From July 4, 2010 until July 3, 2011 the Sivers family lived on less than minimum wage as they begin their ministry journey.  The reasons for this commitment were as follows:
  • We believe that the #1 barrier between God and American Christians is a “consumer mentality.”  
    • Many Americans simply do not understand poverty or wealth.  
    • The majority of the world’s wealthiest 10% live in a suburban bubble where those wealthier than 92% of the world appear poor. 
    • Most of the Christians in 'the bubble' do not believe they could survive on significantly less.
  • Almost a billion people do not have access to the most basic of needs - clean water.
    • This lack kills more people than all violence and war combined.
    • 42,000 PEOPLE DIE WEEKLY FROM UNSAFE WATER!
    • 90% OF THOSE DEATHS ARE CHILDREN UNDER 5
  • AMERICAN CHRISTIANS COULD EASILY FUND A LASTING SOLUTION TO THE WATER CRISIS WITHOUT DEBT OR SACRIFICE - WITHIN ONE YEAR.
    • By living on minimum wage we are modeling our challenge to you: Live better on less, and use the difference to love people in need.

    To see what we're doing NOW, check out our other pages listed to the right...

    Felix

    This is Felix. He lives in our orange kitchen, where he has hung for the last 10 years or so. I introduced him to you here, remember?

    Felix recently had a tough time.  His charm started to fade. And then, one day, after slowing down for a few days, he stopped swinging. His eyes were still. His tail just hung there. He lost his zing, his pizzazz, his panache. I felt sad!

    You see, Felix still kept perfect time. His batteries seemed to be okay. But, nonetheless, I dutifully replaced them. Nothing. Nada. Yes, telling time, which technically, is what a clock is for. But, really. No wagging. Sadness!

    So there he hung. Every time I checked him out, I frowned. Why did you quit on me, Felix??

    Finally, after a few months of sadness, I fixed Felix. The directions were right there on the internet the whole time, patiently waiting for me to do a little research. After just a few minutes, we were back in business! YAY! Now Felix is all busy on the wall, and I am smiling.

    Felix's problem was very simple: he had gotten all dusty inside. Every week, he gets a little swipe to keep (what I thought was) clean. But I was only looking at the outside. Inside, he was filling up with particles. They settled into his eye sockets until his eyeballs were too gritty to turn. Ew! 


    Aren't we just like Felix? I know that I am. If my outside looks okay (or even passable- it depends on the day!), then I'm okay. No one can see the ugly inside. The Bible even talks about this: "The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” I can look in the mirror and judge how I am doing, but this is a false image. How I am has absolutely nothing to do with how I appear


    I have seen women going through divorce who lose a lot of weight. People tell them that they look great, but inside they are broken. Stress-induced weight loss is not healthy, but in our society, it can (crazily!) actually be envied. Now that's jacked up! 


    Remember to look to the inside, where God is concerned. Fill yourself with good. Yes, we should take care of everything God has given us, including our physical bodies. And our spiritual health can certainly show in our outward appearance, but don't be fooled. You can look smoking hot while actually being a hot mess. However, if you are walking with your creator, your spiritual wholeness will show on the outside. And the joy that overflows from a healthy relationship with God can't be misinterpreted as anything else! 


    Shake off the dust, clean out the inside, and get ready to wag your tail! 






    Crazy Focus

    Saturday night, Todd and I sat with some friends talking. The topic meandered to “focus”, and how when you are concentrating on learning something new, that subject can sometimes dominate your life.

    I feel like I live like that. When we started the Minimum Wage Prosperity project last year, I put my all into it. I prayed about it, researched it, talked about it, and blogged about it. However, since our ending on July 3, I have kind of put it in the back of my mind, and moved on. It helps that Todd and I have been given some new, exciting, and different things to do now. Todd is eating, sleeping, and breathing focus. ← Check this stuff out!

    My focus lately has been running, as told here. In fact, I even had a dream last night that I was running in a race dressed like Flo-Jo! That’s some crazy focus!

    We can live like this for God, too. If you always have a little bit of God-focus in the back of your mind, the right decisions can be made quickly, words that leave your mouth can be filtered, thoughts (that you shouldn’t be thinking) can be squelched, and everything will be a little less harsh. Personally, I find that living with God-focus takes the edge off. I can be brash and quick to speak on my own, but with God, I can be a lot more pleasant and sweet!

    Philippians 4:8 reminds us: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.”

