Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Simple Christmas

Hi, Kajijis!
Hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving holiday! We’re officially full-swing into the holiday season now with the baking, shopping, decorating, etc. – how do you feel about it so far? Are you already wishing that you could catch your breath? Have you re-assessed your activity for the season? Are you able to keep your focus on that Star up in the sky and not on the mass of people between you and the cash register or the sea of brake lights in front of you? Do you feel the anticipation of the day of birth up ahead? (I believe Michelle feels it!) It is a day the world will celebrate…whether they see the newborn swaddled there in the manger or not. We’ve been talking about simplicity this season – how much simpler can it get than a smelly barn, a few dirty animals, a scratchy manger, and some swaddling clothes?

Why a Simpler Christmas?1

  • A simpler Christmas leads to freedom. A consumer Christmas leads to stress and debt.
  • Simplicity leads to generosity.
  • It leaves room for more joy. It is such a joy to get the burden of stuff off our shoulders.
  • It builds relationships. We are told thousands of times every day by commercial advertising that we will find meaning and happiness through stuff. Voluntary Simplicity says we will find happiness and meaning in life through relationships – within ourselves, with others, with the Earth and with God.
  • It leads to a whole life of simplicity. Celebrating is one part of a total life of integrity.
  • It promotes justice. By using only our fair share of Earth’s resources, we leave some for others around the globe and for future generations. “Live Simply that Others May Simply Live.”
  • It Cares for Creation. A simple life is an Earth-friendly life.

“We live in a world gone mad with consumerism. Within weeks, the stores will be filled with holiday music, gorgeous decorations, and enticing goods begging to be bought for gifts. This is our culture—the culture of desire. Will we succumb to the call of television, newspaper and magazine advertising? Or will we, this year, do what Buddhists and Jesus advise: stand apart from desire, detach, ponder the circumstances, do not tumble head-long into instant gratification, do not store up your treasure, but do consciously choose a simpler way. Let us be a people who embrace voluntary simplicity!

Can we have a wonderful holiday season and still be people committed to voluntary simplicity? I believe that we can by being creative consumers and creative hosts. As far as decorations are concerned, perhaps you use your Christmas decorations year after year. Many of us have made things with our own hands to give as gifts. The goal is to give simple gifts. If we do not have the talent (or ability) to make things—and I do realize that much of what we can make can now be bought more cheaply—we could consider… support[ing] local artisans. Or we could shop from catalogs that give back to the communities? These are gifts that give…

May voluntary simplicity be our mantra this holiday season!”2

Speaking of gifts that give, there are some good organizations out there that give back to communities in need. Whether by donating or shopping through these websites, you are giving to great causes. Try www.agreatergift.org where they offer free trade items and foods that improve the villages/communities they come from. Also www.thehungersite.com - this site allows you to support great causes simply by clicking free links every day or you can purchase various items in their store (many of which are also fair trade and very reasonably priced). Samaritan’s Purse offers a Christmas catalog where you choose what your donations go toward. Check out www.samaritanspurse.com and look for the “2006 Christmas gift catalog” link on their homepage. If you know of any other good fair trade sites or a great charitable site for others to shop through for the holidays, please let us know. What better way to celebrate Christ’s birth than to be generous and serve others!

Another great way to serve this holiday season is to give to a wonderful organization called ChildVoice International. Susan Arico sent out an email recently which I’d like to include here:

Dear friends,
I thought you might be interested in this Christmas time opportunity…
ChildVoice International is currently supporting 150 child mothers (female children who were abducted into the rebel army, forced to become “wives” of commanders, and escaped from captivity with one or more children) and their 250 young children in northern Uganda. This Christmas, ChildVoice is seeking to supply Christmas gifts package for these child mothers and their children.

If you are interested in participating or finding out more, the attached flyer (PDF) supplies information about the specific of these shoe-box sized gifts.

In addition, please note that all items included in the packs should be new as used items need to be fumigated before going into Uganda which ChildVoice cannot do. The last day they are taking boxes is Friday, Dec 8th.


We’ll be collecting any “shoebox gifts” this Friday as well as next week. This week our topic of discussion will be “What ideas do you have for simpler gift giving?” I can’t wait to hear them!


