to do, to be, and other wonderful friday things


(parenthetical beginning note: i was already having a fantastic day, and then i received a text from my sweet friend courtney telling me she is bringing me back the most incredible coffee beans in the world from atlanta, thus tripling the goodness of today – thanks court!  you can get your own best coffee ever here)

I have so many things I want to diy…would someone like to pay me to bake and craft things all day?  Do I see a hand in the back?   Why yes, thank you!

Just kidding.

I do love my job, for realio. 

I get to tell kids about Jesus, brainstorm ways to do that better and more creatively, schedule and plan (which I like in a strange way) and live intentionally in the coolest neighborhood in the country. Ball.er.

And for my other job….

How many people get to play in a swimming pool with kids and help people become healthier and more confident for their nine-to-five?  Love it.  Really.

But everyone once in awhile, usually following an intense bout of blog reading, I just want to diy till I just can’t diy anymore.

 For example, post-blog frenzy in starbucks yesterday I want to try…

–         making my own supa-fly fabric rosette necklace (add peacock feathers, I think yes)

–         two words: homemade bagels.  Oh yes…. 

–         And as the previous would necessitate, homemade and all-natural peanut butter and  meyer lemon cheese.

–         T-shirt “paper” towels, thank you Beth : )   

–         I still need to finish that toilet paper tube wall art… 

–         Recycled paper 

–         More yoga pant headbands please!

–         The cover of my new journal (really, composition notebook) desperately needs a decoupaging touch.

–         And I have several fantastic ideas for mixed media pieces buzzing around my head.

So I find myself wanting to throw some yeasty bagel dough together, hit some thrift stores and lose myself in a flurry of whole wheat pastry flour and elmers glue.

(not at the same time though)

Reality though is that the house is a mess. My paperless kitchen towels are about to be green for multiple reasons, and mold is so not cool, and I still have yet to figure out how to be in two places at once. 

 Primary today is going for a nice, long, OUTDOOR run!  It’s so brutal to train for a marathon (yes, you read correctly m-a-r-a-t-h-o-n, it’s in October, woot! wanna come cheer me on?) on a treadmill. 

 Also, obviously, you were a major priority today.  Thanks for reading : )

 Laundry.  Laundry. Laundry. Laundry.  It has to happen.

But now for the real purpose of todays blog, not to talk about my deep, slightly irrational crafting itch or give you my to-do list (or several of them…) but to continue with my thoughts on Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline.  Who all has amazoned the book?  Show of hands?  For the rest of you, I told you, buy this book.  Do it.

(side note:  is it wrong to blog about spiritual matters while listening to amy winehouse? Hmmm….)

So last time I blogged about what Foster calls the “Inward Disciplines”, spiritual disciplines that are between a person and God.  These disciplines are meditation, prayer, fasting and study.  (I didn’t get to study in the last post so it will kick off this one).

Next, Foster shifts gears to talking about “Outward Disciplines”.  These disciplines, as the name would suggest, are disciplines that are made evident in our lives for all to see.  These disciplines are simplicity, solitude, submission and service.  I’ll see how far I can get through my thoughts on these.

But first, backtracking a bit to the final inward discipline of study…

Foster kicks off this chapter with a fantastic quote from Caleb Colton

            “He that studies only men, will get the body of knowledge without the soul; and he that studies only books, the soul without the body.  He that to what he sees, adds observation, and to what he reads, reflection, is in the right road to knowledge. Provided that in scrutinizing the hearts of others, he neglects not his own.”

 

Yes, yes, yes!  I want to learn how to do this more and more everyday!  Live wide-eyed with wonder in observation and participation in this, my Father’s world; yet living with knowledge and understanding deep and beyond my years (if that’s possible). 

I believe the Bible calls this “shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves”.

Now, why we study….

“The purpose of the Spiritual Disciplines is the total transformation of the person.  They aim at replacing old destructive habits of thought with new life-giving habits…the apostle Paul tells us that we are transformed through the renewal of the mind (Rom. 12:2).  The mind is renewed by applying it to those things that will transform it.”

