Cleaning out your closet

Today’s the day.

The boxes are all packed and the moving trucks will be taking our belongings from one city to another.  Our “home” is moving.

It’s been a wild process over the past several weeks.  We’ve packed up our home into hundreds of small boxes.  Drawers were emptied, the attic was cleared and the garage was cleaned.  Every square inch of our home was cleaned out.

We found some forgotten things in our closets, attic and basement.  Projects that we intended to start but never initiated.  Gifts we had planned to give…but forgot about them. Or, worse yet, we found items we wanted to hide from the kids! 

It felt good to clean out those closets.

For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light.  Luke 8:17

It made me think, however, about my own closets.  Those corners of my mind where I tuck away thoughts that I want to hide…imperfections I don’t want anyone to see.

Feelings of envy.  Anger.  Pride.  Scorn. 

Maybe I can hide those feelings from you.  But God knows. 

For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.  Ecclesiastes 12:14

God knows our secrets. God knows our inner thoughts. 

And he loves us anyway. 

The best thing we can do is bring these flaws to light and address them.  Pray for God to help us change our hearts.  Admit our weaknesses and strive to become a more complete person.  Be the Christian that God wants us to be.  

My prayer this week is to have the strength to admit to hidden sin- and to ask God to help me address it.

And let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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Moving Sale Bargains

We’re moving next week.

And we’ve made the conscious decision to get rid of some of our “stuff” in the process.

Over the past 22 years of marriage, we’ve accumulated a lot of items.  Furniture, picture frames, decorations, old toys.  

So we decided to have a moving sale.

We worked on it for weeks…making careful decisions about what to sell and what value it had.

There were melancholy moments, too.  Memories from past vacations, family gatherings and milestone events were uncovered in the process.

But something interesting happened on the day of the sale.  The value we placed on our things weren’t always what others were willing to pay.  

The bicycles that our boys used to explore the neighborhood brought 1/4 of what we hadoriginally priced them.  The sleeper sofa that had been used by visiting family or kids’ sleepovers? $30. 

In fact- just about everything we placed in the sale was met with a negociation.  

It was a great reminder that we can place too much value on “stuff” in our lives.  The kitchen table that hosted the first meals of our three children was invaluable to us, but only brought a bargain price in the eyes of others. 

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Colossians 3:2

We need to invest in items that really matter.  

Relationships. 

Interactions with other people. 

Engaging in the lives of our family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. 

And devoting energy into our pursuit of following Jesus.

If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. John 12:26

This week I want to focus less on things that don’t add value to my life or the life of others. I want to rid myself of the clutter that keeps me from focusing on relationships and following Jesus. I’m praying about this. 

And please let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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When Your New Housemate is Rude…

We’ve got a new housemate.

It’s of the four-legged variety.  We’ve recently adopted a rescue dog.  His name is Mack.

Mack was abandoned by his prior owners.  He’s still a puppy…only 18 months old, but already over 100 pounds.  Mack is going to be a big one.

Despite being orphaned, Mack is a loving guy.  He’s loyal and playful.  He loves to be with our kids and follows Hollianne around the house and yard like a house cat.  He and I love early morning runs around town.  He’s been a great addition to our family.

Well, almost.

Mack does have a flaw.  He’s a drooler.  And by drool…I mean an epic drooler.

It’s especially bad after he eats…or after exercise.  Bless his heart.  And to relieve the annoying presence of this substance, Mack will whip his head back and forth- and sling the drool all over trees, shrubs, furniture and…yep…humans.

It’s been a tough adjustment.

We’ve almost got the perfect pet.  Good-tempered, loves people, enjoys exercise, loyal and protective.  But a drooler.  It’s tough to overlook.

Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins. Ecclesiastes 7:20

Isn’t Mack like all of us?

We’ve all got imperfections to our character.  For some of us, we are well aware of these flaws- and know what we need to do for improvement.

Perhaps we have a temper.  Maybe it’s jealousy.  Still others struggle with pride or lust.  Or maybe it’s a strained relationship that we are unwilling to address…or forgive.

There are other flaws that we can’t do much about.  Perhaps it’s a physical limitation or an illness.

You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.  Matthew 5:48

God is perfect- and he made us “perfect” through the sacrifice of His son Jesus.  He also calls for us to strive for perfection- despite our flaws.

God calls us to work on those imperfections that we can address.  And we are also called to examine the good in others- and be willing to accept the things that we- or they- cannot change.

Even if it requires living with a little drool.

My prayer is to have the awareness and wisdom to work on my flaws this week.

And let me know how to pray for you.

God bless you.

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Keeping your cool when the world won’t let you 

I’ve been running from meeting to meeting this month.  It seems I’ve got a new audience every hour on the hour- with a new set of circumstances to address at each visit.

I barely have time to think.

I’m not alone in this.  I’m guessing that life, work and family keeps you on the run too.

When this happens to me, I get consumed by what I “think” needs to be done. I get into a zone where all I can think about is following up with others or responding to the crisis of the moment.

And I shut out Jesus.

Not intentionally…but it happens.  I get so focused on the moment that I lose sight of how I need to live for Jesus each day. 

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.” ‭Acts‬ ‭16:25-34

Paul and Silas were in jail.  They were scared for their lives and uncertain about their earthly fate. But their faith kept them focused. Singing. Praying. Sharing.  Their attitude changed the lives of their jailer and his family.

