December 5, 2023 -


Growing Hope and the Fruit of the Spirit

Kathy Khang and Matt Mikalatos

Kathy Khang and Matt Mikalatos
In light of violence and division, authors of Loving Disagreement: Fighting For Community Through the Fruit of the Spirit, Kathy Khang and Matt Mikalatos, share how the fruit of the spirit brings joy, hope and goodness in the midst of tension. This episode is an encouragement and admonition to us today, to allow God to transform and grow us in the fruit of His Spirit: : peace, joy, love,patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self control.

Episode Reflection

An Invitation to Explore: 

Kathy and Matt invite us to see the fruit of the Spirit as a way of informing how our lives, communities and selves are shaped and formed. Take some time to think about how you reflect and think about being a Christian: is it shaped by the fruit of the Spirit?

A Scripture To Cherish: 

“On the other hand, if we follow the guidance of the Spirit, our lives will bear good spiritual fruit. The Spirit will grow in us the fruit of love and joy, peace and patience, kindness and goodness, faithful hearts, gentle ways and self control.”

-Galatians 5:22-23, First Nations Version

A Practice To Try: 

A Practice for Joy

Kathy Khang shared that experiencing joy is a practice for her, where she practices leaning into the presence of God that is able to hold in tension the difficult and the beautiful. Here are some ways you can practice this week:

  1. Create space for silence in your life. Whether that’s taking a deep breath and quieting your mind or  taking a break from social media to quiet the world around you. 
  2. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you about where he is present. 
  3. Recount the realities you are experiencing, not ignoring the hard things but bringing them to the forefront at the same time that you acknowledge the reasons God has given you for joy: it could be the sun, a child’s laugh, a friendship, etc. 

A Practice For Relationship

Matt shared about how legalism and obedience became the driving force in his relationship with Jesus instead of loving intimacy. In order to combat that, he started doing something that could sound counterintuitive. Instead of doing a daily devotional and feeling guilty on the days he missed, he only did the things he desired in his relationship with Jesus. 

Here’s a practice to help you connect with Jesus from a place of joy and desire: 

  1. Slow down. Ask yourself, what do I want to do in my relationship with Jesus? How do I enjoy interacting with him?
  2. Are there things I’m doing just because I feel obligated? This week, I give myself permission to skip that thing. 
  3. Press in on the practice or way of relating that you desire. Maybe it’s singing along to worship music, prayer or taking walks outside. Maybe it’s not traditionally “spiritual” like cooking. Invite Jesus into that part of your life, just like you would invite a friend to enjoy something with you. 

A Key Thing To Remember: 

The fruit of the spirit isn’t a list of things to do or not do, they all stem from one source, the spirit of God. As you spend time with God and allow His Spirit to fill and lead you, you can trust Him to grow all of these things in your life. 

A Resource To Help: 

Loving Disagreement: Fighting For Community Through The Fruit of The Spirit by Matt Mikalatos and Kathy Khang. 


[00:00:00] Chealsia: What does it mean to be a Christian? Recently, I’ve been wrestling with calling myself that. I want to be associated with Christ, but I don’t want to be associated with hate, colonialism, or oppression. I know too many people who have been harmed by churches and spiritual leaders, who have been gaslit, stifled, and held to impossible standards.

And then I think of Galatians 5:22-23, that says this, but the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Welcome to the Created For podcast, a space where everyday lives intersect with God’s redemptive story. 

I’m your host, Chealsia Smedley.

In this episode, I talk with Kathy Khang and Matt Mikalatos, who wrote a book about cultivating hope and fighting for community through the fruit of the Spirit. They correct misconceptions about the fruit of the Spirit, share about the impact that living into the fruit of the Spirit has had in their own lives as they deal with conflict, depression, and even the realities of war and global violence that we’re currently witnessing. In reading their book and being in conversation with them, I’ve been given a lot of hope and a renewed conviction that being a Christian, or I should say, following Jesus, is inextricably tied to the very fruit of God’s spirit.

Today on the podcast, we’re talking to Matt Mikalatos and Kathy Khang. Matt is an author, speaker, and screenwriter whose work has spanned the gamut from Christian living to science fiction and fantasy. And Kathy is an author, speaker, and yoga instructor who wrote the book Raise Your Voice, Why We Stay Silent, and How to Speak Up.

They both have more than two decades of experience in ministry, and are just wise and incredible people who I’m honored to be in conversation with here. Together, they co-host the Fascinating Podcast and wrote the book Loving Disagreement, Fighting for Community Through the Fruit of the Spirit.

