Fruits of the Spirit: Peace

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you, Fruits of the Spirit, Karen May, Amayzing Graces

News was coming from all sides, and none of it was good. My mother – breast cancer. Father-in-law – inoperable intestinal cancer. Daughter’s boyfriend – cancer. Leukemia finally took my cousin much too early. Yet in the midst of the storm, peace.

I don’t always have this peace, but when I do, I know the source.

This fruit of the Holy Spirit is a peace that surpasses all understanding. Standing in the midst of chaos, knowing deeply that God is present and working in it. Looking at a difficult situation, feeling in your heart that God is calling you to go through it. And when all those things come in one right after the other, this peace allows us to look for God’s work within it.

This is the peace that lies behind my book, Be Not Afraid, and every statement uttered in the Bible telling us not to fear. It is the peace behind Peter as he steps out into the storm and starts to walk across the waves to Jesus. It is the peace that is missing as he looks away from Jesus and into the storm surrounding him.

We can find this peace. It’s challenging sometimes, but I think Peter’s story helps us to remember how. The storm is not where our focus should be. Our focus should be on the one guiding us through it. The waves are just as big, the wind is just as strong, but they are hardly noticeable next to the power and grace flowing towards us.

For today’s challenge, I want you to breathe deeply as you face something that intimidates you. The Holy Spirit is also known as the Breath of God. Breathe it in, find that peace, and go forward in it.

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Fruits of the Spirit: Joy

The Joy of the Lord is my strength, Fruits of the Spirit, Holy Spirit, Karen May, Amayzing Graces

 

This past weekend, our church had over 130 teens receive their Confirmation. I was amazed to see the atmosphere as we prepared to enter the church. It was like Christmas. Everyone was excited, congratulating and hugging each other, admiring beautiful dresses and smart-looking suits, and eagerly anticipating what was coming. I’m sure there were a few who were there because they had to be, but the joy from where I was standing was incredible.

Today, we look at joy. This fruit of the Spirit is not just happiness. It goes so much deeper.

It is a happiness that comes from knowing that God is in all things. ALL things. God is in the beautiful sunset that we see. He is in the song that makes our hearts sing. He is in the storm that rearranges the land we live in. He is in the sorrow of a loss we aren’t sure that we can bear.

This fruit of the Spirit doesn’t mean that we are never sad or that we never get angry. It does mean that in the middle of it, we are confident that God has not abandoned us. It means that we look confidently for grace when no one else thinks there is any to be found.

It also means that our happiness is rooted in something much greater than the world around us. We have eyes to see the wonder of creation with the view of the Creator. We experience angels among us.

Today in our challenge, we will let go of our stress, and cling to the joy of the Lord.

List 10 positive things in your life and do not allow yourself to limit them with a “but.” Look at them throughout the day and add to the list as you find more.

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Charity

Love one another as I have loved you, Karen May, Amayzing Graces

Photo: A Lutes

We start today with the Fruit of the Spirit that anchors all the others. When we live with charity, or complete life-giving love, we live with God’s love spilling from our hearts. It is beyond physical attraction or love based on what we receive from another. It is not a love because it makes us feel good, but a love that may even challenge us at times. It is a love that allows us to feel deeply and a love that allows us to be hurt.

If we are living a life filled with the Holy Spirit, this love allows us to see everyone around us with the eyes of their Creator. We see each one as precious. We see each one as valuable enough to die for as Christ did.

This can be a challenge. Some people are really hard to love. Some people just don’t let you in, or are living in ways that need to be changed. But when we live our lives steeped in faith, our love of God overflows into love of them. We love them enough to want more for them. We love them enough to be joyful in their successes regardless of our own situations. We love them enough to wait outside until they are ready to open the door.

Today I challenge you to live this love intentionally. Ask God to bless someone you don’t like and mean it. Find ways to show God’s love to others today. You’ll have lots of opportunities, I promise.

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By their fruits they will be known

 

The breath of the Almighty gives me life, Job 33:4, Karen May, Amayzing Graces

 

Of all the aspects of God, I think the Holy Spirit is one of the hardest to get our minds around. Think about it, God the Father and God the Son have skin on. We can picture a parental figure, we can envision a child, we can identify with a person who has walked the earth, dealt with enemies, and lived within community.

But the Holy Spirit is more like gravity. It’s there, but we’re not totally sure how it actually works. We may give the Holy Spirit credit or ask for our hearts to be filled with the Spirit, but how do we really see it?

In Scripture, the Holy Spirit is likened to the wind. We can feel it, we know when it is there, but we can’t see it, we don’t know where it comes from, and we don’t know where it is going. It’s this uncontainable, uncatchable force, but it’s one that we can use to fill our sails to take us across oceans. It’s a force that we can use to move massive windmills and create electricity for millions. It’s a force that moves mountains and gently caresses our faces.

