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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

DEALING WITH THE STUFF

My sister, Aimee called me Sunday afternoon and said, "the ladies are so excited that you are coming to speak!"....I said real quick like...."well, they better get over it!---I am nothing to be excited about!" But Jesus is. Actually, I am the one that is excited. I am excited that the Lord has allowed me a voice to share His mercy and goodness to any person with ears! Whether they want to hear it or not....and you know, every now and then you come across someone that "does not want to hear".

This past Sunday, Rylan, our oldest grandson (the one with the autism disorder), was able to spend the day with us and he was doing pretty good that day, so I thought, well, I'll just take him with me in church instead of taking him to nursery (he's 6 but because of his condition, he generally doesn't do well in church with the sounds of the instruments, singing, etc.---too much stimulation). Anyway, we were getting to the "preaching segment" of the service, and he had done well so far, but I was still of holding my breath. As the visiting minister came to the platform and began his welcome, Rylan said in a not so quiet voice, "Is he Jesus?"....I said no, but he is about to tell us about Jesus. And so he did.

This actually brings me to something the Lord has been dealing with me about. Our reflection of Jesus. What are we showing the world? If the world came to our house, could they look inside every closet, drawer and cabinet?...What would they see? If nothing was hidden....what reflection would be seen? Jesus? Or, the world?

The Lord began directing my thoughts in this line during my sister, Wanda's last few months, and even more so just after her passing. What her life reflected. What you saw in her home. What was in her spiritual heart. Not the physical one. For that one was malformed. But her spiritual heart was completely in perfect order with Him. Her Lord.

I was talking with Aimee about this as we were cleaning up before she came home from the hospital in January after the long stay just days after Christmas. Her kitchen counters had "things of life" on them. Music CD's that she listened to "to encourage her heart", medicine, papers, mail, cards, a book or two, many things that had just not been put in it's correct place.

She had become overwhelmed in the days before Christmas with all the functions, activities and cooking that was necessary and had not had a chance to put things that was readily visible in complete order. But, when you opened the cabinet in search of something, the cabinets were in tip-top shape. Bowls stacked according to size, lids all together, glasses clean and without spots, and in their correct place, and her pantry was much the same.

Wanda could tell you exactly where everything was kept. (Which she did once she came home and we began cooking for her.) Everything on the inside was in perfect order. She had more stuff on the outside than she could cope with at times, but she organized and put away as she could to keep things in such condition that she would not be embarrassed for anyone to come in and visit.

I began to think of my own house. Not only my physical house, but my spiritual house. I have too much stuff. More furniture than I know what to do with right now (since we just let the lease on the apartment go). I have had to crowd as many things in a closet as will fit. While most of the time, the dishes, pots and pans are in a passable order, there are the times when my husband may put something away....and not knowing my "system" ---well, you get the picture...or at least once it all falls out you will!

As the Lord began dealing with me about things in my house, as well as things in my heart, I knew it was time to deal with both.

Stuff can overwhelm us. Not only too many things in our home, but too much going on in our lives. Philippians 3:13-14 says "No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven." (NLT)

Have you ever noticed how the world makes it all too easy to just "hang on to stuff". Not only do we cram our closets, but we rent "storage rooms" or warehouse units so that we can "keep piling things up". Why? Why would we want to continually flood our lives with things that we need to deal with now?

I am guilty of that myself. When we moved to Marianna we had to rent storage until we "repaired" the house we are living in. Then we had to decide what to keep and what to get rid of. Right now, we have some things in storage. Some is being stored for future use for Tiffany and Jared, some for April and David. But as for me....I am dealing with and getting rid of all things that are unnecessary in my house and life right now. Lesson learned long ago.

Almost 15 years ago I was in a raw emotional condition due to not dealing with some critical issues in my heart and life. They were painful. It was hard. It was much easier to just tuck it all away in a pretty box and label it "do not open". Trouble came though, when the box lid slipped. I don't remember what caused it...but when it slipped...the stuff came boiling to the top. This is painful even to admit I allowed myself to become so "overtaken by anxiety" that one night---after many nights of sleeplessness, the enemy of my soul crept into my room and whispered into my ear..."What's it all for? Why continue on? Who would miss you? Who would care? They'd all be better off"....and I listened...and cried in my pillow. I will tell you --I am ashamed to say this, hardly anyone knows the depth of my pain from this moment of my life, but even the thought of ending my life entered my head.

