Archive for the “Simplicity” Category

One day last week I was thinking about what we were to have for lunch and dinner that day. On our menu was rice and beans. Quite frankly, I was getting a little tired of that entrée! We bought ourselves a rice cooker for Christmas last year and we eat a lot of whole grain rice. I like rice and we make it lots of different ways…but we frequently make enough to last several days. Sometimes we make just the rice and doctor it up with other ingredients after it’s cooked, giving lots of opportunity for variety. Other times we dump all the ingredients in the rice cooker and eat the same thing for a couple of days in a row. Somehow we ended up with many meals of rice and beans. It was tasty and nutritious. It had just become boring.

The same thing happens with oatmeal or other whole-grain hot cereals we make in the cooker. So I was probably facing a breakfast of oatmeal and a lunch of rice and beans and a dinner of…something equally unexciting. (I’m not complaining, just reporting what life was like last week.) The truth is that I was bored with the food we were eating. Now don’t feel sorry for us. We cook tasty, heart-healthy meals sometimes, but when we get busy we revert to lots of leftovers. And there are many in this world for whom a daily meal of rice and beans would be a treat.

I remember very specifically walking down the stairs thinking about what we would be having for lunch and God spoke into my mind: “Not every bite needs to be a vacation in your mouth!” Hmmmm….. It got me thinking.

Many of us in America are so blessed – we can buy just about any food we want to eat whenever we want to eat it. As a nation we’ve learned that we like rich foods and really greasy foods, and it’s why our obesity rate is so high. Nearly one third of adults in the US are obese. (Yes, I am among them.) And the prevalence of obesity in adults has more than doubled in the last forty years, most of the increase occurring in the last twenty years.

I like rich, creamy foods. My favorite food (well, dessert actually) is cheese cake. My second favorite food is pizza. With lots of cheese. But God, with his one line instruction, has helped me to begin to think about food differently.

As I meditated on God’s message to me, I began to reflect on my life in general. Newsflash: Not everything I do during the day is a vacation! Instead, I work hard most days of the year so that I can enjoy a relatively few days of vacation every year. Generally, less than five percent of my days are vacation days. I don’t think I’ve ever reached ten percent in a year. Do I think that’s a lifestyle that honors God? Yes. Vacations are good for recharging our batteries, reconnecting with our families and just generally having fun, but God’s Word clearly honors working diligently.

So if about five percent of my life is spent in vacation mode, why should I view food any differently? Why should I think it honors God to eat rich foods at every meal? Why should I think it honors God to even expect “vacations in my mouth” many times a day? Or even once a week for that matter?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that healthy, nutritious meals shouldn’t taste good, but there’s a difference between a healthy-tasty meal and a rich, creamy vacation-tasty meal.

A few days after God spoke to me, I read Proverbs 23:

1 When you sit to dine with a ruler,
note well what is before you,

2 and put a knife to your throat
if you are given to gluttony.

3 Do not crave his delicacies,
for that food is deceptive.

Proverbs 23:1-3

I imagine a king’s table as a buffet with lots of “vacation” bites on it. Perfectly cooked meats in rich sauces. Desserts that fill your mouth before melting away. Maybe a good salad to cleanse the pallet before reaching for another vacation bite.

God says that when you sit to dine with a king, make a note of the food before you and control your eating. He goes on to say “do not crave his delicacies” because the “food is deceptive.” The food is deceptive in that it doesn’t increase our strength, as God designed it to, but it bogs us down and makes us lethargic. What God has created and provided for our health and strength, we have made into delicacies that rob us of both. The food is deceptive.

Lord, forgive me for tasting and craving the delicacies that do not give life. Forgive me for wanting every bite to be a vacation! Help me to discipline my eating habits in a way that brings You honor.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day and most of us will indulge in comfort foods from our childhood. I’m looking forward to the stuffing and gravy and pumpkin pie. Enjoy! It is a vacation day! But be mindful on Friday that yesterday was one of your five or ten percent days – the vacation days for your taste buds – and not every bite needs to be a vacation in your mouth!

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As our church prepares to participate corporately in an extended fast, several things have been rattling around in my brain:

As we sample from the buffet of life, the more we eat of those things that have no nutritional value, the less room we have for the things that will nourish us.

Of course this applies to real eating – the more ice cream and cake I eat the less room I have for veggies & fruit. But it also applies to all of life’s activities. The more mindless TV I watch, the less time I have for reading or exercising. Now I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with ice cream and cake or even mindless TV. I’m just saying a steady diet of them makes us fat and weak, both physically and spiritually. And if we partake of those things FIRST, we close the door to those other things that can bring us great joy. Lord, help me to make good choices.

