Day 28 - Forming in Love
Today begins the final segment with the Fruit of the Spirit in our 40-day Lent journey. For this last portion we will focus on being formed by the Holy Spirit through spiritual practices. These spiritual formation exercises will not include as many questions as previous sections, instead an offering of daily guidance for a spiritual practice that helps to conform us to the Lord’s will. Spiritual practices not only draw us into deeper relationship with the Lord, but also help with mental health and well-being.
The spiritual practice for today is Scripture memorization. We return to the fruit of the Spirit with a few verses about love. Select one or several of the verses below about love and spend time today memorizing the verse(s). Notice the comfort that memorizing Scripture will bring to you today.
“Jesus replied. ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the greatest commandment. A second is equally important: love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Matthew 22: 37-39
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
John 3: 16
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
1 Corinthians 13: 4-7
“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
1 John 4: 10-11
Day 27 - Restoring Self-Control
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, training us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live in a manner that is self-controlled and righteous and godly in the present age.”
Titus 2: 11-12
Meditate or Reflect
We live in a world of excess and accessibility: if we want something, it can be delivered to our door in a day or less at the touch of a button. Food delivery, grocery delivery, everything under the sun from Amazon delivery – it seems all these conveniences have made us overindulgent. I love books, the traditional kind that you can hold and turn the pages. I love the smell, the texture, a beautiful cover, and if there is a collection or series – I want them all. Admittedly, I have given in from time to time and purchased all the books from an author in a single purchase. I lacked self-control because my desire became impulsive, and I lacked the “holy pause” to make the right decision. Impulse control can be a challenge, it can be emotionally and even physically painful to deny our “wants.” In those moments we can lose sight of what is good for the soul simply to placate the desires of the “self.” The visible image I have of the desiring “self” is as an emotionally unregulated toddler having a tantrum on the toy aisle of the grocery store – it’s loud and nonsensical. But we have a Helper that is more accessible than an online shopping cart, and the Helper is leading us and training us to live self-controlled, godly lives. When I do boundary work with clients I always say: “time and space are our great tools.” Many times, the most important boundary we set is with ourselves; living in a way that is neither too loose, nor too rigid. Self-control begins with a holy pause as we bring our desires (even the small stuff) under the Lordship of Jesus. Praying for direction, letting go of the excessive, and delighting in the only thing that really matters: “the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvations to all” and that we “live in a manner that is self-controlled and righteous and godly.”
Can you remember a time when you did not act with self-control? Did you have any regret for not acting with self-control? Can you recall a time when you did use self-control? How was the experience of self-control? Spend some time with God today reflecting on how He is training you in self-control with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Be mindful of self-control today. Set the intention to have a holy pause before acting on impulses, desires, or wants. Take a moment and allow the Holy Spirit to show you where you need more self-control.
The verse for today reminds us where our help comes from, and it reminds us of the only thing that really matters in life – salvation in Christ. When we allow ourselves to be trained by the Holy Spirit, we will more frequently lean into the holy pause for self-control. In this moment, ask God to lead you in restoring self-control to your life. Then journey with the Holy Spirit to restore self-control in your soul. Take a deep breath. Let self-control guide your walk today.
Day 26 - Restoring Gentleness
“Brothers and sisters, even if a person is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual are to restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you are not tempted as well.”
Galatians 6: 1
Meditate or Reflect
In many of our public and private spaces, we have lost a spirit of gentleness. In political discussions, cultural debates, theological disagreements, the way we speak to family or friends – the tone has become more aggressive, and far less gentle. Looking at Twitter can be an astonishing glimpse into the heart of man. Most surprisingly, Christian disagreements on Twitter are reminiscent of the frenzied accusations of “I saw Goody Proctor with the devil” in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Our pitchforks and torches have become tweets and screens. In many ways we are grieving the decay of our culture; perhaps, we are grieving the sinfulness of the world, and sometimes we lose the heart of true discipleship, which is in our gentleness. What if we were more winsome and less aggressive in our theological disagreements? What if we met “wrongdoing” (sin) with the gentleness of Jesus? The way Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman, and the woman who was being accused of adultery was truthful, loving, and gentle. His gentleness invited them into deeper knowing, and into wanting a greater relationship with Him. Are we being gentle in a way that invites others to grow in deeper relationship with Jesus? Jesus was responsive to others, not reactive. A reaction often happens without much thought, but a response takes time and thought. When we give into our reactions, or the carnal part of being human, we miss out on gentleness and being formed to Christ-likeness. Slowing down to respond, and being engaging are a few ways to grow in gentleness with one another.
