Let's grow in the spiritual discipline of simplicity. For the next 60 days, spend a few moments each morning pondering that day's simplicity thought or prayer. Then try to keep it in your thoughts throughout the day, prayerfully asking God to help you apply what you've read and to form you into a woman of simplicity.
Father, thank you for desiring good, simple things for me. Over the next 60 days, help me to grow in my understanding of simplicity, and help me to pursue it with joy and fervor.
- How do I define simplicity?
- How do I imagine a simpler life would look and feel?
Jonathan Edwards said:
Resolved: that all men should live for the glory of God. Resolved second: that whether others do or not, I will.
What are some ways you can take the simple path today? Remember that the path you choose may not go with the flow of others, but it will bring God glory.
Watch and consider:
"Tis a Gift to Be Simple"
This Quaker song (also known as "Lord of the Dance") is a symbol of the importance of. Let the instrumental music and simple beauty of God's creation draw you toward simplicity.
"I had a tendency to be a 'striving' Christian, someone who served God by serving others. Each time I saw a need, I said 'yes' because it made me feel valued, like I was a 'good Christian.' Then I began to recognize that while serving was good, God didn't call me to every service opportunity that came my way. I'm learning I need to serve God—and sometimes that means taking time to be still. I need to nurture my relationship with him. Now I say 'maybe' first, take time to pray, look at my calendar, and make sure I truly feel God calling me. And sometimes saying 'no' gives me time to grow in my most important relationship—with my heavenly Father."
—Kelly Kruse, Arizona
Assess the things and activities that keep your life convoluted, complicated, and confusing. Give that list to God and ask him to help you clear some of those things from your life.
"I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:3, NASB).
What are some ways you can safeguard your mind today? Pray that God will protect your mind and help you maintain your simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.
"Lord, I long to have a richer attachment to you. And yet there's so much noise and confusion and chaos that surrounds my everyday life. Show me today how to detach from all of that and to focus on you and the inner wholeness you bring to my life."
Instead of allowing your schedule to be determined by the television, choose to follow only one program and shut off the TV the rest of the time. See how much more time, peace, and energy you'll discover.
The most important things God requires of us are "to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8). Are your activities helping you love God more fully? List your involvements and explain why or why not.
Think of your typical day—how you spend your time, money, energy, and relationships. Write down how your priorities would be different based on loving God above all else.
"My family and I decided to move from the city to a small town 35 miles away. Now, instead of whizzing around in our car enjoying all the amenities of the city, we walk to the town square for ice cream and come home to swim and kayak. Giving up one or two car trips each week and walking instead has made a big difference in helping us slow down and enjoy life."
—Kim Harrell, Texas
Invest in a slow cooker and make simple dishes that you can use for several meals and then freeze, such as beans, chili, soups.
Lord, thank you for the gift of time. Help me to find ways to simplify my schedule and use my time in ways that are pleasing to you.
Go through one of your closets. Pull out anything you haven't used in six months or more. Donate those items to a local charity.
"If you are not happy with your life, you can change it in two ways: either improve the conditions in which you live, or improve your inner spiritual state. The first is not always possible, but the second is."
—Leo Tolstoy, Wise Thoughts for Every Day
Ponder and pray about:
In what areas do I feel pressured to acquire more? How does this impact my lifestyle? What would God say about it?
Cut back on your discretionary spending, such as buying coffee or going out to eat. Track how much you save over the course of this week.
"I've simplified my life by ridding myself of toxic people—those who are always looking for approval or who focus completely on the negative aspects of life. They can make an already-busy life seem exhausting. I have more time to concentrate on the positive without needing to constantly reassure people who will never be satisfied."
—Erica Holtry, Nebraska
Pick a simple pleasure that requires no expense. Play a board game with your family or friends. Read that book you've wanted to read.
God, I feel so overwhelmed sometimes with all the distractions around me. Help me to learn how to remove distractions and my preoccupation with things around me so I can concentrate more clearly and fully on what you have for me.
These are the rewards of living a simpler life:
- Your life becomes uncluttered
- You become clearer and more focused
- You create more space for loving, hearing, and serving God
- You're able to use simple, honest speech without double meanings
- You experience freedom from envy and entitlement
- You're better able to let go
- You stake your identity in God's love, not accumulations and possessions
Ponder and pray about:
Have you ever "fasted" from something—other than food—that you felt had an excessive hold on you? What were the results? If you haven't, what would your "experimental fast" involve?
