Simple Living Works!

Archive for May 2013

942314_10152855065680322_305982591_nFifteen years ago we gave our children permission not to have children. Unlike so many, they would get no pressure from us to have kids. Don’t have them for our sake! That was difficult because as bright, strong Danish-Americans, we would want our line to be a part of the future.

Our daughter will probably take us up on our offer. She’s getting married this summer. She’s strongly invested in her career with the National Park Service. And she’s near the end of her child-bearing years.

Our son and daughter-in-law had a beautiful baby girl about three years ago. And Wednesday night they brought a new grandson into the world – 7 lbs, 7 oz., 20 inches. Baby and mother are doing very well.

Our Pledge

Rita and I pledged to our children that if they did have children, we will be invested in their lives. Our children hardly knew their grandparents. Both of our moms and dads lived in Calif. We lived in Iowa. They hardly ever saw our kids.

We pledged that we would take care of each infant four days a week for the first year and then two months in the spring and two more in the fall until s/he turned five. (For health reasons we need to spend as much time as possible in the dry, warm climate of Calif.) And we have a video call every week.

We’re very blessed that we can be “snow birds.” Much of the reason is because we have practiced voluntary simple living for 30+ years.

Peace, Gerald

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The Five Life Standards, the essence of voluntary simplicity, are detailed in Doris Janzen Longacre’s book, Living More with Less (now available in a 30th Anniversary edition):

  • Do Justice
  • Learn from the World Community
  • Nurture People, Not Things
  • Cherish the Natural Order
  • Nonconform Freely

Free support materials for Living More with Less:  blogs, video, audio, text, podcasts, etc. I’m highlighting the Five Life Standards from material in the Simple Living archives.

Life Standard #3: Nurture People, Not Things

We put ourselves at risk by going into a mall. We find the thing that is going to give excitement and fulfillment to our life. We whip out our credit card and take our treasure home. It’s great… for a while. Then something else comes along that we can’t live without. So what happens to our first little lifesaver? We either chuck it or store it. If we keep it, we have to dust it or put batteries in it. We have to maintain it. And we surely wouldn’t want anyone to steal it. So we secure it. We protect it. We lock it up. So we go into debt to buy it, then we use our time and energy to maintain and secure it. It raises the question, “Who owns whom?” Yes, it gives a new meaning to the concept of ownership.

I’ll tell you what works for me. I play a game with myself that you can play with your children or grandchildren. It’s OK to admire things in stores and say, “I Like that.” It’s not OK to say, “I want that,” or even worse, “I need that.” Think of the mall as a museum. Everything there is on display for your pleasure, but somebody else owns it. Say to yourself as you stroll through the galleries, “Thank you store person for putting this here for me to see. I’m so glad you’re responsible for all this stuff and I’M NOT.”

Nurture People, not things. Let’s use our time, money and energy to nurture relationships… with our self, with others and with God.

Intimacy. . . getting to know someone well, opening oneself up. Most of us have experienced that when we choose to be intimate with our spouse, that things get in the way. To be intimate we may choose to take something off… to take everything off. Stuff can get in the way of intimacy in other situations as well. We can learn to avoid stuff and put relationships first.

Simple Living and the Five Life Standards on The Common Good Podcast

In episode 27 of The Common Good Podcast, Lee Van Ham and I find common ground in the micro-economics of voluntary simple living and the macro of Jubilee Economics. It goes way beyond “class warfare” in America to global fairness… seeing the interconnection of our small choices and purchases to the larger systems of governments and corporations. Everything’s connected.

In episode 28, I go beyond the concepts to the practical. Subscribe for free at The Common Good PodcastAuthorHere are my blogs at Jubilee-Economics.org.

3-A546We can honor Memorial Day and other patriotic holidays without buying into the “We’re #1!” mentality.

Here are a few inspirational and educational items to consider.

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The Five Life Standards, the essence of faith-based voluntary simplicity, are detailed in Doris Janzen Longacre’s book, Living More with Less (now available in a 30th Anniversary edition):

  • Do Justice
  • Learn from the World Community
  • Nurture People, Not Things
  • Cherish the Natural Order
  • Nonconform Freely

Free support materials for Living More with Less: blogs, video, audio, text, podcasts, etc.