Kathy and Matt, it’s such a joy to have you here. Thank you for coming to the show.

[00:02:36] Kathy Khang: Oh, thank you. 

[00:02:37] Matt Mikalatos: Thank you for having us.

[00:02:38] Chealsia: Yeah, of course.

[00:02:39] Matt Mikalatos: We were laughing a little bit at your very kind and generous, uh, introduction. I felt a little embarrassed, but thank you.

[00:02:47] Chealsia: I meant it all wholeheartedly.

[00:02:49] Matt Mikalatos: I think that’s why it’s embarrassing.

[00:02:54] Chealsia: This person admires me, and I barely know her. Yeah, it’s funny when you, yeah, just talking to authors and being like, I’ve read your books. You know, that feeling of being acquainted with words and people through them. So you guys are friends and you also met virtually before you met in person. And so I’m curious: what was it like for you writing a book together and then meeting and having that audio recording? I think I heard that was the first time that you guys met in person, right?

[00:03:24] Kathy Khang: Correct. Yeah. Matt and I, along with, two other friends, we’ve been podcasting for a couple of years. I’ve met the other two podcast co-hosts, JR and Clay, in person years ago, Matt was the holdout. We just could not figure out where, why we would cross paths, where we could do that. We have multiple friends in common, but yeah, Matt and I were the only ones who had not met in person. And so people are a little surprised when they’re like, wait a second, you wrote a book? Together? But you did not meet in person.

[00:04:01] Matt Mikalatos: You know, we already had enough relationship to enjoy each other and trust each other. So what we actually did is we split up the chapters. And we would write a chapter and then send it off to each other. And then the way the book is formatted, there’s like a discussion after each chapter between us as we’re asking each other questions or pushing in on things or sharing our own thoughts about the same topic.

So, it was actually a really fun way to write a book. I would write something and send it off and get immediate feedback and questions from Kathy. Uh, and it was delightful to discover another piece of the book had been written while I was doing nothing, uh, and, you know, get a chapter in my inbox or in our Google, we used a Google Doc. And I think the other thing that’s great is it really gave us time to think deeply about the chapters we were writing, uh, and so some of the insights and wise advice and thoughts that Kathy had, I received from her rather than having to dig out my own insights and wise thoughts, which was actually great. 

[00:04:53] Chealsia: Kathy, you reacted a little.

[00:05:09] Kathy Khang: Yeah. Well, I mean, hmm, those wise thoughts did not only come from me. So, you know, we’re in a little bit in this mutual admiration society moment. Um, and, and I think what was great was, there was a bit of acknowledgment right up front that there were certain fruit of the Spirit that neither of us were really terribly excited to write about only because they were the things that were really most challenging for ourselves, or that we felt like the other person had a really good, interesting, wise take on it through our conversations as we were workshopping the book.

[00:05:50] Matt Mikalatos: We have kind of different styles too. Kathy comes from, uh, a background where she’s done like professional reporting, uh, and she has very like tight, well written, well thought out, well researched stuff. And I’m like, hey, we’re together! Let’s sit down and chat. So, you know, it’s a different feel for sure, as we’re reading each other’s chapters, too, Which I actually think is one of the selling points of the book.

I think it’s fun that we have, like, these different voices coming together, talking about these things we’re both passionate about.

[00:06:23] Chealsia: Yeah, I really liked that about the book. It really felt like I was witnessing a conversation among friends and to be able to see those different perspectives. Because I think when you’re, when you’re reading something, you want to be in conversation with someone as well. And so, to even think and then be like, oh wait, Matt said this, like, what’s Kathy going to say about that, you know?

[00:06:44] Matt Mikalatos: Oh, I know. That was the big question people always had. I’m reading Matt’s, and I’m like, is Kathy gonna fix this, or are we just gonna let this sit there?

[00:06:51] Chealsia: So, kind of for the sake of our audience, you’re talking about loving disagreement through the fruits of the Spirit. And so, could you tell us what the fruits of the Spirit are for you? 

[00:07:04] Kathy Khang: Hmm, mmm, long sigh. You’d think, you know, I’d have like a knee-jerk reaction after having written a book on it. So when I think of the fruit of the Spirit in my lifetime of listening to sermons and lessons on behavior, that so few of those sermons were focused on the fruit of the Spirit as a way of informing how our lives should be shaped and formed.

I feel like my recollection of sermons teaching on Christian behavior is more simply, I mean, very simply, lists of things to do and not do. And the list of things not to do gets longer. And then the things that you’re supposed to do, if you can check those off, then you’re a good Christian. Like you should go to church every Sunday. Check. You do your daily quiet times in the morning. Check. You know, things like that. And so I think of this, even the, the exercise, the discipline of writing this book has been a good reminder to me that in scripture, there are more guidelines or maps or watercolor sets to help form and shape and develop my humanity.

