Choice

If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.
RUSH – “Freewill”

I usually reserve the space above these ponderings for a scripture. However, when I heard these lyrics again a few weeks ago, I started thinking about the importance of choice and choosing. I’ve been thinking about the choices I make since and want to share some of those thoughts with you.

I want to begin by offering you a challenge: listen to yourself over the next week and see if you can find out what you really believe about choice. I’ve been doing just that recently and I’ve found some interesting things. While I believe that I have free will, that I have the power to choose my thoughts and actions, some times that belief does not get lived out in my life.

Just the other day I was talking with someone about the repairs Jennie and I have been making to, and have planned for, our house. In the course of the discussion I said, “I have to do some touch-up painting and clean up the office.” I really should do those things, but what is requiring me to make those repairs? Honestly, nothing. Jennie and I have CHOSEN to make these repairs. Hopefully they will help the house sell more easily and subsequently bring a higher price, but the repairs are mostly cosmetic.

I use the same language when I am talking about appointments on my calendar. “I can’t do that, I have to (fill in the blank.)” If I am honest with myself, I don’t HAVE to do all that many things. Most days I can rearrange my schedule to fit those things I deem to be most important. Do you “have” to go to work, or do you “choose” to go to work? You might say, “I won’t get paid if I don’t work.” True. But isn’t that a motivation to go to work, not a requirement? You could choose not to work. There are consequences to that choice, but it is a choice you could make.

There have been times in my life where making a decision is almost crippling. There are so many variables, so many positives, and often just as many negatives. At times I have felt incapable of making a decision. At those times the lyrics above play in my mind, and sometimes I even sing part of the song. If I don’t choose, I am REALLY choosing the status quo. While that may be the choice I would make anyway, it is much more empowering to choose to stay rather than have the time for that choice pass me by.

Lest you think there is no religious component to these ponderings, choice is also important in our lives of faith. Throughout the Hebrew scriptures God makes covenants with the people of Israel. “I will be your God, and you will be my people.” Covenants are based on choices. The people could choose to follow other gods, and they did. Time and time again the people turned their back on God. They made a choice and scripture is full of stories which recount the consequences of those choices.

During the Last Supper, Jesus tells the Disciples that he is adapting the way he interacts with them. Although Jesus was a servant leader throughout his ministry, he tells the disciple that he is making a new covenant with them. Like all of those previous covenants Jesus’ followers have the choice whether or not they want to maintain the relationship. We choose to follow Christ. We choose to believe in God. Each and every day we make choices that either strengthen or weaken our relationships with one another and with God. I, personally, find that to be very empowering. We wake up every morning and choose God.

But what may be more astounding is that God chooses us as well. Even when Israel fell short, God chose them. Even when we fall short God chooses to restore the relationship with us. In John 15:16-17 Jesus reminds the Disciples that it was he that did the choosing. Jesus said, “You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you. But remember the root command: Love one another.” When things get tough, when the world seems to be falling down around you, remember this, God chooses you

Clutter

Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.
Matthew 6:19-21 (The Message)

As many of you know, my family and I have been in the process of getting out house ready to go on the market. Before anyone gets too nervous, we aren’t planning a move away from Marshfield. However, as our family has changed over the past few years and will continue to change over the next few years, we have found that we simply have too much house for our family. It is time to downsize. And, what better time to do some of that hard work than over Labor Day weekend.

To make a long story a bit shorter, with the help of some friends we found out that we had at least 30 cubic yards of stuff we didn’t really need anymore. Yes, that much. What looked like a huge construction dumpster quickly filled to capacity and there was quite a bonfire (that lasted for two whole days) of paperwork and wooden things. I knew there was a lot of “extra” stuff in our barn, and stashed in closets in our house. I just had no idea how much.

Jesus told the assembled crowd during the Sermon on the Mount that where we store our treasures is important. I certainly wouldn’t say that what went into that trash container, or onto the burn pile, was treasure. However, as I’ve reflected on it over the past few days, I’ve come to understand that all that stuff did represent things that can keep us away from being the best version of ourselves. In other words, I had to clear up the clutter in my house to make way for our dream of building a home for ourselves.

But clearing up the physical clutter didn’t just make more room in our house, or in the barn. The amazing thing was how cleaning out that stuff has opened the space for more creativity in other parts of my life. I’m thinking more clearly. And that’s not all, I’ve been more “in tune” with God over the past couple of days as well. It really is astounding how a little bit (or a lot) of physical cleaning can clear out the clutter in other parts of our lives as well.

And that has prompted me to think about how the spiritual, psychological, and physical are all interconnected. My family and I had collected 30 cubic yards of extraneous stuff throughout the years. It took a lot of hard work, a few uncertain moments, and several friends, to help us clean up. I’ve noticed that the physical realm isn’t the only place where that is true. For me, seminary was a time to do the hard work of clearing out spiritual things that I didn’t really need anymore (with the help and support of friends and family) so that I could create the space needed for a renewed and strengthened relationship with God. And several years ago I read a book on organization for executives that suggested keeping physical notes as a way of clearing your mind to allow for more creative thinking.

With fall bearing down on us, I suppose it is a little late in the calendar year to suggest some spring cleaning. But there is no time like the present to gather some friends and family, and start doing that hard work of clearing the clutter out of our lives. I think you’ll be surprised by how far a little cleaning can go toward improving your outlook. And, in the process, you get the chance to build and strengthen your relationships with others, and even with God. And I can’t think of a better way to store up some treasure where it’s safe from moths, rust, and burglers.