FULLY ALIVE!

Your life will be as bright as the noonday sun. Job 11:17


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The Closet God Gave Me

Sometimes I amaze myself by the full blown, all out pity parties that I have – especially when they are about the silliest of things.

Like closets.

Like why God has given me this closet?  Yes, I actually had that thought.  (I am ashamed and have repented, so you can go ahead and laugh at me.  It’s okay.)  But I will confess the full thought here because I cannot be the only one.

It just hit me one day.  I was trying to put away groceries, but the refrigerator was too full already.  Likewise the pantry, so I left some non-perishables on the kitchen counter, determined to deal with them later and  sat down to read my mail and pay bills.  But there were stacks of papers already on my desk and even some peeking from the pigeon holes, so I just placed the new mail on top of the old stacks.  On to the laundry – to fold and put away the freshly cleaned clothing.  But the linen closet was already stuffed and the racks in the closet were full.  And that is when the frustration set in and the pity party began.

“Lord, what is up with this little closet?!  I miss the closets I used to have in my old house!  Don’t you remember, Lord?  Shelves organizers, drawers, space!  Why did you bring me to this place?  Why do I have to have these little closets?!”  This might be a good time to tell you that I’ve moved into a home built in the early 1900s.  The home is lovely, but people obviously didn’t build closets much less BIG closets back in those days.

And then it hit me.  This is the closet that the Lord has given me.  And that being the case, the problem is not the closet.  The problem is the stuff.  Hmm.  Let’s go even deeper.  Might the problem be a lack of self-discipline and self-control?

Another Hmm.

Stuffed closets, packed refrigerator, overflowing desk drawers, stacks of books and piles of papers.  Even my phone’s battery drains because of all the apps I’ve downloaded, the texts I’ve sent and the pictures I’ve taken.  Let’s not talk about email inboxes!

It is not the closet (Forgive me, Lord!); it is me.  It is my lack of self-control and self-discipline.

Okay, so my closet is overstuffed and my desk is junky.  “Is that a sin?” you ask.  Well, let’s turn to the Scriptures.

We are instructed by Titus 1:7-8 (ESV) to “be above reproach…to not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined

Galatians 5:22-23 teaches us that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness,(and) self-control.

It is 1 Peter 5:8-9 (EXB) that most makes clear the problem for me.  “Control [Discipline] yourselves and be ·careful [alert]! The devil, your enemy, ·goes around [prowls] like a roaring lion looking for someone to ·eat [devour]. ·Refuse to give in to [Resist] him…”

Overstuffed closets, junky desks and even full mailboxes may not be sins, but the questions that they should raise in us include “Are these things – having them and pursuing more – interfering with my relationship with God?” “Is all my time spent dealing with my stuff?”   “Does the clutter of the stuff rob me of peace?”

Proverbs 25:28 says, “A person without self-control is like a house with its doors and windows knocked out.” (MSG)  That kinda summarizes how I felt the day I had the “too little closet pity party,” like the doors and windows had been knocked out and a wind was blowing through the house creating havoc in every room.  And therein lay my problem – no peace and no contentment because of too much stuff.

You may be fine with your closets and your stuff, but this week examine your peace and contentment.  Determine to take whatever action necessary to deal with those things that rob you of the peace and contentment Paul describes to us in Philippians 4.  As for me, I’ve learned to be content with the closet that God gave me!


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Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

This weekend we celebrated – my Sweetie’s birthday and our anniversary!  Both events occur on the same day because our first date was many years ago on his birthday.  Being well past needing or even wanting more stuff, we endeavor to create and share experiences as our gifts to each other.  One of my gifts to him was a visit to the symphony.

Our state Symphony was paying a tribute to Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, so the evening promised to be one filled with good music.  It did not disappoint.  Byron Stripling, trumpet virtuoso, is known as an extroverted performer who brings the audience into his music exuding happiness through his trumpet and his vocals which are quite reminiscent of Louis Armstrong yet also his own.  Stripling filled the gaps between sets with funny stories, clean jokes and a poem that spoke to my heart.  He called it Wishes, and it went something like this:

“I wish I had a telescope to scan the starry skies, but since I have no telescope, I’m glad I have two eyes.  I wish I had a kitchen all run by push-button commands, but while that kitchen’s still a dream, I’m glad I have two hands.  I wish I had a new Rolls Royce – to my friends that’d be a treat, but until that new car comes along, I’m glad I have two feet.  Two eyes to look to God above…two hands to clasp in prayer…two feet to carry me to church…wow, I’m a millionaire!”

THIS WEEK ponder this quote from Charles Stanley then take inventory of all the ways you are a millionaire: “When we limit ourselves to human ability and resources, we will find that both run out very quickly. When we instead trust in the Lord’s ability to work on our behalf, we tap into an infinite supply that cannot be measured or depleted. God’s resources are 100 percent recession-proof.” He has promised to supply all our needs (Philippians 4:19).