[00:08:38] Matt Mikalatos: I think the metaphorical piece is really what speaks to me about this, like, the section of scripture it comes from, right? Paul is talking about when you disagree with each other, are you experiencing hatred, dissension, jealousy, discord, people splitting off from each other? That’s the fruit of your evil desires in your life, basically.

Or are you experiencing things like peace, joy, love, self-control, kindness, gentleness? That’s the fruit of the Holy Spirit being in your life. And what he’s essentially saying, right, is if you come up to a tree and you’re like, oh, there’s an apple growing on that tree, that’s an apple tree. If there’s a peach growing on it, it’s a peach tree.

If there’s hatred growing on it, it’s not a God tree. It’s not a Spirit tree, right? But if there’s kindness and peace and these other things coming out from the life of this tree, you can assume that, that God is in that, and I think it’s a, it’s a way that God helps us identify the places in our life where we’re being empowered by and filled by the Holy Spirit. And I think as we look at Christian arguments, uh, in the modern day, I see a lot more division, hatred, rage, and those things than I do see people who are trying to bring about peace, or kindness, or self-control. What scripture tells us then is that we’re not disagreeing in the power of God. So that’s what the book is about, really. Is what are we actually called to in these moments of a disagreement and it’s a, it’s a really high bar. Kathy and I consistently are like, oh man, that’s a high one. And you can’t do it just by working hard. You have to allow God to transform you, and that’s frustrating. I think we’ve been taught like just work hard and you’ll get there, but that’s not true, or it’s not what scripture teaches anyway

[00:10:33] Chealsia: Yeah, so much here. I would love to get into the meat of the fruits of the Spirit. And even, um, the ways that you guys talk about them because it’s really refreshing and I think cuts through a lot of the ways that we’ve misunderstood these words. Both as a Christian body at large, but then also maybe ways we’ve been taught them that we’ve internalized, and so could each of you share about a fruit of the Spirit and how God has helped you come to an understanding that has had a real impact in your lives and in your communities?

[00:11:06] Matt Mikalatos: Thank you, yeah, I think as each of us, so the fruit of the Spirit, what’s tempting is to say I’m really good at one and not at another, right? And Kathy and I’ve had that conversation because we have preferences. Like I was like, please don’t make me write about self-control. Like, that’s the one. That please no, uh, but the way scripture talks about it is it’s, it’s, it’s all together.

These are all of these things that sound like different things are coming from one source. And all of those things should be growing in our life. I should be growing in self-control as well as in kindness, uh, as well as in goodness and these different things. I think goodness was really challenged of the ones that I wrote. It was one that probably, the one, that was most challenging because as I started digging into scripture and really looking at it, scripture talks about goodness in a way that is kind of the opposite of how I was taught to look at spiritual discipline and the fruit of the Spirit. So we talk about it like this in the book, that, scripture says the heart is deceitful above all things, right? That I was taught growing up all the time evil is just something you are. Just someone you are and that even when you want to do something good, you can’t help it that deeper down you are wicked, right? Your heart is wicked. And there’s this, the depravity of humanity, right? Um, it keeps getting pushed, at least in the circles I grew up in. That was like a central piece of understanding of who you are.

So even if I gave money to a homeless person, they’d be like, well, why did you do that? Were you hoping to get a reward? What evil thing caused you to do that good thing? That might be a slight exaggeration, but certainly, when I was a kid, that’s how I understood it. As I started digging deeper into goodness, what I realized is that’s kind of the way goodness is talked about in scripture.

Like, there are all these scriptures about God and goodness, and pretty much all of them say God is good. Not that he does good. But is good. His person is good. So, for us as human beings, part of what we’re being told is when we’re made in the image of God that a part of us is good then, right?

Uh, and that as the Holy Spirit transforms our hearts, our person is transformed to becoming good. Not that we do good things. That comes from it, but that we become good, and that is really difficult because what I wanted to do was, here’s six examples of how you become good, and there’s not a good one.

Like, because what you do is you allow the Holy Spirit to transform you so that your instincts, your thoughts, your preferences, your heart becomes good. And that’s so frustrating in one way because you’re like, how do I become good? No. How does God make you good? I think is more of the question, and that’s, yeah, that’s really different.

And so that was one that I wrestled with. How do we put this on the page? But I think it’s been helpful for me just to recognize that God is at work as I move closer to Christ and become more like Christ then that means, by definition, I’m becoming a person who is getting better, who is becoming good.

