Simple Living Works by Gerald Iverson

This morning I am reblogging a post by Gerald Iverson. It first appeared on his blog as Living Fair Trade. Gerald describes himself as the chief activist of Simple Living Works  which came out of Alternatives for Simple Living. Simple Living Works has many of Alternatives resources available so don’t just read the post – follow the links! Each year they produce a great resource – Whose Birthday is It Anyway? 

Our daughter Elysha gave me a lovely African-style shirt when she served in the Peace Corps in Kenya. I wear it for two reasons. First, as a symbolic gesture to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters around the world. Wouldn’t it be great if our church choirs wore clothes like this instead of sterile choir robes? (I was a Minister of Music for 25 years, so I know about sterile choir robes!)

Second, I wear it to promote Fair Trade. You may have heard of Fair Trade coffee and now Fair Trade chocolate. I l-o-v-e dark Fair Trade chocolate.

We practice Fair Trade for two basic reasons. First, to make sure that farmers and artisans in non-industrial countries get a fair price for their goods. And secondly, to EDUCATE US. Through Fair Trade we learn from the world community (Living More with LessLife Standard #2).

Rita and I have gotten involved with Sharing the Dream, a Fair Trade organization based in South Dakota.

We visited Guatemala for ten days a few years back to meet the Mayan artisans. It was a life-changing trip. Now we can tell their stories. Guatemala suffered through a 30-year civil war between the indigenous Mayans and the Ladinos, the descendants of the Spaniards. Many of the Mayan women lost their husbands, so they make beautiful crafts for North Americans, to support their family and send their children to school. (School’s not free in Guatemala.)

We organize several display/sales each fall. We have had considerable success because 1. It’s a good cause, 2. We have a relationship with the sponsoring churches (we’re usually members), 3. We’re assertive. We don’t wait for them to come to us. We work with the church to publicize the event in advance through posters, newsletter, email blasts, pulpit announcements – all which we provide. We make it easy for the church. On the day of the event, if we’re not set up in the narthex, one of us – the “hawker” – stands in the narthex and in friendly way urges people to go into the display area.

Fair Trade is educational. The crafts can be given to children and others. Each comes with a story. They can help us understand another culture.

Testimonial from Debb Lutz

Gerald, You and Rita came to Mifflinville, Pennsylvania, years ago now to speak to a group of my friends. I still strive to impress upon folks the importance of less stuff. I remain the coordinator for our church’s Alternative Gift Fair. This event has encouraged nearly $130K of monetary gifts to 30 different charities in the last nine years. That money could have bought a lot of “stuff” but folks gave it to help others. Thank you for YOUR work in keeping us on the right track. Peace, Debb

Read about our visit at Debb’s church at Travels year 2.5. (Scroll to post #214.)

OCTOBER, Fair Trade Month, aims to raise awareness of the reasons why fair trade is important, and to promote buying and using socially and commercially sustainable, fair trade products in place of commodities which may harm the environment, the economy, communities and disadvantaged individuals.

Fair Trade Resource Network  is an information hub designed to grow the fair trade movement. Together, we can create a market that values the people who make the food we eat and the goods we use. Advocacy Resources Offered by Several Organizations & Campaigns

Here’s help with a variety of similar events.

For encouragement see and read about Micah 6 Action Team I met in the St. Louis area. They organize an annual alternative Christmas church fair. (Scroll to post #109.)

Podcast Reminder

You can access all SLW! podcast audio and the show notes either atSimpleLiving.startlogic.com/SLW-PODCAST or at SimpleLivingWorks.org (then click window #3). Listen through your computer, iPod, iPad, iPhone (or equivalent). SUBSCRIBE through iTunesStitcher.com or your favorite podcast service.

Or access individual episodes:

#1: Getting Acquainted

#2: 5 Life Standards

#3: Saga of Simply Enough

#4: Beyond a Consumer Lifestyle-1

#5: Beyond a Consumer Lifestyle-2

#6: Whose Birthday Is It, Anyway?-1 (of 6)

Do your friends a favor. Share this blog and podcast.

Peace, Gerald ”Jerry” Iversen, Chief SLW! Activist

Lord Help Me To Live Simply – A Prayer

Still grappling with these words from Daniel Taylor’s book In Search of Sacred Places:

Simplicity is no great virtue unless wedded to right priorities. A desirable simplicity entails the recognition of what is important in life, coupled with the strength of will to structure one’s daily existence around that recognition. It requires minimizing the impact of one’s life of unimportant things, an extremely difficult task in an acquisitive and schedule-filled culture. (148)

My reflections inspired this prayer:

Rhythm of Life.001

Encouraging Spirituality, Sustainability and Simplicity.

