Against the Flow

“For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything else we see and a pride in our achievements and possessions.  These are not from the Father, but are from this world.” 1 John 2:16


My cravings lately haven’t been for more, it has been for less.  The world is going a little too fast for me and I want it to slow down.  It seems that many are feeling the same way. It is becoming a trend that I hope it catches on.


My church had a Spiritual Life Retreat on a Saturday morning.  I was pleasantly surprised and interested in going. For the last 5 years, I have begun a journey into Minimalism.  A friend posted an article on Facebook by a Minimalist writer, Joshua Becker in 2013 and I was hooked. I began to get rid of many possessions, scheduling less on my calendar and taking time to rest.  It has helped lessen the anxiety.


The church I attend is in Southern California, in a city located within Orange County.  This area loves busyness, materialism and success. Most people’s schedules are packed with long work hours and lots of activities, their homes are large with more items than necessary and they are glued to their smartphones so they don’t miss out.   Yet people are so disconnected and tired.


The retreat was led by a pastor named, Chuck Shumate.  He began the conversation that he wasn’t always like this.  But he knew God was calling him to slow down.  He said many valuable things, but one of them was, “out of our rest, comes strength and wisdom. Say no to that guilt of resting.”


His assistant, his adult daughter, mentioned a conversation she had with her nieces.  Her sister and family recently moved from Irvine to Fresno, California. She said her nieces, ages 10 and 12, told her how much they love living where there is no drama and how it is less stressful.  One of the nieces said something that broke my heart. She said, “in living here, I can be myself.” She understood that down here in South Orange County, you can’t be yourself, that you have to fit in or you are considered weird for just being you.


I already was on a path to slow down.  But now, I realize just because I live here, doesn’t mean I have to live and function according to the culture.  I am not looking to stand out and bring attention to myself. My goal is to not be in a hurry and appreciate all who and what God is in my life.  


In that retreat, Pastor Chuck mentioned having margins in our lives.  Margins of space. When he travels out-of-state, he gets to a speaking conference the night before, so he can rest.  If he is traveling locally, he allows a good cushion of time, so he isn’t in a hurry. One may think, but I don’t have time to have more time.  So, if you don’t get to everything in your day, will the world end? Guess what, unless you are performing life saving surgeries, it won’t end.


At one point in the retreat, he had all of the participants do nothing for 30 minutes.  Not to think or pray…nothing. After the exercise was over he asked for people to describe the exercise in one word.  You would have thought by people’s reactions that they endured torture. Some said, “Boring!”, “Painful!” and “Miserable!”  I said, “Refreshing!” I got some weird looks.


This culture promotes unnecessary competition.  It is a “dog-eat-dog-world” out there and people are suffering.  Suicides are many in this fast, competitive culture. Some of the recent teen suicides in the area, where the teens left suicide notes, mentioned they couldn’t handle the pace and competition.  We must do better for our children and ourselves.


Lesson Learned: I will allow margins and rest, so I can draw strength and learn wisdom.


Prayer:

“Dear Heavenly Father, create in me a new heart.  May I honor the Sabbath. Show me areas that I need to change, so I can be less anxious.  Create a culture shift in this world to slow down and honor you, Father God. Forgive me for following the ways of the world.  Let me be content in what you provide. Thank you for supplying my needs. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!”

 

 

Slow Down

“When will you stop running? When will you stop panting after other gods? But you say, ‘Save your breath, I’m in love with these foreign gods, and I can’t stop loving them now.” Jeremiah 2:25

“Mommy, slow down so you won’t get so stressed,” says my daughter, as she is trying to catch up to me when I am walking. Her words stunned me. I stopped to breathe because I was holding my breath from rushing around so much. I can’t even remember why I was so frantic.

My daughter may only be 9 years old, but she seems to understand things better than I do sometimes. She said, “if you take your time, you won’t be so confused about what to do.” How does she get that and I don’t? Maybe because I believe the lie, that if I look and act busy, I will appear important and successful.

Just a few days later, I went to buy a bucket of paint for our fence. I had an appointment to attend in the next 15 minutes and decided to go to the hardware store beforehand to pick it up. All I needed was exterior white paint. How hard could that be?

I walked into the paint department and the sales associate was talking to a customer. No one else was there to help me. I began looking at my watch and let out a few deep sighs to get her attention. She ended her conversation and walked over to assist me. I told her all I need is a bucket of white exterior paint.

“Do you want flat, satin or semi-gloss?”

Huh? I just want to paint the fence, so it doesn’t look trashy.

I replied that I just wanted something that will last a few years on an outdoor fence. She went on to explain what each paint does and what would be best. I was looking at my watch, thinking about how I may be late.

We agreed on a paint and she said, “let me mix it for you.” She put it in the machine.

“Oh no, how long will this take?” I asked.  The salesperson replied, “just a minute and a half.” “Oh good, I have an appointment in 10 minutes nearby.” I replied.  She said, “Oh honey, you shouldn’t shop in a hurry.”

I laughed out loud. I said to her, “from God’s mouth to your ears.”