And that really changes the way I look at a lot of things. Or it should. I don’t know that it always does. Um, but yeah, so I don’t know. That’s one, that’s one I’ve been thinking a lot about, actually.

[00:14:38] Chealsia: So it sounds like this shift from this total depravity, right? Like going from there, but saying like, no, we’re all, we’re all made in the image of God, and the image of God is good. And so there’s a goodness that is instilled in each of us. And it’s only growing as we become closer to God Is that right?

[00:14:59] Matt Mikalatos: Right, I think it provides a lot of hope, too. Uh, the fact that it’s not something I’m doing, that it’s something the Holy Spirit is doing in me, is really freeing, uh, in one sense. One other thing I would say, too, in disagreement it gives me the freedom to feel hope about the person I’m in disagreement with. Right? One of us is wrong, maybe on something important, and I can trust that maybe I’m not going to change them, but the Holy Spirit can, or the Holy Spirit can change me, right?

Maybe I’m the one who’s wrong. That’s a possibility. I’ve been wrong before, and, uh, past Matt and present Matt would have long and difficult conversations, I think.

[00:15:38] Chealsia: Yeah. There’s going to be some loving disagreement.

[00:15:42] Matt Mikalatos: So, yeah, I don’t know how loving it would be depending on which past Matt you got, but yes.

[00:15:46] Chealsia: Um, Kathy, what about you?

[00:15:49] Kathy Khang: Oh gosh. So, you know, like Matt said, it doesn’t; we didn’t choose the fruit of the Spirit based on, like, what we felt like we got the A+ on. A lot of it was, you know, what insights we knew each other had based on our years of conversation with each other and with, within the context of a podcast. And I’ve talked a lot in other spaces about self-control, so I’m going to actually talk about joy here.

[00:16:19] Matt Mikalatos: Hmm.

[00:16:19] Kathy Khang: Because joy is often mistaken for happiness or a toxic positivity, like, oh, it’ll be fine. It’s in God’s hands. And, you know, let’s, let’s be honest. Let’s look around today’s headlines. You know, it does leave folks to wonder, what exactly is God doing?

Like, what is happening in this world? Cause it, it literally is burning, and I have found over the years that this sense of toxic positivity, this fake happiness, or a very external, um, positive outlook and saying, well, God’s in control actually misses out on the deeper spiritual transformation that God invites us to experience. Writing about joy is a discipline and an invitation for me as one who has mental health issues and has clinical depression, and remains on medication. And today I sat in front of my little happy light because it is dreary, and there is no sun to be seen. Even in the depths of depression, when I am definitely aware that my brain chemistry is not working, what is available to me is joy, and that gives me hope because when I am in deep bouts of depression, it’s a lot easier to just continue sinking. And that saccharine toxic positivity that you can find very often, unfortunately, in Christian circles, even in Christian books, right? Self-help, that kind of whole space of our, uh, religious and faith framework,  actually ignores my depression.

[00:18:27] Chealsia: Mm-Hmm.

[00:18:27] Kathy Khang: It says that you can ignore it and just tap into this. Well, God is in control.

[00:18:33] Chealsia: Mm-Hmm.

[00:18:34] Kathy Khang: And I find that tapping into and cultivating joy within the community is that my community acknowledges and holds me when I am in that depression, but they are unafraid of sharing their deep joy. The places of hope, the things that they have seen God do, allow me to connect with something alongside my depression. And where that comes into play in disagreement is that I think many of us hope that we can enter into a disagreement and neatly tie it up with a bow. 

And it’s really bad, I think, in Christian circles when we’re like, you know, before we talk, let’s pray. And then, dukes, you know? So we start with this kind of prayer, and we love each other, Lord, and let you know? That kind of thing, again, I feel like taps into some sort of fear that if we don’t present ourselves as nice, that we kind of lose our Christianese and Christianess in that and, and so where that joy helps is that we do not have to rely and approach everything with a happy like it’s all going to be fine because we really ought to know that it might not be fine. There’s a lot of not fine happening in this world, and that, again in that, we can also have space for joy

[00:20:17] Chealsia: Mm

[00:20:18] Kathy Khang: In the midst of disagreement, in the midst of great suffering, in the midst of my depression that will hit an all-time low again in February and March, that in that, I also, because I am in community. There will be people who recognize that, read the bad headlines, and still say, um, God is with us, and I heard my child laugh today, or the sun was out. Those are the things that transcend be happy. Everything will be fine, right?

