Daniel and Amanda’s Weblog

September 24, 2008

More community discussion

Filed under: christianity — theburts @ 4:18 pm
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Sorry, took a short hiatus again. :)  Not too much new here…we’re still learning and dreaming of community, went to a conference thing by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove (who lives at the Rutba House intentional community in North Carolina) this past weekend. Since I haven’t had time to write a blog for some time, I wanted to share this. I wrote it in email form to the group that’s meeting every other week, discussing the book Schools for Conversion: 12 Marks of a New Monasticism. Peace, Daniel.

So I wanted to tell y’all about something that’s been very encouraging for me this week. Feel free to chime in anytime. And sorry, it’s long. :)

It’s easy for one (me) to get overwhelmed by the huge decisions and complexities of moving into community. Even though I’ve lived in an intentional community before, and even though I know of other groups around the country and throughout history, it’s so foreign to the typical way of life in America that it can feel like we’re the first ones to ever try it! The newness in “new monasticism” can feel exciting and revolutionary. And it certainly is, there have been amazing, exciting changes both in my life and countless others through the witness of people like John Perkins and Shane Claiborne, from the Rutba House to Koinonia. But the moment I (we) begin to feel a sense of personality responsibility and heroism for success in creating community, I think pride is dangerously near if not already planted in my (our) efforts.

In the first chapter we’re discussing next week, called “Humble Submission to Christ’s Body, the Church,” the author talks of his history in discovering the “Great Tradition,” the “set of beliefs and practices that have been maintained by Christians throughout the centuries and are still held by the vast majority of Christians.” Then he says, “The impossible burden of having to do it all by myself and the terrible insecurity of never knowing if I was right were both lifted from my shoulders. A new life opened before me. I now saw the church as a gift rather than an accomplishment. With that realization a life-long process of conversion began, slowly changing me from someone who relied entirely on his own efforts into someone who accepted the gifts of grace that are all about us.”

Though the author was referring more to his being separated from the Church and his frustrations with not having anyone (or any church authority) to learn from, I think the same thing can happen in creating community. We are not alone, people! We have many gifts of grace to accept, both from the Church and from our brothers and sisters, and I think it will be too burdensome to try and be community without the encouragement and support from others. I met Harvey Baker at church this past Sunday, a man who’s lived in an intentional farm community for 34 years in south TN. It was funny…I asked him if he’d read “12 Marks of a New Monasticism,” as if this book published in 2005 was also somehow important in the creation of his community in 1973. Right, so he’d never heard of it. :) But he’s been living it for years…woodworker by trade, farmer for food, a 65ish year old lover of God and neighbor (and harmonica).

It’s easy to be scared of failure, or intimidated by the huge responsibility of being a faithful community, especially when we’re new to it and might not have any direct ties to other communities…but we need to remember that just because it’s new to us, it’s not new to the world. I’m not attempting to squelch the excitement of the “irresistible revolution” or “new monasticism.” I’m pumped about it, and am eager to live in community with some or all of you. I think Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Shane Claiborne and most of those involved in the new monasticism dialogue have tried to make it very clear that the words “new” and “movement” are dangerously “faddish.” They’ve emphasized that we need to keep close connection with our mother the Church and with our brothers and sisters (present and past) as we try to live faithfully in community. And to me, it was so encouraging to meet this older man, someone to whom intentional community isn’t new, or scary, or radical at all…it’s just life. That’s my story (ie. novel).

August 25, 2008

Community #2

Amanda and I have talked a lot in the past few months about the possibility of living in community. Our dear friends, Bryan and Dawn and Mindy and Ariah, showed us that it is indeed possible to be happily and healthily married while living in community with others. In fact, one of the identifiers in the so called “new monastic” communities (as noted in Schools for Conversion: 12 Marks of the New Monasticism, which we and several of our friends are currently going through as a group) is “support for celibate singles alongside monogamous married couples and their children.” Sure, our society thinks that’s weird. And crazy. But Christians have often been thought of as weird and crazy, a fact that I was reminded of lately, so we’d be in good company.

