Friday, July 27, 2012

I Am Done With Stuff

For the past fourteen months, the majority of our stuff has been in storage. Furniture, tools, kitchenware, books, sports equipment and most of our clothing are in a 10 X 10 X 20 foot space that costs us almost as much to rent as our first home.

I don’t miss it. In fact, I am embarrassed about it.

When I visit it occasionally to pick something up or drop something off, I always hope that someone came in the night and stole it all. I don’t know why anyone would do that, but that is where my mind goes.

For the past fourteen months we have worn the same two suitcases of clothes and dragged around a small box of books and odds and ends and a Rubbermaid of food. I think I would like to get rid of the small box, and the Rubbermaid is currently half full.

I am done with stuff.

Of course, right now we are in a situation where our accommodation and meals are provided. We expect that things will change this fall, not back to “normal” because we will be doing life in a large house with a dozen or so young adults, which may be crazy. The house will need to be full of stuff, I guess, and I wonder if we will still feel the same way about it. Here is what happened this year:

1. We became very appreciative of the stuff we have. It’s like it has to last forever, or at least until we get back from the most recent adventure, so we make sure it is put away, well-cleaned, kept track of. It is a little upsetting to lose things, and we usually pray hard to find them again.

2. We downsized at every opportunity. When you are in motion, everything has to come with you, so you regularly look it over and if it isn’t necessary, it goes. We recycled, gave it away or if we had to, chucked it. It felt as good as crossing something off our to-do list.

3. We wore it out and made it do. It’s the old Amish proverb, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.” Sometimes our experience reminded me of what God pointed out to the Israelites, “During the forty years that I led you through the wilderness, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet” (Deuteronomy 29:5). As I write I am wearing sandals that I must have bought four years ago. I took them through two summers in a row in both hemispheres and they don’t even smell bad.

4. We looked and said no. We are not very good tourists, but we did sometimes end up in those places with curious things for sale. We appreciated them and were often tempted, but in the end we said no. Sarah brought back a few clothes from New Zealand; I have a hat she bought for me and some cool jade stones I found on the beach.

5. We always had enough to be generous. That was King David’s lifelong observation: “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be a blessing.” Actually, our children are more generous than we are.

6. We enjoyed the simplicity. It has been fun to live in a place with no electricity, and you may have heard how I feel above my “cannute” across the water to work. Our dog Barkley is spoiled to death by the lake outside his front door and we find every opportunity to sit by the water. Sure, it is temporary but it is such a gift.

A few years ago a Vancouver couple, troubled by the stuff that cluttered up their lives, took on an interesting project: “For one year we will not buy any material goods. We will buy only consumables, and everything we buy must come in recyclable or compostable packaging” (see The Clean Bin Project). They weren’t even hippies.

I’m not sure if I am ready for that kind of commitment, but I like the spirit of it. I hope we will remain careful in our buying, simple in our living, open with what we have.

I invite you to join us.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Camps, Cannutes and Flying Leaps

First: Where did my novel go, you may ask? After a couple of months of posting it here one chapter at a time, it has disappeared and will resurface in some format in the coming months. If you were reading it and just didn’t finish in time, comment below and I may have mercy. My plan is to attempt to get it published (realizing that the chances are about the same as winning the lottery), and failing that, to publish it myself.

Second: What are we up to now, you may wonder? We wonder too how this will all turn out, but for now we are volunteering at Camp Imadene, to which I “cannute” each morning (that is commuting by canoe) from our little cabin in the woods across the lake.

We wake up, sit up and see calm water through the trees and eagles in the sky. Barkley has learned to take flying leaps into the water off our dock, so we are all quite happy.

What I am doing at Camp Imadene is preparing and developing a discipleship program for young adults that will run from September through April. Sound a little familiar? The Auxano program will have some elements like Kaléo, but is not connected to a Bible college and focuses on biblical training and service. That fits the 86-year tradition of Imadene very well, as the word of God is central here and this ministry produces some of the most amazing servants of God I have ever met.

As I get to know this camp (I will be a Dean this week, the equivalent of a Head Counselor), I find that there are great benefits in long-established loyalty. I am the newbie, and find myself drawn by the attitude that service without personal compensation for the benefit of all is good in itself, and needs no special recognition. I cannot say I am even a novice at it yet, but I am learning slowly to unchain my self-protectiveness and constraints. Any LIT here is better at it than I. Most have been at it from childhood.

Our hope for the fall is to have twelve students and two Resident Assistants (RA’s) living in town with us in a fairly new eight-bedroom house with four full bathrooms and three living rooms. Yes, it sounds crazy, but we are quite excited about the prospect. We have talked and dreamed of this for years. Students will spend most weekdays at the camp and will have (actually, make) most meals there, but will be around the House most evenings and weekends.

So much opportunity. We plan to start each weekday with an hour of prayer together, and I anticipate some significant evening conversations in various corners of the house throughout the year. Though classes are not accredited, there will be more actual class time than Kaléo, though very few assignments beyond some reading, and no grades. The service that comes so naturally to the Imadene crowd will fill up the rest of the time, with a few adventures thrown into the mix.

Like the rest of this year, things are unfolding slowly. Though much of the presentation and planning is done, we still have just one application so far and I am still trying to locate one more 22+ year old (female) to join me in leadership. Everyone here is confident that this will happen over the summer, and that is our hope. But again we are waiting on God.

So, if you know of someone who is 17-22 years of age and in need of “long obedience in the same direction,” send them our way! Or a young leader who should join us in this work. In the meantime we will watch and pray and see what God does next.

And enjoy the cannute.