My Father was known to be a neat and organized person and I guess that I inherited the same trait. He kept a manicured yard, well landscaped and beautiful. When he was healthy, he would raise a vegetable garden that had rows so straight that it looked like a postcard. There were never any weeds in the garden and likewise his cars were always clean because he would hand wash them often. His profession was building houses, so to say the least, there was not much he could not repair or create when it came to maintaining a home. My mother, as the other half of the “orderly duo” was a clean-aholic and kept the inside of the house immaculate. I thought about my parent’s character traits this afternoon, (as I was down on my knees in the baking sun pulling crab grass from around my landscape edging) and wondering, “Why in the world am I doing this”? My yard (when it is in top form) reminds me of a state park and I also have my weird quirks about other certain things being orderly, but I must admit that it makes me stop and ponder about what is really important in life. How you might ask? Well, it seems that even though we do not think about it, we are going to be held accountable for our decisions – including how we invest our time. Hardly anyone even sees my backyard because it is barricaded with a tall privacy fence, and when people do come over, most of the time they do not even go back there. So, why does it bother me about getting rid of the weeds and why do I have the “need” to keep everything so perfect? Maybe it is some kind of excessive compulsion syndrome or some other mental hang-up, but couldn’t my time be directed toward something more worthwhile? I look around and most other people never think about weeds – they just mow it and forget about it. What makes the difference between people who care about odd things and others who do not? I believe there are several reasons with everything from just being too busy with higher priorities to those who are just not concerned. Does this make the “neat” people better – of course not! There are just different personality traits that include things like decorating style, music taste, spiritual convictions, political views or value systems. Am I caring “too much” about things that are meaningless? Am I wasting precious time on the menial and not investing enough time in things of eternal significance? Is it normal to run out of the house before you go to bed and dig up a stray dandelion that pops up out of nowhere? Well, a certain amount of pride might be all right because it is a reflection of being responsible but I believe it could be carried too far. Pride in a good way could be used as a way to reach people because they respect the dedication of order. For example, people will respond with more respect toward someone that is wearing a business suit than someone that looks like they have been living under a bridge. This may not be the right thing to do but those who have daughters must admit that first impressions have a strong impact. All of us are vulnerable to first impressions because most of the time we judge according to what we hear and see. On the other hand, pride can be a bad thing, if our motive of being orderly is to give the impression that we deserve to be praised. What if we prayed and talked to God while we pulled weeds, then we could use our neatness as an invitation for divine appointments. Maybe this is an example of how important it is to have constant communion with God no matter what we are doing. It would seem this is the idea of walking in His Spirit, being ready to respond to His voice at work, at the store, driving, pumping gas (or pulling weeds). All of this may sound silly and actually boring to some people but allow me to go a little deeper into trying to realize what is really important in this life and why we think and act the way we do.

I remember an elderly couple a few years ago that lived down the street and how the man was so meticulous with his lawn. He was constantly working on it and I presume he was retired and enjoyed working around his home as a hobby. One day we learned through some other neighbors that he had died suddenly. His wife could not maintain the yard and hired a yard service to do the work but it could not be compared to how her husband could do it. I thought about all the things that he might be remembered for, as I did not know him personally but I could definitely testify that he kept a beautiful yard. It seems we sum people up by what they “do” or have “done” (good or bad) instead of who they are many times. I was at a funeral the other day and it was said the deceased, “really knew how to enjoy life”. Stop and think for a moment about the people you know and how you would comment about them if they were to pass away today. Let’s go a step further; what do you think people would say about you if you were to pass away? It is strange but true that we can remember very easily the negative things, the failures, shortcomings, bad character traits, the nasty attitudes, temper tantrums, the times when others were insensitive and wrong and all their mistakes. Why? Because this is the how the human brain is wired! We need more forgiveness, compassion and understanding instead of holding on to negative resentment and unforgiving attitudes. Carnality means “flesh” and there is never any good that can come out of it because it pertains to not only how others remember what we do or say but also how we perceive and discern others. Selah. The carnal mind stores memories and has its own built-in justice system that sorts out all the evidence and packages it up with judgments and conclusions. This system does exist in all of us and even when we become Christians, we must remember that this way of thinking is NOT a “renewed” mind. We can be spiritually saved and still operate under the old system for a while but eventually the Lord will convict us until we submit under the pressure from the Holy Spirit or we will become hardened with the sin of resisting His discipline and rebelling against His will. Walking in His Spirit is realizing that people are heavy laden with sin and are very weak to fight against it. Having His mind is seeing people with His sorrow and having a burden for them to be set free from the bondage of deception. How can we be strong in the Lord and help others if we also become bogged down with sin and discouragement? It is a dangerous place to become so spiritually dry like the young plants that bake and die in the sun as is told in the parable of the sower and the seed. Selah. Let us go further as we continue to search for the reasons we are the way we are. Do you really desire to know the truth about yourself or do you believe that all is well? Self-exams are like taking a flashlight into the basement to see what is causing those strange noises. It is not uncommon with humans to avoid these “investigations” and just turn the television up louder.

I have always had a good relationship with my Mother-in-law as we had the love of the gospel in common. She lived on her own, was relatively independent, and was constantly reading the Bible and watching religious television broadcasting. She had an aggressive personality and at times was difficult to get along with but overall, is a good person and well liked. This spring she had a stroke out of the clear blue and it has left her a “shell” of who she was. We read stories about those who have suffered devastating problems and we probably know someone that has or is facing a serious storm in their life. We feel helpless because we do not know what to do except pray and help with the practical things that need attention. I do not mean to sound negative but if you have ever known a person that has had a stroke you realize very soon that unless God performs a literal miracle like the ones Jesus did in the New Testament, this person is going to face a very serious uphill battle to just survive – let alone recover. Mary had a beautiful home and it was filled with the treasures she had collected and loved. She loved her independence, had an awesome green thumb with gardens and flowers and was an incredible cook. She is now paralyzed on one side, which has left her unable to walk, go to the bathroom, take a shower on her own etc… She also has trouble with her speech and it is apparent she has trouble thinking clearly. She also experienced some unexpected problems as for example, the tendons in one leg began to draw and pull her toe and foot muscles backward involuntarily which brings excruciating pain. After a while it was obvious that she was not going to be able to live independently again (unless she received the miracle) and plans were made to sell her house and all the contents so that funds could be available to pay for her medical expenses. A lifetime of memories, treasures, keepsakes and experiences all gone in a matter of weeks. I realize this is not uncommon but it does not lessen the sadness. Now she is in a nursing home and shares a small room with another elderly woman. I admit – I am an emotional person and I definitely prefer happy endings rather than sad ones but as we have heard many times – life is what you make it and being happy is a choice. Is she discouraged? Of course, any of us would be, but she had a good life and was blessed in many ways. There are many reasons why things happen. She had faith but was ambushed by the unexpected. What if there is a major crisis in our future, how will we react? I speak positive confessions and I pray for the positive but have I learned when to be content in God’s will and when to fight against the devil – and how to know the difference? Maintaining Christ in our heart is the most important thing whether we are lost at sea, in prison, bankrupt or in the hospital. I am simply trying to learn more about whom God is and what He wants to do in us. Have you ever been involved with an overwhelming situation and struggled with trying to win the victory over it? There may be libraries of textbooks about how to deal with problems but there is a difference between just watching a war and actually being in a war. A crucial part of abandonment is learning that we are not fighting our OWN war. Christians are called to lay down their old carnal plans and embrace a new set of spiritual blueprints. We are abandoning our old ship and boarding His glorious vessel! He bought us and is living in us for the purpose of doing HIS will through us. All glory to God.

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