Aug 24

Simply Trust – Part II

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Last week, I blogged about my experiment with simplicity.  I was very powerful for me to use Jan Johnson’s book, Abundant Simplicity, to de-clutter a particular area of my life that really needed help.  Participants in Community 1 of the Apprentice Experience granted me permission

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Last week, I blogged about my experiment with simplicity.  I was very powerful for me to use Jan Johnson’s book, Abundant Simplicity, to de-clutter a particular area of my life that really needed help.  Participants in Community 1 of the Apprentice Experience granted me permission to share some of their experiences with the entire Apprentice community.

In Part 2 of this blog, I will share their experiments with simplicity.  Perhaps their stories will provide some motivation, inspiration or some insight as to how God is working in their lives as they journey through the Apprentice Experience.

Here are just a few entries:

Participant 1-

“One way I am ‘un-cluttering’ this week is cleaning out my Inbox so that I can see all of them on one page- only keeping the essentials ones that remind me that I need to respond in some way, and unsubscribing from some of the emails I was getting that only distract me (TravelZoo, Groupon, etc).  Life with Jesus is better than any ‘deal’ the internet has to offer!”

Participant 2-

“On page 8 of Jan’s book, Abundant Simplicity, she writes, ‘Simplicity is not a discipline itself but a way of being. It is letting go of things others consider normal. It is an “inward reality of single-hearted focus upon God and God’s kingdom, which results in an outward lifestyle of modesty.’

 Simple thus isn’t the goal. I know of people who live frugally and who are about as far from God as one can be. Frugal can be a symptom of faithlessness. Rather simple is a means, when appropriately employed, to enable us to remove the obstacles that keep us from that ‘inward reality of a single-hearted focus upon God.’ I find that when I remove the clutter whether of things and/or the mental clutter that congests my soul’s lungs then I can breathe more deeply of the Spirit and can consequently experience a fuller reality of God’s presence.

 The accumulation of things hasn’t really been so much of a problem for me as I grow older as much as the things that add to the mental clutter of my mind. When that happens then the things start to own me rather than me owning them. The thing that tries to own me the most and does the most to clutter up my mind is the television and in a close second are the social media devices.

 I confessed recently in a sermon to my congregation that I contemplated canceling my cable service. But, after further consideration, I thought that might be a rash decision. The cable television isn’t bad nor the social media devices. They are only harmful when they start to own us and redirect our focus farther from God. So my spiritual discipline for this month is to first become aware of the routines that own me e.g., plopping automatically down in front and the TV and allowing the ‘Sirens’ of the flat screen to draw me into the rocks of spiritual despair. Secondly, once I recognize the harmful routines, I will turn to listen to the Spirit’s call and allow God to own me so that my soul can breathe more deeply of God’s goodness. In my confession to my congregation, I promised to keep them update on my progress. I think there might be some others in my congregation practicing this spiritual discipline of abstinence as Jan calls it.”

Participant 3-

“Abstinence has been with ease as I have matured.  I have found I do not buy ‘things’ as when I was younger. Yes I lack the desire but God has given me much more to replace than having those things.  My taste in food has gotten simpler, fresher, colorful with less of it.  However, If you ask me to give up chocolate or wine then I will find a struggle and an obvious discipline for me to venture.  Living on a ranch can lend to a collection of nuts and bolts ‘just in case’ you need one.  My eyes appreciate simple lines and cleanliness.  It takes some work to keep a landscape free of clutter in your home or outside.   As I walk along a creek near our house I have the choice to see all the deadfall that needs cleaning up or how nature runs its course with decay.  There was a great horn owl on a dead tree along on drive just last night.  I stopped the car so we could watch as the bird took off in a swoosh.  My husband said ‘That is why I want to leave the dead tree there.’  Jim Smith said in our last gathering that some people actually prefer manmade beauty perhaps more than even nature.  I agreed for a while.  Nature does not always have the cleanest lines but the whole picture cannot be replicated.  The chaos and the simple lie side by side.  I can see the beauty in the chaos while watching the center of a storm.  I can see beauty in decay while watching the birds in dead trees.  It is an ongoing process to keep the clutter down and oh how sweet it is when I am finally there, in glimpses.”

