Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Harvest Blessings

By: Denise Locker

Have you ever wondered how Thanksgiving became a holiday in America? Brush up on history and discover what the Bible says about having a thankful heart.

“Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly implore His protection and favor – and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint committee requested me to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God . . . .”

President George Washington issued this presidential proclamation in 1789 for the purpose of acknowledging thanks to God. I’m very grateful that President Washington set aside a special day to incorporate the giving of thanks into our national mindset and heritage.

The Apostle Paul speaks about thanks-giving as a privilege and an obligation for believers in Colossians 3:12-17: "Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."

The idea of being thankful or giving thanks, as expressed here, is to keep on being and becoming thankful as a continuous process of obligation and privilege. Eugene Peterson translates this verse in The Message like this:

Let every detail in your lives – words, actions, whatever – be done in the name of
the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

I like the way this same principle is articulated so clearly and plainly in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. The author has also added one additional word regarding giving thanks.

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is
God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (New American Standard Bible.)

In everything give thanks. Now that phrase puts a whole new spin on things! It seems easy to give thanks when you’re enjoying a house full of family, friends, football, and food on Thanksgiving Day. But Paul is telling us to give thanks in everything. That’s a tall order, and “everything” includes a lot of stuff. If I were to be totally honest, there’s a whole lot of stuff I don’t feel thankful for at all! I’m sure you could come up with your own list called, “Stuff I Wouldn’t be Thankful For, Lord.” But in God’s plan for each of us, there is a purpose for everything, the good as well as the not-so-good. Yes, it’s easy to be thankful for every joy and blessing. And yet the Bible tells us that every trial and difficulty, every disappointment and failure, is part of His plan for our life. The difference is that with Him there can be a silver lining for every cloud.

Paul, no stranger to trials himself, tells us that through our purposeful acts of prayer, rejoicing, and giving thanks, especially in difficult or trying times, our very attitudes will be transformed.
Simply by taking this action! Nobody claims it’s easy, but God promises to be with us, no matter what takes place in our lives. It is God’s will that we find joy (that we rejoice always) in thankful prayer in Christ Jesus, in every circumstance of our lives. Out of these difficult situations, we will begin to see God more clearly and be blessed by His abiding peace in our hearts. In the process, we will bless others, finding ways to show kindness and love to one another. No, it’s not easy to give thanks in every circumstance or time of testing. But obedience is not an option when it comes to our life in Christ.

Thou that has given so much to me,
Give one thing more – a grateful heart;
Not thankful when it pleases me,
As if Thy blessings had spare days;
But such a heart, whose pulse may be Thy praise.
~ George Herbert

There is something refreshing and wonderful about being around a person who understands the concept of being grateful. They walk through life differently. The atmosphere around them is energizing. Henry Ward Beecher said, “The unthankful heart . . . discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!”

Preparing For the Tough Times

By Karen O'Neill Velasquez

What happens when a newly married woman is diagnosed with terminal cancer and only six months to live? Read on for an inspirational testimony…

He quietly opened the bedroom door, thinking I was asleep. I wasn’t. I hadn’t slept in days. My mind was consumed with the news I had gotten. Sleep just wasn’t coming. I rolled over to look at my husband and he said, “When are you going to get out of bed?”

I didn’t answer. Didn’t it go without saying? Newly diagnosed terminal cancer patients are allowed to stay in bed for hours on end crying. People should understand that. I didn’t appreciate the question.

Noticing my silence, he quietly repeated, “You really should try to get out of bed.”

I threw off the covers and stomped to the bathroom and promptly slammed the door shut to accentuate my point. I was angry and I wanted him to know it.

From the other side of the bathroom door I heard his gentle voice. “Honey, let’s go out and get a pizza or something. You really do need to eat.”

