"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
February 3, 2016
Our house has a room, next to the dining room, that for many years was used as a library. I am an avid reader and had shelves and shelves of books. Over a year ago, I decided that that room would be better utilized as a big walk-in pantry. I got rid of several boxfuls of books and moved the rest upstairs to the guest bedroom. That was a smart move, because the room has made a perfect space for storage and a pantry.
The problem is, there is a door that I keep closed between this room and the dining room; therefore, it is an easy place to toss items when I'm trying to do a quick cleaning, or as a place to store things until I have time to put them away in their proper place. If I'm not careful, my nice pantry becomes a junk room.
Last year, before Christmas, we were frantically working on trying to the finish up our living room remodel, which had been ongoing for a couple years. Towards the end, we took everything off the walls in order to fill in nail holes and paint. Then we had to move everything completely out of the room before getting new carpet. The pantry became an easy place to use as storage during that time. Afterwards, we moved all our furniture and larger items back in; but I wanted to wait until after the holidays were over to start decorating..... therefore, our pantry stayed somewhat piled up and a mess.
This past week I decided that it was time to start doing some cleaning on the pantry. What had happened was, the table and countertops in the pantry were so piled up, that stuff started overflowing onto the table and bar in our dining room. Jon does a lot of sciency stuff. Our kitchen table had bits and pieces from science experiments, the plastic container that is used to tote items used for the science, tools, as well as a new dining room light and new locks for our backdoor that we need to get installed.
I took a big trashcan, we have in our garage, into the panty and filled it up. I threw away VHS videos that we can no longer use, because we don't have a player for them. I started putting things back into their proper places. We have a table in the panty, which I cleaned off and put all of Jon's "stuff" on that -- telling him that was his space, instead of using the kitchen table. I still have a ways to go to get it completely cleaned! There are still drawers that need gone through and junk thrown out, in order to get the room organized once again; but at least it's looking better. Because of me making room in the pantry for Jon's things, that means that the overflow into the dining room is also looking cleaner and uncluttered.
The pantry and dining room didn't suddenly become cluttered; it happened and built a little at a time. The decluttering and cleaning is much more time consuming and harder work than making the mess was!
This same principle can be applied to our lives. Of course, there is the aspect of sin. We can repent and have good intentions of keeping our heart clean, but then something comes along that we allow to enter, thinking that it's not a big deal. But if we're not careful, one little thing can grow and accumulate into more and bigger sins.
We can also allow emotions such as worry and fear build-up and clutter our lives. Negative emotions don't have healthy outcomes, and can hinder us from truly trusting God and stepping out in faith.
For instance, if someone has the tendency to be fearful and doesn't deal with this, it can cause them to always be afraid that they're going to make a mistake or do something wrong or make the wrong decision, etc. God may open doors and give them opportunities in life, but they may not take them, because of fears. What if this isn't really God? What if I do this and it's the wrong move? What if I take this job and then I'm not good at it? What if people think I'm doing the wrong thing and not qualified? What are people going to think of my decision? What if ..... what if..... what if!!! These fears will carry over into their spiritual life. And ultimately, their fears will be passed along to their children. Kids will pick up on fear, and it can cause them to then be afraid of various things throughout their life; and the cycle can then be passed on down to their kids. Fears can clutter a person's mind.
Just as my clutter eventually spilled out from our pantry into the dining room, our personal clutter will eventually spill over into other areas of our life and possibly onto other people.
Hebrews 12:1 (NLT) says, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us."
Stripping off every weight that slows us down, stripping off the sin that so easily that trips us up, is decluttering our heart. It's a whole lot easier allowing those things in, than it is to get rid of them! But we can do so, with God's help. Even when we repent and God forgives us, we may still have the affects of our sins to deal with and overcome.
2 Corinthians 7:1 (NLT): "Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear (reverence) God."
I recently finished reading the book "Pilgrim's Progress". In a nutshell, the first half of the book is about a man's spiritual journey from the time he decided to commit his heart to Jesus until the day he comes to the end of his life, reaching Heaven. When he decided to go on this spiritual journey, he was ridiculed and his wife and children didn't go on it with him. The second half of the book is about his wife and children's decision to go on that same spiritual journey, after the man died and them having watched his life.
On each of their journeys, they all encountered many obstacles and hardships and things to get them distracted and off the straight and narrow path that God had placed them upon. They didn't always make the right decision and would get distracted and fall into various traps. At each of these places, they had to make a choice on what to do. It wasn't always an easy choice, wasn't always a painless choice, and was often difficult. But when they chose to do what was right and follow Jesus, He was always there to protect and help and lead them back to safety.
