“Think of routines like an insurance policy. You pay into them over time, and they’re there for you when something goes wrong.”
I’ve been trying to learn to adult better (always), and was listening to a woman who teaches homemaking—cleaning routines, time management, etc. But this idea hit me as true in a lot of ways. I read Foster’s Celebration of Discipline and Willard’s The Spirit of the Disciplines back in February and they both had similar things to say about training your heart—it gives a path to follow when life is abnormally hard. But also, routines and spiritual disciplines alike have some tremendous benefits when life is just regular-hard. Routines bring order and calm to a home; disciplines bring grace and peace and space for the Spirit to work in a heart.
Yesterday, I started in on the practices I’ve only recently discovered, despite two thousand years of church history where I knew to find them didn’t look. Today, we continue on.
I ignored this forever because of my various food and blood sugar issues. But while I was at L’Abri, they had a fast day. They try to do one a term and winter term’s fell during the two weeks I was there. I thought, “Well, I don’t want to make myself sick or cranky, but I’ll give it a try with lots of grace to keep my blood sugar up as needed.”
I was fine. I had a few calories here and there, mostly a little in coffee, but there was no fallout. So much for my excuses…
I started fasting from dinner once a week shortly after we got home, and recently there have been whole days. I don’t say this to impress you—this is another thing I fail at regularly—but there’s a hungry, quiet place that I only find when I fast and it’s been grace to me.
This is possibly the only discipline in the list that I’ve practiced before, but I’m counting it among the “new” because I neglected it for almost a decade.
I know how to study—went to Bible school and everything—but that was back when everything was analog. I’d bust out my Strong’s Concordance and my commentaries and dig in. But then I had Jenna and no longer really had huge blocks of time to do that. I can count on one finger the number of times I did a word study between 2010 and 2018 because I didn’t have time or space to pull out the big books and get down to “serious” study.
In the summer of 2018, though, I went to a women’s retreat and they had an “hour with God” blocked off in the schedule. Leading into it, they gave instruction on inductive study and some printouts of commentary on the prescribed passage: Psalm 23.
Given that I already understood inductive study and could recite Psalm 23, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot. I got distracted—the woman teaching had mentioned Blue Letter Bible, a program full of study tools, and I wondered if BLB had a mobile app, so I whipped out my phone during Hour with God. (Oops.) Turns out, yes. I no longer have to pull out Strong’s! I have a concordance, original language dictionaries, and commentaries ON MY PHONE now! As I fiddled with it, I accidentally did some really good study on the Most Familiar Psalm and the Spirit worked through his Word, my distraction, and my smartphone to minister to my heart. I’m doing this more now.
I learned this early last year, and it was a game changer. This really could just be called “devotional Bible reading,” which I’ve done with varying degrees of faithfulness since I could read, basically. But because I’ve been doing it for so long, I got to where my brain and my eyes weren’t really talking to each other. I could be reading the words, but they were basically bouncing off my brain like ping-pong balls while I thought about other things because the words were generally familiar. There’s the Lord’s prayer… know that. And there are the later kings of Israel and Judah doing their willfully ignorant idol worship again. Oh, here comes Babylon. Familiarity bred, if not contempt, at least boredom.
It was a surprise to me that changing the delivery method could shake my brain enough to make it fresh again. I now listen to several chapters a night when I go to bed. Do I fall asleep during? Sure, on occasion. But falling asleep with my heart engaged with the Word does not seem like failure to me.
I’m historically bad at resting. Plus, Sabbath is the one commandment (of the ten, not the 600+) not reiterated in the New Testament, so I didn’t worry about it too much. Also, poking at Pharisees off by “breaking” the Sabbath was one of Jesus’s favorite pastimes, so surely I’m off the hook.
Turns out, God’s heart in commanding rest way back in Exodus was the same as it always is: love for His people. Observing some form of sabbath is, for me, not about obeying so much as receiving provision. When I take a day to put productivity on pause, I remember what I am responsible for and what I am not.
This is part two of a quick overview of some spiritual disciplines that I’m finding useful these days. Part one is here. My hope is they pique your curiosity a little if, like me, you grew up in a tradition that doesn’t emphasize them. When I practice them, the Spirit tends to work in my heart and life.
This post is part of my series, 31 days of speaking the truth. You can find the whole list of them here on the first post of the series.