Tag Archives: fearlessly fulfilled

My First Love

Success. Everyone wants to tell you how to get it. In the business world, companies that made it big want to tell you how to succeed—even if they are Christian. Recently, I have been struggling with the idea of success. A few months ago, I was doing all the things that everyone told me to do to be successful: I was doing my social media posts, I was writing blog posts, I was talking to people about my business, I was scheduling events. I had a business plan for 2015, a brand new calendar to write my new business stuff in, and a head full of steam. I was “hustling,” as a friend of mine and I started saying about ourselves.

love sky by winnond

image courtesy of winnond / freedigitalphotos.net

 

I planned a brief vacation with my mom, with full intent of “getting back to hustling” when I returned. I couldn’t work on vacation—I was in another country and wanted to be present with my mother. So I put away my cell phone, my blogging, and all the nice new habits I had acquired. When I returned, I picked up my cell phone…and some weird virus that left me mostly incapacitated for the month of November. Then my father died in early December, and I spent the rest of that month mourning and recuperating. I realized that I was exhausted. I had been doing a lot. But save for one week in November, I had forgotten how to BE.

The seven letters to the churches in Revelation are one of many lists of seven in the Bible that correspond to the seven spiritual gifts in Romans 6. As a prophet spiritual gift, the first of the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2:1-6 has always beckoned to me. I was recalling this over the holidays, thinking about where I am and what it means. Here’s what it says:

I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore, remember where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent. (Revelation 2:2-5)

More than ever, this passage spoke to me. Of course God knows my deeds and my toil and my perseverance—that I have endured for His name’s sake and have not grown weary. But soon after my father’s death, I realized I had left my first love. Was I spending time in prayer? Sure. But I was spending more time “doing” God’s work than I was “being” with Him. For the same reason that I put away my cell phone while I was on vacation to be with my mom, God wanted me to put away these deeds and get back to my first love—being with Him.

So what does that mean? Does that mean PPG Ministries is no more? Of course not! But it means that I have to give up some of the “comforts” in my business for now, like posting on social media. I’m trading those things in for quality time at the feet of my Master. I want PPG Ministries to be filled with God, not with me. My business really belongs to God, anyway—so I know I can trust Him with it. And I’m finding that this is its own purity challenge—the challenge to bring holiness into all areas of my life, not just my sexuality.

Maybe you’re out there, having forgotten your first love, and you need to hit the reset button. Maybe God is asking you to give something back to Him so that He can refine and purify it and you, and make you both better than you ever knew. My challenge to you today is this: will you let Him? Will you trust God enough to give back to Him what is already His? If so, join me on this journey of purification. I don’t know where it’s going to lead, but I do know that God’s plans for us are for good and not evil, to prosper us and not to harm us (Jeremiah 29:11). And as further proof of that, here’s how that passage in Revelation ends:

To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God. (Revelation 2:7)

So are you ready for this year? Or more importantly, are you ready for this God? Ready or not, here He comes. 🙂

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Merry Christmas and Thank You!

Christmas nativity by dan

image courtesy of dan / freedigitalphotos.net

Just a small note to say Merry Christmas to all my readers, both faithful and fairly new! It has been a difficult holiday season for me this year, as I’ve been grieving my father’s death and handling the emotional toil it has taken on me. I’m really tired, friends! But I’m also excited–excited because if anything, this season should be a season of rest, and it can be, if look for it in our Savior! And what a coincidence–it’s the very birth of that Savior that we are celebrating right now. For so many people–including me–this time of year is usually hectic, chaotic, and crazy. But as God has gently refocused me this year, it’s become a time of prayer, redirection, and reflection. I’ve been tasked with getting back to my “first love”–something that all prophets actually struggle with, as we are so project-oriented. So I’m spending some extended time becoming people-oriented, starting with Jesus. I am really loving it and starting to look forward to my extended Jesus time every single day.

