Tips on how to live in sustainable simplicity
Many Christians feel overwhelmed, confused, and even depressed about the issue of the environment. How green should we be? Should Christians try to preserve and care for the earth? Let’s strip away all the complications of politics and stereotypes for a moment and explore this issue together. Regardless of your right-ness or left-ness or your red-ness or blue-ness, we can all agree upon this central truth: God created a marvelously rich and beautiful world that is indeed “very good” (Genesis 1:31). We honor him by gratefully caring for it.
What’s one step you can focus on now to care for the planet and live in greater simplicity? Consider these 10 ideas:
Like Mary, I have a desire for deep relationships, but like Martha, I often let work get in the way
Sometimes I think my middle name should be Martha. I get stuff done. I like checking stuff off a list. My friends know if they need help with a project they can call me. If my church needs volunteers for an event, I’m there. These are all good things. I enjoy using the task-oriented problem-solving personality God gave me. But sometimes my do list gets in the way of my relationships.
I think we’ve all been duped.
I’ve been going to a hot yoga class for the last month. Before I started, it sounded like an activity reserved for yuppies, hippies, and celebrities, but I had a Groupon. And now I like it.
I’m good at the flexibility poses. In general, I’m a lot like Gumby, so it’s nice for this otherwise fitness-challenged individual to feel successful for at least a portion of such a tough class. But when it comes to the balance poses, I’m a wreck. I spend half of my “tree pose” jumping around my sweaty yoga mat, attempting to keep my balance while those surrounding me turn to stone.
I know I’m new to the class, but every time a challenging pose comes up I stand there, dripping in my own sweat, thinking, I’ll never do it. I’ll never find my balance.
Fortunately, in the last few classes I’ve attended, I’ve noticed a few of my classmates—the women with perfect abs and personalized yoga mats—take a tumble or two as well.
Perfect balance is impossible. Even the most seasoned experts fall over sometimes.
Breaking down walls of independence, self-sufficiency, and pride isn’t always easy, but it’s always worth it.
I’m quite certain that the two words contained in the phrase thank you are two of the most vulnerable words one can say. Their mere presence denotes dependence on something or someone outside of one’s self. They are words that recognize the fact that, without another, a particular outcome would not have been reached. Thank you is a phrase that speaks to relationship, connectedness, and interdependence.
I am drawn to the picture of the body of Christ painted in Romans 12. Paul invites his readers to look at themselves with sober judgment, not thinking of themselves more highly than they ought, followed by a metaphor of the body. The metaphor is a powerful picture of interdependence. Each person has her own gift set. She brings something unique to the world, and when she uses her gifts, she paints a brush stroke of brilliance on the canvas of the body.
We were created to be dependent. We were created with purpose to keep us from independence, self-sufficiency, and pride. Unfortunately, many of us live in a culture where these three things are celebrated, and have been adopted as signs of responsible living. As a result, the phrase thank you has lost its meaning.
Even at age 88, missionary Rose Marie Miller still looks to prayer and powerful women in the Bible to overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges.
Rose Marie Miller doesn’t believe in retirement. At 88 and widowed, after serving communities around the world for decades alongside her pastor-husband, she now ministers to Asian women living in London eight months out of the year with World Harvest Mission. Though she makes ministry look easy, Miller admits that she’s been challenged, both as a wife and a missionary, by insecurity, doubt, and fear over the years. But God has spoken truth to her in the midst of it all.
In her new book, Nothing is Impossible With God, Miller writes about trusting God when challenges seem insurmountable. Here’s a glimpse into Miller’s missional heart.
With great power comes great responsibility—and an immense need for prayer.
Christian faith has painted broad strokes across the American political landscape throughout history. From the five references to God penned in the Declaration of Independence to President Nixon’s historic “God Bless America” sign-off on cable television in 1973, references to Christian faith have existed inside and outside the walls of the White House since the establishment of our nation.
