fruitage of the spirit's journal

Expressions from the Heart

God is OH SO Good!

God is OH SO Good! by Linda Angeles

I was in my car this morning and the song, “Jesus Bring the Rain” came on. This song and I go back a few years. As I was singing along to the words, I was reminded of the struggles I went through during that time. It was March 2009 and I was holding my granddaughter who was two years and very ill at the time. She had just come home from the hospital after being intubated for five days and for some reason, she wasn’t doing well that morning. I remember being afraid and my anxiety was at it’s peak because I hadn’t been able to work in weeks and was physically drained and tired. This was the worst timing for me, considering all this was happening in the middle of tax season. Not only was I afraid of losing clients, but I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to sustain myself financially. I was in tears that morning; in fact, both my granddaughter and I were crying. When this song came on I remember listening to the words as I rocked her in my arms and before long, we were calm and at peace. I knew from that moment everything was going to be okay.

Some may believe that God made my granddaughter sick so that I can learn from the experience and grow in my faith, but I don’t believe that’s true – God doesn’t make or will anyone to be sick. He does, however, use all circumstances and struggles to reach out to us so that we experience Him in every way – His presence, grace, mercy and love.  God is in the business of turning good what the enemy meant for evil.  God did use my circumstances for good; a result of that experience, this blog was inspired. Here we are almost five years later, and Fruitage of the Spirit is a source of encouragement to hundreds of readers (thanks to co-writer, Julie). I also learned to rely on the Lord, making Him my all-sufficient, knowing that He’ll always provide for me. (No, my business didn’t fail and clients didn’t leave.)  I learned how to pray in ways I hadn’t known before; today I share and find joy in interceding on behalf of others.

When I looked back to that season of my life I’ve always seen it as a dark place – one I would never want to experience or go back to again. But now I see it differently; I see that time of my life as a time that God used to accomplish His purpose in my life and in the life of others.  The struggles I overcame will serve as reminders that God will deliver me again and again from all hardship that may come my way. I can list the numerous times that God helped me overcome battles, but none compare to this one. Can you remember a time when God delivered you from despair and how different would your life be had you not gone through it?

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October 10, 2013 Posted by | Expressions | 5 Comments

Jesus Christ Moves Like Mick Jagger

Jesus Christ Moves Like Mick Jagger by Julie McAllen

Recently I listened to an interview with Bob Deutsch, a cognitive neuroscientist and author of “The 5 Essentials: Using Your Inborn Resources to Create a Fulfilling Life.” These five inner resources are listed as: Curiosity, Openness, Sensuality, Paradox, and Self-Story.  “Be your best self” was the title given this interview aired on Wisconsin Public Radio with Joy Cardin. The introduction to that read:

Who do you admire most? Are they a high-achieving musician, business person, or even someone in your community? Joy Cardin talks to a guest who says that no matter how you define success, you can learn to live the life of those you most admire.

I admire raw, passionate people, especially those who rock generations and overturn the thinking of the masses.

Jagger paintI’m not alone in my admiration for such men as Martin Luther King jr., but I hadn’t considered my admiration for a certain rock star essential to my life story until I connected with the author’s comment about his own interest in Mick Jagger and how he commands the stage doing what he loves. What I love about Mick is his captivating presence of arrogance. He’s such a proud peacock on that stage and he looks so silly doing it. He dances like a chicken on acid. But is it the dance style I’m drawn to, or that cocky, self-assured attitude?

I’ve noticed throughout my life that I’m drawn to boldly assertive people. Flip Wilson’s character “Geraldine”, Ted Nugent’s flamboyant Wango Tango guitar licks, Bette Midler’s brassy imitation of Sophie Tucker, and Dabney Coleman’s egotistical character of Franklin Hart jr. in the movie “9 to 5” all commanded my attention. Even the man I married was described by his former high school classmates as having a big ego. It’s just easier to see the passion of opinionated people. I like that. I may not always agree with their opinions but I am drawn to them because brassy and rude people always let you know exactly what’s on their minds. Polite people who beat around the bush have always annoyed me because I have no idea who they are unless they find a way to express themselves.

