Living Our Faith

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

A loosely woven ‘homesteading’ movement has emerged and is now gaining wider popularity. The gold standard model of the movement is a middle class family who sells everything they own to move off-grid somewhere in the Blue Ridge Mountains or the Idaho Panhandle. However, there are endless variations to this lifestyle and my family is a living example.

At the core, ‘homesteading’ is about:

* Living increasingly self-sufficient

* Deep respect for the natural world and the skills of production

* Living free according to ones moral code

For us, homesteading is also the ‘turning away’ (repenting) from consumerism.

The wickedness of consumerism:

*  Consumerism has shortened our attention spans and transformed us into reactive beings

*  Consumerism has eroded our faith communities

*  Consumerism has empowered both corporate parties, to use the coercive hammer of legislation to force Americans to act in corporation’s benefit

Worse of all, consumerism has brought many elements of our natural world to extinction and badly damaged the rest in service of a ‘prosperous civilization’. Although consumerism isn’t the only sin, an honest relationship with Biblical scripture can leave no doubt it is a sin.

Living increasingly self-sufficient

“By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” (Hebrews 11:7)

Our initial steps toward living more self-sufficiently spotlighted how 100% dependent we were on the systems of society. We didn’t have food and water stores in case of the unforeseen. We had zero backup plans or resources to lean upon if the power, sewer, water, hospitals, or emergency services became unavailable.

Realizing how unprepared we truly were created anxiety and fear. It’s a common response, and one that stops many in their efforts to strive for self-sufficiecy.

Another common pitfall is getting entrapped in envy, if an off-grid homestead is currently beyond your reach. Pray that God helps you grow through these feelings and take steps toward your goal:

*  Establish a larder or food stores in your house

*  Establish a backup water stores

*  Start a garden (indoor/outdoor, big or small- just get started)

*  Consider adding a beehive or egg laying hen to your home (this can even be done in an apartment with balcony)

*  Store candles and back up lighting sources

*  Develop backup plans for most likely to occur incidence (i.e. weather event, sewer or electrical outages)

Deep respect for the natural world and the skills of production

“Then God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.’ And it was so.” (Genesis 1:11)

Perhaps we will never know how it was to be in the Garden of Eden with our Lord…but it is not lost to homesteaders that God originally instructed humanity through the natural world.

How did we veer so far from truth as to believe that the natural world isn’t a divine gift and something to be treasured? One of my most deeply spiritual practices is the communion with God I experience through gardening and tending to our animals.

In this overly politicized world that is designed to distract us from truth, protecting the natural world is one of a few temporal issues that I engage.

As you add to your homesteading skill-set, and refine your skills of production, I encourage you to consider the origin of all the resources and materials you work with. How did the fiber that your yarn is made from get made or harvested? If the tools you are working with broke, how would you rebuild or replace them? If you are raising animals, what moral code guides you?

Likely you won’t be able to influence much of these factors in the beginning, but I believe asking the questions will lead you to the bigger revelations God has in store as you provide more for yourself and depend less on society.

Living free according to ones moral code

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

I find myself sometimes romanticizing the Amish lifestyle. The Amish are exempt from the norms of modern day society. They are surrounded by a community that shares their journey and they don’t spend their time defending their ‘alternative’ lifestyle to the world.

Similar to the early Mormons, Quakers, Mennonites, monastic Catholic communities, and First Nations; when their faith became temporally inconvenient, they still live their faith. In many ways they are set apart from the modern day world.

Theologically we don’t belong to any of these groups, but I respect how they live their faiths. I yearn for that same ‘set apartness’, and in some way homesteading has provided my family with a distinction from the consumer driven society. We look forward to the possibility of building our community with others that have voluntarily turned away as well.

(originally appeared on Shawna’s former blog, Lion’s Thunder, 2/19/17)

Above All Love

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)

I have found that it is necessary for me to seize every opportunity to let people know that I love them!

Without fail over time, I will say something insensitive, forget something that was important to another, or have to deliver news that others don’t want to hear.

Hopefully before that happens I will have built up enough love surplus, that my imperfection will be met with grace.

Principles Meet Practicality

Last weekend, I spent my Saturday in a small public works meeting room with 30 other newly elected officials from around my state, being educated on the fundamentals of municipal legislation.

The attorney leading the workshop, made the statement that in addition to all the powers of other corporations, incorporated cities weld the additional powers of:

*  Taxes
*  Eminent domain
*  Police power

This was a clarifying moment for me.

