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Archive for October, 2011

You know what I am great at avoiding and even better at screwing up?  Money matters.  Yes, I know…I just said the “m” word.  I recognize that this is nearly a swearword to many people, often inducing anger, depression, fits of panic, and even hives—sometimes simultaneously.  Though I can understand the desire to scream at the computer and flee from this post in arm-flailing terror, I’m asking you to give it a chance.  You see, I’ve had money on the mind for the past several weeks and I’m pretty sure God wants it that way.  I feel that He’s showing me that it’s completely impossible to have the intimate relationship He desires with us if we don’t pay more attention the contents of our bank accounts and coin purses.

“The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”  Church-goers or not, most people have heard this phrase.  It’s more than just a phrase, though.  It’s a Bible verse, 1 Timothy 6:10 to be exact.   So what does it mean?  Simply put, I think it means that loving money leads to all types of problems.  Not just small, pebble in your shoe type problems, either.  I’m talking about the heavy types of problems more akin to a boulder over your head suspended only by mint-waxed dental floss.  I don’t think it applies just to money either.  I think it applies to all material things.

Does that mean we shouldn’t desire financial stability or want nice things?  Is it corrupt to like vacations, fashion, home décor, or restaurants?  I don’t think so.  Maybe I’m looking at it with too child-like a perspective, but the verse says that “the love of money” is a root of all kinds of evil.  “Like” is very different from love.  Ask any person with a commitment phobia and they’ll confirm that someone saying “I like you” is quite different from a spoken “I love you.”  That being said, I think there can often be a fine line between the harmful love of material things and the more innocent like of them.

In this case, I think love refers to worship.  Worship is defined as reverent honor paid to or adoring reverence or regard for something.  To worship something—truly worship—is to put something in the highest possible position of love, honor, respect, adoration, and devotion.  There is only One who is meant to be in that position in our lives, and that is God Himself.  When He is our object of affection and worship, peace, love, strength, patience, joy, etc. flow in and through our lives.  When we put anything else in that place meant for God alone, chaos ensues.

Think of a beautiful antique grandfather clock.  A clockmaker put his heart into it and carefully positioned each cog, spring, and vital part.  When the original design is respected, it runs beautifully.  If you decide to replace the original metal parts with lesser materials like Styrofoam, temporary and cheap, the clock is unable to function as it was originally designed.  This haphazard replacement will result in brokenness and, if left unchanged, the complete destruction of the clock.  Unfortunately, I have a lot of experience in replacing timeless, pure Goodness in my life with cheap, easily accessible things.  Amazingly enough, God never ceases to pursue me and jump back into His rightful place the moment I turn to Him.

Okay, though this seems to be something I will always be working on, I’ve known all of this for a while.  So what new perspective have my mental mandibles been chewing on?  It’s a misconception actually, that I only recently realized I’ve held.

During a very recent period of financial hardship, my mind was spinning with numbers and red currency symbols causing serious stress.  To put it plainly, I was freaking out and was losing control of my thought life to this very specific worry.  Through this, God spoke to me and basically told me that I needed to let go of my love of money.  At first, it seemed ridiculous.  I had no money to love.  As I thought about it further, I realized the truth in his rebuke.

I think we, as lower, working, or middle-class folks, tend to look up the socioeconomic ladder when we think of materialism.  Materialistic people are those obsessed with big houses, fancy cars, extravagant boats, and $2000 pairs of cashmere socks.  Not us though, we’re just trying to get by.  We think about money and things in the sense of lack and need.  I often obsess about the same types of things, though my big house is a nice apartment and my lavish socks are a six pack of Hanes.  I have been viewing it as “being concerned with needs” and my bankroll’s inability to meet those needs.  I’ve been trying to justify it, but the truth is this: obsession is obsession.  This is what I mean by the “Empty Pocket Idol.”  It’s a dangerous form of materialism (or love of money) that involves being obsessed with the lack of money, not the presence of it.  I don’t need to have funds to spend in order to be evaluating whether or not my heart is in my pocketbook

Now, I would love to tell you five fantastic steps to loosing the holds of the “Empty Pocket Idol” or his equally terrible brother, the “Full Wallet Idol.”  Here’s the thing though…I am not an expert or motivational speaker.  I am a work in progress, especially regarding this subject.  However, by the pursuit of God, I have been shown a couple solutions that I’ve actually been able to experience as life-changing.