My husband’s voice has that Southern charm that softens everything he says. His tone is like a caress, and I could feel it breaking through my bitterness and anger. As I pretended not to hear him above the shower, I realized he had succeeded in reaching me. I couldn’t resist him. He had gotten me out of bed. For the first time in days, I was thinking about something other than cancer. I was thinking about my family and food and how very hungry I was. He had used Southern charm and pizza to get the best of me.

I stared at my reflection in the mirror. As I put on my make-up and fixed my hair, I realized that I looked just like every other healthy woman in the world. No one around me would know about my cancer unless I chose to dwell on it. My husband was telling me I had to get on with life. I should not let cancer defeat me. I knew in that moment that I could get through this ordeal with the strength of God and my husband behind me.

That evening I realized how blessed I was to have this special man by my side. We were just two weeks home from our honeymoon when we stood in a doctor’s office and listened to him tell us that I had stage IV cancer and had only six months left to live. I had melanoma, one of the most untreatable cancers. Traditional medicine had nothing to offer us. My sweet husband went from being a thirty six year old bachelor who had never lived with a woman to a new husband with a dying wife. Yet, somehow he seemed to know just what to say and do during this painful time in our lives. He didn’t read self help books and he didn’t own any marriage guides. He relied exclusively on his faith in God and drew on the Biblical wisdom he learned through the many hours he spent alone with God’s word.

Looking back, Jay’s strength in this crisis should not have surprised me. While we were dating, I saw him regularly cultivating his relationship with the Lord. All through our courtship he had his nose in his Bible, worn out and dog-eared from years of faithful study. He started each day in the same way, by praying and reading God’s word. God blessed Jay with a rare wisdom that comes from knowing Jesus in a very personal way. He lived what he believed and modeled his behavior on Jesus. “Why panic?” he asked me. “God is in charge.” He conveyed that peace to me and it became contagious. So, as a family, we decided to stay alive. And we have.

“All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work,” 2 Timothy 3:16 NIV

God regularly uses common people to accomplish great things. My husband was and still is used by God to bring me comfort and encouragement at a time of great need. Jay had no experience with marriage or cancer. Yet through many hours of Bible study and prayer, the Lord prepared him in advance for any crisis that might come. He gave Jay the skills to survive and the godly wisdom to help me through one of the most difficult times in my life.

When the struggle is staring you in the face, when the darkness is threatening to overtake you, this is the moment that the years of Bible study and prayer will cover you with wisdom like a warm blanket on a cold winter night. Thankfully, God gave me a husband who has chosen the path to godly wisdom.

Editor’s note: Praise report: In October, 2007 Karen celebrated 11years as a cancer survivor. “God has been good to me, ” she says. Thank you Lord!

Can God Help Me With My Housework?

By Pamela Van Atta

Piles of dishes, loads of laundry, and a “To Do” list a mile long overwhelms even the best of women. So, can God help me (and you) with our housework? He did create the heavens and the earth. Do dust bunnies fall under the heaven and earth category? I believe they do, and I believe He can prescribe a remedy for housework challenges.

I found a parable that spoke volumes about housework. In Isaiah God says, “When a farmer plows for planting, does he plow continually? Does he keep on breaking up and harrowing the soil? His God instructs him and teaches him the right way” (28:24, 26 NIV). So many things can go wrong in farming. But God says, “I’ll teach you the right way.” Now if a right and wrong way exist in farming, then I’m sure a right and wrong way exists in housework.

“So God,” I said, “What am I doing wrong?” Then I took out a pen and began to journal. Somewhere in the midst of my scribbling, I noticed a theme emerging. Apparently, I acquired a rather lousy work ethic for chores. I quickly explained to God, “Lord these chores are mind-boggling-boring! How can anyone be inspired to do such basic things?”

In a flash, the “Virtuous Woman” of Proverbs 31 sprang to mind. I read the passage several times in my NIV version of the Bible, but nothing seemed to make sense. Then I read it in the Message which says, “First thing in the morning, she dresses for work, rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started. She senses the worth of her work (Prov. 31: 8-9).

