Counting

1 … 2 … 3 …

Counting.

It could be a game of hide-and-seek. Perhaps it’s a two-year-old learning her numbers. Maybe we’re dealing cards for a quick family round of Uno.

4 … 5 … 6…

Did you learn to count with giant, colourful flash cards? Picture books? By counting the toys on Playschool? Or maybe Count von Count on Sesame Street was your go-to Educator? (1 … ha ha ha … 2 … ha ha ha …)

It seems that we all, from a very early age, began to count things. Toys, books, pencils, cards, candy, peas (maybe if we told mum how many there were, she would have pity on us and not make us eat them!)

counter

And our obsession with quantifying things continued through our teenage years: albums (or CDs), shoes, tops, days until (insert favourite band here) showed up in our city.

19 … 18 … 17 … 16 …

This talent wasn’t lost in the transfer across to our spiritual life. Many churches still seek to quantify ‘spiritual’ activities, assuming the more we do the better people of faith we will be. It could be Bible verses memorised, Rosaries repeated each day, hours spent in prayer or pages in a journal. Unspoken spiritual hierarchies formed based on the things we think we can count.

And no wonder, because it seemed as we were growing up that ‘bums on seats,’ souls ‘saved,’ or baptisms were the measure of the success of a church and religious organisations were ready to do whatever it took to get the numbers up.

146 … 147 … 148 …

It appears that we humans are addicted to measuring and to formulae that we believe will ‘guarantee success.’ We lie awake at night wondering if we have done enough, worrying that we may not reach the nebulous goal of expectations placed on us by our culture, our church, our family, our peers. Our life is overtaken by what we learn in basic mathematics: quantifying every aspect, measuring our goodness, striving to increase our net worth . . . or at least the size and value of our wardrobe.

Surrounded by such a societal norm, Jesus asked the rhetorical question: ‘Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?’ (Matthew 6:27 NIV)

Well, can we?

The obvious answer is ‘No.’ But it’s not even the thought of counting our days (or hours–or cubits as the old version reads). In the context, the Rabbi is addressing the ancient art of worrying, fretting, concerning ourselves with the stuff of life that we can’t–or shouldn’t–count.

Look at the grass.

Look at the birds.

Look at the wildflowers.

Glory surrounds you. And this glorious beauty hasn’t gotten where it is by measuring itself against another, by hoarding its possessions, or striving for a greater quantity of anything.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?’ 

We do not need to be wrapped up in measuring, accumulating, primping, counting our possessions and Instagramming our latest look. Rather, we need to rest,  enjoy what we have and be content with who we are. I have value. I am worthy. I am beloved of God.

 

 

 

 

 

Wanting Less

MinimalistRoomI’ve been attracted, lately, to the concept-movement of Minimalism. This began about 9 months ago when I came across, quite accidentally, the website theminimalists.com curated by Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus. I was drawn in by their story and their journey together from the dog-eat-dog corporate world to a simple, minimalist life. I immediately bought their book Everything That Remains and devoured their story. What attracted me to the lifestyle they presented was the freedom of owning less and the contentment that came from needing less.

Now it’s not all about living in a house where the Living Room consists of a rug, a lamp and a chair and your refrigerator’s contents would fit in a handbag. It’s about being intentional in your possession of things: only owning what you need and what brings you joy (and these can be the same things).

I have been studying this phenomenon for several months now through books, podcasts, blogs, and videos. My curiosity has taken me into the Tiny House movement which sprang up in opposition to the bigger-is-better mentality that pervades the real estate industry. I have been bemused by the journeys of Colin Wright who asks readers of his blog where he should travel next, and then makes his home there for three months before, once again, moving on to another democratically-decided destination. Joshua Becker is another who has written and spoken extensively about minimalism, through the lens of his family’s ‘conversion’ to this life and his most recent book The More of Less is on my current reading list.

I’d have to say that choosing to live as a minimalist forces a person to be incredibly intentional regarding possessions and the use of money.

In his post 10 Reasons to Escape Excessive Consumerism, Becker lists several reasons I find compelling:

Less time spent caring for possessions. “The never-ending need to care for the things we own is draining our time and energy. Whether we are maintaining property, fixing vehicles, replacing goods, or cleaning things made of plastic, metal, or glass, our life is being emotionally and physically drained by the care of things that we don’t need—and in most cases, don’t enjoy either. We are far better off owning less.”

Less need to keep up with evolving trends. “A culture built on consumption must produce an ever-changing target to keep its participants spending money. And our culture has nearly perfected that practice. As a result, nearly every year, a new line of fashion is released as the newest trend. And the only way to keep up is to purchase the latest fashions and trends when they are released… or remove yourself from the pursuit altogether.”

