NORTHGATE Blog

The Process of Living Simply

I’ve read the studies and articles explaining how clutter causes chaos. The mere presence of too much stuff, or the wrong stuff, is a stressor in our lives. We can be sitting, reading a book in total silence, and yet, not be at peace because we know we’re surrounded by a mess. It may feel good to ignore for a few minutes, but deep down we know it’s still there.

If you want to sleep well, don’t put a television in your bedroom. If you want to have financial freedom, create and live to a budget. Do you want to eat well? Be sure to plan your meals.

For years, yes, years, (Why does it take us so long to learn certain lessons?) God has been talking to me about simplifying and being disciplined.

When we simplify, we tend to get rid of things such as material possessions and activities. This is the most obvious place to start since it’s what we can see right in front of us in our homes and on our calendars. We know we have a problem when the saying “everything has its place” no longer applies and we have no room for delays, mishaps or accidents. Once we clear things out and free up our time, we need discipline or before we know it, all those things will find their way back into our lives.

As I was praying and journaling the other morning, I wrote down these three words: organized, simplified and open-handed. Simplified living begins by knowing where we’re starting and ends with a willingness to go somewhere new.

ORGANIZED

I love to take assessments. When I clean out a closet, I don’t just take everything out and put it back repackaged. I sort as I remove the items. I look at each article, ask a few questions and make a decision. I remove things that no longer make sense and find myself excited about what remains.

It’s the same with activities, budgeting and even my spiritual life. What am I doing to grow in my relationship with God? What activities have I outgrown? What attitudes and behaviors crowd out the work of the Holy Spirit? In what new ways is God calling me to connect with Him?

“Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction.” Proverbs 24:32 (ESV)

This process calls me to acknowledge what’s true in my life, both good and bad, and holds me accountable to the next steps.

SIMPLIFIED

It’s completely possible to sort and organize only to keep everything. Experience is a great teacher! Again, this is where discipline comes in. The follow through of getting rid of items, saying no to certain activities, living within a budget, and so on is how I can stay simplified.

“Teach me, Lord, what you want me to do, and I will obey you faithfully; teach me to serve you with complete devotion.” Psalm 86:11 (GNT)

The process of being faithful to my decisions is a spiritual process as well. Personally, I know I’ve allowed distractions and the chaos of life to intrude on the purpose God has called me to live out. Simply put, my purpose is to honor and glorify God in all I do. He has created me and gifted me in certain ways and I have the joy of honoring and glorifying Him by means of those gifts. Discipline helps me keep those gifts from getting buried, misplaced or forgotten. Living a simplified life keeps Him and His purpose always in front of me.

OPEN-HANDED

When I originally journaled about this topic, I questioned the term “open-handed”. Did I hear and understand correctly? What does being open-handed have to do with simplified living?

“If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need.”

Deuteronomy 15:7-8 (NIV)

The idea of being open-handed is wrapped up in generosity. I can close my hands and hold tight to what I think I should do or have, but those closed hands also won’t be able to receive anything new. On the other hand, open hands lend themselves to open minds and open hearts. Simple living creates space for me to be generous with time, money and possessions.

We serve a generous God and He uses each of us to express His generosity to others. With open hands, I let go of my plans and receive God’s plan. God's plans of generosity extend beyond this lifetime. The more space I create for God, the more filled with Him I become. And the more filled with Him I become, the more of Him overflows to others. My willingness to be open-handed in receiving what God has for me leads to an outpouring of His generosity to another.

So, in what area of your life do you need to get organized? How could taking an assessment help you clear out space for God to work? Is there something or someone to whom you’re holding on tightly? Is there something or someone to whom you are unwilling to extend a hand?

God is leading you to a new way to live: His way. Ask God to help you simplify, sorting through and removing what no longer belongs so you can receive and be generous with all He wants to give.

Youth, Depression, & "13 Reasons Why"

Depression is the most common mental illness among teenagers and it is something that parents, mentors, and youth workers need to know about.  We have 140 teenagers enrolled in our youth program at Northgate, and I regularly discover that more and more of them are struggling with anxiety and/or depression. 

On Wednesday May 3rd we have invited a special guest speaker, Gail Mueller, to talk with our youth about depression. We want them to know we are there for them, that God loves them, and that there are resources available should they need help.

It seems that God has orchestrated the timing of this night. Depression and suicide are hot topics right now; not only because it’s a prevalent struggle for our kids, but because of a new show released on Netflix called ‘13 Reasons Why’.  I heard about it a couple of weeks ago and soon became aware that many of our youth were watching it.  I decided that as an adult presence in their lives I should take a look; I just finished watching it yesterday.

