Our Weekend with Shane Claiborne

On a Friday night, we sat around the table eating popcorn, drinking hot chocolate, and talking with our houseguest...Shane Claiborne. Shane is an author, activist, and founder of The Simple Way, an intentional community in Philadelphia. 

We first came in contact with Shane’s work through his book The Irresistible Revolution. For Sophie, the book brought together her faith commitments alongside her concern for social issues, giving her more clarity on what to study in college and encouraging her to adjust her daily living to reflect these values. For Jared, the book served as a missing piece in what Church was currently offering and painted a picture for what fully dedicated Kingdom-living might look like now. He had the youth staff at San Diego First Church read the book. For the both of us, Shane’s work was both inspirational and challenging, and helped us shape the values of our marriage around simplicity, hospitality, and justice. 

So, why was Shane sitting in our house? Sophie will take it over…

During my first year in seminary, the state of Georgia scheduled an execution date for Kelly Gissendaner. Though I had advocated for the California proposition against the death penalty in 2012, regularly scheduled executions weren’t a regular practice there, so I hadn’t given much thought to the issue. But this execution was different. People in my community knew Kelly. They had served her communion. They had taught her in theology classes. They had written letters with her. They had received ministry from her. Her story was compelling, because I was learning about a prisoner as a real person. Flawed, yes. Guilty, yes. But also forgiven and transformed. Kelly’s story of grace highlighted for me the absurdity and barbarity of the death penalty. 

Despite a groundswell of support, including a petition of over 92,000 signatures, including many of yours as well as a letter from Pope Francis, the state of Georgia executed Kelly in September 2015. She died singing “Amazing Grace.”

Shortly thereafter, I met Shane at the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) Conference, where he told a few of us Candler students about his upcoming book focused on the death penalty, called Executing Grace: How The Death Penalty Killed Jesus and Why It’s Killing Us. Shane told us when he did a book tour, he didn’t simply want to come read passages and sell copies. He wanted to highlight the way the death penalty affects real people, and bring alongside family members, ex-felons, and policy makers who deal with this daily. As he said, he chose to advocate against the death penalty, but for other people, the death penalty chooses them. 

Our Candler community had been affected by the death penalty, and situated in Georgia, a state that had the highest number of executions in 2016, we knew it was affecting more communities. Furthermore, because it is our tax dollars and elected officials that enforce this punishment, we realized we were all implicated. As a seminary and students training to go into churches, we were convicted by Shane’s explanation that the death penalty has not existed in spite of Christians, but because of Christians. Situated in the Bible Belt, we wanted to have a discussion about theology, ethics, law, and the personal impact of the death penalty. So we invited Shane to a three city speaking tour called Executing Grace in Georgia: A Faithful Conversation About the Death Penalty.

As we traveled to 3 cities in 30 hours, I saw that this movement is building, and despite the continued operation of this death machine, I have hope. As Shane said in the final event, “Before every movement, they say it’s impossible. After every movement, they say it was inevitable.” Change seems unlikely. Change seems daunting and impossible. Yet we are committed to hope. As Kayla Gissendaner, Kelly’s daughter, said at the panel, “I never gave up hope because my mom deserved every ounce I could give.” If Kayla can maintain hope, so can I. If Kelly can die with Amazing Grace on her lips, we can trust that grace will indeed get the last word. 

(click photos for slideshow)

Sometimes Shane gets dismissed for being too idealistic or too outrageous. But spending a weekend with Shane, doing regular things like driving around Georgia and sharing meals, just revealed to us a person who is all in for Jesus. Shane sees injustice in the world and engages it with his whole self. Hearing about his family and his neighborhood, and the creative ways they are building a world they want to live in, reminded us that what he preaches is possible. More accurately, what Jesus preaches is possible. Shane is, simply, is doing what we’re all called to do as disciples of Christ. Shane is fully committed to loving God with heart, mind, body, soul -  and wallet, neighborhood, and vocation. He’s not special, he is faithful. May we all find more ways to be faithful to our calling. 


The reasons Christians should stand for life and stand against the death penalty are abundant. You can read them in Shane’s book much more eloquently stated than I could recount here, or watch this video series with Shane by our new friend Rex Harsin. And I don’t need to recap the full event - you can watch the keynote and panel discussion at Candler here. To get involved with this movement for grace and life, check out the resources + action steps we recommended at the event.

Things We've Learned Living in The South

We've officially been living in Georgia for a year now. Here are a few things we've learned living in this new region. 

  • “Y’all” is a great term. We’ve started saying it, and bonus: it is gender inclusive.

  • Bugs aren’t in your home because you’re dirty, they’re there because it’s The South.

  • Most people “do church” with people who look and think exactly like themselves.

  • Yard sales start way later in the day. No more 5 am early birds.

  • There are film sets everywhere but celebrities nowhere.

  • What neighborhood you choose to live in says something about you. Missional living matters.

