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The Great Wardrobe Purge: Thoughts on Fair Trade and James Chapter 5

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I learned something about myself this week. For a long time I have prided myself (and I use the word “pride” intentionally) on the fact that I’m not a “stuff person.” I don’t like clutter. I didn’t keep every art project my kid brought home from school. I clean out my crawl space and shed every year. We go through my son’s wardrobe and his room twice a year. I’m just not about the stuff. But lately I’ve been feeling like my wardrobe was getting a little full, and I decided to do a full clean out.

I literally removed every stitch of clothing and every accessory from my closet, storage bins, and dresser. I washed every piece of laundry, too, so I knew exactly what I was dealing with. As I pulled each item out of its home, I considered if I really wanted it. Does it fit my body? Does it fit my lifestyle? Do I wear it? It was astounding. I filled a huge Amazon Prime Pantry box with rejected clothing and accessories, and my bed was still covered! Hoodies, cardigans, leggings – up and up the piles grew. I had no idea it was that bad.

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The reject pile

I came to a realization: I have wardrobe bulimia. I binge shop and then purge, over and over. Stores worth of clothing pass through my hands, and it’s rare that I keep anything long enough to wear it out. I’m a stuff person after all, not a stuff keeper, but definitely a stuff waster. I’m embarrassed and ashamed of my wastefulness. I’ve been so proud of myself when there was nothing to be proud of!

For a while now I have been learning about the importance of fair trade manufacturing, and have been working toward a fair wardrobe based on minimal purchasing, certified fair trade choices, and secondhand shopping. This purge and inventory taking was part of that process. You have to know what you have in order to make good decisions about future purchases! Ironically (though no coincidence to God, I’m sure…), my purge landed on the same day that I read James 5 as part of my time in the word.

James 5:1-6:   Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.

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Some of the evidence stacked against me

My piles of clothing testify against me; I live in luxury and self-indulgence. And I know that the farmers and workers who created my piles of clothing cry out because of oppression and failed wages. And the Lord hears their cries!

On one level, I feel bad that I have been an active and willing participant in this broken system. But I don’t blame myself for the things I didn’t know. And I’m not blaming you either. Until a few years ago, no one talked about international labor practices. We learned about workplace disasters like the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire (New York City, 1911) as history, and celebrated that American labor laws were fixed last century. Meanwhile, we went on wearing cheap t-shirts and tennis shoes made by children in other countries who were paid pennies to work in dangerous factories where they face abuse every day and don’t have an opportunity for a basic education. We didn’t know. In fact, most of us thought we were being responsible if we bought the cheapest clothes possible!

But now that I know better, I feel responsible to repent for the lives that were hurt for my “stuff” and to do better. In fact, my first instinct was to start replacing the things I own with fair trade replacements. But that’s not the answer! It just adds to the waste, filling our landfills and my credit card balance! Fair trade is expensive; it has to be if everyone along the way is getting a fair wage for their work. The real answer is to use up what I have, that damage is already done.

But if this purge taught me anything, it’s that I do not need more stuff. I probably have something that will fill whatever need I have: from work wear I can paint in to a formal gown – including jewelry, handbags, AND shoes, I have at least one thing in my wardrobe to meet any need possible. I don’t usually shop from need; I shop from boredom, and I’ll bet a lot of you do too.

If I shop from need and not from boredom, I can afford fair trade.
The world can’t afford anything less.

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Service Project: The Loved Bible Project

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Recently a couple of friends of mine (Kelli and Tracy of All Your Heart Ministries) told me about a cool new service project. It’s called the Loved Bible Project, and it is right up my alley! Basically you start with a new bible, love on it, and hand it off to someone in need (need is relative: They could be in need financially, or just in need of hope and comfort. I’ll get to that later…). They receive God’s word, pre-highlighted, hand-annotated, and filled with encouraging notes, just as if they had inherited a much-loved bible from a loved one. I love to doodle and write, and I love God’s word, so I knew I wanted to be a part of this.

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. Psalm 119:105

No sooner had I decided that this was a service project I wanted to do, then Christian Book Distributors emailed me about a sale event and free shipping promo. I scoured their website and found a number of bibles in various translations for under $5 each. I went with the NIV version, because that’s a common and trusted version, and one I’m familiar with. I got two plain bibles and two with huge pink daisies on their green, faux-leather covers. I don’t know if it’s just because I’m a boy mom or if it was God’s leading, but I was smitten with the idea of using lots of color and pretty doodles and sending it off to a girl or young woman.

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The cool thing about this project (well, one of the cool things) is that God already knows the young woman who will own this bible. He knows her needs now and in the future. He knows what verses she will need to cling to and what encouragement she will need to hear. It is not in my power to minister to this stranger because I know nothing. But God knows. So I started this project by praying for her. I prayed for inspiration and direction as I prepare this bible for this stranger. And I continued to pray as I added to the bible.

