Ladies at the farmer’s market, circa 2013. Picture by yours truly.
I chose the buzzwords above because they all seem to describe aspects of the same mindset–one which, for one reason or another, would rather make choices about money/possessions than be ruled by them. I’ve been exploring a variety of “literature” on the topic for the past several months. I’ve read it all: Mr. Money Mustache, Money Saving Mom, Passionate Penny Pincher, The Frugalwoods, Afford Anything, Budget 101, and many lesser known blogs by individuals just living and sharing their frugal, minimalist, non-consuming lives. I’ve joined the Non-consumer Advocate group on Facebook and begun researching the Buy Nothing movement. I’ve tortured my husband (sorry, Honey) with thousands of pictures of tiny homes, fantasizing about the day we have our own uber-minimalist place. And I’ve even switched over to cleaning cloths for most formerly-paper-towel jobs.
What does this have to do with Christianity? I jumped into these resources initially thinking I could be a better steward of the resources God has provided. I wanted to live below our (limited) means because that seemed wise. God says that the root of evil is the love of money. (1 Timothy 6:10) And beside that, it seemed pretty cool what folks like the Frugalwoods and Mr. Money Mustache are doing… retiring in their 30s? Choosing cool experiences and travel above mere stuff? That’s really living! Except, as excited as I got about those ideas, those don’t really have any more Kingdom worth than money. I had a good, long talk with my husband (which is a great way to get all sorts of thoughts straight in my head) about financial priorities. And then I did some praying and some thinking besides.
A convicting read, within The Heavenly Man Brother Yun (with Paul Hattaway) tells the story of his conversion and subsequent ministry in communist China. His story begins at the age of 16, during the 1970s when persecution of the Church in China began to increase greatly. His ability to endure and preach the gospel in spite of beatings and imprisonment is a testament to God’s faithfulness, and the miracles he records will surely strength your faith. His wife, Deling, and a few other fellow-laborers also share their testimony in places.
Brother Yun ends the narrative describing the continuing work of the Back to Jerusalem movement, in which Chinese Christians that have been prepared by persecution are going forth into Middle Eastern and other closed countries to spread the gospel. Because they would not choose an easy life, but a life lived wholly for Christ. I would highly recommend this to anyone looking for their first-world Christianity to be rocked.
Within the pages of For the Joy Set Before Us, Erica Fye provides not only the promised “insights into missionary life,” but chapters full of practicable counsel for the ministry-minded Christian. Although focused on Ms. Fye’s experience in foreign missionary work (topics include re-entry shock, adjusting to life in a new culture, etc.), Scriptural truth saturates her writing and gives it broader application.
Beginning with her own testimony and call to missions, Ms. Fye uses her personal story to illustrate biblical principles of ministry. Her willingness to share private struggles and experiences for God’s glory make Ms. Fye’s writing—though unassuming—powerful. Hardly a page is without a Bible reference, or relevant verse. The chapters address a number of difficulties the missionary faces (e.g. loneliness and burnout), and offer both encouragement and direction. The overarching theme, however, is the faithfulness of God to the believer.
For the Joy Set Before Us is not a collection of heartwarming stories from the “wilds” of Uganda. Its purpose is not to entertain, but rather to equip. It is a challenge to seek God and answer His call wherever you are.
It seems like–in America especially–Satan has largely succeeded in dividing the Church. Not only are Christians broken into factions, sometimes called denominations, but individuals in a single church are often isolated from one another. The Christian community talks about unity. But how many of us develop friendships outside our Bible studies (or cliques, or churches)? How many Baptists would have anything to do with Pentecostals, or Protestants with Catholics? (I am speaking to individual believers, not congregations.)
It is a strange thing when we Christians feel as if Christ’s influence should not extend to any portion of our lives. It is strange that it seems inconvenient to us that we should not only have to refrain from major offenses–murder, adultery, lying, stealing, and the like–but also surrender our daily happenings to His will. For instance, according to God’s desires for my life, I must speak kindly to my husband. I must not be quick to anger when someone nearly kills me on the highway (welcome to Pennsylvania). I must budget my money in a way that evidences Christ as Lord over my life. I must pick up the laundry and wash the dishes with a contented, even cheerful, heart. This is Christian duty–allowing Jesus Christ supremacy over the “little” things.
Because of the importance the internet has gained in our culture, I’ve been reflecting on what exactly Christian duty looks like in the realm of social media. Continue Reading
I’ve been mulling this over a lot since I graduated last May–how my college education has prepared me for life, and other ways in which it fell short. Please understand, this isn’t a “poor me, I ought to have easy lessons handed to me” sort of thought process. I take full responsibility for my life and my personal development. However, since my university was a Christian school that sought to equip students spiritually as well as professionally, I hold the leadership there to a higher standard than I otherwise would. They have the power to influence many thousands of young adults, so their teaching had better be sound.
It is the practice of this college to invite all manner of (mainly Christian) big names to the campus to speak, three times a week. The majority of these were intent on stirring up us young folks–talking about the glorious struggles in missions work, victories for Christ in the corporate world, and the general high emotion and excitement of living for God. It’s a tactic I’m familiar with, having grown up exposed to and participating in many youth groups and camps. I’m also quite certain some of these leaders came very close to equating numbers–people converted, money raised, buildings constructed–with God’s stamp of approval on a given ministry. We are young, we are the future of the Church! We are able and energetic, so seize the day! While I do believe we ought to be living for God while we are young, what these messages did not prepare us for was the much greater part of Christian living–that is, the drudgery of days unmarked by success. So many of us fall away because life after school isn’t what was “promised.”
OK, disclaimer, I’m not ACTUALLY a tenant farmer. I do, however, happen to be a town dwelling gardener with no piece of dirt to call my own. Thankfully, my gracious in-laws have soil to spare and offered to do a joint garden with me if I’d lend my limited experience to the cause. (Note: I think I’ve mentioned some of my previous gardens here, so you’ll know that I am by NO means an expert, and I DID warn them…) The vegetables are now happily established–we are working to ensure that the weeds are less so. I’ve also got several container vegetables at home, which I will expect to produce a little later in the season.
What has this to do with thrift? It turns out, if you’re willing to provide the labor, in the long term it’s cheaper to plant from seed and preserve what grows. Start up cost doesn’t have to be much of anything if you’re wiling to compost and build up the soil. Gardening primarily takes time, secondarily takes work… but of course, God brings the increase. I also like gardening myself because I believe it’s important to cultivate self-sufficiency skill sets. I don’t intend to move off grid any time soon, but I can definitely cut our grocery budget in the coming months.