Simplify, Slow Down, and Be Still

Since the summer of 2021, God has been speaking to me about our pace of life here in America, even within the church. Virtually everyone I talk with shares in one way or another, how busy they are and how little margin there is in their lives when the unexpected happens.  This was generally the case before Covid and the pandemic has only served to increase the tension. The result oftentimes is we feel overwhelmed, stressed out, and without the time or energy to do the things that are really important to us.  An even more important outcome we often find is having little time to focus on having a quality relationship with God.

Personally, I have spent a significant amount of time applying those three maxims to every area of my life, with no area considered to be out of bounds.  I am continually asking myself, do you really need that (new book, new technology device or phone app)?  Do I really have time to take on another project right now?  How much time do I spend on internet related interests, news sites, ministry sites, social media platforms etc.?  Do I really need to attend another conference or ministry event that might be good, but is it really necessary right now?  Anyway, you get the idea.  It isn’t the questions that are important, it is getting the mind thinking about how we can simplify our lives, the first necessary step to slowing down and being still.  We need to admit without simplifying our lives the other two will never come.

I recently shared with our Spiritual Life Coaching group that it is my belief this is essential to our experiencing everything God has for us individually and corporately in 2022 and beyond.  If you find yourself often, or even occasionally, feeling anxious about life and disconnected from God, you may want to reflect on the following suggestions

Simplify- Embracing as a lifestyle the discipline of simplicity

The inner reality of simplicity is characterized by three attitudes about our possessions; all that we have is a gift from God (stewardship), what we have is to be cared for by God, and all that we have is available to others.  When we are actively seeking the kingdom of God, these three attitudes will characterize our lives.  The discipline of simplicity is not concerned only with our possessions but also includes our preoccupation with status, position and power.  It includes any unhealthy needs within us to have the recognition or approval of others and invites us to use plain and honest speech.  (Richard Foster, The Celebration of Discipline)

Slow Down- Physically, emotionally and spiritually

Slowing down is the next logical step after ruthlessly ridding ourselves of all the clutter that creeps in on a daily basis.  The physical dimension of this is easy to understand though not always easy to pull off.  Knowing what God has called us to do in any given season makes this process much easier as we are able to say no to anything that is not our responsibility.  The spiritual dimension of slowing down often includes recognizing and removing the habits, ungodly beliefs and values that drive us to an inner compulsion for more... of everything.  Comparing ourselves to others, seeking the approval of others, validating our worth and value with accomplishment and position, and serving in the wrong fit for ministry all apply here.  Ask the Holy Spirit to bring revelation and then work to eliminate them.

Be Still- Physical and inner stillness

Stillness comes as a practical outworking of the first two, and needs to be entered for extended periods of time to experience transformation.  Therefore, it is best practiced when we are not facing the deadlines of appointments and daily tasks.  The emphasis is on an unhurried waiting on the Lord to enjoy His company rather than asking Him for something.

Using the Serenity Prayer of Reinhold Niebuhr as a Framework

Lord, grant me the grace to accept, with serenity, the things that cannot be changed, 

Courage to change the things that can (should) be changed, and

Wisdom to distinguish one from the other.  

Living one day at a time, 

enjoying one moment at a time, 

accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.  

Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it.  

Trusting You will make all things right If I surrender to Your will, 

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next.  In Jesus Name, Amen.

Putting It into Practice

I have found the above practices to be very fruitful.  It takes intentionality and we need to give it time, but each of these steps will help to create the right environment in our hearts to hear the Lord’s voice and where He is taking you in the coming months.  As you live into them each day, ask Jesus if there is anything He would want to say to you right now?  Give it time, praising Him for His goodness and thanking Him in advance for His continued care and provision.  Write down everything He says to you and then ask Him for His plan in walking it out.  I think you will be amazed at what the Lord reveals to you.

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