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!

What If He Doesn't? -- A Repost

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Have you ever tried to bargain with God? Have you ever thought or said that if God did something for you, you would serve Him with all your heart? Maybe you requested health or a job or a spouse. In your mind, your happiness depended on getting the thing that you so desired, so you pleaded with God to meet the need.

If you can relate in any way at all, then you are in good company. In Genesis 28, we see Jacob doing a similar thing. After having an extraordinary dream, he wakes and builds an altar to God. On the surface, it seems like Jacob is doing an honorable thing and that his actions display a heartfelt trust in God and a desire to serve. But, if you read his words carefully, you'll see that's not the case at all.

And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God:
— Genesis 28:20-21

Notice his conditional promise to God. He said, "If God does this and that, then He will be my God." But my question for Jacob is this: what if God doesn't? What if God doesn't live up to our expectations? What if He doesn't do things the way we expect Him to? What if He doesn't give us the things we so desire? Will He still be our God?

It's time for us to determine in our hearts that we will serve God no matter what and that we will trust Him no matter what comes. In the good times and the bad, we will glorify Him because He is worthy. Whether He does things the way we want Him to or not, we will still live for Him because, no matter the circumstances, He is God. He always has been and always will be, it's only a matter of whether or not we will acknowledge that fact.

It's easy to serve and obey God when things are going well, and life is rolling along smoothly, but the real test of faith comes when life knocks us flat on our face and threatens to overwhelm us. During those times, is the Lord still our God? Do we still cling to Him and testify of Him? Can we still revel in His goodness even when things don't seem good?

God has promised to meet all of our needs, but He never clarified how or when He would do so. That is entirely up to Him, and our job is to trust and obey. Please don't bargain with God, saying that you'll only serve Him if He does this and that. God doesn't owe us anything. He already paid the ultimate price for our sins so that we could have eternal life. What more do we want? We need to have the attitude of the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace – if God will deliver us, fine, and if not, that's fine too. For God's ways are best, and everything He does for us is above and beyond what we deserve. We are indebted to Him, not the other way around.

Are you willing to serve God no matter what? Let Him know that today!