Clean Up

My least favorite part of the holidays is what comes after the fact. After the gifts are all unwrapped there are bags of wrapping paper to get rid of. After the Christmas feast has been eaten, there are leftovers to put away and dishes to be washed. After everyone has gone home, there are the feelings of let down and melancholy to sweep under a rug, until a later time at which you can process them.

Pixabay

Pixabay

No one really likes the clean up aspects of life. Babies are adorable, but cleaning their stinky bottoms is not any mom’s favorite thing to do. Garbage collectors, probably don’t love their jobs, especially when the sun is hot and food waste is rotting in cans and dumpsters. Just ask any relief worker what they love most about helping victims of natural disasters. It probably involves the smiles and hugs they get for their help, not the digging through building rubble to find possible lost children or pets.

Pixabay

Pixabay

As a child, any one of us probably remembers being told to clean our room. Oh my goodness. You might as well be asking a fish to fly or a bird to swim. We thought the task was impossible, but we grudgingly went about our business. Truth be told, I always loved it when my room was clean and even now, when all the laundry and dishes are done and the house is not a complete cluttered mess, I feel so much more at ease.

Pixabay

Pixabay

The funny thing about cleaning is that is has to be done. If no one ever took a bath or shower; if no one collected the garbage or tried to recycle; if mom’s didn’t take care of their little babies’ bottoms, the world would be a very messy, smelly place. It is in those types of conditions that illness, disease and parasites prevail and thrive. Who hasn’t seen a garbage can full of maggots in the hot summer time? Or how about a baby’s bottom when they have not been changed or cleaned and cared for….the poor little one. Their tender skin becomes red, inflamed and itchy.

What does all this talk of cleaning up have to do with the holidays, besides being a place where I can unload my burden as a woman who sometimes tries to do it all? Ha, ha.

It has to do with Jesus.

What?

Yeah, you heard me!

Jesus.

Pixabay - garden

Genesis 1 talks about a world that God created. A perfect world, where the need for garbage collectors and recycling was nonexistent. There was a balance and harmony between God, the created world, man and woman. There was no trash, and no trash talking. There was no disease, no rot and certainly no wrapping paper to burn or dishes to wash. Ahhhh. What a beautiful world. Ha, ha

How did we get to this messy, trash filled, smelly world we now call home?

Sin.

Adam and Eve, with the prodding of a sultry serpent decided that the perfect, trash-less world God had created wasn’t enough. They wanted to be more. More knowledgable, more beautiful, more in control and it led to the mess we have all been cleaning up after, ever since.

Let’s face it, the mess goes way beyond just the physical ramifications that came about in nature. The dog eat dog mentality suddenly became a reality and ever since then we are the custodians of a mess that has grown proportionally to the laundry monster that so often takes over my basement floor. It grows and grows. We clean it up. It grows and grows. We clean it up. The mess has taken over our earth, our bodies, our relationships and our souls.

How do we get out of this mess?

Back to the beginning.

The baby Jesus.

The whole point of Jesus birth was not so we could celebrate Christmas with pretty lights, trees and gifts. The point was clean up. Our relationship with our Creator became skewed. We no longer could walk with Him in the garden. No. Sin and our choice to do it became the deep gap between God and His creation. Jesus was the only one who could bridge that gap. It was His blood, shed on the cross that became the river that purified our world.

Pixabay

Pixabay

So why then, do we still have so much clean up that needs to be done. Why all the ripple effects of poor choices, bad relationships and selfish living? Why, when Jesus died, didn’t things just go back to the way they were in the garden?

Because clean up is a choice.

Have you ever noticed how family members suddenly become preoccupied or have to leave when it is time to tackle that mountain of dishes? Does your husband hand you the baby when that aroma fills the air? Are you ever guilty of just throwing containers away because you don’t want to have to clean that moldy goo out of it and then have to wash it?

Jesus made everything right, but we have to recognize what He did and accept it. In other words we have to believe. We have to believe in who Jesus was and is and we have to believe in what He did and why it was done. We also have to choose to let Him clean up all of our messes. That can be painful.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Standing at the sink as I was washing dishes on Christmas day I was already tired, but it was then I really noticed how my back hurt, my feet hurt and the exhaustion weighed on me like a led blanket. Cleaning up is never pleasant. Sometimes you have to get on your hands and knees and really scrub with all your might. That is what Jesus came to do in our lives.