In a nation founded on Christian principles, what is the role of the President of the United States? He is the Commander in Chief, but what about “Pastor-in-Chief?” This term has become a buzzword in recent months, as last fall’s presidential election shined a brighter light than usual on the role of faith in the Oval Office. As voters across the nation attempted to choose between Mormon and Protestant nominees, citizens gobbled up details about how Romney’s Mormonism compared to Obama’s Christian faith and upbringing.
At first I wasn’t sure how to feel about all of the hoopla surrounding the President’s personal faith leading up to the election. After all, didn’t Jesus believe in the separation of church and state? I was surprised to see an article titled “Is the President America's Pastor in Chief?” pop up on Christianity Today’s website last fall. After reading it, I was thankful I did, as it made me start thinking about how much the President’s faith should inform my decision to cast a vote:
A Christian response to TXBlue08’s popular CNN blog post on rearing children without a belief in God.
TXBlue08, a Texas mom of two, recently set the internet buzzing with her article, “Why I Raise My Children Without God.” Read by more than 750,000 people so far, thousands are enthusiastically recommending her article, while others find her assertions so offensive they’re asking CNN to take the article down.
TXBlue08 outlines several reasons why she decided to stop perpetuating the “illogical legend of God” with her kids; instead she’s chosen a path of intentional honesty, teaching her kids what she has come to believe about life and religion.
Unlike many of TXBlue08’s internet detractors, I don’t find her article offensive. In fact, several of the “bones” she has to pick with religion are issues that bother me as well. Her questions are good ones, and many of her criticisms are valid. But as a mom of three, I choose to raise my kids with God—to purposefully grow them up within the church and Christian tradition. It’s not because I’ve been fooled by a myth or because I simply need a crutch like God or a fictional heaven in order to feel good about life.
So why do I raise my kids to believe in God?
What the popular television series is teaching me about the values of marriage and community.
I’ll admit it. I’m one of the millions of Downton Abbey fans. The characters are interesting, their clothes are beautiful, and the setting is enchanting. So when I can learn a little more about the way the show is created or about the history of Highclere Castle, where Downton Abbey is filmed, I do.
To prepare myself for the third season, I read a book about Lady Almina Carnarvon, who was the countess of Highclere at the turn of the century and through World War I. Reading about her life was informative and charming—the best kind of reading!
I found this quote regarding Lady Carnarvon’s marriage especially fascinating: “When they were at Highclere or at their house in London, the Carnarvons were always entertaining. It was a curiously public existence compared to domestic life for most married couples today. They were hardly ever alone, and their house was always full of staff and guests.”
This “public existence” is displayed in Downton Abbey by the marriage of Lady Mary and Matthew Crawley. The newly married couple lives with her family in a house full of staff. Most dinners include at least two guests: Matthew’s mother and Lady Grantham (the inimitable Maggie Smith, who steals the show with her one-liners and facial expressions).
Sometimes I can’t help but compare Lady Mary and Matthew Crawley’s situation with my own. You see, I too recently got married. Though if I’m honest, that’s basically where the similarities end.
When we approach evangelism with the sole purpose of restoring people spiritually, we’re missing our calling.
Have you ever been treated as only a portion of yourself?
I was once asked to be part of a group simply because I was a young woman. The other members expected me to represent all young women and help them pave a path that made them more appealing to a younger demographic.
I was offended when I found out. I am, in fact, a young woman, but I’m also much more. I have unique roles, passions, interests, goals, and talents. Instead of being recognized for my whole self, I was simply filling a quota.
The $20 sweater was a great buy—but was it ultimately the best for everyone involved in my purchase?
“I love your dress!”
“Thanks! I got it for $30—on sale!”
How many times have you had some variation on this conversation? I’ve been on both ends hundreds of times, and it almost always involves some proud disclosure of big savings.
When it comes to our consumption of clothing, we value thrift. We pride ourselves on using our resources wisely and getting the best deal possible. We want to share our triumph with our friends, our family, anyone who displays even a passing interest in what we are wearing.
As someone on a limited budget who also happens to enjoy fashion, I have spent a considerable amount of time honing my deal-finding abilities. But in all the hours spent browsing the clearance racks, signing up for any and every sample sale site, and promising myself that this time I really was only going to buy the two things on my shopping list at Target and not even look at the clothes—only to walk out with several new tanks tops I didn’t know I needed— I never questioned the idea that, when it came to shopping, thrift was the ultimate good (after style, of course).