    The things God has planned for each of us are always noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. They are always excellent and praiseworthy. They require our focus. What things does God want YOU to focus on today?

    The Top 3 Lessons


    3 Ownership Causes Scarcity

    Owning things is neither bad nor good. Choosing not to own things isn’t either. The ownership we’re talking about here is based in coveting.  So let’s start with a definition of that:

    cov·et [kuhv-it] –verb (used with object)

    1. to desire wrongfully, inordinately, or without due regard for the rights of others
    2. to wish for, especially eagerly
    –verb (used without object)
    3. to have an inordinate or wrongful desire.
    Origin: 1175–1225; Middle English coveiten   for Latin cupititās  (This is also the origin of the word cupid.)

    In the US, there is a strong individualist mentality. Americans love to “do it my way.”  And this isn’t a bad or good thing either, but it does tend to lead to a covetous ownership mentality.  This mindset can cause all sorts of problems, and most of them are related to scarcity.  Scarcity, a wanting lack or shortage, is often all too real in many parts of the world.  But in most of America it is only a mindset.  

    In fact, in the US, we annually waste enough resources to provide ALL of the world’s fresh water needs.  And within the course of two years we waste enough to feed every hungry soul on the planet.  Not just once, but for the rest of their lives.  At the same time, the greatest health issue in the US today is obesity. Richard Foster, in his classic Celebration of Discipline wrote that conforming to a sick society is the same as being sick. By that definition, America is the sickest society of all time.  

    We think we lack because our neighbor has more than we do, so we push ourselves beyond exhaustion to obtain the possessions and experiences that impress others and allow us to “fit in” with our society.  We pity those with a little less, and envy those with a little more while our entire paradigm encompasses only the top 20% of the world’s wealthiest people.  

    You don’t think you’re within the top 20% of the world’s richest people?  Could you live on $1765 a month? If you earn more than $1765 a YEAR you’re in the top 20.  80% of the world lives on less than this per year for their entire life.  

    In many areas of the world people earning $100 a month are the wealthiest people in their neighborhood, and are so effected by witnessing the plight of their poorer neighbors that they give away huge portions of their relative wealth to help their neighbors survive.  Americans not only have no concept of their level of generosity, but we also have no concept of their level of community.  They literally love their neighbors.  A friend of mine who recently returned from Africa said, “We’re the ones who are poor.”  And it is our desire to own that has made us poor.
    2 Stewardship Creates Abundance

    In the midst of this grand economic recession, America still has overwhelming abundance.  We have plenty of food.  We have plenty of shelter.  We have plenty of clothing.  When we choose to use those and all our other resources as stewards or managers, instead of owners, we acknowledge that every resource is both an opportunity and a responsibility.  When we face all of our decisions as stewards of our King, we will take advantage of our ability to respond to any  opportunity in a way that builds and supports His Kingdom and not our own.  When we free ourselves from the illusion of ownership, and embrace every opportunity to be a steward of Christ’s Kingdom, opportunities ALWAYS arise that provide all that we ever need both to serve our King as He created us to, and also for our own provision.  That’s a promise from God straight from the mouth of Jesus in Mathew 6 and Luke 12.

    1 God Provides

    This really requires no explanation, and if our minimum wage experiment has done nothing else, it has clearly shown this to ourselves and everyone else who has and will hear about it. I have heard this worded in simple terms like, “God’s will, God’s bill.”  or “God’s vision, God’s provision.”  For most sophisticated, post-modern Americans this might seem like a foolish, sophomoric, or even risky and dangerous worldview.  Who would trust an unseen and unknown God to provide while their efforts yield little to no personal gain?  Even if what we do helps people through crisis in a way nothing else can, where is the business plan that ensures provision?  But to those who have seen by faith what cannot be seen by sight, to those who have known by faith what can’t be known by intellect, this fact is more real than all others combined.

    Top 10 Lessons Learned (Part 2 of 3)

    Here’s the second installment of our lessons learned or reinforced this year...

    6. If You Don’t Use It, Give It Away.

    We once had a beautiful black BMW.  It was a great car that Maryanne or I used every day.  But at some point we got another car, and the BMW was no longer our daily driver.  Though it was a perfectly good running car, I set it aside in my large workshop with the intention of doing a few minor repairs to it when I got the chance.  Six years passed, and when I had to move out of that shop the car would no longer run because the fuel system was plugged up by old gas.  I moved it outside the shop where it sat another year before I towed it home and parked it behind my garage under a cover.  At some point the cover was blown off in a storm, and some neighborhood boys smashed a couple of windows out with rocks.  Almost ten years since I had stopped using it, I hauled it to the crusher and got a few hundred dollars out of it for scrap metal.  A great car neglected for ten years is nothing but recyclable metal.  