1 From the Alternatives for Simple Living website http://www.simpleliving.net/main/custom.asp?recid=1
2 From the website http://www.uufairhaven.org/Ser2006Nov05.htm

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart…1

As we reflect on all we are thankful for this week, I offer up a prayer of thanks for you - for all of us proud to call ourselves “Kajiji Girls”. When I think of our group, one of the things I love most is the variety of backgrounds we have and the number of churches represented in our little group – Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox. Our diversity is our greatest strength, in my opinion. Listening to others views, beliefs, ideas and suggestions has been enormously valuable in my life and fellowshipping with you has been the highlight of each week. God has used the group to challenge, inspire and encourage me, and I’ve heard the same from many of you. I feel our small community is a true representation of the Church. So while you eat turkey with your family whom you’re grateful for, remember that we are family as well and God is thankful for you!

By the way, Erin sent me this great article that I thought some of you might enjoy as well. It speaks of feeling thankful in a more simplified existence without much money (something a lot of us can relate to!). Click here to read it: http://www.mothering.com/articles/growing_child/consumerism/penniless-blessed.html.
Happy Thanksgiving!!

With thanks,

P.S. We will not be meeting this Friday of course, due to the holiday, however we’ll resume again on Friday, December 1st.

1 Philippians 1:2-7a

Recommended Verses

Last week we brought some verses with us that we’ve either posted in our houses or are favorites to repeat to our children. Erin took notes for us and wrote the verses down so I could share them with you. I’ll include Erin’s notes here.

The following verses were recommended for posting by Caroline, Kim & Shawna:

Proverbs 3:3
Mark 9:35, 37
John 15:9-10a, 13
Galatians 5:13-14, 6:9
Philippians 2:14
Philippians 4:6-7
Colossians 3:20, 23-25

Equally helpful was a discussion about introducing Scriptures to our little ones. Here are some of the ideas we shared in this regard:

· Read a children's book that features Bible verses such as:
My ABC Bible Verses: Hiding God's Word in Little Hearts
Susan HuntCrossway Books / 1998 / Hardcover

· Work through a curriculum such as: the ABC's of God's Attributes by John Piper (I looked for this on www.DesiringGod.com and couldn't find it - Shawna, can you help?)

· Post verses at their eye level that are specifically for them. I will add to this idea - post verses for all of your family members as little love notes to them - I think my mother-in-law would be pleasantly surprised by this one!

If you have any additional Scriptures or ideas along this vein, I hope you will share them with us! Looking forward to seeing you all on Friday!


I’ve attached a document with the above verses typed up so you may print them out and post them, if you desire. As I was doing my research, I came across a couple of verses from The Message that I thought might be good for posting so I’ve added them - I really like the modern perspective on them.

For those of you who weren’t able to make it, please feel free to email your ideas, verses, suggestions, etc. to me, and I will share them with the group. We are always grateful for help in this area! Thank you, Shawna for hosting!! We’ll be meeting at Caroline’s house this Friday around 10am, and we’ll discuss what we are thankful for as well as Thanksgiving traditions your family enjoys.

God bless,

P.S. We won’t be meeting on next Friday, the 24th as next week is Thanksgiving. We’ll resume again on Friday, December 1st.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Strategically-placed Scripture

Dear Kajijis,
At our last gathering, we talked about our home environment and how it affects us. It seems that it’s pretty common knowledge that a neat and orderly environment engenders peace and brings a measure of comfort to our souls. Ideas were passed back and forth in how to create a more spiritual element to our surroundings, and one idea was in posting Scripture throughout your house. In Chasing God and the Kids Too, Cheryl Carter writes:

Most importantly, the Word should be in our hearts; but first, it should be everywhere else, because before we can get it in our hearts, we must see it with our eyes. Posting Scripture prominently in our homes assists us with biblical meditation because it does not require scheduled quiet. You may meditate whenever you get a few moments. While I would agree that quiet moments are rare, they certainly do occur, often without our foreknowledge. Having Scripture before you capitalizes on those moments… It’s all about making meditation a priority. Some mothers do not meditate because they think they don’t have the time. What they really mean is that they don’t have a huge, ideal block of time to sit and read uninterrupted. Such luxuries are limited for mothers; therefore, we have to make the written Word become part of our everyday activities.

Cheryl goes on to say that you can post verses anywhere in your house and offers tips such as posting some verses at your children’s eye level so they may benefit from it too. She writes:
Change Scripture weekly, monthly, or quarterly, whichever is best for you. I like to leave it posted for a while to ensure my children internalize the Scripture. It has been said that the best way to show we know something is to teach others. Our children are our best students. If you can teach what you have meditated on to your children with practical application, then it truly has transformed you. The posted Scriptures will not change you. Jesus did not say the truth will make you free. He said the truth you know will set you free. (John 8:32)

Some of you may have experience in doing this and could give us some of your tips on what and where to post. I’ve included a request to you all from a message Erin sent below:

