The Practice of Simplicity

image110914Several years ago on my annual bike ride across Iowa one particular day started with heavy fog that made it nearly impossible to see more than ten yards ahead. Not only was the air filled with moisture but it was filled with tension. Cyclists worried about hitting one another, driving off the road or being hit by the occasional vehicle. Later that morning as we slowly climbed out of the valley in which we had started the fog dissipated, revealing blue sky, bright sun and spectacular vistas. Tension was replaced by a joyful ease.

For many of us the complexity of life leaves us anxious, as if we’re hurtling through a fog. The clutter of busy schedules, 24/7 electronic connectivity and enough “stuff” to fill our basements, attics, garages and a few storage units makes it hard to see clearly and live with joyful ease. It certainly makes it hard to see and connect with God.

The practice of simplicity invites us to let go of the things that clutter our lives so that we might give greater focus to what matters most – our relationships with God and others. Contrary to popular media, we really can’t “have it all” and still experience the Good Life that Jesus promised. We are invited to let go of the clutter in order to hold tightly to what matters most. That’s what Jesus meant when he said, In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.” (John 12:25 The Message)

This past weekend Pastor Sandy Rothschiller encouraged us to practice simplicity using four simple steps:

  • Pray about it- Lord you know me and my stuff. What do I need to let go of?
  • Name it – Whatever the Lord leads you to let go of, name it.
  • Own it – Take ownership for the way in which you’ve allowed your stuff to get in the way of your relationships with God and others, then own the practice of letting go.
  • Share it – Tell others of your commitment. You might even invite them to hold you accountable.

I challenge you to practice simplicity this week. It’s not easy in this culture of excess, but it’s so worth it. And if you need just a little humor today I’d invite you to watch this little clip from George Carlin on “Stuff”. I’ll warn you that some of Carlin’s language is “colorful” but he certainly makes his point. You can watch it here.

And I’ll leave you with these verses from the old Shaker hymn “Tis the Gift to Be Simple”

 ‘Tis the gift to be simple, ‘tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

Jeff Marian is the Lead Pastor of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN.

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