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Thursday, December 28, 2006


Photo credit: Flickr/achbrown

In my journey of downsizing and "letting go" of my stuff...I have often thought about what it would feel like if I truly had nothing. What if I was so poor and in need, that I didn't have even ONE thing that I could get rid of? I've never been in that situation, so my mind can't even fathom it, but so many people live with SO LITTLE, with no end in sight.

During this holiday season especially, I am reminded over and over of how much I do have. We are wealthy beyond measure. If I need something, I can go and buy it. If we need socks, shoes, food, bedding, or eyeglasses, we just go buy it. With that said, the following statistics are shocking...
  • Half the world — nearly three billion people — live on less than two dollars a day. 1
  • “The combined wealth of the world’s 200 richest people hit $1 trillion in 1999; the combined incomes of the 582 million people living in the 43 least developed countries is $146 billion.” 1
What would Jesus say to this? You don't have to look far to find out. Jesus talks about the poorA LOT. He talks about giving your belongings to them... feeding them...caring for them. Basically, treat them as you would want to be treated...and most of all: SHARE your stuff! The second statistic above is just mind boggling to me. When Jesus looks down on us, he sees enough food, enough money, and enough shelter to keep everyone in the world from wanting. But not many will share.

"John answered, "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same." Luke 3:11

If we take this scripture to heart/ can we biblically own more than we need? This has been on my mind a lot as I go through my possessions. I ask myself..."Who could use this RIGHT NOW?". Sure, I "might" need it "someday"...but I can give it to someone that needs it today. But what about those homeless/needy people who appear to have the means to get out of "their situation"? Doesn't giving to them just enable them to remain homeless? I truly think that if we are giving abundantly to others, Jesus will take care of the rest. Of course, exercise due caution, and don't give cash directly. There are so many other ways to help.

What was so different about the early Christian church? Why could they live this way and today we find it beyond impossible?
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. Acts 4:32

All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts. Acts 2:44-46

Why does one neighborhood need a lawn mower in every garage? Why does each individual family spend money on things they will only use a few times a year? Why not have a common area where things can be "checked out" from? Part of the reason is that we have isolated ourselves and no one knows their neighbors anymore. We are an automated and isolated nation. I am fascinated by communal living and intentional communities with this type of possession "system"...but that's a different blog post altogether! :)

I'm quite disturbed about the homeless situation in our country. Let me start by saying that I don't know anything about being homeless. I haven't ever volunteered at a homeless shelter, I've never housed anyone who was homeless, I've never been without a place to sleep at night. But I just can't stop thinking about it.

The majority of homeowners think that they "need" a guest bedroom that will be used a few times a year. These rooms sit empty when there are people living on the streets. Not that all of you who have guest bedrooms should go and find a homeless person and put them up...I'm just interested in this crazy trend.

Shane Claiborne, author of "The Irresistible Revolution" has a lot to say about the homeless and how Jesus would treat them. This book is hands down my favorite of the entire year. I jokingly call it "my second Bible". It will forever change you. Here is a review...

If there is such a thing as a disarming radical, 30-year-old Claiborne is it. A former Tennessee Methodist and born-again, high school prom king, Claiborne is now a founding member of one of a growing number of radical faith communities. His is called the Simple Way, located in a destitute neighborhood of Philadelphia. It is a house of young believers, some single, some married, who live among the poor and homeless. They call themselves "ordinary radicals" because they attempt to live like Christ and the earliest converts to Christianity, ignoring social status and unencumbered by material comforts. Claiborne's chatty and compelling narrative is magnetic—his stories (from galvanizing a student movement that saved a group of homeless families from eviction to reaching Mother Teresa herself from a dorm phone at 2 a.m.) draw the reader in with humor and intimacy, only to turn the most common ways of practicing religion upside down. He somehow skewers the insulation of suburban living and the hypocrisy of wealthy churches without any self-righteous finger pointing. "The world," he says, "cannot afford the American dream." Claiborne's conviction, personal experience and description of others like him are a clarion call to rethink the meaning of church, conversion and Christianity; no reader will go away unshaken.
It's my dream to go visit his community, The Simple Way. I would love to interact with that group for a month and learn to truly look beyond appearances and love beyond myself.

