The Grace and Discipline of Simplicity

Here is some of the content of a talk I delivered during Lent.

“God never guides us into the intolerable scramble of panting feverishness.” Thomas Kelly

Richard Foster calls this modern frenetic pace and the obsession with accumulating more and more mania. I (and the ancients) contend that such a pace and such obsession is not only physically and mentally ruinous, but spiritually ruinous. All three are connected. Our pace, our frenzy, our desire to accumulate more, our clutter, is unhealthy and unnatural. That is not God’s intention for our lives. Christian simplicity (not the same as being simplistic) provides space in our lives, frees us to really live, to to be human beings not human doings. It is one way to prevent the cares of this world from strangling the gospel in our lives, our families, and churches. Jesus did and spoke only what he heard his father telling him to do and speak (John 5:19). Inner and outer simplicity contribute to wholeness.

Simplicity allows us to see: Earth is crammed with heaven and every bush aflame with God. But only those who see take off their shoes. ~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning

• Live a prayerful and Christ-obedient life.

• Figure out what is important to you and your family. What are your ( and God’s) priorities in this life?

• Ask God to free you and be intentional in trying to break free from the tyranny of having to be in-the-know.

• What kind of atmosphere do you want in your home?

• Understand and accept seasons of life. We cannot stuff all of life into a season. There is a time and place for everything under the sun. Live in the season that you’re in. In most cases, it doesn’t define you and won’t last the rest of your life.

• Be present in the present.

• Understand that you cannot control others. Life will be less stressful.

• Accept yourself for who you are.

• Change what you can, ask God for grace to accept what you cannot change.

• Outer simplicity should be indicative of an inner simplicity. It is possible to be outwardly organized and inwardly anxious.

Practical Suggestions

• Read the books you have before buying others.

• Share kids’ toys with friends. It’ll prevent both families from purchasing more, cluttering houses, and kids from getting bored.

• Before you buy your own lawn mower or major power tool, think about sharing it with another family or friend. If you already have such things, make them available to others.

• Disconnect from or do not always be connected to technology.

• Take time to be refreshed, even if it is a night or few nights away. Both you and those closest to you will be better for it. Can’t afford to pay for a hotel or bed and breakfast? Ask around. It is probable that older friends and mentors without children or young children will allow you stay and rejuvenate with them.

• Think about going cable-free.

• Fast from buying clothes.

• If you haven’t worn clothes for six months, get rid of them. Haven’t worn that winter sweater this winter? Good-bye!

• Purge and de-clutter continually.

• Consider limiting your activities (now and in the future).

• Learn to say “No.”

• If you are committing to a new ministry or engagement or activity, think about giving up one you’re  already involved in. That helps prevent over-commitment.

• Get outside. It refreshes the soul.

• Include fun and laughter into your life.

• Consider a spiritual director.

• Recycle.

• Care for Creation through conservation.

• Appreciate beauty.

• Be intentional about not comparing yourselves to others. Accept that we all have different gifts and abilities.

“If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.



“Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.


“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.  Matthew 6:25-33 (The Message)

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