spirituality

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Week 5: Kindness

Published October 5, 2012 by Ashley Townsend

“Be Kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

Amazingly, today’s post is just going to be a little blurb about this week in the challenge not because I didn’t learn anything new, but because I really had to take this week to rely on the past Fruits I’ve been working on. Not surprisingly, I had no idea what to do differently for this portion. I mean, I’m not usually a mean-spirited crazy person, or anything like that, so how could I exhibit Kindness more? I’ve already worked on a version of it with Love, Joy, Peace, Patience ….. Ohhhh. And then, once again, I was reminded that they are all reliant on each other. This week more than any of the others has caused me to work all of the previous Fruits (and some not yet introduced in the challenge) into the past seven days to practice Kindness.      

“Love is not a feeling, it is an overmastering passion. To cast ourselves down like a waterfall….”

“She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of Kindness is on her tongue.” Proverbs 31:26

I really love this entire chapter and have poured over it so many times. But not until today—yes, we all know I’m a slow learner—did I realize that wisdom is also a large part of this week of Kindness, and even assists this whole challenge! You really need wisdom to know when to listen or give advice, to act or just be a Kind friend. Take the next week and try one—I’m only saying one!—Kind act for family, friends, or a stranger that you don’t normally do or that is out of your comfort zone. And remember to carry your wisdom, Patience, and Love with you. I’m still working on fine-tuning my wisdom skills, but from this point forward, I plan to bring my wits with me. You never know when they’re going to be needed…  

“Life is mostly froth and bubble. Two things stand like stone: Kindness in another’s trouble, and courage in your own.”

–Adam L. Gordon

Week 4: Patience

Published September 28, 2012 by Ashley Townsend

“Being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.” Colossians 1:11

This week threw me into a bit of a limbo over how I could better work on my Patience. My biggest problem lay in how I could practice it differently than I did Peace. That was when I realized how closely tied the two are and it reminded me, yet again, that each Fruit relies on the others. There were quite a few things that tested my Patience this week, and these same things also tried to erode my Peace. It was a little more difficult to attempt both of these qualities simultaneously, although challenging myself IS what I’m supposed to be doing throughout this challenge—why does it still surprise me sometimes when the water gets rough?

“And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” 1 Thessalonians 5:14

I had to remind myself of this fact more than once the past few days and continually caught myself as I started to lose my cool. I actually came up with an attack plan for this week—this I did instead of organizing the essay that is due in a few days; it’s amazing what procrastination can encourage you to do!—and I knew I had to recognize when I was becoming agitated. If you don’t realize you’re doing it, then you can’t correct it, right? This was probably the hardest part of the week, to admit when I was wrong and make the choice to change my attitude. But I knew I had to start here if I wanted to get anywhere else, and please, take my word when I say that it is far easier to identify bad behavior and put an end to it in the beginning. Let me tell you, though, that I was greatly relieved when I began to notice the signs of my slipping composure rather quickly—a tapping foot, a strand of twisted hair around my finger, clenching my jaw, rolling my eyes, and a litany of other anxious tells. Not saying I always stopped the action or changed my attitude, because it is hard to break habits, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It was a constant challenge (ah, yes, that pesky little word of improvement) to catch myself, but I made an effort, sometimes even begrudgingly so, but I really wanted to try.

“A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.” Proverbs 19:11

My epiphany about Patience and Peace being so closely linked came rather quickly at the start of this week. To practice Patience, oftentimes you have to be content and at Peace with something. It was hard to work on both at the same time, but this was actually one of my more productive weeks because I not only got to use a new Fruit (feel free to giggle, because it just sounds so funny … or maybe I’m just juiced up on java), but I was also forced to bring with me the previous skill that I had been working on. Up until this point, this whole endeavor was just a challenge, the results of which I was simply curious about. But now I am honestly excited to keep on with this and continue learning and improving.

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the LORD has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12

It is without a doubt easier to lose your cool and wallow in Grumpy Ville than to make an effort. As always, it is a choice. You decide whether or not you want to make the change. So, I guess the choice is up to you: The Easy Road, or the High Road? (Feel free to switch lanes at any time)    

Week 1: Love

Published September 7, 2012 by Ashley Townsend

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Hey, everyone! Okay, so with school forcing me back into finding my “groove” again and working (babysitting, housekeeping, data entry for the Christian Coalition, etc. Yikes-A-Bee!), I have been a teensy bit busy this past week—hence my lack of a post on my usual Tuesday. Forgive me, loyal followers! But I also decided to start a Fruit of the Spirit Challenge, and so I wanted to wait until Friday so I had the whole week to let my fruit ripen (oh, yes; I intend to produce quite a few fruit puns … Did you get the “produce” joke?). I got the idea when I was writing my “Lend Me Your Ears” post and thought that this might be another fun adventure. Okay, so every Friday for nine weeks I will post about my efforts to practice each one of the Fruits of the Spirit and let you know what I discover. This isn’t so much of a show-and-tell as it is a New Years’ resolution to see if I can improve my outlook on life, exercise more patience and self-control, and, essentially, show more kindness and love to others. I’m also not just going to practice Love or Patience or Kindness for seven days, though: I will do my best to keep these Fruits with me for life and continue to demonstrate them day to day. Easy, right? We’ll find out!

