Friday, 12 February 2016

6 Things

I can't believe how difficult it has been for me to write this post.
I've been working on it for more than a week.
But, I just can't seem to get it right.
I've deleted, re-written, copy and pasted, and deleted again.
It still isn't exactly as I would like it, but I think this one is as good as it will get.
I just wanted it to be perfect, because it is this post that will set the stage for my entire blogging experience this year.
 This is the reason I decide to start blogging again.
Anyway, here it is, in all of it's imperfection.

My Pastor is pretty great.
 He speaks well, and from the heart. He preaches truth, and he preaches from the Word. He is super funny, too!
His sermons are good, I tell you! (Also, they're not too long! Bonus!)
I mean really, what more could you ask for from a Pastor?
But, here's the thing. His messages are kinda starting to mess with me. 
Actually, they are really starting to mess with me.
You see, for the first 6 months of 2016, he plans to focus one Sunday on a Spiritual discipline. And then he plans to challenge us with that discipline. (Oh good!) The first Sunday in January he spoke about prayer and fasting. He challenged us, as a church, to participate in fasting a few meals throughout the month, and to focus that time in prayer.
"I can do this!" I thought. "I like this challenge to fast as a united Church body."
He challenged us to stop thinking about what we might lose, and to start thinking about what we might gain.
So far, so good. I was in!
He shared some thoughts on the excess that we, here in North America, live with.
.......Pastor Dwayne's words, paraphrased.....
"If we want it, we get it. If we feel like having a burger, we head to McDonald's and grab ourselves a burger. Feel like we want a new shirt? We head to the mall and buy ourselves a new shirt."
 He spoke about our mentality of........
"We deserve this! We work hard for our money so we should be able to spend it as we wish." (You know....on ourselves.)
And, he shared a few stories of people who decided to go without.
 Enter, the messing with me part.
 Perhaps I could go without?
 I sat through that message searching my brain for a way that I could give up excess.
 Well actually, I need to be perfectly honest here. I was searching for a way that I could give up excess that wouldn't really interfere with my lifestyle too much. I was searching for something that I could do without, but I didn't really want it to be to difficult.
I didn't really want to sacrifice.
Honestly, I just didn't want it to hurt.
But, the thought that I just couldn't escape was that, perhaps, I could limit my non-essential decorative house purchases to 6 items this year.
Nor could I escape the annoying niggle in the back of my brain that suggested I could also limit my personal clothing purchases to 6 items.
Really, I tried to ignore it. But it was just so darn persistent!
6 items. 6 items.
Around and around it went. Making me extremely nervous and uncomfortable.
I kept searching for something else that I could do, but to no avail.

I just want to explain something here. This would be a big sacrifice for me. I like buying stuff for my house. I mean, I really like it. The way my home looks is very important to me. I love decorating! I love finding something fabulous that just fits my home's personality! I like shopping. I don't spend ridiculous amounts of money that I don't have, but I do spend more than I need.
And I may have allowed my house to become a bit of an idol to me.
I also like buying clothes. I like wearing clothes. You're welcome! (For me not walking around naked!) I like how I feel when I wear certain clothes. And that's totally fine in, and of itself. But I'm not very smart about buying clothes. I sometimes buy on a whim because I like it, (but don't really need it) or because it's on sale, or because it's trendy and I should have it, or because I just want something new. I just have this idea that I deserve it! I have closet full of clothes that only half of which get worn.
My home, and my closet, is filled with excess.

Right after the service was over, I bee-lined straight to my girlfriends.
 I needed to unload the nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach.
 I verbally vomited all over them.
 "I live with so much excess! I never realized it before, but it makes me feel disgusting! I'm thinking about limiting my personal clothing, and my decorative house purchases to 6 items each! This is freaking me out! But I feel so convicted; no...... not convicted; challenged! to look at the excess in my life and to do something about it! But I don't know if I really want to do this!"
 "Have you read Jen Hatmaker's book 7?" they asked. "It's pretty much exactly what you're talking about. You should read it."
Nope. hadn't heard of it.
And honestly, I wasn't at all sure I'd want to read that book anyhow.
I wasn't even sure what I was going to do with this "unofficial" challenge.
But I just couldn't stop thinking about it. Did I really want to do this? Was this really something I was being spiritually convicted with, or was this just another one of my hair-brained ideas that didn't really mean anything.
I prayed about it.
 I thought, and thought, and thought about it.

 I talked about it the next night with our prayer group at our friends' home. I shared my thoughts, my convictions, and the possible challenge of 6. As I yammered on about it, Tam asked if I had ever read, or heard of Jen Hatmaker's book 7.
 "Well, yes, actually. I have heard of it. Yesterday after church, when your cohorts shared that bit of information with me....."
 She pulled 7 out of her bookshelf, wrote her name inside the cover, and gave it to me.
"Read it." She said. "It's pretty much exactly what you're talking about."
"Yes, I've heard that."
So, I brought it home.
I read it.
I wept.
The conviction to take up this "6 items" challenge was not diminishing. It was growing.

But I still couldn't quite commit to it.
"What if I actually do this, and nothing happens?!? What if at the end of a year, nothing changes except I've only bought 6 stupid items for me and for my house?!? What if I do this and it's all for nothing???"
I wrestled with the idea of 6 for two weeks. Thoughts of 6 consumed me. I had no peace. And I desperately wanted peace.

" I have this hunger, deep inside, for something more. More of Jesus, I suppose. And it seems I'm never satisfied. I am never where I want to be. I feel like I just can't get it right. I keep making the same mistakes. And yet, He keeps calling me back.
He keeps whispering my name.......
 ........and I hear Him."

Joel 2:12-14The Message (MSG)

Change Your Life

12 But there’s also this, it’s not too late—
    God’s personal Message!—
“Come back to me and really mean it!
    Come fasting and weeping, sorry for your sins!”
13-14 Change your life, not just your clothes.
    Come back to God, your God.
And here’s why: God is kind and merciful.
    He takes a deep breath, puts up with a lot,
This most patient God, extravagant in love,
    always ready to cancel catastrophe.
Shared by Jen Hatmaker in 7
"It's not really Surrender/Sacrifice, unless it hurts." Michelle Harder

On the 18th of January I made the commitment.
And I wrote it down on paper so it would be official.

This is my heart. The way I think. The intimate side of me, that I don't allow most people to see.
Don't judge me. Or my spelling. (My journal does not have spell-check.) 

So there it is. 
6 is happening.
And I have peace about it.
But, I'm nervous. I'm not gonna lie.
I have no idea how difficult this might get.
I'm afraid I might mess it up.
 What if I mess this up?!?
I don't fully know what 6 is going to look like. But I'm doing it any way.
I suppose it doesn't matter that I don't really know what 6 will look like.
I choose to walk in obedience regardless.

Let me leave you with a quote from Pastor Dwayne's message.
"What if this would be a year of Great Awakening for us (our church)? What if 2016 was not like 2015? What if was better? Greater? What if our eyes were opened to see the world in a clearer way? I hope that Jesus will increase, and in turn, we will decrease. I hope we hear the voice of God (as a church)."

If you'd like to hear the message that completely messed with my life, you can listen to it here.

I hope it messes with you, too!