Did you know that simplicity is a spiritual discipline? Not something we think about much, is it? I’m currently reading a book, Awake My Soul by Timothy Jones and I just finished a chapter titled, “The Soul and the Simple Life.” He says that learning to live simply will allow us to be freer and less anxious, but it requires radical trust. Here’s a quote:
“When I follow God, generosity becomes an option. Knowing that today will provide the daily bread I need allows me not to exhaust myself in storing up what I think in my worst moments I will need. I leave the issue in hand far bigger–infinitely so– than mine.”
I admit this is not easy for me. I like to be prepared for the worst (or at least fool myself into believing I’m prepared). However, Jones is right. It can be exhausting trying to imagine and provide for every potential problem; it’s probably not even possible. How much easier to simply (no pun intended) trust God and do our best day by day. I try to work on that, but often fail. Here are some words of advice on simplification from Richard Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline.
First, buy things for their usefulness rather than their status ….Stop trying to impress people with your clothes and impress them with your life. ..
Second, reject anything that is producing an addiction in you. Learn to distinguish between a real psychological need, like cheerful surroundings, and an addiction. …(he says if you find you cannot live without something such as particular foods or technology get rid of it).
Third, develop a habit of giving things away. If you find that you are becoming attached to some possession, consider giving it to someone who needs it.
Sounds pretty scary and drastic doesn’t it. What it boils down to is stop worrying about how to impress others, avoid the things that tend to control you, and be generous. I know even I can take baby steps in trying to do this. What about you? Can you simplify your life so that it becomes more satisfying?
From a young age, we are told that we need to have a balanced diet. Our bodies require a variety of nutrients. Although some foods are more wholesome than others (and some have no redeeming nutritional value whatsoever), there is no one superfood that provides one hundred percent of our needs.
Like our bodies, our spirits require feeding so that they do not wither and die. We “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6). The difference is that there is only one food for the spirit: our Lord Jesus Christ. We receive this food in many forms: the waters of baptism, Christ’s body and blood in communion, God’s divine Word, confession and absolution, corporate worship and fellowship with other Christians, solitary prayer and meditation–and so many ways that God reaches out to us in our daily lives.
Just as we give thanks for our meals, we should give thanks–daily, constantly, not just one day in a year–for God’s grace, mercy and love, our source of life.
Taste and see that the Lord is good! (Psalm 34:8)
“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that it was to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” Genesis 3: 6
Yes, gluttony started in the garden of Eden. Seems I’m always going back there. Eve committed a number of sins when she ate the fruit (it doesn’t really say it was an apple). She disobeyed God, trying to put herself in His place(idolatry), and because she thought she knew what was best (pride). She lusted for the fruit with her eyes and she was a glutton, wanting to consume it, even though her hunger should have been satisfied with the good things God had already given. She and Adam had companionship with one another; they were blessed with the presence of God; they had been given the entire garden “to work and keep it.” Genesis 2: 16 They lacked for nothing, but they wanted more.
Gluttony continued to be a problem for mankind. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul speaks of those who “walk as enemies of the cross.” (3:18). He says,
“Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” Philippians 2:19
How often are our minds set on earthly things? I know I also find myself wanting more, when what I have is already good and sufficient. Just a few more material things, and I know I’ll be happy. Enough to live the way I want to live, instead of the way God wants me to live. Enough to look successful in the eyes of the world, instead of the eyes of God. So I think this month as we explore the theme of food and gluttony, I’m going to pray for contentment. That’s the opposite of the thoughts of more, more, more that clamor at us from society and from our own minds. In 1 Timothy Paul writes,
“…there is great gain in godliness with contentment.” (3: 6)
When we’re content we can relax; we can feel gratitude; we have time to commune with one another and with God; we can enjoy the world He’s given us. A bit of that original Eden will be restored. Will you join me in a month of contentment? Tell me how it goes for you!
To lead a balanced life we need to exercise and laugh some!
