Radical Exceptions? Following with a Growing Family

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Thanks for joining this week as we discussed the ideas of there being exceptions to following Jesus in the series Radical Exemptions?  We talked particularly about parents and the call to follow Jesus.  And since I am not a parent, I turned the blog over to parents all week who talked about how they are continuing to follow Jesus with a growing family.  Here’s Tuesday’s guest post, here’s Wednesday’s, and here’s yesterday’s in case you missed them.

And I don’t want to leave anyone out.  If you have ideas and thoughts to share, here’s how you can do that.

Today’s final guest post comes from Shannon Krueger.  Shannon and I met in California through our husbands, who were both serving as youth pastors at different churches.  They are a family that has embraced the idea of organic outreach and believes in sharing Jesus in natural rhythms and relationships.  Shannon and her husband, Keith, live in Northern California with their daughters Alexandra, Hannah, and Elliyah, and their son, whose adoption is nearing completion (but whose name must be kept confidential until that time).  I know you’ll enjoy hearing Shannon’s take on following Jesus as a family.

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Being a follower of Jesus has been by far the best adventure of my life! It’s definitely like being on a roller coaster with twists, turns, ups, and downs. I answered the call and became a follower of Jesus in 2000 and it has been a wild ride ever since. I was reflecting on this wild ride this week and how even during the very challenging times Jesus has been right there with me. He was celebrating with me with the highs and carrying me through the lows.

Jesus calls us to love and serve him wherever we are. This may be in an overseas mission field, across the country or it may be right in our own home. I love that Jesus is so creative because it provides limitless possibilities to shine for Him! One way we are following Jesus is by growing our family through adoption. My husband is adopted and has had a desire to adopt for as long as he can remember. For me it was a different story. God really did a work on my heart and placed a desire in me to adopt, but it didn’t happen overnight. The Lord has used my husband to help me see that the decision to adopt is not about me. It isn’t about me not being able to handle four children and it’s not about my inability to handle the challenges we are going to face. It is about making a difference in one child’s life. It is giving a child an opportunity to love and be loved, it is providing a loving home for him to grow and most importantly it is sharing the love of Jesus with him.

We started the adoption process with an introduction class and paperwork in 2008. We had finished our first round of paperwork and the next step was to meet our social worker. Well SURPRISE I found out I was pregnant the week we were going to meet our social worker! Talk about adventure…this was not even on our radar, let alone with our plan of adoption. We had to let our social worker know that we would be calling back in a few years. Fast forward to 2011 and after our youngest daughter’s 2nd birthday we decided to start the process of adoption again. We filled out paperwork, answered lots of questions, took adoption preparation classes, read a bunch of books, and prayed A LOT! After preparing our hearts and home, we received a call about a boy who needed a home in October 2012. We were on vacation and when we returned we had two days to get his bedroom all ready. The night before we were going to meet this boy we found out he wasn’t going to be coming after all.

There was no doubt God knew who our son was and He would bring him to us at the right time, but it still hurt. A few weeks later we found out about another boy who needed a home. As we have learned with the process of adoption there are always twists and turns. We didn’t end up meeting this boy until January. The day we met him my husband and I knew he was our son. We had him stay with us several times, we went to visit him several times and in March 2013 he came to live with us forever. We are still going through the adventure of court hearings and waiting periods for the adoption to become final, but God has made it very clear to us that this boy is the son we have prayed and waited for.

I have been thinking a lot about the adventure of parenthood. One of the biggest ways God has been growing me is overcoming fear. I was so afraid of having 4 children and the challenges of adoption. God meets me where I am at each time and every step of the way has reminded me to keep following Him, that this is part of His plan. Even though we are only a few months into having four children, I am grateful I didn’t let fear stop God’s plan.

I know some people think that being a stay at home mom is boring and mundane. And believe me I am not a fan of the laundry and other chores, but the challenge for me is to not lose sight of my main purpose. My role is to show Jesus to my children. I have only led two people to Jesus in my life and those two people were my oldest daughters. I do hope as God continues to use me that I will have the privilege of leading more people to Christ.

So how am I serving Jesus every day? When I die to self and serve my family by managing our home, I am showing them Jesus. When I home school our son so that he can get caught up and have an easier transition to his new life, I am showing him Jesus. This year I organized informal prayers walks with a few other moms. I printed up the staff list at my daughters’ school and we walked the neighborhood around the school praying for each person on staff. We usually had a few of our younger children in a baby carrier, stroller, or walking with us.

