Daniel and Amanda’s Weblog

January 7, 2010

Chicks and greens are growing

Filed under: creation care,Gardening/Farming — theburts @ 8:38 am

Our four little chicks are doing really well! They seem to grow every day. This morning I caught them all napping together, and 3 of them were lined up with one wing over the next chick down the line.  :)

The grown chickens are doing well…haven’t frozen their tails off yet. They have a very sympathetic mother who will often tell you she hates the winter, so they get their coop covered at night and just recently got the light bulb turned back on for some extra overnight heat. Spoiled chickens.

It’s definitely a little more time consuming to care for chickens in the cold winter, since you have to either bring their waterer back inside every night or go break up the ice. But it still only takes 2 minutes to water, feed, and let them out in the morning…then about 30 seconds or less in the evening.

About the greens growing, Daniel’s aquaponics system is doing really well. He harvested some arugula, rhubarb chard, kale, and two radishes last night and we all sampled them around the table. The chard was especially beautiful, with its deep green leaves with lush, red veins making it look like something that grows in the jungle! And all very yummy, except we didn’t eat the radishes…apparently, and maybe obviously, you don’t eat the root of any plant grown in aquaponics (since it’s growing in fish water). We still could have eaten the radish leaves, but instead our chickens got them.

Well, stay warm out there, and happy growing and backyard chickening, everyone!


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 17, 2008

Declaration of Delirium – Sluggish Behavior

Filed under: creation care — theburts @ 10:01 am

The week thus far:

  • Most exciting moment – catching 8 bass at Montgomery Bell while camping
  • Most stressful moment – getting ready (still not there) for yard sale Saturday
  • Most painful moment – not really a moment, more like the last four days, the worst crick in the neck I’ve ever had (but it’s finally going away)
  • Most embarrassing moment – because of said crick, I had a lengthy massage during which the massage therapist found two ticks on me. thankfully amanda was there and pulled them off for me. :)  (could this be a “you might be a redneck” joke? …if you’re treated to a massage and they find ticks…?)

Guess that’s enough for now. Here’s another column for you to check out. This is the most serious column of all of them, or at least the last sentence. Though I no longer believe it to be wrong to consume alcohol in moderation, I very much appreciate that I was taught about the dangers of alcohol as a youth. And I am glad that I had the courage to stand up for my beliefs in a creative way, even at the risk of being ridiculed by peers.

Oh, and by the way, this one’s dedicated to our slug loving friend, Mr. Chris!!!   :)

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.


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.


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 16, 2008

Why we dumpster dive and recycle, Part 2

So now for the why. Here’s a one sentence answer. We recycle and dumpster dive because we care about God’s earth and its inhabitants, and we believe that consuming and wasting too much of the planet’s resources is destroying both.

As I’m starting to write out my thoughts on this, I’m realizing that recycling and dumpster diving are both similar and different. An obvious similarity is that both reduce waste. Whether you’re pulling something out of the trash or refusing to throw something in, you’re reducing waste either way. The difference? Recycling and dumpster diving are attacking different parts of overconsumption. Again, I highly recommend that you watch Annie Leonard’s video on “The Story of Stuff,” because she explains the life of products much better than I can! I’m not even going to try explaining all the ins and outs of that process, but here’s a small part of it.

In the making of a product, there is consumption of resources to make that product, and there is what happens to that product after its usable life. (Of course, there’s more to it, like the assembly and marketing of the products and all the people involved in the whole process of production, but I won’t try to tackle everything at once.) For resources used to make a product, we use both limited (oil, metals) and renewable (trees) resources. Then, when we’re done with it, we dispose of our wastes in several ways, some more harmful than others. Recycling simply takes what can be reused and puts it back into the process of production, reducing waste and the materials needed to make new items. Dumpster diving not only reduces waste, but also demands less consumption of the earth’s resources.

To give an example, when I redeemed the coffee pot from the dumpster last week, I no longer need to buy a new one for my office. The resources required to make that new product I needed can be saved. I didn’t only free up a square foot in the landfill that coffee pot would have filled, but I freed up resources that would’ve been used to make the new coffee pot I’d have had to buy at the store. It seems totally insignificant when you think of one item, but if a thousand coffee pots were redeemed along with thousands upon thousands of other still-good products thrown away every day…the resources needed to make those, the energy used to manufacture them, and the space they’d have otherwise filled in the landfill all add up.