We believe that we have to look at everything from the perspective of God and our faith in Jesus. After all, most Christians, if asked, will tell you that following God should more important than anything else in their life (though we certainly don’t always act like it…surely critics might say that football and finances often trump God in our lives). So even though moving in with a bunch of people doesn’t necessarily seem normal and natural to us, especially after being married for only one year, we simultaneously understand that part of the reason is because of what our culture tells us is normal. I’ve used the phrase “counter cultural” quite a bit on my blog here. Where it’s sometimes true that Christians need to be counter cultural, I’m learning more and more that what we need more is for Christ’s followers to envision a new culture altogether, not just oppose the mainline one that we feel is messed up. We need an alternative culture, Jesus’ Way, where we can live out his radical economics, peace making, and enemy love, in any land we find ourselves…whether that’s the empire of Rome or America. (Credit goes to a great book I’m currently reading, Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, for some of these phrases and for helping me to further understand what it means to follow Jesus today)

For us, moving into community with other Christians and seeking to radically live out Jesus’ Way in America may be the next step in our lives that (we pray) are characterized more than any other thing by a complete devotion to the God who created this world, called the Israelite nation out of slavery, put on flesh as Jesus the Messiah, and who will come again to fulfill our hopes for peace and justice. Instead of looking normal and fitting in, we would rather be known as misfits in our society but be true to Jesus. (The early followers of Jesus lived so differently than their culture that they were called by a new name!) Instead of the security and pleasure that wealth brings, we would rather rely on God for daily bread and experience the greater joy of taking care of the poor. Instead of living for the moment, partying and getting drunk, we would rather live like the kingdom of heaven is already here, showing love to our neighbors and throwing parties for the homeless.

We feel that Christians who are truly following Jesus should and will stand out as peculiar people in this luxury-seeking, power-hungry, at-war nation. At the same time, we don’t find biblical precedence that commands every Christian to move into the abandoned areas of their city and live in community with other Christians….we do hope, though, that just as other new monastic communities have been in a sense prophetic to us, that God could use our community to speak to some that another way of living is possible. There is no biblical mandate that Christians must not own their own homes or live in wealthy areas of town….we would hope, though, that people who are frustrated by the system in which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer would get a little glimpse of God’s kingdom where everyone is equal. We would seek to live humbly and not judge Jesus’ followers wherever and in whatever state they find themselves….yet we would hope that our fellow disciples would be encouraged (and challenged) when they dine with our “family” and see the beauty of reconciliation that can occur when invisible city walls are broken down.

These are some of the ways that we can imagine us living like the kingdom of God in Nashville. Simply imagining that new world is where we’re at right now. Amanda and I have tried in the last few years to align our walk more closely with the Way of Christ, but we’re certainly not the best example of how modern day Christians in America might live out their faith daily. Whoa, no, we’ll send you to someone else for that, thank you. But we do want God to be our priority. And we have discussed many times how easy it is to go back to the ways of the world when we’re not surrounded by those who challenge and encourage us to be more like Christ…so here we are, finding ourselves considering community. Dreaming. Tossing it around in our little heads. And then sometimes remembering how much we like everything the world offers…from eating out often to cool technology to privacy to nice homes and and even new cars. So this new kingdom is a long way from what our daily life looks like now, mind you, but something that gives us much excitement, hope, and yes, fear. Fear of being viewed as crazy or too radical, of not fitting in, of pre-existing racial and social divisions, of safety and of financial insecurity. So how do we get there from here? Or to go back a bit, how do we know if God wants us to do this? (a question that we struggle with often) Then, if we do feel like it is aligned with God’s desire for us and his kingdom, what do we need for this journey? I know Jesus’ disciples went out with no money and no shoes…but we’re not there yet people. :)

