A Path to Simplicity – Day #3

@JordanGTM on Twitter and Instagam#3. Develop a habit for giving things away.

Take a moment to honestly reflect on how much you acquire and compare it to how much you give away. The season of Christmas is coming upon us, what can you give away this Christmas?

Allow me to share with you a story from my family. My family has never been the formal gift giving family. To be honest, I don’t know if I have ever bought a Christmas gift for an immediate family member. Last Christmas we decided that we, as a family, would put money together to purchase and prepare a care package/hamper for another family living within our city. Everyone contributed with their finances and their time. On one cold, snowy Winnipeg afternoon our family got in the van and went off to deliver the hamper.

There is a feeling of liberation when you learn to give without expectation. Start with giving something away this Christmas, and continue on to make it a habit.

Take a moment to chew on this quote, it is a little sobering…

“Masses of things that are not needed complicate life. They must be sorted and stored and dusted and re-sorted and re-stored ad nauseam. Most of us could get rid of half our possessions without any serious sacrifice.” – Foster

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A Path to Simplicity – Day #2

@JordanGTM on Instagram & Twitter

#2. Reject anything producing addiction in you. 

We need to draw a distinct line between our needs and our wants. Addiction is rampant in our society, addictions that are common and detrimental include sex, alcohol, pornography and media. While some of these things can be beneficial in the proper context, when they are the root of addiction they cause nothing but hardship.

Not sure if your addicted to something? To figure it out watch for undisciplined compulsions in your behaviour. In the following paragraph Foster recalls a conversation from his past:

“A student friend told me about one morning when he went out to get his newspaper and found it missing. He panicked, wondering how he could possibly start the day without the newspaper. Then he noticed a morning paper in his neighbour’s yard, and he began to plot how he could sneak over and steal it. Immediately he realized that he was dealing with a genuine addiction. He rushed inside and called the newspaper office to cancel his subscription. The receptionist, obviously filling out a form, ask courteously, ‘Why are you cancelling your subscription to the newspaper?’ My friend blurted out, “Because I’m addicted!” Undaunted, the receptionist replied, ‘Would you like to cancel your entire subscription or would you like to keep the Sunday edition?’ to which he exclaimed, ‘No, I’m going cold turkey!'”

In our day addiction may manifest itself in many different forms. It could be your iPhone, your Facebook page, Twitter account, it could even be taking pictures for the sole purpose of Instagraming them. Remember an undisciplined compulsion is sign of an addiction and an addiction is something beyond your control. By nature, will power is useless in defeating addiction. Open this area of your life up to God and up to those around you, experience the liberation associated with combatting addiction.

“Simplicity is freedom, not slavery. Refuse to be a slave to anything but God.” – Foster

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A Path to Simplicity – Day #1

Hipsters Ballons
#1. Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status.

This is a hard one to choke down… Not exactly starting the path on easy footing. However, the message here is simple; too often we buy things based solely on the perception of others. This extends into all areas of life, including but not limited to: housing, transportation and clothing. It is also important to think about quantity here, how much of something are you buying, and for what purpose?

Stop trying to impress people with your clothes and impress them with your life.” – Foster

Something admirable that I have noticed among societies “hipster” subculture is the trend of shopping at thrift stores. I have a few friends who frequent places like the Salvation Army and Value Village and buy clothes that are cheap and still useful. Regardless of the initial motivation in thrifting, it is a step in the right direction.

As John Wesley put it: “As… for apparel, I buy the most lasting and, in general, the plainest I can. I buy no furniture but what is necessary and cheap.”

I admit once more, I come to you as a hypocrite. I am honestly guilty as could be when it comes to buying for status. On the bright side, they say admittance is the first step to change, right?

Take this suggestion and think about where you can apply it in your life, for tomorrow brings a new challenge…

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A Path to Simplicity – Introduction

A Path to Simplicity

I have a task for you, are you willing to take it up? For the next ten days I will be posting recommendations on how to live simply. However, before I can provide any insight on how to live simply we must define what simple living is, and why it is necessary.

