A couple of months ago I made a comment about needing more hours in my day so that I could get everything done. This prompted responses from friends about God purposefully giving us only 24 hours or if we'd stick to God's agenda and not our own, we we would be freer. Interesting thoughts.
These ideas made me think, however, that even if we're doing only what God purposes for us, we will still feel hard pressed. We may still feel like we need "more." Life is hard. People in pain, families disintegrating, natural disasters robbing people of what little they have.
Add to that how the life God calls His family to is sacrificial and self-emptying. For me, this lifestyle does not come naturally (or easily). Some days, in fact, it's a raging battle. But a worthy fight? Absolutely.
So fast forward to the beginning of 2010 when a friend recommended working through Don Whitney's "Ten Questions for the New Year" as a spiritual inventory - a way of understanding where I am in terms of this God-given life. I read through Mr. Whitney's questions and immediately liked them because I could not answer them off the cuff. They were not superficial questions but instead call you to dig further, look closer, and ask deeper . Now, the fourth question on the list deals with spiritual disciplines. But when I hear the word discipline I cringe a little bit because all the things I'm not disciplined about come prancing into my mind like the free spirits they are.
But I know that Christians throughout history have valued spiritual disciplines, so I pushed aside my petty dislike of the word and started thinking through what spiritual disciplines encompass. For me, prayer, Scripture, and fasting are the go-to answers. But before I jumped to any fast conclusions (which I'm apt to do), I thought the idea was worth investigating.
I googled (which by the way, has been declared the word of the decade by the American Dialect Society) the phrase "spiritual disciplines" which led me to two delightful sources.
Disclaimer: I understand the danger of googling a topic because who knows what quack-job website you're going to run across. I do my homework as best I can when I find an interesting site to make sure that everything is legit. However, this doesn't mean I'm giving my full endorsement of the site or the individuals or organizations behind them. I simply found some useful stuff there. The rest is up to you!
Site #1 - The Reading Room at the Water's Edge
Here you'll find thought inspiring quotes by Richard Foster and Leo Tolstoy along with an insightful introduction to spiritual disciplines. This article was most helpful to me because it provided a list of at least ten different spiritual disciplines, which immediately expanded my sad little list of only three. I'd been living in a black and white world! The fourth question from Mr. Whitney's list asked which spiritual discipline would be helpful to focus on in the upcoming year.
Of the ten mentioned on this site (it actually recommends reading through the gospel of Matthew to discover more), simplicity stood out. My mind went back to that off-hand remark I made about needing more time and the conversations that ensued. My life certainly doesn't feel or look simple. But does simplicity mean getting rid of everything and living off the land? Does it mean cutting 90% of my activities and involvements out of my life? What does simplicity mean for one who is following Jesus?
So back to my old trick of googling, I found site # 2 - Spirithome.com Robert Longman, Jr.'s site provided two keen insights into the life of simplicity. He writes, "Part of what makes a Christian spirituality 'simple' is that it has a single focus: loving as Jesus Christ loves." Mr. Longman also points out that the way of Christ is simpler than chasing after wealth. Both ideas have profound implications for my life, that quite honestly, I'm just beginning to unravel.
If you visit Spirithome, please please please read his short(ish) descriptions titled "What Spirithome.com is" and "What Spirithome.com is not." Both are extremely well written and a breath of fresh air. When you do read them, I'm interested to hear your thoughts.
While I'm still pondering my friends' comments about time and still dissecting my life looking for signs of simplicity, I haven't come to any firm conclusions. But I definitely feel like these rabbit trails are leading me somewhere.