Abundant Simplicity, by Jan Johnson
Reviewed by Christine Sine
Jan Johnson's writings call to retreat and reflect, her encouragement to enter more deeply into the presence of God and live more as Jesus lived have always challenged and strengthened me. And her latest book, Abundant Simplicity: Discovering the Unhurried Rhythms of Grace, does not disappoint. Her invigorating invitation to see simplicity as "an organic part of an interactive life with God" hit me exactly where I needed to be hit, in the midst of my busy and sometimes distracted life. Her call to step away from our preoccupations and deliberately follow God may resemble something we've heard many times before, but Johnson's pragmatic and instructive approach makes the message both fresh and worth hearing again.
I particularly enjoyed the practical suggestions for abundant simplicity offered in the second half of her book. She starts not by talking about the unnecessary goods we accumulate and the need to simplify our lifestyles, but rather with our need to listen much and speak little. Simplicity of speech is not something most of us consider when thinking about ways to simplify our lives. For people like me who love to talk and write, her call to use fewer and more meaningful words is particularly compelling—and difficult. What immediately sprang to mind were some of the inane "tweets" I see every day—short in length but equally short on meaning and, as Johnson so keenly observes, more often than not intended to highlight our own importance rather than to draw others closer to God. This chapter alone made the book worth reading for me.
Many of her suggestions do cover the areas usually associated with the call to simplicity: frugality of ownership, generosity of spirit, unhurried living, and simplicity of appearance. Having read many books in the past that discuss downsizing and simplifying, I learned little that was new to me in this section, but the way she handled these topics helped me review my commitment to simplicity and served as a reminder that most of us cannot hear too often.
The chapter I enjoyed most was the last—on worry, something I, as a worrier, really need to let go of. Her statement that "Worry is clutter of the mind that doesn't go away" certainly spoke to my own condition and gave me encouragement to take stock of what I worry about and why.
Johnson's easy writing style and highly practical approach to everyday problems, paired with her obvious depth of relationship with God and the fact that she practices what she preaches, make this book a worthwhile read. I heartily recommend it to those considering simplifying their life, but it is also a good read for those ready to reevaluate their commitment to simplicity and to take some new steps into God's abundance.