Archives: Whose Birthday Is It, Anyway? #24
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10 Tips to Escape the Stifling Comfort Zoneby Gerald Iversen | Get to know Gerald here.
I'm a homebody. That's where I'd prefer to be. That's where I'd be stuck if it weren't for an adventurous spouse.
I never would have imagined that in my lifetime that my wife, son, and I would travel to Kenya to visit our daughter when she was serving there in the Peace Corps. Africa was never on my 'bucket list.' I traveled to Europe as a groupie on a five-week tour with the Wartburg College choir. We all stayed in hosts' homes in each country. Most recently my wife and I expanded our devotion to Fair Trade to visit Guatemala with the organization Sharing the Dream.
Pastors urge the faithful to 'do what you can' to solve world problems and community needs. This can easily be translated to 'do what's convenient.' It's OK to stay in your comfort zone.
Staying in our comfort zone can be boring, stifling, and keeps us from expanding our understanding of God's world.
Ways to Escape1. Self-Talk
Maybe you've been 'shoulded' much of your life -- by parents, peers, the church. It can bring on guilt. You may be shoulding yourself. The Protestant work ethic can wreak havoc on us, causing stress. We may tell ourselves, 'God expects you to be the best you can!'
More helpful self-talk is. . .
* Affirmations, such as 'Life's a lot more interesting when I move beyond my comfort zone.' 'Poor people around the world have a lot to teach me.' 'Almost anywhere I go outside my bubble will work.'
* The most helpful affirmation that has gotten me through many experiences of discomfort and self-doubt is, 'We are not called to be successful but to be faithful.' --St. Francis of Assisi. Find words of inspiration and courage to carry with you.
Most podcasts are free and available through iTunes. Simply open iTunes on your computer, click podcasts, click subscribe and search for a specific title or browse by topic. There are thousands of them! Each new podcast that you select will be automatically delivered to your podcast folder. Listen through your computer or an iPod-type device. Podcasts are a way to stretch your comfort zone while at home or away!
I recommend. . .
* The Progressive Christian Voice (20+/- min. weekly) from Western Presbyterian Church, D.C., or visit WesternChurch.net.
* The Common Good from Jubilee Economics Ministries (30 min. monthly), or visit Jubilee-Economics.org.
The fifth standard of voluntary simplicity from Living More with Less is 'Non-Conform Freely.' That relates to the media. Commercial media exists to sell us stuff. Even PBS is funded largely by corporations. So, use independent media, such as. . .
* LinkTV: 'Your connection to the world' LinkTV.org and DISH satellite channel 9410
* Free Speech TV: FreeSpeech.org, DISH channel 9415, and DirectTV Channel 348.
These channels give a fresh perspective of people and events from around the world.
4. Travel: homestays
Staying in motels tends to isolate us from others. They cater to our desire for 'privacy.' An alternative to consider is home stays. They are inexpensive and have allowed my family to meet some really fascinating, dedicated people. For those willing to venture outside their motel bubble. . .
* Mennonite Your Way provides a room for $10 per person plus a little extra for breakfast. You don't have to be Mennonite. Some of your hosts will be other than Mennonite. The cost is $35 for the directory. You don't have to be a host to be a guest. Visit MennoniteYourWay.com
* EvergreenClub.com for people over 50
We do not need to buy, possess and collect books. Most public libraries welcome suggestions from card holders. I suggest about 100 tiles per year via internet. My local library buys most of them, I get to read them first, and then they're available to the public, not collecting dust on my ego-shelf.
Of the many 'self-help' books on Simple Living, I recommend these current ones:
* Living More with Less by Doris Janzen Longacre: 30th anniversary edition from Pilgrim Press. This is the seminal book of the modern, faith-based simple living movement. This is what turned my spouse and I around some 30 years ago.
* The New Frugality: how to consume less, save more, and live better by Chris Farrell
* All That We Share: a Field Guide to the Commons: how to save the economy, the environment, the Internet, democracy, our communities, and everything else that belongs to all of us by Jay WallJasper
6. Eye contact
It can be uncomfortable to interact with people who are experiencing hard times. Sometimes we are more willing to help the poor if we don't have to come in contact with them. Filling food baskets and giving money are important work. They do help others and make us feel good about ourselves.
Service that allows us to have eye contact with the poor and to learn from them helps get us out of our comfort zone.
* Serve food to the guests at a soup kitchen. Greet the guests, ask their first name, give your first name with an affirmation, 'Glad you're here.' And listen.