Hello Ladies! As I am sure you will hear from Crystal, this past week we discussed home environments, our inner music and such. One of the things that came up a bit was the idea of posting Scripture in strategic places in your home. I got to thinking it would be really neat for us all (whether you have ever come on a Friday or not) to email in one or two ideas for a good verse to post and a good place to post it. For some of us, it will only need looking around and choosing the favorite one we have up already, for others (like me) it will require blowing the dust off our Bible and taking a prayerful perusal through the pages (how's that for alliteration!). Be sure to include where you think a good place to post it is (bathroom mirror for example). Selfishly speaking, I am hoping we will all take two seconds to send this in - I could so use the creative ideas of my sisters!Thanks and many, many Blessings on you all! I am so grateful to your presence in my life!


Please send in your suggestions to me via email and/or bring them with you to our next meeting this Friday. We’ll go over the verses you suggest as well as any other ideas you may have that we could all benefit from. Thanks to Michelle for hosting last Friday and providing some delicious baked goods and yummy fruit! We look forward to meeting at Shawna’s house this Friday at 10AM. See you there!

God bless,

Wednesday, November 1, 2006


It doesn’t get much more simplistic than J-O-Y. Those of us who grew up in Sunday School understand this anagram to mean Jesus first, Others second, You third. Wow, what a way to put us on the bottom, huh? But let me point out that without “You” in the word JOY, we’re left with just J-O, and for some reason, it just doesn’t leave us with the same feeling as JOY. You are an integral part of the equation, and if all you’re doing is serving Jesus and Others, you’re in danger of dropping off the end of a very basic yet important word, and our service to Jesus and others becomes drudgery. We seem to have a pretty good picture of what it means to serve Jesus and to serve others, but to serve ourselves? What does that look like?

“Solitude seeks to silence a noisy world. But it is also a tool to quiet our souls, which are often wracked by their own inner turmoil, tensions, and troubles.
…solitude is a way of recharging [our] spiritual batteries for deeper, more effective, and more selfless service to the world and others.”
John Michael Talbot wrote these words in The Lessons of St. Francis. He went on to say, “I find that when I’m grounded in silence and prayer, the work I do becomes efficient, energized, and empowered by God’s spirit. The more I devote my time to prayer, the more I get done in my periods of activity. But if I focus on spending my time in activity, I quickly realize that I’m getting little done.” I don’t know about you, but I feel like most of the focus in my daily life is on activity – how much can I get done today? What is on my calendar? What are others expecting of me today? What are others demanding of me? But how many moments throughout the day do we take the time to meditate, focus on God, take a breath, say a prayer? Even better, are we ever able to steal away to our most comfortable chair or lie on our bed and just close our eyes and stay silent (without falling asleep, I might add)? I think the question could be, would you even do this if you had the opportunity? “We seem so frightened today of being alone that we never let it happen… We choke the space with continuous music, chatter, and companionship to which we do not even listen. It is simply there to fill the vacuum. When the noise stops there is no inner music to take its place.”1 What does your inner music sound like? Do you even know? When was the last time you listened to it? If it’s been awhile, ask yourself why – are you afraid of what your music sounds like? Not a tune you would sing along with? A little off-tune maybe? Complete silence? Matters of the heart rank highest on God’s radar, and if we are too busy to know where our heart lies, we’re in deep trouble.

Not all men are called to be hermits, but all men need enough silence and solitude in their lives to enable the deep inner voice of their own true self to be heard at least occasionally.
- Thomas Merton

“I wonder if many of the world’s most avid noise makers and consumers of noise aren’t actually afraid of what they would find deep down inside if they ever got alone in silence with themselves and with God. Don’t run from silence. Accept God’s gracious invitation to the joys of solitude. Don’t fill your days with noxious noise, or your nights with a constant stream of unfunny sitcoms, boring adventure flicks, or prefabricated pop music. I invite you to step into the calm, cool water of silence and see God there. Or as Henri Nouwen has written, ‘To live a spiritual life we must first find the courage to enter the desert of our loneliness and to change it by gentle and persistent efforts into a garden of solitude.’”2

Last week we met at Jill’s where we had delicious chocolate muffins, coffee and great conversation. Thanks so much for hosting, Jill!! In fact, we got to talking intensely about other things and never got around to our original topic of discussion: our ideal home environment. So those of you who were interested in the topic, you’re in luck as we’ll discuss the question this week. We’ll talk about how our home environment affects our “inner music”. Hope to see you there!


1 Anne Morrow Lindbergh
2 The Lessons of St. Francis: How to Bring Simplicity and Spirituality into Your Daily Life by John Michael Talbot with Steve Rabey
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