A light burst on in my head. My lousy work ethic stems from my inability to sense the worth of my work. Immediately I asked God, “Teach me the worth of my work.” Not long after, I remembered a friend of mine giving a testimony at church.

Mary stood in front of our Sunday school class with tears streaming down her sweet face. “I feel like an ugly old troll,” she said. “I’ve felt like this since I can remember, but have no clue as to why.” She told us she asked God to heal her from this feeling. And miraculously he did. “I remembered going to school dirty. My school sent me home because of my filth,” Mary said, still crying.

I realize now the worth of my work. My children’s self-concept grows from their environment. If they live in a chaotic, cluttered environment, they will feel chaotic and cluttered, but if they dwell in an organized, clean home, they will graft that order into their own lives.

This knowledge has improved my work ethic. Now I sense the worth of my work. However, this is what God taught me. What God uses to inspire me in my housework may not be the same as what He will use to inspire you. Therefore, take a few minutes and ask God, “Teach me the worth of my work.” What does He say?

Once I received motivation to do my housework, I inquired of God again. “Lord,” I said, “Teach me the right way to do my housework.” And God answered.

God knows my tendency to become overwhelmed by laundry. So His idea for me is to do only one load per day, and for me, it works. I’m never overwhelmed because I’m always caught up. I look into the dirty clothes hamper and think, “I can do that.”

God also taught me the right way to put clothes away. Putting clothes in the washer is one thing, but folding clothes and putting them away is a whole other world. I absolutely hate folding clothes. So God’s solution for me was a no-brainer. He said, “Try hanging them up.” I hang everything up now except for underwear and socks.

Laundry at this point in my life is relatively easy, with the exception of socks. “Lord what do I do about the sock fiasco in my house?” I can’t tell my oldest son’s socks from my youngest. My husband’s socks never seem to wind up in the same load. Ending up with three socks, none of which match, makes me want to pull my hair out!

God’s answer was a stroke of sheer genius. He gave me the idea to throw out all socks. Now my two sons wear the same sock size. So I bought both of them all new socks, only each pair was completely identical. I did the same with my husband’s socks and my own. Everyone has nine pairs of matching white socks. So when I do the laundry, I don’t match the socks. I simply put them in the sock drawer. Whichever two socks we pull out, they match.

God solved my laundry dilemma. He knows my personality, and my unique tendencies- and yours too. He understands what we can and can’t handle. He knows us inside and out, and He can solve any household chore that challenges us. I promise no pile of laundry is too high for Him! All you have to do is ask, “Teach me the right way Lord.” What does He say?

Visit Pamela Van Atta’s web site at http://www.healingworksministry.com/.

Are you overwhelmed with housekeeping tasks? Read on for tips from P31 Woman readers on how to keep a step ahead.

Let the Housework Slip Between the Cracks
By Jenny Rae Armstrong

Can’t find enough time to devote to housework? Let it slip between these "cracks" in your day, and your house will virtually clean itself!

While the coffee is brewing...
Clear the clutter off your countertops, then grab a sponge and wipe them down. Give your appliances a quick once over while you’re at it.

While the water is coming to a boil...
Inspect your fridge. Throw out anything that looks or smells suspect, then swipe the empty spaces with a soapy washcloth. Toss the washcloth on the floor when you're done and get rid of those spaghetti splatters.

While the bathtub is filling...
Spritz the mirror, sink, and toilet with a multi-surface cleanser, and wipe them down. Squirt cleanser into the toilet bowl and swish it around with a toilet brush. Keep cleaning supplies in the bathroom to make it easy.

While the computer is booting...
Go through that pile of papers cluttering up your desk. Toss the junk mail, file the bank statements, and if your computer is really slow, bring those coffee mugs back to the kitchen.

During the commercial break...
Put stray toys, socks, and school bags back where they belong. You’ll be amazed at how tidy the room is by the end of your favorite program!

Homemaking Events
By Kathy Stamer

Have you ever read articles or books that tell how often to clean things in your home? One book I read suggested cleaning the refrigerator once a month, changing the sheets once a week, and sweeping the kitchen floor daily.