2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” I am definitely weak! I do not in any way have it all together. I am constantly asking for forgiveness and feel like I am falling short as a mom. But what I do know is that if I keep asking Jesus to use me, He will. The other day my son said he wants to be a police officer and one of my daughters said she wants to be a social worker to help children like her brother. All of this hard work is not in vain. My main prayer for my children is that they will love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. If my husband and I raise them to not only have a relationship with Jesus but to show Jesus to others around them, then impacting our four children will impact others who will impact others.

We are in a season of pouring a lot of our time and energy into our four children. We are in that stage of just trying to survive each day and a lot of people are showing Jesus to us through their prayers, meals, helping with the kids, encouragement, etc. But as we come up for air we will be able to bless our community more. That might be picking up trash as we walk home from school, praying for a friend who is struggling, baking some goodies for our neighbors, visiting a convalescent home, and whatever other creative ways God asks us to show people who He is. We are eternally grateful that He allows us to be a part of this incredible journey!

Radical Exemptions – Link Up and Thought Sharing

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Has this week’s series’ stirred up some thoughts for you?  Do you want to share them?

If you blog, I’d love for you to post your reactions, thoughts, ideas…  On Saturday, we’ll have a big idea sharing party.  But I wanted to give you a few days notice so you’d have time to put your thoughts together.  On Saturday, copy and paste the link to your Radical Exceptions? post into the comments on this blog.  Feel free to use the header we’ve used all week and feel free to link to this series in your blog.  I’ll share that link on Saturday and we can all read what others are thinking, dreaming, disagreeing with.  Good?

What if you don’t blog, but you have some ideas of how you are following Jesus as a parent? (or maybe not as a parent, if you aren’t one)?  Shoot me a facebook message or email me with your ideas.  If you could keep the ideas brief and more in bullet form than essay form, that would be great.

Then, on Saturday, I’ll post all your ideas.  I’ll share your blog link ups and your ideas and we’ll just share, share, share.

You in?

Radical Exemptions? Raising Children to be Global Citizens

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Thanks for joining in this series Radical Exemptions?.  This series is all about following the call of Jesus and how that call to follow Jesus is pretty radical.  We’re talking particularly about parents following the call of Jesus because of this article that started the whole discussion.  Since I’m not a parent, I acknowledged that I don’t know what I’m talking about, and have turned the blog over to friends this week who are sharing how they are continuing to follow Jesus now that they have children.  (Here is Tuesday’s guest blog in case you missed it, and here is Wednesday’s).  I hope you’ll continue to join us for the rest of the week as we continue this series.

Today’s guest blog comes to you from Jon and Jan Huckins (although they will always be Jonny and Janny to us).  We met the Huckins in Northern California through a small group of Youth Pastors & Wives.  We ate together, shared about ministry struggles and victories together, the men surfed together, and we cried together.  We always admired Jon and Jan’s adventurous spirits and deep desire to make an impact on the world.   Jon & Jan have two daughters; Ruby and Rosie and they all live in Southern California (when they aren’t traveling the world).  I can’t wait for you to read today’s guest post!

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Before we had kids, we loved to travel, had worldview stretching experiences and were all together creative in how we lived the lives we had been given.  For us, having the right kind of experiences meant far more than have the right kind of house, car or other possession that could be associated with “success.”  As we reflect on our development individually and as a couple in the context of marriage, it is clear that these experiences (and resulting relationships) have shaped us more significantly than any classroom or lecture series.  It has been the classroom of real life relationships that have formed us into global citizens who follow a Jesus with a global reign.

And then we had kids…

Having heard that we would finally have to “slow down” or change our unorthodox way of life with the wee ones around, we were feeling a bit anxious about this new stage of life.  Would the most life giving elements of our life quickly be swept away in exchange for dirty diapers and trips to the laundry mat?

Well, they could have been, but we quickly realized that the very best gift we could give our children is to live the kind of life we would desire them to live as faithful followers of Jesus.  In other words, if we are to be role models to our children, we need to live the kind of life we’d hope they’ll live someday.

So, we figured we’d just keep on living the unorthodox way of life and bring ’em along with us.  That’s why God made front packs and folding strollers for crying out loud!!

We are far from having things figured out, but here are a few key learnings we aspire to embody…

Faithful Living In Exchange For Fear Based Parenting

There are few things harder that releasing control (even if its just a little!) over the well being of your child, but in order to faithfully live into the call we know God has for us, it has become a nonnegotiable.  Rather than fear based parenting, we want to willingly step into those situations and experiences that will stretch us and expose our children to the kind of people and places they wouldn’t encounter if we don’t jump off the path of security.  Janny feels called to support and come alongside families who have come to San Diego as persecuted refugees.  Rather than going alone, she chooses to bring our daughter (Ruby) and invite her right into the middle of an experience that would stretch any mother’s protective instincts.  With dozens of snotty nosed kids running around, women from all over the world gobbling up our little 8-month old and kissing her face, Janny has to intentionally release control for the sake of faithfully being present in the places and relationships she has been called.  As a result, not only do these sweet women call Ruby “habibti” (my love), Ruby is learning to see others through the lens of a shared humanity rather than a set of cultural, religious or social constructs.