Participant 4-

“One thing that stood out in chapter 2 was that one can LEARN to be content. That is a very encouraging thing.  I don’t have to just wait for contentment to wash over me or do without it.  It’s not a disposition that, if I’m not born with it, I’m out of luck.  If it is something that can be learned, then it is within my reach. All kinds of things can be learned.  In a psychology class, I heard about a study in which rats became more creative after researchers reinforced them when they tried novel behaviors.  They said the rats learned creativity.  I also heard that the secret to being patient was to find something else to do in the meantime, and voila, I learned patience.  I think learning contentment is similar.  Focusing on what I do have instead of what I don’t, focusing on what really matters instead of what is here today and gone tomorrow.  As with all learning, the more I practice the more it becomes an automatic habit.”

Participant 5-

“I have been a blacksmith in the past. I love it, the smell of the coal smoke, the way the steel glows in the heat of the fire, the way it moves when I hit it with a hammer.  Literally hundreds of fantastic memories of working in front of men and boys at Royal Rangers camps.  However, I have not had my forge lit in 5 or 6 years. I owned a 281lb anvil, a 150lb vise, a huge 24 by 26 tray forge and dozens of hammers, tongs and tools.  As God was changing my life and preparing me for ministry, one thing that He was really working on was my attachment to stuff.  Even without the physical stuff the memories were still with me.  So…I simplified, I kept a small forge and anvil to play with when I come back to that hobby.  I sold or gave away most of my big tools and grinders.  And you know what?  Life is simpler!”

As you can see, people in the Apprentice Experience have been grappling with the concept of simplicity and have experienced some major revelations.  It will be interesting to witness the ways they experience God in the midst of all of this as we prepare for our next gathering.

Experiments with Simplicity

I’d like to encourage you to experiment with simplicity this week.  Perhaps you can try one or all of these:

  1. Talk to someone who lives simply. Ask them what they’ve learned through simplicity.
  1. Ask someone you trust to suggest what “weights” you need to lay aside. Don’t answer that person immediately.  Think about what he or she said.
  1. Journal about this question: “What do you want?” First write down what you think you want.  Then, ask God to help you search yourself as you look at things such as your calendar and spending records.  Also, consider your thought energy – What do you spend a lot of time thinking about?

John Carroll oversees the Apprentice Experience, a two-year certification experience in Christian Spiritual Formation for clergy and laity.  With a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Florida and a Master of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary, John brings a unique blend of experience (11 years in corporate recruiting, 4 years in the local church) to the Apprentice Institute.  He is happily married to his wife, Amber, and together they have two children, Aidan and Amelia. In his free time, John enjoys reading, watching football and spending time with family and friends.

For more information about the Apprentice Experience, contact John at john.carroll@apprenticeinstitute.org.

 

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Aug 11

Simply Trust

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tree sprout

Many of you connected to the Apprentice Institute know that I oversee the adult learning program, Apprentice Experience.  It has been an incredible opportunity for me. Not only do I get to work with a fantastic team of deep, Christian people, but I have the

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tree sprout

Many of you connected to the Apprentice Institute know that I oversee the adult learning program, Apprentice Experience.  It has been an incredible opportunity for me. Not only do I get to work with a fantastic team of deep, Christian people, but I have the honor of leading people from all over the world in this 18-month journey in discipleship.  Our pilot group – Community 1 – is made up of twenty-five people.  They are pastors, church staff, para church workers and lay leaders.

As we prepare for our third Gathering in October, we are reading Jan Johnson’s book, Abundant SimplicitySimplicity is about intentionally choosing the engaging, relational life we were meant to live.  These choices allow God’s power to move through us and bless others as we have space to do good.  Suffice to say, it has been making an indelible mark on our hearts and minds.  Each week, we read two chapters, then attempt an experiment with simplicity.

One of the recent experiments asked us to talk with someone we know who lives simply.  I gave some thought to this and decided I was going to talk to a friend from Florida who recently simplified her wardrobe by doing a “clothing capsule.”  The concept is essentially a minimalist approach to clothing.  The idea is nothing new.  It actually dates back to the 70’s, but is making a comeback.  The basic idea is to build a wardrobe with a few high-quality, timeless pieces that mix and match.  You store seasonal clothing and only keep what you wear in your closet.  Each season, you switch to a new capsule, though some pieces will overlap.  The wardrobe is also intended to be built with ethical clothing.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a bit of a “clothes horse.” (Hey – everyone’s got their own vices, right?)  I decided to attempt the clothing capsule after much prayer and thought.  I took everything out of my closet and went through it all.  I hung up what I wear regularly, including shoes.  Then I went through what was left.  I either gave away of donated the rest.  I purged my closet again, only this time, it was really hard.  I picked a couple different items and said goodbye to the rest.  Versatility was the key to what I ended up keeping.

Part of having a capsule is not having all of your clothes in front of you, which can be overwhelming.  For example, my fall/winter wardrobe went in the spare bedroom’s closet, which included coats, sweaters, and long sleeve shirts.