We don’t have the answers to all of those questions. Regarding what we need for this journey, though, should we decide to take it, I’ll throw a few things out there for consideration. Certainly courage to live like Jesus no matter what is key. We also need wisdom to begin living this kind of community (“be as wise as serpents, and as innocent as doves”) in the midst of a fallen world and its broken and segregated neighborhoods. Humility is vital, so that we don’t begin to think that our community succeeds or fails because of what we bring to the table, but instead pattern our lives after Jesus (be Christians, or little Christs, like the earliest disciples were called) and give God his hands and feet to work in this world. And this sounds redundant, but we need community…co-conspirators, fellow Christ followers willing to give up personal plans for greatness and success to come and seek the heart of God in community together. Because we cannot do it alone. Along those lines, we will need supporting churches. We aren’t starting a new Church (did I mention that yet?). No, on the contrary, each person of the community needs to stay closely tied together to their own congregations of believers, thereby receiving continued life through the church, and also giving support and encouragement to others in the assembly through our relationships. Most importantly, we will need God. His grace to forgive us when we are proud and self-seeking, his holy scriptures to guide us daily, and his constant and faithful love, of which there’s plenty for us to share with our neighbors.

Next, I think we’ll discuss more specific ideas and options for community…what kind of area or dwelling have we considered, how would finances work, etc. But I’d love to have some discussion first! And if anyone out there is interested in possibly living in community, please let us know! Remember, we would need co-conspirators! :)

August 21, 2008

Community #1

Filed under: christianity — theburts @ 4:15 pm
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Many of you know that I (Daniel) lived in a community for a year. By community, I mean multiple people or family units living in shared space…9 total people in two apartments. Each person or family unit had their own space still for privacy (except for me and Josh who were in the same room with a bunk bed that had a parrot roost for stuffed parrots), but we had common areas for cooking, eating, and just hanging out or playing games. We ate most every meal together (and often with guests) and spent most of our down time talking about life, God, world views, and what happens when the Christian faith and daily living meet. There were two children who brought much entertainment to the community, and different community members would take turns babysitting them to give the parents breaks. There was a nursing student, network technician, at-risk-youth counselor, accountant, barista, optometrist, and engineer assistant (or, a guy who worked at an engineering firm) living together sharing their resources and growing in the Way of Jesus Christ. We attended different Churches, but we found unity in our desire to radically follow Jesus. It was both the most I’ve ever been challenged and the most I’ve ever grown all in the same year.

There were several reasons, but a big one for me at the time was that I didn’t feel right living where I lived. Josh and I were living with other friends in a fairly wealthy area of the city in a big condominium I’d bought in ’03, and after my eyes were opened to the fact that Jesus spent most of his time with the poor, there was internal conflict in the fact that I never spent any time on “Jesus’ side of town.” So Josh and I decided to move…and at the same time, our future room mates Bryan and Dawn (and kids) and Mindy and Ariah had decided to live together, and we all came together with another random stranger, Chris, to form said happy community.  :)

In the beginning stages, some of our group actually looked for cheap broken down or burned out houses to buy, but we ended up just having to quickly find a place to rent out for a year. We lived in an abandoned area of Nashville (north Nashville to be exact) on a street that some of our family and friends would have declared unsafe for us. We all agreed that safety wasn’t our primary goal in following Jesus. We didn’t know all the ins and outs of what our little community experiment would look like when we moved in. Our “home” wasn’t very nice aesthetically, and we had a roach problem, but we found that we didn’t mind not having vaulted ceilings or perfect paint jobs or new carpet. We even managed to survive through the smell of icky smoke creeping in our apartment and the occasional slug.

We constantly talked about and grew together in areas such as understanding racial divisions and obstacles to equality, taking care of God’s earth from composting to recycling to redeeming trash, becoming equal in sharing resources and kicking around ideas of financial accountability, actively seeking peace while our country was at war, etc. Most of this was around the dinner table, and afterwards as we’d sit around and enjoy conversation with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Conversation just happened, scheduled or not. Nobody headed off to watch TV after dinner, and everyone chipped in cleaning up and washing dishes (though we all know Chris, Mindy and Dawn did more than their share, grin).

