Simple Living Works!

Archive for June 2013

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Welcoming Strangers

“We’re losing control of our borders!” This is not a new opinion. King George tried unsuccessfully to restrict immigration to the colonies. His action prompted one of the grievances leveled against British rule in the Declaration of Independence.

Actually, we have never had control of our borders. If the first Americans had controlled their borders, most of us would not be here. Perhaps we are afraid that newcomers to the U.S. will treat us like our ancestors treated native Americans.

Knowing what to do about foreigners in need of refuge is not easy. Doing justice toward all those affected by our decisions is no simple matter. The social and economic implications of immigration are complex, both for U.S. citizens and for those who come from abroad.

With regard to those who are already here, the Bible’s mandate to us is clear: we should welcome strangers and help them get settled in their new home. Many churches have recognized their responsibility and have persevered in a climate which sometimes questions even the presence of foreigners in the United States.

Celebrate this Independence Day by recalling why you or your ancestors came to America, and compare these reasons with those of people coming today. Decide to find out all you can about this complex problem. But don’t stop there. Take part in welcoming and assisting those who are already here.

More ideas:

Treasury of Celebrations: National Birthdays

Spirit of Simplicity: Quotes & Art – Celebrating (For art and text, scroll down to 3-A547–Independence Day: Immigrants / Celebrate the 4th by Welcoming Strangers.)

Peace, Gerald

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People don’t like to be told how to live. So, how can we possibly influence others? Do counter-culturals have to be subversive not to be discounted?

The three steps of Simpler Living (and social change)

  • changing ourselves,
  • sharing with others,
  • working to change systems.
    Each step contains 12 suggestions and additional helps. To keep from being overwhelmed, focus on one suggestion in each step.

Influencing others begins with ourselves! Ask, “Where do I fit in the three levels of participation with our culture?” The answer may be “all three.”

Example:

A. Changing Ourselves

1. Prioritize changes we need to make, including both “big” and “little” changes. Do not allow tokenism – doing only small stuff, such as recycling, and ignoring the hard changes, such as reducing our dependence on our cars. Likewise, do little stuff to maintain a consciousness. Otherwise, the big changes may overwhelm us. It feels good to say, “Look at all the changes I’ve made!” But it’s tokenism if they’re all small stuff.

How to Influence Others (full text)

More ideas:

The Common Good Podcast episode 28 (audio): Simple Living – Practical Implications

Influencing Others – Brief Video

Also of interest:

What’s Happened to Simple Living?

The Five Life Standards of Living More with Less (series)

What Is Voluntary Simplicity?

Peace, Gerald

1-A0236Since the concept of Enough is central to Simple Living, let’s think about Stuff, whether it be needs, wants or clutter. How do we control stuff so that it doesn’t control us?

When do we come to the realization that stuff has too much power in our lives? When we MOVE. . . and when we get the credit card bill after Christmas! (Also known as Teachable Moment Day.)

Think about a moment of insight and how you reacted. Ask, “How can I be pro-active in the future?”

More ideas:

The Common Good Podcast episode 28: Simple Living – Practical Implications

How to Influence Others

Also of interest:

What’s Happened to Simple Living?

The Five Life Standards of Living More with Less (series)

What Is Voluntary Simplicity?

Peace, Gerald

1-A1311Our families, our church, our social circle may think we’re peculiar. It may mean dealing with resentment when others don’t “get it.” When we are making corrections, living more responsibly and others don’t seem to have the slightest inclination to change their wasteful ways. Living Simply faces challenges, powerful forces.

It’s important to find another Simple Liver,  start a support group or connect with a Simplicity Circle.

Voluntary Simplicity is not romanticizing poverty, monks, the Amish or people who struggled through the Depression. That can diminish those people’s devotion or struggle, and to make the journey of discipleship look silly or “for others/unrelated to us,” untouchable. Poverty is NOT fun. Two thirds of the world population live in poverty Involuntarily. We have a choice.

We make choices about how we’re going to live — our micro-economy. Our little choices may or may not have impact on how governments or corporations operate on a large scale – the macro-economy.  None-the-less, we live within or below our means, avoid debt, give generously to the needy.

Ideas:

The Common Good Podcast #28: Simple Living – Practical Implications (audio)

How to Influence Others (text)

Also of interest:

What’s Happened to Simple Living?

The Five Life Standards of Living More with Less (series)

What Is Voluntary Simplicity?

Peace, Gerald

4-A2141Voluntary Simplicity is not a list of rules. It is a consciousness, an awareness. It is a matter of personal responsibility. Whenever we go to buy something, to use something, we think:

  • Do I need to buy this?
  • Or do I want to?
  • Do I really need to use this?
  • Do I buy what I like?
  • What will impress?

It can be difficult separating needs from wants, especially with some things, like automobiles. What do we use them for? Can we do without? If not, how do we choose the one we need?

Remember what our children would say to us when they wanted to do something that they knew was irresponsible.

  • “But, all the kids are doing it.”

Let’s try that in our lives. [Say this aloud in a whining voice.]

  • “But, everybody’s driving a new car… .
  • But, everybody builds a big, expensive house that’s ten times bigger than they need, claiming it’s for equity when the kids leave home…
  • But, everybody has a yard that looks like a golf course so that nobody complains that we’re lowering their property values…”

Sounds pretty silly and disconcerting, doesn’t it?

Voluntary Simplicity is not “living on the cheap.” It’s more than frugality, far from being a tightwad, and surely not being a miser. In some cases we’ll actually need to pay more for tools that are Earth-friendly.

Instead it’s a journey to find more meaning, more joy, more fun in life by getting out from under the burden of so much stuff, to remove the barrier of stuff that keeps us apart from other people, from God and even from ourselves.

