20 Minutes Till Clean (When the Wheels Come Off), Part 3

If you’re following along, I’m in the middle of a self-imposed challenge to keep 2 rooms in my house clean enough that with 5-minutes’ notice I would willingly invite guests into my space.

This experiment started with a thought I had one day that the discipline I demonstrate in the way I keep my house is a reflection of my spiritual discipline. So I wanted to learn what God might say to my heart, as I stretch myself to do something different, and actually clean my house regularly.

I’m about half way though my 66 days and last week, the wheels came off!

Life was clicking along great. My husband was helping, I was experiencing satisfaction in the work of my hands, and peace in my soul.  God was speaking truths to my heart.  It was AMAZING!

Then I got sick.

We came back from the Believe Middle School conference, where we spent the weekend with the BEST MIDDLE SCHOOL KIDS IN THE WORLD along with around 8,000 of their friends from across the country. My souvenirs were a headache (I love you guys, but you’re music is loud) – and a cold.

If you’ve never heard of CIY’s Believe Conference, check it out HERE!

My cold was nothing special, a small fever for a day, laryngitis, coughing. All the usual symptoms of the spring-time plague.  But with it came the kind of self-pity that lets you justify laying around on the couch while the rest of your life falls apart.  And it did fall apart.  Not a dish was washed for a week.  Floors went un-swept – and I didn’t lift a finger, except to whine and point to my tissues as my husband walked by.

Of course I shared with Gene, and then there were two of us sniffling and dragging around the house. Once the cold ran it’s course, I realized I had once more let things get out of control, and there was quite a bit of effort needed to bring the house back into order.  I was quite disappointed that I hadn’t been able to fulfill my commitment.

I sat down the next day with my journal in hand and asked, “OK, what can God teach me from this?”

One of the things I love about God is that He is so quiet, strong and steady. He just waited for me to finish beating myself up over my failure.  He waited for me to finish mourning that I had been unsuccessful and waited for me to run out of words.  When I finally finished writing and put down my pen, my heart heard him add His two cents:

Speaking English puts us at a disadvantage sometimes. In English we typically define “perfect” as without blemish.  But the idea of perfect in scripture is less about being without blemish and more about being complete.  Having everything you need.  So a puzzle is perfect when all the pieces are in place.  A Birthday Cake is perfect, when all the candles are lit and it is ready to function in its role.  And my house is perfect when I have my priorities in place, not when it’s spotless.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9, the Apostle Paul asked God to take away something Paul viewed as a “thorn”, but God declined, telling Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

So, when I am at my weakest, God has put all the pieces of the puzzle into place so His power can do its thing.

You see, my 66-day journey is not about having a spotless place to live, its about taking one step closer to the One who’s power is perfect when I’m not.

 

20 Minutes Till Clean, Part 1

20 Minutes Till Clean, Part 2

 

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

20 Minutes Till Clean, Part 2

On my journey to explore holiness and housekeeping, it’s been 7 days into a 66 day experiment to keep two rooms in my house “5-minutes to clean”. If you missed my first article, check it out here.

Just to recap, I’m exploring the idea that how I discipline myself with my housework is a reflection of my spiritual discipline, so I’m attempting to keep two areas of my home clean enough to be company ready in 5 minutes, and more importantly – look for the spiritual lessons I can learn while doing so.

I‘m happy to say, the first 6 days were a great success! I loaded the dishwasher after daily meals and wiped down the stove every day.  I gave the floor a quick sweep and even cleaned out the refrigerator, because clean on the inside is important too!

As I approached each task, I prayed, seeking wisdom and insight. There was such a sense of peace, and I felt closer to God than I have in a very long time.

Waking up in the morning to a clean space was a new adventure for me, and I have to say, I liked it a lot.

Now you may have noticed I started by saying I’m 7-days into this journey and the first 6 were wonderful.   This is not a typo.  Because you see, on day 7…my husband came home.

He was traveling the first week, so my first 6 days were solo.

