It’s the end of January…ALREADY!
While I maintain a full schedule and do spend time in the Word, it appears that God delights in speaking to me during my sleep! A couple of weeks ago, God gave me this musing loud and clear and He has continued to write it on my heart (in bold lettering) this week! I remember waking and suddenly sitting up in bed with a puzzled feeling.
PREPARATION “H?” I giggled! “Oh, this is a good one Lord!” So, as always, I’d like to turn this image into one with spiritual meaning and pray it speaks to your soul with great impact as it has (and is doing) mine. I pray that it will help relieve pain, emotional soreness, discomfort, and prompt that burning-itchy feeling to get things in order as we attempt to shrink many things in our lives.
As an overview of this blog, Preparation “H” asks the question: How is God calling us to prepare our Home, Health, Heart, Heirs, and Huddles for His Kingdom purposes. I think God has much to say, whether you read it here, or simply as you contemplate this question. So, it appears that this particular little blog title will become a series I will write as I share with you the things God is revealing to me. There is so much spinning in my heart and head to help us conquer each aspect with hope, scripture, and God-size resilience as we respond to His calling of preparedness.
Let me begin with Home.
It happens to almost all of us the first week of January! We feel the need to get our homes and lives in order. We put away Christmas decorations (well most of us – I’m still using my Christmas dishes!) and our new gifts. We remind ourselves that January is a great time to organize and re-organize and we might even begin that process. But why, really? Shouldn’t we always have that in the forefront of our thinking? Maybe some of you do, but my life is not wired that way. For me, the months from October through December are extremely chaotic with special events, meetings, and closing down the year. I race from thing to thing, slinging, tossing, and shuffling items from one room to another to make space for more things or for people who waltz in for a visit or a stay at my house. By January, I’ve misplaced everything! I HAVE to get re-organized! I cannot function and I get very out-of-sorts! This puts me into a funk, along with gloomy weather, and I think I’ll never pull out or see light at the end of the tunnel! But deep within, I know that it will be fine and I’ll soon see blue skies. January is typically very grey for me and my soul gets choked up. And when I look around at the overwhelming piles, and even the urge to re-decorate, it’s very easy for me to wanna leave town and not return! I have to remember this scripture verse and truly the only one who can help is The Lord.
Although my personality is free-spirited, I need organization for my soul to breathe. This is one way I resuscitate my soul. Order creates space! (Think about that sentence more deeply!) I have begun the process, remembering the principles that I have learned from Dave Ramsey about reducing the debt snowball. Start with the smallest thing! And so I did! I am no longer embarrassed to open the two small drawers in my buffet and phone table. They are all cleaned out and in order. I felt a great sense of accomplishment as I tossed things into the trash and found things I had forgotten. One by one, I move to the next little thing and then begin to chip away at the larger tasks. The garage has been looming and weighing heavy for years! It’s still a work in progress, but a little weight has lifted and things are rolling. It’s amazing that a little order helps to put a bounce back in my step and a smile on my face! Chaos and clutter continually work in harmony to drag me down, cramp my soul, and destroy my happiness. I struggle seasonally, according to my life schedule, with “sling and go.” I know this is no way to live and I’ve been convicted of it. Our God is a God of order and peace, not chaos. Nor is He the author of confusion.
Asking and looking more deeply into why God has impressed me to “prepare” my home, He reminded me of it’s purpose and gave me a whole plethora of important reasons including a “space of ministry” and a quiet place for just me. I feel our homes should be warm and welcoming, clutter-free (for the soul to breathe & to create), a safe place for conversations, and available at the drop of a hat! And, the Lord provided just that opportunity just this week – multiple times!
I felt a prompting from the Holy Spirit to prepare a luncheon and offer my home as a place of refuge and a much needed nurturing environment. I made the phone call at 9am and plans were made to meet at 11:30am. After I got off of the phone, I went into a small panic. I was still in my jammies, had no clue what I would fix to eat, had to straighten the downstairs, and when I opened the refrigerator, there was nothing with which to fix anything! It was a really rough week with a family tragedy and everything was dropped. I had to make a quick run to the store, but first I had (or wanted) to set a pretty table! Thank God He gave me a creative brain! It kicked into gear allowing me able to pull it off with a little bit of time to spare! My prepared home was just the right place for a ministry moment! Was there still a disorganized mess? Sure! I just found a place to stash it until I can get to it, but I didn’t want that to hinder me from disobeying the Spirit’s prompting. If I had had my act together, I wouldn’t have had to worry about clearing the space and wasted precious time. I could have used that time for other productive and meaningful means or praying for the gathering!