[00:20:58] Chealsia: Mm-hmm. Can you give us a better definition for joy,

[00:21:03] Kathy Khang: It isn’t happiness, right? It isn’t rooted in circumstances. Is it’s rooted in our, in our spirit and knowing that God is there. That, that is my deepest joy.

[00:21:19] Chealsia: Yeah. Yeah. Cause in your book, I loved the way that you, I’ll just quote, you say ‘to rejoice is to lean toward God, just like a plant leans toward the sun.’ Um, and as you’re speaking, I see that in, in this remembering, okay, my child laughed today.

There’s sorrow. Um, but God’s presence is here, and to be able to hold that tension, um, in the midst of things that are happening. Cause, like you said, like happiness can’t, can’t sit in that tension. It’s not allowed to even acknowledge it.

[00:21:52] Kathy Khang: Right, right, and it, it’s so fleeting, and here in the United States, I think we see that hunger and the chasing after the happiness. I see it. I haven’t recently, but definitely have warned my family. Like, I am going out, and I am doing some like shopping therapy. What is that? Like it’s, it’s a band-aid. It’s a band-aid over like my bleeding soul.

[00:22:22] Chealsia: Yeah.

[00:22:24] Kathy Khang: Right? And this idea of like, maybe if I just find something little, treat myself to something that’ll help. It never does. It never does. but I think we’re trained in that. And I have found that growing up in the church that there has been some training of that, right? It’s just like God is in control. I feel like that is our knee-jerk reaction and that that can actually be very hurtful to people


[00:22:52] Chealsia: I think this would be a good time to kind of pause. You mentioned the devastation of the world. It’s burning, and we’re like currently collectively acknowledging horrific violence in the Middle East. In October, Israel was attacked by Hamas. And since then, we’ve seen mass bombings and the killings of thousands of Palestinian people. And it’s so devastating to watch. And in the midst of that, our government, society, Christians, and are totally divided on how to respond. And so, how do we have a conversation about loving disagreement fighting for community in the midst of this reality?

[00:23:46] Matt Mikalatos: Wow. I, I think we just want to start by saying that there’s a difference between us disagreeing about what should be done or having a theological difference about the place of Israel in the world or something like that and people murdering each other, right? Terrorist attacks or genocide or threats of genocide. You’re not going to; you’re not going to move to a place of loving disagreement with someone who is trying to genocide your people. I think we have similar things in the States, right? Um, we see these examples of people saying, Oh, we’re just in disagreement. I don’t think people of color are human beings on the same level as white people, right? That’s not an example of something that we’re going to come to a loving disagreement on. That is an example of people trying to do harm to the image of God. And, and that we have a different approach to deal with things like that.

Um, I do think there is space for us to be in conversation with the people we disagree with about what should be done in the Middle East or what is happening in the Middle East. Um, the thing I struggle with, uh, and so I’m just sharing my own struggle here, is that I am seeing some folks in my community, my Christian community in the world, saying things that I can’t find a way there through the way of Jesus. That they are cheering on violence from one side or the other. Like, the more, our more progressive brothers and sisters might be cheering on Hamas, perhaps. And our more conservative brothers and sisters might be cheering on some of the most draconian things the Israeli government is doing. Not the Israeli people, right? The Israeli government. And I find it deeply concerning on both sides that the, the thought of cheering on the murdering of innocent human lives. I think we’ve moved out of the space of this is something we can lovely, lovingly disagree on and into the space of, of unchristian positions that maybe what we need is evangelism in this moment.

I don’t know. I have, Kathy help me. I’m going to start rambling. Uh, any, if I haven’t already, cause I’m getting, I’m getting worked up a little bit.

[00:26:06] Kathy Khang: Yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s such a difficult, I mean, let’s acknowledge that the Middle East is also not the only war that remains and is going on, and I think that also speaks to the complexity of what is happening in the world, is that here in the U. S., we are, um, actually safe from, uh, the realities of war in our country, in that way, right? Um, that is not to say… Uh, people of color, um, that the Black and brown community, Indigenous, right? It’s not to say that there is not danger, but we’re not; we’re not experiencing bombings.

[00:27:03] Chealsia: Right.

[00:27:04] Matt Mikalatos: Hmm.

[00:27:04] Kathy Khang: On a daily basis. Um, our government’s role is funding the bombings.

And the retaliation and the protection. And I think that is what’s really hard is, what is happening in the Middle East is marginalized people fighting for place

[00:27:30] Chealsia: Mhm.