One of my favorite singers, Ani Difranco, wrote a song called Subdivision. You can hear it on this site. Her music and her message are beyond amazing. And although I don't agree with all of her positions on everything...and she likes to cuss, I think she is one of the most talented and brave voices out there. Here are some of the lyrics of Subdivision that have really stuck with me:

I remember the first time I saw someone lying on the cold street
I thought, "I can't just walk past you, this can't just be true."
But I learned by example to just keep moving my feet.
It's amazing the things that we all learn to do.
So we're led by denial like lambs to the slaughter
Serving empires of style and carbonated sugar water and the old farmroad's a four-lane that leads to the mall and my dreams are all guillotines waiting to fall
And I wonder then what it will take for my country to rise.
First we admit our mistakes and then we open our eyes.

Whenever I have visited a large city...with homeless lying "on the cold street"...something churns within me. I wonder what circumstances led to them losing their home. Drugs? Losing a job? Some other addiction? Just a bad string of events with no family to help? I always want to ask. But like Ani says ... I've "learned by example to just keep moving my feet". So sad.

I went to see the movie "The Pursuit of Happyness " a few weeks ago and it deeply moved me. I depicts the true story of a single dad and his son...fighting to make it...and they do end up on the streets for awhile. It was heartbreaking, but such a wonderful film. Not a feel good film, but one that will open your eyes.

These thoughts have been on my mind for so's such a hard topic to talk about because if we truly LIVE out what Jesus has shown requires us to ACT. It requires us to take care of others unselfishly. I know that there are many who can debate this topic more eloquently than I can...arguing that the wealthy need their large homes and toys to minister to those people who will only respond that way to Christ. I'm still thinking through all of that...and I know that God uses everyone where they are at right now, and with the possessions they have right now. But how much is too much? Where do we draw the line between having excess possessions to "minister to others" and living as Christ commands us? Where is the line between being too radical in your lack of possessions (if there is such a thing) and having too much?

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Monday, December 25, 2006

Amazing Gift

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Isaiah 9:6

It's been a beautiful Christmas day! We've played outside, sat by the fire, and enjoyed family. I love holidays...when the pace slows down to a stand still, even for just one day. Here are some memories from our day.

Thank you Jesus for the most amazing gift.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Powered Off

During the course of simplifying our lives, I have become increasingly sensitive to all of the electronic gadgets we use everyday. I find myself asking questions like, "What did people do before cell phones?" and "Why on earth would people watch that television show?". And finally, "Could I live without my computer for one week?".

Maybe the better question is, "Why would you want to, Sara?". Well, let me tell you. It's addicting, and I don't like feeling that way. When I wake up in the morning, instead of an intense desire to meet with the Lord, I have an intense desire to check my email. When I have some spare time in the day, I would rather check blogs than read to my sweet daughter. When I should be going to sleep at night to refresh and heal my body, I am editing photos, posting blogs, or just mindlessly roaming the Internet.

During one of my quiet times this week, I started to talk to the Lord about my computer habits and I asked him if I should take a break. The next passage I read was this:
"I am the LORD; that is my name!
I will not give my glory to another
or my praise to idols.

Isaiah 42:8

Wow. Ok got me. I realized that the Internet, blogging, and computer time in general have become an idol in my life. It sounds so harsh, but an idol is simply anything that you are putting ahead of God. I have chosen the computer over God SO many times, and it needs to change. My God is a jealous God...he LOVES me so much and wants my attentions and worship. When I start to use energy that could be spent glorifying Him and getting to know Him better, He is saddened.

I am in no way saying that computers and the Internet are bad and that Christians shouldn't be using them. To the contrary...there are so many amazing Christians who are online making a huge impact for Christ. It's when we let it creep ever so slowly into our lives and take over that it becomes a problem. When our online community of friends is taking the place of real-life conversations and our time online exceeds the amount of time spent with family and with God...something needs to change.

When I am on the computer too many things suffer. My relationships, my housework, my hobbies. I have made the decision to take a week off from the computer so that I can SLOW DOWN. I want to read books. Lots of them. I want to go to bed early. I want to get up and read my Bible over a delicious cup of tea without the computer beckoning me away. I want to give my FULL attention to Bella at all times. It's also perfect timing, because we are all packed and will be moving tomorrow! This time of transition will be a great time for reflection and journaling. Plus, my laptop is in need of a few repairs, so it will be physically sent away this week to IBM to be fixed.