I’m gonna be totally honest. I don’t know what this month’s theme is. Sorry, I’m doing good these days to know what day it is. (Which literally happened, in the middle of class, announced out loud . . .) Things have been a little hectic, but bearable, and I of course know how immensely blessed I am. I don’t want to appear as though I’m whining. I’m well aware that I’m not the only ‘older-mother-of-three-going-back-to-school-and-working-part-time-person’ out there. And others have it much harder I’m sure. I’m leaving something out though. And I believe what I’m leaving out might encourage someone else.
I have struggled for a long time with back pains and problems. Please no sympathy. It’s given me perspective and gratitude. At 29-30 years old (I can’t remember exactly.) I suffered a massive rupture. God provided for me that day with an attentive husband, he noticed I was hurting more than usual and stayed home to help. I slipped off the bed I was trying to get out of to make it to the couch (with my husbands help) and it was enough to leave me paralyzed from the waist down. I couldn’t feel either of my legs and (long story short) had surgery which gave me a lot of relief, but permanent nerve damage and a modicum of weakness remained.
Five and a half years later I’ve had a new symptom, swelling. And I can do less physically than before. A whole day of work over the summer doing the wrong things and it takes me a day to recover, with the help of some strong pain meds. I’ve tried physical therapy, Ice/Heat, pain pills, exercises, nerve medicine, (I hated that) and currently I have a compression sock and back brace. The sock helps with swelling and the pain a bit. Not to mention I sit with pillows and pick things up with my feet or a grabber. I’m rambling I know, but I’m going somewhere I promise. Well now I’ve had another MRI. Nothing ‘new’ per say. But put my MRI’s side by side and I look like a burn victim on the inside. I am technically healed. Except the scar tissue is part of the problem. And the part of my back that malfunctioned is now riddled with arthritis. I have been diagnosed with degenerative disc disease. No surprise to me.
Like I said, no pity. I have hope. Mainly in God and the after life, but earthly hope as well. There is a device called a spinal cord simulator. SCS is two wires (leads) they insert into your spinal canal that is attached to a battery pack. There’s a remote with various settings that you control. The whole thing is designed to send electrical currents through you blocking your body’s abnormal pain signals therefore providing relief.
I’m waiting on approval for a trial period to test this out. And I know I have lots of people praying for me. So I hang on to hope and faith, and get up every morning and put one foot in front of the other. God is good.
“They said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” Luke 24:32
This has always been one of my favorite passages of scripture, titled in my Bible, “On the Road to Emmaus.” Two followers of Jesus meet him on the way to a village called Emmaus, shortly after the crucifixion. They do not recognize him and tell him how their teacher was crucified, and that some of the women in their company claimed that He had risen. Jesus proceeds to lead them in the greatest Bible study of all time:
“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Luke 24:27
Finally he reveals himself to them at the evening meal, when he blesses and breaks the bread and gives it to them. Wouldn’t you love to have an experience like that? Well, guess what, you can. We have the very words of Christ, recorded for us in the New Testament gospels; we have the opportunity to meet with Him in the celebration of communion. You can meet Him on the road of your own journey. Ask Him to open your eyes; do you feel your heart burning?
In my last post, I promised to share some of what I have been reading lately. I read widely and eclectically. I read because I’m curious, and I like to know how and what others think. I don’t always agree with everything I read, and so I don’t want our readers to necessarily take this post as a recommendation or endorsement of every book I mention.
First of all, in our weekly Bible study, we’re doing Acts this year. I can certainly recommend this book! Acts is exciting reading. It includes miraculous events, travel, interesting people, sermons and even a ship wreck! Written by Luke (the gospel author), it can be seen as a bridge between the gospels and the epistles and also between the work Jesus did on earth, and the work He continued to do through the Church.
In our Sunday School class, the material we are using comes from Concordia Publishing House (good if you are looking for solid Lutheran teaching, I recommend you look at their website). This quarter we are studying kings and prophets. Our first lesson deals with Solomon, David’s son, and his prayer for wisdom.