  • Helping people is often inconvenient and uncomfortable, because that is when people need help. In those places God helps you as you help others.

  • You can use less water in the shower than you’re using. And less toothpaste.

  • People from other parts of the country don’t necessarily like people from California.

  • Hushpuppies are a food. And they are delicious.

  • It rains. A lot. There is much to be learned from the seasons.

Keep following the blog for more updates on our life and more devotional thoughts!

You need a break.

 Cutest photos ever of #theoandbeau found at www.MommasGoneCity.com

Cutest photos ever of #theoandbeau found at www.MommasGoneCity.com

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
— Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)

“In the ancient Hebrew texts Sabbath was to light candles, sing songs, pray, tell stories, worship, eat, nap, and make love.” - Wayne Mueller

Practical ways to practice Sabbath now:

Light candles in prayer

Go on walks. Experience nature

Make a good meal with others

Fast from food

Fast something different

Take 24 hours fully off

Invest in your family or roommates well (in their love language, not yours)

Pray the Liturgy of the Hours/Divine Office

Sleep well

Confess to a friend, mentor, and also a pastor

Make love with your spouse

Choose a common act in your day (opening doors, phone ring, washing hands, stopping at traffic lights/stop lights) and pray at those moments

Offer a blessing (put your hands on the head of someone and bless them)

Sit and listen to worship music

Thin out - Delete something from your list that is undone. Donate an unread book that is weighing on you. Remove things from your kitchen that are hiding in the back. Give away the clothes you haven’t worn in past 6 months.

Pray for God to clean your heart while you clean your house

Take extra time to bathe and deep clean yourself

Turn routine activities into prayer (Pray while you brush your teeth that your words will build up others, confess sins as you clean during shower)

Take God to your special places or places of joy

Go a day with no speaking

Go a day with no purchasing

Fast from food that requires chewing

Pray about every decision you have to make in a day

Attach “God loves you” to all your clothes for a time

Take a picture a day of something that is beautiful

Actually turn your phone off

All You Can Take With You

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In February 1974, Frank and Jerri were serving as missionaries in Colombia, South America. On a previous furlough, they began collecting things to take back to their rather isolated living situation.  When offered a useful item, they accepted it, even if they had a duplicate, knowing someone could use it.

Upon returning, they soon became known for having “two or three of everything” -- gadgets, materials, small appliances.  If you came to Colombia without an item, the word was, “Go see if the Morgans might have one for you.” Frank and Jerri gave away scores of items over the years.

One day a prairie fire was swept into the center of operations by winds up to 40 mph. Frank, along with the other men, rushed to help keep the flames away from the homes and other buildings.  The raging fire seemed to sweep safely past the Morgan’s home, burning only the surrounding dry grass. Then, a burning ember blew into the attic.  Flames suddenly burst through the roof.  The Morgans had been enjoying a Sunday picnic, so the family was safe, yet they could do nothing but watch their home burn.  

Then, something astounding happened.  Before the fire even quit smoldering, people began bringing over home goods.  A toaster, a hand mixer, a pressure cooker, a food grinder, Tupperware, other gadgets, boots, rain gear, tools, a shortwave radio, hair clippers, even a small artificial Christmas tree.  Not everything came back, but lots did.  People would say, “You gave me this when you had more than one and I had none.  Now you have none and I’m bringing it back.”  Frank and Jerri expressed it this way, “Everything we kept for ourselves was lost.  All that was saved was what we had given away.”

 

Scripture: Luke 12:13-21

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

Further Exploration:

Watch It’s a Wonderful Life

Read the book “7” by Jen Hatmaker 

Matthew 6:19-24 

Matthew 19: 16-30

What can you give away?  Where are you storing up things for yourself? Where can you be rich toward God?

Mac & Cheese as Worship

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I love mac and cheese. Memories of opening the wooden cabinets at my parent’s home come, salivation at the sound of the noodles shifting in the box as you remove it from the shelf.  Busting into the side of the blue box with my thumb, super easy to cook, delightful squishy sound as it drops into your bowl.  I love mac and cheese.    

A couple years ago now I discovered Better World Shopper.  It is an incredibly helpful website (with corresponding book and smartphone app that gathers and synthesizes countless studies, articles, and surveys to rank companies.  The BWS focuses on five categories: human rights, the environment, animal protection, community involvement, and social justice.  When I discovered these rankings I started combing the categories and looking right at the bottom of the list for which companies earned “F” rankings. Then it hit.  Kraft Foods = F.

Oh man. I dug deeper. It turns out Kraft is continually ranked as one of the Top 10 Worst Companies, for reasons such as failing to label GMO ingredients and refusing to negotiate with workers for fair wages and good working conditions. Furthermore, Kraft, which spun off of Philip Morris (the cigarette company), controls a huge number of other food and beverage brands. I was faced with a dilemma.  I could no longer participate in purchasing from a company that I now knew was directly responsible for breaking the Golden Rule and some of the Ten Commandments.  My monetary support directly contributes to the continuation of their sinful practices.  

