I have a stack of 30 books next to me that I quickly pulled off the shelf for easy access in case I wanted to reference something in this series. I won’t list all of them here, but instead will offer you the best of the best (in my opinion), in case you want to start reading more about spiritual formation.
Eugene Peterson’s 5 book series on spiritual formation:
I’ll be doing another list or two later, with spiritual formation book recommendations that are a bit more tailored to a specific area, but I think these are my favorites in terms of the broad picture of spiritual formation.
What do you think I missed? Is your favorite book on spiritual formation on this list? (Please don’t say the Bible; of course that’s a given :)).
Christian tradition has a name for the structure that enables us to say yes to the process of spiritual formation day in and day out. It is called a 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? Actually, it might be more accurate to say that a rule of life seeks to address the interplay between these two questions: How do I want to live so I can be who I want to be? (p. 147 of Sacred Rhythms, Ruth Haley Barton)
Creating a rule of life takes time, reflection, and a lot to experimentation with various spiritual disciplines. Spiritual disciplines are those practices that we engage in that form our souls in specific ways. One common misbelief about spiritual disciplines is that all of them are created equal. Some people treat them like an equation: Add Scripture memory to your day and you become more like Jesus. Eh, well, not really. Each of us is wired in a certain way, making our hearts more or less influenced by various disciplines. It’s up to us to try different ones out and figure out which ones help us to love more and become more like Christ.
When developing a rule of life, we have to try on various practices. We may even find that different practices are meaningful to us at different times, and that we may need to change things up when what used to feed our souls no longer does.
An effective rule of life will:
- Take into consideration one’s specific life stage (i.e. a college student’s stage of life is very different from a person who has 5 young children).
- Be balanced. Too much looking inward can easily make us self-centered and unaware of the importance of community in our lives. Too much outward movement and we lose the perspective of the inward work that must happen to sustain an active outward life.
- Be flexible. This isn’t a sprint, but a marathon. We have to be able to make room for those things that come up that we can’t predict or control. As I mentioned before, God works with us through our ordinary days too.
- Loving. If our rule of life is making us cranky, impatient with others, judgmental or self-focused, it’s time to take a second look. If we’re not more loving because of our spiritual practices, something is going horribly wrong.
Some questions to think about when developing a rule of life include:
- What kind of life is my soul longing for? What are specific patterns I would like to see emerge in my life?
- What disciplines are most helpful to my spiritual growth?
- How can I make these fit into my daily, weekly, or yearly rhythm? OR, how can I rearrange my rhythms to make room for these VIPs (very important practices)?
- Who do I need to talk to about these changes? Whose lives will be directly impacted and how can I include them in on this change?
- Are there certain sin patterns that are deeply entrenched in my habits or attitude that I have noticed? What practices would be helpful to help weed those out of my soul?
Here’s my (short) rule of life when I first did it back in 2009. Wow, how things have changed (and how things have stayed the same!)
August 1, 2009
This season of my life is one that is very BUSY. Currently, I’m the mom of a 21-month-old and a 4-month-old, as well as going to school full-time. Every minute of my day is to be used intentionally. Hence, these are a couple of realistic practices that I think would be helpful as I strive to become more like Christ.
I will work on taming the tongue, and saying only those things that are truthful, encouraging, or helpful to others. Practices will include silence before responding to something, and dwelling on those things that are lovely, pure, etc.
I will laugh, play, and relax with my children to help me to be in good relationship with them, as well as seeing God through their eyes.
Find a way every day to intimately connect with God in some way- whether that be through prayer, Scripture reading, going outdoors, journaling, etc.
I hope this has been helpful. I’m excited about thinking through and praying through a new rule of life over the next several months!
I remember the first time I ran 3 miles straight. Jake and I had been dating for awhile, and since people do crazy things when they’re dating, I agreed to run with him. You know, because I wanted to be a runner (people in love are so stupid sometimes).
Before we met, Jake ran for the cross-country team at Mizzou. Let that sink in for a few seconds. Like I said, I was in love.
