Choosing and Crafting the Future

We are creating the future today! It is hard to imagine what doesn’t yet exist. But the choices we make today will define future generations. We get to decide if we want to be part of blessing future generations. Our behaviors today impact the future of the environment, our health, our church communities, and our families.

We decide if we help to create a future of love, hope, and compassion or a future of hatred, fear, and judgment.

Bonnie Cassida wrote these words as part of today’s d365 Journey to the Cross e-devotion, and they really hit home with me. How often do we pause and consider that we are co-creators of the future, for good or for ill?

Our actions and choices matter; they matter a great deal. Whether we realize or acknowledge it, we are connected to one another. The choices of previous generations have affected where we are today, and likewise the paths we choose will have an impact on our sons and daughters and even on their sons and daughters.

Whatever blessings we enjoy today are often the harvest of seeds planted by others. I think of how my parents made sacrifices so that I could take advantage of opportunities in high school and college. I have heard my mother talk about how her older siblings sacrificed so that the younger children in her large family could have what they needed. Today, my spouse and I make choices with an eye toward providing for the needs of our children.

We try to consider not only our children but the children of other parents around the world. Our purchasing decisions affect other people we may never know. How we treat the land, water, and air may have a profound impact on future generations. This reality is both a great responsibility and an amazing privilege.

We, you and I, must decide whether we will create something of beauty and hope, or whether we will squander our inheritance and ignore the needs of our sisters and brothers. The choice is ours, left to us by our gracious and loving Creator. It is a great trust. What shall we do? How shall we steward this gift?


40/40/40 Challenge Day 12 Update

I’m more than 25% of the way through this Lenten challenge, and so far it has been easy to decide which relationships to honor, possessions to release, and thankgivings to offer. I suspect this could be habit forming.

Honoring Relationships

Today, I want to honor and show appreciation for my friend and walking buddy Dianne from Sheyenne. Sometimes in life you meet someone and it just clicks; you feel comfortable talking and sharing with that person, and you enjoy his or her company. Dianne and I logged many miles around town and up the hill past the cemetary. She’s one of the hardest working people I know, makes the best German Chocolate brownie bars, and can whip up a hot dish or soup in a flash. She donates time to almost every community event, and she has a tender heart and great sense of humor. She loves her family, nurtures her faith, and enjoys life. What more could one ask from a friend? Sure do miss those walks, Dianne!

Giving Possessions

Today I cleaned out my jewelry box. It was a pretty easy task because I don’t have much jewelry to start with, but I did pare it down to only the essentials and those few items of sentimental value. If it hadn’t been our of the box in six months — bye, bye!


I am thankful to be able to exercise. Sometimes it seems like a huge pain and mighty inconvenience, but I am grateful to have limbs that can move and stretch, a heart that supports such activity, and the time to do so. Some days I walk, some days I ride the Airdyne, and some days I do yoga. I need to get back to the YWCA, use that membership more regularly, and be a better steward both of my health and our financial investment. Always something to strive toward, eh?

Photo by alonis used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!


The Joy of Shedding “Stuff”

Give Way

Dependence on God may be what is lacking in a society where consumerism and accumulation have become the root deseases of a world in which everything is not enough and nothing satisfies.      — Joan Chittister from The Rule of Benedict: Insight for the Ages

Ever wonder why sometimes an item you purchase seems to lose its luster once you get it home? What looked so shiny, bright, and desirable on the shelf at your local big box now looks downright ordinary. The root desire that made you whip out your cash or credit card is still there — along with one more thing to clutter your closet or yet another knick-nack to dust.

Very few of us are immune to consumer cravings; in fact, I shudder to think of the amount of money, time, and energy I have wasted over the years on accumulation of really rather pointless “stuff.” Having pared down my possessions from a 2600 square foot parsonage to two carloads plus a few boxes in 2010, I also know the freedom that comes from unburdening oneself of excess accumulation. I learned a lot about needs and wants, about desires and whims. Unfortunately, I let the consumer creep poke its camel nose under my tent, and by the time we movedagain in 2011, it took a small U-Haul to transport our belongings. Granted, I purchased a couple of beds and some living room furniture that was too good to leave behind and that we could use in Pennsylvania, but a lot of what we transported was simply “stuff.”

“Stuff” can be a major distraction to living a life of thanks-living and purpose. When a person has to worry about his or her stuff instead of the people, relationships, and created order, one’s quality of life begins to be compromised. Focusing on and clinging to one’s “stuff” can also be a barrier to cultivating a strong relationship with the Creator of the universe.

Here’s the thing I have discovered and continue to discover afresh with each new day: shedding stuff contributes directly to joy in the present moment. Buddhists strive for “detachment,” believing that nothing lasts and therefore it is important to be attached to nothing. Christians believe that one should attach oneself to the only thing that matters. In the attachment to (and consequential dependence upon) Jesus, everything else then becomes detachable. Either way, shedding excess stuff becomes an opportunity rather than a burden, a joy rather than a pain.

Click here for a wonderful story about creative detachment posted on Francine Jay’s Miss Minimalist blog. It’s a story about honoring relationships, giving possessions, and being thankful. My appreciation to Heidi J for sharing her story.