    Since then, I’ve become much better at finding new owners for the things I no longer use.  If I’m not a good steward with what I have, why would God entrust me with more?  We’re wrong to equate accumulation with wealth.  True wealth is faith.  With faith we can freely give whatever we don’t need today to someone who does need it, with the confidence that we will have what we need tomorrow.  This is the picture Jesus paints throughout his life on earth, constantly giving and never running out.

    5. There’s Always Enough to be Generous

    For months after I read Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath I was disturbed by the ending.  As I read page after page of the Joad family slowly digressing from what they thought was nothing to absolutely nothing, they never lost their internal sense of value.  At the end, “Rosasharn”, the girl who has become a woman, helps a stranger by giving the only thing she has.  After losing her home, much of her family, her husband, most of her possessions, and even her baby, the book ends with her gift of breast milk to a frail man too starved to eat solid food.  The story made a lasting impression of the power we all have to give to others.    

    I can’t even count the number of people who have told me they want to give, or give more, to show God’s love to others.  But they think they just can’t until they get a new this or pay off that.  The truth is that they WON’T now, and they probably won’t later either.  Generosity is not a matter of circumstance.  It’s a matter of faith.

    4. Generosity Creates Cash “Flow”

    This lesson can only be learned by having enough faith to try it.  Yes, God said something to this effect in Malachi 3, but I’m not big on quoting it because it was really written to the Israelites when they were under law, not grace.  But for those of us who have accepted Christ’s grace, we already have far more than we deserve.  

    Don’t be coerced by the “give to get” teachings of some churches, those churches trick people into giving to the church by creating greed and coveting in their followers.  If a preacher starts painting the picture of a big house and an Italian car just waiting for people who give till it hurts, run away.  Or punch them in the face and tell them it’s from me. ;) Giving generously does not guarantee you’ll have a beach house and a Learjet by Friday.  But it does ensure you’ll learn to be content with less and enjoy your circumstances more.  And it absolutely guarantees you’ll have everything you need when you need it.  This is a promise from God to you in Mathew 6 and Luke 12.  Here’s the catch we’ve found with these promises:  They are dependent on your choice to follow God first and not worry about your stuff.  If you seek to behave as if God is your King at all times, you will never need to worry.  His provision will “flow” to and through you. But if you want to be your own boss and call your own shots, God will let you do that too.  The first is a life of abundance and miracles, the second is a life of scarcity and hard work.  The choice is always yours.

    Next time we’ll wrap this up with our TOP 3 lessons of our year on minimum wage.  

    Top 10 Lessons Learned (Part 1 of 3)

    Happy Independence Day!

    All this week, we’re celebrating the experience of our year on minimum wage that ended yesterday, July 3, 2011.  So this week we’re sharing the top ten lessons learned or reinforced by this year-long experience.  This isn’t the end of this part of our ministry.  In the near future we’ll be sharing the details of our budget and income for the last year, as well as where God is taking us next.  Though if you’re viewing this on our blog site at www.minimumwageprosperity.com, you can already see the links to the right that will take you to some of the new ministry websites we’re developing as we choose to do whatever He tells us.  

    Today, here are lessons 10 through 7...  Tune in Wednesday for a few more.


    10 Happiness has little to do with money.
    In fact, the opposite is often true.  Wherever you find large amounts of money, you find stress.  Most people who have never had large amounts of money think that having it would solve all their problems.  But while having more money will certainly solve some problems, it will also create more problems that many people never consider.  More money means more responsibility, and more risk of being targeted for theft, coercion, and violence.  To be happy, there is certainly a minimum amount of money needed to cover basic needs. But in most cases, that amount is much, much smaller than people think it is.

    9 Financial security is an illusion.
    Once upon a time there was a farmer who had so much prosperity he faced a dilemma.  He had too much good stuff to fit in his barns.  He had to either share his extra with people who were less fortunate that he was, or build bigger barns to hold it all.  He reasoned that if he stored it away in bigger barns, he could retire and live the good life, and that’s what he did.  But, the very night he finished storing up his wealth in his new barns he died, and all his wealth went to others while he went on to face God and explain his lack of generosity toward people in need.   This is a story Jesus told in Luke 12.  And right after this story, he told how God wants us to view our needs and our wealth, and how we can be sure we’ll have everything we need for our entire lives. And that leads to #8.

