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*Special thanks to Shila and Pragna for their encouragement and inspiration*

Anyone Have Stuff ?

Let’s be honest, if we have existed on the planet for any time at all, we very likely have stuff. Perhaps lots of stuff. Its source seems to be the tap that never runs dry nor shuts off. The tap spoken of, doesn’t create immediate floods but with its non-stop dripping, it can accumulate into quite the pool of water over time, one drop at a time. Because “stuff” isn’t based on the hugely obvious, it has the ability to hide itself in the secret places of our hearts. Therefore, we can find ourselves feeling rather “wet” and not recognizing why!

One of the dictionary’s meanings for “stuff”: “Worthless objects”. But worthless and powerless are two very different things. A sliver in my hand is worthless but if left unattended can fester, creating infection throughout my entire body.

We live in an imperfect world inhabited by imperfect people, us included. Things get said or not said, things get done or not done. These “things” are the material that “stuff” is formed from. Words and deeds are powerful both in the positive and negative.

To be clear, getting over “stuff” and getting over “the past”, while seeming to be similar are by no means identical. Our “past” issues are more often than not, obvious. The divorce, the death, the flagrant abuse, etc., fluorescently stand out in our minds as if being highlighted. “Stuff”, on the other hand, is far more innocent in nature but equally diabolical as it hides in the shadows of our lives, quietly impacting our reactions and responses to our everyday life experiences and interactions with others. In comparison, “stuff” and “the past” are like cousins from the same family while not having the same personality.

It’s a lot like having a sliver in my hand, compared to having a tree fall on me. The source of the problem, being wood is the same. But in the most negative of ways, they can impact me equally but from different perspectives. The tree falling will have an instant and obvious broken bone or two to show for its damage, but the unattended sliver can contaminate my entire body! It’s been said that emotional abuse is worse than the physical. It goes to a deeper place. One more difficult to root out.

The broken bones I can see while the other is hidden beneath the skin. There are quick and easy remedies for broken bones, but how do you resolve that which you can’t see?

“Stuff” has the insidious potential to infiltrate and often dictate, our every thought regarding our own and other’s true value. The good news is, we can turn the tables and control it. “Stuff” is only as impactful as we allow it to be. We determine its worth or worthlessness!

“Stuff” speaks softly, often in whispers, but make no mistake, it possesses a powerful voice of influence in our lives. Perhaps it’s time to reclaim the microphone, turn up the volume, and speak back. Better said: Fight back! Even better said: Take back the life we were meant to have.

We can’t always prevent “stuff” from showing up, but we can disarm its toxicity in our hearts and minds with an always appropriate response at the ready to greet its arrival.

I’m not suggesting that issues regarding “the past” are always brutally obvious, just more so. You see “stuff”, only rears its ugly head when that certain person says that certain thing at that certain time. It’s impact is scenario based! It’s not a ten ton weight we carry each and every day. In fact, we can be perfectly fine for months and then seemingly out of nowhere, there it is!

Collected “stuff” has triggers that bring it to the surface, awakening it from its dormancy. As an example: For years after my very ugly and emotionally debilitating divorce, there were places I couldn’t drive by let alone visit. I would purposely route myself, regardless of the inconvenience factor, to avoid their visual. As totally unreasonable as that all sounds, it worked but only to a point. It certainly had its limitations but was better than doing nothing.

There were also words, phrases, and sounds needing to be avoided. Certain songs were off limits for sure with their little reminders. I loved music but not nearly enough to allow it to torture me.

The “nervous breakdown” had long passed and for all that was obvious, I had gotten on with my life. You see, I wasn’t dealing with “divorce” any longer but rather “stuff”. The reminders of things that were “said”, not things that were “done”! The emotional residue of the act, can be worse than the act itself! So, I became “secretly” enslaved to “stuff”. While showing myself as “healed” externally, I was in fact “disabled” internally.

Those around me would never know until they happened to say: The wrong thing at the wrong time! “Let’s go to X restaurant for dinner” with my response of NO, without an explanation. You see I wasn’t dealing with it, I was hiding from it, not to be mistaken as “running from it”. I had no misconceptions that I could actually out-run it seeing as it lived inside of me!

