Testing my fruit

The moment I bit into the grape I spit it in the trash. It was mushy and flavorless. The rest of the grapes were perfection – so firm they had a slight crunch to them and oozing with juiciness. A few days later, I pulled that same bowl of grapes from the fridge to pack some in Steve’s lunch. I felt each one giving it the firmness test. Each grape that gave into my squeeze found a home in the trash. As it turned out, only a handful of grapes made the cut of those worthy of a lunch spot.

Rotten fruit isn’t appealing to anyone. It’s repulsive and brings no value or enjoyment. But a vibrant, healthy display of fruit makes one’s mouth water. The more we eat healthy fruit, the more we crave it.

At points in our lives, we are wise to test the fruit in our spiritual lives. 

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

How is my love? Am I critical of others or seeing the best in them because my heart is filled with the love of God?

How is my joy? Do I look around at what is wrong in my life or do I thank God for the gift of salvation and find joy in His love?

How is my peace? Am I filled with anxiety and worry, wrenching my hands wondering how it will all work out?

How is my forbearance? Am I enduring my circumstances well and allowing God to help me persevere or am I grumbling and complaining?

How is my kindness? Am I friendly, considerate – putting others before myself, or generous? Or am I crabby, pushing to the front or annoyed at the people around me?

How is my goodness? Am I growing in desiring to do good works. They don’t save me, but if I’m spiritually healthy, I WANT to do good.

How is my faithfulness? Am I reliable, dependable, a person of my word? Can you count on me? Am I steady and sure?

How is my gentleness? What is the tone of my voice? How are my reactions? What words come out of my mouth?

How is my self-c0ntrol? Am I controlling my urges – emotional and physical. Am I controlling my temper, my thoughts, my desires?

When I look at the spiritual fruit in my life, does it look like a banquet people are drawn to or more like the old fruit in the fridge waiting to be tossed?

What if we find our fruit is more rotten than ripe?

  • Confess to God.
  • Ask God to help you grow healthy fruit. Name the ones you struggle with most.
  • Read your Bible daily. It’s how we grow in Him. If we aren’t in His Word, we can be sure our fruit will rot.
  • Write scripture on notecards that apply to the various fruits of the Spirit you are focusing on.
  • Pray. Stay connected to the One who loves us and wants the very best for us.

 

 

 

 

When You Hear of Wars and Rumors of War, Be Still & Know

A few thoughts today, friends. The news is scary, God’s Word is sure and steady. He doesn’t shake when the world shakes. He is immovable, and by His power, so are we. Stay firm, stay true, stay focused on Him more than the news. He is good and fully in control.

Here’s a video where I share a few words of encouragement.

Also, last week I released a limited edition pillowcase. The Word of the week was worry. Do not worry, be focused more on the Word than the world. Never a more fitting time for this reminder. Today is the very last day to order this pillowcase. Maybe order a few to stash away for the perfect gift when someone you care about needs this reminder.

These are pre-orders that will ship the first week of March. Order through 11:59pm 2/25/22.

http://www.renee-robinsonshop.com

Your Silent Competitor

Here’s what I know about me, in the face of competition I know I can’t win, I draw back. I’m not the competitive type who digs deep and goes all in if I don’t think I have a chance to win. Now, I will push hard until the moment I realize there is no winning chance. At that point, I tend to wonder why I’d exert so much energy for 2nd place or worse. I’m not saying this is a good thing or the right thing. It’s just how I operate.

I believe this explains why I have a strong dislike for Monopoly. I can try so hard and play so long and still end up never finding the strategy that wins the game.

Smartphones, screens, and devices are playing silently against us. They have been for many years, and they’ve decided they are in for the long game.

I want to win this game.

Try this experiment

Next time you are in a checkout line, decide ahead of time you will not pull out your phone to pass the time. Look around and count how many people have their heads up. Chances are, you won’t count many. Watch how the clerk interacts with you compared to someone who comes through with their eyes fixed on their phone. I’ve watched this play out, and it’s fascinating. To the ones who are available and ready to engage in conversation, the clerk usually converses. But to the ones who are so engrossed in the world of their screen, the world not right there in front of them, the clerk will often only engage to the extent of, “Hi, how are you today.”

