Monday, February 22, 2016

Just Give Me Simple

There’s a resurging trend afoot: minimalism, the idea of scaling back your possessions to only those things that are needed and absolutely loved. Varying degrees of this mindset are practiced depending on the individual. Some people use it as a standard by which to start cleaning up the physical clutter in their homes and making life more manageable. Questions like: does this item serve a purpose? Do I love it? Do I need it? Does it bring me joy when I see it, are the “rules” one follows when beginning this journey.  Others have taken the lifestyle to extremes by counting their possessions in hopes of getting them down to what they consider a manageable number. For many that number seems to be 100. Still others have gone even further and reduced their possessions to only what will fit into a backpack (my personal life goal!) for the purpose of traveling the world and living unencumbered by societal rules and norms.

Minimalism isn’t a new concept. Notable history-makers such as Charles Spurgeon, Henry David Thoreau, Henry Ward Beecher and The Dalai Lama lived minimalist lives and encouraged others to do the same. In our cluttered world of cheap trinkets, the concept was somewhat of a lost art until this last year. 2015 was the year of the minimalist, the year that multiple blogs would join cyberspace, podcasts recorded, YouTube channels started and books written all in an effort to spread the message. 2015 was the year of Maria Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, a Japanese author now lauded as the new Martha Stewart. Tim Ferriss and his Four-Hour Work Week became an overnight sensation, and the blogs of Leo Babuta  (Zen Habits) and The Minimalists now rule the internet.

From possessions, an aspiring minimalist will often carry the practice to other areas of life like time commitments asking: Am I doing too much? Do I need to fill every moment of my day with activity? What am I missing out on because of potentially unnecessary activity? Joshua Becker, one of the pioneers of the modern version of this movement tells of his journey into minimalism starting in his garage one afternoon. This was not the first time he’d spent hours purging, organizing and cleaning up his stuff. In fact, it was somewhat of a yearly ritual. In the meantime, his young son was outside begging for time with his dad. Frustrated, he launched into a conversation about it with his neighbor who asked one simple question: “Do you really need all of that stuff?”

There’s nothing earth shattering about the question, but it struck a chord that day. He, like many of us, got tired of spending countless hours puttering around with stuff. Today, not only has he and his family downsized the amount of stuff they have, he has witnessed the fruition of his dream-starting an organization for orphans around the world. Had he not been willing to answer that one question honestly, how many children in the world would have no hope of a family?

I’ve spent the last two years following the minimalism trend and small-house movement with the gusto of someone who’s found Jesus for the first time. I’ve read articles, books, followed bloggers and even surrendered countless hours to YouTube watching minimalism gurus demonstrate the lifestyle. I couldn’t get enough.

I’ve often written about my tendency to throw things out, often the wrong things like uncashed checks, receipts, and other important documents so great was my frenzy at the surrounding clutter. Currently, I am the only one in my house who thinks moving to a space no bigger than 1,000 square feet and downsizing to one car and walking everywhere is a good idea. Frustrated, I stand on my soapbox extolling the benefits of this lifestyle and how much happier we’d all be if we just got rid of stuff. I preach and demonstrate and repeat testimonials of others who have embraced the minimalist lifestyle and have been overcome by the joy and quiet peace it has brought to their lives. But my family isn’t buying what I’m selling. For reasons known only to them they are attached to their stuff.  

Until recently, this has proven to be immensely frustrating for me. How could I be so vastly outnumbered? Why aren’t they cooperating? Don’t they want to be free? What is wrong with these people? What started out as a subject of interest and research for me became an obsession. My obsession with minimalism turned into a crusade to change my family, and it was becoming a real problem. Not One to let this go unchecked, I heard the voice of God in my head (though it’s hard to say how long He was speaking before I quieted down enough to hear Him!): Why don’t you apply the concept of minimalism to your spiritual life? Why don’t you purge your heart and mind of all that keeps you from a meaningful relationship with Me with the same veracity you purge your possessions? Why don’t you work on changing yourself and let me deal with everyone else?

Just like a crowded space, a crowded mind and heart complicate a faith that is so simple it often turns people off. Fear, anxiety, jealousy, judgment, all are part of the piles of junk that clutter our hearts and rob us of the Christian life God has fashioned for us. is an attempt at debunking the idea that everything in the Christian life is complicated. Just so we’re clear, simple does not equal easy. I dare say, if we’re “doing” it correctly, there will be challenges and hardships. We were promised that.

Though we serve a complicated three-dimensional God that we don’t have the brain capacity to fully understand, He deals with us simply because we are simple. We over complicate Him, His calling on our lives, His requirement of us, His love for us. We complicate our relationships with people, our marriages, our friendships, our jobs, how we spend our money, everything. When Jesus said to take His yoke upon us because His burden is light, those weren’t just empty words. He spoke them for a reason. He knows us.

This is not a blog on minimalism. Heaven knows there are plenty of those out there. It is, however, my thoughts on applying the perspective of minimalism to the Christian life. The life we’ve been called to only becomes complicated when we attempt to change the truth of it for something more palatable. There are few things in this life that are constant, that remain. Chief among them is truth. Truth is simple and unchanging despite your personal preference on a particular subject. You want freedom from a chaotic heart and mind?  You want inner peace when everything around you is falling apart? Truth. Run to it. It will set you free (John 8:32). 

In case you’re wondering:

Why a new blog?
My last blog was based on my experiences with debt and my journey out of it. Though I didn’t stick with that topic exclusively, I felt my own expectations to do so because that was the original intent.

What’s different about this blog from the last one?
Not much other than the subject matter is not restricted to money.

What are the similarities between the two?
Pretty much everything-tone, style, length, Bible thumping (mostly directed at yours truly).

How can I read posts from your previous blog?
Since I no longer own the domain,, you can no longer find it under that link. Here’s the new one: Talk about complicated!

I hope you’ll join me. What a great time in history to walk close with the Lord and learn from Him how to navigate the murky waters of our culture, how to stand on truth lovingly and how to be salt, that potent healing agent in a wounded world. That’s our calling. Simple as that.