Friday, April 29, 2011

April 2011 Prayer Letter

Dear Friends,

The words to my life verse, “The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble;” have never been so dear to me as they were early Monday morning, when a tornado swept through the town where my daughter, Elizabeth, and her husband, Ulises and their two children and I were staying. Not only are we thankful to be alive, but are reassured that God has a work for us to do.

Ulises was able to obtain his visa to the USA, and we’ve been traveling together since February, visiting churches, presenting their ministries. I’m so thankful for the kindness of pastors, both English-speaking and Spanish, who have opened their churches and hearts to them. Beacon Hill Baptist Church gave them a 2001 15-passenger Van, which will be used in their ministry. They return to Chiapas May 2, and have plans to open a new work in Ixtapa, the same little village where Tom and I moved with our three little boys 37 years ago. It is their dream to buy property, and start a church and orphanage there. I never cease to be amazed at their faith in knowing God is going to provide the money for the property, just as He provided the Van. This will be the third church they will have started, since the beginning of their ministry two years ago. During the two months Ulises has been in the States, men who he won to the Lord and trained, have been preaching, knocking doors, carrying on the hospital ministry, and souls have been saved, and new families are attending. I feel like I’m being very objective when I say, “Ulises and Elizabeth Martínez are doing an amazing work, and are worthy of your prayers and support.”

It has been my honor to have spoken in several ladies’ conferences the past few weeks, and also it was my joy to have given my testimony several times upon the pastors’ requests, like in Faith Baptist Church in Illinois, Pastor Terry Anglea, and also in their Spanish church. I had a wonderful time, also, speaking in First Calvary Baptist Church in Sanderson, TX, Pastor Paul Ray; Amistad Baptist Church, Del Rio, TX, pastor Corders; a new experience teaching the ladies of Pastor Esteban Rentería’s bilingual church in New Mexico in Spanish and in English…at the same time! Then on to Albuquerque, where I taught the ladies in New Heights Baptist Church in Spanish. Lord willing, I will be returning there in May for a ladies’ banquet. My journeys have taken me to Kentucky, where I spoke in a two-day conference to the precious ladies of Greater Cumberland Baptist Church, many of those young military wives. It was my joy to have been a guest in the home of Pastor and Mrs. Ken Shaver. It was during the Sunday morning service, where Pastor Shaver presented three flags to three of their military people who were present, that the Lord laid on my heart to invite the military wives who live on the army base in our town in San Cristóbal, to be honored guests at our November 18 Ladies’ Christmas banquet this year.

The drive to the Los Angeles area was a long one, but worth every mile, as I was privileged to speak to over a thousand ladies under a big tent in Pastor Ezekiel Salazar’s annual Latin American ladies’ conference. After a ladies’ banquet April 29, and three more appointments in New Mexico in May, I get to return home to Chiapas, where I left my heart five months ago.

Thank you for your prayers for my daughter in law, Liz. Earlier today my son, Philip, called from her hospital room in Chiapas, to report that she was awake, but weak and pale after her four-hour surgery for the removal of a tumor from her right kidney. Further studies are being made, but they are quite sure it is not malignant, and we’re thankful they did not have to remove her kidney. I admire my son for being brave enough to be present during her surgery.

Life wouldn’t be normal, though, without its tears, and the past few weeks I have shed many. I’m so thankful for my son, David and Jolene, and for their faithfulness to serve the Lord in Ukraine. But part of my heart left with them as we said good bye over the phone on March 15, and they departed NYC for their beloved Ukraine. I miss them and their four precious children, including my newest grandson at that time.

But today, April 14, baby Caleb Philip Miller was born to Steve and Ruthie, bringing the total to 34 grand-treasures for this proud Mimi. This is a furlough baby, and I know he will adapt to life on the mission field when they return to Querétaro in August, just as little Micah is to Ukraine.

More and more tears over the home going of three very, very special people in my life:
Mrs. Colleen Bond, beloved wife of Pastor WN Bond, my husband’s former pastor, went to Heaven Sunday night, April 3, while her husband was preaching. I’m told that when he received the news, he shouted from the pulpit, “Praise the Lord! She’s not suffering any more!” But I know the grief is there, and I share it with you, Bro. Bond.

