When people think of simplicity their thoughts often turn to clearing out cluttered closets, garages, sheds…places where stuff has accumulated with the passage of time. However, when I think of simplicity I believe that a good place to start simplifying our lives begins in the area of disorder attachments. Often our hearts are so filled with disordered attachments that things like love, service, even the simple enjoyment of the things of life are buried under the oppressive weight caused by unceasing pursuit of those things we believe our happiness are contingent on having, keeping or not getting.Read More Post a comment (0)
About halfway through the Lenten season it happened without warning. I was sitting quietly in my living room when suddenly I was knocked off my feet by a rogue wave of desolation. Not only did this rogue way knock me off my feet I could feel it dragging me in to a tumultuous sea of despair. I felt helpless to do anything. The strength of the wave was beyond my ability to withstand – it was overwhelming me! I could feel my strength draining, like Peter I was sinking, the dark waters of despondency were rising and I was helpless, seeking to tread water but without success, the inevitable was clear, I was going to drown.Read More Post a comment (0)
One of my directees runs an organization with 330 staff and a large budget. He is in and out of meetings all day and constantly interacts with people. He asked me, Is it really so important that I talk to God about things—even little things—all day long? My experience is that this continual conversation throughout the day makes life so much richer.Read More Post a comment (0)
First, a confession: I gulped when the editorial team assigned me this article. They spoke bluntly: “Every church lobby should have a sign that says, ‘Go downstairs for change; stay upstairs to stay the same.’” When I winced, they explained that while real change happens in twelve-step programs, there seems to be a lack of change happening in the sanctuary. Finally one editor said, “We want to focus on the fact that there’s real honesty and acceptance in the basement (where Alcoholics Anonymous, otherwise known as A.A., meets) as well as an understanding that transformation has to be worked out.”
I’ve believed these things for decades, but I never expected a Christian magazine to address this topic. So hold on to your hat while we examine the grace drenched content, approaches, and methods of the twelve-step movement that facilitate a radical change of life for narcotics users and neurotics, online gamers and embezzlers, and those who manage pain by eating too much, drinking too much, or chasing women. In a twelve-step program’s safe atmosphere, these people and many others come face to face with their inner selves and throw those selves on the mercy of God day after day.Read More Post a comment (2)
Years ago, I spent several weeks traveling throughout Japan. I vividly recall the polluted, cloudlike darkness hanging over the larger cities and the constant struggle involved in breathing the smog-filled air. Glass-sided booths lined Tokyo’s streets, available to pedestrians feeling desperate for fresh air. I remember coming out of one, hoping I’d make it to the next booth without choking.
The memory of my ducking into those human-size fishbowls to escape the toxic air is a fitting metaphor for the digital world we live in. Without recognizing what’s happening, the constant stimulation by my devices will kill my soul as surely as the toxic air in Japan would have eventually killed my body.Read More Post a comment (0)
I have a hard time remembering how I communicated with people ten years ago. How did I set up a meeting before the Internet or check in with my kids before cell phones? How did I look up information, order a book, or map out driving directions? It is hard to recall what it meant to phone a group of people, leave messages on their home answering machines, wait for them to call me back, and then call everyone a second or third time. Often, it took days to arrange something. Now, a group e-mail goes out, everyone hits “reply all,” and voila! Dinner date reserved or meeting set up. The Internet is such a gift.Read More Post a comment (1)
When I read my student’s words: “This class was a game-changer for me,” I nearly went into orbit. He now looked at transformation, life and even God differently than before. This is what I live for, I thought!
I confess I love being a game-changer. I would reform the world if I could. Maybe you aren’t as enthusiastic about being a change agent, but isn’t there some rule or some class you’d like to change? Some lethargic group you’d like to energize? Some cultural practice you’d love to see overhauled?
The problem with being game-changers is that we don’t rest well. We aren’t peaceful people. Sometimes we despair of life and become crabby. In fact, we struggle to trust God.Read More Post a comment (2)
Simplicity is a spiritual discipline because it requires intentionality to practice. The discipline of simplicity means having what you need for the season of life you are currently in, no more but no less, and being content with that amount. It is the antithesis of “more, more, more.” The discipline of simplicity is not a one-size-fits-all and it is a fluid state as each season of life requires different things. The discipline of simplicity is not poverty (real or created) or starkness.
The discipline also speaks to our calendars and our conversation. An overly busy life is neither a more godly life nor a more important life. Endless conversation, in person or imagined through constant technology, does not fill the empty spaces of one’s soul. What junk food is the body, busyness and constant “chatter” is to the soul.
In some ways, my husband and I model this discipline well. We have no debt. We live in 1000 sq feet. Our cars have lots of miles on them. We have good margins and boundaries in our daily lives.
Yet, I personally struggle with wanting and acquiring more. Even in a small space, I can fill drawers, closets, book shelves, and flat surfaces to overflowing. Recently, I was struck by a comment, the gist of which was it is not possible to eat or buy passion (with passion being defined in its classical sense of deepest soul desire). I was stopped in my tracks because I recognized that too often I try to fill soul holes with food and stuff instead of relationships and creative pursuits. I eat when I should be writing or painting. I buy when I am feeling empty and lost. These activities actually increase my feelings of restlessness rather than restoring my soul.
Food and material possessions are, for the most part, neutral at worst and good gifts of God at best. Too many modern Christians still believe Plato who said that the material world was evil; only the things related to the soul were good. God in sending Jesus in the flesh proved that wrong but many good people still think that to live a simple life, they have to have bare walls and no car.
In truth, we can be totally focused on money and possessions while owning nothing, as anyone who has dealt with the very poor will attest to. We can also have a lot of possessions, yet be in the discipline of simplicity because those possessions do not own us.
Again, it is a matter of the heart, truly where our treasure is. One way to determine that is to begin a process of REGULARLY giving things away. Not selling them but giving them. And not only the “junk” that needs clearing out but treasured possessions. I know that is the only way I know if I own the treasure or the treasure owns me.
Have you tried radical giving? If so, share your experience.
Do you feel that you own your treasure or it owns you?
It is 6:00 am. I stand at our back door watching another Yakima sunrise insist upon its own magnificence. In the foreground is a broken down patio littered with cement stones that apparently do not build themselves into a retaining wall. Beside those are garden implements, two wheelbarrows, a broken BBQ and more repairs than any poet-musician should ever have to deal with. Drawing another pull of smoky, hot caffeine into my woolen, morning mouth, I think to myself, how did we get here?Read More Post a comment (0)