Recycling. We recycle because it’s an easy and fun way to show concern for the environment. When God gave humankind “dominion” over the earth, I don’t think He meant for us to trash His creation. Dr. Matthew Sleeth, in his book “Serve God, Save the Planet,” parallels that to leaving your kiddo in a daycare and coming back later that day to find your kid beaten and bruised. He also points out that, when we loan someone our automobile, we expect it to come back in the same shape. Shouldn’t we care about God’s beautiful creation at least as much as we care about our cars? It’s easy to find information about landfills filling up, animals being killed from our trash, toxic wastes being released into the atmosphere from incinerators, etc. Aside from our devouring of earth’s resources, we’re causing tons of problems just with our waste alone. In 1960 the average person produced around 2.7 pounds of waste per day. I’ve seen various numbers, but all of them report over twice that currently (some say three times that amount)…we’ve more than doubled our waste production in the last 50 years. Recycling reduces waste, save energy, reduces water pollution, creates jobs, protects wildlife, prevents more contamination of the atmosphere, and creates more demand for recycled products, increasing the effect (source).

Amanda and I went to the Dominican Republic a couple of years ago with a church. We toured two entire “cities” of hundreds upon hundreds of homes built into massive landfills. Before that trip, I’d never given recycling a thought. But I saw the effects of a civilization’s waste, and as I’m finding to always be true, the one’s who were paying for it were the poorest of the poor. It is the same here in the U.S., and will be the same in the future for any country or civilization. It’s the poor family whose children are dying from the toxic fumes of the incinerator, the poor who are drinking water contaminated by the landfill next door, the poor who are forced to find whatever scraps they can and live in the landfill. After I returned, it only took a little convincing by my close friends to let me see how recycling relates to the Christian call to “love your neighbor.”

It’s also fun. We’re amazed at how much stuff can be recycled. It’s almost a game looking for the little recycle symbol (I won the game last night, heheh). I look forward to teaching my children how recycling their stuff is respecting the earth which our God created. We’re showing Him that we think His creation is wonderful, and that we care about it. And, like Dr. Sleeth, I want to involve them in the process…peeling off labels, rinsing out cans, biking together down to the recycle center with a few bags of aluminum cans, etc. Don’t get too excited, mom, we’re not planning just yet. :)

So there are some reasons why recycling is important to us. If everyone would simply recycle, our impact on this gorgeous place would be so much lighter…but it’s not enough. Coming up next are the reasons why we dumpster dive, and one of those reasons will (hopefully) point out why something more than recycling is needed.

February 14, 2008

Why we dumpster dive and recycle, Part 1

First of all, let’s clarify a few things about dumpster diving. For most people, myself included, when they first hear about people voluntarily dumpster diving (that means they can afford to buy new but choose to redeem things that have been tossed), certain words come to mind…disgusting, ridiculous, nasty, dangerous, illegal, stupid, gross, and icky. The last term was Amanda’s contribution. :) I thought maybe I should start this series by answering some common questions about this subject. So, without further ado, here’s my first ever FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions). Hope it will give you a better idea of what dumpster diving is like.