Kingdom Values VS American Ideals

We deeply desire our children to view themselves as global citizens.  In other words, rather than only seeking the good of our neighborhood, region or country, we want them to seek the good of the world.  We desire for them to see the direct lines between the way we shop, vote and live here in the US with the impact of our brothers and sisters half way across the globe.  In an effort to live simply (we really don’t have a choice on this one!) and to advance the common good globally, we try to shop at thrift stores (and host neighborhood clothing swaps!) as much as possible.  Our kids sure don’t know the difference and we hope that they view thrift stores as their department stores!  Another example is that we choose to buy multi-cultural baby dolls for our daughters so they see diversity as normative, rather than princesses and barbie dolls.  Although sometimes uncomfortable, make these types of decisions in the small things so we can promote well rounded world-views and experiences.  Who knows if it will work, but we at least giving it a shot when we are able!

Invitation Rather than Isolation

Lastly, we really try to do our best at inviting our children into the natural rhythms of our life, work and worship as much as possible.  Rather than removing the kids from our times of community worship, we are learning to celebrate their presence (even when it isn’t all the pleasant!) as part of the worship.  Also, we invite our kids into the lives of our adult friends.  Having committed to walk intentionally with a community of Jesus followers means we have also committed our children to walk with these people.  Although we may do some things differently, we are learning to release some of our control and allow our kids to be invited into the lives of those that love us most.  It is now to the point that Ruby has to pray for EVERY person in our faith community before we go to bed.  We never thought prayer could be so exhausting!

In the end, things are very different than before we had kids.  Things certainly move a bit slower.  Things often don’t go in the way we envision.  And things are viewed through a much different lens.  But we are realizing that is the beauty of family and a continual process of learning to live lives of selflessness, hospitality and generosity.  Parenting has become one of the most dynamic forms of discipleship.

Blessings on your families as you navigate these waters and please share your best practices!

Radical Exemptions? Living Overseas Doesn’t Exempt Me From the Ordinary

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Thanks for joining in this week’s series “Radical Exemptions“.  Yesterday, we started a discussion about following Jesus fully, intentionally, and sacrificially.  We talked about the fact that following Jesus means that we follow with him in many seasons of life (some of which some of us will experience and some of which some of us will not): singleness, dating, marriage, children, retirement, caring for aging parents…  We noted that we don’t get sidelined for certain seasons when it comes to being a follower.  We looked at an article that sparked the whole discussion about parents, in particular, being radical with their faith.  So we honed in on parents.  Since I’m not a parent, I’ve asked friends who are to guest post all week about how they are following Jesus in their everyday lives.  For the rest of the week, we’ll look at how they are teaching their children to follow Jesus, and how they are continuing to follow Jesus with their children as a part of that story.

I met Ruth (Ruthie back then) over the summer of 2001 after receiving a roommate assignment letter for my freshman year at Asbury University (Asbury College back then).  Despite our different backgrounds, personalities, and fashion sense, we became dear friends.  I consider Ruth a friend and a sister, and I deeply respect her life and her calling.  She lives with her husband, Kevin, and daughter Juliana in China. Baby #2 is due sometime in early fall.

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I put in a load of laundry then thread my way through the maze of toys on the ground to check if there are enough left-overs for dinner.  I convince my 2 year old to sit on the potty (oh, the joys of potty training) and browse diaper patterns for the baby on the way.  I make a cup of coffee and forget to drink it.  My life is very ordinary.  Oh, except I live in China.

I’m currently studying one of the world’s most difficult languages without any special language aptitude.  I cook on a one-burner stove in a kitchen that freezes over in the winter, but I’m just glad we got rid of the hordes of nasty roaches.  My daughter watches Chinese cartoons, loves tofu snacks, and thinks her grandparents live in the computer on Skype.  When we go out people stare at the strange foreigners and run over to take pictures on their cell phones.  If you were here, you would probably find many things strange and fascinating.  But after seven years, even the strange parts of my life have become ordinary.

Sometimes at the end of the day I wonder, “Does it really matter that I’m here?  Am I doing anything more significant than laundry?”  Even in China, it’s easy to get consumed by the mundane.  I never realized before how much time and energy children take (and I still only have one!).  How do we accept the mundane, embrace our role as parents, and resist complacency all at the same time?

