Two Kinds of Belief

Two Kinds of Belief

I think we can divide personal beliefs into two categories: confessional and functional.  A confessional belief is a belief that a person claims to have.  Everyone claims to believe in something.  It might be the work of a charity, spreading a message of hope, or feeding the homeless.  They might speak out against child slavery, human trafficking, or African genocides.

The fun thing about confessional beliefs is you don’t have to back them up.  You can just say you believe anything you want.

Functional beliefs tell the truth.  If you want to see what someone believes, watch him or her live life.  Do they give time and money to the causes they confessionally believe in?

It’s clear when the answer is yes.  You are too busy working on child advocacy or foster care to waste time on internet farms.  You forego certain luxuries because you sacrificially gave to support something bigger than yourself.

 “Everything we believe, we do.” Derrick Webb

Ultimately, we act on the beliefs we have and do not act on those we only claim.  This is the litmus test for belief.

Do you want to be aware of where what you do does not line up with what you say?  How can you spend some time today determining where the gaps are between your confessional and functional beliefs?

(I’d love to hear your ideas, either here in the comments or by email to  I am always looking for new ways to look at my life.)

Photo by: colon+right.bracket.

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What is valuable?

what is valuableSometimes it’s tough to assign value to things, sometimes it’s blindingly easy.  The trouble is when someone else assigns value to things for you.  At the heart of minimalism is a shift in values.  As a minimalist, I reject the idea that having things is the way to happiness.  If I watch TV, I can’t avoid someone trying to make me feel like I need something I don’t have.  Thankfully, I don’t have a TV in my home.  The message is everywhere in western culture.  Magazines are picture advertisements with a few articles included.  Movies are full of product placements.  All of them designed to get you to value a product enough to spend your money on it.

I am tired of it.  I don’t value piles of possessions cluttering up my life.  While I’m still in the process of ridding myself of years of accumulation, I’ve gone far enough down the road to know that I don’t intend to go back.  Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to help think about where you place value.

  • Do you love things?
  • Do you love time?
  • Do you love people?
  • Do you love experiences?
  • Do you love your faith?
  • Do you love freedom?

In that list, I value faith, freedom, people, time and experiences.  It’s a little strange, but I’m at a place in life where I could do without any of my possessions.  I’m grateful that my wife is following along and learning to be minimalist as well.  We value time with one another over time working for more money to buy new things.  We value each other and our friends over sitting in front of a TV.  We enjoy new experiences with one another over spending all of our money on stuff we don’t need.  We love Jesus and not the world.  We love the freedom of less stuff over collecting things that we would have to keep up.

What do you value?

Photo by: Nina Matthews Photography.

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The Key

The keyNow that you have your map essentially complete, you need a key.  I define your key as the nonnegotiable terms that will define the journey for a lifetime.  I recommend that you keep this list to a minimum, as too many guidelines will be very difficult to keep up with.  My list has 5 resolutions.  It is okay to make clarifying statements to go along with your resolutions.  However, I’d keep them to a minimum for the sake of simplicity.

  1. Be content.
  2. Be present.
  3. Live each moment.
  4. Obey Jesus.
  5. Be honest.

One way to come to these terms is to brainstorm a big list of important traits and values.  Then take your time to rate them from most to least important.  Put the list away for a few days and get it back out and make sure that your ratings are consistent.  Then take the top four or five and write them into resolutions and post it somewhere prominent.  Try to write them as positive statements and not “I’ll never do such and such.”  Positive statements are more forceful and tend to help me think proactively rather than reactively.

Now that you have a good map, go forth and conquer!

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Consumer-mas is coming

Consumer-mas is comingSoon it will be the time of year when ad copy trumps family tradition and worry about what gifts to buy drowns out the joy of giving those gifts.  Since Christmas is only 3 months away, I decided to write my wish list early.  I ended up with two lists.  One is the list the perfectly altruistic me would write.  It reads: Don’t give me anything.  Put all the money you were going to spend on me into the bellies of hungry kids.  The other is the list the minimalist me would write.  It reads: Help me build a standing desk.

As I take stock of what I have and don’t have, the don’t haves are not nearly as pressing as they once were.  I do not want many things that I do not have.  In fact, the opposite is true.  I want to get rid of many of the things I do have.

So here’s the plan.

This year as Christmas approaches, write a new kind of Christmas list.  Write down all the things you want to give away this year.  Whether you give them as gifts, to charities, or to the garbage collector matters not.  What matters is that this is a perfect opportunity to be counter-consumer and simplify your home and holiday season.

Remember, it is more blessed to give than to receive.

Photo by: ercwttmn.

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One at a time

One at a timeIn a world that moves in fast forward, multi-tasking is required if you want to get anything done.  Or is it?  Do you find yourself so scattered that you can’t keep your schedule straight?  Things overlap so much that it gets hard to distinguish one from another.  When my life gets that crazy, I find that it bleeds into my sense of well-being.  I start to feel like something is always undone.  I get stressed out and can’t figure out what is causing it.

When that happens, I stop everything, look at everything and assess what needs to stay.  Then I purposely do only one thing at a time for a while.  That focus leads me to feel more unified and settled.  Counter intuitively, it tends to up my productivity.  When I work on one thing at a time, I can put all of my energy into it and do a great job.  The feeling of doing a great job is both settling and rewarding.

Do you have a few minutes today to sort out what is mental clutter and what needs doing?  I’d argue that you can’t afford not to do it.  Try facing your tasks one at a time and see how it goes.  I would love to hear about your experiment.

Photo by:  Crismatos//Busy*OFF/ON.

