Tag Archives: 7

The Great Lent Experiment: Week 5–Stress

image from commonprayer.net

The no spending week was a little difficult. A lack of options can be frustrating, and like a bad diet can make you want to go out and binge. In all honesty, I did cheat several times this week. One: we bought scones and cinnamon rolls and coffee after my 15k. Because come on! I deserved it (see my American thinking here?). Also my mom gave me money for H&M for my birthday and I bought a pair of pants and a shirt.

But other than that, it was time to get creative with our free time. We went to the library a lot. Used our passes at the children’s museum. Went for walks, made coffee for lots of people over here. It was a busy week, and not really having any excuse to go out and buy anything actually fit in rather well.

This is an area of my life I want to continually scrutinize and give up control over. I think doing a week like this periodically would be very, very good for me.

And now, on to this week: Stress!


Ok, no joke: I am excited about this week. Just last night I finished my last class and so I am heading into Spring Break mode. The anxieties in my life right now are all over the map, some being very small (I need to shampoo my carpets!) to very big (we have no idea what we will be doing in 5 months!). I am having a hard time sleeping. I am having a hard time being a pleasant conversationalist. I am a little stressed.

But how do you give up stress? You focus on something else. Specifically, Jesus.

I have always been terrible at praying, with my thoughts often turning to the random and mundane instead of the spiritual and uplifting. But I am excited for this week to be centered around structured prayer. The hubs and I bought Common Prayer and we are going to be doing morning prayers (also know as daily), midday prayers, and evening prayers. Not too overwhelming, but a nice bit of structure for this evangelical.

[note: you don’t have to buy the Common Prayer (a Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals) to participate. They have a great website with the prayers for every day listed, along with scripture readings. Go here to check it out].

This week really is going to be perfect, as we have some big decisions to make and need a ton of prayer. Plus, I will be going to the coast for a couple of days (without the hubs or baby–eek!) and am excited for the chance to pray more (case in point: while trying to do the daily prayer together this morning, the hubs and I were interrupted by a screeching baby clinging to our legs, one who was very tired due to waking up at 11pm and 5:30am–may He protect us through the storm of toddlerhood indeed).

So here is the recap for the next week:

Week five: Stress
Use this week as a chance to get rid of stress, and to identify those areas of your life where you are holding on to anxiety. The most crucial element of this week is to find a time to spend in prayer for significant portions of the day. As we learn to relinquish control and let God be in charge, we will no longer let our lives be ruled by stress.

Practical Fasts:
Commit to picking a space for every day where you commit to spend time in prayer.
Pick one day to be a Sabbath for you and your family and find your rest in Him. (Variations on the Sabbath abound–we would encourage a time for prayer and joy and rest and solitude, whatever that might look like for your family).

Prayer:
Use resources like the book of Common Prayer for ideas on when and what to pray.

How was no spending week? Do you have any resources for times of structured prayer? I would love to hear them!

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , ,

The Great Lent Experiment (AKA our own “mutiny against excess”) Week 3: Media

graffiti from Glasgow.

In case you missed it, I wrote about possessions week here.


I never thought I would be one of those people. You know, those who watch current shows on TV. Like, watch an episode every week. I used to be really busy and then watch an entire season of some show on the rare weekend I had a chance. And for some reason, I watched more movies.

Now, TV is the way the hubs and I relax at night. We work alternating nights and the baby wakes up real early, so we usually watch one 20 minute episode of something nearly every night. I don’t know how it happened, it just did.

I have always admired people who did “kill your TV” week or month or year, but it never crossed my mind that I should do that. But then I gave up Facebook (for all intents and purposes) and that was not even a big deal. Out of all the weeks, this one seems like the one I most DON’T want to surrender. So I am sure I need it, badly.

We over here are giving up all TV/movies/facebook/twitter/pinterest. Even the baby, who has become alarmingly hooked on Elmo (I really don’t know how I am going to cook dinner without that 20 minute reprieve during the “witching hour”. Which makes me realize that this is getting ridiculous). We will still listen to music (and the occasional podcast? I dunno. You guys need to act as my counsel and tell me if you think that is media). I am still going to read my blogs via googlereader, but only once in the morning.

