Wednesday, July 29, 2009


There are now more licensed vehicles in America, than there are licensed drivers. The accumulation of more and more things (i.e. "the American way") has a corrosive effect - more than we might imagine. In addition to the resources that are tied up in owning, operating, repairing, running, storing, insuring and disposing things, there is an enormous "hidden" cost in diverted affection and focus. We don't have time for relationships, because we are too busy taking care of "things." Keeping stuff running takes undue management time.

A silver lining of the recession is that 32% of Americans have been spending less and intend to make their less costly lifestyle their "new normal." Nearly half of Americans say they already have what they need, up significantly from 2006. The hold of materialism is being broken. People are realizing that when you value objects less, you can value experiences and people more, and be richer for it. I have written about the church returning to deliberate simplicity. Frankly, it is much easier to make the challenge to the impersonal "church" (to a nameless, faceless organization) than it is to bring it right home to where you and I live. But I believe that is the next challenge. Are we prepared to strip away the extraneous, so that the essential can flourish?

One practical iteration of folks getting back to the "core" of life is the 100 Thing Challenge. The 100 Thing Challenge began as a blog, but now a number of individuals and groups have joined in and made it their modus operandi. The concept is simple. Pare your possessions to fewer than 100 items (a pair of shoes might count as one item, for example). A church in Minnesota took on this challenge as a group, and had so much to give to charity (boats, furniture, snowblowers) that it filled up a warehouse. The pastor went from five suits to one; from a dozen ties to two. The church enjoyed a return to basics, with less clutter and noise.

This is actually a very ancient Christian practice. The early church "sold their possessions and goods" and gave to anyone who had need. The biblical principal is this: We want to understate things so that we shout people. Last year my family went on a "rampage" and went through every closet and corner and pared "things" down significantly. It was a big step in the right direction. But Kristyn and I were just talking about new goals for this year, and seeing if we can get within the 100 Thing limit. My personal goal is to get rid of all my CDs, most of my books, and half of my clothes. I have nine pairs of shoes. I think I can get down to four. I have three watches. I only need one. Having less means less to worry about. Having less to worry about means more time for God and people.

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