In February, when it became clear that we would be moving out of rural America, where a monthly mortgage payment on a 2,400sf house was right at $1,000, into one of the most expensive urban areas in the country, where you can't even find a tiny, one bedroom apartment in a bad neighborhood with rent at that price, we had to adjust our thinking. What had been unacceptable to us for the previous 13 years (aka: the thought of apartment life), shifted to becoming highly desirable as we began to get an idea of what it would cost to live in the DC metro area. An hour long commute to and from work, would have been completely unthinkable in any other context and yet here, shockingly, it doesn't seem so bad because it would save thousands of dollars each year. Our perspective had to be altered to suit our new reality.
It was funny to me today to hear myself tell Jason how much I was loving apartment life. I love it because the apartment is small so it is easy to clean. I love that we have absolutely ZERO responsibility for keeping up a yard or maintaining the exterior of our dwelling. I love that we don't accumulate too much "stuff" because there is just no where to put it. I love that it is easy to heat and cool. I love that we have free access to a swimming pool (that we don't have to maintain) and a fitness center. I'm just altogether completely pleased with something I DID NOT WANT in the first place. Go figure.
When Jason and I got married almost 15 years ago, we lived in an apartment for two years. We hated it. We complained about it. We desperately wanted a house, where our neighbors weren't so close and where we would have more space. We then rented two different houses for 3 years total and we complained about each because, although each had their merits, neither was "our own place." We then bought our first house and the excitement quickly wore off and we complained about all the things that needed to be done to fix the place up and make it more modern and more "us." After three years, and a lot of home improvement projects, we moved across the country and bought a bigger, nicer house and thought we had arrived. Turns out, bigger, nicer houses take bigger wads of cash to maintain. They can also be harder to sell, and when it was time to move on from there, it took two and a half years to find someone who wanted to buy our bigger, nicer house. Boy did we complain about that! In the meantime we came to know the joy and heartache of renting OLDER homes (80-100+ years old). Everyone who visited us raved about "the character" and "the potential," while we put off saving for Tim's college education in order to pay the astronomical heating bills for those old houses and , you guessed it, we complained.
So here we are living in an apartment - back to square one - and paying more for it each month than we ever dreamed of paying for housing in our lifetime, and we are happy. It is up to us now, to catch a clue and stay that way, and stop complaining. Obviously, each living arrangement has its ups and downs - but at the end of the day, it is a roof over our heads and a place to sleep, prepare and eat meals, and be a family. It could be better and it could be worse.
Someone posted this quote on Facebook today: "That thing you are taking for granted is the very thing someone else is praying for." I'm taking two lessons from that today:
1. Habitual complaining is lame. It shows utter disrespect for those who are going without and a lack of trust in the One who directs our paths. May I learn contentment and joy in the here and now, whatever and wherever that may be.
2. I should always examine why I am praying for the things that I am praying for. Bigger, better, cheaper and easier aren't the goals of life. If I am praying for something that someone else is taking for granted... maybe it is because they are self-centered... but maybe it is because it isn't really worth praying for to begin with.
"This then is how you should pray:
‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one."
Amen. Have I told you how much I love our little apartment?
Happy Independence Day! We Ritzes are getting ready to do what many other Americans are anticipating today as well - spending time with friends, enjoying hamburgers and hot dogs from the grill, making homemade ice cream, playing games, relaxing and hopefully taking in some fireworks later this evening. This morning as I think about what this day means to our country, I am also pausing to think about the the idea of independence, and how truly illusive it is.
It seems that, as individuals, just as we declare our independence from one person, idea, season of life, pattern of behavior, or situation - another area of dependence is revealed. We cannot escape it. Our country has not been able to escape it either. Dependency is a lifelong lesson-learning opportunity. Figuring out what we are dependent on, deciding if it is a healthy dependency, and if the extent of the dependency is appropriate and then adjusting relationships and behaviors as needed to bring balance. We do this over and over and over again throughout our lifetime.
We seek this balance in each of our relationships, in our work life, in our financial planning, in our decision making, and in our spiritual life. When we become overly dependent or overly independent in any area, things start to breakdown and we begin to suffer and, as much as we don't want to admit it, those closest to us suffer as well.
I once heard this quote: "The only entity that can completely control your life without ultimately destroying it is God." He is the only One we can ultimately be wholly and completely dependent on without negative consequences. Jesus himself said in John 15:5 NIV, "I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit. Apart from Me, you can do nothing." YOU CAN DO NOTHING apart from Him. If that isn't a call to acknowledging complete dependency on God and God alone, then I don't know what is. When anything else in our lives, other than God, demands this kind of dependency we get very uncomfortable very quickly, and if/when we become this dependent on anything other than God things fall apart just as quickly.
On this Independence Day, as we celebrate the blessings of life and freedom in the United States, let us also consider the reality of our own dependency on God and ask ourselves a few penetrating questions to see if we are experiencing the most life and freedom in Christ possible:
1. What one thing or person in my life do I feel like I truly cannot live without? Why? Do I really have any control over whether or not this thing/person remains in my life?
2. What good thing am I doing in my life right now that I would likely stop doing if I didn't have the support I currently have? How did I become dependent on this support in order to do the right thing?
