Why Working Less Is Better for the Globe

The evidence is in.  Americans are working harder than ever before and at a greater cost both to their own health and to that of the environment. Research suggests that practicing a more simple lifestyle makes people happier while using fewer resources.  Read the full article on AlterNet

This research doesn’t surprise me.  When our lives are out of balance in any area I think that it is detrimental to our health, to the health of our families and ultimately to the health of our planet.  According to Tim Kasser who is wuoted on page 3 of this article “Materialism is driven by an underlying sense of insecurity.”  I think he is spot on.  If we are honest most of us will admit that when we are depressed or stressed or just overworked we are more inclined to buy things that we don’t need.

My research suggests that people arn’t necessarily more productive because they are working longer hours either.  In fact those that take siestas after lunch are so much more productive after their rest that there is no way those who don’t rest can equal their output.  I have taken afternoon rests for many years – intitally because of my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome but now mainly because I really have found that I am far more productive afterwards.  Of course for many of us taking an afternoon rest at work is impossible but if you can flex your schedule it might be something worth trying.


Retreat, Renew, Refresh

Tom & I are back from our retreat feeling refreshed and renewed after a couple of days mainly just relaxing in Anacortes. Retreat doesn’t really seem like a very good term for our time away because it really is more a time of refreshment and renewal.

p1010001.jpgWe start by reading through our journals from the last few months reflecting on all we have done and how well we have adhered to what we believe to be God’s call on our lives. Sometimes this can be a little embarrassing. I am amazed at how easily I get distracted from what God’s purposes. I find that I need to be very intentional about following God’s purposes or I slowly drift away.

I like to look back over the scriptures that have stood out as I have read the bible in the last few weeks. I find this helps me to focus on what God is wanting me to do. Then we spend time praying and listening to God and trying to discern if there is anything new that God wants to say to us in terms of our direction for the next few months.

The last part of our retreat we usually spend setting goals for the next few months . However, this time after the busyness of the last few weeks we needed some time to relax and renew ourselves so we spent more time sitting on the beach reading and walking with our golden retriever Bonnie than we did setting goals. p1010049.jpgWe even found time to explore the antique stores in Anacortes and discovered an excellent french bakery with some of the most delicious almond croissants we have ever tasted.

Tom & I try to get away for a couple of days of retreat time every 3 – 4 months. These have become some of the best prayer times we have. Personally I find it very difficult to listen to God and what God is wanting to say when I am surrounded by the distractions of phone calls, deadlines and unfinished projects. I think that the busier we are the harder it is to hear God’s voice. As Richard Foster says “Busyness isn’t of the devil, busyness is the devil.  If you have trouble discerning what God is wanting you to do you may find that going on spiritual retreat for a couple of days can really help.

Here is a Celtic prayer attributed to Columba of Iona I have found really helps me when I am trying to focus and listen to God.

Sometimes in a lowly cell
In the presence of my God
I stand and listen.
In the silence of my heart I can hear his will
When I listen
Despairing people flock to me
They expect that I can see the answers
They ask my advice,
They say I am wise
I answer that nothing can deceive me
If I stand alone and silently listen
For I am but a servant
Who is guided by his king
When I listen
Sometimes in a lowly cell
In the presence of my God
I stand and listen


God will not leave us comfortless

I thought that I would need to wait until after our retreat time to feel spiritually revived but this weekend I learned an important lesson (one that you would think I should have learnt a long time ago.) All that it took for me to feel spiritually renewed was a good talk to Tom about Clint and the struggles that both of us have gone through over this last year, an extended time of prayer and listening to God and an excellent sermon from our rector Carla Pryne that seemed to speak straight to my depleted spirit.

Carla talked about Salvador Dali’s painting: The Sacrament of the Last Supper in which the the table does not seem restricted to the disciples but seems to extend out into the world.  She suggested that as Jesus prays his prayer is not just for those at the table but really extends out to all those through the centuries who also sit at that great table.  She went on to suggest that when we pray we see things happen not so much because our prayers change God’s mind but rather because when we pray we literally add our love to the love of God and in so doing enter into a little part of God’s eternal world of love and unity.  Prayer is our decision to take our time and our love and give it to another.  When we pray we join God who is already pouring out his love into the situation we are praying for.  Our prayers are important more because they transform us than because they transform those we are praying for.  She suggested we all pray for the love and grace necessary to be able to pray for others in such a way that we can be transformed by the love of God.

As I write this it does not seem as transformative as it seemed on Sunday morning but that I realize is the power of God’s words.  They transform and renew us because of the power of the holy spirit working through them not because of the words themselves.

Sacrament of the Last Supper

Done or Done In?

