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

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Unpack Those Bags

My pastor tells members of missions teams to pack their suitcases then take half of what they packed out! Good advice. But easier said than done.

How do you choose what to take out? That shirt? Those shoes? The towels? It all seems so important. Good boy and girl scouts are always prepared. You never know what will happen on one of these trips, so you try to plan for every scenario imaginable. And the good news is that if there is an emergency, you are prepared. The bad news? Navigating with that luggage!

Three experiences come readily to mind.

During the first, my luggage exceeded the maximum allowable weight. There I was with my things sprawled across the airport floor trying to shuffle, rearrange and part with (as in throw into the trash) my stuff. Some I was able to tuck into someone else’s luggage, but some simply had to be tossed. If only I’d left it at home.

During the second experience, my strap broke AND a wheel came off – all because my luggage was over-stuffed. It was a nightmare for me to carry it and a burden for team members to help me. After all, they had their own luggage.

And my third experience was similarly embarrassing and stressful. The team was literally running from one gate to another because we had mere minutes to catch a connecting flight. The team was running, and I was struggling, fumbling, dragging, dropping and stumbling because my luggage was simply too heavy. If only I hadn’t brought so much. I was miserable.

And that’s how it is when we carry excessive emotional baggage. It weighs us down. It keeps us from navigating freely. It causes us to struggle, fumble, drag and stumble. Romans 8:1-2 (NIV) teaches, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”

If you are carrying heavy baggage, it’s time to unpack. Don’t shuffle it around or try to rearrange it. Toss it. Let it go.

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Traveling Light

Indulge me, I’m going to stick with this traveling, packing, suitcase thing that I started in the last post.  And I’m going to try to make it short and to the point. (I’ve been getting a little long in these posts – sorry!)

For about the past 10 years I’ve engaged much more actively in missions abroad.  I remember well, still, my first trip.  I started packing months before our departure.  I packed on paper (which I still do for most trips) before I packed my actual luggage.  I had a luggage scale at home, so I was constantly weighing my luggage.  Too heavy. Take something out.  Weigh it again. Take something else out.  I must have repeated this cycle a gazillion times.

There was NOTHING that I felt that I could take out.  Look, I was going to some strange land.  I needed to be prepared for every possible situation.  I was thinking (and I was right) there will be no convenient mart, drugstore or fast food joint around the corner in case I need something.  If you don’t have it in your suitcase, you do without, and I didn’t want to do without.  Definitely packed some Nabs! (Did you figure out what Nabs are from my last post?)

My pastor always advised us to pack then take half of the stuff out.  Then, on one trip, a roommate shared a tip that I have followed to this day when traveling abroad.  Pack old clothes!  Take old linens.  Wear old underwear.  Yes, wear it and throw it away.  Use it and toss it.  Two things happen.  Your suitcase gets lighter and lighter (so you can bring home lots of new stuff and souvenirs without exceeding your luggage weight limit) and your dresser drawers and closets at home get cleaned out!

We have a lot of stuff in our life suitcases that we need to just toss.

Hebrews 12:1-3 (ESV) refers to the baggage or weight we need to lay aside.  I believe there are two categories of baggage here – past experiences and personal sin. 

Past Experiences include things like guilt, defeatist attitudes, feelings of rejection, fears of failure and poor self-image.  These are attitudes and feelings that weigh us down and keep us from being our personal best.  They are not from God!

Personal Sin is sin that is very specific to individuals, and we all have experienced the weight of our weaknesses and struggles such as unforgiveness, jealous spirits, pride, greed, lust, anger or bitterness.

Both, our past experiences and our personal sin, can drain our energy, slow our pace and cause us to stumble.  They are the equivalent of trying to carry extra luggage without wheels and those wonderful straps that connect several pieces together!  We become distracted from our purpose and focused on trying to maneuver with all that baggage.

Hebrews instructs us to “lay aside every weight, and sin” so that we can run. (Picture OJ running through the airport.  Oh my.  Did I just reveal my age with that reference?!)