Pertaining to our first question; we live in a much too complex society. Eccles. 7:30 (JB) says: “God made man simple; man’s complex problems are of his own devising.” Our lives reek of silly problems, ‘drama’ and an unprecedented shallowness. Perhaps the most worrying issue related to our self-imposed complexity is our uncontrollable attachment to ‘things.’

“We buy things we do not want, to impress people we do not like.” – Arthur G. Gish

Relating to this point, Richard Foster said: “Where planned obsolescence leaves off, psychological obsolescence takes over. We are made to feel ashamed to wear clothes or drive cars until they are worn out. The mass media have convinced us that to be out of step with fashion is to be out of step with reality. It is time we awaken to the fact that conformity to a sick society is to be sick.

I’m sure you can agree with me when I say that our society is, in the truest nature of the word, sick.

Now, I am not about to ask you to become an ascetic, it is important to remember that God intends that we should have adequate material provision, however when our value of material possessions extends beyond our value of a relationship with God, our sick conformity becomes all the more apparent.

Now on to our second question, why is simple living necessary? Simple living is necessary because without a system of checks and balances in place we will inevitably fall into a routine pattern of abject materialism.

Matthew 6:25-33 provides some insight into material possessions. Verse 33 concludes by saying: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” Concluding from the statements in this passage we must understand that our primary concern should not be “what am I going to wear?”, “what am I going to eat?” and so on but rather our primary concern in life should be that ‘His kingdom and His righteousness’ are manifested in our lives.

Our excessive amount of ‘stuff’ has become our greatest distraction from truly seeking God. In order to dig ourselves out of this pit of lavish depravity, Richard Foster has outlined 10 steps to simplistic living. Foster is quick to point out that these 10 steps are not laws but rather suggestions so that we, those caught up in a fast paced materialistic culture, can reevaluate our priorities and put God first in our lives.

Now, if you have no interest in Christ I still would like to encourage you to undertake this simple living challenge. You will find that simple living will benefit you financially, physically, emotionally and inevitably spiritually.

Over the next 10 days I will give a paraphrase of Foster’s suggestions and my interpretation of them. I hope you will join me for the ride.

Now, lastly, and most importantly. I will let you know that I am writing as a hypocrite. I echo the words of Paul found in Romans 7:15: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Materialism is a problem for me just as much as the next person in our society. However, the first step in combatting our sickness is learning that there is alternative ways of doing life.

Once again, this is not, by any means, a call to asceticism. It’s just an invitation to doing things differently, to get our priorities straight and to seek God through one of the most tangible ways, our possessions.

* This post you have just read is simply a paraphrase of the aforementioned Foster. I strongly encourage you to read Foster’s The Celebration of Discipline which can be ordered here, you can also find a copy at your local used bookstore. This book will provide a full version of Foster’s 10 suggestions to simple living.
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Did you know that if this post was more than 600 words you probably wouldn’t read it in its entirety? As is, you probably clicked on this link thinking that you would just skim the article, but now that I’ve called you out on it, I hope you will stay until the end.

So why don’t we usually read articles in their entirety? It’s the same reason we don’t shovel our neighbours driveway and the same reason we don’t volunteer at local charities. Simply put, WE ARE BUSY. 

Try this, search your iPhone for the word ‘busy’. You are about to be shocked at how many of your conversations contain that word and the context in which they contain it. But before we go any further, I must admit, I’m just as guilty.

The fact is, most of us are living filled yet unfulfilled lives.

In his book Making All Things New, Henri Nouwen said: “Being busy has become a status symbol. People expect us to be busy and to have many things on our minds.” Our society has already come to accept that we all have packed schedules, something to do and someplace to be, constantly. In trying to find a way to combat this reoccurring excuse, I have boiled down the idea of busyness to one statement: if you care for it, you will make time for it. That’s it, that’s all.

