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Thursday, September 8, 2016

Loving This

In order to avoid doing things I really should be doing this evening, I planted myself upon the couch with a bowl of popcorn and one of the many, many books I want to read. (There is always time for cleaning later, right?)  The current book I'm reading is The Year without a Purchase by Scott Dannemiller.  And I'm. In. Love.

The premise of the story is Scott and his wife, Gabby, were unhappy in a life that is the American Dream - a house, two cars, successful jobs, vacations...  They wanted a change and God provided them one.  A mission trip that could last as little as a one month commitment but were moved enough to stay for a year.  After living, surviving, and, better yet, thriving on next to nothing, they came back to America only to have our fast paced, busy, buy-buy-buy culture chip away that new found fulfillment, leading them back to square one.  On every page I'm moved and inspired by their insight.  If I tried to type up everything that tugged at my heartstrings, I'd be in danger of plagiarizing the entire book! I did manage to narrow down one excerpt that I wanted to share with you, but to also remember for myself. 

Recently, our Sunday school class began studying the book Firstfruits Living by Lynn A. Miller.  In the book, Miller talks about how faithful people put God first in their lives by giving away the best of what they have.  Their firstfruits.

Yes, the man is crazy.

But reading this book, I notice that I am doing the exact opposite of what it suggests is the path to fulfillment.  I am essentially hoarding the best of what I have for myself and giving away the leftovers.  If a Boy Scout comes to the door collecting canned food for a fundraiser, I am the guy who reaches into the very back of the pantry, pushing the chicken noodle soup out of the way so that I can snag that three-year-old can of hominy.

Because poor people love hominy.

Its ridiculous.  And when I do give away something of real value, I don't part with it easily.  Instead, I give it with the stipulation that the person must thank me profusely for the gift, acknowledge my awesomeness, preferably in public, and then proceed to use the gift in the exact manner I intended.  Its an unspoken selfishness constantly lurking beneath the surface.

And I don't like it.

Been there.  Done that.  Felt those feelings.  I want to change, to be better, and can do so for a little while.  And then there comes the Boss telling us we need this and that to be successful, happy, complete.  Protect ourselves first and let everyone else struggle in the meantime - the 'they've probably done something and made poor choices to deserve it anyways' mindset.  And in the very next paragraph there is more wince worthy, hitting the nail on the head, painful truth:

One evening, Gabby and I are discussing our general dissatisfaction with getting further and further away from the joy and fulfillment we felt ten years ago.  Its one of those wonderful reflective conversations where you feel that you are really accomplishing something by examining the trajectory of your life with the added satisfaction of making no real commitment to change anything for the better.
Oh snap.  I have had those conversations.  Many times.  There is something about them that does make you feel very accomplished.  And yet that feeling wears off and you are back in the same rut with the same arguments all too soon.  Talk is good.  Action is better.
That is, until Gabby asks a hypothetical question.

"What if we didn't buy anything for a year?"
Shaken from the comfort of my own inaction, I respond as any good husband would.
"Wait.  Are you saying that I buy too much stuff?"  I bark at her, ready to challenge every frivolous purchase she has made in the past six months.  A new dress.  An art set for Audrey.  Incredibly soft toilet paper.
"No.  I'm just saying it would be interesting to see if we could do it.  If we could get back to a simpler lifestyle.  A life more connected to God.  And one another."
Challenge accepted.

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