Can you remember a time when you did not respond to wrongdoing with gentleness? I think most of us have had reactions that were either angry, shame-inducing, aggressive and the like when met with wrong-doing. When you have not responded in gentleness, were you able to return to the person in a gentler spirit? Can you recall a time when you did respond to wrong-doing with a spirit of gentleness? Spend some time with God today reflecting on how He leads you and corrects you with gentleness. A God who speaks truth in love and gentleness.
Be mindful of gentleness today. Set the intention to meet others in their wrong-doing just as Jesus did – with truth and gentleness. Also, be intentional with your self-talk. When you have made error or sinned, confess and repent, but meet yourself with a gentle spirit. Take a moment and allow the Holy Spirit to show you where you can have more gentleness.
The verse for today is really about discipleship, the ways in which we help each other to grow in our walk with the Lord. Be prepared for how you will engage a brother or sister in Christ who has fallen in some way. Sometimes the gentle response is no response, especially if we can’t say anything that is gentle. But the way of Jesus is compassion, and gentleness is a type of compassion. In this moment, ask God to lead you in restoring gentleness to your life. Then journey with the Holy Spirit to restore gentleness in your soul. Take a deep breath. Let gentleness in your words, tone, and action be a restoring presence.
Day 25 - Restoring Faithfulness
“Now faith is the certainty of things hoped for, a proof of things not seen.
Hebrews 11: 1
Meditate or Reflect
My grandmother was bed-ridden for nearly the last year of her life. I visited her often as she was my dearest friend. She was no longer able to speak, had lost most of her memory, and she slept much more than she was awake. On one particular visit during the last weeks of her life, something spectacular happened on a February afternoon. I was standing with my mother next to my grandmother’s bedside, and we saw Grams’ eyes opening wide and bright like they were dancing over something wonderful in the very empty corner of the room. We just knew we weren’t alone that day. There were things mom and I could not see, but Grams was making her transition, and quite possibly had her lifetime of faith becoming sight just as Ephesians 5: 14 says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” And we, too, had the assurance that angels were present to escort her home to Jesus. I feel very blessed that I can recall this experience, and many others where I have had the assurance of “things not seen” that were working on my behalf. Have you experienced or witnessed the marvelous assurance of knowing, of having faith in what you cannot see? Sometimes when we are going through a difficult time, it can be challenging to have assurance in things not seen. In fact, I remember the difficult time of seeing Grams suffering and asking God why He was taking so long to deliver my Grams. Our timing and His timing don’t always align, but when we open up to His timing, we will see through faith the blessed assurance of things not seen.
Can you remember a time when you were filled with doubt or questioning more than you were filed with faith? What moved you from doubt or questioning to faith? And, can you recall a time when “things not seen” strengthened your faith? Spend some time with God today reflecting on the unseen ways that He has been working in your life.
Be mindful of faith today: having the assurance of things hoped for, but not yet seen. Set the intention to trust in the not yet visible God, committing to the assurance of things not seen. Take a moment and allow the Holy Spirit to show you where you can have a little more faith.
In the future when you endure challenging or difficult times, remain mindful that God is working on your behalf. Though you may not see it, we can have faith that God is with us, and He is for us. In this moment, ask God to lead you in restoring faithfulness to your life. Then journey with the Holy Spirit to restore faithfulness in your soul. Take a deep breath. With each new day, keep the faith in things hoped for, but not yet seen.
Day 24 - Restoring Goodness
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Romans 12: 9
Meditate or Reflect
The Gospel of John recounts the following words of Jesus: “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (16: 33). While this is truth, it is a challenge to be of “good cheer” while undergoing tribulation. The unfortunate fact is bad things happen to good people. When bad things happen in life, it is easy to revert to an “eye for an eye” mentality. But Jesus leads us in a new way: do not overcome evil with evil, but with good; that is, be morally honorable. Be good. Not passive, but good. One of the great modern Christian examples we have of overcoming evil with good is Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Under threat of beatings, use of deadly weapons, and jail from law enforcement, Dr. King united with people of one voice – all against the evils of racism and segregation. They marched in peace and spoke in peace to overcome evil with good. My first years of teaching began in a violent part of southeast Dallas where a small part of the student population was equally violent. It was a hard place to “be of good cheer” on most days. Gathering my materials before the first bell, I often heard a reassuring gospel melody from a lovely mentor teacher: “this is the day, this is the day that the Lord hath made. I will rejoice, I will rejoice and be glad in it.” And suddenly, I could “be of good cheer.” We may not be able to change the evils of the world around us, but we can change how we face it – with goodness in the spirit of godliness.
