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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

All the men in my life are gone



All the men in my life are gone.  That’s not really true at all, but the two I see regularly are leaving. 

Ryan Scott McDonnell
Ryan's Facebook picture
Twice a week every week since I got here (except holidays and retreats) I’ve spent the day with Ryan McDonnell with the Boston Faith & Justice Network.  He’s a super tall, highly motivated, high achieving, organized composed, cheerful man.  He took me hiking in New Hampshire and picked my brain to understand how living simply is tied into faith.  I picked his brain about it too.  He taught me a lot on this, and he guided me in the ways of running the behind the scenes bookkeeping of a non-profit.  Ryan’s been one great example of a Christian and a man to look up to and work for.  His example of someone running a non-profit is remarkable.  And I’ve learned so much from him in just the seven months I’ve spent opposite him at the table in the kindergarten classroom in the basement of Hope Fellowship church.   He was there with empathy when Gus died. Unfortunately his close friend had a similar fate last year as well, so we bonded over that undesired grief something I wish neither of us could share honestly.  He reminded me "the light shines in the darkness and the darkness could not overcome it." Working with him was all anyone could ask for in a first job, but he recently took a job with World Relief, (http://worldrelief.org/Page.aspx?pid=2684).  It’s basically his dream job.  So he’s gone.  He’ll be showing donors who they are supporting overseas, and touching the lives of many here in the US, and abroad.  Very cool.


Roderick A. MacDonald
Rod's Facebook picture
Every Sunday, give or take a few when I went to the early service at Pillow Presbyterian, I’ve seen the face of another outstanding gentleman, Mr. Rev. Roderick MacDonald, the pastor of my church in Burlington.  He has the good-hearted humor and humility, but respectable leadership qualities I hope to get for myself one day—a trait I’ve only seen in a few others: my father, one of my Botany teachers Dr. McMullen, and my friend from Kansas Michael Tracey.  Rod and I had a good talk about what calling means, he’s taught me how much fun church can be all the time.  He wrote a song and smashed wheat berries with me for the Manna Monday program we created at the church.  Rod was the lucky one to spend the day with me and my excessively weepy and distraught self the day I heard Gus died.  Because two ladies in the church, Jane and Millie, headed the oversight of my work here as my supervisors, Rod was never my boss, just my PastorAnd I am very thankful to have that type of relationship.  I am thankful for his help organizing the YAV program here so that I have this church as a home for the year. He was such a part of so many lives at this church for so many years.  They will have a big transition coming up at the end of the month when he retires. (and they'll get my 2 months notice sooner than I'm ready for)   I'll miss his wife Cathy too, it just feels like she's my aunt or something the way our conversations go we must be related if you trace it back to Scotland.

I’m gonna miss these two lovely fellas, but life goes on, right?  People move to new “seasons” in their lives all the time, organizations and churches transfer leaders every so often.  People we know die. We will die one day.  Time is short.  Life is short. We all fall short. 

The grass withers the flower fades, but the word of God lasts forever.  My dad says that a lot.  Old things pass away behold everything’s new. 

Cherish the time you have with people because God’s the only one who hangs around forever, but cherish your time with God too.

So much of life is temporary, seasonal, always changing.  That just means it’s life. 

Change the things you can in good ways, leave good marks and a good example behind when you go like Rod and Ryan did for me, Like Gus did for me.  Make sure you always let people know they are loved and Go with God when you leave.  

Thank you Ryan and Rod for all of yourselves that you gave to me and shared with me, to so many others before me, and so many more to come.

So many men (and ladies) still in my life to still change, grow, and learn with, so little time.  All the men in my life really aren't gone, but two really cool guys are moving on ahead of me.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Homemade Laundry Soap

...And other Simple Living insights

This is my life.

On Saturday I helped lead a church retreat called "Seeking Simplicity."  That got my church asking and discussing the questions we YAVs have been involved in for our community.  What is simplicity? How does it relate to faith? What is the purpose of Simplicity.  The retreat sparked much discussion, and Monday, I took the day off and did some simple living crafting.

On my day off with Libby, we made our own laundry soap.  Kind of like making flour from acorns, it was something I'd read about, and wanted to do, and finally got around to doing in the YAV house as part of simple living.

Here is the thing. It is so easy a cave man could do it.  Easiest chemistry lab I've found.  For you chemists out there, this is easier than a phenylalanine titration!  I'll explain how.  But first,

Why make your own laundry soap?

