Living Simply Archive

Not by bread alone

February 26, 2016 Celeste Kennel-Shank

People do not live by bread alone, Jesus tells Satan when he is tempted in the wilderness. Though Jesus “was famished”—or perhaps because of that—he knows in his body that food is not all that we need for sustenance. Jesus’ words have kept returning to me in the past weeks. Our relationship with food can become distorted. We mix food and fellowship, which isn’t necessarily bad until the occasion becomes more about eating than connecting with each other. At a local winter farmer’s market, along with crops that can be stored in the cold months, vendors sell prepared food. One […]

New life from loss

January 29, 2016 Celeste Kennel-Shank

Blackened trusses stand against the sky above the walls of an old church that burned. I often pass the corner where the church has sat since long before I knew the neighborhood’s name, long before I was born. Though our time calls upon us to make difficult choices about the work we do in our churches, our broader communities and in the world, we can trust that God’s power is not limited by times of change and uncertainty. The first time I saw the destroyed building, I was on my way to another church next door. It has a dwindling […]

Caring for self is a must

November 13, 2015 Celeste Kennel-Shank

  In some circles, the term “self-care” is so overused as to elicit groans. In other places, the most likely response is, “What’s that?” In the hospital where I work as a chaplain, we talk with nurses, doctors and other staff about caring for yourself while caring for others. We’ve used the book Trauma Stewardship as a resource; its title describes the particular challenge of careers that bring one in close contact with suffering. With so many goals for living well, we may find ourselves always one step behind where we want to be. While self-care sounds warm and fuzzy, […]

Differences We Tolerate

October 2, 2015 Celeste Kennel-Shank

Chicago’s Magnificent Mile and State Street attract people from around the world for pleasure shopping. Stores selling designer shoes, trendy clothes, high-end accessories and more line both sides of each street. . . . opposing consumerism is far from prominent in the minds of many U.S. Christians when they talk about standing against the whims of culture. I work a few blocks from these shopping corridors. I won’t say I’m never tempted to stop in a store and buy an item or two, and I don’t begrudge visitors their enjoyment. But if I’m passing through with extra time on my hands […]

Finding God’s presence within the decay

August 28, 2015 Celeste Kennel-Shank

More than a few people are surprised that I genuinely love working with compost. Sure, it smells bad sometimes and is occasionally slimy when it gets out of balance. But I enjoy being part of creating fresh, rich earth from unneeded scraps of vegetables that would otherwise go to landfills. It’s fun to think about the carbon-to-nitrogen (brown-to-green) ratio, to take the temperature of the pile and to turn it. The beautiful dark soil a good compost pile generates is a satisfying reward. The materials we work with mirror our own mortality. Not just the ultimate end of our earthly […]

A less popular faith

July 17, 2015 Celeste Kennel-Shank

The largest religious groups in the United States received some difficult news in a recent survey. Mainline Protestant, Catholic and evangelical Christians all dropped in numbers over the past several years, according to the Pew Research Center’s report, America’s Changing Religious Land­scape. Mainline Protestants—such as Presbyterians and Methodists—saw the largest decrease. Overall, the effect was a drop in the number of people calling themselves Christian from 78 percent in 2007 to less than 71 percent today. In the Pew report, Anabaptists were counted among Protestants, evangelical or mainline depending on the denomination. (Curiously, it lists Mennonite Brethren but not Mennonite […]

Challenges of a new home

May 29, 2015 Celeste Kennel-Shank

My husband and I recently moved into the home we purchased a few months ago. We can envision living here for decades. Once all of the boxes are unpacked and the furniture put in place, we’ll need some time to relax. One of my hopes for our home is to show hospitality through sharing guest bedrooms and meals. But I am also keeping an eye toward developing practices in our new home to help us continue to live simply. As I packed up our boxes, I reflected that I felt we had the right amount of stuff (not a precise […]

Our stuff tells our story

April 24, 2015 Celeste Kennel-Shank

Ah, stuff. There’s nothing quite like moving a household to spark thoughts on what it means in our culture and our tradition to have possessions and try to live faithfully with them. Perhaps the most poignant moment was finding two comic books given to my husband by a man who was homeless to whom we provided some companionship in the final months of his life. Except this time my husband and I now can count a house among what we own. It’s hard to wrap my mind around. When we were negotiating the price with the owners and signing the […]

Ordained to be reverent

March 24, 2015 Celeste Kennel-Shank

Culminating two years of being a licensed minister, and following eight years of seeing an inkling of a calling to pastoral ministry grow into a deep truth in my life, I was ordained in December. For me to be ordained, to be a reverend, is to live with the knowledge of human limitation (including my own) while also seeking a deeper relationship with God and helping others to do so. Since then, one of my delights has been stepping into and claiming the title of “the Reverend.” Staff members at the hospital where I work as a chaplain address me […]

A faithful leader engages creation care

January 29, 2015 Celeste Kennel-Shank

In the movement for earth care… Faith in Place’s engaged and engaging leadership is a bright spot of hope.