Life Standard #2: Learn from the World Community

Our attitude has largely been that we want to help those poor people with THEIR problem OVER THERE. We need to realize that their problem is caused by OUR problem OVER HERE, our problem of over consumption. All things are connected.

One beautiful way to Learn from the World Community is through music. Several years ago a black bishop from Africa told an unforgettable story. He said, “White folks… those are the people who can sing and NOT move at the same time.” African music can help liberate many white North American Christians from their rigidity.

We can also learn about food… from creating simple, tasty meals to understanding the whole process from seed to table. The United States is undergoing something called “vertical integration.” This is the process in which the most powerful resource – food – becomes monopolized. The people who sell the food also own or control the distribution system, and the processing plants and the production, the farms. When we shop at Farmers Markets, support community based agriculture, refuse to buy out-of-season fruits and vegetables, we begin to control and take responsibility for our food. We can learn food justice from the world community.

We can learn more about community by doing menu planning and meal preparation and clean-up together. And we can vow that we will eat at least one meal a day together. So much of the time we have allowed the school, the community, the TV, even the church to take away our common meal. Research indicates that a typical U. S. father has only three minutes a day of direct conversation with his child. And that married couples in the USA have only five minutes a day of meaningful verbal exchange.

Learning from the World Community about food is important for another reason. We Americans now eat a great deal of expensive, highly processed food with many of its nutrients processed out. Why? Yes, it’s convenient. It’s a cycle. We work more hours so we can afford more expensive food that’s fast so that we can work more to buy more expensive, hollow food….

Cookbooks that use recipes from developing countries include More-with-Less Cookbook and Extending the Table.

Even people from our highly technological medical establishment are now seeing the potential of learning from shamans, healers and witch doctors. We are learning natural and alternative cures, from the rain forests, Native Americans, herbalists, acupuncturists.

We practice Fair Trade for two basic reasons. First, to make sure that farmers and artisans in non-industrial countries get a fair price for their goods. And secondly, to EDUCATE US. Through Fair Trade we learn from the world community.

We need to get people out of the house. We need to encourage people to go on reverse missions. To go on retreats to other parts of the world because when they come back they are much more likely to be open to simple living. Why? Because now they have something to compare themselves with instead of just their next door neighbors. Whether it’s building houses in Tijuana, or visiting Haiti, or Africa, they come back changed! So let’s do what we can to get Americans out of their little boxes.

Simple Living and the Five Life Standards on The Common Good Podcast

In episode 27 of The Common Good Podcast, Lee Van Ham and I find common ground in the micro-economics of voluntary simple living and the macro of Jubilee Economics. It goes way beyond “class warfare” in America to global fairness… seeing the interconnection of our small choices and purchases to the larger systems of governments and corporations. Everything’s connected.

In episode 28, I go beyond the concepts to the practical. Listen and subscribe for free at The Common Good PodcastAuthorHere are my blogs at Jubilee-Economics.orgDate

Transf Works elipse Blk bkgrd 114pxThis blog is a part of the Christian Simple Living  website where you can find a great deal of information on how and why to live simply as Christians. The blog is mostly monthly, going back to Jan., 2006.

It isn’t easy trying to live simply in 21st Century consumer culture. There are many roadblocks and naysayers who don’t want their consumer parades rained on, so many of us are still on the road to simplicity, but haven’t quite arrived yet. This blog is intended to help all of us make the transition to living simply, faithfully, peacefully, and sustainably, and to find joy and success as we do. Maybe we can influence others to join us on the journey as well! Here we can share our journeys, successes, doubts, questions, insights, and opinions, as we create a community on the journey together.

Christian Simple Living is a way of life that is based on Jesus’ teachings of compassion, love, and service. It is a radical way of living that does not conform to our profit-obsessed consumer culture, but rather frees us to live joyfully in the service of others. By following Christ into a simpler, more compassionate way of living we hope to contribute toward a more peaceful, socially just, healthier, and environmentally sustainable world.

timthumbIn case you’ve lost track, the Story of Stuff Project, has now put out ten short videos. The latest concerns Citizenship, called

The Good Stuff — Episode 10: The People Have the Power

We can be amused by the simple, direct truth of the stick-figure tales. We can share them with other concerned citizens.

The others are

Annie Leonard

and her team also put out podcasts, curricula and other free materials.

Here’s an interview with her from On the Commons, reprinted in Utne Reader, entitled “The Trouble with Stuff.”  The picture of this extraordinary communicator is captioned “Filmmaker Annie Leonard finds people want to be liberated from overconsumption.” How about you?

