God or Money?

“No servant can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and Money.” The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus.  He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts.  What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight. Luke 16:13-15 
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I grew up in a financially unstable home. While we always had food to eat and a roof over our heads, I recognized, even at a young age, the struggle to keep what little we had. In my adulthood, I’ve realized a deep, unhealthy urge to rely on money for my sense of security. When there is enough of it, I feel like I can conquer the world. But when funds run low, my soul starts to tailspin into worry and irrational thinking.  What a flaw of mine!  What a lack of trust in the amazing God I walk with.
God is the only eternal source of security and peace. Money has never been able to heal my heart or give truth enough to help me overcome some of my deepest fears. Yes, we work at our jobs and one of the end goals is a paycheck.  There’s nothing wrong with needing or wanting things money can give.   The problem arises when our faith and trust in money overpowers our faith and trust in God.   When it consumes us, we become slaves to it.  It’s a lesson that God reminds me of over and over.  He is the one providing, not only for my financial needs but for my spiritual and emotional needs as well.   I could have nothing by the world’s standard but if I have God, I have EVERYTHING.
God, help us to focus on the things that matter to You. Lift our eyes to see only You. Help us to be a good stewards with what you have given us. Help us find peace in You and let us rest there, Father. Help us to not care about the worldly things. I know, I know and I know, You are the only treasure worth having.
God or money? I choose God. He will take care of the rest.
mailbox

Warning: If you make me cry, you’re likely to end up in my blog…

mailbox

Our mailbox is huge.  I could literally shove my 15 pound dog into it with plenty of room to spare. My point? It holds a lot of mail.  It’s the reason I’ve slipped into the bad habit of checking the mail only twice a month, when it’s time to pay bills.  I should drag a small wagon out with me to collect it all instead of chasing after bits in the wind when it slips from my arms.   This morning, among the flurry of grocery store circulars of sales I’ve missed, credit card offers, and utility bills, was a giant USPS envelope addressed to me from my dear friend, Ana who’d moved away this past November.

I turned it over in my hands curiously, hoping it hadn’t sat there for days, buried in the dark, bottomless pit of our mailbox.  I noticed the return address, remembering the night she told me her husband had accepted a job in Nebraska and they would be moving in a month.

“What? Next month?” I’d said, shocked.

She nodded and her dark eyes shone with that sparkle she gets when she smiles really hard.  I listened to all the details and cried with her when she talked about leaving all her extended family behind. I hope I seemed supportive that day, because although I was happy and excited for the new adventure in store for her, I was mainly disappointed with the loss seeing her regularly.

She was one of the girls in our bible study group and so special to me.  From the beginning, God placed her right smack in the middle of that tender spot in my heart.  I realized from the first few study sessions, how intensely private and guarded she was. She was quiet, doing more listening than sharing but as the weeks went by, she opened up more and more, revealing some of the things she’s had to face and overcome; things others rarely see or ever have to think about. Her strength struck me.  It attracted me because I often felt so weak.    To me, she is something to marvel at, a silencing mystery, someone worthy of respect.   She was a tough nut to crack but how amazing it was to watch God courting her and witness her faith blossom right before my eyes, like a delicate rose in the soft light of a new day.

Some weeks, when she was the first to arrive at my house for bible study, we’d have some precious one on one time before the weekly flurry of girls arrived, turning the conversation and our attention to other things.   At the close of one of our weekly studies, knowing that I was facing one of my greatest fears, flying, she spoke up and suggested that the women pray for my upcoming trip and even more shocking, she’d actually led the prayer.  It might have been the first time I’d ever heard her pray out loud which made the words all the more powerful and treasured to me.

Thinking of all this, I opened the envelope and out slid one of those new adult coloring books, the exact kind I’d pondered buying for myself a few weeks ago, hoping its promise to cage some of my untamable worries for a few hours proved true.  I’d lingered in front of the display at my local craft store, thumbing through the books but never bought one. Now here it was.  There was even a pack of colored pencils to go along with it.

coloring book

I was touched that she’d thought of me and actually gone to the trouble of mailing it.  I’d seen the snowy white pictures she’d posted on Facebook. I’m spoiled by the freedom of Florida’s reliably warm sunny weather and imagined the extra effort it must have taken to send.   I stared at the book on the counter and started to cry. Hard, shoulder shaking sobs and all, right there in the middle of my kitchen.  Ana’s feather of genuine friendship lightly landing on my overly stretched bag of emotions was all it took to pop me.   I wasn’t expecting a flood to break me this morning.  I wondered why I was crying.  I couldn’t stop. I didn’t want to stop.  I wanted to sink to the floor and finally release it all.

I think I’ve barely been holding it together lately.  The last month or so has brought huge changes that have left me anxious, frustrated, and feeling out of control.   I’ve spent most of my time seeking God’s will within these changes.  I’ve repeatedly sensed the Holy Spirit urging me not to worry, yet still, I’ve worried.

In my quiet time with the Lord, I’ve been led to Matthew 6 which says, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink;” and “For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

I’ve been led to Matthew 13 which describes Jesus’s Parable of the Sower and shown how I was in danger of becoming the one who received the seed that fell among the thorns, the one who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.

As usual, trusting God is a process for me.  It always takes me being hit from multiple angles before it finally sinks in.   Now this little Color your Blessings book, each page highlighting a different bible verse, dripping with the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, shouted of how Ana had acted obediently on the prompting of God when she’d sent it.

Then I read the letter tucked inside the front cover and cried some more for the way God has taken hold of her heart.  The verse at the bottom of the letter she’d chosen to quote for me, speaks volumes into the depth of what I’m going through.

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans.

Proverbs 16:3          

I’m full of gratitude for His workings within our little bible study group and bringing me more than just new friends but spiritual confidants that can uphold one another by following His lead. He is so good.  When I’m face to face with the wonders of how God works within us and through us, I can hardly breathe.

Ana is special.  She’s one of my God selected sisters and I love her.

Its the perfect way to start out my 2016. Thank you, Ana.  I love it.