As I wrote earlier this month, I wanted to try choosing a word to focus on and guide me through the year. I loved the idea of having a word that would serve as my intention through 2015. It provided a nice alternative to setting resolutions that I might otherwise ignore, and a practice that would be grounded in “paying attention.”
And so, for the past three weeks I have listened for the word that would be given to me. As I wrote, I believe it is important that the word be given to me – that it come from some place outside myself, from the Spirit – because, if left to my own devices, I would choose the word chocolate. Thus, I listened, and prayed, and paid attention to the words I was hearing. At first I thought my word might be well. It was a word that had come up several times and offered a variety of meanings for my life. But just before deciding on it, something happened: I was given my word for 2015.
It happened at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, GA. My good friend, Reverend Cyndi McDonald, and I meet there every other Friday to talk, join in accountability, attend midday prayer, share the Eucharist, and laugh. It is always the highlight of my week. Following midday prayer we sit in the balcony of the Abbey Church for 20 minutes of silence. I always sit so that I am at eye level with the stained glass window, a gorgeous image of the Holy Spirit. This is my view:
Two weeks ago, as we were sitting in silence and solitude, I became fixated on the altar area, which was still decorated for Christmas. I noticed how different the decorations were from many other churches, where greenery hangs on anything that does not move. This was simple, some would say austere: just two Christmas trees and a few poinsettias. But therein lay its beauty. And its power. The simplicity of the decor invited me to relax. My eyes didn’t have to work overtime to take in the scene, my attention wasn’t divided. I was thus able to focus on what was most important: the stained glass window, the altar, the cross. In other words, on God.
And that’s when I realized I had been given my word: simplicity. It felt exactly right. Because what I want most in life is to focus on God. I want it. I need it. I was created for it. Yet, it is so easy for me to muck that up and make it complicated. I fill up my time with impossible to do lists. My attention is diverted to Facebook or the television. My time is spent organizing and reorganizing more possessions than I need. I lose focus. And I lose touch with the One who spoke me into being.
As soon as I got home from the Monastery that day, I picked up my Blessing Upon Blessing book and read the entry on simplicity. Here is what it said:
May the God of SIMPLICITY be with you, leading you to a clear vision of all that is real and true and of God, leading you deeply into the mystery of childhood, of newness and awe. May your transparent presence to others reveal the authenticity and integrity that is the hallmark of a simple life. May the God of SIMPLICITY bless you.
Exactly. Simplicity has a lot to do with vision. In order to live into simplicity, I need to have a clear vision of my goal, which is to glorify God. That vision will help me figure out what fits and what doesn’t fit. There I will find simplicity. And if living simply leads to a life of authenticity and integrity, then, my friends, I will count this a life well-lived.
This will all take time and practice. There will be steps forward and steps backward. It will not always be simple. But that’s the beauty and grace of the journey. Along the way, I will experience the many gifts and nuances that simplicity has to offer.
Many of you have shared your words for 2015: awareness, peace, open, financial peace, present, and others. I celebrate these words and pray they will lead you to to the One who spoke you into being. Keep me posted on your journeys and I’ll do the same. Should be a great year.