And since God has actually asked me to be more people-oriented, that means making a few tweaks! I am looking forward to how God is going to stretch, grow, and change me during this call to action. I’m still here–I’m still coaching, I will still be blogging, I’m still doing all these wonderful things that God has asked me to do. But you just may not see me much on social media, because social media is project-oriented, not people-oriented. However, please don’t let that deter you from contacting me about anything–questions, concerns, prayer requests, whatever is on your heart–because I would love to talk to you. I want to share with you my Jesus, and how He is working in me and changing me, and how He can work in you and change you and help you discover more about Himself and yourself. 🙂 I look forward to connecting with each of you–hopefully soon!

May God bring you rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation this holiday season! Thank you for your support and readership this past year–it has meant a great deal to me! I can’t wait to greet you anew in 2015–it is going to be an incredible year for each one of us!

Blessings, Michelle (PPG)

Good Grief

crying doll by Theeradech Sanin

image courtesy of Theeradech Sanin / freedigitalphotos.net

My father died today. I don’t think that there’s three points that I can give you in a blog format to help you learn more about yourself through the death of my parent. So I’m just going to unjumble my thoughts and let them flow here, and I pray that God will bless you in some way as you read.

If you’ve read my testimony, you know that I didn’t have a great relationship with my dad. Celebrate Recovery helped me do a lot of grieving and releasing, but especially with my father. It was good to grieve the father I didn’t have, the father I always wanted…to let go of expectations and begin to accept the reality of who my father was. To release my feelings of rejection and revel in the acceptance of my heavenly Father. I continued to do that for the next five years, never really desiring a full-time relationship with him for many reasons. As more and more information about the man I called “Dad” has surfaced in recent weeks, I know that God has been protecting me by removing that desire from me. Instead, I have accepted him as the flawed, sinful man that he is and loved him from an appropriate distance. I am thankful that God indeed protected my heart and gave me the strength to set healthy boundaries.

A couple of things happened as I began to grieve a few weeks ago when I was alerted that my father was on his death bed. The first thing I noticed was that I couldn’t stop thinking about this one person with whom I had unfinished business. Death tends to bring out those unresolved situations in our lives, making us uneasy with leaving loose ends. Eventually I realized that what was on my mind was, “If I died today, is there anyone to whom I would need to make amends?” There was. I guess because my own father never realized the “error” of his ways and never sought to make amends with his children, I wanted to break that cycle. I could say “I’m sorry” and I could make amends. I wanted to start a new kind of cycle—one of grace and pure love modeled after Christ. And while I had been concerned because there had been no one to talk to about my situation (other than God), I eventually realized that I didn’t need to talk to someone else about it. I needed to talk to the offended party. So I sent an e-mail today. It was hard, and I cried more over that e-mail than I have cried for my deceased father. But I felt a burden lift once I pressed “send.” Life is too short for unfinished business, unforgiveness, and loose ends.

Second, I realized that I wasn’t carrying any burden towards my father. Finding out a few really terrible things about him in the last few days, I thought I would feel heavier about things. When I confessed his deplorable acts to a friend, she assured me that who my father was is not who I am. I reassured her confidently that I didn’t feel that anyway—and it was true. I felt disconnected from that because I had forgiven him. But I also felt disconnected from that because my identity is not in my earthly father anymore. I have secured my identity as a princess of the King and a crazy but amazing pushy prophet girl, and because of that, there is no burden for being my earthly father’s daughter. Whatever heinous acts my father may have committed, they do not belong to me…I have been cleansed and forgiven. I am my Father’s child.

Third, I realized the significance of sexual sin in my generational history. Numbers 14:18 says, “The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.’” I know that my grandfather and father’s iniquities have visited the generations below them and through me, and that is important for me to accept and understand in my continual quest for purity. Indeed, though I am my Father’s child, I now have some idea as to why I have struggled so mightily in the area of sexual purity. However, what grace and love the Father lavishes on us, that I can not only call myself His child but that I can receive forgiveness and cleansing from the sins of my forefathers. I am ready to break the cycle and bring forth a generation of purity. My tears have not been wasted; they have been collected by a loving Daddy who intends to use them to cleanse future generations as they walk in their PureID™. What joy that brings me!

So I stand here not crying, but instead praising! Praise God from whom ALL blessings flow, and I thank You, Jesus, for the opportunity to experience this blessed, good grief. Amen!