My precious friend, Mrs. Cheryl Ager, is now home with the Lord, as of last Friday, April 8. She amazed us all when she had a liver transplant several years ago. It was my joy to have spent a Sunday afternoon with her in December, 2010, and she assured me that she was ready to go Home whenever the Lord wanted to take her.

Pastor Mark Gondran, who pastored Temple Baptist Church in New Iberia, LA isn’t suffering any more from cancer. He went to Heaven yesterday evening. “We’ll miss you, Pastor, and our prayers are with your beloved Sherena, Casey and Callen, and the faithful people you loved and pastored.”

May the Lord find me faithful, as my three precious friends who are in Heaven today.

Your friend,
Mrs. Billie Sloan
Nahum 1:7

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My Newest Grand"Treasure"

Caleb Philip Miller

Born to Steve and Ruth Miller

Thursday, April 14 at 2:45 PM
7 pounds, 19 1/2 inches long

To see more pictures of my newest grand"treasure," go here!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Jason and Sarah's beautiful children

Sarah, my oldest daughter, and her husband Jason serve the Lord in Vera Cruz, Mexico. These are their children: Aren't they beautiful?!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Between You and Me... Rebellion (Part 5)

“…for Esther did the commandment of Mordecai, like as when she was brought up with him.” Esther 2:20
Esther became the queen of Persia. Hers is a well-known story. She’s a heroine of the Jewish people even today, because she saved the lives of thousands of Jews in her day. Every year the Jews read the book of Esther.
But there’s a seldom-mentioned virtue that Esther possessed that we can use as an example for our lives. It wasn’t her bravery; it wasn’t her beauty or the way she conducted herself among the other palace damsels that won their love and confidence. At least for me, her most noble virtue was her submission. The Bible says, she “did the commandment of Mordecai, like as when she was brought up with him.” This suggests that she was accustomed to obeying her cousin, Mordecai. So when he sent for her to do something that would ultimately help her people, although perhaps she didn’t understand why, since she was accustomed to obeying him, she did it.
She could have thought, “Who does my cousin think he is, anyway? I’m not a little girl any more like I was when he raised me. I’m the queen of Persia. The king is the only one who can tell me what to do, and if I have my way, one of these days he’ll obey me.” How different this story would be if she would have had that attitude.
The word “submission” comes from the verb “to submit.” The Bible uses that word in Ephesians 5:22: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands,…”
Let me give you my own definition: “To give your will to someone else; to give the reins to someone else; to surrender.”
God has a perfect order in His plan for the home:
1. Christ
2. Husband
3. Wife
4. Children
When a family lives according to this order, everything is fine. This is the way they live:
1. Husband submits to Christ
2. Wife submits to husband
3. Children submit to parents
It’s when one member of the family changes that order that there are problems; divorce, rebellious children…
If the husband doesn’t submit himself to Christ, there is disorder in the home. Or the husband may follow the Lord completely, but if his wife rebels against the husband, not only is she rebelling against her husband, but she also lives in rebellion toward God. It may be that the parents are submitted to the Lord, and the wife is in subjection to her husband, but if the children are not in subjection to the parents, they are living in rebellion toward God as well as toward their parents.
Needless to say, there is total chaos in a home where all members of the family live in rebellion against their authority.
I believe with all my heart that even though the husband and father is not in submission to God, and even though the children are living in rebellion, if only one member of the family…the wife…will submit herself to her authority…her husband…there is hope for that home…for that marriage.
Jesus Himself gave up His own will to God: “Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.” Ephesians 5:2
Up until here, we’re all in agreement, because I’ve showed you this plan from the Bible.
But the Bible also says, “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” Eph. 5:21
I don’t have a husband. The Bible doesn’t give instructions to widows or single ladies concerning submission. But it’s my opinion that every female should have a male authority in her life. By nature we women are followers. Woman is follower…Man is leader, whether it be in the home, in the church, or in the nation. God has put man in positions of leadership.
Now, I agree that there are women to whom God has given the talent of organizing, planning, and leading. But my personal conviction is that she should develop that gift starting in her home with her children, because according to God’s order, she is their authority.
Also in the church, a lot of times we see ladies with organizational talents, and who are great to motivate others to use their talents. But this gift of leading should be with ladies, single ladies, and with children, not with men, or even young teenage men.