 

Foster outlines four steps to study: repetition, concentration, comprehension, and reflection.  Remarkably similar to the steps of studying I learned in my freshman orientation in college.  Why would we assume acquiring spiritual knowledge to come at any less cost?

 My favorite (and the most convicting):

     “…Study demands humility. Study simply cannot happen until we are willing to be subject to the subject matter.  We must submit to the system.  We must come as student, not as teacher.  Not only is study directly dependent upon humility, but it is conductive to it.  Arrogance and a teachable spirit are mutually exclusive.”

 

I am a self-proclaimed hater of the learning process.  Thank you for the spiritual smack upside the head Mr. Foster. 

And finally, for all of us who just “don’t have time” to devote hours and hours to study

(show of hands, anyone?)

“I have discovered that the most difficult problem [with study] is not finding time but convincing myself that this is important enough to set aside time.”

 

Slap in the face numero dos.

Consider though, how many hours we invest in tv, reading pointless fiction and magazines, or facebook, GOODNESS, facebook!  If I could convince myself that the study of scripture and spiritual classics were half as important as knowing where my college roommates were eating dinner and what their plans were for the weekend (on the other side of the country, very practical) then I would be in a much better way of study.

Oh geez…

Simplicity

 

Simplicity challenges me.  In the community house, we strive to make simplicity a way of life, and live without many “normal” modern conveniences: cable television, internet, running water (jk jk, at least the last one).  We try to live with little waste, hence, my pile of green-for-multiple-reasons kitchen towels.  We recycle.  We upcycle.  We compost.  In the summer, we grow some of our own food. 

(this is a new venture for all parties involved and last summer the garden consisted of a raving tomato crop, broccoli which no one knew when it was ripe until it flowered, and cabbage…but we’re learning)

Despite my commitment to the living arrangements of the house though, I am not naturally a simplistic person.

I love aesthetics.  Pretty things make me happy.  I’m a 20-something North American and therefore privy to apples brainwashing techniques that make me believe I must attain the newest, greatest, thinnest mac-whatever to be cutting edge and cool.  I believe strongly in making spaces appealing to the eye, that décor is just a part of hospitality and can set guests and family alike in a state of ease when at home.

So…simplicity?  Where is the balance?  Is balance even the call sent out from Scripture  or are we in fact called to radical simplicity?

“Because we lack a divine Center our need for security has led us into an insane attachment to things.  We really must understand that the lust for affluence in contemporary society is psychotic.  It is psychotic because we have completely lost touch with reality.  We crave things we neither need nor enjoy.  ‘We buy things we do not want to impress people we do not like.’…we are made to feel ashamed to wear clothes or drive cars until they are worn out.”

 

“It is time to awaken to the fact that to conform to a sick society is to be sick.”

 

(ouch)

“Often it is felt that our response to wealth is an individual matter. The Bible’s teaching in this area is said to be strictly a matter of private interpretation.  We try to believe that Jesus did not address himself to practical economic questions.  No serious reading of Scripture can substantiate such a view…the Bible challenges nearly every economic value of contemporary society.”

 

Foster then goes on to site throughout Scripture the call to live simply.  Everything from the Ten Commandments, the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the larger portion of Jesus’ teachings (finance more than any other social issue), all point us to a simple life.

After providing such substantial Biblical evidence though, Foster continues with

“…I must hasten to add that God intends that we should have adequate material provision….Forced poverty is evil and should be renounced.  Nor does the Bible condone an extreme asceticism.  Scripture declares consistently and forcefully that the creation is good and is to be enjoyed…Asceticism and simplicity are mutually incompatible….Asceticism renounces possessions.  Simplicity sets possessions in proper perspective.”

 

Foster suggests the following steps to cultivate an outward expression of the inward attitude of simplicity:

First, to buy things for their usefulness rather than their status.  Owning practical cars, or perhaps no car at all if most of your travel is done within bicycle distance.  Having homes that fit us (Ben and I would have no need for a seven bedroom home).  Wearing clothes for their utility and not their fashion.  I struggle here.  I like to look cute.  Foster admonishes,

“Hang the fashions!  Buy what you need.  Wear your clothes till they are worn out. 