Our homemade detergent uses chemicals that are natural, safe, easy to pronounce, and good for the fish who live in the water after it goes out the drain.  Phosphates in many commercial laundry soaps have significantly contributed to algae blooms and eutrophication in watersheds across the world and have just recently been banned in detergents.  Many surfactants (oil dissolving chemicals) are artificial and haven't been fully tested.  We don't know what exactly is in commercial laundry soap from the labels and the chemicals come from questionable sources. For the most part it's sold in plastic containers, that nobody rinses out to recycle.  And we do this without a thought or care in the world.

Making our own soap can reduce the environmental impact of washing laundry, or at least allow us to control how much we affect the fish by avoiding the use of harmful chemicals.  We also become more aware of what chemicals we expose ourselves to in regular chores like laundry. Awareness is 3/4 of simple living.

Furthermore, we can find a greater sense of purpose and connection to things when we make them.  For example, food has a different meaning to you when you cook it, than when you tell the drive thru box what you want and pick it up at the window, or you are more connected to your heat when you split wood and stoke the fire than when you switch on the thermostat.  Mother Beth who I've met through BFJN suggested making or creating things on our own is more of who God made us to be than getting EVERYTHING from somewhere else.  Just like eating the local food, making things we will use connects us to them and to each other more, we are more invested in our lives this way.


Also another insight from BFJN: Economic discipleship:  We can save money making our own laundry soap and give more effectively to fight poverty and build God's kingdom with the savings.  Stewardship for both our finances and God's creation plays a huge role as we clean up our impact on the watershed. 

That's a little bit of the why, so here's how to do it:

Find these things at your local grocery store or pharmacy:  Borax, baking soda (or washing soda), Castile soap*.  That's it.
(*see notes at the bottom on Castile soap and ingredients)

What we paid:  $13.07, What we actually used: $4.13
Should last 40 loads!

1 Bar of pure castile soap = $4.39
1 Box Borax (4lbs, 12oz.) = $4.99
1 box baking soda (4lbs) =  $3.69
All of these ingredients can be used for other cleaning purposes,
and extra baking soda can be used for cookies!

 Option: buy essential oils for smell if you have a particular scent in mind (lavendar, tea tree oil etc.)

 Then find a cheese grater (or knife), a bowl, a scooping device (measuring cup is best), and a stirring device. That's all you need.


Read about Libby's adventures here







Step 1. Grate the soap.  Use a cheese grater or just a knife to shred the bar into small flakes.  You can use a food processor, but we wanted to keep it simple.

Step 2. Measure and mix ingredients. 

We used the following recipe from a wonderful library book Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World. by Kelly Coyne & Erik Knutzen (read this book and ones on the shelves around it, you'll be making everything yourself)
     1 part grated soap    (We used 1 cup) ($1.84)
     2 parts borax            (2 cups) ($1.68)
     2 parts baking soda  (2 cups) ($ 0.61)

Two other good recipes can be found on the Mother Earth News website linked below:
Laundry soap and fabric softner.
Lavender Laundry Soap:

Stir until well mixed. 

Step 3. Store the mixture in an air-tight container.  AND LABEL IT as laundry detergent so no-one eats it.  Keep it away from small children and YAVs. Give yourself a pat on the back. You've just made laundry detergent! 

Step 4. Use 2 Tablespoons (1/8 cup) with each load of laundry.  (3TBSP for very dirty or very large loads)  Even though I'd rather use cold water to save energy, I've found these chemicals work better in warm water.

Measuring down to the ounce used in our finished laundry soap, we used $4.13 worth of supplies to make a soap mixture that should last 40 loads.  That's just over 10 cents per load!





