Want What You’ve Got! (maintenance)

Dental flossApparently, I have a tiny mouth.

(Those of you who beg to differ, see yesterday’s post: Shhh!)

From my strategic position in the dental recliner, I complied with every request to open wider, turn my head this way, close my mouth around the suction hose thingy, stick out my tongue… All in the name of maintenance.

We all know that dental maintenance pays, right? I have a friend who is a dental assistant and I’ve heard stories, man. Stories of what can happen when we take our dental health for granted.

Kids, floss every day. Seriously. It’s worth it all when you take your place in The Chair.

Today I was told that my gum health is good – no bleeding. Hooray!

No X-rays on this visit, but apparently no trouble spots, either. I was in and out of the hot seat in less than 25 minutes, sporting some pearly white chompers and a shiny new toothbrush to boot.

The things we possess require maintenance. Teeth, hair, hearts, bodies… Feet.

Today is what many in church-world refer to as Maundy Thursday. On this day during what we call Holy Week (the week before Jesus’ resurrection), Jesus shared one last meal with His friends before His arrest. This wasn’t just any meal, either. As they gathered around the table in a borrowed room, the Jewish lot assembled there did so in remembrance of the Exodus – in celebration of the Passover.

Jesus did something shocking around the table that night. Taking the position of a servant – on the floor with towel and water – Jesus performed some badly needed maintenance on the feet of His followers.

Can you imagine how unpleasant it would be to wash the feet of guys who have been hoofing it in sandals for who knows how long since their last shower? Picking up each foot and, with the help of some water, scrubbing off those road-weary hoofs demonstrated to the dumb-struck diners just how unconventional and counter-cultural this Jesus really was.

And it modeled for them the need to maintain what matters most.

“Within pain and filth, there is an opportunity to extend God’s kingdom through an expression of love, humility, and service. This simple act of washing feet is a metaphor for how the world looks through the lens of Jesus’ grace. He sees the people—the world He created—which He loves. He also sees the filthy corruption in the world that torments everyone. His mission is to cleanse those whom He loves from those horrors.

This is His redemptive work with feet, families, disease, famine, and hearts. When Jesus sees disease, He sees the opportunity to heal. When He sees sin, He sees a chance to forgive and redeem. When He sees dirty feet, He sees a chance to wash them.” John 13:11 (The Voice)

We spend a whole lot of time, energy and resources on the maintenance of our possessions and toys. Boats, houses, atv’s, cars, carpets, landscaping, computers, closets… While some of this maintenance is essential, the rest of it is costing us – breaking the bank, so to speak – and keeping us from investing in those things that matter most.

Teeth require maintenance or else you’ll suffer. Cavities, root canals, and crowns all cost much more in terms of time and tender (and pain management) than the few minutes it takes to maintain dental health each day.

Relationships require maintenance, too. So do attitudes and energy. To keep them operating at full potential, all of our investments call for a commitment to ongoing (yes, even routine) preservation efforts.

Dates. Coffee breaks. Naps. Exercise. Prayer. Bible study. Conversations. Celebrations. Dental floss. All a part of the necessary maintenance for those who Want What They’ve Got, and want to keep it around for a very long time.

Daily Questions: Think about the maintenance investments you make on a daily, weekly or regular basis. What gets the most attention in your world? The lawn? The laundry? Kids? Spouse? Electronics? Your own well-being and spiritual health? Weigh the things you value most by the attention you award them… Telling, isn’t it? Maybe there are some dirty feet in your world that need washing today. Maybe there are some maintenance contracts you need to break in order to tend to those feet, and to that which matters most. Want What You’ve Got? Take good care of it today.

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Want What You’ve Got! (alarm)

English: The face of a black windup alarm clock

English: The face of a black windup alarm clock (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the most-used and indispensable items in my possession is a small, battery operated alarm clock. Without its help, my children would have won the most-tardy award every year in school.

If you must know, I sleep with it just above my pillow, on the mattress, so that when it goes off I will hear it and need only extend an arm to retrieve and silence it before dozing off for a five-minute increment of snooze-sleep. These days it takes a few snooze cycles before I’m sufficiently roused to start the day, but it used to be worse.

Do I set my alarm on days when I have nothing important to accomplish – no meetings or classes or appointments to keep? Are you kidding? Nope. I use my alarm so that I don’t miss the things that matter – like the opportunity to earn a paycheck or spend a day hanging out with my family or friends.

