Simplicity and the Subversion of Subtle Idolatry

Simplicity is...photo © 2010 Andrei Bocan | more info (via: Wylio)
During the 46 days of Lent (well, in actuality my family celebrated the Resurrection on Saturday so we chose to feast with them then [45 days]) food often filled my thoughts.  Attempting to live on $2 a day meant that I craved Chipotle on a regular basis and wished that I could eat desserts and snacks that always seemed to be in the kitchen of our office at work.  One of the worst situations at work took place during a baby shower that was thrown for a staff member during lunch.  Foot-long pulled beef sandwiches!  Nope, just water and the gurgling of stomach acids.

What I found through the hunger pains, the bad moods, and the cravings was a God who purged me of my desire for things other than him.  Certainly, this purgatorial parenthesis in my otherwise consumptive life did not take full steps toward perfection as one might hope, but refinement certainly happened. The fire of self-denial led to a revelation of sorts: Consumption and comfort are not the greatest idols in my life… I am!  I want.  I need.  I.  I.  I.  Truly, without recognizing it before, my “I” moves to center stage of my priorities and God occupies the peripheral bleachers more often than I am proud of.  This perhaps became the greatest lesson of Lent.

Consider the following quote from Richard Foster from his book Celebration of Discipline:

The central point for the Discipline of simplicity is to seek the kingdom of God and the righteousness of his kingdom first and them everything necessary will come in its proper order.  It is impossible to overestimate the importance of Jesus’ insight at this point.  Everything hinges upon maintaining the “first” thing as first.  Nothing must come before the kingdom of God, including the desire for a simply life-style.  Simplicity itself becomes idolatry when it takes precedence over seeking the kingdom.[1]

This quote reminds me that the purpose of any spiritual discipline, Lenten or otherwise is seek the God whose Kingdom is forever.  In confronting some idols in my life, I am learning that such a task feels impossible a lot of the time.  Yet, in the midst of my inability to “get it right” all the time, in my lack of seeking the kingdom first each day, I am reminded from this simplicity journey that God’s grace only requires simple faith.  Faith that even when I am weak, that he is strong.  Faith that when I fail to be simple, that he doesn’t simply give up on me.

As I reflect on this experience, there is part of me that thinks: I could do it again.  And it is a real possibility that I will take up a similar discipline during another Lenten season.  At one point I contemplated making this an annual tradition but I fear that this could either become vain repetition or so easy that it would lose its effect.  One friend suggested that we ought to grow our own food in our backyard and then next Lent we could commit to living on the land.  Not sure that alley cats, worms, and garden veggies would tide me over for 46 days.  Something I do know is that I will take up Lent as a regular spiritual rhythm.

Subverting consumption and comfort through the spiritual discipline of simplicity continues to have an affect on me today.  Yes, I have gained back 5 of the 20 pounds that I lost, but the ongoing remembrance goes beyond my density.  I am determined to eat less and eat more simply on a regular basis.  For the entire period of Lent, even though I did not write it down as one of my stipulations, I did not eat meat.  In the past my attitude towards devouring dinner included the need for a meat product.  Without meat this isn’t dinner! I was quite wrong.  The pickiness that dominated my gorging no longer permeates my attitude toward food (well, not as much as it used to).  My hope is that God continues to remind me of this experience so that I may continue to grow towards simplicity.

Finally, I want to return to the thought about the kingdom of God and deliberate simplicity.  When the reign of God is first then everything falls into its proper place.  The more I live simply, the less I need.  The less I need, the more I can give.  The more I give, the less idols I cling to.  The less idols I cling to, the more of Jesus I experience.  Truly, “simplicity is freedom.”[2]

Thanks to all of you who gave so generously to Blood: Water Mission.  Here is the confirmation for our giving:


[1]. Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, 20th anniversary ed. , 3rd ed., rev. (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998), 86.

[2]. Ibid., 71.

