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Growth is usually thought to be about more and bigger.

In this past year and now entering into a new year, I have increasingly valued minimalism, simplicity, and less-is-more.

The space of home has become even more important because we are practicing distancing and even isolation as we stay home. Bonnie and I have intentionally created our home space to reflect our values and be a place of refuge and peace.  It is our safe space where we nourish body and soul as we are mindful of what we eat, how we exercise, where we work, and our sacred space of worship.

Through these months, we have de-cluttered and simplified our surroundings. We carefully plan outings to stores as we discern the difference between simple needs and consumer wants. Though the advertisements and cyber sales are attractive and luring, we have resisted the easy click-and-buy. We are engaged in both safe practices and being careful on how much stuff with packaging and deliveries we acquire and consume.

Perhaps these are not the practices for a robust capitalistic economy, but it is how we practice our faith and values of relationship, stewardship, and creation care.

In our early years of marriage, Bonnie and I lived in a small apartment.  Across the hall lived a couple who were members of the Mennonite community. We shared tips about the basics of cooking in our efficiency studio apartments in which we needed to fold the Murphy bed into the wall and pull the dining table down, unfolding its legs, before we could open the compact refrigerator door to prepare a meal.

Our across-the hall friends shared a cookbook called, More-with-Less by Doris Janzen Longacre, which reflects a faith value of simplicity and sustainability. The cookbook is more than recipes, it also has clips about sharing resources and living with less in a world of more, more, more.

Longacre writes, “Once an egg yolk breaks into the white, there’s no way to remove every tiny gold fleck. Just so, once you walk into a supermarket or pull up to a gas pump, you are part of the economic and political sphere.” She continues, “Gathering up the fragments of our waste—recycling, conserving, sharing is a logical and authentic beginning. Such actions are the firstfruits of the harvest of justice. They are the promise of more to come.”

The years 2020/2021, have special meaning. It is a unique time in which there are many challenges, inconveniences, and deep loss. It is also a season of realizing what is at the heart and what is of most importance — knowing God in Jesus Christ, caring for those persons God has gifted us and called us to love and grace, finding contentment in the basic and simple things of life.

As Phyllis Murray and I have connected across the North District through the Charge Conference season, we have shared portions of Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi. Paul, too, experienced a time of isolation in his life, though his was much more severe than ours. It was in that time of isolation, that Paul reassessed and reevaluated where he found worth and value with a deep peace and wellness in the soul. Here is one of the treasured passages which is all the more meaningful in this time.

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:11-13).

My mother would tell the stories of the cold Wisconsin winters when my grandpa Larson would make split pea soup for he and his five young children. Though they were meager times, they were rich in blessings and the warmth of the hearth. I think that is why to this day, a simmering pot of split pea soup is good for my soul. Click here for a Split Pea Soup recipe from the More with Less cookbook.

Enjoy your life-recipes for contentment and blessing in this new year of our Lord.

Your Friend in Christ,
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