Cleaning Closets

26 01 2015

Cleaning closets is one of my favorite, least enjoyable tasks. I like the end result, but the process, especially at the beginning, can be really overwhelming. It is amazing how much junk accumulates in my closet. Before I can get everything neat and organized, I have to go through all of the stuff, pulling out the where-did-I-get-thats, the unwanted sweater from Aunt Susie Jane, and the when-did-I-buy-that? Then there are the what-was-I-thinking pile, the I-have-no-idea-stack, and the just plain rubbish. All of that has to go before I can take what I value, what I want to keep, and what is important and make the closet workable and functional.

The wisdom writer had his eye on this truth many centuries ago when he wrote Ecclesiastes 3:3b – “…a time to break down, and a time to build up;” Here are a list of ten things that need to be broken down in our hearts before it can be built up into the image of Jesus.

  1. Break down despair – Build up hope
  2. Break down grumbling – Build up praise
  3. Break down hostility – Build up peace
  4. Break down selfishness – Build up generosity
  5. Break down comfort zones – Build up faith
  6. Break down guilt – Build up grace
  7. Break down fear – Build up joy
  8. Break down worry – Build up prayer
  9. Break down pride – Build up humility
  10. Break down apathy – Build up compassion

My Jesus Resolution today is to break down the world’s hold on my heart and build up Christ’s claim on all that I am. Just like my closet, it is easy for junk to pile up in my heart. A little bitterness here, a little anger there, and before long my heart is packed with so many negatives that there isn’t any room for Jesus to take shape. Breaking down those negatives isn’t a lot of fun, but it is necessary. Building up requires deliberate effort and specific focus. God gives us a little time each day to break down and build up. Ready to get started?

The Big, Fat Caterpillar

23 01 2015

It was literally the biggest caterpillar I had ever seen. I stopped in my tracks last week, watching a black, fuzzy caterpillar the size of a hot dog slowly make its way across my path. Of course, when I saw it, it was supposed to be dead. Seriously. A little guy visiting that day had spotted the big, fat caterpillar and went into ninja bug mode as little boys do. He stomped and stood his ground, his cowboy boots grinding the caterpillar into the sidewalk. He declared him killed. “That bug is really, truly, really dead,” he proudly said.

Now an hour later, I watched the caterpillar, clearly not dead, inching its way from one side of the concrete breezeway to the other. I couldn’t tell if it was injured or not. I couldn’t even tell which end was the head or the tail, but it was making progress, on its way to somewhere.

The image of the big, fat caterpillar has stayed with me. It reminds me of some of my bad habits. Like my little ninja friend, I kick and stomp and declare them killed, only to find them later inching along as though nothing has changed. I watch and shake my head. There are habits, attitudes, patterns, and choices that just need to be stopped in their tracks because they don’t help me look like Jesus.

“…a time to kill, and a time to heal;” – Ecclesiastes 3:3a

One of the consistent messages in the New Testament speaks to the need to kill the old person, with its worldly desires, selfish motives, and limited vision, and allow God to shape us into people healed and made whole by grace. Killing seems like such a harsh reality, but it is necessary if Christ is going to be formed in me. I can’t be healed by His mercy until the poison that is choking my soul is put to death.

My Jesus Resolution today is embrace 2 Corinthians 5:17 –“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” God wants to create something beautiful in me. In order for that to happen, something is going to have to pass away. Today is the day to go to the altar and kill the habits and practices that are holding me back from being all God wants me to be in Christ. I really hope that big, fat caterpillar turns into the most spectacular butterfly, and I pray that I can be courageous enough to kill what needs to go so I can fly as well.


21 01 2015

He was just a little guy when I had my first glimpse. He was visiting his grandparents on a hot summer day. A repairman was working on a problem with their garage door, and my little guy couldn’t resist watching the gentleman use his tools. He planted himself in the garage, fascinated with the work going on. My son sat out of the worker’s way, even as the older gentleman and my little guy carried on a lively conversation. At one point his grandmother poked her head in to check on my son and the workman told her he was doing great. “He is preaching me a sermon about Jesus!” the man replied.

Every once and a while, God gives a glimpse. We plant seeds all around us, praying that Jesus will grow in our families, our friendships, our work, and ourselves. The growing process, however, is long and we tend to lose sight of progress when it is so easy to see where we fail and fall short. That is where glimpses come in. A glimpse is a small peek into the way God is working in and around us. They are moments when we get to stop, see, and savor.

“…a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;” – Ecclesiastes 3:2b

We tend to think of harvest time as far away and that our job today is to focus entirely on planting. Planting is necessary, but so is taking time to rejoice in the harvest. There is a time to stop and measure the blessings God has poured into the day. When I heard the story about my son and the garage door repairman, I knew it was a glimpse. I wasn’t done planting Jesus in his life, but it was a moment to recognize what God was already starting to grow in him. Glimpses of the harvest give us the courage to keep planting.

My Jesus Resolution today is to pay attention to the glimpses. There is a time to plant, and with it to pray for Christ to take deep root. There will also be a time to pluck up the fruit of what God is growing, hold it close to my heart, and give thanks. These little moments remind us in the midst of the ordinary, everyday, over-busy stress of life that God is present, at work, and encouraging His children to keep planting and trusting Him with the harvest.

Birthdays and Funerals

19 01 2015

We tend to think of time in very physical terms. This is natural because our physical lives are measured and move within time. We count days and weeks, years and decades, watching our children grow, our bodies change, and the people around us move through the seasons of life. It is with no great surprise, then, that we read a passage like Ecclesiastes 3 in the light of birthdays and funerals and the very physical ramifications of time.

