Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Take Out The Trash

"Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one think I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" Phil. 3:13-14.

Paul was a neat-nik. He promoted a personal program of year-round continuous spring cleaning. Childish things (1 Cor. 13:11), bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, and malice (Eph. 4:31) were relegated to the trash can regularly. Sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, greed and idolatry (Col. 3:5) were deemed rubbish and dealt with accordingly.

Paul and other biblical writers weren't promoting self-improvement regimens. Eliminate A, B, and C and your life will be happier, healthier and more productive. That's not the point. If not careful, all of our lives get cluttered with non-essentials. We have homes full of stuff and storage units to house the overflow of yesterday's must haves. Paul and others recognized that hanging onto old junk in our personal lives leaves less room for what is important and vital for life.

In his book, Prayer - Does it Make a Difference? Philip Yancey explores the topic of unworthiness and its impact on our prayer life. Often this type of feeling is rooted in the very things Paul urges us to kick to the curb. To illustrate, Yancey quotes an anonymous fourteenth-century author's book, The Cloud of the Unknowing.

"Before penetrating the cloud of the unknowing above us," he said, "we may need to imagine a 'cloud of forgetting' beneath us. Forget past failures, forget recurring sins, forget feelings of inferiority, and instead open your mind to God, who cannot fill what has not been emptied." (pg 185).

Taking out the trash opens up more space for God to occupy comfortably. We don't want Him to feel restricted, having to wiggle around our old habits, mindsets and lifestyles which reduce the volume He wants to pour into us. God wants us to see and understand from His perspective. He want us to be just like Him. This happens when we make a clean sweep. Out with the old to make room for the new.

Unfortunately, this is harder to do than to talk about. Look around you. How much useless stuff is hanging around your house? You neither need it or use it, but...you can't part with it. In some cases it's broken and beyond repair, but you still won't let it go. Why? What's the problem?

In the same way that pitching out old household items is a measure of identity loss, so is discarding old ways of thinking and behaving. If we get rid of these leftovers, who are we? Empty space can seem scary. This is, however, what faith is all about. We trust God to replace our debris with something very valuable.

How about you? What's cluttering up your life and restricting God from taking a more expansive role. Why are you hanging onto thing which are unnecessary and don't work anymore? Don't you think it's time to finally take out the trash?  

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

One Question

"So I say to you: 'Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you'." Luke 11:9.

"If you could ask Me one question about anything, what would it be?"

Usually I'm the one making requests of God, but this time it was His turn. I was speechless.

"What did You say?" I inquired. I needed clarification.

"If you could ask Me one question about anything, what would it be?"

My initial reaction was how I could frame my question that would allow me more than just ONE question. However, that's wishing and wishes aren't questions.

"About ANYTHING?" I had to be sure.

"Yes, anything."

Of all the questions I've pondered over the years nothing came to mind. With a limit of one I had to make this question count.

"I need to think about this."

What an odd position to be in - keeping God Almighty waiting for my decision. Worst of all, I couldn't think of the most important thing I wanted to know.

I've often wondered what His favorite color might be. My guess is green because there's so much of it everywhere. Why do giraffes have such large necks? What did creation look like? What is the purpose of mosquitoes and roaches? How did you dream up everything you've made? I've wondered about these and more, but this was for real. What did I really have to know?

What never crossed my mind were questions about my natural life. What's the winning lottery number? How can I make a lot of money? What will make me a best selling author, an in-demand speaker or even a decent day-trader. No, how about a super day trader. This opportunity was too important to waste on trivial matters like these.

Finally I spoke. I told God the one thing, more than anything else that I wanted to know.

"What do I have to do or change so I can see and understand the way You do?"

"Technically," God laughed, "that's more than one question."

"Work with me on this," I replied. "I'm having a hard time putting my thoughts into words. I want to be able to see and understand things from Your perspective and not my limited sphere of knowledge."

Silence.

God didn't say one word. I didn't take this as a "No!" My question can't be answered verbally. I'll have to experience it.

I'm confident I don't really know what I asked for. Discovering the answer may be harder than I've imagined. It might hurt a bit too. Still, to be able to see with His eyes and understand with His heart will transform me into a more loving, compassionate, patient and joyful person than I could ever work up on my own. I'll be just like my Dad. What more could a girl ask for?

How about you? If you could ask God one question about anything - what would it be?