Archives For Simplicity

 

Looking to Christ

A Brief Review of

The Spirit of Simplicity
Jean Baptiste Chautard

 

Translated by Thomas Merton
Paperback: Ave Maria Press, 2017
Buy Now: [ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]

 
Reviewed by Josh Morgan
 
 

The Spirit of Simplicity has a compelling backstory: a 70 year old hidden text written by a famed French Cistercian, Jean-Baptiste Chautard, translated with notes by Trappist (a Cistercian branch) monk, Thomas Merton. In a world of complexity and loudness, simplicity for our lives and souls is compelling and increasingly popular.

The text itself is short: 114 pages of content, including 14 illustrations of monasteries, and 23 pages of notes from Merton. It is broken into two parts: The first being the aforementioned translation of Chautard’s The Spirit of Simplicity and the second excerpts from writings and speeches of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, a leader of the Cistercian order, on the topic of interior simplicity, with added commentary by Merton. From a readability standpoint, the reader must remember this text’s place in history: Part 1 was written in 1920s French, translated into 1940s English, both with a target audience of the theologically trained monastic community. Bernard died in 1153. For readers familiar with dense mystical and theological texts, this time will seem familiar and accessible. For those looking for a simplicity self-help book, it will be a grind.

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Nancy Sleeth - Almost AmishThe Helpful and The Hopeful

A Feature Review of

Almost Amish: One Woman’s Quest for a Slower, Simpler, More Sustainable Life

Nancy Sleeth

Paperback: Tyndale House, 2012.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]   [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Paul Chaplin

Wealth of literature on a given topic, as anyone involved in “Emergence” churches will report, is not necessarily a true measure of actual realised change. However, it can indicate that a growing number of people are taking certain ideas seriously (at least they’re buying the books!), and so it is encouraging to see, in Almost Amish, a new addition to the broad category of Christian contemporary writing on issues like simplicity, local economies, stability, and consumerism.

The story of author Nancy Sleeth (who also wrote Go Green, Save Green), husband Matthew (author of Serve God, Save the Planet and The Gospel According to the Earth), daughter Emma (author, at age 16, of It’s Easy Being Green) and son Clark, is one which begins with a self-described family-wide “spiritual and environmental conversion experience.” I list all these book titles since they tell a story all by themselves. The Sleeths are a family of Christian environmental activists, and it was the increasing comparisons people made between Nancy Sleeth’s lifestyle and that of the Amish (drying clothes on a line, simplifying wardrobes) that led to this book. Sleeth points to the Amish as a people group more than any other in 21st century America which are counter-cultural, committed to air drying clothes, enjoying intact families and healthy communities, who enjoy gardens, home cooked meals, uncluttered homes, almost nonexistent debt and strong local economies, and who restrain their use of technology. Therefore, perhaps we should take a look at Amish life and see what we can’t learn.

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766243: Gotta Have It! Freedom from Wanting Everything Right Here, Right Now A Review of

Gotta Have It!
Freedom from Wanting Everything Right Here, Right Now

By Gregory Jantz with Ann McMurray.
Paperback: David C. Cook, 2010.
Buy Now: [ChristianBook.com ]

Reviewed by Adam Navis.

I am suspicious of mixing Christianity with anything that could be categorized as self-help.  Christ did not die so that we can have a 4-hour work week, or retire at 50, or lose weight, or finish a triathlon.  So when beginning Gotta Have It! Freedom from Wanting Everything, Right Here, Right Now (Gregory L. Jantz, PhD, with Ann McMurry) I was skeptical.  I think that living simply is wonderful, beneficial, even helpful in drawing closer to God.  But I doubted there was a biblical mandate for cleaning your basement and de-cluttering your closet.

Luckily, Gotta Have It! is not just about selling your extra stuff on e-bay.  This book is only secondarily a book about simplifying your life.  It is primarily a book that asks the reader to consider what fills their life and how those things meet the needs of the soul.  It is about excessity, a term Jantz coins to explain the twisted human experience of turning excess into necessity.

“Excessity is about feeding our wants and desires, while at the same time starving our true needs.  The more we starve what we really need, the greater our hunger grows, causing us to stuff ourselves with more and more of our wants.  After stuffing ourselves full of our wants, we find that we’re still starving, empty, and desperate-and the mad cycle repeats.” (15)

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