Enjoying the Simple and the Complicated

As I’ve been thinking about the simple things of life and about taking a break, I’ve been realizing how not simple life really is. Some of the not simple things are awesome like washers and dryers and roller coasters, but some of the not simple things aren’t so great like all the chemicals that have been added to products we use and consume in our daily lives. And while over the past few years it has been slowly changing with technology, the number of people who used to be involved with bringing one product or service to fruition was quite large. The fact is we’ve done a really good job of including complications in our lives, and sometimes that’s not a bad thing.

I’m not interested in going back to a life that’s overly simple. I like being able to call half way around the world and talk with someone in moments. I like to collaborate with people in Australia and Africa as well as just a few blocks away. I like that the internet works when I need it to without me knowing the ins-and-outs of how it works. I like that I don’t have to be responsible for creating all the food I eat or the products I use. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not important to make time for the simple things.

There’s incredible value to be found in taking time for the simple things. Whether you take time to pick up and enjoy the color of an autumn leaf, you dance around in the first snow flurries of the year, you sit down beside the fire with a good book or coloring page or knitting project, or you enjoy a meal of locally grown products, they’re opportunities to slow down and to appreciate the individuality of life.

As we roll through these last weeks of summer I encourage you to take time to discover exactly how complicated life is, how many parts make up the whole, and how awesome those little parts are.

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Peace for the World

As I’ve been thinking about resting and simplifying life this month I’m also surrounded by the almost panic of back to school events. From the stress of getting supplies to finding out the clothes from the previous year no longer fit to finishing up the assigned work and reading for the summer, everyone’s moving out of the relaxed pace of summer and into the busyness that is September and autumn.

But as I was thinking about the seasons some more, I got to thinking about what each season really makes me feel. Winter is a season of quiet, spring is full of excitement and new life, summer is happiness and then you’ve got fall which often makes me think about feelings of peace. I know, that sounds like it’s in direct contradiction to the thoughts I just expressed about the almost state of panic that people enter into during the transition from summer to autumn and as many schedules become quite busy. But there’s something that’s so soothing about the autumn colors and scents and temperature that speaks to a sense of peace.

However, God doesn’t care what season it is or what’s going on in your life. He shares peace in any and all situations and at all times of day and night. It’s not peace that only happens when life is going well or when you’re feeling like it, it’s peace that passes all understanding. It’s peace that God is willing to give you whether you feel like you deserve it or not. It’s peace that’s just a prayer away if you need it today.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” John 14:27

Reality Reflection: Faithful to the Moment

For the past couple of days I’ve been thinking about the topic of being faithful. I’ve also been dealing with a headache that just won’t seem to give up, no matter what I try. As I had a tiny bit of relief tonight and was still reflecting on the topic of being faithful, I realized that sometimes being faithful means that you have to not be the person you usually are. Sometimes being faithful means doing what’s needed or right, even if it means taking some time off or turning down a responsibility or opportunity you would normally jump at.

Are you being faithful in your life right now or stubborn? It’s OK to push through sometimes, but other times what you really need to do is something different. As much as faithful is about being “true to one’s word,” “reliable,” and “dependable,” faithful is also about being steady in allegiance. So sometimes that allegiance can be with regards to being faithful to who you typically are, the responsible, caring, considerate, outgoing, giving person. But other times that allegiance needs to be to your needs at that moment.

This week I encourage you to be open to hearing, believing and doing more than just what you typically do. Break away from the patterns that normally serve you well and embrace spontaneity, do what feels right in the moment, or just explore something that you’ve taken for granted for a long time. Your life won’t fall apart for doing things differently for an hour or two or even a day or two, and you might even learn something from being faithful to the moment.

Dealing with Life Experiences

“Life is simple. Everything happens for you, not to you. Everything happens at exactly the right moment, neither too soon nor too late. You don’t have to like it… it’s just easier if you do.” Byron Katie

Byron Katie is well known for “The Work.” If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a simple process anyone can do to understand and address problems with clarity. It’s a simple process but can bring honest healing to yourself and any others involved.

When we talk about personal victories, one thing that has to always come up is that before the victory comes the challenge. You can’t be victorious in something if you haven’t gone through the journey to get there. Sometimes the journey is more challenging than others, but each journey comes with the opportunity to learn something, to experience grace, to share forgiveness, and to grow personally or professionally. The sooner that we accept that life is full of challenges which bring us to victories, the easier it will be to approach those challenges.

When you fight something every step of the way it only becomes more difficult. When you complain about the terrible lot in life you’ve received it makes it more difficult. When you impatiently wait for the pot of gold to just show up in your lap instead of searching for a rainbow it makes things more difficult. One of the biggest choices we each have to make in our lives is whether we’ll accept the simplicity laid out by Byron Katie or continue to fight our lives and our journeys every step of the way.

I encourage you to see what happens in your life journey this week as a gift, not as a hardship, not as God spiting you, not as punishment, and not as a chore.

