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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Sharing

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/literally...how 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 long...it's such a hard topic to talk about because if we truly LIVE out what Jesus has shown us...it 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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38 Comments:

Blogger Caitlin said...

Sara, my husband and I love your posts. You are such a blessing and an inspiration. Thank you.

12/30/2006 3:16 PM  
Blogger Anna said...

Everytime I see that you have a new post...I can't wait to read it. What has amazed us since living out of the country is the realization that 99% of the world doesnt live like we do in America. "Stuff" takes on a whole new meaning when you are around others that have nothing. Thank you for your post.

12/30/2006 4:42 PM  
Blogger MidnightMom said...

Wow; I have been thinking so similiarly lately--you wrote it so eloquently. How far are we to go? How much is too much? Those verses recently popped into my mind as I was pondering this; we, in America's "church" are missing it--we are lost in culture and consumerism...we are simply "lost". And we don't even know it.

I too am interested in the "intentional" communities that spring up...how can one be created and yet centered on Christ? Being IN the world, but not OF it, and yet, inviting the world in?

Ahhh, such a thought-provoking blog; thank you for sharing...I relate to several of your latest blogs; including "computer addiction"...home-run to my heart.

Sorry to blog your blog! Blessings upon your New Year; grace and peace in His name, Danielle

12/30/2006 9:06 PM  
Blogger ManyBlessings said...

Sara,
I am new to comment here, but I love your blog. You always hit on so many things that are close to my heart and today was no exception.

In November we brought home our beautiful 3 year old daughter from Guatemala. Having gone to Guatemala 4 times during the wait for her, I too am deeply haunted by the poverty and desperation I saw there and very...disillusioned I guess, by the wealth and gluttony I see here.

My daughter WAS a statistic. Our agency described her as a "poster child for World Vision". Literally starving when she was brought into foster care, she is now thriving. But I can't get out of my mind the images of the children there, the absolute desperation I saw.

Seeing the excess here rocks me to the core. I can't understand how the world can turn a blind eye to the poverty and I can't be comfortable in this excess. Sigh. I think I have a foot in two worlds right now.

So many needs. So little time.
dawnz
www.prayingthemhome.blogspot.com

12/31/2006 6:16 AM  
Blogger Lindsey @ Enjoythejourney said...

I think we've shifted our focus from long ago when we relied on the church to meet needs, we now have this mentality that the government will take care of those who are in need, and we tend to look the other way.

We need to get our focus back.

12/31/2006 10:40 AM  
Blogger Green Darner said...

Where is the line? That is a good question.

Too much stuff becomes a burden.
Too little stuff becomes a burden.

When you strike a balance in which your focus is off the burden of stuff (whether too much or too little)and your focus is on Jesus - I think that is where the line is.

12/31/2006 1:09 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

green darner...very well said. I agree. For me...if I am becoming attached to something so much that I feel like I could not let it go, I know there is a problem.

12/31/2006 1:48 PM  
Anonymous Rea T said...

Sara,

I've been reading your blog for the past month or so and have to say that everything you write goes straight to my heart and stirs things that I haven't thought about in so long. I want to be able to break through this life I am living right now and rekindle the passion for Christ and for following him that I see in your words. Thanks for being honest enough to ponder the the difficult questions.

12/31/2006 2:23 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

Thank you so much for articulating what has been on my heart since the holiday season.

Today is the first day of the new year, and I started my day planning a new budget over French Toast with a friend.

It's so easy to get caught up in MY money, MY earnings and expenses... but I really believe that the Lord's desire is for me to focus on giving, sharing the wealth He's given me. (Seeking first the things of the Kingdom... not the added things). How could I ever come short at the end of the month if my focus really is on looking after the Kingdom and those less fortunate?

Thanks for contributing to that revelation.

1/01/2007 9:28 AM  
Blogger angela said...

Before we sold our home last May, we took in a homeless guy to live with us. Teddy is 23 year old homeless guy who had attended our church a few times and expressed to Charlie that he wanted to stop drinking. We really felt that our part in helping him was to take him in. It was a wonderful experience for us all. It was so amazing the first night he was with us and I gave him a glass of sweet tea and he said he hadn't had tea in years. Teddy was with us for a little over 3 months. It was a great opportunity for us to share what we had been blessed with.
While I'm not saying that everyone should take in a stranger from the street (it was a calling from God that we had on us), I am promoting going beyond yourself and getting into the uncomfortable, out of the norm.

