Clearing The Clutter

It is an annual practice of mine to clear the clutter at the end of the year. I go through my wardrobe and various cabinets and reorganise them. Inevitably as I do this, I discover things that I have forgotten and things that are past their “best use by” date. These laid dormant behind or under other more useful stuff. Even though most of these were not missed throughout the year, getting rid of say a pair of jeans can be quite a mental-emotional tussle!

But it is not just material stuff that clutters our cupboards and cabinets, our thoughts, emotions and certainly, schedule can be cluttered too. The problem with clutter is that it causes a lack of clarity in our lives. Just like you are never quite sure if you still have that baking flour that you have not used the last six months, you are never quite sure what you should think or do when you are all “cluttered-up.” 

While a new year might have begun, possibly things are still what they were last year. It is not the setting of goals and resolutions that changes our lives, it is the cultivating of better habits to achieve them. And that requires us to get rid of the old unusable stuff. What are some unusable stuff that you have carried over into the new year? Here are three key areas to declutter for greater clarity and focus. 

1. Declutter Your Calendar 

The most important decluttering is your calendar. First, if you want a life that is Spirit-led and God-blessed, ensure that you free up time for God. Take the biblical injunction to put God first in your life seriously. 

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

Mark 12:30, NIV 

If your current calendar is filled with unproductive activities and uninspiring people, especially those which take you away from God, it needs a redo! Go ahead and list those activities that you know are a waste of energy and time. One of these would certainly be scrolling aimlessly through social media or spending too much time creating the perfect post!

Prioritise time with God and make sure you avail yourself for spiritual activities that build and bless your life such as worship, prayer, fellowship, and serving. 

2. Declutter Your Workspace 

People with a cluttered workspace are generally less efficient and more frustrated than those who work from an organised space. Assign a proper place for all your essentials and get rid of the non-essentials at your workstation.

In decluttering, set the goal of doing excellent work every time you are at your workstation. Don’t just aim for getting your work done. Rather, set yourself up to work proficiently. An organised space that allows you to easily access whatever you need will help you to focus better and work faster.  

Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before unknown men.

Proverbs 22:29, NKJV 

3. Declutter Your Mind  

The inability to focus deeply has to do with the constant distractions we submit our minds to.

While curiosity is often thought of as a positive trait, in this current noisy social network culture, it has resulted in our inability to quieten down within. Our mind is not only constantly stimulated but filled with useless and unreliable information. Our many interests encouraged by an increasingly smaller world, have compromised the quality of our relationships and our ability to savour mindfulness.

Being easily distracted is an unconscious habit that many people have learned in recent times. 

One of the fastest ways to declutter your mind is to limit your social media consumption. The media you consume has a great effect on your mental and emotional wellbeing. Marriage counselors now list social media as a cause of marriage breakdowns! An overload of information not only clogs your brain but causes stress and anxiety. The endless media-related chat puts tremendous stress on your mind.  

Social Media

Another effective way to declutter your mind is to talk to someone you are close to. Sharing your thoughts and emotions can clear up your scrabbled thoughts and pent-up emotions. It can also help you have a more objective perspective. It is crucially important to set our minds on the right things since our life goes in the direction of our minds. 

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

Romans 8:5-6 (NKJV)

The goal of decluttering is to get out of the messy, distracted, and unprofitable way of living and get into a simpler, more focused, and blessed way of life. As you declutter your life, may you discover the joy and blessing of a God-focused life this year!

The Lord bless you and keep you;

The Lord make His face shine upon you,

And be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,

And give you peace

Numbers 6:24-26, (NKJV)

Fresh Faith For A New Beginning

A new year makes all good things seem possible! There is something about the clock striking midnight on the last day of the year that ushers in a new beginning, and with that the hope for better days ahead. And this is why we make resolutions and set goals when a new year dawns. We do them in the hope that they will guide us towards a greater and happier year. 

Indeed, for the longest time ever, I faithfully made new year resolutions. The truth is they were inevitably the same list of stuff every year! So the last few years, exasperated by the recycled list, I moved away from resolutions to new year “hope”. Instead of resolving to do better in various areas and commitments, I state what I hope the year would bring as it unfolds. 

Then I pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance and illumination. I think this way I am better able to partner with God to do what he has in store for me. Indeed stating our hope and entrusting them to God will help us to be more consciously dependent on him. The Bible is full of promises for those who hope in the Lord. 

Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God.

Psalm 146:5, NIV

I wonder what you hope for in the new year. Whatever your list might be, remember to start with God himself. My first hope for this year is to be refreshed in my faith in God. What does that mean? I am unsure myself except that in my heart there is a desire for fresh faith like that of a child, an eager anticipation of what God could do when I choose to believe and obey. 

I have given up on trying to figure out everything. I have ceased trying to compel positive changes or strive for a happier life. Instead of enforcing a plan on the Holy Spirit, I believe surrendering to his tide and allowing to be led, will take me to where he wants me to be. So while hoping for a fresh faith that will unveil God’s many miraculous workings this year, I do not know exactly what these workings will be or where I might be at the end of the year. 

Like Abraham leaving Ur of the Chaldean, Moses Egypt, and Peter his nets, following Jesus wholeheartedly is an adventure to be discovered. The promises of God as they unfold are to be savoured and the joy of his fellowship to be cherished. Dictating to God too many desires, setting up too many goals, and pursuing endless accomplishments not only lead to frustrations but stifle the Holy Spirit in our lives. If the Spirit of God is to have his way in our lives, we need to clear the clutter of man-made good ideas.  Indeed, the world is full of good ideas of how we should live and what we need to accomplish, but following these only leave us unsatisfied year in and out. 

Too much resolving makes the heart weary! 

A true new beginning is not really about the turning of a calendar page. That turning allows us an impetus to start afresh. Yet, it is really God himself who could move us forward to better and greater things. And for that to unfold, we need to renew our faith. Perhaps you are disappointed at your lack of faith in the past year. Perhaps your prayers were unanswered, you did not receive the promises of God or experience the favour of God. But that was last year. A new year has dawned and it is the kairos time to renew your faith.  

Trust that the eyes of the Lord your God are continually upon you from the beginning of the year to its end. As you follow God wholeheartedly, may you be abundantly satisfied this year!

But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end. So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul— then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil. I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.

Deuteronomy 11:11-15 (NIV)
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Grasping The Wind?

Vanity of vanities, all is vanity! So cried the writer of Ecclesiastes in the Bible.  He was beyond frustrated by the meaningless of life. There seemed to be no lasting satisfaction. What appeared to give happiness lasted only a fleeting moment. Labour was burdensome, and life had become like the grasping of the wind (Ecclesiastes 1:14). If we live long enough, inevitably, we will at some point share Solomon’s desperation over life!

Dating as far back as Aristotle and Plato, philosophers considered that there were two types of happiness. One termed hedonic happiness is found in the pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain. The other known as eudaemonic happiness is achieved by living virtuously, achieving inner harmony, and self-actualisation. Enough research has now been done to recognise that while the second type of happiness is linked to well-being, the first type is momentary and insatiable. Unfortunately, we often fail to differentiate between them.

So Solomon found himself lamenting. Everything was meaningless and he was insatiable. Riches, advancement, and pleasures left him