 

Below is my entire spending on food for Lent:

DayFoodAmountCost
9-Mar-11Organic Instant Oatmeal (chocolate chip)2 packets$0.36
PB & J
Organic Wheat Bread2 slices$0.36
Organic Strawberry jam1tbs$0.10
Organic Peanut Butter2tbs$0.18
Organic wheat Spaghetti2 servings$0.24
Organic Spaghetti Sauce1/2 cup$0.43
Organic Applesauce1 mini cup$0.31
TOTAL FOR MAR 9TH $1.98
10-Mar-11Organic Applesauce1 mini cup$0.31
PB&J Tortilla roll-up
Tortilla2$0.08
Organic Peanut Butter4 tbs$0.36
Organic Strawberry Jam2 tbs$0.20
Organic Applesauce1 mini cup$0.31
Organic Wheat Spaghetti2 servings$0.24
Organic Spaghetti Sauce1 Serving$0.43
TOTAL FOR MAR 10TH $1.93
11-Mar-11Organic Cin. Oatmeal2 packets$0.36
Potato / Rice Burrito
Potato1$0.14
Organic Brown Rice1 serving$0.13
Tortilla2$0.08
Organic Butter1 serving$0.19
PB&J Tortilla roll-up
Tortilla2$0.08
Organic Peanut Butter4 tbs$0.36
Organic Strawberry Jam2 tbs$0.20
Organic Applesauce1 mini cup$0.31
TOTAL FOR MAR 11$1.85
12-Mar-11Tortilla Cinnamon Toast
Butter / sugar / cinnamondash’$0.06
Tortilla2$0.08
Organic Applesauce1 mini cup$0.31
Potato1$0.14
Organic Butter1/2 serving$0.10
salt / pepperdash$0.01
PB&J Tortilla roll-up
Tortilla1$0.04
Organic Peanut Butter4 tbs$0.18
Organic Strawberry Jam2 tbs$0.10
Potato / Rice Burrito
Potato1$0.14
Organic Brown Rice1 serving$0.13
Tortilla2$0.08
Organic Navy Beans1/2 serving$0.16
1 Cookie$0.10
TOTAL FOR MAR 12$1.63
13-Mar-11Organic Applesauce1 mini cup$0.31
Organic Brown Rice1 serving$0.13
Potato1$0.14
Organic Salsa1 serving$0.10
Frozen Organic Juice pop1$0.32
Organic Maple Oatmeal2 packets$0.36
PB&J Tortilla roll-up
Tortilla2$0.08
Organic Peanut Butter4 tbs$0.36
Organic Strawberry Jam2 tbs$0.20
$2.00
14-Mar-11
Organic oatmeal2 packets$0.36
Whey Protein mix1 serving$0.65
Organic Brown rice2 servings$0.28
Organic Salsa1.5 serving$0.15
Organic Applesauce1 mini cup$0.31
Cookie1$0.10
Tortilla3$0.12
TOTAL FOR MAR 14$1.97
15-Mar-11Organic Applesauce1 mini cup$0.31
Organic Oatmeal2 packs$0.36
Organic Frozen Juice1$0.32
PB&J Tortilla roll-up
Tortilla2$0.08
Organic Peanut Butter4 tbs$0.36
Organic Strawberry Jam2 tbs$0.20
Potato1$0.14
Organic Salsa1 serving$0.10
$1.87
16-MarOrganic Applesauce1 mini cup$0.31
Potato1$0.14
Organic Salsa1$0.10
Fried Rice
Organic Brown Rice2 Servings$0.28
Frozen Organic Veggies1 cup$0.25
Cage Free Egg2$0.52
Tortilla5$0.20
Organic Oatmeal1 packet$0.18
TOTAL MAR 16, 11$1.98
17-MarOrganic Oatmeal2 packets$0.36
Organic Frozen Juice1$0.32
Left over Rice w/ eggs and veggies
Potato1$0.24
Salsa1 serving$0.10
PB&J Tortilla roll-up
Tortilla1$0.04
Organic Peanut Butter4 tbs$0.18
Organic Strawberry Jam2 tbs$0.10
Tortilla3$0.12