Igniting the Divine Spark

The Mustard Seed rule of life encourages spirituality, sustainability and simplicity and this year we invite you to join us in the exploration of these values.

Join Us For Lent

What are the ordinary everyday activities that make you feel close to God? Is it working in the garden, going for a run or washing the dishes. Lent is only two weeks away. It is a good season to reflect on what draws you into the loving presence of God and learn to nourish these experiences.

So get ready to return to your senses in Lent.

  1. If you live in the Seattle area, join us for a Lenten retreat and take time to reflect and refocus with us. Establish new spiritual disciplines for the season: February 16th at the Mustard Seed House.
  2. Contribute a post to the Godspace series Return to Our Senses in Lent.  We already have an exciting collection of posts ready and Kimberlee Conway Ireton is whetting our appetites with an ongoing series of articles on prayer. You might like to check out her latest contribution Eight Ways of Looking at Water 
  3. No matter where you are in the world you can join us in the study of Return to Our Senses and challenge your friends to participate too. The study guide can be downloaded free from the MSA website. The book itself is available at a special discount price ($15 for a single copy; $12 for 5 or more) until Easter. We hope you will share your experiences with us on Facebook or with a comment on one of the Lenten posts.

Join Us in Igniting the Divine Spark

MSA’s entrepreneurial business developer Cindy Todd has just been featured in this TED talk. Cindy’s business is featured by the last speaker, Jill Bamburg. starting at 01.03.50 We are excited to have her share her insights and expertise with us in the upcoming workshop Igniting the Divine Spark  March 16th at the Mustard Seed House.  Throughout February and March Cindy and others will post on the MSA blog about creative models that encourage sustainable, local business and the ways that God ignited the divine sparks that gave rise to these. Cindy’s workshop will be the culmination of this series. So sign up now for this exciting and instructive event.

April 19th and 20th the entire MSA team will join our friends at the Parish Collective and Seattle School for the Inhabit Conference – The Art of Parish Renewal which also focuses on themes of sustainability and simplicity. We hope that some of you can join us their too.

Join Us In Spirituality of Gardening

The garden is the place where spirituality, sustainability and simplicity connect for many of us. May 18th we hold our annual Spirituality of Gardening Seminar at the Mustard Seed House. This is based on our popular resource To Garden With God. If you do not live in the Seattle area perhaps you would like to get a group of garden enthusiasts together to share stories about your own interactions with God in the garden. If you do please let us know. And stay tuned for other locations that will host this seminar.

Join Us in Australia in June

For our Australian friends who would like to explore these themes in more detail, please consider joining us in Adelaide in June. Tom and I will teach an intensive: Reimagining Faith for Turbulent Times at Tabor College June 17 – 22. There is still space & time to sign up. We will also be in Melbourne and Sydney and would love to have some of our friends join us.

Join us Together with The Overflow Project

The Overflow Project  is an initiative committed to a new way of living, a way of living that breaks down the walls that divide rich and poor. Using a 50-Day Challenge, The Overflow Project helps individuals, groups and churches simplify their lives in order to give generously. Donated funds provide clean drinking water – a vital resource for community and economic development. This year MSA will partner with this important initiative and encourage all of us to simplify our lives, not just for 50 days but as a lifestyle.

Join Us for Our Annual Celtic Retreat.

Save the dates August 10th and 11th for our annual retreat at the site of the future Mustard Seed Village on Camano Island. Here are a couple of links to past retreats if you want to check it out. Celtic Retreat 2011 and from 2012: Celtic liturgy and Lectio Divina and Celtic retreat slide show 

There is much happening here at MSA and we are excited to be able to share these opportunities with you. I do hope that you will be able to join us at some of these events.  

 

What Does a Person Need?

MSA intern Chris Holcomb

MSA intern Chris Holcomb

MSA intern Chris Holcomb is starting a series of posts at the MSA blog on experiments in simplicity.

One of the questions that I’ve been grappling with over the last several years is this: what do people need? No, I’m not trying to think of a product to sell, or an innovation to change the world; I’m thinking in much more basic terms than those. What does a person need to survive, and what do they need to live a happy, fulfilling life?

