Want What You’ve Got! (pockets)

Khaki pantsI used to have this amazing pair of cargo pants.

Purchased at a second hand store, these khakis were like new when I bought them – and a coveted label to boot. They were lightweight, making them wearable in desert temps, and they fit perfectly – not too tight, not too loose. They never held a stain and they never needed more than a good shake before wearing.

But the most amazing thing about these pants was the pockets.

Of course there were two front pockets, only these ones were deep enough to fit my whole hand inside and to keep whatever I might put in there from falling out when I sat down. There were two back pockets, too, and they buttoned to keep cash or a credit card from being removed inadvertently. Each leg had a generous, button-shut pocket on the side, just above the knee, which made for ideal cell phone storage or for staging a Chapstick. And on the right pant leg, just above the hem, was a small pocket with a Velcro closure that was perfectly sized for a car key.

In these pants a person could shop all day without lugging a bulky purse through the mall! In these pants, hiking was a breeze without a backpack to weigh you down! Not only was I stylin’ while wearing these practical beauties, but I was able to have everything I needed within reach, no matter what the day might bring.

I wore them until the day that threadbare and patched became hole-y and inappropriate – and then I threw them away.

No doubt did I Want What I’ve Got while in possession of this marvelous utility-wear!

Our lives were created with pockets, too. We have just the right amount of storage to get through a day well-equipped for whatever may transpire. When we choose wisely, our lives contain exactly what is needed, as Jesus described in Matthew 13:52 (The Message):

“…every student well-trained in God’s kingdom is like the owner of a general store who can put his hands on anything you need, old or new, exactly when you need it.”

It’s when we start store-housing our excess that the problems begin.

With pockets bulging, over-stuffed with our desires, we feel the weight of the world. We move more slowly, have trouble finding what we need among our wants, and sometimes we just don’t make it through the day for the burden we bear.

Some of us have filled our pockets with problems and worries about our own lives – Will I have enough? Will I be prepared? Will I make a good impression? Do these jam-packed pockets make me look fat?

Some of us have chosen to cram our pockets with the burdens of others, weighing us down and keeping us from having the freedom to move and act and do stuff. Instead of things we need to hold onto, some of us keep finding lint and dirty tissues and even rocks with someone else’s name on them in the deep recesses of the pockets of our lives. Some may even need a belt to keep those britches on for the sheer weight of what we’re carrying around!

Today, dig down deep and take a long, hard look at what you’re keeping in your pockets.

If you can’t honestly say that you Want What You’ve Got, then you’ve got some laundry to do.

Daily Questions: As you begin each day, how do you feel? Weighed down? Burdened? Or light on your feet? What keeps you from finding joy when you need it? Or words of encouragement? Or hope? What are you stockpiling for tomorrow that keeps you from finding or carrying what is needed today? What are you hauling around for others that you need to give back or get rid of?

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Want What You’ve Got! (weekend)

Much of our Want What You’ve Got focus this week has been on our history. Stories from our life-experiences, decisions made (both wise and questionable), trials and suffering, control issues and redemption…

No matter how you tell it, your story is uniquely your own.

I sat across the table from my best high school friend – a rare meal shared with one of my favorite people of all time. She was telling me a recent family story when she mentioned her bedroom at home – a place I’ve not thought about for more than 20 years. Immediately my senses were flooded with memories of sleepovers and birds singing and sunlight flooding through her second story window. Mental pictures of her big, sweet Saint Bernard lying in the yard, the sound of her piano as it floated through the old wooden ranchhouse, the feel of my hands – dirty from working in her mother’s garden…

I couldn’t help but smile as the pages of our friendship’s history were turned through the story she was telling because in a way, it was my story, too.

This weekend, seek out a quiet place in your home and carve some room into your schedule to simply remember. Close your eyes and open your senses to the memories of people, places, scents, sounds and sensations that have made you who you are today.

As you remember, consider how you might re-connect with your history as your future unfolds. So often we are so eager to move forward into the next thing that we blast through our past without fully absorbing the rich ointment of blessing to be found there.

This weekend, take time to remember and respond to the stories your life could be telling. Who knows how far this simple exercise could take you toward Wanting What You’ve Got today?