    8 True security comes from faith in God.
    In Luke 12, Jesus said to his closest followers, “Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear.  Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the birds: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?  Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!  And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.  Don’t be afraid, your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  I can’t add anything to that.

    7 If you don’t have it, you don’t need it.
    Based on Jesus’ own words, God has a plan to provide for you.  So if you don’t have cash for what you want, this doesn’t mean that you should allow a creditor to enslave you to get it. (God says debt is slavery in Proverbs 22:7.) What it does mean is that you do not need it, and it is not part of your current adventure in partnership with God.  We can certainly ignore God’s design for our life and choose our own path to our own personal brand of happiness.  But at some point down that road, the opportunity to live the exciting adventure God created you for will be lost forever, and you’ll miss out on becoming who you were created to become.  I think this is one of the saddest tragedies in all of life. You’ll never know how great you could be if you refuse to grow through the circumstances of your life.  The world is filled with products and services to prevent you from the one relationship that will make you great, your relationship with Jesus Christ.

    Enjoy your celebration of what makes America great today.  And take the time to appreciate the sacrifice that many great men and women have made for your freedom.  (Thank you, Odys! We love you!) America was NOT designed to free people FROM faith in God, as many are trying hard to convince you.  America was created to free people from a GOVERNMENT that would INTERFERE with their relationship with GOD.  Think about THAT today!


    North!

    Later this week, our family is going on a trip. We are piling in the van, heading north for around 600 miles, and ending up in the area of Pennsylvania where Todd and I grew up. Todd and I moved away from there over 19 years ago, migrating to the lovely South we adore.

    People frequently refer to visiting the place you grew up in as “going home”. For some people, this may be true, but for us, home is definitely North Carolina. For the 1st two years we were married, Todd was still in college, and we counted the months until we could move to a nicer climate.

    Todd and I were made for warm weather. One day last winter, at the ladies Bible study I go to, a remark was made that you should never tell God where you aren’t willing to go to serve. I leaned over to my friend Jennifer and whispered, “Oh no- I’m gonna hafta move to Canada!”

    Sometimes people think that that’s what God is like- He’ll send you where you don’t want to go, ask you to do things you don’t want to do, and expect you to be happy all the while. But this isn’t the case.

    I feel like being a parent has helped me understand my Daddy’s feelings for me a little. Sure, I cannot understand the depths of God’s love for me, nor will I ever be able to understand how it feels to know everything, all of the time. But, as a mom, I want what’s best for my kids. Yes, there are hard things I expect them to do, and I don’t let them slack off on learning chores and other lessons that are a necessary part of growing up. But I don’t look for ways to give them unnecessary grief or deliberately try to make them miserable (although my children might not agree!).

    God is love, and He loves us. You don’t have to be special enough, or pretty or handsome enough, or have a good enough job to earn God’s love. In fact, there is no way you could ever earn God’s love. It’s just a gift from God. God doesn’t want to punish you, or make your life horrible. He doesn’t want to make you do something you weren’t created to do, He just wants you to do what He created you to do.

    How are you living out God’s dream for you today?

    It's Movie Night!

    I have told you all before how much our family loves the movies. Going out to the movies has been something that we have mostly given up this year, heading out to the theater only three times in the last 12 months as a family. (Thank you to the folks who gave us movie tickets!)

    Watching movies at home has become our new favorite thing, feeling pretty smart as we sit together in front of the 32” TV watching something. (Hey, we may be as delusional as Michael Scott, but we think the TV is really big!) We have long been Redbox fans, since getting nearly-new releases for a dollar is right up our alley.

    But there is a new kid in town. At our neighborhood grocery store, less than 1 mile from our front door, a Blockbuster machine showed up. Movies are also a dollar at the “bluebox”. So I signed up for text alerts and immediately started receiving free movie codes. So far, we have visited the box about 6 or 7 times, and haven’t paid for a movie yet. I love free codes!

    By staying in for movies, we save between 30 and 50 dollars each time. Popcorn and drinks bought from the store instead of the snack counter are not only WAY cheaper, but also much healthier. (And more realistically proportioned!) Plus, we can pause for bathroom breaks, drink refills, etc.