But wait, I want to touch on the idea of living unfulfilled. Nouwen said: “The great paradox of our time is that many of us are busy and bored at the same time.” This is a great danger. When we begin to fill our time with cheap, meaningless things we find ourselves busy, always on the run, yet bored and ultimately unfulfilled. Life is about finding those things which fulfill us, there is nothing wrong with having a filled life, but be sure you are filled and fulfilled. Consider the following quote,

“Jesus does not speak about a change of activities, a change in contacts,
or even a change of pace. He speaks about a change of heart.”
– Nouwen

 Be filled, sure. But remember, be consistently fulfilled in Christ.

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The Dark Night of the Soul

In 1578 St. John of the Cross wrote a poem entitled The Dark Night of the Soul. John’s poem talks about the painful growth of the spiritual life and the times of dryness and loneliness that are often experienced by followers of Christ.

Our North American Evan-jellish-fish Church-ianity tells us that our spiritual life should be a constant celebration of joy, luxury and serenity, however these teachings are not realistic. Anyone who has pursued Christ with any degree of seriousness can attest to the fact that the road it tough and sometimes cracked and dry. These times of dryness are not punishments, they are not times of abandonment by God but they are a way that God brings us closer to himself so that he may “work an inner transformation of our soul.”

We need to develop a new way of thinking concerning spiritual dryness. I believe that Richard Foster in his book The Celebration of Discipline paints a beautiful picture of ‘the Dark Night’ and how we should react to it. Read on…

“When God lovingly draws us into a dark night of the soul, there is often a temptation to seek release from it and to blame everyone and everything for our inner dullness. The preacher is such a bore. The hymn singing is too weak. The worship service is so dull. We may begin to look around for another church or a new experience to give us “spiritual goose bumps.” This is a serious mistake. Recognize the dark night for what it is. Be grateful that God is lovingly drawing you away from every distraction so that you can see him clearly. Rather than chafing and fighting, become still and wait.”

Perhaps you are experiencing a time of spiritual dryness right now, if so, I encourage you to press on. Continue on in perseverance, righteousness and prayer. Your time of dryness is not a punishment, be sure to “hold in your heart a deep, inner, listening silence, and there be still until the work of solitude is done.” Your dryness doesn’t last forever, however your reaction to dryness can forever change you, if you allow it to.

Who among you fears the LORD
and obeys the voice of his servant,
who walks in darkness 
and has no light,
yet trusts in the name of the LORD
and relies upon his God?

– Isa. 50:10 (emp. added)


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Read Books Often

I found this image on Pinterest today (stop right there, quit judging me for being a male Pinterest user and then continue to read on) and found it to be ridiculously awesome. Being an English major I have throughly studied the works from Romantic and Victorian England and I truly appreciate the image of the gentleman. If you are interested, Charles Dickens book Great Expectations documents the journey of a young man and his evolution into a gentleman, it is quite good. Leaving the conversation of a gentleman to another post, I want to bring you back to the image here and I want to draw your attention to the bullet point that reads: “Read Books Often.”

Now, in recent years I have started to enjoy reading books. Before I go to sleep each night I get my fair share of reading in. Although my reading years are few I believe I have learned something along the way that can serve as a beneficial reminder to us all: one should not read books, simply to read books.

To read for the sake of reading is no different than eating for the sake of eating. Just as food serves the purpose of fulfilling hunger, your reading should serve a purpose as well. Reading, fiction in particular, may be read as for the purpose of release or escape, working in same way that television does for many. Reading also serves the purpose of conveying knowledge, people write books believing that they have knowledge to impart on their readers, in the same way you pick up a book believing that the author has some sort of knowledge that you may gleam. Now, I pray you, do not read simply to say “I have read ‘x book’.” If we look at reading as a conquest then we truly miss the beauty behind the written word.

When I read I do so with a highlighter and pen in hand. I highlight passages that stand out to me and I jot down any thoughts that I may feel are important or that may summarize a passage. I then use these notes that I have made to reference the book in the future. I love looking through a book I once read and to see what stood out to me during the time I spent reading it.  In the same way, those passages that you mark up and highlight stand out to your mind, I’m no Psychology student but I can assure you that you will remember those highlighted passages and that the wisdom portrayed to you through the pages of the book will stick with you for future recall or application.

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers” – Harry S. Truman

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