I John 2:15-17
Do I have Enough Stuff?
For all that is in the world-the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride of life-is not from the father but is from the world. I John 2:16
As my eyes scan the room in front of me, my lungs fill and slowly release the heavy laden air of my weary heart, my shoulders sag, and my eyes close for a brief moment. The clutter strewn room and overflowing sink of dishes waiting their turn to enter the tightly packed dishwasher glare back at me like flashing signs warning of impending doom. Doomed to forever live in the hallowed halls of hoarders (it's not that bad I promise) instead of the sacred palace of Pintrest. Sometimes stuff, the desire for stuff, the need for stuff and the accumulation of stuff overwhelms me. Besides that, the voice of not good enough begins to whispers in my ear. Not clean enough. Not big enough. Not new enough. Not Better House and Gardens enough. Not enough is soon joined with the voice of if only. If only you made more money. If only you had more time. If only you were a better housekeeper. If only your house looked like the one in the Pottery Barn catalog. The not enough and if only boxing team of discontent land a few quick blows to my heart.
The truth is I struggle with the things of the world. I am jealous of the homes I see in magazines, Facebook, Instagram, and Pintrest. I want that Pottery Barn picture perfect family room, not the cluttered chaos of my clan's cave. The desire to have the things in my life reflect the glossy advertisements tugs at my soul. If I am not careful, those desires will slowly steal my heart away from God. The externals of my life will begin to consume my time, energy, and money. Appearance will become my measuring stick of worth. I will begin investing in the things that do not last instead of the things that do.
I John 2:15-17 tells us to not love the world nor the things of the world. We can't love the stuff around us, pursue it, and love God at the same time. When I start looking at the things around me and focus on what I don't have compared to what someone else has, my heart grows discontent. I stop trusting God and start doubting His provision in my life. My focus shifts from the deep riches of life to the fleeting trinkets of surface things. God calls me to love him and abide in him. My contentment is found in my relationship with him, not in the condition nor caliber of the contents of my habitat. Clutter is distracting both in my heart and in my home. God does not want to deny me things, he just wants me to keep them in the right place -kind of like my stuff.
I want my eyes to stay focused on you. I want to stop playing the comparison game and become content in you. I want to know deep down in my soul that I am enough and what I have is enough. Thank you for the provisions in my life.
Jesus replied, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it. 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"
Some days I just want God to tell me what to do. I want God to use a Siri navigational voice directing my steps. "In 500 feet turn left." "Your destination is on your right." I don't want to have to think about anything. I just want to be given precise, step-by-step instructions for getting to my destination. I don't want to have to figure out where I am, where I am going, or how I am going to get there. I don't want to have to think, or make decisions, or worry about getting lost. I am tired. My brain is fried and my soul is weary. As a teacher, I am bombarded all day long with questions and decisions that require quick calculations of rules, outcomes, and consequences. My position as an educational decision maker requires me to rapidly negotiate in my mind the optimum return for each choice I make and answer I give. That means when it comes to navigating my life, I want God to tell me exactly what to do. I don't want to have to figure it out on my own. I want a voice directing me to: "Take that job." "Teach this course." "Go back to school." "Start a new business." "Adopt." Through clenched teeth I hiss, "Just tell me what to do!"
In Matthew 22 the Pharisees are seeking a way to discredit Jesus. They are trying to pin him down to one rule they should follow hoping he will say one, so they can counter argue with a different one. They are asking, "What is God's will for my life? What should I do?" But, Jesus doesn't play their game. He simply says every decision hangs on two things. Love God. Love People. Jesus tells them "You want to know what to do with your life? First, love God with every part of your being. Then, love people in the same way you take care of yourself. If you do these two things everything else will fall into place."
The same guidelines apply to us. God only requires two things of us. First, we are to love him with an all consuming passion. Our love for him should be what drives us. Not making money. Not making a name for ourselves. Not being popular. Not having a perfect Pintrest home. Not children nor marriage. My heart should beat to please him. My spirit should be moved by him. My mind should be constantly thinking about him. Second, we are to love others. I don't neglect myself. I brush my teeth. I go to the doctor. I exercise. I treat myself to shoes and lattes. I go to bed when I am tired. I make sure that my needs are met. In the same way, I am to look out for others. I need to ask myself, "How would I want to be treated? What would I need in that situation?" As acutely as I am aware of my feelings, longings, needs, and desires, I should be aware of others and their needs. What I would do for myself should be what I do for someone else.
Navigating God's will for my life is simply a matter of following two simple directions-love God; love people. When I find myself hissing "What should I do?" The response is clear. "First, love me. Then, love others."
