September 23, 2020

Damaris Zehner: Integrity of Life


Integrity of Life
by Damaris Zehner

For, with the old order destroyed, a universe cast down is renewed, and integrity of life is restored to us in Christ.

Prayer offered during Mass: May 3, 2015

• • •

The phrase “integrity of life” reached out and grabbed me when I heard it a few months ago.  Those three words express what I’ve always been trying to work toward:  why I’ve several times given up my old life and gone to live in primitive circumstances; why I’ve worked, raised my family, and ordered my daily tasks the way I have.  I have been trying to find integrity of life.  I’ve never achieved it, and sometimes I feel I’m farther from it now than I’ve ever been.  But it is what I’m seeking.  I understand it to be life at peace with myself, the world, and God, a life that integrates work and play, necessity and joy, one that works with nature and not in opposition to it.

[Disclaimer:  This essay is not about going back to the good old days of caves, tooth decay, whooping cough, and raw meat.  I love antibiotics and effective food storage.  Please believe me.]

There are other people seeking integrity of life, in their own ways.  Daniel mentioned the Benedict Option recently; apparently Daniel and I read many of the same blogs and news sources.  I don’t really want to discuss Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option itself or argue for or against it, especially since it is a work in progress.  However, I do want to think more about Dreher’s list of Benedictine imperatives and about culture.  I may sound as if I am talking about the “culture wars” that we all hate:  the strident political, legal, and commercial attempts to make other people agree with us and act as we want them to.  But I’m not.  These “culture wars” are not worth spending time on, because they are ineffective, unkind, unchristian, and show profound ignorance of history and of the real sources of human behavior and change.  Their deepest flaw is assuming that the shape and boundaries of our current culture are universal and that the Christian response must be to dress that culture in Christian clothes.

I prefer the term “countercultural,” but even that is a limited concept.  It exists only in reaction to something and is still shaped by the thing it rejects.  For example, our modern society believes in the religion of progress – I think it is a false religion, wrong both morally and thermodynamically.  The countercultural response to the religion of progress is “degrowth,” or “the limits to growth,” or Herman Daly’s “steady state.”  I find these ideas more congenial and more accurate.  But what if there is another way of seeing human life that doesn’t even think in terms of progress, regress, or a refusal to move?  I can’t say what it would be, because I’m also conditioned by my time and place – although I imagine that permaculture comes close.  However, just accepting that there could be other forms of human culture than the ones we’re familiar with makes the culture wars and even counter-culturalism too limiting as a means of cultural renewal.

So how do Christians find integrity of life in a post-Christian society?  [Disclaimer Number Two:  I don’t think we ever will find it in this fallen world; when it arrives, it will be a gift of grace breaking through and not a result of our own efforts.  Still, like Cornelius in the book of Acts, we would do well to work toward integrity as best we can while waiting for grace to arrive.]

The first thing we should do is give thanks for a post-Christian society – that we are now spared the damnable temptation to conflate our American way of life with the Kingdom of God.  That temptation beset recent generations but is no longer open to us.

Second, we should always place before us, not what we object to in society, but what God has given us as timeless guidelines—not what we’re against, but what we’re for.  You know these:

  • And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.  (Micah 6:8)
  • Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.  (Matthew 22: 37-40)
  • Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.  (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12)

Third, we should live out our convictions and not just philosophize on the internet.  Dreher lists the following as the foundations of Benedictine thought:  order, stability, discipline, community, and hospitality.  I mentioned that the culture wars were wrong in how they went about trying to change culture.  Benedict was wiser:  his five elements form both the content of culture and the means of perpetuating it.  Culture is a direct result of the order, stability, discipline, community, and hospitality with which a person is raised and formed.

15166216071_bfa0830298_zTo be specific:  in a post-Christian world, Christians should strive to achieve order, stability, discipline, community, and hospitality, not just because they are good things but because they are the building blocks of true human culture and always have been.  You can read the rule of Saint Benedict and visit current monasteries to see what they look like in monasticism.  Here are some ideas of how these five things might look in our everyday lives.