  1. What kind of dumpsters do you go to? Any store that doesn’t have a compactor is fair game, but mostly the smaller grocery stores, low price variety stores, etc. Josh and I have been scouting out some other possibilities lately…shoes, clothes, electronics, and more. The main point here is that corporate trash is very different from private and restaurant trash, which we do not pillage. Well, there’s the occasional retrieval from our apartment dumpster…specifically our coffee table.
  2. Is it legal? In some places, like Britain, laws make it clear that trash belongs to the owner of the property until the trash guy picks it up, and then it belongs to the trash guy. There, to take trash is to commit theft (even if they’re just going to throw it away). People still dumpster dive there, of course, but we haven’t had to make that decision yet because it appears to be legal here. See what my newspaper friend found out when researching that here. Josh has actually been stopped by the police before, and after a short discussion with said police was allowed to get back to business.
  3. Isn’t the food contaminated by rats (and rat poop) in the dumpsters? I don’t know who came up with the idea that dumpsters have rats, but they must have sent out a mass e-mail chain, cause everyone asks this. Yet we’ve never once seen a rat, or evidence of any type of rodent, in a dumpster. These dumpsters are large. A rat can’t simply crawl up the side of it, open the door, and dive in. But let’s say one did somehow manage to get in. The next day, natural selection will eliminate this critter by a process called “the trash guy,” and said rat loses all his privileges of further contributing to the gene pool. That’s my take, anyway, but no…there aren’t rats in these dumpsters.
  4. Aren’t dumpsters dirty? And wouldn’t the food in there be dirty too? Yes, and often yes. Which is why we wash our food. Do you eat potatoes, carrots, radishes. Don’t forget that all these come from the most dirty place possible…dirt. And yes, there’s often fertilizer in that dirt (that’s poop, for you city folk). How about corn, broccoli, peppers, apples, pears, strawberries? These and all other vegetables and fruits grow outside (usually) and in the process of their growth have everything from worms to bird crap to dirty, unwashed workers’ hands on them. But don’t fret, these foods are washed thoroughly, or at least we trust that they are. Amanda has a theory that our food is safer, because we know it’s dirty and make sure it’s washed well, whereas food that we buy is assumed to be OK and therefore not washed…and who knows what’s touched that food up unto the point of sale. Another thing to point out, though, is that most of the food we get is either packaged or canned, and hence not “dirtied” in the dumpster.
  5. If the food is still good, why is it thrown away? Good question, self. Here are a few possible reasons:
    • Missing labels. Ah, the joy of creating meals around these “mystery cans.”
    • Expired, or past the “sell by” date. We eat cereal, chips, and some canned foods that have been expired for months. Is there something that magically happens that makes the food good one day and bad the next? We use common sense, and we’ve never once gotten sick from eating dumpstered or expired food. (It’s the same with anything that expires…my dad, a pharmacist, admits that pills are still good for up to years after their expiration date. And in my profession, I can’t honestly say that a 2 week contact lens goes bad on the 15th day…though we, and the grocery stores, still have to recommend using the product for it’s approved time.)
    • Broken jar makes mess. Frequently, we’ll find a dozen jars of salsa or spaghetti sauce that got messy when one of the jars broke. There’s glass and sauce everywhere, but after washing up, you’ve got 11 perfect (even non-expired!) jars of food.
    • A bad spot. If one green pepper in a package of 3 has a bad spot on it, they toss it. Same with tomatoes and even whole sacks of potatoes and apples and oranges and onions. One bad apple may spoil the bunch…but if it just went bad, common sense again will tell you whether its neighbors are good.
    • Dented cans. Stores throw it out if it’s got a dent (this includes milk jugs and orange juice cartons, btw). Yes, it’s true that if a can is dented badly enough to break the seal, it could be contaminated with botulism. Look out for swelling and dents around seals.
    • We have no idea. Sometimes we find things that are in perfect shape, not expired, haven’t been recalled…we have no idea why they’ve tossed them. :) Our best guess is either overstock or maybe the items were sent to the wrong store.
    • Damaged non-food items. With coffee pots and chainsaws and crock pots and glassware and…you get the idea…any slight blemish or crack or broken piece will render the item unsellable. So we’ve found a crock pot with a broken glass lid, coffee pot with a crack on the handle, glassware that’s got a couple broken glasses, and on and on. Non food items are especially fun for me, even if they require a little work to get them back in good shape. I’ve found that stores cut the cords before they throw out electrical appliances. Annoying, but not deterring. :)
  6. If you can afford to buy food, shouldn’t you leave what’s in the dumpsters for the homeless? Thank you, Josh, for suggesting this question for the FAQ. It bothers us greatly that there are folks who go hungry every night, and yet so much edible food is thrown away. However, the areas where we go are not really accessible to those who need it. We specifically don’t go to dumpsters in areas where we see homeless, because we don’t ever want to be in a turf war with someone who really needs it. Only once have I run into someone at the dumpster, and we ended up trading some things each of us had found that night. Also, much of what we find needs to be cooked and prepared, flour or potatoes or canned peas to name some examples, and therefore isn’t really of any use to the homeless person without a kitchen. It’s funny, last time we were hanging out with a few homeless guys, we went dumpster diving and then went home and had a feast…and they were laughing at us the whole time we were diving!
  7. What do you do with the excess? I think it’s always a good idea to leave some, just in case there is someone else coming later that night. For instance, Food Not Bombs (a movement of mostly young folks who dumpster dive, among other ways, to get food for the homeless and then distribute hot meals on Sunday afternoons…or after crises) usually dumpsters Friday and Saturday nights in Nashville, so we make an effort to leave plenty for them on those nights. We also donate large quantity items to local shelters. My favorite is Safe Haven family shelter, where I’ve taken everything from children’s underwear to cases of frosted shredded wheat. We also distribute it to each other. I’ll give my east Nashville friends surplus of some item, and they’ll do the same. We’re not quite as organized as cooperatives like the New York divers, but it’s still nice to share finds with friends.
  8. What is involved in a typical night of dumpster diving? Do you need any special equipment? We usually go after store hours to avoid any unnecessary confrontations with store employees who might be frightened by the human being in their trash. Since it’s after dark, we take a headlamp, and we wear old clothes and dumpster gloves.
  9. Is the actual dumpster diving dangerous? As long as you check the depth of the trash before you swan dive in, and as long as you miss the sides of the dumpster with your head when doing flips, it’s perfectly safe. All joking aside, though, it’s safe. The only thing to really worry about is getting cut or poked while in there, hence the dumpster gloves. I know people often worry about HIV infected needles, and whereas it’s certainly something to watch out for I’ve never once seen a needle in these corporate store dumpsters…they’re not the type of places where youngsters stand around, do drugs, and throw away their needles. I also have started placing an empty box in there to stand in as opposed to just stepping into unknown territory. It could possibly avoid a potential glass cut, and my shoes don’t get food on them.
  10. What are some of the more unique items you’ve found in dumpsters? My favorite so far is the electric chainsaw, but I’ve also enjoyed the battery powered pepper grinder more recently. Batteries, 44 two liter bottles of CitroZip, Josh found 113 cans of peanuts one night, luggage, approximately 2,000 envelopes of all colors (greeting card size), just to name a few! Amanda and I also post our fun and unusual items on our blog, so keep checking back. Also, Ariah put together the Dumpster Diaries where you can find videos and pictures of dumpster diving finds from several people.

