Found Wisdom Day 8: On Becoming Clutter-Free

Jesus told the rich young ruler (in this past post) to sell what he had (which I think means the whole pile) and give away the money (which I think also means the whole pile), then come follow him

—and we struggle just to reduce our load of clutter by a fraction!

Peter declared that he and the other disciples had left all to follow Christ

—and we seem to have hands of glue that can’t let go of this, or that, or anything much.

 

What can we do about this? A couple sets of wisdom about clutter that I happened upon in the past year might help.

The one proves decluttering offers unexpected benefits for mind, soul, and body. The other gives a novel decluttering method that I have found to be the best approach ever!

 

Part One: The Advantages of the Clutter-Freed

This “found wisdom” came from this whimsical-looking book I picked up on another bookstore visit. The word “joy” caught my attention, and the illustrations hinted at fun, so… how could I resist?

I’m so glad it got it, because it’s not all frivolity and springboards to get the creative juices flowing. It also contains fascinating scientific findings. One example? The “surprising psychological benefits” of decluttering. I quote:

“Whilst some studies point toward a messy desk as a sign of a creative mind, more often… clutter tends to be a source of stress and anxiety, bombarding our minds with unnecessary stimuli that draws our attention away from whatever we should be focusing on.”

A UCLA research team observing 32 Los Angeles families discovered all the mothers’ stress hormones spiked during time spent dealing with their belongings. Physical clutter affects the brain much like multitasking—“it overloads your senses, making you feel stressed, and impairs your ability to think creatively.”

“Another study…from the Johns Hopkins Cary Business School and the University of Illinois suggests that it’s scarcity rather than abundance that promotes creativity. They conducted a series of experiments to test the effects of having more versus less in terms of creativity. The pivotal dynamic is what the study authors call a “constraint mindset,” which is a mode of thinking activated by having less. The greater the constraint mindset, the more creatively a given person will make use of their resource. So all of this ‘stuff’ we’re accumulating could be having a direct impact on our ability to think creatively.”

 

Part Two: But how do we actually do the de-clutter?

I’ve seen so many ads promoting storage containers, systems, and gadgets supposedly designed to de-clutter… but I suspect all they do is invite us just to keep and rearrange the clutter we already have—in the additional stuff we just bought!

I’ve watched so many instructional pieces showing how to sort clutter into piles: the keeps, the give-aways, and the throw-outs, but these are seldom ruthless enough to make a noticeable difference.

Then I saw this delightful gal at Origami Twist explain a tactic that did the trick!

Instead of starting with what you might throw out or give away, you look at your whole Mount Everest in whatever category (hers was crafts) and decide what you absolutely must have to do the job adequately. Separate out those essentials, and forget about the rest! (If you can’t bear to toss them, stash them in the attic or garage, out of sight—and mind).

It helps to imagine you’re moving to, say, a tiny cabin, or need to take your craft or job on the road—in limited luggage.

It’s amazing how little you can get by with. Doing this with my collage/mixed-media stuff, I found I could nicely arrange everything I needed into three small totes, which I could carry anywhere. But I found myself working out of them right at home and disregarding all that other fluff—and yeah, the results probably were more creative than with the distracting load of tools and materials.

Seems this process would have a similar benefit on spirituality, don’t you think? Looks like Jesus knew what he was doing when he told that rich dude to get rid of his “clutter” before trying to follow Him!

*****

Q 4 U: What needs the above kind of decluttering in your life? (And this doesn’t just mean material things.)

Found Wisdom Day 7: A New View of the Bad Stuff

The last two posts have been heavy and brain-and-soul challenging. So let’s lighten up a little for the weekend, yet without losing our trail. In the photo below are several bits of “found wisdom” I got at the book store.

When I go book shopping at such a place, I usually end up walking out with something a little wacky or frivolous-looking. My last visit bagged me a book of trivia questions, and a paperback with 365 Inspirational Quotes, gathered and compiled by Mike Robbins. I thought I might use some of the latter to inspire my thinking and prompt my writing, or even use some in collages. So I started cutting some out and piling them up. In the midst of the heaviness of the last two posts, I decided to look through this pile of cut-outs as well as the remainders in the book to see if I might find some wisdom that fit with where I’d unexpectedly landed in my blog, and consequently in my searching, studying, and pondering.

For today I simply leave part of this selection with you. If you can’t read them as they appear on your screen, just a bit of zooming in should do the trick. See if any especially “hit” you. See if any give you a new insight or perspective. Or make you want to write them down and keep them handy. See if any are just enjoyable to read. And enjoy. I may pick up on some of them in next week’s blog posts. Or, more fun: share in a comment what one of them did for you!

