My Response to “Abundant Simplicity”

My recalibrate life read for the month of February has been Abundant Simplicity: Discovering the Unhurried Rhythms of Grace. This was a book I had read a few years ago but I connected with its contents much more this time as I read it.

The phrase that really stood out to me in the first few pages of the book was “The Christian focus of simplicity is to abide in Christ.” I loved that the author geared my focus toward making the Lord my Treasure.

The process of learning the disciplines of simplicity brings us to a couple of very important realizations. First of all, Johnson points out that “[we] don’t yet trust God to help us feel acceptable when we’re not managing what others think of us.” How often do we purposely try to make others like us or think well of us? And secondly, she reminds us that “[it] is not just others who have “the self-serving motives” of “pride, greed and desires to control”. It is so hard to take a long, close, hard look at our own motives.

Self-awareness is very important in our lives as it is the gateway to transformation. As we grow in self-awareness, we can take our thoughtss before the Lord to have Him search out our hearts. He can shine a light within to show us our motives and help us to know the path we should take. When we fail to do self-examination or soul-searching we miss this opportunity to talk it over with the Lord.

I mentioned in my response to Sacred Rhythms that doing the activities of self-examination and discernment were some of my favorite. I have learned a lot about myself through this process. When I take time to look back on my day and week and look at where I recognized the presence of the Lord and where I felt alone, when I take time to think about my attitudes, responses, and reactions, and then talk about all of this with the Lord, I gain new insights about myself.

I have learned about boundaries I need to set with people who push my buttons and bring me to a state of fuming. I have learned how my being available to others and fully present with them truly leads to deeper closeness, bonding, feeling loved, belonging, and acceptance for me. For me, that means putting down the planner, or my tablet, or setting aside my task list, and maybe asking my husband how I can help him, or what he wants or needs. Or maybe it means just being really present in the conversation, not allowing my mind to race on with a million other random thoughts.

I never really realized how all of this was impacting my life. The more I choose to do self-examination, to talk with the Lord about what is going on in my heart and my life, the more I learn to know Him as my Treasure. Because in those moments when I take time with Him to be real, I grow in trusting Him and my relationship with Him grows in intimacy.

One of the chapters discusses contentment with what we have and the importance of resisting the impulse for more. It was interesting to me to learn how our wounds from the past can play into our level of contentment. Later in the book frugality and generosity are further discussed.

Johnson also leads her readers to consider doing a heart exam to help us discover our longings and priorities in life. She says, “Simplicity strips away the things that distract us (sometimes good things), helps us to re-evaluate where our heart is, and provides room for God to speak.” Simplicity is all about being intentional rather than living “on autopilot.”

I once again realized that, all too often, I am trying to just do too many things, I have too many focuses. Narrowing my focus reduces my stress level a great deal. I have learned that choosing to slow down has given me space to hear the Holy Spirit convict my heart of wrong. Being busy all the time, failing to do the soul-searching, often left me unaware because I was barreling through life as a bulldozer. I realize how often I have missed the gentle nudges that could have led me down a better pathway, whether that be a calm response, a space for silence, or the learning of new wisdom.

The disciplines of practicing simplicity of speech, as well as, silence and solitude are discussed. Johnson found that in her practice of simplicity and gentleness of speech, her words “imparted grace” to her hearers. The importance of really thinking about how my words are being used and considering what the motive behind saying them is, became very clear to me. It surprises my how often my words are manipulative, such as trying to get another to do something I want them to do, without actually asking them to do it. I recognized how that annoys me a great deal when I feel manipulated by others, but I had not realized how often I do it. Another point the author made about our speech is that it is most important that the Lord hears all about it, and it is not necessarily important that others hear it. Oh, how often I run to tell others, by phone call, or via text, or email, when I could just turn that worry or concern into a prayer, or when I could turn that joy into a praise.

As I eluded to earlier, both frugality and generosity were discussed, The importance of how we use the gifts the Lord has given us was reiterated. Again the emptiness of our souls is a factor. This emptiness plays a role in our purchasing of items because of a personal need to fill an inner hole. Johnson reminded us to ask ourselves what we want and what we need. Unfortunately, that is not something that I have often done in the past, but it is something I am choosing to do more and more often now. Johnson states that “Practicing frugality involves two changes, limiting what we already own… and limiting what we acquire.” Her goal in this is to have us limit our possessions, so that we have space to treasure the Lord. As well as limiting our purchases so we can “live a generous life rather than a grasping life.”

The chapter that spoke on simplicity with time was one of my favorites. Johnson said, “Simplicity with time requires the diligent intentionality of creating enough space that I may say yes to treasuring God and loving people.” This is an area that I want to work more and more on.

