Trapped by Complexity

Simplicity is constantly under attack. Perhaps a more accurate statement is that we are trapped by complexity, which seems to be our default setting, and simplicity becomes the casualty as a barrage of complexity invades our lives.

Our hurried lifestyles and constant scurrying after progress certainly add complexity to life by giving too many choices too often.

How can we discover who we truly are and what makes us happy if we are constantly distracted by choices thrown at us by progress?

Yet progress is impossible to completely ward off, and we soon discover that we must simply and deliberately choose to not take it all in. Even the Amish, who represent a long-forgotten simplicity in life, live lives more complicated than they once were. Even though they don’t personally maintain them, the fact that the Amish are the focus of many web sites and are themselves a tourist attraction shows the impossibility of keeping progress at bay even when simplicity is a religious doctrine.

Interestingly, the Amish are such a draw because of their simplicity. Life used to only become complicated mostly by choice. Now, complexity happens to us at the speed of progress.

Teaching my boys that value of simplicity is a focus of mine. These lessons include a deliberate limiting of extra-curricular activities, a focusing of time and efforts on fewer and better quality activities, and a prioritizing of events and opportunities that constantly present themselves.

We’ve also incorporated simplicity into our eating. With about 20 meals that we cycle through, my guys love that they get their favorites often. Because they feel the quality of their meals are better since they regularly have their favorites, they more look forward to meals. We also find simple joy sharing these favorites regularly.

When I first began to deliberately simplify my life, I thought I was pursuing simplicity in order to be healthy and strong. My initial push for simplicity came after undiagnosed food allergies created an environment where depression, anxiety and illness thrived. This experience not only forced me to simplify my eating habits, but it also directed me toward a less-stressful and more fulfilling career.

At first, I was very unhappy at what I saw as a severely limiting diet. But the illnesses caused by my food allergies provided the necessarily motivation to pursue lifestyle change.

For the first year, I convinced myself that having multiple food allergies (dairy, gluten, eggs, crabs and cashews) would cause misery for the rest of my life. I hated reading all the food labels, I quit going to my favorite restaurants, and I had to cook separate meals for myself. Oh, and allergen-friendly food is more expensive too.

Now, years later, adapting my diet feels quite natural, and I find that less food choices makes grocery shopping much easier. Plus, my husband and I no longer go through our usual back and forth “Where do you want to eat?” conversation when dining out. We basically have 3-4 choices most of the time, and choosing among those few is definitely much simpler than choosing among the myriad of options found in most cities.

So many people feel trapped by complexity. They feel hopeless because a way out keeps alluding them. At least, that’s how I felt when I just couldn’t climb out of the pit (turns out there is a labyrinth in the pit too). Yet, taking the first few deliberate steps toward simplification often starts the momentum needed to affect major change.

While I didn’t know what change needed to take place for me to be healthy, I kept looking and trying and adjusting. Eventually, I discovered many small changes that added up to make a huge difference for healing in my life.

Our complex culture and lifestyle attacks any intentions to simplify. Complexity seems to happen without any effort while simplifying requires intentionality.

Complexity pursues. Simplicity must be pursued. And while complexity will never cease to pursue, simplicity will begin to pursue as we allow room for it to do so by slowly pushing out the complex.

DISCUSSION: What is one area in your life you would like to simplify? What small steps could you take to begin that process?

How to… Pray for Others

Maybe I am over-thinking this. Maybe I compare myself too much to others. And maybe I’m just making excuses to keep from stepping outside of my comfort zone. Sure, I pray for others in the privacy of my own home, but ask me to pray when others can hear me… I’ll do it, but I end up worrying the rest of the day about what I said and how stupid I sounded. And even when I pray “in my head” for others, I usually fumble through with “please help…” and “please heal…” and “You know their needs…” What I’m praying just seems feeble and week. Not only that, but prayer sometimes feels awkward and uncomfortable to me, especially when I’m praying for others.

Here’s what I know for sure:

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.” (1 Timothy 2:1)

“Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:18)

“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:13-16)

Clearly, scripture encourages Christians to pray for others. But shouldn’t those prayers be more than a child’s prayer of “Please help…” followed by a list of names. Shouldn’t they be more than saying a person’s name followed by “heal them” or “give them wisdom”? I use about 3-4 of those sayings (please help, heal them, etc.) that pretty much make up my intercessory prayers. Yet, I feel like there’s something missing. I mean, I can pray with great detail about my own needs. Shouldn’t I be able to offer something more for others too?

