Long time gone…

The things of this world not only clutter up our houses, they clutter up our lives. We put our heads down and push through the chaos, only to raise our eyes and think, “Sunday again?”

The problem comes when we keep doing that; when Sunday comes over and over, and we’ve just been reliving the same days in our cluttered, driven lives.

I can’t do it any more. The time has come for me to stop…to take action.

No one else can change me.

I can’t blame anyone else for my failure to act.

I can’t wait for someone to push me to action.

To that end, I am initiating the great-clutter-bust-up at my house. I’m following the advice of a recent Kindle read,

Declutter Your Life: Reduce Stress, Increase Productivity, and Enjoy Your Clutter-Free Life

by Michelle Stewart. In this book, she advises a series of measures to help you declutter permanently. What I took away from this book was

1) take lots of pictures – document your journey. Too often we become discouraged because we can’t see just how far we’ve come

2) limit your activity – keep decluttering to just 15 minutes per day. Don’t get burned out because you spent all of your energy all at once and can’t bear to face it again

3) be consistent – one 15-minute decluttering session doesn’t do much good. A week’s worth, or a month’s worth, or a year’s worth? we’ll see

4) celebrate your successes – look back at those pictures and congratulate yourself on reaching a goal. Don’t wallow in it, though…use that success to push you toward the next goal

I’m a little scared. I like doing things for myself privately, so no one knows. This, I’m putting out there. I want to be accountable. I want people to email me, or Facebook me, and say, how’s the decluttering going? Show me the pictures, baby! I want that lurking in the back of my mind, so that I will follow through.

Most of all, I want to stop all of my running. I’ve been running for a while now…in the wrong direction. I’ve been living the same week over and over again.

No more.

I’m taking each day as a gift.

The gift of time, to teach my son, not just to argue over his reluctance to do his schoolwork.

The gift of love, and of friendship, to nurture my soul.

The gift of my body, with all of its quirks and problems. It is what God has given me. I will thank Him for His gift every day, and ask Him to help me grow to love it.

The gift of God’s love, mercy, and provision for a whole 24 hours.

In this new appreciation of the gifts of each day, I’ll be initiating the 15-minute-clutter-buster. I will dedicate the first 15 minutes of each day (post-coffee, let’s be realistic here) to reducing the stuff that has so easily beset me.

This is going to be hard for me. I become distracted easily. I forget what it is I am trying to accomplish.

I need you. Will you help me?

Our journey begins

This is our mutiny against the consumerist mindset. This is our declaration to the world that we will no longer fall into the trap of painful overscheduling. We will no longer be slaves to the clutter than drains us of energy, of happiness, of serenity, of peace. We will instead draw closer to God and allow His presence to fill us and fulfill us, instead of seeking substitutes in stuff.

We begin with STRESS.

Elimination of stress is a key component to reducing consumerism, because many of us overconsume because of it. Stress caused by overscheduling causes us to buy unhealthy fast food instead of cooking healthful, less expensive meals at home. Stress caused by family conflict causes us to turn to spending for comfort, whether we are buying chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, new home decor items, new clothing, or any other “stuff.” 

The first way we can eliminate stress from our lives is to reduce our commitments. For this month, I will say “no” to just one thing per week that I ordinarily would say “yes” to. I will make a conscious effort to refrain from filling this empty space with more commitments and do my best to simply be during the time I saved. 

Our overall method of reducing stress is to draw closer to God. The best way to do this is by talking to Him, so we are, for the next 26 days, praying the Hours. This is a time-honored tradition among Roman Catholics, especially those in convents or monasteries. The inspiration for praying the Hours is much older, though. King David, in his acrostic Psalm 119, said

Seven times a day I praise You,

Because of Your righteous ordinances.

In keeping with the Hours, this is how we will pray this month. Every day at Midnight, 7 a.m., 10 a.m., noon, 3 p.m., 6 p.m., and 9 p.m. (or thereabouts) we will offer prayers for a specific purpose.

Hour 1 is the Night Watch. Traditionally known as Matins or Vigils and observed at midnight, the Night Watch is a time of intercessory prayer. Suggestions for this hour: define specific situations in which you would like to see God’s intervention. Keep track of these in a prayer journal, along with the specific ways in which you have asked God to intervene. Record evidence of His grace and intervention. Other themes for the Night Watch are vigilance, deep listening, silence, surrender, and trust.