TOTAL FOR MAR 17$1.46
18-Mar????
19-MarEgg in a Boat
Egg1$0.26
Bread1 slice$0.18
Buttersliver$0.05
Potato$0.14
Salsa2 servings$0.20
Rice1 serving$0.13
Egg1$0.26
Home Made Cinn Roll2$0.20
Organic Frozen Juice1$0.32
TOTAL MAR 19$1.74
20-MarEgg Rice Salsa plate
Egg$0.26
Rice$0.13
Salsa$0.10
Potato$0.14
Applesauce$0.31
Organic Frozen Juice$0.32
PB&J Tortilla roll-up
Tortilla1$0.04
Organic Peanut Butter4 tbs$0.18
Organic Strawberry Jam2 tbs$0.10
TOTAL MAR 20$1.58
21-MarOrganic Applesauce$0.31
Organic Oatmeal$0.36
Egg Rice Salsa plate
Egg$0.26
Rice$0.13
Salsa$0.10
PB&J Tortilla roll-up
Tortilla1$0.04
Organic Peanut Butter4 tbs$0.18
Organic Strawberry Jam2 tbs$0.10
Organic Frozen Juice$0.32
Baby Carrots5$0.10
Tortilla1$0.04
TOTAL MAR 21$1.94
22-MarOrganic applesauce$0.31
Organic Oatmeal$0.36
Egg Rice Salsa plate
Egg$0.52
Rice$0.13
Salsa$0.10
Homemade Cinn Roll$0.10
tortilla2$0.08
Chocolate peanuts9$0.15
TOTAL MAR 22$1.75
23-MarOrganic Applesauce1 mini cup$0.31
Egg Rice Salsa plate
Egg1$0.26
Rice1 serving$0.13
Salsa1 serving$0.10
Frozen organic juice1$0.32
chocolate covered peanuts9$0.15
Organic baby carrotsleft over$0.14
PB&J Tortilla roll-up
Tortilla1$0.04
Organic Peanut Butter4 tbs$0.18
Organic Strawberry Jam2 tbs$0.10
Tortilla4$0.16
Butter / sugar / cinnamondash’$0.06
$1.95
24-MarOrganic Oatmeal$0.36
Egg Rice Salsa plate
Egg1$0.26
Rice1 serving$0.13
Salsa1 serving$0.10
Organic Applesauce1 mini cup$0.31
Tortilla2$0.08
chocolate covered peanuts9$0.15
PB&J Tortilla roll-up
Tortilla1$0.04
Organic Peanut Butter4 tbs$0.18
Organic Strawberry Jam2 tbs$0.10
Frozen organic juice$0.32
TOTAL FOR MAR 24$2.03
25-MarPB&J Tortilla roll-up
Tortilla1$0.04
Organic Peanut Butter4 tbs$0.18
Organic Strawberry Jam2 tbs$0.10
Egg Rice Salsa plate
Egg1$0.26
Rice1 serving$0.13
Salsa1 serving$0.10
Homemade Cinn Roll$0.10
Salsa$0.10
Potato$0.14
Tortilla3$0.12
butter, sugar, cinndash$0.03
Organic brown rice1 serving$0.13
Frozen Organic Juice$0.32
chocolate covered peanuts9$0.15
TOTAL$1.90
26-MarPB&J Tortilla roll-up
Tortilla1$0.04
Organic Peanut Butter2 tbs$0.18
Organic Strawberry Jam1 tbs$0.10
Egg Rice Salsa plate
Egg1$0.26
Rice1 serving$0.13
Salsa1 serving$0.10
Organic Applesauce1 mini cup$0.31
Tortilla1$0.04
Tortilla Pizza
Tortilla1$0.04
Sauce1/2  serving$0.16
Cheese1 serving$0.23
Salsa$0.10
Potato$0.14
Tortilla2$0.08
TOTAL$1.91
27-Martortilla4$0.16
Organic Applesauce1 mini cup$0.31
PB&J Tortilla roll-up
Tortilla1$0.04
Organic Peanut Butter2 tbs$0.18
Organic Strawberry Jam1 tbs$0.10
Egg Rice Salsa plate
Egg1$0.26
Rice1 serving$0.13
Salsa1 serving$0.10
chocolate covered peanuts9$0.15
Organic Oatmeal$0.36
Butter / sugar / cinnamondash’$0.06