Well, fortunately I have some super profound and experienced thoughts categorized numerically to make them seem more organized:

1. Don’t separate the mundane and the sacred.  Cooking is a part of life, and you can only go so long without washing clothes and still expect people to hang out with you. I’ve heard people talk about praying as they fold laundry and memorizing verses in the shower.  It sounds like a great idea and always makes me feel guilty that I’m likely composing a mental to-do list or thinking about something I saw on Facebook (Sorry to shatter the illusion…moving overseas doesn’t suddenly turn you super-spiritual.  I know, I was disappointed too.)  But guilt-factor aside, we’ve got to stop dividing our lives into “the boring, meaningless stuff” and “the exciting, super-spiritual stuff.”  God loves to meet and teach us in the midst of the mundane.

 2. Invite people into our lives…the laundry room as well as the living room.  Let people see you in the mundane aspects of life – how you respond to your kids when they are screaming and what you do when the washer is breaks again.  In a mostly non-creepy way, people are watching you.  Not just the “smiling nicely in your Sunday clothes” you but the “up with the baby all night, haven’t showered in two days” you.  That’s where the real you comes out -not always glamorous, but authentic.

3. Realize there are periods of life when the mundane kinda takes over.  I just got through three months of fabulous morning sickness where I did little except move between the couch and the toilet and meditate on how I felt like dying.  Laundry was difficult and cooking pretty much out of the question; dragging myself to class was about as much as I could handle.  Some periods of life are like that.  It’s hard enough just to get by.  Accept it; it won’t last forever.  But if you find all of your life is just struggling to get by, maybe it’s a sign to either re-prioritize or reach out for help.

4. Don’t separate parenting from “a life of adventure.”  Parenting will certainly change what you do and how, but it shouldn’t be the death sentence for influence outside the home.  You may not have the flexibility you did before, but parenting can actually expand your spheres of influence.  For me, becoming a parent has had a very humanizing effect: “Oh, the strange foreigner is a mother too.  Maybe she’s not so strange after all.”  Lots of people approach us now that never would have before; kids tend to lower the intimidation factor.  They give an automatic “in” with other parents, grandparents, and people who like kids.  And in their own simple ways, children speak truths in ways we might not be able to.  When we stop thinking of them as obstacles, children can be a great asset to our “life of adventure.”

 5.  Ask for opportunities.  A life of adventure may mean packing up and moving to China or fostering a child.  It may mean befriending the grouchy old woman down the street who seems all alone.  It may mean starting a playgroup of people very different from you.  If you ask God to show you openings in your life, he will.  Just be prepared: it probably won’t be comfortable and orderly and fit nicely into your schedule.  It will more likely look something like this: You are in the middle of a super busy day, your children are fighting fiercely, the house is a mess, and someone you find kind of annoying shows up at your door for an unexpected chat.  You consider pretending you’re not home, but instead you take a deep breath and invite that annoying person into your messy, honest life.  And from there, you just never know what will happen.

Radical Exemptions?

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I’m not a parent and so I realize that writing about parenting is a risk.  I’ve only written about parenting one or two times before, and both times, I hit the “publish” button with fear and trembling.  I feared and trembled because I know I haven’t earned my parenting badge of honor and I’m not an expert.  I don’t know what it’s like to raise a child.  And no one likes the person who thinks they’re an expert when they’re not.  I’m acknowledging that I’m not an expert, but I’d like to engage in a conversation that was started last week and hopefully create some more conversation this week.  And so, today, with fear and trembling, I am yet again pushing the publish button on a blog that involves parents.

I read this article last week from a suburban mom in response to the “New Radical Movement” that’s spreading in American Christendom.  The author’s perspective seems to be that the concept of radical Christianity is a more of a male, adventure-seeking construct and not an accurate depiction of following Jesus.  The author worries that the radical movement views suburban moms as “lazy”, and elevates missionaries and pastors to a holier status.  The author said she worried Platt would yawn at the monotony of her day to day looking-after-children-life.  (This is a quick and dirty version, please read the whole article for more context).  A week after reading this article, I can’t shut off all my thoughts and I need to process it.  So here’s my start at a discussion, please join in.

The call of Jesus is radical.  To follow Jesus is radical.  All of us, who claim to be followers of this radical Jesus have the same calling.  Our calling is to live out the great commandment and the great commission:

“’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40).

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20).

If we’ve grown up in Church, or spent a few years in pews, we’ve undoubtedly heard these verses, maybe even committed them to memory.  They sound simple enough when repeated over and over, but they aren’t simple at all.  The call of the follower of Jesus requires focus, intention, and sacrifice.