I’m also reading two books from our library and both are fairly new. The first is My Utmost: A Devotional Memoir by Macy Halford. I chose it because I’m fond of what I call spiritual autobiographies. I enjoy hearing about the spiritual journeys of others. Ms. Halford was raised as a Southern Baptist; when she was twelve, her grandmother gave her a copy of My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. She has read this daily devotional through every year since. Wow! That was the greatest take away for me — I never thought of using the same devotional over and over. I tend to use one for a year and then it remains on my bookshelf forever, seldom touched. This is an idea I may try. I admit I have never used My Utmost for His Highest, but I know our author, Leslie has, so maybe she’ll chime in to tell us more about it. (hint, hint). I learned a lot about Oswald, who was definitely not a Lutheran. According to Ms. Halford:
“Attempts at pinning Oswald down generally failed: ‘He was a sort of proto-Pentecostal mystic, and Wesleyan in his theology,’ wrote an anonymous commenter on Puritanboard.com.’ That was as close to correct as one was likely to get, but it still wasn’t entirely correct.”
He definitely tends toward the Holiness traditions (Methodist and Wesleyan) and my husband and I had a lively discussion about the difference between how the Lutheran view of sanctification differs from the Holiness churches– they believe in the possibility of entire or complete sanctification” — Lutherans, I guess, believe sanctification is always incomplete, on this side of heaven. (Maybe my friend, Nancy, who is Methodist would like to comment on this). At any rate, according to the book, someone can read the My Utmost devotional without even noticing Oswald’s views on this. (If you enjoy theological debates, the book also covered different views on the end times — post and pre millennial, the rapture, etc.). The author says My Utmost has been called “the little black dress of books” perfect for every occasion. I liked that.
The second book I am reading is written by a Jewish woman named Marilyn Paul and it’s called, An Oasis in Time: How a Day of Rest Can Save Your Life. I haven’t gotten too far into it — just reading a chapter a day– but it is about the importance of taking a Sabbath day of rest, and she talks about Christian and Muslin traditions, as well as her own. I found it interesting to realize how much our life revolves around a weekly routine –on Monday, we plan the things we want to accomplish, and by Friday we’re assessing how we’ve done and winding down. Rest is an important part of the routine (built into us since creation, when God “rested” on the last day). Without rest, we lose that routine and become more and more burned out and stressed. There are suggestions at the end of the chapter and exercises to help learn how to celebrate a day of rest.
Well, that’s it for me and what I have read, studied and learned about this week. I’d like to hear from other writers and readers: what are you reading? What do you like/not like? What has been edifying? I want to hear your suggestions, too.
“One Book is enough, but a thousand books is not too many!”
― Martin Luther
I definitely agree with Martin Luther on this one. Among my friends and family, I”m known as an avid reader, and sometimes even accused of being “obsessed” with books. I read the Bible every week, but I’m also usually reading a novel and a book on some religious or spiritual topic at the same time. That doesn’t include magazines, articles on the internet, etc.. After I retired, I worked at the public library for a while, and I’ve been in a book club. I love being around books and discussing books.
When you’re a reader you are constantly learning. Even a novel may teach all kinds of things about different times, places and people, You mull over ethical questions and are exposed to different points of view. Here are some of the ways reading is good for you:
- It slows the process of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
- It reduces stress. Reading the Bible or other spiritual texts has been shown to lower blood pressure
- It expands your vocabulary
- Gives you stronger analytical and thinking skills
- Improves focus and concentration
- Readers are better writers
- Promotes inner peace and tranquility
- Provides free entertainment
We can thank the reformers and their desire to make the Bible accessible to everyone for our own ability today to read and learn about practically any topic we chose. So read your Bible (and something from another book) every day. You’ll be amazed at what you can learn! In my next post, I’ll tell you what I’ve been reading and learning.