TOTAL$1.85
28-MarEgg Rice Salsa plate
Egg1$0.26
Rice1 serving$0.13
Salsa1 serving$0.10
PB&J Tortilla roll-up
Tortilla1$0.04
Organic Peanut Butter2 tbs$0.18
Organic Strawberry Jam1 tbs$0.10
Organic Applesauce1 mini cup$0.31
PB&J Tortilla roll-up
Tortilla1$0.04
Organic Peanut Butter2 tbs$0.18
Organic Strawberry Jam1 tbs$0.10
Organic Brown Rice1 serving$0.13
Chocolate covered peanuts10$0.17
pop corn1 serving$0.07
TOTAL$1.81
29-MarEgg Rice Salsa plate
Egg1$0.26
Rice1 serving$0.13
Salsa1 serving$0.10
Organic Applesauce1 mini cup$0.31
Organic Oatmeal2 packets$0.36
PB J & Plain Oatmeal Bowl
Organic Oatmeal1 packet$0.18
Organic Peanut Butter2 tbs$0.18
Organic Strawberry Jam1 tbs$0.10
Rice1 serving$0.13
Capt’n Crunch1 serving$0.16
TOTAL$1.91
30-MarPB J & Plain Oatmeal Bowl
Organic Oatmeal1 packet$0.18
Organic Peanut Butter2 tbs$0.18
Organic Strawberry Jam1 tbs$0.10
cookies4$0.06
Egg Rice Salsa plate
Egg1$0.26
Rice1 serving$0.13
Salsa1 serving$0.10
Frozen Organic Juice$0.32
Organic Oatmeal1 packet$0.18
PB J & Plain Oatmeal Bowl
Organic Peanut Butter2 tbs$0.18
Organic Strawberry Jam1 tbs$0.10
Pizza sauce1 tbs$0.08
pizza dough2 small pcs$0.10
TOTAL$1.97
31-MarOrganic Oatmeal2 packets$0.36
Organic Peanut Butter2 tbs$0.18
Organic Strawberry Jam1 tbs$0.10
Frozen Organic Juice$0.32
Potato$0.14
Organic Butter1 serving$0.19
Veggie Spring Roll2$0.20
PB&J Tortilla roll-up
Tortilla1$0.04
Organic Peanut Butter2 tbs$0.18
Organic Strawberry Jam1 tbs$0.10
Organic Flax1/2 serve$0.04
Tortilla2$0.08
TOTAL$1.93
1-AprOrganic Oatmeal2 packets$0.36
Organic Flax1/2 serving$0.04
Potato$0.14
Egg1$0.25
PB&J Tortilla roll-up
Tortilla2$0.08
Organic Peanut Butter2 tbs$0.18
Organic Strawberry Jam1 tbs$0.10
Organic Applesauce1 mini cup$0.31
Half Muffin$0.28
TOTAL$1.74
2-AprPotato$0.14
Egg1$0.25
Frozen Organic Juice$0.32
Bananna1$0.19
PB&J Tortilla roll-up
Tortilla1$0.04
Organic Peanut Butter2 tbs$0.18
Organic Strawberry Jam1 tbs$0.10
PB&J Tortilla roll-up
Tortilla1$0.04
Organic Peanut Butter2 tbs$0.18
Organic Strawberry Jam1 tbs$0.10
Charles Shaw Wine1/2 cup$0.33
Rice1 serving$0.13
TOTAL$2.00
3-AprTortilla1$0.04
Organic Peanut Butter2 tbs$0.18
Organic Strawberry Jam1 tbs$0.10
Organic Applesauce1 mini cup$0.31
Organic Flax1 serving$0.07
Organic Brown Rice1 serving$0.13
Organic Spaghetti Sauce1/2 serving$0.21
Organic Spaghetti1 serving$0.12
Egg Rice Salsa plate
Egg1$0.25
Rice1 serving$0.13
Salsa1 serving$0.10
Charles Shaw Wine1/2 cup$0.33
TOTAL$1.97
4-AprOrganic Oatmeal2 packets$0.36
Organic Flax1/2 serving$0.04
PB&J Tortilla roll-up
Tortilla1$0.04
Organic Peanut Butter2 tbs$0.18
Organic Strawberry Jam1 tbs$0.10
Organic Applesauce1 mini cup$0.31