I am excited to read more books. I am currently reading Interrupted  by Jen Hatmaker and The Barefoot Church  by her husband, Brandon. I am re-reading The irresistable Revolution by Shane Claiborne, because we all need a little inspiration for creativity. I am also reading Still  by Lauren Winner (the jury is still out on that one) and maaaaaybe am re-reading the Hunger Games in anticipation of the movie. Maybe. Plus, the ol’ Bible and Common Prayer: a Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. And a bunch of Christian parenting books.

Whew.

Before I get too enmeshed with all the reading and the brain-spinning that happens as a result of reading, let me just say that so far Lent has been a season for actively seeking the voice of God. And listening. And waiting. And receiving–just not in the ways that I would expect. But it has been very encouraging to experience that His voice is all around, and sometimes we just need to take some small, sacrificial steps in order to hear it. And I expect that from this week as well.

Ok, after all that ranting, here is the breakdown for this next week:

Week three: Media:
We are a culture that loves to be entertained. How much more space for others (and God) can we create by shutting off all of our devices for a week? This will be a great chance to practice old-fashioned community and hospitality. Fill up the silence with good things: worship music, good books, coffee with friends, or just hanging out with your family.

Practical Fasts:
Commit to a week without media: no facebook, twitter, pinterest, television (hulu) or movies.
Limit cell phone and e-mail usage

Prayer: Use this week to focus on communicating with God, allowing silence and a space for listening in your relationship. Use your downtime to get together with other Lenten observers and pray together in true community!

How was week 2? What are you doing for week 3? Let me know!


Tagged , , , , ,

Lent: A Mutiny Against Excess. Week 2: Possessions!

one of my heros

 

OK, yesterday I was feeling it on the food thing. I was also really cranky and wanted nothing more than to go buy a pastry. But I didn’t. and I feel proud. Also, I am feeling so lazy (and recovering from crazy other things in life) that we might not make it to the store today. Something with eggs for dinner it is!

So here is the lowdown for the next week:

Week two: Possessions.
In this week we will focus on both clothing and possessions. Focusing on reducing our clothes allows us to be free from the tyranny of fashion and trying to impress people. Focusing on reducing our possessions will allow us to de-clutter our lives and highlight what we truly need to live in the kingdom of God. Set aside extra time in this week to go through your house and be prepared to get rid of a lot! As we reduce our possessions we should also look to a future where re-using, recycling, and doing without becomes our new normal. Stuff will never make us happy.

Since this is not only about living a more simple life but also doing with less so that others can have more, we would like to do a community garage sale at the end of Lent with all the proceeds going directly to help establish a safe house for children coming out of trafficking in Haiti. If garage sales aren’t your thing, feel free to donate to a women’s shelter or a local clothing closet or better yet–give it to people you know that are in need.


Update: If you live in the Portland area, Haley has graciously offered her place for the garage sale. We are thinking the weekend of Spring Break (the 24th-25th). Contact us for more details!

Practical Fasts:
Clothes:
Sort through your clothes (and your families clothes) and reduce by ⅓-½. There is no need to hoard when so many people in America are struggling to clothe their families. Think about what really fits you and what you actually wear (not what you want to wear).
Make a commitment to not buy new clothes for the week (or, for the rest of Lent).
Note: If you do choose to purchase clothes between now and Lent, consider shopping at thrift stores.

Possessions:
Do not buy any new possessions this week.
Commit to weed through your possessions. Tackle different areas on different days. If at all possible, save items for a garage sale. Areas to target include:
Kitchen
Bath
Books
Toys
Decorations

Prayer Focus:
Pray for the church to become less materialistic, and pray for Christ’s rule and reign in our hearts. Pray for our gospel to become bigger than success, and pray that we would get to know our less fortunate brothers and sisters.

Resources: (AKA things that have helped me mutiny against “stuff”)

The Corporation  (a documentary that will change the way you shop. Guaranteed).

A Better World Shopper (click here for the website). (A great resource for finding out what is a sweatshop and what isn’t)

Clothes Off my Back clothing closet (A clothes closet my mom started to help the community in Park Rose. If you don’t want to mess with a garage sale, this would be a great place to donate your clothes! E-mail me at dlmmcsweeneys@gmail.com if you would like more info).