Meanwhile, the last two posts, here and here, would make a good springboard, or good grist, for a weekend Bible exploration. If you click on the Bible references in them, they should take you to the mentioned text. From there you can pick up the context and explore further.

So, see you tomorrow, God willing! Meanwhile, happy finding!

Found Wisdom Day 6: Specific “Despair,” Boundless Hope, Part 2

Picking up from where we left off yesterday, and going to the New Testament, we can see the principle of letting go of false hopes expanded. First of all, Jesus’ teachings about this:

Christ instructed people not to trust (/hope) in…

false religiosity,

hypocrisy,

riches,

and possessions,

among other things.

He told his disciples that to follow him they would need to be ready, like the rich young ruler, to forsake all those things and even more to do it.

Even houses and land.

Even father, mother, spouse or children.

He let them know happily-ever-after marriages or families, or relations with people not genuinely “on board” with God were not the wise focus in which to invest their lives. But he offered huge, boundless, eternal hope instead (Luke 18:23-30; 12:51-53; 12:32).

 

The Epistles of the Apostles pick up on this theme of false and true hope and carry it futher, telling us to turn from self-confidence (hope in one’s own abilities) to hope in God’s strength, ability, and willingness to enable us to discern what to do and the power to do it—and do it in joy, and peace, and hope!

Paul testified about this true hope thus:

“…we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now [this] hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom 5:3-5 NKJV).

 

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy [to be compared] with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected [it] in hope” (Rom 8:18-20);

 

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom 15:13).

 

Here is an appropriate place to re-emphasize that what all these passages are talking about is not specific hope for particular earthly here-and-now outcomes—like for someone to be get a particular job or new house or be healed from a particular disease, or for someone nasty to start genuinely loving us and treating us wonderfully, or for us to be able to achieve some self-set goal (which may not be God’s goal for us). Yes, God does answer prayers about earthly things amazingly, but He implores us to aim our desires toward higher hopes.

 

The next verse I found underlines this fact:

“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” (1Co 15:19).

 

Instead, the eternal hope we have in Him is “an anchor for the soul, both sure and steadfast” (Heb 6:19)

 

Peter’s first epistle chimes in, saying, “…God… according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, … Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest [your] hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; … through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God”(1Pe 1:3, 13, 21).

 

So, there’s Despair that sees only complete hopelessness, and there’s (specific and necessary) despair in things we shouldn’t trust in. And there’s (earthly) hope (that’s shaky, nebulous, and often false), and there’s Hope that’s sure, boundless, and eternal.

 

When we choose total Despair or false hope, we are “most pitiful.” But when we choose specific “despair” about any particular earthly futility, and boundless, eternal Hope in God, “we are more than…” victims, “we are more than” survivors, “we are [even] more than conquerors through Him who loved us (Rom 8:37). Then (after perhaps a needful time of mourning—like the rich young ruler’s) we are ready to move on… to greater and higher aims, learnings, achievements, and experiences.

*****

Q 4 U: What false or foolish hope might you be clinging to that’s getting in the way of higher Hope?

Day Five Found Wisdom: Specific Despair, Boundless Hope

Apologies to my readers: What a way to start out a month-long series—writing about despair! And saying it can be a good thing! So let me clarify further, and then let’s move on—to hope! And learning! And forward progress! And love of life! And amazing things! And so on. The good thing about starting a blog series about despair is that it’s all uphill from here!

So, note these things about the last post or two:

Specific. That’s the key word we need to keep in mind from yesterday’s post.

Despair. That’s the word I didn’t like–and still don’t, because I tend to think of it as all-encompassing, and have too much of a tendency to think “all is lost,” when only one thing is–and needs to be kissed goodbye.

What Shannon Thomas is talking about in her book is just that: despair about one specific thing that, being clung to, is sickening and killing one from the inside out.

It’s also robbing the focus from, and undermining, our true hope, the hope that we can count on, the hope that does not disappoint.

The Bible says a lot about the detriment of misplaced hope.

In Isaiah 57 for instance, God through the prophet rebukes those among his people who are putting their hope in idols and other false gods, to the point of even sacrificing their children to them (Isa 57:2-10; Isa 57:11-13,15, 20-21). Notice especially in verse 10, He says, “You wearied yourself by such going about, but you would not say, ‘It is hopeless.They were supposed to feel hopeless—about their idols! What He’s calling for here is a specific despair: depair in their idolatry, despair in their forsaking Him and His ways and substituting horrible practices in place of putting their trust in Him. But in this passage He also offers hope: to the righteous, and to those of a contrite heart.