When you have been faced with the evils of the world, how have you typically responded? Eye for an eye? With neutrality, perhaps just trying to survive (this is a fine option sometimes)? By doing something good for your friends or community? Or, by taking heart that God has overcome the evils of this world? Take a moment and reflect on the goodness of God. He has overcome the evils of this world with the Good News of our Savior, Jesus.
Do you seek the good in your daily life? Do you put on the spirit of good cheer knowing that God is with you, and He is a conquering King? Set the intention to be good to yourself and others as it is the way of Jesus that will help you to overcome or persevere in the face of evil. Take a moment and allow the Holy Spirit to show you where you may have opportunities for goodness.
Sometimes we are grieved by the evil around us. It is ok to grieve when evil seems so prevalent. And then, we must seek the Good. Being of good cheer because Jesus overcomes evil, even when we can still only see evil, He overcomes it. We can begin each day by following the way of Jesus and choosing to be good. In this moment, ask God to lead you in restoring goodness to your life. Then journey with the Holy Spirit to restore goodness in your soul. Take a deep breath. With each new day, be of good cheer knowing that Jesus has overcome the world.
Day 23 - Restoring Kindness
“Anyone who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty.” Job 6: 14
Meditate or Reflect
A few months ago, when I was at the grocery store, there was an elderly woman short of money in the checkout, and the person behind her paid the difference. Or the times when we hear a person is particularly sad or lonely, and a friend shows up to be a shoulder to lean on. When I was a high school teacher, I saw countless classrooms become safe places for students during the lunch hour, or teachers with extra lunch items for hungry students. When I think of kindness toward one another, I think of stories such as these. Stories of generosity remind me not only that we are capable of kindness, but also that our creator made us to be kind. However, we also see far too many news stories these days where people are selfish, cruel, vulgar, and demoralizing toward others. In many ways the rhythm of the world has become self-centered, and few make time for kindness. But when we make kindness a way of life, we are reminded of the words of Jesus: “I tell you the truth, when you did it [showed kindness] to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” (Matthew 25: 40). Kindness is the way of Jesus.
Take a breath and recall any time where you were unkind or didn’t make the time for kindness. And recall a time when you were able to offer kindness to another. And if you have received kindness from someone, what was that experience like? Take a moment, and if you need to repent of any unkindness, confess it to God and release the burden of that sin to Him – there is forgiveness in Christ when we repent, we don’t have to carry the burden any longer. And reflect on the graciousness of God’s kindness toward you.
How are you doing with kindness in your own life? Are you able to be kind to yourself with gracious words, and being kind to your body with exercise and nutrition? Are you responsive to others with kindness and helping when you can? Set the intention to be kind to yourself and others as it is a glimpse into the heart of who God is. Take a moment and allow the Holy Spirit to show you where you may have opportunities for kindness.
Sometimes we must work at kindness. Not everyone will accept help, we can try, but if help in the form of kindness is not wanted, we can accept the boundary and move on. We can begin each day by following the way of Jesus and choosing to be kind. In this moment, ask God to lead you in restoring kindness to your life. Then journey with the Holy Spirit to restore kindness in your soul. Take a deep breath. With each new day, show kindness to others and to yourself as it will lead into deeper relationship with the Lord.
Day 22 - Restoring Patience
“We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food”.
2 Corinthians 6: 3-5
Meditate or Reflect
In the verse for today we learn that patience is a key attribute of ministers of God; and we are all called to be ministers in some way: as parents, in our jobs, in our community, as friends and family members. So, when patience is tested or running thin it is an indication that something is out of balance. There are various causes that lead to impatience: taking on too many things that presses us short on time, or feeling like too much time has passed and the results we desire are not happening soon enough, or others are demanding of our time, or we are in a long period of enduring hardship with no end in sight, and sometimes impatience can be a defect of character. So how do we wait patiently while we endure trials of various kinds? First, we can seek quiet places where we ask God for direction. Second, we use the hands and feet that God gave us to do our part while we wait: seeking answers or opportunities, ministering to others, walk in the presence of God. And third, we wait quietly without grumbling so we do not lose faith in God’s purpose for us; although, we must talk to others in our faith circles and ask for prayer. Being patient isn’t always easy, sometimes it can bring us to brokenness, but our patience can bring us closer to God in our dependence on Him, and our patient perseverance becomes an amazing witness that glorifies God.