I would like to say something on behalf of pastors’ wives: many times we see her as “co-pastor.” In other words, we expect her to do things that we would never expect of another lady in the church. “She should teach, organize, direct, and plan. She should be the director of Vacation Bible School, and organize picnics for the Christian School. She should counsel young ladies, and sing in the choir, etc., etc., etc.” Hey, where does it say that in the Bible? The only plan for your pastor’s wife is the same plan that God puts in His Word for you…to be wife and mother, and everything involved in being wife and mother. The only time the pastor’s wife should be involved in the activities of the church is when her husband asks her to.
But back to our lesson: every woman should have an authority, a man in her life who…excuse the profanity…commands her.
So, should a 67 year-old widow be under the authority of a man? Yes.
Should a 67 year-old widow follow the command of a man? Yes.
“Oh, sure, that’s easy for you to say, because you don’t have a husband. You can come and go as you like. You can shop and eat out when you feel like it. You can get up as late as you like.” If you only knew…
…Sometimes my daughters ask me, “Mom, would you ever re-marry?” And my answer is: “Of course not. I don’t want anyone telling me what to do!”
I say that with a smile, because the truth is, I have more “bosses” now that I’m a widow, than I did when my husband was here. I’ll live and die, and never understand a woman who complains about having to submit to her husband. How foolish! How simple your life is, so uncomplicated! Thank the Lord every day for a husband with sufficient character of leadership who will tell you what you should do.
When my husband was alive, my only obligation was to obey him, to please him, and to serve him. Looking back at the order of the home, when I was submissive to him, I was in subjection to the Lord, and everything went smoothly. My children were happier, my husband was happier, and I was happier. Even our ministry progressed when I gave the reins to my husband.
When my husband went to Heaven, that Sunday afternoon, my authority also left. But surprisingly, instead of feeling relieved, instead of a “now I’m the mistress of my time, of my talents, of my money,” quite the contrary…I felt like a little lost lamb. But I thank the Lord that my four sons and my four sons in law took his place. I’m thankful for the direction of my three brothers. My pastor was an enormous blessing. That’s why I’m writing this lesson, that’s why I’ve written a book. Immediately after my authority left, God put men in my path with enough wisdom to guide my steps, to advise me…men who have taken me out of unsure paths, and helped me make decisions, they’ve put my feet on solid ground, and I can be no less than grateful to God for them.
Sometimes I travel with one of my children, and when I do, I have to submit my will to that of the head of the family, whether it is my son or my son in law. I hear you: “I would never obey my son in law.” Well, then don’t expect your daughter to obey him.
“Oh, sure, your sons are pastors, but I would never submit to my son.” Then don’t expect your daughter in law to submit to him. And by the way, don’t expect your grandchildren to submit to their parents, either.
To me, there is nothing more repulsive than an older woman, who thinks she knows everything, and tells everyone what to do. She bosses everyone to do everything she wants them to do, and sends them anywhere she wants them to go. Don’t take advantage of your age. That’s why there are old people in nursing homes. Their children put them there because they’ve bossed them around all their lives. No one they can boss around there.
The devil is very sly in showing us all the negative aspects of submission. But at least for me, there are many positive things to being submissive:
1. Submission provides security and protection. When a woman places herself under the authority of another, she has fewer decisions to make. When she knows there’s a man who is guiding her steps she feels more secure.
2. There’s nothing more feminine than a submissive woman. It shows her vulnerability. But at the same time, it shows her character, not her weakness. Many women fear turning over the reins to a man because it shows a lack of strength. Quite the contrary, it takes more character to submit than to rebel.
3. When a woman submits herself to her authority, she allows God to bless her, her husband, her children, and her ministry. She opens the way for the blessings of God to shower on her marriage and on her home.
4. The opposite of submission is rebellion. Rebellion hinders God from answering prayers. Maybe if God isn’t answering your prayers, it’s because you’re not submitting to your authority. “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,” I Samuel 15:23 I would never want anyone to call me a witch, but I classify myself when I’m rebellious.
5. Submission brings peace and joy, and good health. Many women suffer physical problems, as well as emotional problems because they live in rebellion.
6. Just as in Esther’s life, submission is for your good, and for the good of others.
Give the reins to your husband, if you’re married. If you’re a widow, or single, submit your will to those who represent your authority.
Whatever your role in life, submit yourself to Christ, Who “hath given himself for us.”