Physically Healthy Habits: Crying

health diagram by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

It’s been a wild couple of weeks. I went out of the country for a brief vacation, went to my favorite rappers’ concert (Andy Mineo and Lecrae), and got sick while having very little time to recover. Emotionally during that time, I saw someone that had recently hurt me very badly, and hospice was called in for my father who is expected to live only a few more weeks. A couple of days ago, I found myself sitting at my dining room table bawling my eyes out. I knew that most of my tears were me releasing (physically) the emotional trauma of seeing that person again, and some of it was about my father’s impending death. But what I didn’t expect was that I would feel so much better and lighter after crying. Physically, crying had been incredibly beneficial to me.

You might think it’s weird that I’m blogging about crying as a physically healthy habit. But I’ve found that the body needs to shed tears to be healthy. Crying helps us to be physically healthy in the following ways:

  • Tears release us. I can’t tell you how relieved I felt once I cried a couple of days ago. It had actually been a few months since I had really cried that hard, and I knew that my body was needing to release a lot of stress. In addition, I knew that I needed to release what I was feeling from seeing that “someone,” so I had actually TRIED to cry for days afterward. So this cry was a few days in coming. And when it did, I actually felt the tension leave my body: my shoulders relaxed and my breathing deepened and slowed. Psalm 56:8 says that the Lord collects our tears in a bottle. And when we cry, we release our tears and fears to Him, which in turn releases us physically from being bound by those things here on earth. Need a good release? Try crying!
  • Tears purify us. Many times, our tears come from being a part of the refiner’s fire. Isaiah 48:10 says, “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction” and to me, that means that every situation in my life has been filtered through the hands of God. He knows what He’s doing by placing me in these situations. But let’s be honest: refining usually brings tears: tears of frustration, anger, sorrow, hurt. Growing and becoming refined as silver or gold comes at a costly price that often hurts as we are stretched and shaped into more Christlikeness. Shedding tears as a part of that journey is not weakness, it’s an expected part of the affliction. As a bonus, that purification happens both inside and out: you are shedding toxic chemicals from body as you cry and bringing clarity to your mind.
  • Tears make way for joy. “Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). Once I cried this week, I was ready to move forward. Many times I’ve found that crying is the last step before I can proceed after some sort of affliction. It’s harder for me to find true joy when I haven’t gotten past something else. Even more, it’s impossible for me to grasp onto God when I’m holding on to past afflictions. I need to cry—to release and purify myself so that I can step up to the plate and hold onto God. And usually, there is something else God wants to place in my now empty hands! This time, it was some business blessings that He could not release to me until I had released my tears to Him. So if you want joy, know that tears come first!

Crying may not seem like a physically healthy habit, but it is! Even the Bible notes that Jesus wept (John 11:35)—and if Jesus did it, then we should, too! Tears can help us become stronger, better people by releasing us and purifying us so that we are free to accept the joy that only God gives. Are you ready to cry your way into physical health?  🙂

Physically Healthy Habits: Touch

health diagram by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

Believe it or not, I’m not a real touchy feely person. I tend to hug my close friends, but I’m pretty good with a handshake or slight nod to others. As someone who is not very touchy feely, there is one place where I allow more physical touch than others. I have noticed that when I visit my family, I am unusually touchy with my mother. I like to sit on her lap (yes, I am 37 and love sitting on my 70-year-old mother’s lap) and hug her a lot, and many times she will come into my room to hug me and tuck me into bed. It’s not just because I’m a momma’s girl—it’s because I physically crave that touch from my mother. And I realize that I crave it so much because of the long droughts of physical touch I experience normally.

