Minimize Stuff, Maximize Christ

I shoved two more bags of “stuff” into the car with great satisfaction. There’s nothing as good as clearing the house of excess.

Minimalism is on an all time high. You get the look—crisp white walls with minimal décor and a few succulents gracing a shelf or two. Very different than the oldies look of stuff, stuff, and more stuff.

Just recently I turned old brown paneling into a crisp white wall—well, actually, a painter did–a  super kind one who didn’t charge me a penny for his labor. I sold old furniture and purchased new décor. The results were remarkable.

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I love minimizing.

Having less is great until we carry that over into kingdom living. In God’s kingdom, there is lavish excess and he wants us to tap into it, daily. But, it’s so easy to be frugal with our dedication to God.

Loving Jesus means abundance and passion, excess comfort in all circumstances, and care for every detail of our lives. And such a good God deserves maximum focus.

Americans often give Jesus just enough attention to “get into heaven”. But loving Jesus isn’t about getting to a place; it’s about knowing a person.

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When all you want to do is get to heaven, you’ll treat Jesus Christ like one of those lovely succulents on the shelf of your home, there to grace your atmosphere with His presence and make your life beautiful. But you won’t breathe deeply of the very essence of Christ as you go about your day and your heart won’t really vibe with the good news of being born again.

Words like “born again” will sound like foreign language. Who says that, nowadays?

You’ll feel like Nicodemus when he asked Jesus, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time in his mother’s womb, and be born?” (John 3:4, ESV)

Or, you’ll feel like I did today as I sat a little wearily in a large crowd, but warmth and excitement overtook my heart as the pastor spoke about really knowing Jesus.

Knowing Jesus is different than knowing how to be good. I know what it’s like to be a good girl, but have no peace. That’s because Jesus isn’t interested in my goodness; He’s interested in me seeing that I need His redemption.

I remember the day I realized that no one can be good enough for God, and I had this vile sin nature within me that even my outwardly good life couldn’t answer for. I went to Jesus Christ for his free gift of mercy, and found that the best day of my life came at the end of my own resources. I found mercy only when I realized I desperately needed mercy. 

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But I didn’t stop trying to be good enough for God. I had always, always, always tried to gain the approval of people by being good. And, I figured God would kick me to hell if I wasn’t good all the time. My efforts exhausted my heart, and  still I had little peace.

Then, Jesus showed me who he was. A beautiful, wonderful Savior who was more like a Father. An intimate Friend who was closer than a brother. A Lover who would love me unconditionally. Someone Who was always present, always available. Someone who wouldn’t rebuke me or point out my flaws unless it was met with equal mercy and forgiveness.

I fell in love with THAT PERSON, and there was nothing minimal about it.

I began to pray that God would maximize my love toward Him and all those He loves.

I want to be His hands, His feet, His heart in a world of brokenness and pain (of which I know much). 

I learned to have fun and live fully. I learned to laugh even when I was crying—because the joy of the Lord was my strength, and He gave me richly all things to enjoy. I learned that the key to living a sanctified life was being deeply in love with a sanctified Savior. 

You can’t be connect to Someone without becoming like that Someone.

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This is why, when others talk of church buildings, religion, and denominations, my mind draws a blank and my heart doesn’t resonate. Religion is nothing to me, but Jesus is everything. And sometimes, like He did, I find more love and grace with non-religious people than I do with those who line the pews of a stained glass church.

When they tell me, “I don’t know if I’m a Christian, but I do believe in God”, my heart (and sometimes my mouth) says, “Please make sure you know the person of Jesus Christ.” 

We can be minimalists with every THING, but not with every ONE. Jesus Christ is more than a sweet idea gracing our lives and making sure we get to a certain place; He’s a Person who wants to fill our lives and gift us with supernatural GRACE.

Gateway to Forgiveness…….

I still have that Edward Jones coffee cup in my house, that masculine looking one they gave me after catching those tears during lunch hour.

What does forgiveness look like?” I asked the pastor and his wife. “Because right now, I don’t even know.”

I wanted to forgive. But I also needed to process, and sometimes the process of processing is long, hard, and ugly.

In times of crisis, one may go from grief, to anger, to despair, and all the way back to grief again. It doesn’t help when well-meaning people tell you to “let go and move on” and that you’ll have a better life in a short while.

You didn’t want another life; you wanted God to fix the one you already had, but instead it all fell to flames and the devastation was so great that you didn’t know how to breathe,walk, or move. 

To the soul in crisis, grieving often feels okay, but difficult. It’s the anger part we don’t know what to do with. At least for people like me who were conditioned to believe that anger is sin, and avoided it at all costs.

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For crying out loud, I’d repent in tears if I let the slightest bit of edge creep into my voice when I spoke to my children on a bad day. I hated tension of any sort and wanted everything gentle, kind, and peaceful. But when my life went up in smoke with all kinds of ugly, I knew it was unrealistic to feel “gentle” and “peaceful” about what went down.

I began a quest to be real with my feelings, real with God, and real with humanity.

I realized that Jesus tipped money tables over in righteous anger when the Jews brought their marketing into His temple.

