Image "My Friend" by Helen Thomas Robson (Used by Permission)
Minimalism from a Biblical Point of View —

Biblical Minimalism is "a complete, whole-person release of anything unlike Jesus, a letting go of everything that hinders us from following Him wholeheartedly and single-mindedly, and a relinquishing of all that brings us under bondage to this earthly, very temporary life." Cheryl E. Smith

Monday, February 24, 2020

"For When You're Living in a Fantasy World" - Guest Post by Linda Stoll

"And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”
Luke 12:15

Graphic Design by Zach Smith
Image by MichelleHaswell from Pixabay

"Do you have a "fantasy self?"  The incredible culinary whiz.  The super-fit, all-star athlete.  The award winning musical virtuoso.  The fabulously creative entrepreneur.

Acquired a whole lot of stuff along the way to becoming someone you never quite became?

Kitchen cabinets jammed with stacks of unopened gourmet cookbooks and expensive cooking widgets {that were maybe used once or twice}.

A garage packed with all manner of big-ticket sports equipment {from at least a generation ago}.

The cache of musical instruments stuffed in the back of a musty closet or two {from way back in elementary school}.

Overflowing boxes laden with dusty, unused craft supplies {from the '80s}.

Clothes bought on a whim stored in a rarely-opened garment bag {with the tags still attached}.

Painful piles of memorabilia from a love, a friendship, a relationship {that's long since departed}.

Writer and blogger Francine Jay muses,

"Do you have a fantasy self?  And if so, how much of your clutter belongs to it?

All too often, we hold on to stuff because it represents who we think we should be, rather than who we are.  Sometimes our fantasy selves are meant to impress others; sometimes they’re relics of our past; sometimes they’re fantasies about our future.

Whatever the case, it’s important to remember: acquiring stuff for your fantasy self doesn’t make it a reality.  Most of the time, it only leads to a lot of “nice” clutter you never actually use."

Check out her list of 10 fantasy personalities.

I've said good-bye to the pasta machine I used once.  Hundreds of carefully cut-out, never used magazine recipes stashed in wrinkled old folders.  The dozens of once-loved cross-stitch books.  The piano that saw hour after hour of faithful practice.  Stacks and stacks of paper and cards and notes from eons ago.  Photos of people I couldn't even identify.  My husband's trumpet from high school.  Some collectibles and lots of tchotchkes that have long since lost their charm.

Most recently it was a whole, dusty file drawer of every note and test I ever took, every handout I ever laid my eyes on, everything I ever wrote through college and graduate school. {Yes, I saved a few papers ...}

There's lots more to go. 'Cause I'm not now who I was then.

You, too?

What kind of stuff is heading out your door these days?"

(This article was first published HERE and submitted by author for this Biblical Minimalism repost.)

Bio:  Linda lives with her husband of almost 44 years,Tim, in a little town tucked between the ever-changing bay and the deep blue ocean in Massachusetts.  She loves her work as a pastoral counselor to women and remains enthusiastically devoted to nurturing her online blogging community.

Her dearest claim to fame?  Two daughters, their husbands, and seven grandchildren, the littlest who is now living in heaven with Jesus.

Linda would absolutely love for you to visit her blog right here and check out her favorite online discoveries on her LinkedIn site.

Monday, February 17, 2020

How A Job-Outsourcing Has Enriched Our Biblical Minimalism Journey

"But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:19

Graphic Design by Zach Smith

After 35 years, 5 months in the banking industry, my husband’s steady, good-paying job was outsourced to an outside company, and he, along with his co-workers, lost their jobs.  In his last position, he worked from home 3rd shift in the IT Department, processing the data for 100+ bank branches.  We were warned about the outsourcing for months ahead of time, but when the night finally came for him to shut down his computer applications in his office space in our living room for the last time, we all gathered around and felt a tidal wave of mixed emotions.

This was a new experience.  In our nearly 30 years of marriage and long before we were married, he had had a steady job and had only changed work places twice —once when we made a long-distance move and once after a departmental downsize reduced his working hours to less than we could afford.  Both times, he stepped right into another position, so there was never even so much as a lapse between paychecks.  I had left my own career in banking several years before to raise and homeschool our son, Zach, so my husband’s job was our only source of provision.

As Zach and I stood behind my husband that night and watched him close out application after application on his computer, the realization that we were, for the first time ever, without an income hit us like a ton of bricks.  We knew we would be more than okay for a while, due to a very generous severance package from the bank and our savings, but what would happen after that?

What we didn’t know that night is there was a long line of unexpected health issues ahead of us that would keep both my husband and me from being physically able to work, along with several other life changes that would literally rock our faith to its core.  I think it is for the best that we are not told the future ahead of time.  It is enough to deal with what we need to face one day at a time.

