Posted by secondchurch on May - 10 - 2017


“Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.” 
—  Lao Tzu

Recently I shared with someone from the church that there was a time when I owned six rental properties (most were multi-unit apartment buildings), my year-round 12-room home and a vacation home in Florida. I drove a big new Cadillac and had a big pick up truck. That was during a time when a friend called me Imelda Marcos because of all the shoes I owned. I had enough kitchen gadgets, china, glassware and silver to outfit three homes, except they were all in my year-round home. The congregant was surprised to the point that he laughed at me. I guess that’s because he got to know me and my present lifestyle.

Now Gregor and I share a one-bedroom apartment with our AbbyDog. We share one car. We occasionally rent vacation homes from others or stay with friends when we go away. All of our clothes fit into one closet. I have about 1/5 of the shoes I used to have, but that’s still probably too much. And our kitchen is about the size of a closet. I admit to struggling sometimes to find the right equipment in for the culinary task, but it suffices.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with material wealth, but the route I was taking wasn’t working for me. My stuff owned me more than I owned it. My co-workers knew me for my car and shoes because they were flashy and different. And I guess that was the point of my having all that stuff. It distracted people from getting to know me. It even distracted me from getting to know myself.

It wasn’t until I wanted to take a few weeks of vacation to some remote place that I didn’t own that I realized I was in over my head. I had to get coverage for my duties at church, but also for the other stuff. And while I was on vacation the universe conspired against me. Pipes froze at one property and caused a flood. An ice dam ruined ceilings, walls and floors at another. My fancy car was stolen and the person house sitting for me got drunk and fell into a china cabinet, trashing thousands of dollars worth of collectibles. I had to cut my vacation short to get back home to take care of all my stuff.

There came a time, after I “flipped” a 13-room antique house in which I sensed I had to make a choice. I could either be a good and faithful pastor, partner, and neighbor or I could be a good investor who had lots of nice things. I couldn’t be all those things. I know and love plenty of people who can and I admire them.

It has taken me quite a few years to downsize my life. It’s a struggle. I keep wanting to buy more shoes. Friends keep telling me about properties for sale that tempt me. And with 200,000 miles on it, my old Prius doesn’t have the gitty up it once did. I frequently feel the tug to replace it.

The odd thing is that, even though I sometimes feel like I need new stuff and more space, I have never been more satisfied with my life. I love my work and home life. I am more stable and committed to both than ever before. I think it’s because I have more time to engage people now that I have less stuff to manage. It’s almost as if tending to relationships has replaced managing my things.

Surely this is what Jesus meant when he said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rustconsume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)

What is your level of satisfaction with your life? Are there things you can do to simplify your life? Is there stuff in your life that causes you to obsess? That might be the perfect place to start working toward greater satisfaction!

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