We painted this verse on our wall…

…and we carried it out through cleaning, babysitting, writing encouraging notes to each other on our message boards, and taking out the trash, which is kind of like washing feet.

So that was our year in community in review, a year later. I promise it wasn’t completely random…you’ll see why I brought it up on the next blog, which will hopefully be written soon. And that was the first blog post in a long time. My apologies. :)

On another note, Amanda and I celebrated our 1 year anniversary last week! What a wonderful first year it was…and I look forward to the rest of them with equal (or even greater!) excitement and anticipation.  ;)

April 29, 2008

Condo for rent

Filed under: christianity,wealth — theburts @ 9:21 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Much of our lives lately has been consumed by fixing up our condo to rent. Cleaning (at which our two moms are INCREDIBLE), painting, patching, and more…almost every free night after work has been spent there getting it ready to show. Since it’s way too big for Amanda and I to live there (about 2,500 sq ft), and since the market isn’t the best for selling right now, we’ve decided to rent it out. It’s now officially on Craigslist here.

If we can’t find tenants who want to live in this nice part of town and pay this much rent for a big condo, we’re going to move in when our apartment lease is up and live there until we sell it. In the meantime, we’d be searching for a house, or apartment building, or farm, or something…

The last 2 years of my life have been somewhat formative; they have changed me a lot. Everything was easy until I discovered that it was possible to really follow Jesus’ teachings today, even in America where we’re sometimes so distanced from so many of the things Jesus taught about. Back then, I was climbing the job ladder and trying to make more money, I invested in this nice condo to begin building equity, I shopped at TJ Max (yes, even for home decor occasionally!), when I wanted something new I bought it without much hesitation…and then I begin reading about rich America and begin to see how I was buying into the American dream philosophy and too easily accepting what culture taught me was normal. I read things like this quote from St. Basil:

“Who is the greedy person? It’s him who doesn’t content himself with what he has. And who strips? He who steals what belongs to the others. And you think that you are not greedy, and that you do not strip the others? What was granted to you, in order for you to take care of the others, you took it and you made it your own. What do you think? He who strips the clothed is to be called a thief. How should we name him, who is able to dress the naked and doesn’t do it, does he deserve some other name? The bread that you possess belongs to the hungry. The clothes that you store in boxes, belong to the naked. The shoes rotting by you, belong to the bare-foot. The money that you hide belongs to anyone in need. You wrong as many people as you were able to help.” St. Basil (taken from Sojourners magazine)

So I (along with my friend Josh, going along the same path) moved out of this huge condo in Belle Meade to north Nashville, to an area that the city has all but abandoned. In community there, we often discussed owning property, money and finances as they relate to our Christian faith, investing…and I was often challenged to think differently about these topics, or at least see them from a different angle. So now here are some questions that all of this has led to regarding what to do with the property that Amanda and I now own. We chose to live in an apartment instead of buying a home right away, and continue trying to rent the condo to help pay off the mortgage. But now what?

1) We own a large home, 2,500 sq ft could house several people easily…are we being greedy to rent this out rather than working through Safe Haven to house a homeless family in it (like we’d originally planned with another house we were trying to buy pre-wedding)?

Whatever you think, we want to be held accountable on what we’re doing with $1300 a month income. It could be so easy to slip back into a life of self interest…

2) We don’t want to be in debt…we don’t believe that staying in debt is either healthy or what God intends for us. So in that way, paying off a mortgage is a very good thing to do. But we need to be encouraged not to overlook charity in the meantime. If we give all our extra money to the mortgage and none to the poor, we overlook the immediate need of our neighbors even though we still may be using the money for a good cause (getting out of debt). We want to be close to the poor now, not just in either distant acts of charity OR future plans to give lots of money. Yet getting out of debt will allow us to eventually do greater things for those in need. So my question here is: How do we balance these two good things?
A. Paying off loans / getting out of debt, so that we can be freed up to do more for the poor
B. Serving immediate needs of the poor

It’s basically the same as the decision to invest…I can give more money, probably, if I wait and invest it and have a million dollars in 10 or 20 years instead of 200,000 now. So which is the wise and stewardly thing to do? And to this I would disagree that the wisest way would always be to save, invest, and give the larger sum at some point in the future. I just know there has to be some balance to this.