  • Eat real food prepared by real people, all sitting together, young and old at the same table, with no distractions.  Make this a priority every day.  Do not allow anything – even work, even church programs – to interfere with communal mealtimes, but feel free to choose the best time for your family – breakfast or afternoon tea works as well as dinner.  Train children to stay seated, listen, and partake.  Discuss heatedly but don’t fight.  Stay at the table slightly longer than it takes to eat the food.  Clean up together.  Invite guests.  If you live alone, still have sit-down meals of real food, and try to have others join you frequently.
  • Visit your food before it gets to your house.  If you can’t, your food’s probably coming too far.   Grow some yourself.
  • Read aloud, to children especially, but to all ages as well.  Several insightful commenters on iMonk have mentioned that the technology we use plays a huge role in shaping who we think we are and what we think the world is – in forming culture, in other words.  Reading a book, more than partaking in modern forms of electronic media, is by its nature an ordered, stable activity, that requires discipline; reading aloud builds community and can contribute to hospitality.  Some of you may wisely point out that reading itself is a relatively new skill and one that historically has only involved a tiny minority of people; you may point out that Socrates didn’t trust it, and that I, in objecting to Twitter, Google, etc., am fighting the same useless reactionary, rearguard battle that Socrates was.  Well, that’s good company to be in, but let me concede two extremes if you like.    First, if you don’t want to read books, go primitive – tell stories to your family and friends.  Real stories, not just gossip or anecdotes.  These stories are the foundation of our personal identity, just as the common stories of literature, art, and music are the foundation of our cultural identity.  Or second, be advanced and try reading aloud from Twitter and Google to your friends, families, and housemates.  At least then your reading will be a communal activity, not just a solitary one, and you will be protected from the dangers of the echo chamber by the questions and reactions of those you’re reading to.  I suspect you’ll find, however, that your children would rather be on your lap listening to Make Way for Ducklings or the story about how Grandpa got arrested for driving with a pig in the front seat than watching the back of your head while you read aloud from some website.
  • Go outside and get dirty.  Get wet when it rains.  Get chilled when it’s cold.  Sweat.  Walk places.  Notice where the sun rises and sets.  Remind yourself of your size and your place in the natural world.
  • Make your own music.  Draw a picture.  Write someone a letter on real paper.
  • Throw stuff out. One of the most troubling symptoms of our cultural poverty is the proliferation of self-storage facilities.  Where I live, even towns of 800 people have self-storage buildings.  Buying and hoarding stuff does not create a living culture; rather it drags it down to its death.  Think deeply and honestly about what you buy and use and why you buy it and use it.  How many outfits do you need?  How many kitchen implements do you need?  How much time do you spend dealing with things – dusting, taking out, putting in, organizing and reorganizing – instead of people?  We have fallen into the belief that culture consists of the stuff we own and consume.  If that’s true, then it makes sense for Christians to try to own and consume different stuff, stuff that is distinctively Christian.  But is that what culture is?  No.  Culture is not stuff but the shared experience of order, stability, discipline, community, and hospitality provided by our families and our society as a whole.
  • Sleep when it gets dark and get up when it gets light.  Try instituting an electricity-free day every now and again.
  • Pray always, even when it doesn’t seem to be “doing anything.”  Pray while doing all the other things on the list.

(That’s interesting.  I had no intention of replicating the Benedictine lifestyle of ora et labora, or prayer and work, when I started typing the previous thoughts, but it seems to have happened – much of what I suggest is what I gather Benedictines do as part of their daily disciplines.)