Take a breath and recall any time (or patterns of behavior) when you have been impatient, or have been treated with impatience. And recall a time when you had to be patient. How did you manage to be so patient? Were you prayerful? Did you ask others for prayer? Take a moment and recall God’s great patience with you. Ask God to help you in the waiting, or help you in slowing down.
Are you mostly patient these days? Or are you finding it is a challenge to remain patient under your current circumstances? Consider the areas of your life where you would like to experience restored patience. You can acknowledge if your current circumstances are testing your patience and make a plan for enduring hardships with God’s help. Take a moment and allow the Holy Spirit to show you where you need to have patience restored.
There may be seasons in your life when patience does not come easy. And some trials may be endured with no relief in sight. But, continue to patiently wait. In this moment, ask God to lead you in restoring patience to your life in any of the areas that came up for you today. Then journey with the Holy Spirit to restore patience in your soul. Take a deep breath. With each new day, strive to patiently endure any trials, knowing that patience strengthens your witness as others look to you and the witness of your ministry.
Day 21 - Restoring Peace
“Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.”
Luke 1: 78-79
Meditate or Reflect
Recalling from the first part of our journey with the fruit of the Spirit, we learn that shalom is the Hebrew word for peace and it means being at ease, unharmed, harmony, and wholeness. Peace is a state of being that lacks nothing and has no fear of being troubled. So when peace has been disturbed it can leave us fearful, disconnected, out of step, uneasy, or feeling in harm’s way. One of my specialty areas as a counselor is working with trauma, and the very nature of trauma is a peace disruptor. Trauma disrupts the harmony of our nervous system, disrupts and distorts our thought processes, and can disrupt our relationships. Trauma disturbs our peace. In some way we have all seen trauma, whether through lived experience (abuse, neglect, crime, war, assault) or by vicarious observation (witnessing an accident, world events, stories of tragedy on the newsfeed). From a spiritual perspective, we live in a world where darkness surrounds us. Many times, the darkness is not of our own making, but when we have born witness to the darkness, it disturbs our peace. However, we learn from the verse in Luke that God’s tender mercy, in the Light of the world that is Jesus, has come upon us, and He is our Light as we walk through darkness. If you have endured a trauma that has left you feeling that your peace is disturbed, I encourage you to talk to someone: a counselor, a spiritual director, or a trusted advisor. And ask the Lord to direct your steps in restoring peace.
Take a breath and recall any time when you have felt your peace was disturbed – try to hold onto the thought briefly, don’t let it take up occupancy in your mind. And recall a time when you experienced peace – the harmony and wholeness of God’s abiding peace. How did you arrive at this place of peace? Over time? With the help of others? Or, like the morning light that suddenly illumined and gave you peace? Take a moment, and allow the peace of God to be present with you – like “the morning light from heaven.”
Are you living in peace these days? Or are you finding that past experiences, or troubles in the world, or problems in your personal have disrupted your present shalom? Consider the areas of your life where you would like to experience restored peace. We can acknowledge that darkness in the world will exist until Jesus returns, but still strive for personal peace until then. Take a moment and allow the Holy Spirit to show you where you need to have peace restored. Peace may not mean repaired relationships, but we can make personal decisions to let the tender mercy of God’s light in for personal peace.
There may have been times of darkness in your life that will never make sense. Sometimes moving out of the darkness of a peace disturbed can take time and a lot of work, but when you seek Him you will find that the Holy Spirit is a kind and wise guide leading you to the only perfect peace that is the Prince of Peace. In this moment, ask God to lead you in restoring peace to your life in any of the areas that came up for you today. Then journey with the Holy Spirit to restore peace in your soul. Take a deep breath. With each new day, follow the morning Light from heaven and let Him guide you on “the path of peace.”
Day 20 - Restoring Joy
“Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain me with a willing spirit.”
