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Repenting of Excess: Spend Less

A month or so ago, my husband and I got to share a hilarious/awkward moment of working together. We were in a strategic planning meeting with our church’s pastoral leadership team. We were discussing the themes of the Advent Conspiracy and if/how we wanted to use them in our Sunday services this December. The themes of the Advent Conspiracy are to preach on four topics: Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, and Love All. The AC is put together in the hopes that this focus will help participants refocus Christmas on Christ, not consumerism.

In discussing who should/could preach on what topic, my wonderful husband said, “Yeah, I don’t really connect with ‘Spend Less.'” I almost spewed my mouth full o’ coffee all over the table crying out, “That’s because it’s the one you struggle with the most!” Before I’d even processed what had just happened, laughter erupted around the table, and my husband turned red and hung his head in shame. (Bum-bum-buuuuuum. #wifefail.) The other two pastors did not have the blessing of getting their wives’ live commentary on their thoughts, and both of them pretty much said, “Busted!”

After denying it, the truth won out, and a few days later, husband confessed I was right. This morning he preached on it, and it was convicting–convicting because the person preaching the message fully understands the struggle.

The challenge was to turn away something to turn toward something better, depending on where we most struggle in the struggle to spend less (to spend less time/energy/money focusing on ourselves, to spend less time/money/energy trying to meet everyone else’s needs at our own expense).  Based on a story of John the Baptist in Luke 3:3-14, the takeaways were the following:

  • How can I give more out of my excess?
  • How can I make caring for the less fortunate more of a priority?
  • Am I willing to pursue contentment with my life as it is?

Big questions. Ones we’ve been wrestling with for awhile. We have a big house. We have way too much stuff. Even as we get rid of stuff, we’re always magically acquiring more, and it feels like we never get ahead. And while we want to care a lot about people that are less fortunate, in reality, a significant chunk of money goes to maintain the big house and take care of the stuff and get new stuff and get insurance to protect all the stuff.

This is bondage. This is broken. Something needs to change. This road, in our case, is leading to lots of discontentment, because we’re tired of our stuff owning us.

Seven-by-Jen-Hatmaker

It’s because of this feeling that we started reading this book this summer. 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker. This book should come with a warning label that says, “read me only if you want to wreck your life…in a painful and beautiful way.” I totally recommend it if you’re discontent by the piles of excess in your home, schedule, budget, DVR, etc.

So far our journey has started small. Last week, we dug through our closet sorting out nice clothes and shoes that we don’t really wear to give to homeless people in Seattle. It was hard to say goodbye to a 3 year old coat that doesn’t quite fit right, or a pair of shoes I haven’t worn much because they’re a size too big. It’s hard to say goodbye for some reason, but as soon as the silly stuff is gone, I never miss it.

We want this something small to snowball. We have a hard time taking the time to do the hard work.

The Christmas story is a good reminder to simplify. Mary and Joseph didn’t have a pack ‘n’ play or travel high chair (although I’m guessing they might have enjoyed an Ergo or some nice panniers for the donkey). Baby Jesus wasn’t brought into the world with 52 hand-crocheted baby blankets and colorful sleepers of all sizes awaiting him. And somehow he managed to save the whole world.

Husband and I still feel compelled to do what we can to change the world for the better. Repenting of our stuff and throwing a lot away is step one. In this season of acquisition, it’s even harder. But I guess repenting of the excess and seeking to give it away is my first prayer of Christmas.

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Aside

“A single moment of absorption in God is more valuable than a longer period of prayer during which we are constantly in and out of interior silence. It onakes a moment for God to enrich us.”

Thomas Ryan, C.S.P. Prayer of Heart and Body. 74.

“A single moment of absorption in God is more valuable than a longer period of prayer during which we are constantly in and out of interior silence. It only takes a moment for God to enrich us.”

Thomas Ryan, C.S.P. Prayer of Heart and Body

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Motherhood is Union

I’m sitting on the couch with my 6-week-old son asleep on my chest in the Moby carrier.  Even with how much I long for more than 4 hours of sleep in a row, I try to breathe in and out slowly, savoring the moments, being present.  I know from the looks I get from women thirty to fifty years my senior that even in the sleeplessness, these are moments to be cherished.  When I see them looking at my son, I know they miss their babies.

I didn’t expect my yoga practice to be a place that would remind me of the sacredness of these moments with my infant.  I just completed my second of 16 weekends of Yoga Teacher Training.  Each weekend’s training is 10 hours long, with 4-6 hours of asana (poses) and pranayama (breath) practice and another 4-6 hours of discussion and teaching about the other tenets of yoga practice.    After we complete our time of asana & pranayama practice, we take a few minutes to journal.  I have been surprised that during these journal times, what springs to mind is not my hamstrings, my back, or my feelings about my class; what springs to mind is my feelings about my son.

I keep finding myself journaling about how much I love and miss my son.  As I’m learning about yoga, this progression is so obvious, because yoga is the practice of union: union of the body and breath, union of the pieces of myself that are scattered about, and my union with God.  Through this time of practicing union, I long to be with the boy I have physically carried with me the last nine months and carried close in my heart for two years prior.

Right now, as he and I live life together, he’s entirely dependent on me for survival…I produce 100% of the food he eats.  In this way, he does not yet feel like his own person, but feels much more like an extension of me.  I read somewhere recently that infants often learn to say “Da Da” before they learn to say “Ma Ma.”  The theory of the author is that infants recognize dads as someone separate from themselves but their mothers are an extension of themselves and they don’t identify them as a separate person until later.

I know that most of my son’s and my life will be lived separately. He’ll move away and have his own family, and for most of the days of his life, I won’t be with him. His journey is already one of learning to let go.  At first he lived in me, and now he lives in my arms, and in a just a few months, he’ll start to leave my arms and live in my house… and eventually he won’t live here anymore either.

That’s tomorrow, though.  Today, I celebrate the union of my relationship with my son.  One of the definitions of yoga from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is “yoga citta vritti nirodha.”  Yoga is the cessation of the waves of movement in the consciousness. The union comes in the place of stillness, where everything stops.  Tonight, I relish in union with my son, who’s breathing in and out on my chest.  I can do this only because I’ve ceased all movement and live just now in the now with him. (With a slight pause to write this blog about it, thus momentarily negating the union.  Eek!)

So, back to it.  May this week be one of peace and space and a cessation of movement of life’s busyness to be still and be with the ones I love.

Mommy Ministers Get a Shout Out In USA Today

This article isn’t much for substance, because it doesn’t really differentiate anything that’s more complicated for mommy ministers than for regular working moms.   I do, however, find it interesting that there are enough mommy ministers out there that USA Today decided to highlight them pre-Mom’s day.   You can read about it here.  (h/t Youth Specialties)