Tormented in my heart as I was, I cannot believe now that I could be in such a despondent condition. I hardly remember that girl of anxiety and despair. I know in my heart and mind right now that I would have not followed through with the thoughts of destruction, but I say this to tell you that "anyone" is susceptible to the attack of the enemy.

I look back now and wonder how/why? I had done almost everything in the church from cleaning toilets to teaching Sunday School. Yet, in all of that life of "christian activity", I was not exempt from the evil attack of satan. It was the most horrendous of enemy attacks I believe that exists, because when he tempts you to "take your life", he is telling you that you can "control" your life and God. Friend...you cannot control God. The enemy is trying to succeed in casting you in outer darkness forever. No turning back. When the last breath flows out, there is no putting life back in. I believe you have just physically plucked yourself from God's hand and jumped headlong into eternity---without Him.

Fortunately, I had presence of mind to cry out to Abba Father, and He was in the house---chasing the enemy from the room as I called out to Him in my pain. As I lay on the floor in the bathroom and sobbed out to Him, He reached down and picked me up. I eventually returned to bed---and Jeff was never aware (until days later), of the spiritual battle that had taken place that night while he slept. It was a battle. And I knew that I was not "armed" for this battle as I should have been.

While my house and life had been flooded with "stuff" ...there were some things I had neglected. Daily prayer. Daily reading of God's Word. Intercessory prayer for others. Yes, you can do all the "christian things that are expected of you" and still neglect your own heart and prayer life. Oh, I was still a Christian, but I was running around practically naked (if you will pardon that example). My spiritual clothing was missing. Parts of it was there, but it was ill fitting because I had neglected to keep it in tip-top shape. What to do?

Clean out your closet and drawers. Don't leave anything in. Get it all out. As Aimee, Wanda and I had made plans to help each other in the beginning of this year "clean out the excess stuff"...we had proclaimed that we were going to get "Ruthless" with each other's stuff. No hanging on to things that were unnecessary. Apply that to spiritual things in our lives. Take it all out and examine it for wear and tear. If it's not appropriate....get rid of it.

The closer I get to the Lord, I am finding that things---I'm not necessarily speaking of clothes here, but some things are just not "for me" any longer. Things that might have been okay, in the past few years, aren't any more. Even some --dare I say..."TV shows"....make me uncomfortable the closer I get to the Lord. I have a new determination that I have never experienced....to follow hard after Him. I don't want anything...ANYTHING to stand in the way of my relationship with God. Not any individual...nor any earthly possession. There is nothing...and nobody like my JESUS!

Ephesians 4:10-18 (NLT) "A final word: Be strong with the Lord's mighty power. Put on all of God's armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil. For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms. Use every piece of God's armor to resist the enemy in the time of evil, so that after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the sturdy belt of truth and the body armor of God's righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News, so that you will be fully prepared. In every battle you will need faith as your shield to stop the fiery arrows aimed at you by Satan. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere."

The entire wardrobe of holiness must be donned daily. DAILY. In a recent discussion with Aimee, we both shared our need for prayer in the morning. Aimee said, "I don't feel fully dressed if I haven't prayed." Without a doubt, that is the truth.

We aren't adequately covered spiritually if we don't get with the Father....and I have to do that in the mornings as well as at the close of my day. My former prayer life was not as fervent. But I have learned. It is the "effectual fervent prayer that will avail much". The Matthew Henry Commentary shares that "the prayer itself must be a fervent, in-wrought, well-wrought prayer. It must be a pouring out of the heart to God; and it must proceed from a faith unfeigned. Such prayer avails much. " To get a clearer understanding of this I looked up avail. Avail means to be of use or value to; profit; advantage; have force or efficacy; or the power or capacity to produce a desired effect.

So, where do we go from here? I tell you where I'm going. I am dealing with everything that comes up....as it comes up. No waiting. No putting it off or in a cute box....It's deal with it now. If you wait, the enemy has a chance to plan a strategy to use it against you.

I am closing with this: After Wanda passed away, Mark asked Aimee and I to meet him at the house to choose her clothes for burial. As we began searching through her closet for a dress, I noticed how neat and orderly her shoes and her clothes were. She did not have a cram packed closet of clothes. Just enough to take her through each season of life. Her shoes were neatly hanging in the shoe bag. Not an extraordinary amount. Shoes were not her obsession. After we chose her dress, I began going through her dresser drawers for other necessary things and found her things in perfect order.