*Tips and further soap knowledge
  • Read all safety warnings on the products.  All are natural, but they are for cleaning so don't put them in your mouth, they taste terrible. and be aware that the dust from borax can irritate your eyes.
  • Make sure you don't use "super-fatted" soap bars (Dove, Irish Spring etc.) which have extra oils for moisturizing skin, you don't want that in your laundry. It would just gunk up your clothes because of the extra oil. Most common shower soaps fit this category and are not recommended for laundry detergent.
  • A bar of Dr. Bronner's Castile soap is great because it has no extra oils plus it already has the some smells. 
  • You could also make your own Castile soap from oil or fat which is relatively simple, but takes a long time, and requires safety working with lye. Ask me how to do this or look it up.
  • Essential oils for smell (i.e. grapefruit oil, lavender, tea tree oil etc.) can add smell and disinfecting properties to your laundry soap. They are rather expensive and found at some grocery stores and most health food stores. 
  • We have found that the baking soda removes most of the soap smell.  The laundry smells clean, but not like the tea tree soap.  Adding essential oils directly to the detergent may be a better way to scent your clothes.
  • We've found washing soda (sodium percarbonate) to be a little more effective on tough stains and smells than baking soda (sodium carbonate). Oxiclean brand powder is a mixture of both.  From what I've read either is fine, but we went with baking soda because we needed some for cooking and cleaning also. Click here for safety information on washing soda
  • Borax, Baking Soda, and Washing Soda can all be used for cleaning almost anything in your house.  Just read suggestions on the box. 
  • Trivia fact:  Triclosan (aka Triclocarbon) the antibacterial agent in most commercial soap bars and hand soaps is terrible for the fish. It is an endocrine disruptor that can make girl fish out of boy fish, and it's in most antibacterial soap. I'd recommend not using those soaps at all for the sake of the fish.
Thanks for reading.  Happy Laundry Day!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Junk Food Awareness Day

This week marks the last week in January.  The last week of our fifth month as YAVs.  The last week we are on the Local Food Challenge.  It is a very contemplative time, reflecting on how are lives have forever changed while counting down the days like whiny kids until February 1 which has been deemed "Junk Food Awareness Day."  I can't wait for a nice greasy pizza from that place down the road, and a good Florida orange.  Feb. 1 also marks the day we start on the SNAP challenge and live off food stamps until the program ends in August (a topic for many future discussions).

When we arrived in New York and were told the that we were challenged to eat only local food the first 5 months, my simpleton Virginia mind thought nothing grew up here, it's too cold right?  How would we find cereal grains?  What could we eat besides carrots, cabbage, and squash?  Why were we doing this and what does it have to do with feeding the hungry?  I was kind of scared we would starve, and thought it was farther into the hippie food movement than I was comfortable with.

We were allowed to choose four items that didn't have to be local which we chose to be rice, peanut butter, nuts, tea/coffee. This kept our sanity in tact. Well, that was the hope at the beginning at least; no promises our sanity is still in tact.

Five months later I can tell you, New England is the place to eat local food!  And we should always support our local farms as much as possible!  We've continued eating much of our pre-Boston diet, but have at least doubled our vegetable intake.
Dairy products and eggs are pretty easy to find local almost anywhere, but here is some cool stuff: We found oats grown in Maine and flour (both corn and wheat) grown here in Massachusetts.  We joined a chicken CSA and get about four chickens each month and 2 dozen eggs.  We joined a fruit and vegetable CSA and received a box of each every week from when we arrived in August to December 9, and we're proud to say we just finished off the last of the carrots last week!  We've frozen more vegetables than we actually needed. And we've seen some vegetables I've never even heard of (despite 2 years as the botany guy at Nature Camp).  Romanesco cauliflower, arugala, kholrabi, savoy cabbage, regular cabbage, Hubbard squash, delcatta squash, butternut squash, pea tendrils, KALE, collards, BEETS, Brussels sprouts, Tat soi, plums, Swiss chard are things I've come to love but never thought I'd ever cook myself.  

 



All this cost less than $200 per person per month. How does that compare to your food budget? (serious question. Leave me a comment)

I would encourage you to Eat Local (if just for a month) for the following reasons

1.  Get to know your farmers.  Some people work their butt off against the unpredictable forces of nature to grow food so others can eat.  Get to know these people, they have such cool stories.  Local food and farmer's markets have the reputation of being expensive and they can be, but you can often save money on orders by contacting the farm directly, ordering in bulk, joining a CSA, or asking for the "seconds," or "B-grade" crops (ie. peaches with bruises or spots that are cosmetically flawed and won't make it to market). The seconds are ususally much cheaper, but are still just as good if you cut around the bad spots.  They are great for cooking or preserving.  We were able to get our beans, delivered to a local library for free where the bean farmer's wife is a librarian, and our bulk flour delivered right to our door for free as a result of contacting the farm directly.

I have a pretty good relationship with Liz, the flour girl from Four Star Farms, Mrs Baer, the bean lady, and Farmer Dave the fruit and veggie guy.  Libby knows our chicken man at John Crow better than I.  When we say the blessing of "bless this food and the hands that prepared it" we can actually picture some of the hands who have prepared the food for us!

