His Garden of Grace
I have so much stuff. Coming home from a trip always brings that to the forefront. We have to unload into the house, and put everything away. Thats when I realize how much stuff we have. And I am not satisfied. I want the latest gadget, and everything I can afford to make my life easier. The trouble is, there is always something else I think I need. But I am realizing that nothing can give me the contentment that I have in Christ. And the more I have, the more I have to maintain.We had a friend in Michigan who used to say: "the price of ownership is maintenance." And I am so bogged down right now with maintaining, that I never have time to do the 'fun stuff.' I don't want to make a mess doing something I like, because I will have to clean it up. And cleaning that up on top of all the other things I have to clean up and maintain adds more than I am willing to do. And I have so many things to choose from. Paper crafts, sewing, cooking, writing and other things, that my mind is too cluttered to think of what to do, much less make the mess it requires to do it.And this is not even considering the time and energy it requires to maintain all this stuff. I don't want to have people over because I will have to shove all this excess somewhere, or actually find a spot for it and put it away. And I am so tired because I have to maintain so much that I cannot even imagine having new people in my house. And that is not right. We are created for relationships, and I feel I have a real gift for hospitality. But I can't use my gift when there is so much stuff that people can't get in the door.So what can I do? Repent. Thats the only solution. What does it mean to repent? Literally it means to turn around. If you find yourself going in the wrong direction, just turn around, ask forgiveness, and begin going in the right direction.I have been so convicted and convinced that this is right, that I think it is going to be easy.First, I need to purge and donate.God keeps providing me with places to donate that which I no longer wish to maintain. My clothes, shoes, purses and wearables are going to church. Things that I like the fabric but maybe not the style, if I can, I will repurpose, or recreate into something I like.Pantry items that are shelf stable will also go to the food pantry at church. There are so many people who can't afford food right now, and I can afford extra. Why do I stockpile food when the Bible clearly states: "give us THIS DAY our daily bread?" A week's worth is what we need. We have 6 people living in our home, but enough food for an army. I need to share when I go to Costco and get 3-6-12 in a pack. I will never miss it, and those who need it will appreciate it.Books are going to the hospital for their library. Homeschool stuff to the 'fire closet' for those who have had an emergency or cannot afford good books.Kitchen and misc household items will probably go to Goodwill. Or wherever God leads. But I cannot continue like this. It is driving me crazy not to have room for things. Or time for reading, writing, or playing games with my kids without feeling like I am robbing from my 'free time' for myself.Second, I need to discipline myself not to buy.The key to this lies in being satisfied in Him. I have known for a long time that when I feel sad, I shop. I am like the girl in the movie "confessions of a shopaholic", except my need is not for designer stuff, its just for something pretty, something new to me, and something that fills the void. But it never works. It just creates something for me to have to clean around, clean up or put away. God has been so faithful in this. He has been clearly showing me what it is ok to buy, and what I need to leave behind in the store for someone else. Yes, I said leave behind for someone else. Thats what I am learning: if I buy it, the person who needs it cannot have it. Even if there are 19 of the items on the shelf. If it is not for me, I need to leave it there.Also, What I have is enough. Too much, even. I cannot play with my kids, make cards for other people, and even enjoy life when it is this cluttered.God is preparing me for something. I have no idea what it is, but maybe we will be able to travel spend more time on the road when we do not have all this junk in our lives. Maybe that's not it at all. Maybe it is just to have time to let myself have fun instead of feeling like I need to work all the time. I don't know. But I do know I am excited to do this.
So...I was thinking last night (could be a dangerous thing...me thinking) about why we suffer. That got me thinking about why, if God knows everything, did he create satan? I mean, if he knew that he was going to screw everything up, why didn't God just skip it? Then there would have been no "fall", no sin, no sacrifice of his son, and perfection everywhere.But he did it anyway. I kind of imagine him creating lucifer like God spinning him out of light with tears in his eyes and heaviness of heart. He knew exactly what he was doing. He knew the temptation that was going to occur in the garden, and what the results would be. He knew that sin would enter his perfect world, and ruin everything. And I am sure it broke his heart knowing that he would have to sacrifice his son to redeem his creation.So why did he do it? He could have just decided to eliminate the problem before it began. That would have secured the eternal perfection and uninterrupted relationship with him forever. Is sin what he wanted for us? Did he revel in the notion that we would have to scrape and struggle to make a life on the earth without his presence? I think NOT!As I pondered this, God showed me that he had a specific purpose in our struggle. He knew exactly what he was doing and chose it because he wanted to prove his love for us. Think about that a moment. Let it wash over you and sink in for a moment. God went ahead and created satan so he could prove his love for us. He let him run with the distruction of the beautiful world he created and let him reak havoc with our lives because He knew WE would need proof of the depth of his great love for us. Proof that included the life and death of his only son. He knew we would not choose to love him if he did prove his love for us first. It would have been indentured servitude. Blind obedience. Not Adoration and unbridled, grateful LOVE.I imagine God, Jesus and the Spirit discussing the matter before creation. Would it be worth it? Some would choose not to believe; not to return to the God who sacrificed everything for them. But some would realize the truth and turn in gratefulness and embrace him with more than everything. Some would struggle and never see their hardships as anything other than horrible and deny his very existance. They would shake their fists and harden their hearts, turning away in disgust; blaming God and never seeing the true cause and greater purpose in their pain.But some, realizing there is nowhere else to go, would turn their face toward heaven and cry out, "You alone are God! Deliver me from myself! I am tired of doing it my way. Though my situation may not change, I will recieve your love and return to you. Open your arms for me and let me be held in them. " And that changes everything.
As I look at my Jasmine vine in my garden, and read Psalm 85, I think of a parallel-- Israel, God's chosen ones had gone astray. They had wandered from God. They had once again stumbled in their own way and followed their own choices down a weary, well-worn path of sin. David cries out on behalf of his people: 5. "Will you be angry with us always? Will you prolong your wrath to all generations? 6. Won't you revive us again, so your people can rejoice in you?" My jasmine, if left to itself will wander around; it is not a well-trained vine. It grows every which way and looks very scraggly. It can actually do itself and other plants around it harm when it trails off. It can starve itself and strangle other plants in the process with its wild runners. My job, as the gardener is to train it and cut off anything I deem as harmful. I think, we here in America have gotten a warped view of God. We view him as a power hungry overlord ready to dole out rules and restrictions just because he wants us under his thumb of authority. If we would get back to the point where we realize that he loves us and that we need his ways to keep us from harming ourselves and others, then we could once again enjoy the freedom of Gods' love and blessing. If my jasmine vine got angry when I pruned it and refused to let me train it onto the tree where it is growing, I would have to pull it up and burn it. What is Gods' choice with us? We must turn as Israel did and cry our to him, submit ourselves to his care and allow him to prune and shape us. We should remember that he loves his creation and knows how to care for it best, and love him with all our hearts in response. 8."I listen carefully to what God the LORD is saying, for he speaks peace to the faithful. But let them not return to their foolish ways. Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, So our land will be filled with his glory."