I am so excited for this break, and yet I am nervous. Nervous to feel the extent of my addition to this machine. I can't wait to share with you all of the wonderful things God did because it was gone. I know I am not the only one who struggles with this problem, and I pray that if you are feeling Him tugging at your spirit right now...join me in this journey and be sure to tell me all about it!

I am so humbled and blessed by all of you that read my blog. I am amazed by you all! I love reading your comments and all of your own blogs. I hope that you will come back in a week and check in. I have several fun topics brewing in my head. But for's time to turn it off. Have a GREAT week! I know I will.

Photo credit: Flickr/ahhyeah

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Heading West

This Christmas, we will be heading to Bozeman, Montana to spend time with Matt's sister, Mindy, and her husband, Ryan. Ryan is the Director of Lion's Ridge, a retreat center that is nestled in the mountains just a few hours north of Yellowstone National Park. We spent last Christmas with them as well and fell in love with Bozeman...the town, the scenery, the adventures! We felt God calling us there...and had a deep sense that we would eventually live there, but we had so much to take care of before that could ever happen. We work for my family and Matt runs a significant portion of the company. At that point last year, we owned a house, had so much debt, and not much free time. Our dreams of a simpler life were still far away.

Well, a year later...God has opened doors for us and we will be making the trek to Bozeman for Christmas again, but this time we will be pulling our entire life behind us in a 4 x 12 trailer. Yes...we're moving! Our last day in Des Moines will be December 15. After that, we will spend a week in Brainerd, MN with Matt's family and then we will all head out from there. We will spend a couple weeks at Lion's Ridge in the cabin you see in the photo above...and then will travel to Boulder, CO to visit our best friends for a few weeks. When we return, we will know more regarding a job opportunity in full-time ministry there. I will share more with you as things become more finalized. What we have realized is that we need to be back in ministry, paid or unpaid. We know that Matt has been called to that...and we want to be obedient to his calling.

We have sold all of our furniture (yes, even our bed, kitchen table...everything!) and our bus and have only kept the things we love. That made for a much easier move! We are looking forward to starting fresh and trusting God to provide fun, "new to us" furniture and such when we arrive. It's definitely been a growing experience as I learn to release my earthly possessions and focus on where God is leading. We feel so light and free!

God has been so good to us...and we are so excited to be starting a new adventure. We have much to look forward to.
  • A wonderful church with which we are already acquainted with.
  • God-ordained friendships (a crazy story for another time!)
  • Family...Ryan and Mindy are so much fun, I am excited to have them so close!
  • Shops and restaurants galore!
  • An amazing co-op
  • Mountains!
  • A slower lifestyle
So now you understand why I haven't been posting as much lately...I've been busy packing! We moved out of our apartment a few weeks ago and we are spending these last days in Iowa with my parents at their house. Please bear with me during this transition, I'm not sure how much computer time I will have. But I am so excited to share every step with you all...telling of God's amazing provision as he leads us WEST!

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
Isaiah 55:12

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A Compact Christmas

Several of you have asked me to post about buying Christmas gifts while doing the Compact. It's really quite simple. Here are my tips:
  • Shop early.
    • It's pretty much impossible to buy used/barter/trade at the last minute. Well, you could, but even Goodwill is pretty picked over by Christmas eve!
    • I've been slowly collecting gifts from consignment stores and thrift stores..and occasionally trading for photography.
  • Always keep an eye out for a gift...even if you aren't specifically shopping for that person.
    • I have found the greatest gifts when I wasn't really looking. Keep a list of all the people that you are shopping for so you can keep track.
  • Keep a gift "box" under your bed or in a closet so that you can have them all in one place.
    • I love this. Anytime I find a cool gift, I just pop it right into my gift box and know that I can forget about it until Christmas! This is a great thing to have year-round...because as birthdays pop up, you can just grab a gift from the box.
  • Don't buy gifts for everyone.
    • I used to do this...because I LOVE giving gifts. But this year, I am limiting it to family and a few close friends. For Bella, we would like to start the tradition of 3 gifts only...representing the 3 gifts the wise men brought Jesus.
  • Homemade is fun.
    • Last year I made cool magnets. It's always cheaper to do something crafty. I usually do a lot of photo-related gifts, especially for the grandparents. I have some crafty things that I am making this year, but I can't reveal it on my blog...that would ruin the surprise!
  • Don't get stressed. The focus is on Jesus, not gifts. The gifts are just a great symbol of what God gave us in His son.
Giving gifts is so much fun for me. I thought about just not doing any gifts this year...but then I realized how much joy I get from seeing someone's face light up. Compacting this Christmas has been enjoyable and easier than I thought! And I am THRILLED to not be out at the malls. Wheeeee!
Photo courtesy of Nathan Gibbs/


