Day 30 - Forming in Peace
The spiritual practice for today is praying Scripture. There is a security in the prayers that have been set before us in the Holy Scriptures, and that security can give us peace for each new day. Choose one of the scripture passages below (or you can select both) and make the prayers a personal confession to God. Pray the scripture in the morning, in the afternoon, and before bedtime. Prayer doesn’t always have to sound formal; it can be a tender conversation between you and God the Father. For the Lord’s prayer, you will notice that I changed the first-person pronoun from plural to singular to make the prayer even more personal (“our” becomes “my,” “we” becomes “I/me”).
The Lord’s Prayer
"My Father in heaven,
may your name be kept holy.
May your kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
as it is in heaven.
Give me today the food I need,
and forgive me of my sins,
as I forgive those who sin against me.
And don’t let me yield to temptation,
but rescue me from the evil one."
The Shepherd’s Prayer
"The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
He leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to His name.
Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for You are close beside me.
Your rod and Your staff
protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely Your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
Day 29 - Forming in Joy
In Psalm 30: 11 David says “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,” and in the same chapter, verse 5 David says “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” We may not always feel like dancing or singing, but, in time, God leads us into joy.
The spiritual practice for today is worship through singing. Since the fruit of the Spirit for today is joy, let us rejoice in the day the Lord has made with a grateful heart and praise. Allow this song to fill your mind and heart today as you draw close to the Lord.
This is the Day
This is the day, this is the day
that the Lord has made,
that the Lord has made;
we will rejoice,
we will rejoice and be glad in it,
and be glad in it.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
we will rejoice and be glad in it.
This is the day,
this is the day that the Lord has made.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Amy Fleming, MA, LPC