On the seventh day God created rest and called it holy. Rest is a gift of God. The fourth commandment tells us to rest, to stop everything. Sounds nice, but how do we find rest in a 24/7 world?
Admit it. You’ve probably done the same thing I have in the store checkout line. You’ve picked up one of the flashy magazines with the fabulous photos and headlines, thinking this will be the article with the answers to finally becoming more beautiful, successful, organized, and better at cooking from scratch. Then we’re almost always disappointed, aren’t we?
At first glance, the cover of author Nancy Sleeth’s new book looks a bit like one of those magazines. Maybe from 2012…or a few years back. I’ve had a peek inside this book which just went to print. Almost Amish is all substance, but still an easy read. It’s one of those great gift books for a friend or female relative.
Sleeth gets very personal about her journey toward a simpler life along with husband Matthew Sleeth, who wrote Serve God, Save the Planet and wrote the introduction to The Green Bible. Together, they founded Blessed Earth ministry and they talk with numerous church and community groups each year about their calling as Christians. I recently had the chance to ask more about this latest book.
Here’s my conversation with author Nancy Sleeth:
Q: How do you think this latest book is set apart from the earlier books you and your husband have written on similar subjects?
A: Our other books have focused on creation care explicitly, while Almost Amish asks some broader questions: Is technology our tool, or our master? How does financial debt keep us from answering the Lord’s call? Does all the stuff in our basements, garages, and closets bring us closer to God?
Almost Amish is primarily aimed at those who feel their lives have taken a wrong turn and want to start taking small steps toward a slower, simpler, more sustainable life. As C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity, “Going back can sometimes be the quickest way forward.” Almost Amish not only questions the current false worship of a limitless lifestyle but offers practical tips–like our Friday night family dinners–that help us get (and stay!) on the right path.
Q: Why do you think most of us don’t take time to follow some of the “Almost Amish” habits like paring down our possessions and keeping order in our homes?
A: Two thousand years ago the Apostle Paul said, “I don’t understand my own actions. I will what is right, but I can’t do it.” Sound familiar?
Most of us live under the tyranny of the urgent. Instead of leaving room for margins, we operate at full speed, 24/7. We get so overwhelmed, we feel numb or anxious and do nothing.
Big changes begin with small steps. Every Saturday, our family cleans the house together. This simple habit prepares us for Sunday rest. Once you establish this pattern, you will never want to give it up–Sabbath becomes the highlight of your week.
One good thing leads to another. It becomes easier to add another habit, such as organizing one drawer, one shelf of the closet, or one corner of the basement during your Saturday cleaning. If you do a little bit 52 times a year, you will see life-altering results: a home that was once in constant havoc becomes a peaceful haven.
Q: Your ministry, Blessed Earth, clearly lays out Christ-centered reasons to care for Creation. Do you think this attitude is now mainstream in the wider Christian community? Why or why not?
A: Blessed Earth focuses on the biblical call to care for God’s creation. From Genesis to Revelation, scripture is filled with passages that show God revealing himself through creation, God loving his creation, and God calling us to care for his creation. It makes sense that if we love the Creator, we should care for his creation. If God groans when a single sparrow falls from the sky, we should do all we can to make sure that we are being good stewards of what He has entrusted in our care (Gen 2:15).
One reason we have become separated from this biblical mandate is the industrialization of the last century. A hundred years ago, it would not be unusual for a church to pray for rain in times of drought. But now, our food comes wrapped in cellophane, paid for with a credit card. We have forgotten that EVERYTHING on earth is gift from God.
A second reason is that care for the planet is perceived as a political issue. Many churches have labeled creation care as part of the liberal agenda. They forget that the root of the word “conservative” is “conserve.” But creation care is at its very core a moral issue: the basic causes of our environmental problems are greed and selfishness. Scientists, politicians, and engineers have mostly made things worse, not better. Our best and last hope is for the church to take a leadership role in caring for God’s creation.
For example, I hang my laundry on the line as a spiritual discipline. Yes, it conserves energy and saves money that I can use to help people with less. But hanging out the clothes also gives me a chance to hang out with God. Praying while I hang the clothes and hearing one of God’s birds sing are daily reminders that God gave his Son to save the world. They put my minor sacrifices–like adjusting the thermostat or composting food waste–into perspective.
Q: Even if I’m not interested in living an Amish lifestyle or even a Christian lifestyle, what one thing could I take from your new book that would make my life better?
Getting started is simple: Decide what work is for you, and one day a week don’t do it. For me, that means no email, no meetings, and no shopping. I read. I take a long walk. I nap. I spend time with family. And I rest in the knowledge that the world can get along just fine without Nancy Sleeth one day a week!
No matter where you are on your faith journey, you need a weekly day of rest for spiritual, physical, and mental health. If you cannot take a whole day, start with four hours. It will change the other six days of the week—I guarantee!
Q: Where can people find Almost Amish?
A: The book can be ordered at your local bookstore or on Amazon right now. You can check for updates and my speaking schedule/bookstore appearances at www.blessedearth.org. You can also check out this free tip sheet for ideas about how to live a simple and more sustainable life.
Want to know more about a biblical perspective of the Sabbath? Check out this resource in the store.
This article and interview were first published on Anne’s blog. She writes about green living and faith.