Until reading What’s Your Pleasure on A Curious Band of Others, I didn’t think too much about how I prayed for others. I even commented after reading this post that I didn’t struggle with intercessory prayer. But then came that small voice inside (a.k.a. the Holy Spirit) that made me rethink my approach to intercessory prayer.

Don’t get me wrong. Prayer of any sort offered with sincerity pleases God. But just like communication within relationships deepens and becomes more detailed as the relationship grows, so should our communication with God as we grow closer to Him. More for my own growth than as any sort of advice, the following 4 tips on how to pray for others are now offered. This is not a prayer formula; rather, it exists as encouragement for deeper conversations with the Lord.

  1. Use empathy. I can think about a situation that a person is going through and what I might need if I were in that same situation. Then, I can pray accordingly.
  2. Find models of maturity. There are those who are really good at praying out loud. Typically, they are the pastor or Sunday school teacher (though that’s not true in my case). While copying these individuals verbatim seems manufactured, certainly gain insight and ideas on how to pray from them. Just like a child learns from a parent, I can learn from those with more maturity in their prayer lives. Caution: I must refrain from feeling as if I need to pray exactly like these people. Instead, I must simply be willing to learn from them.
  3. Realize that deeper does not mean wordy. In fact, the Bible warns against wordiness. (Matthew 5:6) Maybe specific is a better word than deeper. When possible, offer specific prayers for others. In some cases, my past experiences will allow me to pray more specifically for someone than the actual person could pray for themselves because I’ve been through a similar and found victory already.
  4. Pray in the Spirit. Ephesians 6:18 says to pray in the Spirit. Henry’s Concise Commentary explains doing so as praying “by the grace of God the Holy Spirit, in dependence on, and according to, His teaching.” In other words, let the word of God and the prompting of the Holy Spirit guide my prayers.

As a Pentecostal, my prayers for others also often consist of praying in tongues as the Spirit enables (Acts 2:4).  What’s more, Romans 8:26-27 assures us that the Holy Spirit “helps in our weakness” by interceding for us. So, even though my prayers usually feel inadequate and even though I often stumble with the right words, I know that the Holy Spirit by far makes up for where I lack.

DISCUSSION: Do you pray regularly for others? What advice can you offer for making intercessory prayer effective?

For more reading on prayer, please see the following posts: A Plea for More Prayer and What’s Your Pleasure on  A Curious Band of Others

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Recommendation – A Curious Band of Others

The blog A Curious Band of Others offers posts about the daily struggles to hear and to do—the building on the rock foundation process—to those who dream bigger dreams about being the church, the body of Christ in motion.” While I read the posts weekly and enjoy each one, my most recent favorite is re-blogged below. Please read and enjoy this post, and please stop by A Curious Band of Others to read more posts. I promise you will be blessed!

3 Truths to Remember When Life Gets Unsettling by tnealtarver

I lost 30 pounds last year; found 10 of the lost little buggers this past winter.

I’m the heavy one on the far right. (View original post to see photo.)

I noticed losing the burden of even five pounds made a difference in how I felt. On the court (where it counts), I had an extra step. I oozed energy.

This summer at my lightest.

Carrying extra weight around isn’t limited to your pound of flesh. For me, it usually attaches itself to my thoughts in the form of financial worries. And with the release of Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes, sales thoughts can bury me under worry’s burden.

Is the book any good?

Am I doing enough to promote it?

What if I lose more money than I make on this venture?

Boxes of books, a sight both exciting and terrifying.

You probably haven’t had a novel debut recently (although, if you have, congratulations!), but I would venture to guess that you’ve felt the weight of worry.

What are my kids doing when I’m not there to protect them?

How will my business survive this economy?

What will the next series of elections bring?

What’s the price of gas going to be on my next road trip?

How will I cover the cost of [you fill in the blank here]?

A week ago, I especially felt anxiety’s knot wrapping itself around my gut. I was overwhelmed by the options and the opportunities. I was frustrated by an ongoing problem. I heard messages that told me what to do for my “business,” things I neither was doing nor understanding how to do.

And the weightiness of it all sunk my spirits lower …

… and lower …

… and lower …

… until I turned my mind and heart back to some basic truths.