Hope you enjoyed my first FAQ ever! I realize the title was misleading since there wasn’t anything in this post about why we do it. Don’t worry, that’s coming up next….so stay tuned!

January 24, 2008

A Story

We’re going to have a lot of people coming to our blog soon. Many will have questions about why we do what we do. So I’m glad we started this series. But I also wanted to share a story, or a parable I guess, that I made up this morning while I was still in bed (and also while taking a shower, which is funny considering what the story is about). It’s for anyone who wonders how “love your neighbor” can apply to recycling and, specifically, dumpster diving. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Once upon a time in a land far far away, there was a village. :) There were about a hundred people in this little village, and in the center of the village was a small pool of water fed by an underground spring. Every day it would fill up with the same limited amount of water, about 15 gallons or so, and every night the villagers would come gather water for their families. Some of the poorest in the village would simply cup some water into their hands and drink from the pool, but most would bring a small cup or jar and take that back to their homes.

One rich man, though, would completely fill a five gallon bucket and haul it back to his family of five every single night. At their dinner table, they would each use pitchers instead of cups, and whatever the man and his family didn’t drink they’d pour down the sink. Then the mother and daughters heated pans of water and soaked their feet, giving them the fairest feet in the village. Meanwhile, the father and his son loaded up their water pistols and played out in the yard. Whatever water was left over at the end of the evening was simply thrown outside on the rocky path leading out of the house.

On the other side of the village, however, things were not so pleasant. You see, around 30 to 40 of the villagers didn’t get much water, and often none at all. It was usually the poorest folks, since they had to work longer and were the last ones at the pool. And the water was frequently gone by the time they arrived. These people were almost always sick, and every so often, one of them would die.

One day, the son of the rich man went out to play with his friends. He did not know that he wasn’t supposed to play with the poor village boys. Actually, being young and innocent, he didn’t even notice that they were poor. But on this particular day, what he did notice was that one of his best friends wasn’t there. When he asked about him, the son learned that the boy had died the night before…because he didn’t have enough water. The boy remembered all the water they threw out and the water fights they had every night, and he decided to do something about it.

It didn’t take him long to think of some ideas. The next day, at the end of the evening, he asked if he could throw out the leftover water. Then, when his parents weren’t looking, he ran back to the well and poured it back into the pool. Why not reuse that water, he thought, instead of wasting it? Everyone at the water pool was so thankful, and there were only a few that night who didn’t have enough. Not satisfied, he started gathering up water after the water pistol fights, even wringing out his wet clothes into the bucket, and using that for his own water…asking his dad to not get any water for him out of the pool. He realized how wasteful the water fights were, and decided he’d do his small part in making sure that perfectly good water wasn’t wasted while others were in need. He thought that if only he could convince his two sisters and his mom and dad to do the same, everyone in the village would have enough.