[00:27:31] Kathy Khang: and safety. And what’s happening here in the U S is that our Jewish siblings are feeling the threat. Of not only the history but of the present as well as our Palestinian and Muslim friends, and that that is a history that has repeated itself over and over.  So when I think about how to approach this is, no answers, but how have we, as people, human beings, even in our families, approach these conversations in the past, and it hasn’t worked. I need to figure that out first before I think that I’m going to sit down and have a conversation with someone I know and love. To change their minds or to even inform them.

[00:28:32] Chealsia: Hmm.

[00:28:33] Kathy Khang: If you are in relationship with someone who has a differing opinion, can you have a conversation?

[00:28:41] Chealsia: Mm-Hmm.

[00:28:43] Kathy Khang: I don’t think we’re having conversations online. And I say this as somebody who has had many public social media confrontations.

[00:28:54] Chealsia: Yeah. Mm-Hmm.

[00:28:56] Kathy Khang: That is different than a conversation. What I’ve appreciated is listening to people, organizations who, one, are trying to give background

[00:29:09] Chealsia: Mm

[00:29:09] Kathy Khang: that I don’t have, like, I don’t, I don’t know. I don’t know the history, I don’t understand. I’ve not taken the time to learn. So, I have been rather silent on it because I don’t know what’s going on. All that to say is one of the things that I have chosen in this, um, space and in a time of great disagreement, is to say one thing I do agree and do believe in is a ceasefire, right? And it is a bit of a like, I am against… War.

[00:29:45] Chealsia: Right.

[00:29:45] Matt Mikalatos: Hmm.

[00:29:46] Kathy Khang: I am against war. And so, that is one of the ways in which I’ve entered into the conversation because it is the violence that is so terrifying and repetitive and in that, an invitation for me and others to say, we need to hear from multiple voices and voices who are closer,

[00:30:13] Chealsia: Mm hmm.

[00:30:14] Matt Mikalatos: Yeah

[00:30:14] Kathy Khang: who are closer.

[00:30:16] Chealsia: Yeah.

[00:30:16] Matt Mikalatos: I think, too, we talk about the fruit of the Spirit, and one of the things we talk about is kindness, and the word kindness doesn’t mean niceness. It’s very clear as you dig into its roots and how it’s used in scripture that kindness means to go out into the world looking for people in need with the desire to meet that need with no expectation of repayment.

And I think if we use that definition and put it into these conversations where, where can I find a need in these conversations? And how can I meet it? That moves us into a really different posture And a really different approach to what we do and what we talk about.

[00:30:58] Chealsia: Yeah, the, the need, for kindness, right? Filling the

[00:31:03] Matt Mikalatos: Yeah, yeah.

[00:31:04] Chealsia: seeing the humanity. In the things that you guys are writing about and this call that we have to display the fruit of the Spirit. Like, it’s continually calling us to love, to see the humanity in one another, and to, like, further the image of God.

Um, which is good and affirm that in the people around us, whether we, whether we agree with them or disagree with them, casting that aside and being able to see, no, there’s people that are in need here. How can I, how can I come in and, and actually aid.

[00:31:35] Matt Mikalatos: Yeah, I think too. Chealsia, have you been to Thailand?

[00:31:39] Chealsia: I haven’t, no.

[00:31:40] Matt Mikalatos: Okay, if you ever go to Thailand, the, the king of Thailand, right, is

everywhere. There’s posters of him. There’s paintings of him. Before your airplane takes off, they play a trailer with him on it. Before a movie, everybody stands up, and they show a trailer about the king. Uh, how important he is, how wonderful he is.

They’re, they’re like little commercials for the king. Um, your cab drivers often, actually, Kathy, you were just there. Your cab drivers often have like a little painting of the king in there. And it’s actually illegal; it’s illegal to deface one of these posters because that’s the image of the king. It’s an act of rebellion against the king and against the king’s rule.

And I think this thing that we do not understand in modern America is that when God says we are made in the image of God, he’s saying something really similar. He’s saying that we, every human being, you know, that we are God’s image. We’re a way that God is staking out territory and saying, here’s who I am. And this is a picture of me. And when we do violence to the image of God, whether that’s through war or terrorism or in our interpersonal relationships when we harm the image of God, we are literally, that is literally an act of rebellion against God.

And I think that’s something we just don’t take seriously enough. Um, yeah, which that’s just a, I don’t know. As we start talking about these things, I start, woo, boy, I, I get, I get worried that we are so far away from it in the community of faith that we don’t, we, we’re not able to say what these things are with honesty. We have to hide them behind other things so we can back up our politics. which I find really distressing that we’re putting our politics of ahead of our faith in some of these moments.