There is a smoke alarm in the laundry room, next to my kitchen. Years ago we learned it best not to keep the alarm in the kitchen, due to my delicately-honed culinary skills. The day that my children heard the fire detector’s alarm sound and followed it up with the announcement that “dinner’s ready!” was the day the relocation took place. Annoyances aside, this alarm may very well have saved my house from being filled with smoke during episodes of aggressive cooking through the years.

Security systems often find their way into our homes in seasons of fearfulness. During one such season, our security company gave us a convenient little key fob to use for arming and disarming the system. What a terrific idea! Our three year old son thought so, too, every time he pushed the distress button after commandeering my keychain. Several apologies later, to the nice policemen who answered those distress calls, the key fob found a nice home in the drawer where I keep my owner’s manuals and the incidence of unwarranted soundings of the alarm were minimized (much to the relief of our entire neighborhood).

We use alarms for things that matter – things like keeping our commitments, insuring our safety, and preserving our possessions. We Want What We’ve Got, so we take measures to keep it, sounding alarms to keep things in check.

So… where’s the alarm to bring us closer to God?

We set alarms every morning to wake us up on time, but where’s the alarm to rouse us from our self-induced spiritual comas?

We set alarms to keep intruders from entering and taking what is ours, but isn’t there an alarm to sound when thought-invaders and joy-stealing bullies overstep their boundaries and threaten our carefully chosen way of life?

I attended the funeral of a dear, older gentleman from my church last week. Near the end of the service, because he had been in military service, an honor guard presented his widow with an American flag. As the first salutatory shot was fired outside the church door, everyone jumped. And wept.

The abruptness of death is what many will say is the wake-up call of the heart.

Losing the companionship of someone we love calls into question our priorities and loyalties and often strips away the pretense that our attempts at living can create. After such a great loss of life we find ourselves dissatisfied with the trivial and petty concerns that used to hold us captive.

Like the powerful blast of the honor guard’s rifles, death sounds an alarm that has the potential to wake you from sleep and draw you close to the heart of the Father, whose welcoming arms are at the ready to embrace you – no matter what state you are in.

This week, as Easter celebrations draw near, hear the metal blast of hammer-on-nail. At the executioner’s stake, the alarm is sounding…

Wake up!

Stop hitting snooze!

This matters!

Life was meant to be lived, and newsflash:  You are alive!

As Holy Week approaches, Want this wake-up call You’ve Got – the life, death and resurrection of a selfless Savior and redeeming King!

Daily Questions: You know, you need not wait until you’re grieving to heed the sounding alarm that says: Connection with God matters. How might you tune in to the soft whisper of the Spirit as He calls out to you in the midst of the events we remember in the coming week? What kind of alarm will it take to awaken what’s snoozing inside of you? How might you participate with God in sounding the alarm for others?

Want What You’ve Got! (thrift)

English: The Community Closet Thrift StoreI’m walking into the consignment store with Groupon in hand.

I spent $10 to buy the opportunity to get $20 worth of merchandise – an instant 50% off sale! I don’t really need anything, but that’s never stopped me before.

Searching through the racks of gently worn clothing, I realize that I’m always attracted to the same items – black pants (though I always wear my favorite pair). Shoes (to add to the ridiculous number already gracing my closet). Dresses (even though I rarely wear them). Jewelry (for when I dress up – see dresses). Purses (see jewelry).

Nothing that I’m looking at is even remotely a need, yet that Groupon burns a hole in my pocket. I settle on a pair of khaki pants – similar to my favorites which have long since been laid to rest in their hole-y state – and a pair of black shorts with lots of pockets (for traveling). I avoid the interesting jewelry display at the counter because by now, I know I’m weak. If it glimmers with potential at all, I’m afraid I’ll buy it.

Because it’s affordable. Because I can.

I’m reminded of something I have been known to tell my children while shopping together – “just because it’s on sale doesn’t mean you need it.” Such wise words for the younger generation, right? For a fleeting moment, I wonder where I came up with that, since I so rarely subscribe to that way of thinking myself.

I don’t like to shop retail and I simply cannot stomach paying full price for anything. Consignment stores are great because the clothing is in good shape and probably recently laundered. Thrift stores are amazing because my purchases help to support a cause, which makes me feel better about buying all of that inexpensive stuff that I just don’t need.