There are many other aspects of integrity of life that occur to me – free time, personal appearance, holidays, rituals, social structures, and others – but I don’t want to cram too much into a short post.  This is just a start, and a deceptive one to boot.  A truly integrated life can’t be lived from a checklist like the one above.  But still, we can find it helpful to begin there in examining why we live as we do – in examining the culture we have received and the one we want to pass down to others.  I’ve started a book about integrity of life, consisting ideally of the words and experiences of people farther along than I am.  In the process of writing it, I am having to remind myself not to spend all day alone at the computer, to get outside even though it’s raining, to play a game with my family, to bag up some junk for Goodwill, and several times a day to throw the spit-caked tennis ball for the dog to fetch.  I’ll go do that now.


  1. David Cornwell says

    Damaris, thank you so much for this insightful and considerate piece. I was ready to go to bed, but decided to read your words first. Your thoughts, expressed in these words are full of wisdom and convey a sense of peace and hope. So much that we read, hear, and digest does just the opposite. We read the news of our world; our nation; our culture; and our churches and we come away upset, angry, and maybe end the day with a headache. Your words are good ones to sleep on because they convey a sense the peace offered to us in Christ.

    “Culture is a direct result of the order, stability, discipline, community, and hospitality with which a person is raised and formed.”

    Yes, and these are just the things we are lacking in our society. Go through the list and think about it. Every element is at great risk and we have difficulty finding any of them practiced with authenticity. And “culture war” has failed to offer restoration in any of these elements. Part of this is because “war” is destructive of each one.

    I hope to keep up with some of the discussion today and believe it will be very good. Thanks.

  2. Christiane says

    I needed to read this, DAMARIS.
    Thank you.

    there are some among us who see the bigger picture and are able to help the rest of us . . .
    this is a good thing, for me, a timely blessing

    • Thank you for that, Eeyore! That wasn’t one I’d ever heard before. He was brilliant.

  3. Robert F says

    Along the hillside
    peach trees murmur in the breeze–
    The fruit is ready.

    • This is beautiful, Robert, but it makes me flinch. Our peach trees are mostly hopeless, and they grow at a steep angle because of the prevailing wind — no murmuring breezes. Sigh.

      • Robert F says

        Damaris, We don’t grow them ourselves. We purchase them at a farm market up the road; the orchard where they are grown is right across the road from, and owned by, the market. The orchard is beautiful, and the peaches are delicious, as are their blackberries.

      • Robert F says

        And thank you, Damaris, for the thought provoking post. My wife is always trying to simplify our life and reduce the amount of our stuff, but in my laziness I’m not much help. Maybe I can turn over a new leaf!

  4. When I heard “integrity” I first thought of it in terms of the antonym “hypocrisy”. Which would lead to points similar to “to the extent you are already walking the walk, feel free to talk the talk”. But that is not where Damaris has gone. Instead, she has taken us to what I’d have used the word “integrated” for.

    And not just self-integrated, where no aspect of our lives is disconnected from the rest of our lives. Instead, she is focusing on communal integration, where we don’t disconnect from the rest of the world. For introverts, this can be a message we need to hear often.

  5. Adam Tauno Williams says

    Beautiful, and so true.

    “””Sleep when it gets dark and get up when it gets light. Try instituting an electricity-free day every now and again.”””

    A lesser step, something my friends and I picked up from somewhere – no-data-days. If something comes up in conversation, and you don’t know the answer, you can’t pull our magical little device and hit the interwebz. No Wikipedia. If nobody knows you need to ask someone else [provided other people are available]. Sounds crazy. But the reaction of other people on the bus or train or in the bar is very surprising – they almost universally love being asked [you can tell by body language who really does *not* want to be asked]. You explain why you asked – because you can’t look it up – that is the rule – frequently they say “Oh!” and rather than looking it up themselves they ask someone next to them. The first time we had a no-data-day this is sooo not how I expected it would play out. Odd thing – people *love* talking to people. I’ve heard many times “My friends and I are going to do that too!”. It strikes a chord in people.

    Downside – if it is a downside – you may end up learning way more than you ever wanted to know about a given topic if you happen upon ‘that guy’. I know way more about both the Cubs and types of coal than I would have ever thought I would… 🙂 On the other hand, I probably am ‘that guy’ sometimes.

