Foothold

Elevation is in our genes. Not only do Tim and I find our favorite places at the tops of mountains, but our children are equally obsessed with getting to the top! From the time they could walk, these girls have been climbing anything and everything they can get their hands and feet on.

This spring, our oldest daughter, Ada, joined a youth climbing team at the local rock gym. Two afternoons a week she gets to climb her little heart out, moving from handhold to foothold, foothold to handhold as she ascends an assortment of vertical (and more-than-vertical) walls.

Last week, while watching her attempt a new bouldering (that’s climbing without a harness – but don’t worry, it’s on a shorter wall) route, I noticed her struggling to get to the top. Though she had successfully grasped the handholds above the overhang (yikes!), her body simply wasn’t long enough to gain a foothold within that route that would allow her to reach any higher.

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When we think of climbing, we think mostly of people using their hands to ascend the side of a mountain, but equally as important as the hands are the feet. Finding a ledge or crack that at least a portion of your foot can occupy is necessary, not only to give your tired arms a break, but to give you the leverage you need to boost your body higher.

Though I’m sure this is not the exact meaning of the “foothold” referred to in Ephesians 4:27, I think it still gives us an idea of what Paul was talking about.

Anger is a fundamental human emotion. When someone does something that threatens us or threatens someone we care about, our blood pressure rises and our bodies become tense. Filled with emotion, we are spurred on to fight injustice and protect ourselves and others.

And though it can in some ways be beneficial, Paul urged those who were being “made new” by the Holy Spirit (4:23) to be careful with their anger. “‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (4:26-27) Since most of our anger is only the result of our egos being threatened, Paul knew it had the potential to tear down the body of Christ.

The word translated as “foothold” in this verse is the Greek “topos” which means “an inhabited place” and, in a military sense, more territory.* With more territory comes more “opportunity,” as the ESV translates it, for power and influence. The more ‘inhabitable space’ we give to the devil, the more ‘opportunity’ he has to create hurt and division in our families, churches, and communities.

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When climbing outside of the manufactured holds found in the gym, climbers take advantage of every indentation, protrusion, ridge, and crack real rocks have to offer. Over time, erosion has enlarged these ‘inhabitable spaces’ that give climbers the ‘opportunities’ they need to expand their ‘territory’ by climbing higher.

Since Adam and Eve’s first bite, elevation – of ourselves – has been in our genes. In his commentary on Ephesians 4, Albert Barnes states that: “The heart is deceitful; and seldom more deceitful in any case than when a man is attempting to vindicate himself from injuries done to his person and reputation.”**

When our egos are wounded, our tendency is to dwell on the situation. It baffles me that I can let the few seconds it took for someone to say something that offended me consume the other tens of thousands of seconds left in that day – or the following days! But the more I rehash what they said or did, trying to diagnose their sin and convince myself of their error, the more ‘inhabitable space’ I create. Dwelling is the erosion the enemy uses to carve out bitterness and resentment, which give him ‘opportunity’ in my life and relationships.

But as a follower of Jesus, I’m the one with the opportunity! Every time I want to vindicate myself, but choose to elevate Him instead, I leverage His power and grace. Every time I say, “I’m hurt, but Jesus, I will trust You with this,” I take the territory back. Every time I cut short the erosion process by saying, “Jesus, I surrender my reputation to You,” I shrink the devil’s inhabitable space. Every time I choose to “not let the sun go down” by having a hard conversation, apologizing, or offering forgiveness, I fill in the footholds – with my own two feet.

Anger is unavoidable, but the Holy Spirit is at work, empowering us to be careful with it!

*http://biblehub.com/greek/5117.htm
**http://biblehub.com/commentaries/ephesians/4-27.htm

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Weird

Pepperoni. Sausage. Peppers. Onions. Mushrooms. Bacon. Pineapple. Extra cheese, please!

Black olives. Broccoli. Artichokes. Spinach. Jalapeños. Avocado. Anchovies?

What do you like on your pizza?