I value the freedom of expression and yet I have an inborn need for order and decency. When I became a parent the two sets of values collided because like most mothers, I thought I should teach my children some manners. Mick Jagger took a back seat as I had a great need to bring order, morality and authority into my home. Freedom without structure causes problems, so I threw myself into a box of extreme conservatism taking the route of a very structured religion. No Mick Jagger for me! But in some ways it resembled his attitude if you can believe that. I admired the self-assuredness of such statements as “we have the truth!” The bold behavior of walking up to someone’s door to present it with confidence actually attracted me, but over time it separated me from my true self. The very thing I had always admired and sought—freedom of expression—was taken away and conformed into a religious label. And I saw around me, not those who were passionate for their beliefs, but dead captives robotically repeating someone else’s ideas. The collision of my values was complete and the balance was beginning to form.

I realize now what initially attracted me to Jesus Christ was his Mick Jagger-like quality of being proud of who he was on stage. Jesus expressed himself freely; undaunted by the authorities around him. He was opinionated and arrogant enough to say “I am the truth, the way and the life” (John 14:6). As a personality, he fits into a long line of my heroes and proud peacocks, yet, unlike all of them, he also possessed the holiness and structure of a moral code. Though Jesus is meek and mild, I am more attracted to his sense of justice and warrior attributes. He fearlessly entered a conservative environment to overturn the status quo. He’s got the moves like Mick Jagger.

The interview with Bob Deutsch had helped me see there’s a thread running through the extremes of my life. It’s the people I admire. The flamboyant freedom outside of religion and conservative conformity within religion are no longer separated details in my Self-Story, but the Paradox has been connected now in my attraction to both Jesus Christ and Mick Jagger.

Mick Jagger and his cocky demeanor stirred up a generation already eager to come against the establishment chanting “I can’t get no satisfaction.” What burdened me as I went through the necessary journey into religion was seeing the same thing; people oppressed by the establishment with no satisfaction. Where is our Jumpin’ Jack Flash? And my eyes fall upon Jesus the warrior storming into the temple and overturning the moneychangers tables, his devil-may-care attitude in talking to a woman—a Samaritan at that, and the bold assertion that God worked in the lives of people outside of the established religion of his day (Matthew 21:12-13; John 4:4-26; Luke 4:16-30). In fact, that last one is what intrigues me most.

When Jesus stood up to read the scroll of Isaiah addressing a common hope that all men throughout history have expressed—good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and freedom to the oppressed—he was favorably received. His audience was eager to see this within their own religion and ready to embrace their rabbi. At that point, Jesus could’ve settled into religion and avoided his death. But Jesus took a bold risk. With his personal reputation and safety at stake, he went on to remind them that the God they called their own had done miracles outside of their religion and would continue to do so. In fact, throughout his ministry Jesus proclaimed the need for any structured religion’s end was near. Jesus was coming against the religious establishment. And ya gotta love that! This is the Jesus I love to see dancin’ on the stage throughout history. I see him, not as a religious leader but as the same God who made us all with a desire for freedom to become our authentic selves. Don’t tell me about your rituals and how God only blesses the ones within your fold. Don’t tell me how by joining your group or aligning myself with your theology I’ll be more enlightened or positioned to survive some impending doom — tell me how knowing him has set you free to become who you are. That’s the Jesus I know.

I may carry the label of “Christian” but I hate religion just as much as those who label themselves free thinkers because of the oppression they’ve witnessed in it.  The difference is, I don’t run away from religion because of its faults, I’m drawn into it with the same passion Jesus has: I want to set captives free. If you’re going to relegate Jesus to an icon for mundane and oppressive religions instead of realize his power to set captives free, I will dance like a chicken on acid all over that one. Like the One I admire most, I’ve got the moves like Mick Jagger.

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie

And by the way, yes I know I may get emails reprimanding me for comparing Jesus Christ, the Son of God, to Mick Jagger, a stage strutting rock star. Sigh. Some people just can’t get no satisfaction. I won’t be shattered, because at least you know what I think. Some girls are like that. And I may disagree with your opinion, but as you may have gathered from the article, I’ll never be your beast of burden because I’d rather deal with another radical who can express themselves than a polite person who silently misunderstands the point of my article. Once you start me up I’ll never stop. Sha doo bee.