    Plus, you will stumble across some fascinating mind-blowing people whom you otherwise would have just passed by. You never know who might be a retired stealth fighter pilot who lives in an old caboose and raises exotic onions for five-star restaurants. Who knows? Could be the guy sitting next to you.

  6. Michael Z says

    The biggest paradigm shift I’ve gone through in this regard is: back in college I used to think that growing as a Christian meant doing more and more Christian things, letting the “Christian” compartment of my life grow until there’s no room for anything else. After a few years in the “real world” I instead began asking, how can every “compartment” of my life – finances, friendships, living situation, work, free time, etc. – be reshaped into something that bears witness to Christ? That’s led me to community living, to radical generosity, to making friends with people on the margins, and to living as simply as possible.

  7. Radagast says

    I like what is said here. I am a technology guy… who does not like to use technology after work hours. I would rather be outside breathing the air, doing something to make me sweat (I like to dig in the dirt, molding dirt as I call it), or talk without texting, or run my hands through the grass… and I actually like weeding.

    I don’t like my smart phone and conveniently toss it someplace where I can’t hear it…. otherwise work becomes a 24 hour rotation. I love to read books… real books, not on-line books or words on a screen… those annoy me.

    Sitting down with others at dinner… mandatory at my house, away from the TV, we talk about our day, laugh, squabble or deliver the occasional family message because maybe we’re taking advantage of one another. Sometimes we talk scripture, to the squirms and eye rolling of the teen-agers, but yet there is participation (and no phones at the table so that the younger folks are not tempted by the message they just received on their phone.

    Sometimes I like to look at they sky – at dusk with all the colors, at night with all the stars (and me trying to guess which planet is which without resorting to Google) and get a hint of the awe of God.

    And… since I must have had some influence on my kids when they were young, I like to sit back with my acoustic, joined with my two oldest boys on theirs, and belt out some early seventies singer songwriter stuff, or listen when my college aged son gives my nine year old saxophone lessons (some actually dreadful sound can be made from a first time honker)….

    My thoughts….

  8. I don’t know… I really like reading on an iPad now. AND it has allowed me to ditch four bookcases worth of bound paper that I no longer need to dust or move. The only trouble is that I think there is some truth to the idea that using one of these devices too close to bed time will produce lower quality sleep.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      “””ditch four bookcases worth of bound paper”””

      I know. I love books & paper – but yeah, it is hard to live a sustainable life AND own a library. 🙂

      “””using one of these devices too close to bed time will produce lower quality sleep”””

      The evidence is mounting to a nearly indisputable level; so many studies have corroborated this. It has much to do with the illumination of the screen – doubled up by nearly universal habituation of screens with a certain type of focus. Unlike a device the many components of the brain do not simply toggle on and off.

      • Another idea: Cut out 90% of what you watch on TV and meditate on this idea: “You are what you watch and read.”

        Through circumstance of a job change and a household move, I was without a TV for 7 months. I found I didn’t miss it. Now, with the move completed, and less than 3 hours/week of TV, I can care less about the “in” show I am supposed to be watching; have less anxiety about the world around me; engage in more frequent and deeper conversations with my wife; am more hospitable with others; and reach out to my community’s more through engagement.

        Unless one is disciplined and selective, TV makes one dumber and numb to the world.

      • C.S. Lewis owned almost no books. He had two blessings: a capacious memory and a university library. There’s much to be said for counting on libraries more than we do. (I have cards for four different libraries in my purse and access to another; I admit, though, I also have many dusty bookshelves. How could I live without an Anglo-Saxon dictionary or a copy of The Screwtape Letters to hand?)

        • Adam Tauno Williams says

          “””There’s much to be said for counting on libraries more than we do”””


          And it is encouraging to see [in the data, contrary to much of popular *imagination*] utilization of libraries is not only strong but growing in many places.