And that, in summary, is what the “Radical movement”, championed by David Platt, Francis Chan, and a growing handful of others is all about.  It’s been labeled by some as the “New Radical Movement” probably because of David Platt’s first book which is entitled Radical.

These radical champions challenge American Christians to look deeper at the message and calling of the gospel and compare them to what we are experiencing in our churches and day to day lives. “Somewhere along the way, we missed what was radical about our faith and replaced it with what is comfortable.  We are settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves.” (Platt, Radical)

The radical movement isn’t necessarily a call for every American Christ-follower to give up everything and move to the inner city or another country (although it braces us to be open to that very thing), but the radical movement is about the condition of our hearts.  When Jesus called the disciples, they abandoned their careers, their hometowns, and their families to follow Jesus.  The disciples abandoned themselves when they followed Jesus.

Jesus said in Matthew 16:24, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

Platt and Chan didn’t make up the unpopular message that following Jesus is costly; Jesus did.  When we decide to follow Jesus, we are agreeing to a lifetime of following.  And following isn’t easy, especially during certain seasons of life.

The truth is, we don’t get temporary leave from following Jesus’ call when we have life changing events like going off to college, or starting a new job, or getting married, or even having children.  Our family status doesn’t interrupt or exempt our calling, although, it might impact the scope and reach of our calling.

The radical movement isn’t a call for everyone to uproot from the suburbs and move to Africa or the inner city.  It’s a call to be radical where we’re called.  And if we get called to Africa, we need to be radical there.  If we get called to the roughest part of downtown, we need to be radical there.  If we feel called to stay where we are, we need to be radical there.

No matter our family makeup, we are called to serve, love, and sacrifice.  Christ-followers are not exempt from answering the call because money is tight, or because of marital status, or because of a recent birth or adoption, or because of aging-parents.  All Christ followers are called to share Jesus with our neighbors locally and globally.  All Christ-followers are called to serve the poor.  All Christ-followers are called to care for orphans and widows and the oppressed.  We can do that from the suburbs, from the city, or from China.  And we can not do that from the suburbs, from the city, or from China.

Being radical is about our hearts, our intentions, and our actions; not about our location.

Having children isn’t a “get out of radical living free” card.  I don’t know this personally, but I watch many of my friends continue to live out the call of Jesus after adding children to their families.  I have friends that are living radically within the confines of their neighborhoods; some live in the suburbs, some live in cities, some live communally, and some live overseas.  The choice to have children doesn’t negate the call to follow Jesus wherever and however He leads.

Being a parent is an incredibly high calling, but it isn’t a mom or dad’s only calling.  We are called to Jesus and His kingdom first.  We aren’t called to focus on our families first.  We are called to raise up children to know and follow Jesus, and this doesn’t only happen in Sunday School and VBS and nighttime prayers.  Children learn how to follow Jesus by watching how their parents follow Jesus.

If parents are whole-heartedly following Jesus, children learn how to whole-heartedly follow Jesus.  If parents are safely following Jesus, children learn how to safely follow Jesus.  If parents are only following Jesus to church, children will only follow Jesus to church.  If parents want to raise up the next generation of leaders, parents need to lead how they want their children to lead.

When children see parents serving the poor, praying for the world, taking care of the environment, sharing Jesus with neighbors, and giving sacrificially, children will learn that’s what following the call of Jesus means.

And I get that all this sounds well and good in theory, but I’ve been around enough moms and dads with little ones to know that day to day work with children is, well, work.  Kids are little, but they produce unthinkable amounts of laundry and messes and they eat a lot, and subsequently go to the bathroom a lot.  Little ones nap a lot, too, which impedes flexibility.

But I would argue that while it may not be as persistent, urgent, or difficult to neglect, all of us have monotonous daily tasks that consume our lives.   The majority of us work jobs that are routine, monotonous, time-consuming, and time-constraining.  We all do laundry, cook, clean, shower, do yard work, and go to the bathroom whether we live in the burbs or the ghetto or a remote village. If we do or don’t have children, we all have monotonous tasks.  All of us have to battle the monotony.  A radical response to the Gospel doesn’t mean that we won’t have monotony, it means that we’ll be intentional within the monotony about our purpose.

We all  have to fight the battle of the ordinary, whether we live in the suburbs or the city or overseas.  We all have to fight to remember that we are called to live differently

Romans 12:1 says it perfectly: “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.”

Since I don’t know what it’s like to have children and still live out my calling as a Christ-follower, I decided to ask some of my blogging parent friends to share this week about how they are living radically while juggling feedings and nap schedules and squeezing in a few hours of sleep.  Please jump in the discussion this week and stay tuned as we hear from some friends who are downright radical parents in their everyday lives.

Intentionality and Implementation

It’s environmental care week on the blog.  

