5 ways to put God above the American Dream

Suburban America is the easiest place to fall asleep in our faith. The American Dream breeds comfort. And, comfort breeds complacency.

People are so busy dreaming the American Dream, fantasizing about what they could be or have a right to be, that they’re all asleep at the switch.
– Florence King

I grew up in a very affluent suburb of Detroit. It was all about the American dream. Everything around me reinforced this, the media, my school, my parents and even my church.

I felt like I needed to get an education, a job and climb the corporate ladder. I needed to make enough money so I could have a big house in the suburbs. I would get married, have two kids, and a dog named Sparky. I would work for 30 to 40 years in a career and retire comfortably at 65 and do nothing until the end of my days.

If you choose to live differently than that, you will stand out. If you live in middle class America and decide to put Christ first, you will be the weird one. You will be different.

Can God be our number one while living in suburban America? Absolutely! We can put God first wherever we are.

There are five ways to put God above the American Dream.

1. Create margin in your life

The biggest separation between my family and the culture is our level of busyness. My husband and I decided many years ago that we were not going run the rat race of life. We agreed that we would try to always have margin.

According to Dr. Richard A. Swenson, M.D., margin is the space that once existed between ourselves and our limits.

Margin is not a popular concept in American culture. Middle class Americans esteems those who work way too much and are way too busy. We make busyness an idol. And, I don’t see the church being much different.

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”  Luke 10:41-42  

I am dumbfounded when I see people at church talking about their multiple jobs and how busy they are. And they’re not just talking about it, they’re bragging. They wear their busyness like a badge of honor.

Create margin in your life. Leave space for God to move. Notice those around you. And always remember that God is number one and people are more important than our schedules.

2. Make God the Lord over your money

If Christ is not Lord over your money and possessions, then He is not your Lord.
-Randy Alcorn

I was very much raised with the American Dream mentality. It was the mentality of more, more, more! Why wouldn’t we buy a bigger house? That would make us happy, right?!

The Bible contains twice as many verses about money as it does about faith and prayer combined, about 2,350! Does money matter? It absolutely does! Money is a tool that God can use to further His Kingdom. In and of itself money is neither good nor bad. But when it is misused, destruction follows.

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”   Malachi 3:10

If God is really our Lord, we will not be focused on the comforts of this life, but rather, on our eternal inheritance. If we focus on eternal treasures, we will more likely give our money away rather than spending it on ourselves.

The depth of transformation in the lives of the early Christians was most clearly evident in their willingness to surrender their money and possessions to meet each other’s needs.   ~Randy Alcorn

3. Get out of your bubble

Speaking as someone who was born and raised in the second richest county in the nation and is currently lives in the first, I can say that it is so easy to get stuck in our little bubble. We become out of touch with the ‘real’ world.

It is so easy to become out of touch with the poor and the needy. In the suburbs, you don’t ever have to see them if you don’t want to.

When my husband and I moved to our current home, we vowed not to assimilate into the rich, snobby, elitist culture that is stereotypical of the suburbs. And with the exception of being a Starbucks addict, we have done pretty well. We are definitely the trailer trash of our neighborhood! And, we are proud of it!

Living in the ‘burbs’ can be dangerously comfortable. We must get out of our comfort zone and go to places that need the light of Christ.

I don’t deny that the suburbs need the light of Christ. Middle class Americans are some of the hardest people to share the Gospel with. How do you convince someone who has everything that they need Christ?

Get out of your bubble. Seek out ministries that serve the poor, visit inner city churches, and go on mission trips to places of extreme poverty. Seek out the different and the uncomfortable. That is what Jesus did.

4. Downsize when everyone else is upsizing

My husband and I regret upsizing ten years ago when we bought our house. While it is a typical suburban house, it is more than we need. We could have stayed in our previous house and had more money available to give to Kingdom work.

Was God the Lord of our money then? Would we have made the same decision if He was? Probably not.

Do we love our house? Yes!

Is it comfortable? Yes!

Do we have a lot of extra money to invest in God’s kingdom? Not as much as we could have if we had a smaller house.

5. Don’t worry

Last summer I was out to dinner with a bunch of girlfriends on a beautiful summer evening.  The restaurant was right on the Monan Trail and it was buzzing with activity.

After talking about jobs and kids our conversation turned to current events. (sadly, even though these were all church friends, we rarely talk about God) My friend shared her concerns about ISIS and about how safe, or unsafe, we are in this country. Than, another chimed in with her equal concern with the state of this country and the economy and the current administration.

The world is going to hell in a hand basket. It is, and it always has been. God warned us about how it would be in scripture, and it is all happening. Why are we surprised?

And it is not just in the world, but in the church as well.

There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.   2 Timothy 3:1-5

But, Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4)! Do we believe that?! Either we do, and we walk in confidence with God’s peace, or we don’t and we continue fretting.

We must believe God, not just believe in Him. And, we must take His Word as truth. If you don’t believe that His Word is true, than you will never have peace.

In Francis Chan’s book, Crazy Love, he describes people who are obsessed with Jesus. He writes, “People who are obsessed with Jesus aren’t consumed with their personal safety and comfort above all else.”

God is the God of peace. He tells us not to worry, because He is in control, He is good, and He is able. We must focus on eternity not just the here and now.

Dare to be different than those around  you. Dare to live like Christ instead of living for the American Dream. Be radical for the One who died for you.