First Principles

I hold as a first principle that aggression should be reserved only to defend from, or remediate damage caused by, other’s aggressive actions.  This is my understanding of the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP).  As such, I would take exercising any of these three ‘powers’ very seriously.

So when would I see use of these powers as legitimate?

Only to defend against, or remediate damage caused by aggressors.  By ‘damage’, I mean verifiable physical harm, financial loss, or quantifiable harm to property and/or the shared ecosystem.  I believe to exercise these powers without the existence of real damage to citizens, is to exercise aggression without cause.

When Principles Meet Practicality

For me, this is an easy belief system to hold in regards to eminent domain and police power.  Unless damages are created by living one’s will, neither property nor personal freedom should be threatened.

Taxes are where holding the NAP and the realities of legislation get blurry.  A purest libertarian stance would be to disband all government.  This is exactly why, in spite of many libertarian principles like the NAP being aligned with my own, I don’t see the Libertarian Party providing any real value to guide people who are actually trying to govern.

Taxes have been the reality for millennia and libertarians in practicality have failed to address the necessity of ‘public good’.  The ‘free market’ concept as nebulous as the ‘public good’ concept, so it cannot provide meaningful guidance, but is rather another important concept to be considered.

Libertarians argue any sacrifices that need to be made by the individual for the public good of the group, must be voluntary.  I don’t know if that is viable stance or not.  It seems to me that reasonable tenets to hold, as I wade through the blurriness are:

*  Defining ‘public good’ should be restricted to the people that are directly impacted (local vs. regional vs. federal locus of determination)

*  Tax burden for citizens should not increase, without the consent of the people who are being taxed (is the implied consent of a representative democracy enough)

These are the types of discussion I think we should be having as a society.  I would love to hear your insights on this.

Front Porch Store

This last year as we cleaned out our house of all our extra ‘stuff’, to make more room for more life in our home.  We had some items we knew were no longer for us but still had a lot of value.

Serendipitously, around the same time we were reading quite a bit about the gift economy, as well as speculation about future economies being built on reclaiming and repurposing old discarded items.

As an experiment we set up a ‘store’ in our enclosed front porch.  We stocked the store with surplus products from our homestead, handmade jewelry, books that contain ideas we want to share, and all the items we wanted to hold onto until we found their next home.

So far the store has just been open to family, friends, neighbors, and dinner guests.  Yet we daydream of a community of neighbors, all with Front Porch Stores open to their neighbors.  A community like that would be the model of resilience!

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Does Charity Begin at Home?

Previously this week, I posted, “..our call is to love who God loves, feed who God feeds, and heal our broken world”.

In the comments section someone posted, “Charity begins at home.”  I ‘liked’ the comment an went about my day.  Yet a question nagged at me, ‘Is that supported by scripture?’

Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1Timothy 5:8)

Those are strong words!  No doubt we are called to be charitable within our own homes and with our families.  Yet God’s call doesn’t stop at home though.  Where He expects us to start is unclear.

Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. (Matthew 5:42)

You know the commandments: “Never commit adultery. Never murder. Never steal. Never give false testimony. Honor your father and mother.'”

The official replied, “I have kept all of these since I was a young man.”

When Jesus heard this, he told him, “You still need to do one thing. Sell everything you have and give the money to the destitute, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come back and follow me.” (Luke 18:20-22)

The Gardener’s Last Stand

Just as important than all the utility of gardening:

*  Reducing dependence on a broken food system

*  Restoring & regenerating the local ecology

*  Inspiring personal relationship with the natural world

Growing food is perhaps the last unifying language we have across all constructs such as the political spectrum, socioeconomic status, religion, and race.  Gardening provides common ground and reminds us of our shared heritage.

Gardeners this is our last stand, refuse to let this broken society divide us!

All Neighbors Welcomed

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:30-31)

Last year my husband and I made the commitment to each other, and to God, to make our community a bigger priority.  This includes our family, home, church, the natural world, and our Millwood neighbors.

Over the last few years we have noticed that there is a major leadership crisis going on.  Both in corporate and government arenas, our leaders are focused on such sensationally macro-issues that they have lost all their potency as leaders!  Public discourse has followed suit as well.  The vast majority of conversations today are about issues that have little real-life implications.

A year ago when we made our commitment, Scott and I decided we didn’t want to spend our energies and resources fragmented at the surface level on a bunch of issues.  In response we committed to going deeper with our community.

What Does That Mean?

