Saturday, August 30, 2014

Lessons from Rest: Simplify (2) - How

In my previous post I made an appeal to simplify our lives, focusing on the "why." This post puts some meat to that, and seeks to answer the "how."

At least two things are required to live simply and I have found out the hard way just how hard this is going to be. 1) Contentment, and 2) Discipline.

Contentment: "an internal satisfaction which does not demand changes in external circumstances." (Holman Bible Dictionary). A person who is content has a far easier time living a simple life. Why? Simple - their minds are not pre-occupied with whatever it is they're not content with. People who aren't content are always thinking and working towards the next thing. Contrast that with someone who has an "internal satisfaction" for where they are and what they have, even if nothing changes.

Self Discipline: "the ability to control one's feelings and overcome one's weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it." If you want to live a simple life, you have to have self-discipline. You have to be willing to deny your flesh in order to feed your spirit. Take my closet for example; I have a closet full of clothes and if you look deep enough, you will find things that I haven't worn in years. It takes both contentment and discipline to simplify my closet and purge the things I don't need or don't use, and also not replace them with others. Am I content with what I have, and am I disciplined enough to keep it simple once I have purged?

The closet is the easy part - how about living a simplified schedule? Resisting the urge to run off on a camping trip when I know very well that my soul and body need a weekend at home to rest instead? Saying "no" to the invitation to hang with friends because I've been out three nights in a row already and really need some down time?

"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:12-13)

See that? Philippians 4:13 is one of the most claimed verses in the Bible - do you see the context which Paul wrote those words? He was talking about contentment...the secret of being content is Jesus. His strength and power will give us what we need to be content whether you have a house, two cars, three kids and a boat, or whether you live in a studio apartment and bike to work.

I have seen this principle at work - "the more I have, the more I worry about what I have." I think there is a better way...enjoy what you have, but live simply.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Lessons from Rest: Simplify...Why?

Life is complex, fast-paced, and not slowing down anytime soon. We work hard, play hard, travel, hike, bike, run, swim, boat, golf, and so much more. Our days off are as exhausting as our work days - as we fill them with all these things and more. I think for too many of us, our lives look like our garages...full of too much clutter.

" '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)

What is that one thing that Mary chose? Jesus. I like how pastor Louie Giglio puts paraphrase him, "life is all about living for the fame and glory of Jesus."

One of the things I was reminded during my sabbatical was the need to simplify my life, and to live a simple life. I want to re-align my life with the most important thing, Jesus. Beyond that, I want to de-clutter what I fill my time with. But here's the secret - living simply is not easy. In fact, it is likely going to be a life-long battle. Why? Because it's 100% counter culturual - at least counter to the culture I live in (here in the NW part of the USA). Counter cultural is just a fancy way of saying that everything around me is pushing me towards a busy, cluttered life...everything. To live simple will be to push against this culture, but it is necessary if we are to experience the life Christ calls us to.

A man named Elijah once experienced something that we would do well to remember...he got to hear the voice of God. But that voice didn't come as he expected; first came a strong wind, then an earthquake, and then a fire...but God's voice was not heard in any of those. Finally came a "gentle whisper" - the voice of God.

It is quite possible for us to go through this life and rarely hear God's voice. Oswald Chambers remarked that even our service for God can get in the way of our relationship with God.

Why do we need to simplify? So we can hear we can experience His power in us and achieve the mission He called us to. He has a plan for you but you can't do it on your own. So if you find your life spinning too crazily, then stop - re-prioritize.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Lessons from Rest: Soul-Care (I)

Warning: ignore your soul at your own risk.

If there was one over-arching thing that encompasses everything from my time away, it's this: we are not super-human. We are not supermen or superwomen. We are not immune from growing weary and tired. We are not "plug and play" devices, nor are we "solar-powered" or "battery-powered." What we are is human, and as such, we are prone to many things. And the "thing" that fuels everything is our soul. What is our "soul" you ask? I looked it up to see what the world has to say...and I think that if you combine these definitions, we get close to a good definition...

Soul - the spiritual part of a person that is believed to give life to the body...a person's total self.

Now don't get hung up on what the proper definition of the word "soul" is, or the history of the word. When I refer to your "soul," the simple definition above works. Soul is your "total self" - that part of you that gives life to everything else. Ignore it at your own peril.

I am writing from the perspective of hindsight. I didn't know it at the time, but when I started my sabbatical, I was tired. Physically tired, yes, but even more alarming, I was "soul" tired. I was weary. I was juggling too many plates, taking on too many challenges, making too many sacrifices, and relying too much on my own strength. I have learned...ignoring your soul will have the effect of depleting you. Get depleted too much and you get on a very slippery slope.

So what are you doing to care for your soul? What are you doing to insure you stay fresh? What are you doing to make sure that you are not already on that slope? The whole point of this first post is simple; caring for your soul is a must for a healthy, happy life.

I close with this quote from Oswald Chambers;

"Jealously guard your relationship with God. Jesus prayed 'that they may be one just as We are one'—with nothing in between (John 17:22). Keep your whole life continually open to Jesus Christ. Don’t pretend to be open with Him. Are you drawing your life from any source other than God Himself? If you are depending on something else as your source of freshness and strength, you will not realize when His power is gone."

Friday, August 1, 2014

Lessons from Rest: Intro

Sunset at Snug Harbor, San Juan Island
I have just returned to work from a 10-week Sabbatical. It was the best thing for me, and difficult. It was idyllic, and challenging. It was restful, and yet that rest was hard to enter. It was peaceful and playful, and yet I found myself doing battle almost daily to enjoy the peace and the play.

One of the most important things for me coming back out of this time of sabbatical is to remember the lessons I learned during that time and to implement them, lest I fall into that category of those who are doomed to repeat their history because they have forgotten it.

Most, if not all of what I experienced during those 10 weeks was deeply personal. And yet I am willing to share some of what I learned with you. And of course, as I write, it helps me immensely to cement my thoughts, experiences, and lessons learned.

What will follow over the coming weeks (or more) are a series of blogs that reflect things I've learned during this time. You're invited to journey with me. I don't know how many I will write, and I'm sure there will be overlap in what I write, but nevertheless I press on. Join me if you will! And if you're one of those who attend and support the church I work for, thank you. Thank you for the time away. I will cherish the memories and experiences of that time forever.

For those who are interested in what I read during this time, I have recently updated the "What I'm Reading" list and you can find them there, including a "fun reading" book or two.