LETTER FROM A MINISTER

Excess Baggage

Winter is waning  and we are looking forward to spring. I don't know about you but for me that means looking forward to warmer weathshorter sleeves and holidays. Howeer, I know if I want to go on holiday later this spring or early summer I need to do some preparatory work now like making plans and reservations.

I love holidays and the adventure of travel and seeing someplace new. However, I find the packing and unpacking a challenge. It is the challenge of having what I need without venturing into the realm of excess baggage. What is excess is clear when you fly, because there are often strict rules about excess baggage and harsh financial penalties. When you travel by means that keep you closer to the ground, what is excess is often less clear. However, I often find it can be identified by the extra space and extra bags it takes up.

If left to my own natural inclinations, I often find myself with excess baggage. This is both when I travel and more generally in my home and life. This is why my Lenten discipline to declutter, so that I can focus on what is important, is a challenge but is also good. I don’t know what you might or might not have taken up as a Lenten challenge in this season the Church gives to prepare for Easter, but I have chosen things that in very practical ways help me focus more on what is most important - loving God and neighbour.

I have chosen two Lenten challenges to both metaphorically and physically - clear out the clutter and make room for adventurous living where I am not hampered by excess baggage. I have given up playing solitaire on my phone for Lent (and when I have a few spare minutes between activities, I love playing solitaire!). I am not convinced that God cares much either way about my solitaire playing, but I find it helpful to use my habit of trying to fit in a quick game as a reminder to redirect my attention to spend those few minutes talking to God in prayer. I find this a decluttering of the ways I habitually, and somewhat unthinkingly, spend my time.

On a more tangible level, my other Lenten discipline is trying to get rid of excess baggage with which I have filled my home. I have opted into the 40-bags-in-40-days Challenge as a way to simplify and declutter my home environment. Taking on this challenge for a time has been a good reminder that sometimes we need to let go. In addition, it has also helpfully reminded me that I am grasping at straws if I live my life as if it is things that bring us happiness, because people and experiences are so much more important.

In the Bible, Jesus is continually reminding us to get rid of our excess baggage and put what is most important first. When Jesus was asked what the most important rules to live by were, he answered “Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence”. This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: “Love others as well as you love yourself.” (Matthew 22:34-40, The Message). In this season of Lent, my prayer for you and for myself is that we may find ways to get rid of our excess baggage so that we might focus on what is really important.

Blessings,

Rev Mindy Bell

Methodist Minister