Struggling for Simplicity

simplicityDo you long for simplicity? In the chaos and confusion of overwhelm and overload, do you instinctively know your life wasn’t meant to be this way?

Our bodies crave simplicity. They long for whole foods instead of processed filler. They want activity balanced with rest. When our muscles tense and stomachs ache, our bodies are telling us to satisfy the craving for simplicity.

Our minds seek simplicity too. When our thoughts whirl and our heads pound from decision overload, that’s our clue to slow down, to simplify. A clue most ignore.

Why do we ignore the signal’s our bodies and minds send us as they cry out for simplicity? Do we really believe there’s no way out, no other way to live?

Now consider the soul. As our lives burst with activity and commitment, somewhere deep inside — in the truest part of ourselves — we recognize the lack, the emptiness of it all. We realize that in the overwhelm of life, our souls are underwhelmed because we’ve neglected their care.

Pursuing Simplicity

While overwhelm and overload happen almost without effort, simplicity only comes through disciplined and deliberate choices. And, experience tells me, the motivation for making those choices only comes when my focus falls to my Creator, to His desire for my life. Nothing else works.

I’ve wavered between simplicity and overwhelm. I’ve wanted one but felt trapped in the other. Until my body and mind said, “No more,” and I finally heard my spirit’s “feed me” cry, I lived constantly worn out and depressed.

Then I pursued — and found — a simple life. You can too. How?

  1. Learn the value of small steps. Educate. Try. Assess. Educate more. Try again and again and again.
  2. Learn to rest. Develop an appreciation for quietness. Realize that life doesn’t need to constantly be filled with noise and activity.
  3. Learn to say “No.” A quality “yes” only comes by saying “no.” We just can’t do anything well without letting other things go. Lisa TerKeurst addresses this well in her book The Best Yes.
  4. Learn the value of reading. Scripture first & often. Then, lots of positive and uplifting books that feed and inspire you. Refuse to say, “I can’t.” It’s an excuse to avoid the hard work. Reading trains your mind to think like nothing else can.
  5. Learn to prioritize. Most decisions involve good, better or best, not good or bad. Find out what’s most important, and make it the most important.

The simple life still comes as a struggle for me, but I’ve tasted it enough to know not to let it go. I’m holding on the best I can, often returning to what brought me there.

Listen to the clues. Slow down. Pursue balance. Step out of the chaos. Feed your soul. Struggle for simplicity. It’s worth the effort.

DISCUSSION: How do you struggle for simplicity?

5 Ways to Show Appreciation

Appreciation Word Art

October is Minister Appreciation Month. Designating a month to show appreciate to church leadership is a great idea, but it is unfortunate if that’s the only time appreciation is shown. It’s sort of like telling your spouse you love them only on Valentine’s Day.

And really, showing appreciation extends well beyond leadership. Everyone likes to be appreciated. If you say you don’t need it, you’re wrong. Receiving appreciation fuels a fire that helps people continue through tough times and to be ever better in good.

Since October is Minister Appreciation month, let’s use the ministers in my church as a framework for discussing ways to show appreciation to anyone at anytime.

How to Show Appreciation

Showing appreciation effectively involves connecting with who a person is and how that person unique impacts your life. This list provides ways of thinking about appreciation that will hopefully trigger ideas for showing appreciation regularly.

1. Make a personal connection.

“Few things can help an individual more than to place responsibility on him, and to let him know that you trust him.” ~ Booker T. Washington

Our Minister of Music also teaches choir at our Middle and High Schools. He’s a gifted vocal instructor for sure. Recently, he invited my oldest son to start playing keyboards on our church’s worship team. My son, a shy introvert, felt quite nervous and scared at first. But our worship leader helped him feel comfortable by giving him the level of responsibility that stretched him just a bit. And each time he plays, my son gets stretched a bit more. Slowly, our Minister of Music is increasing my son’s confidence. The patience he’s showing my son and the confidence he’s helping him gain means a tremendous amount to me, and I truly appreciate what he’s doing with and for my son.

Appreciate people for the ways they impact the areas that are most important to you.

2. Consider what you admire.

“I would rather be able to appreciate things I cannot have than to have things I am not able to appreciate.” ~ Elbert Hubbard

Often, what I admire in others involves a skill, talent or ability that I simple don’t possess. Take working with kids under the age of 10. I’ve tried it, and I just am not very good at it. The PreSchool Director at our church is gifted at working with kids. She shows seemingly unending patience with anything from discipline problems to toilet training to disputes among the kids. I truly admire not only her patience with them but her ability to get them to focus and actually learn too. She amazes me.

Appreciate people for what they can do so well that you cannot.

3. Acknowledge what inspires you.

“Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” ~ Voltaire

Some people simply inspire for having a servant’s heart. Our Missions Pastor is such a person. She always has a great attitude and is welcoming to anyone and everyone who walks through the doors of our church. She inspires me to be nicer and kinder and to have a better attitude toward serving.

Appreciate people for how they inspire you to be a better person.

4. Notice potential.

“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being.” ~ Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Our Youth Pastor holds tremendous leadership potential. He has grown so much over the past 5 years, and it’s exciting to see him becoming what God called him to be. Each time he preaches, he improves. Each time he organizes an event, it’s better than the last. He’s constantly learning and growing and improving. I appreciate his willingness to always be learning & growing.

Appreciate people for what you see them becoming.

5. Go with the obvious.

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

There’s so much to appreciate about our Senior Pastor.  He’s funny & compassionate. He’s known as a “grace pastor.” On a personal level, he takes the time to acknowledge when I do something and to help me see areas where I need to grow. He loves His kids and his family. His continually sparks something in me to want to shine brighter.

Appreciate people for the obvious differences they make in your life.

Regular Appreciation

“At the very least, do the very best… pray for them.” ~ Pastor Steve Miller

Appreciation should happen regularly, not just when a month or day comes up declaring a focus on appreciating someone. Scripture tells us part of our duty as Christians involves encouraging one another, and appreciation certainly does that. Take time this month to encourage & appreciate your ministers, but don’t stop there. Look for ways to regularly appreciate all the people in your life.

“Encourage each other and build each other up.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:11

DISCUSSION: What suggestions do you have for showing appreciation for others?

“I am thankful for…”

Wednesday’s post, Cultivating Thankfulness, provided some suggestions for encouraging a thankful attitude within your family.  Starting November 1st, my family and I kept a thankfulness journal with each of us listing something we are thankful for every day up until Thanksgiving Day. And, as promised, below are some of my favorite entries.

I am thankful to be working for a company that puts God & family first. – Daddy

I am thankful for an awesome youth group and a good time at youth convention. – Jonathan

I am thankful for my parents who love me. – Richard

I am thankful for my two sons who love Jesus. – Mommy

I am thankful for parents who taught me the value of hard work. – Daddy

I am thankful for Godly parents. – Jonathan

I am thankful for parents that love me and punish me even if it hurts really bad. – Richard

I am thankful that my parents took me to church when I was growing up. – Mommy

I am thankful for an encouraging run group. – Daddy

I am thankful for a dad who makes good pancakes. – Jonathan

I am thankful for a dad who makes good food. – Richard

I am thankful for clothes to wear and food to eat. – Mommy

DISCUSSION: As you can see, thankfulness doesn’t have to be complicated or elaborate. Cultivating a thankful heart is about appreciating the small things as much as the big. What are you thankful for?