The Simple Life

I have two friends who host a podcast called “Cultivate Simple“. It’s about working toward living simply, intentionally, in every area of life. They certainly are quite good at this, but I always chuckle at the title as I am also aware of the multitude of actitivies and responsibilities and events that dot their schedules. (To the point where these ‘dots’ often commingle into much larger ‘blobs’.)

Not too long ago, as I discussed our family’s schedule for the week with Jen, I saw many of my own dots chaotically infringing upon one another, and my own blobs growing unmanageable and out of my control.

And I longed for simple.

My heart nearly begs for simple. Maybe even my body. After a full day of celebrating Cameron’s birthday, I crashed on our bed—out like the proverbial light—much, much earlier than I would normally bed down for a night.

And though that longing is present and making itself known, here I am, amidst six growing-older children, a wife who loves to keep relatively full schedules, and running a couple of my own businesses, too.

Where and how do we find simple in the middle of all that life is? Is it possible to have a quiet, peaceful, serene, simple existence?

Perhaps my definition of simple is all wrong.

Simple. Simplicity.

simple |ˈsimpəl|

adjective ( -pler , -plest )
1 easily understood or done; presenting no difficulty : a simple solution | camcorders are now so simple to operate.
plain, basic, or uncomplicated in form, nature, or design; without much decoration or ornamentation : a simple white blouse | the house is furnished in a simple country style.
[ attrib. ] used to emphasize the fundamental and straightforward nature of something : the simple truth.

2 composed of a single element; not compound.
Mathematics denoting a group that has no proper normal subgroup.
Botany (of a leaf or stem) not divided or branched.
(of a lens, microscope, etc.) consisting of a single lens or component.
(in English grammar) denoting a tense formed without an auxiliary, e.g., sang as opposed to was singing.
(of interest) payable on the sum loaned only. Compare with compound 1.

3 of or characteristic of low rank or status; humble and unpretentious : a simple Buddhist monk.

4 of low or abnormally low intelligence.

Well I don’t think number four is the one I’m looking for. And I’m sure the mathematical and botanical applications are not … applicable here, either. So, am I looking for ‘low rank or status’? ‘Humble and unpretentious’? Yes. But do I live in such a way that is so other-than-that as to cause me to long for ‘simple’? Probably not.

So if I go with these definitions of ‘simple’, I think the second definition under number one might be the thing I am wanting most: “plain, basic, or uncomplicated in form, nature or design; without much decoration or ornamentation.” If you know me, you’re likely aware that I’m not much for ornamentation. I definitely lean toward “plain” and “basic”. (Ha! basic!)

But how—and why—am I lacking that? Where did this train run off the rails?

There’s a problem many of us have: saying ‘no’. Whether it’s out of fear that we might hurt another’s feelings, or whether our own reputation might be somehow sullied—we’re not great at saying, “No.”

There sure is a lot to which we can say ‘no’! There are probably dozens of physical and spiritual and relational and educational opportunities of which we could partake; and in our family, multiply that by eight! No, there is no shortage of chances to exercise our No Muscle.

But instead, we just keep saying yes.

Now, I may have an even more difficult time as I have inherited something of a defect. You see, I look at life as though it might be more conquerable than it truly is. I tend toward optimism, as I have said before. This will often—nearly 100% of the time!—causes me to misjudge the time it might take to do something, usually by at least half. It is quite likely, I believe, that such poor estimation of the duration of various tasks is a direct result of this inherited defect (from my dad) that we call “Cramming Ten Pounds into a Five Pound Bag Syndrome”.1

And boy do I have that… bad!

I don’t intentionally add things to our schedule for appearance (reputation) or for my own sense of accomplishment or anything of that sort. I think if I’ve crowded my schedule, it’s often because I either have those rose-colored, sure-I-can-fit-that-in view of my day or week ahead, OR because, I just forget that I don’t want to do that!

Thus, I frequently return to this place of longing for simple.

My podcasting friends hold solidly to the line of thinking that “simple” does not mean not busy. (Though I would say that they often long for down time, too.)

But isn’t there something to doing less?