Honoring Relationships

Today I want to honor three women who gathered with me around the kitchen table to pray the night before I underwent surgery for breast cancer. Adrienne, Aileen, and Mary Beth — each in her own unique way — made the cancer journey bearable and even humorous. Adrienne was my rock, Aileen was my spiritual mentor, and Mary Beth was the friend who had already walked many tough miles with me and who with humor, compassion, Irish wit, and a Springer Spaniel named Fred (littermate to my boy Pete) held my hand and lent me her strength. Without them, I’m not sure I’d be where I am today. Thank you, lovely and wise ladies. You are amazing and wonderful.

Giving Possessions

Three more books will go to the Public Library for their book sale. I feel better knowing someone else will enjoy reading them, too. Hey, that’s three less books to collect dust!


I am particularly thankful today for my spouse. He is a partner in the truest and fullest sense of the word. With him each day is an adventure. He brings out the best in me, supports me when the going gets tough, never fails to make me laugh, and is just an all-around awesome person. Thanks, Rob, for being you.

And the Winner Is…

Congratulations to Gladys, whose name was drawn to receive my autographed copy of Lee Smith’s Fair and Tender Ladies.

Photos by Loopzilla and Maarten ter Keurs used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

Leaning into Lent: Thankful for Donuts and Dust

My daughter and I went to see a completely brainless but funny romantic comedy tonight (gotta love $5 movie Tuesdays) and split a bag of donuts in celebration of Fastnacht (Shrove Tuesday), so I suppose I’m officially ready for Lent to begin tomorrow with an Ash Wednesday smudge on the forehead. All kidding aside, I look forward to Lent each year. I like the disciplines of reflection and intentionality that are a part of the 40 days, and I appreciate the opportunity to slow down a little bit and think about my relationship with God, humankind, and creation.

I have long since passed the days of contemplating the “giving-up goodies” aspect associated with this penitential season. Instead, each year I try to think carefully about how I can be more aware — to be conscious of my choices and how my decisions ripple outward in impact.

As a United States citizen, even one who falls solidly in the shrinking middle class, I am among the world’s wealthiest people. I have much, much more than I need, so to my way of thinking that makes me all the more responsible for my consumption. It isn’t fair for me as a person of faith to randomly exercise my privilege without thinking how my choices affect my neighbors both near and far.

Just because I have a laptop (for work), a cell phone (old school freebie), an iPod, digital camera and Nook (hand-me-downs from dear daughters), and a car (a sensible compact sedan) doesn’t make me any brighter, better, or more worthy. It simply means that by accident of birth, I lucked into living in a part of the world that makes it relatively easy to amass stuff, to have access to education and healthcare, and to enjoy an abundance of freedoms.

No, there will be no blithe giving up of something like chocolate or desserts or coffee or television for me. This year I’m leaning into Lent as I would a strong north wind. I hope to use these days and my personal meditation and devotions to contemplate issues of justice, consumption, and equity. Sure,I try to do this on a daily basis, but I want to be intentional about it.

Supposedly it takes about 21 days to change a habit, so I figure 40 days + Sundays should give me plenty of time to shed stuff and count my blessings; hopefully, in doing so, I will experience a lasting change and move a little closer toward my goal of minimalism.

Here’s the plan. Each day during Lent I will commit to giving away one possession. I’ll also spend some time thinking about why I am thankful to be able to share that possession with someone else. Finally, I will tell someone I care about each and every day why I value that person.

So, 40 days – 40 possessions + 40 thanksgivings + honoring 40 relationship = an intentional Lenten discipline. I invite you to join me on the journey and to share how you will be leaning into Lent this year.

I look forward to receiving that ashen cross-shaped ashen smudge tomorrow. For I am dust, I am connected to this earth in a fundamental and elemental way. Thanks to the cross, I am also connected to the God that created, loves, and cherishes all people and all this earth. Donuts are dandy, but I am particularly thankful for dust.

Photos by khawkins04 and Sara Korf used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!


Thanks-Living Tebow Style

This week I challenged you to do one thing to make someone else happy each day. It could be as simple as bringing a hot cup of freshly ground coffee to your spouse first thing in the morning (my simple act for the day) or as grand as leaving $50 at the coffee shop to pay for patrons who come in behind you. The simple point of the challenge is to make someone else’s day a little brighter and better. It’s a way of expressing gratitude for the gifts and blessings one has received–also known as thanks-living.

Today I read a article about how one man expresses gratitude that both humbled and amazed me. Most of you are probably familiar with pro football player Tim Tebow. You may have heard about his lucky plays, his dedication to an evangelical faith in Jesus Christ, and his outspokenness, but you may not be aware of how Tebow gives back through an amazing act of thanks-living.

Tim Tebow knows how blessed he’s been, and he shares some of those blessings before and after each game to make life brighter for individuals whom he terms “the coolest, most courageous people.” These are people who face serious, even life-threatening or terminal health issues, and Tebow flies them and their families to the game, sparing no expense to give them a wonderful experience and plenty of personal time. Tebow is investing in lives rather than the fleeting illusion of fame and fortune. In fact, he’s using his fame as a platform to make a real difference by growing a foundation to help others. It appears he is following in his Master’s footsteps by loving his neighbor as himself.

You can read the article, written by award-winning sportswriter Rick Reilly, on ESPN’s website by clicking here. I guarantee you it is worth your time and effort. No matter what you think about football or Tebow, it’s hard to argue with someone who is loving his neighbor, walking the walk, and giving thanks in such a profound and selfless way.

Thank you, Tim, for your thanks-living example and for playing some fine football!

Photos by Jeffrey Beall used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!