[00:33:33] Chealsia: Mm-hmm. That’s really good. That image, I think, is going to stay with me for a while. 


[00:33:49] Chealsia: So, as we’re trying to move towards living these things out, right? Living out these fruits of the Spirit, which are characteristics of God. What’s the spiritual practice that has helped you to live this out in your daily life?

[00:34:03] Kathy Khang: Um,

[00:34:07] Matt Mikalatos: Kathy does deep sighs.

[00:34:09] Kathy Khang: Yes, I do. I, I, I breathe. Even in my texts, the… 

[00:34:15] Matt Mikalatos: It’s true. She sends me texts all the times that just say sigh.

[00:34:21] Kathy Khang: So, years ago I was introduced to breath prayer and, for me, what that has meant is just essentially a couple of deep breaths, a long pause, getting off of social media. Leaving my phone behind when I leave the house. It is the idea of making space for silence so that I might hear God. My life is often driven by social media, and I think part of it has been like, Oh, I need my platform to promote my book and my work and blah, blah, blah, blah, and really feeling that anxiety around that.

And so, um, breath prayer is one, but I kind of make it a very generic being quiet, whether it’s myself or the world around me. So, for a season, I stopped listening to news podcasts. I breathe the news. I’m a journalist at heart. I can’t help it. I go down that rabbit hole. That can be very unhealthy. I recognize it’s a privilege to be able to not pay attention to the news, but for a season, I really dialed back on listening to news podcasts. So that spiritual practice or discipline it’s silence. It’s quiet.

[00:36:05] Matt Mikalatos: That’s really good. I grew up in Christian culture, and I dealt with a lot of legalism, which I think is normal for a lot of us, and legalism, believe it or not, has some good things to it. There’s a way to use legalism correctly. So, like when my kids were small and I said, you have to hold someone’s hand when you cross the street. It’s not technically true, right? You can cross the street without holding hands with someone, but for them at the place they were, it’s to help them be safe. It’s not a sin issue, right? I cross the street without holding hands all the time. It’s fine. Um, what I realized is so many of the things that were at one time a spiritual discipline for me, so like a daily devotional, specific prayer times, or, you know, fasting once a week, that some of these things that are really, really valuable spiritual disciplines at different times in my life were becoming poisonous in my relationship with Christ.

Because what was happening was I would do, uh, six out of seven days, a devotional, and then I would feel guilty about not getting time with Jesus on day seven, right?

[00:37:12] Chealsia: Mm.

[00:37:17] Matt Mikalatos: So, what was happening is instead of growing into a place of desire for relationship with Christ, I was moving to a place of obedience lacking desire. That it was an obligation to be in relationship with God and to be growing or trying to grow. So something that I started experimenting with was, this is the discipline piece, to become aware of myself and the things that I wanted to do in relationship with Christ and then doing those things when I wanted to, and not doing the things I didn’t want to, which sounds crazy.

But what I’m saying is, uh, I would only do a devotional when I wanted to. So maybe it’s three times a week. Maybe it was once; maybe it was once every two weeks. I would do the things I enjoyed more. Maybe you love singing along to praise songs. I was like, yeah, I’ll do that every day. Uh, but I would do it because I wanted to, and it really altered for me the way I was interacting with Jesus. It became much more about a passionate intimacy with Christ rather than kind of a disciplined obligation to Christ. So, the spiritual discipline piece of it for me was becoming aware of those places in my spirit and myself. That I desired communion with God and pushing in on those things. That’s one to try if you haven’t. Uh, and it might feel weird, right? You’re like, I’m not gonna do devotionals this week unless I feel like it. Uh, you might feel guilty, and I think that’s a good sign that you need this discipline, actually.

[00:38:47] Chealsia: Yeah, I like that a lot. The freedom. It’s, yeah, the freedom in relationship. putting that at the center. 

[00:38:56] Matt Mikalatos: Mm, yeah, exactly. If you don’t want to be in relationship with God, I think that’s… that’s something to look at and address, like, why am I forcing myself always to do these things? Uh, it tells you something about yourself and where you are spiritually, for sure.

[00:39:07] Chealsia: Both of you mentioned this kind of, like, tension between, like, safeguarding against a just try harder mentality, but at the same time, it does take a lot of effort to live this out, especially in community. And so, how do you guys handle that tension?

