Consumerism, It’s Time to Break Up

It started with a tension, a feeling that God was going to do something, soon. Then I read the book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker, which tore me up. Then two weeks in a row I heard sermons on James 1:27, which I talked about some in my post, the inconvenience of true religion. Then last night at youth group, what was the lesson about?

Money. The love of money, in fact. Talk about a gut check. We read and discussed these convicting passages:

Matthew 6:19-21
Luke 6:20
Acts 5:1-6
James 1:9-11

Matthew 6:19-21 really stood out to me:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Maybe you’re like me, thinking “I don’t love money that much.” Well, our lesson had a handy little quiz that shattered that illusion pretty fast.

  • If you had to give up all your stuff today, could you do it? 
  • If you lost or gave up all your stuff, how would it make you feel? 
And then the real kickers. On a scale from 1-6,
  • If you lost a twenty dollar bill, how upset would you be? 
  • When something newer and better comes out, how much do you want it?
  • How much do you feel success is determined by money?
  • How much do you depend on money?
  • How much do you like or enjoy having money?
My honest answers were not pretty. I couldn’t give up everything I had…I’d really want to keep my make up at least.  How much do I depend on money? I’d give it a 5. Let’s flip that question around, how much do I depend on God’s provision for me, verses depending on money? Probably a 2, if the amount I stress out over money is any evidence. How much do I like or enjoy having money? I enjoy seeing the numbers for my bank account go up. Shopping and buying stuff makes me happy, even if it is brief. So I honestly derive quite a bit of enjoyment from money, and that’s just sad. There are lasting, worthwhile, beneficial, and just plain better things to find joy in. 
This morning, I watched this video as the Bloom Book Club discussed chapter 3 of Seven. I thought it was crazy when Jen and her family were going to give away 7 things a day for a month for a total of 210 things, it sounded like a lot. But they ended up giving away more than one thousand, and not even missing them. 

Where you treasure is, there your heart will be also. 

Something’s gotta change. I’ve got to change. Not just for simplicity’s sake. Not just for my peace of mind or to relieve my conscience. Not just because we’re moving to a smaller place.

We had a great discussion at youth group, and it’s interesting how much the teens, even as young as twelve, honestly admitted to loving money, even though most of them don’t have jobs or a steady income. I don’t want to see them getting sucked into the “I want it” and “I deserve it” consumerism mentality. If I’m going to be a good example to them, I’ve got to change.

I’ve got to break up with my stuff.

And I’ve got an idea. What if I fasted? For one month. Deprived myself to drive me to my only true satisfaction in life, my loving heavenly Father. Weaned away from false promises of joy, how would my life change? How would I change?

So I want to fast, not from food, or even from TV, like I have in the past. A clothing fast, in which I’ll wear ten items of clothing, and only ten, for one month. (Underwear doesn’t count though. There must be unlimited underwear!).

So that means something like three bottoms, four tops, a dress, a jacket, and a pair of shoes. No accessories. No scarves (gasp!). And no shopping.

And what will I gain? I hope that I’d gain insight into why I buy as many clothes as I do. What do I hope to get from them? Confidence? Happiness? Self-esteem? All of the above.

Deprived of the shopping crutch, I want to learn to lean on my Savior. 

I haven’t worked through the specifics yet, like what exactly I’ll wear, but I think October will be the perfect month for it. It will also be a great segway into sharing what I’ve learned about fair trade and ethically made clothing. 

I challenge you to ask yourself the quiz questions above. If the Holy Spirit convicts you in an area, I pray that you won’t try to drown out His voice. 

Across the Border: Days 5,6

Home sweet home! If I learned anything from the mission’s trip, it’s to be grateful for all of the rich blessings I have, including little things I don’t normally think about, like being able to take hot showers and flush the toilet paper (read about Days 1-4 to see what I mean about the toilet paper).

Day Five- Wednesday
By the time VBS ended on Wednesday, I was wiped out. But, because the church had a service that night, we didn’t get to go home and eat dinner like usual. People from the base were going to bring us food for dinner, and we’d just hang out at the church all day. During the church service, we would take the kids out and entertain them. I really wasn’t looking forward to it, after being with the kids all day. Plus, taking a hefty dose of immodium after my bout with Montezuma’s Revenge completely blocked my digestive system, giving me cramps and bloating. Whenever I tried to jump rope or run around with the kids, I felt like throwing up.

But when the church service started, my attitude changed. There’s something so special about singing hymns in Spanish and English. It made me think about what heaven would be like, when people of all tribes and tongues sing God’s praise.

When we took the kids out to the next room, the missionary’s daughter-in-law took over, telling the kids stories and organizing the games. She’s brilliant with kids. We all learned some new games that we want to play as a youth group when we get a chance. Even though running around still upset my stomach, playing with the kids was the highlight of my day.

Day Six- Thursday

VBS group picture

Thursday was an exciting day filled with blessings. Brian, the other guys who were hanging the drywall, and I got to go on visitation today. Brian, two other people from our church, the translator’s son, and I went with the Mexican pastor to visit two families. They were two very different homes.

The first house was basically a two room shed, with cracks between the boards that sunlight shone through, and a blanket for a door. A mattress on the floor took up one corner, where the family of five all slept. Marguerite, the woman of the house, kept everything as clean as could be. The pastor explained that she accepted Jesus just two months ago and was being taught weekly. We sang a few hymns, and the pastor read some scripture and taught from it. The two oldest children, a boy and a girl, paid close attention as he talked and followed along in their children’s Bible. When the pastor read from Philippians, including the passage about rejoicing, a lump rose in my throat, and I swiped away tears while we prayed. They have so little, even though I know that much of the world is even worse off. Yet, they were content. They could be content, knowing that God would provide for their needs. 