She proceeded to tell me how she sees customers all the time come in 5 minutes before they close and request 5 buckets of gallon paint, all in different colors. I told her how I have been hearing to “slow down and not be in a hurry” recently. She winked at me and said “then do it.”

I made it to my appointment with 2 minutes to spare.

Everyone is in a hurry. Life has become so packed, we can barely breathe, literally. Nothing good ever comes from being in a hurry. I even wrote a blog post about that too and I still forget and get caught up, like everyone else.

I was even advised by my doctor that I need to chew 30 times for every bite of food. She said that most of my digestive issues will go away if I eat more slowly and mindful, not in a hurry. That is without t.v., in a car or in front of a phone. I can’t remember the last time I sat down at a table and chewed a meal well. I usually gulp and then have a stomach ache every time I eat while I am watching television on at my desk at work while I work. And you know..it makes a huge difference. It is nice to enjoy a meal without indigestion or heartburn!

God is never in a hurry. There are reasons that good things take time. The busyness of this word, does not need to be the way we operate.

Lesson Learned: Being in a hurry may be the way of the world, but not the way it has to be for us.

Prayer:
“Dear Heavenly Father, forgive us for being in a hurry and forcing things to come about. Remind us that time is relative when it comes to how you operate. Let us be mindful of our behavior and help us breathe easily no matter how stressful things may get. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!”

Reset to Zero

“See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”  Isaiah 43:19

 

A fresh start…this should seem and feel wonderful but it is scary.  For newborn babies, we relish at this beautiful start to a new life.  As adults, we feel good with doses of shame and fear.  The thought of starting over is a huge deal, but necessary for one’s life to get better.

 

A friend of mine was talking about the sale of her husband’s condominium.  He had that before they were married.  They currently rent a place closer to the school our kids attend.  She was hoping they could buy instead of rent, with the money they make from the sale of the old condominium.  But before, my friend and her husband were married, someone took advantage of his business and he lost it when the economy went bad.  He has been paying for it ever since.

 

The condominium just sold and any equity from the property would be going to pay off the loans and all the realtor fees.  There is nothing left over for them to put towards a new home.  Obviously, they were both sad about the news.  I said, “I understand that disappointment, but you have reset to zero.  You have no debt any more and he has a great job with benefits now.  Things will turn around from here.”  She agreed.  She said, “as scary as it is to start over now, we are in better shape than lots of people with so much debt.  We will be smart about every decision.”  That is a relief.

 

Today is Easter Sunday.  This is a perfect time, for those who do not know the majesty of our Lord Jesus Christ to have a chance to reset their lives. How great it would be to experience the Risen King and start their lives all over again by knowing the Lord.  Even knowing the Lord for over 30 years, I have had to reset my life over.  The Lord wants us to be forgiven and have a relationship with him.

 

May you encounter God’s love, forgiveness and presence.
Lesson Learned:  The best day is when Jesus gave me the chance to reset and start my relationship with Him.

Sharing the Same Thinking

“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.”  Ephesians 4:2

 

There was a nice Facebook post that my friend shared about flooding the Internet with Art instead of political posts.  People are getting so sick of over-shared opinions.  As it is always dangerous to go on social media and talk about politics (or anything controversial), right now  Social Media seems like a war zone.  It seems however, no one can be civil.  No one can share an opinion without it being shoved down one’s throats or being told they are wrong.  I think my husband was right in never getting a Facebook or any Social Media profile.

 

The same goes for me being a (wanna-be) Minimalist.  When I began this journey to live a more simple life and without a lot of unneeded stuff,  I was on a rampage to clear out the clutter.  Yet, my husband and daughter have no problem with having stuff.  My parents are the same way. They love new gadgets.  They also love buying things for my daughter.  Of course Grandparents are known for buying too much for their grandkids.  However, my daughter was starting to expect this from them.  

 

I was telling (more like complaining to) a friend about all the stuff grandparents give their grandkids and how I wish there was a better way.  I have suggested experiences and lessons for sports/art instead of toys.  But those requests seem to fall on deaf ears.  Then my dear friend said something that was heart-wrenching.  She went on to tell me, how she was feeling the same way.  Her mom would send her kids random things-knicknacks, stuff that was cute but not of any real use.  But then her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and those gifts stopped.  She said how she would rather deal with the clutter, than know her mother can’t remember her own  grandkids.   

 

In that moment, I realized while I can passionate about something, but I can’t expect everyone to share the same opinion as me.  Sometimes displayed passion can make the subject more intriguing and change someone’s mind about it.   I believe in being a living testimony.  People need to see how one has changed for the better and to share it with others.  But if someone doesn’t agree, I can’t tell them they are wrong.   I have to keep living by example.

 

Lesson Learned:  Love and pray for people always even if they don’t believe what you believe.  Love changes, not shame.

 

Prayer:

“Dear Heavenly Father, forgive me for pointing out the spec in one’s eye when I have a log in my own.  Give me patience and compassion for people.  While this world will always have disagreements with one another, let God’s justice prevail and goodness and love seep through.