It’s safe to say that shopping is my preferred form of entertainment.

But when I look at the stacks of jeans in my closet (which I forgot to mention earlier – I always look for jeans while shopping, too) and the piles of t-shirts beside them, I’m convicted by this season we’re in and suddenly I don’t Want What I’ve Got.

In Matthew 16:26 Jesus reminds us that “it is worth nothing for you to have the whole world if you yourself are lost. You could never pay enough to buy back your life.” (ERV)

The Message words it this way, and these words are a fitting reply to my hungry, bargain-hunting soul:

“What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself?”

Ouch.

The truth hurts.

Today I am compelled to shop my own closet for entertainment and to avoid adding to the excess already found therein.

Today I am motivated to weed out those things I don’t wear or don’t really like so that I can donate them to my church’s upcoming clothing exchange event.

Today I admit that no matter how found I am, there are hints of a lost soul being dropped here and there – hints that I need to take seriously and respond faithfully to.

Because I Want What I’ve Got in Christ more than what I’ve got in my closet.

Consign that.

Daily Questions: Where do you find duplicates and triplicates of purchases in your home? My husband has jokingly (but rightly) told me that I could open a clothing store with what’s in my own closet. Identify the excess, as I am doing today, and do something meaningful with it! Donate it to a thrift store or charity that you support (shoe collector? Check out Soles4Souls donation programs: http://www.soles4souls.org/ ). Give it to someone who needs or would love what you’ve got! Consider starting a seasonal exchange at your church or even with a group of friends. I’d love to share what our church is doing! Email me for details: brita@pinkshoesministries.me

Want What You’ve Got! (wall)

20130311-222142.jpgWhen my first-born left home to attend my alma mater – three states and one thousand miles away – a hush fell over our home.

Our daughter is a force of nature, so of course the absence of her energy and activity (plus a steady stream of like-minded friends) left the rest of us sort of reeling in the wake of her exodus. There were days in those first months when I would have welcomed a whisper or a word from the walls inside her room – anything to ease the disconnect of being the one left behind.

On one such day, as I was passing in front of the wall between my children’s bedrooms, the dusty frames displayed there caught my eye. Years before, when our daughter was in middle school and our son a little tyke, we decided to use this wall to display school certificates and awards. Being blessed with children who have given us no shortage of frame-able material, the wall quickly filled and we never were successful at keeping it current.

I wondered how this display made my son feel – the remaining occupant in our partially-empty nest. I thought about all of those articles I had read on how to handle the transition when a child moves away (don’t make their room into a guest room or office – at least not until sophomore year). The ridiculous thought – what if these walls could talk? – prompted me to begin removing frames from this neglected gallery… and a great idea was hatched.

As it often goes with great ideas, however, birthing them is a whole lot easier (and more fun) than actually parenting them to completion. When I decided to make this wall into a whiteboard – so that it could speak – we were in the WalMart paint department while the fumes of new vision were still fresh, with plans for sanding and painting the wall in the hall over the fall break.

That was 17 months ago.

One might argue that my lack of follow-through in this project was fueled by a desire for things to remain the same… the family together under one roof. The comforting buzz of music and noise from upstairs. It is hard to Want What You’ve Got when those you love aren’t where they used to be (even if where they are is where they need to be).

Some of us are in that place where the life-transition grace period has expired and it is simply time to move on.

Some of us have great ideas and wonderful plans that were placed on the back burner far too long ago (can you smell the scorch?).

Some of us need only Want What We’ve Got in order to turn that corner or to light a fire under that pile of old frames, removed from that paint-thirsty wall, so that who we are becoming can emerge and find land-legs.

This past weekend I rallied the troops and we now have a shiny white wall where the past used to be. Who knows what this wall will say now that it’s marker-ready? There are notes to be written, reminders to be shared, math problems to be worked out, art to be created, poems to be dreamed, scriptures to be wrestled with, prayers to be prayed…

Life to be lived.

Some of us need to… Shhh! Can you hear that? I think your walls have something to say!

Daily Questions: What unfinished projects are parked in your queue? Some of them have likely out-waited their usefulness, yes, but which ones are still relevant? Want What You’ve Got when it comes to unfinished business this week! Schedule them or dump them – stop carrying that weight around! What life-transitions are overdue for you? Where are you digging in your heels, waiting for tomorrow to turn this corner or make that change? What dingy walls in your house and memory need a fresh coat of paint?