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The Five Life Standards, the essence of faith-based voluntary simplicity, are detailed in Doris Janzen Longacre’s book, Living More with Less (now available in a 30th Anniversary edition):

  • Do Justice
  • Learn from the World Community
  • Nurture People, Not Things
  • Cherish the Natural Order
  • Nonconform Freely

Free support materials – blogs, video, audio, text, podcasts, etc. – for Living More with LessFor introduction to this series, visit May 7 blog; for “What Might a Christian Life Look Like?” visit March 23 blog.

Life Standard #1: Do Justice

“Do Justice” may remind us of the courts… to get our due. Biblical Justice is quite different. It reflects God’s great love for the poor and our call to respond to their needs.

In How Much Is Enough? Alan Durning categorizes the world population into three groups. One fifth – 20% – are the disenfranchised people. They have no reliable source of food or water, no medical care, only one set of clothes and they walk wherever they go. Three fifths – 60% of the world population – are the sustainers. They have basic, reliable sources of food, some medical care, several sets of clothes and they take public transportation. The remaining fifth or 20% are the overconsumers. This group has access to lavish, cheap food, has reliable medical care, has many sets of clothes and they use private transportation. This last group, the over consumers, is made up, to one degree or another, of virtually everybody in North America, Western Europe and Japan.

Guess what percentage of the world’s resources are used by the disenfranchised and the sustainers, 80% of the world’s population and by the over consumers, 20% of the world’s population. That’s right, just flip the figures. The overconsumers use 80% of the world’s resources and the other 80% of the world’s people use only 20% of the resources.

Notice that the first principle is not “thinking about Justice,” or even “believe in Justice.” It’s Do Justice. In addition to our prayers, our contributions, and our pressuring of governments, we help the poor around the world by taking seriously the phrase, Live Simply That Others May Simply Live. By consuming less we make more available for others.

As we work to take control of our own lives, our own consumption, our own waste, we work toward changing the inequitable distribution of wealth. As we share ideas of simpler living with others we hasten the day when Justice is done.

Simple Living and the Five Life Standards on The Common Good Podcast

In episode 27, Lee Van Ham and I find common ground in the micro-economics of voluntary simple living and the macro of Jubilee Economics. It goes way beyond “class warfare” in America to global fairness… seeing the interconnection of our small choices and purchases to the larger systems of governments and corporations. Everything’s connected.

In episode 28, I go beyond the concepts to the practical. Subscribe for free at The Common Good PodcastAuthorHere are my blogs at Jubilee-Economics.orgDate

biblische Grafik Gemeindebrief

Graphic: Spirit of Simplicity Quotes & Art
5. Media

Some advertisers try to capitalize on peoples’ desire for simpler lives. Commercials use the Simplicity theme. An expensive luxury car is hyped with its picture along side the word “Simplify.” Denny’s restaurants use the slogan “Simplify your life. Eat out more.” A huge credit card processor proclaims “Simplify your life in the New Year! … Consolidate your holiday bills….” A typical account charges over 18% interest. Credit card “checks” (a form of the dreaded cash advance) have no grace period. Interest begins accruing immediately. At the same time, their late payment fee doubled! The Masters of Double Speak!

The magazine REAL SIMPLE would better be called FAKE SIMPLE. It claims to be “dedicated to helping you simplify every aspect of your life: your home, food, money, clothes, health, looks, work, family, and holidays.” But its REAL purpose is to sell more high-end stuff! It is one of the more disgusting examples of co-opting of the voluntary simplicity movement for commercial gain. Vicki Robin, co-author of “Your Money or Your Life,” more delicately calls the magazine “Faux Simple.”

Even St. Oprah falls into the trap when her magazine claims to help us un-clutter our lives by organizing. Could work. OR it could help us cram more stuff into smaller spaces. A good motto: Reduce, then organize. OR Reduce, reduce, reduce, reuse, recycle.

What to do? Let’s protect ourselves. We can’t remove the ads. I’ve developed quick reflexes to mute commercials on radio, TV and the internet. Even public radio and TV—NPR and PBS –  have “enhanced underwriting announcements.” Avert your eyes. Some folks do without TV altogether. Don’t buy or subscribe to mass-market magazines or newspapers. Read them at the library if you must. I laugh out loud at print ads.