We’d love your input! May the Lord lead us in his footsteps, even through dangerous areas. And, on a lighter note, may he direct our paths, or at least keep us in good humor, as we venture over our heads in condo repairs. :)  Peace.

April 20, 2008

Dalai Lama and Creation Care

Filed under: christianity,creation care,Religion and Philosophy — theburts @ 8:36 pm

It’s interesting that I came across this article on the Dalai Lama’s speech…just this morning at church we visited the verse in John where Jesus says “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.” Judi (our pastor) discussed today how that, too often, we might rather say “actually, no one comes to the Father except through our approval…” (speaking as a person, or even a church) I don’t want to be the one who decides who comes to the Father, think I’ll let Jesus keep that job.

Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. I believe that Jesus Christ is who he said he was, and can boldly proclaim that “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again” as we do every Sunday. I believe it to be true, just as Jesus said that he himself was “truth.” And I believe that Jesus is the way. Following Jesus as Lord will not guarantee position, friends, riches, comfort, luxury, popularity, fame, or a long life…in fact, many times it has been and will be just the opposite. However, Jesus the son of God, and also the way of life we learn from his life and teachings, is the Way for which I’m willing to lay everything else aside. Through that, I believe, we will truly have life abundantly. Judi did point out that she wasn’t saying that all religions are the same, you just pick and choose whatever feels right to you and all is good.

Simultaneously, I wonder how often God uses folks following a different “way” to carry out his plan. If he can use an ass to talk to Balaam, why can’t he speak through people who don’t believe in his Son? Is it true that acts of selfless love or compassionate serving are from God whether the doer believes in him or not? (as C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, if I remember correctly) And is it just coincidence that non Christians sometimes say things which sound very…well, Christian? I’m no theologian (I love this phrase, it always feels like it excuses any stupidity which might have just slipped from my mouth or fingers), so I’ll not answer and instead just give you this article to mill over. Let me know your thoughts.

Dalai Lama calls for greater focus on inner contentment and passion

The United States and other wealthy countries need to downscale their lifestyles and try to focus more on inner contentment, the Dalai Lama said today.

There simply aren’t enough natural resources on the planet to support all 6 billion people on Earth imitating Western lifestyles, which consume large amounts of water and electricity. Because there are limitations on external material resources, but not on internal ones, it’s better to seek contentment and peace rather than material things, he said.

The Dalai Lama, the head of the Buddhist church, gave two lectures today at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, one on Buddhist texts and, in the afternoon, a lecture on the environment sponsored by the University of Michigan. Both were attended by more than 7,000 people.

Outside, about 600 to 700 people protested, university officials said, most supporting the Chinese government and the Olympics.

The scene inside Crisler Arena was slightly surreal, as video of one of the world’s religious leaders with his hands folded was projected on an overhead scoreboard, surrounded by ads for Mountain Dew, AT&T and Meijer.

All people need to take responsibility for the environment in their daily lives, doing what small things they can to make a difference, the Dalai Lama said. He said he showers instead of taking baths, which conserves water, and turns out the lights when he leaves a room. “It’s a really serious matter,” he said.

April 14, 2008

And so shall we…

Filed under: christianity,creation care,Religion and Philosophy — theburts @ 11:25 am

As most of you know, Daniel and I have been attending a United Methodist church since before Christmas. We don’t know much about the U.M. denomination, since Daniel grew up in the Church of Christ and I in the Assembly of God / Southern Baptist / Non-denominational. :) We’re beginning to learn more and more about the church, and are finding many things that we like. We especially love the church (Edgehill) that we are attending. They have played such a huge part in different movements in Nashville, and are still extremely active in the community. More than any other church I’ve attended, they do what Jesus said to do. They care for the sick, the poor, and the homeless. They fight for the elderly on fixed incomes that can’t afford the increasing property taxes because their lower-income neighborhood is being gentrified and becoming “trendy.” They give out food to the projects across the street. The list goes on and on.