Check out the first post here

Say YES! to This – My Favourite Green Resources

Reaching for Resources

Reaching for Resources

Ever wondered where I find all those interesting articles I post? Here are a couple of places I monitor regularly.

One of Tom’s and my favourtie magazines is YES Magazine and I wanted to share it with you.

The YES website has posted some great articles in the last few weeks on community. Here are my favourites

Ten Ways to Love Where You Live by Ross Chapin

How to build community here and now—because neighborhoods are more than houses in proximity. Read the article here

Cheaper Together. How neighbours Invest in Community by by Miriam Axel-LuteJohn Emmeus DavisHarold Simon.

Cooperative financing and community land trusts keep rents affordable and homeownership within reach. Read here

Inhabitat: Design will save the world is another great site with very innovative housing and environmental designs like this one:  PHOTOS: Get a Sneak Peek of HWKN’s Giant Blue Smog-Eating Wendy Sculpture Before It Opens Next Week | Inhabitat – Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building

And Grist Magazine is always worth a visit. For example I loved this article Have Sledgehammer will farm

I also love to check out the latest at ECHO, ; Plant with Purpose and A Rocha

Obviously this is only a very short list of possible sites to visit for environmental issues. I would love to put together a more comprehensive list. So what are your favourite sites to visit?

So what are your favourite websites on environmental issues, green living and community?

The Overflow Project by Brian Wolters

Water is life

Water is life

This morning’s post comes from Brian “Wolt” Wolters. Wolt is the executive director of the Overflow Project . The issue of access to fresh water is one that I am particularly concerned about and I think that The Overflow Project is a very creative response to this issue.


I remember a report in my church’s bulletin the week after Easter titled “Easter by the numbers” sharing the number of Easter volunteers, attendees, services, and flowers. In general, churches promote and plan well in advance for Easter by decorating sanctuaries, orientating volunteers, and expanding parking lots. This year a church even rented out the Benaroya Hall in downtown Seattle for its Easter gathering. Clearly, a phenomenon exists where people attend a church service on Easter more than any other day of the year, and churches make a big deal about it.

I am fascinated with Jesus, the very one people celebrate coming back to life on Easter Sunday. Joyfully and ironically, Jesus doesn’t disappear after Easter Sunday. In fact, Jesus lives on earth after his death before he ascends. The Holy Spirit then arrives on Pentecost. Easter is a season that spans 50 days.

Why do people – including churches- typically stop celebrating the day after Easter?

An alternative exists: living a life similar to Jesus as he actually teaches by being light in this world where there is so much darkness, caring for the poor and broken, and celebrating the hope and new life of Christ that he offers to all. Enough is enough. You have all that you need in Christ. Jesus ushers a new way of living in the world post-death as a testimony to us.

What does Easter and the significance of how Christ lives after his death mean to you? What would it look like to form new habits of faith and live intentionally? Could you go beyond writing checks and instead live and give generously out of the overflow in your life?

This year a small team and I launched a new endeavor called The Overflow Project to invite individuals and communities all around the world to participate in a new kind of living. During the 50 days between Easter and Pentecost we developed resources for groups and churches to celebrate and live simply to break down the barrier that divides rich and poor and to free us from ignorance about poverty.

Providing water brings life

Providing water brings life

Currently about 1 billion people in the world live without access to clean safe drinking water –a basic human right and a fundamental need for empowerment and economic development.

On Pentecost Sunday we will receive participant’s collective contributions to support sustainable clean water projects in Uganda. This effort changes our lives by opening our eyes to a different kind of life and changes Uganda through investing in clean water solutions and hygiene training.

The Overflow Project’s 50-Day Challenge is still happening right now. Anybody can join, even for the few days that remain.

We have so much to celebrate today! Christ has risen. Remember Easter for what it is, even today, nearly 50 days later.

Brian “Wolt” Wolters

Making Life Simple – a New Home Economy is Emerging

This morning, together with other members of the Mustard Seed House, I have been making yoghurt, organizing shelves and sorting through my last year’s seeds to see what I need to buy for the garden this year – a thoroughly domesticated and relaxing morning.  Unfortunately these are all activities that tend to get scuttled when life gets too busy, partly because in our modern frantic world we place little value on domestic chores.

But they are incredibly valuable.  They draw us closer to each other and God’s world, reduce stress and save money too, making it possible for us all to live simply and more enjoyably on far less than most economists think is possible.   And on top of that a morning spent like this is great fun.