Want What You’ve Got! (turbulence)

This picture from a NASA study on wingtip vort...

I took my seat in the small commuter plane, my view of the tarmac hindered by the craft’s propeller. Sitting three rows in from the door, no one sat in front of me – the other 8 passengers were all seated further back (feeling safer over the wings, I suppose).

As we took flight, we bounced around a bit – no surprise considering the wind that always blows so vigorously in the region we were leaving behind. One passenger in particular came to my mind as we sought to find smooth air – a young man who had seemed particularly nervous as he boarded, asking questions of the flight attendant that I hadn’t overheard. I felt for him as I remembered my own flight experiences over the years, and then I closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep.

Turbulence happens. When you choose to fly, you run the risk of unstable air from time to time. Rookie passengers feel every bump and drop as if it signals their end, but you can always spot the veteran – asleep or engrossed in a book even before cruising altitude is reached. Airborne over the Rockies this weekend, it hit me that turbulence is something that makes me Want What I’ve Got.

Life is a lot like air travel, and not everyone buys a ticket. Some are so afraid of flying that they will opt out of life’s opportunities in order to avoid their discomfort and fear. Feet firmly planted on the ground, many will buy into the illusion that to live is to be safe – safe from risk, safe from potential harm, safe from the unknown.

What we miss when we opt for safety-at-all-costs is the indescribable joy that is available only to those who risk it all to fully live!

When I was a fresh young twenty-something, I arrived at the lake a little too late to join my sailing group, already en route to a picnic-friendly beach across the water. They had left a boat behind – a small Sunfish daysailer – but I had never actually rigged a boat all by myself.

I don’t know how long I contemplated my options before I went for it – managing to rig that boat like a boss (as my son would say)! I climbed in and set sail alone with a grin stretched across my face and some lovely wind filling my modest sail. I reached the opposite shore before some of my group did, and I can honestly say I have never felt so equipped to live as I did on that defining summer day.  

Toward the end of His earthly life, Jesus told His friends that, in spite of everything that was about to transpire, “I’m not abandoned. The Father is with me. I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” (John 16:32b-33 MSG)

In this godless world, you and I will suffer. In the words of the pilot of the plane I am on, “occasional bumps will occur.” Unstable air is a byproduct of living in a broken world, but as children of God, we can rest unshaken because the bumps that toss us around cannot hurt us – not as long as we take heart and take flight with the One who has conquered it all.

You may not Want What You’ve Got when the challenges come – in this you are not alone. But maybe it’s high time you realize that peace doesn’t come from not taking risks… It comes from trusting Jesus as you board the plane.

So, if you’re experiencing turbulence today, remember it’s because you dared to fly.

Daily Questions: When was the last time you experienced turbulence in the air? What thoughts went through your mind as you were buckled into that airplane seat? What kinds of turbulence are you experiencing today – on the ground? What do Jesus’ words in John 16 say to you in the midst of the unstable circumstances of your life?

Want What You’ve Got! (tears)

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I sat in my parked car on the driveway the other day with the cell phone held tight against my ear. On the other end was one of the most dear and gracious women I know, and when her tears began to flow, so did mine. It hurts to let go of our loved ones – to be the one left behind.

Later in the day, as I was loading up the car to make an after-school carpool run, I spotted my next door neighbor in his garage. I haven’t seen him outside for weeks – he’s quite ill and his daughter has moved in to care for him. I stopped to chat and couldn’t help but notice how tired and gaunt his face had become. He told me about the way his condition drains every ounce of energy. He said that most of the time he just wants to rest – to fall asleep and never wake up. His words made me sad and I remembered the tear-stained face of his daughter as she returned from a walk last week. It hurts to watch our loved ones suffer without a way to really ease their pain.

Family drama, broken relationships, fences in dire need of mending, lonely tears of hopelessness which threaten to end a life… From our jail cells to our hospital beds, it hurts to be a part of this desperately broken world.

Are we to want the tears, too? Because I’m pretty sure none of us can really Want What We’ve Got when what we’ve got is so far from the way we want things to be.