Today’s events do not determine my future. Whatever happens today, for good or ill, has no bearing on my eternal future. It may mean whether I have a sense of accomplishment or not at the end of the day, but it doesn’t change where I’m going.

God secured my future through the work of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, both in the past and in the present. Book sales will not change that truth.

God remains seated on His throne. For me, this simple fact anchors my faith. God was seated on the throne “… in the year King Uzziah died …” which was a tumultuous time of change for the prophet Isaiah. That vision settled Isaiah’s fears about Israel’s future. It wasn’t determined by a king and his army but by God and His word.

I remain tucked away in Christ. I am, according to Scripture, a child of God. My identity determines my destiny. When I’m uncertain of my today, I can be certain of my future in Him.

I may screw up the book thing, the promotion thing, the husband thing, the daddy thing, the friend thing, and whatever else I am or do in this world. In fact, I know I will screw up, make mistakes, do dumb stuff, and generally mess up.

But I will never, ever be abandoned.

Why?

Because our Father says, “I will neither leave you nor forsake you.”

That truth helps steady my heart in its anxious moments.

I’m curious. When you feel unsettled in life or face a tough situation, what helps calm your soul?

Please visit A Curious Band of Others to comment on this post and to be blessed through reading the other inspiring posts you’ll find there.

Sunday Reflections – Living Sacrifice

As Living Stones, we are a holy priesthood. When Jesus died on the cross for our sins and came to life again in defeat of sin, death and the devil, the old system of sacrifice to atone for sin was abolished. Blood sacrifices at the temple are no longer required, nor are they acceptable, by God. Instead, Christians now offer spiritual sacrifices out of love and gratitude for the One who gave everything for their benefit.

The spiritual sacrifices we make do not die (as with the old system) when we offer them. Quite the contrary, each living sacrifice we make can become “a sweet-smelling aroma, and acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.” (Philippians 4:18)

A living sacrifice first and foremost comes from the heart of a believer. You must take responsibility for your own sacrifice. No one can make a sacrifice for you. Most importantly, Jesus must be the number one priority in your life before an acceptable spiritual sacrifice can even be made. Once that life-changing decision takes place, continue in the journey toward holiness… toward being set apart.

So what does God look for in the sacrifices that we now each offer on an individual basis? Consider the following 5 elements when choosing to make your life a living sacrifice.

  1. Attitude. God calls everyone to be a living sacrifice in whatever they do in life, yet activity means nothing when offered in the wrong attitude. We must follow Abel’s example and avoid that of Cain’s. One sacrificed with the right attitude, and one did not. One’s sacrifice was accepted, and the other’s was not. (Genesis 4:3-7) (See The Aroma of your Heart for a related Bible study on making your attitude “the same as that of Christ Jesus.”)
  2. Love. Loving some people takes little to no effort. Yet, there are those who make loving them difficult and sometimes seemingly impossible. (If we’re honest, we’ve all been that person at least once ourselves.) When a person gives nothing in return, loving them becomes a struggle. As living sacrifices, we choose to give expecting nothing in return. After all, isn’t this what Christ did for each one of us?
  3. Balance. Holiness happens in partnership with the Holy Spirit. Every Christian does his or her part through the deliberate and intentional choice to live out God’s will by choosing to become a living sacrifice. We should not expect the Spirit to do all the work, but we must allow the “helper” to come along side of us, for that is why He was sent to us. (John 14:16, 17, 26)
  4. Discomfort. Convenience has become way too important to us. Sacrifice requires inconvenience and discomfort. We must orient our taste buds toward desiring long-term (eternal) benefit. Doing so allows for intimacy with God, which occurs when we make an acceptable sacrifice. Sweet-tasting convenience is the enemy for an acceptable sacrifice. We must become comfortable with being uncomfortable.
  5. Teachability. A living sacrifice comes from a person being willing to learn, grow and change at the prompting of the Holy Spirit. God always provides the appropriate measure of time, talent and treasure to do His will. We hold responsibility for offering ourselves to Him through what He enables and gives us to accomplish.

An acceptable sacrifice comes through a contrite heart. A sincere and broken heart comes when we spend time at the altar prior to offering our living sacrifices and let the Holy Spirit lead us through an attitude upgrade. When we submit ourselves in this way, we then can “present [our] bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is [our] reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1) Giving of ourselves completely certainly is “reasonable” when we consider what Jesus gave.