When I was working full-time, raising three children, and taking care of my husband, I wondered how I could change the sheets once a week.

Here’s a solution that I came up with during this busy season of my life to keep on top of homemaking responsibilities. I call them “Homemaking Events.”

What are Homemaking Events? They are events, or steps taken, that take very little time and produce noticeable results. Here’s a list of my ideas, which may spur you on to think of others:

Make spaghetti sauce using canned tomatoes. Run the tomatoes through a food processor and add your choice of seasonings. While the sauce is simmering, a delightful aroma permeates your home. While you do have to keep an eye on the sauce and stir it occasionally, for the most part you can leave it unattended.

Wash the lampshades that are water resistant. Fill the tub halfway and immerse the lampshades. Let them soak for awhile, and then give then give them a quick swipe with a cloth and you're done.

Machine wash bath mats and small throw rugs. This is one of my favorites because it only takes the time to put them in the washing machine, and put them back in place once dried.
Prepare make-ahead food. Some of the things I make ahead of time are: hard-boiled eggs, macaroni salad (it comes in handy for a starch to add to a meal) and easy soups that can be frozen in individual containers.

Line the kitchen cabinet shelves. Use any type of liner, adhesive if you want to keep the liner, or paper if you plan to change it periodically. The same thing can be done in linen closets and dresser drawers.

Throw out icky and toiletries in the medicine cabinet and other storage spaces in the bathroom. For example, body lotions and creams, old and unsafe make-up, and toothbrushes.
Make gingerbread. I saved this idea for last because it's the most fun. Who doesn't like freshly baked gingerbread served with whipped cream? It doesn't take long to mix the ingredients, and the effort is so worth it!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

She's Just Like Me

By Susan Frantz Belisle

October is Clergy Appreciation month. Why not take this opportunity to support and encourage your pastor’s wife?

If you are like most women, you need a little encouragement every now and then. There is a very special woman in your life that especially needs your support and encouragement. She’s your Pastor’s wife, and just like you, she needs to be loved, honored, and appreciated.

October is designated as Clergy Appreciation Month by several different Christian organizations. Indeed, Pastors need to be recognized and appreciated during the month of October as well as throughout the year. The Bible says we should give honor to whom honor is due. (Roman 13:7) Blessings will come to those who follow this admonition from the Apostle Paul.

As you think of ways to honor your Pastor this October, be certain to recognize and honor his wife. Regardless of what specific roles she may fulfill within your church, she is your Pastor’s partner in ministry. She is also your spiritual leader and carries a tremendous burden for the ministry of your church. She too needs to be encouraged and honored during Clergy Appreciation Month. So here are some practical ways in which you can encourage her as you think of your PASTOR and his wife this October.

PRAY for your Pastor’s wife. She needs your prayers daily. Pray for her health, her family, her spiritual well-being, and her ministry. Ask her if she has specific needs that you can pray about. Call her, send a card or tell her that you are praying for her. If you can commit to on-going prayer for her, offer to be her prayer partner. More than likely, she is already praying for you. Your Pastor’s wife would be delighted to know that you are also praying for her. Perhaps you already are, but be sure to let her know that you often pray for her. This will encourage her greatly.

AFFIRM her value as a person. Tell your Pastor’s wife that you appreciate the many ways in which she supports her husband and your church. Although she may serve in the “shadow” of her husband or “behind the scenes”, she is laboring faithfully for the Lord. Try to be specific in complimenting her on the work that you see her do. Or just thank her for being a godly role model for the women of your church. Most importantly, tell her that she has made a difference in your life. This is one of her greatest desires.

SURPRISE her with an act of kindness. Your Pastor’s wife is always thinking of you! She makes phone calls, sends cards, plans and organizes events, gives of her time, and does so many other things with you in mind. Take the time to call her or send her a card thanking her for all that she does. Send her flowers, take her to lunch, or give her a small gift. The monetary value of what you do is not important. She will be touched that you thought of her, and your act of kindness will brighten her day. It will give her the motivation to keep on keeping on.