The next few weeks, we’re going to explore the fruits of the Holy Spirit to help us connect a little more. We’re going to fill our sails and harness the energy. We’re going to move mountains and lovingly touch the souls of those who need it. I will challenge you to do something with each one to help make it real in your own life.

Join me, and let me know how it’s going. (#spiritchallenge on FB or Instagram)

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Understanding

Most people don't listen with the intent to understandThey listen with the intent to reply, Stephen Covey, Karen May, Amayzing Graces

I have a family member who is not a big fan of religion or even God for that matter. Discussions about faith are always treacherous and any reasonable facts or concepts are not going to get through. Needless to say, we don’t talk about it much.

Instead, I try to live my faith as openly as I can, talk about people who are living their faith, and share a couple grace-filled moments whenever I can.

Surprisingly we had a very open, calm, and rational talk the other day, and it all started with an agreement. I’ve found that most of the time, people who are angry or rejecting God have very reasonable problems. Whether it’s the way some Christians treat others, injustice in the world, suffering, or just the difficulty of believing in something bigger than yourself, they are all reasonable questions.

When we can understand how someone else can’t understand, we can enter into the discussion without judgment or fear. Each of these issues are hard to understand. Several of them are the same things that people of faith struggle with. The only difference is that their response is one of faith.

Injustice in the world? God put us here to do something about it and gave us the ability.  Treating each other poorly? None of us is perfect, so we look to God for reminders of how we should act. Sometimes we forget that. Suffering? God gives us grace to endure it, and can bring blessing from it. Hard to believe? Sure it is. But then again, it’s really hard to deny.

When we can come from a place of agreement, it’s amazing how much further we can go.

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Joy in my Heart

The joy is in the journey, Karen May, Amayzing Graces

 

What brings you joy? Truly brings you joy? Have you thought about that lately?

I was thinking about that the other day. I have lots of things that bring me joy – laughing with my children, hiking outside on a beautiful, crisp fall day, sitting in front of a roaring fire in the fireplace on my porch, reading a good book, enjoying the company of friends.

As I was listing them all, I realized that none of them compared to the joy I feel when I am really connected with God. Those times when the Holy Spirit is filling my spirit without restriction are incredible, although they aren’t as often as I would like. I turn my attention in other directions, or something knocks me off-center and I come down from the mountaintop.

When I have it, I just float through life and nothing can steal my joy. I see others with the love of Jesus and see His hand in everything I do. Prayer is easy and conversational. I love those moments.

All of those joyful things in my first list can help me get there. Those are the moments that I let go of the unimportant things in my life. Those are the moments that I focus on what matters and get the energy to do the things that are tedious but necessary. The key is to remember to give thanks for each one of them.

When we reflect on the gifts we have been given each day, and look for the grace in the things that were hard, we connect more and more with Jesus. Then, little by little, we head toward the joy and the peace that surpass all understanding.

What helps you find your joy?

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Study Time

Bible study, Karen May, Amayzing Graces

I’m am really looking forward to starting up a new Bible study for the fall. It’s such a great way to get into the word of God and build community. I can read on my own, and I can study on my own, but when I am part of a study, I not only get my own insight, but I get the benefit of everyone else’s perspectives. It’s incredible how often I hear something that I would never have found on my own.

We are built for community, and I love to hear from people who are just starting to dive in and from those who have been in deep for years.

I’m doing The Bible Timeline with Jeff Cavins.

What studies are you doing this year?

If you haven’t decided yet, my study Be Not Afraid is available. It’s a great way to see what we’re afraid of and how God wants us to turn from our fear and turn to Him.

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Going incognito?

 

Only when we're brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light, Brene Brown, Karen May, Amayzing Graces

I was in the airport last week, and in the course of my travels, I saw two priests, fully dressed in their clerics, and two nuns in full-length brown habits. There was no missing them, and I have to say I was a bit surprised. That was a pretty brave move there, don’t you think? I can imagine they got plenty of looks, and maybe even a few comments, and hopefully a couple conversations. I hope they were ready.

I think it’s something to consider. I am so sad for my Church. I am heartsick for the people affected by the abuse that was so rampant and implicitly approved. Yet, as I wear my faith on my sleeve or around my neck with the cross I wear, I give people an opportunity to express their anger, frustration, and pain. Then, I can give them the hope and perspective that this is not all there is to the Church. I can tell them that there are myriads of incredible people who take their faith seriously and are trying really hard to live holy and loving lives. I can tell them that there are many of us on the inside who are demanding change and a rebuilding on more solid ground. I can give them hope that this light is so much better for the victims than the dark and repression that surrounded them before all of this.