Knowing the competition

The smart phone is a feisty competitor; it nearly always wins. What exactly is it trying to win? Ultimately, our heart, but it starts with our attention. Once it has our attention enough, it will hook us in with its fake offerings of laughter, entertainment, escape, information, newest trends, and world happenings that ding throughout the day and night.

If it keeps our attention long enough, it’s winning. And then it only takes the slightest ding to bring us back to it. The body reacts with hits of dopamine. We feel we need it more and more. All the while, real life, real entertainment, real laughter, real people are wanting our attention.

Who wins this game against the smartphone?

How Can We Compete

It’s the most silent competitor vying for the attention of people. Often it’s not worth the effort to compete against it. So, we go silent rather than try to win against our silent competitor.

When I’m in the company of someone captivated by their phone, I tend to draw inward. It’s hard to compete against the stream of constant entertainment of a phone. While screens feed us news reports 24/7, I have only a few new happenings to offer. Screens provide us a hit of dopamine hundreds of times a day. That’s a hard competitor.

Which Side Are We On?

If we are honest we’ve played on both sides of this game. We’ve been the one held prisoner by our phone. And we’ve been the one on the other side hoping the other person would look up eventually.

While we can’t make people around us put down their phones, we can make a personal choice to be the ones who live free of our devices.

What Winning Looks Like

First, we need to form a picture of what winning looks like.

I love watching Steve and Andrew wrestle. Steve will have total control over Andrew’s arms and legs and pin him firmly. Andrew will call out, “Look, Mom, I’m winning. I’m dominating Dad!” Clearly, he is not winning. Steve has total control over all his possible moves, yet Andrew believes he’s winning. Likely, he knows the truth and doesn’t want to admit it.

This is a picture of our relationship with our phones if we don’t decide to win this game. We can think it doesn’t control us, but our actions tell a different story.

Signs our phone dominates us:

  • We pick up our phone at every ding.
  • Sitting in a room with someone, we find ourselves scrolling or reading online rather than engaging in conversation
  • We pick up our phone without having an actual reason. We feel compelled to check.
  • We check our phones at red lights, in checkout lines, and in any spaces of downtime.
  • Boredom is uncomfortable, and we pick up our phone to solve the boredom.

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.” 2 Corinthians 6:12

This World Needs More Winners

Our world needs more winners. We need more people to decide they want to live the most abundantly alive, full, and vibrant lives imaginable. This world needs people captivated by simple wonders and able to handle boredom. Some of the greatest inventions known to man came when a human was bored. Ideas are given space to develop when the brain isn’t overstimulated.

Empathy grows when we are connecting with real humans. Screens decrease our capacity for empathy and compassion. They attempt to grow cynicism where God desires empathy.

We must decide to win.

Let’s Call It What It Really Is

Let’s be real. It’s not a game. It’s war. We are in a spiritual battle. Choose to stand and fight. Win against the smart devices that is after your attention, your heart, and your real life. Come back to the place where simple pleasures brought delight, where we paused to take in the beautiful landscape, where we didn’t want to rush away from a conversation, and where a child’s joke brings a genuine chuckle.

Life is good. Real life is worth fighting for. The enemy knows if he gets your attention, he can capture your affections and heart. And because he’s so deceptive, he will let you think you are winning. He will whisper to you that you are dominating, you are in control. The way to overpower him starts with recognizing the enemy and turning his tactics back on him. The name of Jesus is a strong tower. We pray for power and we make choices that over time replace our habits.

It’ll be a fight, but this world needs more winners. We have a Kingdom to run. We can’t run it distracted.

Be Ready So You Don’t Have To Get Ready

I heard a story last year on a podcast that made a lasting impact on me. Not only have I shared it with my boys, but I find I continue to apply the overall lesson to my own life.

Who Are You Becoming?

A mom shared how her daughter left for college, and as many do, began turning to wilder ways. She enjoyed the partying life college offered, the freedom, and the boys. Even though she was raised in a christian home and knew right from wrong, she continued choosing wrong. It was a season of her life marked by heavy alcohol use and multiple sexual partners.

Then one day she called her mom from college, “Mom! I met a boy who is everything I would want in a man. He is the kind of man I want to marry.” She went on to describe this dream guy. He was attractive, heavily involved in the campus ministry, served in the local church, and he was an incredibly nice and genuine guy.