The last step in my transition to simplicity was to stop shopping.  Which isn’t really hard for me since I hate to shop.  But when you get rid of 75% of your clothes, it’s easy to stroll into a store and pick up some new items.  Shopping should only occur when preparing to fill in the gaps for the next season’s capsule.  My summer wardrobe has exactly 40 items.

For me, this process was extremely spiritual.  While I was in seminary, my wife and I did not make very much money.  We were in a season of minimalistic living.  We hung on to what we accumulated in our previous lives because resources were limited.  This process of simplifying my wardrobe revealed something incredibly insightful.  I learned that, over the years, I hung on to clothes out of a lack of trust…with God.  I didn’t trust that I’d have clothes to wear, so I kept them – even though I didn’t wear a lot of it.  By purging my closet, it was an exercise in simplicity and trust.  The experience was very powerful!

Through this process, I also have spent a great deal of time reflecting on the wise words of Jesus, from Matthew 6 (v. 25-34)

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

I posted my experiment with simplicity in the online classroom for the Apprentice Experience.  Shortly afterwards, others from Community 1 began posting their experiments.  It was staggering to read how they are living in abundant simplicity.  I asked their permission to share some of their experiences with the entire Apprentice community.  Next week, I’ll post Part 2 of this blog so you can read their stories.


John Carroll oversees the Apprentice Experience, a two-year certification experience in Christian Spiritual Formation for clergy and laity.  With a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Florida and a Master of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary, John brings a unique blend of experience (11 years in corporate recruiting, 4 years in the local church) to the Apprentice Institute.  He is happily married to his wife, Amber, and together they have two children, Aidan and Amelia. In his free time, John enjoys reading, watching football and spending time with family and friends.

For more information about the Apprentice Experience, contact John at john.carroll@apprenticeinstitute.org.

 

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May 19

The Scrambler

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When my son, Jacob, was six years old, I took him to an amusement park. There were only a few people in the park that day, so we went from ride to ride without having to wait. We came upon a ride that I had

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When my son, Jacob, was six years old, I took him to an amusement park. There were only a few people in the park that day, so we went from ride to ride without having to wait. We came upon a ride that I had never ridden before but I assumed was fun. After all, we were in an amusement park. We got in our seats and a teenaged boy buckled us in. Soon the ride started whirling and spinning us, faster and faster, jerking us around and up and down. I held on to Jacob as hard as I could, afraid that he would fly out of his seat. With white knuckles and gritted teeth I prayed the entire ninety seconds for the ride to end. I looked over at Jacob, who was laughing and having a great time.

When we got off the ride, I saw the name of it in bright red paint: the Scrambler, which was appropriate. Jacob said, “that was fun, let’s do it again!” I said no. (What I felt like saying was, “Not a chance! ever again! I am the worst father ever! Please forgive me.”) We sat down on a nearby park bench, and I asked, “Weren’t you scared? that ride was pretty wild. Why did you get on a ride like that?” he answered with childlike honesty, “Because you did, Dad.” Right or wrong, that little guy trusted me. I was and am clearly not worthy of such trust. I love him and would do anything for him, and I would never put him in harm’s way intentionally. But I am a limited, finite, ignorant human being. In his eyes, however, being with me meant he was completely safe.

That illustrated for me why it is so essential that we understand that God is trustworthy. The God Jesus reveals would never do anything to harm us. He has no malice or evil intentions. He is completely good. And the fact that God is also all-knowing and all-powerful makes his goodness even better. I can trust God, even if things look bleak. It does not matter that God is all-powerful or all-knowing if he is not all-good. If he isn’t all-good, I will never be able to love and trust him.

 

Soul Training – Use the following Bible Passages for Reflection:

1 John 1:5 “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” NIV

2 Samuel 7:28 “Sovereign Lord, you are God! Your covenant is trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant.” NIV

Psalm 91

 

Taken from The Good and Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith. Copyright(c) 2009 by James Bryan Smith. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com


Dr. James Bryan Smith (M.Div., Yale University Divinity School; DMin Fuller Seminary) is the Executive Director of the Apprentice Institute. Dr. Smith is currently a theology professor at Friends University, in Wichita, Kansas, and an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. He is the author of eight books, most notably The Apprentice Series (InterVarsity Press), which continue to shape the work of the Apprentice Institute. Dr. Smith’s other titles include Devotional Classics (with Richard J. Foster), Embracing the Love of God, Room of Marvels, and Hidden in Christ.