Tears betray our true condition. The Psalmist’s words resonate with us in the midst of our trials:

“I’m tired of all this—so tired. My bed has been floating forty days and nights on the flood of my tears. My mattress is soaked, soggy with tears. The sockets of my eyes are black holes; nearly blind, I squint and grope.” (Psalm 6:6, 7 MSG)

From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is filled with the desperate cries of our forefathers and mothers. No one wants to be lost, hurt, lonely, wounded, left for dead, homeless or abandoned, yet these are the days of our lives. If we believe in a good God and yet suffer calamity along with those who have no faith, why in the world should we Want What We’ve Got if what we’ve got only leads us to rivers of tears?

I have only one answer today, and you’re probably not going to like it. It may not be enough to satisfy your need to understand your suffering. I really wish there was more I could say… but the common denominator among the most tear-filled passages of scripture is that, while squinting and groping, we do the only thing we can do while gasping for air and battling to stay afloat… we cry out to God.

If tears are what you’ve got today, you have something to offer to the God who collects every tear in His bottle (Psalm 56:8) and records every pain in His book. Like it or not, our tears draw us toward God, and this may be the only way through the rainy season you find yourself in.

So scream out loud, shake your fists, cry your tears of anger and confusion! The God who longs for you to look His way is going to be there to meet you when you turn, and He can take whatever you can dish out in your struggle to Want What You’ve Got.

Daily Questions: What kinds of tears are you crying today – tears of disappointment? Anger? Frustration? Betrayal? Loss? If the only good thing about tears is that they position us to connect with the God who loves us, are you willing to reach past the hurt to the Healer? Read through the Psalms for proof that God is close to the brokenhearted (start with Psalm 34 & 42).

Want What You’ve Got! (stories)

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I spent a recent weekend at a retreat with some of the most amazing women I’ve been blessed to know. Throughout the event, woven into the fabric of our time together, were bursts of laughter, warm and comforting hugs, honest questions, brilliant epiphanies, the sting of tears, and… stories.

Our stories – the re-telling of our trials and triumphs – aren’t always the stories we want to claim. Many of us have experienced things in our lifetime that we still wish hadn’t happened.

But our stories make us who we are today, and who we are today is a work of God! Each challenge we’ve faced and every turn of events we’ve navigated serves to shape and define us. This is what I noticed as I listened to the stories being lifted up by the women around me, and as I saw each of my sisters in her present reality (uniquely gifted, impassioned and equipped to serve) I was struck by how each is the sum of her stories plus the power of her God.

You may not like all of the stories of your life. You might not willingly embrace your past or see yourself as a holy equation in process. You may not Want What You’ve Got – the trauma and issues and drama you’ve been dealt. But your stories are only part of the math, and if you’re breathing, there is more calculation yet to be done.

Today, think back to elementary school and consider yourself a holy story problem! Stop trying to undo what cannot be undone and instead choose to yield to the One who knows how to do the math.

And tell your stories to those of us who need to believe that God is working it all out in the present problems of our lives, because we need you to Want What You’ve Got so that we can, too.

Daily Questions: Think back over your life and remember some of the trials God has seen you through. What difficult or painful situations has God delivered you from? How has He redeemed your stories? How has God used your stories to bring hope, perspective or healing to others? Is there a story from your past or present that God wants you to be telling (and to whom)?

 

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)!

Want What You’ve Got! (dam)

Ike Water Line

Ike Water Line (Photo credit: Dean Terry)

I woke up this morning with a picture in my mind of the dam markings at a nearby lake. My husband and I took our kids there for an afternoon walk after Christmas, and we were able to stand right up next to the concrete wall in the dried up lake bed. We joked about which of us was the shortest (me) and took turns jumping – trying to reach the bigger numbers far above our heads.

What does water level have to do with Lent? I’m glad you asked!

A few weeks ago, sitting around the living room with one of our faith family groups, we talked about some economic what-if’s…

What if people – Americans in particular – were to acknowledge that it is possible to reach a point where we actually have enough?

What if, instead of continually striving to acquire more, we were willing to draw a line to indicate our enough-level and then refuse to stockpile beyond that point?

What if believers really believed that what we receive in this life is meant to benefit others, too – not just ourselves?

