The “Stuff” Society Revisited

Have you ever absent mindedly scrolled through your Facebook news feed only to suddenly have something reach out and grab your attention? One such post for me was a quote from noted money advice guy Dave Ramsey, and it said, “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”  Wow!  Talk about perspective!  It caught my eye as the screen was scrolling by, and I had to back up to make sure I had read it correctly.   This is worth another WOW!

I couldn’t help but reflect over my life and the impressions I have had through out my life of what I needed to buy in order to obtain my American Dream.   Then I realized that maybe deep down I had already realized this because over the last couple of years my priorities have shifted.  My ideas of what we (the husband, our son, and I) actually need, as opposed to what would be nice, have gone through a drastic change.

 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal;  but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. – Matthew 6:18-20

Magazines and blogs are full of articles on how to organize our stuff.   They are also full of articles on how to declutter our stuff.   It seems like a vicious cycle.  We buy the stuff, we store the stuff, we get overwhelmed by the stuff, we get rid of the stuff, then we replace the stuff with more stuff — what are we really looking for?

Perhaps we are looking for approval, possibly from a parent or loved one.  We are hoping beyond hope that the stuff we have acquired will make them proud of us and our successes. All of the stuff we are buying is to show how well we are doing so that they will realize we are worthy of their  affection that we believe is otherwise lacking for us.  Trying to perhaps measure up to some imaginable standard that in reality most likely does not exist.

Perhaps we are we looking for friendship, using the stuff as our “dues” to get into the group we think we most closely identify with.  Why do we think that our character, intelligence,  sense of humor, and compassionate hearts aren’t enough to get and keep friends?  Is our society really that fickle that we choose friends based on outward appearances and possessions instead of on what is on the inside?  When did the make and model of someone’s car become more important than the knowledge that said friend would come to pick us up if we ever needed to be rescued?  Let’s start a friendship revolution instead and try to top each other with acts of kindness, not the brand names of stuff we possess.

Perhaps we are looking for acceptance from our peers and co-workers or maybe our in-laws.  For some reason we are convinced we have to prove we are capable, competent and worthy of what ever position we are holding. Be it office worker or wife, why do we feel we need to prove to others we belong where we are?  Obviously SOMEONE has chosen us, hired us, married us, because they think we fit the bill exactly right.  Let’s own that!

It’s time to put away the prizes for the best stuff.  They just give us even more stuff that we don’t need.

Perhaps we need to figure out why we are filling in the holes in our lives with stuff.  Shouldn’t we instead be turning those holes that need to be filled to our God and creator?  I can’t answer that for you, but for me I think the answer was and IS a definite YES — human insecurity plagues us and we feel less than.

The cures we tend to choose in this broken world are the ones we find here on Planet Earth.  However, I am learning that with every step I take to deepen my own personal relationship with our Heavenly Father, the less incomplete and  undeserving I find myself feeling.  I am learning to rely on him.  This is something that I have to relearn every day, but it is worth it!

As I begin to look to Heaven for the hope I need to in my life I am discovering that I am doing ok.  The Lord wants me to come to him in prayer and be like a child telling him all of the trials and tribulations I am having as wells as all the triumphs and successes in my life.  He will fill me with all that I need.  His gifts to me as his child include wisdom, courage and strength.  He is proud of me and he makes me enough just as I am.

The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing – Zephaniah 3:17 (NRSV)

 

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Balancing Act

Modern life is definitely fast paced.  We have cities that never sleep.  We race around until we are about to have a nervous breakdown because we are out of time and energy and there are hardly any items checked off of the to do list.

Why?  Why are we stressing ourselves so much with a multitude of demands on our time?

It most likely comes back to our western culture.  Our values include things such as more is better and survival of the fittest.  We have become so used to the frantic paces of our lives that we struggle to spend any quiet time because it leaves us feeling like we should be busy.  That we are somehow being lazy.  We have forgetten how to engage in sabbath times.  This is greatly affecting our ability to spend quality time in relationship with God.