Pixabay

Pixabay

There are times He is scrubbing with all His might to remove those stubborn stains from our hearts. It hurts. Often it weighs heavily on us. We have chosen to be clean, but we never knew it was going to be so hard. But He does it, because it is His Father’s will and because He loves us. Jesus knew that it is only by cleaning the heart that changes will be obvious on the outside.

You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
— Matthew 23:26 (NASB)
Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.
— 2 Timothy 2:21 (NASB)

I don’t know about you, but I want to be a vessel for honorable use. I want to be useful to the master and ready for every good work. In order to do that, I have to let Jesus clean me up.

As we head into a new year, it might be a good time to look inward and ask Jesus to show you where some clean up needs to be done. Is it in your thought life, your attitudes, activities you are participating in, or maybe you aren’t crusted up with dirt, but you have allowed yourself to get dusty and you need Him to come in and polish you up.

Maybe you are reading this, but don’t share my faith. There are still things you might need to clean up in your life. Look at your eating habits, what you view or who you hang out with. Are these things making you a better, more useful person or have you become like that pile of dirty dishes, unusable and crusty?

Take some time to clean up today.

The Light of Joy

One of the things about the Christmas season that I get very excited about is lights. I love the look of houses outlined in tiny specks of shimmering light, whether they are white, green, red or blue, I love them all. I enjoy driving home from somewhere and seeing how many houses are embellished with twinkling splendor. Now don’t judge me, but I also enjoy seeing Christmas trees inside people’s homes. It’s not that I am being nosy. After all, don’t we put our trees in windows for that purpose, so the outside world can see our beautiful displays of light?

Pixabay

Pixabay

What is it about light that we so enjoy? I know that most of us would rather be out and about when it is day time. We enjoy when morning comes and feel loss at the slipping away of light as night time takes over. I personally have to convince myself that darkness is good and God allows the darkness so that we may rest. What I find fascinating about this God of ours is that He didn’t leave us in total darkness. He provided, even before sin became a reality, He provided the moon and the stars to rule the night, so even in darkness the light is still meant to preside.

Pixabay

Pixabay

There is a lesson here for us, if we are willing to see it. Light is always present even in the darkness. Darkness is, for lack of a better definition, the absence of light. But even in the deepest and darkest dark, somewhere there is still light. If we lost all electricity, the sun would still rule the sky by day and the moon and stars by night. As long as God allows the planets, stars, moons and sun to hang in space, there will always be light. What if those things disappear, or burn out? What if there is nothing left, but darkness? That will never be the case, because God is light and in Him there is no darkness.

Pixabay

Pixabay

When we think of Christmas we often have images of children playing, laughing and looking with awe and wonder at the lights and decorations. Can you even imagine a Christmas without the idea of child like joy being a part of it? I realize, not everyone grew up with wonder filled Christmases like many of us did. Some of you may not even celebrate Christmas or may think of it as merely an overly commercialized holiday meant to line the pockets of corporate America. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I think most of us can relate to the idea of joy.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Joy is often misunderstood. It is regularly mistaken for happiness, but joy is eternal, whereas happiness is temporary. Let me see if I can explain this in a way that makes sense. Joy is light. Joy comes out in dazzling displays like fireworks and rocket launches, but it also twinkles like Christmas lights and candle flames. The difference is that when the fireworks and rockets are burned out and the Christmas lights break and the flame smokes, joy still shines. The reason for this came in the form of a bundled baby boy, born in a stable over two thousand years ago.

Pixabay

Pixabay

No matter how deep the darkness is, joy still shines. There is no darkness or evil thorough enough to overcome joy. You might not feel like you have joy right now. Maybe you feel like you have never had joy, but you know those moments that bring tears to your eyes; those moments are shimmers of joy. You experience them when a movie has a happy ending or a musical movement runs together into a river of sound so beautiful it sweeps you along with it. You experience it when you come upon a breathtaking view or stand at the water’s edge when the sun begins its descent into a cloudless sea. This is joy.

Pixabay - nativity

Then when life tries to break you and you cannot hear the music or see the sunset, that is when you must reach back and in, deeper and deeper, to the event where joy first burst onto the scene of humanity. A virgin birth. Shepherds watching their flocks. Animals in the stable. A straw filled manger. This event was and is and evermore shall be the birth of joy. At that moment joy moved from happiness to an eternal possibility. Joy became the essence of bliss.

If you believe in that light, then even when all is dark, all you have to do is call his name. Jesus. And that light of joy will explode, once again in your soul and the darkness will scatter.