And what if, acting on all of these beliefs, we were to treat everything above and beyond our enough-line as if it wasn’t even ours. As if all of that overflow was never meant for us at all, but instead is God’s way of including us in His generous economy of love?

2 Corinthians 9:10-11 says:

“This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you. He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God.”

Now, you may not feel you have reached such a holy water-line yet, and you may be right. But the scripture doesn’t say that God gives you everything so that you can give it all away – it says He gives you something you can give away. In any given season of life we may be needy in some ways, but if we are willing to acknowledge God’s extravagance, we will also be able to identify areas of wealth, where His blessings have breached the enough-line and no longer belong to us.

If you’re like me, this is not how you tend to think about what is yours. Most of us are so insanely tethered to our possessions that to simply Want What You’ve (already) Got sounds like crazy talk!

But give it a little time to sink in.

Daily Questions: Where would you draw the enough-line when it comes to what you need (possessions, savings, investments, entertainment, relationships)? In which of these areas do you fall short of your sense of enough? In which do you exceed your mark? What are you willing to do about it today?

Want What You’ve Got! (coffee)

Coffee beanI figure there’s really no point in beating around the bush or tip-toeing around what may very well be my biggest issue… Coffee.

Laying in bed on this Lenten morning – birds chirping, heater kicking on to ward off the nighttime chill – my thoughts naturally (eventually) turn toward coffee. Instinctively (my default start-up sequence runs like a program) I’m weighing the options I will have when I walk into the coffee shop this morning…. Hot or iced? Soy or black? One pump or two?

Quite un-naturally, this Want What You’ve Got mantra of ours enters the conversation I’m having in my head:

You’ve got coffee at home, Brita. A variety of brews! How about popping a Kcup into the ol’ Keurig today? Want What You’ve Got!

For those who can’t relate, it’s safe to say that I am addicted to my morning coffee run. I rely on that predictable part of my day to set the pace for whatever might emerge as the clock ticks on. I’ve given coffee up for Lent before and survived – barely. Like some of you, I once gave up my “fourbucks” habit to sponsor a child through Compassion, but now I drink my brew and send money to support my dear Charmien (best of both worlds, right?).

What is addiction, anyways? My gut says it’s a craving for something you want – something you don’t really need, but you think you do. The dictionary says that it’s
“the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming.”

God, you had me at enslaved

Want What You’ve Got isn’t about soul-killing legalism or pious performances in the theater of the church. Want What You’ve Got isn’t telling me that to drink coffee is sinful or that to buy coffee from a barista is bad. No, what I heard in my head as I woke up this morning is that there’s a greater question buried here beneath my hot-or-iced, one-pump-or-two daily dilemma and it has less to do with coffee than with the condition of my heart.

1 Timothy 6:7-8 says:

“Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that’s enough.”

Today I do have bread on the table… and I have coffee in the cupboard.

Want What You’ve Got says “enjoy what you already have!” For this day I have what I need – and a lot of what I want. Am I willing to rely on God to set the tone for today instead of this habit I’m chained to? Am I willing to say that what I have is enough and allow God to use this choice of mine as He cultivates a grateful heart in me?

Well, yes, actually – when you say it like that.

Daily Questions: What do you consume without thinking (or think too much about consuming)? When mixed with our mandate to Want What You’ve Got, how does that taste?

Want What You’ve Got! (Lent)

One year at camp I heard a pastor share a version of the Ten Commandments stated positively. Instead of saying Thou Shalt Not, this rendition of the original top-Ten list spun God’s commands in such a way that discipline-averse folks might embrace them.

I didn’t write them down. I haven’t been able to find them worded quite the way they were spoken that year at camp. But one of them – the positive interpretation of Thou Shalt Not Covet – burned itself onto my heart around the campfire and continues to send sparks flying each time my green-eyed monster rears its greedy little head:

Want what you’ve got.

The season of Lent has begun on this day with ashes from last year’s Palm Sunday fingerpainted on my forehead; the shape of a cross barely visible in the dark & oily mess as I lean into the mirror for a closer look. My first inclination is to grab a tissue and wipe it off – it’s as if I’ve got a billboard on my face that reads “this is as good as it gets, people.” Dust, dirt, sin, grease. On display for everyone to see.