Well, we can only do, what we know to do, at the time we need to do it! So, my approached of protection by avoidance was fraught with fault. While working momentarily it needed constant and obsessive maintenance as to its religiously repeated adherence to its “check list” of things not to say, not to do, and places not to visit. No way to live life folks! Living in an invisible prison that only you and God know you’re in, is not life as it was meant to be!

Coming to the end of one’s self with our self-created resolves to life’s complexities can be an exhausting experience. We as humans will try practically anything before submitting to God’s everything. Embracing God’s answer always seems to be a last resort of desperation.

Hurry To Forgive

Unless we are planning on living in a bubble, “stuff” in reality, is a very real predictable part of life. When the imperfect keeps rubbing shoulders with the imperfect, stuff is the net result. We will never be able to avoid it completely. That we have it isn’t the real problem. That we hold on to it is!

So, are we hopelessly at its mercy. Absolutely not, thanks be to our Lord Jesus who rescues us with scriptural solutions to life’s most difficult scenarios! His counsel often sounds backwards according to the flesh, but the battle is not against the flesh. The battle is of a spiritual nature and in need of a spiritual remedy. Although seeming to be backwards, if tried we discover, His directives always work!

Matthew 5 - 43 & 44: “You have heard that it was said, “love your neighbor and hate your enemy”. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”.

Verse 48: “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect”.

Perfect solutions can only come from a perfect Source folks!

Matthew 6 - 15: “ But if you do not forgive others their sins your Father will not forgive your sins”.

Luke 6 - 37: “Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven”.

Wow! Does anyone else feel like they are being backed into a corner of great discomfort at this moment? Challenging comments, seeing as its Jesus making those statements.

Jesus would never subscribe to anything that would not have our best interest as the point. He cares about our well-being more than we can imagine. Often more than we care. He’s keenly aware of “stuff” and its potential for harm if embraced.

Keep in mind, He healed the sick and in the process was accused of being the devil. That’s some serious “stuff”! He hung on a cross and with His last breath forgave those who participated in His crucifixion. Just prior to that, He expresses compassion to the one hanging next to Him with His response to the man’s dying request: “Today you will be with me in paradise”. Can “stuff” possibly get more serious than that? More personally stated: Can my “stuff” even remotely compare?

So, what did Jesus do with His ‘’stuff”? He forgave it and moved on with His purpose on earth undeterred. His spiritual feet never stopped moving forward.

He is our standard! He is our example! No servant is greater than his master. As His disciples, why would we think that any other response is workable or acceptable in His sight? He didn’t suggest forgiveness as an option accompanied by a contingency plan of other options to try if forgiveness isn’t our cup of tea. He gave us the one and only path that would lead to the death of ‘’stuff” having its way.

Jesus was absolutely secure in Himself therefore forgiveness was His first choice of reaction. When you know who you are and are secure in what you know, it would seem forgiveness is much easier to embrace as an emphatic truth to be applied in all situations.

It’s Not Affordable

So, bottom line: What is the most detrimental aspect of entertaining “stuff”? You, making it matter to the point of being disabled by it. If you have a need to understand “stuff”, your need will never be quenched! You can spend your entire life working through it repeatedly and come up with nothing as an answer. That’s why we are cautioned to forgive it and move on. We were born with a specific calling on our lives and figuring out the attitudes of others isn’t it!

The question: Will we agree with the dictionary’s description and call “stuff” what it truly is: “Worthless Objects”. Well, “worthless” strongly suggests not worthy of our time!

Will we like Jesus be committed to our “purpose” to the point of refusing to be side tracked. Stuff is on its way as we speak folks. What will we do with it? Jesus has given us the answer. Don’t mediate on stuff but rather commit to forgiving stuff. In doing so we remain spiritually free thus useable for God. I’m thinking that’s the point. The big point!

I can now visit any restaurant I choose and take any route I wish, to get to where I’m going without concern of weirdness breaking out. It seems so very long ago that I was hiding in fear.

But first, something had to happen. Forgiveness. To be precise, pride had to go first followed by a stopping of the “poor me” internal chatter.

But the key that broke the back of the dilemma thereby setting me free from its bondage, goes as such: I stopped focusing on my wife’s mistakes and stated wearing my own. I realized I had been forgiven for mine and therefore felt without option to forgive hers. How could I not?