Jesus spoke of this in Matthew 6:34, when He said, "Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."

The time of unemployment that began that night ended up stretching out for a total of 21 months to the day.  Thankfully, through much prayer and faith, we worked through the many health issues, walked through a series of hard times, and have made it to the other side.

During the 21 months that we were without a regularly earned paycheck, our minimizing journey took on a whole new meaning as circumstance forced my family and me to take an even closer look at not only our possessions as we came to terms with selling things that were not true necessities, but also at the people who were a part of our outer and inner circle.  If you are going through a similar time of difficulty and uncertainty, I hope the sharing of what we have learned will inspire and enrich your own minimizing journey.

1. Hard times inspire fresh examination of physical possessions.  There is nothing like a shut-off notice to motivate a minimizing re-start.  Threat of homelessness will cause you to realistically look at that extra vehicle with a new set of eyes and ask yourself, “do I really need to cling to this just because it belonged to a cherish loved one when letting it go would pay two months’ rent?”  Practicality and sensibility rise to the surface and overwhelm sentimentality during desperate times.

2. Hard times prove who deserves and who does not deserve to remain a part of your life.  Nothing reveals who truly cares about you more blatantly or powerfully than adversity.  Pay attention to the one(s) still close to you when the chips are down, you are struggling to keep your head above water, and it seems all hope is lost.  Identify who was there and who was not.  Who proved their love?  Who got their hands dirty?  Who showed up when everyone else turned away?  Who showed authentic compassion?  Cherish those who loved you when it was anything but easy.  Treasure those who stuck it out, held your hand, and withheld judgment.  The ones who show up and are still there after the storm has passed are the people who are true-blue and have earned the opportunity to occupy stall seats in your life’s gallery.   Minimize relationships with those who minimize you and the legitimacy of your predicament.  Shed liaisons with those who interject blame and condemn you for what they know nothing about.  Even in familial relationships.  Just because someone is a part of your family does not mean they should be a part of your life.

3. Hard times draw you closer to the ones you love most.  Leaning on the “true-blues” in your life through times of suffering strengthens bonds.  Drawing support from those who share your sorrow deepens connection.  Crying alongside those who are loyal through seasons of difficulty cements ties. Simultaneously experiencing pain and hardship solidifies camaraderie and a sense of shared accomplishment when the trial is over.

4. Hard times generate gratitude.  While that statement may sound contradictory, it is true.  Walking through days where it feels like your whole world is turned upside down makes you appreciate the immeasurable value of an ordinary day.  There is a wellspring of truth in the words of the song recorded by Dennis Marsh that says, “The Hard Times Make the Good Times Even Better.”  When dire necessity forces the sale of things you thought you could never part with, you realize you are left with what matters most because you still have each other.  Thankfulness emerges from the realization that no matter what you have lost and given up, as long as you are still together with the ones you love, all is well.

5. Hard times prove God's faithfulness.  It is easy to talk of "living by faith" and "trusting God" when paychecks are regular and substantial, 401k balances are increasing by leaps and bounds, and your bank account is secure.  But, what about the moment you realize every single safety net and back-up plan has been exhausted?  When your savings account shows a zero balance, the severance package is depleted, and all other means of financial support has been pulled out from under you, only God is left.  Then, and only then, are you in a position of being able to prove whether or not He will be faithful.  In that moment, you come face to face with the reality of finding out whether or not what you have "preached" and believed in for so long is really authentic.  Will God show up and supply your needs?

Living in the realm of the miraculous requires finding yourself in the place of the humanly impossible.

In 2015, during the time of our identity theft nightmare, so many times the Lord would whisper to me in prayer, "I want to be your all in all."  I would immediately say, "Lord, you ARE our all in all," only to feel instant conviction prick my heart as the untruth of my words washed over me.  A steady, good-paying job, credit cards galore, and money in reserve doesn't exactly paint a true picture of GOD Himself being one's "all in all."  As each source of self-sustenance was stripped from our grasp, we began to steadily learn what it means for God to be our one and only source.  Still here—standing on the other side, I can now say that God is faithful.  One day, perhaps He will inspire us to tell of the many ways He has proven His faithfulness and the fulfillment of His Word in our situation.

While we would never have asked for the downsizing of my husband’s job, what looked like a disaster in the beginning has deeply enhanced our walk with Christ and accelerated our Biblical minimizing journey in the most profound ways.

I don't know what you may be walking through, but I want to encourage you to keep looking up.  Keep pressing on.  Keep the faith.  You can trust God.  He has you in the palm of His hand.  He will not fail you now.  This song is my life anthem, and I promise you if you "lift your life up" in full surrender to God, He will absolutely prove Himself true and faithful to you in all of life's circumstances.  May He bless you and reveal His awesome power to you today!