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Monday we talked about a Christian response to environmental care.

Tuesday we talked about mindfulness.

Wednesday we talked about contentedness.

Yesterday we talked about selflessness.

And today, we talk about intentionality.

We need to get past the point of knowing and talking about taking care of the environment to actually taking care of it.  How many self-proclaimed “green” friends do we know who drive SUV’s and use Styrofoam plates, and eat only imported vegetables.  I’ve done all of these things – I’m not passing blame without accepting blame.

Americans buy an estimated 29.8 billion plastic water bottles every year. An estimated eight out of every 10 of these bottles will end up in a landfill. (Container Recycling Institute)  Today, during a staff meeting, I watched several coworkers throw their plastic water bottles into the trash can directly next to a recycling bin.

We know better, and yet we struggle to change.

There are so many options encourage sustainability that perhaps we get overwhelmed.  But my encouragement to all of us is to start somewhere.  A few years ago, after reading Serve God Save the Planet, my husband and I started making some small changes to our lives.

1.  We got militant about recycling (no more recycling laziness)

2.  We stopped buying and using paper napkins altogether and only use cloth

3.  We started using reusable grocery bags

4.  We started celebrating Christmas differently (less consuming, less stress, less spending on family and friends, less wrapping paper, more celebrating, more giving to others in need).

Soon enough, these things stopped feeling weird, they just became a part of our everyday lives.  And with more reading and more conviction, we’ve added some more changes over the last few years:

5.  Use reusable tupperware vs. plastic baggies if at all possible

6.  Use cloths vs. paper towls for cleaning

7. Avoid paper products unless we don’t have enough real dishes to feed the party

8.  Check out books from the library rather than buying them (unless they are fabulous enough to add to our personal library).  Be generous and share books with friends rather than having them buy books.

9.  Ditch the SUV and get a hybrid (we love our little prius)

10.  Eat vegetarian at least half of our weekly meals

Our newest fun additions are:

11.  Share tools with neighbors (we have a lawnmower, our friend has a weedwacker – we share, we save, and we have a fun excuse to see each other every other weekend).

12.  Use reusable produce bags (I love our new bags!)

13.  Grow our own veggies (our little seedlings are looking good)

14. Compost our waste

I hope that we can continue to simplify and be intentional.  With each new change, we feel more connected to God and our brothers and sisters around the world, as well as the earth God created.

And these are really small things.  I realize that we have a long way to go. We have a long way to go before we get to hanging our clothes to dry year round, canning veggies, and bringing our own tupperware when we’re craving takeout (all Dr. Sleeth’s suggestions) but maybe someday we’ll be there.

What about you?  What changes have you made in your everyday routine to make the earth more sustainable?  

Selflessness and Sacrifice

church earthIt’s environmental care week on the blog.  In case you missed Monday’s intro post (spurred on by earth day), we are talking about a Christian response to caring for the environment.  I’d love for this week to be a conversation, so please link up, comment, and share.  I’ want to hear your thoughts and implementation of caring for the environment.

In all of my learnings, musings, and elementary practice of environmental care, one theme is consistent: In order for me to care for the earth, I am going to have to sacrifice.  If I don’t change the way that I dispose of waste, or the things that I purchase, or the amount that I purchase, or what I drive, or how I drive…  nothing changes in the world.

Sacrifice is a strong word, because even in my “sacrifice” I am living an easy life.  And even in my “sacrifice” I can still sacrifice far more.

My selfishness inflicts pain, difficulty, poverty, loss of resources, and loss of freedom for others around the world.  My husband and I owned an SUV for several years, and we placed a toll on our environment.  I choose to eat my favorite produce year-round, which places a toll on our environment.  I choose to get paper cups when I purchase an afternoon chai rather than use my morning’s coffee mug, which places a toll on our environment.

“The earth was designed to sustain every generation’s needs, not be plundered in an attempt to meet one generation’s wants” (Sleeth)

My choices of whether to buy that certain type of wood could mean home displacement for a resident in a heavily forested area in South America.  My choices of whether to take the time to scoop out and rinse that gross plastic container (you know, the one with mold growing in it) or just throw it all away could mean health or cancer for my neighbor.  My choice of whether to use that bleach product that makes me feel like the bathroom is squeaky clean could mean healthy or toxic streams.

The thing that comes between me and making good choices for the earth is selfishness.

And the honest truth is, that as a Christ-follower, I don’t really have the option for selfishness.