DISCUSSION: Submission begins by evaluating the status of the heart and asking tough questions. What good are you doing? What are you sharing? What sacrifices are you making for God? Are you too comfortable? Submission continues as we listen to the answers God gives us to these questions.

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Discovering Joyful Simplicity

The more I simplify my life, the more I realize that a Relatively Simple life is intertwined with joy. The simpler my physical life and surroundings, the deeper and better quality my mental state and spiritual life. For me, this means the more organized my house, the fewer activities with which I and my family are involved, and the more I reduce the trivial choices like what to wear or eat, the more joy I feel.

Perhaps it’s having a sense of control over my life, and perhaps my mind simply has less to deal with and thus can concentrate on quality rather than quantity. Whatever the reason, increased simplicity certainly made me a more joyful person. I no longer feel trapped by a complexity that took my life spiraling out of control.

What does joyful simplicity look like to you?

The following are 5 suggestions to help stimulate ideas for a simpler life in a way that also brings more joy:

  1. Be a kid. Coloring and doing crafts with my boys takes me back to my childhood. At the same time, they present an opportunity for simple quality time with my kids too. Adults are too wrapped up in adult stuff sometimes that they forget the simple joys that come with being a kid. Get in touch with that joy again. Not sure what to do? Ask your kids… they’ll have lots of great ideas!
  2. Turn of technology. When we play family games, my husband and I turn off the sound on our phones. When we go camping, I deliberately leave my phone in the car and refuse to participate in technology. Turning off technology forces me to enjoy simple pleasures like reading and watching birds. This is an amazingly relaxing activity.
  3. Go on a fast. My husband and I decided to go on a financial fast for the first quarter of 2012. This simplified our lives in that we just didn’t give much thought to buying. We just knew we couldn’t spend any extra money, and we focused on activities that didn’t involve doing so. A fast in pretty much any area of life lends itself nicely to the process for one to pursue simplicity.
  4. Purge. The idea of getting rid of excess is exceedingly freeing. For me, when I start to purge, I struggle stopping myself once I start. A yearly garage sale makes purging a habit for my family. Taking a look at what is no longer needed provides a terrific avenue for simplifying belongings. Like fasting, purging can occur in a variety of areas. For example, consider purging your calendar or your Facebook friend list.
  5. Help others. Tutor kids. Minister at a community dinner. Teach a Sunday school class.  Pray with a friend. Help a friend clean. Run an errand for someone. Call your pastor and ask what needs done at the church. Helping others provides a simple way to not only bring joy to another but to also know the simple joy of making another person’s life easier.

Simple joy comes through a life free to answer the call of God. When life is simple and not overwhelming, the possibilities for simple joy seem to open up. Maybe this happens because life is no longer just happening to you. Maybe it happens because you finally have time to think and choose what you want to do with your time rather than letting time happen to you. Whatever the reason and whatever the path chosen, a simpler life equates to more joy.

DISCUSSION: What activities help you discover simple joy? If you need more simple joy in your life, what activities will you try today to make that happen?

How to… Find Your Game

When athletes talk about finding their game, they refer to being able to play at their very best on a consistent basis. Intense physical training can lead to this, but the way to really find your game exists through a different kind of training. And finding your game actually has little to do with what sport you play or if you actually play any sport at all.

“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8)

The movie Seven Days in Utopia revolves around the concept of finding your game in life through the pursuit of godliness. (Note that there is a book on which this movie is based.) This gem of a film provides many life lessons that make the movie worth watching, but 5 lessons stood out as steps to take immediately to find your game.

  1. Know your convictions. This involves asking yourself why you do what you do. If your purpose is to excel in a sport or in any area of life, consider rethinking that which drives you. For when we discover convictions that go well beyond the temporal and start affecting eternity, we discover a deeper reason and purpose for existing.
  2. Find your rhythm, balance and patience. At the core of these elements lies emotional control. When emotions control the person, rhythm, balance and patience cannot exist. But when you use emotions as gauges, finding your game becomes a reality.
  3. Be willing to deter from the expected. So often, we become trapped by expectations, both our own and that of others. Finding your game may involve stepping out of what’s expected in order to step into the will of God.
  4. Confidence comes with being prepared. Some people seem to exude confidence naturally while others struggle with believing in themselves. The core of true confidence is not natural ability alone. Rather, true confidence results from preparation. Planning and preparing create a confidence that allows for handling the unexpected and the spontaneous.
  5. Confront the lies. What lies drive you? Do you believe your value is found in the game that you play? Or, is your value found in how you play the game? Knowing that your value comes from Christ alone provides the convictions and confidence necessary to find your game.