Friday, February 14, 2020

"What if Jesus Had Snapchat?" Guest Post by Avra Schmitting

"Then said Jesus unto His disciples, 'If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.'"  Matthew 16:24 (KJV)

Graphic Design by Zach Smith

"There are so many wonderful Bible verses that pertain to minimalism, living a simpler life (like Jesus), and remaining focused on that is true. Here, I share my thoughts on digital clutter, specifically social media.

“…make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you,” 1 Thessalonians 4:11

Surely, if Jesus were to be human, living in today’s world, He would not have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat etc. Can you imagine if He did? Would He be taking photos of His food all the time? #blessed. He certainly wouldn’t be flooding our news feeds with the latest selfie after a shopping spree, unboxing of mail-order product service or showing before and after photos after being on a keto diet for six months and claiming “keto is life.”

So, if we are called to live like Jesus, why do we do all of the aforementioned things? I am just as guilty as the next person. Yes, it’s fun, and it can be entertaining and something to talk about socially with others. But it breaks my heart when I think of all the time we waste scrolling. I once heard a statistic that the average person scrolls the length of the Empire State building daily. That’s 15,000 inches! Or the height of Mount Everest, at a whopping 348,350 inches, annually! Now, I choose to relay these distances in inches, not to make it seem astronomical (while it still is),but, to me, it is more relatable to what we are actually doing when reaching these distances. Think about it. Each post on your screen when looking through your Facebook or Instagram feed is a few inches, would you agree?

What are we missing when we are doing this? I don’t have any children yet, but some of my closest friends do, and boy, are they quick! And they grow up quickly, too. I don’t want to miss that while looking at what everyone else is doing.

“What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.”  1 Corinthians 7:29-31

In my mind, there are two large categories that many fall into when posting content on social media - self-inflation (Look at me! Look what I did ! Look what I bought! My life is perfect, etc., etc.) or self-loathing (woe is me, my life stinks, everything is against me, feel bad for me, etc.)

“This is what the Lord says: Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this:  that they have the understanding to know Me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice, and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the Lord.”  Jeremiah 9:23-24

This leads to something else the Bible talks about, and that is comparison.

“And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”  Ecclesiastes 4:4

Comparison hurts all of us.We hurt ourselves trying to keep up with the Joneses (who are the Joneses anyway? I’d like to speak with them!) and living beyond our means. Telling ourselves, and maybe even our loved ones, that we aren’t good enough. Feeling worthless because we didn’t get enough “likes” or adoring comments on that new gym selfie.

“Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.’”  Luke 12:15

“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”  Galatians 1:10

There is an increased number of people (of all ages) that are becoming mentally ill or engaging in these behaviors which trigger things in the mind that create mental issues of depression, anxiety, and other harmful conditions. While I am no doctor, I experience this first hand. I know that if I sit and scroll for too long on any platform, either frequently in a period of time or for a long time after time away, I begin to feel my depression creep up on me. It’s like something is pulling me back down into the darkness I have worked so hard to climb out of and stay out of.

There are many days that I wish I didn’t partake in social media. I pray that one day I feel and can know that I don’t need it! It’s the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) taking over when I just can’t bring myself to get rid of it. Much like I challenge myself, I challenge you, what are you really missing out on when you are scrolling?

Not only that, but there is also this sense of fatigue. Information overload. Don’t get me wrong. The internet and even social media are great things. When, just like many things in life, they are used in moderation.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:1-2

I love that verse. In this day and age, anyone can watch what one is doing. Let’s show the world the love and faith of Jesus.

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  Micah 6:8

Often times I ask when there is a newsworthy data breach, what could those folks do with their skills if they were using them for good in the world? What could we be doing instead of scrolling through our newsfeeds? Reading the Bible, praying, teaching others, volunteering, and the list can go on.

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”  1 Timothy 6:17

Okay, so if Jesus was in human form on this earth with us in the present time, He MIGHT have social media (His disciples probably would have set it up for Him!) but He would use it to preach the Gospel and share His love.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  Philippians 4:8"

Bio:  Avra lives in Green Bay, WI with her husband Shawn. She has attended Our Saviour Lutheran Church in Green Bay since 1992 where she was confirmed and married. She has served as the youth director and event coordinator. She has played in the praise band since 2005, sings in the choir, and also serves on altar guild and LWML. She has been studying minimalism for about three years now and continues to strive to find ways to live a simpler, more intentional life. She follows content producers such as The Minimalists, Becoming Minimalist, and Biblical Minimalism. She is often able to share her faith and minimalism in her career in the financial services industry. Her hobbies are music (playing and listening to live performances), reading, writing, decorating (yes, even minimally), gardening, board games, golf, watching wrestling, and cooking.