Try the simple life!

Eight suggestions for simplifying our lives

Grant Swank is the pastor of the Church of the Nazarene, Windham, Maine.

Several years ago our family decided to adopt a more simple lifestyle. We had been under the crush of hurried, complicated family schedules and concluded that they were working against our spiritual growth. Purposefully we set in motion the following:

1. Cut credit cards down to one, and that only for emergency use. We had been used to flinging those cards around too freely--to our detriment. Having only one on hand for rare use would discipline us within realistic boundaries of financial fact.

2. Mark on the family calendar home activities along with outside obligations. Before, we penciled in only those meetings at school, commitments at church, and organizational duties that called us away from the house for too many hours.

Now we wrote into our calendar evenings together at a neighborhood restaurant, that morning set aside for just my wife and me to have breakfast, and that Sunday afternoon with one another in the park. The family gatherings were put on the same par as the out-of-the-home tugs at our time.

3. Cut down outside infringements on our time. Instead of living as we had been doing for some years-running here and there, separating ourselves from one another sometimes for weeks on end-we covenanted to pull in the strings of family life so as to get to know one another on deeper levels.

In order to make this a reality, all of us had to learn to say no to many invitations In doing so, we learned that none of us is indispensable and that many committees can actually survive without us.

4. Turn off the television. Instead of hearing that box chattering on for hours, we turned the knob to the left and found quiet. At first it was a bit awkward; but it did not take too long to come to value the new dimension of silence.

Our two children have their few hours to watch programs directed to their interests, even then with careful monitoring from parents as to content. And the rest of us who are older have discovered books we had not read, games we had not played, conversation we had not had time for, and relaxing moments doing nothing particularly productive that we simply had not permitted before.

5. Take car rides more frequently. Even with gas prices as they are, we allow in the budget gas money for family excursions. This may mean doing without something else, but we are willing to live with this priority.

And car rides naturally invite picnics. We have the details down to a science, with each person having his or her errands to run quick as a flash--in readying for a meal outdoors It doesn't always take much; sometimes a few sandwiches and a beverage will do.

6. Slow down our movements. For years I have scaled staircases a couple steps at a time, but there's no need to set the wood ablaze. The same goes for driving the car. Instead of rationalizing why I could get by with going over the speed limit, I now content myself with keeping within the law (not bad for a preacher!)

7. Concentrate on the simpler things of Life: walking through the snow with the family, going out for a "night on the town" by purchasing an ice-cream cone apiece, coloring a picture with my 4-year-old, writing a homemade poem on the back of a napkin at the coffee shop, discovering a new field of horses, and meandering for an evening through one of the "junk shops" at the other end of the village.

8. Give God a chance to freshen up our days. Before we had worked on remote control most of the time. We had learned doctrines and the orthodox phrases; they were given forth with sincerity but more times than not from empty walls.

Now God has become more real, more personal. He has had the opportunity to be more creative in our walk with Him.

As we look about us at other Christians, we realize they too hunger for that fresh approach to God: however, they are caught up in the same rat race we had been pressed into Most of the time they do not realize why they are exhausted in service for the Lord.

Thanks be to Him, He has opened up the simple life for our family. In it we have come to experience that rejuvenation so rarely found in this speed-crazed world.

Other than my experience of personal redemption through Jesus. I must confess that this experience of the simple life has been the most exhilarating discovery I have ever come upon.

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Grant Swank is the pastor of the Church of the Nazarene, Windham, Maine.

July 1997

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