It means whole heartedly we are going to make our best effort to live out the greatest commandments, even when we feel awkward reaching out to neighbors.  We will do it, even when we are tired and one more volunteer obligation feels inconvenient.  We will passionately invest ourselves into the greatest commandments, even when no one is looking, because it isn’t about us.

Loving God and our neighbors means we are open.  We look forward to where the journey will lead us.  It means at our house, all neighbors welcomed!

A Mother’s Prayer

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again;
 there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

Spend a hour on social media and the palpable tension can hardly be denied.  The climate is ripe with conflict.  Nightly our media devices plant the seeds of fear and there are no leaders of real worth in sight.  The modern day predicament we find ourselves in is exhausting, frustrating, and heartbreaking, yet we have been here before…

Since the dawn of humanity the most difficult decision we make as individual followers is whether to spend our life committed to the call of building God’s Kingdom here on earth, a path that promises no individual glory only peace, or our own kingdoms.

The pain of this world is the result of people choosing to build their own kingdoms.

For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light. (Luke 8:17)

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)

Choose love.  Live a life of light, even when this world makes painful to do so.  Everyday let your actions stand as your testimony of where your heart is in relation to our living God.  Let your vision be fixed on eternity.

Saving the Bees (Part 2)

February 2016 we took a beekeeping class at our local Washington State University extension office.  We also joined the Inland Empire BeeKeepers Association (IEBA).  On April 16, 2016 we picked up our bee packages from Tate Farms.  It was official, we were beekeepers!

Previous to becoming beekeepers we had heard about ‘colony collapse syndrome’, but we were not educated on issues of large scale bee farming.

We were not aware that 1/3rd of every bite we take is directly or indirectly linked to bee activity.  More than 1/3rd the more plant based your diet becomes.

Watching documentaries such as ‘Vanishing of the Bees’ and ‘More than Honey’, and our experience, have convinced us that the future of bees has nothing to do with innovating solutions to enable a small number of companies to maintain hundreds of thousands of colonies.

The future of bees will be innovating solutions that enable hundreds of thousands of new backyard beekeepers to engage in this noble work.

Saving the Bees (original post)

Neighborhood Signs of Life

My hometown is currently studying ‘traffic calming’ measures for one of our neighborhoods.  Recently we had a special city council/public hearing to listen to the results of the traffic study that has been underway.  During the meeting we also heard a proposal on traffic circles by a contracted civil engineering firm.

In his presentation, Permaculture City, Toby Hemenway shared a story about a neighborhood that was having problem with an intersection.  Instead of turning to outside sources for help, the neighborhood took it upon themselves to create their own solution.

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(Permaculture City presentation, Toby Hemenway)

Neighborhood Signs of Life

I am a believer that neighborhood signs of life discourage a multitude of community ills.  One of my neighbors recently shared with me that they cherish the fact, ‘the children own our streets.”  After dinner half the neighborhood is on the street walking or riding their bike.  People gardening, mowing their lawns, watering their flowers, and sitting on their porches sipping drinks…these are ALL neighborhood signs of life!

Will some paint on the road slow down speeding traffic?  Probably not, but people who have gathering spaces in their neighborhood can slow traffic by reclaiming their neighborhood and being present on their streets.  I know I drive slower when I am sharing the road.  One powerful way to reclaim a neighborhood is to increase the walkability and bikability of the streets.

Not a ‘One Solution’ Problem

The presentation by the civil engineering firm was enlightening and their recommendations must be considered.  However, there is not a technical solution that will deliver a flawless cure.  Strategies that increase neighborhood signs of life must also be considered.

Winemaking Basics

Every year we pick Concord grapes at my friend’s homestead.  This fall we tried our hands at winemaking for the first time.

Ingredients:

2 Gallons of steam juiced Concord grape juice

4 cups of turbinado sugar

2 tsp. wine yeast

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After we steam juiced 2 gallons of grape juice, we mixed the sugar in to juice and then set aside to cool.

We added the 2 tsp. of wine yeast in a 1/2 cup of warm tap water and let set for 20 minutes to ‘activate’ the yeast.  We waited for the juice to be between temp range of 104-109 degrees, before we added it to the juice.

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After the wine yeast was mixed into the juice, we bottled the juice into 1/2 gallon growlers with a wine funnel.  We then capped the growler with air lock tops.

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We set aside the wine growlers in a warm location to ferment for 6-8 weeks.  We plan on tasting our first batch of wine with Thanksgiving dinner!

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