Science has shown that physical touch is incredibly important to our health. And while some people (like me) are not as comfortable with physical touch, here are a few things to remember about this physically healthy habit:

  • Physical touch is a necessity, not a convenience. Studies show we need at least four hugs per day to survive! I don’t know how I’m surviving, because it is difficult for me to warm up to someone enough to allow them to touch me. Perhaps that is you as well. But I eventually realized the importance of allowing others to touch me in appropriate physical ways. Jesus was always touching people, and my favorite story is of Him healing the leper in Matthew 8. This man had not been touched by ANYONE in years, and Jesus could have healed him with words alone, but He chose to touch him. I believe Jesus touched this man to show how important physical touch is to us as humans. He healed him physically, but He healed him emotionally as well through touch, thus showing us the necessity of physical touch. Are you meeting the hug minimum?
  • Physical touch helps us to grow. A human infant that is born must have loving, physical touch in order to survive and grow physically. But it is not just infants who need that loving touch—it is an important part of being a physically healthy adult as well. Remember those four hugs we need to survive? Apparently, we need 12 hugs a day to grow! Neurologists claim that the more we touch others, the happier we are. This is due to a lot of physiological occurrences that I don’t understand (because I’m not a scientist). But the other day, I ran into a friend in Dunkin Donuts, and I hugged him, even though we’re not that close. That hug made me realize my own lack in this area and gave me the boost I needed to smile during traffic, be nicer to my coworkers, and work harder at my job the rest of the day. That’s growth!
  • Physical touch releases us. We are “falling” into healthy habits not to separate ourselves in these three areas but to see how intricately connected our emotional, spiritual, and physical wellness are. Touching others in appropriate, non-creepy ways can lead to more vulnerability and openness in our relationships with others. I have often been emotionally released by the touch of a loved one—like my mother or a close friend. I have seen people’s demeanors change when I’ve reached out and touched them instead of put up a distancing emotional wall. I have felt the presence of the Holy Spirit when praying while holding hands with friends. The Bible speaks of God holding our hand as we go through fearful times (Isaiah 41:13; Psalm 73:23), and Jesus was constantly touching others to create connection. So how can you break down barriers and weave tighter bonds with others using appropriate physical touch?

It may not seem like much, but the appropriate, caring touch of another person can breathe life into us, sustain us, and help us to grow as adults. If you want to be physically healthy, you must allow yourself to touch and be touched by others—and break down the barriers we have built around ourselves.

Physically Healthy Habits: Exercise

health diagram by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

I had been working out twice a day getting ready for my family’s annual cruise. I was doing extreme cardio in the morning and resistance training in the evening, but I couldn’t seem to get my body where I wanted it. Then the blood type diet suggested that I try yoga or light walks, so I tried both. My entire world changed as I felt stress leave my body and watched the weight drop off effortlessly. I wasn’t pushing myself like others did, but I felt good and my body felt the best it had ever felt! And while I don’t have a set schedule for when or how I do yoga these days, I know that when I’m feeling blah or need a little extra energy, I can pop in a yoga DVD or take a low-impact walk somewhere to clear my head and release stress.

The first thought anyone has about being physically healthy is always that we need to exercise. And while it’s true that our sedentary lifestyle has contributed to us being less physically healthy, we don’t have to accept that as the norm! Here are three thoughts to remember about the role exercise can play in your life:

  • Exercise is what you make of it. Sometimes, I do yoga. Sometimes, I just walk a lot around the building at my part-time job, making conversation while I walk up and down the stairs running errands. Other times, I take leisurely walks around my neighborhood. I don’t have a prescribed thing that I constantly do, because I don’t always want to get up super early or have time to do yoga. But I can always be moving. I can turn housework into exercise if I want to! Back in Jesus’ time, they didn’t have exercise studios—they just walked everywhere. They didn’t create a special time to exercise, it was just a part of their everyday life. This is a challenge for our incredibly sedentary lifestyles, but a good one to consider. So how can you make exercise a part of your everyday life?
  • Start small and work your way up. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you won’t run in a marathon right away. You have to begin with a small goal that becomes a habit, and then keep increasing it if your goal is bigger. To begin, try walking ten minutes a day, every day. Or practicing yoga for fifteen minutes a day, three days a week. Substitute cleaning your house for one day of exercise. Play tennis or golf for an hour two days a week. These are small goals that can be easily met by giving up a television show or by skipping a Facebook check. The Bible encourages us to be faithful in the little things so that we can then be faithful in larger things (Luke 16:10), so how can you start small with exercising this week?
  • Every body is different. Not only are we different emotionally and spiritually, but we are different physically. My mom walks briskly with tons of arm movement to get benefits—she needs a high amount of cardio. I walk at a more moderate pace, elevating my heart rate only slightly to achieve the same results. Your body’s needs are different than anyone else’s because you are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139)! You are unique, and it is part of your personal journey to figure out what your body needs for exercise. In addition, remember that every body IS different—different shapes and sizes. Aim for a healthier and better you, not the “you-version” of someone else. No one is perfect, and physical perfection should not be your goal. Your goal is to be the best you! So what does that mean for you?

I am not perfect in the area of exercise, but I am always challenging myself to improve in this area. However, I also accept myself, flaws and all, and try to be the best me I can be at all times! As I renew my personal goals to move more, I’m going to start small this week with 10-15 minutes, for at least three days. Will you join me?

Physically Healthy Habits: Sleep

health diagram by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

In preparation for some much needed time off, I have been hustling pretty hard the last month. Normally, I sleep 8–9 hours per night and many days, I even nap for a couple of hours. But I noticed that recently, I had been staying up later to work and going to bed about 30 minutes later than normal. I have also been skipping my nap times to increase my productivity. In addition, I was working right up until bedtime, not giving my mind time to calm down or empty before hitting the pillow. I was waking up several times per night from strange dreams about work and not getting my best sleep. So it’s no surprise that I’ve been feeling rundown lately. This week, I have been trying to go to bed earlier than normal and this morning, I decided not to work. I’ve been taking it easy today, but I know the remedy: more and better sleep.

Sleep can be a controversial subject, especially to those of us who want to get the most done! But to be physically healthy, sleep is essential—for our physical health and our emotional health. With that in mind, here are three rules of thumb to keep in mind about sleep:

  • No Less Than Six. Sleeping fewer than six hours per night does not give your body adequate time to rest and/or recover from the previous day. And since you can’t technically “catch up” on sleep, it’s important to make sure you’re getting that six or more hours each night. The experts in the medical field say that getting a good night’s rest affects everything from mental alertness to relationships. In fact, experts believe that less than seven hours is harmful to a person physically and emotionally, causing workplace accidents and making it easier for you to get sick. Medical experts have now determined that lack of sleep can also lead to increased risk of heart attack, stroke, obesity, and impairment for unborn children. So do you want to lose some weight? It might not be exercise you need—it might be sleep!
  • Ignore the haters. They may hate on you for getting by on so little sleep or for sleeping too much! I have been accused of sleeping my life away, missing out on all the fun, being depressed, and just plain sloth. I endure a lot of teasing because I am single and yet I am in bed before or at 9:00 p.m. each night. But honestly, the more I sleep, the better I feel. I know what my body needs, and I pay attention to what my body needs. I don’t overschedule myself, I leave early from get-togethers, and I stick to my routine. You have to know yourself in order to shrug off the criticism of others—so figure out what your body needs, and stick to it. How many hours of sleep do you need to run at peak performance? Focus on that, not the hate!
  • Check Yourself. Can’t sleep? Snoring keep you from sleeping well? Don’t just let it go—get yourself checked out! My mom snored for the first 25 years of my life. One weekend, she went on a church women’s retreat, and her snoring kept everyone else up the entire night. One of the women approached her before the weekend ended and said, “I was listening as you snored, and I think you stop breathing when you sleep. You should have that checked out.” My mom got it checked out and was diagnosed with sleep apnea—a disease that can kill you if untreated. But it’s not just physical—it’s emotional. Is there something bothering you—a relationship, a conflict, or something that’s keeping you awake at night? Solve those issues as well, before lack of sleep wrecks your health.

Psalm 127:2 says that we do not have to rise early, go to bed late, or be anxious because God will give even sleep to those He loves. So if you don’t get enough sleep, I challenge you to ask God how you can practice the physically healthy habit of getting more shut-eye. Your well-being depends on it!

Physically Healthy Habits: Eating Well

health diagram by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

I had just had a pretty balanced lunch: leftover roast beef from the crock pot with potatoes and carrots. It was delicious and good, but I felt terrible. I was lethargic and felt like I needed a nap, but I had another few hours of work to go! I went back to my desk and decided to Google why I was feeling so bad after such a seemingly good lunch. I had read a few results when I came across an article explaining that I was eating the wrong type of food for my blood type. I went out and bought the book the next night and read it over the weekend. I changed my diet immediately and began feeling better physically and emotionally! I lost weight without even trying and got rid of some health issues I had been dealing with. I couldn’t believe it—eating well had changed my life.

