We changed homes five years ago. We outgrew what we were in, and were able to get a larger home in a beautiful, mature neighborhood. Tall trees, fresh air, and a river for peace and quiet. And regular visitations from possums and raccoons for annoyance and aggravation. We love our home, but five years had gone by and we had not yet cleared out the many boxes and tubs that contained:

1. bits and pieces that accumulate with having children
2. supplies that accompany hobbies that are no longer enjoyed
3. family artifacts that ruin with age and wear
4. valuables that have no use
5. useful things that should be used by someone else
6. trash disguised as something else.

What’s worse is that all this was stored in our bonus room. We had even acquired storage and shelving units to hold all this. Like many bonus rooms, ours is a large room over the garage that we had originally envisioned as being the room we would gather as a family for fun and games; popcorn and movies, parties for kids and adults, watching major sporting events, and doing crafts and homework. But after five years, the room had not come close to performing this purpose. It was the place people went to veg and fuss over the TV remote. It was becoming hard to keep clean and tidy. We were almost oblivious to the steady decline in its appearance and usefulness. Until…

1. I realized that my oldest child was about to begin her last year in high school and we were running short of time for all five of us to create memories of being together during this family phase.
2. My youngest was passing from juvenile to adolescent and would no longer want to play with things that come with a jillion pieces, and no place to have friends over.
3. I realized that so much more was possible.

But it would require cleaning, donating, painting, and the steadfast efforts by all the home’s inhabitants. And that’s exactly what happened! After a couple of meetings about what was needed and how it could happen, everyone pitched in and made it happen. Meaningful items were saved or stored in creative ways. The kids were out of town with grandparents when Rebecca and I finally finished things up. So they came home to a pristine room and a few surprises. The smiles were priceless. Teenagers are so hard to impress you know. But they were!

There are some theological and spiritual lessons that can be drawn from this. But I’m not going there right now. Let’s just keep it temporal; but important, nonetheless. As a culture, we’re coaxed to acquire and possess. And did we ever. We also felt we needed to keep anything and everything that had been handed down or gifted to us, even if it just stayed in a box. Little things piled up. Little forays into “straightening” and “cleaning” weren’t addressing the problem.We had lost sight of what was most important…time and experiences together. Things had gotten in the way. Thoughts and feelings about things were in the way. Some might describe this blog post as self-indulgent. But I’m telling you, that experiences and memories with your family far surpass holding on to past memories, trophies, artifacts, etc. Looking forward, pressing on, and casting off the dead weight is what we all must do to maximize our lives and relationships. After going through the all purging, I find that many people actually long to do precisely what we did, only to struggle to take the first step. After witnessing our transformation, they’ve been encouraged. I offer that encouragement to you. Let go of the clutter (and anything) that is blocking and depriving you of enjoying your lives to the fullest.

Holding on to what is “valuable” and “meaningful” could be costing you what is priceless.

“You have it heard it said…but I say to you…” Jesus

I enjoy watching those HGTV and DIY shows. Coming from a family of carpenters and builders, it’s my video comfort food. It’s always emphasized that correct measurements, proper materials, and attention to detail are important to small jobs and big homes alike.

Lives are projects. The Bible refers to God as a potter and we as clay. Jesus uses the illustration of a builder not finishing a house and leaving it as an embarrassment and a monument to their miscalculations and failures. He also references farming, homemaking, and investing to illustrate that lives should be built and governed by adhering to powerful and universal truths.

Four times in Matthew 5, Jesus says (paraphrased) “you have heard it said.” And each time he adds a clarifying, amplifying, or countering statement…”but I say to you.” For centuries prior, religious leaders were basing their teachings on godly principles, rather that teaching actual principles to the nation. The result was a religious hierarchy that subjugated the masses, created privilege for themselves, and would even seek death for those that threatening their system’s existence.

Yes. Things went that far askew. A little off-measure in the beginning; catastrophic failure down the road.

And so it is with us. We start with truth and principles. Then we make allowances and exceptions to fit our desires. We justify our desires by convincing ourselves and others that it serves a godly purpose. Then we create “divine” institutions and systems to undergird the purposes. Then to protect the systems, institutions, organizations, etc.; responsible persons very often resort to “half-truths” (lies), secrecy, lawsuits, threats, denials, “forgetting,” and on and on. Among these is the trump card of “God has lead me…”…”told me”…”showed me”… And failure, error, tragedy, hurt, and damage grows closer by the day.

At the beginning, Adam and Eve fell into a sinful state mostly from application of “truth with additives.” And still we slip up by embracing basic truth, and then dropping in additives. Some additives help us apply truth. Some help us understand truth. But other additives go to serve selfish purposes, or purposes with no connection to anything good and holy.

I’m not making a blanket condemnation here, but listen closely when you hear someone in leadership or position say…

“If you really love God, you will…”

“If you really love your family, you will…”

“If you really believe the Bible, you will…”

“If you love the church, you will…”

You can complete these sentences in any number of ways. But people are lead astray when others tell them, OR they tell themselves something that just isn’t quite right out of selfish desire or to promote an agenda. Sooner or later, they are off the Foundation and disappointed or angry with God for the “result” of their lives. Getting back to square, plumb, and straight is a difficult exercise and only comes after a lot of damage has occurred.

If you are in a position of influence or authority over others, take great care of what you say and how you counsel others. Listen to yourself. Do you say these things? What are you really telling people? What are you really trying to accomplish? What do you really want from people? What do you really want for people?

Paul praised the Berean believers because they searched the Scriptures to test what they were being told. Simply put, they knew and understood the authentic truths and principles of God’s Word, so that they would not fall victim to purely human or unholy agendas and persons. They actively tested the words and teachings they were hearing. It’s important we do the same so our lives are foundationally solid, and a monument to the redemptive power of Christ in our lives. Not just an outcropping of toxic religion, well-intentioned leadership, and well-oiled pleas for commitments.

Well, it was just a thought.