Spout ‘N’ Pout

Image by Francine Sreca from Pixabay

            The fruit of the Spirit is … self-control. – Galatians 5:22–23 (NIV)

At the beginning of every year, I write out my goals for the coming year. In January, I noticed that “lose weight,” “manage time better” and “get out of debt” were three recurring ones, going back years and years and years—and ones on which I’d made little, if any progress.

“Hmmm,” I thought in a moment of brilliant self-revelation. “Looks like I have a little problem with self-control.”

I’ve lost and gained the same 15 pounds several times now.

Time management is almost as difficult. One of my recent weekly goals was “be more realistic in setting goals.”

As far as the finances, well, we all know how impossible it seems to get out of the hole once you’re in.

But I’d been making progress—slow, but inching ahead—until I overdrew the checking account. I’d scheduled a credit card payment to be made on the due date, figuring one of my writing checks would cover it. Normally it would have, but the check was late—a week late. And I’d forgotten about the payment.

When I went online to balance the account and noticed the $25 overdraft charge, I was sick—especially when I noticed that it had been deducted within the past hour.

I was mad. Mad at myself. But madder at God.

“I’ve been trying so hard, Lord,” I complained. “And I’ve been doing so well. How could You do this to me?”

And I’d had such a good attitude earlier that same week when an order for 100 of my books fell through. “Oh, well,” I said at the time. “That’s the way the cookie crumbles.”

Then came the overdraft—and this cookie crumbled.

“It isn’t my fault the check was late,” I whined. “And, in regard to that canceled book order, I didn’t count my chickens before they were hatched. The guy said in the spring he wanted the books. It was only last week that I noticed the money would have nicely taken care of the fall taxes, the heating oil, and the car insurance. How could You do this to me?”

I spouted. I pouted. I spouted some more. I still maintained my peace about the book order, but I stewed and spewed about the overdraft.

It took several days of complaining to the Almighty that it wasn’t my fault, I had no control over when the check came in, but He did. Yada, yada, yada.

Somewhere during one of my non-spewing moments, it occurred to me that if I’d put some money aside as a cushion, to cover the payment should a check come late, instead of living from paycheck to paycheck, I’d have avoided the overdraft.

OK, so I knew that all long. I just wouldn’t admit it.

So now I’m trying to squirrel away a little bit every payday in a “cushion fund.”

Live and learn. Even in your senior years.

I don’t know if you’d noticed, but the past several columns have covered the Fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, meekness, and faith. But I struggled with the last one—self control.

Sigh. I still do.

Dear God, I tend to forget that everything You allow in my life has a purpose. Thank You for reminding me. Amen.

Read and reflect on Galatians 5:2223 and Psalm 40

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea, Vol. 3 © 2019 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

To the Hilt

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” —Jesus, as quoted in John 10:10 (NIV)

 
“Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.” —Jim Elliott

When I read this quote by the late missionary Jim Elliott, it made me think: What does it mean to “live to the hilt”?

The hilt, the handle of a sword, is the only part visible when the blade is plunged in all the way. “To the hilt,” then, means giving something your all—one hundred percent, no reserve.

To me, living to the hilt means three things.

First, living to the hilt means exploring every God-given dream and pursuing the vision.

When I was in high school, I dreamed of becoming a writer. My life’s path led to teaching, which still remains a passion of mine, but the dream of writing never died. Twenty-three years after I graduated from college, I published my first pieces—a couple of devotionals in The Upper Room and a personal experience story in Guideposts. Recently I published my third novel.

The road hasn’t been easy. The learning curve can be steep, and it’s ongoing. When you reach one level, you find there’s another to master.

But when God gives you a dream, you must work to make it a reality. What you are is God’s gift to you. What you make of yourself is your gift to God. Remember the parable of the talents? Only the two who used what they were given received the commendation of “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

So discover, develop, and dispense your God-given gifts. Pursue the vision.

Second, living life to the hilt means doing—giving—your best, every moment, every breath. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart” (Colossians 3:23).

ALL your might. ALL your heart. Nothing held back.

And don’t let fear hold you back. Fear doesn’t come from God. What Paul wrote to the young pastor Timothy is still true today: “God has not given you a spirit of fear or timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). He has filled you with His Holy Spirit. Remember, God is for you—He’s your biggest cheerleader. And if God is for you, then who or what can succeed against you? (Romans 8:31)

So, go on, give it your best shot. Give it your ALL.

Third, living to the hilt means looking forward, not back.

Too often, we play the “if only” game, weaving a web of regret—and getting tangled in it. Don’t waste time and expend energy on what could have been. Use the past to build the future. Learn from your mistakes and move on.
So what if things didn’t turn out the way you planned—the way you wanted? God, ultimately, is in control. He knows what He’s doing. Forget what’s behind and reach forward to what’s ahead. Press on toward your God-given goal (Philippians 3:13–14).

Jesus came to give us life in all its fullness. That means living full, living abundantly, living to the hilt.

Remember the words of Abraham Lincoln: “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”

Thank You, God, for giving me a dream and showing me the way to make it come true. Amen.

Extra tea: Read and meditate on Matthew 25:14–30