Now as I relax with a magazine for an afternoon of reading, I find myself drawn to an article on homemade prosperity which basically talks about how cooking from scratch, growing your own food and cutting out the consumer clutter can transform our households and our world.  There is a whole new movement sweeping the Western world in which people everywhere are cutting back on their involvement in the cash economy, bartering, swapping, growing and cooking their own and generally learning to live with less.  In the process they are discovering that they can take control of their lives again and learn a much better way of life than the consumer rat race offers.

I think that Christians should be at the forefront of this movement and applaud those in the new monastic orders like Word Made Flesh, Servants with the Poor and Innerchange who have been trying to tell us for years that there is a better way of life that God wants us to be a part of.  In God’s economy it is not how much stuff we have that is important, it is the relationships, the interactions of loving and caring that really matter.

I would be very interested to know what you think of this movement and how you view God’s economy.  What value do you place on simplicity, relaxation, relationship and how do you interpret these values in the light of your faith?

What Do We Do When There are No Simple Solutions?

Yesterday I got together with a pastor friend who is feeling discouraged and overwhelmed by the extent of the gulf oil spill and his inability to respond.  He is in the midst of teaching a series of sermons on a Christian response to the environment and confessed that he is feeling discouraged because the problem is so big that there is no way that he can solve it.  The small steps he is able to take seem insignificant and inadequate in the face of the environmental disasters we are facing so his tendency is to sit and do nothing.  On top of that there are other overwhelming challenges that just don’t seem to go away – AIDS, malaria, poverty, child slavery.  The enormity of the task defeats him and like many of us he wants to turn away and ignore them.

Western society thrives on the belief that all problems are solvable and that we personally can find and implement solutions.  We want to see instant success that wins us applause and means we can then move on to the next problem that needs to be solved.  But our world is not like that, and God is not like that either.  Otherwise the time between the Fall and the new creation would have only been a few weeks or maybe the transformation would have happened overnight.

There are two scriptures that I find very encouraging when faced with enormous problems like this.  One is the story of the mustard seed:

31 Here is another illustration Jesus used: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches.” (Matthew 13: 31 – 32 NLT)

The other is the story about giving a cup of cold water:

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’  Matthew 25: 37 – 40 NLT)

God not only works through the small and insignificant but God also notices the seemingly insignificant things that we do.  Building the kingdom is about lots of people doing small and seemingly insignificant things together.

When I feel overwhelmed by the seemingly insurmountable problems of AIDS and malaria I remind myself that in the 1950s polio killed 5 million people a year yet it is now virtually unknown primarily because a lot of people were mobilized to immunize kids around the world.  Most of them only immunized a few kids but together their efforts made an incredible difference – like cups of cold water given to one child at a time.

And when I feel discouraged by the extent of the environmental crisis I am reminded of the community garden movement that is sweeping across America.  Mustard seeds growing into huge plants and providing a place for birds to nest.

God is at work in our world but so much of what God is doing is hidden, below the radar, seemingly small and insignificant.  In the face of intractable poverty and environmental disasters it takes faith to believe that God is indeed transforming and renewing our world but I do believe that is what is happening.

1 Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. (Hebrews 11:1)

So don’t give up on those seemingly small and insignificant steps that seem like a drop in the ocean.  God does notice and God is indeed using them to build a new world of justice, peace and abundance…. but it is God not us who is building.


Get Satisfied

This morning I have been making granola, reading Get Satisfied edited by Carol Holst and keeping tabs on the discussion about monastic orders of the white man on Eliacin’s blog.   Talk about multi tasking.  And what do all these things have in common you may ask?  To answer that let me refer back to Get Satisfied.  This is a great collection of stories about people who really have found the satisfaction of living simply and being satisfied with enough.  There is growing evidence that our increasing consumption and profligate spending is not good either for us or for our planet.

As I read the book I was reminded of Paul’s wonderful words in 1 Timothy 6:6-8 “But godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing we will be content with that. ”  And that led me to thinking about monasticism and the new Christian communities that are springing up all over the world and grappling with issues such as simplicity and with what a monastic order should look like in our day and age.  We certainly need to learn to be satisfied with enough but at the same time we need to grapple with how we can make it possible for others to have enough too.  We very definitely live in a multicultural world in which those with enough are often those from white Anglo-Saxon heritage.  It is very definitely time for us to listen to those from other cultural backgrounds and learn to practice a simplicity of life and faith that embraces all the people of our world.