  1. Keep yourself full of what—or rather Who—it’s supposed to be full of.  The way to do this is to turn your attention from your worries and desires for things to God.  Even trying to focus on materialism for the sake of fixing it, ultimately leads to obsessing over it once again.  The only way to truly fix a spiritual problem, as this is, is to focus on the Solution, not the details of the problem itself.  “For where your treasure is, there your heart shall be also.”  Matthew 6:21  In other words, what you focus on and cherish, will always take over the center of your being including your mind, will, and emotions.  Also, unlike the love of money, loving God is not unrequited.
  2. Practice generosity.  I know that I can’t be free from materialism’s hold until I actual pry open my tightly-closed purse and literally let it go.  I believe this is true for everyone.  It’s an act of faith.  For instance, you can tell me that you trust the train, but your faith in the locomotive will never transition from theoretical to authentic until you actually take a ride.  Plus, giving is a cyclical blessing.  God promises that if we give, as in the case of tithing (giving 10% of your take-home pay to Him,) He will bless us in ways we could never imagine.  See Malachi 3:10…it’s literally God promising immeasurable blessing to those who tithe.  This doesn’t guarantee that you’ll win the lottery or the HGTV Dream Home, but God promises to bless the generous.

I’m sure there are other things we can do to keep materialism at bay and the related idols in the dirt where they belong.  I’m still discovering these though.  I am delighted, though, that the God who holds all wisdom seems to have taken such an interest in me (as He does with ALL people.)  He is beautifully patient as I stumble my way through this on my way to experiencing the full life of He desires for all His children.  How truly marvelous.

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Greetings, blogging world.  I hope this finds you well.

This is a big day for me.  As I mentioned in my About Me page, I am a bit of a dreamer and aspirer.  One of my aspirations, is to become a writer.  This blog is a first step in that direction, a step that is long overdue.  You see, in order to write anything, one must have skill, of course, but also courage and belief in oneself.  If we are honest, I think many of us could agree that doubt and fear come a little more naturally as it certainly does to me.  Regarding writing, I’ve been resting in the familiarity of said doubt and fear, choosing not to take a chance…until now.

Though I have little desire to climb rocks, snowshoe in Antarctica, or whitewater raft, I actually have a rather adventurous heart.  My adventurous desires are for experiencing new places, meeting new people, and trying new things.  However, I often yield to fear, which is what I consider to be the greatest enemy of dreaming and adventurous undertakings.  As I’ve discovered, through a series of God-led wonderings, there have been two types of fear with particular influence in my life.  I found this understanding to be quite revolutionary and hopefully, you will too.  The fears I am most prone to are as follows:

1.  The Fear of Failure.  No one can argue that this is the most common.  Failure is an unavoidable possibility in any undertaking.  A  friend once sat on a swing and hilariously fell right through.  The swing failed to do what it appeared to promise.  There was no way to know that, at that very moment, the chain had reached its maximum rust capacity and would’ve come undone by the weight of a paperback book.  A silly example–maybe–but it rings true.  The possibility of failure is a ferociously daunting and all-too-often crippling reality that we all have to face when taking a first step towards something.

2.  The Fear of Relinquishing the Fantasy.  This may not seem related to fear, but it very much is.  It is quite related to the blanket fear of failure.  This was the hardest for me to conquer.  It’s something I’m still working on.  Since I was a young child, I’ve been a dreamer.  In the last quarter-century, I’ve dreamt of being a singer, illustration artist, ballerina, architect (the necessary math shot that one down,) English teacher, psychologist, and of course, a writer.  I’ve let my imagination run free and uninhibited within me about what it would look like to do these things.  These are the fantasies which can be based on  memory or pure imagination.

To actually try to pursue a dream or idea results in an unavoidable trade.  We are met at the gate leading to the first step with this proposition.  Going through the gate means giving up the fantasy we’ve cherished in exchange for reality.  What was once a perfect imagined scenario is now under the scrutiny of the light of reality.  Perfection is shattered.

For example, I love to sing.  I suppose I have some skill as my past would display with awards, successful auditions, etc.  However, this is all in the past.  I haven’t sung much in the last three years.  I’ve often thought of auditioning for the band at church but I’ve yet to do so.  Why?  Because I have a beautiful memory of how good I was which fuels a fantasy of how I could be.  To actually audition for the band would mean immediate surrender of my precious fantasy in exchange for the possibility of an unsuccessful audition.  That’s frightening to me!  After all, isn’t safer to be comforted by a perfect dream than it is to be confronted by reality?

So, I wonder, how do we conquer this?  What does it take to make the trade at the gate?  To be completely honest, this is something I’m still finding.  I can tell you that a form of gumption is most necessary, but it’s something more than this.  It takes faith.  Faith in yourself is often a vehicle which can only carry you so far, as I’ve found out.  Truthfully, it’s been my faith in God and His care, provision, and protection over every part of me (including the hopes for myself) that have driven me to make the exchange and open the gate.  This blog is my very first step towards writing.  I’m trusting in God to inspire me (it was He who first inspired me), believe in me, and make a way if He wants to.  It’s in His hands, not mine.  And that makes it tremendously easier to relinquish the fantasy in hopes of a more wonderful reality.

This concludes my very first blog entry.  Please check out my About Me and About the Blog pages and thanks a heap for stopping by!

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