Why it’s important to push through when all you want to do is quit.
I’ve been training all summer for my third Chicago marathon. For the most part, my runs have gone well. Until recently when I hit a wall—the one runners always talk about.
There's a difference between consumerism and faith-based contributions.
My husband nudged me, and I gave him an amused glance. We were sitting through another Sunday-morning presentation by a worthy ministry looking for donations. The guest speaker had just spoken the words we had been waiting for:
“All we ask is for you to give up one cup of coffee each week.”
The legacy of a joyful life
I asked for my grandmother’s table because I vividly remember all the years of our family around it. The meals we ate and the games we played. The mess she always made in the kitchen. Her alto singing that plays in the background of every memory I have of her. But mostly, I remembered the great joy of being at my grandmother’s house. While I was driving home, I decided that I wanted to pass the joy of being around her table to the next generation.
Maybe some would argue with this thought, but I believe the most powerful gift I can give to the next generation is a true and vibrant joy in the Lord.
I need perspective and balance in this difficult outreach.
Gloria (not her real name) was such a person. She’d come from an extremely dysfunctional background and as a result suffered from severe depression and almost daily anxiety attacks. After becoming a mom, these symptoms increased. When I met her, she’d become a Christian but was floundering in how to raise this new baby who was entrusted to her. She could barely manage her life, let alone guide someone else’s.
But at this crucial time, God brought her into my life. We moved into her neighborhood and I, too, was a new mom. As we connected over our children, we began to get to know each other, and I discovered that I had just what Gloria needed—daily guidance from a mature believer and immersion in the Scriptures.
Instead of planting roots, what if God wants us to have wings?
It turns out boys (and maybe this is true for men too) do love adventure. But they like it best when there’s a safe harbor to return to. Like the kind a home provides. And by that I mean a home built on a foundation, not the floating kind.
I discovered this truth in the course of house hunting after our live-aboard year had ended. When we asked our sons which house they liked best of the ones we were considering, Jackson, then 12, sighed and said, “I just want a place that stays a place.”
I’m learning what my primary calling is—and isn’t.
I stared at the question in my devotional journal, a grin creeping across my face. Some days I have trouble answering the stretching questions posed in this devotional, but this one drew an immediate answer: patterns and repetition. I’m not sure if I need to hear the same message over and over in different ways and places because I’m stubborn or because I need to think about things for a while, but this is the way God speaks to me. Over and over again he’s made his will clear to me through patterns and repetition.
There was the time I was being called to career ministry. I had many people from all walks of life suddenly suggest this career to me, even though I hold an education degree. Then a spiritual gifts inventory pointed me that way. Then a pastor. And then a position in my hometown opened. I took it without hesitating. The experience taught me so much.
Maybe we wouldn’t pass up as many opportunities to care for others if we had eternal repercussions in mind.
Glenn Bolander had fallen behind his harvesting schedule because his wife, Carol, is battling cancer. That’s when nearly 100 volunteers from the farming community came to their aid, and a great number of combines harvested the Bolanders’ fields in a little more than five hours. It would have taken Glenn four weeks. When the farmers finished, they shared a potluck dinner together and even set up a meal plan for the Bolanders during this difficult time.
What do we do when those closest to us walk away from Jesus?
But somewhere along the journey from boy to man, he loses his faith. His mother watches and prays as her son gives in to a life of lust, preferring sexual exploits over the “rules” of Christianity.
As time passes, his mother continues to pray desperately as she watches her son become attracted to an alternative spirituality and then join a cult-like religious group.
Eventually, her son rejects this belief-system and becomes a skeptic, eschewing religion for philosophy. She continues to wait and pray.
Choosing comfort over mission is all too easy.
I asked why she was making that decision—except I still had my toothbrush in my mouth, so it was more like, “Eye are ooh baking dat debidon ?”
Is it really about the “home arts” or something deeper?
I left that night feeling like I must be from another planet.