September 11, 2013 Posted by | Expressions, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Of Fish and Crosses

Of Fish and Crosses by Julie McAllen

And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat. 4 When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.” 6 When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; 7 so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” 9 For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.” 11 When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him. (Luke 5:3-11)

Mormon fishers of menSimon Peter calls Jesus “Master.” Even though he’s exhausted from working all night at his fishing trade, as an obedient follower of Christ he goes the extra mile to toss in his net one more time just because ‘Jesus said so.’ Can you relate to this? I was thinking about congregational settings when I read this. Like, how the words of Jesus may be read and obedient people who consider Him to be their Head, Master, or Lord will do the thing commanded.

We hear “go and make disciples” and obediently throw in our nets. We hear a message on Matthew 25 and obediently feed the hungry, clothe the poor and visit those in prison. Those who respect the Bible and trust that the words of Jesus are recorded in it are prone to do these things simply because “Jesus said so.” In this, we are being like Simon Peter who called Jesus “Master” and threw in his net.

But today as I was reading, in addition to Simon Peter’s obedience, I also noticed his reaction. The account showed his ability to follow direction from the Master, but I’m not so sure Simon was prepared for the blessing. I don’t think he cast his net thinking something like “if I obey Jesus and do what He says, I’ll get my reward,” he simply followed orders from the Master and was surprised at the outcome. When this reward of fish filled his net, he didn’t attribute it to his own obedience either. To the contrary, Simon Peter was more aware of his SEPARATENESS from God in the blessing rather than his CONNECTION to God. When the haul of fish came in, he realized the power behind it and fell down at the feet of his Master acknowledging his sin! What a lesson in humility when we’re being abundantly blessed!

The account raises some questions to ponder. If we call Jesus our Master and obediently follow the things written, is it because we think we’ll gain heaven? Is it because we think He’ll fill our nets with new disciples/fish? Are we fishing for a reward or just doing it because ‘Jesus said so?’ And what happens when we receive the things for which we pray? How do we react when suddenly the net is filled? Do we immediately brag up ourselves or give the glory to the Church or organization we belong to with a false sense of security that we must be in the “right one” since the reward is in our hands? Or do we hit the deck in amazement as Simon Peter did knowing we’re in the presence of The Almighty immediately recognizing how insignificant we really are? Glory to God if even one fish swims into our net today. Jesus did not end His command to fish with “…and if you obey, you will catch,” rather, He already GRANTED it to them saying, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.”

And catch they did! And of course, an argument over which of them was the greatest was the natural result of such favor being shown. One was catching more than the other, so they argued over who was doing it right. And it’s still going on today among His disciples — we’re only human — but “my church is better than your church.” We may not be so bold as to give glory to ourselves, but how many times do we give credit to the boat we’re in because of some favor upon which it’s afloat? The fish are coming in and so we “think” it’s due to our efforts, but in reality Jesus just lead us to where He already determined the fish would fall into the net. And when that favor comes, what is the reaction? Humility or the pride that asks which one among us is the greatest?

The Holy Spirit laid a lesson on me as I read this account about “fishers of men.” Am I amazed at the feet of Jesus recognizing my sin that I might point others to the only one great enough to bare them or am I so busy pointing everyone to the fish I’ve caught in my great net that no one else can see the real power behind such favor?

In giving a witness, It’s not the net full of fish that we’re to lift up, no one sees their sin and separation there. We’re to lift up Jesus and let men see their separation at His cross.

“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” (John 12:32)

When Simon Peter recognized who filled his net, his shame and separation moved him to say,  “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” But the purpose in getting us to recognize our separateness is not to widen the gap, God’s promise is to draw us closer to Him and prepare us to receive more blessings, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.” He will draw men to Himself through the nets we cast upon the waters in which He’s directed us to fish, but don’t look too long at the net, keep your eyes on Him.

The Holy Spirit is a Wonderful Teacher. May you be blessed today as you encounter Him in the pages of your Bible, for God’s Word is Truth.

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie

July 31, 2013 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Of Fish and Crosses

A Woman Ought To Know Her Place

A Woman Ought To Know Her Place by Julie McAllen

When you think of those whom God called to deliver His people, who comes to mind? Perhaps Moses or prophets such as Jeremiah or Isaiah? Have you ever considered that even during old covenant days, Jehovah had raised up a WOMAN to deliver His people?