I want to wipe it off!
I want to fit in when I walk into Safeway for a gallon of milk on the way home.
I want to look normal to the majority of people who didn’t go to church today.
I want to like what I see when I look in the mirror, or in my refrigerator, or at my checkbook, or closet, or scale, or when I look into the eyes of my loved ones at home.

Truth be told – I want a lot of things. I spend an enormous amount of time, energy and resources on acquiring those things. But then what?

When today’s purchases are hanging in the closet, lined up on the pantry shelves or plugged in beside my bed – then what?

Honestly? I want more.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to want what you’ve got? I have.
Today I can’t help but wonder how my life might be different if I were brave enough to believe God when He says:

“Just think – you don’t need a thing, you’ve got it all! All God’s gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale. And not only that, but God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that.” I Corinthians 1:7-9 (the Message)

A spiritual adventure beckons today for those of us who feel the Father’s heartbeat in our chests, though all we can see in these mirrors of ours is an ashy, oily smudge where the glory of God ought to be.

What if, for the next 40 days, we were to climb out of and into our bedcovers with this positive commandment in front of us all day long… Want What You’ve Got.

What if, between now and Easter Sunday, we were to choose what we already have over the temptation to buy more, take more, spend more?

And what if, while wanting what we’ve already got, we were to discover that God has given us everything we need?

How might we be different? How might we be changed?

How about we find out… together!

Watch for devotional thoughts and challenges to be posted here every weekday during Lent. Don’t want to miss a post? Subscribe to Pink Shoes Ministries’s blog and have each Want What You’ve Got post delivered to your email inbox.

Want What You’ve Got! (bunk)

Homeless

Homeless (Photo credit: Hanibaael)

This post is from Brita’s devotional series, entitled “Want What You’ve Got!” Well… do you? Want what you’ve got?

This re-post is dedicated to those who are trekking toward the manger and who may or may not be (spiritually) homeless.

I spent two nights last weekend sleeping on a bunk bed at camp. Squeaky, slippery, plastic-covered mattress. Solid wood bed frame with absolutely no give. Piles of blankets and extra pillows from home. Three roommates with different sleeping habits, body-clocks, and anxiety levels. Down the hall – twelve more ladies. Great event! Less than ideal sleep. Bunk.

Today I’m on my way to visit my daughter at school. For the next couple of nights I will be sleeping on her lofted dorm bed on the tenth floor while she sleeps on a mat on the floor (at least, that’s what I’m anticipating I will be in the bed, right, Peanut?!). Crunchy plastic mattress covered in layers of down-alternative mattress pads in an effort to make this temporary sleep-space feel a bit more like home. Down the hall in both directions – dozens of students. Can’t wait to see my daughter! Exhaustion ought to help me sleep. Dorm.

A few days ago one of the families in our faith family group had the children make a utility tarp to send to typhoon victims in the Philippines. They cut the handles off of hundreds of plastic grocery sacks, layered them three thick, and ironed them together as if they were quilt squares. Once the tarp reaches its desired size and a plastic drop cloth is ironed on to make it waterproof, the edges will be finished off with duct tape and grommets put into place. This incredibly resourceful cover can then be used to make a tent or windbreak for a family… Or it can be folded up and used on the ground as a mattress. Tarp.

Not all of us are going to lay our heads down on a soft, specialty pillow atop a pillow-top mattress tonight, but all of us will (try to) sleep. Even under less-than-ideal conditions, even under a makeshift-grocery-bag-quilt, people will rest their eyes, recount their day, perhaps count their blessings, and maybe even… Want What They’ve Got.

It’s one thing, though, to lay-me-down-to-sleep on a piece of furniture – an investment – and quite another to settle in for the night at tent city, under starry or stormy skies. On top of rocky or muddy ground.

If you find yourself today among those who Want What They’ve Got, maybe you can find a way to extend the gift of rest to another whose sleeping (and waking) situation is closer to nightmare than dream.

Daily Questions: Think about the worst night’s sleep you have ever had… What conditions were you in? Who was with you? What got you through it? What made it bearable? If you knew that someone was suffering as you did, night after night, what would you want to do for him or her? Will you do it?