Don’t Let the “Stuff” Distract You from the Substance!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo here we are on the cusp of Thanksgiving Weekend with the Black Friday/ Cyber Monday sales ads hitting us from all sides… Distracting aren’t they?  After awhile the deals do start looking too good to pass up– even when we KNOW we don’t need that new outfit or electronic “toy”. Don’t buy into the hype!  If we had all of the stuff in the world that tempts us, it still wouldn’t come close to God’s true abundant life.

For those of you unfamiliar with my blog, God’s word for me this year was Abundance, and I’ve written several posts exploring this theme.  While mostly, I’ve gained a deeper understanding of what is meant by this “Zoe life” from spiritual, emotional, and intellectual lessons,  I’ve recently also had the opportunity to look at physical abundance  (wealth as recognized by the world).  Now here’s the fascinating thing– money and possessions do not, in and of themselves, make a rich, full life. Those who experience God’s true abundance “get it” no matter how light or heavy their wallet.

I took this picture in the Hall of mirrors in the palace of Versailles.  Can you even imagine what it would have been like to actually LIVE in this unforgiving environment? Talk about being constantly reminded of our flaws, hmm?  On the tour, guides told stories of the unhappy queen Antoinette.  Despite her uncaring reputation, she sounded like a really good mom who fought to raise her children with some privacy and sense of normalcy in their lives. While I snapped pictures, gawked at the paintings, the gold leaf furniture, and the crystal chandeliers like everyone else, I also couldn’t help but think of a certain English princess not too many years ago with the same sadness, and desires for her sons.  Life in a palace with priceless treasures might seem to be the height of elegance and prestige, but how many of us would really want to live in a glorified cage?

Americans (yes pretty much ALL of us) are very wealthy by the world’s standards.  Travel makes this so clear. So how come so many of us look around at this time of year and think we’re missing out?  It seems when someone places all of his/her attention on enlarging the bank balance and acquiring the stuff of life, they will never feel that it is enough… I was amazed at how many well-off travelers complained when they compared their “poor” circumstances to those with even greater financial fortunes. REALLY??  Where I would expect gratitude and joy at being able to visit all of these amazing sights, there were those who chose instead to be unhappy and bitter the whole time. You know there’s more to “abundance” than you once thought, when you find yourself feeling sorry for the wealthiest traveler on the tour.

Another way that our stuff can get in the way of living the full life Jesus promises is when we get so focused on the minutia, we miss God’s blessings.  Picture a tourist constantly looking through her camera lens.  While she concerns herself with aperture openings in low light, and how to keep her camera steady while we’re moving, she completely loses sight of the fact that she’s on a glorious moonlit gondola ride. In my book, capturing images of living abundantly is nothing compared to experiencing it!

Wishing you all a wonderful time of THANKFULNESS this holiday weekend! (and shopping experiences that don’t pull you away from the true, rich life God has in mind for you.)

I have so enjoyed learning about abundance this year from the Holy Spirit!  I can’t wait to see what He has in store for me next year!

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Teetering on the Crevasse of Complaint

How was your Thanksgiving?  Mine ended up to be a good, quiet, family-focused kind of day– with appropriate gratitude thrown into the mix– but it COULD have been very different!  It’s humbling to admit it, but as a Christ follower I think it’s important to come clean on this one.  See, within just one busy week, I all too well had a deeper understanding of the foibles of the Israelites wandering in the desert.

For those of you who don’t know the story: after God chooses Moses to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, they lose focus, don’t trust God, and end up wandering for 40 years before they can enter the promised land.  What I never could grasp was how they could literally see the presence of God guiding them with a pillar of fire at night, and a pillar of clouds by day, and yet still they whined and complained and wanted to return to the bondage they had left. And then last week happened…

It wasn’t a storm, an accident, or any kind of tragedy that inserted itself into my thinking.  In fact, trials are times my faith kicks in high gear!  Life is actually going relatively well for me at the moment, and I KNOW how blessed I am.  Yet early one morning, battling insomnia, I decided I might as well get up and write:

‘Twas the week of Thanksgiving and all through the home, not a creature was stirring, except of course for the Mom who couldn’t sleep                                                         The stockings were in the laundry basket with care, along with the other clean whites waiting to be brought back upstairs, but currently sitting on the couch                              And Dad still asleep, and Mom heading downstairs… Her brain wasn’t settling down for a winter’s nap; there was too much to do                                                                     With counters and tables all covered in clutter ( excessive junk mail- thanks to the recent elections) She looked around at the piles and under her breath began to mutter…

Wow.  Can’t you just hear the pity party?  Had I stayed on that track, my Thanksgiving might have been ruined by my own poor attitude, and this could have been a very different blog entry.

So what happened to bring me into such a funk?  After all, though I might not see pillars of fire and clouds, I have experienced God working in my life!   (Drawing Water even just had a wonderful ministry opportunity on Saturday.)  The sad truth of it is, a dangerous stronghold for me is an old spirit of independence.  I get busier and busier with a to-do list, and pretty soon I start believing the lie that I have to do everything on my own.  At these times I still talk to God, but I sure don’t “have time” to slow down and listen to Him.  Maybe the Israelites were tired too; maybe they were stressed about upcoming holidays.  Maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that the holidays (and the growing hype about Black Friday Sales) tend to pull Christ followers out of alignment- what better way to say to the world, that “Peace” is a myth?

Anyway, I put on the brakes and have spent more time counting my blessings, and I can’t tell you how genuinely grateful I am that the Holy Spirit convicted me mid-complaint!

And now I’m here to exclaim, ere I wrap up this post-
A time of TRUE Thanksgiving, I wish for you most. 🙂