TAKE the time to understand her. As the saying goes, “Walk a mile in her shoes.” Unless you have been a Pastor’s wife, it is difficult to understand the pressures and demands that she experiences daily. She carries a heavy burden for the spiritual well-being of those at her church. She cares deeply about the hurts of others. She wants her church to make an incredible difference for the Kingdom. She works with the zeal of our friend Martha who labored in the kitchen trying to please her Lord. Allow and encourage her to serve in her area of giftedness rather than serving according to the needs of your church or the expectations of others.

OFFER to help her in whatever way you can. Besides being a wife, mother and perhaps a grandmother, her role as your Pastor’s wife’s is endless and never done. She would be surprised and thrilled to have you offer to help her when she’s working on something at church. Better yet, call her and ask if there is anything you can do to help her. Think of a small task that you know she is responsible for and ask her if you can take care of that for her. She’s probably not accustomed to people offering to help her so it may take some time before she can think of a task you can help her with. She may be used to giving and not receiving, but continue asking her how you can help lighten he load.

REMEMBER that she’s human. She’s just like you. She has struggles, heartaches, disappointments, doubts, and fears… just like you. She makes mistakes and is sometimes disappointed with herself…just like you. She is seeking a closer walk with Christ…just like you. She wants to be loved and accepted…just like you. Although she is your Shepherd’s spouse, she is not exempt from human frailty and weaknesses. Extend grace and forgiveness to her when she disappoints you or doesn’t meet your expectations. Support and defend her to those who may be critical at times. Love her with the love of Christ. Treat her as you would want to be treated if you served in the same role of a Pastor’s wife. Most importantly, remember…she’s just like you!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Attack of the Killer Weeds

By Paula Friedrichsen

We recently moved into a smaller home in an effort to down-size and prepare our finances for my husband’s impending retirement. Our little house has a planter that skirts the entire length of the home, and it was originally filled with ugly ground cover. This last spring my husband tore out all the ugly ground cover and we replaced it with a vast assortment of flowers. That planter is now a stunning display of color as you drive up to our home. Everyone who visits mentions its beauty. It is thriving, flourishing, it is well tended- it is alive!

But that ground cover wants to come back. At first it appears as just a little leafy greenery, but before you know it, it has sent out tentacle-like shoots that begin to insidiously wind their way around and around the stems of the flowers. This stuff is evil! As I winds around each stem, it tightens and slowly chokes the life out of my lovely blossoms.

Every day Jeff or I have to rescue the flowers from “The Attack of the Killer Weeds.” If we want our flower garden to continue to thrive and “wow” all the neighbors, then we have to be diligent.

If you allow Him, God will tend the garden of your marriage and examine it by the light of His Word. He can remove some pretty nasty weeds and plant some exciting new things. But you’ll have to be diligent in your effort not to be overtaken again by the weeds. Remember the weeds are insidious. At first they appear as benign and non-threatening, but don’t be fooled- anything that is not a flower does not belong in your garden.

A weed may start off as just a negative memory of something unkind your husband said or did lately. From negative memory to rumination…from rumination to negative emotions…from negative emotions to negative behavior…from negative behavior to resentment. Bam! You’ve got yourself a weed! And it’s choking out God’s new planting.

Guard against the weed. Refuse to let them take hold of the good things God has done in your life and marriage. Those negative thought patterns can be changed. You don’t have to just give up and say, “I can’t change; this is just how it is.”

With God’s help, you can transform long-standing negative patterns in your marriage. He is mighty and will help you keep ugly, joy-stealing weeds out of your garden. Simply do your part, and trust God to do His. Your job is to resist the enemy’s plan to steal the good things that God has planted in your marriage; His is to supernaturally strengthen you, giving you His wisdom to overcome each obstacle and keep those weeds out of your garden.