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I’m a scrapbooker, so I had lots of fun things to use to decorate the bible! I used stickers, craft tape, markers, metallic gel pens, and more!I found this cool assortment pack of sticky notes at Dollar Tree. I especially love the little flag/arrow notes for pointing out special verses.

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I got this set of special highlighters from my secret sister last year. They don’t bleed through the thin pages of a bible. You can find them on Amazon.

As you can see, I had a lot of fun with this project. I want to add a few more things to it, but when it’s done I’m mailing it to my friend Renee at ReBuild, a ministry to the down and out of the Huntington WV area. Figuring in the cost of the bible, shipping it to Renee, and the few supplies I bought to supplement my scrapbooking stash, I completed this project for about $10. It is my prayer that God would take my little investment of $10 and a couple hours and turn it into something priceless!

If you are interested in more information about the Loved Bible Project, check out the Loved Bible Project website or the All Your Heart Ministries website. There is a ton of inspiration there, pics of projects, etc. You can also search “scripture journaling” or “loved bible” on Pinterest to get some ideas. I did my first bible without a theme, but they can be specific as well. For example, you could love a bible for a single mom friend, someone in cancer treatment, or someone experiencing a loss. You could gather with a group of women, share supplies, and love bibles together as a church or bible study women’s event.

Finished bibles can be sent to the Loved Bible Project (see their website for info), and they will be distributed to the homeless, or you can send them to ReBuild – Renee says they’ll take as many as they can get and will distribute them to the people they work with. Other ministries local to you may be interested in taking loved bibles as well. You just have to ask!

Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. Matthew 4:4

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Book Review: A Mile Wide by Brandon Hatmaker

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In the last couple of years, I have noticed a shift in Christianity. My generation, “Gen X,” has grown up and taken its place in church leadership. And this new generation of writers, pastors, and speakers has approached the gospel message with the characteristic Gen X discontent/skepticism, and fearless questioning of the “why” and “why not” of everything.

Our generation has never been content with the idea that we do things a certain way “just because;” we want to know if traditions are valid, or if there’s a better way. In the 1990s, the Gen X way brought emotion back to music after the 80s watered it down to nothing (I may be a bit biased here…). In Silicon Valley, the Gen X way revolutionized technology. The sullen, flannel-clad teens of the late 80s and early 90s have outgrown the terrible Pauley Shore movies, endless video games, and mosh pits of our youth, but we’ve retained our questioning spirit and the desire to throw aside the “fluff” and find out what’s real, and if there might be more to life.

Like I said, I may be biased.

But what I really love about my generation coming of age is what it’s doing to the church. Authors and speakers like Mark Batterson, Brandon and Jen Hatmaker, Lysa Terkeurst, Kyle Idleman, and Priscilla Shirer embody this spirit of asking the tough questions and coming back to the roots of Christianity. I’m not saying our parents had strayed and we’re fixing things; I’m just saying that we’re asking tough questions on a public stage, and finding our answers in the word.

  • We’re seeing less prosperity gospel and more outreach (Ask not what God can do for you, but what you can do for God – to paraphrase JFK paraphrasing Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.)
  • Less private faith and more global community
  • Less emphasis on how things have always been and more emphasis on what “nu thang” God is doing (I couldn’t resist at least one DC Talk reference when talking about the Gen X Jesus freaks!).

In that vein is Brandon Hatmaker’s new book, A Mile Wide: Trading a Shallow Religion for a Deeper Faith. (this is the part where I should mention to you that I was given a free advanced copy of the book in exchange for my honest review) Hatmaker’s premise is that “discipleship” is not just for new believers. Many of us who thought that ended up with faith “an inch deep and a mile wide.” We should always be disciples and life-long learners in the faith, because “Without depth, the dazzle won’t hold.”

A limited gospel makes life change a discipline. The true gospel changes our heart’s desire to live like Christ. It changes our perspective. It’s not the other way around. We don’t change on our own power hoping to see a glimpse of the gospel. This is a massive paradigm shift for many. A necessary shift.

Chapters in the book cover identity, discipleship/learning, community, surrender, service/living on a mission, justice, and surrender. Everyone can find something in the book to challenge and strengthen their faith journey. In the launch team (the group of us who got advanced copies), the chapter on community was a common challenge, as that’s an area many of us ignore. We had some great talks on Facebook about conviction in that area and things we need to do to restore that vital piece of our faith journey.

For me, the biggest area of challenge was in service and good works. I love to help and be involved in things. I like service projects (no surprise to readers of this blog, I’m sure!). But as a leader, my instinct is to evaluate projects by their results. I keep track of attendance and social media interactions at my museum job. I have a note in my phone for tracking our personal record of boxes packed during a single session at FMSC. I pay attention to what type of blog posts get the most traffic. But Hatmaker’s chapter on justice made me reevaluate my evaluations. His argument is that sometimes service is just about obedience and growing me, not about results.