          • Robert F says

            Utilization of the library is growing in our town, but, since the state reduced library budgets, our library has had to cut back staff, hours and days open. I have no reason to believe my town is unique in this regard.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says

            Not unique, but also not exemplar. Library service here, and in a couple of surrounding districts, has been increased [hours, staff, etc…]. A budget line was even approved to pay off the local library systems debts.

        • Damaris, i don’t think many of us can count on local public libraries to have much of anything. I would go nuts if limited to that, and the only way to have more access to more material is… the internet. Like Robert F, i live in a state where both public library and school budgets have been slashed to an almost unbearable degree. My local library has had exactly 0.00 for new books for the padt several years. It is entirely reliant on donations for all new acquisitions.

          I am more concerned for people to be able to read, period, than i am about abandoning e-reading. I love books, but spent a small fortune on the costs involved in moving my personal library 10 years ago, and lost the use of a truly good public library system at that time. For some things, there are just no good tradeoffs, and i think many more of us will be needing to use online “scriptoria” as time goes on. For those who live in rural areas (which is not just me but a good deal of this country’s population), there is no other way, and it is sad to think of how many library systems in large cities have failed, or are failing.

          You are more blessed than you might imagine to have access to all of the different libraries you mention.

          • I am indeed blessed, numo. I’m in a very rural area, but the two small towns nearby both have colleges with accessible libraries, and my husband and daughters can get me stuff from Purdue. But even our little town of 900 people has fought to keep our Carnegie library open. The selection isn’t great, but I can always find things to read, and sometimes I can find dusty old classics that were long ago thrown out from more up-to-date libraries.

      • On library use–conservatively estimated we’ve checked out 6,000 books in the past 3 years for our kids’ insatiable desire for reading material. If there weren’t a public library system, you can bet I’d be willing to pay for a private one.

        On lit screens at night–Having had insomnia for 7 years, the recent fix could be new medication, but I really think it’s the bluelight filtering goggles I put on for evening screen work. My husband also uses them and is also sleeping better than ever, and he’s slept poorly his entire adult life.

        • There are also browser adf-ons, apps and programs for blue light filtering. I use Twilight on my Android devices, and it has made a huge difference for me re. quality of sleep. You might well be able to get the same kind of benefit – at virtually zero cost – for your PC screen.

      • Have you tried a blue-light filtering app or program for your screrns? Low- no cost and very well worth it.

  9. David Cornwell says

    “Visit your food before it gets to your house. If you can’t, your food’s probably coming too far. Grow some yourself.”

    I’ve been visiting a local organic farm since last summer. The veggies provide variety and freshness that supermarkets no longer offer. Chemical preservatives and coatings are gone. Just as importantly I’ve become friends with the owner-farmers (husband and wife team). I can walk through the rows of crops, pick my own choices, and spend time talking with Jim and/or Pam. This year they have added a “high tunnel” to extend their growing season in both directions. This has been a particularly trying summer for them because of the continuous rain and the fact that part of the garden is located on low ground between ridges.

    I’ve also planted some of my own potatoes this year, starting off with just a few that will hopefully be expanded next season. I purchased a used Troy-Bilt tiller from a locally owned hardware store at an excellent price. I’ll use this to establish some wide raised rows, which if handled right will require just upkeep next season.

    One thing I’ve noticed. I don’t have as much time to complain about the world and its people when I’m out minding my little patch of earth, or being with others who are doing the same. Try it. Importantly, it lends itself to prayer, thankfulness, and a knowledge of dependency on the gifts of God.

  10. “Eat real food prepared by real people….
    Visit your food before it gets to your house…
    Read aloud, to children especially…
    Go outside and get dirty…
    Make your own music…
    Throw stuff out…
    Sleep when it gets dark and get up when it gets light…
    Pray always…”

    Sounds nice enough. I will just point out that:

    1.) Other than maybe the ‘pray always’ part, you could just as easily be describing the Sunday afternoon of an ultra-liberal college professor or, y’know, any of 6 to 8 gay couples I know.

