Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Keeping it Simple (Part 4)

My Windows 'desktop' on my computer keeps getting more complicated.  Too many icons for audios I haven't listened to yet and for projects I promised somebody I'd do.  Just too busy and cluttered.  Oops, I guess I mean life as well.

I have to admit, I've done some of it to myself.  To be useful and helpful, I have taken on more work.  Other people have been really good about letting me some responsibilities to them, which has left me free to take on other tasks that I got asked to do, or decided on my own to attempt.

Why?  Because we humans are designed to interact with God, to have him fully in place as Numero Uno; and when he isn't completely there, our lives don't work right.  We keep trying to patch that brokenness with other stuff that sounds good at the time.  We try serial relationships, responsibilities and titles that make us feel more important, more material goods that we have to paint or clean or lubricate or make room for, or food or sex or money.  But all those are unsatisfying, and they get in the way of the peace that would be ours from completely trusting God.  Because he is the one -- the only one -- who can satisfy that craving for being included, wanted, needed, loved and fitting in.  He planned from before the first humans drew breath, that we would be invited and included in his love, (Eph. 1:3-5) and he wired us to want that, to have an itch so deep that only he can scratch it -- so that eventually, we would turn and look for him.

The good news is, God is the one who already loves us completely, already considers us important, and already includes us totally in his love.  He loves us so much that his Son died for us, "while we were utterly helpless...while we were still sinners...while we were his enemies" according to Romans 5:6-10Nobody else could ever love you or me like that!

So why do we all do it fall into these traps?  Because we don't accept that unlimited love that flows to us from God.  We don't feel worthy; we don't believe he has really forgiven us.  But the scripture is plain -- he already has forgiven and accepted us, without our having done anything.  Ephesians 2:8-10 says that our salvation (simply, acceptance into God's love) is by faith, and even that faith is a gift from God.  You and I didn't earn it, we can't earn it, and it won't happen because of what we do. It's simply a gift.

Simply, God has saved you and me because of his son Jesus -- and that is a gift that we need to accept, and let his acceptance and love soak into every part of our thinking. When we fully accept what God has done, we will find the peace in life that we've always looked for, and a simplicity that will make everything else in life fall into its rightful place.  Looking for the simple life?  Look no farther!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Keeping it Simple (Part 3)

The Amazing Joanne and I just spent a week camping by a lake at about 8,500 feet elevation (3,000 feet higher than our home).  Pit toilets, a metal picnic table and fire ring, and our camping gear including a small tent and sleeping bags.  That was about it for the week except for coin-operated hot showers in the main building a mile down the road.  We brought our food from home and cooked it over one fire or the other, and ate pretty well for being out in the boonies.

We got to read some books that aren't required for work, went to sleep listening to the loons, woke up hearing geese honk on their way south, talked about stuff we hadn't discussed in awhile, and watched some great sunrises and sunsets.  And fished.  Well, when I say 'fished' I mean we stood by the lake and waved fiberglass sticks at the fish as they swam by.  They didn't wave back.  Or anything else.  So we're having frozen salmon for dinner tonight, to get back at them.

I didn't miss television, amplified music or stock market reports.  A few people tried to call but nobody got through because I had my phone turned off nearly all week.  I continued to be amazed throughout the week at what we could get along without.  We made the deliberate effort to slow down, simplify and get away, and it was very refreshing. 

Finding life too busy?  So do I, fairly often.  Some of my chores are self-appointed, and so I have to decide to un-appoint myself as their custodian.  Other chores have to be done, but sometimes other people can do them better than me. Other chores will wait.  Possessions -- as I mentioned a few weeks ago -- tend to demand attention, but I can get rid of them instead, if I really want to. 

Paul said to Timothy (1 Tim. 6:7-8) that we should be okay having just the basics:  "After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content."  Ah, contentment -- so elusive when you're always after more!  But if our focus is on God and what he wants (Matthew 6:33) then he will guide us into what he wants us occupied with.  We will find that his will is far more satisfying than all the stuff and nonsense this world has to offer. Ready to ask God for clarity on his will?  The result can save your life!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Keeping it Simple (Part 2)

I miss The Lovely Joanne when she's away.  I don't sleep as well and I get distracted a lot.  On a much more powerful level, we humans are made to be connected, at the heart level, with God.  (Some of my agnostic friends and relatives disagree, but that's okay for the moment.)  We're created not to be alone, but in relationship with God.  That is so fundamentally important to us, something goes haywire in our souls when that connection is not active, or not primary, in our lives. Our thinking is confused, and our other relationships don't work the way they should. So we try to fill up that hole in our hearts with stuff, busyness, people and chores to make ourselves feel needed; but it's not the same as that one relationship.

Getting our connection with God back can be helped by practicing simplicity.  I wrote last time about how, in Jesus' words, we need to "seek the Kingdom of God above all else" (Matthew 6:33).  Richard Foster, in his book Celebration of Discipline, describes "an inward reality that results in an outward life-style" (page 79).  Some try to create an outward show of simplicity without the inner conviction.  Foster notes that this always results in legalism, and I've seen enough legalism to agree with him. We should be convinced, as well, that an inward simplicity of thinking and belief will result in changes that we will express on the outside

Jesus' words about God's Kingdom spring from an older and more basic command: "And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength" in Deut. 6:5.  We might see that as a one-time decision, but it seems to me like a lifetime journey.  Every day offers distractions, temptations, and siren songs of busyness, chores and responsibilities.  The more stuff we have, the more we work at maintaining it; and if we look at what others have -- not just their possessions, but their positions -- we are likely to try harder to catch up to where we think they are. And all of it distracts us from God.

So how can we get some of this simplicity? A focus on loving God with all we have, encourages us to trust him too.  Trusting God to supply what we need is what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 6.  That trust enables us to stop striving, and to enjoy what we have right now.  It helps us to stop working for more stuff, more power, more position, more respect and awe and love from other people.  It helps us accept others, right where they are now, even as we learn to accept the position we are in now.  Paul says "I have learned the secret of living in every situation" in Philippians 4:12; and he had lived through all kinds of pain and trouble as well as comfortable living by trusting God to handle his needs and his future. 

How do you simplify life when it is just too busy?  We'll look at that next time.