Until this year except for the green beans we'd get from my Aunt Susan, and the occasional dozen egg or bag of tomatoes from a church member, I never could put a face to the people who grew my food.  Maggie, our site leader told us once, "everything we eat except grains like corn harvested by machine, has been touched by at least one person's hands."  There are "fingerprints" on our food, every tomato was picked by someone.  Eating local puts you on the path to meeting that someone, and knowing who has touched your food.

homemade pop-tarts (what a mess!)
2.  Get to know your food. Eating local gets you more in touch with your food.  We can't count Dunkin' Doughnuts as local because the sugar, flour, and "proprietary ingredients" are not grown in New England, even though it is a "native" pastry chain.  Except for the flour, everything we get is in it's most raw form and we've had to learn what to do with it in order to eat it.  My culinary skill improvements have included cooking a raw chicken, making tomato sauce from tomatoes, canning peaches, freezing greens and other veggies, making soup stock from the chicken bones and veggie scraps, making poptarts from scratch, making pasta from scratch (noodles and ravioli), making tortillas from scratch, and my favorite: making a pumpkin pie from a pumpkin--not a can!!

3.  Get to know your region.  Our vegetable farmer, told me he sees a disconnect between people and God's creation because we don't know where our food comes from. The four of us have been re-connected with God's earth, sun, air temperature, rain, and seasons by the limits of eating seasonally.  For each crop there is a season of being sick and tired of being smothered by it, followed by the remorse and missed feeling when it's no longer available at the market.

I never would have known wheat is grown this far north until I had to look for it!  It added a whole new dynamic of learning New England culture to learn about New England's food industry!

4.  Think about where your food comes from and the work it takes to stay alive.  Eating local put me in the mindset of questioning the source of all my food and asking, "does buying this item support businesses that contribute to environmental degradation, poor worker conditions, or other evils?, or does this support a business that takes care of the workers, the plants, the soil, the air, and God's kingdom?"
Stocking up on Soup Stock
from chicken bones
and veggie scraps.

Local eating tips:
Here are some local eating tips.  Find out what farms are local in your state.  Do an internet search.  farmfresh.org is where we started.  Write down your typical diet and see what of that you can find local, and what nutrition you can substitute for the things you can't.  Visit farmers markets, ask around and find who and what is growing in your area.  Who knows what you'll find; they grow oats in Maine and wheat in Massachusetts!

Do some research on preserving the harvest.  You'll want to freeze or can those summertime vegetables to enjoy them in the cold winter.  Use a root cellar to store root crops.  Get excited to try new things!  Ask your parents or grandparents, or any of my roommates or I if you need help.  Unleash the inner beet lover you never knew about!

Good luck! and Happy Junk Food Awareness Day!

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Weight of the Nation


The Weight of the Nation http://theweightofthenation.hbo.com/films

For our community day on January 17 we watched this four part documentary about the obesity epidemic in the US. It was very informative. Right now 1/3 of the US population is obese, 1/3 is overweight. The short and long of it is, being obese or overweight puts stress on everything else in your body. Excess fat accumulates around your organs and makes them work harder, it can shut down liver and kidney function, and increase risk of just about anything, diabetes, cancer, heart attack, high cholesterol, stroke, high blood pressure, arthritis from the extra strain on your joints...

Anything else that is bad or can kill you comes much faster due to obesity.

As the film worded it, these are adult problems, heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, etc., but more and more studies are showing these problems are developing in the children. Some cases shown in the video were middle schoolers, one girl was only 7 years old and showing these signs. Research was showing early signs in kids in Kindergarten! Unhealthy diets mostly just corn, corn syrup, soy, wheat, potato, and meat give Americans excess fat reserves and are leading to obesity much younger, and to more people than ever before.

PE is optional in schools in all but 5 states.  What’s up with that? Nature Camp does 3 rec. periods every day because the kids won’t sit still.  How do we keep them sitting still in math class without PE? And school lunches have the nutrients of, well, school lunches. Many communities don't have access to parks or healthy foods. Kids aren't outside so much for various reasons. Kids born today will live shorter, and be sicker in their life than their parents. The film said that several times. I'll say that again, kids born today WILL die before their parents.

It is a problem for all of us. Sometimes we have to talk money to get policy to move, so listen: Our tax dollars will see and are seeing increases in Medicare/Medicaid as obesity causes further expensive health problems. Employers will see and have already seen increased healthcare costs for their employees who are overweight. Solution:  A construction company in the film saved $600,000 a year by doing health testing and blood work for their employees and encouraging healthy wellness behavior rather than just paying for healthcare! This also led to fewer sick days from their employees and fewer healthcare coverage claims.  Healthy workers=successful business!

