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Have you noticed that contemporary singers don’t seem able to sing a simple, unembellished melody anymore? Contestants on American Idol and The Voice seem to be competing not for the best vocal performance, but how many different notes they can fit into one syllable. I’ve noticed this especially with the singing of the national anthem and other patriotic songs at sporting events and patriotic celebrations. Now, I am impressed by their vocal flexibility (sometimes) and wish I could imitate it (occasionally), but mostly I’m puzzled: why must we make everything so complicated?

I must admit: even as I evaluate (judge) these singers, I often fall prey to the same temptation to make things EPIC! Several years ago when some of our church members from Riverbend wrote the Lent devotions for us, I read them as part of my morning prayers. One in particular really touched me, and as I sat there, I thought that I should probably write a note to that person telling him how it spoke to me. Easy enough. A lovely thought. Certainly not a task that would be overly taxing for someone preparing for Holy Week and Easter services.

Then my event-planner brain kicked in. I hadn’t even finished the thought of writing a note to one person when I went into overdrive: you know, I could buy some cards and keep them in this basket and every day after I read the devotional I could write a note to each of these guys, and…before I knew it, I had made a simple kindness into a major task, so much so that I felt powerless to complete even the initial gesture that started the whole thing.

We sang a hymn on Sunday that contains line that keeps running through my head: “If our love were but more simple,….” Our call to follow Jesus is a pretty simple one. Jesus himself summed it up in four words: Love God, love others. But, so many times, I want to make it complicated. The young man who asked Jesus what he had to do to gain eternal life is my spiritual ancestor. After Jesus answered, “Love God and love your neighbor,” (Luke 10:27), the man couldn’t resist making it more complicated. “Who is my neighbor, exactly?” Give me some parameters, Jesus. Does that mean my next door neighbor, or in my subdivision, but not my town? Or in my town, state and country, but not any other countries? Do I love those who are like me, or think like me, or like the same kind of music? Do I have to love those who cut me off in traffic or forward emails that I find offensive? Or if I have to love those people, can I hate the ones who are really bad?

Love God, love others. It’s simple, if not very easy. May each of us accept the simple call of loving God and loving others. Once we get that mastered, then maybe we can start messing with the melody a little more.