That's what happens when we realize that we've allowed clutter into our heart. It may cause us to get distracted, off the right path, fill our mind with ungodly thoughts, and may seem overwhelming and hopeless. It may seem as if we fail over and over again, struggling with staying on the straight and narrow. We may have to choose over and over again that we are going to persevere and follow Jesus. It may take work, and may even be a lot of work sometimes, but will be worth it. God will remove the clutter when we repent and ask for His help, but we will need to put forth a lot of effort to keep our heart and minds free from those things we allowed in.
It would be much easier if we would get rid of things as they enter our heart and minds and put them in their proper place right then, instead of thinking we'll do it later, which often causes the clutter to multiply as time goes by. May we each daily make the decision to keep our heart and minds clutter free!!
We seem to get the same kind of clutter over and over. Many times, it is from tools or things I want to have close at hand while I'm working on a project. Sometimes, it is things we use fairly often, and want to keep handy, but out of sight. And sometimes, it is things we have used, and rather than take time to put them away, we stash them somewhere just barely out of sight. Sometimes, it isn't out of sight, just out of the walkway. But it seems to be the same items, like tape measures, that end up in the piles of clutter again and again. Or it may be a ladder one time, but a step-stool another time.
The kinds of clutter we build up in our hearts tend to be the same again and again, too. It may vary a little, but when Satan finds a weakness he can exploit, and we simply patch over the weakness, he will probably exploit the same weakness again later. It's kind of like poking a bruise again and again, so it never heals.
Amish White Bread
2 cups warm water
2/3 cups white sugar
1-1/2 Tablespoons yeast
1-12 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil (I used canola)
6 cups flour
Place sugar and water in a bowl. Sprinkle yeast into water and let dissolve 5-15 minutes, until foamy.
Add salt and oil. Mix flour in, 1 cup at a time. If you have a mixer with a dough hook, mix until the dough pulls away from sides of bowl. Recipe says it's easy to mix by hand, if you don't have a dough hook on your mixer. Dough will be sticky, but don't add extra flour.
Place dough in a greased bowl (I used shortening); flipping dough over to coat both sides with grease. Top with a damp, warm towel.
Set aside in a draft-free area and rise until double in size; about 1 hour. (I read where you can preheat your oven to 150 while mixing dough. When ready to let rise, turn oven off and set covered bowl inside and let rise. The warm oven isn't hot enough to melt your bowl, but is just warm enough to allow dough to rise nicely.)
Remove cover and punch dough down.
Turn dough out of bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough into two halves.
Take one half and flatten into a rectangle (I just used my hand and not a rolling pin). Start at one end and roll dough up like a jelly roll into a loaf. Pinch ends together and place in a greased 9x5 loaf pan.
Repeat with other half.
Cover and let rise till double in size -- about 30-50 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350. (I turned the oven on, then set the pans on top of the stove to let rise where it was warm.)
Once double in size, bake for 25-30 minutes. Pull out of oven and brush with butter.
Let rest for 10 minutes before removing pan to a cooling rack.
**** You can make plain bread, which is delicious. You could also add additional ingredients to flavor bread, if desired. When one of the loaves was flattened, I sprinkled asiago cheese on the top, then rolled up; I then sprinkled asiago cheese on top. A friend seeded and finely diced a jalapeno and sprinkled that over the flattened bread, along with parmesan cheese; then sprinkled parmesan on top.
I am quite sentimental. I have kept birthday and other cards throughout the years, and have some dating back to when I was probably 5 year old. I have shoes, booties, and a dress I wore as a baby. I have letters I wrote to Mama when she was in the hospital (back then the hospital rules wouldn't allow children under age 12 into the patient rooms); pictures some of my nephews and nieces drew me when they were small, as well as letters they had their mama write to me before they were old enough to write themselves; an old small metal pan Mama used to scramble eggs in for me; Mama's wooden rolling pin and sifter; and numerous other special treasures.
That's why the birthday gift that Jon gave me right after we were first married brought me to tears and was so precious to me. Unknown to me, he had saved items from our first date until our marriage that chronicled that entire 13 months; including all the stubs to movies we went to, dinner receipts, cards and notes that I gave to him, etc. He put all these items into an album, ending with our wedding invitation. It was one of the most thoughtful gifts I've ever received. I was SO surprised when he gave me that album for my birthday! I asked why he had thought to keep all of those items, and he told me that he was pretty sure before he ever asked me out on that first date that I was the one that God had for him to marry. My husband is pretty incredible!!
"I'm a great believer that it's not who's the most gifted; it's just who's the most available." - Christine Caine
We love you!
Loretta & Jon