I have been reading this month a book by Paul E. Miller called A Praying Life, Connecting with God in a Distracting World as part of my reading  assignments for the Fellows Program.  He points out that one of the reasons we fail at prayer is because when we can’t stand to stop long enough:

American culture is probably the hardest place in the world to learn to pray. We are so busy that when we slow down to pray, we find it uncomfortable. We prize accomplishments, production. But prayer is nothing but talking to God. It feels useless, as if we are wasting time. Every bone in our bodies screams, “Get to work.” – pg 15

It pains me to admit it, but I am in this category.  I consistently struggle to find space for consistent prayer times in my life.  I have the best intentions, but still continue to be more of a conversational prayerer more than anything else.

By this I mean that I have little conversations with God throughout the day.  For example when I am in the car driving to or from work.  Or when I am in the latest battle of wills with Mr. Max (my son).  When I lay down in bed at night.

I also frequently do what Mr. Miller refers to as breath prayers, which are quick phrases said in a single breath (pg 68).  So it is not unusual for me to say a quick prayer like, “Lord give me strength” or “Lord help me learn patience” as I go about my day.

However, a quiet time of prayer daily seems to still be eluding me.  I am determined to change this because I can feel the presence of God during these quick times of prayer, and it makes me want to have that feeling more often!  I tend to be a highly emotional person who can be  a little high strung.  How much more effective could I be as a woman of God if I could feel his calming presence more regularly in my days?

So what is keeping me from devoting this time to be in relationship with God each day?  It is my crazy 21st century life.   Even though I have cut back my involvement in things significantly both in my home life and my church life, there are still many responsibilities that have to be attended to:

  • Taking care of my husband and son
  • Taking care of our home
  • Working a full-time job as a department manager for a redistribution company
  • My studies and assignments for the C.S. Lewis Fellows Program
  • Church Ministries I am still part of
  • Exploring the writing nudges God has placed on my heart
  • Exercising and self-care
  • Quiet times for prayer and Bible Study

These areas of my life take up a huge chunk of my time.  I am pretty sure that no matter how hard or how often I pray for it, God will not provide me with more hours in the day!  So that means I am going to have to be more intentional with my time if I want to squeeze it all in.

As the busy season for me at work dies down I am now going to turn my focus to this list of priorities in my life.  They are all important areas of who I am and who God is calling me to be.  So cutting anything from this list isn’t an option.

So what can I do to make these things happen?

To start with, I need to take a look at the distractions in my life.  One important item to cut are the ministries that I am involved with that God is no longer calling me to be a part of.  I have struggled with this greatly these past couple of months.  It has been a hard lesson for me to learn that while all ministry endeavors are good not all of them are part of God’s plan for me at this time in my life.

Have you ever read the poem about people who come into your life?  Some are there for a reason, some for a season, and some are there for life.  I have discovered that this also applies to ministries I am involved with!

Some I have been called to for a reason.  God had a lesson for me to learn there, but now it is time to let the ministry go because I have received the intended lesson.  Others I have been called to for a season and will continue with these areas, like being a worship leader.  And still others I will be a part of for life.  So I have been slowly learning to let go of the areas of church life that I served in for just a reason or a season that has now ended.  These have been some of the hardest lessons I have learned to date.

Through my prayer conversations to and from work I am also realizing that I spend too much precious time watching unnecessary television.  So if I want to find more time for the priorities I have identified above, specifically more consistent quiet times with God through prayer and Bible study and exercising and self-care, then I need to not waste time watching reruns of shows I really could care less about.  Cutting down in this area can help in two ways:

  1. free up time in the evening after dinner to devote to exercise
  2. get me to bed earlier so that I can wake up a little earlier each morning to incorporate the quiet times

In addition to these two items, I realized that I will also need to be more intentional with our weekly meal planning.  I need to be considering healthy meal  choices while also keeping in mind prep times.  This will enable me to quickly take care of meal times for my family but also leave some free space in the evenings.

So there it is.

Most likely I will need to keep coming back and surrendering myself in prayer for the Father’s guiding hands in my life as I plan out how to use the valuable time he has given me each day.  This balancing act has been and will continue to be a struggle for me, but this time I am giving it to God and asking for his help.

I can do all things through him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13) when I take the time to be still and know that he is God (Psalm 46:10) and his plans for me are for my welfare and will give me hope for the future (Jeremiah 29:11).