It’s the new year. Now what? It’s that time of year that we take on new diets. We set goals. We reflect on the things that made the past year either really good or not-so-good. As you look forward to the next year, the next quarter, the next month, have you considered a self-care plan? Life is an onslaught of busyness. How do you plan to be proactive to put the oxygen mask on yourself first?
When the apostle Paul talks about the spiritual life, he talks about it in terms of fruit: “The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Here’s the thing with growing fruit. It’s hard, long, patient work. For an apple tree to grow from seed to bearing fruit can take six to ten years. And the first signs of fruit aren’t even edible.
If you want to grow things like peace and patience and self control in your life, you have to do the work. Every day. You can’t outsource it. Growing stuff is slow work. It’s never flashy. But we’re made for this.
The Grand Canyon is a spectacular marvel of creation. It didn’t just happen. And it didn’t happen overnight. It became the Grand Canyon, one drip at a time. Likewise, God is at work in us crafting spectacular marvels of creation. We participate in this work by getting ourselves under the drip.
Here are just a few ways to intentionally get under the drip.
“Sabbath is not a break from work; it is a redefinition of how we work, why we work, and how we create freedom through our work.” —Dan Allender
The Sabbath is the climax of God’s creative work. It is the only thing deemed “holy” in the creation story. Sabbath is the fulcrum and center of gravity to the Ten Commandments. As Jesus embodies, the intent of Sabbath is our healing as human beings. Sabbath is the opposite and undoing of chaos in our lives.
Sabbath is counter-cultural in our 24-7 worlds. Human beings are designed for a rhythm of six plus one—six days of working hard, one day of celebrating what all that hard work was for. Our identities are not to be tied to our to-do lists or our job descriptions but rather to the God who made us.
One simple way of starting a Sabbath rhythm is to take a good look at the things that happen during your weeks. What’s one thing you can abstain from for one 24-hour period out of every seven? What’s one thing you thing you enjoy that gets crowded out by the busyness of the week? Make Sabbath different. Stop doing the things you do every other day. Pick up something you don’t normally do.
“The task of the spiritual director is to be positioned, like a campfire in the wilderness, welcoming sojourners from all corners of life to stop, relax and yarn for a while. A place where tired bodies and spirits are warmed by the fire and refreshed” —Simon Brown.
Life can be exhausting. The constant demands of work and family and ministry. How do you get “un-tired” from it all? Spiritual direction provides a loving and graceful space to listen together with another to listen to and respond to God’s work in you.
We’re not made to be alone. We’re not made to journey through life to God by ourselves. The spiritual director can help us navigate the dry spells, the “dark nights of the soul.” They can poke and pry with questions that expose and reveal us to ourselves so that we can move forward. They can separate the “normal-weird” from the “weird-weird” in our faith experience.
A simple way to start with a director is to look for one in your area. Reach out. Set up a time to meet over coffee and see where God leads you.
“Centering prayer is an opening, a response, a putting aside of al the debris that stands in the way of our being totally present to the present Lord, so that He can be present to us. It is a laying aside of thoughts, so that the heart can attend immediately to Him.” –Basil Pennington
I’m more and more convinced that centering prayer is the spiritual disciple for our age. Silence and solitude are essential if we’re experience any sanity in our jam-packed schedules.
When the prophet Elijah expects to hear from God, he sees he windstorm. He expects to hear God in the storm. But that isn’t God. There’s an earthquake, and Elijah expects to hear God in the earthquake. But again, no God. Then there’s fire, and Elijah thinks God is there. After all, God has appeared in fire before. But no God. And then after all this, there’s a gentle whisper. Finally. In the whisper, Elijah hears God. Where are we making intentional space to hear God’s whispers to us?
One simple step for starting with centering prayer is carving out 20 minutes each day and putting it on the calendar as an uninterruptible appointment. Give up a Netflix show if you have to. This is worth it.
“In the acts of mutual confession we release the power that heals. Our humanity is no longer denied, but transformed.” –Richard Foster
We are made for community, and we are not made to hold on to the things that make our souls sick. Confessing sin to one another is how we experience healing. We must gives ourselves to God in such a way that we can hear God lovingly say, “Let me show you all the ways you are not like me,” so that we can hear God say, “Let me show you all the ways that you are like me.” That happens in relationship with other people.
One simple way to start a practice of confession is to pray that God would lead you to a relationship or to a group where you can say out loud all the ways you are not like God. Naming our sin and letting it go is the beginning of inner healing.
“Eating a meal together can be a place of joy, celebration, and friendship. We can show love for each other and celebrate life.” –Jean Vanier
Food is all over the story of God. So many stories of Jesus involve meal time. Human beings bond when food is shared. Sharing meals together is one more way that we share that we’re normal with one another. When we gather around a table and eat, we shed whatever public personas we subconsciously gravity towards, whether from social media or ministry work.
One simple way to start with a common meal is to pick a day on the calendar and invite a next door neighbor or a stranger from church to join you in your home for dinner. Keep things simple.
Rule of Life
“A rule of life seeks to respond to two questions: Who do I want to be? How do I want to live?” –Ruth Haley Barton
Have any of these resonated with you? Are there a couple that you’re ready to jump into? Write it down. A rule of life is simply writing down a plan for spiritual growth and committing yourself to the process.
A simple way to start a rule of life is to take a single sheet of paper and write one spiritual practice (or as many as you want) as specific as you can. It could look like committing to Sabbath by shutting off your phone from sundown Saturday till sundown Sunday. A rule of life can take many forms. Keep it simple. Share it with someone who can follow up with you and reflect your progress with you over time.
Life is so busy. You know that. So make a plan, and be proactive about it. Take care of yourself because we need you and the gifts you bring.
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