Keep, Give, or Toss

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I’m amazed at how much stuff Jason and I have accumulated over our lifetime. Even more so, I’m shocked at some of the junk I’ve uncovered while delving into the deep corners of our attic. Yes, as it is with so many attics, certain items have been up there since the day we moved into this house nearly nineteen years ago. Why, oh why, did we feel the need to keep so much stuff?

I’ve spent the past week going through the myriad of items in the attic, and I’ve uncovered everything from precious keepsakes to dead rodents (oh, how I wish I were making that up!). It’s been a process to decide what to do with everything. Some things are obvious, but others—not so much. So, day after day, I’ve waded through long, lost items and pondered, Keep, give, or toss?

Obviously, I long to keep things that have a purpose or sentimental value. Then, there are those items that I feel someone else may be able to use. Those, I place in boxes to pass on to family, friends, or even the local thrift store. Lastly, there are those things that need to be discarded. They no longer have a life or a purpose. Keep, give, toss—my motto for the past week or so.

But as I thought on it, I realized it’s an excellent motto to repeat to myself every single day of my life. Not just when dealing with a lifetime of possessions but also when dealing with a lifetime of—well—life. Let’s face it, over time, we all become weighed down by the “stuff” we’ve picked up along our journey. Some of it is good and has helped us in our walk. But some of it we would do well to give away or toss.  

The good things we’ve acquired in our journey may be salvation, relationships, skills, accomplishments, health, or a good job. They serve a purpose or have great value. We treasure them, and rightly so. These are the keepers.

The junk we’ve picked up in our life often includes pain, guilt, negative thinking, bad habits, bitterness, and a critical spirit. These things drag us down and wear us out. They steal our joy and peace, trip us up every step of the way, and create a dark place in our souls. The best thing to do is to throw it out. Cast it away. Junk it! It has no place in our lives, and it’s taking up the space that could be used for something positive and productive. Get rid of it.

The last category is the trickiest because it’s not quite as cut and dry as good or bad. It’s more a matter of good or best. Some things in our lives were good for us for a time, but as seasons changed, we changed too. Now, we no longer need those things, and it’s time to pass them on to someone else. Or, the thing that suited us for a time may have become a stumbling block to us, and the best thing for us to do is to give it over to God.  

As difficult as it is to sort through the stuff from my attic, I’ve found it’s even more challenging to sort through the things in my life, but it’s also more critical.  A junky attic is a mess, but a junky soul can be a menace. My friends, it’s time to do some sorting. I urge you to examine your life today—and every day—and determine what to keep, what to give away, and what to toss. You’ll be glad you did!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to my boxes. Fun, fun!

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. . .A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
— Ecclesiastes 3:1,6

A Full-Time Job

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For the past few weeks, I have renewed my effort to keep my house clutter under control. No more mail piling up on the dining room table. No more dishes sitting in the sink for hours. No more pulling clean clothes out of the laundry baskets because they’ve yet to be folded or hung up. Nope! I’ve been vigilant, and let me tell you, it’s like having another full-time job.

When we’re home, we’re HOME, and the house takes on a very “lived in” look. When we’re away, it’s typically for a longer trip involving luggage and coolers and other items that end up piled up in the entryway for a few days while I work up the energy to unpack and put everything back in its proper place. This being the case, every day consists of straightening, unloading and reloading the dishwasher, doing a load of laundry (from start to finish), wiping down the kitchen counters, etc. And some of these chores I do multiple times a day.  

Just last night, I was wiping down the counters for what felt like the fifteenth time that day, and all I could do was sigh. On the one hand, it’s been nice living in less clutter. It’s refreshing to walk out to the kitchen in the morning and not be greeted by a sink full of dishes and sticky counters. And, yes, it’s a joy not to have to sort through three baskets of clean laundry to find one pair of matching socks. I assure you I’m not a slob, and I love things orderly, but with health and time constraints, housekeeping takes a backseat around here. At least, it did, but no more. . .Lord willing.

The whole process reminds me of the effort it takes to keep my spiritual house in order. “One and done” doesn’t apply in caring for my spirit. Nope, it’s a lot of work. Before I go on, let me clarify I am not talking about salvation. We do not and cannot work for that. It is a free gift. I’m referring to what the apostle Paul was talking about in the book of Philippians.

Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
— Philippians 2:12

Work out your own salvation.  In other words, you have it within you; now it’s time to let others see it. Bear some fruit. Share some love. Become more like Christ to the point where others want what you have. That’s a tall order and takes constant effort and awareness. Just as my housework requires daily attention, so does my spirit. It needs quiet time in prayer and the reading of God’s Word. It needs me to guard my mind and heart against that attacks of the enemy. My spirit requires me to wipe clean the worry and anxiety, sometimes multiple times per day. It’s a lot of work, but just like maintaining a clean home, it’s worth it.

Yes, there’s peace in a spirit that isn’t weighed down by fear and anxiety. There’s joy in a life that isn’t cluttered by guilt and ingratitude. It’s refreshing to walk through the storms of life and find you can still sing a song. And the only way that would be possible is by putting forth the time and effort day after day, week after week until that behavior becomes “the norm.” And even then, we can never grow complacent. Remember, our enemy is seeking whom he may devour. He loves it when we grow weary in trying to live right. He knows we’re easy prey at that point.

The best way to keep that from happening is to keep the end goal in mind. When I’m tempted to leave the dishes for later, I recall how good it feels to have a clean kitchen, and that prompts me to do what I know to do. The same works in our spiritual life. When we’re tempted to skip out on our daily time alone with God, if we’ll remember how refreshing it is to be filled with His spirit as we began our day, we won’t want to miss out on that.  In other words, don’t think about the work; think about the reward!

Calm Down, Wonder Woman!

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Anyone who knows me knows I have a big heart.  I enjoy serving the Lord and seek to do whatever I can to help and encourage those around me.  That’s a good thing, but sometimes, it feels like a burden because I am just one person and I can’t do everything I want to do.  I want to be available to feed the homeless or sit with the shut-in.  I long to visit the nursing homes and the sick in the hospital.  I’d love to foster a child who needs love or be a listening ear for the young woman who’s at the end of her rope.  And what about writing cards of encouragement to the ladies in our church or to those I’ve never met but who have found a place in my heart.  I want to do it all.  I feel the pull to do more, serve more, help more, encourage more.

But here’s the thing, I’m not Wonder Woman.  Far from it!  Between trying to run a home, running a writing/speaking ministry, and being on deputation to raise the funds to get to the mission field, I have no time and energy left to contribute toward all these other legitimate needs.  At times, I feel guilty—lazy even.  After all, other people have full plates and still manage to find time to help out more.  Maybe if I slept a little less or cut corners somewhere, I could make it work, but not only is that unrealistic, it’s dangerous.  

I’ve written and spoken to audiences about stepping up and doing something for the Lord.  I’ve reminded those who are quick to say, “Somebody should help out in that ministry” that they are somebody, and maybe they’re the ones that need to get involved.  And I believe that.  But I’ve also come to realize that no “somebody” can do everything, and God never intended for them to.  God doesn’t want a select number of Christians to do more and work harder but rather He wants to see all of His children get involved in His work.  Why should one person feel the need to participate in four or five different ministries while others are doing nothing?

I’m not writing this today to put a guilt trip on anyone though I will say we should all be pulling our weight for the kingdom of God.  My real challenge today is to those like me who have big hearts, great desires, but little time and energy to see those things done.  God doesn’t want us stressed out and hanging on by a thread.  He wants us to be serving joyfully, and that’s not possible if we’re being pulled in a zillion different directions.  Remember, He is not the author of confusion.  While there are many good causes out there, God does not expect us to be involved in every one.  Instead, He wants us to focus our time and energy on the specific path He has set for us.  For a while, my path was ministering to the ladies at my church through Sunday School.  Before that, it was educating young children.  Now, it’s raising support to get to the mission field of Wales and doing my best to encourage those I meet along the way.  

Life is full of seasons.  Maybe one day I’ll have the opportunity to help out in other ministries, but for now, I must concentrate on the task before me and not get distracted by my Wonder Woman dreams.  Yes, I am somebody, and I have a job to do.  But I cannot do everything. . .and neither can you.  Don’t stretch yourself so thin you’re not of any use to anyone.  Follow God’s specific path for you and pray He will send laborers into the fields of area you cannot currently serve.  Then let it go.  Don’t allow yourself to be overcome by guilt or shame.  Just do the work God has set before you.  That’s all He’s asking for.

Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.
— Proverbs 16:3