After she shared all about him with her mom, her mom responded, “Honey, that kind of guy is not looking for a girl like you.”

Truth in Love

Ouch. The stinging truth struck her daughter’s heart. She’d been living for the present, satisfying the cravings of her sin nature. The words of her mom felt like the icy bucket of water to the face awakening her to the reality of her life, choices, and who she was becoming. Who she was in that season isn’t who she wanted to be forever, and it certainly wasn’t who the man of her dreams would be searching for.

She decided that day to turn her life back to Christ and follow Him.

Practice Being Today Who You Want to be Tomorrow

I shared this story with my boys recently in the context of looking towards what they wanted for their future and practicing toward those ends.

If they envision themselves in their dream job, what disciplines are they putting into place today to prepare for that?

One day they will have an apartment or home of their own, practice today for how they will care and manage their own home. Start in the small areas the Lord has entrusted. Manage your own bedroom and bathroom well. Complete chores fully. Become faithful with the small.

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’” Matthew 25:23

What kind of husband do you want to be? Do you want to be thoughtful, gentle, considerate, selfless? Practice today for the kind of man you want to be. Pray, ask the Lord for help.

Be Ready So You Don’t Have to Get Ready.

Do you dream of that big break, that dream opportunity? Do everything today to build the skills necessary. That way when the opportunity comes, you will already be ready.

One of my son’s has aspirations of building his own business. He has particular areas of focus. I advised him to prepare today by learning the skills, reading the books, listening to the podcasts. In a sense we are preparing our fields for the rain. We are planting the seeds and doing all the work we can in the time of waiting.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

I heard another story of a college football player who didn’t have much chance of seeing any playing time. He made a decision to practice and prepare as if he were in the starting lineup. When several injuries took out the 1st and 2nd strings, he didn’t have to get ready. He was already ready to step out onto the field. He prepared ahead of time for his opportunity.

God’s Timing

God’s timing is perfect in every way. We have no control over when our opportunities arrive, but we do have control over who we become and what we build as we wait.

Let’s decide today what dreams we have for our future in order that we can wisely decide today what action steps to take to prepare.

 

 

 

 

 

My Favorite Parental Controls For Kids’ Screens and Devices

Safe Online

Keeping your kids safe on screens can become a full-time job. The best efforts are rarely enough. I finally found something that has worked so well for our family that I wanted to share it with you all.

Screens in stages

We have introduced screens in stages with our kids. When our oldest bought a smartphone, we dumbed it down. Over time, we allowed more options for him. Our kids can join social media when they are 17, as they are more mature to handle the drama it invites as well as controlled enough hopefully to fight the urge to live on social media.

Through the years we’ve tried several services for filtering, blocking, and adding another level of parental controls. We’ve struggled to find something that worked really well. Many services require you to use a particular browser in order to be protected. That never offered much comfort to me as often my kids would forget to use the alternate browser, so they weren’t really protected. Other services interfered with our normal computer internet usage for homeschool. The sensitivity levels ended up blocking even sites required for school. Needless to say, I’ve been on the search for something that filters, blocks, and truly protects.

Filter, Block, Protect

After seeing ads for weeks in my Facebook feed, I decided to try Bark for a free trial period. Before the trial was over, I was sold. I absolutely loved how well it performed.

Here’s how it works:

  • We set up services for our 13 and 16 year olds. The 16 year old has an iPhone and a computer. The 13 year old has an iPad. You set up profiles for each child and then connect to their devices and accounts.
  • It monitors, scans, reviews, filters through their texts, emails, you tube accounts, social media accounts (if they have them), Spotify or other music streaming services, entertainment services, any games they have downloaded. It’s very comprehensive.
  • Bark sends reviews for me to see throughout the day. It only sends items to review that I may find issue with. And I set the sensitivity levels that I want for each child.
    • For instance, if Zachary listens to music on Spotify where he has an account, it sends me the song, lyrics, and time listened if it is flagged based on the criteria I choose. I also love the fact that when I review something, if I decide I’m ok with it, I can click the button to not alert me again to this song or this issue.
    • If I set up the sensitivity to flag for bullying, sexual content, and profanity and he receives a text with any of these, it sends me the actual text. The only issue I’ve found with this is that context is missing. I’ve received reviews that bothered me, but when I pulled up the full text strand, the Bark review was missing context that cleared up the issue for me.
  • When I receive an alert from Bark, I can review in my own time. If it is something they deem important, it comes with a time sensitivity warning.
    • When we recently took a vacation, Zachary wasn’t on his computer for a week. I received an alert that his internet usage was drastically reduced, which could indicate a child has opened up another method. In our case, that wasn’t the case, but I like that it alerts to things I may never consider.
    • We allowed Zachary to join Snapchat ahead of our normal age 17 rule. Bark sent me a message to let me know he had a Snapchat account.