Within each aspect of finding your game listed here, the idea of dealing with mistakes constantly comes up. We can allow mistakes to knock us out of our game and into being off balance and out of rhythm and with little patience, or we can use them to built confidence. We can use mistakes to confront the lies that tell us we are the sum total of our accomplishments by not allowing them to snowball. We can choose to see ourselves through our failures, or we can view ourselves through the eyes of ChristWho are you as a Christian believer has little to do with who you are and everything to do with Whose you are.

When we choose to not allow mistakes to negatively impact our self image, which is how we think about ourselves, and begin relying on our identity in Christ, we find that we are acceptable. As we learn to be Living Stones, we discover that we can live and walk in repentance and bask in His grace. In that, we finally find our game in a way that impacts eternity.

DISCUSSION: What adjustments do you need to make today to help you “find your game”?

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Recommendation – Chatty Kelly

This is a reblog from Kelly Combs at Chatty Kelly. Kelly is a Christian wife, mom, writer and speaker. You can learn about Kelly by visiting her website at http://www.kellycombs.com/.

The “Bad” People in Heaven

“Would you miss me if I die?” my eight year old asked me. I hated to consider the thought, but I encouraged her, “I would miss you forever. But I will probably die first. And we know we will see each other again, and be together forever in Heaven, so we don’t have to miss each other anymore.”

My daughter thought about that a bit, and then said, “But what if I’m bad? Then I won’t go to heaven and we won’t be together.” How do we all seem to default to that thinking? Bad people go to hell and good people go to heaven. Is it true?

While I don’t want my daughter to do “bad” things, I explained to her what I believe is the truth. God loves her. Jesus died for her, and as long as she confesses with her mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believes in her heart that God raised him from the dead, she will be saved. (Romans 10:9)

Yes, her faith needs to be a live changing faith. But she will sin! And that sin will not separate her from God or keep her from heaven. Praise God!

I am sinner, and I have done lots of “bad” things. I am repentant, so to God those things are gone. But I still did them, and the world could say I am “bad.” Therefore, I am so thankful that God allows bad people like me into heaven.

There is a flip side to this story, however. And that is that plenty of “good” people go to hell. There is great sadness in this. Unless God shows them mercy, there are plenty of people in the world that do good things, are kind, giving and loving, but do not believe in Jesus, and according to the Bible no one can come to God, except through Jesus.

There will be “bad” people who go to heaven, and “good” people who go to hell. We can’t judge who is bad or good by the standards of the world or even the standards of the Bible. The measuring stick is Jesus: Who loves him, and want to change their life to obey his commands.

Keep living a life changing faith, so that you can show people the way to Heaven. It isn’t their behavior…it’s their Savior.

Chatty Kelly

Sunday Reflections – Living Stones

“You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:4-5)

Being described as a “living stone” seems quite odd simply because stones are hard, dead and cold, not alive. We get the idea of stones being used to build a building, but the connection with our spiritual lives may be difficult to grasp. Perhaps that’s because while we may have respect for our church buildings, our reverence pales in comparison to that of the Jewish Christians (Peter’s audience) who were driven out of Jerusalem and scattered through Asia Minor. Peter’s original readers understood his analogy at a deeper level, especially because they were unable to even go to the temple at that time due to persecution of Christians by the Roman Emperor Nero. Although, still today, there are Christians in some places of the world who truly understand since they too live persecuted for their faith.

Peter’s words were a paradigm shift for the Jewish Christians in AD 63. For them, the temple was a place to offer sacrifices and make atonement. But Christ had come to replace this system of sacrifice. Peter’s analogy helped the Jewish Christians make a shift in thinking from the system of sacrifice handed to them through their Jewish heritage to understanding how Christ fulfilled that system so completely that physical sacrifices were no longer necessary. Because of this heritage, they fully understood the significance of the stones that created the temple building. They had an immense reverence for the temple building itself well as an understanding for what the analogy meant. (See Psalm 118:22 and Isaiah 8:14 & 28:16.)