    “So don’t worry about having enough food or drink or clothing. Why be like the pagans who are so deeply concerned about these things? Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.
     “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
               Matthew 6:31-34 (NLT)

If we focus on what we’re giving up instead of what we’re gaining we’ll never be happy.

Which would you rather have – a life of contentment or a life of lack? You can have either life from the same circumstances. Again, I’m not saying that there isn’t real lack in some of our lives. But for most of us, we have a house in which to live, enough food to eat and people who love us. I want my focus to be on those blessings, not on what I lack. As we look toward the fast, I can look at things I might be giving up and feel bad about that, or I can look at what I hope to gain and be excited for things to come. Our culture is so acclimated to looking at what we don’t have and wanting bigger, better and more. Lord, help me to be content with You and not long for all those other things.

for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
              Philippians 4:11b-12

One of the purposes of fasting is to strip away all the things that grab our attention and turn it away from God – to help us realize that He is the source of every good and perfect gift and to be content.

Whatever is good and perfect comes to us from God above, who created all heaven’s lights. Unlike them, he never changes or casts shifting shadows. In his goodness he chose to make us his own children by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his choice possession.
               James 1:17-18

This morning I’ve been humming a song we sang in worship yesterday…

I will wait…I will wait for the Lord. How good is the Lord, to those whose hope is in Him.
I will wait…and let God be God. I will wait, I will wait for the Lord.

(Thanks, Pastor Larry, for writing it.)

Be blessed, all!

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Writing about Christmas being 6 weeks away has really gotten me thinking.

I truly believe that busyness causes me to lose so much in life. Busyness is good – when it is being busy with the right things and when it is balanced with regular times of rest. With the Christmas season coming upon us, may I challenge you to be sure your life is busy with the right things and balanced with regular times of rest? If it is not, the season will rush past you in a blur and you will not enjoy it’s wonder. You will miss what God has for you.

Busy with the Right Things
Do you know what God has called you to? Some things are a given.

  • You are called to have a deep relationship with God.
  • You are called to meet your family obligations.
  • If you are married, you have a responsibility to continually strengthen your marriage relationship.
    • If you have children, you are called to love them, care for them and teach them God’s ways.
    • You have a responsibility to honor your parents. If they are alive, that means your schedule will probably include spending time with them.
  • You are called to serve God in some way. That’s a very broad calling. If you are married and/or have children, part of your service to God is your service to your family. If your family requires much time, you will have little additional time to serve God in other ways. Don’t allow any internal or external pressure to cause you to serve God outside your family if it means sacrificing your relationship with Him or your family.
  • You are called to be an active part of the local Body of Christ. That means setting aside time to join with other believers to worship and serve God.

All other activities are secondary. Some secondary activities are important. Some just seem important. Ask God for wisdom to be able to tell which is which.

Balanced with Regular Times of Rest
If you do not set aside regular times of rest, you will be unable to enjoy the wonder of God. The Christmas season is all about wonder. The wonder of a newborn child. The wonder of a God who would step down from the heavens to be with us. Even the wonder of nature as snow falls in large flakes against the dark sky (at least in this part of the country). If you rush through it, you will miss the wonder. And that’s missing a lot!

So look at your calendars for the next six weeks. Be sure it reflects times of busyness and times of rest – in the right proportion. Then enjoy the season!

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Last Wednesday evening we studied Paul’s pastoral epistles — his letters to Timothy and Titus. As the pastor was giving an overview of the three letters, I found myself distracted by the content of the letters! (Being distracted by the Word of God — what a great thing!)

What caught my attention is that the Apostle Paul presented the Gospel in nine of the thirteen chapters of these three books. I was amazed by this. Remember the setting. Paul is writing to leaders of churches, men he had discipled and set in place as pastors. Paul calls both Timothy and Titus “my true son” in the faith (1 Tim 1:2, Titus 1:4). Undoubtedly these men know the Gospel message. Undoubtedly Paul knows that these men know it. Yet Paul repeats it ten times in thirteen chapters.

The question I have to ask is “Why?”

  • To encourage himself? (Remember, he was in prison and soon to be executed)
  • To encourage Timothy and Titus? (They were young and had their share of struggles)
  • To reinforce the many facets of the Gospel? (watch for a future post on this)
  • Because he was consumed by it — it was what he lived and breathed?

It was probably a combination of all of these, but as we discussed this discovery at the end of the study, we concluded that the most prominent reason was probably because he was consumed by it. Paul lived and breathed the Gospel.