When the man Haman was appointed to a noble position during the reign of king Ahasuerus in Persia, he persuaded the king to agree to his scheme of killing the Jews, and it was a woman, Queen Esther, who’d been put in position to say something about it.

Female warriorBoth Haman and Esther were considered to have some authority in the Persian kingdom over which Ahasuerus ruled. Haman had been promoted by man to his position and thus sought the glory from man, but Esther had been appointed by God for the glory of God. When king Ahasuerus commanded all subjects to bow to Haman and Mordecai refused to fall at his feet, Haman decided to do away with the Jews because he knew it was their dedication to Jehovah God that prohibited Mordecai from rendering worship to man (Ps 146:3). Haman, thus became known as “the enemy of the Jews” at that time (Est 3:10). But Esther had been promoted by God to have influence in the kingdom for “such a time as this” when she learned through her uncle Mordecai that her people were in danger.

“Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For 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 will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Est 4:13)

Like Haman, Esther had great privileges within the kingdom and her royal position as Queen. What would she do? Would she protect her privileged position and seek the glory of men or recognize her calling for the glory of God?

The reaction of these two people placed in authority over a worldly kingdom teaches us about our own position in the kingdoms over which we’ve been appointed.

Haman, knowing his favored position expected all in the kingdom to bow to him. He was not concerned with any other will than his own. And every time he saw that Jew Mordecai subjecting himself to God by the action of not bowing down to a man, it aggravated him to no end. He had it all, but the one thing he didn’t have was Mordecai’s act of worship. How did he respond to this?

9 Haman went out that day happy and in high spirits. But when he saw Mordecai at the king’s gate and observed that he neither rose nor showed fear in his presence, he was filled with rage against Mordecai. 10 Nevertheless, Haman restrained himself and went home.
Calling together his friends and Zeresh, his wife, 11 Haman boasted to them about his vast wealth, his many sons, and all the ways the king had honored him and how he had elevated him above the other nobles and officials. 12 “And that’s not all,” Haman added. “I’m the only person Queen Esther invited to accompany the king to the banquet she gave. And she has invited me along with the king tomorrow.
(Est 5:9-12)

This reminded me of oppressive rulers who seek glory for themselves and not God. When anyone doubts or questions their authority, they are compelled to promote themselves more and God less in an effort to protect their own empire like Haman who was appointed by man to receive honor by men. But not all bow to them when they say “kneel.”

13 But all this gives me no satisfaction as long as I see that Jew Mordecai sitting at the king’s gate.” (Est 5:13)

So what is their course? In the case of the religion I was once under, the Watchtower Society, it is to haul those who disagree with them into a judicial hearing, and if they refuse to obey them as the ultimate authority, they remove them from fellowship. And they don’t stop there, they also instill a fear of former members by calling them “mentally diseased” (7/15/11 Watchtower magazine) and feed the remaining enslaved flock with messages designed to keep them fearful and to “beware of apostates.” They are much like Haman who so desired the worship of Mordecai to be shifted from the true God Jehovah to himself that he would rather see an opponent dead than not bowing to him. Nothing delights a man more than that his enemies be put to death.

14 His wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, “Have a pole set up, reaching to a height of fifty cubits, and ask the king in the morning to have Mordecai impaled on it. Then go with the king to the banquet and enjoy yourself.” This suggestion delighted Haman, and he had the pole set up. (Est 5:14)

How different the Spirit of God is from this, for He does not seek to kill those who do not bow to Him, rather He lays down His own life for them (Ro 5:6-11). This is how you can tell who is operating under the authority given by man or who has been promoted by God to a position of authority. God’s Spirit moved Esther to use her royal position in a different manner than Haman. When Mordecai sent word to Esther about the danger of God’s people, she did not protect her cushy position by remaining silent and allow her people to perish. She knew her time had come and therefore relied upon her God for strength in the dangerous assignment of confronting the worldly king knowing it could lead to her own death. Her first resource to be sought was prayer.

15 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” (Est 4:15-16)

The faithful and discreet among them fasted and prayed trusting that a deliverer was being raised up while the followers of man supported the killing of God’s people. I thought about those among Jehovah’s Witnesses sitting in Kingdom Halls and Assemblies today who by their silence agree with policies that support unnecessary and harmful separation from friends and family and even death by not allowing blood in obedience to the Watchtower’s command. They do not trust the God they claim to follow enough to protect them in any confrontation with those they know to be wrong. They remain in a comfort zone thinking they are securing their place in the kingdom. In contrast, the followers of Jesus Christ are to be salt and light not hidden and trampled on by men. God’s people are called out to be as Mordecai who openly defied men who demanded worship for themselves (Matt 5:12-16).