Egg Rice Salsa plate
Egg1$0.25
Rice1 serving$0.13
Salsa1 serving$0.10
Half Muffin$0.28
Popcorn1 serving$0.07
Chocolate Covered Peanuts3$0.05
TOTAL$1.91
5-AprOrganic Oatmeal1 packets$0.18
Organic Flax1/2 serving$0.04
PB&J Tortilla roll-up
Tortilla1$0.04
Organic Peanut Butter2 tbs$0.18
Organic Strawberry Jam1 tbs$0.10
Frozen Organic Juice$0.32
Egg Rice Salsa plate
Cage Free Egg1$0.25
Organic Rice1 serving$0.13
Organic Salsa1 serving$0.10
Organic Spinach1/2 cup$0.12
muffin1/4 piece$0.14
Chocolate Covered Peanuts5$0.09
TOTAL$1.69
6-AprCage Free Egg1$0.25
Organic Salsa1/2 serving$0.05
Potato$0.14
Organic Baby Carrots1 bag$0.24
Organic Applesauce1 mini cup$0.31
Organic Peanut Butter2 tbs$0.18
Organic Strawberry Jam1 tbs$0.10
Organic Oatmeal1 packets$0.18
Tortilla3$0.12
Butter / sugar / cinnamondash’$0.06
Organic Brown Rice1/4 serving$0.03
Chocolate Covered Peanuts5$0.09
popcorn$0.07
toppings$0.03
TOTAL$1.85
7-AprOrganic Oatmeal2 packets$0.36
Organic Flax1 serving$0.07
Cage Free Egg1$0.25
Organic Salsa1/2 serving$0.05
Potato$0.14
Organic Spinach1/2 cup$0.12
PB&J Tortilla roll-up
Tortilla1$0.04
Organic Peanut Butter2 tbs$0.18
Organic Strawberry Jam1 tbs$0.10
Organic Flax1/2 serving$0.04
Tortilla3$0.12
Charles Shaw Wine (Trader Joes)1 serving$0.33
Granola Bar1$0.20
TOTAL$2.00
8-AprOrganic Oatmeal2 packets$0.36
Organic Flax1 serving$0.07
Cage Free Egg1$0.25
Organic Salsa1/2 serving$0.05
Potato$0.14
Organic Spinach1/2 cup$0.12
Tortilla5$0.20
PB&J Tortilla roll-up
Tortilla1$0.04
Organic Peanut Butter2 tbs$0.18
Organic Strawberry Jam1 tbs$0.10
Organic Applesauce1 mini cup$0.31
popcorn$0.07
$1.89
9-AprOrganic Oatmeal2 packets$0.36
Organic Flax1 serving$0.07
mini pizza
Crust$0.05
Sauce$0.09
Cheese$0.05
Frozen Organic Juice$0.32
PB&J Tortilla roll-up
Tortilla1$0.04
Organic Peanut Butter2 tbs$0.18
Organic Strawberry Jam1 tbs$0.10
Egg Rice Salsa plate
Cage Free Egg1$0.25
Organic Rice1 serving$0.13
Organic Salsa1/2 serving$0.05
Organic Spinach1/2 cup$0.12
$1.81
10-AprOrganic Oatmeal2 packets$0.36
Organic Flax1 serving$0.07
Organic Applesauce1 mini cup$0.31
Veggie Spring Roll3$0.60
Cage Free Egg1$0.25
Organic Rice1 serving$0.13
Organic Salsa1 serving$0.10
chocolate covered peanuts2$0.03
TOTAL$1.85
11-AprFamily issues… stayed under $2
12-AprFamily issues… stayed under $2
13-AprOrganic Applesauce1 mini cup$0.31
Egg Rice Salsa plate
Cage Free Egg1$0.25
Organic Rice1 serving$0.13
Organic Salsa1 serving$0.10
Tortilla4$0.16
PB&J Tortilla roll-up
Tortilla1$0.04
Organic Peanut Butter2 tbs$0.18
Organic Strawberry Jam1 tbs$0.12
Granola Bar1$0.20
chocolate covered peanuts15$0.21
Muffin1/2 serve$0.28
$1.98
14-AprTortilla4$0.16
Organic Oatmeal2 packets$0.36