The second house we visited was very different. This family was actually the pastor’s mother and step-dad. He told us before we went in that his step-dad felt discouraged and hadn’t been attending church, so he hoped that we’d be able to encourage him. We read scripture together and sang in both Spanish and English, and then the pastor taught in Spanish for awhile. The pastor asked if we were familiar with a hymn called “100 lambs,” and when we hadn’t heard of it, just the Mexicans sang it. It was based on the parable about the shepherd who left the 99 sheep at home to go find the one lost lamb, and when he found it, he rejoyced more over that one lamb than over the 99 who had stayed. Afterwards, the pastor’s step-dad told us that that song really touched his heart. He was thankful that the pastor cared enough about him to come visit him and see why he hadn’t been going to church, and the song reminded him of God’s love for him too. He told us that it was no coincidence that we came to visit that day.

To make the day even better, around ten children went forward and prayed to accept Christ as their savior during VBS. That was a thrill to witness.

As icing on the cake, after VBS, one of the girls, Lisa, came up to me out of the blue and told me something like, “Tu ojos bonita,” meaning “Your eyes are beautiful.”

Since it was the last day of VBS, we had to say good-bye for the last time to all the kids and the church people. They were very sad to see us go, but repeatedly thanked us for our work with the VBS, handing out tracts and flyers all week, the dry-walled ceiling, and the yard work we accomplished.

the yard-work crew

the pile of debris

Because I have so many pictures from the last two days of the trip, I’m going to end this post here. I’ll finish my updates on Wednesday!

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When Life is Full

Just a couple weeks ago, I wrote “When Life is Easy,” and described the emptiness I felt from just existing every day, doing the same work/school, eat, sleep routine. Brian and I both felt like we needed to do more. We needed to be serving, giving, something that mattered. We were helping with the youth group, but that just meant that we sat in the back row and listened every week.

Well, even as I was writing that post, God was answering our prayer. Not in the way we expected, or, even would have wanted, however. Our youth pastor resigned suddenly. He had been directing Vacation Bible School (VBS) and the youth group was actively involved with helping teachers, games, and performing a daily drama. VBS was only a few weeks away. Would we still have VBS? Who would take over the youth group?

A few minutes after we learned that the youth pastor resigned, Brian got a phone call from one of the other pastors. He wanted to meet with us the next evening after the youth group practiced for the drama.

Brian led the practice, and afterwards, the pastor explained that VBS was still on, and people had stepped up to take over the preparations. He asked us what we were thinking in regards to leading the youth group. Did we want to do it? 

Brian and I had discussed it already, and honestly, we were nervous about saying yes. Did we know enough? Were we old enough? We didn’t go to Bible College or get a seminary degree, were we qualified? But despite our apprehensions, we knew that we really wanted to do it. Although the situation was not what anyone would have wished for, the timing was perfect. We had asked God for a way to minister, and now there was one. We decided that if the pastor asked us to lead it, our answer would be yes.

But we’re not all on our own, thankfully. The pastor and his wife have 10 years of experience working with teens, and they assured us they wouldn’t try to dominate and make us do things their way, but they would be a resource for ideas, any questions, and help. Brian will be discipled one on one on a regular basis, and I’m thinking about finding a mentor for myself too. I know from experience that it’s easier to pour into other people when you’re being poured into.

This all happened right before my trip to Iowa, so I missed the first time Brian taught Sunday School and Sunday night youth group. The first Sunday we were back was promotion Sunday, so Brian and I got to stand up in front of the church with the youth group and talk about what we’d done in youth group over the last year and what our future plans were. That was hard! Brian did all the talking, but I was nervous for him, because we hadn’t been there very long and didn’t know all they’d done over the last year, and we weren’t sure what our future plans were yet! Brian did very well, and it helped that two of the teens volunteered to talk about what they’d been learning too.

Last Sunday was the first time we got to sit down with all of them and talk about what they wanted to learn about and what they liked to do for youth group activities. We put together a list of service projects and fun stuff we could do, as well as some topics for Sunday School, youth group, and small group. We still have to decide when we’ll do what, but first, we have to get through VBS.

That’s this week. Saturday we spent all morning and much of the afternoon at church decorating, practicing the drama, working on costumes, etc. Sunday afternoon and evening was the same story. Today was the first day. Our goal was to get up to 60 kids, and we had that many already! I help with registration, lights and sound for the drama, and wherever people need me.

It was a busy and somewhat chaotic morning, but I can tell the children are LOVING our outer space theme! I hope I can get some pictures of the amazing decorations to post. And I’ll post pictures of the teens doing their play over here, on the blog I doing for the youth group!

So yes, life is full to the brim right now. Brian and I are trying to exercise consistently, I’m working every day at VBS, we’re making plans for the youth, I’m blogging on two blogs and working on the church website, and trying to get some writing done on the side. This weekend is our first year wedding anniversary, so we have a special weekend away planned!

I know this is a long, picture-less post, but thanks for bearing with me. By the way, for some reason, the “Comment” link isn’t showing up at the bottom of my posts anymore, and I’ve tried unsuccessfully to get it back. But, until then, just click on “Links to This Post” or on the post title to see the comment section.

I know Brian and I would both appreciate your prayers. Please pray that we would have wisdom and skill, that we would manage our stress better, and that we would be good examples to follow. Please pray for the teens as they go through this very sudden transition, and as they help with VBS this week. Pray for our VBS too, our hope is that many kids will be positively impacted.

Thanks again for bearing with me through this long post! I appreciate time and your kind comments so much!