In our family, pizza gets complicated. We’ve got two who will only eat plain cheese, one who hesitantly adds some pepperoni, one who sticks to the basics of “meat lovers,” mushrooms and onions, and one who wants to add as much “flavor” as possible. Pizza night for the Desilets is a make-your-own endeavor – and no complaining if one of my artichokes happens to “contaminate” your piece of the pie!

Taste is a weird thing. Though at its core all pizza is the same – crust, sauce, and cheese – what we do after that to make it our “own” can get a little crazy. If you ever want to see how different human taste buds can be, set up a pizza bar and watch people go. And then watch everyone turn up their noses at everyone else’s choices!

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Loving people is hard. Because people are weird. If everyone would just start being “normal” (a.k.a. do things the way I think they should be done, see everything the way I see it, and like all the things I like) we wouldn’t have this problem, right? 😉 If I’ve learned anything in my 40 years of life, I’ve learned that “normal” doesn’t exist. Even the people we think are the most “like” us at first end up leaving us scratching our heads in confusion!

In the book of Romans, Paul challenges believers to allow the love of Christ to transform them from “insolent, haughty, boastful,…foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless” worshipers of people and things (1:23, 30-31) to “genuine”, “devoted”, “honor[ing]”, “joyful”, “patient”, “faithful”, “shar[ing]”, “bless[ing]”, “peace[ful]” worshipers of God (12:9-17 ESV/NIV). If God’s most important command is to love Him and love others, then we are being transformed (12:2) to do just that.

How interesting that all those things on the first list – all things that hurt other people – stem from our worship of people. When we place a human, or even the image of a human, on a pedestal, the result is pain. Feeling let down by their lack of ability to be what we had hoped they would be, we turn against them. Without God as our God, we expect to get from others what only He can give – and when our desires are left unfulfilled, we turn inward and take, take, take, which is the opposite of love.

But as believers, filled by the Holy Spirit with the love of Christ (5:5) and a “renewed” mind (12:2), we are free to worship God alone. We don’t expect anything from anyone because we already have more than everything we’ll ever need in Christ. And we can take people off their pedestal and stop expecting them to be “normal” (a.k.a. do things the way I think they should be done, see everything the way I see it, and like all the things I like), which frees us to love them.

When Tim and I met, we believed we were a “match made in Heaven”. We had so much in common and were each so happy to finally find someone who was “normal” (a.k.a. did things the way we thought they should be done, saw everything the way we saw it, and liked all the things we liked).

But a few years into marriage, the pedestals came tumbling down when we realized how different we really were! We thought we were basically the same person, but it turns out we have very different ideas about everything from how much light is needed in a room at any given time of day, the “best” way to get from point A to point B, the definition of “on time,” the prioritization of household projects, how “free time” should be spent, what “listening” looks like, and how “disagreements” should be handled. The more I get to know my husband the more weird he becomes!

The key to loving people, as Paul points out in Romans 12:3, is to think of ourselves and others with “sober judgment”. Forming a “balanced” and “God-controlled perspective [that] blends the extremities of truth on both sides of a matter”* means accepting that I am not the baseline by which all others should be judged. It means accepting that I’m just as weird as everyone else. Yes, I may even be weirder than my husband!

When Jesus walked this planet He was able to genuinely love every person He came in contact with because He didn’t worship any of them. He didn’t put any human on a pedestal and as the Creator-in-the-flesh, He was able to see through all the “weird” to the true baseline of “normal”: He saw every person He encountered as simply a human being created by God and loved by God.

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At our core, we’re all cheese pizza – we are all human beings created by God and loved by God. But after that things start to get weird! We all have different personalities, tastes, styles, opinions, responses, and methods of doing things and expecting any person to be “normal” is a fast track to putting them on a pedestal and thereby causing pain.

“Sober judgment” of ourselves paves the way for love to “be genuine” (12:9). When God takes up all the room on our pedestals, living “peaceably with all” is possible (12:18). This love thing is hard, but when I, charged up by the Holy Spirit, see myself and every person I make eye contact with as created by God and loved by God, it’s much less weird!

But really, what do you like on your pizza? Leave a comment!