It is 10 days since I last wrote anything on this blog and I am not sure that I know where the days have gone. ATo be honest I had really thought it was longer as I have been so busy these last couple of weeks that I have no memory of writing my last post. Which is not only a little wierd but also very concerning. So where has the time gone?

Two weeks ago I flew to New Haven Connecticut to teach a class on spiritual renewal for a group of students who literally came from all over the world. This is one of the most enjoyable & challenging courses that I teach each year . I love the opportunity to grapple with questions such as ” “How do we develop balanced rhythms for our lives when we live in a culture very different from the one we grew up in?” and the interaction from cultures as diverse as Africa nand Korean was very stimulating.

Ironically I cannot remember when I last felt more spiritually drained out. The last few weeks have been extremely busy as we have all been working overtime to help Tom finish the manuscript for his new book Joining the Conspiracy, which will be published at the beginning of next year. With a wonderful feeling of relief we sent the manuscript off to the publisher on Friday.

tom-bonnie-anacortes.jpgNow I am ready to celebrate and find the spiritual renewal I so desperately need. On Wednesday Tom & I plan to go away for a couple of days (with our Golden Retriever Bonnie of course) for one of our regular prayer retreats at our favourite motel in Anacortes WA. I look forward to sharing with you all some of the reflections that come out of that time.

Unfortunately there is still one very traumatic event that we need to get through before I can enter into this renewal. Tomorrow is the 1st anniversary of Tom son, Clin’t death. We would appreciate your prayers as we remember Clint tomorrow evening.

Clint Sine

Exposure to Dirt Boosts Happiness

Guess what?  British researchers have just discovered something that those of us who love the garden have always known instinctively .  Exposure to dirt really does boost our happiness .  Check it out  It doesn’t surprise me.  There is a growing amount of research that suggests time outside is beneficial in a number of illnesses and complaints.  ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is often dramatically improved if a child spends regular time outside Check it out  Other interactions with God’s creation are also beneficial.  Dog owners don’t really need clinical researchers to tell them that their animals make them live longer and healthier lives (check it out) and surprisingly people who are constantly exposed to the pollens of rural living actually have less allergies than those who live in the city.  check it out

If this doesn’t convince all of us that God intends all of us to interact with creation then nothing will.  You may not love gardening as I do, but I do believe it is essential for all of us to interact in some meaningful way with creation.  And that can take many forms –  whether you own a pet (even a gold fish can be beneficial) or just going for a long walk in your closest national park on a regular basis it doesn’t matter but some part of the rhythm of all our lives should get us outside for more than a minute or two.

Tomato theology?

Yesterday we planted 30 tomato plants in the garden – another important rite of spring and and an increasingly important part of the rhythm of my life.  You have no idea how much better tomatoes taste straight out of the garden.  In fact I am amazed at how much better all vegetables taste when freshly picked.  No wonder kids (and a lot of adults) don’t like vegetables – they’ve never really tasted anything the way God intended it to be.

Makes me wonder if part of the reason many of us struggle with what it means to be a Christian is because we get our theology and our Christian discipleship second hand – and it never really tastes the way God intends it to.  Like most of our vegetables it is often old, stale and past its prime or else it has been pumped up with additives to keep it fresh and tasty.

What do I mean – well most of us learn theology by sitting down in chairs and having people yak at us.  It might get some information into our heads but if definitely does not get God’s principles into our hearts – and to be honest I think it is the most boring and uninteresting way to learn anything.  The only way that God’s principles will get into our hearts is by us putting them into practice.  As I have said before I learned my theology in the refugee camps in Thailand.  And I continue to learn it through interacting with people from other cultures and perspectives.   I read somewhere once that the early Christians felt privileged to live in a nonChristian society because they believed it was through their interactions with people outside the faith that they learned more about God – now we think we learn best from people who think exactly the same way we do – and I suspect that explains why our theological perspectives are often regarded as old, stale and full of superfluous additives – a little like the produce we buy in the supermarket.

The Swallows are Back

Swallows under eavesOne of the celebrations of spring for me each year is when the barn swallows that nest under our eaves return.  Yesterday I looked out our bathroom window and there they were.  Mum and Dad sitting on the rafters inspecting their nest from last year.  The challenge is that now there are a number of offspring who also want to nest around the house.  Last year they built a nest right above our front door and by the time we realized it (we don’t use the front door much) there were already babies in it.  Being splattered by bird droppings is not exactly a welcome that guests fuly appreciate.   This year we are hoping to move them to the back yard.

However there are many benefits to havingthese beautiful birds around.  Evidently a nesting swallow will eat up to 8,000 insects a day (yep thousands not hundreds) and that is definitely good for the garden and a wonderful way to cut down on the wasp and mosquito population over the summer.  Even if we can’t manage to encourage the birds to move from above the front door I think that the benefits far outway the problems.  Maybe we will just have to get umbrellas for our guests.