Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Celebration of Discipline- Simplicity

A few years ago, I wrote a post about the book Celebration of Discipline, focusing on the chapter about Simplicity. As I have "matured" over the past few years (still have a LONG way to go though!), it has a whole new meaning to me, and I would like to share some things about it.

True, inward simplicity can bring a deeper relationship with Christ, freedom from fear and anxiety, and the ability to let go of things so that others can use them.
To live simply brings freedom. To live simply brings joy and balance. "The Christian Discipline of simplicity is an inward reality that results in an outward life-style." If we attempt to the have outward life-style of simplicity, but don't possess the inward reality, then that will lead to legalism. True, inward simplicity should only lead to freedom.
This book was written originally in 1978, so the things that our culture has to fight through have only grown. The new blackberries, big screen digital t.v.'s, new laptops, etc have brought more bondage than ever before. How can we get out of that bondage? Simply learn to live without it!!

Richard Foster says that we have to put God's kingdom first, even before living a simple lifestyle, or we don't truly have the inward reality of simplicity. "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or What shall we drink? or What shall we wear? For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." Matthew 6:25-33 (ESV, different translation than what he used in the book).

If we don't understand that the whole point of simplicity is to seek His kingdom first, then we don't have the inward reality of simplicity, and what we do is legalistic. We seek His kingdom first, then everything else will work out. "Nothing must come before the kingdom of God, including the desire for a simple life-style. Simplicity itself becomes idolatry when it takes precendence over seeking the kingdom of God."
"As Jesus made clear in our central passage, freedom from anxiety is one of the inward evidences of seeking first the kingdom of God. The inward reality of simplicity involves a life of joyful unconcern for possessions."

I, over the years, have really struggled with anxiety. I have always lived in fear of the "what ifs." I am slowly learning that if I just put His kingdom first, everything else will just fall into place. The inward reality of simplicity is truly, slowly happening in my heart. I believe that it is a process. It won't happen overnight.

The three inner attitudes of simplicity are:
1) To receive what we have as a gift from God. We don't earn our money, God provides for our needs.
2) To know that it is God's business, and not ours, to care for what we have (and this includes children!!!!). God provided everything, he will take care of everything much better than we ever could on our own. Put everything, including your family, in His hands.
3) To have our goods available to others. Since nothing that we have is our own, it should always be available to others. This is a hard one for me, but I'm getting there!!

The inner reality is a true reality when there is an outward expression.
The outer attitudes of simplicity:
1) "Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status." Buy cars, clothes, toys, houses, everything, for what you need, and no other reason. Don't pay attention to what others think, or what you think they will think. All of our furniture, t.v., etc were given to us (by different people). They may not all match, but they work! There's no reason to buy a new couch when we have one that works perfectly fine!
2) "Reject anything that is producing an addiction in you." Non-nutritional drinks- coffee, soda, etc. Media (the ones I'm typing have some new things added in)- cell phones, computers, ipods, magazines, movies, books, etc. "Simplicity is freedom, not slavery. Refuse to be a slave to anything but God." "How can you discern an addiction? Very simply, you watch for undisciplined compulsions." Personally, there are a few things that have produced an addiction in me. I am slowly weeding through these things, but I have one big one left. The internet!! I need it for work, but that's about it. I have dumped a website that I used to be "addicted to," (Cafemom) so that helps, but I need to do better.
3) "Develop a habit of giving things away." Robert and I plan to go through Karis' toys, old clothes, our clothes, and other things, and give most of them away. I can't wait til we do this!! I totally know that the clutter just brings anxiety; it will feel good to de-clutter, and be apart of God's work. Giving things that we don't need anymore, to people in need, is exactly the point.
4) "Refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modern gadgetry." Do you really need the newest model i-Phone? Do you really need a new computer, even though yours works just fine? Do you really need a big screen t.v.? Luckily, this one has never been hard for us :). We have one t.v. that was given to us, and it's nothing special. We don't even watch it much anymore. We both also have the simplest cell phones available, with the lowest plan available. We even have dial up internet (that I'm thinking we need to get rid of!) :). It really does bring freedom to not feel like we have to have those things. I truly think that needs to fall under the addiction category also.
5) "Learn to enjoy things without owning them." Parks, the beach, the library, etc.
6) "Develop a deeper appreciation for the creation." Not only does being outside make you feel better in every way, you can see God in everything outside: the beauty, the texture, the color, the smell. His beauty is everywhere.
7) "Look with a healthy skepticism at all 'buy now, pay later' schemes. They are a TRAP and only DEEPEN YOUR BONDAGE." I can speak from experience that debt brings BONDAGE. You don't NEED a credit card to "develop your credit." What do you need credit for anyway? Learn to save up for things that you want, or just don't buy them!
8) "Obey Jesus' instructions about plain, honest speech." If you mean yes, then say yes; if you mean no, then say no. Make a decision and stick with it. Be honest and full of integrity.
9) "Reject anything that breeds the oppression of others."
10) Shun anything that distracts you from seeking first the kingdom of God.

What are some things that you can do to live simply? Where do you fit in this? Have you come to a place of knowledge that God is the owner and provider of all? That He has the best ability to care for the things that we have? Do you have your things available to others? If not, maybe it's not time to focus on the outward expressions, but the inward expressions. The outward expressions will follow when you've come to an inward reality.

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