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What is Essentialism?

My mother would, on days she was being particularly gracious, give us three options for dinner: 1) Eat what she made; 2) Make yourself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich; 3) Don’t eat.  When she wasn’t in such a jolly mood she would simply say: “If you don’t like what I made, don’t eat and go hungry.”  She would usually throw in a “I’m not running a diner around here” for good measure. Although I usually liked what she did cook I was always glad to have PBJ to fall back on.  For me, not eating wasn’t a realistic option.  But the choices were few and clear (It never occurred to me that I could actually cook something myself!) and made the deciding that much easier.
In today’s world “Options” is such a buzz word.  We want to give people as many options as possible about anything and everything (just ask Anna, our Office Administrator).  We are inundated with competing programs, relationships, ideas, information, invitations, causes and choices.  Many of them are good.  Some are very good.  But we cannot do it all and so we struggle with trying to do so many things  that we often fail to do any one thing extremely well.  We wind up busy, but not productive.  We feel overworked, stretched too thin and unable to sustain meaningful relationships.
In the book “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit Of Less” by Greg McKeown, he writes about the need to discover and pursue what is most essential in life.  (This is not a book on Christian living; it is more of a book on leadership and time management).  McKeown says we need to develop a system in our lives to decide what are the right things to put our time and energy into and to be able to say “no” to almost everything else.  There are only a handful of things that are truly essential and we need to navigate through the many options and choices to decide which are the most meaningful for our lives, our dreams and our goals.  We actually need to do less to accomplish more.  We need to be more reflective, less busy and more focused.
“What if society stopped telling us to buy more stuff and instead allowed us to create more space to breathe and think?  What if we stopped celebrating being busy as a measurement of importance?  What if instead we celebrated how much time we had spent listening, pondering, meditating and enjoying time with the most important people inner lives.?”
He quotes Derek Sivers who wrote an article entitled:  “No More Yes: It’s Either ‘Hell Yeah’ or ‘No’.  (Sorry, his article, not mine). His point:  If you are not totally enthusiastic about a choice you are making, don’t do it.  If it doesn’t illicit a “Hell Yeah”,  or at least a “Heck Yeah”, then there are probably other motives for you choosing it.  Of course, this has to do with choices, not obligations…I don’t know too many people shouting “Heck Yeah” about filling out their taxes.  And there will be times we don’t do what we don’t especially like or want.  But when it comes to those things where we get to choose our time and priority, it is a good guideline.
I am using this book to help inform my Lentin Sermon Series: “Essentialism: When Less Is More”. This is a great time of year to focus on what is most essential, to reflect and ponder and where we put our priorities.  Lent helps us to once again cut out the many distractions and focus on what truly is most important in this life…The Kingdom Of God.  It helps me to once again detach from the ways of this world, the calls to distraction to the non-essential, and to attach myself to the cross of Christ.  Jesus conferred on Mary the blessing for “having chosen the better thing.”  (Luke 10:42);  He spoke to His followers about “seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33); He told the rich you ruler to “sell what you have and give to the poor” (Matthew 19:21); Paul said that his only concern was to “know Christ and Him crucified.”  (1 Corinthians 2:2).  As I travel through this season I want to continually ask myself what is most essential…what is most important..what does God want me to give my time and energy towards?  Where do I need to slow down and am I creating space for God? And when I have a choice, I only want to do the things that get me excited, that make me respond with a resounding “Hell Yeah!!” (Sorry, I just throw that in!).
What do you think?
How does it make you feel?