Organic Flax1 serving$0.07
PB&J Tortilla roll-up
Tortilla1$0.04
Organic Peanut Butter2 tbs$0.18
Organic Strawberry Jam1 tbs$0.12
Granola Bar1$0.20
Frozen Organic Juice$0.32
All Natural Honey Grams Cerial3/4 cup$0.17
Organic Milk1/4 cup$0.11
Potato (French Fries)$0.14
Honey Mustard$0.05
$1.92
15-AprTortilla4$0.16
Organic Oatmeal2 packets$0.36
Organic Flax1 serving$0.07
PB&J Tortilla roll-up
Tortilla1$0.04
Organic Peanut Butter2 tbs$0.18
Organic Strawberry Jam1 tbs$0.12
Granola Bar1$0.20
Potato (French Fries)$0.14
Honey Mustard$0.05
Cage Free Egg1$0.25
Organic Rice1/3 serving$0.04
Organic Salsa1 serving$0.10
Tortilla1$0.04
Chocolate peanut5$0.09
$1.84
16-AprOrganic Oatmeal2 packets$0.36
Organic Flax1 serving$0.07
PB&J Tortilla roll-up
Tortilla1$0.04
Organic Peanut Butter2 tbs$0.18
Organic Strawberry Jam1 tbs$0.12
Granola Bar1$0.20
Tortilla3$0.12
Organic Brown Rice1/2 serving$0.07
Cage Free Egg1$0.25
Veggie Spring Roll2$0.40
popcorn$0.07
$1.88
17-AprOrganic Flax1 serving$0.07
PB&J Tortilla roll-up
Tortilla1$0.04
Organic Peanut Butter2 tbs$0.18
Organic Strawberry Jam1 tbs$0.12
Granola Bar1$0.20
Organic Applesauce1 mini cup$0.31
Tortilla4$0.16
Potato1$0.14
Brocolli1/4 serving$0.06
Spinnach1/4 serving$0.06
Cage Free Egg1$0.25
Bannana1$0.15
Chocolate peanut5$0.09
$1.83
18-AprChocolate peanut11$0.19
PB&J Tortilla roll-up
Tortilla1$0.04
Organic Peanut Butter2 tbs$0.18
Organic Strawberry Jam1 tbs$0.12
Organic Applesauce1 mini cup$0.31
Potato1$0.14
Cage Free Egg1$0.25
Veggie Spring Roll3$0.60
Tortilla3$0.12
$1.95
19-AprPotato1$0.14
Cage free egg1$0.25
Tortilla4$0.16
Chocolate peanut5$0.09
Organic Applesauce1 mini cup$0.31
Egg Rice Salsa plate
Cage Free Egg1$0.25
Organic Rice1 serving$0.13
Organic Salsa1 serving$0.10
bananna1$0.14
Granola Bar1$0.20
Small piece of cake$0.20
$1.97
20-AprPB&J Tortilla roll-up
Tortilla1$0.04
Organic Strawberry Jam1 tbs$0.12
Organic Peanut Butter2 tbs$0.18
bananna1$0.14
Chocolate peanut5$0.09
Organic Flax1 serving$0.07
Tortilla3$0.12
Butter / sugar / cinamindash’$0.06
Veggie Spring Roll2$0.60
$1.42
21-AprOrganic Peanut Butter2 tbs$0.18
bananna1$0.14
Organic Flax1 serving$0.07
Organic Applesauce1 mini cup$0.31
Egg Rice Salsa plate
Cage Free Egg1$0.25
Organic Rice1 serving$0.13
Organic Salsa1 serving$0.10
Potato1$0.14
Chocolate peanut5$0.09
tortilla1$0.04
$1.45
22-AprPB&J Tortilla roll-up
Tortilla1$0.04
Organic Peanut Butter2 tbs$0.18
Organic Strawberry Jam1 tbs$0.12
Veggie Spring Roll3$0.60
Organic Oatmeal2 packets$0.36
Organic Flax1 serving$0.07
bananna1$0.15
Organic Applesauce1 mini cup$0.31
Chocolate peanut5$0.09
$1.92


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