So anyways, the purpose of the blog is that I want to share a Social Creed that we’ve been reciting in church lately. It’s being voted on to become the new social creed of the United Methodist Church as a whole (I think that’s right.) We just think it’s amazing that a church has these thoughts. And so shall we.

Response (it is sung):

And so shall we, and so shall we. Today is the day God celebrates when justice and compassion prevail like everflowing streams and so shall we, and so shall we.

(This part is said by the leader, the congregation speaks the bold passages)

God in the Spirit revealed in Jesus Christ calls us by grace

to be renewed in the image of our Creator, that we may be one in divine love for the world.

Today is the day God cares for the integrity of creation, wills the healing and wholeness of all life, weeps at the plunder of earth’s goodness.

And so shall we.

Today is the day God embraces all hues of humanity, delights in diversity and difference, favors solidarity transforming strangers into friends.

And so shall we.

Today is the day God cries with the masses of starving people, Despises growing disparity between rich and poor, Demands justice for workers in the marketplace.

(Response)

Today is the day God deplores the violence in our homes and streets, rebukes the world’s warring madness, humbles the powerful and lifts up the lowly.

And so shall we.

Today is the day God calls for nations and peoples to live in peace, celebrates where justice and mercy embrace, exults when the wolf grazes with the lamb.

(Response)

Today is the day God brings good news to the poor, proclaims release to the captives, gives sight to the blind, and sets the oppressed free.

And so shall we.

(Words and music by Carol Simpson, 2007.)

February 4, 2008

Just Cause IV and other randomness

This blog, for all you medical personnel, is not about a new intravenous (IV) injection project to take medicine to the needy third world, therefore being termed Just Cause IV.

Now that I have that out of the way, today was a good day. Amanda and I slept a little late, then went to the Chinese church with my mom and dad and their foreign exchange students. After a great lunch, we came back to our apartment and talked and played games for a while. Then we drove / rode bikes to the marina just down the street to view the mighty Cumberland River in all its non glory. It was a great little escapade, though, and sparked some interesting conversation (as well as the title of this blog).

After the fam left, Amanda and I (mostly she this time) cooked some spaghetti, for which we used actual purchased food for everything except the rolls and green peppers! Then we relaxed and learned about deserts from an episode on Planet Earth. A wonderful day of family, good food, fresh air, and no Stupidbowl obsessions in this house!!!

(It’s ok if you want to or did watch the Superbowl, or even if you want to just watch the famous commercials therein. Just please think about both. 2.7 million dollars for every 30 seconds of advertising…do the math. Probably the single most expensive recreational extravaganza today, the Superbowl is an open boil in the history we’re writing when you consider the unspeakable poverty in our world. And just because we laugh and discuss the commercials doesn’t mean they don’t affect us. There’s genius beyond belief in advertising today that knows our subconscious is never turned off, and that we can always be convinced we need _____. Be careful out there, folks!)

So, without further rabbit chasing, back to the title, Just Cause IV!! We all trekked down to the marina and randomly met a neighbor of ours…lives just down the road from the apartments about 5 houses. I met him the other day just driving by. After reading a part in Foster’s book that spoke of getting to know and rely on your neighbors, sharing and receiving, I decided to actually give it a try. Stopped on the way home and introduced myself to this guy and his pal and ended up talking for 20 minutes or so. They told us they owned a boat at the marina, but it had been filed away until we saw them today down at the boat dock. We said hello, and they proceeded to give us the private code to the Rock Harbor Marina gate so that we could go look at all the boats. See, I took the initiative to meet a neighbor, and he’s already said he’d love to take Amanda and me for a ride…forget the community of borrowing the lawn mower and work gloves, let’s take advantage of our neighbors’ ships! :)