Gene’s been home for 10 hours now and there are shoes, a suitcase, and dishes already out of place. You see, he did not sign up for my little experiment, nor did he know anything about it.  It took me about 2 hours before I started to become stressed, and short tempered.  That new-found peace evaporated.

What happened? Can my sense of well-being really be so precarious, that adding 1 person into the mix makes my house of cards come tumbling down? What does that say about me?

So I sat down with my journal to uncover what God was trying to teach me through this little hiccup in my experiment. There are SO MANY lessons I could pick out, but here is what He said to me that day.

People are messy. But that’s not a bad thing.  It was so easy to keep my life in order when I was on my own.  Without distractions.  Without conflict.  But neither was there any laughter when Gene wasn’t home. There wasn’t anyone to share the victories, or help carry the burden either.

With a little conversation, I laid out for Gene what I was trying to do, and now, I’m not the only one loading up the dishwasher! So even though people can be messy, the burden is lighter when it is shared.

Here is my lesson from God. People are messy but worth it.  What good is a clean home, if there is no one to share life in it?  I think God views us that way too.  I sure know I’m a mess!  But God still wades into a relationship with me, bringing his patience and Grace every day,  God said it Himself:  “two are better than one…a chord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecc 4:9-12)

20 Minutes Till Clean, Part 1
20 Minutes Till Clean (When the Wheels Come Off), Part 3

 

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

20 Minutes Till Clean

When I married, over 30 years ago, I was young, foolish, and oh so unprepared for the responsibilities of a household. On top of it all, my 2 new sisters-in-law were straight from Marvel Comics and Better Homes and Gardens! They were Wonder Woman and Martha Stewart (before her prison time that is).

Donna was a woman finishing her degree, working full time, raising 3 boys and whose house was always spotless!  Lucy, was Super Mom – attending every football and basketball game, feeding her family organically before that was trendy, and again, with a perfectly clean home. Me? I couldn’t cook and half the time I had to wash dishes just to try!

I adore my two sisters of the heart who are 15 and 20 years my senior. Through the years they took me under their wings, taught me how to cook, clean, and other life skills. One thing I haven’t mastered from them though, is their self-discipline. You see, my house cycles from tidy to chaos like the tides come and go. I clean it up…I mess it up….I clean it up….I Mess it up. I can’t even lay the blame on kids because we don’t have any. It’s all us.

I call it “20 minutes till clean” and my friends know to give me 20 minutes to get things in order before they drop by. For years I’ve been ok with that philosophy….lately though I’ve been thinking…

You see, God has filled the world with mirrors of the spiritual realm. For example, God is faithful, like the rising of the sun, and even our families are designed to teach us about our relationship with our spiritual Father.

So, I can’t help thinking that my philosophy of housekeeping is a reflection of my spiritual health. To my shame, I can see the parallels to my story. My spiritual life is good for a while, then I mess it up, God comes and cleans it up, and I mess it up again. Over and over God and I do this little dance. Doesn’t He ever get tired of cleaning up my mess?

The bigger question is, do I tolerate my God life being 20 minutes from clean?

Don’t misunderstand me, I am NOT saying you have to be perfect before you come to God, or to stay in a relationship with Him. Jesus did all that work! And we stand perfect and blameless before God, wrapped in the righteousness of Christ! – Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!

It’s more like the Holy Spirit is tapping me on the shoulder and inviting me to the next level of depth in my relationship with God. I can hear Him saying… “it could be even better. Let’s try something new…”

He’s been talking to me through the scriptures. Here are a just a couple to think about:

  • “live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way”  (Col 1:9-11)
  • and again “just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written ‘Be holy because I am holy.'” (I Peter 1:15-16)

Can I honestly say to I live that way? Not so much.

So here’s my plan. I’m going to let my discipline in the physical realm remind me to pay attention to my spiritual discipline. If I fail, I’ll learn to lean more fully on God’s grace – win-win!

I’m told it takes 66 days for a new behavior to become a habit. That means my target is May 15. I’m going to pick 2 rooms – my kitchen and the bathroom.