3. Who am I allowing to depend on me inappropriately and how? Why have I allowed this? How can I stop this for that person's benefit?
4. How am I demonstrating the reality of my dependency on God on a daily basis? Can any one else in my life tell that I acknowledge this dependence? What is one change I can make today to release my dependency on people/things and embrace my dependency on God?
Today in my personal time of Bible study, I was compelled to write down all of the ways that I can find that God tells us in scripture that the Holy Spirit is (or should be) active in the lives of Believers. I tend to focus on one or two of His qualities and neglect others, but this is not the way I want to live and it is not the way I was designed to live. The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit is God Himself, present and active, enabling believers to do whatever God asks of us. Here is what I've uncovered so far:
- The Holy Spirit lets us know what God's will is for us. "But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come." John 16:13 NIV
- The Holy Spirit guides us into all Truth, teaching us Truth and reminding us of Truth. "But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." John 14:26 NIV "He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you." John 16:45-15 NIV
- The Holy Spirit helps us when we pray. "In the same way the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will." Romans 8:26-28 NIV "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. Ephesians 6:18 NIV
- The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God in our lives like a sword. "Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God." Ephesians 6:17 NIV "For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow, it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." Hebrews 4:12 NIV
- The Holy Spirit's presence in our lives is reassurance of our salvation. "Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 NIV
- He gives us the ability to understand spiritual things and to live counter-culturally when necessary. "We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment: 'For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?' But we have the mind of Christ." 1 Corinthians 2:12-16 NIV
- The Holy Spirit gives us the ability to say no to our natural sinful tendencies. "So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law." Galatians 5:16-18
- The Holy Spirit produces Christ-like qualities in our lives. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23 NIV
I want to know God's will for my life!
I want to know what is True and be reminded of it when I forget!
I want help to pray when I don't know how to pray!
I want the Word of God to make a difference in my life and help me discern my true motivations!
I want to have assurance of my salvation!
I want to understand spiritual things and have what it takes to live out my convictions even when it is hard!
I want to be able to reject the sinful tendencies in my life!
I want my life to be full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control!
Apparently what I really want is to embrace the reality of the Holy Spirit of God living within me! "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." Galatians 5:25 NIV
I am not tempted by course talk, generally not one to gossip (or when I do, I am almost immediately convicted), seldom utter hateful words, and am not given to slander. On any given day, I choose my words carefully. When I read scripture about taming the tongue, I often see those verses as good reminders, but not something I particularly need to dwell on. I'm a careful, cautious girl... rarely fly off the handle... those verses are for other people, right?
Recently, God has shown me that these verses are indeed for me. Here are some of the things I'm learning, and they all center around allowing the Holy Spirit to be the prompter for when to speak and when not to:
1. Just because you have an answer, doesn't mean you need to give it. This brings to mind Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter books. She was always the first to have her hand up and always had the right answer, much to her classmates chagrin. I am no longer a formal student, but I can certainly find myself spouting off "the right answer," in other contexts without thinking first or paying attention to those around me. Sometimes the process of arriving at the "right answer" is just as important as the answer itself. Everyone having a voice and a chance to process things at their own pace, these things have value.
James 1:26 "If you claim to be religious but don't control your tongue, you are fooling yourself and your religion is worthless." NLT
2. Just because you are thinking about something and it is weighing heavily on your mind doesn't meant that now is the time to share it. I am a thinker. I can get very wrapped up in my own head and at times get to a point where I feel like I have to express everything I am thinking. Why? To have my thoughts validated or nullified by others? Because I've grown impressed with my own thinking and need to be affirmed for my genius? Because surely if an idea is consuming my thoughts it must be important to others as well? There is a time and a place for every word to be uttered. When I share a thought with someone just because I feel a need to get it out of my brain and hear myself say it out loud, without first considering who my audience is and whether or not it is really time to share that thought... I get in trouble. I either share with the wrong person, or share at the wrong time and end up having to eat my words.
Proverbs 21:23 "He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles." NASB
3. If there are not thoughts/words that are just between you and God, how close of a relationship do you really have with Him? One of the things that is so precious about my relationship with my husband is that there are words, thoughts and ideas that we have shared with each other that we haven't shared with anyone else on the planet. This makes our relationship special and develops trust and intimacy. Think of your best friend when you were a child and how you shared things with her/him that you didn't tell anyone else, and how that strengthened your bond. Some things need to remain between us and God - not to be secretive, but to build relationship, trust and intimacy with Him. I love the movie, Miracle on 34th Street (the newer version in particular). There is a scene where little Susan is struggling with whether or not to believe in Santa Claus and her mother suggests to her that she ask Mr. Kringle for something that she would never ask her mother for and then if she gets it on Christmas morning, she will know that he really is Santa Claus. If we never trust anything just to God (telling him and asking him about things we don't share with others), we won't have the deep, awe-inspiring pleasure of hearing/seeing him answer us in a personal way that proves who He is and how He feels about us. We'll settle for lesser manifestations, getting to know a God who loves the world but missing out on the God who loves us individually.
Matthew 6:6 - "But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you." NLT