What are your resources? What are you excited about for this week? What makes you nervous?

Tagged , , , ,

The Great Lent Experiment (AKA “the mutiny against excess”) Week one: Food

art by nikki mcclure

Wow, I never thought I would say “Yay! Lent!”

But here we are.

There are some strange winds blowing, and so many of us are feeling more trapped by our excess than gratified. More of us want to know our Jesus and our neighbors and our poor better, and to live simpler lives in order to be more generous. How exciting is that?

So today is Ash Wednesday, which I know people celebrate in a variety of ways. For me, I am eating breakfast with lots of family and having friends over for coffee. It seems like the perfect way to start off–not by focusing on what I am giving up, but rather focusing on true community.

 

So today starts Week 1: Food. (For a recap on the reasonings behind this project, as well as a look at everything we will be attempting, go here). ( PS: This Experiment is based on and inspired by 7: an Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker. All props to her). (PPS: You can buy the book for $7 for the next several days! Details here).

 

As a reminder, here is what we will be looking at this week:

Week one: Food
For this week, focus on how much you normally spend on eating: going out to restaurants, getting coffee, and even grocery shopping. Much of the world is living on $2 a day, but we spend much more than that on a single latte. Commit to limiting your food choices and your spending, and at the end of the week you should have cleared our some space in your pantry and freezer, and also be left with a nice sum of money (which we would then encourage you to donate to people in need).

Practical fast:
No eating out/drinking coffee out
Eat from your pantry/freezer
Limit grocery shopping as much as possible. If this means several dinners of beans and rice, then so be it. Enjoy the feeling of solidarity with the majority world!

Eat with your friends/neighbors! Maybe have a last-dregs-of-the-pantry-party next Wednesday?

Prayer focus:
Pray for those with limited access to food and clean drinking water.

 

 

I’m excited to start with food because in the past year I have changed so so so much in the ways that I think about buying, preparing, and eating food. I was always terrified to submit this area of my life because it seemed so difficult and overwhelming: factory farms, famines in Somalia, gluttony, processed foods–you know, all that happy stuff.

But looking back over the past year, it never felt too overwhelming. Small changes were made, one at a time, and now I see the trajectory we are on. One that values all the good things that the good Lord created.

By not eating out (even coffee!) and by not going grocery shopping this week, I am estimating a savings of $50 (this is conservative, I know, but we aren’t really in an eating-out-phase of life). At the end of the week, we are going to donate that money here. Jen Hatmaker (author of the book this experiment is based on) set up this specific donation sight to build an anti-trafficking home in Haiti. Let’s get this place fully funded by next week! If you have your heart set to donate to other places, by all means do that. But it is so encouraging to come together and be in this for a cause much bigger than budgets or “simplifying” our lives.

 

Resources that have helped me think some thoughts about food:

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.

Anything (seriously, any book) by Michael Pollen.

The More-With-Less Cookbook: Suggestions By Mennonites on How to Eat Better and Consume Less of the World’s Limited Food Resources (so awesome!!!!!)

Food, Inc. (a documentary).

Also, you can read about our theology of the kingdom of God and how that is shaping this whole Lent Experiment here.

 

I will probably write at some point in the week about our story with food (it involves high blood pressure, Bhutanese refugees, and CSA boxes), and I look forward to hearing you stories of doing without! Please leave a comment with details about your fast/link to your blog. We can all be encouraged by one another.

Tagged , ,

Food and Faith

cool cool kitty

Wow, I got an awesome response back from people who want to get in on this Lent Experiment (you can read more about it here). How exciting! It is so much better to do this type of stuff together.

Lent starts on Wednesday, and in order to prep for a week of no eating out (including coffee!) I would suggest going to the grocery store today or tomorrow. Or, you could be really hardcore and just commit to eat from your pantry/freezer! If you are going to do the fasts, think about writing it down and sharing here in the comments, so we can all be encouraged (this would be a great time to set up a blog, hint hint).