The discussion on the importance of putting “margin” in our days or “serious nothing” in our weeks has led me to rethink my schedule as I continue to recalibrate life, We need the “free in free time.” Johnson gave a list of leisure opportunities and suggested choosing one to try.  I need to be even more intentional about putting “margin” in my days and “serious nothing” in my weeks. I frequently fail to follow through on this even if it is written in my planner.

The bottom line is living simply in all of life, the way we dress, the way we take care of our bodies, and the way we use media.

Johnson says that as we learn to live in simplicity and draw nearer to God we find less reason to worry. That in itself is encouraging as worry can consume so much of our lives.

Each chapter had questions to answer and experiments to try. I completed all of the questions but am still working my way through some of the experiments of simplicity that I want to try. Some of these experiments will be my topics for my next months posts.

This was an excellent read on my journey to recalibrate life. Next month I will be reading GodSpace: Time for Peace in the Rhythms of Life by Christine Sine, M.D. I look forward to sharing my response with you.

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Being Intentional About Yielding

Like the clay in the potter’s hands, we need to be pliable and yielded in life as we respond to the Lord.

The month of February is coming to an end and as it does I am ending my exploration of yielding. I never realized how much there is to think about in terms of yielding in my life. And now putting it into practice with intentionality is the next step.

Yielding is a choice in life, so each one of us come to a crossroad and must decide which way to go. Will it be my way or the Lord’s?

Here is a quick summary. Six ways to be intentional about yielding to Him:

1. Remember Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding, In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths.”  Seek Him in the decision-making process. When we take time to seek Him, acknowledge His sovereignty, and look for His direction, we can’t make impulsive decisions. Our decision-making process is slowed down. We learn to wait for Him and His wisdom.

2. Be aware of thoughts and self-talk. We need to evaluate the things that have a home in our minds and what we allow to come into our mind. Consider using Philippians 4:8 as a tool for thought inventory. Philippians 4:8 EXB says, “[Finally, In conclusion; or Now then] Brothers and sisters, think about [focus your thoughts on; fill your minds with] things that are true and honorable and right [just] and pure and beautiful [lovely] and respected [commendable]. If there is anything that is good [morally excellent] and worthy of praise, think about [focus your thoughts on, fill your minds with] these things.”

3. When our tongues are ready to burst forth with fiery words remember: Stop, Drop, and Roll.

  • Stop the words from leaving by putting a finger over your lips.
  • Drop that word. Think about what it would do, how it would affect the person receiving it.
  • Roll the intolerance or frustration over to the Lord. Ask Him to bring His peace to the situation.

4. As we go through our days, we can choose to

  • Abide in the Lord’s presence
  • Attend to His Spirit’s leading
  • Abandon our need for acknowledgement so He gets all of the glory  
  • Be Available to His call so His purposes can be fulfilled.

5. Take time to pray for the Lord’s transforming power to be at work in us.

6. Finally, remember to be the clay. That means developing a new willingness to be molded in Christ-likeness for His glory. Our goal is to be pliable to what He wants to do in and through us.

Take some time now to think and pray about which one you will start with to help you in yielding with intentionality.

God Knows

Do you ever find yourself up a tree?

Are you looking for or waiting for deliverance?

I was recently reading the Bible account of Zaccheus in Luke 19:2-10. Remember the wee little man that climbed the tree in order to see Jesus? He was a tax-collector known for his dishonest dealings. When Jesus came through the town there was Zaccheus up in a tree trying to see Him. Jesus saw Zaccheus there and went straight to him, telling him to come down because Jesus intended to go home with him.

Did you ever wonder why Jesus would want to go home with Zaccheus? I mean, really, this guy had a reputation, why didn’t Jesus just call him out right there? Everyone knew the evil and corruption he was into. But no, Jesus goes to him and invites Himself home with him.

1 Samuel 16:7b says; “Man does not see what the Lord sees, for man sees what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart.”

The local people could only say from what they had seen Zaccheus do, or what they had heard about him, or possibly the dealings they had with him personally. They reacted or responded as we would, from what they knew. Jesus knew differently.

Jesus tells Zaccheus that salvation is coming to his house today. This is definitely something special. I wonder what Zaccheus was expecting. I wonder what was going through his mind. It’s obvious he definitely was interested in learning more about Jesus considering he climbed a tree to see him. And it doesn’t seem as if there was any hesitation on Zaccheus’ part about having Jesus come home with him.

So Zaccheus comes down and starts out with Jesus towards his home. Jesus knows why they are headed there.

The Lord knows exactly how to deal with us. There is never any question regarding His approach to any situation, He is the One who created each one of us. Psalm 103:14 “For he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.”