Remember Again

Recently I’ve been thinking about the topic of remembering. I’ve been remembering those early back-to-school days, contemplating summers at the beach, about the joy of eating watermelon in a backyard on a hot summer day, of taking walks on warm summer nights, of summer Vacation Bible Schools, hymns of old and songs of new, and of Noah and of the rainbow that is a reminder on several levels.

A big part of our lives is centered around remembering. We’re supposed to remember birthdays, appointments, where things have been put, people’s names, songs we’ve heard, books we’ve read, things people have told us, the list goes on. But not only are we supposed to remember what goes on in our lives we’re supposed to remember what goes on in the lives of our coworkers, friends, family members, significant others and/or kids. We’re also supposed to remember what God has taught us. It’s not surprising that we find ourselves forgetting things and feeling overwhelmed, it’s a lot to remember, more than most people can remember (which is one reason I write a ton of stuff down and feel very little guilt about it).

Much of the Bible is about remembering as well from Noah’s rainbow to the 10 Commandments to the Psalms to the many genealogies to the stories and traditions. One thing that sticks out with many of the remembered events of the Bible is repetition. It’s one of the greatest tools for remembering and most challenging as well. Repetition as seen in both hymns of old and songs of today, in the verses of the Psalms, signs of the Cross and occurrences of rainbows continue to be present in our lives, sometimes bringing hope, other times bringing frustration.

As frustrated as some people get with the repetition, it’s a crucial part of our lives and an important way of sharing about God. Someone may not believe or understand the first few times they hear something, but as they hear it repeated again and again they can reflect on it and learn from it and let God speak to them through it. Sometimes it’s exactly the reminder that we need to pick ourselves up, or turn ourselves around. If they can repeat the same lines throughout the book of Psalms, why can’t we repeat the same lines in the spiritual songs of today?

So the next time you’ve got a song stuck in your head, take the time to consider what the words are really saying. Thank God for the reminder and take a minute to discover what He may be trying to tell you.

Simple Starts

This month one of the topics we’ll be talking about is the topic of simplicity.  Today I thought we’d talk about a few ways to simplify our lives.

Food is one of the topics that challenges most of us but there are some things we can do to make it easier to deal with. First, have healthy snacks on hand so that you’re not tempted to reach for the unhealthy stuff. Second, buy what you know you’ll eat in a couple of days’ time, and not more than that. If you’ve got a bigger family this can be a bit more challenging, but food stores and farmers markets are a lot closer to where we all live than they used to be, so it’s not as big of a deal to stop at the food store twice a week so you can have fresher items on hand. Finally, there are tons of recipes out there that call for shortcuts (like the store-cooked rotisserie chicken) or are only 5-10 ingredients, and one of my favorite tools is the crock pot. Take advantage of all these great resources and recipes to add not only variety to your culinary life but also simplify it too.

People are one of our greatest joys and one of our biggest challenges. I’m glad that we’re finally moving away from the seeming need to be friends with each and every person in the world, and working now on more meaningful connections. I’m not saying you have to unfriend or unfollow everyone you’re not really good friends with or that you should never make new friends, just that instead of saying to people that you should get together more often and not mean it, you prioritize the time to invest in the relationships that really mean the most to you, and let new relationships be a much less time-consuming event.

Finally, let’s talk about our stuff. I’ve got no issue with people having stuff. As much as I love clean and simple lines when it comes to decorating, I also really value having options and choices and holding onto the things that truly mean something to me. However, I’m also a big supporter of getting rid of stuff that’s not helping you, doesn’t mean much to you, is old and outdated (and you’ve moved on to other things and won’t be going back), isn’t healthy for you or doesn’t fulfill you in the way that it used to. I don’t believe in having stuff for stuff’s sake, there are lots of other people in the world who could benefit from what you’ve got and no longer use or appreciate.

So this month what’s one thing you can and will do to simplify your life?

Reminders from God

Sometimes we get so caught up in life that we forget to stop and take a moment, or we’re so focused on one direction that we can’t see the way God is trying to lead us.  Let’s take a look at some of the reminders in the Bible:

There’s a lot we can’t see, and a lot to hope for:
“Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.”  Hebrews 11:1

Use your words wisely:
“A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.”  Proverbs 15:1

Live with joy:
“I will be filled with joy because of you.  I will sing praises to your name, O Most High.”  Psalm 9:2

If God can forgive and be merciful, can’t we?:
“But you are a God of forgiveness, gracious and merciful, slow to become angry, and rich in unfailing love.”  Nehemiah 9:7b

God saves us, leads us and teaches us:
“Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.”  Psalm 25:5

God is generous, gracious, and loving:
“Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus.”  1 Timothy 1:14

We belong to God, and are to worship Him:
“For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship…”  Acts 27:23 ESV

Choose patience:
“Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride.”  Ecclesiastes 7:8

Don’t give up:
“I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”  Philippians 3:14

Each of our days include thousands of interactions, experiences and relationships, each with the potential to teach us something, help us heal in some way, make us a better person, put us in a position to help someone else, or reveal another aspect of who God is to us and who we are to Him.  It’s up to us to be open to where life takes us and where God sends us, and to pay attention to what’s going on around us.  What has God shared with you recently?