Excerpted from The Man You’ve Always Wanted is the One You Already Have © 2007 by Paula Friedrichsen. Used by permission of WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. Excerpt may not be reproduced without prior written consent.

Click here to purchase Paula’s book, The Man You’ve Always Wanted is the One You Already Have, from P31 Ministries.

The Story of Johnny Appleseed

Fall is a great time to read the story of Johnny Appleseed to your children and try some new apple recipes!

John Chapman, a small man with amazing endurance, is known as "Johnny Appleseed." He was really an American pioneer, a kind and gentle hero, and a uniquely American legend.

Johnny Appleseed carried a bag of apple seeds, a spade, his cooking pot on his head, a coffee sack for a coat and a Bible as he traveled barefoot westward, planting apple seeds as he went on his sacred quest.

Folks still remember little Johnny and sing his song: "The Lord is good to me...And so I thank the Lord...For giving me the things I need...The sun and rain and the appleseed...The Lord is good to me."

God was good to him. He met many pioneers, read Bible stories to children and adults and gave apple seeds to the settlers. He showed people how to make apples into juice, pies, sauce, butter and Brown Betty. Johnny spread the Word of God as well as apples. He believed that God wanted him to go around and read his Bible to people and plant apple trees for them.

Johnny Appleseed's gentleness and courage were legendary even in his own time. He was a peaceful man who walked alone in the wilderness, without gun, knife or any weapons. He chopped down no trees and killed no animals. Watching apples grow inspired Johnny to love nature and all the animals in it. Folks say he could talk to the animals.

He was friends with the Indians too and traveled with a wolf companion. He slept outdoors, walked barefoot, ate berries and such, and made drinking water in winter by melting snow with his feet. The Indians found him nearly dead in the snow one time and nursed him back to health.

Johnny Appleseed left home and headed west to the Allegheny Mountains and cleared land to plant apple orchards. Johnny kept moving westward. In each community he planted apple orchards. In his travels, Johnny would stop at a farm and work for only his meals and a place to sleep, and he always left some apple seeds for the farmer to plant.

Then one day while he was resting under an apple tree, he heard a voice, "You have one long last trip to take." Johnny protested that he couldn't go, he had crops to harvest, seeds to sow but the voice continued, " Your work here on earth is done; but, Johnny, up in heaven we need you. You may think we have all we please -- but we don't, we're kinda short on apple trees, we need you here."

Fun Ways to Eat Apples

Recipes from virginiaapples.org.

Applesauce Cake in a Cone - A Magical Microwave Creation
Prepare a one or two layer spice cake mix according to package directions, except substitute applesauce for the water. Pour batter into flat-bottomed ice cream cones, no more than half full. Arrange 6 cones in a circle in microwave and cook on full power 2 1/2 to 2 3/4 minutes. Continue baking 6 cones at a time until all batter is used. When ready to serve, top each cupcake with a big scoop of ice cream.

Quick Apple Crisp
6-8 apples, peeled and sliced

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1 ( 5 oz.) stick pastry mix

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1 c. brown sugar

Place apples in greased, 8 inch square or round pan. Combine pastry mix (dry) with sugar and spices. Sprinkle over apples. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes. Serve with ice cream or whipped topping.

Or try these ideas for a change of pace…

  • Substitute apple slices for jelly on peanut butter sandwiches.
  • Freeze applesauce, then whip it in a blender for an apple "slushie".