“…a time to be born, and a time to die:” – Ecclesiastes 3:2a

If you are like me, my mind goes to the days that mark the beginning and end of life. We celebrate. We grieve. We come to understand the truth of these words of wisdom. Interestingly, however, the Bible spends more time talking about being born and dying in spiritual terms than it does in physical terms. Perhaps the physical realities of birth and death are meant to introduce us to a spiritual truth we desperately need to understand.

Our physical lives begin with birth and end with death. Spiritual transformation begins with death which then gives way to life. In order to be conformed into the image of Jesus, we have to die to self and be born of water and the Spirit into a new life. And that is just the beginning. Every day I am called to put to death those things that do not look like Jesus, and open my heart to the wonderful, sometimes challenging, things that God wants to bring to life in me.

My Jesus Resolution today is to surrender to the dying and birthing my heart needs to grow. Dying to self is hard work. Being open to Christ being formed in me isn’t always easy. But within the precious time God has given me today I have the opportunity to bury the old and embrace the new. Today there will be a time to be born and a time to die. In order to look more like Jesus, I will need to recognize the opportunity and seize the moment.

Enjoy Today

16 01 2015

What is your favorite season? We all have a time of year that speaks to our hearts. I have a friend who spends the winter counting the days until spring. Others love summer with its bright sunshine, hot temperatures, and sense of freedom. Some enjoy fall with its cool breezes and brilliant colors. Whichever one is your favorite, they each have their own special beauty and own unique purpose.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:” – Ecclesiastes 3:1

Here is God’s first lesson about time. Recognize the balance and beauty that comes with the seasons. Each season works within a divine rhythm that allows the whole year to unfold, revealing His wisdom and creativity. The same is true of our lives. Our lives move within an unfolding series of seasons, each one having its own beauty, struggles, wonders, and tempo. Many times, rather than enjoying the season I am in, I either look back with regret, look ahead with worry, or believe that I have to accomplish the work of four seasons in the timeframe of today. We put so much pressure on ourselves to push through this season in order to get to the next one. God calls us to live fully in today. Enjoy today. Discover the unique pleasures that fill this moment. We couldn’t enjoy crunching through bright autumn leaves if spring didn’t come and fill the trees with green. The same is true in our families, in our friendships, in our work, and even in our relationship with God. All of the seasons of life work together to grow us into the image of Christ.

My Jesus Resolution today is to enjoy today. I am going to find ten wonderful things to celebrate about today. I am going to walk outside in the brisk winter air and marvel at the way God allows the earth to rest and renew. I am going to run inside, thankful for warm quilts and hot coffee. I am going to take a picture of my kids in order to capture this moment that will be gone too quickly. I am going to rest in the truth that God created this season in my life in order for me to walk closely with Him. I don’t have to rush it, over pack it, or wish it away – just enjoy it while giving Him praise.

It’s Time

14 01 2015

We are a society that is dominated by time. We watch time, measure time, borrow time, steal time, fight against time, and complain when time drags. Generations ago they clocked time by the movement of the sun and stars in the heavens. At least when they did that, their eyes were pulled into the vastness of space where they might find perspective and His presence. We, who are surrounded by cell phones, watches, and digital screens, barely have to turn our attention in order to register the time.

God has much to say about time. After all, He created time so it makes sense that He has a purpose for what it is, how it works, and the way we need to use it. Time is a tool. Too many times, however, I live as though time is my master. The calendar controls my mood, my priorities, and my view of the day (and myself). No one little black box, or even 365 of them, should hold that much power in my life.

This year as I bathe my soul in the truth that God is for me, I want to learn to see time from God’s perspective. God is for me as I make a schedule, plan my work week, take care of my family, and run the necessary errands. God also gave me time as a tool to be used to walk in grace, discover joy, confess sins, listen to His heart, and experience His nearness. Time, it turns out, has a tempo, a heartbeat that invites me to live in rhythm with God. When we get out of sync with that rhythm, our souls ache and our hearts feel hurried and exhausted.

My Jesus Resolution today is to pray about time. Psalm 90:12 says, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” This is going to be my prayer today – that God will teach me to number my days, that He will instruct me about time. If I want to grow in wisdom, I need to learn how to use this powerful tool He has given each of us. Then, over the next few blogs, I would like to explore some of what God says about time, how to use it, and where to invest our hearts. I don’t know about you, but for me – it’s time.

Praying For You

12 01 2015

I have a friend that prays. Of course, I know lots of people who pray, but this friend is different. About once a week, she dedicates part of a day to praying for others. She sends out a message letting people know when she will be praying, and invites anyone with a heavy heart, splintered spirit, or struggling soul to share their prayer request. It is neat to watch. She gathers these people close to heart and carries them before the Father. Hearts that are hurting walk through their day knowing that someone cares enough to intercede for them.

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” – James 5:16

We all have people for whom we pray. What I love about the heart of my friend is her willingness to open her prayer time to whatever needs are entrusted to her for the day. She extends grace to anyone with the courage to admit that they need God. She doesn’t need a lot of details to pray for you. Just the prompt that you need prayer. What might happen if we had the courage to tell someone that our heart needs to be wrapped in prayer? How might our faith stretch if we committed regular time, space and energy to praying for those around us who are hungry for God’s mercy and power?

My Jesus Resolution today is to examine the way I pray. I have much to learn from my friend. Sometimes my praying falls into a rut. It isn’t bad, but becomes limited in its perspective. Praying for others lets me see God at work, opens my eyes to things for which I need to be thankful, or situations for which I need more compassion. Praying like this connects us with cords of love, builds unity, and opens doors of opportunity. I want to grow in the grace of prayer. Praying for you may be the way in which God transforms us both.


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