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Simple Life: Time, Relationships, Money, God
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on September 28, 2009
"Simple Life" is the new book from Thom and Art Rainer, and it is definitely not about the exploits of Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie. It continues the thought and application of the "Simple Church" book from Thom Rainer and Eric Gieger, but here the focus is on cleaning away the clutter of your personal life rather than your congregation's. The book's thesis is simple:

We were not created to have miserable joyless lives. We were created to have abundant and joyful lives. But for most of us, such a life is elusive at best and seemingly impossible at worst.

The book is an analysis of 41 questions asked to 1,077 people. The takeaway was that most people want to simplify their lives in 4 areas: time, relationships with others, money, and their relationship with God. The book's prescription for the simple life is also in quantities of 4. They recommend clarity, movement, alignment, and focus.

Towards that end, and what I see as one of the most profound truths offered in the book, they say this:

What is true in many churches is true in many lives. Activities are replacing purpose. We are so busy doing activities that we are neglecting what really matters. And most of you don't really need this book to address this reality. You already know it...Often activities replace the important matters that help relationships grow.

Having said all that, the book is pretty practical in helping people clear away the activities (even the good ones) that are making their life overly complicated. Each chapter ends with a task or checklist to help you find simplicity in each of the four prescripted areas. Included also are interviews and testimonials with some of the people who have walked the path of simplicity ahead of the reader. Their honesty is helpful.

However, the testimonials are one of two criticisms I have of the book. Many times, they are inserted without much of a warning. You will be reading the authors discussion of alignment or focus and then a testimony will begin. I generally think they are helpful, but sometimes it takes a second to figure who is speaking.

My other criticism is that the authors continually recommend 3 products: "The Love Dare," "Fireproof," and "Facing the Giants." While the lessons from these products are relevant and applicable, at times, they feel like extended advertisements for products at Lifeway bookstores.

If a person were to read this book with a desire for real change, it could really help. Perhaps it could persuade someone to change, but like the authors said, you don't really need this book to address that reality. But I cannot imagine if someone was willing to do all the work at the end of each chapter, it wouldn't make a big difference.

If you want to pursue simplicity, read this book. You can find more information from the authors at [...]

Gordon Duncan: [...]
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 2009
The Simple Life is a new book by the writing tandem of Thom Rainer and his son Art. Although it shares the same title as the popular television show by the ditzy duo Nichole Richie and Paris Hilton, the premise is a bit different. While the (un)reality show displayed the two girls struggling with jobs, relationships and money in various, fabricated settings, the Rainers' book discusses time, relationships, money and God in real ones.

The two men start their project by interviewing over 1000 people across the country. The stats and the stories are used frequently throughout the book to show how people are unorganized, unfocused, and over-committed. Although I felt the stories often led credence to their claims, I was disappointed the way they handled some numbers that didn't fit their expectations. They admit that they were surprised when only 4 out of 10 Christians in their survey felt it was important to have their children in a weekly worship service. One of the reasons they give is that "some of the self-described Christians are not Christians at all." If they discredit their own study base with this question, then it also should be reflected throughout the book where they do tout the answers of their Christian respondents.

The Rainers' goal is to provide a framework for people to find more freedom and success. They divide their book by each of these four troubled spots (time, relationships, money and God) and write a systematic plan of attack with a chapter each about clarity, movement, alignment and focus. Every chapter ends with application questions and blank lines for the reader to write their own strategy and put it in to action. If the reader skips this section the book becomes just another "how to" manual; but if actually put into action, this book could be a helpful tool. My suggestion would be to use this book in a small group of people where a chapter could be read a week, each person could share their own story. Then they could develop individual plans and have the relationships for accountability to their goals from week to week.

The strength of this book is that they have kept it simple. The Rainers have tackled four big topics and suggested a framework for improvement. My issue with this book is that it can come across as formulaic; again I think these issues may need the atmosphere of relationships for true growth to take place. I was also unimpressed with the section on how to get close to God--setting a plan, praying more, getting realigned (reading the Bible, going to church, etc) and cutting distractions out of your life. We've been reading those instructions for years and hearing it every weekend. "Nearly seven out of ten said that they needed to spend more time on spiritual matters. Most of the Christians say that they need to simplify their lives so that they have more time for God." Could it be that they are reacting to expectations that they've been taught and responding to religious guilt? Maybe learning to be loved by God and loving him back in response is even simpler than that.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
"The Simple Life" explores the struggles that many people nationwide face when trying to simplify their lives and make more time for the really important things (God, family, etc.).

Among the thoughts and topics covered include:

1. Our obession with time has become unhealthy and God is being ignored.
2. Some people fill their days with busy activities as an effort to compensate for an empty life.
3. Meaningful relationships result when we seek the best for others and do not seek to use other people for only our benefit.
4. Our financial conditions usually result from our self-identity.
5. An intentional mission statement with a clearly defined process will help simplify life.
6. Nothing can move the congestion out of our lives like prayer.
7. Embrace who God made you to be and use that to mold your simple life.
8. Summarization of the process for a simple life (clarity, movement, alignment, focus).

The title does contain Bible verses as the foundation on which to build a simple life. "Simple Life" also includes many good points such as those listed above and many others not mentioned.

I would have liked to have seen more specific actions the reader can take to make life more simple. Some good titles come to mind for dealing with this important issue: Freedom Tyranny of the Urgent (Hummel), The Overload Syndrome (Swenson), and Simplify Your Life (Wright). If you are looking for more specific action steps to take, then I recommend these titles.

Still, "Simple Life" is a good read.

Recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 17, 2009
Simple Life is a steady rather than spectacular guide to self-improvement. That is more of an observation than a criticism. The authors, Thom S. Rainer & Art Rainer, work off of the premise that "We were not created to have miserable and joyless lives. We were created to have abundant and joyful lives." Based on feedback from a LifeWay Research survey, they identified four areas for self-improvement: time, relationships, money, and God. The reader is guided to make changes in each area through a four step process: Clarity ("a plan [that] clearly states where you want to go"), Movement (making intentional and incremental progress on your plan), Alignment (eliminating "bad habits and problems that are interfering with your progress"), and Focus (eliminating "too many good intentions" and getting back to clarity). Readers simply looking to be inspired will come away disappointed by this book, however, readers willing to put some work into the process and suggested exercises will make some progress in self-improvement. Simple Life might be a good read for a small group where encouragement from others and a timeline could enhance the goals of the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Simple Life by Thom and Art Rainer is the book you've been looking for to help you get your life under control. The authors are father and son who previously wrote the popular Simple Church. They focus on four major areas where readers need to simplify their lives: time, relationships, money, and God. Then they break down those goals into four areas: clarity, movement, alignment, and focus. Through several surveys and studies they determined where people are feeling the crunch of being stretched too thin without having quality relationships in their lives. Using these studies and Christian principles, they offer the opportunity for hope for real change. There are a lot of books that promise to fulfill just one of the goals of Simple Life; the Rainers do it better and all in one book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 4, 2009
I just finished reading Simple Life, and I highly recommend it for you if you feel like you are too busy, or if you are trying to find focus in your life. The authors surveyed over 1,000 people and kept hearing that people were busy, stressed, nervous, and without a clear direction. The areas that needed the most work in the survey respondents were time, relationships, money and God. The authors propose that with clarity, movement, alignment and focus you can achieve the Simple Life. This is good stuff. I definitely recommend this book.
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on August 27, 2012
Our world is becoming increasingly complicated. Technological advancements have gone from novelty to expectation. Yet, in the midst of the growing complications of life most of us are craving simplicity. Apple has gone from meaningless to global-culture-shaping in the manner of a decade. Southwest has been growing in their number of flights and passengers. What is the common denominator? Simplicity. These days, if a company (or church) wants to grow, we have to keep it simple. Simple Life is somewhat a follow-up to Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger's book Simple Church. That book has been a best-seller in the genre since it was published several years ago. Why? Because they did a study of healthy, growing churches and found that those who maintained a simple process of outreach, assimilation, discipleship and mission were more effective, had more retention, saw more members in active participation, and saw their people take more personal ownership of the ministry. We all crave simple because our lives are so complicated.
This time around Thom Rainer and his son, Art, have written in the same vein as Simple Church. They have even used the same rubric: Clarity, Movement, Alignment, Focus. In this book, however, they are dealing with individuals and their lives. After their study they realized that most people are not living simple lives, however much they wish they were. Most people feel their lives are out of control. So, they have written this book to help people find simplicity in their use of time, money, relationships and with God.
Simple Life is one of those books that seems so intuitive when you read it. But, in actually living and practice, none of us do a very good job. We are prone to move towards complexity, not simplicity. It is something we have to fight for; if it's not intentionally sought, it won't be found. Yet, Thom and Art provide a lot of simple advice. There is nothing complicated here, only the simple wisdom of a father and son. I believe everyone will benefit from this book! We all crave simplicity, spend some time with Simple Life and see how freeing it can be.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 8, 2010
I was hoping the "slow" economy would cause people to stop and think about their lives. Especially all of the money they waste on things they don't need, busyness that they create then complain about, the lack of time they create. People need to slow down and drop the high school mentality of trying to be cool, buying stuff to fit in and thinking that being busy somehow makes our children better people. Grow up already. This book describes what should be obvious to all, but obviously it's not obvious. The "simple life" doesn't mean living in a hut or a yurt and eating rice cakes and wearing burlap, it means actually living and not waking up some day when you're 80 wondering where all the time went and what you have done with your life. It means not trying to be like everyone else and trying to be something you're not. It means putting family and friends first. This book also gets into how you are meant for more than just being caught in the mindless rat race. See the books of John Eldredge for more on this, or start with his The Ransomed Heart: A Collection of Devotional Readings which is collection of 365 excerpts from many of his books. For more on how technology and the world can sometimes hider your life, see Better Off : Flipping the Switch on Technology. Stop pretending and start living.
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on November 2, 2009
Thom and Art Rainer have written Simple Life after the pattern of their successful book Simple Church. They apply the pattern of clarity, movement, alignment and focus to the issues of everyday life like time, relationships, money and God. While I greatly appreciated Simple Church, I did not value this book as much. I found it generally unhelpful because everything in it seemed so obvious. Of course we are too occupied with busyness and too unconcerned with deep relationships. Of course if we simplify in a few practical ways and write out action plans that are not too ambitious we will see some improvement in our results. There were no moments in reading that made me sit up and take notice or to see things from a new perspective. My thinking was not stretched very much. There is certainly wisdom in doing basic things well and this book may be a helpful review tool to that end, but in the final analysis, though I haven't mastered the Simple Life, I was not helped very much through this book.
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on June 16, 2011
So how busy is your life! Reading this book will help you get it all back into the right perspective.

The authors divide our life into four categories, time, relationships, money and God. They then go on to explain how in each area we can prioritize better. They show how God, in the Bible, has given us guidelines to make our life about Him and not all the other clutter we seem to gravitate towards.

There are helpful questions at the end of chapters to help you apply the principles they are writing about. The best lesson to take from this well written book is, everything in moderation will make for a balanced life.

I was given this book by christianreviewofbooks.com to review
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