by Matthew Ellis   |   comments
<h1><a href="/blog/the-quickstart-guide-to-a-decluttered-home">The Quickstart Guide to a Decluttered Home</a></h1>

Leo Babauta of ZenHabits.net has several suggestions for helping you declutter your home. Why should you declutter? Leo says:

Decluttering my home has meant a more peaceful, minimal life. It’s meant I spend less time cleaning, maintaining my stuff, looking for things. Less money buying things, storing things. Less emotional attachment to things.

I just experienced this last night. Like many, we have a 'junk drawer' in the kitchen that acts as a catch-all for stuff we don't know where to put elsewhere. Every once in a while, it becomes overwhelming. Last night was one such instance. 

I needed something out of the drawer, but it wouldn't open properly. Something had been turned upright, blocking the drawer from opening. By the time I finally got the $%#$ drawer open, I was frustrated and annoyed to a degree that was honestly unreasonable. I decided to clean the drawer right then and there.

Some questions that came up:

  1. Do we need 3 pairs of scissors in this drawer? After all there are only 2 people in our house, so the odds of needing 3 at any time are pretty slim. 

  2. Why are there batteries in here? We have a place for batteries. This isn't it. 

  3. These rubberbands are broken. Can't we toss them at this point? 

On and on it went, until the drawer was pared back down to a reasonable set of contents. Now I open the drawer easily, I see exactly what I need, and I'm able to get to it without hassle. I feel a sense of peace when I open the drawer and don't see everything we've tried to hide for the last 6 months.

Does this sound weird or unreasonable to you? I bet we all have a 'junk drawer' of our own in life. Hopefully, it's small and manageable. However, the more clutter, the bigger the reward and satisfaction for cleaning it out. Now, read that article and declutter something in your life. 

The Quickstart Guide to a Decluttered Home via ZenHabits.net

by Sue Hacker Nelson   |   comments
<h1><a href="/blog/friday-roundup-071814">Friday Roundup</a></h1>

Each week, we highlight stories from our newsfeed on Prismatic. No account is required to see what we think is worth reading, so visit our profile often! We update it daily so there is usually something new to check out. Here is a sample of what we liked this week:

To Make Children Healthier, A Doctor Prescribes A Trip To The Park from NPR
When Dr. Robert Zarr wanted a young patient to get more exercise, he gave her an unusual prescription: Get off the bus to school earlier.

Pathogens On A Plane: How To Stay Healthy In Flight from NPR
From Ebola in West Africa to chikungunya in the Caribbean, the world has had plenty of strange — and scary — outbreaks this year. Some pathogens have even landed in the U.S. Just a few months ago, two men boarded planes in Saudi Arabia and brought a new, deadly virus from the Middle East to Florida and Indiana.

Marriage Advice from the World's Longest Married Couple from Lifehacker
Zelmyra and Herbert Fisher were married for almost 87 years, so it's safe to say they know a thing or two about marriage. The Fisher's participated in a Q&A on Twitter and shared some advice on love and commitment.

Why Church Members Don’t Invite Others to Church from Thom S. Rainer
Several years ago, more than one study showed large percentages of unchurched would consider attending a church if someone simply invited them. The problem is not the attitude of the unchurched; rather, it is often the failure of church members to invite others. When my church consulting teams have asked church members about their reticence to invite others to church, here are ten responses we have often heard (listed in no particular order).

Let us know which articles you liked (or didn't) in the comments!


by Matthew Ellis   |   comments
<h1><a href="/blog/the-marks-of-mission-an-example">The Marks of Mission: An Example</a></h1>

To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation.
- 5 Marks of Mission

In my last blog post, I talked about the critical role that language plays in how we see our neighbors and those in our community. I found this communication from Mayor Bramson in New Rochelle, NY cited as a rare example of political courage. I agree, and I also think it is worthy of being passed along here. We often have occasion to reflect on the Baptismal Covenant; my thoughts usually gravitate to this portion:

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

I often think about this and hope that I will act accordingly when the time comes. But what does that mean? Does that mean I should simply be nice and think kind thoughts about those who make me uncomfortable? That I should acknowledge the person with the sign asking for money, so they know that I see them as a full person while my car idles next to them at the stoplight? 

Or am I called to do more, to not only think about and treat others with respect while they are with me (aren't they always?) but to seek out opportunities to share my voice on behalf of those who often have none? Yes, I know, it specifically says "to seek" in the quoted mark of mission at the top of this page. It couldn't be more obvious, yet it's not always easy to do. 

And this is why I think this statement from Noam Bramson, the mayor of New Rochelle, NY is so worthy of being read in its entirety. It is respectful and assumes sincerity from all involved, while offering a clear, coherent witness to the dignity of those attempting to be denied their home.

