Living Simply Archive

Diligent Sabbath

November 27, 2018 Celeste Kennel-Shank

For six days a week, we labor to make the world as it should be. On one day, we accept the world as it is. Kennel-Shank A friend and ministry colleague repeated this comment from one of his students about what it means to keep Sabbath. Acceptance is difficult for each of us, since we are the kind of people who continually see injustice around us and feel driven to do something about it. Sabbath to him is less about absence of work and more about the active discipline of acceptance and its most robust form — gratitude. It presents […]

To strive for life

March 23, 2018 Celeste Kennel-Shank

It grieves me when I read or hear about my Christian brothers and sisters for whom abortion is the highest priority in their participation in political life. We slap labels on each other with so little nuance that the distinctions become meaningless. My views on abortion have been shaped by being a chaplain caring for women in many different circumstances related to pregnancy and childbirth. What if Anabaptists and other discipleship-oriented Christians were known as fully apart from any political bloc or party? What if no one issue made politicians think they could count on our vote? What if our […]

Five names

December 8, 2017 Celeste Kennel-Shank

Deonta Turner, Lemont Davis, Alandis Allison, Maurice Purnell and Juan Bahena Jr. I felt these five people’s deaths most deeply amid more than 500 fatal shootings this year in Chicago. I trust . . . that what we do “may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.” Deonta Turner and Lemont Davis were killed next to the community garden I tend along with others from our Anabaptist congregations nearby. Juan Bahena Jr. was shot a block away from my house. Although I pass […]

Examine motivations

September 29, 2017 Celeste Kennel-Shank

It all began with a squash plant, a Pennsylvania Dutch crookneck, to be exact. Like all winter squash, it needs room to grow and many weeks to mature. Too late, I realized I had only ever grown winter squash in patches, and I couldn’t have told you where each plant started and stopped. Knowing the truth about ourselves begins with being honest about our innermost thoughts and motivations. Foolishly, I thought if we only planted one we’d have room in our small garden. The plant took over our entire lawn, producing 50 pounds of squash we harvested and ate all […]

People over profits

June 23, 2017 Celeste Kennel-Shank

The other day I was talking to a colleague who, like me, admires the 20th-century Christian radical Dorothy Day and life in intentional community, but isn’t starry-eyed about either. Re-examining how we spend, save and invest our money is one way to live out our values. The conversation found its way to the discipline of voluntary poverty, which can be practiced in a number of ways but often involves earning and owning less than might be possible for a person. It pushes back at our get-everything-you-can-whatever-the-cost culture. But my colleague pointed out it begins with the idea of choice. It’s […]

Staying awake in Gethsemane

April 7, 2017 Celeste Kennel-Shank

The cemeteries where members of my extended families are buried are truly places of repose, surrounded by the fertile fields of Lancaster County, Pa. When I visit their graves, I sense that they are at rest, being at home with God and having returned to the earth that nurtured them. If any of us have gotten caught up in the scapegoating and fearmongering that are so prevalent in our culture and society today, it’s not too late to live in a new way. Grace and transformation are available to all of us. With my strong sense of connection to those […]

Places of sanctuary

January 20, 2017 Celeste Kennel-Shank

Sharing my faith story with the church small group I’m part of, I described myself as a broken-hearted person. One person responded that she’d usually heard people describe themselves as tender-hearted instead. But the first description suits me better, because from a young age there has been much in the world that breaks my heart. Like the stories from neighbors in my hometown who sought refuge in the U.S. after surviving wars in the 1980s in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. Like the stories I am hearing today from Mennonites in my city whose children are afraid that their parents […]

Limits that free us for delight

October 28, 2016 Celeste Kennel-Shank

Each week we receive an incredible gift, and yet so many of us leave it there, still in its wrapping paper and bow. Or we open it a little bit but then put it back in the box and set it in a corner to collect dust. The Sabbath is for us, that we might be restored by delight in the goodness in the world. What keeps so many of us from fully receiving the gift of a full day of rest each week? Perhaps it’s a demanding job that requires working not only Sundays but at least part of […]

Do-gooder’s dilemma

July 22, 2016 Celeste Kennel-Shank

He usually stands at the bottom of the stairs that reach the street from the elevated train. Sometimes he sings; sometimes his spirits are low. “If do-gooders are always thinking of how the world is unjust and needs to be changed—if they want to replace our world with another, better one—then do they love the world that we know, which is the world as it is?” He’s cheerful if he had a chance to sleep in a bed the night before; a room is $20. And if I stop to buy him a cup of coffee (extra cream, extra sugar) and a […]

Home is belonging, not owning

June 3, 2016 Celeste Kennel-Shank

Ninety-nine Homes has a rare mix in a film: It’s suspenseful, yet deals with complex ethical issues. The drama centers on the lives of people in central Florida a few years after the 2008-09 financial crisis. Rick Carver, a real estate broker, partners with banks to evict people and sell their foreclosed homes at a profit. Our true homes do not belong to us. They are where each of us truly belongs, at any time and in any place. Without spoiling the plot of the 2014 movie—which contains some violence but mainly the threat of it—it’s sufficient to say that […]