Archive | August, 2015

10 rules of thumb for living with less

August 24, 2015

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It’s not all about you — or your stuff

The search for meaning in our lives, for activity that truly satisfies, is a spiritual journey even for people not connected to any organized religion.

BlessedByLessThat’s the belief of author Susan V. Vogt, and in “Blessed by Less,” her book about living lightly, she named the spiritual principles that guided her and “rules of thumb” as practical advice. Her principles “are about letting go of what is less important to make way for a contemplative heart in action.”

One’s worth and importance, Vogt wrote, are not dependent on what we own, how we look and feel, how much we know and what we can accomplish.

“Spirituality is about seeking the Divine Presence. It’s not all about me,” she noted. “God’s presence surrounds me if I but look and listen. The spiritual response is to turn this contemplative awareness into action for the good of humanity.

“Uncluttering our lives, both materially and inwardly,” Vogt wrote, “can bring us a fuller, more meaningful life and free us to attend to the needs of others. . . . We want to make a positive difference in our world. Learning to live more generously, humbly and lightly is a way to do this.”

Deciding how much is enough — and how much is too much — is something every person needs to answer for him or herself, Vogt added, but she included the following 10 “Rules of Thumb for Living Lightly”:

  1. Living in destitution in not a virtue; helping people out of destitution is.
  2. Be prudent, responsible and wise.
  3. Be generous, unencumbered and fair.
  4. The less I have, the less I have to guard, clean and repair.
  5. If I don’t need it now (or soon), can I give it to someone who does?
  6. Spend in order to save.
  7. Decide which technologies save time, energy and money — and which ones waste time, energy and money.
  8. Let go of anger, grudges and compulsions to lighten the heart.
  9. Smile and laugh more.
  10. Forgive others. Forgive myself. It lifts the spirit.

 

Excerpts are from “Blessed by Less: Clearing Your Life of Clutter by Living Lightly,” by Susan V. Vogt. Loyola Press (Chicago, 2013). Paperback, 122 pp., $13.95.

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County Fairs and Back to School

August 24, 2015

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Tim-ParkerGlastonbury154MuckyBoots-300x225August has a certain rhythm for me; it means the hottest days of the summer, the county fair and preparing to go back to school.

Every August we see the ads: Back to School Sale! Even years after having no children to buy school supplies for, I still have this uncontrollable urge to purchase notebooks and No. 2 pencils! There is something about that anticipation of starting something new and fresh and getting all new notebooks and pens that is so exciting! This year, although I am not going back to school, I am starting a new job. It was such a pleasant and welcoming surprise for me on my first day to find new note pads, pens, paper clips and post it notes on my desk.

August also brings back other memories for me; that of the county fair. Being involved with 4-H, the fair means projects, barns and showing animals. If you didn’t grow up around animals, you may not know much about manure. Let me teach you a few things that this farm girl knows. A lesson I have learned from manure can be used whenever we are starting something new.

As you walk through a barn and collect manure on your boots, you need to be careful not to track that mud and manure into other buildings, whether that is another barn where disease could spread to other animals or your home and clean living spaces. Often, there is a hose or tray filled with water outside of the barn put there just for the purpose of washing off the muck.

The image from Matthew 10:14 come to mind whenever I see this process. “Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words—go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet.” Although not shaking dust exactly, the image of ridding yourself of the muck on your boots before entering into new territory is a good practice.

The anticipation of children starting a new school year fresh is wonderful. I would remind my children that anything is possible! They were starting with a new teacher, new subjects and a new start! Issues from the previous year or school didn’t need to follow them. If last year you struggled with a certain class or classmate, now was the time to set a new tone. This is a lesson I think we all can use as we start new seasons of our life.

Is there any muck that is stuck to your boots that could contaminate a fresh start?

Let’s thoroughly clean the muck from our hearts and minds and start fresh! And just for good measure, buy yourself a new notebook and a No. 2 pencil, too!

* This post was originally posted on WINE: WomenIn the New Evangelization

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For the Forgotten Babies

August 18, 2015

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flower

The Grandview Farm Baby Cemetery lies about 2 miles south of Divine Mercy Catholic Church in Faribault Minnesota.  The Cemetery is part of  the Minnesota State Hospital System (most recently called the Faribault Regional Center that operated in Faribault from 1879 until 1998. Once called the School for Idiots and Imbeciles (and later called the Feeble-Minded School) in times when we had little sensitivity to the labels we put on people with disabilities, there are three cemeteries associated with that facility.  Two near the facility and one near a farm that the school operated in the early 1900’s.  Here, in this place with no individual markers, are buried the babies that were either born at the hospital and didn’t survive (Men and women were separated at the hospital but it is rumored that sometimes they did get together and pregnancy happpened) or children who were abandoned and left without identification.  It is also rumored that babies were buried there who were born to local women whom, because of the circumstances of their pregnancy, were too embarrassed or weren’t allowed to bury their children in an established church cemetery.

I went out to look at this cemetery about a month ago because I have been working on the Garden of Mercy at Divine Mercy Parish in Faribault.  This garden is set aside as a place where all who seek mercy can find peace.  A section of the garden is dedicated to children who died either before or after birth for whatever reason whether miscarriage, abortion or illness.  As part of the dedication of the garden this Sunday, August 23, rocks with names of lost children will be placed near the water feature.  Through this healing gesture, parents were asked to name their sometimes unnamed children who lost before birth, may not have been given a name.  Three of the one hundred stones that will be dedicated are mine. Jordan David, Katie Shea and James Kevin.

While compiling the list of names, I came across a request for a memorial stone for “All the Lost Children.”

Like the Unknown Soldier monument, this rock and garden is a spiritual resting place for unwanted children, those who have suffered from abuse or are casualties of war or abortion. The garden is a place of healing for those parents and the parents of children lost to illness or accident no matter at what age because we know as parents, the natural order of things is that we die first.

The garden though is not a place just for memorials.  It is a place of mercy; a living place of love and forgiveness.

Pope Francis has called a Year of Mercy starting December 8, 2015.  In the Bull of Induction for the Jubilee of Mercy, the Pope states that:

As we can see in Sacred Scripture, mercy is a key word that indicates God’s action towards us. He does not limit himself merely to affirming his love, but makes it visible and tangible. Love, after all, can never be just an abstraction. By its very nature, it indicates something concrete: intentions, attitudes, and behaviors that are shown in daily living. The mercy of God is his loving concern for each one of us. He feels responsible; that is, he desires our wellbeing and he wants to see us happy, full of joy, and peaceful. This is the path which the merciful love of Christians must also travel. As the Father loves, so do his children. Just as he is merciful, so we are called to be merciful to each other.

A blessing and dedication is planned for August 23 after the 10:00 Mass with Bishop Cozzens in attendance. Let us all pray for this place  to be a place of love, forgiveness and comfort to all who seek it and for it to be a place where mercy lives through this jubilee year and beyond.

All are welcome to attend the Mass and dedication.  Information about requesting a memorial stone will be available at the dedication

Divine Mercy Catholic Church is located at 139 Mercy Drive, Faribault Minnesota.

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Willing to be ‘blessed by less’?

August 17, 2015

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BlessedByLessAre you ready to clear your life of clutter by living lightly?

Those willing to try the suggestions Susan V. Vogt offers in “Blessed by Less” — an easy-to-read, 122-page paperback — will find they are right in sync with the recent encyclical of Pope Francis that encourages better stewardship of the earth’s resources and valuing all creation.

Vogt hits a nerve right from the start: “Your life is an overflowing closet. You know it is.”

Living lightly, she writes, “is not just about the stuff we accumulate, and it’s not just for people in the second half of life. It’s about an attitude of living with fewer burdens and encumbrances, whether you’re 21 or 65.”

There is a spirituality to that attitude, one held by those who remember that their existence is more than accumulating possessions and gaining status, and those spiritual principles drive this Loyola Press book. As Vogt puts it, “It’s a delicate dance to balance my own genuine needs with those of others. The spiritual paradox is that the less tightly I cling to my stuff, my way, and my concerns, the happier and more blessed I feel. Once I have enough, less is more.”

How many of us are aware of what Vogt labels “creature comfort creep”?

It’s feeling perfectly comfortable with a possession like a cell phone until we see people around us who have a newer phone with even greater capabilities. We
“have to” buy it, thus creating a “new normal,” one that will itself one day be outpaced by a yet newer model. The creature comfort creep goes for seeing others with a lifestyle we might covet, too.

As good as are the suggestions for how to go about decluttering and living lightly, there is great advice here too about the intangibles in our lives, such as privacy, social media, feelings, over-scheduling and over-committing, being consumed with being right, winning arguments and getting one’s way.

The chapter on letting go of emotional baggage is as valuable as Vogt’s criteria for making purchases. She does an excellent job of condensing good things to remember into lists and bullet points, and each chapter has suggestions both basic and more complex, plus an appropriate Scripture passage to mediate on and questions to reflect upon or discuss.

And, in a approach I hadn’t seen before, “Blessed by Less” includes ideas to try “For those in the first half of life” who may be more in the accumulating mode and “For those in the second half of life,” more likely to be looking to disburse some of those accumulations, both the material and the emotional. That’s good thinking.

Deep in a chapter on recycling the author drops what may be the one take-away from the book that could be a mantra for everyone in the 21st century:

“The best way to recycle is to reduce the need for it (recycling) by buying and accumulating less in the first place.”

 

 

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Beautiful weather makes putting up deer stands fun

August 6, 2015

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Success in bow hunting is all about preparation. One of the key elements is putting up stands well in advance so that the deer get used to them.

It’s also important to place them in such a way that you can hunt in as many different wind directions as possible without spooking deer. That’s the hard part.

I am hunting a new piece of property down near Red Wing, and I had put up two stands earlier in the year. But, I needed at least one more, according to a whitetail bow hunting expert, Jim Hill, who has shot dozens of trophy bucks in his lifetime.

Heeding his advice, I went down on Tuesday with a friend to put up a third stand along a ridge that looks promising for deer movement. We got the job done without a lot of sweat, which is surprising for this time of year. The humidity was low and it was nice and cool, with a northwest breeze making it even more comfortable.

I may be set with my three stands, but I’m contemplating a fourth. Have to think about that. One thing’s for sure: The crops look healthy and robust. I am hunting near the edge of a soybean field, and the plants look green and vibrant. If the September archery opener happens while the leaves are still green, I should have good deer movement into the field. But, the leaves often turn yellow by that time, and the deer shy away from them until after the beans are harvested.

I’ll be sure to check a day or two before the opener to see if the soybean leaves are still green. If so, I’m in business. Otherwise, I’ll probably wait until after they’re harvested. Not a big deal, as the law allows me to tag just one deer in this area, Zone 3. More than likely, I’ll hold out for a buck, which has to have at least four antler points on one side. I’m hoping I will get a shot at one this year.

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