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Between You and Me... Fear! (Part 4)

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear:” I John 4:18

Before my husband went to Heaven six years and three months ago, I longed for there to be nothing between him and me. Now that I’m a widow, I’ve discovered some new goals for the relationships he left me with. I want nothing to stand between the Lord and me. I find myself constantly striving to “keep the way clear.”
In a marriage relationship, however, sometimes the problem doesn’t lie only with one partner. Sometimes both husband and wife cause divisions, and spaces between the two of them. Once I became a widow, I realized that concerning my relationship with others, most of the time I was to blame for conflicts between myself and others.
Not so with the Lord: if there’s ever anything hindering our closeness, it lies 100% on my side. That’s what my life is all about: being aware of things that hinder that closeness that I desire with the Lord, and finding out how to remove them.
When I prepare my lessons, I always try to analyze my life, and find out why I’m not perfectly content and happy. Usually at the root of all my anxieties lies that little enemy called fear.
I tried to list all the things that have made me fearful these past few weeks, and I came up with this. I have feared:
1. Not being able to complete deadlines
2. Not being able to e-mail
3. A serious illness in the spouse of one of my children.
4. Everything involved with the birth of my grandson.
5. Driving in the dark during a tornado.
6. My children having to travel on through a snow storm.
7. My having to drive through the aftermath of a snow storm.
8. The miscarriage of my daughter.
9. My children’s travels near the Mexican-American borders, and in other war-torn parts of the world.
10. Having to drive through a dark neighborhood to an empty house.
And that’s not even half of the list.
I’ve come up with this discovery: Fear leads to worry. Worry leads to doubt. Doubt leads to indecision. Indecision leads to confusion. Confusion leads to insecurity. Insecurity leads to complaining. Complaining affects others, and harms my influence and testimony. But most of all, it shows my lack of confidence in the Lord, and therefore harms our relationship.
Every mother has experienced fears involving her child. Fear even before his birth, that something could go wrong during delivery; fear that he may not be responding to certain stimuli; fear he isn’t gaining weight; fear he’s overweight; fear he won’t pass his finals; fear of choosing the wrong spouse…and on and on it goes.
I may not have the perfect solution for your fears, but I believe with the help of the Bible, we can lay down a few principles.
1. Tell it to Jesus. When you’re afraid, talk with the Lord, and tell Him openly how you feel. I don’t have a husband to talk to, and because of that I find myself talking to the Lord. I tell Him all my negative feelings. I tell Him when I’m sad and lonely. I tell Him when I’m upset. I tell Him when I’m confused. And I tell Him my fears and my anxieties.
2. Cast your care on Him. Unless you give Him those fears, and those anxieties, no amount of talking with Him will help. I don’t seem to have much trouble talking with the Lord. But “casting” is a lot harder than “talking.” “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” I Peter 5:7
3. Keep a happy heart. There’s a verse I read this morning in Proverbs 15:13: “A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance:” and then in chapter 17:22: “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” You may not be able to change the circumstances that cause your fears, but did you know you can keep a happy heart? I remember many years ago, my father was in Houston undergoing the agony of chemotherapy. I know he was suffering, and sick. But I rarely walked into his room that he wasn’t laughing, and making those around him laugh. I treasure many hilarious stories that mother told me of things he did when I wasn’t there. And I often wondered how many people ever laughed on that particular floor of the hospital. I’m convinced that his “merry heart” kept him around longer than he was expected to live. And I never once remember his being afraid. Did you know it’s hard to be afraid, and have happy thoughts at the same time? If you will keep a positive attitude, it will help you to overcome your fears. Several years ago, I flew to Ukraine. During my visit there, I made a trip to another country with my son, David. We had to stay in a hotel in Istanbul on our way over. As we drove through the dark streets around midnight, fear gripped my heart. I tried turning my thoughts to the happy special time I would have with my son once we reached our destination, and that was such a soothing feeling. And although we were in dangerous places during that time, which bring fear to my heart, even as I write, I will treasure forever the memories mother and son made together which will provide a lifetime of happiness for me.
4. Keep a sound mind. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” II Timothy 1:7 That verse alone should bring us the assurance that the devil brings fear. When we fear, we don’t think straight, and we tend to make wrong decisions. God’s ways always bring peace, and clarity of thoughts.
5. Fear is a fact of life. That’s why the Psalmist wrote, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” (Psalm 56:3) You’re not the only one who has ever been afraid. When David wrote these words, he had either once been afraid, or he knew he would one day be afraid of something.
6. Fear is fine…sometimes. If I’m afraid of having a heart attach, I’ll lose weight. If I’m afraid of contracting cancer, I’ll have my yearly checkups, and watch my diet. If I’m afraid of losing my child to drugs, I’ll train him up right, and surround him with positive influences. If I’m afraid of divorce, I’ll keep my thoughts and my heart clean and pure. If I were afraid of going to hell, I’d accept Jesus as my Savior.
But I already have, and no matter what rational fears I may have, no matter what awaits me in this life that now causes me to fear, I know that someday I’m going to Heaven.
So maybe some of the things I fear will one day come to pass. But the comforting thought that “none of these things” can move me, is the one thing that brings me peace and joy, and calms my fears.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Chapter 9 - "Did I Miss It?"

