kingdom-first: on love and lust


If you are not a Christian, please stick with me. In this post I write out how I’m dealing with some of my inconsistencies as a believer. I use words like “idolatry” and “kingdom,” and I know that’s weird. It’s just time that I call myself to account for what I say I believe – since so much of what I write makes me sound so spiritual. If Jesus doesn’t bring peace, then so many of us are wasting our time. If Jesus doesn’t bring internal peace, then either He did something wrong (or nothing at all), or we believers are doing something wrong (or nothing at all).

—————- 

Seth has let me sneak away to my quiet spot in this little house. 

Imagine with me: I’ve sunk into the duvet on our king bed. (If you’ve been here before, you know that as we renovate, we live in the LOVE shack and sleep in its laundry room.) Maybe 15 loads of clothes surround me. I am in a cave. To my right is a mound of dirty clothes that reaches near to the ceiling. It smells of dish water and outdoor little-boy musk. The microwave teeters on the dryer as it rocks the clothes dry. The antique glass lamp shade ticks like a spinning penny with every whirl of the washer. 

Seth is so kind to let me sneak away to write. He works in the kitchen, making the best chili known to any human mouth, and all three boys beg at his legs for either juice or chocolate. As he cooks, the dishes stack. Any minute there could be a crash – glass and dried food flung to the sneaky places I won’t clean until we move out.

This stage in life makes it nearly impossible to be single-minded. Is anyone hearing me on that? Can you hear me through this noise?

I come to the quietest place I can, and alongside the overwhelming house noises are the noises of worry and anxiety, complaints about my body, anticipations for tomorrow, and all the thoughts toward my lists. I hear the noise of my imagination. I, in my unrested, unquiet, and un-orderly state, am a machine for lust. I lust for possessions, vacations, a maid, better habits, newer clothes, more time to blog. I lust for your applause. I delight to hear you say “well-done.” 

I’ve been reading Richard Foster’s Celebration of Disciplines,  and he lists Simplicity as “the inward reality that results in an outward lifestyle.” He says that “Because we lack a divine Center our need for security has led us into an insane attachment to things.” 

And I do find it very easy to call this stage psychotic. If I were to line up my concerns and shine on them a Biblical light and the truth of the gospel of grace, I would reveal that I am most often a fraud. I’m an upside-down iceberg.

*90% of the iceberg is supposed to be under the water, secret and quiet. I’ve had about 10%, if even, of my heart dipping in and out of the awareness of God’s presence and 90% of it bobbing out in public with a gong.

Richard Foster warns that anxiety is red-flag for a lack of simplicity, and simplicity is freedom, balance, and the pursuit of God’s righteousness and His kingdom. He quotes the entire passage of Matthew 6:25-33.

 25“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life[a]?

 28“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 

It is in seeking His kingdom first and only that I’ll receive the simplicity that I so desire. Foster warns, also, that seeking simplicity does not lead to simplicity but can itself lead to idolatry and a great temptation for legalism. He writes that “the person who does not seek the kingdom first does not seek it at all.”

So these are my questions: What does it mean to seek Gods kingdom and His righteousness? Where is His kingdom in our dirty houses and in our daily relationships? What does simplicity look like?


amberhaines
About me

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30 Comments

Megan @ Hold it UP to the Light
Reply April 13, 2009

I cannot even begin to explain to you how that spoke straight to me....it's exactly how I feel. I mean, it's like you were inside my head or something!

Thanks for the reminder and for the reflection....I know it will make a difference in my chaos, too. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

pam at beyondjustmom
Reply April 13, 2009

This is beautiful, Amber. I wish I had answers, but I have so many of the very same questions. Thanks for the inspiration and reflection.

pam at beyondjustmom’s last blog post..friday fragments

Amber
Reply April 13, 2009

I forgot to come back to the asterisk.

*I wrote this in one of those emails where I spilled my guts to a fellow blogger.

Katie
Reply April 13, 2009

I kind of think that the seeking IS the finding, that it is relationship with God that matters most for us and for him, even when (especially when) that relationship is centered around our most desperate questions for him. The question is always "Where are you, God?" and the answer is always "Right here with you." And that sacred dialogue, one we have over and over and over, becomes a prayer, a communion, a relationship that draws us closer to him. We turn our eyes to God and lay down our worries before him, knowing that he already worried them for us on the cross, and we let go (the hardest part) and just be with him. And that's it. That's simplicity. The just being with God.

But for me, unfortunately, those simple real moments come only in slivers, and leave me hungry for more....

Katie’s last blog post..Happy Easter!