Voluntary Simplicity is not a list of rules to follow, though there are five life standards. It’s about seeing our lives as extravagant, even out-of-control concerning our consumption. Then deciding what to do little by little, day-by-day, week-by-week to cut down on consumption.

We recommend not going cold turkey. That brings significant frustration.

“Simple living today is joyful, bright, poetic and mentally robust.” –Michael Phillips and Catherine Campbell, Simple Living Investments

More Ideas

The Common Good Podcast episode 28: Simple Living – Practical Implications

How to Influence Others.

Also of interest

What’s Happened to Simple Living?

The Five Life Standards of Living More with Less (series)

What Is Voluntary Simplicity?

Peace, Gerald

4-A0308There are multiple paths to Voluntary Simplicity.

One is the secular, called “downshifting.”

A young executive is cruising along in high gear, peddling her sports car as fast as she can. She thinks, This is a lot of work! So she downshifts, maybe she takes a different job that has a smaller income but less stress. Maybe she moves into a smaller house in a rural area and grows her own tomatoes. Maybe she gets smart, gets control of her credit card and pays off her debts. Basically she’s downshifting to increase her personal happiness.

Christians adopt Voluntary Simplicity for the same and more reasons.

Personal happiness is good. But there’s more. We adopt Voluntary Simplicity also to be in touch with God and to help others. Voluntary Simplicity is a lifestyle of integrity, living as a disciple of Jesus, walking our talk.

More ideas:

The Common Good Podcast episode 28 (audio): Simple Living – Practical Implications

Also of interest:

What’s Happened to Simple Living?

The Five Life Standards of Living More with Less (series)

What Is Voluntary Simplicity?

Peace, Gerald

305PetersdancingpersonWhat’s Simple Living Works! all about? SLW! is an all-volunteer non-profit educational organization that equips people of faith to challenge consumerism, live justly and celebrate responsibly.

Let’s break that down.

Simple Living Works! equips people of faith to

1. challenge consumerism

Consumerism. That’s our national religion! It tells us every day that you will find happiness and meaning in life though stuff. That thing you bought, it didn’t work for you. Oh, I’m so sorry. Here try this instead. That didn’t work? Here, try this instead. The purpose of most commercial advertising is to keep the customers perpetually dissatisfied. . . so they will continue to fill their own personal spiritual voids with stuff.

We tell a different story. We will find happiness and meaning in life through relationships. There are four basic relationships. The first one is with ourselves, getting to know ourselves honestly in a culture that is full of self deception. The second is our relationship with our friends and colleagues. . . people here in the church, people we work with, our relatives, and hopefully a few brothers and sisters around the globe. The third relationship is with God’s creation. Being good stewards of the soil, the air, the water, as well as the animals and plants. And the fourth, the most important one, of course, is our relationship with God. Those relationships will give us happiness and meaning in life. Stuff gives us a thrill when we get something new. But over the long haul it disappoints.

2. live justly

Let’s make an important distinction between charity and justice because some people think they are the same. Charity is when we give our money and our time to help meet people’s short term needs or to work for worthwhile causes. Very important work. Justice is different. Justice is when we work to change the system that makes charity necessary.

There are three basic ways that we can work for justice. The first one is to work to change political policies. I’ve heard a rumor that there are a few policies in this country that can stand changing. The second one is to work to change corporate procedures. We can do that by applauding those corporations that are beginning to work for the sustainability of the Earth and we can decry those businesses that continue to gobble up the Earth. Even boycott them! Let’s focus on the third. That’s to look at our own life styles because all things are connected. Our buying decisions do have an impact on people around the world. So the third one is our primary focus. That’s a little about the difference between Charity and Justice. But I would really like to give you a crass example. Maybe you’ve heard some variation of this example, “OK, pastor, I’ll give a hundred dollars for that poor soul over there in Africa but don’t talk to me about my car.”

3. celebrate responsibly.

Quiz time. What does the average American wedding cost today? $23,000, you’re getting close. $25,000, closer. It’s $27,850. It’s because of that that we produced a little book a while back — the Alternative Wedding Book. And it has been updated recently. It helps brides and grooms and their parents and their pastor with two things — first, an attitude change that it’s OK to have a simpler wedding, and second with nuts and bolts ideas about how to go about doing that. This book is 125 pages. The average issue of Bride’s magazine is 900 pages. So, you can see what we are up against.

That’s our mission statement — equipping people of faith challenge consumerism, live justly and celebrate responsibly. Three segments of the VIDEO “Simple Living Works!” describe the mission. Click on each above to go to YouTube.

If I were to take the 150+ educational and inspirational resources on the SLW! site and try to divide them up neatly under one of the three parts of the SLW! Mission, it would be fruitless. Almost all of them would fit under all three . . . because the three parts of the Mission work together, they are intimately interwoven.

For example, our best known resource, the Advent/Christmas annual Whose Birthday Is It, Anyway? most obviously strives to equip people to celebrate responsibly. But that means challenging consumerism. . .  and living justly.

Beyond the mission are more specific GOALS.

1) “Heightening awareness in an increasingly larger audience about the implications of consumerism and commercialization in the celebrations of Christmas and other holidays.”

2) “Diverting persons and institutions from over-consumption to a more just distribution and stewardship of funds and other resources.”

3) “Providing a bridge between those concerned about peace, justice and sustainability of creation whether within religious institutions or outside them.”

Sounds quite contemporary, yet this mission and goals were written over 20 years ago.

They also sound quite practical. Some simple living groups focus on the personal, spiritual aspects. Alternatives may start there but always goes beyond the personal to the community and to the global.

Also of interest: What’s Happened to Simple Living?

Peace, Gerald



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