New Year’s Resolution: Declutter

There is just too much stuff in my house, too much stuff in my garage, too many CDs I haven’t listened to  in years, too many books, too much clothing, too much craft stuff. Too much.

So my resolution for this year is to get rid of what I don’t use and what I don’t need. Some of our stuff hasn’t seen the light of day in years (I have a lot of dressers and built-in storage in this old house). It will take extended and persevering effort.

I was inspired by a story by Linda Gordan to begin the project. Her story on decluttering appears in an anthology by the West Michigan Word Weavers, The Transformation Project (available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords) Here is a link to Linda’s blog:

Further inspiration comes from the blog, Becoming Minimalist: This blog by Joshua Becker has inspired hundreds of thousands. This morning, he posted on his Facebook page,

“Use only what you need and give the rest away.”

I may not know exactly what I need, but I have a pretty good idea of what I don’t need. I have dishes I never use, although my kids say I should keep them for them when they move out. I have stuff put away in drawers that no one has touched for five years or more. Books that no one will read, again – unless I get them out of my house. Craft supplies for projects I will never start, and many I don’t want to complete. I have given some of this stuff away in past years. However, I have never completed the process.

Having gone through my mother-in law’s possession after she died this summer, and seeing the stuff of my parents are bringing with them as they move from a tiny mobile home (one bedroom) to an apartment in Michigan, I see their lifetimes of accumulation. Both of our parents downsized many years ago.

I have a big house, which is full of things I no longer need. If I ever decided to downsize, it would be overwhelming. I am not a hoarder, just a distracted accumulator.

Yesterday, I drove by the World Mission thrift store, and the parking lot was full. People were dropping off boxes and bags of stuff. I need to be doing that, I thought. So yesterday I started. But I may need to call the truck.


Last year, my goal was to reduce the cynicism in my life. I am continuing in that effort. This year, I would like to reduce the clutter and the distractions, so that I am available in mind and spirit for what I am called to do.

“12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,” (Hebrews 12:1, the Bible, NIV)


Tales from the Toe Tag Chaplain – Joseph Smith

I stayed up late reading last night. Too late.

The book that kept me from going to bed was Tales from the Toe Tag Chaplain by Joseph Smith.

For eight years Pastor Smith served as the chaplain for a 60-bed oncology floor in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The stories demonstrate compassion, mercy, and common sense. Many of the tales are tragic, yet often miraculous at the same time. These stories are real. He doesn’t tie up all the loose ends, and sometimes leaves the reader hanging. But, given the restraints of the chaplaincy, this is normal – the way thing must be.

Pastor Smith does not shy away from difficult and sensitive subjects. He clearly states his strong beliefs. But his own views do not keep him from comforting those whose beliefs are different.

One of the goals of the book is to encourage others to consider being a chaplain. It presents a clear-eyed view of the realities and rewards involved in this kind of ministry, open to both men and women.

Here is another review of the book giving more information about Pastor Joe Smith.

May the Mind of Christ My Savior

May the Mind of Christ My Savior is one of my favorite hymns. It may be inspired by this passage from Philippians.

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:1-11, the Bible, New King James Version)

  1. May the mind of Christ my Savior
    Live in me from day to day,
    By His love and pow’r controlling
    All I do and say.
  2. May the Word of Christ dwell richly
    In my heart from hour to hour,
    So that all may see I triumph
    Only through His pow’r.
  3. May the peace of Christ my Savior
    Rule my life in every thing,
    That I may be calm to comfort
    Sick and sorrowing.
  4. May the love of Jesus fill me,
    As the waters fill the sea;
    Him exalting, self abasing,
    This is victory.
  5. May I run the race before me,
    Strong and brave to face the foe,
    Looking only unto Jesus
    As I onward go.
  6. May His beauty rest upon me
    As I seek the lost to win,
    And may they forget the channel,
    Seeing only Him.
Here is a beautiful rendition from YouTube.

Words: Kate B. Wil­kin­son, be­fore 1913

Music: St. Le­o­nards, Ar­thur C. Barham-Gould, 1925 (MI­DI, score).

He took upon Him the form of a bondservant. A bondservant is one who pledges himself to serve. He is not enslaved, but serves willingly.

Letting Go of Grudges

“When we forgive, we are released from the bondage of the grudge.” Dr. Stephen LeBar, Pastor of Jenison Bible Church.

Grudges, or the longterm withholding of forgiveness, occur when our sense of justice has been offended. I may feel that I have not received the respect I deserve, the fruits of my labor, or someone I love has been hurt. We have been wronged, and we simmer with resentment. Grudges can also harm our own health and affect the people around us. They cause trouble and defile those around us.

“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Hebrews 12:14-15

When my oldest daughter was nearing kindergarten age, we noticed some differences that worried us. Most people could not understand her speech, not even my parents. She was tiny for her age. Sometimes she would fall down for no apparent reason. Other than that, she was a happy, beautiful, and compliant child.  At the time, I also had a newborn daughter and a three year old son. I took them all along with me to my newborn’s appointments with our pediatrician. While there, I would bring up my concerns regarding my oldest daughter. He pooh poohed my concerns at every appointment.

My daughter was considered a “young five” because of her August birthday. All “young fives” were required to be tested to ascertain whether they would be in the young fives program or regular kindergarten. When she was tested, she was found to be at an equivalent age of 2.5 in reading readiness and math readiness. The evaluators told me that they suspected she had a speech impairment. The speech therapist found that her speech impairment placed her below the first percentile for speech and language development.

I wrote our pediatrician an angry letter asking why he had not told us that Erin had these developmental differences.  He called me because he felt that we had a good relationship and he cared about our family. In response to my tearful and angry questioning he said, “Frankly my dear, I didn’t tell you because I don’t believe in early intervention.”

We changed pediatricians at that point because our insurance changed. But even if that had not happened, we would have stopped going to that doctor. Our  relationship was broken. For many years whenever I would think about that conversation, fury would rise up within me. My daughter had been wronged. We had been robbed of the choice to obtain early intervention for her by his refusal to tell me what was going on in the face of direct and frequent questioning.

What if she had had the opportunity to receive early intervention? Would she have learned to read before the eighth grade?

I was held in bondage by that grudge for many years. I felt I had the right to be angry, to hate him in my heart.  But at one point, I decided to forgive him and I was released from the bondage of that grudge. I was released from the effort of holding him responsible. By God’s strength and urging, I was able to practice mercy toward him in my own heart.

30 “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:30-32)