Instead of 20 minutes till clean, my goal is  to keep them 5 minutes till clean, and each day when I’m doing dishes, sweeping or dusting, I’ll think about my relationship with God, I’ll look for ways to be more holy, ways to be more like Jesus every day.  Check back and see how I do!

20 Minutes Till Clean, Part 2
20 Minutes Till Clean (When the Wheels Come Off), Part 3

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

Cobwebs and Conversations

I was down in the basement the other day, getting out my Christmas decorations. For some unexplainable reason I had this surge of energy and thought to myself; “I think I’ll clean up the basement then next year it will be easier to find what I need at Christmas.” Brilliant!

I get that urge ONE day every year, and it usually results in a partially clean office, or closet, or spare room. This year, the basement was about to become the recipient of my good intentions.

I had no idea at the time; God was going to turn my burst of energy into a teaching opportunity.

While I was rooting around in the dust and cobwebs through the bowels of my house, In the back of a closet, I found some old clothes. You have them too, that favorite dress, or  a coat from a time and “size” long gone by.

Now, I try to follow that rule that says, “If you haven’t worn it in a year, then get it out of your house”. Still, when I had the dress folded up and about to go into my donate box, I just couldn’t put it in.  A voice inside was saying “Just because I can’t fit into it now, doesn’t mean I won’t someday”.

It occurred to me that I’d had that conversation with myself before, many times in fact. And since these old favorites were old enough to almost be back in style again, it looked like I had that conversation with myself LOTS of times. So with a sigh, I let go and into the box everything went.

Moses had his God encounter on the top of the mountain and the disciples were in a garden. Me? Well I was climbing the stairs out of the basement with a box of old clothes in my arms.  That’s when I heard that small voice of the Spirit whisper to me.

“There are some things you find very hard to give up on, aren’t’ there?”

I’ve walked with God for a long time, now, so I like to think I recognize his voice. It’s not some bright light. He doesn’t break apart mountains or burn up bushes.  It’s just this firm idea that once I think about it, it won’t go away.  It’s like when your kids “Mom” you over and over and over.

So God and I have been having a conversation for a week now about that box of old clothes. It’s gone something like this:

God: There are some things you find very hard to give up on, aren’t’ there?”

Me: Well, it’s hard to accept you will never be a size six again

God: Six?

Me: Alright, Nine. Are you happy?

God: The real question is, ‘Are YOU happy?’ You hold on so ferociously to something that matters so little, while you let go of important things so easily.

Me: I don’t know what do you mean?

God: Yes, you do.  Why do you miss a couple days reading your Bible and praying, call yourself a failure, and give up all together?

Why do you stumble in a sin, one more time, and then throw in the towel, convinced you are not worthy?

Why do you have a few arguments, and surrender your relationships?

Why do you give up so quickly on becoming who I know you can be?

Aren’t these things much more important than old clothes?

Me: Um…Yes, Sir

God: Don’t give up on us.

2 Corinthians 4:7-9; 16-18 : We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed…Therefore we do not loose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day, for our light an momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes on what is unseen, not on what is seen.  For what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal.

 

Twas Long Before Christmas

Twas long before Christmas, before you and me.
Before ribbons and boxes were piled under trees.
The stars were hung in the heavens with care
Knowing mankind soon would be there.

The moon in the sky hung her pale head
Wrapped in the night like a blanket in bed.
When God in His Glory, along with the Son,
Planned out the gifts He would give everyone.

We’ll start with a dawn that comes everyday
Chasing the darkness and night away.
With every morning as life starts anew
A reminder to all, my mercies are too.

Fill up the earth with wondrous sights
Mountains that soar, eagles in flight
Children that laugh, and mothers that sing
A world overflowing with every good thing.

Tell me, what Father whose son asks for bread
Would give him a stone or a snake instead?
If we who are evil can give good things
How much more does the Heavenly king?

The Father paused, lost in his thoughts.
Something is missing. Something is lost.
He pondered a time, What did they need?
The Son stepped forward,… I think it’s me.

Ancient eyes turned, looked at the son.
Speaking his names, one by one.
You are Alpha Omega, Beginning and End
Their Savior, Messiah, Redeemer, their Friend.

