PRIORITIZE

This morning I woke up to a nice little pudge in my belly, which I have unaffectionately begun to refer to as “Christmas 2014”.  My people are just too good in the kitchen.  My brother is home and so dinners are meat with a side of meat.  And everything has its own butter based dipping sauce.  And every meal requires that you eat seconds.  Because food that good is meant to be devoured until it’s gone. Also my mother-in-law made these delightful things which involved a bacon, cream cheese and generous mounds of brown sugar all nestled in and around a jalapeño pepper and baked just long enough to make you angry that they weren’t already in your mouth.  I simply called them “breakfast”, three days running.  I coupled my  breakfast poppers with pecans which were coated with several layers of cinnamon and refined sugar as well as homemade cheesecake that I would fist fight you for.  My sister-in-law also had a creamy buffalo dip that I hid from Michael so I could eat it all by myself.  I bought heavy whipping cream for my coffee only because it was Christmas and I felt obligated to use it in place of it’s more slender cousin, half-n-half.

Going back to work today DID NOT EVEN HELP.  I brought the leftovers with me, which I enjoyed alongside all the candy that people have given to my children. YES, I ATE THEIR CHOCOLATE.

I actually think that eating fast food might lower my caloric intake.

The obvious goal here would be to get rid of “Christmas 2014”.  However, that would require scales and numbers and a thing called a diet.  I went on a diet one other time in my life. It wasn’t good for the people around me.  So, I’m going to try to just eat less than a football player’s portion and hope things even out before March.

Besides all that, I do not ever make New Year’s Resolutions.  I’m not a very good ‘maintainer’, which I have come to accept, so I generally just try to keep right on doing what I was doing in December. My goal is always the same: To love God and love people.

Even though I try to steer clear of resolutions, I feel like God is whispering something to me.

PRIORITIZE.

Everything to which I am committed gets a little portion of me, and lately the things that are non-urgent seem to be taking more time than I honestly care to give.  I must prioritize my time.

All the clothes and gadgets and toys and shoes have consumed so much of my home, there is scarcely any room left.   I must prioritize my space. 

The luxuries that are considered ‘must haves’  by the Jones require energy and resources to purchase and to maintain. I must prioritize my finances.

I don’t have a goal or a number or a limit to assign any of these categories.  It’s not about a number.  I am simply to prioritize them.  

When I look at how I spend my time, it is to be a reflection of my purpose.  Does my calendar reflect my goal to love God and love others?

When I look at how I use my space, it is to be a reflection of my purpose.  Does my home and my office space reflect my goal to love God and love others?

And when I look at how I spend my money, it is to be a reflection of my purpose.  Does my checkbook reflect my goal to love God and love others?

I started with my space.  It was bogged down with things.  I went through the closets in total Tasmanian-style purge mode. I don’t know where it all came from. But I can tell you where to pick it up: GOODWILL INDUSTRIES.  I’ll be dropping a load off in the morning.

My space already feels so much freer.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy,and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

I’m tackling time next. Me and the calendar have a longstanding love/hate relationship.  But God is clear.

I MUST PRIORITIZE.

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.” Joshua 1:8

How can I meditate on the His Word day and night when I fill up my time with so many useless, meaningless things that will not make a Kingdom difference?

And what about my money?  C.S. Lewis’ words from Mere Christianity haunt me:

“I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.”

He gets his lesson from the widow to which Jesus refers here:

“Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.’” Mark 12:41-44

I am so thankful for having been able to quiet down the past few weeks to hear Him whisper.  I am so looking forward to giving Him more time, space, and resources. I can only imagine my obedience in prioritizing for Him will result in a blessing that cannot be purchased or consumed. Or maybe it will be a jalapeño popper.

I’m good either way.

 

 

 

 

 

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FIRST

I was in the middle of doing two good deeds.  Donating money to the Pregnancy Care Center and donating much needed bedding for incoming refugees to World Relief.  I was feeling so accomplished.  I had been meaning to do these things for several days and I hadn’t gotten around to it, but woah can I get some stuff done when my kids are at school.  My list was long that day, and I just killed the whole thing.  It was beautiful really.  And orderly.  And I was prancing to my car to finish my last errand before work when I was approached by a man.

‘Can you spare a few dollars? I am really hungry.’

Crap.  I don’t have dollars.  I never have dollars.

‘I’m so sorry, I don’t even have a dollar. I’m so sorry.’

He looked at me with disdain.  Like ‘whatever lady’.  He even said ‘psh’ as he walked away.

Dangit.  My do-gooder bubble was officially busted.

Suddenly, I remembered my lunch!  I had Josiah’s Thor lunch box full of homemade chicken-n-dumplings and green beans, which was to be my dinner.  So I hurriedly unlocked the car, reached over to get the lunch and thought,

‘I wonder if I should just give him the granola bar?  He has no way to heat these dumplings up (I know. Don’t even).  Plus is it weird  to just give him the lunch box? And what will he do with all these containers? I don’t even have a fork in here.’ My thoughts were racing at about 10,000/second.

I opted for the safe pre-packaged granola bar.  Additionally, I admit, I’m a scaredy cat.  This was not the best part of town.  I had already scanned the area, aware of all surroundings, in broad daylight.  There were 3 construction workers within spitting distance.  There were two people with a phone within yelling distance.  I had my keys between my fingers.  Public universities ran some sort of campaign in the late 90s that trained women to fear being abducted and tortured.  And because I was born nervous, I stay prepared.

This whole thought process took about 15 seconds.  I turned around with granola bar in hand and my best servant smile and started to yell, ‘you can have this!’

But he was gone.

He was nowhere.

I looked all around in every direction and couldn’t see him.  I got in my car and drove around and couldn’t find him.

Gone.

Gone the opportunity to serve.  Gone the opportunity to love.  Gone the opportunity to practice what I had literally preached just a few short weeks before.

For I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink…..

UGH!  

I finished my last errand, and went to work.  I couldn’t get a handle on this.  I couldn’t shake it.  I couldn’t get centered even.  I failed that one.  FAILED. I could have taken him to get a meal.  Or the safer ‘wait there, I’ll be right back with a meal.’  I could have done a number of things.

I was feeling so defeated.  Like an utter failure.  For several months my heart cry has been, Lord! I want to love the least of these! the way you did!  the way you commanded us to!  Lord, I want to love my neighbor as myself and keep your commands!  I’ve been consumed with these thoughts. Consumed.

And in His infinite wisdom and abundant grace He whispered in my spirit,

First thing’s first.

What do you mean Lord?

First thing’s first.

What?

Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? 

Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 

This is the first and greatest commandment.

First thing’s first.

How can I love others well if I don’t love God more?  He is love. 

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have [God], I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have [God], I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have [God], I gain nothing. 

Lord,

May my human doings be replaced with my human being.  May I be consumed with You, and only YOU.  And then, and next, and second, and only after I am filled with your all-consuming-fire, may I love others.  May I serve and love and help and witness and teach only from a heart that is so full of You, that loving others is the only possible existence.  But in so doing, may I never neglect to first seek You, to first know You, to first love You.  

Amen.