I will be posting more on Wednesday about the first week and what I plan to do and share a little how much my relationship with buying food has changed in the past year. Also: who wants to come over for coffee in the next week? I am serious.

 

On a completely different topic . . .

The baby has her 18 month appointment tomorrow and is still not walking. She has taken some steps but as a general rule she Does.Not.Want.To.Walk. A doctor friend of mine commented on her lack of calf muscles (but boy does that girl have some thigh muscles) and it looks like we are going to have to step it up in the leg exercise department. In the past week we have done everything we can to “trick” her into standing–making her stand while eating, reading books, watching Sesame Street–and we have seen a little improvement. It’s hard to be in a place where I am not sure if I should be worried and what exactly I should be worried about. We should know more tomorrow, but I am nervous about the appointment. Prayers would be appreciated.

Tagged , ,

The Great Lent Experiment (or, our own “mutiny against excess”)

Edit: Read about Week 1: Food here!

 

A couple of weeks ago I read this book: 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker. It was an awesome kick in the pants, a sort of Shane Claiborne for non-hippies (no disrespect Shane, I just don’t like big, billowy earth-toned clothes). In it, the author embarks on a journey of cutting through excess in order to live a more kingdom-like life, one where she knows the needs of the poor (and the poor themselves) and becomes an active partner in meeting their needs. Pretty wonderful stuff. The book is written almost like a blog, and is very relatable while still being extremely challenging. As someone who experienced a similar “conversion” from safe (and doctrinally focused) Christianity to a life spent wrestling with issues and living on the fringe, I related to the moments of grief, righteous anger, selfishness, insanity, and humor that inject the stories of her months spent “doing without”. Please, read this book. I have a copy, my mom has a copy, my best friend has a copy. Just ask!

So . . .

Lent is coming up. Before I even read 7 I went off Facebook, and halfway through reading the book I had already given away half of my clothes (and that of my small family) and made a commitment not to step inside a thrift store for the month of February (which is where we buy all of our clothes now, but it still seems like we are buying in order to do or be someone). But I have this nagging feeling like all of this tension in our hearts is coming right around the time we are supposed to set aside the things that distract us and anxiously await our redemption in Christ.

And thus: The Great Lent Experiment (aka our own “mutiny against excess”) was born.

My friend Haley and I were talking and we thought it would be cool to approach Lent in a more holistic way–targeting different aspects of our lives that we would like to submit to Christ. We put together a skeleton of an outline which we hope to flesh out here in the next couple of weeks (for all the non-high-church spazzes like me, Lent starts next Wednesday, the 22nd). Using the elements found in 7 (the book), we are taking a long cold look at the following areas: food, possessions, media, spending, and stress (in the book Jen also targets clothing and waste, but we put clothing in with possessions and live in the Pacific NW where recycling is like breathing).

And we want you to join in. Take a deep breath, and be prepared to have our hearts change as we slowly make our lives look a little bit more like Christ. 

In order to make it more do-able, we will target each area for a week. If you feel so inclined, feel free to abstain from certain elements (buying new clothes, eating out) for the entire 6 weeks of Lent. We chose 5 categories, but there are 6 weeks of Lent. Feel free to build in “cheat” days (for a birthday or some other reason), or use the last week to go back and refocus on an area that still needs to be worked on in your life.

There is no condemnation and judgment if you don’t want to participate (or if you break the “rules”). Rather, we are approaching this as an exciting time to break free from the tyranny of endless consumerism that is the hallmark of the modern American dream. We are excited for creating the space for God to move in our hearts by giving up of our time and resources. We are excited to model our lives to look the kingdom of Heaven, and to invite others to participate.

Confession: I have always been really “bad” at Lent. For the first time, I am super excited about all this. I think being in a community of people who are talking and praying and fasting together will really help. So, if you would like to be a part of this experiment in any way, please leave a comment letting me know. Also, if you have any ideas on prayer/practical fasts, please don’t hesitate to add to the content. 

So here is the basic outline:
Week one: Food
For this week, focus on how much you normally spend on eating: going out to restaurants, getting coffee, and even grocery shopping. Much of the world is living on $2 a day, but we spend much more than that on a single latte. Commit to limiting your food choices and your spending, and at the end of the week you should have cleared our some space in your pantry and freezer, and also be left with a nice sum of money (which we would then encourage you to donate to people in need).