The film outlined all the typical culprits you see in the food movement videos: fast food, subsidies on corn, breakfast cereal marketing, sodas, sugary drinks (which includes most fruit juices). Speaking of sugary drinks, grape juice has the same content of sugar as soda, and stuff like PowerAde can be sold in schools to young kids but isn't anything but sugar water.

My favorite fact from the film:  Sugar-sweetened drinks (ie anything you can buy at the fridge in a gas station) have no nutritional value at all even the orange juice. They squeeze out the sugar and throw away the pulp where all the nutrients are. You'll get so much more vitamin C eating the whole orange, or even a bell pepper than drinking that pulp-free sugar water we call minute maid. Look at the ingredients. It's just soda without the bubbles. These drinks have a 90% profit margin for coke and Pepsi, and 0% of your nutritional need. Who wins there I ask?  You just lost $1.69! These non-soda drinks are nothing but diabetes and obesity in a can, and they get all the success of marketing toward school age kids who don't need anywhere close to that much sugar because kids aren't exercising as much today.

We set them up for failure. We set them up for obesity. We set kids up for a life shorter than ours.

I was inspired by all the talk of personal change stories from the second video, and the things communities are doing from the 4th video. The things people did when they resolved they didn't want to be obese any more. It is that spark of change that has to generate inside someone to get them started, and then all the group exercise and therapy people used to hold each other accountable to keep off the weight.

The story is that we can solve this problem, and paying a little more for healthier foods now and committing to exercise is much cheaper than getting the liver surgery, or the bypass surgery or the autopsy from it later down the line. We can solve these problems and we will when we realize life (in biology terms) is a battle with death and we have to make the decision to get up each day and live each day, and not just sit around all the time.

Personal changes in diet and exercise are the best individual start, but we must also build a society that teaches and encourages healthy living, exercise, and fighting disease. Not one based on money and profit margins.

Change is coming, be the change you wish to see in the world. It is your life. Live it.

The Eleventh day of Christmas

On the eleventh day of Christmas my YAV year gave to me eleven hypotheses for why the bee colonies are collapsing.

Also as part of the snowed in community day we also watched this documentary The Vanishing of the Bees: http://www.hulu.com/#!watch/397072?playlist_id=1688&asset_scope=movies

This one is longer than Save the Farm. But it gets you just as fired up about the problems in the world. The film outlines the phenomenof Colony Colapse Disorder (CCD), the mysterious disappearance of entire honey bee colonies.

Our entire agricultural system relies on bees. You may think bees only give us honey, but they pollinate all kinds of flowers and help them make all kinds of fruits. Not just what you call fruits like apples, oranges, pears, peaches, melons, etc., but also some things the FDA calls vegetables like squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplants, beans, nuts, and peppers. These are actually fruits, botanically speaking because they develop from the ovary of the flower once it's been pollinated. Without bees our farmer's markets would only include the true vegetables (roots, stems, leaves) and the wind-pollinated grains (corn, wheat, rice) and other random fruits pollinated by other means (bats, birds, beetles, ants, etc).
Bee keepers can actually make their living transporting their bees to surrounding farms to assist in crop pollination, so bees are essential to our fruit and vegetable production.
THANKS YOUTUBE!
 
The problem addresssed in this film is that bees have been mysteriously disappearing rapidly by the colony. They are just gone and people are confused as to why.
This film addresses some of the latest theory of why this is happening.
In general, the research and the experts blame the pharmaceutical companies and systemic pesticide use from the farmers. Prolonged exposure to small amounts of pesticide on each flower eventually kills the bees or at least confuses them so they forget how to get back to the hive. I've seen other bee films blame it on the GMO crops with pesticide inside the plants. And that makes sense, chemicals designed to kill harmful insects just might be harmful to bees--which are insects.
I was surprised in the film by one biodynamic (super eco-centric version of organic) farmer Gunther in Floyd. VA who didn't blame the crop farmers, but blamed the current bee keeping system. He said it may be the way new queens are introduced to the colony, or how the queens are artificially insiminated to select for traits that weakens bee colonies. The film also introduced me to the organic bee keeping idea that doesn't expose the bees to crops with pesticide use.
I liked that idea of looking inside your own practices when addressing the problem, it's something I'd not seen in researching bee problems before. Way to go Gunther, start by changing your own beekeeping practices to help save the bees.

The Tenth day of Christmas


On the tenth day of Christmas my YAV year gave to me ten inches of snow (it wasn't really nine feet).

