Seven Days Toward Simplicity
by Lynne M. Baab
(published in Alive Now, May/June 2015, 40-42)
Simplicity is one spiritual practice that helps us experience solidarity with people who are dealing with many forms of poverty. We can practice simplicity in many aspects of our lives.
Day 1. Simplicity of words. Today, pay attention to the ways you engage with words. As you read, write, and speak, notice ways you tend to use too few or too many words. Try to interact with words as simply and clearly as you can. Spend some time praying for people who live with poverty of words, those who cannot read and write or who find reading and writing difficult, and for those who have little access to words in books, magazines, newspapers, and the Internet.
Day 2. Simplicity of possessions. Today, pay attention to the ways you think about and care for your possessions. Watch for what you are tempted to buy. Look through your own possessions and pick out something to give away. Pray and ponder carefully who to give it to: A family member? A friend? A charity? Pray for those who live in poverty of possessions.
Day 3. Simplicity and nature. Today, watch for all the places you encounter God’s creation: clouds, trees, bushes, flowers, houseplants, and the like. Pay attention to the shapes and colors. Ponder the pattern of your own life. How much simpler would your life be if you got more pleasure from nature? Pray for those who live in poverty with respect to nature, those in cities without green spaces and those who are affected by environmental degradation.
Day 4. Simplicity with money. Today, pay attention to your use of money and your thoughts and feelings about money. In what settings do you spend money mindlessly? Do you feel guilt, longing, or jealousy related to money? What kinds of wishes about money fill your thoughts? In what ways does generosity with money come easily to you, and in what ways do you resist generosity? Spend time praying for those who live with financial poverty, and make a financial gift, big or small, to an organization that serves the poor.
Day 5. Simplicity in relationships. Today, spent time watching the pattern of your relationships. Who are you most grateful for? Express that gratitude. Which relationships feel the most complicated? Ponder what simplicity in those relationships would look like: Offering forgiveness? Expressing your concerns or priorities directly? Using fewer words and listening more when discussing difficult issues? Pray for people who live in relational poverty, those who experience loneliness and those in difficult or abusive relationships.
Day 6. Simplicity and silence. Today, notice your comfort with silence in prayer and silence in relationships. Can you sit in companionable silence before God? Do you feel a strong need to fill empty spaces with words? Can you listen quietly to people without constant thought about what you will say next? Pray for people who experience the poverty of constant noise.
Day 7. Simplicity in prayer. At its simplest, all verbal prayer can fit into two categories: “thank you” and “help.” For today, watch your patterns of prayer. Which do you find easiest, thank-you prayers or help prayers? What kind of thank-you prayers do you pray most often? What kind of help prayers? Do you get lost in too many words as you pray? Pray for those who live in spiritual poverty and do not know that God welcomes “thank you” and “help” prayers from them.
If you’d like to go through this cycle again, focus the second time on your own poverty in these seven areas as you pray for others.
Resources on spiritual practices:
My book on communal spiritual practices, Joy Together: Spiritual Practices for Your Congregation
Seven-day experiment with wholeness
Character and practices that nurture creation care
Small habits, big benefits
Learning not to walk
I’m excited about spiritual disciplines
Spiritual disciplines for people in ministry
Nurturing communal spiritual practices online
Unusual sabbaticals: reflection, relationships and listening to God