This is some of my part of the fight. I am called to give comfort and hope, encouragement and light. I am not called to take a case to court or to research the many claims that are rampant right now and need some serious investigating. Each of us has our part in this if we are willing to accept it. Called to protest? Volunteer your services to victims? Send a letter? Support a priest who is on the receiving end of undeserved hateful stares?

Find it. Pray about it. Do it. Don’t be afraid. The only way through this is to go through it.

Let’s go.

 

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What armor are you using?

The armor of God fills us with courage, confidence, hope, and love, Karen May, Amayzing Graces.png

Photo: A. May

A couple years ago, I did a study by Priscilla Shirer called The Armor of God. It was a great study, but something about it just rubbed me completely wrong. I would listen to the video and everything about me just hated it. I felt like she was yelling at me. The armor she was talking about seemed so defensive and aggressive and really didn’t sit well with me.

Of course, when I’m reacting that strongly to something that everyone else is enjoying immensely, I know that God’s got something in there for me. So I asked.

Why is this so wrong? What do you want me to see?

As I prayed, I was reminded of the story of David. His brothers were at war with the Philistines and he was too young to go. The two sides had come to a stand-off and Goliath challenged the Israelites to send their champion for a one-on-one fight. The winner took all, the loser became slaves. None of the Israelites wanted to go. Meanwhile, young David is delivering lunch for his brothers, and decides to take the challenge because he knows God is with him.

The king offers his armor for protection, but it doesn’t fit and makes it much more difficult to move. David refuses it and only takes a sling, five stones, and a faith that I envy on occasion.

This is the armor of God. The armor of our world is full of anger, hatred, vengeance, punishment, and judgment (not the kind that separates right from wrong, but the kind that makes me better than anyone else). This armor doesn’t fit and makes it very difficult to move. It makes it almost impossible to conquer evil. The armor of God, of our faith, fills us with courage, confidence, hope, love, and judgment to see what is right, what is wrong, and what needs to be done. It is freeing and light.

As we step into this fight, may we all put on the armor of God. Watch for those other pieces – they’ll creep in before you know it. Take them off. The armor of God is enough.

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Should I stay or should I go?

It’s Labor Day and summer is over. I’ll be moving back into my regular schedule of posts, and putting away the Music Mondays and Fun Fridays. Unfortunately, I think that it is none to soon.

I think this sex abuse scandal is going to be front and center for a little while. As I said earlier, this isn’t a bad thing. But it sure is a difficult thing. It sure is an emotional thing. And for that reason, I’ll be addressing it for the next few days.

First, I want to be clear that I have never and will not start to believe that the evil actions of any person or persons says anything about the existence of God or the love of Jesus Christ. It’s a challenge sometimes to find where God is in those moments of pain and crisis just as it is a challenge in moments of illness and suffering, but it doesn’t mean He’s not there. It’s just a lot harder to see because our view is distracted.

Second, I’m attaching a video by Bishop Robert Barron with a call to action that I agree with. This is not the time to leave the Church. This is a time to stay and fight for it. These behaviors and attitudes are not the Church that I know should exist. It’s not the Church that we claim to be. None of this is in any of our tenets of faith. None of it.

There are many higher educational institutions who are being accused of egregious sexual abuse and coverup. We are calling for the perpetrators to be removed and for the schools to create a safe environment and protect those entrusted to their care. We are not calling for the school to be shut down. Michigan State, Penn State – we need these schools. We just need them to be better.

It is the same with the Catholic Church. We need this Church. As an organization, they run the most orphanages in the world, often with the religious orders running them living in deplorable conditions in order to give the most they can to the children in their care. You’re not going to find many private citizens to do this kind of work willingly or without corruption. Catholic Charities is in every crisis event – hurricane, earthquake, fire – because they were already there, and they stay long after all the other charities have gone. St. Vincent de Paul serves the poor in every community, providing financial, emotional, and spiritual support to those in most need. Mother Teresa’s nuns serve the poorest of the poor with dignity and love, taking in the most unwanted. This is the Church. Go there, help out, build up what is right while we take out what is wrong.

It’s so backwards to leave. That’s the thing that has always confused and frustrated me with any sexual assault/abuse. The victim is the one who is embarrassed, ashamed, pulled out of their lives, and sometimes even blamed. Who came up with that? How does that even begin to work? The word at the beginning of that sentence should be “The abuser.” Always. The ones to leave the Church shouldn’t be the ones who are faithful, hopeful, loving, and innocent. It should be the abusers. Let’s not get the two confused anymore.

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