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      Nurturing people in the image of God since 1868.                                                                          POB 397/520 Dry Creek Rd./Smithville, TN

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THE SIMPLE LIFE

"Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" are among the inalienable rights vouchsafed to citizens of the United States by our beloved constitution. Millions of Americans are still on the hunt for happiness, albeit many are looking in all the wrong places. Jennifer Smith reminds us happiness is easier to pursue than it is to actually possess, in spite of the messages our culture advertises and promotes. She relates:

"At the next table in a fast food restaurant, one youngster was sobbing because he didn't get the toy he wanted with his food. Another dumped his drink over his sister's burger because she was stealing his fries. Then the smallest child fell off his chair. Clearly at the end of her rope, the mother dragged the boy up from the floor, placed him in his chair and said, 'Shut up, all of you, and eat your Happy Meals' " (Reader's Digest, 12/02, p 95). That unhappy mom forcefully reminds us happiness does not automatically come in a meal, nor in many of the other things the world promotes as the key to a happy, fulfilling life. Listen to these words: "I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil - this is the gift of God." Who would you guess wrote those words? A poor man who had no other choice in life except to be happy with what little dab he had? A factory worker or a farmer? A taxi-driver or a trucker? Turns out the words are a direct quotation from a king — King Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3:12-13. Three thousand years before modern Americans were bombarded with advertisements saying, "I want it all, and I want it now," Solomon had it all. The "all" Solomon had included a smorgasbord of riches and romance and power and possessions. In spite of all this, he came to the surprising conclusion we read a few moments ago. The king who had it all declares words we find hard to believe — there is nothing better than a simple life.

How do you define a simple life these days? Life is anything but simple for most of us. Many live at a frantic, frenzied pace. Many complain their lives feel too full and too fast. Too many places to go. Too many things to do. Too many people to see. Too many appointments to keep. Not enough hours in the day. Too many bills to pay. Too much work and not enough pay or play. Cell phones. PCs. CDs. TVs. DVDs. Ipods. ATMs. Tele-marketers. Google. Yahoo. Downloads. Uplinks. Layoffs. Buyouts. Hostile takeovers. Downsizing. Outsourcing. Record gasoline prices. Terrorists. Iran. North Korea. Cancer. Alzheimer's. How do you live a simple life in the middle of all this? Take another look at Solomon's words. We can't simplify the world outside ourselves — it is beyond our control. We can simplify our internal worlds by having faith in God and accepting that the focus of our lives ought to be giving and doing good instead of always wanting and seeking more. We have to live in this world, but we don't have to define ourselves by its values. Solomon insists satisfaction in life is a gift from God. Maybe our real problem is not that we don't have enough but that we want too much. Is your life simple enough?

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