We have explained to our kids that Bark is a tool we use to keep them safe. It’s not because we don’t trust them or think they are doing anything we aren’t ok with. But the internet is a dangerous place, and it’s our jobs as parents to protect them.

Zachary bought his smartphone a few months shy of his 16th birthday. Initially, he had little access on it. Once we found Bark, we were able to loosen his iPhone restrictions, which he appreciated.

Bark has allowed us to help Zachary as he has entered the smartphone world over the last year.

A few other things I love about Bark:

  • It’s easy to set up. I had ours set up in no time.
  • Live people are ready and willing to help if you need it.
    • We had a review come through I wanted to understand better. I sent an email and received a response back that helped me so much.
  • Excellent customer service
  • Easy to use. Not only is it easy to set up, it’s easy to use.
  • There’s options to pause your internet.
  • The customization is fabulous. I can set screen schedules and rules. For instance, if I want no You Tube access during the school hours, I can set up that rule in our profile and they can’t access it during those hours.
  • It protects even in You Tube. This is the first service I have found that does that.

As always, I only share the things I truly love with you. While many things I share offer referral fees and affiliate payments, I never ever recommend anything I don’t use and love in our family.

If you are ready to try it out, click the link below!! I’d love to hear how you like it!!

Try Bark

Never Night Again

No need for the sun and moon

Imagine it: a place that doesn’t need the sun or the moon. Everything we know from Science reveals they are necessary for life on Earth. Yet a day will arrive where those who’ve placed their trust in Jesus to be their Savior will live forever in a place that won’t need the sun or the moon because “God’s glory illuminates it, and its lamp is the Lamb.” (Revelation 21:24)It will never be night there. (Rev 21:25)

No fear, no darkness, no evil. Pure holy goodness always.

Only good and perfect

“Nothing profane will ever enter it: no one who does what is vile or false, but only those written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Rev:21:27)

It’s coming, my friends. This day will arrive. Hold firm to the promise from your Father.

If you don’t know Jesus as your Savior and you have breath in your lungs, it’s not too late. The promise is for His children. All are invited, not all will accept the invite. Accept it.

A prayer for today

Lord, today when we scroll the news and read of mandates, corrupt governments, rumors of wars, outbreaks of disease and variants, unjust everything and evil on the streets may we remember You will redeem and do more than restore. You are bringing us something new altogether. We can’t imagine with our human brains. Thank you. We wait expectantly. We love you. Amen.

PS- go read Revelation 21 and be blessed.

 

Safe Watch and Phone Devices for Kids – 50% off

One thing I’m passionate about is protecting our kids from screen addiction and the dangers of the online world. Our job as parents is to protect our kids from known dangers. Over the last decade more information and studies have become available that show us how their brains are being rewired by screens and setting up addictive patterns that will carry into their adult years.

Parents face enormous pressure from their own kids to provide them smart devices like “all the other kids”. My encouragement to parents is to HOLD THE LINE. Do not cave to peer pressure.

Gabb Wireless is a company I’ve become so grateful for. We have owned several Gabb phones and now Andrew has a Gabb watch.

Talk, text, GPS is all we wanted. No social media. No apps. No internet access. Our kids and young teens don’t need to be connected 24/7 to the outside world. They need to be kids and be free.

As adults many of us feel we are no longer free. We feel trapped and owned by our devices. The struggle is very real. Our kids don’t have fully developed brains yet. If we as adults struggle with our online consumption, how can we expect any different from our kids?

Gabb devices bridge the gap between not needing a device and the smart device world. It offers them a shallow end to wade in before jumping into the deep end.

I only share with you what I love. You know that by now. If I wouldn’t put it in my kids’ hands, I wouldn’t tell you about it.

Shop now at www.gabbwireless.com

Use promo code RENEEROBINSON when you check out.