I've been thinking so much about what it means to be truly satisfied. I can look back through my life and pick out so many things I pursued that I thought would satisfy...but they all came up short. Relationships, money, possessions....none of these things satisfied me completely. Temporarily, yes. But not completely and without fault. The only thing that can offer that kind of satisfaction is Jesus Christ. Knowing Him. Loving Him. Glorifying Him. To quote John Piper, "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him".
Psalm 90: 14

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. (I love this one...when I meet with Him early in the morning, I am filled and satisfied all day. I am much more able to resist the temptations of this world!).

Psalm 145: 15-17
15The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food at the proper time.

16 You open your hand
and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and loving toward all he has made.

Isaiah 55:2
Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.

Isaiah 58:11
The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.

Over and over, He says that HE will satisfy our needs. But in a culture that screams so loudly about how we'll never be satisfied without more money, more stuff, more square's no wonder we are distracted to the point of forgetting His promise.

If we take Jesus at his Word, and start trusting that He will give us all that we need...why do we need to pursue all the things that the world pursues?

Piper has this to say about it:
If Christ is an all-satisfiying treasure and promises to provide all our needs, even through famine and nakedness, then to live as though we had all the same values as the world would betray him. I have in mind mainly how we use our money and how we feel about our possessions. I hear the haunting words of Jesus, "Do not be anxious, saying 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things" (Matthew 6:31-32). In other words, if we look like our lives are devoted to getting and maintaining things, we will look like the world, and that will not make Christ look great. He will look like a religious side-interest that may be useful for escaping hell in the end, but doesn't make much difference in what we live and love here. He will not look like an all-satisfying treasure. And that will not make others glad in God.
What would happen if every Christian lived a life that "looked different" than the world? Would it be possible to live lives like those in the early Church? To live in complete community and share all that we have?
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales, and put it at the apostles feet and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. *Acts 4:32-35
There were NO needy persons among them?! Amazing. The thing is, if everyone just shared what they had today, the same would be true. There is more than enough to go around...enough for the entire world. I know I'm thinking crazy thoughts...but it's good to think about such things.

No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had?! Wow. Think about how much crime and hatred is the result of jealousy of someone else's possessions. How caught up we get in determining what is mine and what is yours. Lawsuits, wars, divorces...

When we release our possessions and recognize that everything we have comes from Christ and belongs ultimately to Him, it's much easier to have a loose grip on it all. We are just stewards of everything God has given us...none of it is OURS anyway. They are His to do with what He wants. It's much easier to be satisfied when you take the distraction of possessions out of the picture. Jesus loved talking about money the poor. Fifteen percent of all His teaching revolves around those topics. I used to just skip over those passages apparently, because it wasn't until I went deliberately searching that I realized how much Jesus wants us to take care of the needy.

Lastly, I will leave you with one last passage from Piper's book "Don't Waste Your Life". It's such a great reminder that although we should be salt and light and be "attractive" to others in order to win hearts to Christ, we also must be wary of becoming to comfortable in the "world".

I am wired by nature to love the same toys that the world loves. I start to fit in. I start to love what others love. I start to call earth "home". Before you know it, I am calling luxuries "needs" and using my money the way unbelievers do. I begin to forget the war. I don't think much about people perishing. Missions and unreached peoples drop out of my mind. I stop dreaming about the triumphs of grace. I sink into a secular mindset that looks first to what many can do, not what God can do. It is a terrible sickness.
A very convicting reminder...we are in this world but not of it. Do you look different? I'm going to leave it at that, and let you ponder. If you've never read of heard John Piper, I urge you to check him out. It's deep stuff for sure, but well worth your time.