He was right…if only.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.” ~Mohandas K. Gandhi

Hopefully, my story was clear enough for you to figure out why we might recycle and “redeem” perfectly good food that’s been tossed out (if not, reread that last paragraph with that in mind). What you might not have figured out is that the statistics are accurate. We in the U.S. have 5% of the world’s population, yet consume 30% of the world’s resources. Hence, the 5 gallon bucket and the 15 gallon pool, the family of 5 in a village of 100, etc. Of course, those statistics are about all resources, not just water, but you get the idea.

So it seems like it would have been pretty obvious to the rich folks in this story, and that they’d probably have done something about it long before people began to die…and right you may be. Or maybe the village would have outcast the rich family before it got to be a problem. Our problem is that we are so far away from the other side of the village, and also that we have so much power. We never have to be around those who can’t get enough water, we never have to see the destruction we cause by raping the planet, we never have to see landfills if we’ve got enough wealth, and we never have to worry about a country of starving people setting us right because they’re not powerful enough.

So that’s the problem. The answer is different for everyone, and definitely doesn’t always include dumpster diving! But the Christian call (and the calls of other faiths) is to love God, love others and to seek justice throughout the land. We simply have to care about our nation’s overconsumption and all the ways in which that relates to so many millions having so little, and each person needs to decide what they’re going to do about it.

January 22, 2008

Why we try to live simply, Part 1

Filed under: creation care,Religion and Philosophy — theburts @ 10:14 pm
Tags: , , , ,

“Simplicity is the most outward of all the Disciplines, and hence the most susceptible to corruption. How could I be specific without being rigid? How could I call people from greed without introducing a new pharisaism?” – Richard Foster, in the preface to Freedom of Simplicity, on why it was a difficult decision for him to write an entire book on such a “complex” topic.

I, too, hesitated to write anything on the subjects of riches, possessions, and simplicity. Like Foster, I don’t feel qualified. Sort of like I don’t feel qualified to be speaking to the world on ways to counteract America’s overconsumption and waste. :) But, as I’ve state before, it’s good for me to write about things because it forces me to read and study and think about the issue at hand, and hopefully come to better understanding of whatever my role is in that issue.

So here we are. But, if you really want to learn about simplicity, this isn’t the best place…I can guarantee that. Go read Freedom of Simplicity, which is good so far (though I’m only on the second chapter!). Or read about the lives of the early saints (or current ones) who really lived their lives simply. This, however, is written by someone who found himself at one point of his life too attached to stuff, and who now desires by gradual change to experience that “freedom of simplicity.”

Also, though I’m not sure yet, I think it might be quite similar to the last series on “why we share our wealth.” Because living simply implies, I think, a certain contentment with what we need as well as a desire to share God’s blessings with others. I cannot live simply and continue to spend my money on whatever it is that I want for me. I cannot live simply and continue to fill my life with things that promise to be “all you need to be happy.” If I choose to be content, and to trust in God, I will become more and more a person of simplicity.

I guess that was just an intro. Come back for more later….back to work for now.

January 14, 2008

The “Why” Series

We realized not too long ago that there’s not much in our blog explaining the reasoning behind living the way we do.

We recycle, we redeem food and other items out of dumpsters, we don’t buy new furniture, we try to shop only at secondhand stores, we are trying to have a smaller eco footprint, we refuse to follow the “American dream,” we don’t have cable and don’t watch a lot of TV (except for last week, as Amanda mentioned), we are peace lovers, and we try to share all our excess with our less fortunate neighbors worldwide.

We are far from where we want and need to be. We could live more simply, use less energy, and give away more. In all these things, though, we try to approach the issue not with legalism and judgment, but with creativity and fun as we seek out ways to implement our convictions into daily practices. And it is fun! Living simply hasn’t turned us into miserable, unhappy ascetics. On the other hand, we’re finding out how much joy there is in a lifestyle of “living simply so that others may simply live.” And finding alternative ways to recycle or “precycle” has been an exciting adventure, not a dull and mindless task of guilt-ridden necessity.

