Monday, March 7, 2011

Spiritual Disciplines for Today

Dear Friend,
Oh, we’re the worst offenders, aren’t we ladies?  We hope the women in our church will connect with God on a daily basis forming intimate bonds with our Creator, but between writing, Bible studies, teaching Bible studies, staff meetings, counseling, overseeing functions, attending functions, taking that call from Betty who needs extra attention, spiritually tending for those under our care, we forget about the presence of God.

Musicians know that you can’t play Rachmaninoff without practicing scales every day.  A spiritual connection with God that feeds you so that you can serve others starts with everyday life.  The resurgence of the spiritual disciplines gives us tools for this connection, but often we don’t know how to use them or teach them in a practical way to the women in our church who have demanding bosses and even more demanding kids.  What is the secret to practicing scales in our spiritual lives?

Turn your inner monologue into dialogue.  I’m talking “pray[ing] without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17).  Talk to God in the car, in the grocery store, or during your Pilates class.  God-direct those frustrating thoughts during a staff meeting or during a traffic jam.  Petition God during a traffic jam for friends you know are hurting. It doesn’t have to be a deep theological prayer, only a dialogue that keeps you aware of the presence of God.

Find creative ways to get in the Word every day.  David says, “In my heart, I store up your words, so I might not sin against you” (Psa. 119:11, NET).  Living in the United States, there is a plethora of opportunities to read through the Bible: accessing daily devotionals during your lunch break, or listening to the Bible during your commute, or while cleaning the bathtub.

My husband and I currently do The Message Remix, which arranges the Bible with the Old and New Testament portions every day, breaking it up with options to read through the Scripture in a year, two years, or four years.  If you choose this route, two tips: (1) don’t beat yourself up for missing a day. You’ll make it up.  Get back into it the next day.  (2) Don’t worry about understanding every nuance and meaning.  There are times to dig deep, and there are times to let the fresh water God offers wash over us.  Reading through the Bible in a year doesn’t have to begin in January.  Start on your birthday or next Monday, and have a God-celebration with a special meal, a prayer time, and a list of three things you learned through the process.

Another path is daily devotionals, such as Oswald Chamber’s My Utmost for His Highest or The High Calling’s online devotional by Eugene Peterson.  These tend to be shorter and ideal for busy lives.  They can be read at meal times or while you relax in the bath in the evenings (although always watch out for computers near open bodies of water!).

Make it family time.  While your children may fight you over the loss of video-game time after dinner, it gives you an opportunity to demonstrate to them your priority of God and the chance to draw your family closer to Him.

Schedule a one-meal fast periodically.  Fasting is perhaps one of the most confusing of the spiritual disciplines.  While it can be misused as a manipulative deal-making tool, it can also serve as a time of sacrifice in order to delight in God and seek His will.  We find numerous examples in the Bible of God’s people seeking His will through fasting (Nehemiah 1:4; 9:1; Luke 2:37; Acts 13:2; 14:23).  Fasting is coupled with prayer and often with serving the Lord.

Because of lunch meetings and kids’ expectations, fasting can be tricky.  Schedule time in advance, blocking time in your day for meeting with God.  Don’t overwhelm yourself with a large commitment at first.  Fast one meal instead of the one day most attempt.  Use that hour to pray when you would be eating. Don’t worry about what you will pray.  If you run out of things to talk about with God, put on some music or find your favorite Psalm.  As the afternoon goes by and your stomach growls, use that as small reminders of Christ’s sacrifice for us, breaking His body and spilling His blood, and of the hope we have in the wedding feast of the Lamb.

Be willing to sacrifice.  While the above represent measures toward commitment to God through spiritual disciplines that can be maintained in everyday life, remember: God calls us out of our comfort to serve Him.  You may need to sacrifice something in your life, whether blog time, a TV show, or even attending every church and community function.  My husband and I set our alarm clock earlier than we would prefer in order to spend daily time reading the Bible and praying because evenings for us go haywire.

Often in our fast-forward and niche-scheduling society, we forget that we are called to sacrifice, and we forget to teach sacrifice to women who are looking for quick answers.

For me, finding time to practice piano everyday requires discipline, but creativity alleviates the stress.  If I can’t devote myself for hours or even one hour to the piano, I dedicate five minutes, perhaps while waiting for the spaghetti water to boil, to run through scales and Hanon exercises.  Our spiritual life calls for the same type of thought.  We may not have hours every day or every week, but we can dig out time for intimacy with God if we desire.


Heather Goodman
Contributing Author


  1. Excellent post, Heather. Integrating spiritual disciplines into disorganized or busy lives is no easy matter, but is completely possible with a little ingenuity and a healthy dose of commitment. It really is a matter of priority and practice. I'm going to share your post with my Bible study group. Thanks.

  2. A great reminder of the effort I need to make to spend time with my Abba Daddy. Thank you!