“Anything to Declare?”

You just have to get rid of so much baggage to be light enough to dance, to sing, to play. You don’t have time to carry grudges; you don’t have time to cling to the need to be right.”  – Anne Lamott

 “There’s a luggage limit to every passenger on a flight. The same rules apply to your life. You must eliminate some baggage before you can fly.”  – Rosalind Johnson  

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Do you have anything to declare?”  This is commonly heard at international airports as a traveler, sometimes weary, enters their destination.  It’s a question that must be asked for safety and security purposes that I think begs answering in our lives as well.  I’ve never received a degree in counseling or psychology, but I’ve been around long enough to know that sometimes when we enter the present moment which is the doorway to the future we often are still carrying baggage from the past that prohibits us from entering and from moving on.  Baggage, which is anger, regret, hurts, fears, scars (emotional & physical) can seriously limit us and that of the potential for personal and spiritual growth if we continue to carry them with us. 

 

Jesus even alluded to these types of burdens when he said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV)

What is Jesus saying here?  He is telling us to let go of our baggage!  He is saying if you learn from me you will understand that you don’t have to carry this heavy burden any longer, my way is lighter and it will free you of your past, your baggage, your worries and fears.  Jesus says to us in this passage that we ought to let go of it all…it doesn’t matter anymore…we can be free!  Wouldn’t you like to forget some things about your past?  Wouldn’t you like to let go of burdens that you’ve carried around with you for far too long?   We were never meant to heap these worries, regrets and scars around with us for the rest of our lives!  That was not God’s plan for us.  Sure from time to time we have screwed up.  Sure from time to time others have hurt us so very deeply.  Sure from time to time we find it difficult to forgive that one person who broke our heart or betrayed us…yet that’s precisely what Jesus is asking us to do.  He wants us to leave our past behind.  He wants us to lay it down at His feet and for us to allow Him to help us. 

I don’t presume to understand how God’s grace works, but I do know that it does.  By faith, daily I must once again surrender my past to Him.  I know that from time to time that even Satan will try and remind me of those things from my past.  He will try to discourage me and persuade me that I really haven’t changed…and yet when I seek the Lord, when I read His word God shows me just how far I’ve come.  The same is true for you as well.  You can let go.  You will be free.  The answers to healing your past and restoring your future lies with the One that made you, not the ones that have hurt you, or the situations that you fiercely regret.   

The Lord is asking us today; “Do you have anything to declare?”  If we are wise we will declare everything to Him, and allow Him to restore our present and future by letting go of the baggage that weighs us down and holds us back.  Don’t let your past dictate where you go today or tomorrow!  You and I can be free…but first we must confront and let go of the baggage. 

There’s an old prayer chorus our church used to sing and it goes like this:

“Burdens are lifted at Calvary, Calvary, Calvary, Burdens are lifted at Calvary…Jesus is very near!”       Jesus wants to be near to you today, He wants to lift your burdens, your baggage from you…will you let Him?

Prayer:

Lord I have been carrying around this baggage from my past for far too long and it is weighing me down.  This baggage is holding me back from growing in your grace.  Help me to surrender it all to you today!  I know that it may not happen all at once, but grant me your strength to surrender it all to you!  I want to learn from you, I want that freedom that only you can offer.  Thank you Lord for guiding me and for being here with me each step of the way.  –Amen.

At the Construction Site:

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Matthew 7:24-27 (NIV)
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.
26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

 

When I was a child I used to enjoy watching construction workers build things.  I could sit for hours watching them work away at mixing concrete, hoisting support beams, laying rebar…it all fascinated me.  I longed to see the finished product, a completed project that took hours, even days to complete.  I would go by the construction site day after day on my way to school just to see how much progress they had made in the hours that I had been away.  I was invested in witnessing the completed project, though it wasn’t my house, I still wanted, I longed to see it finished.  

 

By the time the construction of the remodeled home was completed, the workers there knew me by name.  Why?  Because I wasn’t content in just watching, I wanted to know why and how they were doing any and every task.  I was insanely curious…and so I asked a lot of questions.  Luckily, the foreman (who must have had children of his own) was a patient man who didn’t mind giving me an answer from time to time.  He was competent and considerate of my age and so explained it as a parent would to a child; in simple terms.   He explained why they put wire mesh in with the concrete or why rebar was there at all…it would make the structure stronger and would last longer.  He also explained why the bubble on the level had to be in the middle so that the work they did would stand and not fall down because it was uneven.  I asked many questions and thankfully that foreman answered most of them with the patience of a saint. 

 

Why talk about this experience?  Why mention it? Am I just trying to relive my childhood?  Perhaps…but it’s more than that.  It makes me think of what kind of foundation I am laying in my own spiritual with God.  Many times in my life I have thought about those conversations with that foreman in the context of my spiritual journey with Christ.  Am I living a balanced life?  Have I continued to be firmly rooted in His word?  Is the foundation of my life what it should be?  Introspectively I have asked myself these questions many, many times.  I don’t say this in boasting, by any means, but a right relationship with God is that important to me.  Is it to you? 

 

Years later I tried my hand at building stuff…turns out I’m just not that gifted at construction with my hands.  But I will never forget those lessons that I learned as a child by simply passing by a construction site day after day on my way to and from school. 

