Creating A Rule Of Life

"Desire has its own rhythms.  Sometimes it ebbs and sometimes it flows.  But in the end it is the deepening of spiritual desire and the discipline to arrange our life around our desire that carries us from the shallow waters of superficial human wanting into our soul's movement in the very depths of God.  Sometimes the tide brings us closer in to shore and the soul frolics in the waves.  But increasingly we find our life to be hidden in the depths of God, and whatever is seen on the surface springs up from those depths full of beauty and grace." 
Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms

Sacred Rhythms was one of my top ten pics of 2015! 

Highly recommend this book if you are longing to learn more about spiritual formation and disciplines.

I promised we would delve deeper into the art of creating a rule of here we go.

Ruth Haley Barton uses the term cultivating sacred rhythms to speak to the intentional arranging of our lives, attitudes, and habits to create space in our soul (our inner castle if you will) to be transformed by the living God.

I imagine she must also struggle with the idea of following rules.

By the way, huge thanks to my friends, the Fletchers.  They researched the character from Downton Abbey who doesn't "give a fig about rules."  No surprise, the quote was from none other than Lady Mary of course.  Unlike Carson, (and more like me) Lady Mary is not opposed to bending a rule or two. 

I have gathered some recommendations from my own personal experience and those I gleaned over the years from various spiritual directors of mine to help get you started on formulating your own rule of life.  (Thank you to St. Benedict, Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, Ruth Haley Barton, and Marjorie Thompson) 

Everything in Prayer

Sounds obvious, but this is the step most of us rush.  Due to my passionate nature I have to resist the urge to jump right in with the "doing."  

Transformation begins when we are completely dependent on God to direct and make us new. 

Without prayer, the rule of life will be yet another goal setting venture that will likely lead to the dissatisfaction and longing for something more.

Pray for God to illuminate His truth to draw us into deeper communion with Him.  Without this step we will create a rule of life based on what we think we need.

What we actually need are His thoughts, His wisdom, and His divine counsel.  We need Him to reveal the things in us that we are not even aware of that are inhibiting our life and joy in Him and with others. 

Lasting spiritual formation is a precious gift only God can give.

Ask & Seek  (not hide and seek!)

Prayerfully ponder some of the following questions.  This is a starting place not an exhaustive list.  Take your time.  Write down your thoughts and anything that speaks directly to you.

Remember a rule of life is not meant to be a legalistic list of do's and don'ts.

Here we go...

Ask God to reveal what rules you are currently consciously or subconsciously following.  Trust me, we all have rules we live by and some of them are best to leave behind us in 2015.

What spiritual practises help you to see and experience God?

Recall any specific places where you tend to sense the presence of God in your life?  (in nature, at your desk, in communal activities etc...)

Ask God about the longings of your heart.  What is most important to you?

Ask God to reveal your true priorities over the past year.  What has taken the most time and attention during this season of your life?

Are there relationships or activities that need attending to or that you need to let go?

Ask God who He wants you to become.

Are there areas or attitudes that you have been struggling with?

What do you most what to change about yourself and what area has been the greatest challenge to see progress?

Ask God to reveal what areas of your life require some pruning or nourishment.

Ask what particular disciplines would help you to grow in that specific area of your life to live more fully in Him.

Ask God to reveal any current spiritual practises or disciplines that that ignite energy and joy within you as you cultivate your relationship in Christ.

Most material on the subject of a rule of life suggest to begin with exploring disciplines that match your natural personality or bent.  It may be contemplative practises such as, prayer, meditation or memorization of Scripture, solitude, journaling, simplicity, or self-examination.  If you are extroverted you may lean toward practises of hospitality, justice, service, or unplugging from technology to connect personally with others.

The monastic way of life believes in having a healthy balance of both contemplative and outward practises.  I have particular disciplines that I tend to avoid so that is where I need to stretch myself in this new year.

Listen, Expect & Document His Voice 

Be attentive.  Listen for God to speak into your rule of life. As you pray, read the word, or are in conversation with others I urge you to pay close attention to particular words or thoughts that leap out at you.

Eagerly expect that He will guide and answer your questions.

Record what you notice, see, read, hear and anything that you think God may be bringing to mind.  

Start Small & Be Practical (not something I am good at!)

As I mentioned above, my tendency when I am excited about something new is to go a tad overboard expecting a whole new me by yesterday.  So I urge you to start small and be realistic.

You can always add more rules or adjust them as you go along in the year.  It is meant to be a living and breathing document.  Do not be afraid to adapt if you sense God is leading you in a new direction to explore.

I recommend to start off with two or three rules rather than give up after a week because your list is too daunting and unrealistic for your current season of life.  Learn from my mistakes!

So put the kettle on and pour yourself a cup of tea.  Find a comfortable place in the quiet with a journal or computer by your side.  Ask God to speak into the creation of a personal rule of life specifically for you.  Give thanks in faith that He will direct your paths, reveal His truth and make you new.  

I look forward to hearing about the unfolding of your personal rule of life uniquely written for you!

I haven't forgotten, I will share some of my own rule of life for 2016 with you next time.    


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