and then renovated, by the Master Carpenter.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6