As I rolled this over in my mind---I realized that with Wanda, what you saw on the outside...a neat, petite, orderly sweet woman, was exactly what she was on the inside. Both physically and spiritually. While her physical "heart" was not formed from birth as it should have been, her spiritual heart was in perfect formation. I knew right then I had some things that needed tending to. I am continually cleaning out. Continually removing, rearranging, and getting downright "ruthless" with myself, to be in perfect alignment with my Father.

So...are you ready? Grab those garbage bags girls....let's get to it!





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13 Comments:

OpenID darnelle said...

Thank you for sharing. Your transparency with us and with God is inspiring. I so appreciate your heart and this amazing message.
Thank you.
love ya,
Darnelle

March 4, 2008 at 9:42 PM  
Blogger Denise said...

I love you my precious friend, thanks for sharing this.

March 5, 2008 at 12:47 AM  
Blogger Praise and Coffee said...

Angie,
What a wonderful and inspiring article.
It seems so much easier to "stuff" things away than deal with them doesn't it?!

But you are so right, we need to address it all.
Thanks so much,
Sue

March 5, 2008 at 5:45 AM  
Blogger lori said...

"Stuff can overwhelm us. Not only too many things in our home, but too much going on in our lives."

You know I've managed to get rid of the physical stuff...13 moves in 17 years will do that to ya! It's the stuff inside that we tuck away....
what a beautiful way you gave us this message...as if you were here talking across the table...that is a gift...

You struck a chord with me...as always....and if we are honest...we ALL have a little "cleaning out" we need to do, and what better time than in a season of renewal...as we wait for EASTER...

love you girl..
your words are just sooooo good....
hugs this morning!
♥lori

March 5, 2008 at 6:09 AM  
Blogger Linda said...

Angie, there's a lot of good stuff here at several levels. Thanks for the exhortation.

March 5, 2008 at 6:10 AM  
Blogger Mocha with Linda said...

Wow. What a great message of conviction and truth. I needed this!

March 5, 2008 at 7:40 AM  
Blogger The Preacher's Wife said...

It is my prayer that what people see on the outside is exactly what's going on in my heart. What a testimony Wanda had. I know you miss her so much. Still praying for your family.

Much love,

Lisa

March 5, 2008 at 9:12 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I've been convicted yet again to get rid of our excess "stuff"...as a military family, we don't hold on to much, but I know there are still things that need to go...and it was a timely reminder to work on getting rid of the clutter in my spiritual life, too. Thank you!

March 5, 2008 at 9:21 AM  
Blogger windycindy said...

I think you are speaking directly to me about "stuff!" Whether it is in my home or me, I have plenty of it! Stuff can load us down. I need a catharsis of stuff. Have you every heard George Carlin's "Stuff" monologue, it is very funny and from what I remember not raunchy. Thanks,Cindi
jchoppes[at]hotmail[dot]com

March 5, 2008 at 2:26 PM  
Blogger Mary Lou said...

Thank you, bless you. You encouraged me to get rid of "all" the excess stuff, both in my heart and in my house, NOW to do it. My heart may be the easier of the two. Thank you for blessing us with the testimony of your sister.

March 5, 2008 at 2:42 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Angie- What great insight. As I am looking towards spring cleaning and feeling overwhelmed with all the "stuff" I can't help to think if Jesus came to visit our house what would we "change" in our behavior while he was with us. There is as much "stuff" to deal with emotionally as physically. Thanks for making the view more clear. Let's getting dealing with all that "stuff".
Smiles!

March 6, 2008 at 7:42 AM  
Blogger Tiffany Stuart said...

Love your honesty. Bringing this out to the light helps others who struggle know they are not alone and that there is hope.

I love the visual too. I will be using a similar visual in a chapter of my shame book. Gotta love closets, they say so much with so few words.

I've bagged much of my stuff. And given it to Jesus. And yet it's so easy to start collecting and cluttering my cabinets and closets again.

Thank you, Angie. You are precious. I'm so glad you didn't give in to the enemy.

March 6, 2008 at 1:39 PM  
Blogger Lynn said...

Ang,

Oh the stuff... I posted about this today myself.

Wanda was beautiful inside and out. She is a wonderful example to the rest of us. I know how much you are missing her today. Praying the Lord comforts your heart and out of this will be such new and awesome blessings. Love and hugs,

March 6, 2008 at 9:15 PM  

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