Be Still Vol. 4

In asking you to make room in your life for silence and solitude, I know that I am asking for something very important: your time.  We only have so much of it, and for most of us, our schedule is completely packed if not over full already.  Today we’re going to look at a spiritual discipline that will help us with that, the discipline of simplicity.  Yes, that means letting go of some things in your life.  And I know you don’t want to.  I don’t either.  But today we’re talking about letting go of less valuable things in our lives to make room for things that are more valuable.  

Let’s take our stomachs as an example.  Think of your favorite food.  We’ll call that #1.  Then think of your least favorite food.  That’s #3.  Then think of something in the middle.  Let’s see, what could we call something in the middle of 1 and 3…  How about #2?  Now there’s only so much room in your stomach.  Right now you have it as full as it could possibly be with some of #1, some #2, and some #3.  That’s just not smart.  We need to at least be moderately intelligent and get the least favorite out of the picture altogether.  It’s just wasting space.  But I believe that we also need to examine our lives and minimize the #2 as well.  We have a lot of good things in our lives that cause the best things to suffer.  That’s not a good decision.  

We worry so much about the cost of what we’re losing.  We overvalue things that only have mediocre importance to us.  We are afraid to let go.  But I don’t think we realize the cost we are experiencing by those things taking up mediocre space in our lives that could have been magnificent.  In spiritual terms, we worry so much about the cost of discipleship that we never count the cost of nondiscipleship.  Dallas Willard says it like this, “Nondiscipleship costs abiding peace, a life penetrated throughout by love, faith that sees everything in light of God’s overriding governance for good, hopefulness that stands firm in the most discouraging of circumstances, power to do what is right and withstand the forces of evil.  In short, it costs exactly that abundance of life Jesus said He came to bring.”

Make a list of the top 5 priorities in your life.  Really.  Stop and do it. At least make the list in your head.

Now make a second list of the top 5 things you spend your time doing.  What actually fills up your life.  Where do you invest your energy?

For most of us, those two lists have hardly anything in common.  So I had to learn to start applying my priorities.  If those were really the most important, then I had to start acting like that.  And then just figure out how to make that work.  Providing for my kids is really important to me.  But it’s not nearly as important as spending time with them, being their dad, loving them.  So while I could definitely provide more for them by being away more and playing more concerts, I have chosen to stay home as much as I can while still paying our bills.  We try to make simpler fiscal choices so our financial need is less which means I can meet more of the emotional needs of my family, merely by being present.  It doesn’t mean that traveling is evil.  It’s not.  But being a dad is more important, so I apply my priorities and simplify my schedule.  

I believe that living a life of simplicity is merely living a life of priority.  We do the things that are important to us and allow that to determine what our lives and schedules look like.



Punishment for Parents, by their Second Graders

My son went back to school a couple of weeks ago, starting the second grade. Parents are supposed to drop off their kids at the door; they are not allowed to come in the classroom. Apparently, some parents were taking the start of school a bit hard and broke the rule, coming in to make sure their kid was settled or to get one last hug or kiss. The second graders, at least the boys, got together and decided there needed to be a punishment for parents breaking the rule. I said, “Great, did you come up with one?” His immediate response was, “Yes, we take away their iPhone.”

I laughed… at first. Then I started to realize how accurately these 7 and 8-year-olds understood what was actually important to their parents. I heard a man talking on NPR recently, and he said, “I think we will see a huge drop in cell phone use in the next generation, because it is a sign of the abandonment they experienced in childhood.” You see it all the time. We have made a big deal out of the group of junior high boys walking together all on their phones texting someone else. Heck, sometimes they texting each other! But we have failed to mention the parents who are on their phone while the family is at dinner. The husband and wife who are together at home or in the car, and both are on their own phones. The fact that we fill every spare moment with checking the news, or email, or facebook or twitter.

If you think this isn’t you, try to make a note every time you get on your phone. And notice how long you’re on it. Maybe find someone that will hold you accountable. A person that will notice when you’re on the phone. If you’re really brave, tell your kids you don’t want to be on the phone as much, or at certain times. I promise they won’t fail to mention that you’re checking your phone at dinner… again.

It makes me wonder what we used to do with that time. I think we might have listened. I think we might have slowed down to think about things. I think we might have noticed what was going on around us. What’s going to add more to your day – slowing down to soak in the beauty of God’s creation OR checking the 140 character updates that have updated since you checked it last? Do you need to know a breaking piece of news or notice that your kid is growing up and soon probably won’t want to talk to you because they’ll be on their own phone? I wonder what God did with us when we had time to listen to Him.

Your thoughts?