    It really helps that our kids are all older now and able to watch more movies that we all enjoy. I don’t for a minute regret all of the date nights we had when the kiddos were safely home with a sitter, and Todd and I got to go out for “adult time”.

    It seems like a lot of people think that the only way to have fun is to plunk down a lot of cash. But if you are creative, you can really have a good time on less, which means that you can do it more often. Think about how many movie nights you can have if you spend $1 (or less!) for the movie and only a couple of bucks for the snacks.

    One of the best things about movie night at home is that when you DO go out, it feels like it should- a real treat, something I’m afraid that a lot of people- especially kids- know nothing about. Entitlement takes away a lot of joy.

    Have any ideas like this? Share them in the comments!

    Trust Me (Year 2!)

    “Trust me.” ← This is what God has been telling us lately. So, guess what? We’re grabbing onto God’s dream for us and running with it.

    HERE WE GO AGAIN! July 4th (2 weeks!) starts our 2nd year of ministry. We love Andy Stanley’s quote, “Do for one what you wish you could do for many.” This is how we have been living, and we are going to continue serving and loving others, one at a time, as long as we can.

    Todd now has a contract job where he works 12-14 hour days, 3 days a week, allowing him to work about 40 hours a week, yet leaving him 4 days a week to do ministry. This helps to cover some of our living expenses, but not nearly all. Still, every time we pray about my going back to work outside of home and ministry, we definitely feel like the answer is “no”.

    So, for now, as in the last 12 months, we are counting on God to open people’s hearts to give to this ministry. We have full confidence that this next phase of ministry is exactly where He wants us, so I know that a trivial thing like money won’t keep us from living out God’s dream for us.

    Please be aware that even though Minimum Wage Prosperity will be over in a couple of weeks, we will not suddenly be expecting to live on a grand budget. Being able to live contentedly at an extremely modest (at or near poverty-level) income, we believe, is a gifting from God that we should not waste. So our needs are very low, yet our potential to serve is very high.

    Please consider how you can help us do what God has called us to do. We will continue to love people, coach people, and invest time in people to help them through difficulties, crisis, and life-change. We will pray for and with people, and point people to God, who makes all things possible. We will continue to have a global presence via the internet, communicating and relating to people in need, and living as missionaries to America and beyond.

    This modest missionary work is reaching over 1000 people in 7 countries around the world on a budget far smaller than the personal expenses of most American families.

    We know God is calling some of you to grow this work, and we're counting on Him and you. Mary said to the servants in John 2:5, “Do whatever He tells you.” We pray that you are obedient to whatever God puts on your heart!

    P.S. Have you heard about my half-marathon adventure? You can read about it here!

    Oh My Goodness?

    When I was a little girl, we sang a song in Sunday school that went like this: “Oh, be careful, little mouths, what you say, oh be careful, little mouths, what you say. For there’s a father up above who’s looking down in love, so be careful, little mouths, what you say.”

    At the time, I thought it was pretty corny. But that song- and its other verses about eyes, ears, and hands- has never left my memory. Lately, I find myself thinking that maybe more people should have been exposed to that song (and HAND MOTIONS!), because there is a vital teaching from the Bible that even many Christ-followers seem to be unaware of.

    In Exodus 20, the Ten Commandments are laid out for us. The 3rd commandment states, "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.”

    My ears burn when I hear people who I know love God misusing His name. You don’t have to be outright cursing to be misusing God’s name. Saying “OMG”, or any other form of the abbreviation is misusing God’s name. In fact, any time you say “God” when you’re neither talking directly about or directly to Him is misuse.

    Several years ago, our family visited a church that we really liked for several months, but we couldn’t get past the fact that the senior pastor stood at the pulpit and said God’s name over and over as an expression of exasperation. That was just not right.

    Proverbs 18:21 tells us that the tongue has the power of life and death. That means that what we say really matters. In fact, when you read through the book of Proverbs, you find that it is peppered with verses reminding us to keep our mouths under control!

    Why are there so many verses about keeping our traps shut? Because it’s hard! I have a lot of personal experience in this area. I find myself saying stupid things over and over, and most of the verses on this topic are highlighted in my Bible to remind me to stop spouting off. (I think I’m getting better, but pride goes before a fall, so I’ll keep that to myself.)

    What comes out of our mouths matters. Do you struggle with your words? Have you ever thought about how a seemingly-harmless phrase is causing a separation between you and God? Think about it.