Simple is as simple does

As 2015 rapidly approaches, there are many who are furiously planning how they want their lives to be improved in the coming year. There will be commitments for exercise and weight loss; striving for more discipline at work or in the classroom; setting goals for productivity; or just wanting less stress and more free time.

Whatever your aim for 2015 is, I am on your side! I just wish that January 1 came with a magic tonic to help all of us achieve these lofty goals that we set for ourselves. But alas, there is nothing mystical or special about the first day of the year when it comes to the changes you believe that you need to make in your life, other it being a marker for you to begin with.

Truth be told, I stopped making New Years' resolutions a long time ago for a couple of reasons. First, I was terrible at keeping them, but second and more important, if I knew that I needed to make life changes in the first place, then it would be pretty pitiful for me to wait until the first day of the year to do what needs to be done now.

So whether you are one who is really into hammering his stake in the ground at the beginning of each new year or you make the necessary adjustments as they present themselves, I do have one challenge that I want to share that I hope to achieve more of in my own life in the coming years:
I want simplicity.
That may not seem like a very detailed goal. After all, there are many ways to define what is simple and some of those definitions are not too endearing. Yet for me, simplicity encompasses not just a way of viewing life, but it also embodies a way of living my life as well. Here are a few things that I want to encourage myself and all others with in the coming years: 
  • Simplify your stuff - Most of us have a lot of stuff. Too much stuff. And now that the Christmas season has just passed, you have more stuff than you know what to do with. Sadly, many don't know how to part with their stuff and so they hoard it, hidden away in some closet or attic for a time that they might actually need it. But we all know that those times rarely come, so why not get rid of some of your stuff and either donate it to those who truly need it or sell it online or at a yard sale and make a profit off of it?
  • Simplify your time - Within this challenge I reserve the right to tell you to put your cell phones/iPods/tablets/TV remotes, etc., down and make time for things that are more important. Things like books and conversations and sitting outside to watch the sunset. For many of us, much of our time is wasted scrolling on the pages of social media or flipping the channels through endless crappy TV shows. Take your time back by putting the distractions away!  
  • Simplify your relationships - There are people in your life right now that are there only because you allow them to be there. You may be stuck in a cubicle next to some guy at work who hums annoying Disney tunes all day, but more often than not the people that influence you the most are the people that you allow to influence you the most. Think about the "friends" that are on your news feed on Facebook or other social media sites. They are constantly negative and they post ridiculous if not offensive things about politics and religion and other people. You are control here. Block them. Unfriend or unfollow them. It's really simple. But beyond what you might see on a computer screen, take a close look at those people you associate with in your everyday life. Are there "friends" who drag you down or influence you in a negative direction? Then stop hanging out with them! Simplify your friendships and relationships by choosing to surround yourself only with those whose lives point your own life in a positive direction.
Now if you are still reading this and you are thinking, "This advice isn't bad, but it sounds an awful lot like that personal power junk I've heard about that will help you make a better you," I will admit, it does kinda sound that way. But I'm not quite done yet. You see, I've left the most important challenge for last because embedded in this challenge is the key to true simplicity. Here it is:
  •  Keep your relationship with Jesus simple - Walking with Christ can be incredibly demanding and challenging, but it doesn't have to be difficult. Model the example that Christ gave to us:
    • Jesus often made time to be alone so that He could pray to God (Matthew 14:23; Luke 6:12). Make prayer a priority, not an after thought.
    • Jesus made time for people. You should too.
    • Jesus showed compassion for those who needed it most. Do you seek to meet the needs of those around you?
    • Jesus modeled grace and forgiveness well before He died to eternally offer it. You can do the same.
    • Jesus sought intimacy with God and He knew God's word. Spend time each day in God's word and you will find that same intimacy.
Some of you just read that and are saying to yourself, "That's a lot of stuff! That's not simple - that's hard!" Indeed it would appear that way. But consider what I am suggesting: Free yourself from the bondage of believing that you have to do a certain number of acts of kindness or never miss a church service or have to appear a certain way in order to win God's blessing. Instead, cast aside your personal agendas and preconceived notions and pursue Jesus. Get to know Him. Talk with Him. Strive to live the simple and obedient life that He lived. Yes, it will be challenging and it will require that you give up some things, yet in doing so you will be simplifying even more so that you can know Him even deeper.

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