‘13 Reasons Why’ is an emotional rollercoaster. It is extremely popular among teenagers and adults alike, but I discovered that it’s not popular among many professional therapists and psychologists.  The show depicts the events and relationships that precedes a high school girl’s decision to commit suicide. It is gut wrenching, heart breaking, riveting, and compelling, but it is also misleading and has been labeled as dangerous and troubling for a variety of reasons. After watching the series, and reading many different articles, I have to agree. There are some positive messages and conversations that can come from this show, but in my opinion there are some pretty dangerous messages as well.

Parents, be cautious about this television series, and not just because it’s rated TV-MA. It isn’t for kids, of any age, in my opinion. Instead of sharing my own thoughts on the series, below are links to a couple well written articles that explain the oversights, poor messages, and even dangerous themes that are included in this narrative. Please take the time to read the articles and to prayerfully consider what they have to say before deciding whether or not to let your kids watch it. If you do let them watch it, I strongly suggest you watch it with them.

Youth (6th-12th grade) and parents are encouraged to join us on Wednesday May 3rd to hear Gail Mueller’s presentation on depression!

6:30 pm: Parent session with Gail (activities for youth provided)

7:00 pm: Youth session with Gail including worship.

 

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it (Proverbs 4:23)

In Him,

Dan Thorson (Youth Director)

 

This article from USA today, written by a young woman who struggled for years with depression, does a great job at describing the dangerous messages ’13 Reasons Why’ gives to those thinking about suicide.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/04/17/suicide-13-reasons-why-mental-illness-column/100562428/

From a Christian Organization that works with youth.

http://youthmin.org/2017/04/13-reasons-to-not-recommend-13-reasons-why/

Here’s is Focus on the Family’s ‘Plugged-In’ movie review website’s article.

http://www.pluggedin.com/tv-reviews/13-reasons-why/

This past week Will Wojcik (Northgate Worship Director) and I were fortunate enough to be able to attend “Inside Elevation”, a church staff conference in Charlotte, NC. Elevation Church is known worldwide, they have contributed many of the top worship songs of the past few years, and their senior pastor Steven Furtick has authored several best selling books.

It was so exciting to be able to spend time with 2,000 other church staff and volunteers from around the world, and glean tips, info, and insight from such an amazing place. I spent two days totally “geeking out” at all of the cool technology, from LED screens to L Acoustics audio, the entire setup was amazing. The training seminars were all fantastic, I got to learn tech details that would make you snore, so I wanted to focus on something else… I want to tell you what God was whispering to me this entire trip… Just say yes.

I first heard this whisper during the first evening session… We were being motivated, encouraged, excited, it was a pep rally, but there was something more. I started thinking about how all of this could not happen without the hard-working staff and volunteers. God has called us all. One person makes a difference. What happens when we say “no” or just don’t do our best and give our all? What happens when one person says “yes” to that still small voice?

So, with this evolving thought framing my view for the rest of the seminar, I was filled with hope, awe, and excitement. The conference was over. We had time to kill… Of course, we ate some delicious BBQ, but there was STILL some time left so, Will and I visited the Billy Graham Library. It was an overwhelming experience that I wasn’t expecting.

The legacy of Billy Graham is unfathomable. The countless lives transformed for eternity, the generations of families changed by a new relationship with Christ, and the continuing efforts worldwide of the Billy Graham Association... We’re talking millions of people knowing Christ because ONE man said YES to God.

Have you been saying no lately? Have you been saying maybe? I was convicted. I have let a few “I don’t knows and maybes” sneak into my vocabulary lately…. I want to encourage you to BE BOLD and say YES to that crazy whisper you might be hearing. Talk to that stranger in the coffee shop. Volunteer in that way you were feeling led to. Help that person your heart felt moved to. JUST SAY YES.

God is good. God has a plan. God’s plan includes you. Yes, you. What do you have to do? Just say yes.

Joshua 1:9---"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Elevation's light and sound control. They also have a video control room that is not pictured. It takes about 5 staff and 25-30 volunteers just for the "tech team" at each service. They do all sorts of amazing things, including embedding an 8 channel audio stream within a video signal and sending it over fiber via P2P connection with each campus. Ok, that was a lot of geek talk to say that the band at one campus, can play music with the band from another campus, LIVE. And that's not even what I went there to learn about, just thought it was pretty amazing! 

Elevation's light and sound control. They also have a video control room that is not pictured. It takes about 5 staff and 25-30 volunteers just for the "tech team" at each service. They do all sorts of amazing things, including embedding an 8 channel audio stream within a video signal and sending it over fiber via P2P connection with each campus. Ok, that was a lot of geek talk to say that the band at one campus, can play music with the band from another campus, LIVE. And that's not even what I went there to learn about, just thought it was pretty amazing! 

Worship Experience at one of the main sessions.

Worship Experience at one of the main sessions.

I loved this picture at the Billy Graham Library... It made me laugh and also say "wow" at the same time. What an amazing legacy!

I loved this picture at the Billy Graham Library... It made me laugh and also say "wow" at the same time. What an amazing legacy!

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