My best solution is to watch non-commercial TV, such as Free Speech TV and Link TV: Your Connection with the World (on the two satellite networks or the internet at FreeSpeech.org and LinkTV.org). The quality of the programming is significantly better because they’re not beholden to advertisers.

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I’ve known Green America’s Executive Director Alissa Gravitz for over ten years. I hold her and her organization in high regard. When I speak, someone usually asks, “Where can I find reliable information on green products and Earth-friendly investing,” I invariably recommend Green America.

Responsible Shopper: Guide to Promoting a Responsible Economy with Company Profiles, Green Living Tips, and Campaigns (boycotts) from Green America (formerly Co-op America), sponsor of the Green Festivals around the country and publisher of the annual National Green Pages.

Green America’s Responsible Shopper provides you with the real story about abuses by well-known companies, gives you actions to promote corporate responsibility, and helps you green your life and world.

GoodGuide.com gives you the best information available, wherever and whenever you need it most. GoodGuide.com helps you find better products that represent your values, avoid products that are harmful to your health, the environment, or society – and enable you to take actions to help improve the world.

If you prefer AUDIO, catch my latest episodes of TheCommonGoodPodcast.com. Listen at your computer (click the icon at the end of the written introduction) or subscribe through iTunes to download to your iPod.

Episode 34 :: Harry Watkins: Green Business Is Better Business

Episode 35 :: Harry Watkins part 2 

Harry Watkins, former marketing consultant to businesses, and currently teaching at Point Loma Nazarene University, shares his conversion to sustainability, how generating sustainable businesses is part of what his faith requires, and how he’s joined with other faculty to change the curriculum to show that being sustainable in business is no longer a nice option if you can work it in, but is essential to good business.

On the other hand, here’s information on the Evil Empire of the Koch brothers who would buy our democracy. Their tentacles are many. Here’s a long list of their products to avoid  and what we can do about it.

afsli026Family Journey

My spouse Rita and I read Doris Janzen Longacre’s classic “Living More with Less” in 1982, and it has become one of the most important books in our lives. We serialized it for radio. Then we serialized the Alternate Celebrations Catalog by a group in Georgia called Alternatives.

Even after the radio series was over, people would give Rita a funny look when we’d meet on the street. And after a bit one would say, “You’re the Simple Living lady, aren’t you.” She was the talent (the voice) and I was the techie.

We became members of Alternatives, and in August of 1995 they asked me to lead the organization. Since then I have given over 300 presentations on Voluntary Simplicity. Have you ever felt that everything you have done in your life has lead up to this point? That’s how I feel. Some call it synchronicity. I call it the call of God.

We consider ourselves earnest but not condescending about simple living. We built and lived in a geodesic dome with solar panels. We wear mostly recycled clothes. We love to laugh.

And why do we stick with voluntary simple living? While we boycott greedy mega-corporations and protest laws from bought politicians, we can still control our own lives. It’s far more than wearing our favorite old clothes and growing a few tomatoes. Voluntary simple living is a comprehensive, faithful way, with generosity, not legalism nor self-centered libertarianism. It is about community, not survivalism. It is effective and satisfying, not based on fad, convenience or deprivation.

I have served as an Associate in Ministry (AIM) in the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) for 25 years. Prophetic ministry shows people the logical consequences of their life choices. It’s different than pastoral ministry, which focuses on worship, education and outreach. Pastoral ministry tends to avoid controversy. Prophetic ministry embraces controversy.

“Living More with Less” has been central to my ministry. We have produced numerous resources to help others. Most of them are available on the SimpleLivingWorks web site – text, audio, video.

OK, this is a tutorial, or continuing education, if you prefer. This series is in six parts – this intro and then one for each of the five Life Standards. I hope you’ll snoop around the other resources between weekly installments.

1. Do Justice – using only our fair share of the Earth’s resources

2. Learn from the World Community – openness to other cultures; reverse missions and Fair Trade

3. Nurture People, Not Things – relationships over stuff

4. Cherish the Nature Order – caring for Creation

5. Non-conform Freely – developing spiritual resistance to advertising that pressures us to buy things we don’t need

Now if you’re an over-achiever and want to skip ahead, here’s the link that has all the blogs, video, text, podcasts, etc. Or you can take it step-by-step and enjoy the ride.

Peace, Gerald


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