Erin
Reply April 13, 2009

I am right there with you Amber - little babies at home with a husband in his residency makes me feel like my life and brain are shallow and no real thought can form here. I can't even get myself to form a response to your questions between the disruptions for more of my toast this morning... :)

My first reaction is that everything we seek and long after and do must be run through the filter of "does this have anything to do with His kingdom" or "how is this bringing or furthering His kingdom." Now, I don't do this often, but I feel like if I gave myself moment's pause to allow Him to speak, my life would be more simple. And oh - "anxiety is a red-flag for simplicity" - girl, that edified me today! :) Be blessed!

Erin’s last blog post..Death and Life

Emily M
Reply April 13, 2009

I am a huge fan of Richard Foster, and I have read Celebration of Discipline many times. I find that it speaks to me in different ways at different points on my journey. Keep it handy. You'll want to go back to it.

I'm writing this comment on a break from writing the last chapter of my master's thesis while my son watches TV "so Mommy can work." All of which is to say that at any given moment, I can't claim to have the answers to any of those questions. The closest I come to feeling like I have it all figured out is in the infinitesimal glimpses of eternity I sometimes get when I lock eyes with someone I would gladly jump in front of a moving train to save; the fleeting moments when God hits me with the fact that Jesus died just as much for that disagreeable person I'm walking away from as he did for me and the people I love; the quiet contentment that sometimes comes from bringing order out of the chaos and sometimes needs to be set aside by the unruly joy of giving in and being swept up in a whirl of activity.

In the end, God only asks us to seek. And to trust Him to do the rest.

Ashley Shaver
Reply April 13, 2009

Brilliant. Honest. So very real. When I finish with my own lovely (albeit dirty and messy) chaos and tuck my little ones--age 6, 4, and 2--in bed tonight, I'll let it simmer in my soul for a while. My soul is starved for it.

I also really appreciated Katie's reminder. I am so very results and performance driven that I desperately need to hear that "right here" is okay. (Where did those tears just come from?) I need to hear that "the seeking IS the finding", especially when my attempts seem like half-hearted, lazy excuses in a manic day. There is so much noise calling my many names.

I'll simmer on simple tonight.

Thank you.

stephy
Reply April 13, 2009

Thanks so much for writing about this and for your transparency. I've thought a lot about simplicity over Lent, for some reason. Thanks for writing it down, I long for simplicity in the chaos of being a working mommy! Good to know I'm not alone.

Megan
Reply April 13, 2009

mm mm MM!! This is good, Amber! I feel like this is exactly what was on my heart when I wrote my last post "One Thing Needful."

I told my husband yesterday that I want to get rid of 80% of our stuff, and I think I mean it too. Though I fear that I might lose myself in the purging, which speaks volumes about just exactly who I think I am.

Megan’s last blog post..One Thing Needful

Jess
Reply April 13, 2009

"anxiety is red-flag for a lack of simplicity, and simplicity is freedom, balance, and the pursuit of God’s righteousness and His kingdom. "

This is what God wanted to speak to me today. Thank-you! We moved a year ago to a small apartment with our two children, and the beginning sense of simplicity is worn off and my mind is consumed with all the things we "need"- a yard for the girls, etc. etc., though all of our circumstances are telling us to WAIT, I can't help but lust over the real estate magazine every week . . . just this morning I was really convicted that it is sin for me even to tempt myself with thoughts of moving . . . this post confirmed it . . . and it's not just about simplicity, it's about seeking first His Kingdom! Wow. I NEEDED this!!!

Becky Carter
Reply April 13, 2009

Whenever I read your blog I always ask myself why I do not read it more often. I have been SO convicted for SO long to simplify myself. I have gone on FB/email fasts and even mentioned to Jim that we should "turn off" this week. Y'day our pastor preached from Col 1:1-14 and conviction and lightbulbs went off all over the place. He said: "When you just keep complaining about how tired you are, grumpy you are (etc) then it means you are not in His word". Wow, slap in the face! This world and culture does not promote simplicity but consumerism. I am hook line and sinker. So, I need to replace "their" propaganda with God's propaganda. Our lives are tough these days with small ones in the home, some have many small ones in their home, but God has blessed us in these times. We just have to have God's view and not the worlds' view.
Thanks again fot the reminder.
Hey - I rebelled ALL the time when I was young, why not rebel now and be different from the world! I am challenged, can I challenged you to rebel?
Love ya Amber!

Amber
Reply April 13, 2009

yes!!!

Heather of the EO
Reply April 13, 2009

We do especially struggle with this in this season of life. A crazy loud and busy house, people tugging at our pants. Our minds are not our own so much of the time. No head space.