I love to watch interviews between secular media and Billy Graham. He very naturally includes the Gospel message in almost every answer. I watch amazed that he can do it so frequently without coming across as preachy or avoiding the questions. Politicians put forth the same message but it’s often at the expense of answering the question. Billy Graham was able to answer questions while including the Gospel.

The same was true of the Apostle Paul. I want to say “it’s their gift.” But I think that’s a copout. I think it’s much more like that they were/are more consumed with the Gospel than I am. I want my passion to be as Paul’s:

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:7-11, NIV

Paul says he considers everything in this life that he might otherwise have considered of value rubbish! And that what he wants is only to know Christ. I’m not there. I am not consumed with Christ as I’d like to be. There’s still way too much rubbish in my life!

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I have this recurring theme in my mind…simplify, uncomplicate, rest…

Yet the world is screaming “more, more, more.”

I’ve begun a new venture…we’re adding a book publishing capability to Data Designs, in part because writing books is something I’ve always wanted to do and my dad’s death kind of pushed it to the forefront (but that’s a long story that would lead to complicating this blog!).

One of the books I want to write is about honoring the Sabbath and as I meditate on the subject, I think it has a whole “uncomplicating life” component to it…hence, the recurring mantra in my head.

It’s just that I can’t quite get there…

Anyway, today I’m researching some topics that it feels like the rest of the world knows about and I’m stupid about. RSS Feeds and Feed Readers is one of those topics. The problem is that everywhere I end up I find nothing but overwhelming details about way too many options describing features that I’m not knowledgeable enough to compare. (How important is that feature compared to this other feature?)

My point…admittedly made in quite a round-about, complicated way…is that life offers so many options these days that we are constantly being barraged with “opportunities” to enhance our lives. And for each opportunity, as I see it we’re faced with three options: Ignore all of them, evaluate each one of them, or evaluate only those that have been created by someone who knows how to write a great grab-your-attention headline. I hate those choices! I guess what I want is a great personal assistant who will evaluate all of them and only forward the great ones to me! 🙂

But life doesn’t work that way for most of us. Most of us have to make our own choices.
It occurs to me, though, that the Holy Spirit really is (or can be) our personal assistant. Now don’t get upset at that sentence…I mean no disrespect whatsoever. But Scripture says that the Holy Spirit will lead and guide us. And while He will clearly lead and guide us into spiritual Truths, He can also help us “number our days aright,” (Psalm 90:12, NIV). Isn’t that what I’m really looking for? Someone to help me make right decisions about even the most mundane (or technical) of issues.

The problem (or at least ONE of the problems) is that I often forget to ask for help. I often get bogged down in the details and begin to feel like I have to make a decision. And if ever there was wrong thinking, that’s it. Thinking that I’m responsible for everything in my life. God never intended it that way. Yes, I’m to be responsible for my actions, but He never intended me to go it alone. He truly wants to be a part of all the decisions, whether they seem to have “spiritual” implications or not…because when all is said and done, everything has spiritual implications.

I’d like to make a renewed commitment to asking the Holy Spirit to help me “number my days aright” — beginning with time with God and continuing all the way through to the decisions about which DSL speed to upgrade to. Care to join me?

Comment from dansdesk
Great thoughts! I have two comments: one spiritual and the other not so much. I, too struggle with asking for the Spirit’s help in the simplest to the most complex of decisions. Several recent studies reinforce the need to do that. In Just Walk Across the Room, Bill Hybels emphasizes that we need need to begin conversations, take an interest in people, and then let the Spirit guide us. That assumes that our relationship with God is good enough to hear the Spirit.My more practical comment is that I’ve developed a system in how to decide what new things things I need to research or do. I never go cutting edge on anything — technology, ministry, theology, fads, etc. I let the dust settle, the bugs to be worked out, the systems in place, and the prices to go down. RSS is actually rather simple now at least compared to what it used to be. Those are my two cents. Have a great day. Keep writing and I’ll buy a book of yours but I would expect it to be autographed! Dan
Tuesday October 9, 2007 – 09:28am (EDT)

Response from Sandy
Great advice. We agree…never buy totally cutting edge. Version 1.0 never works well. :-)And your spiritual advice is right on…but how easy it is for us to fall into the trap of forgetting to have the conversation with God on the mundane stuff. Lord, lead me out of my self-sufficiency, even in (or especially in) areas where I could be self-sufficient.Be blessed! And thanks for your comments and I’ll hold you to your promise to buy the book! 🙂
Saturday October 13, 2007 – 03:24pm (EDT)

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