Barnes Notes on the Bible explains the Jewish Christian’s view in this way: “The Jews prided themselves much on their temple. It was a most costly and splendid edifice. It was the place where God was worshipped, and where he was supposed to dwell. It had an imposing service, and there was acceptable worship rendered there.” Through Christ’s sacrifice on the Christ, a new way was introduced, and the Christians of Peter’s day were asked to change their thinking toward worship, sacrifice and the temple.

Regardless of the time in history, the application is no less significant or relevant. Consider the following 5 points in terms of applying the “living stone” analogy to the Christian walk. These points, based on 1 Peter 2:4, hold true regardless of physical location or state of physical freedom.

  1. You are being built up in Christ. While individually every Christian represents Christ, Christians collectively – each “living stone” placed one upon another with Christ as the cornerstone – are being built up together in Christ. In other words, “all true Christians are a chosen generation; they make one family, a people distinct from the world: of another spirit, principle, and practice.”
  2. You are part of a spiritual house of God. The house of God is not built with stones or wood but with “living stones” that hold the breath of God. As such, these “living stones” (Christians throughout time) have an immensely greater value and thus give His house significantly more value than any physical temple or church building built by man. Together, in unity and community, all Christians create the temple of the Lord.
  3. You are a holy priesthood. With Jesus’ final sacrifice on the cross, the old system of sacrifice for atonement of sin was abolished. Blood sacrifices through priests at the temple are no longer required. Christians exist now as a holy priesthood and offer sacrifices of a different kind.
  4. Spiritual sacrifices are the result. Since blood sacrifices are no longer required, what are we to sacrifice? “The sacrifice of prayer and praise.” (Hebrews 13:15 & Ephesians 6:18)
  5. Our sacrifices must be acceptable in God’s eyes. Fortunately for us, God looks at our sacrifices through Jesus. Through the merits of Jesus’ sacrifice, our prayers and praises become acceptable. They come through imperfect lips and hearts, but they go through Jesus as the “author and perfector of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2)

Just as the physical temple in Peter’s day was built to provide a place where priests would offer sacrifices for the people, so every Christian today exists as part of the temple of God. Prayer and praise exist as sacrifices when we offer our whole selves, holding nothing back. We realize that nothing we do or say is sufficient, but we offer what we have “with pure hearts that with the intention to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly.” (Micah 6:8)

DISCUSSION: How do you see your life as a “living stone”? What are your thoughts about the Christian walk as it relates to 1 Peter 2:4-5?

Note: This reflection was inspired by “The Building Project,” a sermon given by Rev. Steve Miller at New Hope Assembly of God.

Creating a Relatively Simply Life

Relative simplicity is dictated and defined to a great extent by personality and temperament. Introverts tend to need simpler (slower-paced) lives than do extroverts. Neither is good or bad as long as life is lived in the gifts and passions possessed rather than having life simply happen to or around you. Realize too that just because someone else finds an activity relaxing, others may not find it to be so and may even discover that it adds a level of complexity that works to undermine our ability to Pursue Simplicity.

For example, I tried scrapbooking once but found the process too complicated with too many decisions to make and supplies to buy. My mind feels much more content with a simple photo album with dates of events written in the margin. For me, scrapbooking made life more complicated. For others, it’s a relaxing pastime.

Clothing is another example. I found myself constantly frustrated with trying to decide what to wear each day, and then I noticed I only wore about 20% of the clothing that I owned anyway. So, I systematically whittled my wardrobe down by over 40%. Yet I have friends who love to try new trends and constantly mix up their wardrobes. They like to express themselves through their clothing. I just like to be comfortable.

Simplifying my life in these ways has been very freeing for me.

Simplicity also pursues each individual in unique ways. For instance, add to my deliberate activities toward simplification the fact that recent foot (nerve entrapment) and back (slipped discs and spinal stenosis) problems along with Piriformis Syndrome have limited my shoe options to only a few pair for an indefinite time.

It’s not even that I’m just being obedient to the doctor and wearing only what he says I can; unfortunately, my severe foot and ankle pain give me the option of either wearing only those few pairs of shoes or not being able to walk. This is not a simplicity I had planned on or in any way pursued, but it definitely found me.

These examples may seem like small and perhaps even meaningless, but one principle of simplicity that seems inherently true is that small things done consistently over time add up to make a huge difference. In other words, simplicity has not come into my life through any one major event. Rather, there exist a multitude of small changes and adjustments that together make my life immensely simpler.