    2.) Not to throw *too* much of a pipe bomb but I will say that much of this will probably get harder under Bush or Walker’s “you all need to work more hours” version of America. I mean, Walker just passed an anti-4th Commandment bill:

    Just, y’know, grist for the mills of thought.

    • Oops, sorry: anti-3rd Commandment. Messed that one up.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      “””I will just point out that:”””

      To what end? If all that follows is true – does it alter the truthity of what proceeded? I’m not quite grasping where you are going.

      “””Other than maybe the ‘pray always’ part, you could just as easily be describing the Sunday afternoon of an ultra-liberal college professor or, y’know, any of 6 to 8 gay couples I know.””””

      Assuming we can come to an agreement on what ‘pray always’ means … I do not see any reason that excludes the ultra-liberal college professor or the gay couple. [of course, we’d also have to agree on what “ultra-liberal” means…]

      • I’m just pointing out that this is all being forward by Rod Dreher and others as some sort of edgy, countercultural, Essene-esque lifestyle/political protest movement. When, in fact, it is this unbelievably tame little poop-pants tantrum (though admittedly very mentally and physically healthy)

        Rod Dreher wants you guys to go with him and camp out on a hillside. Those of us here in Nineveh have pretty much the exact same granola bars and raisins he is suggesting you pack for your trip.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says

          “””edgy, countercultural, Essene-esque lifestyle/political protest movement”””

          I will take your word for it. I have not really encountered that in my circles – I mean, our neighborhood has the crazy old hippie, the Ultra-Foodie, the racial-identity-guy, …and all the normal cast of characters. There is always someone who takes an idea over the edge. We should not let those people define the discussion; the discussion is more constructive if we quietly just ignore those who want to turn everything into a crusade [and many things are good ideas – no denying that].

          Calling something the “Benedict Option”, at this point in my life, pretty much ensures I won’t go there. Many conversations occur around these themes without scraping the historical barrel for a moniker.

          I am uncomfortable with the term “counter-cultural”. I am not counter cultural, I prefer a kinder, more personal, less cluttered culture. The Culture is going to do whatever it wants anyway, regardless of my opinion [which in many ways is as it should be – who am I?]

          • I’m a counter-cultural Christian. Meaning I’m most definitely counter to the Christian culture.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says

            StuartB, I am impressed you figured out how to be “most definitely counter to the Christian culture.” No small task – as the Christian Culture seems to be primarily focused on arguing about what the Christian Culture is – so being counter-christian-culture can only mean refusing to discuss what Christian Culture is… Yet you are here! 🙂

            The counterness of counter-cultural Christianity borders on narcissism – it is tedious, irrelevant, and ultimately *boring*. What is described by this post is anti-counter [*1]; it is here-do-this, which is a pro- not an anti- statement. Pro- is always a refreshing turn for any discussion.

            [*1] although you can always choose to view in contrast.

        • You make a good point, J., but I’m not sure where you want to go with it. Perhaps I was wrong to mention Dreher — I did so only a a segue to recent discussions. I’m not ever likely to call anything I do “the Benedict Option,” though I’m happy if Dreher and I share some ideas. In fact, I’m happy to share many of my aspirations with ultra-liberal professors and gay couples, too. In a sense, that there are so many people who feel the need for a more integrated life validates my own feelings.

          I recently read a post on the Resilience website written by a religious (Protestant) environmental activist who for the first time felt some integration in her life after reading Pope Francis’ recent encyclical. Before it came out, as far as she knew she would always have to half-agree with everyone — religious/conservative types on one side and environmental/social activist types on the other. She was delighted to find a soulmate who didn’t box himself in the current categories.

          • OldProphet says

            Damaris. Thank you for this post. It’s one the most meaningful things that I have read in a long time. And the most timely Here in the later days of my life, this are some of the important issues that I am seeking the Lord about. And the things that He is asking me to look at in my life,not only now, but for the future as well. Old dogs can learn new tricks, eh, Robert F?

