Less is More

We are approaching the end of another year.  Time is flying by.  Like many others, I tend to feel very nostalgic and introspective at this time of the year.  Perhaps, because it is the Advent season where we celebrate the arrival of the Christ child, while also practicing His presence each day. Christmas, 2015

Today, as I reflect, I am reminded of a significant word that the LORD gave me at the beginning of this Advent season.  I am not much for focusing on one word, but it looks like this year is different.  What is the word you ask?  Downsizing.

What a strange word to be pondering during Advent.  And yet, not that strange at all.  Advent is a time to prepare our hearts for the arrival of Jesus as a baby in a manger and then to celebrate His birth on Christmas Day.

Plain and simple…right?

Unfortunately, we tend to do the opposite.  We make it complicated.  We fill our houses, calendars, fridges, credit cards, minds, and stomachs with all the treats and trimmings of the season and allow ourselves to indulge, with excuses that end in “Tis the season!”.

I am not trying to be a scrooge.  I like Christmas, just not in the way most people in my life do.

For the past 2 years, I have seen a trend in my heart.  The dislike for what I call, “Christmas clutter.”  Because of some personal circumstances, our family has taken a break from decorations, shopping, gift giving and many other common festivities that happen during this time of the year, here in America.

Sounds dreary and scrooge-like to many of you, I am sure.  But we have found a Joy unspeakable and a Peace that passes all understanding as a result.

Isn’t that the real reason for the season?  Joy and Peace?

I am now being called to downsize to make even more room for Jesus in my story.  Just like when Mary & Joseph arrived in Bethlehem, there was no room at the inn for them.  I don’t want my story to go like that.

The more I get the more I want…of Him.

I asked God where He wanted me to downsize, since His view of my story is better than mine.

He gave me this… “boundaries in pleasant places” (Psalm 16:6), so I could gain clarity about how and where He wants me to downsize.

Physically – house size, clothes, body size, possessions.

We are not changing our address anytime soon (unless God decides otherwise).  I clearly have too many clothes than I know what to do with.  Although we have had garage sales for various reasons over the past few years, I am sensing that God is asking us to sell even more of the items we own.  Perhaps He already knows something we don’t.

Emotionally – deal with all my feelings (good, bad, otherwise), put boundaries in place that guard and protect, remove certain people from my life that cause undue emotional stress (toxic people), implement healthy social media boundaries.

This past year has been full of feelings new and old, shallow, and deep.  God has been faithful in leading and guiding every step of the way.  In some cases, it was easy in this area. But in other ways, it was quite challenging.  I want to continue to pursue emotional health not only because it is a special gift that I give to the people in my life, but it also strengthens my witness.  I learned a phrase last year, “one cannot be spiritually mature while being emotionally unhealthy at the same time.”  This statement has impacted me deeply and helped me downsize effectively.

Mentally – evaluate what I am feeding my brain, determine how I am strengthening my brain to function the way it is supposed to, identify lies I am believing and replace them with the truth.

God’s Word has been the most effective tool that does the above for me.  Just being in the Word isn’t enough, I have to let it do its work in me.

Spiritually – tighten down on my theology, step into the Gospel more intentionally, seek the presence of God in the deepest parts of my story so I have more of Him and less of me, push away teachings and practices that don’t line up with God’s Word.

If I don’t have a good handle on the Gospel, then my life will show it.  In 2015, I survived an earthquake that resulted in a deeper pursuit of Jesus and the determination to live like I want to die.  With integrity and deep resolve.

In a couple of weeks, we will celebrate Jesus’ birth. In the meantime, I will continue to downsize by dying to myself so there is more room for Jesus when He arrives.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your loved ones!!

REFLECTION:

How about you?

Is God calling you do downsize?  If so, where?

How will you respond to His invitation this advent season?

Is there room in your story for Him or will you turn Him away?

 

Thank you for joining me on this journey!

Kinita

I didn’t like what I was wearing.

