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.”
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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.