From Clutter to Clarity

Simplifying Life from the Inside Out
By Nancy Twigg

When most people think of simplifying, the first thing they think of is getting rid of clutter around the home or office. Cleaning out closets and drawers is definitely a part of simplifying, but true simplification goes far deeper than that. Clutter is much more than old magazines, outdated clothes, and kitchen gadgets you never use. Certainly those things are clutter, but from now on, think of clutter as any possession, habit, thought pattern, attitude or activity that fits into one of these three categories:

* Anything you don’t need or use anymore
* Anything that doesn’t fit or work for you like it used to
* Anything that doesn’t add value and meaning to your life as it once did

Under this new definition, clutter is anything that complicates your life and stands in the way of simplicity. In the past, you may have only thought of clutter in terms of stuff: those size 6 jeans you hope to wear again someday or those unfinished projects in your garage. But let me share a secret with you. These kinds of unwanted and unneeded material possessions are only the tip of the iceberg! What about the multitude of commitments that cram-pack your schedule? What about the thoughts that jumble your mind and the spending habits that sabotage your finances? All of these things are clutter too, because they cause chaos and confusion.

When you think of clutter in this new light, you begin to see what a tremendous problem clutter truly is. You will also see that the root causes of this ugly clutter make the clutter itself look tame. Think about it. Why do you say yes to everyone who requests your time and services? Are you afraid that people won’t like you if you say no? Do you feel the need to present a Super Mom image to the world?

What about those clothes you hold onto even though you know you will never wear them again? Are you afraid that if you get rid of them you will need them again someday? If you did happen to need them, do you doubt God’s ability to provide more? And if you have a tendency to spend more than you can afford, ask yourself why you do that. Are you driven by feelings of discontentment or the need for instant gratification? Are you afraid that if you pass on a sale now you will never find a good price on that item again? These issues go much deeper than just having a messy desk or disorganized pantry. These are issues of the heart.

Clutter is a problem for anyone, but for Christians, it spells major trouble. Clutter does more than affect us physically and emotionally; it affects us spiritually because it keeps us from following Jesus fully. We simply cannot make room for him when so many other things are in the way. The more we stay focused on the junk of this life, the less time and energy we have to focus on the important matters—God and his plans for our lives.

Have you ever tried to lug an overstuffed suitcase through a crowded airport? Not an easy task, is it? No matter how hard you try, you simply cannot move quickly and efficiently when you’re carrying a heavy load. Think of clutter as baggage—physical, emotional, and financial baggage that weighs you down and holds you back. Clutter is the heavy load that keeps many of us from maneuvering effectively through our lives. Our suitcases are filled with all kinds of dead weight: habits we need to give up, attitudes we’ve long since outgrown, activities and possessions that no longer serve a reasonable purpose. If we want to lighten the load, we have to get rid of some of the junk.

What keeps you from moving forward at a steady pace in your life? Undoubtedly the things that slow you down are some kind of clutter—clutter you want to get rid of for good. Maybe you struggle with physical clutter around your home. Try as you might, you cannot seem to get organized. Or maybe you want to get a handle on your finances. You are tired of making good money but having nothing to show for it. Or maybe yours is an issue with time. You are tired of living at warp speed. You want to stop running and start living.

Whatever clutter challenges you face, trust me when I say you can learn to clarify your life by putting clutter in its place. I know because I have done it myself. My biggest clutter challenge was not dealing with cluttered living spaces or even cluttered finances. My challenge was to open up my emotional suitcase and go through its contents carefully. When I did, I discovered all kinds of clutter lurking inside. I found worry and doubt. I uncovered a faulty self-image and an inability to set appropriate boundaries. I even found an unhealthy preoccupation with what others thought of me. It was a painful process, but necessary. One by one, I learned to trade in these old clunkers for the more efficient models God offered.

I’m not saying I have it all together. Believe me, I don’t. I’m not saying I never face challenges. But I have come to a place of clarity and life is much more pleasant now that I have. Is my life perfect? No, but it is much more peaceful and purposeful. And isn’t that what we all want—to live in peace as we live out our purpose?

Excerpt taken from: From Clutter to Clarity: Simplifying Life from the Inside Out © 2007 by Nancy Twigg, published by Standard Publishing (www.standardpub.com). Used by permission. From Clutter to Clarity is available through Standard Publishing (http://www.standardpub.com/). To learn more about Nancy’s speaking ministry, visit her online at http://www.nancytwigg.com/.