I believe in mermaids because I saw them at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park in Florida, and I have the t-shirt to prove it.
My grandson does not believe in mermaids; he’s never seen one and thinks I am ridiculous to make such a statement. When I mentioned that I am a truthful adult and couldn’t he just believe me when I said that I’d seen them, he laughed at me. Trying to make a point, I asked him if he believes in platypuses even though he’s never seen one. He replied that of course he believes in platypuses because they are real. I asked him how he knew that and did he have a t-shirt to prove it. He replied with a tone of justification that he knows platypuses are real because he learned about them on a cartoon called Phineas and Ferb, at which point the conversation ended because we were cracking up. It was a silly conversation from start to finish. He can’t go by faith that mermaids exist because he’s never seen one. On the other hand, he believes in platypuses because he received the information from a believable source. Don’t even get me started on defining believable sources.
I believe in God. I believe that He lives in my heart because I had the indescribable experience where my heart opened and God flooded it with absolute faith that He exists. I could type page upon page explaining what happened to me, but there’s a good chance that while my experience would resonate with some, it wouldn’t resonate with everyone because their experiences are different. That doesn’t change the fact that so many people have the same belief system no matter what path they took to get there.
My heart opened, God came in. It would be unthinkable, life-destroying, to try to kick him out.
2016 has been a difficult year for me. It’s been life-changing, marriage-destroying, heart breaking and more painful than any time I’ve ever experienced. I’ve cried more tears this year than maybe my whole life up until this point. I’ve been angry and resentful at God at times, and I’ve told him so. In the middle of my situation, I’ve cried out, “Why me?” and not received a satisfactory answer. Maybe there isn’t one. Maybe I have to experience this year, get to the other side of my personal tragedy so that I can move forward on a path that God wants to lay before me. I have to walk it in faith, which is, at times, pretty darn sucky. (I am not sure I should even say that word in a church blog but I think God values honesty over pretty word choices.)
But here’s the thing: though I have not been the perfect Christian during my difficult times, God has been a perfect, loving God despite my angry outbursts, my resentment and tears, my demands for explanation. New people have come into my life with experiences and advice that I would not have sought or understood before. New experiences have shown up at my doorstep that I wouldn’t have considered before. I have grown in ways I couldn’t have before. Though I have anxiety attacks regularly, I breathe through them with the surety that good things are on the horizon because I know absolutely that God is swirling within the mix.
I don’t know how to tell another person how to walk in faith through difficult times. But I can say that throughout this year, God has been in the middle of my struggles. Miracles have happened. Because God lives in me, I have been able to slog through the mud of my life and still appreciate that the rain that makes the mud also provides life to the earth and to me. The tragedy and blessings walk hand in hand, and I wouldn’t be able to see them without God allowing the bad experiences so I can appreciate the good experiences. I believe that I am capable of seeing the blessings because God lives within me. He provides the nuance and color to my life. He gives me faith.
Written by Kathy
My first significant memory of generosity occurred when I was living on my own for the first time with my first child. I brought home $103 a week. My budget was a ballet of spending the least amount possible while providing for my son. I remember buying two apples and a quart of milk figuring that I could stretch them out for 4 days if I gave him half an apple a day and a cup of milk with his dinner.
At one point, I was short on rent $60. I don’t remember why, but I remember putting my son down for a nap and crying for a long time. In the midst of my hopelessness, the phone rang. It was a man I’d met at a church I’d visited once a couple of weeks previously. He said God told him to call and asked what I needed. Reluctantly, I told him that I was worried about my rent for the month, feeling uncomfortable sharing my problem. After talking a bit, I revealed that coming up with $60 seemed impossible. We prayed over the phone, and I felt good that he’d cared enough to contact me. The next day there was an envelope with $60 in it by my door when I came home from work. To this day, I don’t know how he knew my number, where I lived, or how he knew to call. I never saw or heard from him again.
That gift of $60 is still with me rippling outward and expanding in my life. It taught me that miracles happen. It’s moving me now as I write about it. His generosity taught me how to give without expectation, and I learned by trying to follow his example that giving benefits the giver as much or if not more than the receiver.
Written by Kathy
Throughout September, our contributors are sharing their thoughts on the fruits of the Spirit.
For my first post, I am tasked with writing a short piece about the fruits of the Spirit. Easy, I thought. I love taking pictures and have thousands to choose from, so I scrolled through and tried to match a picture with one of the fruits – love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Nothing seemed to fit. No aha revelations hit me to write about why any one picture embodied one of the fruits.
Next I tried looking at a picture I like and listening inside myself to the feelings it evoked. That worked better, but what I found is that the feelings built upon each other and I realized (for about the millionth time) how vast is God’s wisdom. Love evokes joy, which evokes peace, which brings on the forbearance, which leads to kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. They build upon each other, offering baby steps to reaching the fruits.
I am sure that the order of the fruits is significant and that, for instance, faithfulness without love might be like walking a treadmill with a goal to get to North Dakota but finding that at the end of the walk I’m still on that darn treadmill. If faithfulness is the walking and love is the action of setting the goal and achieving it, I’m not going to reach North Dakota any time soon if I depend upon faithfulness without love.
Can there be gentleness without forbearance? A toddler learning to pet a puppy or kitten has to be taught to be gentle often being reminded over and over. It takes forbearance to learn that another creature is smaller and must be cared for. It takes forbearance to temper one’s actions to be gentle. It takes forbearance for children (and sometimes teenagers and adults) to learn that conking one another over the head in order to get the toy they want is not acceptable behavior.
It seems to me that the fruits are a marvelous mixture teaching me how the Spirit blends feelings with actions. Love is a feeling that results in loving behavior towards self and others. Joy has been known to produce bursts of song and dance. Peace — that sought after, elusive, deep down feeling — surges through every fiber of my being and then radiates out. When I am peaceful, my life is peaceful and the people around me react differently. And so it goes with each of the fruits.
I am so grateful that God’s love is freely given so that I can feel it inside and know that even if I am not filled with joy and peace that follow love, they are real and available. It’s a relief to me that self-control is at the end of the list. I hope that is God’s way of assuring me that even though self-control is difficult, it is attainable. Maybe it’s at the end of the list because I have to learn the value of the other fruits before I can understand and have more self-control. Perhaps my human nature that says, “If you want ice cream then go get ice cream,” needs to learn forbearance first so that I understand that wanting and needing are different beasts.
Probably there are Bible studies out there that expound upon Galatians 5:22-23, and maybe I should go find one now that my interest has been aroused. Before I do that, I’d like to show you a few of the pictures that fill me with some of the fruits. These are pictures that jumped in front of me and I was fortunate to capture a miniscule piece of God’s beauty. Looking at them fills me with awe at the majesty of the world God allows us to live in, and in the process, the fruits flow through me.
Written by Kathy
The 12:12 Project is sponsored by Katy First United Methodist Church.