“Faith, Hope, and Love remained. And the greatest of these is Love.” 

1 Corinthians 13:13

When I decided to start this particular challenge, I didn’t really have to ask myself what Love was. I mean, the definition of Love is pretty obvious, and so I assumed that I was going to start this off with an easy-peezy challenge. Most of you are aware how often I chow down on some humbling pie (or crow; whatever), so you can just add this one to the list. The small bump I ran into—on day 1, I might add—had more to do with how to emulate Love more in my life outside of saying it to family and friends. How could I show more Love? Didn’t I already show it in my actions? Wasn’t it just the same as exhibiting Kindness and Goodness to others? And I really, really did not want to go up to a random person at the store or school and tell them I loved them, so I hoped expressing it more verbally wasn’t what I needed to do. Actually, Day 1 of this little experiment to better myself came and went without any progress being attainted; I spent the entire day trying to figure out the how. By Day 2, I decided I just needed to do something. Period. But what could I do differently?

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8

I started off slow—holding the door open for strangers, even if I had to stand there for longer than my patience allowed, and helping my mom with the groceries and dinner without being asked. Then I worked at being more forgiving when people made a mistake or interfered. I tried not to be so easily offended, to be a better listener, come through with my promises, pay attention more, laugh and smile more often with people, and be more sensitive to their needs. One of my biggest issues is that I don’t generally think before I speak, so then I decided to practice holding my tongue more and trying—really trying—to only say positive things. I was very surprised when toward the end of the week, I didn’t have to remind myself to stop and think as often, but sometimes I just knew whether or not it was a positive thing to voice. Now, keep in mind, I am the farthest thing from perfect, so I still slipped-up constantly during the week, but if I recognized it, I did my best to correct it afterwards. Don’t beat yourself up if you try to do this challenge with me and struggle with this part (or every part, if you’re like me), because it’s all about progress and growth; habits don’t change overnight! You gotta keep at it!

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son for that whoever believes in Him shall not parish

but have eternal life in heaven.” John 3:16

Hmm. Did you notice some of the things I put into practice to exhibit Love? I didn’t even realize it until yesterday, but to show Love—the first of the Fruits of the Spirit and the most important Commandment—I had to emulate Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-control. It almost makes the rest of this challenge null, because we’ve already covered all nine of the Fruits in one week! But I really want to focus on each of these individually, because obviously I learn more when I break it down. I really don’t have anything profound to say about this first week other than my realization that Love is at the center of it all. I also think that this will end up being my most challenging week because it forced me to put all the other qualities into practice, and that was not easy. I feel like Week 1 was preparing me for the following weeks and giving me a sort of “crash course” in what to expect. I don’t know about you, but I am very interested to see what happens between now and next Friday. Stay tuned for Joy!

“The road to true love never did run smooth.” –Shakespeare

Arise, Beloved!

Published August 7, 2012 by Ashley Townsend

Poem time again! I was sitting in church with my family and we were singing “We’re the People of God,” and I just started to doodle some of the lyrics. Then I added a little here and there without really thinking about it, brought my pathetically confused little scribbles back home, and spent the afternoon singing and mulling possible next lines over and over until this came about. Even though I love to read and write poetry, I am far from skilled at it, so once again, bear with me! But I thought today might as well be a good enough day to share this with you all. Oh! And Friday I’ll have my favorite books of all time up here to inspire some more reading fun. Brace yourselves for further Reading Extravaganzas and stay tuned for Friday!  

 Arise, Beloved!

I have called you by name

I fought back the darkness

That clothed you in shame

With the sword of truth

I battled those lies

To show you your worth

I have fought for and loved you

Even before your birth

Come to life, O’ Precious One!

See what I have in store for you

You have been ransomed by love

And washed in words of truth

I do not lie like flesh and bone

I profess over you only what’s true

My love, my heart, my home

Be still, Beautiful Child!

Know that I am True Love

Can any of those whose love you seek

Compare to that of the One Above?

They see you as their eyes perceive

But in My eyes I see the one you were meant to be

All of your faults and falters are plain to me

Even more so than what others can find

But a child cherished by the Holy One

Is your portrait in my mind

Take heart, Sweet Treasure!

My love is everlasting

It never falters or fades

It is not favoring

Since before your conception

I knew you by name

And the truth is, the sweetest reception

Was the joy you felt over being so changed

Be patient, Everlasting Soul!

Your name has been written since the beginning

So enjoy this life and have faith that

You will live forever with Me beyond this world’s ending

I have clothed you in white

So you will not just see it

But can at last embrace the Light

Arise, Beloved!

As the sun ascends toward the heavens

So shall you be lifted into eternal light

Because I have promised, it is so

And you are one of the few chosen lambs

For whom My Love will always grow

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