With all that said, we decided it would be beneficial to all parties for us to write a series of blogs on why we live the way we live. What motivates us to live simply? Consume little energy, or dumpster dive? Does it come from our peers, our rebellion, our frugality, or our disgust with the industrial / corporate world? Probably all of those things have influenced us. We’re all affected by others, by advertising, and by our upbringing. But we are going to be looking at why we do stuff, and we invite you to that discussion.

I mentioned that this discussion will (hopefully) be beneficial to all parties. It was already mentioned that we feel our archive of blogs so far hasn’t really done the best job at explaining our why behind things, so we hope to offer some explanation to our confused readers out there. The second party is us…we want to do this primarily to review and remember all of the reasons why we live differently. It’s easy to forget one’s motivation, even if it’s practically lived out on a daily basis. We want to strive to always do what we do for pure reasons, and this will force us to take a close look at our lives. In one of the most famous writings on love, the early apostle Paul said this:

“If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

Ultimately, this points to the very basic reasoning behind all of it. Everything we aspire to do in our lives comes from a world view that, by faith, claims there is a loving God who wants us to live in unity with Him. Love God, love your neighbor. Without that, we gain nothing.

Hope you’ll enjoy the series! I hope it will challenge and inspire both you and us.

November 12, 2007

Top 5 Socially Responsible Hobbies

I find myself using that phrase more and more. Socially responsible. For me, most things that I find to be “socially responsible” also fit into the category of moral or christian values. Just a couple of years ago, I sincerely thought that living socially responsibly had nothing to do with being a christian, but now I see that we are in fact called (yes, by God) to live as responsible people on this earth. (We’ll eventually write a blog showing some scriptures along these lines.)

So when I say “socially responsible hobbies,” they shouldn’t conflict with the teachings of Christ. And when I talk of using little energy, riding a bike to work, or recycling as ways to live “socially responsible,” those things are also justified by things that I find in scriptures. Ok, now that the explanation of the title is over, I can start the actual blog.

Oops, one more explanation to the title…this blog is totally not a top 5. I didn’t even try to think of 5 hobbies that make the list, but I do have one. And I have another few (golf, scuba diving, snow skiing, and karate, to name a few) that probably wouldn’t make my cut, mostly because of the exorbitant costs those hobbies demand. So here’s one that, in my opinion, has to be in the top five socially responsible hobbies.

Backpacking. (Disclaimer: we just went backpacking, so there may be some bias here. Sorry.) I’m not talking about car camping, where you park, walk ten feet and set up a tent and make a fire, and go back to your ginormous SUV and turn it on to warm your lazy self up if you get chilly. :) I’m talking the kind where you carry a 30-70 lb pack (depending on how light you are and how far you’ll be out), walk several miles (a full day can get you about 10-15 miles if you’re in decent shape), set up camp, then continue hiking (even if back to the car) the next day. Here are the reasons I feel it deserves a “socially responsible” award:

  • Inexpensive. Backpacking requires an initial investment of a tent, sleeping bag, mat, backpack, flashlight, some cookware, and most of us already have warm clothes for winter, and that’s about it. No entry fees, airfares (as long as we try and hike locally), memberships, or training costs. The only thing you have to buy for each trip is food, which we have to have anyway! Ask a friend how much they spend on their golfing or scuba diving habit…it can be outlandish. I also know someone who spent over $5,000 on dance lessons/events in one year. eek!
  • Exposure to the beauty of God’s creation. Not so much directly a socially responsible reason, but it does bring us close to the wonder and majesty of the universe, and causes one to respect it more.
  • Teaches how to live simply. Being out in the wild with just the basic needs for survival (food, water, and shelter) teaches us that we don’t have to have that steak dinner at Chili’s to live…that we won’t die if we turn off our heaters and bundle up…and that pretty much everything our society tells us is “necessary” for survival just isn’t so. We could all live on so much less, and until all our neighbors have enough to survive, Christ calls us to live simply and share our excess with those folks.
  • Exercise. Ok, that’s not so much a socially responsible reason, but it’s a good one nonetheless.
  • The motto: “Take only pictures, leave only footprints.” Backpacking does very little damage to the earth (if you obey the rules), and is a place where you’ll find many others who care about respecting the globe.

Ok, that’s all I can think of for now. I’ll ask Amanda to post the pictures of our trip this weekend. For now, let me know if you have other ideas about the topic of socially responsible hobbies.

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