Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Escaping The Rat Race

If there’s ever been a perpetual motion machine it would have to be that of mankind chasing after worldly riches. Surely the rat race is reminiscent of the meaningless “chasing after the wind” so accurately described by King Solomon in the old testament book of Ecclesiastes. You chase and pursue yet never have enough, never able to obtain lasting satisfaction. We seek ever more yet never have enough, to be sure.

Growing up in a far north suburb of Chicago I saw the constant increase of the masses of people running along to and fro every day on that ever spinning hamster wheel called the rat race. But, back in the spring of 1998, I made my escape. Free at last! Free from the meaningless drone of perpetually doing the same thing week in and week out, always spinning my wheels but never seeming to get anywhere.

But, as everyone knows freedom is something that must be vigilantly maintained because there is, it would seem, some unseen diabolical force which is constantly at work seeking to re-enslave all those who would find that elusive but, coveted freedom. This is a sobering fact I have found to be true over these past 8 and half years we have lived in Northern Wisconsin.

For every would be agrarian there is this ever present tension between living the “simple” life and earning money. I have touched on this topic many times in the past. For me I am very sensitive to the plight of all of us who are seeking to live with a foot in both worlds. As the Amish buggy in a Wal-Mart parking lot fully illustrates, in one of my past posts, no one it seems, is exempt from this vexing dilemma. Not even the Amish.

Here we are, already on the back side of summer. Most of this year my family and I have been on a precipice of change. We’ve been doing some serious soul searching as to what exactly we feel the Lord would be directing us to do. I am fundamentally opposed to participating in the rat race yet to be honest that is exactly where we have wound up once again. For me the desire to not want to be running on a hamster wheel goes way beyond just a mere whim or fanciful notion. It’s spiritual thing. When I read the words of Jesus (Luke 12:22-31) expressly telling us to not “worry about our lives concerning what we will eat and what we will wear, for the pagan world runs after such things” I really take it to heart. Jesus showed little regard for worldly wealth and possessions. That theme runs all through out the Gospels.

When we moved to the country there wasn’t any financial security here waiting for us. It was hard to take that leap. To really believe the Lord and to bide by His timing, trusting Him to provide. To live by faith rather than by site. It was hard to do that yet that is exactly what I felt we needed to do. All the striving and scheming before that to try and figure out how to keep a certain standard of living always came to frustration. It seemed I could never quite get it all figured out. But, we new we needed to go. We had to. We were being called, drawn, even prodded to move to this place.

Sometimes over the years I have succumbed to the fear that maybe God would let us down. That He would embarrass us by not providing. Yet my fears have never once been realized. We have always had enough. We’ve never gone without. At least not without our own choosing. There are lots of things we just don’t have or don’t do like we see the “Joneses” having and doing. You know the Joneses they all have the toys and stuff. They have the cars, boats, motorcycles, ATV’s and big screen televisions with the latest cable or satellite packages. They take regular vacations too.

We weren’t here long when it dawned on us that we were living below the poverty level. I admit I had to mull that over a little. Hmm, I’d never lived in poverty before. I had to wrestle with that a bit. Then I realized there is a big difference between being impoverished and living frugally. And besides with all that we have, being “poor “is the farthest thing from our minds. We’re money poor it is true, even to this day but, we are rich in many other ways.

As I mentioned earlier, we have found ourselves back on that dreaded hamster wheel again. Mostly it has to do with running the trash route. That’s pretty much our only source of regular income. I was really bummed out last month when I realized I wasn’t going to be able to take off a few days to attend Mountain Fire Keepers, Country Living Skills workshop for July.

As things stand right now the garbage business really isn’t working that well for us. It’s at a real awkward stage. The way we’re doing it is just plain hard work. Harder work than I want to be doing at this stage of my life. Yet it doesn’t generate enough money to hire help or to even buy the proper equipment. We’re sort of in the same kind of plight as the American farmer. “Get Big or Get Out!” I can really relate right now with those folks. It’s a very wearying place to be in. Yet if we don’t do this for money what will we do? Back to scheming again?

I know God has a plan for us here. Sometimes I see it so clearly I can taste it but, other times it’s not so clear. Some days the enemy gets in and tempts me to doubt and to sit down and quit, underestimating the Lords provision and perfect will.

Recently I read a good book called The Bondage Breaker by Neil T. Anderson. It helped me kind of get back to the basics of faith in regards to setting aside silly fears and not believing the lies of the devil. Waiting for God to give clear direction can be a very trying time and makes us subject to all kinds of unbiblical thoughts.

In a future post I hope to give a little more in-depth report on this encouraging book. I’m still processing much of what I read.

The heat wave has pretty much let up in the North Woods. Just yesterday and again this evening I saw flocks of geese heading South. I thought, “wow, it’s that time again.” I never cease to be amazed at how God built the migratory urge into certain creatures. How do they know where they’re going anyway? When you think about it, it’s a total miracle.