“The Christian is not at liberty to do whatever he likes.  Christians are constrained by conviction to think about their lives, their actions, and their responsibilities.” (Sleeth)

22,000 children die each day in poverty

2,000 children die each day from having unclean water

More than 1 million Americans get cancer every year 

159 million Americans live in areas with polluted air

40% of rivers, lakes, and streams in the US are too polluted to fish or swim

3.5 million tons of trash have been dumped in the pacific ocean

Americans make up an estimated 5% of the world’s population, however, Americans produce an estimated 40% of the world’s waste, eat 15% of the world’s meat, and use 20% of the world’s energy.

I don’t want to be a part of contributing to these statistics, and as a Christ-follower, the only place I should have in these statistics is in reducing them.

What do you think about this?  What sacrifices have you made to make the work more sustainable for others?

Contentedness and Condensing

church earthIt’s environmental care week on the blog.  In case you missed Monday’s intro post (spurred on by earth day), we are talking about a Christian response to caring for the environment.  I’d love for this week to be a conversation, so please link up, comment, and share.  I’ want to hear your thoughts and implementation of caring for the environment.

Our culture loves newer, thinner, faster, bigger, better stuff.  We are constantly bombarded with messages that we should upgrade.  We look at what our neighbors, coworkers, family members, pew-mates, and friends have and we want.  We want their lives, their fashion, their budget, their technology.  Sometimes we stop at envy, other times, we copy and consume, and still other times, we go bigger than our neighbor and we consume more.

But the truth is, when we consume, we are only satisfied and happy for a short season, and then when the new iphone comes out, or the summer line of handbags, or the newest flatscreen, we become dissatisfied and discontent and we start buying into the idea that we need to upgrade again.

Matthew Sleeth puts it this way; “The content mind is one of the greatest obstacles to a rich spiritual life”

We know Christ’s teaching in Matthew 6, where Jesus says, “19 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

I think most of us want our hearts to be in the right place. I know I want my heart to be in the right place.  We want to store up treasures in heaven, but that’s so ethereal.  We aren’t bombarded with heaven-treasure-storing messages daily, unless we are intentional about it, but we are bombarded with earth-treasure-storing daily without having to seek it out.

We are met with upgrade messages constantly at work, on the television, on the highway, and even at church.  Many of our own churches have upgraded to the fanciest of screens, state of the art lighting, and best of the best graphic designs.  It’s downright counter- cultural  even among Christians to live simple, content lives.

How do we become truly content with what we have? How do we live simplify our lives?

“Simplifying means having less, wanting less, being satisfied with what you have or less than what you have.  It does not mean boredom.  People with too many things are the most easily bored.” (Sleeth)  Isn’t that true?  The more we get the more quickly we tire of things and move on to the next.

Aside from our unhappiness, jealousy, tight budgets, and credit card debt over our consumption addiction, there are environmental implications, too.  Our culture’s constant need for new stuff has overwhemled our landfills with technology (because no one wants to pay to recycle technology properly when we could trash it for free) and other items that were still functional.  Our culture’s constant need for new stuff requires more oil, more chemicals, more slave labor… and the list goes on.

And in addition to environmental implications for our consumption addiction, there are societal implications.  Our need for new has stripped our budgets from wiggle room to be generous.  Rather than contribute to ending world hunger, to educating women in countries where that is not common, to providing clean water for a town, we have chosen to store up treasures on earth.

“On no subject was Jesus more clear than on materialism  A life focused on possessions is a poor and misguided life.”

For about a year after reading Serve God Save the Planet, Adam and I took the author’s suggestion and prayed before every purchase asking God, “Will this bring me closer to God.”  More times that not, the answer was no.  We scaled back our purchasing and the less we shopped the less we wanted.  But slowly, over time, we slipped back into old habits.  We made a budget and because we had budged for things, we bought things.  Sure, we had prayed over our budget – perhaps that’s how we justified our spending.  But easily enough, we started slipping back into purchasing more.  Consumption is a habit that can turn into an addiction if unchecked.

When we bought our home in December, we started having some talks again about fighting consumerism and embracing generosity.  We had a treasure check.

Where our treasure is, there will our heart be also.

Where my treasure is, there will my heart be also.

This topic is a difficult one, I’d love to hear from you on this subject.  

How have you found contentment in what you have?  How have you embraced simplicity?  Do you struggle with consumerism?

Mindfulness and Minimizing

church earthIt’s environmental care week on the blog.  In case you missed yesterday’s intro post (spurred on by earth day), we are talking about a Christian response to caring for the environment.  I’d love for this week to be a conversation, so please link up, comment, and share.  I’ want to hear your thoughts and implementation of caring for the environment.

Yesterday, I divulged that the Christian circles I grew up in weren’t keen on caring for the earth.  In fact, there was a general snubbing of the idea that green living was godly living.  It took me moving to the west coast and being around some legit Christians who cared a great deal about the earth, to realize that one can be both a passionate Christian and a passionate environmentalist.  In fact, over time, I learned that passionate Christians should be passionate about caring for the earth!