The Lord knows where we live. Acts 17:26 “From one man he made every nation of the human race to inhabit the entire earth, determining their set times, and the fixed limits of the places where they would live.”

The Lord knows all that we do. Psalm 139:3 says, “You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.”

The Lord know what we will say. Psalm 139:4 explains “Before a word is on your tongue you, LORD, know it completely.”

The Lord knows how we feel. 1 Chronicles 28:9a tells us, “And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought…”

The Lord knew Zaccheus’ heart. Maybe Zaccheus had come to a point of questioning it all, maybe he was beginning to wonder if there was a better way. The townspeople would have no idea, but Jesus would know.

Jesus saw Zaccheus up the tree. I can just imagine, there were probably a few children around pointing at that funny little man in the tree asking their parents what he was doing. I picture Jesus smiling at the humor of the situation. It would have been rather funny.

But Jesus knew what Zaccheus was thinking, He knew his feelings towards God. Jesus looked past his self-sufficient ways and saw a seeker. For that is why Jesus came, “to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)

Zaccheus had probably heard about Jesus and wondered if He was for real. What was it that people saw in Him? Could He really help? Maybe Zaccheus was seeking a different way, a better way. And Jesus chose to go home with Zaccheus. Jesus chose to be with Zaccheus where he was at- in his sinful, hated, lonely place.

It seems that Zaccheus’ transformation began immediately. He was ready to make amends by repaying those he had taken from unjustly.

God knows our hearts and where we are at. God knows where in our lives we need deliverance (salvation/transformation). Jesus meets us in those places and goes with us wherever we are going. He helps us work through the process.

Here and now in 2017, we don’t know what lies ahead but God knows. He will meet you at every tree, when you find yourself in trouble and look for Him, He will be there. He knows. We can rest in that. How beautiful is His love for us! We can move forward in 2017 knowing that God is aware of us and all that is going on in our lives. We are not alone!

If you are in a place needful for deliverance or desperate for transformation know God will meet you there. He sees us and He knows.

How I Found my Word for 2017

I recently read a blog, there have been many, that discussed choosing a word for 2017. I chose a word, and then within a week, I changed it. Let me share the process. I learned so much through doing it that I think it may benefit others.

I started out by taking a look at who I am and where I am in my relationship with the Lord. I wrote down a list of words that I have had come up, again and again, in my time with the Lord. These “sacred echoes” as Margaret Feinberg may call them, gave me clear direction in vision as to what the Lord wants for me. The words that came up frequently, as I was praying and studying, were trust and surrender.

But there was more, I also found that I yearned for joy in my heart and life. I was reminded of the lesson the Lord had taught me regarding my lack of contentment. It was a definite area of heart transformation that I felt the Lord directing me.

Next, I took into consideration areas of growth in traits or characteristics that the Lord had led me in. He has been showing me my lack of praise and worship leading me to realize the connection of inner joy being the pathway to that.

I created a list of words and settled on this one word, the word was “permeate.” My thought was, “I want the Lord to so infuse His being into me”. But, later that week, I felt as if that was only a part of what the Lord wanted to see happen in my heart. So, in the end I settled on the word “yield” because there are so many areas where I need to yield.

I explored the word yield in my heart, and found the following areas in my life to focus on. The list included striving, self-sufficiency, need to prove myself, and in forgiving. Each of these require yielding, but with that yielding I realized that I will come to know the Lord really permeating me and my life. The word permeate actually adds another level of depth of meaning to my  word yield.

I took some time to look at all of the opportunities yielding brings, all of the areas of transformation that I need to be open to.

I began to think of yielding as letting go. My list of areas that I need to let go in seemed to grow, I added drivenness, fears, fear of losing, satisfying other in order to get love, obligations, expectations, and being over-responsible. When I finally finished my list, I then wrote down the take away– what I could learn when I yield in this area. I was amazed at what I discovered. One example–letting go of trying desperately to satisfy others to get love may mean learning more of the fullness of the Lord’s loving presence. I might gain a new appreciation and trust of Him as I learn of the magnitude of His love for me. Knowing of His love in a deeper way gives me freedom from trying so hard to earn love. It all works together so beautifully.

I went through each area of yielding in this manner and found that the take aways were all an intricate part of growing in Christ-likeness and in the fruit of the Spirit. All of my yielding will be the Spirit working in my heart changing me, helping me to let go. He alone can replace the sinful holding-onto with a grace-filled response that honors God.

I am adding each of these areas to my prayer journal and asking the Lord to lead me in the transformation process and help me to yield as I go through 2017.

This was a great exercise, I am so glad that I took the time to look back to see where I have been and also, in the process, see where the Lord is taking me.

I pray that 2017 is a year of transformation for each us, that each of us will be transformed for His glory.

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