Until Next Time

* A note about the guy on the hamster wheel at the top. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve worn a suit so it doesn't really represent my life in the rat race but it does represent many folks. I got a kick out of the animation. I found it on Yahoo. It was linked to http://jacobsmedia.typepad.com/jacobs/2005/09 Just thought I should give credit where it is due.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good Morning!

Yes, I know that it's been a while. I've been sooooo caught up in the 'ratrace' of sorts. I've spent most of this warm season helping a neighbor build his house---doing the dirt work, leveling a hilltop for the building site, filling in around the foundation, trenching for the water line and sewer, landscaping, hauling gravel.........I've lost most of my summer and have done zero on my own projects.

Well today is my last day--unless they add more to what they want me to do. So I'm moving a little slower than my normal schedule. All I have to do yet is to finish grading and raking the black dirt in the yard and then pack up my equipment-----free at last.

I sure know what you mean about being poor in dollar assets but wealthy in what is real. I value people over property. Physical things like land, tools, food and firewood etc. over paper promises and are losing purchasing power in an ever increasing rate.

I sure don't have any answers as to how to 'trust God' and still live with one foot in the material world. I've been struggling with that for a long time myself.

I tell people that I live in 3 worlds at the same time--the modern, money based economy, the homesteading world of food and energy and the basic of primitive world of God's Creation.

I'm not ready to live a totally primitive existance---even the homesteading life takes large amounts of inputs from the money based economy.

I don't know the answer---trust God, trust God, trust God---I keep telling myself.

I do know that I feel lead to remove myself from as much of the money based economy as I can manage. I feel that so much evil is being done by our government and the corporations that control so much of the world.

I find it hard to call myself a Christian and still support these immoral entities with my $$$ spending habits.

I also know that there are some really dark clouds on the horizon that are approaching with increasing speed.

I continue to pray that the Lord will light our path and guide our way!!!!

You and your family are invited to our next Country Living Skills weekend if you can get away. That would be the weekend of the 9th and 10th of Sept. We are going to have a 'Harvest Thanksgiving' on Sunday featuring a potluck supper exclusively from our own gardens and local sources.

Hopefully, the workshops will include: threshing grain by hand with a flail, winnowing and then grinding the grain for bread, baking bread in a wood cookstove, gardening discussion, canning and preservation of the harvest and probably other subjects as well.

I'll write a post about it for everyone in the near future.

If you can't make it due to your work load and the increasing cost of travel, I certainly understand. I hope to come visit you and Tom sometime this fall.

May God continue to bless you and guide your steps!

9:34 AM  
Blogger Tom Scepaniak said...

Darn good post Russ. Believe me, I know how you feel and what your talking about!
So many times lately I'm getting the thoughts in my head to just quit, and I ain't talking blogging either. To get smashed back like this in the drought can bring a person down further and further.
But I know it's a minor thing in the big picture. What God has in store for us , a human mind cannot even begin to imagine. When I remind myself that, it all falls into place again, Praise Jesus!

9:31 PM  
Blogger Scott Holtzman said...

Quoting Russ:

For every would be agrarian there is this ever present tension between living the “simple” life and earning money.

I guess it's that balancing act of 'being in the world, but not of it'.........good post!

12:53 AM  
Blogger RL said...

Hey Steven,
I really appreciate your comments. And I add a hearty Amen to what you said about trusting God. In quotes-"I don't know the answer---trust God, trust God, trust God---I keep telling myself."
I tell myself the same thing. That's the main thing we all need to be doing.
As far as dark clouds on the horizon goes, I've heard it said that if God doesn't judge America he'll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah. But, I believe before God measures out judgment He also provides a way out for His people. It seems to me right now God is calling people out and separating them from what He is about to judge.
That sounds like a very interesting up coming Sept. workshop. Again I'm not sure if we can make it. I'd love to though. Things are kind of up in the air right now as far as what we are going to do with our business.

Howdy Tom,
I'm sorry to hear that the drought has hit you all so hard this year. We finally got some decent amounts of rain over the past few weeks and things have greened up again. Like Steve said above. "Trust God Trust God, Trust God" When things get so dry and dusty it's hard to believe that it will ever be the same again. But, like we've seen here this summer it can turn around in no time. My hope and prayers for you all are that it will turn around before the season ends.

Hi Scott,
I reckon you're right, "Being in the world, but not of it".
It is kind of a balancing act isn't it. I guess that's why it is so important to "Seek first the kingdom of God".

7:09 PM  
Blogger berriehead said...

Loved this post because I too am happy with our family decision to move to the wisconsin northwoods..getting off of that hampster wheel was the best thing we ever did! glad to have found your site again:)

8:01 PM  
Blogger berriehead said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:02 PM  
Blogger RL said...

Hi Berriehead,
Nice to hear from you again. Glad you enjoyed the post.


10:34 PM  

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