Journey to Simplicity

My one word for this year is simplicity. God seems to have been leading me to this word for quite some time. The clutter in my house has been bothering me for years, but I was too busy (or thought I was too busy) to tackle it until last year.

A few years ago, one of my longtime and favorite pastimes, bowling, came to a halt when the whole league deserted me at the beginning of a new season. I still don’t know why that happened, but it freed me up from a weekly commitment and a lot of responsibility (I was league secretary). At the same time, I began volunteering at the local blood bank, which works out better, as I am in control of my schedule.

Last year, I resigned from a board position with the women’s organization I’ve been part of for many years. And then a journal I wrote for and edited ended its 26-year run. I continued to work on getting rid of things in my house I no longer wanted, needed or found useful. My husband has retired and he’s cleaning out a little too.

All this cleaning and clearing of physical things got me thinking about spiritual simplicity, which led me to believe this is my word from God for 2019. I’m being drawn to simplicity in all areas of my life, where I can enjoy peace, serenity and space.

Next time: The Beauty of Space

Supper for One meditations

I’ve made notes of verses and quotations to read and pray through when I have supper for one. I’m sharing them with you in the hope you will find them helpful. This isn’t an exhaustive list, just a few I’ve found meaningful.

1 Corinthians 10:16, NIV: “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?” When I take the bread and wine, I love to ponder my participation in Christ’s body and blood. He doesn’t use me; he doesn’t just need me to do a job for him. I participate in his life and he shares his life with me. One morning as I meditated on the blood of Jesus, I marveled that life is in the blood and when I drink the cup representing his blood, his blood—life—is now in me.

Faith That Matters, October 30, N.T. Wright: “The Eucharist is the arrival of God’s future in the present, not just the extension of God’s (or Jesus’) past into our present. We do not simply remember a long-since dead Jesus; we celebrate the presence of the living Lord!” My supper for one is really supper for two. Jesus is alive and present with me as I commune with him during our meal.

Making Room, Linda Rex: “The gift of God is the internal, eternal law of God, Jesus Christ, who joined himself with humanity and who stands in our place as both lawgiver and law keeper.” He has joined himself with us and this is especially real to me when I eat the bread and wine.

Also from Making Room: “Christ in us, the hope of glory. It is Christ who defines us, who lives his life in us and through us by his Holy Spirit.”

I forgot to note the source of this one—if I find it, I’ll let you know: “He is the character, heart, will and mind of God the Father, revealed to the world. He is the universal reason (logos) inherent in all things, the binding laws that explain all in existence.” This is from Colossians 1:15-17. Also read verses 18-20, a great passage to help focus on Jesus and who he is.

And in case you’re wondering, yes I do drink real wine (a thimbleful), even if I do this at 6 in the morning. We have no grape juice in the house, but we do have wine!

Wait for it…

The microwave is one of the greatest inventions for the kitchen. It allows us to quickly reheat or cook food, including popcorn (my favorite). But it might have been only the beginning of the trend to deliver instant gratification and a cause of the increasing lack of impatience rampant today. Everyone wants what they want right now!

Impatience isn’t the only consequence of our want-it-now, get-it-now society. We’ve stopped thinking long term. In an article by Paul Roberts he talked about how the growing problem of wanting and getting what we desire instantly is causing more problems than just a lot of impatience. “Under the escalating drive for quick, efficient ‘returns,’ our whole socioeconomic system is adopting an almost childlike impulsiveness, wholly obsessed with short-term gain and narrow self-interest and increasingly oblivious to long-term consequences” (“Instant Gratification,” The American Scholar, Autumn 2014).

We see evidence of this everywhere, from drivers cutting each other off in traffic because they’re in a hurry to students cheating on tests rather than patiently studying to really understand the material. Get-rich-quick schemes are always with us, but more and more we see corporations focusing on making profits over the long term good of society.

Instant gratification is having a negative effect on overall maturity, as Roberts says: “The notion of future consequences, so essential to our development as functional citizens, as adults, is relegated to the background, inviting us to remain in a state of permanent childhood.”

People as a whole used to be able to wait patiently: farmers waited for their crops; we waited for letters in the mail; travel took longer and news wasn’t instant. We didn’t have mobile banking, mobile shopping or overnight deliveries. Everything took time.

I think this has also affected the way we think of God’s plan and how we anticipate the Kingdom. With the focus on getting what we want immediately, have we forgotten this life isn’t all there is? We want everything to be perfect now, forgetting the perfection of heaven is far off and is what we wait for with great anticipation.

