devozine

For Youth Workers Post

Simplicity

Steve Matthews

“In the Habit” session for devozine meditations for November 25–December 1, 2013.

MAKING THE CONNECTION

“I long for simplicity, and I claim it as one of my core values. One example of my desire for simplicity is the urban garden I helped to start ten years ago. I hoped the joy and rhythm of growing vegetables would slow me down and help me live more simply. I am too cheap to let food waste, so I thought that the discipline of maintaining the garden, harvesting the produce, and cooking the food I grew would enhance my connection to the earth and to God and would feed me body and soul. Since a garden can’t be rushed or forced, I looked forward to letting the priority of the garden invite me into a new and simpler rhythm of life.

“The garden has often fed me, body and soul. But now, as I write this, I am behind on several deadlines, my house is a wreck, and I have so much unharvested food in the garden (as well as lots of weeds) that I imagine some of the food will turn to compost before I get it gathered. In short, I am not living my value of simplicity right now. I am off-balance and doing the best I can, but my garden is suffering. My simple life is not so simple right now, which has an impact on my spiritual life as well.

“We could pick any area of our busy lives and set goals and plans of action that encourage us to live more simply. The car we drive, the home we own, the stuff we collect, the clothes we wear, the way we spend our free time, the hours we work—all offer opportunities to choose simplicity. But if your life is like mine, making and sustaining a more simple life is difficult without support. Because the energy in our society is geared toward doing, being, and having more, we need one another to maintain our commitment to a more simple life.

“Jesus lived a life of simple abundance, dependent on God’s presence and provision. He trusted God with his life. As a result, he was free to minister and teach without having to spend too much time and energy managing the kinds of responsibilities and possessions that clutter our lives. I wonder what spiritual practices and choices might help us recognize abundance and God’s provision and free us to live more simply.”—Steve

 

MEET THE WRITER

devozine Steve Matthews IMG_0433Steve Matthews was a youth minister for more than fifteen years. At present, he is living in central Virginia on a small farm with a cat, a dog, and sixteen chickens. He loves growing his own food as well as cooking and eating it. Steve is a leadership consultant and is presently working with “missio:Engage,” an online school for church redevelopment, sponsored by the Episcopal Church. He is also a spiritual director and was a writer for The Way of Pilgrimage: An Adventure in Spiritual Formation for the Next Generation.

 

STUFF YOU WILL NEED

  • Bibles (or copies of Luke 12:22–31)
  • a sheet of newsprint with the following quotation written on it: “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated” (Confucius). Make two columns under the quotation, one labeled “Simple” and the other “Complicated.”
  • index cards
  • paper
  • pens
  • markers
  • newsprint
  • copies of the closing prayer
  • copies of “Savoring the Good” (see below)
  • Print-Friendly Version of this session

 

PLUGGED IN

So many books, videos, and classes are available to help us embrace simplicity. Our culture must recognize the need for it.

  • Simplify Your Life” is a blog that offers practical resources and helpful hints.
  • In 2008 ABC News did a great story on urban homesteaders, featuring a Los Angeles family of five who, out of a desire to live simply and sustainably, turned their suburban yard into a backyard garden and farming business.
  • Simplicity” is a touching story that demonstrates the power of paying attention and choosing what really matters.
  • Finally, “Enough,” Jason Castro’s song to his daughter, reminds us that our stuff and our lifestyles do not define us if we remember that God’s blessing on our lives is all we need.

 

CHECKING IN

Begin this time with an opening ritual: a moment of silence, a short prayer the group says together, or a candle lit to symbolize Christ’s presence. Take a moment to claim this space and time as holy.

Then invite group members to reflect on these questions:
       When in the last week did you feel overwhelmed by too many tasks or too many demands on you? How did you feel physically?
       When in the last week did you feel calm and at ease, a time when at least for a moment you felt a sweet simplicity in your life? How did you feel physically?

Invite group members to talk about their experiences if they are willing, and encourage them to listen to each other prayerfully without comment.

 

EXPLORING THE WORK

Scripture: Luke 12:22–31

Invite a volunteer to read the scripture aloud. After few moments of silence, invite a second person to read the passage again. Allow a couple more minutes of silence after the second reading. Then ask people to speak words or phrases from the scripture that stand out for them.

Invite discussion:
       Why do these words stand out for you?
       What thoughts or questions do you have about the passage?
       Was trusting God in this way a challenge for people in Jesus’ time?
       What need do you think Jesus was addressing?
       What do you think simplicity meant to Jesus?

Jesus must have spoken these words in a spirit of love and whole-hearted longing for the people he was addressing. Simplicity for the sake of simplicity was not what Jesus was teaching. Jesus’ words in this passage and throughout the gospels invite us into a deeper relationship with God and one another. A too-busy, too-materialistic, too-anxious life creates challenges and obstacles to recognizing and responding to God’s ever-beckoning love.

Point out the quotation by Confucius. Invite group members to talk about the simple pleasures of life that point them toward God’s love and presence. Another way of asking the question might be to ask:
       What functions as ‘ravens’ and ‘lilies’ for you?

Record their responses in the appropriate column, labeled “Simple” and “Complicated,” under the quotation. Then ask:
       What choices do you make that seem to complicate your lives?
       What one or two changes could you make that would allow you to live more simply and with more openness to God’s love?

Invite group members to write on index cards the changes they could make and to talk about their answers if they wish.

God declares that we are beloved and “enough,” so we do not have to over-function, over-consume, or over-manage our lives. Through God’s grace, we can live with simplicity and confidence.

Consider playing the video “Enough” by Jason Castro.

 

SHARING IN PRAYER

Invite group members to read together the closing “Prayer for Simplicity and Contentment.”

“Almighty and all powerful God,
We fill our lives with work, projects, and pleasures and we have become weighted down. . . . Let us unclutter our lives, unbind our hearts, and seek you first. Liberate us, let nothing separate us; let nothing come between our soul and our Savior Jesus Christ, In whose name we gather and in whose name we pray. Amen.”

 

TAKING IT FURTHER

Choosing ways to simplify our lives is important. So is cultivating spiritual practices that remind us that God is enough in the world and in our lives. Invite group members to take home a copy of “Savoring the Good,” to practice it, and to be ready to talk about their experience next week.

SAVORING THE GOOD

[Set aside five minutes for this exercise.]

> Find a comfortable place to sit or stand. Notice where your attention is drawn. Perhaps you are drawn to something in nature—a flower, the trees, the birds, the breeze, or rain. Perhaps you notice the stars. You may choose to focus on the sounds of children playing or the abundance of food at mealtime. Perhaps you feel drawn to a recent pleasant memory. Focus your attention.

> Engage your senses. Breath deeply. Ask God to let the goodness and gift of this moment sink in so that you can feel the impact of this experience in your body as well as in your spirit. Savor its goodness for two minutes.

> When you are ready, conclude the time with a brief prayer of thanksgiving or a simple but grateful “Amen.”

—from devozine In the Habit (November/December 2013). Copyright © 2013 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.
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