Want What You’ve Got! (antidisestablishmentarianism)

Photo of Texas Instruments Speak & Spell toy, ...My brother was very young when he mastered the Speak & Spell.

I don’t mean that he learned how to use it… I mean that he knew how to spell every word the red box could pronounce. In search of a challenge, at a ridiculously tender age, he moved on to the longest word in the English dictionary: antidisestablishmentarianism.

My little brother was the recipient of many an astonished expression from my teenage friends as he nonchalantly rattled off the spelling of this word that most of us had never even heard used in a sentence. Was his interest in spelling an attention-getter? Yes. But it wasn’t only that. Today my little brother is among the most brilliant computer-minds that I know. What began as a quirky childhood thing was actually a foreshadowing of the unique and talented man he has become.

I have a friend at church who suffered a severe brain injury at age twelve. Now in her thirties, this lively sister in Christ is active in our church family and around the community we live in. Always equipped with a joke to tell, my friend’s pre-teen sense of humor has become her MO and people look forward to a dose of her quirky perspective as expressed through her fun and often mischievous way with words.

Many of us have, during a season of our lives, been known for something in our personality or interests that seems unusual to others.

In high school, my friends called me McBrita (because of my love for Egg McMuffins and the fact that I often made the one-block trek to the Golden Arches between morning classes).

Guys at the gym regularly stop my husband to ask about his leg routine as they suffer calf-envy over his genetically gifted limbs.

A little guy that I know brings his service folder home every Sunday so that during the week he can use a dictionary to look up the words he doesn’t know yet.

A friend of mine prays out loud as she walks between her home and the grocery store (after receiving a few strange looks, she has found that holding a cell phone to her ear serves as prayer-camouflage when needed).

Sometimes our unusual tendencies and talents bring welcome attention.

Sometimes the unwanted attention we receive because of our novelty makes us want to crawl into a dark corner and refuse to come out until July.

The things about us that seem abnormal to the world can cause us to feel so different from others that we respond by trying to squish the clay of our lives into the status quo molds of our culture so that we can fit in. So that we won’t draw attention. So that we can just look like and live like everyone else.

Paul talks about this tendency in Romans chapter 12:2-3 (ERV):

“Don’t change yourselves to be like the people of this world, but let God change you inside with a new way of thinking. Then you will be able to understand and accept what God wants for you… You must see yourself just as you are.”

It takes courage for us to see ourselves just as we are, but until we are willing to do just that, understanding and acceptance will always be out of reach.

Today, let’s stop trying to make our bodies and minds and ideas and interests look like those of the people around us. When it comes to our own peculiarities and penchants, there has never been a better time to Want What We’ve Got!

Daily Questions: In what ways do you see yourself as quirky? Do your peculiarities draw the attention of others (or are you flying beneath the radar most of the time)? How might God be using – or planning to use – your unique self in His work in this world? Are you willing to embrace your inner geek and let your true colors transform you from template-made to Spirit-crafted?

Want What You’ve Got! (weekend)

English: School bus seats, photographed from b...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

I often think of the Christian life in terms of the classroom and the field trip.

Sermons, Bible studies, devotions = classroom.

Life in the real world = field trip.

Jesus taught that His words are not just to be “incidental additions to your life, homeowners improvements to your standard of living.” Jesus’ words are foundational words – words to build a life on! He has some pretty harsh things to say to those who spend all of their time in the classroom and never actually work what they’re learning into the living of their lives (Matthew 7:24-29).

The weekends during these 40 days of Want What You’ve Got are a chance to work out all that we think about during the week. Sundays during Lent aren’t actually counted in the 40 day season, because Sunday for the believer is always Easter! Always celebration! Always feast day!

This weekend, instead of going out and buying or doing something new, consider what you’ve got. Find one thing that you already have but haven’t used or enjoyed for a long time…An appliance that makes a special treat. An accessory buried deep within your closet. A movie you enjoy but haven’t seen since… forever.

Take it out. Dust it off. Want What You’ve Got!

While you’re searching for that one thing, keep your eyes open for something that you haven’t used or enjoyed for a very long time – something that you don’t want... An appliance. A pair of shoes. Something that collects dust in your spare bedroom or that you regularly trip over in your garage.