          • Robert F says


  11. Beautiful words and thoughts, Damaris. As a fellow writer, I look forward to hearing how your book progresses. Good luck!!!

  12. Well spoken, Damaris! I agree with you about the modern religion of progress being a false religion, and I understand you are not speaking against spiritual progress or growth or evolution. You mention the countercultural response to the religion of progress as “degrowth,” or “the limits to growth,” or Herman Daly’s “steady state.” I would point to my Amish neighbors as one of the best examples of that, in contrast to the Green Revolution that both feeds us cheaply and poisons us at the same time.

    In today’s meditation, Richard Rohr says that “humanity was given three different sets of eyes, each building on the previous one. The first eye was the eye of flesh (the senses), the second was the eye of reason (meditation or intellectual reflection), and the third eye was the eye of true understanding (contemplation).” That, in my view, is spiritual evolution in a nutshell. We here in the Monastery are slowly making that turn into third base as we speak, in my view, with some dragging their heels, kicking and screaming.

    As far as I checked it out, the “Benedict Option” seems to me to be the old Social Gospel of a hundred years ago showing up in new clothes. Both it and the Fundamentalism that bitterly opposed it have show us what happens when you jump off the pendulum at it’s extreme. I couldn’t handle the real Benedict Option today for long with its book of rules and scheduled discipline, but I’m glad those involved are still doing it for our benefit. The early Desert Fathers and Mothers I could handle a little better myself.

  13. Dana Ames says

    Thank you, Damaris.


  14. I do think we should try to integrate our lives with our community. I think that starts with integrating with the family/household. Damaris speaks of this at mealtimes and reading stories. I, as a genealogist, think it should also include telling family stories. Why does our family do things this way? How did a major event (immigration/emigration, WW II, the great depression) effect our fore-fathers? What do we value and treasure about our family history? What dreams were mourned? How does family tradition shape who we are?

    I note here that the old and new testament spend time on genealogy and family history, and there is a good bit in Christian and Jewish practice about being adopted into sonship, grafted into the tree of Israel’s history, recalling the Exodus as something that happened to us, etc… to suggest that this is something we ought to be doing.

    I’m largely at a loss for how to meaningfully integrate with the larger community in a college city with high turnover. Being in our former church felt to my wife and I very much like living as part of a revolving door, with the congregation turning over at a rate of about 30% a year – and very few who stayed more than about six years. We are too new in our new church to have a sense yet – or to be integrated at all.

  15. Dan Crawford says

    “These “culture wars” are not worth spending time on, because they are ineffective, unkind, unchristian, and show profound ignorance of history and of the real sources of human behavior and change. Their deepest flaw is assuming that the shape and boundaries of our current culture are universal and that the Christian response must be to dress that culture in Christian clothes.”

    Thank you, Damaris, and a hearty Amen.

  16. Wonderful essay, Damaris. I love your suggestions. And I wish Christians all across our land could read these words, “The first thing we should do is give thanks for a post-Christian society – that we are now spared the damnable temptation to conflate our American way of life with the Kingdom of God. That temptation beset recent generations but is no longer open to us.” After they’d read them, I’d make them go back and read them again!

  17. Dave Denis says

    I’ve recently acquired an accordion and I have started learning to play it. Does that count? 😉

    • Well, you get points for restoring sanity to your life, but then you get points subtracted for complicating others’ . . .

    • Accordions are used in all kinds of nifty music, and are seriously cool instruments. 🙂

  18. Andy Zehner says

    Truth to tell, Damaris is actually pretty good about frugal and simple.

    It is ME that accumulates stuff. In just the past 10 days, I’ve acquired a deep-well socket tool that will be used only to change sparkplugs on our daughter’s 1995 Prizm, a foot-long cable for connecting my effects box to my looper pedal (guitar tech!) and a second dehumidifier for our damp basement.

    Andy Zehner