This theme of rebuke is repeated frequently throughout the Old Testament.

The Psalms and Proverbs name other things we ought to feel despair and hopeless about trusting in:

Do not trust in oppression, Nor vainly hope in robbery; If riches increase, Do not set [your] heart [on them].(Ps 62:10)

 Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? [There is] more hope for a fool than for him (Pro 26:12).

Do not put your trust in princes, [Nor] in a son of man, in whom [there is] no help. His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; In that very day his plans perish.

Happy [is he] who [has] the God of Jacob for his help, Whose hope [is] in the LORD his God (Psa 146:3-5 NKJV).

And notice this last one encourages the faithful with the opportunity of hope, true hope.

 

The New Testament also has a lot to add. But we’ll pick that up tomorrow.

*****

Found Wisdom Day Four- Despair, Part 2; Despair as the First Step to Healing

Important note: We are talking today about real despair, which can be so intense as to leave one feeling so defeated and unworthy, self-harm or suicide can seem like a desirable option. If this is where you find yourself as you read, PLEASE click this link and call the number on it immediately. This is no light matter. God cares, and so do other people who are there to help you…

Now for the other side of yesterday’s coin:

Believe it or not, the other side of despair can be good, very good. But it’s got to be genuine, total specific despair. I’ll let Shannon Thomas explain….

Shannon counsels victims of psychological abuse and helps them heal. In her excellent Healing from Hidden Abuse, I found wisdom about despair that seemed hard to accept—until I “got it;” then I recognized how vitally important such “despair” can be to our emotional, physical, even spiritual well-being.

After explaining “The Basics of Psychological Abuse,” she presents the six stages through which she’s seen victims gain healing.

And the first, which she calls critically pre-requisite to all the steps to follow, is… “Despair”!

Here’s how it works:

(She says), “A week does not go by that I don’t hear at least one person say during a counseling session, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ I think these words are powerful. They [signal] that change in some form is probably on the horizon or at least it should be. An overload on emotional capacity is the reason people get to the point where they feel they cannot continue to stay in a relationship, …place of employment, …one-sided friendship, … the pressures created by a harmful spouse [or] unrealistic toxic family obligations, or whatever might be at the core of an ‘I can’t do this anymore’ statement.”

Then she says something shocking about those of us who feel so proud or grateful about our “resiliancy” and high emotional capacity to keep “bouncing back” from a toxic situation:

“If we have a high level of emotional capacity, it predisposes us to stay in abusive relationships longer. This is not a great thing. [However], a high level of emotional capacity helps survivors heal and truly recover. Our own strengths can be a double-edged sword…

Getting to the point of feeling like we can’t continue doing something is not a bad thing. I have repeatedly watched amazingly strong men and women make… significant… needed life changes after they were able to get to [this] point… A deep sorrow is often how Stage One is described. A soul sorrow. A level of exhaustion… at times hard to explain…

“The challenge to Stage One is knowing whether we have arrived at a point of true despair and change will come, or if it’s just a temporary low point. Will we be heading back for more rounds of the same abuse? Just because we may be capable of forcing ourselves to continue down a certain path does not mean our nervous systems or physical health will be okay with that decision. I strongly believe in the mind-body connection, and if we continue doing what is harmful to us, our well-being will suffer… It is inevitable. I have witnessed the full spectrum of client emotional and physical breakdowns due to psychological abuse. I can share with you that once the body starts to shut down, a survivor must decide for who and what they are living.” [underlining mine]

These words of hers meshed “coincidentally” with a newsletter I recently read from another counselor of psychological abuse survivors. She shared the testimony of one woman who said she’d thought she was doing well and that she took good care of her health. A routine medical checkup shocked her when the doctor told her part of her body systems had already started to shut down, and if she didn’t change her life immediately, she would die.

Something else made this information about the necessity of “despair” ring true:
My Al Anon memories. Al Anon calls it “hitting bottom,” just like the alcoholic needs to do in order to start recovery. Step One in their 12-step program is “We admitted we were helpless over… [alcohol, or ________ (whatever)], that our lives had become unmanageable,” and until you’ve reached this point, you haven’t even begun!

Even the Apostle Paul had to learn this despair over a “thorn” in his life: “The Lord… said to me, ‘…My strength is perfected in weakness.’ Therefore… I will… boast… in infirmities… For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:9-10). We need the “despair” stage to quit playing superheroine and truly put ourselves in God’s care and guidance.

So, is despair a crime? Only if we ignore it as the signal it is and thereby keep wallowing in it or ignoring it, and thereby harm ourselves with it!

*****