I too think that if it's going to be this way, other things will have to go (TV, computer time, etc.)

I remember a seasoned mother and grandmother telling me in Bible Study last year, "Don't be so hard on yourself, it just keeps you focusing on what you're not doing well and then you fail some more. When your kids are small, it's true that there isn't much time for quiet reflection, reading and prayer. So you do the best you can in the moments you have, praying without ceasing in the midst of it all and tacking verses up around your house."

Which reminded me to share this profound and lovely post by my friend Jess - it truly speaks volumes to this issue.
http://jesstock.blogspot.com/2009/01/its-so-dark.html

Heather of the EO’s last blog post..It's kind of like a steel trap

Leslie
Reply April 13, 2009

I spent the end of yesterday (for me, that's the hour-and-a-half between my boy's bedtime and mine) worrying about my want for Stuff, wondering how to disengage, and considering the difference between admiring beautiful (or even useful, or simply new) things and spending too much time skimming the surface of what's important.
I'm trying to pare down by recognizing simple gifts.

Leslie’s last blog post..

Robin ~ PENSIEVE
Reply April 13, 2009

Grrrr....

Yes, I'm growling; I had your page up this morning shortly after we chatted and at the time, had all manner of insightful thought and response. Sadly, the internet went down where I was and I've spent the remainder of my day with my kids looking for nice spots that had POWER as opposed to our powerless home.

Now home, with power...kids are in and out, and though mine are older, I cannot put thoughts together. Ugh...hate it cause I'm sure my response this morning would've been so helpful (lol).

I'll leave your page up and contemplate simplicity (LOVE Foster, BTW); which is kind of ironic--I had "simplicity" this a.m. when we had no electricity! Ha!!

xo

Robin ~ PENSIEVE’s last blog post..Unintentioned hilarity

the domestic fringe
Reply April 13, 2009

You've given us lots to think about. I've been trying to simplify my own life lately. There just seems to be too much craziness.

-FringeGirl

Jo@Mylestones
Reply April 13, 2009

Amber, I don't know what the Kingdom looks like in our daily mess. I'm pretty good at pinpointing what it doesn't look like. I know what's it's NOT. But what it is, and how we live it, I don't know. We're fighting the crashing rapids, swimming against the current of our sin nature, and though God's made a way, we still flounder and imagine how much easier it would be to just float downstream. There is so much to pull us back and under, but there is God to raise us up. And He has. And He is. And He will.

Jo@Mylestones’s last blog post..Because there's no "my" in "Family". Oh wait, there is. Oh well.

Shawna
Reply April 13, 2009

First of all, I say "Well done." I also am hungry for that praise. And for you, it is well deserved.

Second, I loved the 90%/10% analogy...clanging like a gong/bobbing in the Living Water, just barely dipping under. Perfect description.

Blessed
Reply April 14, 2009

It's posts like these - posts that challenge me on a deeper level - that keep me coming back to your blog.

I too am trying to find the Kingdom in the midst of the chaos I call my life, my home, my work, my schedule. I rest in the peace that God has promised that if we seek we shall find, if we ask we shall receive, if we knock the door will be opened unto us. I have to seek everyday - the peace, contentment and joy I feel deep inside in the midst of the chaos on the days that I do truly seek is what lets me know when I'm remembering my priorities correctly, when I've found His Kingdom and when I have put it first in my life - those are the best days because it really is true that when I "seek ye first the kingdom of God" that "all these things" raiment, shelter, food, the things necessary for life, and the things that bring pleasure in life, truly are "added unto" me.

Blessed’s last blog post..The things we never talk about

Rachel
Reply April 14, 2009

Wow, Amber. This post was anointed. Or you've been reading a lot people's mail. Mine, to be sure. All the comments are fantastic, too! I know, because I read everyone of them while my daughter ate the newspaper.

sigh.

Someone please tell me that staying home, taking care of my daughter, husband, and house is "the Kingdom". A small part of me wants to run around like a maniac, trying to be everything to everyone like I always used to, but then who will wash the diapers and cook the slop?

I'm trying to remember that regardless of what He has me doing or not doing, He is always trying to make me more like Him. If He wasn't God, I might be tempted to wish Him luck.

I think I'll go polish something and hope, in the process, He polishes me.

Rachel’s last blog post..Welcome Virtual Great American Bake Sale Visitors!

Jane Anne
Reply April 14, 2009

I don't know if you have it or have seen it but Foster has another excellent book: Freedom of Simplicity. His writings are so profound to me and often hard to read unless I sneak away somehow. I understand your struggle. I have children that are 7,5,3 and 1.
For me seeking first His Kingdom means making him a part of my everyday life. That is, not just in my "quiet time" but in my daily activities - like washing the dishes or reprimanding my children. For me, it means living each day with lots of prayer. The only way I can focus on him constantly is to pray often- little prayers. When I do that, everything seems simplier.