We spent a lot of time running the MKT trail. Some of our best conversations and our best fights happened on that trail. Especially as we were attempting higher mileage, Jake would get me talking about something that he knew would push my buttons so that I got my mind off of how far I was running. (more…)
So far in this series I’ve shared things that work well with my crazy life: sleep, Sabbathing, and praying as I go (mostly so I stay sane, yes??). Now that I have those few things out of the way, I come to the next 26 days with a lot more questions and hopes and dreams, and not a whole lot of tried and true tips and tricks. If you’re looking for that kind of stuff, then perhaps this is where we part ways :).
Here’s what I know to be true: God meets us in our ordinary days, in very ordinary ways.
There was that one time not too long ago when God met me in the midst of reading a children’s book to my kids. I was totally blindsided by it all. When I started that book, I wasn’t praying or reading Scripture or anything “spiritually forming” like that. I was simply reading a kids book that I had taken off of the top of our stack of library books.
Or the time when I lied to a homeless person about not having money because I didn’t want to miss my train (not one of my proudest moments).
You all, that’s the kind of God we have.
He’s a God that sees us and knows our stages and seasons. He doesn’t demand of us to check off a bunch of spiritual formation dos and don’ts. He just wants us to love Him and trust Him. Sometimes I have to remind myself that He’s not trying to hide His will for me– if my heart is open and I’m mindful of Him throughout my day, He’s going to be communicating with me. I just have to have the eyes to see and the ears to hear.
I guess spiritual formation practices helps us to fine tune our eyes and ears, but I just need us all to know (i.e. I need to know) that He’s not demanding. The demanding voice is a different kind of voice. Not one from the Father. So we can just ignore that one, okay?
Tomorrow I’m going to write about one way I love to think about spiritual formation– not as a giant list of “Things to Fit into My Already Busy Day”- but as a prayerful, short list of ways in which I hope to grow into the person that I want to be. A lot of people call it a Rule of Life. For Type As, I think you’re gonna love this. For those other types, I’m not sure- you’ll have to let me know. 🙂
I must admit: long, focused prayer isn’t really my strong suite. I have some friends who are true prayer warriors and it’s something I really admire. To be able to quiet and focus and listen for a long period of time achieves saint-like status in my book. I would love to be in that place someday :).
Right now, my personality and season of life lends itself more to the “go as you pray” prayer style. (more…)
Sabbath keeping sometimes feels like it is next to impossible to do. (more…)
You might be thinking that sleep seems like an odd place to start a series on soul shaping. How can you shape your soul while you sleep? Sleep seems so…. passive. Maybe so, but I think that’s exactly the reason why it’s the most perfect place to start. (more…)
In college, I was part of an amazing college ministry that changed my life. I came to college hell bent on getting the best education possible, maximizing on all of the research opportunities and social clubs that I could find. I joined the College of Education student council (a great way to meet people in my field!). I became a peer mentor for women with eating disorders (as, ironically, I was still suffering through my own). I began helping out with some research in a science lab (I washed test tubes day in and day out. Ugh. I soon changed my major after this experience). I also joined a christian student organization next door to my dorm.
I think I mostly accidentally joined it. I had no intentions of seeking out a college ministry to be a part of, although I had been a leader of my high school bible club (POG, which stood for People of God. Anyone else remember those little discs that were all the rage? Yep, pogs! We were so clever.) and had been quite active in my youth group. Some of the first girls I met when I moved into that dorm as a scared Freshmen were leaders in the ministry. They invited me to one of the worship gatherings, and, eager to make friends, I said yes. (more…)
It’s been awhile since I wrote a real post.
It’s easy for me to write about what we’re reading and what I’m loving and what we’re doing. Doing is easy in this stage of life. I wake up every morning and immediately the cogs are in motion. Most mornings I don’t even have to think about going from one thing to the next. I just look at my planner and it tells me what’s on the agenda for the day. All I have to do is, well, do it.
I’ve always been a doer. I remember calling my dad sometime last year and complaining about how much stuff I had to do. I was working for a non-profit a few hours a week, blogging for 3 blogs, running a household while the hubs was taking 12 hours of doctoral classes (+ teaching at 50% + a side job), and training for a half-marathon. Oh yeah, I also had a 1 year old and a 3 year old home with me all day. WHY DO I DO THIS TO MYSELF?