We actually got to go inside their boat, a tiny ship compared to many, but still with two bedrooms and a bath downstairs! Just down the way was another boat someone had actually called “Impulsive.” Thanks for your honesty. Next to it was another that we determined later was worth about 500,000 dollars. Can you guess the name? That’s right…Just Cause IV. Someone spent half a million on a boat just because (and it seems as though this was the fourth version!). Again, we appreciate your honesty, but we’re saddened that you couldn’t think of anything better to do with your wealth than buy a big boat. With half a million, how many young girls could be rescued from sex trafficking, or at least cared for while their mothers were servicing their clients? How many AIDS orphans could be comforted? Ironically, how many “just cause” IVs could be sent to hospitals of suffering in nations of war with half a mill? There, three quick ideas of what to do with $500,000, each of them a true just cause.

There’s too much injustice that needs to be made right in our world for us to buy an impressive boat just cause we can.

February 2, 2008

Why we try to live simply, Part 3

Filed under: christianity,Religion and Philosophy — theburts @ 9:04 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Obsession with possessions…another hurdle to clear before being free from materialism and consumerism.

It’s a phrase from that book I’m still reading (I’m a slow reader, I apologize). We see ownership as power and full enjoyment. Think of the countless number of people who go further into debt to buy things that they could just borrow. The obvious examples are the snowboards used once every 3 years, the Sea-doo stored in a garage for 11 months out of the year, or the beach house they visit to wipe off the dust every couple of years. Foster said “let’s learn to enjoy the beauty of the beach without the compulsion to buy a piece of it.”

Please also remember the other principles I’ve given throughout this series. Just because one isn’t going into debt to purchase these “toys,” just because we can afford them, doesn’t mean this principle doesn’t apply. Simplicity goes beyond freedom from debt, although adapting a simpler lifestyle would certainly alleviate debt for thousands. The Christian call is to think of others, and we simply must consider the poor when we’re considering that new toy. Will owning it really make us happier than borrowing a similar used one for the weekend and using that money for good? I think, if we actually prayed about these things, most purchases would seem silly or ridiculous. But, dear God, our fun would be ruined if we brought you into our joyful and impulsive expenditures!

Along those lines, and still on the topic of simplicity, why not ask God to provide us with the things that we need? Foster suggests a week of thought and prayer before determining that we need an item, and during that week waiting to see if he’ll provide it for us. Though I’ve been able to avoid many big ticket items, I could definitely use some work on this one. The pair of work gloves, the Skil saw, the new equipment for camping, or even optometry equipment for medical missions…what if I waited a week or two and prayed to God about those things that I determined were a true need? I might contact a friend who has what I need, and can avoid buying a new one for a one use project. He suggests it’s exciting to see how God provides (ask Amy Pratt, it happened to her this week). I almost bought an expensive autorefractor for my Haiti trips once a year, but a quick phone call secured a borrowed one. Of course there are some needs that go beyond a short project, and for those, borrowing might not be the best option. But buy used if you can, let your neighbor borrow your gorgeous lawn mower, avoid malls with your life, and for the love of God, STOP SHOPPING. (heheh, sorry, pulled a little Reverend Billy there)

What a wonderful thing to rely on God, and your community, for things that you need. I remember, when we lived in community in north Nashville, how awesome it was how different people contributed in different ways. Not just with items they owned, but with talents they had. I affixed a rod in Mindy and Ariah’s closet to hang clothes, Bryan cooked, Avery and Roman entertained, Ariah put together the composter, Dawn and Mindy let me borrow jewelry with which to propose to Amanda (well, not the actual ring…long story), Josh fixed the internet, Chris would babysit, and on and on.

Ah, to be able to step out of the world of ownership and isolation and enjoy the freedom of simplicity.

January 29, 2008

Why we try to live simply, Part 2

Filed under: christianity,Religion and Philosophy — theburts @ 10:46 pm
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This series, evidently, could also accurately be called “Why living simply is not simple.”