(I wrote this chapter several weeks ago, and even as I sit here, David and Jolene are at the airport in a distant city. In one hour and 15 minutes, they will be flying back to their field of service. I dedicate this to them, and to all the David’s and their moms.)

I watched carefully the Van ahead of me, because David, my son was driving. He and his family were en route to the airport, from where he would be flying abroad in a few hours. As I drove along, tears filled my eyes: I would soon be separated from my son, not only for the next ten days, but from him, Jolene, and my four grandchildren, as they would soon be returning to their mission field. Two years will then separate us.
And I wondered…did I miss it? Did I miss the fun times we’ve had together? Did I miss your smile, and the way you walk, and the look in your eyes as you hold your newborn son?
Am I too busy with my own thoughts of how I’m going to meet deadlines, and make reservations, to notice how smart you are? Will I look back and wonder what was the punch line of the joke you told me Thursday?
Did I miss the meaning of your coming into my room before daylight every morning while I was reading my Bible, like you did when you were a little boy? Or will I remember my mind wandering to the list of things to do while you were sharing your plans of the day with me?
Did I miss it? Did I miss your grin when I sped out of the hotel parking lot, when I was supposed to be following you? And your call, “Mom, we’re still at the hotel.” Did I miss the humor of the moment, or being annoyed because I messed up our travel plans? The joy of the moment is what I have learned to be thankful for.
The joy of knowing you’re on your way to a challenging adventure…not the worrying about your safety and protection. I’ll cast that on the Lord, and just think of your desire to serve Him.
I’ll bask in the joy of knowing the supreme sacrifice you’re making to be away from your family. I’ll feel, at the same time, pride and peace.
I won’t miss it any more, from this day forward. I’ll put aside my fears, and my doubts, and my computer, and my phone, and learn to bask in the sunshine, and feel the coziness of being snowed in.
I’ll not complain about things like electronics, and delayed flights, and missed appointments. I’ll condition myself to just enjoy leisurely long afternoon naps, and dessert and coffee, and noisy grandbabies.
I won’t miss it anymore. Who cares that I never get online ever again, if I can keep the lines of communication open between you and me. I’ll not miss the honor of being your mother, and the peace of knowing that you can share your burdens as well as your plans for the future. I’ll not miss that anymore.
It may be too late to bring back lost joys. It may be too long to remember the story you told me while I was concentrating on my shopping list.
But there’s today. And this evening when you call me to tell me, “Mom, I’m fixing to board my plane,” I’ll take off my glasses so I can see your face across the miles, and imagine your smile and your excitement as you once again embark on another adventure, serving the Lord.
I don’t know what the future holds. But I want to share the dream you’re dreaming now, of souls you’re dreaming will be saved.
I’ll miss you these next few days, and after that the next two years.
But I won’t ever again miss the moments we share, and I’ll read over and over your e-mails, and your articles, and I’ll hold on to your words.
Your little-boy-days are gone, and I wonder, “Did I miss it? Your jeans got washed, but did I notice the domino-stacks of old cassette tapes you’d line up around the legs of the dining table, down the hall, and then topple the first one over to watch them fall for miles in your imagination?
Like the toppling tapes, that’s how swiftly those little-boy years have gone by. You don’t dream about toy cars any more. Your dreams hold a more significant meaning: the destiny of souls.
So although I’ll miss you, and Jolene, and the babies, I’ll not miss remembering all the precious memories we’ve made together these past four months, and those that are still in the making.
I miss you and love you more than life.
Mom, Nahum 1:7