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Find a guide

Find a guide
Find a guide
Even with a good map, sometimes it is still difficult to find your way.  When you write your bucket list and adjust your course with your moral compass, sometimes you still can use some help getting to where you want to go.  Maybe your path takes you through some uncharted waters or a fire bog (à la The Princess Bride).  This is where having one or more guides really starts to shine.  Someone who has been there can show you the ropes and help a great deal in getting to where you need to go.

How Guides Help

Mountain climbers really know the value of a good guide.  The world-famous Sherpas have been guiding people up and down Mount Everest since Tanzig Norgay guided famous the Hillary expedition to the summit in 1953.  They are widely recognized as experts in their high altitude terrain and can take any prepared and equipped person where they want to go.  Why do people take Sherpas on expeditions in the Himalayas?  They know that if they go it alone, even with a good map, they are not likely to succeed.  The way to the peak is littered with obstacles that can cause even the well-prepared adventurer to turn back.  A good guide has seen these dangers hundreds of times and knows how to mitigate the risk.

In more mundane matters, guides are just as helpful.  Many betrothed couples seek the advice of married couples as they embark on a journey to experience life together.  Athletes of all levels work with coaches to improve their effectiveness on the field.  People with big decisions to make will look for others who have had similar experiences to help them find the pitfalls and maximize their chances for success.

Where to find your guide

Guides of all kinds are available for any endeavor.  At the most basic level, your friends and family serve as guides.  While you might miss their influence, friends and family have tons of influence on what you do.  They are usually the first to hear your plans and offer support or criticism.  In the early stages of life, many of your guides will be teachers.  As you go to school, they show you the ropes of learning and try to prepare you for navigating the waters of society as an adult.

Friends of friends help more than probably any other group of people.  Need help learning the skills you need for a hobby?  Ask your friends if they know any mountain bikers or rock climbers or painters.   Chances are good that someone does and that they would love a new friend.  Social media makes these kinds of things even easier.

For regular old living life needs, I look to the previous generation.  There is nothing new under the sun, so someone I know has had to make similar decisions to mine.  I try to find a friend that I already have a relationship with who seems to have things together and ask them how they got there.  Most people who I have asked have been very happy to help out.

Get out there

 Who can you talk to today about being a guide?  It doesn’t have to be a long-term formal relationship for you to both benefit from it.  Pick one of your bucket list items that you are not sure how to complete and find a guide to help you.  Do it today so that it doesn’t have time to get covered up by the urgent things that always drown out the important things when we aren’t careful.

 Don’t stop at finding your guide. Grab your map, pick up your compass, speak with your guide and start moving towards your goals!

(Thanks for reading!  Where else do you look for guides?)

Photo by: Cezar Martins

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First World Problems

Your story brings to mind a letter from C.S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves. In that 1917 letter, C.S. Lewis wrote, “Nobody who gets enough food and clothing in a world where most are hungry and cold has any business to talk about ‘misery.’” Consider for a few moments the positive impact that would result if everyone on the face of this planet applied just a single month’s Internet bill to the poor, homeless and hungry who we too often try to pretend just aren’t there.


This was a comment in a recent post by Joshua Becker at Becoming Minimalist which you can read here.  Joshua’s account of poverty in San Salvador, El Salvador moved me.  After describing the disturbing scene in one woman’s impoverished home, he called people to consider how they could live minimally to help eradicate poverty.

First world problemsThe comment caught my attention because I am a big fan of C. S. Lewis and because I have thought a lot lately on so-called “first world problems.”  First world problems are things like being hungry but not wanting to cook or go to the store, having a dying laptop battery but not wanting to get off the couch to plug it in, and it being a little too hot or too cold for our preferences.  They all boil down to matters of convenience.

In the first world we have so much that it is easy to forget what real struggles are.  Most of the people I know probably can’t remember the last time they were genuinely hungry.  If we go more than a few hours past when we want to eat we get grumpy.  Imagine a life where food is a maybe not a given, where you might not have any good prospects for food outside of someone’s unexpected generosity.  It’s a frighteningly common condition throughout the world.

In comparison, I get upset when my Facebook page won’t update properly or Grooveshark won’t load the songs I want to hear.  I don’t like having to go out of my way to the grocery store, even though it’s only a 10 minute drive from the grocery to my home.  Did I mention it’s a drive!?  I don’t even have to walk.  Then I can park just outside the apartment and walk it into some climate controlled space with a refrigerator to keep my food cool.  The further I follow this line of thought, the more ridiculous it is to me to complain about anything in my life.

I’m asking all of you to join me in a campaign against poverty and first world complaining at the same time.

Find a container in your house and repurpose it.  You might be familiar with the idea of a swear jar.  Every time you swear you put some money into the jar so that doing the thing you are trying to quit doing actually has consequences.  A lot of times that money will go towards a reward for the person working towards their personal growth goal.

In this case, I want you to have an anti-complaining jar.  Every time you voice (or think) a first world complaint, you put x amount of money into a jar.  On a monthly basis, give the money in the jar to a charity that is working to end poverty.  We can work together to make the world a better place for those who are truly in need, and we can grow personally by ending our complaining habits.

I would love for you to join me as I work to kill my habit of whining about things that I have no business complaining about and helping those who are less fortunate for no other reason than where they were born.  Maybe Gene was on to something in the comment above when he encouraged people to give one internet bill to poverty.  Please consider how you can give out of your plenty to help those who literally have nothing.

(Thanks for reading!  I am in the early planning stages of a broader anti complaining campaign that I would love for you to join.  I can’t change the world by myself, but with your help anything is possible.  Keep an eye out for future messages and a new experiment on the horizon.)

Photo by: Shared Interest.

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