Peggy Noonan, former speech writer for Ronald Reagan, said something that struck me as a profound truth, especially in our impatient times: “I think we have lost the old knowledge that happiness is overrated—that, in a way, life is overrated. …Our ancestors believed in two worlds, and understood this to be the solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short one. We are the first generations of man that actually expected to find happiness here on earth, and our search for it has caused such unhappiness. The reason: If you do not believe in another, higher world, if you believe only in the flat material world around you, if you believe that this is your only chance at happiness—if that is what you believe, then you are not disappointed when the world does not give you a good measure of its riches, you are despairing” (Forbes MagazineSeptember 14, 1992).

Life is not about getting everything we want right now. It’s about doing the best we can, “living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17, NLT) and looking forward, with patience to the time when God will make all things new. This life isn’t all there is: we have a future well worth waiting for.

Losing Things

As I packed clothes for a trip, I discovered a favorite sweater missing from my closet. I searched everywhere, but couldn’t find it. I must have left it in a hotel on another trip. So I packed the matching top and found something else to wear with it.

I don’t like to lose things. It’s frustrating and upsetting, especially if the item is of value. Losing anything is annoying; so is forgetting where we put things, like lists, keys, important papers. Being robbed is even worse. All these situations give us feelings of helplessness and of being out of control. There’s usually nothing we can do but accept it and move on.

Loss is a part of life we’d rather do without but we all experience it. Dealing with and accepting loss is a lesson we learn early and often. Even with age and experience and the knowledge that things are easily replaced, it’s still frustrating. Some losses, like losing a sweater or keys, are easier to accept than the big ones, like the loss of physical abilities or those we love. And then we ultimately have to face the loss of our own lives.

How do we keep the right perspective? Jesus did warn us not to put our hearts and hopes in our temporary possessions, in treasures that can be lost, stolen or burned. Our lives are not made up of what we own. Our worth is not measured by the dollar signs in our accounts and happiness is not achieved in the accumulation of goods. The more painful losses are not so easily explained or philosophized away. Aging bodies, diminished abilities and senses, deaths of friends and family – how do we cope with these?

Our lives are a mere breath or vapor. We are like flowers that bloom in the morning and fade by evening. No, that’s not encouraging, but the words of Jesus are: he is the resurrection and the life. Through his life all will be restored, renewed and redeemed. In the words of an old gospel song, “Because he lives, I can face tomorrow.”

Because he lives, the losses of today will disappear into insignificance in the light of the glorious redemption of every single atom, moment, human, animal, theft and fire. Every tear, scream, nightmare, every fear and every heartbreak will be wiped away and replaced by joy in the life and love of the Father.

Our hope is in Jesus – in his cleansing blood, resurrected life and all-encompassing love. In a sense, he lost his life for us and he told us if we lose our lives, we will find them again, in him. On this side of heaven, all is lost, but in Jesus, all is found. And when that happy day comes, nothing will ever be lost again.

Zucchini relish anyone?

There’s only one thing to do with zucchinis gone wild – make zucchini relish. I checked them one day and it seemed like the next they had turned into monsters. My mom used to make relish with the ones that got away – it’s similar to pickle relish and is very easy to make. Just grate the squash and soak in salt water overnight. Drain, add vinegar, sugar, mustard seed, celery seed, turmeric, salt, pepper and a little cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, can in a water bath and enjoy. My daughter says no one needs as much relish as I made, but I plan to enjoy the fruit of my labors for a long time. It’s great on sandwiches!

A canning good time

What do you do with a bumper crop of tomatoes? You can of course. I remember helping my mom can various fruits and veggies – standing in a hot kitchen, preparing the jars and what went in them – but I had never done it myself until this month. Our tomato plants went crazy so we ate some, gave some away and still there were more. So I bought some jars and a canning pot and went to work.

First I did plain tomatoes for soup and other recipes. Then a friend mentioned his mother used to make tomato preserves – interesting, never heard of that. So I looked it up on allrecipes.com and found this recipe. I tweaked it a little because to me, recipes are just guidelines. You can read my tweaks in the review I wrote under the recipe. It turned out to be incredibly delicious. So far we’ve just eaten it on fresh bread, but now that I have 10 pints, we can look forward to experimenting with it all winter.

Oh, did I mention we also have a few zucchini? I’ll post a photo of what I did with them next time.