I mourned Kraft Mac and Cheese. That may sound silly, but I did. Then I searched for mac and cheese options that would not contradict my values, values I hold in obedience to God.  I discovered Annie’s.  Annie’s = A+.  They go out of their way to produce quality products while treating their workers fairly, valuing sustainability, and contributing to their community. Amen! At that moment, my mac and cheese eating became worship. A moment of purchasing, a moment of eating, redeemed for the glory of God.

(Bonus: Maybe my meals shouldn’t come out of a box at all. A further step in seeing food as worship could be participation in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.  Google “CSA” with your city name to find groups in your area).

Scripture: Colossians 3:17 (NIV)

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Tips:

- Don’t get overwhelmed! Have grace for yourself for past purchase and/or current habits.  

- Pray for the courage and strength to change.

- Don’t always start at the bottom of the rankings. Seek out places that sell items near the top and start there.

- Start with simple changes, like which sodas you drink or supermarkets you visit.

- Change where you bank to a local credit union.

Further Exploration:

- Contact us! This topic runs very deep and presents layers of questions and creative solutions.  We have been journeying this way for a couple of years. We would love to share our experiences further and learn from the way you journey towards God in your mindful consumption.  

- Watch “Fridays at the Farm”

- Read about the 10 corporations that control almost everything we buy


What steps are you taking to purchase ethically? Where is an area you’ve found success? Where is an area of improvement? What resources would you suggest to others?

Rest Porn

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I remember the first time I was exposed to it. I think maybe it was in a friend’s house.  I tried to look away, but my eyes were locked onto the images.  It made me feel warm inside.  It was a Thomas Kinkade painting. The picture was a rustic cabin on a lake at the base of a majestic mountain range.  I wanted to be transported there.

Pornography, of the nudity/sexual variety, erodes our ability to enjoy healthy sexuality in reality. Pornography cheapens the realness of sex because it is an airbrushed version, an unattainable facade.  In real sex, sometimes you sneeze, sometimes you fart, people have body hair.  It is not airbrushed “perfect”, but it is good.

I believe we love cabins and cozy, Pinteresty things because of our innate need of sabbath/rest. But these images can become “rest porn” if I am gaining pleasure from the idealized and manipulated version of true rest.  I idolize this “idea of rest” to an unrealistic and unachievable pedestal, thus robbing the value of true rest that is accessible to me.  It becomes rendered useless, weak, lacking, cheap, undesirable, and unfulfilling.  

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Our sabbath is the same way. True rest doesn’t need to happen in places worthy of a postable photo. We must carve out time and place to defend sabbath, especially amidst our busy schedules.  We cannot fall victim to the lie that in order to find rest we must escape everyday life, or we risk not finding any sabbath at all.  

 

Scripture:

Exodus 20:8-11 (NIV)

"Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy."

Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)

 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

 

Jubilee Economics - A Really, Really Free Market

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Asheville, North Carolina is a strange and mystical land.  I had very little expectations for North Carolina, and what little I had expected was wiped out as soon as we drove in.  We arrived in Asheville and were immediately soaked in the counter-culture atmosphere that emanates from every part of town. The only way to describe the vibe is that “hippie” is the norm, and everyone else is out of place.  

We figured the best way to fill our days in Asheville was to wander and follow the spirit of adventure.  In 48 hours, it led us to an underground circus, vegan restaurants, and an off-the-grid community skatepark.  Then we spotted it. A hand-drawn poster stapled to an electrical post. We were invited to the “Really, Really Free Market.”  They had me hooked at “free”. I love free stuff. I love bargains, deals, coupons, hand-me-downs, scavenged food, anything free. I love it. It completes me on a deeper level. Seriously. I love it.

So we went. On a Saturday late morning we walked into a park and were greeted by a troupe of randoms. They were organizing piles of clothes, cassette tapes, DVDs, home knick-knacks, and even old computers. We immediately started folding and sorting clothes. Baby clothes in this pile. Men’s pants in another.  We discovered they gather once a month to provide a space for the community to give and receive.  To unload items that have gone unused. To seek things that are desperately needed but cannot be afforded.  That random Saturday in a new town, the Kingdom was present.

 

Scripture: 

Leviticus 25

"That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you: you shall not sow, or reap the aftergrowth, or harvest the unpruned vines. For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you: you shall eat only what the field itself produces." 

Acts 4:32-37

"Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common."

 

Participate:

Find a “Really, Really, Free Market” near you. 

Start one! Host an official market or simply create a space within your church, dorm, business, apartment complex, etc.

Utilize The Freecycle Network to give and receive usable items online.

Reflect on: 

What do you have to give? What clothes haven’t you worn in the last six months? What items haven't been used in the last six months?

How could someone else benefit from those items?

How can you reduce your consumption and rely on the generosity of community?

Research the biblical concept of Jubilee and varying ways to apply it today. Jubilee USA & Jubilee Economics are creative resources.