It’s proving to be a much more difficult topic than I expected, mainly due to reading Foster’s book, who also speaks of the “complexity of simplicity.” I’ve had to take a bit of a hiatus to get through a section of that book before I started writing these posts again. And remember, if you really want to know about living simply, or more specifically how to become a person of simplicity, check out some expert writers or journals of Christians who lived full lives of simplicity. I’m not your expert or best example in the matter.

It’s been difficult mostly because I wasn’t patient. I found that Foster’s words spoke directly to me…”By now you may be wondering, ‘Why all this talk about…spiritual preparation? Can’t we just get on with the business of simplifying our lifestyles without all the God talk?’ I answer that you are welcome to try, and God help you – because you will sorely need it. Although I deeply empathize with this ‘holy impatience’ to get on with the task, the clear witness of Scripture is that something beyond good intentions and will-power is needed to transform our egocentric, greed-captivated personalities into an all-inclusive community of loving, sharing persons.”

And it’s true. Being more practical than theological in nature, I tend to jump on things and want to know exactly what to do to arrive at a place. I read and know that simplicity is a good thing, so tell me what I need, what I need to give up, and…well, it’s just not that simple.

Foster uses the verse, “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.” We can’t be double minded and live simply. We must more and more seek God and His Kingdom, we must pray increasingly, be in more constant awareness or consciousness of God, we must desire Christ more than anything else. Making definable steps to reduce consumerism, materialism, and greed may certainly be helpful. Refuse to buy things you don’t need that put you further into debt, work less and spend more time with the family, don’t be afraid to step away from the rat race and miss a chance to get ahead, etc. Do that. But if we pursue simplicity only outwardly, we will be like a rock climber who sets out to climb Everest without gear.

Earlier this week, my wife and I were asked by some media if we thought we could be happier if we pursued a more typical “American” lifestyle (bigger home, nicer clothes, and acquiring better things). Absolutely not, and we were clear about that. In fact, we believe just the opposite. The more stuff we get, the more we live in luxury, the more dependent we become on that stuff, and the less focused on God, the sustainer of our lives, we are. Working harder and longer to obtain nicer things and more modern technologies will not give us the joy that we can have in following Christ.

That’s what we believe. It’s not how we always act, nor is it what our minds always tell us. There’s so much out there, from advertisements and marketing to desires born in us over many years, to fit in. So much that says we’d be happier with more. It’s a constant struggle of keeping our gaze on Christ and seeking always to let Him direct our every decision.

Choosing Ourselves

Filed under: christianity,wealth — theburts @ 9:36 pm

I love messing around with my guitar. I’m not very good, and should spend my practice time more efficiently, but I really enjoy figuring out new chords and transitions. So here’s a song based on that tinkering. (Amanda finally insisted I put words with it and stop playing the same old tune over and over again for no purpose, hee hee)

If you read the sharing wealth series, that’s what the song is about. The words are posted in the description of the video, but I’ll post them below as well. Hope you enjoy, but more so, I hope it convicts everyone (including me) a little bit.

“What if we would take up our cross, denying ourselves? Could we really let go of our place, and lift up everyone else? What if we saw Jesus Christ in the face of the poor? When folks are hungry, broken and broke, could we open the door?

No, that gospel is too dangerous
We’ve got too much to lose
As for me and for my house we will serve you, Lord
But somehow we’ll still choose

Ourselves

What if we were satisfied with only what we need? Find some luxuries to do without, and not be mastered by greed. Having one coat, could we be content? Or do we need four? Is it true that riches deceive, because we’ll always want more?

What if we lived in a world, that was turned upside down? Where it’s better to give than receive, what kind of joy could be found? What if Christians fasted and shared, until all had enough? Could we wait until there’s no one who lacks, before we buy more stuff?

No, that gospel is too dangerous
We’ve got too much to lose
As for me and for my house we will serve you, Lord
But somehow we’ll still choose

Ourselves

You ask us to deny ourselves, and follow You
But, Lord, that’s so hard to do.”

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