The men of oppressive rule love it when their members tremble in fear before them, but neither Mordecai or Esther gave concern for their own lives in the face of ungodly worship directed at men. Though some who’ve been hurt by  the religion of the Watchtower Society may have silently faded away, that’s not what bothers the leaders there. It’s the one’s who in plain view worship the God of the universe and proclaim His reign instead of giving such an organization the praise that they are targeting. The men at the top of the Watchtower have trained their trembling and obedient flock to not only hate and fear such vocal apostates, but also to condemn and curse the spirit-born church who have been worshiping Jesus since He first made Himself known–which was long before any Bible students or Watchtower Bible and Tract Society appeared. While the Watchtower continues to brag up themselves to draw men to their religion, Christians lift up Jesus Christ to draw men to HIM (John 12:32) for He was the one who in humility gave up His royal position and laid down His life to become our Great Deliverer. Esther displayed this same Spirit in stepping out of her royal robes on behalf of her people. If we’ve been so privileged to be clothed in the royal garment of Christ, then we ought to know our place and proclaim by word and demonstration that we will not bow to oppressive, man-made religions either, for who knows, we may have attained royalty for such a time as this!

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie

June 29, 2013 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions, Uncategorized, Watchtower Society | , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on A Woman Ought To Know Her Place

Desert Prayers

Desert Prayers by Julie McAllen

Today is the national day of prayer. I don’t really recognize this day by doing anything different, it’s just another day of prayer as usual for me. I follow a prayer schedule for the most part and the day I pray for the nation’s leaders is Wednesday, sorry fellas, missed it by a day.

© Copyright 2010 CorbisCorporation

This morning, I was praying through my Thursday list.

Recently I asked a friend to pray for me because I was experiencing a dry season. Have you ever had one of those? A sense of disconnect with God? Duty and no intimacy? I’ve had ’em  before, and I’m sure I’ll have ’em again. This is known as “the desert.”

When this happens, my first reaction is to assume it’s me. And I ask God if I’ve sinned somewhere or if  something is out of line with us. I guess that’s a good thing to ask as David even prayed “search me” to discern if there be any wicked way in him.
(Psalm 139:23-24)

I’ve come to discover that a relationship with God can be compared with other relationships. Two people can be committed to one another in marriage and have done nothing wrong, yet just get stale as any routine can. When that happens, they usually try something different. Maybe go on a trip? I make prayer pretty much a daily habit, but still find there’s no harm in shaking up the routine so that it doesn’t become just that… mere routine.

Today, on May 2, which also happens to be the national day of prayer, I have been “dutiful” but not feeling very intimate with God. I’ve even been asking Him why and if today He could “please show up and touch me.”

I had a nice, undistracted morning of prayer, and I did sense His presence and peace with me. But later, as I was reading one of my devotionals , I was blessed to know desert prayers are honored by God. I was reading from “A Year with C.S. Lewis, daily readings from his classic works.” Today’s selection was from the Screwtape Letters and it really blessed me right where I’m at. If you’re not familiar with this book, Screwtape is a demon giving advice to a fellow demon, Wormwood, so the “enemy” being spoken of is God and the “creatures” are Christians.

May 2
…And Still Obeys
Screwtape elaborates on the Enemy’s intentions:
Merely to override a human will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most
mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish.
He can only woo. For His ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it; the
creatures are to be one with Him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or
assimilate them, will not serve. He is prepared to do a little overriding at the
beginning. He will set them off with communications of His presence which,
though faint, seem great to them, with emotional sweetness, and easy conquest
over temptation. But He never allows this state of affairs to last long. Sooner
or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience,
all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own
legs — to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It
is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it
is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers
offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best…. He cannot ‘tempt’
to virtue as we do to vice. He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore
take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased
even with their stumbles. Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more
in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our
Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to
have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.
The Screwtape Letters

I really feel good about praying every day, even if I don’t “feel” God sometimes.

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie

May 2, 2013 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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