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Monday April 24th 2017

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It’s 28 degrees, but I’m not feeling it.

Ok, I’m bundled up with my winter coat and knit cap, but I’m sitting when I should be moving and am still unaffected by the cold.

My dog is at my feet, content to watch meandering cars go by. We’re stationary this morning on a sidewalk of brick, surrounded by quilting and chocolate shops, stores selling crafts and scrumptious food and drink. The light poles are wrapped with Christmas pine, ribbons, lights, and ornaments. Just beyond the man-made structures lie the fading autumn colors of the Smoky Mountains. The town breathes the pace of contentment and freedom.

My wife and I just made a big life-change in a series of similar changes. We moved to a small, mountain town on the border of uncounted natural wonders. We’re renting a reasonably-priced, rustic apartment above historic Main Street—one that’s about half the square footage of our previous home.

We’ve come here to engage. To further simplify, declutter, to train our focus more on what’s real and meaningful. We’ve come to, both figuratively and literally, get a bit closer to God, to experience his presence on his high-altitude trails, his mountain streams, amidst his wildlife and plant life.

We’re now in a location where we can walk or bike most anywhere. We’ve left the safe confines of our suburban isolation and moved to a place where we can more easily look people in the eye, learn first names, better serve, minister, and leave the mark of love with those we encounter.

We’re here to frequent farmer’s markets, join card games, and learn how to clog. To support local businesses and get to know our neighbor. To build better relationships with the homeless and those who live on the margins. To relate to other human beings without the filters of technology, long-commutes, and busyness that distract so many of us from what matters.

Sure, we’ve enjoyed some privileges that allow us to do such a thing. We both work from home and could take our jobs with us. We sold our house at a profit and plan to use the surplus, not to get a bigger home, but to eventually buy a simpler home with a tiny mortgage. We don’t have kids, so we’re freer to go where we like.

But having said this, I think most anyone can accomplish what we’ve set out to do. You also don’t have to move to the mountains. You can accomplish much of what we’re attempting from wherever you are. This has just been the choice we’ve made.

I’ve taken other steps that aren’t dependent on location. I’ve given up our two televisions. I still watch some content online, but am weaning myself off, at least from within our home itself. I suspended my Facebook account for a while or perhaps forever. I’ve “upgraded” from a smart phone to a flip phone. More radical changes will likely follow.

I don’t pretend that I know what I’m doing. I’m a self-focused, technology-dependent, introverted, slothful glutton. I can be as news or social media-focused, as obsessed with technology, entertainment, and consumerism as the next person. Changing where I live or what I own won’t necessarily change my heart. But, it can ease the path and open the door of my heart to focus more and more on what matters.

So, I invite you, if you wish, to join me on this journey. My plan is to write regular updates on my insights, epiphanies, successes, and failures in living this next chapter. Take my words as you will in your own journey. Read or don’t. Comment or don’t. Take your own steps and, if you like, share them with me and others. Or just read and consider—wherever you are—the ways God may be calling you to declutter and un-filter, to simplify, to engage.

In less…there is more. And I have the feeling, starting anew, that there’s so much more than I ever imagined.

“Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters, and you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance.” – Isaiah 55:1-2

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About John Michalak

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An author, speaker, musician, and minister, John Michalak has spent more than 20 years equipping others in the areas of life-change and personal relationship. John’s inspirational new book, 365 Devotions To Embrace What Matters Most is now available from Zondervan publishing.

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