Sunday, July 31, 2011

Run Light for Life: A Review of Abundant Simplicity

In a society conditioned for upgrades, from heated seats to biggie drinks, many of us find ourselves reaching for more. More soda, more cars, more music, more coffee, better coffee, better connections, a better contract, a bigger house, a bigger name, a longer list, a longer life.

We can’t possibly maintain all we aspire to, but we attempt to pack all we can into our 24/7 make-it-or-die-trying lifestyles. We run hard after life as we see it, feel it, desire it, deserve it. What we see, we must have. What we must have, we must have now. And our wheels spin with our hands full as we race forward, over-burdened, over-stimulated and overwhelmed. We passionately pursue a success that promises life but steals away our breath.

In Jan Johnson's newest release, Abundant Simplicity, she challenges us to “replace cultural perceptions of success with thoughts of treasuring God, investing our life in what He is doing and devoting ourselves to the good of other people.”

Image licensed by   
Treasuring God sounds simple. Maybe you think you already do. Perhaps you feel you max out your investment in others. But consider the potential of a life free from the entanglements of serving two masters (Matthew 6:24), driven by a single-minded focus on God alone. Can you imagine running the race of life in such an unencumbered way?

With a knowing grace, Johnson reveals how the disciplines of simplicity help us to run like Paul did, “[Laying] aside every weight that hinders us (Hebrews 12:1 NRSV).” Not everything we carry is self-serving. Our weights may be good things with good motives. “But transformation into Christlikeness is much more difficult when we’re encumbered,” Jan writes. “Cross-country runners can cross a finish line wearing a twenty-pound backpack or trailing tangled shoelaces, but the race is much more difficult. Expect God to continually woo you to cast aside that backpack full of distractions.”

This requires courage to make hard choices. Intentional choices. Choices that go against the grain of society. But, “as we favor deliberate life choices over blind consumption and compulsion, we stop doing just whatever other people—even church people—do. We find rest in keeping our focus on loving God and joining God in loving others.” We leave space for relationships and for response to relationships, first with God and then with others.

Johnson leads with a shepherd’s heart, taking us to safe places where we can identify our entanglements and experience the freedom that comes from choosing simplicity of speech, ownership, acquisition, time, leisure and everyday tasks, among others. She offers experiments to help in the process, encouraging us to modify them as we listen for God and learn to reflect on our own needs. “Focus on a simplicity practice as you can do it, however imperfectly, not as others do it or the supposed one right way to do it.”

When we practice simplicity in a way that’s right for us, we “create a life of much by choosing a life of less.” We cast off excess weight so we can run this race with passion, living life full and free.

I'm giving away a copy of Abundant Simplicity! Just leave a comment and tell me why you want it. Winner announced Friday, August 5.

Look for Jan Johnson and me at the CLASS Christian Writers Conference, November 2-6, 2011. Jan is leading devotions for the morning sessions, and I get to lead worship! 

InterVarsity Press provided a complimentary copy of Abundant Simplicity: Discovering the Unhurried Rhythms of Grace for my review. For more information or to order your own copy visit their website. This review first appeared in the July/August issue of the CLASS Communique


Jean Wise said...

I have always liked her writing but didn't know of this book. Robin you write great reviews!

Karen Barnes Jordan said...

I'd love to read this book! Honestly, I struggle with my focus a lot, and it sounds like something I truly need to read!

Char said...

Hubby and I have been discussing downsizing/simplifying for months (or is it years?). He has difficulty parting with 'stuff' and hears but doesn't hear me when I make suggestions. He does however, read books and often tells me about what he is reading, sometimes even recognizing things I said, 'once upon a time'. My plan is to read the book, then pass it along for him to read trusting God to help us get 'on the same page, in the same book' concerning simplifying our lives from stuff. I sat in on one of Jan's classes last year at the writers conference..she is very practical and easy to follow.

Lesley Glenn said...

We find rest in keeping our focus on loving God and joining God in loving others.”

I love that quote. I have had to learn/relearn how to do life because the "superwoman" status almost cost me my marriage and my family. Since that time 3 years ago, I redefined EVERYTHING.
I now live with purpose and intention.

You can read my thoughts about multitasking here.

I would love to read this book to encourage myself and others in the journey. And plus... Thursday is my birthday and this would be a cool gift. :)
Thanks Robin for the opportunity.

Claudia Lee said...

Jan Johnson spoke at Jubilee Women's Conference last year and after hearing her speak and reading her other works I'm very eager to read this new book. It is clear that what she teaches has come through the refining of her own life. Looking forward to reading this!

Louise Feldmann said...

Sounds like a great book with a truly great concept. I could certainly use some ideas for simplifying things in my live. I agree with Jean--you write great reviews. This one is going on my "read list".