It’s Just Stuff

It's just

The motor’s whir fills the air. Your hair blows with the blast of air. You can’t decide if it muffles your hearing or if the wind rushing briskly past your ears is the cause.

Either way, you like it.

Water spray sprinkles your nose and cheeks as your body bounces up and down with the motion of the motorized canoe. The cool mist feels comfortable. It’s muggy out here, with air hanging heavily. 

You don’t care.

Fish jump in the air, falling back down to the muddy waters. Suddenly, a battalion of the swimmers flies in spawning madness. There must be 20 or 30 fillets in the air at once, let alone the number swarming under the surface. It’s like a game of whack-a-mole, but with fish and long, humming canoes. One hurdles past your hand, nearly landing in your lap. Your eyes grow big. These are teeth-clad, man-eating piranhas.

But you manage safely.

There’s a riverbank ahead. Beyond it is home. On the shores await the thin, little legs of Ever and his friends. They’re eager to help the team come ashore. Their fingers grasp no toys, only patience and humility.

You watch, intrigued.

Make-shift showers offer a weak spray of cold water under the dark, bold sky. It feels good to your sweaty body. Who needs a sparkling clean, modern-day shower?

A hole in the ground proclaims toilet status. A small stack of bricks flanks the sides of this tropical, on-the-fringes-of-the-Amazon toilet. They offer a difference – just four bricks.

It’s the little pleasures, you decide.

A tin roof, covered in palm thatch, and half walls without doors or windows await while hammocks hang. Many homes in the community mock similar. This space – the one they’re building and ordaining a medical clinic, isn’t showy. It’s smaller than most American garages, modest but enough, especially when compared to the alternative of nothing.

Simple seems sufficient.

Mosquitoes swarm at 5PM. Kamikaze-style moths attack at 7. And turkeys perched in branches nearby roar gobbles to a crescendo, then muffle quiet. They repeat their sonata until 2AM. You cup your ears, thankful for the mosquito netting hugging your hanging bed. It’s a lifesaver this time around, bullet-proof protection against the pestilence shooting and buzzing in the night. But it does nothing to quiet the roar of turkeys.

It’s okay.

Their smiles come, one by one. Children play soccer on a field of weeds, its long strands violently but lovingly cut just minutes before. The men don’t need lawnmowers – not even a push version. They have machetes donning sharp blades that’ll cut a field in record time.

They have nothing. Their humility and contentedness offer much.

Venezuela

After the 10-day mission trip, you attempt a life called normal back on American soil. How could those few days breathe such culture shock to life?

You sit in front of a glowing computer screen in your comfortable work chair. A nice wooden workstation hugs your space, a sparkling showroom has your back. This is work. It’s nice. Very nice. But it overwhelms.

You think of the youth and elderly back on the rivers near the Amazon – the ones who have nothing but seem to have everything – and you want to throw up. Their contentedness seems well-hidden on American soil.

Your thoughts swing to the Christmas season. It’s in full rush. But your feet resist the step across store thresholds.  It’s too much. The love of things has sickened your spirit. In the midst of this hustle and bustle, you wonder where is Jesus?

There will be no shopping – not this year. It’s the first Christmas ever.

You.just.can’t.do.it.

Your mind is on things above, the work of Jesus.

It's just-2

Set your mind on things above. (Col. 3:2) Click To Tweet

That was 1996.

Venezuela – near the Colombian border.

Now here I sit 20 years later, still on American soil, considering Suzie Eller’s writing prompt this week: It’s Just Stuff. After my trip to Venezuela, stuff – “things”, lost their value.

Jesus gained.

But the status of things has slipped up a notch or two with time. I hold them nearer and dearer, but this week I find myself questioning their value once again.

Maybe that’s you?

You’ve set “stuff” down, only to pick up its importance again. Maybe it’s on a pedestal threatening to knock off One – an idol beyond intent. Maybe it’s time to question how important stuff really is – and if our minds are focused habitually on things above.

I've determined to set and keep this mind on things above. You too? Col. 3:2 Click To Tweet

I’m questioning in prayer. Feel free to come alongside me and press in closer to the God who fulfills our every need. After all, “stuff” isn’t going to heaven.

Lord, do earthly things have a hold on my heart? Forgive me. Show me Your truth. I long to focus on things above – in relationships, with financial stewardship, with ministry and generosity, even with the places I seemingly don’t want to be. They are Yours. I’m yours. Show me the righteous way, Lord, as I set down “stuff”. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

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25 Comments

  1. Great post – we decided we want a simpler more focused life and have started stripping out a lot of ‘stuff’ in our life – its remarkably freeing 🙂

  2. Kristi, such beautiful words! We can literally be a slave to our stuff, can’t we? The more we have, the more we have to take care of. It takes away from the things we should be focused on. This is something I really need to do… Simplify. Thanks for this word today. ????

  3. Amen, Kristi. A needed reminder for my heart that “it’s just stuff.” Your prayer points out the only thing that matters. It all belongs to Jesus, and I am His. Thanks, friend. : )

  4. So…I love this post. One – your lyrical writing – just scrumptious. Two – I just started a study on Hosea – all about idols and how we MUST set them down to truly worship God as our one true king. There is so much “stuff” – noise and nonsense that crowds Him out. So grateful that God is affirming once more that He wants me to sift through it all and fix my eyes on Him. Hugs, friend.

  5. I remember when you went. Seems like an eternity ago, and I think most everyone has this feeling when returning from a rural mission trip. When I moved onto the boat with Jim, that’s the number one question people (women) asked, “Where do you put your stuff?” Even with a soon to be fulltime house, I like few things and everything in its place. It helps me be able to think.

    1. There is something to be said about less clutter and thinking better. Tony and I have discussed that very subject several times, Lisa. So then why do we keep so much “stuff” around?! Enjoy that beautiful cabin of yours. It’s gorgeous.

  6. Oh wow, Kristi. Talk about powerful … that trip, the impact, your words today. Thank you for sharing … I felt like I was right there with you.

    Then … and now.

  7. Beautifully written. I so understand that culture shock. Why do I have so much? Am I finding security in “stuff” more than in God? The trips I’ve taken to Haiti have made me question the life I live in the states. It’s a constant giving things up to God. Asking him to help me be thankful for the blessings I have, but to not trust in them. And asking him what it is he wants me to do for him with those blessings.

    1. This proves thought-provoking, Kim: “Asking him to help me be thankful for the blessings I have, but to not trust in them.” I’m so glad you typed those words.

  8. Thanks for sharing your inspiring story with such heartfelt conviction Kristi!. I was transported to the Amazon for a moment..wow! It’s troubling how easy it is to become entrapped by stuff. For so many years I was focused on temporal things and self indulgence. However, God continues to mold me as I seek to be more like Him. When I moved 2 years ago, I was struck by all the “stuff” I had accumulated over the years. It was both freeing and empowering to be able to help others. Now I ask God to guide me in my decisions.(Seek ye first the kingdom of God..) I am thankful that God continues to show me what is truly important as I seek to live for Him. I am always blessed and inspired every time I visit. Have a wonderful weekend and may God continue to bless you and yours!

  9. Kristi, this is why I wish all of my kids will have the opportunity to minister young in a place that is so much different from our culture. They are freed to see Jesus and need Him desperately in a way we have to dig deep for. Thank you for this soul-deep, good reminder today.