Life does not consist in the abundance of possessions….

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Yesterday I had the horrifying honor of speaking in church before the sermon…a little testimony about consumption.  Horrifying in that I get nervous speaking in front of big groups, unless everyone is 10 years old.  And an honor because it is a sacred gift to be asked to share your journey and story with others.  Steve, our Senior Pastor, talked about consumption, and used two passages.  One was in Luke 12 and the other was in Genesis 3 (vs. 1-7).  Without repeating his sermon, the Luke passage (vs. 12:15-23) was a parable Jesus told his followers:

And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

He said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.

I love that verse where he reassures his own soul….”Soul, you have ample goods….relax!!!”  He stores up, uses a storage unit of the day, to ensure he has enough for any disaster, forgetting that the “treasures” we store up don’t really matter in the end.  And as the passage above reminds, “Life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”  While that is true in theory, we often live in a completely opposite way.  We attempt over and over to fill the voids and fears in our lives with just that…..possessions and “stuff”.   And ultimately, it JUST.  DOESN’T.  SATISFY.  Those possessions will not fill us, as much as society and culture and capitalism banks on that claim.  Steve suggested calling out that very phrase {“Life does not consist in the abundance of possessions….“} everytime an ad comes on the tv or catalog comes in the mail or pop up appears as we work on the computer.  Love that!  Sometimes when we repeat words over and over, we actually begin to believe it.

Anyhow, if you are a regular reader here, my talk will be old news and more of the same…but wanted to post it nonetheless.   A little marker to remind myself that I was brave yesterday and despite shaking legs and dry mouth and pounding heart (for reals, folks….), I did it.  I shared TWICE.  And survived.

Happy Monday!!

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Back in January, I began seeing a reoccurring theme on a few of the blogs I follow.  Folks pursuing something that scared the living daylights out of me—-a spending fast.  Last year I had read a book by Jen Hatmaker called Seven: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. Jen’s husband is the pastor at New Church in Austin, Texas, a congregation that avidly lives out the call to learn about and then LIVE like Jesus, no matter how scary.  In her hard-hitting book, Jen and her family take seven months to work on seven areas, from Media to Clothes to Food to Money, focusing on letting go of greed, materialism and indulgence.  Her insights brought up some hard truths for me and it was much easier to READ and STUDY the book rather than commit to trying many of the ideas.  This would mean LIVING THE BIBLE vs. just studying it.  I hesitated to attempt a spending fast, fearing that I would miss the convenience and camaraderie of consumption. The fact that for me, buying is often directly tied to connecting & community—the truth that we often link hospitality with the expediency consumerism allows.

As a Christian, I began to see another piece to this puzzle of consumerism.  Something shifted in me and despite anxiety over what a spending fast might look and feel like, I began to desire to connect my faith to my day-to-day spending & consumption.  It can be easy to assume a connection between our lives & God when overtly serving—-teaching Sunday School or helping with a homeless meal.  But, where and how does God call us to engage our faith in the seemingly rote, mundane moments we walk through each day?!

God poured himself into creation, seeing the beginning of creation as an act of love and intention, God’s way of expressing who he is.  And then there is MY response to that act of love….buying, buying, buying, consuming, consuming, consuming—a feeble attempt to fill voids and empty, fearful spaces in my life.  This perspective change for me involved seeing that we are called into a loving relationship with creation because creation is a revelation of who God is.  This shift has given me a more lasting motivation to work on spending and consumerism, based on LOVE not just fear.

We began this process back in February and recently have pushed ourselves to go on through Lent.  It is not easy and has been a learning process for the whole family.  From our 2 year old, Drew, yelling, “GO BACK!! FRENCH FRIES!” as we passed In and Out, unable to go in for a meal during our fast.  Or our five year old, Alex, wanting another LEGO set or Star Wars sticker book.  I have been spending a LOT more time in the kitchen preparing meals, instead of meeting friends for coffee or enjoying a meal out.  It has meant inviting folks into our home and sitting around the table or centering play dates on free activities.  Frankly, it has led us to be more creative and intentional.

I won’t say that there is a heavenly light coming into our house, a turn around change that has allowed our faith to grow by leaps and bounds.  It is rather a daily, moment-by-moment practice.  A fasting from saying “yes” to the easy route and “no” to things that are convenient and habitual.  Sometimes, though, it has also meant feasting on saying “yes”—-yes to cooking together in the kitchen, yes to movie/picnic nights on the floor of the living room, yes to s’mores in the backyard, yes to trips to the library and yes to walks and bike rides.

It is my understanding that God desires our obedience in all areas of our lives.  Even the parts that seem “human” and not “Godly”….our money, finances, spending & giving.  If you are anything like me, you clamor for more, more, more.  It is our nature.  We hardly know what moderation is and what it feels like.  And yet God calls us to live differently.  To make daily decisions away from what we think we deserve and contemplate instead about what drives us—-the “NEEDS” we believe are the pathway to happiness.  For me, during this season of lent, it can be a time to make intentional decisions to feast on something more, not found from the riches of our wallets and flashy pages of the catalogs filling our mailboxes, but through giving up and fasting from consumption.

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