*http://biblehub.com/greek/4993.htm

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Unload

Spring cleaning kicked off early for the Desilets this year. Maybe we were just motivated or maybe it was because all this snow and cold weather left us with nothing else to do (*ding ding ding*), but this past Saturday we brought our fourth carful of bags and boxes to GreenDrop. In the process we’ve reclaimed three rooms, four closets, and our sanity!

It’s crazy how “stuff” builds up over the years, especially when you have kids. Toys, trinkets, clothing, shoes, ‘accessories,’ craft supplies, books, devices, equipment, and decorative or sentimental items are all a part of life, but they seem to multiply and accumulate of their own accord. Letting go of this “stuff” is hard because there are always toys they might still want to play with, clothes you might wear again, books you really are going to read at some point, and gadgets that will surely come in handy someday.

Unfortunately, as the stuff we accumulate multiplies, so does its domain in our houses and our hearts. We hold on to it because we think it’s going to help us, but it ends up weighing on us instead. Our collected stuff has a tendency to overwhelm us by creating chaos, increased frustration, and extra work as we try to manage it all. An overload of stuff makes us feel crowded and prevents us from using our space for what it was created for.

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In John 3, when Nicodemus came to meet with Jesus, he was looking for answers. Jesus had been stirring up lots of attention with supernatural “signs,” leading people – especially the religious leaders – wondering where He was getting His power from (John 3:2). But Jesus’ response to Nicodemus’ inquiry only left him confused. Using figurative language, Jesus said, “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (3:3). Then, when Jesus replied Nicodemus’ confusion with even more figurative language, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (3:5), he marveled, “How can these things be?” (3:9)

Carrying our 2,000-years-of-Christian-heritage baggage, we get a little judgy of Nicodemus. How could he not get it? But because of his Pharisee-and-ruler-of-the-Jews baggage, Nicodemus only associated ‘spiritual rebirth’ with the conversion of a non-Jew to Judaism. Why would someone who’s already a Jew, someone who’s already a part of God’s kingdom by physical birth, especially a leader of the Jews as he was, need this conversion? And when Jesus spoke of water, referring to baptism, this frustrated him even more as baptism was part of the conversion process. Again – why would someone who’s already a Jew need to participate in this “baptism of repentance” (Mark 1:4)?

As usual, it turns out that Jesus knew something Nicodemus didn’t know – that before we could experience the fullness of His Kingdom, we’d need to do some unloading first. It turns out material things aren’t the only things we accumulate – as we walk through life, our experiences, opinions, struggles, and sin tend to pile up and being “born again” with “repentance” represented a purging of the past in order to make space for Jesus.

Each of the four loads of “stuff” we’ve unloaded since January has contained at least one bag of my own clothing. Though I’m not a huge shopper, I do tend to hold on to things “just in case”. After the initial purge, I thought I had gotten it all, but the removal of that load only gave me the ability to see more that could go. And the same for the next load, and the next one, and the next one. I’m already filling the bag for round number five!

Though most of us can point to a moment we were “born again” as we “repented” and “entered” Jesus’ kingdom, it’s never a one-time gig. This initial unloading is only the beginning of the lifelong process of transformation, and every time we open wide our hearts in confession of sin or realization of a bias, we allow God to point out even more there is to get rid of. Every time I think I’m must have gotten it all, I find another way I’ve “conformed to the patterns of this world”. And every time I unload this “stuff” by acknowledging it to Him, I allow “the renewal of [my] mind” to continue. (Romans 12:2)

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If you’re planning on visiting us anytime soon, you’ll be happy to know that our “guest room” is now an actual guest room. With all that unnecessary stuff removed, it can finally fulfill its purpose of giving you a place to stay!

According to Minimalism experts Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, unloading our stuff isn’t about “having less, less, less; rather, we focus on making room for more: more time, more passion, more experiences, more growth, more contribution, more contentment. More freedom. Clearing the clutter from life’s path helps us make that room.”

I think Christianity gets a bad rap sometimes because people think we focus too much on “sin” and “wrong,” but repentance is not about calling yourself a bad person or embarking on a constant search for the negative. It’s quite the opposite – by ridding ourselves of the junk we’re carrying, we’re eliminating frustration and chaos and allowing the space in our minds to be used for what it was created for: communication and relationship with Jesus.