For part of the snowed in community day we watched a documentary called Save the Farm. It shows the struggle of a very successful community farm in the south central neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. http://www.hulu.com/#!watch/265201?playlist_id=1040&asset_scope=movies

Some very sly politics allow a very rich man to buy the community land from the farm. The film tells of the long time community who relies on the farm to feed themselves, and their battle to save the farm from the rude rich man who evicts them and attempts to develop the land.

There is much drama on the weeks leading up to the eviction.

It makes me angry that a 14 acre farm that feeds hundreds of people in an industrialized, polluted neighborhood can just be bought and snatched away from them by someone who just has the money to make more industirialization and pollution to make more money. The story is a battle between history and attachment to the land vs power and money. Watch the film and see who wins. And watch the crazy hippie protesters who camp out in a tree.  It speaks to nonviolent protests and community organizing.

Why do we give so much power to money?  Why does ownership of land and resources come down to those who have the most power instead of those who’ve put in the most work, or have depended on it for generations.  Why were we Europeans able to claim land from the natives and other clans in the development of this nation?  Why can we say it is ours?  Is it ours? What are we doing to each other?

Please watch the film and feel free to answer one or two of these questions for me.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Ninth Day of Christmas

On the ninth day of Christmas my YAV year gave to me, nine feet of snow! 

It snowed a lot for about 24 hours so we stayed in.  I worked from home, and finished reading one of our assigned books.

Freedom of Simplicity by Richard J. Foster.
 
Read it.  It cleared up a lot of the duality I had about simple living.  I’ve been committed to simple living for a long time but couldn’t really explain why.  I always saw it more as an environmentalist or hippie thing to do than a spiritual thing to do.  It’s partly out of cheapness, partly out of my admiration for my hording grandparents and great Aunt Nancy who kept everything they ever got that made me re-use and re-purpose things.  

In college I became a science major with an energy concentration, so I’ve been passionately seeking simple living via energy conservation from the academic sense.  A  passion for the planet and those who live on it was always in the back of my head, but conserving kilojoules and megawatthours was the focus.  Simple living can save energy resources and money by keeping the lights turned off as much as possible, the heat low in the winter, the A/C on a high temperature in the summer, biking instead of driving, etc.  This saves resources for further generations and lowers our impact on the environment.  That’s enough, right?
This book presents simple living as a Christian discipline, not a call to environmentalism, not a call for energy and resource conservation, but a way to become more fully Christian.  It does happen that caring for God’s creation and taking care of the other people on it—sentiments shared by environmentalists, Christians or not—are key elements of simplicity. 

Foster gives biblical quotes from the Old Testament, the New Testament and theologians throughout the ages on why we should live simply. Basically I can summarize it as the Old Testament prophets have been shouting God’s command for us to take care of the poor, the orphans, the widows, and those who can’t take care of themselves since they first heard God’s voice. Commandment #10 says do not covet.  Jesus asked the rich man to sell his possessions give the money to the poor and follow him. 
As Christians, we are to seek ways to help those in need.  How simply we can do this by Loving thy neighbor, sharing resources, and not taking more than our share are just a few.  In today’s world most of the economic activity we support can exploit the poor, the oppressed, the widows and orphans.  That’s where local food, and fair trade comes in the picture.  Collectively Foster calls all these practices “simplicity.”  Freeing ourselves from our own wants and complexities inside and out, brings us closer to God and allows us to be aware of and love our neighbor.


Image taken from http://theartofsimple.net/what-is-simple-living/ 
(Probably an Indian proverb and said by many more people
than just Mother Theresa and Ghandi)
Simplicity is not easy.  It’s complicated.  It’s all about being self aware of your motivations, your actions and your thoughts and then being intentional about what you do, and how you treat one another.  That’s the spirituality of it.  It is an inward simplicity and an outward simplicity, and a corporate simplicity as a body of Christians.  The simple lie isn’t the easy one, but the self-aware and intentional one.
This book showed me Yes God does want us to conserve our energy resources, to use less stuff, to throw away less, because that builds up the widows, the oppressed, the poor, and the hungry. 

I now live simply not only to be cheap, not only to experience the life of my great Aunt Nancy, not only to use less fossil fuels, but because these are ways I can love my neighbors more.  These are ways I can focus on God more than my stuff.  Simplicity allows me to ignore distractions so I hear and feel God, and the love of those around me, and I can show this love more freely.
I don’t know why I didn’t see it before.  I see it now.  God wants us to take care of this world, to live simply, to live freely.