Practical fast:
No eating out/drinking coffee out
Eat from your pantry/freezer
Limit grocery shopping as much as possible. If this means several dinners of beans and rice, then so be it. Enjoy the feeling of solidarity with the majority world!

Prayer focus:
Pray for those with limited access to food and clean drinking water.

Week two: Possessions:
In this week we will focus on both clothing and possessions. Focusing on reducing our clothes allows us to free from the tyranny of fashion and trying to impress people. Focusing on reducing our possessions will allow us to de-clutter our lives and highlight what we truly need to live in the kingdom of God. Set aside extra time in this week to go through your house and be prepared to get rid of a lot! As we reduce our possessions we should also look to a future where re-using, recycling, and doing without becomes our new normal. Stuff will never make us happy.

Since this is not only about living a more simple life but also doing with less so that others can have more, we would like to do a community garage sale at the end of Lent with all the proceeds going directly to an organization that helps those in need (more to come on the organization at a later time). If garage sales aren’t your thing, feel free to donate to a women’s shelter or a local clothing closet or better yet–give it to people you know that are in need.

Practical Fasts:
Clothes:
Sort through your clothes (and your families clothes) and reduce by ⅓-½. There is no need to hoard when so many people in America are struggling to clothe their families.
Make a commitment to not buy new clothes for the week (or, for the rest of Lent).
Note: If you do choose to purchase clothes between now and Lent, consider shopping at        thrift stores.
Possessions:
Do not buy any new possessions this week.
Commit to weed through your possessions. Tackle different areas on different days. If at all possible, save items for a garage sale. Areas to target include:
Kitchen
Bath
Books
Toys
Decorations

Prayer Focus:
Pray for the church to become less materialistic, and pray for Christ’s rule and reign in our hearts. Pray for our gospel to become bigger than success, and pray that we would get to know our less fortunate brothers and sisters.

Week three: Media:
We are a culture that loves to be entertained. How much more space for others (and God) can we create by shutting off all of our devices for a week? This will be a great chance to practice old-fashioned community and hospitality. Fill up the silence with good things: worship music, good books, coffee with friends, or just hanging out with your family.

Practical Fasts:
Commit to a week without media: no facebook, twitter, pinterest, television (hulu) or movies.
Limit cell phone and e-mail usage

Prayer: Use this week to focus on communicating with God, allowing silence and a space for listening in your relationship. Use your downtime to get together with other Lenten observers and pray together in true community!

Week four: Spending
This week we will look at all our little justifications for spending money squarely in the eye. By curbing our own spending, we can better identify with our brothers and sisters throughout the world who have little or no money to spare. Limit all spending this week: food, drink, restaurants, entertainment, possessions: put a hold on all  them.

Practical Fasts:
Pick one grocery store (preferably local), one gas station, one all-purpose store (obviously if you have bills to pay, you should do that). Don’t spend money anywhere else.
Invite people over for coffee, and watch old movies that you already own. Be creative!

Prayer:
This week will be another chance to repent of the idols in our life and to refocus our priorities on the kingdom of God. The Bible is full of passages on social and economic justice that we can look to for encouragement and support as we learn to do without.

Week five: Stress
Use this week as a chance to get rid of stress, and to identify those areas of your life where you are holding on to anxiety. The most crucial element of this week is to find a time to spend in prayer for significant portions of the day. As we learn to relinquish control and let God be in charge, we will no longer let our lives be ruled by stress.

Practical Fasts:
Commit to picking a space for every day where you commit to spend time in prayer.
Pick one day to be a Sabbath for you and your family and find your rest in Him. (Variations on the Sabbath abound–we would encourage a time for prayer and joy and rest and solitude, whatever that might look like for your family).

Prayer:
Use resources like the book of Common Prayer for ideas on when and what to pray.

So, starting next Wednesday I will look at each category weekly and probably write some of my thoughts down on the topic as well. I would encourage you to do the same, no matter what kind of fast you are being called to. 

Tagged , , ,