Dear Heavenly Father,
My life does not always align with loving you and others. Show me where my life needs redirecting. Reignite a passion within me for you. Help me to see others through the same lens I see myself. Amen
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
I John 4:16
Eighteen inches. A foot and half. Not that much. Not really. Not in the big scheme of things. Does a foot and half really make a difference? It does if you are buying a pizza. One 18 inch pizza gives you the equivalent amount of pizza as five 8 inch pizzas at a savings of about $23. In 2000, it was the difference between winning and losing the Super Bowl. The Tennessee Titans were 18 inches short of the game winning goal line. The Kansas City Royals learned in 1983 that 18 inches was the difference between a 5-4 win and a 3-4 loss. The inch of pine tar beyond the 18 inch limit disqualified George Brett's game winning two run homer. Eighteen inches makes a big difference.
Eighteen inches. The distance from my head to my heart. Not that far across my body, but a giant chasm when it comes to my faith. How often do I know something in my head, but don't feel it in my heart? I know God loves me, but I don't feel loved. I know I am to love my neighbor, but I don't feel a love for her-I may not even like her. I know God is faithful and I can trust Him, yet I worry and fret about so many things. I know God holds my future, but I manipulate and maneuver to be recognized at work. I jump up and down trying to get the attention of others to satiate my longing for praise. My insecurities, doubts, fears, hurts, and even my pride wrap themselves around my heart and twist my feelings into the lies Satan wants me to believe instead of the truth God says about me. My head and my heart are disconnected.
I John 4: 13-16 gives us a way to fix this disconnect of head and heart. First, connection starts with abiding. We have to get our heads right. In order to do that we have to spend time in His word. We have to read it, ponder it and meditate on it. Next, we need to notice His handiwork in our life and give Him credit for it. We need to keep an eye out for the trace evidence of His intervention in our lives. His fingerprints are there- we just need to find them. Then, we need to share with each other the small (and big things) we see God doing around us. Last, we need to believe what God says. We need to speak his truth to our hearts, not the lies we have rehearsed for years that Satan has whispered in our ears. We have to plant God's word deep in the soil of our hearts so it can grow roots that feed our faith. We need to memorize it.
God wants us to know and believe the love He has for us. He doesn't want us to doubt that love. He wants our mind and heart to be in the right place. Connected to each other. Connected to Him.
Dear Heavenly Father,
I want to fully abide in you. I want to believe in your love so much that my heart is at rest. I want to know to know with every ounce of my being that you are enough. Connect and bind my head and my heart to you.
"Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." Romans 13:10 (NIV)
Their feud had spilled over on to the rest of us like pot of boiling spaghetti sauce. The anger was splattered everywhere. "What do you mean I can't park my car on the street overnight?!" "But the color I paint my house is my choice." "What do you mean my grass is too tall?" The president of our homeowner's association son and his neighborhood friend were in the midst of a teenage falling out of friendship moment and the mom-mas' feathers were ruffled. The teenage feud turned mothers' fight had morphed into a neighborhood war zone. Neighbor was now pitted against neighbor. Nasty notes were left on cars and front doors. Sides were being taking and battle lines were drawn. You see in Florida we have these organizations called home owners associations and they were created for the purpose of maintaining the property values of the neighborhood by setting rules and guidelines for the outward appearance of all of our homes. We pay monthly dues to make sure we all follow the neighborhood rules. And one of the feuding friends had broken a rule and the presidential mom-ma was going to make sure we all straightened up and cleaned up our acts.
Romans 13: 9-10 tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves and to do no harm to a neighbor. The feud in our neighbor was doing more harm than good. Relationships were being damaged. Trust was being lost. Passive aggressive behavior flourished. Every conversation was peppered with anger. Yes, our homeowners association had the right to enforce the rules, but in a neighborhood shouldn't talking to each other come first? Maybe if the nasty note leaver had asked me why our car was on the street in the early morning hours, I would have told them it hadn't been out there overnight. I had just moved it to get my car out of the garage to run before 6:00 AM on Saturday. Problem solved. Better yet, what if my neighbor knew me well enough to know I routinely run early on Saturday mornings.
So how do I love my neighbor as myself? First I have to know my neighbor. Do I know what her hobbies are? Do I know where she works? Does she have children? Pets? Is she single or married? To get to know my neighbors I have to spend time outside the walls and comfort of my house. It takes intentional effort beyond the wave from the driveway or mailbox. When my neighbors are outside maybe I need to take a few moments to stop and talk instead of immediately closing the garage door when I get home. Relationships take effort and investment. God calls us to invest in people especially in those who live right next door.
The war eventually ended in our neighborhood when one of the feuding parties moved way. We no longer have to park a car on the street since our boys have moved away. The house, well it still needs painting. And I need to do a better job of getting to know my neighbors.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Help me to love my neighbor as myself. Drive me out of the comfort of my own home into the yard of my neighbor so that I can get to them and love them the way that you do.
Between a husband, 2 sons, and teaching high school my sanity is found in running and Starbucks. I have a circle of running friends who inspire me to be authentic and real as I live a life of faith before them.