More contentment. As Fields-Millburn and Nicodemus often say, releasing one’s grip on possessions is like dumping a heavy load of anxiety, clutter and wasted energy. We enjoy what we have more when we actually have less.

More generosity. “Rejecting excessive consumerism always frees up energy, time, and finances. Those resources can then be brought back into alignment with our deepest heart values.”

Greater ability to see through empty claims. “Fulfilment is not on sale at your local department store—neither is happiness. It never has been. And never will be. We all know this to be true. We all know that more things won’t make us happier. It’s just that we’ve bought into the subtle message of millions upon millions of advertisements that have told us otherwise. Intentionally stepping back for an extended period of time helps us get a broader view of their empty claims.”

As Joshua Becker concludes, “Escaping excessive consumption is not an easy battle. If it were, it would be done more often… myself included. But it is a battle worth fighting because it robs us of life far more than we realise.”

I’m not a minimalist . . . yet. But I am becoming more intentional about this area of my life each day and am happy to say, in small ways, I have proven true the vast majority of what are preached to be the benefits of Minimalism. And what I have enjoyed so far makes me want less. Sounds wrong, doesn’t it? But it is true.

Be-ing



So I’m sitting here in the calm of this mild autumn evening while my other half is out catching up with the girls.

I’ve already made (warmed up is a better word) and ate my dinner, watched a few YouTube videos, checked my running sheet for Sunday’s morning service, cleaned out the utensil drawer, downloaded a few more Spotify playlists, read parts of three different books, made some salt and vinegar almonds, drank a beer, checked Facebook, Twitter and Instagram numerous times, and now I’m listening to the Tony Bennet / Lady Gaga album ‘Cheek to Cheek.’

I’ve run out of stuff to do.

Or am I bored?

No, not bored because my mum always said that if you’re bored it’s because you can’t stand your own company. I love my own company. 

I love my own company better if my honey is with me.

(Wow! Lady Gaga’s got a great voice. Did you catch her Sound of Music tribute at the Oscars this year? I never knew she could actually sing like real songs, classic stuff.)

Now I’m reminding myself of that dog with the dog-to-human translator in the movie ‘Up’ who gets distracted by a squirrel in the middle of a conversation. (Vicki and I have made the word ‘squirrelling’ synonymous with getting sidetracked in the middle of a task … which is kind of what I’m doing right now. “Look! Squirrel!”)

Back to being on my own.

I was listening to the ‘Wilosophy’ podcast on the way to work, the episode where Will Anderson spends over an hour bantering with Dr Karl. They discuss everything from what is taught in High School to politics, unemployment, the economy science (of course! For those non-Aussies, he’s the Australian Bill Nye). Dr Karl spent some time explaining how the mainstream media works and how we have defaulted to allowing Big Business to dictate what we hear, see and how we live. Because of the way our ‘toys’ have been marketed to us and made more and more affordable–not to mention ‘necessary’– our attention span (and our contentment span) is getting shorter and shorter.

One day we’ll all think only in 90-second blocks and have sub-100 IQs.

At least that what’s Dr Karl thinks.

I believe he’s on to something.

He also says that we tend to feel guilty if we’re not productive. We seem to judge down-days where we just sleep, eat and relax as ‘wasted.’ He sees these times as necessary for wellbeing and won’t consider any downtime as non-productive.

But we’ve been conditioned to believe we need to ‘do’ stuff, ‘achieve’ status, and ‘earn’ accolades and respect. 

That’s too much of a burden for every day.

I’m warming to the idea of Sabbath. The ancients would set aside one day when no work would be done, nothing would be cooked, and people would travel nowhere. Millennia later, we have lost this concept in our desire to feel like we accomplished something worthwhile . . . every day . . . every minute of every day.

We need Sabbath. Downtime. ‘Do nothing’ time.

Instead of doing, we simply need to be. Be present. Be with ourselves. Be at peace. Be content. 

Take time. Steal it, if we must, from our ‘busy’ lives.

Just to be . . . . 

Just. Simply. Only be-ing, not do-ing. 

Which brings me back to tonight.

I’m not that good at be-ing.Especially be-ing alone.

I would rather be do-ing (as you can tell by my long list of ‘squirrel’ moments at the top of this page.)

But, for the rest of my alone-time tonight, I’m going to attempt quietly sitting here with a glass of something or another and entering into a place of be-ing. Listening to some chilled tunes. And just being. Resting. Relax . . . Look! Squirrel!

(This isn’t gonna be easy.)