Hour 2 is the Awakening Hour. Traditionally known as lauds (a Latin word meaning “greeting”), and celebrated at dawn, the Awakening Hour is a time for praise and waiting for the new day. The central theme of the Awakening Hour is thankfulness for the Resurrection and the renewal we have through it. The other main theme of the Awakening Hour is delight in the new day.

Hours 3, 4, and 5 in the traditional Hours are the “Little Hours.” because they cover shorter periods of time and are in the heart of the workday. Hour 3 is the Blessing Hour, traditionally called Terce (for 3). The theme of the Blessing Hour is receiving the Spirit’s gift and remembering the noble nature of our work. Midmorning is when we pause to thank Him for breath, for His blessings, and to ask Him for strength and courage as we face our days.

Hour 4 is Sext, literally the 6th hour of light – noon. This is the Hour of Illumination. In this prayer we focus on the light of Heaven shining light on our lives, giving us courage, recommitment, and passion. We can reflect on God’s faithfulness to us, on His healing, and His truth. We ask Him for the peace only He can give.

Hour 5 is Nonce, the 9th hour. This midafternoon break is the Wisdom Hour and is an opportunity to reflect on imperfection, aging, death, and transition. The other themes for the Wisdom Hour are steadfastness, surrender, and forgiveness. This is a time to understand the impermanence of life and the permanence of God. We ask for His wisdom in our outlook.

Hour 6 is the Twilight Hour, traditionally called Vespers or Evensong. This is the time of transition from busyness to quietness. This is a time to reflect on the day…to be grateful for its gifts. Other themes for the Twilight Hour are praise, serenity, and the significance of the lighting of the lamps (in other words, how, just as we light our houses to see as darkness falls, God lights our path in the darkness of the world). 

Hour 7 is the Great Silence, or Compline. This is the time to be silent. It’s the time to prepare for rest and sleep, the time to trust God to carry you safe through the night (protection) and the time to share with Him your personal sorrow. Compline means completeness, and that is what the Great Silence is about: the conclusion of the day and a time of great intimacy with God.

As we proceed through this month, I will be sharing some of the Scripture and Antiphons I have found to inspire me through this prayer journey. Pray with me, that I will not get caught up in the legalism of feeling that I “must” pray exactly as I’ve laid it out here, but that I will be open to the urging of the Spirit and listen to His still, small voice as He speaks to me.

Cassie

Scripture: Psalm 119:164

All scripture quoted from the New American Standard Bible, (c) 1995 by The Lockman Foundation.

Learning through letting go

For better or worse, I am committed. I am committed to breaking the grip of stuff on my life. I am committed to strengthening my relationships with God, my husband, and my friends. I am committed to God’s promise that “He who began a good work in [me] is able to complete it.”

Jen Hatmaker‘s new book, 7, is the inspiration for this journey we’re about to take. She woke up to the excess in her life, and decided to reduce it in seven ways. We are inspired by her journey, by her struggle, and by the strength of our own convictions that we have to do the same.

To that end, we have chosen to take this path. It is definitely the road less traveled in this world of rampant consumerism. We have committed, to ourselves, our families, each other, and most importantly, to God. We have committed to reduce our dependence on this world for our needs; we will learn to depend on God to supply them.

For my part, I know it is a journey I must take. It is the first step toward the life planned for me by my Creator. I cannot say I am in the center of His will until I can truly say that I am free of the chains of modern life. I won’t lie to you. I’m scared to do this. I’m scared to find out where my idols are. I desperately desire change, but the grip of the familiar is so comfortable. Committing to something this big, this life-changing, and committing to it in such a public way, terrifies me. What if I fail? What if others see me, and I am not what they need to see? Then I remember, “…you are not your ownFor you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body*.” This journey is one I can’t skip. I can’t stay back in the hotel while everyone else plays on the beach. No, this time I have to put myself out there, confident that the One who saved me will be the One who sustains me. 

So join us as we travel this road. Pray for us. Rejoice in our successes and lift us up when we fail. The book of Hebrews exhorts us to do just this: Hebrews 10:23-24 says, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” I Thessalonians 5: 11 tell us, “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.” Galatians 6:2 commands us to, “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” The reason we do this is clearly written in Ecclesiastes 6:9-10a, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion.

It is my heart’s desire to be the vessel of God on this earth. So long as my heart and life are fulfilled by the things of this world, I can’t do this. I need to walk this path. I need you to support me as I do.

In Him,

Cassie

*I Corinthians 6: 19b-20

All scripture quoted from the New American Standard Bible, (c) 1995 by The Lockman Foundation.