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Cleaning Closets

Deciding is half the battle “they” say.  You know, the infamous, elusive, unidentified “they.”  I’m hoping “they” are right with this one because I have decided to clean my main closet.  It’s huge, and it is a mess – partly because for a few days I haven’t followed my own rule of putting things back where they came from and partly because I really need to get rid of some stuff!  Maybe I should start with the shoes I bought for student teaching…  Hmm, that was more than 35 years ago.  Perhaps I will get rid of the dress I wore when I first met my in-laws.  That might be a good choice since (1) I am divorced, (2) I weighed a LOT less then and (3) it’s almost 20 years old!  This could be a good time to toss the ugly Christmas sweaters – the ones that were so popular in the 70s and 80s.

Are you getting a picture?  We often hold onto things much longer than we should – and not just dresses and shoes.  How about attitudes, thoughts, grudges, wounds?

Ephesians 4:22-23 (AMP) says, “Strip yourselves of your former nature.… And be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude].”  In other words, let the past go.  Clean the junk out of the closets of your mind and heart.  Let go those thoughts of what you think you lost, how things might have been, what you’ve given up, ways that you were mistreated, times you felt overlooked or undervalued.

It helps to have someone help me clean the closet.  I tell stories about my stuff, we laugh, and we bag it or box it and take it out. Then we forget it!  Kinda like Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV) which tells us to “Forget the former things” and to not “dwell on the past” because the Lord is doing a new thing.   You must clean out the old to make room for the new.

Ponder the following Scriptures and the contents of your heart’s closet this week:

Monday:   Proverbs 4:25-27 (ESV)

Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.

Question for reflection: What is calling you to look back and keeps you from looking forward?

Tuesday: Philippians 4:8-9 (ESV)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Question for Reflection:  What thoughts do you need to swap – untrue for true, dishonorable for honorable, unjust for just, unclean for pure, etc.?

Wednesday: Hebrews 12:1 (ESV)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…

Question for Reflection: What are you holding on to (thoughts, habits, relationships, etc.) that not only “weighs you down,” but impacts your testimony and witness before those you encounter?

Thursday: Matthew 6:19-21 (ESV)

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…”

Question for Reflection: How many treasures can you find in your closet that might better serve someone else? Can you take them to a neighbor? To Goodwill? To a clothes closet? Other?

Friday: Isaiah 12:2 (ESV)

“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.”

Question for Reflection:  Of what (or whom) are you afraid? What (or whom) are you holding on to rather than trusting God?

PRAY: Heavenly Father, I love You. I know that You love me. I trust You, and I trust the plan that You have for me and my life. Search my heart and my mind. Show me those things, those people, those feelings, those memories and those attitudes that I need to let go of. Sweep clean the corners of my mind and the recesses of my heart and fill each with what will honor and glorify You. I claim the peace and joy of an uncluttered mind and a clean heart. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.

SHARE: Post comments to share your reflections and reactions from this week’s post. (One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. One woman’s sharing is another woman’s blessing!)


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Choose Life

Somewhere I read this quote:

What is Life?

They say it is from B to D – from Birth to Death.

But what’s between B and D?  It’s a C.  So what is C?

It is a Choice.

Life is a matter of choices.

And, if you are like me, sometimes that is good and sometimes that seems not so good.  For example, there are days when I wish someone would just make all the decisions for me from what to put on in the morning to what to eat for lunch to what to do about a problem at work and, surely, what to serve for dinner.  (How many ways can you cook chicken!)

My pastor preached a sermon once about our stuff and how much of our time, energy, mental faculties, etc. are consumed by our stuff.  I remember him saying that if you only owned two shirts, chances are one would be on your back and the other in your closet.  Not a lot to think about there – you’re either wearing one or the other. (Hmm, definitely a message there for us ladies, but I won’t touch that one today.)

The fact of the matter is that we have choices in life.  In America, we tend to have the luxury (or the headache) of a lot of choices.  Our closets, for the most part, are full.  Our pantries are full.  Our days are full.  We are constantly bombarded by choices.

When it comes to life, I think the “choice” is whether to choose to live or just to exist until death.

And, yes, even in this we have a choice because Our Father has given us free will – the ability to make certain choices.

Consider Deuteronomy 30:11-20. (Please read the full text; I’ve shared an excerpt here.)

Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven… Nor is it beyond the sea… No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. “But if your heart turns away and you will not obey… you shall surely perish. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants – by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days. (NASB)

I love this text!  It seems to have in mind those of us who simply don’t want the pressure of another choice, another decision.  This is essentially a no-brainer; “what I am commanding is not too difficult for you.”  There are but two choices – life and prosperity or death and destruction.  Like those two shirts, you’re either choosing one or the other.

For years I struggled to have children.  After many pills, procedures and prayers the time seemed right.  My OB/GYN told me to act immediately, but a lot else was going on in life, so I told him I wasn’t ready to decide.  I will never forget his response – “By not deciding, you are deciding!”  Wow!  That bit of wisdom is apropos for much of life (maybe all of life.)  By not deciding, we are deciding.  The author of Deuteronomy tells us to love the Lord, to walk in His ways, to keep His commands, to obey His voice, to hold fast to Him.  This is life and the length of our days.  And the opposite (the other choice) brings the opposite – death.

What is Life?  It is from B to D by way of C – our choices.  Choose life!