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!

Green Is Not Your Color

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Guys, you’re welcome to read today’s devotion, but since we’ve just passed Mother’s Day, I’d like to direct some thoughts toward my female readers.

Okay, ladies, by a show of hands, how many of you heard some reference to the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 this weekend?  Yes, I see those hands.  And how many of you cringed a bit as the passage was read?  Yeah, me too.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love God’s Word, and I know it is perfect, holy, and right in every way.  It is full of encouragement and strength, but there’s just something about Proverbs 31 that tends to make me feel inferior and even downright lazy.  Can I get an “Amen”?

Of course, it doesn’t help any that when I read it, I immediately think of a real-life example that seems to fit the virtuous woman in every way.  I’m speaking of Joanna Gaines.  For those who don’t recognize the name, she (along with her husband, Chip) is the star of the popular show, Fixer Upper. In addition to being a star, she is a mom of five who owns multiple businesses and seems to excel at anything she sets her hands to.

In her “spare time,” Joanna grows her own vegetables and herbs, helps out on the family farm, and bakes delicious treats for friends and family alike.  Not only is she talented, but she’s beautiful too — the perfect hair, teeth, skin tone, and figure.  To be honest, as much I as enjoy watching Fixer Upper, I tend to come away feeling a bit green. . .with envy.

Why do we ladies do that?  Why do we insist on comparing ourselves to others?  Don’t we realize that God made us who we are for a reason?  Why is it so difficult for us to understand that we’re unique in our own way?

I wish I had answers to those questions, but I’m afraid I don’t.  The truth is, I fall into the pit of envy more often than I can count, especially now that my health is holding me back in so many ways.  I look at those around me who keep immaculate homes, cook gourmet meals, and raise their families, all while holding down a grueling job, and think What’s wrong with me?  Why can’t I be a better wife, housekeeper, cook, etc.?  Then, I start to feel sorry for my dear husband, and before long, I conclude that if I feel like I’m letting him down as a helpmeet, he must believe the same about me (even though he has NEVER said or done anything to make me think that.)

It’s not Jason that causes the chaos in my thoughts and turns my self-pity into self-loathing.  It’s envy.  Envy is dangerous, and it is a powerful weapon in Satan’s arsenal. . .especially when dealing with us, ladies.  Many, many verses in the Bible address envy, but this one grabs my attention every time:

For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.
— James 3:16

Ouch!  Envy doesn’t stop at making me feel like a loser.  It progresses into bitterness, resentment, and so much more.  It is the seed from which confusion and evil works grow.  Envy leads people to do stupid things and to cause great havoc not just in their own lives, but in the lives of all those around them.  It causes strife, heartache, and in the end, despite the progression, envy remains.  Never satisfied.  Never quenched.  Instead, it grows bigger and bigger until we, too, are never satisfied.  We want more.  We want something different.  We become so blinded to our strengths and blessings that all we can focus on is how we feel we’re lacking.  And we carry that sense of “not enough” with us into all our relationships, creating a burden for those we love.

I’ll be the first to admit that stopping envy in its tracks is laborious.  It’s so easy to allow those thoughts to creep in and take root, but we must be on guard and catch those nasty weeds before they take over the garden of our heart.  One verse that helps me do that is found in my favorite book of the Bible.

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.
— Psalm 139:14

Speaking this truth aloud sends the enemy and his weapon of envy fleeing in the opposite direction.  I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  That is what God has to say about me, and God is never wrong.  His works are marvelous, and I am one of His works; therefore, I must be marvelous.  

Now, here comes the tricky part:  my soul knows it.  I struggle with that a bit, but repetition aids learning.  So, I keep telling myself this truth as many times as it takes until it sinks in:  I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  God doesn’t make junk.  He doesn’t make worthless individuals.  I am not lazy.  I have a health condition, and that’s a different story entirely.  I may not be able to do what others can do, but they have no idea how to be me either.  Besides, I can only see what others want me to see.  I don’t know what goes on behind closed doors.  Sure, their home may be immaculate, but is it full of joy?  Which is more important?  I have nothing to prove to anyone, even myself.  God’s work is marvelous, and I am privileged to be His work.  And He’s also promised He’s not done with me yet, so I can take comfort in knowing I’m a marvelous work in progress.

My dear lady friend, you are fearfully and wonderfully made.  You are beautiful, marvelous, and unique.  Don’t let envy steal your joy, strength, or peace.  Don’t allow it to cause strife and division in your home and relationships.  Stop it in its tracks by speaking God’s truth aloud.  Use the Scripture above or find your own and take it to heart until your soul knows the truth—You are amazing!

Not Today, Satan!

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From the moment my alarm went off this morning, a thousand anxious and worrisome thoughts filled my mind.

The schedule is full again today. How will I get it all done?

Why do I still feel so tired?

Yea, my headache is back. . .again!

I wonder if it’s supposed to rain today. I’m sick of rain.

Amidst the turmoil of my soul, I uttered the three words God laid on my heart this weekend: “Not today, Satan!” I don’t mind telling you I’ve had quite enough of his antics. I’m sick of him stealing my peace and joy day after day. He’s had me running in circles, and enough is enough! So, by God’s strength, I shout from the depth of my inner being, “Not today, Satan!”

When he fills my mind with anxious thoughts that cause my heart to race and my peace to retreat, I say, “Not today, Satan!”

When he urges me to be critical of those around me, “Not today, Satan!”

When my heart is overwhelmed, and I feel like giving up, “Not today, Satan!”

When I’m tempted by that piece of cake or that third helping of dinner, I cry, “Not today, Satan!”

When I feel the pull to skip my exercises and watch television instead, I shout, “Not today, Satan!”

Not today! He may have tricked me yesterday. He may have won the battles last week. But today is a new day, and I have a choice. I can say, “No,” and I choose to do just that. I’m tired of playing the part of a puppet on a string. God gave me free will, and when Jesus died for my sin, He gave me the power over that sin. I’m no longer a prisoner. I decide each day whether to live in freedom or captivity, and with that in mind, I say, “Not today, Satan! Today, I am free, and I will act like it!”

My friend, if you’ve accepted Christ as your Savior, you, too, are free. You are not bound by sin. The only power it holds over you is that you surrender to its pull. May I urge you to stand with me today and declare, “Not today, Satan!” Don’t worry about yesterday. You can’t change that. Don’t even worry about tomorrow. You’re not there yet. Consider today. When Satan comes to tempt you, distract you, discourage you, or dissuade you from following God, hold your head up high, and tell him, “Not today, Satan! This is the day the Lord has made, and I will rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24).” Then follow through.

You may make this declaration once in the morning and live it out throughout the day, or you may have to declare your choice repeatedly throughout the day. I’ve only been up for about an hour, and I’ve already had a few occasions to say, “Not today, Satan!” But here’s the thing: we have God’s promise that if we resist the devil, he will eventually flee from us (James 4:7). He’ll see we’re no longer giving in to him. We’re no longer an easy target. And like he did with Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4, Luke 4), he’ll be on his way (though I warn you, he probably won’t stay away long; he’s persistent that way!).  

Not today, Satan. I could wallow in self-pity, but what good would that do? I could allow the demands of life to sap my strength and joy, but then how would I serve God? I could give in to the promise of an “easy life,” but why would I? I know Satan is a liar and the father of all liars (John 8:44). Why would I believe anything he says? No, thank you! I choose to listen to the Voice of Truth who tells me I’m already an overcomer. How about you?

But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil.
— Ephesians 4:20-27
And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
— Joshua 24:15