It took observing environmentally minded Christians and reading Serve God Save the Planet  to realize that I had my head in the sand about a critical issue.  Our earth is not in good shape.  We are depleting resources faster than we can replenish them.  Our world has more diagnoses of cancer, greater obesity rates, higher reports of depression and anxiety, more reports of stress and stress-related health problems, higher volumes of slavery, and greater instances of war over natural resources than any past generation.  All of this can be tied to our consumption and quest for convenience.

What I wish I’d learned earlier in life, is that caring for the environment isn’t a personal choice, but rather, my choice to or not to care for the environment has an impact on others.  “Environmental concerns are intimately tied to issues of poverty, health, and compassion” (Sleeth, Serve God Save the Planet).

Green living isn’t as simple as recycling (although that isn’t a bad start).  Green living is about recognizing that our everyday choices affect the greater world.  My choice of what to drive (and how much oil it uses) affects people around me and people across the world. My choice to upgrade my current technological devices affects landfills, oil production, and my financial flexibility to give to others around the world.  My choice of wanting whatever produce my heart desires year-round affects treatment of farmers, oil consumption, and prices for my neighbors.

How and what I consume affects the world greatly.

And until my early 20’s I literally had no idea.  I shopped for what my budget would allow, and I recycled because it was free and I bought new technology when I wanted to (because I was earning a real income for the first time post-grad and I could).  And my choices then, and my choices now affect me, and affect others.

The first step to caring about the environment, is caring.  And the first step to caring, is being mindful that there’s a problem.  If you don’t think global warming is real, or that cancer is more prevalent, or that we have a waste problem, we aren’t reading the same science books.  My friends, I don’t know why conservative Christians tend to downplay this issue, but it’s not a made up liberal agenda: We are fast depleting the earth of its resources.

But, we can make a difference!  Fellow Christ-followers, here are some reasons to care for the earth:

1.  Caring about creation brings glory to God

2.  Caring about creation helps other people

Caring for the environment enables us to live more meaningful, godly, and equitable lives.  Caring for the environment helps others today and in the future.  Caring for the environment makes us more content and less materialistic.  Caring for the environment makes us more grateful and more generous.  Caring for the environment slows down our pace, and helps us to rest (Snippets from Serve God Save the Planet).

That sounds like a spiritual agenda, not a political agenda, am I right?  So today, let’s be mindful of the fact that the earth is not in good shape, and let’s be mindful of how we can help to change that through minimizing our consumption and quest for convenience.  Let’s be mindful of the fact that our choices affect others now and in the future.

A Christian Response to Earth Day

church earthAll across the United States today, elementary school children will be planting trees, commercials will roll in support of recycling, community centers will be cutting ribbons for new gardens, and many conservative Christians will be rolling their eyes.

I don’t get it –  I don’t understand how Christian conservatism has decided that caring for the environment is an evil, or at best unimportant agenda.  I grew up with eye-rolling at the mention of environmental care and you don’t even want to know what happened when the name Al Gore was mentioned.  I’ve seen many a church-goer balk at talk of “green living” and “global warming”.  I don’t know who called dibbs, but somehow, conservatives got pro-life, pro-death pentalty, and pro national safety, while liberals got pro-choice, pro-welfare, and pro-environmental care.  And when those sides were taken, conservative Christians decided they couldn’t adopt earth care as their own ideal so it was deemed bad.

But that’s crazy!  Christians believe that God created the world and gave us dominion over it.  This dominion doesn’t mean ownership but rather it means stewardship.  Christians should be the leaders in environmental care because we should be passionate about what God is passionate about.  God created the world and called it good, but we have to fight to keep it that way.

Perhaps it was moving to central California where the hippies are plentiful, nature is stunning, and folks know how to make a mean salad.  Or perhaps it was reading this book that rocked my viewpoints of green living to the core.  Or perhaps it was seeing modeled how to live simply, economically, and environmentally.  But over the last 7 years, I have grown a passion to be a good steward of the earth, and I want to share that passion over the course of this week.

I am astounded at how little many of my fellow Christian friends know about caring for the environment, so this week, we are going to go philosophical and practical.  Please join me all week as we talk about a Christian response to green living:

Tuesday – Mindfulness

Wednesday – Contentedness

Thursday – Selflessness

Friday – Intentionality

If you’d like to link up to this series and include a post about how you’ve grown to care for the environment, please add this link to your post and add a link to your Earth Care blog in the comments section.  I’d love for this to be a robust conversation.

Cheers and Happy Earth Day!