The bottom line – WE DON’T HAVE TO CARRY OUR BAGGAGE!  Think how you feel when you drag your luggage to the airport, across the parking lot and into the terminal.  Then you finally check it, and you are free from struggling with it and stressing about it.  It is especially wonderful when you are able to check it through to your final destination.  You walk about freely through the terminal shopping, eating, etc.  You travel “light.”  God would have us “check” our past experiences and sin laying them at His feet so that we may navigate freely enjoying the abundant life that He offers us.  And unlike the airport, He will never give your luggage back to you all ripped and ragged and dirty. (I could really write some posts about that!)  He will carry it forever!

Can you say, “Check it straight through, please?”

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What’s In Your Suitcase?

For years my work required me to travel. I remember leaving home once at the end of June and not returning until just a couple days shy of a month later.  Now some would say traveling for 30 days is not that much and, indeed, I have enjoyed vacations longer than that, but this particular trip was actually several trips all combined into one long jaunt.  Over the course of the 30 days I had to attend formal events, casual events, active events, business events, inside events, outside events and everything else you could imagine WITHOUT being able to return home between events.  Now add the fact that I traveled via airplane and train and was thus governed by two sets of travel restrictions and regulations relevant to my luggage not to mention the fact that I was a woman traveling alone.  Who wants to try to navigate with a ton of luggage?  Not me!  Two bags max, preferably one!

Bottom line, I had to really think through packing my suitcases.

When I travel by car, I take a lot of stuff.  I can pack outfits in a variety of colors.  I can pack extra shoes and handbags.  I even sometimes take my own pillows.  When I travel by train or air I have to be cognizant of the luggage size and weight restrictions.  I also have to consider rolling that luggage, monitoring that luggage, lifting that luggage, etc.  You want to keep it simple.  You want to keep it light.  You want to keep it at minimum.

But a girl needs a lot of stuff!  You have to be prepared for the what-ifs.  What if I snag my pantyhose?  Got to have extras.  What if my hair flops?  Got to have a curling iron.  What if my shoe strap breaks?  Better have an extra pair.  What if the hotel catches on fire in the middle of the night? Yes, pack pajamas, a robe and slippers! (Yes, I actually think about the hotel catching fire in the middle of the night.)  What if the meeting space is chilly?  Be safe, pack a jacket.  I might get hungry in the middle of the night.  Room service is expensive and hotels don’t always have snack machines any more.  Hmm.  Pack some Nabs.  (Go here if you don’t know what a Nab is:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lance_Inc.  Smile.)

Through the years I have come to pride myself as somewhat of a packing expert.  I can travel light yet seem to have all that I need.  So once I had the bright idea to “kidnap” my friend for a weekend away.  I picked him up from his office and shared part of my plan with him once he was in the car. “I’ve taken care of everything,” I told him.  “I packed for you.”  He was amazed.  Especially when we got to our destination and he opened that suitcase!

That’s how life is for us.  Our life suitcase is packed each night for the next day.  We go out with a destination in mind carrying a bag with unknown contents.  Sometimes there is tragedy and heartache in that bag.  Other times there might be confusion or anxiety.  And sometimes there’s pure joy.  But we never know.

So as a packing expert I’ve learned to keep certain things ALWAYS packed and at the ready.  My luggage (and I have multiple sets) is never empty.  Certain toiletries, lingerie and first aid items are always packed as is a good book.  Pantyhose, socks and shower shoes are always waiting for me.  When I am ready to go on a trip, I simply add the items unique to the given trip.  That’s a good tip for travelers, and that is a good tip for life.

James 4:14 (NASB) says, “…you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow.”  You don’t know what will be in that suitcase when you open it.  Make sure, then, that you have packed and have at the ready your own bag of essentials – prayer, faith, Scripture internalization, songs of praise, self-control, love…

Bon Voyage!