Well, here we are at the end of this month's series. Although this is by no means an exhaustive exploration of spiritual disciplines, I hope that we have covered the main ones. (I will have a bonus post on journaling that I am planning on including in April's newsletter, so watch out for it!) But as I mentioned in the first post, all these disciplines are not meant to be practiced and then checked off. Next. Done. Mastered. Check. Rather, these disciplines are designed to be worked into the fabric of our days so that throughout our waking hours, we stay in contact with Him and work in His Spirit.
Some disciplines will resonate with us and we are drawn to them. Others may take a bit more work. But whether we like them or not, each discipline, when embraced and practiced in its fullness, can help us to live a life that is overflowing with the abundant life that Jesus promised to give (John 10:10). They are not, however, talismans that will keep us from trouble, struggle, challenge, pain or disappointment. But they will help us to process through these seasons in our lives and actually benefit from them.
As mentioned in the opening post of this series, these disciplines are meant to give us the space and opportunity as well as the skills to navigate through life in intimate fellowship with Him. When we do so, we begin to look at life through His eyes and begin to operate in a different realm, with a different perspective. Isn't that good news? I think it's wonderful news. Rather than being an instrument of torture, spiritual disciplines, when viewed properly, can actually enrich our lives.
So how do we begin to practice these disciplines so that we reap this benefit? I will be the first to say that it will be pretty near impossible to try to do them all perfectly all the time. (And remember, it's not about performance anyway, right?)
Enter the "Rule of Life." What is that, you ask? Adele Calhoun describes this as "a sane and holy rhythm that reflects a deep love for God and respect for me. [It] offers unique and regular rhythms that free and open each person to the will and presence of Christ. The spiritual practices of a rule provide a way to partner with the Holy Spirit for personal transformation."
John Ortberg, in his book The Life You've Always Wanted talks about creating a rule to aid us in having a well-ordered heart. He quotes Augustine, saying that this means loving the right thing, to the right degree, in the right way, with the right kind of love.
Basically, Ruth Haley Barton describes a rule or rhythm of life as a way of ordering your day using various disciplines to help establish godly patterns of attitudes, behaviors, and practices, all with the end goal of creating a certain quality of life and character. As I have mentioned before, the end goal is not the practice of the discipline. The end goal is godliness.
I have personally experienced the benefits of having a rhythm of life as it keeps me on track spiritually with God. Each day, I start out with a spiritual regimen of time in the Word, prayer for my family and Scripture memory. Before I begin writing any blog posts or material for my classes, I take time to pray and ask the Lord to guide my thinking and writing. Throughout the day, I try to check in with the Lord as I go through my tasks. As I mentioned in my post on rest, I take an hour out of each day to be alone, read and sleep if needed (lately, I have needed it!) Monthly, I have times of solitude and silence, something I had to work out with my husband. And like I mentioned yesterday, I am working on making time to spend with others outside of the church environment.
I don't practice every discipline, but I have tried all the ones I have shared. Some I have done in combination, such as fasting during my solitude times. Others, like the examen, I have tried for a season, as I have needed it. When they have served their purpose, I set it aside for a time and eventually pick it up when the need arises again.
If you are just starting out, I would recommend working on one discipline at a time. As I have mentioned on the journal page, these are not meant to be done all at once. It is far better to focus on one at a time until it becomes a part of you before you add another. God does not expect us to master all of these disciplines, nor should we. But as we work on them one at a time, they can then become woven into our lives in such a way that they become the way we live.
Well, this is a wrap on this series. Don't forget to check out this page for the last journal installment. Take your time. God is in no rush. Savor. Enjoy. Grow.
NOTE: Newsletter subscribers--The journal pages will be removed on April 1. If you are not a newsletter subscriber, I welcome you to join us! Sign up on the boxes at the right. In your welcome email, in the PS section, you will find the password. You can then save and print out the journal before they are removed from the site.