If you don’t want it, why keep it? Re-purpose or recycle by giving it to someone else or dropping it off at a local charity store on your way to the coffee shop (just kidding)!

Alien/nation

Reflections on Trek to the Manger, chapter 6

In many places around the world, Christians are increasingly considered to be aliens. Not so much the “from another country” kind of alien; more like the “differing in nature or character to the point of incompatibility” type (merriam-webster.com).

Don’t believe me? In the article A More Secular Europe, Divided by the Cross (June 17, 2013), Gudrun Kugler, director of the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians, was quoted as saying:

“There is a general suspicion of anything religious, a view that faith should be kept out of the public sphere… There is a very strong current of radical secularism,” she said, adding that this affects all religions but is particularly strong against Christianity because of a view that “Christianity dominated unfairly for centuries” and needs to be put in its place. (Andrew Higgins, nytimes.com)

In spite of the growing animosity against Christianity worldwide, we who belong to Christ have an opportunity each and every day to “be limitless light in a world filled with lines and boundaries and borders”  –Trek to the Manger, p. 23

The way you choose to live your life has the potential to shift the focus from words to action; from ideas to illumination; from your life to the presence of God Himself. 

As members of an alien nation, citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, we can choose to sit back and avoid alienation by hiding our light under a bushel… or, we can saddle up the camel and hit the road with passport in hand. “The degree to which you are open to letting the Light of God shine through you is the degree to which your life can be a beacon of hope in a desperately hopeless world.” (p. 23)

How your life answers these questions could make all the difference today:

“Who are you? What are you doing here? Now, prove it.” (p. 21)

Passport, please.

Have a comment or question to share? Click here for the Trek homepage, then scroll to the bottom where you’ll find the Reply/comment space… Or, simply scroll down and reply to this post. I look forward to hearing about your ADVENTures!

Looking for the Trek to the Manger reading schedule? Click here!

12×12 Challenge: Day 11 (January 5th)

Day 11 begins with Romans 12 in the New International Readers Version: Click HERE to read!

Word(s) for Day 11: Leave Room for GOD…

  • In your mind, so that you can be transformed… Leave Room for GOD.
  • In your body, so that you can be used in the work of God’s Church… Leave Room for GOD.
  • In your schedule, so that you will be available whenever someone is in need… Leave Room for GOD.
  • In your heart, so that you can feel the pain and joy of others… Leave Room for GOD.
  • In your response to the challenges and attacks of others… Leave Room for GOD.
  • In your attitude toward yourself and all of God’s creation… Leave Room for GOD.

Much of the world has no vacancy when it comes to giving the Spirit of God room to move within our lives. Much of the world relies on a very small vocabulary: Me. Myself. Mine. Today, do the opposite. Leave Room for GOD!

Prayer:

Humbly I bow in Your Presence today, Lord, asking You to fill the space inside of me with MORE than me… I ask You to fill me to overflowing with YOU! Create space in me for Your grace to take root; water the seeds of faith in my heart with Your love. Remind me not to hit back when I’m wronged, but to remember Jesus and trust You to know what to do. In Your kindness, show me that I’m not all that but don’t let me forget that You ARE. Through me on this day, overwhelm the world with the unexpected & opposite behavior of someone who is learning to Leave Room for GOD. Amen.

12×12 Challenge: Day 1 (December 26th)

Day 1 begins by reading Romans 12 in The Message: Click HERE to read!

Word(s) for Day 1: (Ordinary) Offering

Most of us act as if we believe that God is looking for extraordinary offerings – people who have something above average or extra-special to contribute to His Kingdom. Romans 12 is saying plainly that what God actually desires is for our normal, everyday activities and commitments to be offered to Him. For His blessing. For His Spirit-infusion. For HIS glory!

Prayer:

God of the ordinary, I offer myself to You on this run-of-the-mill, not-so-spectacular day. I open my hands, letting go of my need to be in control while at the same time giving You access to everything my life has to offer. To be honest, sitting here with hands and heart wide open, what I have to give doesn’t seem like much, yet I believe that You can take it – take ME – and make a difference to someone today.

I offer to You today my ‘normal’ activities, my schedule, my work, my relationships, my energy and my time. Make them holy, Lord. May my life become extraordinary in Your hands! Amen.