1/01/2007 9:46 AM  
Blogger Sara said...

Wow Angela...thanks for sharing that. What a great example of your faith and love in action!

1/01/2007 10:17 AM  
Anonymous dorothy said...

Sara,
I've been reading your blog for about a month, also, and always read something that's been brewing in my own heart and mind. This post is no exception. Praying the Lord will use your posts to keep the conversation going further and encouraging more hearts to contemplate greater Christ-likeness (mine!).

1/01/2007 10:37 AM  
Blogger Jen. said...

Hi Sara,
I was just looking for a copy of Shane Claiborne's book earlier this week - now I really want to find it! Have you read "Under the Overpass?" It's an autobiography about a young upper-middle class guy who realized he had never really had to depend on God for anything, so he arranged to be homeless (with some safeguards in place) for 6 months. He really has some great insights!
Thanks again for keeping us thinking!
love, Jen.

1/01/2007 12:32 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

Jen...thanks for the book idea! I am SO excited to read that. I just read the review on Amazon and it looks awesome. Yay!

1/01/2007 1:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Sara! Happy new year.

Have you ever read about the Diggers, an English group of so-called "Christian communists" from the 17th century, during the English civil war?

They weren't really communists in the Marx/Lenin sense, but their Christian faith led them toward radical egalitarianism. Google "Diggers" or "Gerrard Winstanley" if you're interested.

I never heard of them until my husband taught a course on 17th century English political thought, but you might enjoy reading about them, or even reading one of Winstanley's writings.

Everything old is new again!

Laurie Belin

1/01/2007 4:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One more thing--if you can't get to Philadelphia to spend time in the Simple Way community, I recommend that you seek out a Catholic Worker home closer to your area.

I know that you are not Catholic and neither are most readers of your blog, but if you want to spend time around people who live in voluntary poverty/simplicity and dedicate their whole lives to serving others, you will find kindred spirits at a Catholic Worker home. Dorothy Day was a true radical!

Laurie

1/01/2007 7:43 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

Thanks Laurie..that's a great idea. I talked with a girl in Des Moines who worked at one of the Catholic Worker homes in town. I actually did some research on them and read a lot of their newsletters too. I had forgotten though...thanks!

1/01/2007 7:47 PM  
Blogger Carla said...

Thanks for your inspiration. I have often been reminded while traveling how much I truly have, yet by North American standards I wouldn't be considered rich at all. It isn't really too much to ask us all to help in whatever little ways we can.

1/01/2007 10:24 PM  
Anonymous Monk Mom said...

Hey Sara---
I was also going to mention "Under the Overpass." It's an amazing book. There is a website with continued dialogue for those who have been impacted by the author's perspectives and experiences. It's at: www.undertheoverpass.com. Thanks for your thoughts on this topic.
I live just outside of Vancouver which has one of the most brutal downtown slum areas with rampant drug use. This time of year (RAINY and COLD) I am reminded of how lucky we are to have a roof over our heads. Thank you for the reminder that I can (and should)play a part in making shelter a reality for those without.

1/01/2007 10:43 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

I reflect that Jesus did not hold back from giving us, the spiritual "homeless," a gift of great worth... though He knew that some of us would misuse it, step on it, or completely ignore it.

So... why do we want to hold on to our "gifts" to the homeless and needy so tightly... trying to control every little way they might use them? Something to ponder.

1/02/2007 5:12 AM  
Anonymous Rebecca said...

Another book recommendation: My husband and I read "Radical Simplicity" by Jim Merkel. He doesn't write from a specifically Christian perspective but we're convinced that the Holy Spirit used Merkel's book to speak to us.

He addreses the "what is my fair share" question in a very concrete, mathematical (yet passionate) way--which is why it appealed to doctor husband and English major wife!

Thanks so much for this wonderful blog. I just stumbled across it a few weeks ago.

1/02/2007 8:17 AM  
Blogger Staci said...

Youe blog has been such an inspiration to me since I found it.
You are such a big hearted person.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, for sharing this. I have decided to take a long hard look at what is important, and to distinguish my wants from my needs. It wasn't until recently I discovered there is a difference.

Many Blessings,
Staci

1/02/2007 11:29 AM  
Blogger Charity Singleton said...