Why do we not ask more people to come into our homes?
Perhaps we feel “out of sorts!” I believe it’s because we are not prepared! We think our house needs to be pristine or maybe it doesn’t measure up to those of your friends. Shame on us! Shame on ME! We all live chaotic lives, in some form or fashion; especially if you have children that you shuttle from one event to another! Or, perhaps you feel like a bag lady, constantly moving from meeting to meeting, appointment to appointment, carrying lots of gear, and wearing many hats. Maybe you feel hospitality isn’t your gift. Have you ever stopped to think that it’s not really your house people come to see? It’s you! I’m sure it’s also the fellowship or encouragement you share…or need! I often say to new comers into my home, “You are welcome to stop in and see me anytime, but if you want to see my house, make an appointment!”
As I think about stories in the Bible, it appears that Jesus was always popping in on someone. Poor wife of Zacchaeus (if he was married!) You remember the story…
And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. Luke 19:5,6
Did you catch that? Received Him joyfully…and Jesus invited Himself!
Martha was welcoming…
“Now as they were traveling along, He (Jesus) entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home.” Luke 10:38
This is the same Martha that rebuked her sister for not helping in the kitchen. Martha knew what she was doing when she invited them in!
What about Lydia…she promptly opened her home to Paul.
And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, “If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay” at my house. And she persuaded us. Acts 16:15
And there’s the Jailer in the Paul and Silas story…
“Then he brought them into his home and set a meal before them.” Acts 16:34
In all of these instances, who could know if preparations were made ahead of time for each of these guests? I don’t see in scripture where anyone had an issue of keeping people at bay because of clutter or untidiness. They seized the moment and had a real understanding of Koinonia fellowship. Whether a meal, a bed, or a brief time of visiting, they didn’t think twice. I want to offer my home and exercise “drop of the hat” hospitality.
When my life gets crazy busy and my surroundings begin to suffer from inattentiveness, I am less likely to pursue opportunities for fellowship or “ministry moments.” Before I know it, not only is my home in disarray but also my mind and heart. Isn’t it that way too with the home of our heart and our spiritual life? Jesus comes knocking and we feel embarrassed to let Him in or start making excuses why we haven’t gotten it all together. Maybe we slip into bitterness, depression, or selfishness and are ashamed to answer the knock and look upon His face. We can’t let the enemy of accusation and shame infiltrate our mind and soul. We will never have it “all together!” That’s why we need a Savior, and His name is Jesus!
“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Is. 26:3
Preparing my home for others is more than an organized house! But an organized house helps set the stage!
How many times have you walked into someone’s home and you could just feel the peace? You wanted to linger there forever! I can just about promise you that it wasn’t just because everything was beautiful and orderly, donning calm hues, but because of the loving warmth that was showered upon you as you entered! Your gentle spirit and peace is reflected because there is rest and peace with God! That can only happen when there is total trust in Him…for all things! It is God who grants perfect peace. When there is unrest or chaos in my heart (sin), everything gets “off balance.” Recognizing when I’m unbalanced and remembering to keep my mind stayed on Jesus always dismantles my turmoil and disorganization within and without!
"Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4: 5-9
Notice that the peace of God guards us, and the God of peace is with us.
So let me leave you with this image. Apart from salvation, because He receives us just as we are, when Jesus comes calling, do you see yourself scrambling to straighten and pick things up before you let Him in? Or do you receive Him joyfully knowing that your "home" is ready, unhurried, and prepared for His arrival? He stands knocking. His fellowship is sweet. In what way is God calling you to prepare your home? A little "preparation H" for your quiet time and His presence will remove discomfort and relieve pain as we seek to shrink clutter in our heart and home!