Say no to one extraneous thing today that could cause you stress or a rushed spirit. Remember that the no to that thing allows you to say yes to something else. So allow that "something else" to bring you quiet and rest in the presence of God.
God, I'm here in this moment, quieting myself. I ask you to speak to my spirit. And help me hear your words and feel your love clearly and completely. Help me to carry that with me throughout this day.
"A few years ago, I realized a fast didn't have to involve food; it could be replacing anything that was hard to stop with prayer. For me, that was scrapbooking—and I knew the Lord wanted me to give it up. I wasn't just your average scrapbooker; I'd already completed nine books and often lay awake at night planning my next. I'd allowed scrapbooking to consume too much of my thought life, time, and money. So I gave it up completely—which was huge for me! But now I can see my dining room table, and I know I'm pleasing God by readjusting my priorities."
—Crystal Burchfield, Alabama
"To know time as a gift is to know that its basic rhythms and inevitable passing are beyond our control. And to know time as a gift is to recognize time as the setting within which we also receive God's other gifts, including the fruits of nature and the companionship of one another. To help one another to this knowledge is blessing indeed."
—Dorothy C. Bass, Receiving the Day
In what ways can you help another to this knowledge today?
"Simplicity: It's Complicated"
What were your thoughts as you read this blog post? In what ways can you make what you read practical for your life?
Strategize and journal:
List some ways you can pare back—spending, activities, etc. Write out a game plan for getting started.
Do you agree? If so, what does that mean for your life?
"In what ways am I susceptible to the entitlement mentality of our society?"
Pray and act:
"God, help me to learn to speak simply today."
Practice speaking honestly—not saying half-truths that put you in a better light. Practice humility in everything you say today. Be aware of the words you speak—how often do you rationalize, deny, blame, or spin things?
In what areas of your life do you need to "let go"? Start by choosing one of those and let it go. How does that feel?
"I used to feel lonely when I ate alone, so my good friend and I began rotating the responsibility of cooking dinner each week. Sharing a meal with her and her son brings such joy, and our conversations about the day have drawn us closer. We bear each other's burdens, plan upcoming events, and are able to share life lessons. We've even been able to save a lot of money and eat healthier."
—Karen Pulliam, Indiana
If someone admires something of yours, give it away. You'll find out how quickly you're really attached to that thing.
We simplify, not just to be less busy, even though we may be right to pursue that. Rather, we simplify to remove distractions from our pursuit of Christ. We prune activities from our lives, not only to get organized, but also that our devotion to Christ and service for His kingdom will be more fruitful. We simplify, not merely to save time, but to eliminate hindrances to the time we devote to knowing Christ. All the reasons we simplify should eventually lead us to Jesus Christ.
—Donald S. Whitney, from Simplify Your Spiritual Life
In what ways have you complicated your life with God? Consider what actually brings you into God's presence. Write about it. Then commit to spending more time there.
Intentionally limit your choices. Do you need six different kinds of breakfast cereals, hundreds of TV channels, or four tennis rackets? What is it like to limit your choices? Does it feel free, or do want and envy surface things? Talk to God about this.
—Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, from Spiritual Disciplines Handbook
This is a comical look at simplicity. But does it strike a chord with anything in your life? If so, is there something you can do to make a change? Think about changing one thing to bring calm and limited choices to your lifestyle.
"While I was in seminary and living on a limited budget, I gave up shopping for clothes, shoes, and accessories. Because I could no longer be the most fashionable, I had to confront my pride. I discovered I'd been using clothing to deflect attention from my inner self. I also learned God thinks I'm beautiful—no matter what I wear—because the beauty he sees is his reflection in me."
—Deb Douglas, Louisiana
"In what ways do I believe that I deserve certain things in my life? Why do I believe I deserve those things?"
"Simplicity creates margins and spaces and openness in our lives. It honors the resources of our small planet. It offers us the leisure of tasting the present moment. Simplicity asks us to let go of the tangle of wants so we can receive the simplest gifts of life that cannot be taken away. Sleeping, eating, walking, giving and receiving love, the benefits we take for granted, are amazing gifts. Simplicity invites us into these daily pleasures that can open us to God, who is present in them all."
—Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, from Spiritual Disciplines Handbook
I on your path, O God
You, O God, on my way.
—Celtic walking prayer
"Actually, I don't have a sense of needing anything personally. I've learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I'm just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I've found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am."
—Philippians 4:11-12, The message
Can you say that about your own life? Why or why not?
"They travel lightly whom God's grace carries."
—Thomas A Kempis
What has God's gracious acceptance and Christ's love and sacrifice meant to you? How can his grace help you to travel lightly?
Thank you, God, that your grace is your unmerited favor toward me. Thank you that you've saved me not because of what I do, or have, but because of what Christ has done for me. Thank you that I belong to you, and that is enough. Help me to live each day confident in that belief."
"My husband and I decided our family would take a sabbatical from activities. So for a whole year, we opted out of baseball games, voice lessons, Awana, and anything to which I had to drive. Instead, our family chose something fun to do together every month. After all, if you asked me to look back on my childhood and pick my favorite memories, being in my parents' car isn't one of them. Our best times were spent just hanging out at home, talking and laughing together."
—Joanne Kraft, California
"Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you."
—1 John 2:15, NLT
What did the apostle John mean by this statement? In what ways have you discovered it to be true in your life?
Before Jesus was arrested, he prayed for his disciples and for us. One of his requests addressed our connection to the world. Read John 17:13-19 and James 4:4-8. From these passages consider how you should relate to the world. Record your observations.
—Cynthia Heald, from Becoming a Woman of Simplicity
"By means of the imagination, we confine our mind within the mystery on which we meditate, that it may not ramble to and fro …"
—Francis deSales, from Introduction to the Devout Life
What do you think he means? What are some ways you've discovered this to be true in your life?
"Our Lord did not teach detachment from other things: He taught attachment to Himself. Jesus Christ was not a recluse. He did not cut Himself off from society. He was amazingly in and out among the ordinary things of life; but He was disconnected fundamentally from it all. He was not aloof, but He lived in another world."
—Oswald Chambers, from The Quotable Oswald Chambers
Do you agree with this statement? What can Jesus teach you about the way he related in the world?
Write about the ways you've seen your life become more uncomplicated as a result of practicing a lifestyle of simplicity.
Do you agree with what the video expresses? If so, how can you apply it to your life?
Ponder and pray:
The quest for the simple life can become an unrealistic expectation, a burden, even an idol. What's the difference between God-centered simplicity and "real simple" living?
This video is a little longer. But allow yourself to slow down and really listen. As you: Do you agree with what the pastor says? How can you best respond to his words in a practical way?
Read and journal:
Jesus said, "What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?" (Mark 8:36-37). Journal about the small, seemingly insignificant ways you can "gain" the world, but "lose" your soul. Ask God to keep you from those things that nibble away at your soul.
"In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught specifically about how much thought we should give to providing for our physical needs. Carefully read Matthew 6:19-34 and in your own words summarize Jesus' teaching about what your perspective should be concerning your necessities and possessions.
—Cynthia Heald, from Becoming a Woman of Simplicity
Father, may this prayer become true in my life:
"I no longer clutch at things
that are not mine.
I see that all is gift and all is thine.
A holier hunger hollows me, a thirst
a longing to be godly, loving, free."
—Barbara Cawthorne Crafton, from Blessed Paradoxes
Read and journal:
"We mostly spend [our] lives conjugating three verbs: to Want, to Have, and to Do … forgetting that none of these verbs have any ultimate significance, except so far as they are transcended by and included in the fundamental verb, to Be."
—Evelyn Underhill, The Spiritual Life
In what ways have you practiced living your life as "want," "have," "do"? In what ways can you allow God to help you experience living your life as "be"?
Thank you, God, for never giving up on me when I fall below your desires and expectations for me. Thank you for the last 60 days in which I tried to take seriously and practice something that's near to your heart—becoming a woman of simplicity. Let me each day continue to grow simpler and leave consumerism, entitlement, and wants behind as I continue to listen to your heart. Help me now serve and help others to learn the things I've learned.
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