Feeling tension with the culture is something that we should experience if we are to be like Christ. If you fit in and are quite comfortable in life, you may want to ask yourself –> Am I putting Christ first?

Margin or The Rat Race

After 14 exhausting but wonderful years of raising kids and homeschooling for a few of them, I am finding that my life is finally calming down. I am incredibly blessed to now have time and margin in my life.

About a year ago, I discontinued homeschooling when my husband and I felt God leading us to send my youngest daughter back to public schools. It was absolutely the right thing to do at the right time – Praise God!  However, the week that she went back was one of the hardest weeks of my life.

Since then, my time has been filled with bible studies, coffee with friends, doing some writing, and seeking God’s will for my life. However, the biggest blessing has been the time that I have had for thinking and reflecting; and, spending time in prayer.

My natural tendency is to be a ‘Mary’ and sit at the feet of Jesus.  I have less ‘Martha’ in me than I would care to admit. So, I have been able to sit with God and soak in every drop of what He has in His Word for me.  I have let it wash over me like a tidal wave; like a healing rain.  He has built a hunger and thirst for His Word within me.  What a remarkable thing that is!The-Bible-giving-girl-a-hug

I look forward to my bible studies now more than anything.  I am hungry for God’s Word.  For the first time in my life reading the bible is not a chore.  I am starting to see it for what it really is . . . the living, breathing, Word of God.  It is a toolbox, a gift, a love letter, a mirror, an admonition, and a glimpse into our future with Him.

“When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, Lord God Almighty.”  Jeremiah 15:16

I also spend my days cooking, cleaning, and basically keeping my home and family running. In addition to that, I am half way through a Doctor of Naturopathy program at an online school. I also co-lead a women’s bible study at my church, and, obviously, I write a blog.

At times, my life is definitely full and a little crazy, but not all the time.  I am very fortunate to have what most people don’t . . . . . margin.

According to Dr. Richard A. Swenson, M.D., margin is the space that once existed between ourselves and our limits.

Not many people experience margin in their life. So, I feel like I stand out like a sore thumb.

Pressure from Society

I feel tremendous pressure all around me because I am not working. Pressure from society and pressure from the culture.

There is a voice in my head that says that I should be working; that I should be earning a paycheck; I need to be eternally busy or I am being lazy.  It says that If I’m not running 90 miles an hour and busy from dawn until dusk, than I am not doing enough.

I battle the guilt of not contributing financially to our household, not contributing to the economic machine of capitalist America, and not living the distracted, mundane life that can be a prison sentence here on earth.

I also feel guilty because I don’t have to work, like so many single mothers or families that are financially strapped. My heart goes out to them. I am very fortunate to have a husband who gets payed well.

I feel resentment from friends who have to work to make ends meet, and friends who are miserable in their jobs. I see how their jobs consume them.

I don’t have a job with a paycheck. Does that make my life less valuable than others’?

How busy is busy enough?  Who gets to decide?

The Accepted Way of Life: Busyness

I think that everyone would agree that we live in a workaholic society. Our country is drowning in busyness, and we’re proud of it!

“As a society, we’ve forgotten what margin is.  In the push for progress, margin has been devoured.”  – Margin, Richard A. Swenson, M.D.

Middle class America esteems those who work way too much. Dare I say that we make our jobs an idol?

This is not to say that you can’t find great meaning and purpose in your job. And, I am not saying that it is impossible to keep your job in its proper place. Many people do it, and do it well. For some, their workplace is their mission field and God does great things through them there.

However, most people I know work hard all day at a frustrating job that they don’t like and come home deflated. I can picture them at the end of the day, falling down in their easy chair in an exhausted heap.  Living the dream, right?!

“The trouble with being in the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.” Lilly Tomlin

Do I have the right?

So, I need to dissect this. Do I have any right to not run the rat race?

Am I allowed to have a season of life that is calmer and less hectic? Do I have the right to a season of reflecting . . . . of being still . . . . of seeking God’s direction for the next steps in my life? Or, am I required to instantly jump into the next thing so that I am working?

Did God intend for us to live life in a frantic state of continuous activity? Did He intend for our lives to be just a blur?  Simply a means to an end?

I don’t have a job, but that doesn’t mean that I do not work.  It does not mean that I do not contribute to society.  It does not mean that I’m not busy. It means that I am not busy ALL of the time.

God definitely calls us in seasons to push ourselves to the limit.  But, I don’t think He intended for us to always live at that pace. God allows us to rest.

“Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.”  Psalm 116:7

God also has a lot to say in scripture about our work. Obviously, He does not want us to be lazy. God made us to work, to be productive, and to live with purpose.

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”  Genesis 2:15

However, above everything, He wants us to give our lives completely to Him.

“Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”  1 Corinthians 15:58


seasons_of_change_by_autumnsgoddessRight now, I am in a season of transitioning, learning, growing, and waiting on the Lord.  I desire to use my giftedness to love and serve others.  In what venue or arena or circumstance I don’t yet know. I want to love God by being His hands and feet.

I feel the strong need for prayer, and to be still enough to hear His voice. I don’t want to miss it. He has been so good to me, and I want to give Him my everything.

He may want me to get a job and use me there. He may be calling me to ministry.  He may want me to wait on Him; wait and focus on disciplining my children in Christ, being a helper for my husband, and being available to love and serve others in my community as Christ did.

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8