Redd Up

Pretty much everyone from the Pittsburgh area will know exactly what the phrase “redd up” means. Everyone else is likely confused. Redd up has its roots in a Middle English verb “redden”, which meant to rescue or free from, or to clear. It came to America with European immigrants who settled here. From my strong Irish heritage, I have known all my life “redd up” means to clear an area or make it tidy. The city of Pittsburgh’s annual campaign against litter is called “Let’s Redd Up Pittsburgh.”

An early cited reference for this expression was in 1913, Horace Kephart in “Our Southern Highlanders,” “Then that tidal wave of air swept by. The roof settled again with only a few shingles missing. We went to redding up.” In 1975, Lena Penland Purkey used the expression in her book, “Home in Madison County,” “Pile ’em half a kettle high so’s the water’ll be boilin’ hot by the time I get the milk strained and vessels washed and scaled, and the house redd up a little.”

We have the capacity to redd up:

  • our home, office, garage, any physical environment.
  • our finances.
  • our relationships.
  • our minds.
  • our hearts.

We need to make these facets of our lives cleaner, less cluttered and more fertile for growth. Marie Kondo, the author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, writes, “When your room is clean and uncluttered, you have no choice but to examine your inner state.” Many of us have lots of clutter and in more than one area – physical, mental, spiritual. Too many of us are caught in the busyness of life and are overwhelmed by thoughts, ideas, deadlines, and to-dos.

To declutter, we often jettison junk or things no longer of value. These could be physical items, tasks, thoughts, even relationships or friendships. A good benchmark question is, “Does this item, activity, or person spark joy in me?” We can also re-evaluate what we do. Looking at “Best Practices” to find a better way; streamline what we already do, create a new practice, or change our perspective. We should have a True North and know our “why.”

A forgotten and necessary means to declutter is to forgive. Forgiveness lessens the emotional clutter in our hearts and creates space for peace to flourish. Anger, resentment, and negative emotions can stop us from finding happiness and living a positive life of higher aspirations.

An organization, community, even a family or marriage needs to redd up from time to time to be healthy. This can be a challenging process and should be maintained on an ongoing basis. Stephen Covey’s Habit, “Sharpen the Saw” is a renewal process to make our bodies, minds and souls tidy. It is designed to empower us to move on an upward spiral of growth and change, of continuous improvement. To make meaningful and consistent progress, we need to lessen the baggage we bring on our journey.

“He who wants to keep his garden tidy doesn’t reserve a plot for weeds,” is a quote attributed to Dag Hammarskjöld, a Swedish economist and diplomat who served as Secretary-General of the United Nations. We need to be vigilant about removing weeds, i.e., obstacles, that might hinder our progress or choke out the fruits of our worthwhile effort. If we want to cultivate a healthy and positive mindset, we need to be mindful and proactive about identifying and addressing issues that might hinder us. In the Old Testament, Solomon tried to keep his spiritual garden tidy by reserving a plot for weeds and it only caused problems. King David was guilty of the same strategy.

Christian faith has long walked “hand in hand” with being good stewards of God’s bountiful creation. We are tasked with restoring this broken world. Environmentally we recycle, compost, avoid wasting water, and reduce our carbon footprints wherever possible. We “redd up” our neighborhoods so everyone can be nurtured in clean environments that honors God and serves each other. We act against injustices. We service the needy. We protect God-given dignity.

Psalm 51:12, “A clean heart create for me, God; renew within me a steadfast spirit” seeks something more profound than wiping the slate clean. It is centered on creating a nearness to God through living by the spirit of God. Similarly in Ephesians 3:17, the Apostle Paul speaks of being rooted and grounded in Christ, “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.” A heart that has been made clean for Him.

My favorite “cleaning” scripture is from Matthew (23:25-26) “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean.” The ritual washing of utensils for dining is turned into a metaphor illustrating a concern for appearances while inner purity is ignored.

We have at our disposal the means to redd up our hearts, Repentance and Confession. Per 1 John 1:9, “If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing.” We also have Jesus’ modeling of prayer to redd up our hearts and minds. Ultimately, God’s Grace redds up our soul, if we open the door and allow the cleaning.

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