[00:39:22] Kathy Khang: It does help that family and friends knew that I was writing a book about it. And so there is a little bit of that, like, uh, are you being patient? Are you being kind? And Matt and I have joked about it in all seriousness, even in the process of writing, that that is one part of the calling into community, even as authors, that our readers will interact and engage with the content. And, um, and those of us who are in relationship with us, there is this open invitation, and it has existed before the book, to say, hey, you know, that thing that you said to me was not kind, or can we talk about how you reacted? And so, um, you know, you do notice that in the book, we, we talk a lot, we write a lot about how the fruit of the Spirit is not just an individual barometer, but it is how we engage with the community, in the community, receive from the community. And so to your question, it is, it’s our, it’s our relationships. It’s the people who know us and love us, as well as our interactions with the stranger on the street.

[00:40:43] Chealsia: Mm-hmm.

[00:40:44] Kathy Khang: People on the Internet that that behavior is out there for other people to see and will Matt and I respond differently if we know that the people watching know what we wrote, or will we respond in our spirit, in our minds this overarching sense of am I reflecting God’s truth and love and transformation in my life? So, it is not a linear exchange or a linear accountability. It is very fluid, and it does not only include folks who are following Jesus, right? Our behavior should always, always reflect the fruit of the Spirit.

[00:41:38] Chealsia: Hmm. Yeah. Matt, do you have anything to add?

[00:41:42] Matt Mikalatos: No, I, I, I agree with Kathy.

[00:41:46] Chealsia: Mm.

[00:41:46] Matt Mikalatos: This time, I lovingly agree.

[00:41:50] Chealsia: Thank you so much for being here. Um, it was such a joy to talk to you both.

[00:41:56] Matt Mikalatos: Yeah. It was a pleasure. 

[00:41:56] Kathy Khang: Thank you.

[00:41:57] Chealsia: Is there anything that you would want to leave our audience with to encourage them as they try to live out the fruits of the Spirit in community?

[00:42:06] Matt Mikalatos: Yeah, I would say this.

[00:42:09] Chealsia: Mm-hmm.

[00:42:11] Matt Mikalatos: Not just the world but Christian community can be so full of these messages about you that aren’t true that they’re wanting to tell you that you’re not, you’re not good enough. You’re not loved, that something about who you are as a human being is broken or insufficient. And I would just want to say what scripture says is that Jesus, before you came to Christ even, loved you so much that he would literally put his life on the line to provide way for you to be in relationship. And it is not the place of someone else, your pastor or a spiritual leader, or a peer in the Christian community to tell you that God is wrong.

It’s just not. You are loved and beautiful, and there is freedom. You can rest in the fact that God will transform you. It’s like getting into a river. You don’t have to worry if it’s going to take you somewhere. It will, right? The Holy Spirit is going to take you somewhere. Relax. Put up the sail and, and go on the journey. It’s okay. God loves you and is taking you somewhere good.

[00:43:24] Chealsia: Hmm.

[00:43:25] Kathy Khang: I want readers, listeners to know Matt and I chose to write this book because we still remain hopeful.

[00:43:39] Matt Mikalatos: Hmm.

[00:43:41] Kathy Khang: That even though the world is burning, we believe in Jesus. We believe the Holy Spirit is not done with us. We believe God is not done with us. And so we write this as hopeful practitioners who, even in the writing and the promoting of the book, continue to learn and continue to be formed by the Holy Spirit. I hope that folks hear that and live into that, that we are hopeful. We hope our community can join us in that hope.

[00:44:23] Chealsia: Hmm. Mm hmm. Yeah, I think that’s really sweet and one of the reasons why I would highly recommend your book and maybe even, like, everyone should write about the fruits of the Spirit. It would be really helpful to help us all live this out even more. Just like the, yeah, the humility of, like, you guys were practitioners, we’re learning as we go. We’re being transformed.

Speaking of being transformed, I noticed something while I was editing this episode. I continued to say fruits of the Spirit, plural, but Kathy and Matt said fruit, singular. I think that’s important to take note of. This isn’t a list of things to do or be. They’re all one, coming from one source, growing together as we walk in relationship with God and other bearers of his image.

Thank you for listening to the Created For Podcast. That’s officially the end of the season, but you can always check out some of the other episodes that help you be formed by Jesus and walk in wholeness. There’s one on breath prayer and story work with Sandhya Oaks, a conversation with Lisa Colon DeLay about how to practically experience God’s presence. Dominique Dawson shares prayer practices for anger and disappointment. We have one about communal care, spiritual direction, and so much more. As you’re listening, we’d love to hear from you. Feel free to follow us on Instagram at @_createdfor or write a review wherever you listen.

And as always, check out our show notes for an episode reflection that includes scripture practice and some key things to take away from this episode. Again, thank you for listening and for living into who you were created to be with us.

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