Everyone knows that exercising is important, but as one Internet meme says, great abs are made in the kitchen! I’m not going to tell you HOW to eat right–YOU decide how you eat right! But here are three ways to eat WELL:

  • Find what works for you. The same eating plan doesn’t work for everyone. I have friends who are paleo, some who are vegan, and others who eat whatever they want in moderation—all successfully. You may have to try a few different things to find what works. I have been on several different eating plans, including the South Beach diet, a weight watchers type group, and just eating whatever I want in moderation. However, as noted, I now follow the Blood Type Diet by Peter D’Adamo because it cleared up a lot of different health-related issues I was having. It continues to work for me—I can say that I have not been to the doctor in almost three years, I have not gotten sick for five years, and I have never felt better. Whatever works best for you, figure that out and do it!
  • Research your food sources. I personally am a non-GMO proponent because I’ve seen how non-GMO food has helped me. When I cut out GMOs, I feel better, I have fewer health issues (like eczema and digestion issues), and quite frankly, non-GMO food tastes better! I shop at farmers’ markets, health food stores, and regular grocery stores—but I do a lot of research on the things I buy, especially at the regular store. It is important to know where your food is coming from. I personally don’t like eating meats that have been pumped with antibiotics, vegetables or fruits that have been genetically modified to withstand pesticides, and dairy products that have been laced with hormones. That’s not how food should be consumed, in my opinion. But you have to come to your own conclusions about your food sources—and research will help you with that.
  • Give yourself a break. I don’t follow the Blood Type Diet 100%, and neither should you follow any diet 100% (unless your doctor has prescribed it). Sometimes, I eat GMOs. I like sweets, and I allow myself to eat them! I do it for my body—so that it doesn’t get too out of whack if I have a food I technically should be avoiding. I don’t want to feel bloated or have a headache or stuffed up nose just for enjoying a banana. But I also do it for my mind: if I go too long without having sweets, then I tend to overindulge myself the next time. So I definitely am a proponent of having one cheat day a week! Just make sure it is only one day, that you control your portion size, and that you surround it with eating well.

Food is our physical sustenance. The right foods will give us fuel and energy and leave us feeling better than before we ate. So if you want to be physically healthy, make sure you are not just eating right, but that you are eating well! “And whatever you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31)! Bon appetit!

Spiritually Healthy Habits: Simplicity

spirit health by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

My space was shrinking. I moved from a two-bedroom house into an apartment in someone’s house, and I had about half the space I had in my previous place of residence. So I got a storage unit and put everything I couldn’t fit into the apartment into the storage unit. One year after living in the apartment, I realized something: I had not been to that storage unit even once during that year to get anything out. I had everything I needed in my apartment and then some. So I did what any convicted person would do: I opened up the storage unit to my friends. Anything they saw in there that they wanted or needed, they could take free of charge. Then I took what was left—about ten boxes—and headed to the dump. I threw the boxes into the trash compactor without even opening them to see their contents.

Spiritually healthy people practice simplicity in their lives. Why should we seek simplicity? Because simplicity will clarify your life in the following ways:

