8/29/07

Collection or Clutter?

Collections can be educational, fun, and definitely varied in type and value.

People collect stamps, coins, figurines, expensive paintings and sculptures, rubber bands, jewelry—even lint! I read about a man in Minnesota named Francis Johnson who collected more than five tons of string and wrapped it into a ball more than 10 feet in diameter! I wonder, where does he store that?

We need discernment or collections will take over. It's hard to organize our homes when they are filled with the clutter of out-of-control collections. My Cherished Teddies figurine collection started with a simple gift, a Teddie in a teacup that represented Friendship. I now have four giant boxes of the sober-faced bears...in the garage. When I decided to get rid of most of them, I couldn't even sell them on Ebay! I thought about all the money involved in purchasing them, and the storage space they require.

The collections that make more sense require little space, cost near-to-nothing, and deeply satisfy. A friend collects photos of children's smiles. Another collects wisdom proverbs. A caring woman collects lightly-used business clothes to share with poor women who enter the work force. She echoes the example of the biblical Dorcas who made garments for the poor. I Timothy 6:18 tells us to be "rich in good works." Good works—a valuable collection that pays eternal dividends.

If I had it to do over, I would choose a collection with better value and consequence. There's nothing wrong with occasional trinkets and tasteful home decorations, but we need to pray for wisdom so our collections do not take over, clutter our homes and lives, and in some cases, become idols. What about you? Need to make a better choice?

8/22/07

Intentional Ministry in Marriage

From the biblical perspective, a wife is not called to manipulate or manage her husband, but rather to minister to him. Deb Kalmach wrote in Because I Said Forever: "In order to turn your marriage into a real ministry to your husband, you have to be intentional." While there are hundreds of books about women's roles in the home, there are four basic ways a wife can minister to her husband - through:

When my husband Bob slipped a wedding ring on my finger, it didn't suddenly turn me into a selfless woman. Bob often says, "It's not a matter of whether we are selfish or not - it's a matter of how selfish we are." When our honeymoon passed, I was still a loyal, supportive companion, but I suddenly realized that I'd have to be a lot more intentional in following his lead and meeting his needs - especially sexual ones!

Ministry in marriage doesn't just happen. A ministry called Revive Our Hearts offers a helpful tool that I recommend - a "30-Day Challenge" with proactive, practical advice for wives in encouraging their husbands (reviveourhearts.com - a printable download under "Resources"). If you are married, think of ways to be more intentional in ministering to your husband today. It's your choice, and it will make a difference.

8/15/07

An Attractive Appearance

"Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart" (I Samuel 16:7). I'm so glad for God's perspective—but people still notice if I take the time to brush my hair and look presentable. First impressions count and either open or close doors for communication and ministry. Appearance is an important step in sharing our faith, because our appearance should reflect our relationship with God. We want opportunities to attract people to God's love, and we don't want our appearance to hinder the gospel message.

Appearances can be superficial, of course. Some people have an attractive appearance but an ugly heart. But the opposite is also true. We can have a beautiful, godly heart, and not express that in a meaningful way. The Christian's outward appearance should include modesty and purity (I Timothy 2:9-10), but also charm and careful grooming. Our focus isn't beauty or "image," but rather, being appropriate and taking time to look our best.

I recently made a quick trip to the grocery store. I didn't take time to freshen up, and I looked sloppy and haggard. I hoped I wouldn't run into anyone I knew—but wouldn't you know it, I saw a woman from my church. I ducked in and out of aisles, trying to avoid her. She caught up with me as I stood in the check-out line. After we chatted, she waved goodbye, calling out, "See you in church!" As she left, people turned and looked at me, and I cringed. One woman took in my full sloppy appearance, examining me from head to toe. Ashamed, I prayed, "Oh, Lord, this is not a good reflection on you or the family of God."

There are times we cannot help how we look, but whenever we have the choice, it's smart to cultivate an attractive appearance.

8/8/07

Smooth Out the Knots of Stress

Does stress have you tied in knots? For years, I tired my friends with constant complaints—''I'm so overwhelmed … I'm so stressed out. '' One day I realized that God was not pleased by my responses, and I asked Him to help me make wiser choices so I could live in greater freedom and, as a result, honor Him.

According to ''The Stress Epidemic,'' more than 19 million Americans suffer from stress. Dealing with stress is a way of life for the world, but Christians do not have to respond to stress as the world does. John 16:33 (Amplified Bible) tells us that we will indeed have ''tribulation and trials and distress and frustration'' in life, but we can take heart because we do not need to face these things alone. God wants to help us.

Whatever the source of our stress, we can make two choices. First, we can choose our ATTITUDES. We can respond to circumstances with calmness, clarity, cheerfulness, courage, and confidence when we trust God and obey His Word. Second, we can choose our ACTIONS toward the sources of our stress. We can pray, review our schedules and activities to be sure that we are only doing those things God has called us to do, say ''no'' to those things that are outside of God's will for us, and then move forward with confidence to accomplish God's purposes in our lives.

Experiencing stress today? If you're tied in knots, smooth them out by choosing the attitudes and actions that will please God and reflect His work in your life.

8/1/07

Create a Soothing, Peaceful Home

Whether we live in a mansion, a cottage, an apartment, or a humble room, we can create a place of peace and relaxation—a shelter from the pressures outside.

A peaceful home is Calm. It is mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically relaxing. It is a respite from the world. "Respite" means "a place of rest and relief." We might create a soothing feeling with a bubbling fountain. It helps to clear any fussy, "functional" elements from our bedrooms, to make them visually restful. We can play soft music in our homes instead of the constant din of television. Or we might even try silence—what a thought! We can use at least one calming color in our d├ęcor—think natural tones or "spa colors." If a brighter color is used, balance it with a calming one so there is always a place for the eyes to rest in peace. My dining room/kitchen walls are bright ruby red, but the adjacent walls are a soft buttery tone. Experiment with soft lighting, green plants, open space, photos of families—anything that helps you relax.

A peaceful home is also reasonably Clean. If we plan a "cleaning day" once a week, it’s easy to tidy up in short spurts throughout the week. Orderliness immediately puts us at ease. It’s easier to have a clean home if there is a place for everything, and today, with a myriad of containers available, it’s even fun to be organized.

For the Christian, a peaceful home is also Christ-centered. He is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), and when he rules in our heart and reigns in our home, there is peace (Colossians 3:15a).

Creating a peaceful, well-ordered home is always a wise choice. Look at your home. Is it calm, clean, and Christ-centered? If not, what can you change—today?