Monday, August 14, 2017

Maybe the Simple Things Are the Great Things

When it comes to studying the Bible and applying it to our lives, sometimes we go after the big, flashy tasks. We want to do great things out of love for God and this isn't a bad thing in and of itself.

However this is an example of our culture bleeding into our faith. Society, as shown by a popular pinning website, values the showy acts of devotion. To society, love is a carriage ride in the park as a musician serenades your love with a song you wrote. A big act of love.

Yet love is also in the smalls acts of devotion. Buying a favorite snack for your honey. Doing the dishes. Helping around the house. Giving a back rub without any strings attached. Small acts of love displayed in daily life.

This spurning of the small acts to go after the big, flashy acts did not originate in our culture. In fact, a similar story is recorded in 2 Kings 5. In this story, Naaman came to Elisha to be healed of leprosy. He expected a showy display from Elisha or some great, heroic act to get well, but he is told to dunk himself in a dirty river.

In our faith, we want to wow the socks off of God in a large display of valor, but we sometimes neglect the small acts of daily obedience and daily dying to ourselves. We want to do miracles, cast out demons, or prophesy, but it is harder to daily love your neighbor/enemy, to forgive your brother, and to turn the other cheek.

Yet, Jesus taught, in Matthew 25, that if we are faithful in the small things, we will be given bigger responsibilities.

We lament to God that we aren't skilled/talented/trained enough to do a big act of devotion, but we aren't obeying His commands like He instructed, each and every day.

God instructs His people to keep His commands multiple times in the Old Testament: Leviticus 22:31, Deuteronomy 5:29, Proverbs 3:1, Proverbs 4:4, and Proverbs 7:1-2.
Jesus repeats that instruction another 3 times, showing that when we keep His commands, we show that we love Him and we remain in His love: John 14:15 and John 14:21 and John 15:10
Jesus even taught that disregarding His commands (and teaching others to do likewise) would make you the least in Heaven. Matthew 5:19
Paul reiterates that keeping God's commands is what counts. 1 Corinthians 7:19
To say that this is important to John is a bit of an understatement: 1 John 2:31 John 2:41 John 3:221 John 3:241 John 5:21 John 5:3, and 2 John 1:6

We don't have to have theology decrees and understand everything in the Bible before we put His word into practice. We can read a passage or passages until we get to a part that requires obedience and a response...and then do it.

Far too often, we take the clearest, most practical verses and write them off as inconvenient and impractical in our day, age, and culture. So we don't actually do what God is clearly requiring of us. Or we put the command into a solely spiritual context. We make loving our enemy a spiritual, mental act, but we fail to show that love with an action that costs us something.

So, will you join me in camping out in the Bible-in the Gospels to start with-as we search for clear instructions to apply to our lives?

Be warned, the clearest instructions will have a high cost-they will require dying to ourselves daily to live for Christ.

It's the simple things that turn out to be the great things in the end.

Friday, August 4, 2017

We are Connected

Back in 2014, I took a personality test called Strength Finders. After I took this long test, it told me my top 5 strengths and their summaries. It covered what they looked like at their best and their worst. I understood my top 4 strengths easily enough.

Then my fifth strength was "connectedness." As I read through the traits associated with it, I wondered why I got this strength. I wouldn't describe myself as spiritual or the holder of a strong faith. I'm still a sapling growing into a full-grown tree. I get caught in the details instead of looking at the big picture. I don't help others see purpose. But when I read the traits of my strength at its worst, it started to resonate with me. People call me naive and idealistic. That's me! In the summary for connectedness, it mentions the links between different events. Events happen due to reasons impacting it. There are few coincidences. Finally I start to relate to this odd-ball strength of mine.

The books I am drawn to start to make sense in light of this strength. Living More with Less. The More with Less Cookbook. Almost Amish. Seven. They all teach that we should live simply so others can have the resources to live.

It is easy for me to get frustrated when I read statistics about the American lifestyle versus the lifestyle of the majority world countries. Americans consume so much of the world's resources that if everyone on the planet lived like an American, we would need over 4 earths to support the world's population.