* Worship with prisoners. Prison Congregations of America establishes congregations inside the prison walls and are served by a called pastor, not a chaplain. The inmates are so glad to see us and the services really rock! Visit PrisonCongregationsOfAmerica.org.
7. Reverse-mission Trips
Reverse-mission trips focus on learning from the poor rather than helping or 'saving' them. The end result is gratitude rather than self-appreciation.
* Sharing the Dream in Guatemala, a non-profit based in Vermillion, S.D., has three trips each year to meet indigenous Mayan women. Visit SharingTheDream.org. The small groups take vitamins for the elderly and school supplies for students to Guatemala in huge suitcases. Then they bring beautiful, hand-made crafts back to sell in the store in Vermillion. They conduct numerous displays/sales around the country, especially in the fall, staffed by volunteers.
* Faith and Money Network (formerly Ministry of Money) organizes several reverse-mission trips each year to learn from the poor. They also have stateside workshops on dealing with faithfully with our money. Visit FaithAndMoneyNetwork.org.
8. Christian Disciplines
Traditional Christian disciples have the power to nudge us or shove us out of the confining Comfort Zone.
* Prayer. Start including a P.S. on your meal graces or personal prayers, such as 'God, help me get beyond my comfort zone, for my sake and the sake of others.'
* Alms-giving. Donate to organizations that make an effort to include volunteers in their work outside normal North American comfort zones. When we have money invested in something, we tend to pay more attention to it. We generally give our money, then our time. Visit CharityNavigator.org before giving money to a new organization. It rates over 100,000 non-profits (not political ones) and gives the salary of its top executives.
* Fasting. Whether you fast once a week or during penitential seasons, such as Advent and Lent, think 'I could be doing this anywhere, even among people who are doing it involuntarily.'
* Service. While you're giving an hour at your church, envision doing something among people you don't know yet but who would be glad to meet you. Those people who may look different than you but have the same basic needs you do.
Exposing yourself to friends who have negative ideas about people from other countries, including immigrants, tends to create fear and reinforce our comfort zone. If you're not ready to confront their biases directly yet by speaking out, then avoid them or change the subject. Find some new friends who are escaping their comfort zone, such as a service-oriented travel club. You may find such friends first online or through your denominational hunger program.
* Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness. -Mark Twain
10. Be open to all of God's Creation.
Getting beyond our comfort zone is more than other peoples and places. It involves all of God's creation. Campaigning for clean water and air and healthy soil may cause us to confront long-standing acquaintances and find new allies. We may come to know unusual plants and uncomfortable animals (think snakes and insects) that are all part of the circle of life.
* Eco-Justice Ministries. Visit EcoJustice.org and receive a weekly inspirational message.
* Tune in 'Sierra Club Radio' at SierraClubRadio.com (30 min. weekly) or subscribe to the podcast.
* Tune in 'Living on Earth' on your local public radio station or at LoE.org anytime.
* Watch 'Earth Focus' anytime at http://www.linktv.org/earthfocus -- A 30-minute environmental news magazine that puts a human face on environmental issues by featuring under-publicized stories about how environmental changes are affecting everyday people.
* Watch MeetTheFarmerTV.com! It shows how we can support local food systems and benefit personally as well as enhancing our community and our environment.
* Visit the Green Tips Library at http://www.SierraClub.org/tips/see-all.aspx
* EatWellGuide.org is a free online directory for anyone in search of fresh, locally grown and sustainably produced food in the United States and Canada.
* Responsible Shopper: Guide to Promoting a Responsible Economy with Company Profiles, Green Living Tips, and Campaigns (boycotts): http://www.GreenAmericaToday.org/programs/responsibleshopper/
* GoodGuide.com helps you find better products that represent your values, avoid products that are harmful to your health, the environment, or society -- and enable you to take actions to help improve the world.
* 350.org is an international movement to stop the climate crisis. Read Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet by Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org.
BONUS: Be Open to Opportunities for Understanding
As opportunities come your way to grow in your understanding of other people's lives and outlook, be open and a good listener. Ask questions. Make time to learn. Try new experiences. Often what initially seems a little scary. Even my adventuresome wife was nervous the first time we went on a prison visit to an all male prison. But it involves knowing what might happen by being open to growth.
Being open to new experiences, people, places, media and travel expands our understanding of our place in God's world. Sometimes that means leaving our comfort zone. The insights that we could gain may be written in magazines, books or blogs, but the experience itself will leave an imprint on our hearts and minds.
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The above article was originally written by invitation for the paper edition of Whose Birthday? 2011, which did not materialize.
Copyright Creative Commons. Make as many copies as you choose on a not-for-profit basis on recycled paper.
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