To the earth you will go, born in a stall
Proclaiming my favor to the great and the small.
So unto us the Son was born,
Laid in a manger, used and worn.

Unto us the Son was given
Light of the World, the Hope of Heaven.
He lives with us. Emanuel,
God himself has come to dwell.

Dressed in humanity from his head to his feet.
His clothes were humble, his home not so sweet.
The beam of the cross would be flung on his back.
The gifts He would bring provide all that we lack.

His wounds give healing; his words give life.
The Spirit he brought gives power and light.
He taught to forgive and be forgiven,
Take joy in our life, and long for heaven.

To care for the poor and defend the weak
Help those in need, and always seek
Joy and peace, New Birth, and Grace,
Hope and Love, for the whole human race.
Wrapped in that infant, ever so slight.
That first Happy Christmas, for all a good night!

“I’m not going anywhere”
-jesus

Have you ever gone from the mountain top of joy to the depths of despair in what feels like the blink of an eye? One moment all is right with the world and the next, it’s a very dark place? That’s how I imagine Mary, the character in this week’s “God Story”, felt.

She likely was part of the Jesus entourage coming into Jerusalem.  She watched as the crowds lined the streets and lay their palm branches before Jesus.  Her voice probably joined theirs crying “Hosanna”.

When you think about it, it’s ironic that they would shout “Hosanna” as Jesus passed. By that time in history it was just an expression like “Hurray” or “Woo Hoo”, but literally translated from Hebrew it means “Save us!” So imagine, crowds of people lining the street calling out to Jesus “Save us!” when a few hours later, these same voices would cry out “crucify him” –Still, underneath all that anger directed at him later, even though the words were different, the crowds were still calling out to Jesus, “save us”.

After coming into the city, things went downhill. Jesus was arrested, tried, crucified, then died, and everything Mary Magdalene had built her new life on was gone in a moment. That’s where our story starts. In that dark place where everything she had pinned her hopes on had disappointed her.

She was alone coming to the tomb early in the morning when it was still dark. She didn’t feel the cold, she probably didn’t feel anything anymore. All her tears were used up, she was empty, like a wrung out rag.  Not having much sleep over the last few days, she was exhausted, going through the motions of what needed to be done. Someone had to take care of the body.

But when she arrived… the stone was already moved and the body was gone. Even though she thought she couldn’t feel anything anymore, this caused her heart to race. Hadn’t these people done enough to this gentle man? They beat him, they tortured him, they killed him, and now they were going to desecrate his body?

Not knowing what else to do, she ran to tell the disciples that Jesus was missing then returned to the garden tomb, alone.

Mary had been so certain there were no tears left. If that was true, why were her cheeks wet? Still, she didn’t care, she just wanted Jesus back.

“Woman, why are you crying?”

The voice startled her. Assuming it was the gardener and not looking she replied, “If you moved him, just tell me where he is and I’ll go get him.”

What she heard next changed everything. One word… “Mary.”

She thought it sounded like… It couldn’t be. – Surly her mind was playing tricks on her… yet – when she looked – it was HIM.

Like an arrow shot from a bow, she flung herself at him.

“Teacher!” she cried, touching his face, his arms his hands. Was this real? She clung to him like a man clings to the edge of cliff. He was real, not a figment of her imagination.

After a while he said. “Mary, You can let go.  I’m not going anywhere yet.”

What an experience Mary had! Many of us, like Mary, have found ourselves in a dark place. Lonely, exhausted, empty, and hopeless. Surprisingly, Christmas can be just that kind of time for many.  We are so consumed by the busyness of the season or painful memories it’s like someone has “moved Jesus” and we “don’t know where they put him.”

I challenge to you this season to, like Mary, “Cling to Jesus” – hold tightly to Him during this season. Listen and believe it when he tells you “I’m not going anywhere”. Read this story for yourself in John 20:1-18.

(As we explore how to Tell Your Story, each contributor will share a part of their God story with us. April’s Story is here.)

Merry Christmas!

We’d love to hear from you. Share with us how you keep Jesus front and center during your holiday season!

 

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