Monday, April 4, 2011

February 2011 Prayer Letter

Written in February, but just now being posted by Jolene, who gave birth to her 4th baby January 26th and is, only now, catching up with her to do list!
Dear Friends of México,
How exciting to look outside my window, and see snow! It reminds me of two things: my sins, which are forgiven, and how far away I am from the warmer climate of my beloved home in Chiapas.
As I sit here, I have burdens: the spouse of one of my children, who has been in for a biopsy this morning, possibly has cancer. Another is traveling on dangerous freeways after an ice storm last night. A daughter is recuperating from the sorrow of a miscarriage, and loss of a much-prayed-for baby. But the joy outweighs the burden, as I rest content in knowing that all three of these families are serving the Lord exactly where they should be. What a joy to hear another son last night on the phone, “Mom, we’re exactly in the center of God’s will.” There truly is “no greater joy.”
In case you haven’t heard, I’m proud to announce the arrival of little Micah James Sloan, born to David and Jolene on Wednesday, January 26. Although he only weighed 6 pounds, he’s healthy and as perfect as any little sinner can be. As I watched this little one come into the world, I prayed that one day we would also be celebrating his 2nd birth, like we did for three of my grandchildren during the past two months: Gaby, Andrew, and Sophie.
Although I have left my ladies’ ministries in Chiapas for a few months, they continue thriving through the faithful ministry of my daughter in law, Liz. I am getting very wonderful reports from home about the things the ladies are learning, not only through her teaching of the book of James, but also from the very practical applications she is having them carry out. Last week she held our monthly ladies’ prayer breakfast, and she had a record attendance of thirty. Eight widows were honored, including a former mayor’s daughter whose father served during the ‘40’s.
Well, this is a prayer letter, so I ask your prayers for my safety during the next few months, as I travel to Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, and California, speaking to ladies’ meetings in different churches, some in Spanish, and others in English. Most of these will be road trips, which I thoroughly enjoy. It gives me time alone with the Lord. Pray also that I will be a blessing to these precious ladies wherever I go. Thank you, Pastors, who have invited me. Thank you, also to my sons who have called pastors for me, and set up the appointments. I want to be a blessing to your ladies.
You certainly are a blessing to me.
Your friend,
Billie Sloan
Nahum 1:7

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Between You and Me / All These Things

Written January 25th, but just now being posted by Jolene, who gave birth to her 4th baby January 26th and is, only now, catching up with her to do list!

