It's not exactly breaking news that the 21st-century American lifestyle is hectic beyond description or that people of faith are just as caught up in that lifestyle as everyone else is. Neither does any reader need to be told that there are hundreds of books on the market that are focused on simplifying your life. Despite so much awareness of the need to simplify, and so many tools available to get the job done, society hasn't become less complex. So why read yet another book on the subject?
"SPIRITUAL SIMPLICITY will resonate with those who are tired of both their fast-paced lifestyle and the cures for it that never seem to work. It is, quite simply, for those who need what the title promises."
Chip Ingram wrote one, that's why. And he wrote SPIRITUAL SIMPLICITY in such a straightforward, clear-as-can-be way that at first glance, you may think it's too simple. But you would be mistaken. Even though Ingram, a California pastor and prolific author, pretty much sums up the key to spiritual simplicity in one word --- love --- he makes sure you understand the commitment that's required if you want to use that key. Bear in mind, he's talking about commitment to a way of living, not adding a host of religious activities to your to-do list.
By page three, Ingram convinced me that he had written a book worth reading with these 12 words: "Spiritual simplicity will be achieved by doing less because we love more." Over the next eight chapters --- all bearing titles of popular love songs --- he expands on that one thought in countless ways by explaining what it means to truly love others and showing the impact that loving others can have on your own life.
Ingram treats the word "love" as a verb, and an active verb at that. Early on, he makes it clear that throughout the book, his use of the word "love" is synonymous with "God's love" and bears little resemblance to the way the word is used in casual conversation or a romantic context. Far from being a sentimental emotion, the kind of love Ingram describes is a gutsy, courageous and tenacious act based on a decision of the will. Ingram even removes the wedding-ceremony tenderness from 1 Corinthians 13, the great "love chapter." He writes, "This passage was meant to correct the busy, distorted, overextended, misdirected lives of the Corinthian Christians…. It's a very practical chapter on what love looks like." That's a fairly apt description of Ingram's book, with regard to American Christians.
Ingram wraps it all up with a chapter titled "Love Train (Get on Board)" --- yes, based on the song by the O'Jays that became something of an anthem in the 1970s among those who advocated peace and racial harmony. Here, Ingram transforms the image into a picture of God's "love train," which has moved throughout history to bring life and love to the people of the world. He extends the metaphor to illustrate how getting on board this train can't help but simplify your life.
SPIRITUAL SIMPLICITY will resonate with those who are tired of both their fast-paced lifestyle and the cures for it that never seem to work. It is, quite simply, for those who need what the title promises.
Reviewed by Marcia Ford on January 16, 2013