I also realize and acknowledge that the changes I made toward a simpler life seem meaningless to some and stupid to others. What I’ve chosen to do exists as essential to some people with many of the adjustments I’ve made seeming obvious and something I should have been doing all along. The combination of elements that create my simple life will look like no one else’s, yet the results are essentially the same… a relatively simple life.

DISCUSSION: How does your definition of simplicity differ from that of those closest to you? (Spouse, friends, kids, etc.)

How to… Back Up to Move Forward

Unfortunately, my history with backing up a vehicle is somewhat embarrassing. During driver’s training, I backed into the school van while learning to parallel park (another driving challenge for me), and when I was 16, I backed into my brother’s car early one morning (never told him about that). I’ve backed a rental car over a huge boulder and several large men had to lift it off for me (never told my husband about  that one… he knows now though). The passenger rearview mirror was broken on my husband’s truck when I hit the side of the garage backing out (he definitely knows about that one), and the back passenger side of my Jeep was scraped when I backed into a trailer parked in our driveway. My most recent backing up incident was in a Barnes & Noble parking lot into another vehicle (see photo). So while I haven’t had any auto incidences while driving forward, backing up has caused me some problems.

If my issues with backing up ended only with what happens when I’m driving a car, perhaps this lesson would have alluded me. But life seems to have those backing up times that don’t always go so well either. Up until a couple of years ago, my past continued to haunt me, meaning I kept repeating the same types of mistake. Oddly, the same principles involved in the mistakes that I made when backing up a vehicle are the same reasons I kept making the same mistakes in life. These 5 principles exist as essential parts of the learning process involved with going backwards in order to move forward in life.

  1. Don’t let hurry motivate. I backed into my brother’s car because I couldn’t see through the frost on my window, which I failed to clean off because I was in a hurry. Failing to plan ahead led to this mistake, as it so often does in life. A little pre-planning and leaving margin for unexpected tasks like scraping frost off a window can prevent a lot of life’s blunders.
  2. Be sure to see when looking. The Barnes & Noble incident happened simply because I did not see the car when I looked before backing up. This is akin to my kids not seeing the milk right in front of them in the refrigerator. Sometimes we get so into the routines of life that we fail to truly see what we are looking at. Slowing down and taking time to see helps prevent mistakes.
  3. Realize that others are often hurt worse by our mistakes. When I hit the car in the Barnes & Noble parking lot, there was way more damage to the other person’s vehicle than to my Jeep. He definitely needed to get his fixed, while mine had a barely visible scratch (see photo). But, with Michigan’s “no fault” laws, no legal responsibility existed. Realizing that our mistakes hurt others often more than they hurt us can be a tremendous source of guilt. Learning from this hopefully motivates us to avoid making choices that will hurt the ones we love.
  4. Take ownership, and avoid placing blame. When I backed into the trailer in our driveway, it of course wasn’t my fault. I mean, the trailer isn’t usually there, and it was below my view enough that I couldn’t see it when I looked. Yet, I knew it was there. In many of my backing-up incidences, my first instinct was to blame someone or something else for the mistake. This is probably the hardest principle to learn. Yet, because I know I can only control me, I am forced to take ownership of my own mistakes and to break the habit of trying to blame others.
  5. Let go of pride & embarrassment. Each of these backing-up incidences caused me some embarrassment. In my pride, I worried about what others thought of me with each mistake I made. Failing to truly comprehend the fact that everyone makes mistakes can help you let go of your pride and not allow the mistake to dwell in a way that keeps you from moving forward.

I love the parallel parking technology in newer vehicles today, and I would really like it on my next vehicle. Yet, it’s not a necessity because I’ve found ways to work around having to parallel park. (Let my husband do it, find another parking spot or drive into a “parallel” spot if there’s enough room and backing up isn’t necessary.) Now, if someone came up with a vehicle that backed up all by itself, that might be a necessity.

There really aren’t any workarounds for backing up.It just can’t be avoided. We must look behind us from time to time to be able to learn from our past and then move on in a way that allows us to use the past to positively shape our future. In other words, we each need to learn how to Put Your Behind in the Past. Or, we can continue to make the same mistakes over and over again and essentially relive our pasts. Ultimate, the choice for each of us is to learn from the past or to let it haunt us.

DISCUSSION: What patterns of mistakes do you have in your life? How can you learn from them in order to move forward & stop hitting walls that force you to essentially relive your past?