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Serving, but with boundaries

“But maybe you don’t want to serve the Lord. You must choose for yourselves today. Today you must decide who you will serve. Will you serve the gods that your ancestors worshiped when they lived on the other side of the Euphrates River? Or will you serve the gods of the Amorites who lived in this land? You must choose for yourselves. But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15 ERV)
We all serve something. It may be we serve ourselves - paying close attention to our needs and wants, while shutting out the needs and wants of those around us. We might serve others - doing all they demand and even more, but ignoring all the needs of our own body, mind, or soul. We could even serve something - not a person, but rather an object that has become the central focus of our existence, such as alcohol, drugs, or addictive substance. It really isn't as much a matter of "serving" as it is making a choice as to who or what we will allow in that space reserved for God himself.
I wanted sleep last night, my body craving it almost, but it wasn't in the cards for me as mom had one of those totally restless nights. It made me think this morning about the many needs each of us has, some very well articulated, while others have to be ferreted out by some means of intuition or interpretation. Mom couldn't put her finger on why she was so "antsy" and a little disconcerted herself - something common as dementia advances. She knew she didn't want to be alone, didn't want to be in bed, and that maybe she wanted a little fresh air. At two in the morning, we don't usually sit on the patio - so that was a little unrealistic, but we could open the front door and let in some of the cool air of an Arizona fall nighttime.
How do we decide what or who to serve? If we are uncomfortable taking a stand "against" those who may make demands upon us, we might just find ourselves "serving" but very begrudgingly. At two this morning, I had to put my foot down and let mom know we were not going outside. It was fine to sit together, or even pace the floors together, but we weren't going to venture beyond the house. Boundaries had to be set. In serving, it is important to set boundaries. You might think this a little counter to what it means to serve, but hear me out. If we allow others to constantly determine our boundaries, we may just find we are moving beyond what God wants for us, and sometimes even at the expense of either our own health or spiritual well-being. This is the importance of determining those boundaries even before we choose to serve.
As the Israelites were about to make the choice to either serve this or that god of the land, they also had the choice to serve the God of the Universe. The choices were clearly outlined and God had even helped define some of the boundaries, but the choice remained theirs. In serving, remember there is always a choice, and that choice is exclusively ours. We may "give over" that choice to another, but even in doing this, we are making a choice! Service is best accomplished in choosing wisely and understanding the boundaries behind those choices. Don't be intimidated into service. Don't let others set the boundaries for you. Be aware of what God desires of you, then remain faithful to those boundaries. You will be the most content serving when you do it within these boundaries. Just sayin!

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