Forgiveness is powerful within its ability to put things into heavenly perspective. So did that perspective come complete with a conclusion that all that was said and done throughout the collapse of my marriage and family was now OK? NO. Just forgivable!

And how in the world did I navigate through the waters of pain to arrive at that shoreline?

Well, I know that as they were driving the spikes into my Lord’s hands and feet, He didn’t say it was OK. When they mocked Him, he didn’t say it was OK. When they spit on Him, He didn’t say it was OK. When they tore the flesh from His body with a whip, He didn’t say it was OK. When they buried the crown of thorns into his skull, he didn’t say it was OK. When He was falsely accused and convicted, he didn’t say it was OK. When Barabbas was released instead of Him, He didn’t say it was OK. When the crowds screamed crucify Him, He didn’t say it was OK.

You see, he never did say any of it was OK. But He did say it was forgivable! So who am I to think otherwise. I was asked a while ago: So when do we “Push Back”. My answer was short: “Never, we love back, that is our standard that was established on a cross”. Not one this world will ever understand but that doesn’t diminish its power.

Therefore, we meet “stuff” head on in its tracks with the power of the cross. In doing so we disable it before it disables us! We leap our hurdles with grace, and with undistracted hearts intact, we continue our destined purpose in life.

It seems clear that whenever we release others through forgiveness we simultaneously release ourselves. It would also seem that when forgiveness is withheld both parties suffer equally from the fall out. Could that be what Jesus meant when He said: : “Forgive and you will be forgiven”. It’s amazing how, regardless of the size of the perceived infraction, un-forgiveness makes it all equally huge in the end. As mentioned, far too expensive and not to be considered affordable.

Un-forgiveness is only the beginning of a downward slide that always leads to worse emotions such as hatred. Hatred has been correctly described in this way: It’s like drinking poison and hoping the other person gets sick. Who among us hasn’t been eaten up on occasion by holding on to a grudge? Have you noticed it never gets smaller over time nor does its impact. It follows us around like a bad smell.

With only one life to live, let’s embrace it as the gift that it is. Let’s be vigilant in protecting that which is immensely valuable, from being invested in “worthless objects” - “stuff”.

Heaven has provided for us a protectionary antidote from this folly becoming our daily reality. Forgiveness! We have also been given a “when in doubt” visual to follow: The cross!

When you soberly think about it, is it not true that the very reason we love Jesus as we do is this: When we weren’t OK, and when we aren’t OK, we are still forgivable. Is it any wonder we so desire to be like Him? But first we must lose our desire to be like ourselves! I have a feeling that once we get over ourselves, walking with Jesus gets much easier, and isn’t it true that WE are the real hurdle in need of jumping over.

My Ministry Into Our Ministry

Mark 6 - 38 & 41: “How many loaves do you have He asked?” “Go and see”. When they found out they said, “Five and two fish”. Taking the five loaves and two fish and looking up to heaven He gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to His disciples to DISTRIBUTE to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all”. ( Five thousand plus, were fed that day! )

In the biblical story of the “fishes and loaves”, I so clearly see three dynamics in play to achieve the desired completion of the heavenly orchestrated equation. The young boy GAVE what little he had, our Lord then MULTIPLIED it, and the disciples then DISTRIBUTED it.

It’s interesting to note that Jesus, after the multiplying didn’t say, “Come and get it”. What He did say was, “Everyone find a place to sit on the grass and I’ll bring it to you, through my own”. Folks, He loves to involve us. He loves to make us matter! We are blessed beyond measure to be written into, His stories! Just imagine: Invited by Him to participate in His plans for others!

From the inception of the idea of writing books to be made available to “all freely”, there has never been a moment when I haven’t been aware of its ministry context. I could easily be seen as the “young boy” in the story. Jesus has most certainly multiplied my meager offering to Him.

So may I invite and encourage you to be a distributor of that which He has multiplied, thereby elevating “My Ministry” into “Our Ministry”, thus completing “His Ministry”. There’s something about that idea that sounds “perfect” to my heart!

We all have friends, family, work mates, school mates, etc. I’ve included a simple directional on “how to find” the “fishes and loaves”. Please feel free to share “what you eat” with others. You have no idea where it could lead to! That young boy’s mother could never have dreamed, what that little lunch she had prepared for her son on that fateful morning, would produce!

Thanks in advance. Bill Taylor

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