I write in a number of different genres, but a theme has developed and it’s become the tagline on my website: Slow down. Live Deeper.
As such, I’d like to take a play out of author Austin Kleon’s playbook. Every week, he sends an email to his list in which he shares ten tidbits he believes his readers will be interested in. It's always thought-provoking and it leads me deeper.
I want to begin doing something similar for you, keeping my theme in mind. My weekly list will only be seven items, though. I hope it inspires you. And if it does, I hope you'll forward it to a friend.
Here’s the first one:
Lonely places offer themselves up to us when we need them most. That’s been my experience, anyway.
My parents divorced when I was eight years old. My mom, my sister, and I moved to a smaller home in a neighborhood I didn’t know all that well. And when a kid befriended me and took me to a secret fort inside of some bushes a couple of blocks from my new home, it became my lonely place — the place I could crawl into and nobody could see me. I could think, dream, relax, and frankly, hide from the rest of the world whenever I needed to.
The summer before I started high school, my lonely place was behind my former grade school. I hit a tennis ball against the brick wall back there thousands of times in preparation for upcoming tennis team tryouts.
I had no way of knowing I wouldn’t really need to try out. My high school didn’t have a good tennis team. The coach usually just needed willing participants. I’m glad I didn’t know that, though. The work I put in behind that school was worth it. It was long, hard, sweaty work, but it made me better in every way.
Five or six years ago, a friend invited me out to central Nebraska for a fishing excursion over Memorial Day weekend. He had just purchased a small cabin in the woods and I loved everything about the place. Well, expect for the lack of running water, the lack of electricity, and the outhouse. Don’t get me started on the outhouse.
You could take maybe fifty steps from the cabin and arrive at the fishing hole you see pictured above. The water was always calm. The trees offered ample shade. And we always caught fish, which is as close to a miracle as possible, given our lack of fishing success elsewhere.
My buddy sold that little piece of paradise recently, so I’m looking for a new lonely place. But in reality, I expect it to find me, if I keep my eyes open.
The thing about lonely places is, they are lonely in the best possible way — free from distraction, free from judgment, and free from expectation. You just show up and it begins to refresh you. Then you think about the Creator of such a place and a sense of wonder and connection with Him washes over you. That’s hard to find anyplace else. And you are just grateful that you are there.
You’ll probably think I’m crazy for saying this, especially given my inclination for consuming overpriced skinny vanilla lattes in fancy coffee shops, but I can see a day when I won’t live in the city.
The traffic, the demands, the violence, the pace — it all feels too much.
I know I could avoid the traffic and the demands, and I could certainly set my own pace (which I do, unapologetically), but as I write this, I can hear the distracting whir of a leaf blower someone is running a house or two away. And I have new neighbors down the street who occasionally insist on blasting music until midnight. Yesterday, a guy who was selling windows rang my doorbell when I was in the middle of an editing project and interrupted my flow.
Distraction, for me, is unsettling.
And the physical landscape of my neighborhood has changed so much. I hardly recognize it anymore. My old grade school is now an apartment complex. The playground across the street from that school is now a housing complex. The park I used to play pickup football games has been completely revamped. And most of my neighbors have turned over.
In other words, my city roots have been snipped — not from a family and friends perspective, but rather, from a noise, congestion and landscape perspective.
While I’m nowhere near to making a change, I have been browsing tiny house and RV websites because, well, a guy can dream, can’t he?
I’m learning so much as I research. Did you know that both tiny houses and and RVs are regulated, either by the government or RV parks? For example, some RV parks have a ten-year rule, banning older RVs.
Even so, the tiny lifestyle is intriguing to me. It’s portable (regulations not withstanding). It’s cheaper (I found an RV recently that would only cost $109 per month). And it’s simpler (way less stuff). But for me, the most attractive feature is the quietness.
I know, lots of questions come to mind.
Where does a person park a tiny home or RV, especially if you don’t intend to travel much, but rather, just find a place outside of city limits that is quiet? How does a person hook into the electrical grid or get water in such a scenario? And what about the loneliness factor?
I’ve have found a few preliminary answers to the first couple of questions and the third one doesn’t concern me. I’m an introvert. I prefer extended periods of alone time. And I would never be far from the city, so I could still meet with friends whenever I wanted.
If I ever get serious about considering any of this, I’ll have to answer a lot more questions, but for now, it’s kind of fun to dream.
The Downsizing Series
A series of devotions about paring down so it is easier to look up.
For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. (1 John 2:16 ESV)
I had a conversation with a friend this past weekend about downsizing. I told him I feel hypocritical for writing about it, given the amount of stuff I’m still clinging to.
I keep expecting the critics to show up and point out my hypocrisy. My friend encouraged me to keep writing about it and to keep downsizing because we’re all in process. I know this, but often forget it.
Indeed, minimalism, downsizing, and the tiny house movement all have their critics.
Some say only the rich can afford to embrace minimalism (because they can afford to go digital and they can afford all of the other fancy gadgets it takes to consolidate). Others refer to minimalism as a counter-cultural trendy movement that seeks to be cooler than the mainstream of society. If you browse social media, you’ll find people calling one or all of these movements inane, ridiculous and even sexist.
If you intend to live smaller, expect some criticism—or, at the very least, a few questions.
If a person has a beautiful home, the finest clothing, and the best toys, the world will applaud. It’s hard not to recall the old Malcolm Forbes maxim that ended up on t-shirts and bumper stickers in the 1980s: “He who dies with the most toys wins.”
1 John 2:16 offers a much different maxim, though: Pride in possessions is not of the Father, but is from the world.
That’s not to say you cannot have nice possessions or accumulated wealth, though. In fact, God often uses those who have much to help those who do not, and sometimes he simply chooses to bless his children. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Joseph of Arimathea all had many possessions, as pointed out in this article.
The problem lies in accumulating for the sake of praise from this world. The apostle John wants us to know that our worth or satisfaction should not come from anything we own. Instead, it should be found in who we are in Christ.
The Downsizing Series
A series of devotions about paring down so it is easier to look up.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19-20 ESV)
I have a friend who likes to contend for individual words. He believes it is difficult to have a genuine conversation unless people can agree on definitions.
With that in mind, I can’t help but contend for the word “treasures” in the context of Matthew 6:19-20. Christ’s teaching seems clear, right? Do not lay up treasures on earth because moths, rust, or thieves are going to take them anyway.
But what exactly is Jesus forbidding in verse 19? Is he talking about our savings account? Jewelry? Boats? Laptops? Are we to forsake such items so we can be freer to lay up treasures in heaven?
The Greek word for “treasure” here means “a deposit, that is, wealth (literally or figuratively).”
“A treasure is an abundance of something that is in itself, at least in our opinion, precious and valuable, and likely to stand us in stead [be useful or helpful] hereafter,” says Matthew Henry in his “Commentary on the Whole Bible.”
“It meant an abundance of ‘anything’ that was held to be conducive to the ornament or comfort of life,’ writes Albert Barnes in his “Notes on the Bible.”
If these commentators are right, what would it look like for us to stop laying up treasures on earth in favor of laying up treasures in heaven?
In Adam Clarke’s “Commentary on the Bible,” he quotes Pasquier Quesnel, a French theologian from the seventeenth century, in an attempt to answer this question.
“The only way to render perishing goods eternal, to secure stately furniture from moths, and the richest metals from canker, and precious stones from thieves, is to transmit them to heaven by acts of charity,” Quesnel said. “This is a kind of bill of exchange which cannot fail of acceptance, but through our own fault.”
This makes me wonder what sort of treasure I need to transmit to heaven by acts of charity. How about you?