When I was a kid, say eight or nine, one of my favorite games to play after school was to go “camping.” Camping, in this case, didn’t involve anything too elaborate.
Looking back, it was probably just a chance to be outside, playing in the dirt of the driveway, and driving around our collection of little plastic and metal cars and trucks.
For my brother and I, camping, as near as I can remember, involved filling the little vehicles up with sand, pushing them somewhere new, and watching all the sand flow out.
The sand in this case represented all the awesome stuff my eight year old self thought was essential on camping trips: food, candy, and cookies. Not necessarily in that order. (It was after school and snacks were on my mind.)
And, then, when all the sand had run out, we’d pick a new place to go, load up and head out.
What’s my point?
On my walk this morning, this was the story that came to me, given all my recent losses associated with the established church in this nation. I won’t bore you with mine here, but I suspect you, dear reader, have some sense that the established church is simply not enough as it is.
This sense that the church is not simply good enough as it is; too concerned about its own problems; or the sleeping patterns of others; or countless other ways.
This sense, if you let me continue the metaphor that the grains of sand are quickly slipping out the sides of the plastic VW bus.
Too often, church development schemes and leadership begin by attempting to prop up, stop up, and seek to hold the sand inside. The sand in this instance, standing for everything from the young people, the money, the building, or the people in the choir.
That’s not good enough.
My eight year old self would tell them: shake the rest of the sand out, pack some more and head off in a new direction.
And, pack lots of cookies.
Final thought: my first piece of advice to congregations and individuals I have worked with: clear the clutter. To survive today people, institutions, and groups, must learn to pack lighter for the journey. There are lots of great books and resources out there about simple living, clutter busting, and the rest.
This is part of an occasional series on practices, which might be helpful for your spiritual path.
One of the keys to living a simpler life is finding the right balance in how you spend your time.
Here’s the simplest priority setting process I know, which I have adapted from Richard Foster’s Freedom of Simplicity.
Three Marker Test
Foster recommends you ask a few questions before you cut.
1. What do I want? (Sometimes, asking, why do I want that?)
2. What am I longing for?
3. How is God inviting me to say yes to this season of my life?
I’d add a couple more.
a. What would you do if you really had the freedom to follow your dreams?
b. If you’re a bit older, how might your younger self have imagined you today?
Each time I stop and consider my time and the way it is used, I find out something new about myself and who I am becoming. I often use those same big pieces of paper to create timelines, looking backwards at the year that was. It always helps me focus.
Obviously, I’ve just suggested you take your schedule and make some radical changes. Many of us, probably have things in our schedule, which we don’t want to do, but still need to do. The point of the little exercise is less to end up with a perfect schedule and more to move towards discovering what matters to you and prioritizing that.
Finally a quote from Foster: “If your season of life has changed; you might experiment with radical change.”
What might radical change look like for you?