This past week I spent a few miles north of Duluth along the Northshore of Lake Superior. About 90 miles to be more specific. And what a great week it was!
Most of the pastoral staff from the Duluth Vineyard went away for a week to connect with God and with one another. This is such an important discipline for all of us to participate in: getting away to connect. Life has a way of draining one’s soul. So, we scheduled some time away and invited someone to help direct us, to point us towards God and his great love. We invited Larry Warner to spend this week with us.
If you are unfamiliar with Larry, check out his book, Journey With Jesus, or his website: www.b-ing.org. He has spent the past several years helping people as a spiritual director and by leading retreats. I highly recommend his resources. I met him earlier this year and wanted the rest of our staff to benefit from a week with him.
Together, we all stayed in one big lodge in Northern Minnesota. We worshipped together, prayed together, spent individual time in silence and solitude, we ate great meals together and even played some games and laughed really hard together. I think we all left the lodge feeling like it was a wonderful investment. A week well spent.
Anyway, back to why I wanted to write this post…the topic of simplicity. I’ve always loved the process of taking complicated things and boiling them down to their simplest. Whether its an idea or a visual image, there is something about the process of simplifying that is beautiful and satisfying and highly intriguing to me. This doesn’t mean that the intricate complexities are bad, not at all. I love those elements as well. But there is something about simplicity that is stunningly beautiful, and I’ve always been intrigued with it.
Years ago I remember reading a wonderful book by Richard Foster called, The Freedom of Simplicity, which looks at simplicity as a spiritual discipline. Or an economics book, Small is beautiful, which looks at how we chose to live effects those around us. Or a collection of essays called, Less Is More, which looks at the art of voluntary poverty. And…well…I’m going to save that for another post.
And as the week progressed I was again and again reminded of how all of our lives and relationship with God and Christianity boils down to love. And it’s not just love in some generalized kind of way, but it all comes down to God’s love. The Apostle John saw the same things when he wrote, “God is love.” The essential essence of the universe is love. I doesn’t get more simple than that. And it doesn’t get much more full and rich and exciting than that.
Here comes the watercolor…I promise!
So later in the week, after much time in silence and solitude and prayer and listening and processing and journaling…I decided to get out my paints. Ad I wanted to paint the simplest of landscapes to somehow convey what I was thinking about the simplicity of what I was feeling…deeply and irreversibly and completely and unconditionally LOVED!
A simple sky over a simple beach with a clear and (you guessed it) a simple horizon. I you think it’s boring, you may be missing, and getting the point. It kind of is boring. But it is in a completely fascinating and inviting kind of way. In this sketch you are invited to walk for a very long way. And as you walk you are invited to think, to ponder without distractions. Think about the vastness of the landscape and the vastness, the unendingness of the love of God that each of us is invited into.
That’s sort of what I was a aiming at and what I was experiencing last week. And I just wanted to share it with someone. There’s so much more I could write and talk about in regard to simplicity, and I just may do that tomorrow!