 

How is your foundation?   Has it been reinforced with the rebar of fellowship with other Christians?  Are there cracks forming along the walls of your faith because of wear and tear and pressures of life?   At our conversion we align ourselves with Christ.  We accept His sacrifice on the cross for our sins and we essentially say God rebuild me.  Tear down the old, remove the dirty and broken, and start again.  In that process we gain new life, a new construction takes place and there is life on our spiritual property.  But here’s a big issue:  Many remain at the altars of their lives professing Christ and declaring “I’m a Christian”, but they never grow from there.  God expects us to mature in our faith.  He has provided us the best foundation in His son Jesus Christ, but we have to allow the Holy Spirit to begin the transformation within us.  We can’t remain baby Christians…or essentially just a foundation without a structure built on top.  God’s presence within us, which is the Holy Spirit, wants to develop in us a deeper, stable structure of maturity and faith. 

 

If your life needs some renovation, some rebuilding…will you allow God to begin that in you today?  He’s the best foreman for the job and He can be trusted to finish that construction of holiness in you!  The foundation is already firmly laid.  But without a strong, stable structure on top, which is holiness and spiritual maturity, we are still vulnerable and unstable in the temptations and elements of our old lives. 

 

Prayer:

Father in Heaven, thank you for your Son who made it possible for me to be redeemed, I ask now that you would continue in me Your work.  Transform me through the work of Your Holy Spirit, grant me the strength to address issues that still exist within my life that are yet remnants of my old ways.  Allow me wisdom and discernment to study your word and to apply it in my living day by day.   I want to be the creation you have intended for me.   Deliver me from sin and from temptation, as I know I must avoid their trappings in order to mature and to grow in Your grace.  May it be so in my life today.  Amen. 

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Uniquely Created, One of a Kind!

I remember thousands of twinkling Christmas lights setting fire to the room with its ambient glows of reds, greens, and oranges. For every Christmas light, tinsel was draped precariously in every nook and cranny in the small room. Where ever the tinsel fell is where light spill out in all directions as the semi metallic coating reflected Christmas in every corner and in every crack in the wall as well.

This is my first real, tangible memory of Christmas. It was on the Island of St. Helena, I know there was Christmas’ before this one, but at four years old who can remember the years leading up to my first memory? Father Christmas had not arrived yet on that volcanic rock of an Island. The weather was most definitely not frightful outside either; I guess living near the equator does have its drawbacks if one is expecting a white Christmas. I don’t remember whose house I was in, or why I was there, but the gaudy tinsel and the Christmas lights are forever etched in my mind, like a chiseled marble statue of a Greek god in Greece, this memory is the quintessential celebration of the Christ-mas on the island of St. Helena for me. To this day there is that warm feeling I get when I draw back the now older and dusty curtains of my mind and think of that time long ago…in a faraway place. It is this fond thought there in my childhood, that I, with child-like eyes, drew joy, love and peace in but a moment in time. That memory is still something that I cling to even now as an adult when other memories are not as resplendent or warm and fuzzy.

Isn’t it funny how specific moments in time are captured so vividly in the recesses of our mind, and if we think on them from time to time it is like watching a re-run of your favorite movie. I would never want to trade such memories for anything in the world! These memories are unique to me, to who I am as a person and who I was then as a child. No one else shares these specific memories with me; and my perspective as a four year old in a big world would also make each captured still frame in my mind one of a kind in this world.

Isn’t it interesting to think that each of us carries these types of memories that are one of a kind, and are specifically unique to our brain’s hard drive? For example, no one else in this world shares your memories and perspectives of the first time you actually rode a bike. Perhaps you had a parent there keeping you balanced, but even their memory of that occasion varies from your account. Perhaps it wouldn’t vary all that much, but your parent wasn’t seated on the bicycle they were next to you as you pushed and pumped those foot pedals in order to obtain one of your first moments of childhood liberation. Our memories, our recollections make each and every one of us unique and different from the next. Just as our fingerprints are never duplicated; so too our memories are our own to keep and to treasure.

The same can be said for our conversion experiences as well. All of our salvation stories are unique and one of a kind. God speaks to each of us in our own unique and special ways. No two conversion stories will ever be the same, because God has crafted us from different canvases. We all share His image in some way shape or form because we have been made in His image. Let’s take that thought a step further however, if we are all made in the image of God and each of us are cut from different canvases then we can begin to grasp just a fragment of the scope and scale in which this creator God has created us and the world around us, but also bits and pieces of His character as well. Because if we are created in His image, and no two people in this world are alike (minus identical twins) then we are to understand our Creator is unique, vast in identity and mighty in His creations. My memories are mine, shared only in snap shots that I can describe and with my God who sees all and lives these experiences with me. Sometimes we feel alone, sometimes we wonder if anyone will ever understand what we’ve been through or who we truly are…God knows you, and God understands you!

You are unique and special to Him! You are one of a kind in this universe; it is by design that you are created so. You also look like the Creator, perhaps sin has marred that image, but you are His! Take a moment today and consider this thought today! Accept it, embrace it, and then live it.

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