Jane Anne’s last blog post..Pulling Weeds

Seth
Reply April 14, 2009

I am writing in response to Janne Anne.

When I was in college, I was on an unassuming drive from my conservative college town to the big city of Little Rock. I went to one of those colleges where spirituality was prized, albeit compartmentalized. On the radio, Rich Mullins was being interviewed and he said that if we could not revel in God while undertaking menial task, such as ironing a shirt, we are missing out on a large part of what it means to seek Him. It was an astounding comment in the middle of a time in my life where I was sorting through a good deal of compartmentlization.

That comment continues to find me. It finds me when I'm plugging away at my desk, tackling problems that may appear to be un-spiritual. It reminds me that doing the bills can be a spiritual experience. It reminds me that finding God doesn't take a specific "time" or "service" it just takes a moment to listen.

But listening is difficult with all of the noise that surrounds us--even the good noise. That's the tough part. Simplifying the noise.

Seth’s last blog post..Mother Letter Update

Jennifer
Reply April 14, 2009

I am right smack dab in the middle of this search for simplicity, also. My husband works off shore and stays gone long periods of time. Plus we just had our first child. I am just now realizing how much I depended on him when I should be depending on HIM! I have asked those same questions to my mother and this is what she says. "For those of us with children God's kingdom is in their lives." As a mother our eternal investment is in raising children to be lovers of God. If our focus is on that then we are seeking God's kingdom. I definitly think that seeking God's kingdom looks different in every stage or our lives. Anyway, thanks for sharing. I really felt like these were the words I've been looking for to describe how I felt.

stacey
Reply April 14, 2009

i really needed to read this tonight. it spoke right to my heart. i loved the anxiety/simplicity/freedom quoat. i'm gonna have to meditate on that one!
i didn't read your bazillion comments, but my answer to your question would be living in the moment and basking in His presence. sounds nice....not so easy. i definately have moments, but they are between the dirty diapers, spaghetti spills, sibling quarrels and about a million other little everyday all day things. i know it must be possible amidst all this, and i do have moments, but not nearly enough.
again, thanks for this post....

Kelly @ Love Well
Reply April 14, 2009

When I was in high school, I found a bumper sticker advertising windsurfing in the Columbia River Gorge that proclaimed (in neon pink font) "Attitude is EVERYTHING."

It's become something of a life motto for me. So my thoughts of simplicity filter through that lens. But for me, simplicity has much to do my mind. External simplicity doesn't equally internal simplicity. It's learning to taste and see that He is good even in the ministry of the mundane.

Kelly @ Love Well’s last blog post..My Living Delight

Susan R
Reply April 15, 2009

Finally catching up on reading and WOW... you blew me away Amber! And how I wish I had the answers... but just know that you are not alone in struggling with the questions. I, and so many others are with you.

Susan R’s last blog post..My Dream Job

Ann Voskamp
Reply April 15, 2009

I've circled back to these thoughts, revisiting the feast you've spread.
I have no words...

That His Spirit might speak.

I know you have ear to the wind, to His Word, listening.
I join you, sister....

Ann Voskamp’s last blog post..How to Display Kids' Artwork... and Why We're Wired to Create

Aimee
Reply April 16, 2009

I hear you, as the humidifier hums and another load of laundry is getting started here. In so many ways, I am in the same boat with you.

Does that help, knowing we are, in way or another, all in this together?

No answers here, just empathy. And a recommendation. Foster's "Prayer" is another good one.

Aimee’s last blog post..That's My King (Rock Mix)

Jane Anne
Reply April 16, 2009

I am back reading the rest of the comments. Seth, your words were right on track with what's been on my heart lately. I took a blog break during the lenten season because I felt that I wanted to refocus. Blogging's not bad but it can be an incredible distraction to me. It is a wonderful hobby. When it claims my energy more than God, that's bad. I think simplifying the noise in our lives is important. I think being intentional is essential. I came out of Lent wanting to be more intentional in my relationships (with others and God) and be more intentional in the ways I spend my time. When we are intentional, and dependent on prayer, it is easier to simplify.
Again, I loved you words! You said it so much better than I could have.

Jane Anne’s last blog post..Thursday Thanks Tank #83

Esther
Reply May 16, 2009

interesting how the same questions keep popping up in so many different places of my life. i've been chewing on this post for a while now....

thanks

Esther’s last blog post..Glory in Chaos

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