It’s time for some ‘spring cleaning’!

What’s been cluttering up the space in your heart and mind lately?

What sin have you been attempting to manage (or just reorganize) that you could release to Jesus today?

What experiences and biases have you accumulated that may be influencing what God has to say to you?

*https://www.theminimalists.com/about/

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Charge

To say we’ve become dependent on technology is an understatement. On the rare day I leave the house without my phone, I feel paralyzed. What if I miss something on my calendar? What if I get an important message? If my family needs me, how will they get in touch with me? And the particularly stressful: What if I need to know something and I can’t Google it?

But even worse is when I leave the house with my phone, headed to a long event, and up pops the “low battery” notification 😲. To have my phone in my hand but be unable to use it for what I want to use it for is torture!

As much as we are dependent on our devices, our devices are dependent on power. Without power, our screens go black and we are disconnected from our world. And though batteries have increased in capacity so has our capacity to draw on them. It’s a rare day that my phone’s overnight charge lasts until I plug it back in at night!

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Easter seemed to sneak up on me this year. Amidst the snow days, a ‘spring’ (😂) break trip to Vermont, and my husband traveling to Haiti, my personal spiritual preparation fell to the wayside and I walked into church Sunday morning feeling like my battery was drained. My introverted-self had been severely over-peopled, and no matter how much I love those people, I had nothing left to give.

Thousands of years ago, the God of Israel gave his people a command to love. Not only were they to love Him with all of their heart, soul, and strength, but they were also to love others. Obedience to this command would set Israel apart from the nations around them and be a foundation that would lead them to thrive as a people.

But as we read their story in the Old Testament, we see that they just couldn’t do it. They had their moments – where their hearts were toward the Lord and the Lord alone and where people were cared for in the way He intended. Overall, though, humans – even these specially chosen and blessed humans – appeared to be powerless in making “love” a consistent reality.

When Jesus came, He continued to reinforce this same command. The majority of His recorded words all point to the importance of loving God and others, and how this love would define the the new Kingdom He was ushering in. But this time things would be different as He would send a “Helper,” the Holy Spirit to give His people the power to do it. (John 14:26)

I’m old enough to remember that ancient time when our ‘screens’ needed to be connected via power cord to a wall outlet in order to function. And I remember when the battery-powered “laptop” computer showed up and revolutionized our lives! Our powered screens – and all the abilities they gave us – could now go with us wherever we went.

After His resurrection, Jesus said this to His disciples: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) This power wasn’t just a boost of motivational momentum, it was, in the Greek, “dunamis” which means “ability to perform,” and in this context, the ability to perform “through God’s ability”.* Though before Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Holy Spirit only gave certain abilities to certain people at certain times, this power would now be available to all believers at all times.

Loving God is hard. There’s never been a time when I ‘couldn’t stop thinking about Him’ and there are plenty of times every day where I place my affections on other things. And loving people? Even if they consistently acted according to my will and never did anything to hurt or offend me, it would still be a struggle. There are many days I feel like a disconnected black screen – I don’t even have the desire to love God or people, let alone the power!

But as Philippians 2:13 says, “God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” I was never meant to love with my own power. I was meant to depend completely on the “dunamis” of the Holy Spirit, which is constantly available to me. Jesus’ resurrection allows me to charge up with endless currents of His unfailing love, which is far greater than anything I could ever muster up!

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I’m also old enough to remember that ancient time when you had to plug your phone into a wall outlet to charge it. Yes, my phone’s charge rarely lasts a full day, but I never have to worry about that because, thanks to my handy-dandy charging block, I can recharge wherever I go.

Charging up on the love of Jesus through the Holy Spirit once a week (as I attempted last week) or even once a day is not enough – the demand and draw of loving people drains our batteries much faster than that. But setting my mind on the Spirit by praying, listening to worship music, mentally reciting memorized Scripture, or just simply asking Him for help recharges my heart to love!

*http://biblehub.com/greek/1411.htm

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