I also realized God sent His Son to die for every sin on the planet. Not only that, one doesn’t need to work hard to receive forgiveness like this. It’s a gift, one none of us deserve, yet all get to receive.

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Daily, I’m struck with the mercy of God and I’ve spent a life-time focusing on mercy. It appeals to my make-up and the way I want to live. But I’ve seen that one can only truly release and forgive if one grasps the fact that God is also a God of justice.

When I see that God holds justice in his hand and invites me to release all wrong to His control, I can truly forgive and release.

My God never said there was no vengeance; He said “vengeance is mine.” When I see that God holds both justice and mercy in a balance that I can’t even describe, I am able release the offender as well as the offense to a God who sees all and knows all.

God won’t just swoop down and force someone to change but get this, ladies who need intervention—He sees it all and knows exactly what to do when you don’t.

This sounds trite and we all think, “Of course He does, but that changes nothing for me right now.”

Broken soul, will you remember this with me: Your God knows when to render justice and when to give mercy.  He’ll give you wisdom when to speak up and when to be silent. Sometimes His justice speaks out strongly; other times His mercy waits quietly. He will show you what to do when you wait on Him. 

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I cannot, hard as I may try, change my circumstance. But seeing God changes everything, and I invite every broken soul to join me on this journey to healing where I’m finding life in hidden places and springs in driest desserts.

I’ll never forget that lunch hour in the office of Edward Jones where my friend handles finances with such expertise. I’ll never forget how she and her husband caught my tears over cups of mid-day coffee.

Because sometimes all we need to know is that we don’t have to know when to feel what, because God knows exactly what to do all the time.”

Let it go, and learn to live fully in the very moment you breathe. 

 

Navigating Your Brain

I took the little ones’ hands and walked as quickly as I could.

We had just emerged from the forest and hadn’t ended up where we had planned on meeting the other kids. My heart was sick with worry even though I knew they were okay.

Though on foot, I hit Google maps and began walking swiftly in the direction it led. After about a half mile, I realized it was leading us astray.

Ever walked in circles trying to get somewhere, worried about your other kids?

The woods were deep and the trails varied and confusing, but we were on small paved roads that should surely lead us back to the car. What was the problem?

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Ever ran your mind in circles trying to come up with a plan that worked? A plan that would lead you out of a mess?

Ever landed up exactly where you were at, before? Wondering how it was possible to waste so much time?

We navigate our own brain a million times, only to come up with a solution that leads us to a shack in the woods rather than our own sturdy home. I wonder when we will tune in on God’s word to us, and tune out on our own words to ourselves.

This God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 18:30, ESV)

What is God saying to you right now, friend? 

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Did you know his word to your heart is perfect, even when your circumstances are not? Can you take the dare to listen carefully and follow his road map even when your own thoughts run in circles and you’re tempted to conjure up your own plan?

The God who equipped me with strength, and made my way blameless. He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights.

He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great.

You gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip.” Psalm 18: 32-36, ESV

Are we all the way in with God? We cannot receive his comfort unless we’re first willing to give up our own discomfort.

Rather than fight your trial, purpose to use your energy to pursue the heart of God for your trial. Only he knows the way out of the maze.

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Others may think they do, and God will use them to pull you through. But never allow their words to replace God’s word to your heart. God’s word is sure, and human words may contradict each other, leading you round and round another maze.

Only listen in when human words match with God’s words.

Don’t fear your trial. Don’t fight it. Jesus himself ended his earthly life in excruciating pain while bearing blame he never deserved in a million years.

There would have been no empty tomb had there been no occupied cross.

There are no plants springing up without a seed buried and dead under the soil.

And there will be new life for you when you are fully willing to die to your old.

For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you.

And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your teacher.

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’”

And he will give rain for the seed with which you sow the ground, and bread, the produce of the ground, which will be rich and plenteous.” Isaiah 30: 19-21a, ESV

Running your own mind in circles will inevitably lead you to mental exhaustion and, most likely, worthless, fruitless striving.

Slow it down. Breathe. Not everything has to be fixed today.

Only move when the word is sure to your heart. Realize that your part is to receive from the Lord rather than produce for yourself.

As you learn to adopt his word to your circumstance rather than try to fix your circumstance, your way will become bright and sure. You will be a shining light, glowing on a dark path.

No lamp the Lord lights is put under a basket or in a closet. Let His word shine light through you, and you will find that your circumstances no longer control you.

 Let there be rivers of living water flowing through you, out of you, headed to thirsty souls who want to know what grace life really is.

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Let truth govern you, calm you, reign your mind in a world of many voices. Refuse to run the circle, and choose instead to run the race. 

We navigated our way through the maze of small roads, and spotted the van. The kids were there, waiting, wondering where mama had been. I was certainly grateful as I turned the key.

The road led home, and the maze was gone.

Friend, are there others waiting for you to get out of the maze of your own mind? Are your kids longing for you to see clearly and walk with clarity?

Will you tune in on a sure word from the Healer Himself? 

His word will lead you home, out of the maze. And if your circumstances don’t change, your heart will—because God is good.