Psalm 51: 12
Meditate or Reflect
Joy and happiness are often used interchangeably, but there is a great difference between the two. Happiness is laughter, the delight in being with someone you care about, it’s birthday presents, and chocolate cake. Happiness feels great for a time, but it is temporary. Joy is the sublime confidence in knowing that God is in control. Joy is not always accompanied by laughter, sometimes joy can come in the presence of tears. But, joy is eternal. Sometimes our joy can be shaken by our circumstances, losses of relationship, or in unforeseen changes. We can experience diminished joy in illness, job loss, broken relationships, indecision, and a loss of purpose or calling. For many years I was an educator, and I experienced a great joy that God was present with me throughout that calling. But near the end of my teaching career, I discerned the calling was over, and I just felt hollow, and my next career was not yet certain. My joy was greatly diminished, and I grieved through many tears in the not-yet-knowing what my next calling was. After sorrow, and waiting, and plead-praying, God gave me a new call to become a counselor. And just like that, joy was restored. God was always in control, especially when I couldn’t see it. The verse for today is spiritual direction for what we do when we are feeling less joy: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain me with a willing spirit.” The truth is it is easier to experience joy when everything is going well. But when joy is shaken, we must do our best to direct our thoughts to the joy that matters most – Salvation. And in the waiting and plead-praying and continuing to "ask, seek, knock" (Matthew 7: 7), for God to sustain you with a willing spirit. It is also helpful to allow others who will keep you company with compassion, and to encourage you, and to listen to you.
Take a breath and remember a time when you were waiting or struggling to find joy. Also recall a time when you were confident God is in control, and what it was like to experience that joy. Joy often comes after a time of waiting or feeling lost and a little out of control. Take a moment, and with the gift of hindsight, remember the times when you were confident God is in control. The assurance of joy sustains the willing spirit.
How are you pursuing joy these days? Are you abiding with God and seeking His direction? Or, have you taken matters into your own hands without seeking God first? Consider the areas of your life where you can pursue joy – abiding with God and trusting that He is in control. Take a moment and allow the Holy Spirit to show you where you can trust God to be in control, in the big things and the small things, and ask for His direction.
Our greatest assurance in times of waiting is that God is in control. God’s answers may not always be what we desired, but His plans give us direction and teach us to follow Him. In this moment, proclaim that God is in control of your life even in the waiting, the hurting, and disappointments – let the joy in the Lord restore your soul. Take a deep breath. With each new day, proclaiming God is in control and daily seeking His direction in silence and solitude.
Day 19 - Restoring Love
“When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, and said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to Him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept. So the Jews were saying, ‘See how He loved him.’”
John 11: 33-36
Meditate or Reflect
In this third segment of our journey with the fruit of the Spirit, we turn to restoring and repairing any spiritual fruit that has endured a loss or relational wound. For instance, when we have endured a loss with love, or had joy stolen, or peace disrupted, and so on; any type of loss may cause us to become guarded or hesitant to experience love, joy, peace, kindness again. But we must seek to live fully in the Spirit, so let us turn to love.
The verse for today is about the death of Lazarus, a dear friend to Jesus. And, Jesus, who is God and man and sinless, shows us what grief looks like. He loved Lazarus, and also his sisters who were grieving Lazarus. And Jesus meets them in their grief and weeps with them. There are times in life where we have experienced love and loss, or we have loved a dream that never came to be, or we loved something and prayed for it before it ever existed. Sometimes love and loss looks like it did for Mary, and Martha, and Jesus: the loss of a friend, a sibling, a parent, a child. Sometimes love and loss is experienced through a divorce, or not getting the career you wanted. Sometimes love and loss is experienced in the desire to be married yet remaining single, or the desire to have a child yet remaining childless. If you have loved and experienced loss, Jesus meets you in it, and He holds you in your grief. The rest of the story of Lazarus assures us that for those who know Jesus, He will raise the dead to life, and we will experience restored love despite our loss.
Take a breath and remember anyone or anything that you have loved and then experienced loss. Recall the feeling of loving another, being loved well, or the hope you had for loving what never came to be. Our love for one another is a blessing from God, and it is good to meet Him in this moment with any grief you carry from loving. Take a moment and, perhaps, imagine Jesus meeting you in this loss, just as He met Mary and Martha. The warmth of love always remains.
How are you making room for love these days? Are you closed off to love from loss, relational wounds, or unmet dreams? Consider the people or things in your life that you can more deeply love, whether it’s your child, your friend, or worshipping with fellow believers. Take a moment and allow the Holy Spirit to show you where you can love and be loved more fully.
There is no greater love than the love of God, and His love for you is eternal. His love for you is pure, it is sacrificial, it is a strong tower, and it restores your soul. In this moment, open your mind, heart, and soul and receive God’s love for you – let it restore your soul. Take a deep breath. With each new day, follow God and be filled with His love for you.
Amy Fleming, MA, LPC