Sara -- Great thoughts. The other day I heard John Edwards being interviewed about his upcoming presidential campaign. He announced his candidacy in New Orleans (9th Ward, I believe) as a way to kick off one of his primary platforms: eliminating poverty. Somehow, this seemed like a really fresh, new approach to politics (all political wrangling, aside).

What does it mean to have the goal of eliminating poverty? Jesus said that we would always have the poor with us (Matt 26) when the disciples were up in arms that expensive perfume was poured out on his feet. Yet he didn't excuse us from inviting the street people to our dinner parties. (I love how Jesus keeps us on our toes.)

Your post has given me more to think about as I attempt my own "poverty elimination" campaign. Maybe it starts with helping one person -- like Angela did (above). And maybe before that, it starts with one prayer. "Who can I share with today, Jesus?"

1/02/2007 12:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with everyone who's commented that going abroad opened their eyes. I lived in Europe for about a decade and wish every American could live abroad for a year or more.

Green darner: I agree with you. And survey research has shown that while poor people are significantly less happy than those who are better off, once you get above the poverty level there is no correlation between family income and self-reported happiness.

So once you have enough stuff not to worry about feeding or clothing or sheltering your family, more things will not make you happier.

l.l. barkat, I don't agree with you. It is much better to give a homeless person food or to give cash to a food pantry or homeless shelter than to give a homeless person cash without worrying about how it is spent. Sadly, if that person has a substance addiction problem your cash gift may do more harm than good. When I lived in New York I used to occasionally buy take-out food to give to homeless people I passed by on the way home from work, but I did not give them cash.

Angela's story reminds me of a friend of my sister's, who got to know a homeless person in Washington, DC and used to give him her apartment keys whenever she went out of town. She figured he might as well have a warm and safe place to stay, with food available, when she wasn't using her apartment. My sister and I both thought it was a little crazy, but he never stole from her, never copied the key or tried to break in while she was in town. It was an amazing act of faith and generosity on her part.

Charity Singleton's comment reminded me of a radio address that David Sacks, the chief rabbi of England, gave in September 2001. It was less than two weeks after 9/11, and the beginning of the High Holidays, the most important holidays in the Jewish calendar. It's a time when Jews are supposed to be focused on improving their own behavior and forgiving those who have wronged them, but it was hard for me (and probably a lot of other people) to get into a forgiving mood.

Rabbi Sacks commented that in the Old Testament we are reminded once to love our neighbor, but we are reminded about 30 times to love the stranger. This is because it is more challenging to love the stranger than to love your neighbor, who's probably a lot like yourself. It stuck with me and I vowed to work harder.

A huge percentage of charitable giving is directed toward people's own houses of worship. These are wonderful, worthy causes, but we all need to focus as well on the needs of strangers we may never meet or worship with.

Charity Singleton: whether you start your "poverty elimination" campaign by helping a stranger in your own community or strangers in the devastated Ninth Ward of New Orleans, I am sure you will be doing God's work.

Laurie Belin

1/02/2007 9:25 PM  
Anonymous Susan said...

Here's an example of someone who has taken the idea of living simply to an exemplary level:
Dee's dream house.

1/03/2007 4:36 AM  
Blogger Daughter Awaken! said...

Sara......I've been a lurker of yours for a few weeks, I have no idea how I stumbled into your world!

I truly believe God is working in His daughters. As an ex-feminist (which will be blogging very serious stuff within days) I seem to be seeing a wave of "Gentle Christian-ness" affecting women. It is a sincere need to BE like Jesus. To embrace who He was, what He did, how He acted in the name of the Father.

Gentle movements are the ones that make life altering changes.

Be Blessed Sister! Sing today!

1/03/2007 4:41 AM  
Blogger Karly said...

I can not thank you enough for your posts. I find many of your entries to be so inspirational and have even desided to start blogging as well.

This past year I've done some real soul searching and have desided to start attending Church again, and making some pretty major life style changes. Since, I started I've never felt more at peace. The only problem being all of my friends in real life are a bit more mainstream. They think I am such a loone now. We are able to still be friends but, it can be rather isolating at times. It is really nice to be able to come here and see someone else thinks like me, and lives in a similar life style.

Thank you for sharing.

1/03/2007 8:52 PM  
Blogger Ted Gossard said...

Sara, I greatly appreciate your thoughts and pondering here, as well as the conversation about this.