 

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Jan 27

Testing or Trusting?

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solitude

“You have an exhaustive personality” my co-worker said. “What? Me? No!” I was taken aback. He has only known me for a few months.  How can he say this? I had no idea what he meant but the words stung deep and rung through my

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solitude

“You have an exhaustive personality” my co-worker said.

“What? Me? No!” I was taken aback. He has only known me for a few months.  How can he say this?

I had no idea what he meant but the words stung deep and rung through my head for days.  I began overanalyzing every word that came out of my mouth wondering if I was being “exhaustive” or not.  I must rid myself of “exhaustive” behaviors.

I hated this description of me.  I was not angry with my co-worker at all.  In fact, I appreciated his honesty.  However, I was scrutinizing my every action and that was exhaustive!  I always thought of myself as a perky, upbeat, inviting person and within one conversation I was stopped dead in my tracks to reevaluate how I interacted with my community.

I love being in community.  Community is where I thrive.  The more helpful I can be the better.  Serving is definitely my love language.

How can a true servant have an “exhaustive” personality?

I prayed (a little).  I took time to reflect (kind of) on my actions to see how I was interacting with others.  I realized my life was going through an enormous amount of change, both personally and professionally.  I became a mother at the same time my job was shifting directions, all the while the small business I owned was steadily losing money making it harder and harder to keep the doors open.  I was exhausted all right and my mental exhaustion was rubbing off on those around me.

In the book “Holy is the Day” by Carolyn Weber, she asks the question “Am I testing? Or am I trusting?” I highlighted the line and kept reading.  However, for the days that followed that line haunted my mind. I continually asked myself, “God, am I trusting you to show me what plans you have for me? Or I am testing you to see if your plans are the same as mine?”

These words settled in my brain and I began to understand what within my personality had become “exhaustive.” I wasn’t trusting God.  I was running on auto-pilot putting my relationship with Him on the back burner.  As I began to slow down and make time for God daily I was able to listen to others better and respond better and serve better. I was less confrontational and more joyful.  I moved away from having to be in control of every situation and allow God to work within my life versus just when I think I cannot handle a situation.

Jesus trusted his Heavenly Father even in darkness. As his apprentice I am learning to do the same.  I trust that no matter how exhausted my body and my life, I can rest in him and he will provide what I truly need.

 

Kara Yuza is the Coordinator of Programming and Logistics for the Apprentice Institute at Friends University.  She is co-worker to four incredibly smart, talented, hard-working, generous and fun-loving men as well as a mom to the most beautiful daughter in the world and wife the the most supportive husband known to man.  For fun she teaches Jazzercise fitness classes and spends time in community with friends and family.

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Jan 16

God as Abba

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What does Jesus’ use of the word Abba tell us about his relationship with God the Father? Jesus said, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father

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What does Jesus’ use of the word Abba tell us about his relationship with God the Father?

Jesus said, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Luke 10:22). Jesus revealed an enormous amount of information about his heavenly Father through a single word: Abba.

God as Abba. In the garden of Gethsemane, during his final hours before the crucifixion, Jesus addressed God using a unique title: Abba. This is key because Jesus’ use of this title reveals something important about the nature of the God he knew. Abba is best translated “Dear Father.” It is a term of intimacy, but it also contains a sense of obedience. The fact that Jesus addressed God with the word Abba tells us that, to him, God was not distant or far removed, but was intimately involved in his life. It does not in itself tell us that God is good (neither dear nor father necessarily means good), but as New Testament scholar C. F. D. Moule notes, “The intimate word conveys not a casual sort of familiarity but the deepest, most trustful reverence.”

Jesus uses this title in his address to God while facing the most difficult hour of his life. He prays, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want” (Mark 14:36). Jesus is facing torture and death. In the Gospel of Luke we are told that he was in so much anguish his sweat became like drops of blood (Luke 22:44). Yet he prays, “not what I want, but what you want.” How can he speak to God in this way at such a difficult moment? The only answer I can see is that he trusts his Father.”

God is a good and loving Father, Jesus is telling us, and he is so good that we can obey him no matter what.  But some people may ask, why did Jesus doubt at all?  He was God, after all!  True, he was God, but he was also fully human.  Incarnation (becoming human) implies limitation.  Because he was full human, Jesus experienced everything we do, which includes fear and doubt.  But notice:  even in the midst of doubt, in the moment of his deepest suffering, Jesus trusted in his heavenly Father.

Does the idea of God as Abba change the way you think of God?   

 

Taken from The Good and Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith. Copyright(c) 2009 by James Bryan Smith. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com

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