“But seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33

There are two occasions in my life when I realize how many things I possess: when I move, and when I travel. There is that tearing-myself-away feeling I have every time I pack for a trip. It’s only when I try closing my suitcase that I realize of “all these things,” something is going to have to stay.
Have you ever thought what you would grab if suddenly your house caught fire, or as in our case, you were to be in an earthquake? If you’re a young mother, your baby would be at the top of your grab list, I’m sure. But what about me? My purse would go with me, and then my Bible, probably in that order, I’m ashamed to say.
In fact, I’ve often wondered what I would do if someone stole my purse, or if I were to leave it in a public restroom. I don’t even want to think of the consequences of my neglect: my passport, my FM3 credential, not to mention drivers’ license, credit cards and debit cards. It’s quite a shocking realization, but who I am is contained in that black leather bag. WOW!
Several months ago, my daughter in law, Liz, and I were flying to Chicago from Mexico City. Just before takeoff, the pilot announced that our flight was being delayed (we had sat for 45 minutes on the runway) due to our over-weight plane. We watched as countless pieces of luggage were being towed back to the terminal from underneath our plane. My heart sank, as I thought I saw my luggage disappear out of sight. I felt lost, like part of me was being torn away.
See, things…all these things…are important to us, whether or not you claim to be a non-materialist. Material things are valuable to us. They help to make up who we are.
Many years ago when I had eight children to travel with, plus my husband, I watched a lady, who looked quite affluent to me, unload a single piece of luggage from the trunk of her car, and check into our hotel. I was ashamed at all the things that made up my security circle for the night…suitcases, overnight bag, ice chest, food boxes, stationery bag, Bible bag, diaper bag, diapers, portable crib, etc. Have you ever seen anyone go into Wal-Mart without a purse? I have, as I toted my oversized one of so many unnecessary things.
So this being still the first of a New Year, I’ve decided to part with the unnecessary, and keep “all those things” which are necessary. But it’s not coming easy, believe me. I’m actually “weaning” myself from them little by little like this:
Papers, which contain important notes I often have to refer to, I’m consolidating into fewer pieces of paper. Then I put them in a place where I won’t see them every day. In a few months, I’ll figure out the ones I haven’t referred to, and discard them…sorta like the “not-responsable-after-30-days” policy.
But let’s face it. There will always be “all these things” that make up our security area, our comfort zone: My Bible. There isn’t another one like it, so to say I’ll leave mine at home, and use another one available at my destination won’t do the trick. My Bible is just one of my “all these things,” like my prayer book, my diary (journal), my glasses, and even a certain perfume.
I believe we can come to terms with the “all these things” in our lives if we live by a simple rule: “If I take care of spiritual things, God will take care of my physical things…food and clothes.”
I’m a very black-and-white kind of person. I need to draw lines, and see things clearly. When I wonder what that could possibly mean, to “seek first the kingdom of God,” I can think of no clearer application, emphasizing the words “first,” and “kingdom of God,” as meaning simply this in language even I can understand: If I will devote the first part of my day to seeking God, reading His Word, spending time in prayer, and at the same time just literally putting to one side all my material concerns which could even include a daughter who is threatening to miscarry, a daughter in law who has a serious health problem, and focusing on God, He will honor my desire to seek Him early.
This is how I practically do this: when something comes to my mind, for example, when I’m reading my Bible, I just write it down on a little note pad, and promise myself to think of it later. In a very literal way, I’m putting this problem, this burden, or even a phone call, or something to purchase, to one side, until first I have sought the Lord, and His righteousness.
Matthew 6: 32-33 mentions the phrase “all these things” twice.
But there’s another “all these things” mentioned in Romans 8:37: “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” All these things: tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, or sword. That pretty well covers it all. We are more than conquerors in all these things.
So while you’re resolving to clean out “all these things” in your closet or desk or kitchen drawers, how about your spiritual clutter? Worry, and negative thoughts, and jealousy, and envy. How about gossip, and a critical spirit, or discouraging words? Toss it out with stress, and depression and complaining.
Resolve with me, that at the beginning of 2012, you can look back over this year, and be on another level of your spiritual walk with the Lord. Let’s upgrade our Christianity, and as we get rid of “all these things” that clutter our closeness with the Lord, He’ll replace them with “all these things” that we have need of.
Have a Happy uncluttered New Year!