Be satisfied!

Saturday, December 02, 2006


Wanting: \Want"ing\, a. Absent; lacking; missing; also, deficient; destitute; needy

During the holiday season, it is very easy to feel like our current possessions are "lacking" and "deficient". Everywhere you turn, there is an advertisement for this or that. Even though you may only hear them in passing, they do affect you deeply. The advertisements are created to MAKE you feel you are "less" if you don't rush out and purchase their item. Or, during this season, you are less if you don't rush out and purchase it for your friend, spouse, child, etc.

Recently, I took my grandma to the mall because she wanted to get some gift certificates for Christmas. I hadn't been out to walk the mall in a long time...and I found it completely overwhelming. The people, the noise, the bright and shiny objects! I started to find myself looking in the windows ... and feeling that WANTING that I so hate. I was in the mall for literally 5 minutes or less, and in that little space of time, the sirens sucked me in. I walked out chanting to myself "look straight ahead, there is nothing you need"! I am so glad I don't have to deal with that anymore this season!

I started to think about other ways that WANT is created in my life. I have discussed this before, but it's worth doing it again. It's an ongoing battle, and if you don't think about it and how it happens, it will control you.

I started with my email inbox. I went through and unsubscribed from every single newsletter, update, etc. that I receive. I was astounded at how many businesses/spammers have my email. It took several hours to complete this, and I am still doing "maintenance" unsubscribing daily. I needed to do this because there are several really fun crafty sites that I get updates for...and even though they are homemade, ethical, etc, I do not need them. Opening those emails only creates want. Having less emails makes me spend less time at the computer and have less distraction in general. I also unsubscribed from several discussion groups that I just didn't have time to read. From now on, I will make a point to be more protective of my email address. I know that spammers can get it without me knowing, but I will do all that I can.

The other "tool of wanting" that I've been thinking about lately is the TV. I know that most of you will agree with me on this one...but I want to talk about a certain genre in particular that I used to find harmless. The two channels that I used to give myself "permission" to watch, HGTV and TLC, are experts in creating want not just in their advertising but within the programming. What?! Say it isn't so! Yes. Think with me for a moment.

"Dream House", "I Want That", "National Open House"...these are three programs that create want in myself when I watch them. Basically, when you are looking over and over at lifestyles, people, and possessions that don't align with your values or your budget, it will only leave you "wanting". When you see "excess" as the norm, your standards and expectations start to change. The same principle applies to reading gossip magazines (i.e. People, Us, etc.). If you read it enough, focus on it enough, and desire to KNOW and imitate other's lifestyles will continue to WANT.

On TLC, there is a show called "What Not to Wear". The hosts go into someone's closet, basically tell them what a horrible dresser they are and how ugly they look, and they throw away (donate?) all of their clothes and give them $5,000 to go shopping for a new wardrobe. First of all, clothing is an extremely emotional and personal choice. When you come in an dissect someone's wardrobe, it's traumatizing. Secondly, I could buy a whole army a wardrobe with $5,000 (does anyone else think that is insane?!). With that said, I can see how it sucks people in because I used to be very entertained by it. But when I would watch them go shopping, I started to wish that I could just go on a shopping spree like that. I WANTED to be them. TV turns you into a happy little consumer.

John Piper, one of my favorite pastors and authors, calls TV the "great life-waster". He has this to say in his book "Don't Waste Your Life":
"The main problem with TV is not how much smut is available, though that is a problem. Just the ads are enough to sow fertile seeds of greed and lust, no matter what program you're watching. The greater problem is banality. A mind fed daily on TV diminishes. Your mind was made to know and love God. Its facility for this great calling is ruined by excessive TV. The content is so trivial and so shallow that the capacity of the mind to think worthy thoughts withers, and the capacity of the heart to feel deep emotions shrivels."
So, there you have it. In addition to creating WANT, watching TV turns you into a shallow idiot.
Turn it off! (Please don't tell me that TV is educational. Get out there and LIVE life instead of learning about it on your TV).

I want to stop wanting. Looking back at the definition...I am not lacking, missing, deficient, or in need of anything. The only thing I am in "need" of is God's grace and forgiveness daily. I want to be satified by Christ alone.

*photo courtesy of davepatten/