 Stop trying to impress people with your clothes and impress them with your life.”

 

Ouch, ouch, ouch.  Rip open my guilty pleasures and rub the salt in deep. 

Second, Foster calls out to reject things which cause addiction (ahem…not my morning coffee, certainly no).  He names everything from beverages (but not coffee…) to sweets, magazines, music, news, money, the whole gamut. 

To discern addictions within our lives Foster says to look for undisciplined compulsions.  Like…morning coffee?  (sigh)  The need to check facebook religiously to see what so and so is doing?  Yes.   Feeling void if the morning news is missed, oh yeah, that too. 

“Simplicity is freedom, not slavery.  Refuse to be a slave to anything but God.”

 

Third, Foster writes to develop a habit of giving things away.  

            “De-accumulate!” he cries, “masses of things that are not needed complicate life.  They must be sorted and stored and dusted and re-sorted and re-stored ad nauseam.  Most of us could get rid of half our possessions without any serious sacrifice.”

Fourth, is to refuse to be subject to technology propaganda (hello, apple).  Gadgets rarely actually save the time they promise to and drain the world’s energy resources unnecessarily.

Example:  Air Conditioners in the U.S. alone use the same amount of energy as the entire country of China.  WHAT?!?!  

Fifth, enjoy without owning.  Make friends with the public libraries or parks. 

            “If we own it, we feel we can control it; and if we control it, we feel it will give us more pleasure.  The idea is an illusion.”

 

Sixth, get the heck outside!  Enjoy creation – it is God’s gift to us!

Seventh, stay out of debt.  Debt is a trap that deepens our bondage to stuff.  Avoid it at all costs.

Eighth, use plain, honest speech.  Foster quotes Jesus, “Let what you say be simply ‘yes’ or ‘no’”, he continues, “avoid flattery and half-truths. Make honesty and integrity the distinguishing characteristics of your speech.”

Ninth, reject anything that breeds the oppression of others.  It’s sick and disgusting how many of our goods and even food sources in America are produced in such a way that the workers in farms and factories are treated subhuman.  An aside from Foster, watch the documentaries “Made in L.A.” and “Food Inc.” or google sweatshop usage for your favorite company.  The nonprofit “Not for Sale” has a pretty good link to sweatshop usage and human rights as well.   Retailers from Forever 21 to The Limited, Macy’s, many brands carried by Wal-mart and Target are all made in sweatshops where workers work in substandard conditions, are paid a wage that will not sustain the individual let alone their family, and employees are frequently blackmailed and harassed into working extra hours for free (read: HUMAN SLAVERY).

There are more slaves in the world today than there ever were in Civil War America.  This is not a dead issue. 

Many of our food sources from big corporate farms place excessive stress, strain, and financial burden on the smaller, local farms they subsidize.  Even if you don’t give a rat’s behind about animal welfare and humane treatment, at least take note of the humans that farm them.  In Food Inc. the documenters interview a chicken farmer whose farm was subsidized by a national corporation.  The corporation charges her so much to keep her farm up to their “standards” (read: inhumane conditions in which chicken coops are converted into endless crap filled tunnels where birds never see the sun.) that she is indebted so deeply to the corporation she essentially works for free.   And the interviewee in the documentary is not alone. 

God calls us, as Foster notes, to break the yoke of oppression, to act justly and love mercy (Micah 6:8).  Where our goods come from is directly related to living justly.  It’s not easy, and I don’t claim to have all the answers.  But Ben and I shop local/organic for reasons that reach far deeper than just our health. 

Consider where your possessions come from, research before you buy, and for goodness sakes buy fair trade whenever possible.  Oppression stops now. 

(soapbox dismounted)

Lastly, Foster urges us to “shun anything that distracts you from seeking first the kingdom of God.”  Foster sites even good things as distractions, jobs, family, friends, security as things that could potentially, when held at an improper level of importance, distract us from seeking God’s kingdom first. 

He concludes the simplicity chapter with this:

“May God give you – and me – the courage, the wisdom, the strength always to hold the Kingdom of God as the number-one priority of our lives.  To do so is to live in simplicity.”

 

Amen.

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