Closet space

Today I tackled the task of unpacking my autumn/winter wardrobe.

As I bumped my head on the overhang in the little cupboard under the stairs, lugged the large red suitcase out and upwards, wrestled it (assisted by two overly-excited dogs!!!) onto the bed, opened it and groaned at the disarray that I discovered within, I mourned the loss of my very large and spacious dressing room back in South Africa.

The job of taking all of my summer clothes off their hangers and folding them into neat little piles (just don’t comment on my very obvious, vehement denial of the reality that they will be just as creased and jumbled as the winter ones after six months packed away) to be thrown out, passed on, or stored until Spring was tedious and, if I’m honest, a little disheartening.

Some of my favourites have worn too thin and will not see another season.
Some of my purchases this season have been plain desperate or ridiculous and declared me wasteful – or tasteless!
Some of my staples just seemed so boring and tired and old and I wondered if people had thought I looked that way each time I wore them.

And the work of unpacking started off no better!

“Why on earth did I even keep that?” I muttered.
“I wonder if that will still fit ….” I despaired.
Then “OOOOOOOH” as my fingers touched the warmth of merino wool and my eyes spotted the beautiful black ruched dress that I had bought towards the end of last season.

Suddenly, it was an adventure to pull out each garment. To find old favourites. To try things on and discover that they were in fact a little looser. To screw my nose up at a ghastly colour and wonder what on earth had prompted that particular purchase. To see how, in 6 months, I have changed. And how I have stayed the same. To put things in order, slowly. To accomplish something that I have been putting off since the first cool wind blew our way.

As I hung up the last few items, I realised what a spiritual exercise the afternoon had been because the whole rhythm of my life has changed since the cherry blossoms bloomed, then fell.

I wonder what this season holds in store for me. How, when next I lug that shiny red suitcase up the stairs, life will be different. What new things will have become old favourites? What old favourites will I have outgrown? What will I regret? What will I want to treasure and hold on to? What will I be ready to put away? What will I discover anew with fresh delight?

Are you due for a closet clean-out too?


Day Thirty Two: Within-Without

Psalm 110
Proverbs 1:20-33
James 4:1-10

Over countless meals with family, friends and/or acquaintances, talk turns – every time – to the terrible state that the world is in …

… the dishonesty, bigotry, and greed of many of her leaders; and the corruptive power of power …

… the economic reasons behind wars and “peace-keeping” efforts in resource-rich countries while, in other parts of the world, entire tribes and cultures are able to wipe each other out without intervention…

… those truly awkward conversations that begin with “I’m not a racist but …” or “I have nothing against gay people but …” and end with the uneasy truce “let’s just agree to disagree” or the less-easy sound of someone walking away in disgust and frustration…

… the latest horrifying terrorist attack, freeway pile-up, farm murder etc. and the inevitable laying of blame at some group that we are obviously not part of ….

The underlying message:
the world is in a terrible state
but
we are not to blame;
in fact, we are far better people than most!

In James’ letter to Jewish Christians living in an angry society divided by greed and jealousy, James asks a pertinent, piercing question which is very much relevant to the terrible state of the world today:

“What causes quarrels
and what causes fights among you?”
(James 4:1). 

Take a moment to answer James’ question in terms of:
1. fights and quarrels within the world,
2. fights and quarrels that have occurred specifically within your life and relationships.

 One of the more irritating habits that my boys picked up during their preschool years was chanting in response to anyone who pointed at them:
“For every finger you point at me, there are three pointing right back at you.”

But this is precisely James’ point: for all that we try to distance ourselves from blame or responsibility for the state of the world around us, what happens without is really a mirror of what is happening within our own hearts and minds.

We go after what we desire despite the cost or consequences to others; maybe drawing a line at actually committing a murder, but often killing a person’s trust or reputation or marriage without remorse.

And the things we covet that we are unable to get our hands on become the source of sour relationships, the reason why our words are full of anger and frustration and criticism and bile.

We would rather go without something than humble ourselves and ask for it, openly, honestly, vulnerably.

And when we do manage to swallow our pride and ask but don’t receive, we are outraged – even though what we were asking for was selfish or wrong or impossible for the other person to give in the first place (James 4:2-3).

Then, as with those who scoffed at Wisdom’s call, who turned from her life-giving ways,
terror strikes,
calamity comes like a whirlwind,
distress and anguish fill our days;

we have our fill of our own devices,
then choke on the fruit of our desires
(Proverbs 1:26-27,31).

The world without is a reflection of the world within – a compounded, magnified version of our own sin.
But, through the grace of God, the inner (and then) the outer can change.

Prayerfully reflect on James 4:6-10 as you seek change within – and without.

 

Day Twenty Four: The Morning After

Psalm 148
Jeremiah 26:1-9,12-15
Acts 6:8-15; 7:51-60

It’s the morning after ….

For some that means headaches,
or hangovers,
or a house to clean up;
for others something entirely more dire
as we weigh up what happened last night
and what needs to come next
to get ourselves out of (the mess we have made)
or into (the life we have imagined and planned);
for others, still, it is just another day
in the ongoing and endless cycle
of work and rest,
of play and pray ….

Yet, with the rising of the sun on this new day,
we are reminded that the Light has dawned –
the Light of Life, the Lord of Love;

that just yesterday we received the Good News
of God-with-us:

a light-seed planted within us
that love may rise graciously to life –
both in us and through us.

Our readings this day may seem a little unexpected for the morning after the wonderful proclamation of
“Christ is born!”

Yet both give us clues for holding onto and living out that powerful message long after the Christmas decorations have been packed away and life has resumed its usual routine.

Through the prophet Jeremiah comes the warning that if we fail to listen to the words of the Servant who he has sent to us so urgently, our lives will become places of desolation and despair (Jeremiah 26:9).

He makes it clear to us that in order for the light-seed that we have been given through Christ’s coming to bloom and burst forth in the deepest places,
we need to:
change the way we’re living;
mend our deeds;
listen obediently to the Message of God
(Jeremiah 26:13).

I must point out that this message was preached in the court of the Lord’s house to all who had come to worship and not to the unbelievers!

For Stephen, full of Love-inspired grace and power, the message found expression in the miracles and wonders that he was able to perform among people desperate for a little love, a little light;
in a countenance as radiant as an angel’s;
in the imitation of God’s all-embracing love even at the moment of excruciating death as he beseeches God on behalf of those that he had just named a stiff-necked people – resistant to the Holy Spirit:

“Lord, do not hold this sin against them,” (Acts 8:60).

As we move towards a new year with its usual resolutions to lose weight, spend less,
spend more time with family, stop smoking, learn a new skill etc., today’s word is both encouragement and caution:

to consider carefully, prayerfully, that which truly needs to change in our lives; that, rather than relying on our will or self-discipline, we may move with the Spirit and grow with the Message that we have received –
a Message of affirmation
rather than criticism,
a Message of belonging
rather than the need to perform/conform,
a Message of joy in every moment rather than the vague pursuit of “happiness,”
a Message from God rather than the promotion of another personal brand ….

Where might the Spirit be moving you in the days that lie ahead,
that the light-seed planted in you may grow and bloom?