Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Sweet and Simple Summer

The old Shaker hymn, “Simple Gifts”, voices a longing all of us know too well:

‘Tis a gift to be simple, “tis a gift to be free,
‘Tis a gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

It sounds so sweet and so simple – and so far removed from the crowded realities we live. In the abstract we know that a simple life is a peaceful life. But right now, life is just too busy to be simple. Too much to do today, maybe tomorrow.

And so we string together lifetimes of hectic today’s, denying ourselves the “Simple Gifts” there for the taking. God has a better idea. He wants us to be happy with him in this life and in the next. Like the summer sun on a brilliant July morning, his grace is all around us. But we must bask in that sunny grace, not hide from it in dark basements of endless, mindless busy-ness.

Let’s take a real break this summer. Let’s simplify. Let’s prioritize. Let’s clean out the clutter. Let’s deliberately seek the peace we have been promised. Let’s go for it.

Here are three simple thoughts that I hope you will include in your daily prayers and reflections this summer.

First: Life is complicated; the Gospel is simple. Do you think it comes as a great surprise to the Creator of the universe that we are self-absorbed and distracted by our own agendas? He gave us egos and appetites for our own preservation. But he also gave us the life, death and resurrection of Christ to show us that we are more than a composite of protoplasm, neurons, appetites and urges. We are children of God, here to journey home to him; witnessing his love in the world; proclaiming him in praise and thanksgiving; finding peace in his plan for us. That’s what’s important.

Second: God has a plan for us. Years back, the heroes of fashionable novels seemed to be on endless journeys to “find themselves.” Lost Horizon and The Razor’s Edge come to mind. But whether on storm-tossed tramp steamers or in snowy Himalayan passes, the answer seemed always just out of reach. That’s because “finding yourself” is essentially a fool’s errand. Finding God’s purpose for us is much more productive. And the answer has always been a lot closer to home. Every day we pray: thy will be done. Next time, mean it. Deliver yourself daily to the will of God. Pastor Rick Warren summed it up precisely: “Knowing your purpose simplifies your life.” Simplify every day. Seek his purpose in prayer and scripture. God’s plan for you will become unmistakable. Life will be simpler.

Finally: Give it all lovingly to God. Carmelite Brother Lawrence was a 17th Century multi-tasker. While his congregation was in the chapel chanting or deep in meditation, he was in the kitchen – walloping pots, running errands, peeling vegetables, stirring and seasoning – ostensibly very far removed from sanctity and serenity. Yet he was sublimely at peace and one with Christ. As his journal recorded: “For me the time of business does not differ from the time of prayer. In the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several people are calling for different things at the same time, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.” For over fifty years, he worshipped God amid the banging pots and shouted orders – a great soul at peace giving it all lovingly to God.

One summer of living simply in the Lord will probably not land us all in the valley of love and delight by Labor Day. But it will put the craziness we contend with in perspective. It will bring us a measure of Christ’s peace. It will be a season well spent.

Wishing you one sweet and simple summer closer to Christ,

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