  • Simplicity refines our spirituality. The spiritual discipline of simplicity may not seem like a “spiritual” health issue at all, but the Bible says to “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). “These things” refers to what we shall eat, drink, or wear (Matthew 6:31). Our simplicity is often centered on these earthly things—having a nice house, eating at nice restaurants, wearing designer clothes. And if we are worried about these earthly things, then we have little time to be concerned with heavenly things. The remedy is to simplify: to focus less on these things gives us more time to engage in our relationship with Christ and His people. Because if we simplify and seek God’s kingdom first, “these things” will take care of themselves. If you want to clarify your spiritual life, seek simplicity.
  • Simplicity refines our physical space. When I moved into the apartment from the house, though I had a smaller place, I had more space—because I had less junk. This meant I felt less anxious when it was time to clean, because I not only had less space to clean, but I had fewer trinkets to dust and furniture to vacuum around. I felt renewed—I had more than enough space to live! I was reminded that Jesus lived a simple life. In fact, He encouraged us to “not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19). The less “earthly treasures” I have, the less I worry about thieves, and the more room I have to store up treasures in heaven. Want to de-clutter your physical space? Seek to simplify.
  • Simplicity refines us emotionally. I did not open up the boxes before I threw them away because I knew that if I did, I would find some reason to keep most of the stuff. “Oh, he gave that to me in middle school…” The more stuff we have, the more emotional ties we have to that stuff! It is the reason we keep so much “stuff”—both physical and emotional—in our lives. In Matthew 6, Jesus continues, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (6:20). I realized when I let go of those boxes, I was letting go of many emotional ties—some good, some bad—that were holding on to me. I was emotionally purified in the process and freed to hold onto what God wanted me to hold onto. So where is your treasure—and your heart?

In our consumer-driven society, simplicity is one of the hardest spiritually healthy habits to practice. But I want to challenge each of you to begin practicing simplicity by changing how you think about things. For the next week, each time you make a non-food purchase, ask yourself, “Am I storing up treasures on earth or treasures in heaven with this purchase?” If you accept this simplicity challenge, then leave me a comment below to let me know how you did. Best of luck!

Spiritually Healthy Habits: Giving

spirit health by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

I had just been laid off at my job and I was searching for another one with very little luck. I was getting a small amount of unemployment and living off the little savings I had. I was still attending church and going to my small group, though, and one week, I found myself listening to the prayer requests of a young woman who wanted to attend an internship in another state. She had been accepted into the internship, but did not have the $350 to buy the one-way plane ticket to get there. As I listened and prayed during the group, I heard God say, “Give her the money for her plane ticket.” I opened my eyes wide and muttered, “I know you just didn’t say that, God.” But I heard it again, so I decided to wait a week to see if that was really what God wanted me to do—after all, I was unemployed and needed that money. But the feeling never went away, and the following week, I presented that young woman with the check for her plane ticket—with no strings attached.

Spiritually healthy people practice giving as a way of life. But although giving definitely includes financial resources, giving is not just about money. Here are three ways you can practice giving more in your life:

  • Give your money cheerfully. This is probably the hardest thing for people, because money is such a necessary commodity in our world. Whenever we earn some, we think it is “ours” and that we need to hold onto it, save it, or use it for our own good. It’s hard to write that check to the electric company, or the mortgage company, or (especially) the church—because we need that money for ourselves! But the Word says that God “loves a cheerful giver” and that we should give “not reluctantly or in response to pressure” (2 Corinthians 9:7). God wants us to give, but He also wants us to have the right attitude. When is the last time you gave away your money cheerfully?
  • Give your time abundantly. Time is another commodity we have a hard time giving away because like money, we want to spend time selfishly on ourselves. And while it is healthy to have some time to ourselves, we also have to give our time to the things that God tells us is important. Some people say time is the most precious of all our resources—because you cannot earn it back. But Christians know that our times are in the hands of the Almighty (Psalm 31:15). And if our time belongs to Him, then we should seek what He wants us to devote our time to instead of what we want. And we should give it abundantly to those people and causes! Where do you give your time abundantly?
  • Give your whole self lovingly. Giving yourself is more than just giving your time. I have spent plenty of time doing things for friends. I’ve worked it into my schedule and given it time; I may have even spent money on them. But I have only been there physically. I haven’t invested myself emotionally and spiritually; I haven’t laid down my life for my friends. If we are truly loving and giving people who want to be spiritually healthy, we have to lay down our lives—ourselves—for our friends (1 John 3:16). Jesus said there was no greater love, and that is the love we should strive to achieve. To do this, we have to be authentic and willing to be held accountable. When is the last time you laid down your life for someone else?

The young woman to whom I gave the plane ticket ended up staying in that state, and I love seeing how she continually gives back to the community there. It reminds me that I don’t give so that *I* can receive in return, I give so that others can receive and see the glory of God. So I encourage you to give—because none of it is really yours anyway. 🙂