Wow. No easy answers. Though sometimes I think we make things more complicated than they really are. Jesus seems to make it pretty simple. I think it's only simple as in one step at a time, and what one seems led in Jesus to do, go for it. All the while surely growing in knowing God's wisdom and help in it. And of course with wisdom from others, as you mention here. (just my little thought on it, now)

Thanks, and thanks for making me think (not just now, either).

1/04/2007 9:22 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Sara,

I found your post by looking up almond milk recipes. When I found your post, I read everything you wrote in all your blogs that day! You are a gift from God and I desperatly needed the words that you shared. Thank you for your boldness and for taking your time when I know you must be busy with your family's needs. Today, I did my devotions first before I checked my e-mails. What you wrote about loving people is something that I have been working on for years, my husband is a excellent example for me. I want to reach out to people more and share Jesus love to them through me. I started writing in my blogs and I hope that we can get to know one another as Christian women and that if we don't meet here on earth we will meet in Heaven. Thanks again for all of your blogs they inspired me to live to the fullest and to share Christ love more. May God bless you richely for blessing all of us!

1/04/2007 10:22 AM  
Blogger Adventures In Babywearing said...

I find your blog so amazing & inspiring. If it's ok, I'd like to link here from my blog. I wasn't sure how else to contact you.

Thank you!
Stephanie
jsprecourt@yahoo.com

1/04/2007 7:15 PM  
Blogger GranolaGirl12 said...

What a beautiful blog! I found you through Adventures in Babywearing today and can't wait to read more. Thanks for your thoughtful reflections.

1/06/2007 7:23 AM  
Anonymous Colette said...

Wonderful blog!
We have been homeless. My husband left me, my two children and another blessing on the way the day we were evicted with no where to go. I tried to live in my car with my children for about two weeks but we were scared and the police would kick us out of where ever we were parked. I was too scared to go to the homeless shelter, because I was not "one of those people" I grew up in a middle class family who didn't even want to drive past the homless shelter muchless admit we needed to go there. With the help of a wonderful lady at the health dept, she was able to inroll me in a section of the homeless shelter that was much safer. It was more like a dorm. We had our own rooms, but shared all other living spaces. We lived there for 9 months. My third child was brought home from the hospital to the shelter. I was so devistated. That was not what you have in mind for you baby.
This time was a blessing though. It was in the halls of the homeless shelter that I truly found Jesus. I am still friends with some people from there today and am so thankful for what I learned. I see life in a different way than most people and that is a gift that you can not replace.
I was just an all american girl who grew up in a middle class house, even captain of the pom squad just a few years earlier, who would of thought I would have ended up there. Always have mercy in your heart when you look at those people. You never know where God may lead you one day.

1/07/2007 9:15 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Great blog, your posts are thought provoking and an inspiration. Wil be back to read often.

I have heard about a new developement called the Simpler Times Village, www.ruralvillage.org, where its the idea of commumity living like you are talking about, sounds interesting to me.

1/07/2007 9:19 AM  
Anonymous Jenn said...

Sara,

I learned of your blog on MDC. I am so impressed, inspired and humbled!! I'm so excited to see your references to scripture too. I've been thinking a lot about simplicity from a spiritual standpoint. I hope you don't mind if I add you to my blog roll....

1/09/2007 3:53 PM  
Anonymous andi said...

Sara,

My sister-in-law just introduced me to your blog the other day and I love it! I have found your writing and perspectives on simple living as well as Christianity to be so insightful and inspiring! Is it okay if I add you to my blog roll?

P.S. I have also been really enjoying your food blog- I just made your Honey Lentil recipe tonight and it was awesome!

1/09/2007 9:21 PM  
Anonymous andi said...

I don't know why Blogger did not show my blog address...

Here it is:
andimae.typepad.com

xoxo Andi

1/09/2007 9:22 PM  
Anonymous MelanieMC said...

"If we take this scripture to heart/literally...how can we biblically own more than we need?"

Wow. This really spoke to me. Thanks!

MelanieMC

1/22/2007 5:31 PM  
Blogger mhschumann said...

Hello,

Just want to comment on all natural cleaning products available at stores. They are not all so natural.
Yes, they are plant derived. But most of the ingredients are combined with syn ethic ingredients and go through extensive processing that they are by far natural. Most of the products could not be 'Eco' certified. An European organization that governs what is organic approved.

Martina

3/26/2007 4:41 AM  

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