Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Simpler Life

"Who would have their clothes hanging out to dry on a gray, 35 degree day?", I thought to myself, as we drove into the town of Harmony, home to Minnesota's largest Amish community.

I actually had to stop myself from asking that question out loud, and after thinking for a moment, I realized the simple white farm house we passed was home to a lifestyle so different from mine.

As I type this blog, the jeans are tumbling dry in the laundry room...the dishes are being washed by a machine...the noise from the television carries from a few rooms phone signals that new e-mails are waiting.  Even in the barns, chickens are cozy under their heat lamps and cows' water troughs are being filled automatically.

Visiting the farms of Amish families this week reminded me of the simpler life that some choose to live.  By choice, the clotheslines hang low with sheets and pillowcases, shirts and pants, all winter long.  Roads muddy from melted snow give evidence of traffic by the number of hoof prints and deep grooves of buggy wheels.  No power lines running to houses.  No cars parked out front.  No switches to turn on the heat.  No cameras.  That's right...they don't even take pictures.

I have so much.  So many things to make life easier, that it ends up being harder.  So many things to help save time, it ends up taking more time.  Although I'm not hoping to trade in all my modern conveniences for a full time Little House On The Prairie lifestyle just yet, it is good to be reminded that I could, we could, still live a full life in the absence of "things".

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Year To Give

Kids at Westwood Elementary in our hometown made this picture for an art auction in 2008.  Since that time, it's been hanging in my office...a reminder that we are all part of this ONE WORLD.  One great big world.  Yet one small world.  One place where we can choose to make a difference.

As I wrapped up the last of my 20 Great Things list for 2011, I tried to sum up in my mind what the year was to us.  What it was to me.  What it was to my family.  One thought kept re-entering my mind: we were constantly on the receiving end.  Finally, I decided to name 2011 "Our Year To Take".

Thinking back on last year inspired me to name in advance our year to come.  I knew instantly and with certainty what it would be.  Then the days went by, and then the weeks went by.  I was afraid to name the name I wanted to call it, because I would be committing to something that I wasn't sure I could live out.  I was more hesitant to put it in writing, knowing if others read it, I would have to hold strong.

Here's what we do.  We give a little.  Just a little.  If we gave too much, it would be uncomfortable, maybe even painful, and who would rescue us from our selfless generosity?  How would our needs be met if we were so pre-occupied with serving and giving to others that we lost sight of our "needs", most of those being wants?  How would we have enough time, enough money, enough energy if we gave more than the immeasurably tiny bit we give now?  If we can get over ourselves...march past the and I are in the same boat.

Something I read last year from Craig Groeschel's The Christian Atheist stuck with me on the subject of giving.  We ask, "How much CAN I afford each month for my mortgage?"  We want to have as much as we can get.  Then, we ask, "How much DO I HAVE TO give to church?"  We don't want to give more than we have to.  Maybe it's not church.  Maybe it's time, or service, or whatever.  We want to have the most and give the least (making sure we give just what is needed so we can feel good about it).  Guilty here.

Read Paul's letter in 1 Timothy 6:6-19.  "For we brought nothing into this world and we can take nothing out of it." (1 Tim. 6:7)  We didn't bring a thing into this world...not time, not money, not anything.  It just gets better from there.  Read it.

Or check out this part of Paul's second letter to the Corinthians.  A verse is printed in our church bulletin each week: "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." (2 Cor. 9-7)  But that's just the beginning, so don't stop reading there.  Read 2 Corinthians 9:6-15.  Yes, God gives us all we need.  My favorite part of that chapter comes in these 7 words: "you can be generous on every occasion".  That means EVERY occasion.  Not just when we have an extra $20 to spare that we know we won't miss anyhow.

I've recently felt God's grace as a receiver.  Being on that end will, as my grandpa would say, "knock your socks off".  Now it's my time to give.  It's time for my family to give.  If I announce it, make it official, we WILL do it.  Giving takes on a multitude of forms.  We're going to run the gamut of giving.  It doesn't have to be a show.  Not something people even see.  But we will know.  We will be intentional about giving.  We WILL do what God has called us to do.  And so I will name it:

2012: Our Year to Give