Sunday, September 25, 2011

Clutter of Fear

Image from:

Have you ever gone through the spare bedroom of your house, a closet or the garage and really sorted through things, tossing the clutter? My dad is notorious for bringing old things “back from the dead” or the trash pile at our house because “You never can tell when you may need something.” Now my dad is probably the most creative person I know when it comes to reusing items: he can make anything out of nothing, it’s awesome. But isn’t it funny when you clear out a lot of that clutter, how much room and space you have? The room takes on a whole new look does it not? I love re-organizing space; my husband constantly shakes his head and grins at how many times I have rearranged our spare bedroom closet. We have only been married for a little over a month and I have probably cleaned it every weekend since then! I have to be transparent with you however; although I may be an impeccable organizer of space in a home, my life is cluttered. Many people struggle with specific sin “cluttering” their lives like pornography, love of money and financial advancements; mine clutter is fear.

I was sitting church last Sunday listening to the sermon on the beatitude found in Matthew 5:3 which states, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.” As the sermon progressed, I felt this tug on my heart in this area of fears. Being poor in Spirit, as Pastor Mark explained, deals with two components of humility and transparent. Humble in the sense that we need to be willing to admit, “We need help!” Christ did not come to this earth to tell us, “Thou shalt hold it all together!” (I wonder if Jesus/God/Holy Spirit J giggles at how we throw in “shalt’s” and “thou’s.”) No, Christ came to take that yoke upon himself and we are simply to rely upon him. I think when we boil it down, our desire to hold it all together doesn’t stem from a heart of wanting to do things right but rather hidden pride. Pride can come in all shapes and sizes. Proverbs 16:5 says, “5Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the LORD; be assured, he will not go unpunished.” We can all recognize arrogance and are quick to judge that individual for being so arrogant, when in reality, my little fear-fests everyday are not any better. Whether a man is boasting outwardly or inwardly he is still boasting. Fear tiptoes along this line of inward boasting: “I need to perform, I need to do well, I need to be efficient because of xyz.” Or, “If I don’t do this, I am going to look so bad, and/or have to admit that I am not who I should be.” What you should be is a humble, transparent Christ-follower that is dependent upon your God. This “should be” always haunts me throughout my day as if I am not as efficient enough, thorough enough or even funny enough, I am a failure. These thoughts of failure clutter my mind just like the spare bedroom closet containing random things we say we are going to use ‘one day!’ We hoard our fears, churning them over and over in our minds throughout our days as if thinking about them will scare you into performing better. As you look back on your day you may ask yourself, “So….what was I so afraid of in those moments? What did I even accomplish?” It’s silly! But I believe this fear-fest truly stems from a heart of non-reliance and rest in the God of REST! James 5:5-6 says

5Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, "He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us"? 6But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Grace, some versions use “upholds.” What a magnificent word! Do you ever feel like you need something lifted up during your day? Maybe it’s your body! You’ve exhausted yourself from the trials of the day so much that physically you’re aching of tension (cough, cough, everyday!). Not only uphold but in verse 5 it says that God yearns; He yearns jealously over the spirit he has made to dwell in us! Not a spirit of arrogance, organization-extraordinaire, nor independence from God, but a Spirit that WORSHIPS God. A Spirit that relies upon God. How awful yet wonderful to know that during my day of worry and fear that I have a God jealous over my cluttered mind; readily providing grace without me even knowing it!

So how do we change? We need clean-house: not become more organized, but clean-house on our worries. This first begins with humble acceptance of our need for God; recognize, it’s not about us! No matter how much is at stake, your worrying is making your God jealous because ‘7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline,’ as it says in 2 Timothy. So any other ‘spirit’ ---especially of fear, is counterintuitive of what God has given us: aka, WRONG! Seek power, love and self-discipline. Admit to God that you do not have the self-discipline to remove these fears from your day; that they overwhelm you driving to work or at work or at home with family. Ask for power to overcome them and the ability to love those around you. That is something that really frustrates me at the end of the day, I look back and ask myself, “How did I show recognition and love to those around me today?” Usually my answer is nowhere to be found because my day was spent slaving over my cluttered mind.

