Thursday, April 19, 2007


Sports Illustrated, Golf Digest, Christianity Today, Leadership (a journal for church leaders), Success, Money, Runner’s World, Smart Money, the Christian Chronicle, the Houston Chronicle, and the Wall Street Journal.

At the beginning of this year I preached a message on the spiritual discipline of simplicity and encouraged us all to simplify our life by reducing the clutter of activities and “stuff.” Simplicity is not an end in itself but a means to be more available to God and the important people in our life. I sensed that this message resonated with many of you and I imagine some of you undertook to try to simplify. I certainly did.

I thought I’d give you a little progress report on how things are going for me and offer some reflections and suggestions. First of all, this is difficult. To simplify one’s life is to take “the road less traveled.” Everything in our culture (technology, values, demands) pulls us into more busyness and clutter, not less. I have tried to simplify my purchase of clothes (can’t buy anything new unless I discard something) and certain elements of my schedule. I also have been systematically cleaning out our garage of unused stuff. I have tried not to read work-related emails at home in the evening. So far so good.

Let’s return to the above list of magazines and periodicals. I was clearing my bedside table recently and I realized how many magazines were stacked there waiting for me to finish reading them! I decided to take inventory of how many different ones I receive. Clearly, Sports Illustrated and Golf Digest are essential. But do I really need all the others?

The answer is no, of course. But therein lies the challenge. All of these are “good” reading in the sense they are interesting and enjoyable. But if they keep me from reading good books, or writing to my sister, or calling my Mom, or talking to my wife and kids, or cultivating a friendship, then they become so much clutter.

Many of us have too many “magazines” in our life. Maybe for you it’s television shows, or phone calls, or sports activities, or clothes, or emails. What would happen if you decided to watch 3 or 4 shows a week instead of 9 or 10? A good question to ask ourselves is, are the things I am keeping busy with improving my life or just keeping me busy?

One of the governing principles of our Take the Next Step process at West Houston is simplification. We have identified four cornerstones that encompass what we want to be about: Connecting with God through worship and Bible study, connecting with one another through small groups, connecting with the Body through service, and connecting with the community. Other things might be interesting or enjoyable, but do they further God’s kingdom work in our area? Do they improve us or just keep us busy?

So I’m going to let some of these subscriptions expire. I’m sure I’ll get dozens of solicitations urging me to renew, promising discounts and all sorts of enticements. That is the way of the world. We are marketed to twenty-four hours a day. You have to swim against the current to resist it. Funny thing, isn’t it, how swimming against the current makes you stronger.


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