Finding peace as I prepare my home,
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I am lingering this morning with a cup of hot tea by the fire on a rare freezing day in Louisiana. It is past time for me to take down all the Christmas decorations. We did manage to get the dead tree down and out of the house yesterday! But I”ve never been one of those who puts it all away the day after Christmas. I love the holiday. I love celebrating advent, the carols and concerts, the beauty and wonder of Christ’s birth, the family and friends, the feasts, the decorating, the tree, the presents, the cards, the memories....I love all of the mixed up craziness that we have come to define as Christmas in America. And when the kids all leave to go back to their own homes I guess, if truth be told, I go into a bit of mourning and a little bit of exhaustion sets in. We had five big events at our home the week of Christmas - feasting and celebrating with10- 18 people each meal as different groups of friends and family arrived for the holidays. The blessings and chaos of the holidays can wear you down a bit, so I gave myself permission to rest and basically slept one whole day and have had several naps this week. But the new year has arrived and it’s time to move into what God has for us in 2017.
As I reflect on last year, I am so grateful for the generosity and love of family and friends in our personal lives and in the ministry of Restore. In a year when our nation and the world was ravaged with hate, evil, violence and despair, I have also seen the generous heart of Jesus in the people with whom God has graced my life.
There is a spirit of giving and selflessness in the anonymous message of this card that I think captures much of the heart of Jesus for us as we seek to live as his disciples. So today as I begin to pack away the cards and decorations, I think I will keep it out as a reminder to me in the New Year; a reminder to live generously with my words, my love, my treasure and my heart. Generosity is offered many ways to those in need. We give with our emotions and our love as well as our resources.
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. 1 Timothy 6:17-19
This Christmas, my neighbors daughter drove home for the holidays with the words “Carpe Diem” on her front license plate. “Seize the day” is what it means in Latin. I was walking our dog when she drove in and waved at her and wondered about this young woman I had watched grow up across the street. I hadn’t seen her in years since she moved away to college and a new job. When I saw the license plate, I remembered the movie “Dead Poets Society” with Robin Williams where I was first exposed to that phrase and how it influenced so many at the time. Apparently young people today are taking on the phrase as well. While the saying seems good, it can lead to a life that is very driven by the desires of self. A life that often lacks wisdom and generosity. I was pondering those thoughts when the blog from Incourage came across my email today and I was struck by these words.
“In the midst of my toxic overdose of attempts at seizing the day, God, in His goodness, intervened and taught me what it was to thrive. Coram Deo is the Latin phrase meaning “in the presence of God.”....
If we jump, move, and boldly pursue whatever we crave because tomorrow we may die, we sacrifice wisdom for desire.”
Coram Deo Is about God, Not Me ---- “I began to know what true life was when I got to the end of myself and began living for God and others. I learned the hard way that an existence wound tightly around self is a small one indeed. I serve a God who is fully out of my control, but there is nothing better than being in the wild goodness of His presence.” Chara Donohue ( Incourage) You can read the full blog at the link below:
I haven’t chosen a word for the year or written down resolutions, but this I know - I want my life in 2017 to be marked by God’s wisdom and generosity. I don't want to sacrifice wisdom for desire or let my own selfish desires keep me from loving generously.
Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Proverbs 4:6-7
The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 2 Cor. 9:6-8
In case you’re like me and are a little slow to jump in to the new year, I’m including below the link to a wonderful New Years blog. Ann Voskamp has long been a favorite inspirational writer of mine. Her piece on "Soulutions" rather than Resolutions really struck a chord with my heart. She writes about living purposefully in your heart and letting prayer and perseverance meet. She chooses a verb for each month to guide your journey and puts it all together in what she calls “Sticky Notes for the Soul” that you can print out and adjust as the Lord directs you.
It’s really about slowing down a bit ......to reflect and write out prayers of hope and living intentionally.
There’s wisdom in that I know.
So, now it is time for me to move on to taking down and putting away all of the Christmas of 2016, at last, and embrace all that our gracious Savior will bring into our lives in 2017 with prayer, perseverance, wisdom and generosity!
See the link below for more details on Soulutions by Ann Voskamp.
Link to Incourage article by Chara Donohue
Wishing you a blessed New Year
filled with God’s wisdom and graced
with a heart of generosity,
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