In the case at issue now, an agency called Cardinal McCloskey Community Services is proposing to purchase a property in a pleasant, close-knit, middle-class neighborhood.  It will serve as a home for four young men with autism.

The neighborhood is opposed – strongly, passionately, and just about universally.  At a meeting at City Hall a couple of weeks ago, residents turned out in big numbers to voice their objections in polite, but very forceful terms. 

Mayor Bramson then gives an eloquent, well-reasoned defense of the young men proposing to live in this neighborhood, refuting with specifics objections based on fear and 'not in my backyard' justification. Most importantly, he reminds the community that these individuals are people worthy of dignity and respect. 

Read Mayor Bramson's statement here.

We often frame behavior as a response to the negative: "Don't be like that guy." Mayor Bramson has given us a positive example of how to interact with others and live out our Baptismal Covenant in real-life situations. I have no idea of his religious background, if any. I don't know anything about his politics. I do know he has given me an example of the importance of using my voice to actively support others and combat injustice. 

I hope that I am able to recognize these potential opportunities in my community. I hope I will have the courage to speak up for the respect and dignity of all people, even when it makes me uncomfortable in the moment. Actually, that's probably how I will know it's the right time and necessary to do so.  

by Sue Hacker Nelson   |   comments
<h1><a href="/blog/friday-roundup-071114">Friday Roundup</a></h1>

Each week, we highlight stories from our newsfeed on Prismatic. No account is required to see what we think is worth reading, so visit our profile often! We update it daily so there is usually something new to check out. Here is a sample of what we liked this week:

For Many Americans, Stress Takes A Toll On Health And Family from NPR
Stress is part of the human condition, unavoidable and even necessary to a degree. But too much stress can be toxic — even disabling.  And there's a lot of toxic stress out there.

Presiding Bishop on the crisis of unaccompanied children at US border from Episcopal News Service
The influx of vulnerable people from Central America, including unaccompanied minors as well as mothers with children, continues to challenge the United States to respond compassionately.  Like Sudanese or Syrian refugees, these people are fleeing hunger, violence, and the fear of rape, murder, and enslavement.  The violence in Central America has escalated significantly in recent months, particularly as a result of gangs and trafficking in drugs and human beings.  These people are literally fleeing for their lives.

Medieval Cat’s Unsubtle Protest Preserved Forever On Centuries-Old Manuscript from The Dodo
Just because you have to have a cat story every so often!

Let us know which articles you liked (or didn't) in the comments!


by Matthew Ellis   |   comments
<h1><a href="/blog/deadly-language">Deadly Language</a></h1>

The Five Marks of Mission include these:

  • To respond to human need by loving service
  • To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation

Seven people were shot after two people allegedly bumped into each other outside a bar in the neighborhood of Broad Ripple (Indianapolis) last weekend. A police officer was gunned down in an Eastside alley by a youth with an assault rifle. The same weekend, Chicago saw 16 killed and 82 people shot.

I think it’s critically important for us as a faith community to engage in discussions about community violence. Many are uncomfortable talking about these issues, especially guns. Living in a strong pro-gun state (we hosted this year’s NRA convention), I know firsthand that many feel very strongly about the value of guns in every situation. I have many family members who are strong proponents of carrying a gun at all times. They are good people with whom I happen to disagree on this issue.

I’ll have much more to say on the issue of community violence as a health issue and how we can respond in the coming weeks and months. However, there is one aspect of these discussions I would like to address now: language. 

The Language We Use Matters

In the wake of these shootings in Indianapolis, the environment here is becoming scary and I’m not talking about being out late at night. Many who identify as Christians express prayers for the victims’ families and then go on to refer to the perpetrators in terms I won’t repeat here. They describe the environments of those growing up in certain neighborhoods in apocalyptic terms and declare the city a ‘war zone’. These comments are not unique to Indianapolis.

This is unacceptable to me. As Christians, we are called to respect the dignity of every human being. Describing those who commit violence in demeaning terms encourages these individuals to be seen as sub-human, and thus unworthy of respect as a human being. It establishes an ‘us vs. them’ mentality, which leads to increasing vitriol and calls for harsher responses. In Indianapolis, the primary conversation by city leaders has been the absolute need for longer mandatory sentencing for the presence of a gun during crimes.

Our city is not ‘at war’. To describe community violence in this way only heightens tensions and leads to increased violence as everyone becomes more fearful of others, expecting the worst. It changes our view of those who share our city from neighbors to enemies.

As Christians, we may disagree about the strategies our communities adopt to address violence. This is worthy of discussion and debate and not everyone will agree. However, what is not up for debate is our basic responsibility as Christians when we participate in these discussions and listen to others.

Our Baptismal Covenant asks us:

  • Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
  • Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

Let us be mindful of demonstrating in our words and actions that as Christians, we respect the dignity of every human being and challenge violence of every kind.

Further Discussion: