Thursday, December 6, 2012

In your memoir, how are you teaching values and beliefs?

Does our culture’s focus on consumerism bother you?

It bothers me.

It burdens my heart.

Our craving for material goods and comfort makes me very sad because, the way I see it, such pursuits clash with the reasons God gave us life.

Often I feel out of step with people around me, especially at Christmas when I recognize, yet again, what we’ve made of it: an emphasis on consumerism.

This year I’ve made time to ponder how it is that I dance to a tune different from so many around me. I want to know how it happened because I want to include my values and beliefs in stories I write for my grandchildren.

Looking back over the years, I’d say it’s God’s fault I’m out of sync with so much of my culture.

He sent me way out of my culture—to South America for three years and to Africa for eight—and He did some heavy-duty remodeling of my heart.

On those two continents, God showed me that millions of people live always on the edge of desperation. I watched them, got to know them, sang with them, cried for them, and prayed for them.

The experiences humbled me and changed me and broke me.

He shook up my priorities, my worldview, my lifestyle. He shook up the way I spend money—or not.

It’s as if He said, “You and your family don’t need more stuff! Instead, use your money for the poor and needy, the orphan and widow!” (James 1:27 sums it up pretty well, but also see Deuteronomy 14:28-29 and Isaiah 1:17.)

God turned me into what Kay Warren calls “seriously disturbed, gloriously ruined.

In Dangerous Surrender: What Happens When You Say Yes to God, Kay writes of those who belong to the Seriously Disturbed, Gloriously Ruined Club:

They are no longer content to live with the focus of their lives on their world—themselves, their problems, their family, their career. 

Their eyes have been opened to new realities. 

They have seen how the suffering world lives, and it is now real. 

They cannot ignore the suffering or pretend it doesn’t exist.

They are compelled to do something about it.

Kay helped me see: God trained me, He gave me a counter-cultural view of consumerism—and of our purposes for being. He impressed upon me that my life’s goal is not to increase the number and quality of my possessions. He whispered to me that gifts for family members don’t need to be expensive and extravagant. He said loud and clear: “Be generous with the needy instead!”

So I ask myself: What vignettes can I write to illustrate those values and beliefs to my children and grandchildren?

And, at the same time, how can I emphasize Jesus’ warning not to give to the needy for the purpose of drawing attention to ourselves and receive honor from others? (See Matthew 6:2)

How about you? Do you ever feel you’re marching to the beat of a different drummer?

Do you know why or why not?

What experiences re-shaped your heart and cemented your values and beliefs?

What stories can you write for your readers to reveal values and beliefs different from those the world offers them?

Write stories to communicate James’ message: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).

Take care to emphasize Jesus’ warning not to give to the needy for the purpose of drawing attention to ourselves and receive honor from others (Matthew 6:2).

Pray, as you write, that God will give your children, grandchildren, and other readers a sense of purpose and joy in being generous to those in need.


  1. I share your dismay about consumerism. Aside from the have/have not gap, we are killing our planet with it! It's not sustainable, and it can't continue. I have faith that mankind is learning a lesson from all this.

  2. Linda, I too struggle with the consumerism that is now at the heart of Christmas and our society. It is not, in my opinion, what God intended for us. Appreciated reading your take on materialism and like Kay Warren's "seriously disturbed, gloriously ruined" club. :)