How many of us grew up with the kitchen etiquette: No dirty butter knives in the jam jar! Use a spoon!
Maybe you are laughing at the absurdity of trying to convince four kids and a husband to follow such etiquette, as you survey a breakfast table laden with glaciers of peanut butter, jelly and Cheerios, lakes of milk, juice, and coffee, and in the distance, slopes of dishes the size of Kilimanjaro threatening eruption… You are grateful to not have one more spoon to wash!
It’s not that it’s a bad rule. The jelly thinks it’s a great rule. But how many of these rules do we hold so tightly to, to the extent of interfering with our joy?
The enemy, often successfully, uses too many things to rob our joy.
It’s time we make a couple of new pacts for Grace’s sake:
NOTHING Blocks Out the Joy of the Lord.
“Neither death nor life, angels nor demons, fears for today nor worries about tomorrow…can separate us from the love of God.” (Romans 8:38, NLT) Since nothing can separate us from God’s love, that in itself should be enough to keep us filled up with His joy!
GRACE Flows Freely Through Me.
“So we praise God for the glorious grace he has freely poured out on us who belong to his dear Son.” (Ephesians 1:6) Extending that grace we’ve accepted from God to those around us will in turn add another drop of joy in our heart.
The list of replaceable things:
- Those fancy dishes from that one fancy store that you secretly use when no one else is home because naturally, no one else can be trusted.
- That cute vase knocked over by a house guest (wasn’t it a garage sale find anyway?)
- The DIY project it took 6 months to complete between sick kids, school projects, birthday cakes, broken things requiring immediate attention and priority repair…
The list of forgivable things:
- An excited voice waking the baby
- Trash day forgotten, again
- Oh, those dishes–is there no one who will automatically rescue the mound without solicitation?!
- Toast crumbs in the butter dish
- Gloppy remnants of butter in the jar of jam
We can choose to focus on “all the things” that irritate us and allow dissension or we can swing our thoughts in the direction of the graceful, compassionate peacemaker and emanate His character.
— BEFORE WE CAN SWING, WE NEED TO CLEAN! —
How can we change the focus of our thoughts?
Stress, worries, annoyances: these all gluttonously consume much-needed valuable space in our precious heart, emotion & memory vaults. Think about how a vault locks it’s valuables tightly inside, so that without a key, code, or thief, there’s no way in or out. Praise God, there’s a key (to the Kingdom, Christ Jesus), and a code (the Word of God), to protect us and to help us stand strong against Satan the thief! Satan wants nothing more than to break into your heart vault, steal your precious joy, deceive you into forgetting you have God’s Grace, and fill your mind with frustration, bitterness, loneliness, and misery. We have to clean out our vaults and seal them with the things of God.
The list of things that can be removed:
- Fretting over mud on the floor
- Nagging to lower the toilet seat
- Harsh disciplining for an accidental spill
- All the other things going through your mind right now
What if we choose to do a clean sweep of the unessential annoyances & worries from within our precious selves, and decide to be un-offend-able (unable to be offended).
Think of the space in our hearts and brains that would be suddenly empty, free, and clear! Like a freshly cleaned out pantry, ready to be restocked. I don’t know about you, but I could use all the extra shelf space I can get–in the pantry and the brain!
Once we get all that sticky stress, anxiety, nagging, fretting, micro-managing, control-freaking, OCD-ing, perfecting and pet-peeving thrown out, we’ve got SO MUCH EMPTY space to fill!
I guarantee by switching our focus to things of real & lasting importance, it will:
1) put us in a better mood–which leads to people who actually want to be around us! (So they weren’t avoiding me because I forgot to wear deodorant?!)
2) gives us energy–no workout session or green grass drink necessary this time (though I am an advocate of all things healthy!) and
3) makes room in our “pantry-vault” to think about lots of other cool stuff.
The list of things to keep safe:
So, think instead on these things. Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is …
Truth – God IS good, His mercies are everlasting (Psalm 100:5, KJV)
Honor – God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7); He looks past the person to the position (child of God).
Right – God will always do what is right. Not opinion vs opinion, His justice triumphs over that which is morally wrong (Isaiah 41:10; Deuteronomy 32:4)
Lovely – How lovely is your dwelling place! (Psalm 84); How lovely are the works of His hands – flowers, butterflies, a hug between siblings, a smile.
Commendable – All that Jesus went through for our sake; It is commendable if someone endures the pain of unjust suffering because they are mindful of God (1 Peter 2:19)
Virtuous – He gives wisdom to all who ask; Be strong and courageous; Display modesty and self-control; She who has clean hands and a pure heart will stand in the Lord’s Holy Place (Psalm 24:3)
Praiseworthy – Why am I discouraged? I will put my hope in God…Yet I will praise Him (Psalm 43:5); Though the house is a wreck…yet I will praise Him. Though there’s yet another toddler mess to clean up, I will praise God for this creative child, and praise the creation made with those tiny hands!
The list of things that summarize:
Clean out all the things from within you that are robbing joy and keeping you from receiving and extending grace. Swing your thoughts to the things of real and lasting importance. May God’s grace and the joy of the Lord fill you. May you share the never-ending bounty of grace with all the people in your life.