I think much of this comes back to technology. As we increase the efficiency with which we do things (via technological advancement) we are able to do more, do it better, do it faster … and honestly, I think this makes us less. We are stretching ourselves beyond what we are designed to do. I will certainly continue this thought in a future post (it’s been ruminating for quite a while now), but to elaborate here would not be… simple.

And simple is what I’m hoping to rediscover.

We do lead a fairly simple life in some ways: we have one vehicle, we live in a relatively modest home, we are not extravagant in our spending, we are not members of many organizations, we like 80s TV shows… simple.

But I think there’s more. And if I do rediscover it in some areas, I’ll be sure to share those discoveries here.

Until then, I need to wrap this up so I can get ready for today’s three events. (Oh, and make breakfast for everyone, gather the laundry, send emails, prep dinner, pay bills, read the library book due back tomorrow, discuss several upcoming events with Jen, mow the lawn, play a word game or two, maybe play a game with Alex, brush my teeth, feed the fish, and save the world.)


  1. This reminds me of the other verses I found when I was writing the post Messes. Right before where it says “children are a blessing from the LORD”, it says: “It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.” Admittedly, one thing that keeps me busy is needing to make money to feed our family. Perhaps God was gently nudging me here?

More of You and of Me Less

Lord Hear My VoiceThere’s a song. It’s a song that I wrote. The words actually seem a bit out of order:

“More of you and of me less…”

(Sometimes when you write songs, the words fit better when they’re “out of order”.)

But the words are still true.

(If you have time, or can listen while you read—or both?—you can find the song here.)

I have been hearing more and more again lately how the most important things in life are to put ourselves in a place of complete reliance on our Father—for everything in life, as it’s all from, through, and for him to begin with—and how in direct correlation, our own self and interests must diminish.

The song, written nearly twenty years ago now, was something I began singing while playing around with a chord loop on my Yamaha acoustic guitar (now in the possession and occasional employ of our oldest son) … “Take my life, Lord… make it wholly yours.” John the Baptist said, regarding Jesus, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” (John 3:30) Those words were reverberating in my heart and mind while I hummed and strummed a new tune … and thus was born a song.

And the theme has never diminished.

You’ve read it here, to be sure. There is a recurring realization that I frequently share on these pages: That Jesus is Life and Life is Jesus. They are synonymous and inseparable. (And they are separately unattainable, as they do not exist apart from each other.) We can produce no fruit—a visible sign of life—apart from him. Jesus tried to make that abundantly clear to us, both through his words and his actions.

Equally so, he wanted us to realize that to put him first, to follow him, means to put our own agendas and interests and even our life down—actually, to death.

If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

That is so ridiculously hard for all of us at some points, and some of us at most points.

So how do we actually “die to self” in order to receive this Life that we can find in Jesus? What does this look like?

To me, it’s often this:

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. (Philippians 2:3-5)

Now… that may be what it looks like, and I see that Paul said we “must” have the same attitude as Jesus, but again … how?

I keep coming back to this symbiotic relationship of “more of you” (Jesus, Father, Spirit) and “of me less”.

Do you remember symbiotic relationships from biology classes, or maybe books of that topic, if that is an interest of yours? Wikipedia describes it thusly: Symbiosis (from Ancient Greek σύν “together” and βίωσις “living”) is close and often long-term interaction between two or more different biological species.

That sounds about right.

He is wholly other than us. His ways are not our ways, and all such similar sayings.

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)


We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. (1 John 4:16)


…let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the originator and perfecter of our faith… (Hebrews 12:1-2)

It’s all about him, and not about us. And, likewise, it’s all about humbly serving, giving, loving others—endlessly, without agenda, without “strings attached”—because all of us have limitless value to our Creator, and so regardless of how we are treated (or any self-benefit), we serve, love, give… as we have received from Father.

Just like Jesus.

But it only works if we first focus our hearts and minds on him. That is so important.

If we are doing selfless in our own strength, just “because it’s right” … well, that won’t last. We must be filled, too. You matter, too. But if I am angling to take care of me, then I will be missing the Life that Jesus wants to give me. He gives Life. Not me.

(I just get to share what he gives.)

Oh that you and I could daily understand this truth more and more. It’s so abundant through the entirety of the Scriptures.

One last one:

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:16-21)

More of him. Less of me. That’s the way it ought to be.

(Hey… maybe that could be a song…) 😉