They kept their heads when the world wouldn’t.  Praise God for great, practical examples of how we are to live our lives.

Pray for me to focus on Jesus- even when the world wants to shut Him out.

And let me know how to pray for you.

God bless.  I love you. 

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What social media can’t do

We are surrounded by media. 

A constant flow of images into our lives. Pictures.

I’m a frequent contributor.  I tweet about work. I use Instagram to post updates on my family. I have two Facebook pages- one for work and one for personal use.  

And social media is useful for updates. I enjoy seeing pictures of family and friends.

But it’s one dimensional.

A close friend recently surprised me with some sad news about his marriage. We were out for a long-overdue lunch when he asked me for prayer, confessing that he and his wife were struggling mightily. I was stunned- as there had been no evidence. He had been posting pictures of his smiling family and their fun activities on a constant, continual basis. 

It wasn’t until we had gotten into a quiet, safe environment that he asked me for prayer.

Social media images present the best parts of our lives. Fun activities. Loving families. Perfect children.  It doesn’t show pain. Stress. Imperfection. 

We show the world what we want them to see about our lives. We are fearful of being real- scared that transparency will show weakness.

How can we get past the superficial?

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. Proverbs 17:17

Snapshots of our lives are no substitute for real engagement with others.  

 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14 

Love is an investment. If we are to love others, it means a level of engagement in others that goes beyond the superficial. 

Call someone you haven’t seen in a while. Check in on your elderly neighbor.  Ask your fellow church member who always sits behind you to go to lunch. Invite friends into your home. 

Ask someone how they are doing- and mean it.

Love is a contact sport. 

Pray for me to be more engaged in the lives of others. I want to be more aware of opportunities to listen and help. 

And let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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Homeless in Nashville

I was early for a meeting in downtown Nashville last week, so I decided to take a stroll down a side street just south of our state’s Capitol.

It was a chilly day- and the brisk wind made it even colder.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw a man approach me.  “Pardon me,” he said in a meek voice.  I turned to face him.

“My friend has a bad cold,” he said. Would you mind buying him a cup of coffee to warm up his throat?”  I looked behind him to see another man propped up at the base of a building- layered in tattered, dirty blankets. 

I told him I would- and hurried across the street to a coffeehouse to buy a large, hot coffee. 

I returned to the two men and gave one of them the coffee.  He didn’t speak or make eye contact, but the other man said “thanks so much.”  He then turned back to his friend and helped him place the cup to his mouth. 

I walked away stunned.  It was a complete display of compassion and concern for another person.  

After leaving my meeting, I wondered about the two men.  It was about an hour before sunset, and I knew it would be getting even colder soon.  I decided to walk back down that street where I’d seen them earlier.

And there they were.  Sitting and talking. Smiling. Content for the moment.

I decided to buy them hot sandwiches, water and coffee.  They were grateful.  I asked them why they didn’t ask for more when I encountered them earlier.  The more verbal of the two answered, “I only ask for what I need at the moment.”

I thought about that all night.  What if I did that? What if I could truly separate my requests from God into needs versus wants?

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. Matthew 7:7

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Phillipians 4:19

I often craft my prayers as a wish-list.  I “want” comfort, peace, love and wisdom.  I want it all. 

Give us this day our daily bread… Matthew 6:11

But what do I really need?  I need help and comfort for today.  God will provide if I am faithful and believe.  He will take care of me.

My prayer today is to be satisfied with what I have- and to truly focus on my immediate needs and the concerns of those I love. 

And please let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless. 

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When you bury your brother

I buried a brother yesterday.  His name was Chris.

He was just 41 years old.

Chris wasn’t my biological brother- but a spiritual one. 

He was a member of my small group Bible study over the past several years.  Each Friday, a small group of us gathered in our neighborhood.  We read the Bible, discussed the meaning of God’s word and prayed for one another.  We shared our successes, our failures and our fears. 

Chris started coming soon after his initial diagnosis. We often talked about his treatment schedule and his numerous trips to the doctor. We often prayed for his treatments and family.

Through it all, Chris was a rock.  He wanted to be a good example to his three sons…when life gets tough, you keep going. He kept his job and worked as much as he could.  He attended family events and games even when he didn’t feel like it.  Once, Chris got home from an extended stay in the hospital- and left for a week at Disneyworld with his family the next day.  Chris didn’t miss anything, even when cancer had knocked him down.  He just kept punching. He just kept living. 

Chris was an example of being fearless even when staring uncertainty and death in the face. He wasn’t afraid. 

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7

I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4

What are you afraid of?  I’m afraid of failing. Failing my family…my wife, my kids. 

What’s it for you? Business? A relationship? Perhaps a fear of being exposed in some aspect of your life?

Chris taught me many lessons, but the biggest was how to face fear.  Even in the final days of his life, he had no fear. He was confident in his faith.  He had trust in his Heavenly Father. Chris was at peace- and it was incredible to witness. 

Please keep the family of Chris Williams in your prayers this week. Pray for his wonderful wife and three young sons. 

And pray that those touched by his life can honor Chris by emulating his courage and faith- even in the worst of circumstances. 

And as always, let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.  

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