The Key to the Simple Life is: More

In case you haven’t noticed, we are living in a world of weary people. Folks desire the simple life but, instead, find themselves striving and stressed. Ironically, this seems to be most apparent during this season of peace and good will toward men. We think it is necessary to buy everyone the perfect present. We have to make great grandma’s Christmas candy and it just won’t be Christmas unless we put out every single decoration and lighted whatnot that we own. coffee

Maybe, you think you’re just stressed because of the season and, when it’s over, you’ll be okay. You forget that you were just as dissatisfied with the way life was going back in July as you are now.

The problem you’re having is nothing new. The struggle for fulfillment is pretty much the theme of Ecclesiastes. King Solomon was the richest, wisest, and most accomplished man around and he had this to say about life.

All things are full of weariness; – Ecclesiastes 1:8

He was weary with his life.

the eye is not satisfied with seeing, not the ear filled with hearing. – Ecclesiastes 1:8

He was unsatisfied and struggled with contentment.

there is nothing new under the sun. – Ecclesiastes 1:9

He was bored.

See, nothing much has changed. If we are honest, we tend to be a weary, unsatisfied, bored people.

Maybe you feel that way. You go through the daily tasks. You do what you are supposed to do. But, at the end of the day, you just feel like you’re missing something. Life seems complicated and you long for something, well, less. Something simple. The irony is that, in your search for simple, you add more stuff. You think you need more organization, so you buy a new app for your smart phone. Nothing says simple like something homemade so you pull out the cook books looking for something. Forget the fact that cooking stresses you out.

You think you need to read another book.

Follow another blog.

Find another hobby.

Before you know it, your search for simple has become anything but simple.

Believe me, I know. I have been seeking simple for months. I haven’t completely found it, but I did discover a huge clue right here in the book of Ecclesiastes.

I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after the wind. – Ecclesiastes 1:14

All is vanity. Fleeting. Here today and gone tomorrow.

Striving after the wind. Grasping for things we can’t keep. Desperately reaching for things only to have them slip through our fingers.

The key words in that verse, however, are under the sun.

All of the above descriptions (weary, unsatisfying, boring, vain) describe a life lived under the sun. This is a phrase used to describe a life lived apart from God or his leading. Solomon wasn’t saying that all of life was vanity and striving. He was saying that all life lived apart from God was vanity and striving.

So, what was missing? King Solomon had wealth and women and fame and education and possessions. He had everything that he could provide for himself and, yet, something was missing. There was this elusive thing which he could not give to himself.

JOY.

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment. – Ecclesiastes 2:24-25

A life lived apart from God is an exhausted and unfulfilled life.

The first step to a simple life is to replace our striving with joy. And, oddly enough, the key to the simple life is more. More of him.

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy. – Psalm 16:11

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I’m working on a January series for the blog called Seeking Simple. Each week, I will look at a different area of our lives that needs simplified and, hopefully, give some practical tips that will help. I’m still working on it so, if there is a particular area of life you would like addressed, send me a note – servantslife (at) gmail (dot) com –  or leave a comment on this post.

For the weary with work left to do…

IMG_0089I stared at the jar of peanut butter and the bare slices of bread and thought, I just can’t do it. To make lunch seemed to require more energy than I had at that moment. I was more than tired. It wasn’t a simple lack of sleep. I was weary – in body, mind and soul.

I’m sure you have been there. Maybe, you are there now.

Life is so difficult, y’all. It sure can cause a gal to grow weary. The Lord knew this to be true.

Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. – Matthew 11:28

Weary and burdened. I’m sure you know all about some burdens.

Financial struggles?

Family drama?

Medical issues?

Lost loved ones?

Broken relationships?

Anyone? Yeah, me too. Here’s the thing. The Lord doesn’t say, “Come to me and I will fix the problem at hand.” Now, he may very well fix it. That, however, is not our immediate need. We may think it is but He knows better. This world is broken and we will always have trials and temptations. Jesus knows that we need rest more than we need a quick fix. 20120920-011548.jpg

The Greek word translated “rest” in this verse is anapauō. (I’ll try to refrain from the corny “it’s all Greek to me” joke. The pronunciation, however, is ä-nä-pau-‘ō.) It’s really a great word with a great definition.

to cause or permit one to cease from any movement or labour in order to recover and collect his strength

We don’t give ourselves permission to stop. We know there is always another load of laundry that could be done. There are those pesky cobwebs hanging from the ceiling and fingerprints on the windows. There is always something that needs to be done. So, why does the Lord insist that we come to Him for rest? He wants to give us the permission that we will not give ourselves – permission to just stop for a moment. 