Perhaps you are having that kind of day. You woke up for a new day, went through your morning routine that may or may not include some solitude or reflection. You look in your closet and say the old famous phrase “I have nothing to wear”, which by the way is not exclusively used by children. You have a couple “go-to” outfits that make you feel strong, confident, powerful on those days that you need an extra boost or fresher pick-me-up. But for some reason you shrink back to “I have nothing to wear” because this day is a tough one. There are things in your day that even the most popular fashion-magazine-cover-outfit won’t be good enough. There are people in your day that just don’t “accept you for who you are”. There are places you need to go where what you are wearing might make you stand out more than you’d like. Are you there? Are you having one of those days now? Maybe you did yesterday and today you are wallowing in the guilt of your choices.

Well, I did. I had a day….several over the years most of which were accompanied with a lack of understanding. I thought that I could wear a great outfit, have my hair just right (that one I still struggle to let go) and say all the right things, go to all the right places, buy all the right things and the pain would go away. Needless to say….IT DIDN’T WORK.

My heart still ached from the pain of the rejection. The anger and accusations ran deep. “No outfit was going to cover that shame,” I would find myself thinking. I still didn’t like what I was wearing.

As I surrendered my will to God for me to look the way I wanted, God showed me His way for me.  He showed me what I needed to wear instead, how I needed to clothe myself so that I would experience a deeper intimacy with Him and share His glory with the world.

First outfit of the day. My armour. I was to put on my spiritual armour.

Ephesians 6:12 says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

The enemy is prowling around like a lion waiting for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Is it you? The armour protects us from his attack. His attack will come sometimes in subtle ways while at other times, a full on barrage of arrows. The armour protects us and doesn’t allow those hurtful and stinging arrows to penetrate our hearts and minds. Author, Neil Anderson reminds us “satan’s main objective is to blind the minds of unbelievers” (see 2 Corinthians 4:3-4). He goes on to say, “satan’s next strategy is to deceive, tempt and accuse believers, causing them to live defeated lives”.

The protection from the armour becomes crucial in our walk with Christ.

Verses 14-17 describe each piece of the outfit of armour. The belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, shoes ladened with the gospel of peace, shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit. Sounds heavy like the picture we get when we see David suit up to go before Golaith. But when we choose to put on our spiritual armour in this way, the heaviness of the task ahead of us is lifted.

The second way we are to “get dressed” is being mindful in how we clothe ourselves. There are several verses in the Bible that give us instruction on the “how to” of clothing ourselves. Making reference to how we “clothe our hearts”, the attitude of our hearts in a particular situation.

I want to focus on Romans 13:14, “Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature”.

Here’s why…..the other day I was in a situation where I didn’t like what I was wearing. Thus the inspiration to write this because I don’t think I am alone.

By now, hopefully you are realizing that I am not really talking about my clothes, but rather my physical appearance, I am talking about my heart attitude and how I was responding in a particular situation. Rather, how I wanted to respond. Rest assured I did take the high road.

You see, I was with people that have hurt me deeply. I had forgiven them, before this day, and was genuinely walking in that forgiveness. But that day, for various reasons, I was not able to stand firm in that forgiveness. I felt weak, unprotected, unable to shine for Jesus, if you will. I was not liking the attitude of my heart. My heart was in an irritable, annoyed, turned-off, couldn’t-be-bothered, mean-spirited kind of state . You see, I was on the brink of “gratifying my sinful nature”. My flesh.

My belief is strong that the world, the flesh and the devil are the three things that pull me away from representing Christ well and from being in deep intimacy with Him.

In this particular situation that day, I was initially ready to dive in with that forgiveness. Did I mention, I also forgot to put on my spiritual armour that day?

My flesh was screaming for acceptance from the person. My flesh was wallowing in my negative attitudes. My mind was (falsely) thinking that “I deserved better than this”. Can you see the arrows?

In the meantime, I was being robbed of joy in the moment. I was super distracted and the whole situation became about me instead of the opportunity to show God’s glory through the forgiveness I had granted them.

I believe that the Holy Spirit gave me the strength to keep my mouth shut, or perhaps shut it for me. He does that you know, and yet we still want the credit for His work. His clothing. So I chose grace in that moment. I chose respect. I chose kindness (that was a hard one to type). I chose to confess in my heart (1 John 1:9) and clothe myself with Jesus Christ instead of giving into my flesh. Slowly the anger and irritation subsided. That day, “I changed my clothes”. With God’s help.

REFLECTION:

What are you wearing?

What do you need to change in your outfit?

What will you put on today that will make you stand out for Jesus?