I don't like hearing comments along the lines of, "Well, I worked hard for my ____. If other people want ____, they should work as hard as I did." Except, when we are over-consuming, it is physically impossible for everyone else to get all the same ____ as we have when resources have finite limits.

Imagine there is one apple in a group of ten people. You get a quarter of the apple. That leaves 75% of the apple for 9 people. That means that you have 25% of the apple and if everyone else if fair, they would each get 6.75% of the apple. If other people tried to get a share like yours, then only 4 people could have the apple and 6 people would have nothing. For everyone to get a share like yours, there would need to be 2.5 apples instead of the one. The earth is a finite resource. There are limits to what it can give. When we consume more than our fair share, it is like we are stealing from the world's poorest populations.

Sadly, I am not over-exaggerating how much we consume.
"The United States, with less than 5% of the global population, uses about a quarter of the world’s fossil fuel resources—burning up nearly 25% of the coal, 26% of the oil, and 27% of the world’s natural gas." Source

Even worse, we aren't even using everything that we buy. We buy food and then throw it in the trash because we do not use it in time.

  • Americans throw out 200,000 tons of edible food daily. Source
We grow plenty of food...for animals. Instead of focusing on low cost crops to send around the world to end malnutrition and starvation, we grow crops only animals can eat, so we can eat those animals.
  • Eighty percent of the corn grown and 95% of the oats are fed to livestock. Source
  • Fifty-six percent of available farmland is used for beef production. Source


Earlier this year, I watched a movie that had one line that really struck a cord with me:

"You've got simultaneous epidemics of obesity and starvation. Explain that one!" -Nix in Tomorrowland

Unfortunately, this statistic is true. "An estimated 65 % of U.S. adults are overweight or obese, leading to an annual loss of 300,000 lives and at least $117 billion in health care costs in 1999." Source

People around the world are starving because they do not have adequate access to food, but here in America, almost 2 in every 3 Americans are either overweight or obese. We have Americans dying because they are eating too much while others in the world are dying because there is not enough to eat.

Don't worry. I will not leave this post without practical tips to change the future into a more positive future.

1. Focus on eating right: the right foods in the right amounts. Source 1 and Source 2 clearly outline the ideal servings of grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, and sweets in a day. When I started tallying how many servings I was getting in each category, I was surprised to learn that if I don't pay attention, I tend to skip vegetables!! Eating the proper servings of fruits, vegetables, and grains do help you to feel full and it is good for you to boot!!

2. Buy local and in season. Did you know that there are spring vegetables, summer vegetables, autumn vegetables, and winter vegetables? Buy local produce will direct you to the seasonal vegetables that are fresher, ripen naturally, and don't spend a lot of time/resources in transportation.

3. Buy enough, but not too much. Reduce what you buy and use what you have. This is the key to not throwing away food.

4. Prepare food quickly for convenience. On shopping day, I leave my produce on my counter as a reminder to wash and prepare my fruits and vegetables. When I take the time to wash, peel, chop, and slice my produce, I don't reach for convenience foods because I made the healthy food convenient!

5. Make it yourself instead of buying a pre-made version. It costs extra, both in money and resources to pay for pre-made convenience foods. I have seen pre-peeled oranges that you can buy in plastic containers...or you can buy your own oranges and peel them yourself.

6. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Reduce the resources you consume. Find ways to reuse things you already have. Recycle your paper, glass, plastic, and tin.

7. Buy global. Liz, Tip 2 was buy local. Yep. And now Tip 7 is to buy global. Yep. Instead of buying the cheapest products that are made in sweatshops, buy fair trade items. Sometimes the cheapest item supports oppression and the pricier item pays a fair wage to the worker. Research fair trade companies and splurge from time to time on the quality pieces and foods you find there.

8. Try to eat like someone from a majority world country. (The phrase Majority World Country is replacing Third World Country since highly industrialized countries are not the majority of countries in the world). Research how someone from Sudan, Guatemala, or Thailand would eat. Then try to eat like them for a week.

9. Cut something out of your lifestyle AND use the money you would have spent to do good. Cut out carbonated beverages from your life. Spend the money you would have spent on carbonated beverages to help build wells in majority world countries. Cut out the majority of sweets from your life. Spend the money on projects that support sustainable agriculture.