Does this all make sense? I hope so. Can you see how when you really dig-deep enough into your cluttered mind, that the clutter is not coming from poor organization but rather a prideful heart: a heart that desires an independent spirit from the God who loves you. Reject the spirit of timidity today and seek the Spirit that provides power, love and self-discipline.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Miss to Mrs

Part I ( because I have too much to say!)

Well, it is hard to believe but just a few weeks ago, I married an incredible man and began the beautiful yet probably scary road to something called a marriage! And to tell you the truth, I actually feel so much better on this side of the ceremony than on the other! So often you hear of girls dreaming about the “Big Day,” myself included, but as my wedding drew closer I found myself discovering areas that were not a part of my dream. I had this idea of writing this devo just a few days before the wedding: I was trying to stop and reflect on the whole process of preparing for the wedding rather than freaking out about the last minute details that weren’t falling into place. I tried to think of acronyms to go with the term “Mrs.” The letters relate to the process of going from a single woman to a married woman while maintaining a sense of joy:
M-Make time
R-Rest in Him
S-Surrender emotions
In reality, these principles can be related to all stages of life but I found that they are most needed during this transition. Allow me to expound! Make time. Ha! You may be thinking, “Ok Joni, allow me to wave my magic wand and ‘kapoof’ TIME!” I know, I know, it isn’t that simple is it? But I don’t literally mean create more time or even really ‘cut-out’ things from your schedule but it is important to set aside time to be with the Lord, friends/family and yourself. Preparing for a marriage doesn’t involve just the wedding, it involves life-changes and you will need the Lord, you will need a community and you will need sanity! I was running when I came up with this idea for a devo: running has always served as my little piece of ‘me time.’ I love mornings (as you can tell by the time this devotional was written!) and so that is usually the time I set aside for the Lord. Probably the area that I must admit that I struggle in, is squeezing in the time for my friends and family. I am a driven individual that loves order, and progress and so it is difficult for me sometimes to just stop and enjoy a person near me. This would be the area that I failed-in prior to the wedding and it showed. When I did get to have some ‘girl time’ or ‘family time’ I was exhausted or continuously running my brain to go over the mental list I needed to accomplish. Now, I must also be realistic and say, “I planned a wedding in four months!” So of course things were tight with time being the greatest pinch, however you should never neglect making time. What does the Bible say about all this? Let’s look at a few verses relating to the topic of ‘making time.’
Jesus Prays in a Solitary Place
35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”
38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
Look at the fruit that came from Jesus going off to a solitary place: He was able to have a focus on preaching in nearby villages, and to drive out demons!
The Fellowship of the Believers
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
I realize that this passage is referring the church as a whole following Pentacost---but we can still apply the principle of the matter, “Fellowship is important!” Not because God wants us to have our own little social clubs and feel like we belong---but because it represents Him! He is continuously in fellowship with himself and so we are worshipping God when are meeting together, sharing our resources---like time!
Titus 1:3-5
3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.
Ha! I am sure a few people see this verse and have an immediate response; however, I want you to read it five times first! First off, I love this passage because I think of all these little old ladies having too much wine (I know, that’s not necessarily what it’s saying---but it’s a funny picture is it not?). The point of sharing this scripture is to see the importance of older women, yes, your mom included, in teaching you how to become a wife. I realize that moms are not perfect: you may have a mom that neglected you greatly and the last thing you want is her advice on how to be a wife; or perhaps your mom passed away and you cannot go to her for advice on the matter---that’s ok! This passage opens up the door and includes “older women” they don’t have to be in a nursing home –they could even be an older sister, someone you work with or even your new mother in law—I know that may be pushing it for a few of you (mine happens to be a counselor so it works out!). Notice the importance of these older women speaking into the younger ones about loving their husbands and children, learning how to be self-controlled, and pure. “Busy at home” may or may not cause you to wince just because so many women struggle with the thought of ‘just being a stay-at-home-mom.’ When in reality, it’s a great privilege and technically, one of the woman’s greatest duties within a marriage is to prepare a home; a place of rest and settlement for all those who inhabit it (herself included---that’s why you can splurge a little on the d├ęcor, or at least that’s my reasoning! Hehe!) Being kind, and subject to their husbands: just their husbands, not other men and notice it ends with the reality that we can actually distort the true Word of God if we don’t practice these Biblical principles! Ok. I think you have the picture on “Make time.” Let’s move on to R!