Stop.

You have permission to watch cartoons with your kids this morning.

You have permission to sit on the porch and drink your coffee.

You have permission to turn on the radio and dance in the kitchen.

You have permission to laugh.

You have permission to breathe.

You have permission to recover from whatever has been weighing you down.

You have permission to regain your strength.

The Lord gives you that permission that you have been denying yourself.

And that work that you still have left to do? It will still be there tomorrow. 

Bible Study Tips for Beginners and Busy Believers

It’s a  whispered plea for energy as a baby cries in the middle of the night.  It’s the weary body in need of an extra dose of grace to make it through the midnight hours. It’s a request to reveal the significance of the seemingly insignificant.  It’s a need to see the purpose behind the apparently menial and never-ending tasks.breakfast dishesIt’s a wounded heart elbow deep in soapy water seeking just a moment of peace in the midst of an otherwise chaotic life.

It’s the desperate prayer for more hours in the day to handle the career, the home, and the family.

For a weary mom, this is often the extent of her time with God.  It has become a muttered request under her breath as she moves from one activity to another.  It is a desire to spend time with Him mixed with the shame of not knowing how to make the time.  If this sounds like you, please know that you are not alone.

Embrace your current season.

I remember well the days when I could spend an hour, maybe two, at my kitchen table with my Bible and journal. I could spend uninterrupted moments lost in a Beth Moore Bible study.

These days, the most time I have sitting in one place is in the bathroom and, let’s be honest, I’m usually not alone. (Is that TMI? So sorry.)

In-depth studies may not work for you right now.  Choose a short devotional that can be read while the kids are eating breakfast.  Or, don’t laugh, keep it in a basket in the bathroom.  Find five minutes.  Then, when you realize you do actually have five minutes, go for ten.  You’ll find, if you make the effort, God will help reveal extra time in your day.  Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young, is a great devotional option.

Take small bites.

Every January, people all over begin the read-through-the-Bible in a year thing.  There is nothing wrong with this endeavor.  I have done it myself.  (Okay, who am I kidding? I usually tap out somewhere around Numbers.) But, here is a potential problem with it.  Depending on the season you are currently in, you may not have time or energy to read two and a half chapters every day.  And, if you do, you probably won’t get much out of it.  Then, guilt sets in.  The last thing in the world a tired mama needs is guilt.

So, pick a book and read through it slowly.  If you only have time to meditate on one verse – then just read one verse.  Take that one verse with you throughout the day.  You will be surprised at what God will reveal to you.

scripture doodle PinDoodle your thoughts.

I laugh when I look at my old journals. Pages and pages of scriptural analysis and all the details of my latest drama. There is nothing wrong with that. I love reading those thoughts and seeing the truths that got me through different situations.

What if you do not have time for that now? What if you only have time for the scantest of notes before the toddler is finished with her pop tart and demands your attention? Doodle your thoughts. I’m serious. Key phrases, little pictures – you will be amazed at how much fun it is and how meaningful those doodles can be to you.

Learn the power of a Post-It note prayer.

Say it with me, “Post-It notes are our friends.”  How many times have you told someone you would pray for them?  Now, how many times have you actually prayed for that person?  Let’s face it, the best of intentions get all tangled up in meal planning, errand running, church activities and life.

For months, I had a Post-It note on my bathroom mirror with the name of a sweet friend battling ovarian cancer. Every morning, when I brushed my teeth, there was her name reminding me to stop for a moment and pray.  Several times, throughout the day, I would go into the bathroom and there was that note. Right now, there is a Scripture verse that reminds me of the source of my energy. (This verse is a keeper for tired moms. Jeremiah 31:25. Write. it. down!)

Keep a pack of Post-It notes somewhere convenient and use them.  Put them on the window over your sink and pray when you wash the dishes.  Put them on a mirror.  Put them on the monitor of your computer.  You will be surprised how often you find yourself praying. rise and shineThere will come a day when you are back in a position to devote hours to Bible study.  But, for now, do not let guilt convince you that the little you feel capable of right now is not even worth it.

Use short devotions instead of long Bible studies.  Take small, yet meaningful, bites of Scripture instead of large amounts that leave you overwhelmed.   Use the power of the Post-It note prayer.

You will be amazed at how God will meet you where you are right now.

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You may also find these Tips for Scripture Reading with Little Ones helpful!