It reminds me of an illustration I once heard. Two stone masons worked on the same cathedral. The first one had his eyes on his own project, and it was getting him down. “I’m never going to see the finished cathedral,” he complained, “it won’t even be done in my lifetime.” The second mason had the bigger picture in mind. “I’m never going to see the finished cathedral,” he said in wonder, “it won’t even be done in my lifetime. This project is bigger than me, and It’s so exciting that I got to be part of making this happen.”

Sometimes God asks us to serve because it will make a difference for someone we reach out to. Sometimes God asks us to serve because it will make a difference in us – in our obedience and attitude. He sees so much more than we do – through time and space and into the depths of our character development. Faith is not a metric, it’s a lot bigger than numbers and success rates (and all of us who struggled with math say AMEN!).

 

If you feel like you’re spread thin, with a faith that just isn’t getting deeper, I recommend first and foremost that you start spending more time in the Bible. Nothing compares to hearing straight from the source. Really pay attention as you read. Ask questions. You can trust God’s word, it never fails. Approach the Bible asking God to tell you what to believe rather than using the Bible to defend what you believe. And if you would like to be challenged and guided on your search for depth, A Mile Wide is a good source!

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The Fresh Start of Back to School

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Ah, back to school. I love you. And not just because my kid goes back to school. At 15, he’s really not a problem during the summer. My love of all things back to school is really about me, not him. Well, me and football. I really love football. But I digress…

Autumn is the least brutal season here in Minnesota. No snow or bitter cold, no scorching heat, and the fall colors are spectacular. Even though January has the new year and spring has all of nature’s rebirth, I can’t help but think of fall as the beginning. No doubt that is the result of the many, many years I have spent in school. Fall is the real season of fresh starts in my mind. The notebook pages are clean and unwrinkled. The pencils are long and sharp. The shoes are still shiny and new.

I always find myself “nesting” in autumn. The garden and farmers market are producing ripe veggies and raspberries at an alarming rate, and I spend many evenings processing corn, canning spaghetti sauce, and turning apples into applesauce. It’s cool enough to bake again, but still warm enough to grill.

Back to school shopping and the changing weather lead naturally to decluttering, too. Last year’s jeans grew too short for my growing boy, so bringing in new meant taking out the old. Yesterday my son and I took out a big black bag of trash (just stuff we found decluttering, not regular trash!), a box for next year’s garage sale, and a box for the Goodwill (some things are worth storing for next year, some things are not). And while we were on a roll, we returned some paperwork and borrowed items just to get them out of the house. It felt so good to unload the unnecessary and to return the things that don’t belong to us!

In addition to nesting and decluttering, I also like to reconsider my commitments this time of year. I’ve been putting a lot of thought into the things I’m committed to, and it renews and refreshes my commitment to the things I love. For example, I’ve added some additional hours at work, and picked up a book about non-profit management that I think will help keep me inspired. I’ve written a book review to share here on the blog, and am planning some great material and a giveaway for Food Shelf Friday in September. I’ve also made significant progress on the revision phase of my thesis, and have plans to finish that up and move on to volunteering at the food shelf on my day off. I’m excited about what the future holds. I hope you are too!

As you head into this new season, what clutter in your life is holding you back? For what commitments have you lost passion? Take some time to really consider the stuff and activities that you hold on to. Are they adding value to your life or sapping you of your energy? Make some moves – the pages of the future are fresh and clean. You choose what will fill them!

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FSF Top 10 Inspirational Quotes

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This week we’re shaking things up with a little inspirational beauty as I bring you my Top 10 (non-scripture) Inspirational Quotes! Feel free to share, pin, post, etc. these immortal words of wisdom. And if you’re missing my words this week (and really, who isn’t?), you can check out my new post at the Bridging the Gap blog, where I am now a regular contributor!

 

 

 

10. “Minimalism is not the lack of something, it is the perfect amount of something.”
-Nicholas Burroughs

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9. “Every time you spend money, you are casting a vote for the kind of world you want.”
– Anna Lappe

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8. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good me to do nothing.”
-Edmund Burke

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7. “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single minute before starting to improve the world.” -Anne Frank

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6. (speaking of theology) “If it isn’t also true for a poor single Christian mom in Haiti, it isn’t true.” – Jen Hatmaker

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5. “Do the best you can until you know better. And when you know better, do better.”
– Maya Angelou

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4. “When God blesses you, don’t raise your standard of living, raise your standard of giving.” – Mark Batterson

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3. “Don’t let what you can’t do keep you from doing what you can.” – John Wooden

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2. “Live simply so others can simply live.” – Mother Teresa

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1.“Enough is as good as a feast.” – Mary Poppins.

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If you have quotes that inspire you, feel free to share in the comments! Have a great week!